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Saturday, 3 March 2007

Nu Labour's greasy rats last fling?

The Metropolitan Police were granted an injunction yesterday preventing the BBC from telling the world something. British web consensus is that this is a GOOD THING. Here's for why;

1. By all accounts the case against the Blair conspirators is now 110% solid and charges are imminent.

2. The Attorney General must be desperate to find reasons why bringing a prosecution against his Nu Labour chums would either not be in the public interest or not be in the interests of justice

3. If one of the conspirators who is about to be charged leaked a 'killer' document to his mates at the BBC, this would gain worldwide blanket coverage, albeit implicating himself or herself

4. The adverse publicity would prejudice the chance of a fair trial and give the AG the excuse he needs to drop charges.

Everyone but everyone wants to see this sleazy mob in the dock, and every newspaper, TV station, blog and website is trying extra hard not to do anything to wreck Mr Yates' chances of getting them there.
Fayed is as mad as a bucket of eels

His son and his son's female companion got into a car driven by a drunk driver who was unfamiliar either with the large, powerful vehicle or the route he took. The car was driven at excessive speed and crashed, killing three people. End of story.

We're a very patient and tolerant people, but there does come a limit to the insults and invective we'll stand directed at innocent people, even by a mentally deranged gyppo dwarf with all the aesthetic taste of a six year-old with a glitter pot.
Risible but nonetheless touching tributes

Two pieces of transatlantic nonsense that have come to my attention this week. The first is by a would-be author who has started an online petition for the UK to pay reparations to the rest of the world as a way of giving publicity to what is by all accounts an appallingly written and utterly risible amateur history of the world. No need even to mention this halfwit by name. However, it's touching in a naive sort of way that this dolt believes Britain to have been so globally influential.

The second is by the recondite commentator Irwin Stelzer in the Speccie. Stelzer pleads with Britain not to criticise the US for fear this will precipitate America to withdraw from world affairs altogether. Framed in a sort of childrens' playground threat that 'I won't be your friend any more' it laughably analyses international relations in terms of a middle class dinner party. Again, it has a sort of naive charm.

I am rightly proud of the links between the British and American peoples; we share a common culture and heritage, a common set of beliefs, a common determination to uphold the Good. Our peoples will continue to share these bonds whatever else happens. What's happening at the moment, to lapse into Stelzerian anthropomorphism, is that our next door neighbours have replanted their garden in some hideous parody of all the principles of gardening. It's an embarrassment to the neighbourhood. And painful to live next door to. Being true friends and good neighbours, we've said so. We've even warned that we may have to put a fence up so we can't see it. Our neighbours are mad back at us - we're off their Thanksgiving card list this year.

But one thing we both know - that if either of our houses catches fire, or we see a burglar trying to break in, we'll each still be the first there for eachother. And that's because we're both grown up and responsible, and not schoolchildren squabbling in the playground.
No, we won't let you forget

A reported outburst of petulance from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggesting that women who were made sex slaves of the Japs in the last war were 'volunteers' has rightly angered many people. Despite the many sincere-sounding apologies from various Japanese officials over the past decades, one still has the impression that the nation is in denial about its behaviour in the war.

Let me set any doubt at rest. During the period 1933 - 1945 the Japanese armed forces carried out acts that place those men forever amongst the most barbaric, uncivilised, inhuman, loathsome and contempible creatures that ever walked this planet. For them there will never be forgiveness. And the rest of the world will never let you forget - never - the behaviour of your fathers and grandfathers that shames and disgraces those entire generations. And just in case these stories don't figure in your school textbooks;

In Hong Kong on Christmas morning in 1941, around 200 drunken Japanese approached St. Stephen's College, now a sanctuary for ninety-six wounded soldiers. Barring the front door was the head medic, Dr. George Black. 'You can't come in here' he called out, 'this is a hospital'. With deliberate aim, one of the soldiers raised his rifle and shot the doctor through the head. As the drunken mob surged into the hospital ward, the body of Dr Black was repeatedly bayoneted as he lay at the door. In the ward, a massacre of unprecedented ferocity took place. The Japanese ripped the bandages off the wounded patients and plunged their bayonets into the amputated arms and legs before finishing them off with a bullet. In half an hour fifty-six wounded soldiers had been massacred while the nursing staff looked on helplessly. The female nurses were then led away, to a fate one can only imagine. The patients and staff who had survived the slaughter were then forced to carry the bodies and bloodied mattresses to the grounds outside where a huge funeral pyre was prepared and lit from the college desks and cupboards which had been smashed up for firewood.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

'Prime Meridian in wrong place' Shock

With the rise in GPS ownership in the UK, users must surely have been puzzled to straddle the multitude of markers, lines and indicators set into the nation's paving by zealous local authorities at the Zero Meridian to find their GPS reading something completely different.

Fear not. There's nothing wrong with the GPS sets. It's just that the world is a funny shape, and the closest fit that GPS can make to 0-00-00 is just over 105 metres to the East of the astronomical Meridian. Marine charts are produced these days to the WGS84 standard so that GPS positions can be plotted directly. Perhaps the Royal Parks Agency could add another Meridian to the old one for those with GPS ....

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

I was wrong. It was nothing but persiflage.

Looking at the stock market scare story, I checked wikipedia for the '1,000 year Reich' reference (intending to draw some mocking comparison with China's recent promise of 100 years of Socialism). Usually you know the end is near when leaders start making these sorts of claims. 10 years of Blair's Britain springs to mind.

The wonderful wiki tells us that the claim was dropped by the Nazis in 1939 'for fear of persiflage'. This, it turns out, is not some abhorrent Teuton perversion previously unknown to me but 'light, flippant teasing'. Hmm. It didn't stop an allegedly monorchid leader from claims of national virility, but hey ho.

So in the previous post please read persiflage in place of pisstaking. I'm sure persiflage is a far more suitable term for that which passes as wit in the Commons.
How many ships in a Scottish Navy?

Reading Hansard's reports of Monday's Opposition Day debate on the Royal Navy, there was some gentle pisstaking whenever one of the SNP members rose to speak. Alex Salmond has apparently promised that the Scottish Navy will be based at Rosyth, but how big will it be?

Well, the Navy has been paid for from the UK's wealth as a whole, so it would seem fair to split it according to the respective shares of national wealth. The ONS gives Scotland a GVA of £82bn as at 2004 compared to a GVA of £1,005 for the UK as a whole. That's about 8%.

Well, we've only got 2 carriers and they'd need 50% of GVA to get one of those.

We've got 25 Destroyers and Frigates, though. 8% of the Gross tonnage of these would give them about 8,900 tonnes worth - that's one Type 23 and one Type 22 Frigate.

We've got 16 minesweepers. 8% of the gross tonnage would give them a Hunt Class.

They haven't got enough points to get a sub, but we could probably chuck in a couple of Patrol Boats instead. So, the Navy of the Republic of Scotland would have a strength of

2 x Frigates
1 x Minesweeper
2 x Patrol Boats

That's all. Carry on.
Little Ben Bradshaw takes on Alang

Alang, a Gujerat beach on which around half the world's scrapped ships are dismantled, is the target of a new strategy published yesterday by DEFRA. Although the breakers yards at Alang and Pipavav provide employment for thousands, it's not particularly healthy - asbestos, PCBs and other nasties abound. With no teeth or legislation behind the strategy, all I think it will provoke will be an earlier than planned change of ownership for some 400 EU flagged single hull tankers due to be scrapped by 2010. I'll bet some 200 will still end up on the beach in India.

One old lady that's already there is the SS France. A classic liner, a real beauty, she entered service in 1961 and as late as 2003 (as the SS Norway) was still carrying passengers. Her last incarnation, as the Blue Lady, has been dogged with mystery. Shipping News carries the full story of espionage and murky dealings.

As she sits grounded at Alang she's still better looking than any of the hyperstacked cruise ships that look like nothing more than floating Costa Brava tourist hotels. Hey ho.

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

There are none so blind as New Labour

One of the main reasons I took up blogging was as an outlet for the frustration that listening to 'Today' on R4 causes. Morning after morning I'd wake up to the news of some fatuous utterance by one of the Lords of the New Labour Universe. I was reminded of this again this morning.

Last night I heard some horribly well meaning policy maker advocating the teaching of parenting skills by the state. This was in reaction to a threat by the state to take into its care a fat child whose mother had not restricted its feeding. The mother, interviewed on television, was like a rabbit caught in the headlights; not evil or negligent, just helpless. She kept repeating 'He wouldn't eat anything else' and 'I had to let him eat'. She sat alone in her social housing, surrounded by reporters, unwittingly thrown into the spotlight of vulgar condemnation and damned for her stupidity. A glimpse into a lonely, dispiriting and pointlessly sad life.

A couple of weeks ago the Education Secretary proposed that the state should teach children to cook.

What else should the state start teaching? Table manners? Shoe-lace tying? How to brush your teeth? Getting up in the morning?

It is the most damning indictment of the grasp of big government on the souls of the nation that the automated, pat, glib and instant response to any social failing today is to blame the state for inadequate or insufficient intervention in people's lives.

Why isn't anyone saying the bloody obvious? It's not the state, it's the family. The relationship between the size and reach of the state and the importance of families and communities has been commented on, in particular by the late Conservative sociologist Robert Nisbet. When the power of one is big, the other is generally small. One can't have authority and influence centred in families and communities AND in big government.

So on the one hand we have the New Labour puppets affirming that single parent, isolated, individual 'families' that have a relationship only with the agents of the state are fine and dandy. On the other we have David Cameron who has effectively presented the case for the family. And I hope, I really hope in my heart, also knows the unspoken concomitant condition - that the state must be shrunk.

New Labour are obtuse enough to see this as an old-fashioned moralistic or religious argument; they simply will not see that it is their terribly well meaning but horribly destructive vision of the role of the state as parent, grandparent, extended family and community that is responsible for this awful national disintegration.

That mumping rogue Rousseau would have been proud of Alan Johnson.

Monday, 26 February 2007

Cricket attracts Al-Queda. Or maybe not.

Interpol head Ronald Noble, a professor of law at NYU, has personally carried out an inspection tour to check security arrangements in advance of an event of global importance expected to be a key target for terrorist strikes. The G8? Another Blair-Bush summit? Condi in Baghdad? Wrong. The Cricket World Cup.

An Interpol press release announced

Lyon, France – Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble will visit Jamaica, Antigua, Barbados, Guyana, and Trinidad & Tobago, 22-27 February, to discuss the final security arrangements for the Cricket World Cup (CWC). 'Interpol has been working with all nine hosting countries, as well as neighboring countries, to support the entire region in preparing a major security program,' said Mr. Noble. An Interpol Major Event Support Team (IMEST) has been in the region since early October.'
Nice work if you can get it.
"Have a Muree with your curry"

This will be the new advertising slogan for a sales push by Pakistan-based Muree Brewery. Established in 1860, this Rawalpindi firm has just concluded an agreement with, erm, a Belgian brewery to produce its beer under licence for the European market.

Well I never.
Opposition Day debate - Future of the Royal Navy

With the Opposition Day debate in the Commons today on the future of the navy, no doubt the First Sea Lord's recent comments will be fresh in the minds of MPs. Naval shipbuilding requires planning and long-termism beyond the imagination of most politicians; during the last war, American shipyards astonished the world by turning out Liberty Ships in an average of 42 days, but in the 21st century it takes about six years to build a destroyer. Plus the design and procurement period.

We have no strategic food stocks in this country. We are dependent on imports for around half our food. The impact of a 'just in time' global trade dependency were exemplified by the grounding of the Napoli; the non-arrival of the parts she carried for Volkswagen in South Africa caused production there to shut down. The RAND institute has documented the impact of a single major terrorist incident at one of the world's key node ports; a log jam of goods, a freezing of shipping movements and a global loss of confidence in the shipping market.

BAE systems has just taken on a further 120 apprentices at its two Glasgow shipyards, bringing the total to 472 since 2003 in what is being hailed as a critical revival of the UK's shipbuilding skills base. These are the young men and women who will build the planned new carriers.

The Chancellor has poured a Tsunami of cash at health and education in the hope of short-term political gains, gains that appear more elusive and ephemeral with every day. Our welfare budget is out of control - again Brown's short-term strategy to lock voters into welfare dependency. Just for once let this government look beyond its own interests and look instead to those of the nation. Investment in our Navy is a long term decision and will gain the government few votes in this term except on the Clyde, but such investment is critical for us all.

Sunday, 25 February 2007

Why Freddie is wrong, and why Sir Patrick is the future

Frederick Forsyth's whinge in the letters column of the Telegraph typifies an unhealthy obsession with relative shares of an ever-declining turnout. Freddie mentions 10m missing voters; but of a UK electorate of about 40m only around 60% have turned out in the last decade. That's nearer 16m missing voters. The reason they're deserting the polls, tearing up their party membership cards, declining to make donations to the parties, abandoning their trade unions and otherwise voting with their feet were made clear by the Power inquiry. People are fed up with a large, centralised, remote party duopoly, and votes for the libdems are not so much votes for this particular bowl of custard as votes against the Conservative - Labour duopoly.

Getting excited about whether the Conservatives have 37% or 40% of an ever decreasing voter base ignores the underlying problems. Big Parties like Big Government have had their day. The Labour Party in 2007 is like the British Leyland of politics; the factory boss decides which bodywork and upholstery colour combinations are produced, and which dealers get which vehicles. Local populations will get what they're given. Eventually, of course, sales will drop - people will look elsewhere.

The addiction of both parties to a system of 'A' lister party apparatchik blow-ins is anathema to many voters. The loyalty of Sir Patrick Cormack's constituents in many cases is not to his party or to its policies but to him; an MP who is seen as putting constituency before party.

The party funding row to come will bring this debate into sharper focus. A stitch-up by the big parties will only push this nation into further democratic decline. A brave reform in which central party ties are looser, parliamentary whipping constrained, local politics reinvigorated and a shift in funding and membership from central to local are the only way to re-engage not only with those missing 16m voters but with the rest of us.
Lord Butler calls Blair a liar

In a departure from the fairy light prose he used in his official report into Blair's taking the nation into war in Iraq, Lord Butler of Brockwell became somewhat more forthright in a speech in the Lords on the 22nd:

"But here was the rub: neither the United Kingdom nor the United States had the intelligence that proved conclusively that Iraq had those weapons. The Prime Minister was disingenuous about that. The United Kingdom intelligence community told him on 23 August 2002 that,

"we ... know little about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons work since late 1988".

The Prime Minister did not tell us that. Indeed, he told Parliament only just over a month later that the picture painted by our intelligence services was "extensive, detailed and authoritative". Those words could simply not have been justified by the material that the intelligence community provided to him."

Yes, there may well be another inquiry. But Blair will not be indicted (for this, anyway). He will move towards death always trying to convince others that he was right, and bitter in the knowledge that he will be remembered only by posterity for this single prodigious blunder.