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Saturday, 30 October 2010

Remember the Dead, but don't forget the Smarties

There is, somewhere in our deepest human programming, an organic predisposition to recall at this time of the year the dead. We've held on to Summer in our hearts, reluctant to let it go, but the harvest is in, the barns full, the pig ready for slaughter for our Winter meat and all around the light is fading. This is the start of the Winter season, and with the dark comes our remembrance of our dead. All Hallows day on 1st November, All Souls day on the 2nd in our Western tradition; in Mexico the Day of the Dead, in Portugal and Brazil the Pão-por-Deus. To the Celts, it's Samhain; in Wales Calan Gaeaf, in Cornwall Allantide, on the Isle of Man Hop-tu-Naa. All over the Northern hemisphere candles will be lit, flowers left on graves and human thoughts turn to those departed of this life. 

I have a theory about the global practice of small children knocking on doors and being given small edible gifts - not something that originated recently in North America, as you might imagine, but a surprisingly common practice amongst widely separated cultures. We forget that Winter was once a time of food shortage, of starvation, of the risk of death; a time when the weakest, children and the old, would be at greatest risk. What better way to remind every member of the community of an obligation to mutual aid than the symbolic 'feeding' of a juvenile stranger. 

So if yet another face-painted pair of rapscallions in cheap Hallowe'en costumes cause you irritation as they knock you up for the umpteenth time, imagine instead as you hand out the small bag of sweets that you are giving a hambone and a cup of barley to emaciated starvelings, sustenance that could help see them through to Spring. In your own small way you are fighting the grip of death and celebrating the hope of life.  

Friday, 29 October 2010

Last chance to respond

Just a reminder that today is your last chance to submit a response to Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life on the subject of State (that is, tax) funding for political parties.

The issues paper is HERE and responses should be sent to 

Boris talking out of his arse

Boris has a propensity to be led astray by his trouser region, through either marital infidelities from the one end or fatuous pronouncements from the other. This latest odorous flatus signals that this week it's his arse's turn to take charge. This is the house in Kensington that costs taxpayers £8,000 a month in Housing Benefits to house Somalian asylum seeker Abdi Nur and his workless family. It's worth £2.1m. 

Ho, you say, Mr Nur could well have long family connections with the area, come from a long line of Kensington Somalis, needs regular Somali comestibles from Harrods or the like. Not a bit of it. He lived in a perfectly decent house in Brent at our expense prior to this, but didn't like living in a 'poor area'. 

Well, Mr Nur can now skedaddle back to Brent and lump it. If this is ethnic cleansing, then I'm Boris' anal wart. 

Nigerian scammers fleece councils

You've got to take your hat off to the Nigerian scammers; nowhere on earth produces a race so inventive of new frauds, so diligent in their quest for the tiniest chink in financial security systems. Give an Englishman an inkjet printer and he'll produce photographs of his family; give one to a Nigerian and within hours he'll run off a whole series of forged documents. Councils across the country are counting the cost of the most simple of scams, the diversion of BACS payments to false accounts. The Nigerian scammers simply sent in fake letterheaded requests from large contractors advising of a change of bank details; most muppets in council finance departments obligingly quickly changed the details on their creditor payments systems. Given that most contractors are used to waiting weeks beyond the due date for payment from councils, the frauds take some time to come to light - enough time for the scammers to empty the accounts and disappear back to Lagos to see out the recession in some luxury. 

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Is rail a natural monopoly?

It's an entry level economic truth that some concerns are natural monopolies, particularly those that need to maintain a high proportion of fixed infrastructure, such as a railway. Then there is a leap of logic that declares that such things need to be a monopoly on a national scale, and this I think is something of a non sequitur. Sure, there's only room for one rail line between Manningtree and Norwich, but why should it be run by the same  Whitehall department, at costs 40% greater than anywhere in Europe, that runs the line between Exeter and Penzance? With train fares set to soar, Neil O'Brien writes in the Telegraph; 
Timetables, prices, even the types of trains used are all rigidly controlled from Whitehall, forcing train companies to run near-empty trains at the strangest times: a friend caught one running at midnight on New Year’s Eve, whose conductor was stunned to see a passenger. If Network Rail were broken up, and Whitehall’s tight control ended, train companies could be run more like low-cost airlines, with the savings handed back to passengers.
I'd be quite happy to run the Manningtree to Harwich line; in fact, I've even got a business plan. The express from London timed to link with the ferries at Parkeston Quay would pay to use my section of track, but only half the amount they're paying now, and running on the same heavy rail tracks would be lightweight rubber tyred stock, with a frequent service, a conductor, low fares and additional unmanned stops. Why not?

Whitehall battles to block Localism

It was inevitable and predictable. For as long as Whitehall could approach Localism as a minor political fad that didn't challenge or threaten the central State, as just the political sloganising de jour, they would embrace it with their usual complicating lethargy. As soon as ministers cautiously declared they'd actually really like to try to devolve just a little power, please, as an experiment, the iron doors of civil service obstructionism have slammed shut. Michael Gove is feeling this particularly keenly. 

Eric Pickles has hit on the right solution; his Permanent Secretary is on probation, half his Directors General are being axed as are half the departments Directors. Michael Gove could do worse than follow Eric's lead, ringfence or not. Pour encourager les autres, you understand. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Hidden donors to Scots Fake Charities

Citizens Advice Scotland is a Socialist lobbying organisation masquerading as a charity; it is institutionally committed to the central State, to Welfare slavery and to the destruction of individual human responsibility. As part of its political lobbying, it's just sent out expensively compiled dossiers to each Scots MP and MSP detailing the effects of benefits changes. No surprise there, then. 

Now in England in Wales when you want to see just how fake a fake charity is, you look its accounts up on the Charities Commission website and up come the detailed filed accounts. Not so in Scotland. The OSCR only publishes the most uninformative of headline information, with no detailed accounts. You have to apply directly to the fake charity for the accounts, thus effectively hiding the fact that of Citizen's Advice Scotland's  £5.476m income, only the minutest fraction comes from legacies and donations and the rest from the taxpayer. Only I can't tell you the exact figures. 

Keep a close eye on the Charities Commission, readers; where Scotland leads today, the Socialists South of the border will follow tomorrow. I predict that before long this online information will also disappear for English and Welsh fake charities on the grounds of 'cost savings'. 

Monday, 25 October 2010

Jackie Ashley

Jackie Ashley (Rosebery Grammar, St Anne's Oxford, m. Andrew Marr) writes today in the Guardian:
Poor Britain is staggering, burdened by the dead weight of Guardian journalists. Our wealth creators have to carry on their shoulders dozens of second rate hacks – useless, arrogant scribblers with gold-plated pensions. So it isn't just unfortunate economic necessity, this programme of cuts: only by slashing at this dark undergrowth can we free the private sector and grow back to good times.
Actually, I lied. But Dorries does it all the time, so hey. And what I'd have Mrs Marr say is more honest than the gumph she peddles; I predict the total demise of the Observer, once a good paper, as the public sector advertising teat runs dry for the Guardian.  

Which way GDP growth?

As predicted here in September, 3rd Quarter GDP growth is expected to be flat when announced next week; a poll of experts is predicting 0.4% growth from July - September as opposed to 1.4% in April - June. I've mentioned before how the Harpex has proven a reliable predictor of GDP growth and here's the latest chart. But which way is it going now?

The Blood of Blair's War

Guthrum is quite right to remind us that the ocean of innocent blood spilt in Iraq must be laid firmly at Blair's door. Each time I see that shit-eating grin, those piggish little eyes glazed with narcissistic badness, the bile rises in my belly and the urge to see him cuffed and thrown into a cell resurfaces. For Blair, there will be no forgiveness in Britain, no amnesty, no gradual morphing into Statesman, immune from the barbs of office. This most loathsome, base and vile creature must be held to account for the blood running in rivers from his hands to stain our land for every second of life that remains to him.   

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Reclaiming Esquire

Many years ago I asked my bank to stop addressing correspondence to me as 'Raedwald Esq.' and use 'Mr' instead; the only effect of this was to spur the bank into the solecism of addressing me as Mr Raedwald Esq. During the '90s 'Esq' disappeared altogether as institutions realised that as there was no female equivalent, it could be considered sexist to continue to use it. Realising this now has caused me to change my mind; I think it's high time we reclaimed Esq.

So, if you've held a commission in a rank equivalent of army Captain or above, hold a Master of Arts degree, are a Barrister (but not a solicitor unless a Bachelor of Law), a JP or a holder of office under the Crown, or the son of a knight or petty noble or a Physician then reclaim Esq as your own. If you're a bloke.