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Saturday, 12 July 2008

Brown's morally repugnant self-interest

Gordon Brown's loathsome and repulsive immoral compass works every time in directing him towards a destination that screws the nation for reasons of selfish partisan comfort. Peter Oborne rightly rips him to shreds in this morning's Mail for an act that can almost be described as treasonous, in passing over for the nation's top defence post a man widely described as "one of the most outstanding officers the British Army has produced since the end of World War II".

Like third-rate political talents everywhere, Brown prefers to appoint persons as talentless as himself, compliant with the myopia and stupidity that flows like sewage from Downing Street.

General Dannatt is a highly talented, honourable, thoroughly decent and altruistic officer who is deeply concerned for the nation's ability to maintain the army that it needs.

God, I loathe Zanu Labour and everything it stands for.

BBC bosses are away with the fairies

Mark Thompson makes a disingenuous plea for the continued financing of the BBC in this morning's Telegraph; "there would be no BBC Proms" he whines. Quite true. They would become the HSBC Proms or the BAe Proms or somesuch. For the rest of his litany of losses, frankly, I could do without the vast majority of them.

In an age of personalised choice and pay-on-demand, the BBC's monopoly is very difficult to defend. Many of us resent deeply not only the millions paid to those whose 'talents' we regard as mediocre at best, but the outrageous salaries that the BBC bureaucrats have decided to pay themselves. The BBC has become just another public trough, and Mark Thompson (salary £816,000 in 2007/2008) is amongst those whose snouts are thrust deep in the swill.

Many accuse the BBC of political bias to the right or the left. This is not the case. It's biased towards big centralist corporatist government and against personal human responsibility. It's long been part of the problem in creating an expectation that it's the government's job to 'do something' about every minor ill that ails the nation. This is pernicious.

No, though I loved the BBC of Reithian principle and listen to little else but Radio 4, it's no longer a national institution of any great value. The Monarchy costs us £40 million a year, the BBC costs £4,300 million a year, £3,100 million of which is collected from licence payers. It's past its sell by date and should go.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Half our new-born are now bastards

I suppose it was inevitable that the 50% mark for bastards born to British women would be reached, as the Mail reports this morning.

I've still to blog properly about bastardy in Britain. Reminder to self.

'Little platoons' will decide, not Leviathan

How magnanimous of Hazel Blears to suggest in her white paper that local communities may be permitted by Labour's State to run the local swimming pool and community hall. Yep, clearly these two facilities are right at the top of citizens' concerns and their frustrations at being unable to influence the suffocating weight of the State. Local government is seen as pointless and powerless precisely because it can't change anything that matters locally. Too often local government boundaries have been drawn for administrative convenience, rather than reflecting the natural self-identification of local communities. Blears suggests that new 'neighbourhood councils' will be encouraged - but will be little more than talking shops, pointless and impotent. This white paper is utterly pointless; a rag-bag of empty gestures that will do precisely nothing to redress the imbalance in power that is destabilising the country.

Burke wrote:
To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections. It is the first link in the series by which we proceed toward a love to our country and to mankind. The interest of that portion of social arrangement is a trust in the hands of all those who compose it; and as none but bad men would justify it in abuse, none but traitors would barter it away for their own personal advantage.
Blears fears the little platoons. Labour's centralist State is threatened by them. She will do nothing that actually encourages them; nothing that would allow them to join into companies, battalions or brigades. For Labour, as for that black rogue Rousseau, there is the individual and there is the State. Little platoons figure nowhere.

So let's forget about swimming pools and community halls, shall we, and look instead at how all the collective functions that really concern people can be devolved to their most practical local level? Functions such as tax, police, education, health, welfare, planning and local transport. A re-drawing of local government to reverse the harmful errors of the 1974 reorganisation. A shrinking of the State and the real empowerment of the little platoons.

The chance of winning an iPod won't bring local voters back to the ballot box; this deeply insulting and asinine suggestion could only have come from a Central Statist who believes nothing but that individuals are shallow and selfish and only the State is capable of imposing 'good'.

When Blears realises (and I don't think she ever will) that people and their little platoons are the true repository of right and justice, of selfless participation, of the common good and that they and only they have the medicine to cure not only our broken democracy but our broken society she will cringe in shame and humiliation at the stupidity and ignorance behind the iPod idea.

Thursday, 10 July 2008


Ah, Heathcliff. A tortured fantasist whose all-consuming passions are powerful enough to destroy both himself and those around him. A sort of Jonah with attitude.

Yep, fair dos.

Blears - like watching uncles dancing

There's a peculiarly cringe making quality about some things in life; being sober and watching uncles dancing is amongst them. As is Hazel Blears' risible attempt to attribute the launch of a white paper with the characteristics of a new single.

Some bumfluff policy wonk in her department probably said something like "Yeah, we can get down with the groovy dudes on this; it's all Web 2.0 now. What we need for this white paper is, er, a promo video, a blog, a message board, a Twitter channel and pages on Myspace and Bebo. I'll get Mr Mucklethwaite in Corporate IT on to it straight away!". You couldn't make it up.

The forum has 13 messages. All written by the moderator, Mrs Wilkins. Blears' blog has been written for seven days in advance by Mr Price from the Press Unit. And her Twitter entries are typed by a work experience girl after being cleared by the Permanent Under Secretary, the Press Secretary, the Parliamentary Under Secretary, the Downing Street Press Office, The Cabinet Office, the Head of Communications, the eGovernment Empowerment Manager, the Head of Corporate IT and the Publicity Liaison Officer.

"Hazel is excited about writing her first blog post." (submitted by Mr Price)
"Hazel finally has a chance for a quick break before heading back to the Department." (submitted by the Diary Secretary)
"Hazel is looking forward to the next event in Camberwell and celebrating with some cake." (submitted by Maureen from Corporate Typing, who's on a diet at the moment)
Today's already been a busy day and it's only 11:30! We're off to Parliament soon to make a big statement...we'll keep you posted!" (submitted by Miss Zwicicz from the Departmental Creche)

The whole thing is inane beyond words. Just utterly cringe making. If you'd paid a top city PR firm a million quid to come up with something to demonstrate how out of touch Zanu Labour are, they couldn't have done better than this.

Jay Leno's quip that 'politics is show business for ugly people' comes inevitably to mind. Except that this single has already flopped.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

David Selbourne is seriously confused

You may never have heard of David Selbourne. He is an obscure social commentator now in his 70s of no great popular talent or public appeal. I'm not sure why the Times has given him a column today, but it has, and he uses the opportunity to write nonsense. He writes
We should pay attention. Coherent and strong parties are needed as the nation's condition deteriorates. Instead, political principles have become increasingly redundant, with policymaking subordinated to the needs of market “branding” (or “rebranding”). In consequence, the parties have withered and come to be perceived as little more than loose coalitions of competitors on the make.
There is precious little evidence - and Selbourne offers none - that the withering of the parties is due to their not having 'political principles'; the Tories saw a drop in membership of 1m between 1979 and 1997, a time when the principles of the party can hardly have been clearer. And Labour under Foot and Kinnock was still the 'Red Flag' party but nonetheless saw a plummeting of membership and loyalty. The 'rage' that Selbourne describes is more likely to be against remote centralist parties that are too dominant - indeed, all the evidence supports this rather than Selbourne's weak and unsupported contention. He continues
Britain's social crisis demands more public spending, not less; as the country falls into recession, more intervention is needed, not less. A small state and low taxes will not cure the ills that are daily increasing public alarm. Only a strong state can.
Here he makes the classic solecism of confusing 'strong' with 'big'. In fact, the Leviathan State is a weak state, not a strong one. The strength of the state comes from an engaged and empowered democracy at a local level, a state in which all collective functions are exercised at their lowest possible level. The big centralist state that alienates and disempowers the bulk of its citizens is inherently weak. Selbourne concludes
They are times when national self-repair is required, when the “free society” needs to be protected from itself, and when Islam is advancing into our moral void.
And here is the nub of our putative gerontocrat's argument. Selbourne has a bee in his bonnet about Islam. It scares him. And his reaction is to advocate an authoritarian central state. Again, there is no logical support for this; it's just the confused wandering of a mind rather past its sell by date.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Is the BMA the new NUM?

Any film which shows smoking in a positive light should go up one classification, from a 12 to a 15 age certificate, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, head of the BMA science and ethics said, because of the huge impact imagery has on children taking up the habit.

Films like Pulp Fiction show Uma Thurman smoking and in the US blockbuster Independence Day every time Will Smith kills an alien he lights up a cigar, Dr Nathanson said.
Just as well our children are completely immune to the impact of imagery glamourising violence, then. And since when was Pulp Fiction licenced as a 12?

An inevitable Malthusianism?

With the Telegraph carrying the same story about Biofuels causing a 75% increase in global food prices as every other paper, and the EU cast as the inevitable villain in continuing to pursue a 10% Bioethanol replacement target, one might be forgiven in regarding Biofuels as a 'bad thing'. But just let's look at what is happening in the absence of the influence of Biofuel production on food prices.

World population is growing fast, particularly in the poorest regions of the world. Many of those regions are also experiencing pressures on water supply, for a variety of reasons. Climate change, mismanagement of supplies, and agriculture. Irrigation uses about 1,000 tonnes of water to produce a tonne of grain. Such regions are therefore tending to become inherently less able to feed themselves. Although world grain production has been rising and will continue to rise, in per capita terms it's falling.

Global grain stocks have halved since the turn of the century as consumption now exceeds production as a trend. So even without Biofuels, we'd be facing food price increases and those in the most marginal societies would be facing hunger.

Now I don't know whether we're at Peak Oil or not. I don't know whether my house will burn down today either. For the latter risk I have insurance - the ongoing cost of which represents value in relation to the cost of potential losses if uninsured. You can look on Biofuels as being an insurance against the risk of Peak Oil. Forget MMGW. And if oil goes to $200 a barrel by the year's end, which I blogged about in May, marginal sources of sugar-containing plant material including woodchips will become more economically viable as Bioethanol raw material.

The moral question is whether we (the West) should be using grain for fuel when parts of the world face hunger. But to abandon Biofuels for this reason would surely only be postponing the inevitable; if their populations continue to grow and their ability to feed themselves continues to shrink, the point must surely come when even all of the world's surplus production isn't enough to hold off mass starvation. Surely their best hope is a stable and economically growing West?

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Lambeth and Bishopsthorpe Register

I had always thought it appropriate that army officers were cashiered and clergymen defrocked, as the offences of the former often involved the cashbox and of the latter matters of frocks. However, the media seems confused (and who can blame it) as to whether Ray Lewis was defrocked, disbarred or banned from 'being a vicar'.

In fact it seems he remains an ordained minister of the Church of England, but one whose licence to preach and minister has been revoked. The procedures current in the 1990s seem to have been as follows;

2.1 Currently, clergy discipline is very much in the hands of the bishops

2.2 Cases are often dealt with informally, and sometimes without reference to any statutory regime.

2.3 Serious cases may result in:

  • Resignation
  • Deprivation and disqualification, following criminal/matrimonial proceedings (under s 55 Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963)
  • Withdrawal of licence (subject to rights of appeal to the Archbishop, under Canon C12, in some cases)
  • Deposition from holy orders (only following formal proceedings)
  • Censure by consent (under s 31 Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Measure 1963)

2.4 Following disciplinary action, the name of the clergy concerned generally appears on the Lambeth and Bishopthorpe Register:

  • Part I includes the names of those deposed, or deprived and disqualified, under the EJM 1963; it also includes those who have relinquished their orders under the Clerical Disabilities Act 1873
  • Part II comprises those who have not been the subject of formal proceedings, but whom bishops are advised to approach with caution in relation to any appointment.
Canon C12 of the C of E's Canon Laws allows that:
The bishop of a diocese may by notice in writing revoke summarily, and without further process, any licence granted to any minister within his diocese for any cause which appears to him to be good and reasonable after having given the minister sufficient opportunity of showing reason to the contrary; and the notice shall notify the minister that he may, within 28 days from the date on which he receives the notice, appeal to the archbishop of the province in which that diocese is situated.
Ray Lewis may well have a case in that these procedures were arbitrary justice indeed. The C of E has now revised them. But he remains, it seems, on the Lambeth and Bishopsthorpe Register along with all those vicars with too close an interest in choirboys, the Gin bottle or 'Strength through Joy' Christianity.

Fair or not? I don't know.