Saturday, 24 January 2009

Caroline Thompson gives max publicity to DEC appeal

As far as I recall, Disasters Emergency Committee appeals are usually 20 or 30 seconds just before the news on the TV channels. Not many people notice them.

So well done then Caroline Thompson of the BBC for coming up with the brilliant idea of creating a newsworthy controversy over the broadcasting of the DEC's Gaza appeal itself. She has managed to give the appeal a level of publicity that the constituent charities could only dream about.

The young, with their natural affinity for anything censored by the broadcasting establishment, will be donating extravagantly, and millions of ordinary Britons who would have missed the usual appeal will now know about it.

This evening's and tonight's news bulletins on all four channels on the story of the controversy, and on the BBC's refusal to broadcast it, will probably bring the appeal to the attention of 30m viewers or so.

Tony Benn reckons the BBC will have realised the above 'by the time the Sun sets' and agree to broadcast the appeal. That's at 16.36 in London today, a quarter of an hour away. Let's see.

Uhm, and to save anyone a google, you can donate to the DEC Gaza appeal in the following ways:

Call - 0370 60 60 900
Online - http://www.dec.org.uk/donate_now/

What a brilliant wheeze! The BBC itself is leading with the story on it's news site. Now that's publicity.

My apologies to Daniel Kawzcynski

On Thursday I blogged about the obtaining by police of a letter from Daniel Kawzcynski's office. Although the facts are right - he did hand it over voluntarily, then regretted doing so - he's less of a prat than I thought him to be.

Iain Dale publishes a copy of a letter from Mr Kawzcynski to the speaker, and a pointer to Michael Crick's Newsnight blog which carries the full story.

The new Speaker, and the Lord Speaker, might now wish to give consideration to a Parliamentary security force to replace the current police based there, who have just proven themselves grossly incapable of acting in Parliament's interests rather than the Home Secretary's.

Perhaps based on the MOD Police or Civil Nuclear Constabulary, reporting only to the Speaker and Lord Speaker (or the Serjeant at Arms and Black Rod), and armed as necessary, with powers only within the Parliamentary Estate, such a force would go some way towards safeguarding our interests.

I hardly need add that the privileges we've won for MPs are our privileges and designed to prevent abuse of power by the Executive against our interests. Clearly, this isn't working and needs reform.

A thoroughly honest copper

If you have half a minute today, pop over to Nightjack and read his summary of his eleven months of blogging. It includes this gem:
I am absolutely sure that we, the Police, have found that prosecuting “Decent Folk” is easier than going after the “Evil Poor” and just as countable and valid for the bean counters. We are increasingly following a path of least resistance. Policing is going to be just another business before we know it with a product consisting largely of cautions and the detection of miserable non crimes. We need to get back to using local knowledge and discretion before we stop being citizens in uniform and become just another imposition of the State.

Labour's 'greed is good' culture at the top of the public sector

Labour, in Mandelson's words, is intensely relaxed about senior public sector managers making themselves wealthy at the taxpayer's expense.

Since 1997 the salary spread between admin staff at the base of the bureaucratic pyramids and the boss at the apex has changed out of all recognition. In 1997 you could reckon that a Chief Constable or Chief Executive would earn perhaps 5 or 6 times the salary of a base level employee. Labour have widened the gap to 10 or 12 times or more by ensuring that those at the very top of the tree have enjoyed above inflation salary increases and fake bonus schemes, and every time an incumbent boss retires with a massive multi million pound pension pot, they hike the salary for the next one on the basis that they need to 'attract the most able candidates'.

On 13th January the Standard ran a piece that revealed that almost 400 London council bosses pay themselves over £100k each. Hackney paid up to £320k to former Chief Executive Penny Thompson. Ita O'Donovan at Baby-P / Climbie Haringey gets up to £180k.

Today the Times reveals that Chief police officers are also on the 'greed is good' bandwagon, awarding themselves massive bonuses. Presumably for overseeing such massive increases in burglary and knife crime. Ian Blair awarded himself a £25k bonus on top of his £247k salary in his last full year, for what?

And why, you may ask, has this been allowed to happen? Well, for two related reasons, I think. One is because they can. They have no effective democratically elected governing bodies that regulate their pay. Town hall bosses and police chiefs take their orders directly from Whitehall these days; councillors and police authority members are an inconvenient irrelevance.

Secondly, the old management consultant con. A public sector boss who wants a pay rise engages a management consultant to advise on modernising, streamlining, making more efficient, effective and responsive the organisation that they govern. Inevitably the first recommendation is to increase the boss' salary by 25%. The management consultant picks up a six-figure fee, the boss pockets the wedge and the whole thing was done on the basis of 'independent, external expert advice'. All very NuLabour and transparent.

And a central Statist government has no incentive to interfere. They want a compliant cabal of obedient council and police bosses, and these rewards are a small price, especially as the taxpayer bears the cost.

The answer, of course, is not legislation or greater State regulation or a new senior pay quango. It is to empower local citizens to have real control over their own local services and policing. But you all knew that, didn't you?

Maya Angelou and Robert Burns are awful poets

Both Maya Angelou, who bored the world at Obama's inauguration, and Rabbie Burns are truly dreadful poets. What they have in common is that they've been adopted as cultural figureheads in spite of, rather than because of, their artistic talents. And this is fine; cultural figureheads are good.

Poetry is perhaps the one area for which it is claimed that cultural origin justifies awful art. We don't excuse visual art in which the painter has no control of his medium, no concept of composition and has a woeful appreciation of form and scale on the basis that the painter was a Maori, and it's therefore brilliant. We don't excuse film makers who have no control of their camera, can't light a set, can't capture dialogue convincingly or edit footage coherently on the basis that the auteur was an Eskimo and therefore it's fine. But we do this all the time for poetry.

The best English poetry is of course written by the Irish. But this aside, you'll excuse me if this weekend I dip into A.E. Housman or Robert Graves as a prophylactic against accidentally hearing a rendition in a cod-Scots accent of some painful piece of dreadful doggerel.

Friday, 23 January 2009

JP Morgan still pirates

There's a truly interesting graphic that appears on the Speccie's coffee house blog, credited to JP Morgan, that purports to show the changes in market value of the main banks in 2007 and today. There are big circles representing 2007 value and little circles inside them representing current value. The assumption most reasonable people would make is that the area of the circles represents the values.

Now you won't be surprised to see that JP Morgans own circles don't look too bad - but those of Citigroup and Barclays look as though they have lost about 99% of their market values. It didn't look right to me, so I knocked up a quick area gram showing Barclays' market cap in 2007 just as the ABN Amro deal was expected and the value today. In Sterling this about equal to the $91bn / $7.4bn I can just read on the Speccie piccie.

Well, it doesn't look good, but nowhere near as bad as JP Morgan's graphic suggests. So what have they done?

Well, something not terribly honest. They've scaled the diameters of the circles, not their areas. So these are really bar charts with fat rounded middles. You'll get the idea from this conventional bar chart:


It's not honest at all, really. But once a pirate ....

Update
=======
Ah, it seems many others spotted this before me. Apols for being slow. Official 'corrected' version over at the FT Alphaville

End looms for Brown

Evan Davis tried his hardest this morning to get Brown to admit that we've gone from boom to bust. Time after time Brown fell back to robotic chanting "global ... international ... unprecedented growth". There can hardly be a single voter in the UK who believes that the boom was Gordon's and the bust is everyone else's fault, but it's the only mantra he has and he repeats it with the tenacity of a terrier with a rat.

We're shaking the last drips out of the bucket. Another half a percent off interest rates, another fifty billion thrown into the black hole and that's it. The Bank has started 'quantitative easing' already. My personal credit rating is higher than that of my bank. The country's credit rating is being downgraded. The markets have lost confidence in Brown, G8 leaders have lost confidence in Brown and the latest polls show the British public is not very far behind in losing all confidence in Brown. An IMF team have got their bags packed and senior Treasury officials will no doubt have already been making arrangements - utterly discreet and secret arrangements - to accommodate them.

The words 'Gordon Brown's recession' casually repeated in Tory soundbites have taken anchor in the public's mind. They won't be shifted. There's no bounce to come, not even the remotest, slightest, million-to-one chance of a bounce. He's finished. You could hear it on the radio this morning; the voice sounded the same, the robotic mantra was the same but something was gone, something was missing. In the same way as authority deserted Speaker Martin, leaving the squeaky husk of a man in brocade robes, Brown's authority is fading fast. It's palpable.

The nation now needs someone it can get behind. Brown had hoped that Obama's inauguration would strengthen his position; in reality it's had quite the reverse effect. We've all realised just how motivating a change of leader can be. Bush's departure has highlighted the desirability of Brown's.

The end is looming for Gordon Brown; not obscurity, but the obloquy of history, his reputation in tatters, the nation's worst ever Prime Minister.

Now get him out of my sight.

European civil unrest

With more riots in Greece, EU Referendum reveals emergency talks amongst Eurocrats on the danger to the putative federal State of popular anger across Europe.

The latest Eurobarometer survey offers scant assurance to Eurocultists. Despite asking questions such as 'Do you think cuddly little puppies are cute?' in an attempt to convince themselves that their malignant cult enjoys popular support, despite £1bn every year spent on PR and publicity, the EU cultists remain about as popular as Sardine and Sprout Pizza.

What we need now are the Pistols to do a version of the 'Ode to Joy' and lots of news footage of angry Bulgarians, Greeks and Estonians burning that wretched EU rag.

Can I recommend Mr Flag to anyone in the UK so minded? They do a very reasonable 5' x 3' EU rag for just £5.69, in a very burnable polyester. Being British, you'll probably need to carry out a risk assessment and have public liability insurance in place first, together with a Flag Burning licence from your local authority and you'll need to notify the police and fire brigade fourteen days in advance, but I'm sure we can rise to the challenge.

And here's an instructional video on safe flag burning techniques:

For God's sake, don't let Miliband major abroad again

That curious head that should belong in a museum of anthropology, a head that is just wrong in proportion, although having the usual complement of eyes, ears and the like, that looks always as though it was sculpted out of plasticine by someone with a manual of anatomy but no artistic talent, has been at it again.

Perhaps it's the weird shape that causes puerile and jejune thoughts to form, gather mass and emerge from the curiously twisted mouth of this 44 year-old man with a 12 year-old's brain. In any case, I'd have severe reservations about letting him out alone on the High Street without his carer, let alone allowing him abroad. The risk of those juvenile pensees leaking out is just too great.

But no. We've let Miliband major go to India, where he's managed to insult over a billion people, some 17% of the world's population, in one go.

Perhaps the sight of so much human fecundity in India shocked his intellectual capacity back to the second form and led to him mouthing such excruciating howlers at his hosts.

Whatever the reasons, we must never allow Miliband major abroad again.
[Edited 10.24]

Thursday, 22 January 2009

'The police have dismissed criticism ...'

WHAT? How very dare they, to use Dale's phrase.

'The police have dismissed criticism from a Conservative MP' is R4's news headline on the story of the police trawl through Daniel Kawczynski's constituency correspondence in the Commons in searching for a handwriting match to that of a poison-pen letter received by Ed Balls that bore a Shrewsbury postmark.

Kawczynski is a prat. He failed to protect his constituents, and they will make their judgement at the ballot box. And like the woman who takes a week to decide she's been raped, after her one-night beau fails to call her, his indignation carries little weight. But this is not the point.

The police must never, never, 'dismiss' criticism from an MP.

I think it's time our newly-clean Commons remembered where their balls are and reminded the police of the correct relationship between them and Parliament.

Brown U-turn will make for a healthier Parliament

Yes, Tom Steinberg of My Society played a blinder, and the blogosphere did the country proud, but in the end it was Cameron's ability to heed his own second thoughts and act on them that saved the day.

I think it played out like this. Cameron was content to fly a kite, allowing his senior back benchers to give quiet support and encouragement to Labour to introduce measures to hide MP's expenses evidence, and see how it flew. At any event he can't have been unaware that this was the case. But Labour were getting nervous; 'clean' MPs on their own benches were not supportive, and many others were intending to absent themselves from the Commons today to avoid their names appearing on the lobby lists. With their usual cudgel approach, a three-line whip was issued.

The resulting furore prompted Cameron to make his call.

Brown was justified in feeling aggrieved yesterday, but tough. Cameron proved the shrewder political player, and demonstrated a touch of ruthlessness that is rather encouraging. For make no mistake, when these receipts are published his own benches will produce as many chiselling little crooks as Labour's.

But the fight isn't over yet. Guilty MPs will now do everything they can to avoid exposure, including destroying the evidence. There will be further delays; they will use the courts, they will use the hopeless dead-man-walking Speaker, they will use every parliamentary contrivance they can muster to delay the day of reckoning.

But one thing is fairly certain. Expenses claims now being made will be honest, transparent and of the standards of probity that we expect. Some MPs will mourn the loss of corrupt income, honest MPs will feel vindicated, and Parliament will have become just a little healthier. And that's the real victory.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

First mention of Rousseau of 2009

The Labour party's ideological grounding in the malignant doctrine of that black hearted rogue Rousseau will be familiar to regular readers of this blog. Rousseau who advocated the atomisation of society and the power of the Leviathan State so that:
Each citizen would then be completely independent of his fellow men, and absolutely dependent upon the state . . . for it is only by the force of the state that the liberty of its members can be secured.
I normally dip into the Brussels Journal with mixed feelings; their trenchant Islamophobia is not a taste I wholly share. But there's a half decent piece by Millar on there that is worth reading;
The notion of “legislating for tolerance” echoes Rousseau’s statement in The Social Contract that people “will be forced to be free.” People obviously cannot be forced to be free, because of course in forcing them their freedom is lost. Open-mindedness tends, then, to be the next casualty. D’Entreves has said, quite correctly, that with Rousseau is the notion that “freedom lies in obedience,” and that, as such, from Rousseau we drift “towards the doctrine of totalitarianism.” Totalitarian states, he also says, claim that they allow people to live the good life because, according to them, they embody what is morally right. As such, “man will cease to obey out of fear, but obey out of conscience […]” (A.P. d’Entreves, Natural Law, p. 142). This very belief seems to lie beneath the legislating of the Labour government.

Brown 3-line whip on hiding MP's expenses

What can Gordon Brown be so scared of coming to light in the publication of MP's expenses that he's imposed a 3-line whip on tomorrow's vote?

What frightens the fey old Feartie o'Fife so much that he's prepared to defy the orders of a High Court judge and hide the evidence?

And can anyone trust a single MP who doesn't solemnly undertake to publish their own expenses in full after this?

Word clouds: Obama and Cameron

The Telegraph publishes this morning a word cloud of Obama's inauguration speech. Just out of interest, I thought I'd give Cameron's 2008 conference speech the same treatment. See the difference? It's not bad, but Dave still needs less government and more nation. (Try it at Wordle)

Cameron:

Obama:

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Nigel Farage - codling king!

Familiar for his chalk-stripe suits and savage mauling of the grinning ninny Blair at the European Parliament, Farage is probably less familiar in the guise below. A committed sea angler, he tells us he'd taken plenty of good sized codling off Dungerness beach before Christmas. He writes on the World Sea Fishing site to urge us to protest against the EU's proposal to impose fish quotas on recreational anglers. I'd urge you to do likewise - see his piece for contacts.

More schadenfreude ...

Conrad Black will have to wait anxiously until 5pm London time today to learn whether President Bush will sign a Presidential Pardon as one of his last acts in office. His lobbying of the President over the past few months has been truly desperate.

However, Bush has a slightly cruel humorous streak; from 'Yo, Blair' which put the grinning ninny in his place to the tight turn at speed in his golf buggy that almost flung the stiff and pompous Gordon Brown out, he's demonstrated this malicious streak.

I'll bet he has deliberately refrained from deflating Black's hopes so far. I'll bet an aide will have been instructed to call Black's lawyers at 4.30 London time to let them know .... that he won't be granting a pardon.

Hamartia, hubris and nemesis but no catharsis

Many intelligent and erudite Scots will see in the story of Sir Fred Goodwin, the disgraced and dismissed head of the Royal Bank of Scotland, the elements of Greek tragedy. Hamartia, his tragic flaw, caused by hubris and arrogance; the peripeteia of his bank's downfall from an institution that sought to rival Barclays to a provincial branch, and the nemesis of his sacking when the full extent of his vainglorious and foolish behaviour was exposed. However, two elements are lacking that would make Goodwin a Scots hero, and he is left as dirty villain. There is no indication of anagnorisis, or self-knowledge, on Goodwin's part; just a fraction of the realisation of the human cost of his stupidity would have led him to surrender his knighthood in ignimony, cover his head in ash and exchange his Savile Row suit for sackcloth. And there is no catharsis, no pity, no sympathy, no cleansing in the public mind for this noxious little fart.

Nor is there any sign that Goodwin will voluntarily give up any part of the £4.2m he paid himself in 2007, or of his £8.4m pension fund.

The Americans have a simple view of the relation between the extent of privileges accorded to its wealthiest citizens and their responsibilities. They would consider Goodwin had a duty of care, that he breached that duty, and as a consequence has caused great human misery and suffering, and therefore that he should be punished. I suspect in the US, Goodwin would already be languishing in a Federal prison.

On this occasion, I'd encourage the US government to put a case together and apply for Goodwin's fast-track extradition. His negligence extends across the Atlantic. A sentence of twenty to fifty in a Federal penitentiary may at last bring to the people of this country the catharsis we're lacking.

MPs FOI exemption vote - your help needed

This Thursday MPs will be asked to vote for the Freedom of Information (Parliament) Order which will exempt them from the requirement to publish receipts for their expenses.

Please write to your MP - you can do this easily online using They work for you - and urge them to vote against this pernicious and anti-democratic measure.

If you use Facebook, you can also join This Facebook group.

Douglas Carswell MP, and Ben Wallace MP, have already committed themselves to publishing all their expenses online. Good for them.

They work for you will be publishing the names of all the MPs that vote in favour of this order. Their names will also be published on this blog as a permanent list in the sidebar.

This government have often told us 'If you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear.' To all honest and diligent MPs who are only claiming reasonable expenses I'd say you have nothing to fear. Any expenses incurred in carrying out your duties to your constituents are not only understood but supported by all reasonable voters. This isn't a witch-hunt.

However, many MPs on both sides of the house have proved themselves incapable of restraining their greed when opportunities for increasing their personal wealth have presented themselves. This is an insult to us all.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Let them both off the leash

With Hague announced as Cameron's uncrowned number two, and Ken Clarke back on the front bench, the Tories now have a real chance of landing some heavy blows on Labour's failed State.

Bring it on!

Lessons of Mumbai

The RAND Corporation has published a preliminary assessment of the lessons to be learned from the Mumbai LeT attacks at the end of last year. There are two lessons that may be learned by this country.

The paucity of coastal patrol resources allowed the terrorists to hijack a fishing boat, load it with inflatable boats and weapons, and sail down the coast unchallenged to land directly at Mumbai. I've long supported an idea for the Admiralty to revive the Sea Fencibles, staffed by volunteer yachtsmen and sea anglers, to patrol near-continental coastlines.

Secondly, the RAND report points out
With the Mumbai attack, LeT demonstrated that it has the ability and the will to internationalize its targets. LeT now has now assumed a larger role in the larger jihadi landscape. Like some of the other militant groups in Pakistan, LeT is believed to have considerable reach into Pakistani diaspora populations, raising a number of concerns for countries with Pakistani expatriate communities.

Pakistan will remain a destination where individuals radicalized abroad can go to obtain training from militant groups.
That means the UK. And let's not assume our borders are so secure that assault weapons, grenades, explosives and ammunition are not being smuggled in.

The consequences of Labour's 'open borders' approach to immigration and their asinine and divisive devotion to cultural apartheid under the guise of multiculturalism has left us all more vulnerable to this sort of atrocity.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

BBC censors news of European riots?

You need to go to the New York Times to find news of the riots that have been spreading in Bulgaria and the Baltic states; you can look in vain for any mention of this on the BBC's Europe news webpage. For why?

As the prospects for civil disorder grow in Spain, Greece and Italy, with Turkey like a tinderbox over Israel's actions in Gaza, with Bulgaria, Romania and the Baltic states already out on the streets, I'd imagine the Balkan states will soon be there too. The French won't be left out, and the Belgians are that cheesed off with everything at the moment they'll take to the streets at the drop of a hat.

The Czech presidency of the EU looks like being one of the most critical in the institution's history.

For migrants and foreigners, the UK is about the safest place to be in Europe at the moment. Eastern Europe showed its capacity to degenerate suddenly into pogroms and massacres in Srebrenica just fourteen years ago. I wouldn't fancy being a Russian in the Baltic states or a Turk in Bulgaria today.

I think we all need to keep an eye on the US press to find out what's happening in Europe right now.

Eurocrats will kill Britons

News in the Telegraph today that the EU's Working Time Directive (yes, they've ridden roughshod over our opt-out on this, as they will, if allowed, on all the others on which Labour so foolishly depends) will end up killing British patients is no surprise.

They spent several years practising. Remember, a vote for Labour or the Lib Dems in June is a vote for totalitarianism.


A few surprises in the Yougov poll

There is a frisson of excitement around the Tory blogosphere at the 13 point lead from the latest Yougov poll, but the detailed results reveal a few surprises.

That 8% declare themselves as 'none of the above' and 14% as don't knows only makes half of the 40% of the electorate that boycott the polls in a general election. The sample is very small, but this appears to be concentrated in the young and the C2DEs.

When asked about the extent of the State in the national economy, 44% thought 50-50 was good, with 26% wanting a bigger role for business and 20% a bigger role for the State. At a time when business - the banks - are public villains, this is a surprisingly good indication that the country has no real taste for Scandinavian Statism (sorry, Polly)

With 65% of respondents against general government data sharing and only 19% for, it also seems we don't want a surveillance State either.

We're pretty green, it seems. A majority support the banning of incandescent light bulbs and recycling. And opponents of a third Heathrow runway outnumber supporters 42% to 29%.

The social mobility questions are stunners. Only 12% think they're less socially mobile than their parents , with young C2DE males prominent, whilst 55% think they're more socially mobile. Whilst 80% agree that breaking down barriers to mobility is a good thing, 48% fear this will lead to unhealthy positive discrimination (30% disagreeing). However, the view is that the government is mad not bad; 49% disagree that Milburn's intention is to hammer the middle classes, split about evenly between ABC1s and C2DEs.

Support for Israel (24%) and Hamas (18%) is closer than one might have imagined, with 39% thinking they're both equally to blame for the current conflict.

How much do we really need the banks?

It's a real question. We're told the UK banks are too big to be allowed to fail. We're also told that 80% of the banks' debts are non-domestic; that only 20% of the banks' business has been lending to British home owners and businesses. This weekend British taxpayers are being asked to stump up another £200bn to cover the losses, essentially, on this risky foreign business.

I've got another idea on bank restructuring, and it isn't a 'bad bank'. Let the banks split off their domestic retail banking business and let the Treasury ensure this is protected. Making sure the ATMs dispense cash, that our direct debits are met and that our savings are protected must be at the top of the nation's agenda. Let the foolish banks deal with all the losses on their international business themselves; if they can't, and if these international banks fail, so be it. Let them do so.

Britain is a small country with a big banking business. To try to sustain it at its previous level is beyond what we can afford. Surely it's time to let it go?

Update
=======
Since writing, John Redwood has come up with a realistic plan for RBS to do essentially this. See his post HERE.