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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Volenti non fit injuria

Years ago, when I learned my Law of Tort, a standard defence against personal injury or damage claims was that of volenti non fit injuria; to a willing person, no harm is done. A rugby player who had voluntarily played in a game of rugby, knowing the expected risks and the behaviour of players, could not successfully claim for having his shirt ripped or his eye blacked, but if his opponent hit him on the head with a Polo mallet he may have a case. It was a sensible little legal tenet and I have often wondered what became of it. 

Now it seems, following Lord Young's report, it may be rediscovered. Cheese flonkers and barrel dwilers may once again race down slippery grassy slopes in pursuit of their cheese, the citizens of Lewes may burn barrels of tar and young boys may test champion conkers and suffer the pain of bruised knuckles made agonising in the November cold. Excellent. 

Friday, 1 October 2010

Tax accountant thinks right wing bloggers are uninspired

Richard Murphy the tax accountant posts here that right-wing bloggers aren't creative. He may consider my comment (awaiting moderation, no doubt indefinitely) on his website;

Oh ruddy heck. A tax accountant - the most mind-numbingly tedious of the bean-counting sub-species bar actuaries - thinks right-wing bloggers may not be creative. 

Mr Murphy, with a smile like a sphincter damming last night's curry, who in  his profession has created nothing with a lifespan beyond next year's tax audit, has without doubt walked into the foyers of buildings designed and built by right wing bloggers, has eaten lunches cooked by right wing bloggers in restaurants run by right wing bloggers. On expenses. He has used websites created by right wing bloggers to book tickets for a show produced by a right wing blogger featuring an artiste who blogs in her spare time for the right wing blogosphere. The bloke who designed the dark-grey polyester fabric for M&S' budget suit range favoured by tax accountants blogs for the right wing, as does the factory boss who makes them up in Bromsgrove. Mr Snurd, whose watercolours of the Algarve decorate the living rooms of Britain's tax accountants, blogs as 'Rush is Extremely Right'. Across the right wing blogosphere, bloggers sear a trail of coruscating invective, blazing comet-tails of blinding verbal dexterity, perseid showers of prose with an articulacy and fluency that bespeaks the highest reaches of creative familiarity with the English language. Mr Murphy the tax accountant offers us ... someone else's cartoon. 

Well, I'll press the 'submit comment' button but with little hope that Mr Murphy possesses even the scintilla of creativity required to publish it. 

EU to bugger Britain's boaters

Of the half a million or so engined small boats around Britain's coasts and on our inland waters, the vast majority are fitted with marine or marinised diesels, either as main engines or auxilliary propulsion. These engines - Volvo,  Yanmar, Bukh, Vetus, Beta, Lister-Petter and the others - are designed and built to run on normally sulphurated diesel, currently red diesel. The EU grievously damaged boating only recently by insisting the UK government added road duty to the marine fuel, in an act of spite of utter surrealism. A sort of quiet accommodation was reached termed '60:40' under which boaters, when buying red diesel, could claim 40% road-duty free as being used for cooking and heating. 

Now, as YBW reports, the Department of Transport have locked horns with the Europrats over further EU proposals to require all 'inland' boaters to use low-sulphur diesel. This fuel is completely unsuitable for many marine engines, and can lead to seized engines and blocked fuel lines and filters. Stalled engines can lead to accidents and fatalities, and at the very least to cost and inconvenience. The Europrats, in an ecstasy of pious environmentalism, are deaf to the human consequences.

Our only hope is that the DoT will tweak the definition of 'inland' to exclude anything connected to the sea, certainly anything tidal. But don't hold your breath.

God, I loathe those bastards. 

Nine months jail for £6k MP expenses fraud

So the courts have done us a great favour by setting the jail tariff for stealing from the taxpayer by fraudulent MPs' expenses claims. In this case it isn't an MP or peer, but a budget officer in the fees office, jailed yesterday for fiddling £6k.  

Let's hope the courts are consistent in applying this tariff to any MPs and peers convicted of expenses fraud. 

World War I to end this weekend

Not so very long after the UK paid the last instalment of our war-debts to the US, this Sunday Germany will pay the final $98m instalment of Versailles reparations imposed after WWI to France and Belgium. We've had ours already; we asked for the German navy, and gained little but a few thousand tons of scrap iron on the seabed of Scapa Flow. 

The legacy of that war changed our nature with government forever. Once the State got used to exercising powers that until then had been local, it never looked back. 1914 was the real start of the Leviathan central State.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was reported as saying to students at Duke University last week that "too few bear the burdens of war"; that the cost of war was borne by a small number of young men. Henry Rollins in Vanity Fair has established he didn't actually say that, but came close to it. And this, too, is a product of the Great War; this was the start of total war, the mobilisation of the entire nation in the war effort, and the acceptance of civilian targets as legitimate objects of military action. It might be thought we've returned to the the status quo ante, in which wars were fought in distant places by professional armies, but this isn't the case. The Jihadists are waging their war against the civilian population at home as the army fights abroad; currently the casualties are insignificant, outweighed by the fear factor, much the same effect as those primitive bombing raids by Zeppelins and Gothas in WWI, lots of noise and panic but little damage. 

Well, if things progress, Mr Gates' misreported comment may come back to haunt him. If the metaphorical fabric-winged Gotha puttering its solitary way across the sky with a 10lb bomb is replaced by a wing of Heinkels carrying a hundred tons, if in twenty years our children face death daily in their homes from the Jihadists, then the 'burden' will be better shared. 

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Harpex stumbles but stays the course

Despite gloomy Autumn predictions for an economic downturn, my favourite indicator, an excellent predictor of UK GDP behaviour, continues upwards, albeit at a slower rate. The contribution of the construction sector to our second quarter GDP recovery, a remarkable 9.5% increase in output, reflects the completion of many stalled housing developments; this catch-up is now slowing and things are settling, and this is what I think the Harpex shows. Third quarter GDP growth will be much flatter, I expect. 


Scots prohibitionists defeated

After the defeat of proposals for minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland last week, the Scots Parliament yesterday threw out proposals to impose a minimum age for off-licence sales of 21. Nicola Sturgeon, who bears an uncanny resemblance to a girl known on campus as 'kanga chunks' whom I dated many years ago, now sees her Nanny strategy in tatters. 

The Scots have many good reasons to get drunk, including being governed by a cabal of joyless fantasists such as Mz Sturgeon, and few cogent restraints. Many fine Scotsmen under 21 will have served with the colours with great distinction in Labour's wars in faraway lands and it's no sort of gratitude to tell a man who may be a battle hardened junior NCO that he's not responsible enough to buy a tin of lager.


Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Old Labour, New Glottal Stop

The glottal stop is as much a mark of the new left as the wibbly mason's handshake was of the old Tories; both are deeply amusing to observers, but applied with deadly seriousness by insiders. They come from good middle class homes, you see, in which their parents listen to Radio Three and guests are intelligent and articulate. They grow up with perfect diction, and as is the new fashion, absolutely accentless. Then they go to Uni.

For the first time they meet real regional people with accents, people whose parents often work for a living, maybe even people who live in a Council House. How can they be credible members of the Marxist Society or the Labour Students Soc alongside such people? The talented polyglots may grow a regional tinge to their voice, but these are rare. Most adopt the easier course of truncating perfectly healthy words with a contrived glottal stop in the belief that it makes them sound working class. 

You hear it from every nice middle class boy selling Socialist Worker, from every young woman who has forsaken the gymkhana rosettes on her bedroom wall for wimmin's rights. Ed Balls does it to excess. And now we have a Labour leader who pretends that he can't speak English properly. 

How you speak is important. Young men, in particular young black men from horrendous estates in London who are trying, striving, struggling to make their way in life in jobs that require a good sales manner, a correct verbal fluency with customers, enunciate their words with a precision they've had to learn since school. They have my utter admiration. When I get a cold-call and the voice on the other end is a young black man carefully speaking clearly and crafting his diction I'm as polite and as friendly as I can be. This deserves respect. I'm almost prepared to agree to a visit from an Everest rep because they're trying. Really trying

Edward, dear boy, if you're bright enough to lead the nation you must be bright enough to realise that leaving the ends off words won't make you working class and no one will believe you've ever had a real job either. No one will believe you've ever had to try for anything. No one is fooled. You may have been doing it since Uni, and it may have become a habit. But, frankly, it sounds absurd. And it's deeply disrespectful. Lose it. 

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Will Master Edward do a Khrushchev?

When Khrushchev denounced Stalin in the 'secret speech' at Party Congress in 1956, members of the audience were so shocked that some died of heart attacks and others later committed suicide. However, the 'Khrushchev Thaw' proved something of a misnomer; the Soviet Union remained as repressive, brutal and thuggish as ever.

Questions today are whether Master Edward will do a Khrushchev and denounce Brown's foolish delusions, self deceptions, hubris and emotional illiteracy; pundits are speculating he will deride Brown's claim to have ended boom and bust and apologise for Labour's thirteen years of misrule.

Don't get your hopes up. Labour's rehabilitation of failed leaders is a long process - witness Kinnock. When ditched as party leader he behaved in the way Lembit Opik is now, and humiliated himself doing paid-for appearances on tacky Sky daytime TV quiz shows and similar. But before long, when the scars had healed a little, he was back on the podium. And so will Brown be - so Master Edward is unlikely to mouth words that will come back to haunt him. 

Always make sure the knives are wielded by others is the first rule of politics. 

EU rules France must pay for our pre-retirement leave

The Mail is waxing froth at a ruling from the EU - actually a letter rather than a court ruling, so there's an element of doubt here - that eastern Europeans should be able to move here and start claiming UK Unemployment Benefits at UK rates without any hindrance or test.

But what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, and current French restrictions on eligibility will also fall foul of the ruling; this means Brits are entitled to the same benefits as the native French without any pre-qualification or special conditions. 

If you're 57 and being made redundant from the Carrot Council or the British Sausage Board or another of the culled quangos, don't despair. The three years before your pension kicks in can now be spent in idleness, painting in Arles or just quaffing the DOC in Avignon, being paid 57.4% of your last salary for up to 42 months. And from 57, you don't even have to pretend to be looking for a job. 

So while you rent your London semi out to an Albanian weightlifting team for a small fortune and avoid the dreary Olympics at the same time, enjoying the sunshine, cheap high quality food and wine and rest and relaxation after a lifetime promoting carrots or standardising sausages, thank those faceless muppets in Brussels. 

Monday, 27 September 2010

Lady Toynbee's advice for Edward

Lady Toynbee writes an 'Open Letter' in the Grauniad today to young Master Edward (um, an article written by a journalist for her own paper is usually termed a 'column', dear) in which she advises;

- Gag the Press
A free press will always be the enemy of Socialism. You must find ways of muting the voice of the media, corrupting it or pouring State money into countervailing publications.

- Silence your critics by bringing them into the Politburo
Next to the press, your main enemies are the 'moderates' in the Party and social democrats outside the Party. Neutralise them with gifts of status and well remunerated posts and make them part of the Politburo's collective decision making

- Don't worry about public opinion
We can suppress outright dissent and protest with new Defence of the State laws, close down the internet and isolate dangerous right-wing elements for long enough for the New Plan to become embedded and the Party in control of every facet of life in Britain, so don't worry about public opinion

- Don't blow your own trumpet
The Party will do this far better on your behalf; a facade of modest, unassuming mien will allow the Party's publicity machine to heap all praise on the great and wise and modest Leader to greater effect

- Make sure you divide the classes
Tell our client voters that their money comes from us taking it from the middle classes by force; don't try to disguise this. We want their hearts and their balls.

- Soak income
Don't pussy around with disguising taxes. Soak incomes, do so shamelessly. Only a 90% top rate and a 50% rate for anything over £36k will work.

- Let Apparatchiks do the technical stuff
Your ministers will be chosen because they perform well in public, like seals, and don't scare the clients. They won't be clever or be expected to master the complexities of governance, so leave this to the trained Party Apparatchiks we will place in top positions in management and civil service roles

- The Party's old ways are best
Never be tempted to deviate from the established Party line for the sake of appearing 'modern' and 'with it'. The Party is ageless, and it's policies are for the good of all obedient citizens.

- Buy-off the doctors and teachers
Buy off the doctors and teachers; the ignorant populace still accord outdated regard for their opinions, so make sure they praise the Party's methods.

- Capture their souls early
Children should be indoctrinated with the wisdom of Socialism by the age of seven; a successful campaign for the souls of the country must be long-termist. Recidivist adults must be eliminated if they prove disruptive.

- Don't jail the criminals, recruit them
Most criminals are from our natural client class, so don't fill the jails with them. Instead, bring them into the fold of the Party with rewards and tight supervision until they become wholly rehabilitated as loyal 'street muscle'

- The City needs a club, not a massage
Don't pander to the City - intimidate it. The threat of extradition on trumped up charges, or imprisonment and seizure of goods and homes here, will cow the financiers into disgorging their gold to the Party

- Create State employment
Channel taxes into creating State jobs erecting windmills, insulating garden sheds and carbon-hunting. It won't make a groat's worth of difference to the environment, but will reward the Party faithful.

- Don't allow the middle class to become wealthy
If house values begin to grow, seize the value for the Party with a land value tax. The combination of penal income tax and land value tax will ensure this class never again challenges again the supremacy of the Party

- Reverse reforms to the voting system
Introduce a new voting system that will still bring the Party victory with only 25% of the popular vote. Abolish the counter-revolutionary cancer that is the so-called House of Peers.

- Hide tribute to the Party
Many rich oligarchs will wish to make tribute to the Party. This is for the good of the people, but is not always well understood, so such gifts must be hidden and disguised.

- Capture their souls early, again
I can't stress how important this is. They must know that the Party feeds, cloths and shelters them by the age of five.

- Abolish religion
Recruit fashionable atheists, give them plenty of air time and column inches. Use the security services to discredit religious leaders and vicars; place all choirboys on the 'at risk' register etc. Next to the middle classes, the churches are the Party's greatest threat

- Only fight wars for political reasons
Military victories by the Party help win national morale and support, but pick your wars carefully

- Sell arms to fraternal Socialist regimes
Make sure that British weapons and weapons systems are supplied to all supportive international Socialist struggles

- The Party and the Nation are one
Don't try to force it. The Party and Britain will become fused in the minds of the people over time.

- Don't forget the BBC, museums and the arts sector
To complement our 'hard' presence and suppression of the free press, the staffing of these 'soft' institutions with faithful Party apparatchiks will help ensure we hold the hearts and minds of the people

- Do remember
Your success will be judged when our client class fill the west-end theatres and restaurants, and the enemy class are cowed at home squatting over their one-bar electric fires. This will take relentlessly hard work.

- Finally
This is our last chance to seize the nation for the Party. We must be bold and ruthless. No more Mr Nice Guy.  

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Back to the 80s with Ed

Hattersley - if I ever own a pug I shall call it Hattersley - writes in today's Observer in true adulation at the crowning of Ed Miliband that "Real Labour will prosper only when it puts "the middle way" – an overt compromise between right and wrong – behind it". So we are told that Ed will be both 'radical' and 'progressive' which in Labour's coded publikspeak means 'socialist' and 'regressive'. We are told he has 'courage' and 'conviction'; 'chutzpah' and 'dogmatism' in normal language. 

So Dave will face Ed at the despatch box, and Labour will wriggle to find new and convincing ways to describe redistributionism, to persuade the voting public that their money isn't really theirs at all, but actually belongs to the State, and that the State can spend it far more wisely than they can. 

And Labour's aristocracy, Lady Toynbee in her Tuscan villa, Lord Stansgate in his waterside county estate, ermine Labour Lords from millionaires' villas in Primrose Hill and Camden Hill Square will sip champagne and toast one of their own as Labour's new leader. 

Booker on Asbestos

Nice to see Christopher Booker helping to inject some common sense into the Asbestos hysteria, and in the Mail of all places, too. To the layman, Asbestos is as deadly as Plutonium, a microgram bringing instant death. In fact, you need to be exposed to a large volume of Asbestos over a long period of time to run a real risk.

The Asbestos Survey has become a precondition of almost every construction scheme. And almost always comes up positive unless you're building on a greenfield site. You see, Asbestos is ubiquitous; it's contained in the hard plastic that old toilet seats are made out of, in lino floor tiles and even as flash pads inside electrical switches. Dig a trial pit on any London brownfield site and you'll find Asbestos - even if it's in an old Bakelite doorknob.  

But it's all religiously removed by blokes in full respirator suits and double-bagged for disposal in special landfill sites. And people wonder why construction is so expensive ...

Post script
Asbestosis and Mesothelioma usually occur after high intensity and/or long-term exposure to asbestos (particularly in those individuals working on the production or end-use of products containing asbestos). There is much scientific literature on the subject, including An Expert System for the Evaluation of Historical Asbestos Exposure as Diagnostic Criterion in Asbestos related Diseases by Burdorf and Swuste (Erasmus) published by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (Full text HERE).

I reproduce the decision tree for Mesothelioma below;

The disease is only attributable to Asbestos where exposure exceeds daily working exposure in air containing over 1 fibre per 2 cubic centimeters for more than six months. 

If you're going to comment, please do so on the basis of attributable scientific evidence, not scary folk-tales and anecdotal evidence.