He made the trains run on time you know

by Henry Farrell on September 11, 2003

Looks as though Berlusconi has outed himself as a moral relativist; he’s told two interviewers that Mussolini wasn’t such a bad chap after all. Berlusconi is “quoted”:http://www.repubblica.it/2003/i/sezioni/politica/berlugiudici/spectator/spectator.html as replying to a question comparing Mussolini and Saddam by saying:

bq. Mussolini never killed anyone. Mussolini sent people on holiday in internal exile [a fare vacanza al confino].

He’s now backtracking, saying that he never intended to signal a ‘re-evaluation’ of Mussolini, and was merely defending Italian national pride and honour.

bq. I wasn’t re-evaluating Mussolini; I was acting as a patriot. As an Italian, I wasn’t accepting a comparison between Mussolini and Saddam.

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Two Septembers

by Chris Bertram on September 11, 2003

I was not surprised that the newspaper which carried a column including the lines “A bully with a bloody nose is still a bully” in the aftermath of September 11th 2001, should head its comment page two years on with a reference to September 11th 1973. The message the Guardian thereby seeks to convey is that what happened in New York two years ago is nothing special, and has to be seen in the context of US responsibility for other crimes against humanity.

After September 11th 2001, I was, like many other people, disgusted by the various statements made in the Guardian, New Statesman, London Review of Books and elsewhere, to the effect that the victims somehow got what they deserved, shouldn’t really be considered innocent and so on. I said so at the time, and then later on my blog, Junius, and then in a paper I wrote on the war in Afghanistan. When, as liberal or a leftist, you make such points, you get a good deal of approbation from the conservative and libertarian parts of the blogosphere. The sentiment being “joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.” It is nice to be praised, to be considered part of the “decent left” and a “non-idiotarian”. While I may flatter myself that I’m not especially susceptible to flattery, I know that I’m not exactly immune to it either.

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The collected wisdom of David Blunkett

by Maria on September 11, 2003

“The legislative measures which I have outlined will protect and enhance our rights – not diminish them, justice for individuals are reaffirmed and justice for the majority and the security of our nation will be secured.” So David Blunkett told Parliament when he introduced the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Bill, in autumn 2001. The Act allowed the UK to derogate from Article 5(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 9 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning the liberty and security of individuals. Today, the UK is still in the ‘state of emergency’ used to justify these derogations to its international human rights commitments.

“I don’t want anyone to be under the misapprehension that some group of very innocent individuals who just wandered into this country are somehow going to be banged away for life.” Last week, three law lords ruled that the House of Lords should hold a hearing on the legality of the indefinite detention without charge of a dozen foreign nationals.

On the use of Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 to stop and search 995 anti-war protesters at an RAF base earlier this year; “The Terrorism Act 2000 is not being applied in the prevention of protests at RAF Fairford. Powers under this legislation are applied solely for the prevention and investigation of acts of terrorism.” On the use of Section 44 to stop and search protesters outside an arms fair in London this week; “I have asked that the head of the counter-terrorism branch should report back on why it was that they chose to use that particular part of the counter terrorism legislation rather than wider public order legislation.” UK police forces cannot use Section 44 without informing the Secretary of State. The Act in question is intended to target terrorists, not citizens invoking freedom of expression and assembly in a democratic country. Either Blunkett is giving the nod to using terrorism legislation to curb legitimate protesters, or the police are running out of control.

“We could live in a world which is airy fairy, libertarian, where everybody does precisely what they like and we believe the best of everybody and then they destroy us”. Or we could live in a country where the foremost legal experts believe human rights have been fatally undermined by the ‘war on terror’; the Law Society of England and Wales*, Liberty, and Amnesty International. Surely there is a middle ground.

On seeing the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act through Parliament; ‘I genuinely think that the British people will say, “Well done. Parliament has shown itself in a good light and we are proud of what you have done.”‘

Statewatch reports on use of Section 44 too, noting that while peace protesters were detained under terrorism legislation outside the arms fair in London. Inside, there are cluster bombs a-plenty for sale. Using terrorism provisions police have arrested two protesters for “behaving suspiciously”.

Disclosure; I wrote the chapters on communications data retention and Third Pillar powers.

Live from New York

by Ted on September 11, 2003

I’ve posted this before, but indulge me (or skip it). This is the monologue from the Late Show with David Letterman on September 17, 2001, his first night back on the air after September 11th.

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Black and white house values

by Ted on September 11, 2003

In January of this year, there was a short flurry of posts about the incredible discrepancy between the wealth of black households and white households. I had no idea that the median white household has seven times the assets of the median black household. It’s primarily a legacy of history; there’s a gap in wages between white and black workers, but it’s not a 7-1 gap. Black households even save slightly more than white households at the same income level.

This has all sorts of implications, as family wealth (for example) makes higher education and entry into the housing market much easier for a young adult. As Dalton Conley notes, black college students are more likely to drop out than white college students, even if their families have the same incomes. When you control for wealth, however, black and white students perform equally as well.

(My posts on the subject are here, here, and here. Kevin Drum, Kieran Healey (the link is probably not working), and Rob Lyman all had excellent posts on the subject.)

Recently, I got an email from Jonathan Maccabee with more detail about the value of owner-occupied homes, the primary source of wealth for most families. He took a look at the US Census’ American FactFinder, table HCT 66, “Median Value of Owner-Occupied Housing Units.” (I’m restricting this to white and black for the sake of simplicity.)

Total White Black
National $119,600 $122,800 $80,600
California $211,500 $225,500 $164,600
New York $148,700td>

$142,500 $163,900
Texas $82,500 $87,600 $62,400

Says Jonathan,

As you can see, the racial gap in housing prices is significant. Though in New York State, to my surprise, the gap works in reverse, as most minorities who own homes live in the very expensive New York City area. The percentage of those who live in owner-occupied housing, of course, is very low in much of New York City and generally lower for minorities than whites; the Census doesn’t calculate the percentages, but the comparison is at Summary File 4, HCT 2 – Tenure (translation: living in owner-occupied housing vs. renter-occupied housing). This is one reason why these numbers enormously understate the wealth gap between whites and minorities.

It’s worth making the point that the proportions of white and black households who own their own homes are very different. According to the Local Initiatives Support Coalition, black home ownership rate was at 46.3% in 2000, while white home ownership was at 73.8%.

I can’t get over it. I finally got Dalton Conley’s book, Being Black, Living in the Red, and I’ll have to report on it later.

Dual Citizenship

by Brian on September 11, 2003

Jacob Levy argues that one of the costs of dual citizenship is that it may give too much electoral power to overseas voters. This is only a serious problem if all non-resident citizens have voting rights, and that isn’t a universal feature of modern democracies. In Australia, if I’ve read the rules correctly, the only non-residents allowed to vote are those out of the country for under 6 years. (And the only non-residents who can enrol are those who have been away for less than 2 years and are away for work-related reasons.) I don’t know what the rules are for other countries (those rules aren’t quite as relevant to me, so I’ve never had need to learn them) but if they are at all similar Jacob’s quite reasonable concern is already being addressed.

UPDATE: Don’t get electoral law advice from me! As Alan from Southerly Bluster notes in the comments, an overseas Australian can keep voting after being out of the country for 6 years provided s/he keeps enrolling every year. And it looks like the law will be amended soon in order to remove even that constraint. Part of my initial point still remains. We can in principle allow dual citizenship without having the worry Jacob alludes to by having residency restrictions on voting. If that was the only reason for not wanting dual citizenship, there is a workaround. But the (only!) data point I drew on in arguing that was mistaken. Much thanks to Alan for pointing me to the relevant bit of the law here.