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Saturday, 1 September 2007

The benefits culture that kills

It comes as no great surprise that not one of the gang of children who have been convicted of stoning a man to death had their biological father living with them. And when the killer of Rhys Jones is found and convicted, I'll bet his biological father has been long gone.

57% of children of afro-caribbean descent, and 25% of white children, grow up without their biological fathers. The evidence for the consequences of this is overwhelming; they are more likely to offend, more likely to take drugs, more likely to be excluded from school, more likely to suffer severe emotional or psychological problems. They are Britains gang fodder; put out on the streets like feral animals whilst mum gets a shag or goes boozing.

The press descriptions of the mothers of the convicted stoners is revealing; "Their mother regularly turned up at court wearing vest tops and flipflops and looking tired, with unkempt hair. The boys beside him in the dock were all born to unmarried parents. Their mothers were typically in their early 20s, though one was just 18."

Let's be frank. A tax allowance for people from this underclass mileau isn't going to make a hap'worth of difference - they're the welfare culture, not the work culture. We must look to the welfare system for the remedy.

Krak des Americaines

From 1099 to 1271, a strategic hilltop on the route between Antioch and Beirut was the site of the most powerful symbol of the Christian west's intention to stay put in the Holy Land for good. Krak des Chavaliers, now a world heritage site, remains a most impressive construction. Encircled by a massive curtain wall, it had its own water source and capacious cellars and storerooms that could feed a garrison of 1,000 against a long seige. As an overt symbol of power it still has few equals in the world.

Contractors are putting the final touches to the Krak des Americaines in Baghdad. A massive fortified embassy compound, covering about a hundred acres, encircled by a massive concrete curtain wall and watchtowers, complete with its own water supply,
power plant and storage for enough food to keep the 1,000 beseiged occupants going until relief forces can reach them. The cost, estimated at $600m, is a drop in the bucket of the US's spend on Iraq. It is the most visible symbol of the US's intention to stay in Iraq for so long as oil supplies lie under those blood-saturated soils.

Perhaps tourists in some future peaceful age will come here to gawp at the six-foot thick reinforced concrete castle walls, the marines barracks and the ambassador's study, and wonder at the triumph of hope over experience that led its builders to imagine that it would be permanent.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

The Usual Suspects

In the 1930s when many European countries were rapidly growing fascist parties, Pelham Wodehouse usefully caricatured Mosley's home-grown Supermen; Roderick Spode and his Blackshorts. After that tiny seed was planted in the national consciousness, the English could never really quite take domestic fascism seriously. When war started, the movement fizzled out. There were no imprisoned martyrs, no concentration camps full of Blackshirts. Mosley himself was not interned until 1940, and released in 1943. Ridicule is a powerful weapon.

I wonder how different things would have been had we adopted the European solutions of internment and prosecution? Would it have strengthened the fascists, polarised our society?

I ask because Germany is considering outlawing the NPD, the fascist party that regularly gains up tp 9% of the popular vote in parts of Germany. EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini (who, under the proposed constitution, will be our Justice Minister's boss) has commented that five EU states face serious problems from the far-right; Germany, France, Italy, Denmark and Belgium. A new Euro-law has been hinted at. Ah. The usual suspects. All had a history of fascist parties in the 1930s that briefly enjoyed a few days in the sunshine - in the case of France, Denmark and Belgium as collaborators. Many of whom were later shot.

The EU has already signed the UK up to a law that makes incitement to racism and xenophobia a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. It's not a law we have any great need for in the UK.

If Mr Frattini has his way, the EU could well see a law that outlaws the BNP. I can think of no other measure that would give this little fringe party the respectability it desperately seeks.