Saturday, 3 January 2009

And so it starts .....

The central State is inherently weak. Those at the centre of the State know this better than the civil population, and this knowledge makes them fearful and paranoid. Every shadow is a threat, every blog an enemy, each dissenter a potential terrorist. As Willem Buiter wrote in the FT:

Every restriction on our liberties - our right to speak, write, criticize and offend as we please, to act and organize in opposition to the government of the day, to embarrass it and to show it up by forcing it to look into the mirror of its own leaked secrets - must be resisted. We cannot afford to believe any government’s protestations that it is acting in good faith and will safeguard the confidentiality of any information it extracts from us. Public safety and national security are never sufficient reasons for restricting the freedom of the citizens. The primary duty of the state is to safeguard our freedom against internal and external threats. The primary duty of an informed citizenry is to limit the domain of the state - to keep the government under control and to prevent it from becoming a threat to our liberties.

The threat posed by our own government to our liberty and fundamental rights is a constant one. Most of the time it is a much greater, direct and immediate threat than that posed by foreign states (through conquest or extortion) or by external non-government agents, the violent NGOs like Al Qaeda.

2009 will see violent upheaval in Greece, Spain and Italy as the fall-out from their membership of the single currency hits. The EU will be fighting for its survival as a putative Federal State - and it will fight. The legislation is in place for a Greek magistrate to extradite any one of us should we be seen as adding to the threat posed by their own people on their own streets; Europe wide jurisdiction is now a reality. You can all forget Magna Carta.

Both France and Germany - the EU's spine - will become increasingly repressive in defence of the EU under threat. The Guardian reports today that nine French 'anarchists' who sound more like modern hippies have been seized by anti-terrorist police from the small Limousin village (incredibly with a communist Mayor) that they had settled in. The French government says they posed a threat to the State; they say they were just being anti-State hippies and wanted to be left alone. We will see much more of this throughout Europe during 2009 as the EU feels threatened by its unwilling citizens. Any UK libertarian blogger who campaigns in their defence could see themselves the subject of an extradition warrant from the French examining magistrate; no longer can we stand safely in our realm and comment on the excesses of mainland Europe.

I've mentioned before that we are going through changes of the magnitude of those of 1830 - 1860. A period of fundamental political reform that will be resisted by the established but dying parties, the Statist civil service and those whom Peter Oborne calls the Political Class. British good sense avoided the blood spilt on the continent in the 19th century, and my most fervent wish is that we can do so again. However, the baneful grasp of the evil fronds of the EU on our nation may mitigate against this.

No, I'm not wearing a tinfoil hat or hearing voices. We're so used to political stability, so indoctrinated with the supremacy of individual rights, that anything else is incomprehensible. Everyone forgets that all those rights, rights of expression, of assembly, of thought and conscience, and rights of privacy are expressly caveated so that they only exist insofar as they don't threaten the State. The European Convention on Human Rights is actually the Convention on the Rights of European States over the People of Europe; just read carefully the second clauses of Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 HERE.

And as the nine hippies of Tarnac are finding, one doesn't actually have to pose a real threat to the State - it's enough for the paranoid and weak central State to believe that you might.

Oborne on Lab Lib Dem alliance

If there is substance to Peter Oborne's conjecture in this morning's Mail that there is a deal in the offing for Brown to bring the Lib Dems into government, this could be Brown's and Clegg's biggest miscalculation to date. The Lib-Lab pact negotiated between David Steel and Callaghan in 1978 didn't save Sunny Jim and neither will such a pact save Brown. And in 1979 the Libs lost a third of their votes as a result.

What's been absolutely clear from recent elections and by elections is that people have been voting not for Dave's Tories or Cleggie's Libs but against Brown's Labs. The anti-Labour vote has been split between the two, the Lib Dems taking votes from those who can't yet quite bring themselves to vote Tory. Public feeling against Labour will be stronger than any other electoral motivator. If Clegg allies his party to Labour, the Tories may gain some extra votes but the Lib Dems will certainly haemorrhage support - much more than the third of their votes they lost in '79. The Greens may now do quite well from lost Lib Dem votes. The country will see this as trickery, as denying the people the chance to be rid of Brown, and the outcome for both Labour and the Lib Dems will be disastrous.

For this reason I believe we should give every encouragement to the Lib Dems to join Brown's doomed government.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Smokers, spend an hour or two in Hackney

Powell details in 'Dance' how young officers would tease Widmerpool by giving all the signs of preparing to render him a salute and then at the last moment refraining from doing so. It's the sort of pricking of petty pomposity that we English are really quite good at.

The Standard reports today that Hackney's litter enforcement officers are following smokers around with video cameras. As far as littering is concerned, smokers are an easy target. You know exactly when the offence will occur.

It strikes me that some mischievous smokers may take some minor pleasure in leading these people a merry dance.

'Top Gear', Localism and energy security

Strange as it may seem to find those three topics in a blog post, they are connected, I promise.

In a recent episode the Top Gear team tested two non-petrol vehicles. The first was the battery powered Tesla, an incredibly expensive but fast sports car. Then James May tested the Honda FCX Clarity, powered by a Hydrogen fuel cell. The team had no doubts that the Honda was the future; the very point of a car is to be able to drive it continuously, topping up the fuel as you go, and not having to leave it on charge for half its life.

North Sea gas - essentially methane - is running out. Alternatives are gas piped in from elsewhere, including Russia, and LNG tankers bring in gas by sea from around the world. It is curious that I recall the conversion to natural gas of our cooker back in the late 60s, and that it may cease to be an economic and affordable energy source within my lifetime. As North Sea gas winds down, the UK will be far more exposed in terms of energy security than at any time in our history.

Before North Sea gas, in my childhood, we ran on Town Gas. Every urban conurbation had its own gas works, often operated by the local public corporation. Originally, town gas was the by-product of the coking process that provided the steel industry with fuel, but it was found that low grade soft bituminous coal could be used where coke was not needed. Town gas plants didn't have to be big to achieve economies of scale, and modern technologies could make them clean and highly energy efficient. The UK has over 190 billion tonnes of coal 'in place' of which around 45 billion tonnes are classed as recoverable, so there's no shortage of secure raw material.

Best of all is the composition of coal gas - generally as follows

Hydrogen - 50%
Methane - 35%
Carbon Monoxide - 10%
Ethylene - 5%

Honda, as part of associated research for their Hydrogen cars, have developed two prototype 'fuel stations' to make hydrogen. One of these is a home-sized plant (pictured below) that, insanely, converts natural gas - essentially methane - into hydrogen.

Coal gas could give us not only a sensible source of hydrogen to replace petrol, but a source of methane to replace natural gas without having to back-convert every appliance in Britain. If they can be separated. And if the dangerous CO can be removed; it was this that enabled so many suicides by gas in the old days. And because it can be produced on a small scale, perhaps even domestic or neighbourhood scale, it can be left to the market.

Even if the economics are not yet quite right for a comeback for coal gas, they may soon be so. Let's be ready.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

The future of football clubs in 2009?

I must confess that footy has never been amongst my interests, and I have little understanding of the economics of the business that manages to pay tens of millions to buy players and then pay those players up to two hundred thousand a week. I assume club income comes from gate receipts, corporate sponsorship and TV broadcasting rights.

However, nothing typifies the conspicuous consumption of Brown's bloated boom decade more than football. A riot of laughable bad taste by the players, together with sexual excess and every variety of illegal and deviant behaviour imaginable, at the same time both lauded and condemned by the red tops.

Will TV user subscriptions and advertising revenues dry up? Will corporate sponsors fall by the wayside? Will footy fans desert the terraces? I simply don't know. Will all those footy assets, like every other asset in the economy, prove to have been grossly over-valued? I suspect so.

Wednesday, 31 December 2008

2008: Radders awards ....

No one can compete with Iain's lists of lists, of course, so I've only got a couple of categories.

1. Downfall - the hubris and nemesis awards

a. DEREK CONWAY - Derek's fault was to get caught fiddling at a time when the public tolerance of political corruption was at its lowest, and he caught the full hammer swing. I remember at Ralph Harris' memorial service in Smith Square Neil Hamilton caused a ripple of chuckles when he started his eulogy "Well, that's the first time I haven't been introduced as disgraced former MP ...". Conway will have to get used to being known as "Disgraced former MP Derek Conway" for a good few years before he rehabilitates himself on the after-dinner speech circuit.

b. POLLY TOYNBEE - It's hard to pin down the exact moment in 2008 that Polly Toynbee changed from heavyweight commentator to joke figure. Was it when her gushing love for Gordon changed to vituperative scorn and then back to love again? Was it the inane column that drew hundreds of excoriating comments from Grauniad readers? Whenever it was, the force has passed from her and she's become a sort of national caricature. I can see her losing her column next year, a lengthy 'sabbatical' and a self reinvention as something yoghurtish, hand-knitted and cosy.

c. TAMSIN DUNWOODY - Truly one of those Portillo moments. Poor Tamsin will have been written off by Labour as a reminder of the embarrassment at Crewe and Nantwich and consigned to obscurity. Expect to see her in 2009 surfacing as a debt counsellor or somesuch.

d. KEN LIVINGSTONE - Yes, strange to see that old demon's name in print again, isn't it? Ken hasn't yet learned that the harder he tries to stay in the public eye, and the deeper his longing for political office, the further the prospect recedes from him. Even at the end he never truly suspected London would ditch him; now he can't accept that his time has well and truly passed.

e. MICHAEL MARTIN - Unlike Toynbee, it's easy to pinpoint exactly when Martin became a spent force, when the authority of the office drained from the man and left him exposed and naked. His hubris was great, and his fall a long one. Now he must endure the humiliation of being a dead Speaker walking until he can muster the best grace he can to announce his retirement.

f. IAN BLAIR - The verdict of history will not be kind to Sir Ian. Had he chosen to go in the wake of the de Menezes killing, that single honourable act would have negated the critical assessment of his brief time in office. His decision to cling on, and to award himself a £25k 'performance bonus' for that year, left a foul taste in the mouths of Londoners. At the end I suspect even Jacqui Smith was glad to be rid of the embarrassment.

g. LEHMAN BROTHERS - I'm not sure if a finance firm can have corporate hubris, but if so then the downfall of this distinguished firm goes here. The downfall of Lehman's CEO Dick Fuld, a Master of the Universe who paid himself $75m in the last two years before the bank's downfall, certainly belongs here. Whether he'll serve time in a Federal Penitentiary remains to be seen.

2. Outstanding conduct

Only one entrant in this category - the British Army. For all the obvious reasons, plus this.

After the lads fooled the monoptic Brown into writing 'Cyclops' on an armoured vehicle, and signing it, on one of his previous visits, their furious officers warned that any further evidence of their collective dislike for Jonah would be ruthlessly dealt with. Since then they've adopted the sort of dumb insolence that they excel at; Brown's tacky publicity visits are now captured on camera with a very uncomfortable looking Brown surrounded by impishly grinning squaddies. Brown looks as though he thinks they've just gobbed on his back, and they do their best to look as though they're tempted to.

Well done, lads.

Monday, 29 December 2008

PVL outbreak in Kent?

The Mail doesn't say so in a story that went online this evening, but PVL could be the cause of 37 year old Stewart Fleming's rapid death; if so, he probably only had a 50:50 chance anyway, even if it was rapidly diagnosed.

I blogged about the coming dangers of PVL back on 17th September.

GPs and A&E Triage staff MUST learn to suspect PVL much earlier; an early test could not only save the victim but those with whom the victim has come into contact.

Interim Dept of Health guidance is available HERE but experts are urging the HPA to do much more.

Semites and blood feuds

There is deeply ingrained in the Semitic peoples - Jew and Arab both - the idea of the blood feud; for as long as Semites have been stealing water from each other's wells, cutting down each other's Olive trees or poaching each other's goats the blood feud has ruled their behaviour; they bristle with righteous Abrahamic indignation snarling 'An eye for an eye!' at each other and reach for their weapons. The blood thus spilt requires revenge. The blood feud is self-perpetuating, and can last hundreds or thousands of years, so long as there remains a blood-debt to be paid. This is the nature of the beast.

I confess to little sympathy for either side in this current flare-up. Their feuding is as old as the hills that surround them, and will continue as long as any of them survives. It requires an endogenous enlightenment of the scale and impact of the European first and second enlightenments to break them out of this spiral of mutual destruction, and this seems to be a thousand years away.

The feculence of Labour

As the senior bishops of the Church of England excoriate Labour as morally corrupt (an honour previously reserved for Mrs Thatcher), and A.N. Wilson analyses the moral vacuum at New Labour's heart in the Mail, we learn that fatal stabbings are at their highest ever level. These things are not unrelated.

Labour are the scribes and Pharisees of Matthew 23; whited sepulchres without, corruption and dead men's bones within. Somewhere at the heart of labour's self-rationalisation lies the belief that they're the champions of the poor, radical correctors of social inequality, and that redistributionist policies are the way to secure a better society. Well, the last eleven years have shown without doubt that redistributionist policies don't work. Their schools have failed to achieve even a basic level of education for millions of children, their tax and welfare policies have engineered a nation much more sharply divided than it was in 1997, their redistributionism has locked five million people into welfare slavery. Some champions of the poor. Some radicals.

The problem is that political power has become more important to them than anything else. They realise that their policy instruments don't work and that the nation can't afford them, yet like the addicted gambler who has already lost the house, the car and the family they are throwing the country's watch and wedding ring into the pot on one last desperate throw. They simply don't have the courage to stand up and walk away from the table because to do so would be to lose power.

And all of those whom Labour have pledged to help know this too. Labour is, at heart, indifferent to them. Labour's State is not a loving parent but an loveless Zombie, a Leviathan. The poor are no more than tractor figures to Labour. Even the hapless underclass realise that a parent who says "You can do what you like; we don't care" is not a benign liberal but a bad parent. Even a child wants a structure and rules they can understand. And if Labour's State regards their lives with indifference, so do they. I fear the number of fatal stabbings will continue to increase as the exponential rise of boys growing up without their biological fathers works its way through.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

HOW DARE HE!

That incompetent idiot, that lying, foolish hound Gordon Brown has the audacity to pontificate that his recession is a 'test of character' that we, the British people must pass; the fey feartie urges us to display the 'same spirit' our fathers did in World War II.

This is beyond parody. It insults the intelligence of every British citizen who realises that much of the mess we're in is of Brown's making, and it insults those who fought a war of national survival. That the Prime Mentalist can be so delusional to imagine that we'll go one extra step, or contribute one extra ounce of effort that will prolong him and his morally corrupt cabal in office for one nanosecond longer than necessary tells us his grip on reality has failed entirely.

In this case, It is Brown himself who has stolen our incomes, stolen our savings, stolen the nation's savings and mortgaged our grandchildren's future to build the Luftwaffe that is raining high explosive on us; it is beyond reason that he proclaims this a 'test of character' that we must pass. The only test of character we must pass is whether we can tighten a democratic hempen noose around the throat of this William Joyce quickly enough.

From a man without the balls ever to face an election, a man too timid and feartie to face the country, a man too spineless, vacillating and yellow to challenge Blair on John Smith's death for the Labour leadership, a man too irresolute, fearful and cowardly to rely on his own worth in the Commons rather than depend on forced written quips and tractor statistics, a man too scared, weak and pusillanimous even to face an audience of the public as his predecessor did, I will take no lessons in courage. And neither, I suspect, will the country.

Yes, Harriet, you've won

Across Britain during this Christmas break the same story will have been repeated. As kids returned home from Uni, as relatives or friends came to stay, or as friends were contacted for a seasonal meeting, millions of people will have been shocked to discover the local pub closed and boarded.

"Hi Jerry! Look, I'm down for a few days. Fancy meeting for a pint? Half Moon? Tomorrow?"

"Bill! Yeah, love to. Half Moon's closed though."

"Three Bells then?"

"Closed."

"The Cock? Kings Arms? Salisbury? Crown?"

"All closed."

In fact, the BBPA are reporting that we're losing pubs at the rate of nearly 40 a week. It's being reported that 32,000 Estate Agents have recently lost their jobs. They will join the 87,000 pub workers who have either already lost or will lose theirs, but it looks unlikely that either group will have anywhere to go to commiserate with one another except the local Starbucks. Or they can join the kids in the local bus shelter and share an alcopop.

Labour's well-meaning but lunatic zeal will be remembered by history as the government that killed our economy, atomised our people and destroyed all the local institutions that have defined British life. And next time you're passing through a Suffolk village and fancy a packet of crisps, tough. The village shop has closed because its Post Office was closed. The two closed pubs have been bought up by Housing Associations and turned into flats for single Congolese mothers. The nearest Tesco is 9 miles away.

I imagine Harriet Harman wearing a smug and very self-satisfied little smile as her ministerial Jag wafts her past the sad and boarded pubs; she's won.