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Saturday, 20 September 2008

Nothing to see here - move along, please ....

With the Sun shining, a cracking high Spring tide and the wind a balmy zephyr, I'm off this weekend to do some creek-hopping and to sink some pints in as yet unvisited amphibian hostelries.

For a decent blog-read, I commend you to Blue Eyes; a Zone-2 blog well in touch with the zeitgeist. Though not so hot at plumbing.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Well worth reading

If anyone in the Conservative party should feel the need of a refresher lesson in the principles upon which the UK should base its relationship with the rest of Europe, the Telegraph usefully reprints the full text of Mrs Thatcher's Bruges speech from 1988.

The tortoise doesn't always win

The hare and tortoise story is given a good outing in the press to explain how Lloyds' risk-limited strategy beat HBOS's gallop for growth - but it doesn't always hold true. Following from Nick's comments on a post below on the economic growth enjoyed by BRIC, what is extraordinary is that it's happened in spite of rather than because of the turgid central planned economies that Nick so accurately describes. But differences of rates of economic growth can have dramatic effects over quite a short time period if they're sustained and it's the hare that streaks past the winning post:-

Year GDP growing at 2% GDP growing at 7%
0 100 50
1 102 54
2 104 57
3 106 61
4 108 66
5 110 70
6 113 75
7 115 80
8 117 86
9 120 92
10 122 98
11 124 105
12 127 113
13 129 120
14 132 129
15 135 138

I'm naturally much more pessimistic than Nick about the West's future, I think - and as a sort of follow-up essay to 'Colossus' Niall Ferguson penned a decent piece for Vanity Fair HERE that rehearses the arguments - but no doubt something we both agree on is the awful damage that socialism does to economic growth; it's a perverse, alien and inimical influence wholly contrary to the national good. If, as Nick suggests, the current bust is enough to push socialism out of British politics for ever all the pain will be worth it.

Bleak prospect for Brown

As Labour gathers for their annual shindig, the talk will be around the extraordinary poll commissioned for the Indescribablyboring, published on Labourhome. Amongst the results:
  • 46.2% want Gordon Brown to lead Labour into the next election.
  • 53.8% would prefer someone else.
  • 56.6% want a vote at Labour Conference to decide whether or not there should be a leadership election.
With the Conservatives polling a stunning 52%, you'd think even Gordon would realise that the game's up. But will he? He's spent the summer writing and honing his blockbusting speech and will deliver it even if the entire hall is on its back legs booing him. He will carry on as if nothing had changed, in a sort of cocoon of self-delusion, like Ceausescu on the balcony of his fantasy palace, he will smile and wave and interpret the angry waving fists as a sign of approval.

Only Labour.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The end of the American century, but not of Britain

When Niall Ferguson predicted the end of the American Empire in 'Colossus', the fiscal deficit was only one of the three legs of the stool that he foresaw would collapse. As I have said before, the 19th century was the British century which ended in August 1914 when the lights went out all across Europe. The 20th century was the American century. I always imagined it going out not with a bang but a whimper, a gradual tailing off of global influence and economic power, but it seems the showdown may be more sudden and dramatic than anyone has imagined.

Max Keiser writes on Al Jazeera:
There's a decoupling in the wind, America is essentially finished as a global economic power. The US dollar is now finished as the world's reserve currency and we are going to see now some other country rise up and take its place, most probably China. This is entirely predictable … [in] the neo-liberal model, which means that credit is available for almost free.

Suddenly last summer, credit was unavailable, and then banks who need credit to live start to tumble. So this is gaining pace [and] there's going to be no credit for banks because you're talking about $700 trillion worth of debt in the global economy. The entire GDP [Gross Domestic Product] of the world is something like $60 trillion, so this has a long way to go as you deflate all of this debt back to something more sustainable. It's not a doomsday scenario if you're in a developing country and you've got stuff like oil in the Middle East or you've got huge savings, like they do in China. It is only a doomsday scenario for America and Britain that have been living on borrowed money for generations. It's a happy day for people who have savings, who have money, who have cash, who have stuff, who have oil, who have resources.
Europe's ascendency is relatively recent. Until the 17th century, Europe, India and China were level-pegging in terms of civilisation; the West has no presumptive or historical grounds for continuing to lead global development. Whilst it's not clear yet whether the 21st century will be the Indian century or the Chinese century, we must surely adapt to the new global realities.

Guthrum's warning is prescient; now is the time that demagogues can rise, the time when extremism can flourish. Those of us of mine and Guthrum's age have enjoyed an unprecedented era of peace and prosperity; unlike our parents and grandparents we have never had to fight a war, never suffered disease, starvation or sudden death at the hands of the anarchic mob, never risked the wholesale destruction or loss of our homes and possessions. We've had a pretty good innings. Fools like Fukuyama who imagined this Edwardian summer would continue for ever learned nothing from history.

We face this crisis more atomised as a nation than ever before; ties of locality and community are loose. Decades of State centralism have sapped local and intermediate institutions. Yet central power is in reality weak; it's wholly dependent on a weakening consensus, nothing more. This is unprecedented. The central State without physical coercive power is in reality no stronger than the international banking community has proven to be. We're the thickness of a Rizla away from throwing excrement at tax collectors.

As banks and financial institutions will continue to tumble and even the public sector's pension funds turn to dross, as tax receipts dry up and the State's coffers yield nothing but a hollow ring, then we'll see what the British people are actually made of - do we still have enough of that indomitable spirit to forge something new from the ashes of the old?

Mis-read of the day

Slightly bleary eyed after a night out, I misread this morning the text of an online news article on waste and recycling;
Association waste chief Paul Bettison said: 'Recycling food waste is not something that can be done on the cheap. Socialist equipment is required to collect and dispose of it, which can be very expensive.
Reading it again, I'm not sure that my brain didn't get it right first time.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

HPA failure may lead to mass child fatalities

Once again when evening television seems to be nothing but wall-to-wall cloned plod-chase programmes (Sky Cops, Scariest Police Chases, Cops Camera Action, Traffic Cops, Cops and Villains and all the rest of the visual Mogadon) Radio 4 offered an important and compelling documentary last night.

File on 4 looked at the risk from PVL. This acronym is set to become as well known as MRSA, CD or HIV - and the bug in practice may present a far greater danger than all of these. It can kill within hours, targets the under 40s and those contacting it have only a 50/50 survival chance. It is spread in the community from person to person, and can also be transmitted from intensively-reared livestock to humans.

The story told by R4 is the usual one of official complacency and inaction, with the Health Protection Agency failing to take action now that may help to contain the effects of PVL in its nascent stage. Without being irresponsible or academically dishonest, the programme warns of the carnage PVL could cause amongst the young and its potential to overwhelm health resources. I commend you to listen to it.

I expect the Health Secretary is therefore planning to spend millions on creating Muslim Suites in GP's surgeries, or staffing Safe Drinking Centres or some similar nonsense instead of focusing resources on this real threat. Just another fundamental Labour failure.

Failure of the most basic duty of government

Every sixth former is familiar with Maslow's pyramid of need. Individuals must first satisfy their basic needs for food, water, warmth and shelter before they can use surplus time to get the paintbox out or strum chords on the guitar. As with individuals, so with nations; the most necessary and fundamental function of government is to ensure those things that must be arranged collectively. Food security, energy security, the efficiency of the fighting forces, protection from natural threats such as fire, flood and the sea. Only after these are assured should we use surplus resources to improve life quality at the margins.

With reckless and purblind cupidity, Labour have spent eleven years ignoring the nation's most fundamental securities. It is a failure in the most basic duties of government. Instead they have squandered billions on the fads and pointless obsessions of a cabal of loony cranks, an ever increasing spectrum of joyless social engineering measures. All the while, our infrastructure is failing; water supplies, sewer networks, coastal defences. Our fighting forces are criminally abused and neglected. A nation dependent on imports for half its food has no coherent food security strategy.

And now the lights are going off. A Newcastle University study projects massive power shortfalls in the not distant future; whilst Labour play with toy windmills, our energy generating capacity is dying.

The government is simply not fit for purpose. It has not even the competence to discharge the most basic and fundamental duties. The nation must be given the opportunity to be rid of them, and soon.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Worth listening

If you have time, I commend you to listen to last night's live debate on the recession chaired by Evan Davis and aired on R4. Not a politician in hearing range, just experts, yet it made compelling listening.

This is exactly what the BBC is for. We could cut the licence fee by 80%, lose the mass of worthless televisual dross, and still have R3, R4, the World Service and yes, Boris, the Proms.

Monday, 15 September 2008

1979 was a watershed year

The number of murdered teens in London continues to rise inexorably. This year it's 26 and counting - and set to pass 30 by the time 2009 comes in. The Times reminds us of the recent totals:

2003 - 15
2004 - 16
2005 - 16
2006 - 17
2007 - 26
2008 - 26 and rising

The true hockey-stick graph isn't climate change - it's British bastardy. Bastardy rose sharply from 1979, and it's the bastards born during that Conservative administration that are now wielding their knives on London's streets. Since the graph has continued its steep climb over the past eleven years, don't expect any fall in these teenage murder figures over the next twenty years.

Telegraph joins the Austrian school

The Telegraph joins the Austrian school this morning in a leader piece:
For the truth is that it is not capitalism that has caused this downturn, but state intervention. Specifically, it was the decision by national central banks - above all the Fed, the Bank of Japan and the European Central Bank - to hold interest rates too low for too long. That was a political decision, not a market one, and it lies behind most of our present discontents.
Too much cheap money chasing too few worthwhile investments was always a recipe for disaster. The short-termism of politicians has driven the insanity - including Brown's Cyclopean myopia.

The government's abandonment of a general Council Tax property revaluation in England now seems fortuitous. Whilst genuine housing demand will maintain values in London and the South East in the longer term, the unsustainable speculative housing bubble in over-valued areas of the UK has burst, and the existing 1993 valuation differentials are probably correctly indicative of the true relationship in values between areas - except for the South East, where a genuine relative under-valuation has developed.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Change and progress

I was reflecting yesterday, steering the boat on a course for home, that political change is a bit like passage making. Looking ahead, you don't seem to be going anywhere quickly, but looking astern you can see how far you've come. Looking back at posts here a year ago I felt almost like a voice in the wilderness, and my frustration was palpable. Now it seems the rest of the country has caught up; multiculturalism has been officially condemned, the nation has turned its face from the Leviathan State, Labour's economic nakedness is apparent to all and the Harmans, Hewitts and Jowells of Labour's world are sounding like naive cranks rather than authoritative voices.

Each increment of change has been almost imperceptible but we've covered a fair few sea miles and soon that distant bridge will loom over us and we must choose our course with care. Once through, home and safety in the comfort of a secure berth.

Brown's whine echoes from the bunker

As leadership change gains impetus in Labour, another furious tantrum and petulant whine can be heard from the Brown bunker "It's not fair. It's my turn and you're all ruining it!"

After spending the entire summer writing and honing his conference speech, to be delivered without an apparent autocue in sight, to contain twelve memorable soundbites that can be fitted to any news bulletin, the language so carefully chosen to confirm to the conference that Gordon is committed to a new era of redistributive socialism but not so explicitly that the country will be frightened, with the orchestrated 135 second ovation (five seconds longer than Blair's), he may as well feed it to the shredder.

But those expecting an easy change of leader will be disappointed. Brown will be harder to kill than Rasputin. The evil monk, you will remember, was poisoned with enough cyanide to kill an elephant, shot four times, clubbed and beaten, and thrown into a freezing river only to die eventually of hypothermia. Those stubby chewed fingers will grasp the doorframe of Number Ten with the strength of a silverback gorilla, those heels will dig furrows in the marble floor tiles.

Brown was never much of an academic, but even he realises that history's verdict on his premiership will be excoriating. His vanity simply can't and won't accept the coming of the moment when his premiership ends and history writes the verdict. And this is why it's not just a problem for Labour, it's a danger for the nation. For Brown, like the petulant thwarted child in a fearsome tantrum, will want to hit out, to cause hurt, to get revenge for the pain and frustration. For the national good, the head must be struck from the beast's shoulders now, and quickly.