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Sunday, 31 July 2011

MPs escape Paul Staines' hanging campaign ... for now

MPs can perhaps consider themselves lucky to have escaped the noose that hard right-wing blogger Paul Staines, a.k.a.Guido Fawkes, would like to put around the necks of child and cop-killers - or perhaps he's just planning an incremental campaign? Or, given that Staines' political targets are frequently depicted on the blog at the centre of  rifle-sight cross hairs, perhaps 'hangings too good for them'?

Saturday, 30 July 2011

It's Hayek, innit?

If you question a raggamuffin 'yoof' on economics these days, don't be surprised if he answers "Yea it's 'bout Keynes and Hayek, innit?". It's all libertarian-funding free market billionaire Charles Koch's fault; his latest venture was funding and commissioning the video below. Do watch - it's really rather good. And look for von Mises in a cameo role in the ring as Hayek's cutman ...

RAF Typhoons to target Media City?

RAF Typhoons armed with precision weapons could soon be tasked to destroy the BBC's Media City in Salford if the government's moral reasoning is applied universally; justifying this morning the destruction of Libyan TV broadcasting facilities, NATO spokesman Col Levoie said:
Our intervention was necessary as TV was being used as an integral component of the regime apparatus designed to systematically oppress and threaten civilians and to incite attacks against them
What, like this, you mean?

e-Petitions: Democracy Lite, democracy denied.

Want to restore hanging? Want the UK to leave the EU? The government would have you believe that a newly launched e-Petition service will give you a real say in forming the nation's law and policy. What a crock. The e-Petitions website claims that petitions gaining over 100,000 signatures 'will be eligible for debate in the House of Commons' but in reality the whole thing is no more than a lightning rod, designed to earth any idea of direct democracy. 




Firstly, these are not petitions to Parliament but petitions to government. The government doesn't dictate what MPs debate in the Commons; there is a delicate arrangement around government business that is managed by the Leader of the House and Lord Privy Seal, currently Sir George Young, who is both the government's representative in the Commons and the Commons' representative in government. Any debate resulting from the e-Petitions site would presumably have to be introduced as government business amidst an already crowded and pressured agenda of legislative matters. The fact that this initiative hasn't been introduced by the Speaker but by the Cabinet Office speaks volumes. Speaker Bercow could redeem the entire car-crash of his tenure in one move by enabling e-Petitions to Parliament, but this is too close to direct democracy to be welcome by our political class.


Secondly, any petition must be approved in advance by the senior mandarins of a specific government department - presumably either the Home Office or Ministry of Justice for the death penalty, and the Cabinet Office or Foreign Office for EU matters. There will no doubt be a screening process under which petitions for measures contrary to law, such as the Human Rights Act or Lisbon Constitution Treaty, will be excluded.


Thirdly, as the experiment on the No 10 petitions site proved, allowing numerous petitions that are variations on a theme is a good way of guaranteeing that no single one gains the necessary minimum vote, so petitions to "re-introduce the death penalty for terrorism", "bring back hanging for paedophiles", "introduce capital punishment for treason' and 'bring back hanging' will cause public confusion and scattergun votes.


Fourthly, the measures contain no provision to secure a referendum on any issue, no matter how strongly supported. The issue will at best go to earth in the Commons. Helena Kennedy's 'Power' Commission came up with a workable model for this kind of direct democracy which has been rejected out-of-hand by the government; Kennedy's proposals were


1. A trigger of 400,000 votes to guarantee a debate and vote in the Commons with no censorship by government 
2. A further 400,000 votes to secure a referendum if the Commons have rejected, modified or diluted the original proposal
3. A simple majority and a turnout of over 60% and the measure passes into law


I really do hope that the British public see through the government's transparent intention to defuse some of the public's anger against a remote and unaccountable political class with a pointless and tokenistic exercise, and boycott the entire thing. But no doubt come the 4th August all the usual issues will be there, a soporific tranquiliser and a weak simulacrum of direct democracy. 

Friday, 29 July 2011

Burglary and police numbers

Burglary is on the increase as the hard times bite; a 14% increase last year alone signals that taking other people's property is a growing fad amongst the nation's feckless and hopeless. The government reaction seems to have been to encourage householders to kill more burglars. Morally, such an action is only defensible if a householder truly believes his own life or that of his spouse and children are directly threatened and reacts to protect; the death of the burglar is not an intentional outcome, but a consequence of an action taken with the full protection of the law and the Church. But sooner rather than later householders will start looking at paying for some sort of organised service to prevent and detect this particular crime, perhaps called a 'police force'. 


Ah yes. We have one already. But one for which preventing and detecting burglary comes somewhere in the list of priorities beneath encouraging racial diversity, rehabilitating drug offenders and prosecuting people for being rude to police horses. So when the head of the Police Federation warns against police cuts as impacting on the prevention and detection of an increasing tide of burglary, he is met with a universal public snort of derision; "You don't do anything anyway!" comes the response. 


This of course is the consequence of the growing remoteness of the police from the people who pay their wedge. Their operational priorities are set not by the ratepayers whose homes need protection but by a cabal of away-with-the-fairies policy makers completely out of touch with local priorities. Look, if I hire a security guard and tell him his job's to stop unauthorised people from coming in, to deter people from stealing materials and watch for hazards and threats I don't expect him to sniffily respond that actually, he'll be concentrating on preventing the workers from lifting things in the wrong way and injuring their backs, making sure the hazard lights on the plant are working properly and offering stress-reduction classes for the site engineers. You know he'd be off the site quicker than a Bulgarian transvestite. So why do we let the police do it? 

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

'Hysterical' Cameron goes native

Simon Jenkins, writing in the Guardian, hit a painful spot when he wrote yesterday
David Cameron was therefore wrong to leap forward and order  "a review of the far right", or of the far anything. The hysteria of the moment may require a knee jerk from those in power, but why the national security council was summoned, or "a review of our security at home" needed, is a mystery. To the victims, the killings were an act of random madness, a terrible accident, a car crash, a catastrophe out of the blue. To seek normality in their abnormality only gives them currency, and probably spurious meaning.
But Cameron's reaction was more than merely hysterical. Together with the government's reneging on its pledge to ditch the DNA records of the innocent, the Bowdlerisation of the Localism Bill to leave practically nothing worth having, the debacle in Libya, his poor judgement on Coulson, the pusillanimous mess of the Public Services White Paper and a clutch of other failures, this was the latest indicator that Cameron has gone native. He's always been a lazy man, only motivated to reaction at the last moment, and appears to have allowed Whitehall to run the roost in exchange for an easy life. And Whitehall has led him into the usual mess of error, cock-up and confusion that uniquely brands the inadequate under-performance of the wartime Central State we have. 


The old Cameron of brave words and loud principles would not allow the civil servants at the MOD to spend £1bn on credit cards and then refuse to disclose what they had spent it on. That Cameron would not spinelessly give way to senior police officers - themselves mired in an endemic and institutional corruption - on matters of civil liberty. But that Cameron has gone, to be replaced by an indolent man smug in the trappings of office and looking to the Mandarins to help him secure a second term. He's lost contact with the zeitgeist, as all but the most capable of PMs do, shielded from the real world by the make-believe stage set erected around him by Whitehall, the Mandarins willingly feeding his delusions. 


No Conservative can look to Cameron for any hope of leadership any longer. He's in hock to Europe, in thrall to Whitehall and in cahoots with a hollow Party HQ utterly alienated from the grass roots of conservatism, inward-looking, metropolitan and exclusive. It's time to scrub through his name and write him off. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Two polls .....

Belgium has now followed France in banning the burqa. No doubt there is overwhelming public support for the move in both countries, but before we look at how well this move, long advocated by a large part of the MSM, is supported in the UK, it's worth pointing out that burqa-wearers have long enjoyed strong support amongst the libertarian blogosphere, which has long opposed any moves to restrict freedom of dress - anyone's dress - by law. The last poll I can find was by Yougov, with fieldwork on the 11th and 12th April this year;
The burqa should be banned in Britain
Agree: 67%
Disagree:  27%
DK: 6%
Libertarians will probably already ascribe the results to an Islamophobia stirred up by the dominant left-wing media, and curiously British people also seem themselves to be aware just who has been responsible for whipping up Islamophobia in the UK; a poll by Comres with fieldwork between the 8th and 10th of July asked the question:  
Which one of the following groups, if any, do you think is most to blame for Islamophobia, fear of Islam, in the UK?
The media: 29%
Muslims abroad: 14%
Far right political groups (e.g. BNP): 13%
UK Muslims: 11%
Politicians and government 10%
The police: 1%
Other: 4%
So, some 39% think that the political class - the media, politicians and government - are responsible for whipping up Islamophobia. Who'd have thunk it. And you certainly won't read either of these poll results in the MSM this week. 

Looking to Switzerland

The Swiss know how Localism works;
Long ago, the Swiss understood that most things government needs to do and constructively does are at the local level. So, unlike in most modern nation-states, local government has the bulk of the resources and activities, while the central government remains relatively small and less important in the daily lives of the people. In the U.S., roughly two-thirds of government is at the federal level, and one third is at the state and local level. Switzerland is just the opposite, with roughly two-thirds of government being at the state (canton) and local level.
Indeed, in overall state expenditure in Switzerland, the Communes, the lowest level of government, account for 30% of autonomous expenditure, whilst the Cantons have 40% and the Swiss State only commands 30% of total spend. Nor is this just a sharing of a State-determined tax pot; the Communes have the competence to determine property and income taxes, which account for fully a third of the total national tax-take, a power which makes them an equal player with both the State and the Cantons. In the UK the position is centralist beyond belief; only Council Tax, at about £25bn annually, is levied and collected locally. The remaining 95% of taxes are determined and collected centrally, and given that local councils are prevented by law from setting the Council Tax they want, rather than the level set by Whitehall, it's also true to say that 100% of UK taxes are determined centrally.

There is no fixed model either for the size of the Communes, or for the relationship of the Communes to the Cantons; again, such things are left to be determined locally, and thus Swiss government is the most delightful 'postcode lottery' of diversity, with administrative arrangements tailored to suit local circumstances rather than determined by rigid central diktat. In Switzerland there is an average of one lowest tier authority for each 2,700 of the population, with each Commune having real autonomy. By contrast, the UK has one lowest tier 'authority' for every 118,400 of us, with each ruled rigidly from Whitehall and with virtually no local autonomy.

Switzerland isn't alone in terms of democratic access; France has one municipality for every 1,580 persons, and Germany one for every 4,925. My examplar US town of Vail is also pretty typical of democratic access in the US, with one municipality for every 7,000 persons.

There are those who talk of a democratic deficit in the UK as though it were a minor political imbalance. In fact it's off the scale. It's not hyperbole to say that our system of government in the UK has more in common with a South American dictatorship than with a European social democracy - UK government is stuck firmly in a wartime model of central command and control, and our mandarins and metropolitan political class would rather push hot needles into their own eyeballs than surrender a nanogram of power back to us.

My disappointment in Dave's public services white paper is even shared by 'Reform', the mildest and least adventurous advocate of true Localism, and that's a damning loss. And those who suffer are children cheated of an education and the ill cheated of healthcare; you may be astonished to discover that Switzerland has universal healthcare funded by compulsory health insurance and a universal education system funded from taxation, that both are superlative and operate at a fraction of the cost of their UK counterparts. The difference is Whitehall. We've got it, Switzerland hasn't. And Whitehall is directly responsible for generations of illiterate school leavers and inadequate health care - simply because they can't let go. 

We really need to decide as a nation whether, when the cost of the inefficient Central State in human lives and potentials is so high, we are brave enough to embrace the solution.  

Monday, 25 July 2011

Are you an extreme right-wing threat?

Wondering whether you should turn yourself into the police as an extreme right-wing fanatic? Here are five questions that can help you decide:-


1. I mostly read
(a) The Daily Mail
(b) Mein Kampf
(c) I can't read 


2. I think Moslem immigrants should be
(a) Assimilated fully into British society
(b) Sent back to where they came from
(c) Fighting us on the streets


3. East European migrant workers are
(a) Cheap and reliable labour
(b) An EU plot to destroy Britain
(c) Taking our women


4. Christianity is
(a) The bedrock of European civilisation
(b) A delusion about the sky-fairy
(c) Poofs, innit?


5. The ballot-box or the H&K?
(a) The ballot-box
(b) The Heckler & Koch
(c) KFC Bucket Box, please


Results
Mostly 'a's - You're an absolutely normal middle-Englander and have seriously thought about buying string-back driving gloves from the Daily Express readers' offers. The backbone of the nation. 
Mostly 'b's - You're a disturbed individual living a fantasy life, a 'Walt', who has failed to achieve any success in life at all and should immediately consider surrendering yourself to the police
Mostly 'c's - As a probable member of the BNP you present a minimum threat to national security. You have the flag of St George hanging from your bedroom window and subscribe to satellite TV for the football. You shout in the pub. 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The rationality of evil

Breivik's killing of almost 100 people may earn him as little as 10 years jail time. Although the maximum sentence in Norway is 21 years (with prisoners normally released on parole after a third of this) there is a substantial 'discount' for a guilty plea; as this Domstol publication says " The criteria for entering judgment on a guilty plea is that the accused makes an unreserved confession supported by the evidence in the case. In such cases the sentencing framework cannot exceed ten years, and the accused must concur with the procedure. These cases are heard by a single professional judge." 


However, there seems to be a further recourse called 'containment', used where a prisoner is deemed a danger to society with a likelihood of further violent crimes if released, a maximum period of 21 years can also be used, with a minimum time before parole of 10 years. 


Brievik is 32. If he serves a full 21 years he will be out when he's 53 - with half a life ahead of him. I think this puts the rationality of his acts into perspective. Not a crazed man at the end of his tether but rather an evil man who plotted these horrors with complete rationality.


But even Brievik doesn't shake my opposition to the death penalty; even his life is sacred, and is not ours to take. 

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Sick scum

There is a cranks' corner of online libertarianism from which I dissociate myself utterly, a skin-crawling, tinfoil-hat and often borderline-deranged cabal of those who advocate violence and armed insurrection to achieve political change. The reality of this seditious and abhorrent internet abuse is the horror of Norway this morning. The killer is reported as having a known online presence and for protesting vociferously about Islamism, immigration and multikulti, a right-wing freak in the mould of Timothy McVeigh. There is no choice of tables on the web, and thus we all in some way share a platform with these people, but let me at least address the most repugnant advocates of death and harm to our fellow man.


The pope is not a twelve-foot lizard. Localism is not a conspiracy by the EU to take over the world. Don't quote American revolutionaries from 1776 at me like a parrot as though it's an unarguable justification for violence. And never, ever try to convince me that bloodshed and the extinction of human lives for the sake of your twisted and perverse world view is justified. You are not my equal, nor my peer. Your views render you beyond the pale of civilised discourse. Any distorted ideology that needs blood and slaughter to triumph is inherently evil and to be shunned like a rabid dog.


Democracy is a shield, not a sword.  

Friday, 22 July 2011

Perhaps not Reformation but Renaissance

The doomed agreement to preserve the Euro prompts an intriguing suggestion from Simon Jenkins in the Guardian this morning;
As before the Reformation, the taxing of northern Europe to sustain the subsidies and debts of mother church lasted awhile, but it could not last for ever. German taxpayers may bail out the Greeks, because half the Greeks' debts are to foreign banks. But these taxpayers will not also bail out the Portuguese, the Spaniards and the Italians. The attempted revival of the Holy Roman Empire is doomed. Luther's theses will soon be nailed to the doors not of Wittenberg but of the Berlaymont palace in Brussels.
In England, it was naked greed rather than theology that truly drove the Reformation. The Church's stranglehold on wealth and land was too great a temptation for the rich and powerful; the result was plunder and waste on a princely scale. The poor became poorer as alms and dole disappeared, hospitals and medical care vanished and the infrastructure of Maisons Dieu across the country that provided sheltered accommodation for the halt, the lame and the crippled in mind and body threw their burdens onto the midden. Learning and scholarship, never popular with the titled class, fell into desuetude. Taxpayers enjoyed no benefit; in most cases they merely exchanged an ordained tax-collector for an unholy one. The dukes and earls and barons and every unwholesome dag who managed to thrust their sticky hands into the pot were the ones who gained. If the winners of a new European 'reformation' are similarly to be the banks, the powerful corporations and the Central State - our modern post-feudal aristocracy - then no thanks to Reformation.


It was the democratisation of the Renaissance that truly brought benefits to us all. The growth of a powerful middle class independent of Church or State, with law for all, the grammar schools, intellectual freedom, a flowering of science, philosophy and art and not just the Bard but Kit Marlowe, Spenser, Bacon, Milton, Sidney, Byrd, Tallis and Taverner. We had parlours and chimneys, and meat on the table, and shoes on our feet. The power of the aristocracy was curbed and regulated. It was the age not of the dukes and earls but of the knights from the Shires and staunch yeomen with stout houses and fertile holdings. A modern Renaissance that returns power and wealth from the centre, that undermines the malign power of the banks and international corporations, that emasculates the pernicious political class and repatriates our sovereignty is rather to be welcomed. 


Reformation saw half a century of war and famine, with a third of Northern Europe's population killed by the sword, fire or starvation. The Renaissance gave us Bottom and Toby Belch. 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Lunatic Brown's malady lingers

Just when I thought the image of that idiotic gurning face would start to leave me unmoved some snippet intrudes to revive all my anger and loathing for that incompetent halfwit. Foreigners who have paid half a million to hear him deliver speeches in the past year can't be expected to know any better, and in a way the fatuous lump of Scots lard is doing more for his country now than he ever did either as Britain's worst ever Chancellor or as the nations most maladroit Prime Minister for a century. The ire this morning is prompted by the column-end prod from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard this morning;
For those readers holding devalued sterling, all I can say is that this reflects the terrible damage done over the course of a decade by Gordon Brown:
His credit bubble: 120pc mortgages, and other lunacies. His fiscal bubble: a deficit of 3pc of GDP at the top of the cycle when Spain for example was in 2pc surplus, mostly wasted on unreformed public services.
Currencies can take the strain to reflect the utter idiocy of political leaders. That is the beauty of them. Unfortunately for Spain and Italy, they have a German currency. Not their own.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Gold still not unduly expensive shock

I've just been doing a few fag-packet calcs with the aid of the Treasury's GDP deflator. Gold was £241 / oz in 1995; if this had risen in line with GDP growth it would now be £351 / oz, whereas it's actually at £998 - 2.84 x the 'constant value' price. 


But when I use the price I paid for my house in 1995 compared to market worth today, it comes out at 3.12 x the 'constant value' price - still ahead of gold. 


And that's a bit of a surprise. Ideas anyone?

The REAL crisis resurfaces

Greeks are starving. All 400 of the Orthodox Church's districts have now set up soup kitchens as many unemployed Greeks have exhausted their £100 a week unemployment benefit and now have no income at all. The number living on the street has soared; perhaps bearable in the Summer, but Autumn is coming fast upon us. All the nation's Sovereign wealth has gone to bailing out the banks. Meanwhile figures just released show the bankers themselves in the UK have enjoyed a bumper year, with £14 billion in bonuses paid out to staff. That's about £1,300 each for every single Greek citizen. Enjoy your champagne and coke, boys.


The truth is obvious for all to see; the degree of austerity that has been imposed in not only Greece but Ireland  to save the banks is not sustainable. Greece must default; we've all known it. We knew it before the last bail-out.  The choices open to Europe's politicians over the next few weeks boil down to


1. Another round of bail-outs to buy more time; this will postpone the crisis to Christmas. Hugely unpopular with the Germans who face debt growing to 110% of GDP


2. Fiscal and political Union in the Eurozone; but as the Telegraph reports today "The chances are that the EU will only take the step of fiscal union or common bond issuance at one minute to midnight on a weekend when it is clear that the system is close to collapse."


3. Do an Iceland and let the banks fail. The result would be a global financial storm; a strategy of great risk, but one that may just pay off. Their collapse would take all of that poisonous $500 trillion of derivatives with it and allow a fresh start.


Whilst mentally-ill individuals masquerading as left-wing comedians dominate the domestic headlines the real tragedy is playing out in Europe. 

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Interlude

The coverage by the European papers of the funeral of Archduke Otto has been heavy, and I have even caught a few video snippets of the Ruritanian rituals. Hapsburgs prefer to be buried in pieces, no doubt hedging their bets for the final coming against putting all your eggs in one basket so to speak. It was watching the ceremony for Otto's heart, in Budapest, that sparked the memory of an old family anecdote. 


My Austrian great-grandfather had fought in the Great War and was no longer young when Anschluss came in 1938. It was still possible to be largely ignorant of the world in those days, particularly if you lived on an isolated farm half way up a mountain. However, the time came when the new Nazi regime reached even the most rural areas, and inhabitants were summoned to the village to hear rousing speeches and be registered for conscription. All of this must have been deeply puzzling for the old boy until the village band struck up a familiar tune. With gusto he sang out "Gott beschütze unsern Kaiser .." not twigging that someone had changed the lyrics to "Deutschland, Deutschland über alles" since he'd last sung it over twenty years previously. After an uncomfortable interrogation by the local Nazis he was released. He received his call-up in 1945, aged 64, and wisely hid in the forest for a few months until the madness had ended. 


I think last week was the last time any of us will ever hear the words of Haydn's old Kaiserhymne sung again. 

Monday, 18 July 2011

Our filthily corrupt public servants

The Chief Executive of Suffolk Council gets free flights, subsistence and holiday accommodation in the US from BT, a big employer in the County. This is corrupt. The Commissioner of the Met gets £12,000 of free accommodation at a country house health spa. This is corrupt. Civil service mandarins get free centre court tickets and other corporate freebies from Crapita, Serco, G4 and the rest of the corporate giants. This is corrupt. Generals and senior defence procurement officials get lavish hospitality and entertainment from the arms companies. This is corrupt. Senior NHS managers are treated to top West End shows and champagne suppers by drugs companies. This is corrupt. In fact, this corrosive corruption is pervasive throughout the most senior echelons of our public services - I can't think of a single public body that is exempt. Even the discredited Audit Commission had a history of senior bosses taking corporate freebies. 


As the CPS says in the forward to its guidance on prosecutions for corruption;
Bribery and corruption are extremely serious offences, which strike at the heart of public confidence in administrative and judicial affairs. This factor alone will weigh heavily when considering the public interest in prosecuting and a prosecution will be expected unless exceptional factors apply.
Fine. Yes. Agree. So why isn't the CPS jailing scores of senior mandarins, generals, chief constables and NHS bosses for this rampant and naked corruption? Well, you won't be surprised to learn that most prosecutions for corruption can only be authorised by the Attorney General in person - and you can be sure he is strongly weighted to blocking any action against his peers. In 1916 the law was even changed to make prosecution for corruption of a public servant simple, without the burden of the Crown having to prove corrupt intent. Again you won't be surprised to learn that "The Government has indicated that this law will be repealed when the law is reformed." Ho yes of course; some senior mandarin jealous of his Wimbledon tickets from Crapita will have seen to that. 


Not only are the bastards riddled with corruption, they've even rigged the law to prevent their own prosecution. And we thought Berlusconi was the corrupt one. 

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Anyone but Orde

Hugh Orde, capo di capi of the secretive private police organisation ACPO, has made no secret of his wish for a national police force under central government control. His opposition to the democratisation of the police is a matter of record. He was also one of the shortlist of four the last time we appointed a new Met Commissioner; that time, the now-tainted Paul Stephenson got the job. However, ACPO is coming under increasing government scrutiny. From October this year they will be liable to full disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. They have also screwed up royally with the NPOIU, the dodgy secret state surveillance and agent provocateur organisation they set up. This was dismantled by Cameron's government, with the tasks given to mainstream (and accountable) police forces and an Inquiry ordered to be undertaken by Her Majesty's Inspectorate into their conduct and probity. 


Interestingly, the man heading up that Inquiry into misdoings by ACPO is none other than Bernard Hogan-Howe, Merseyside Chief Constable and also a former shortlisted candidate for the Commissioner's job. He is due to report on ACPO's activities this Summer; it will be interesting in the extreme to see whether ACPO's NPOIU used phone hacking along with all their other dodgy and illegal bugging methods, and indeed whether there is evidence of ACPO members corruptly tipping the press off about their operations. The fourth candidate for the 2008 successor to the disgraced Iain Blair was Paul Scott-Lee. He left his job as West Midlands Chief Constable in 2009. 


No doubt fresh candidates may emerge in the coming weeks for the successor to Stephenson's job. But please, please let the winner be anyone but Orde. 

I'm backing Murdoch

When MPs gather in committee on Tuesday they will be unable to contain all the built-up frustrated narcissism, the bloviated self-importance, the caustic self-interest and the barbs of rock-bottom public opinion; they will expose themselves as snarling, vicious, hateful, splenetic and spiteful bullies. If Heston Blumenthal applied his Nitrogen cylinder to human faeces to produce a frothing turd mousse of righteous indignation, the result would be indistinguishable from a committee-member MP next week. Their faces will bloat and empurple, veins will throb, sebaceous glands will drip grease from their lank locks, spittle froth will coat their lips and their pudgy little fists will clench as tightly as if holding an expenses form. These, readers, are our elected members. 


Before them in this kangaroo court will sit an 80 year-old man, looking slightly shrunken inside his clothes as do all the old, the liver spots visible on his balding head, his frail hands perhaps trembling slightly. He will be utterly contrite, apologetic and genuinely remorseful. He will be cowed, and the offensive and cruel aggression of his interrogators will make him flinch visibly at times. Still, he will exhibit virtuous behaviour; he will endure with courage and fortitude, he will not rise to the bait, and he will take all the painful blows from his tormentors with guts and stoicism.  


All of this will be recorded and broadcast in high definition video.


Guess who I think will come out of this better? 

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Scandal of unpaid overseas NHS charges

Anne Milton, the Health Minister, has let the cat out of the bag in a Parliamentary written answer on the amount of money collected by the NHS from foreign nationals for treatment, and the value of debt written off in 2009/2010. Against £17m collected, £7m has been written-off. Now those of you who have run businesses will recognise this disguises an even more horrendous situation; as long as you treat a debt as 'live' it remains an asset, but sooner or later you're going to have to bite the bullet and write it off. What the parliamentary answer doesn't show is the age of the debts written off - they could well be two, three or even more years old. Some hospitals seem never to write off bad debts. But I'd guess that if you're writing off more than 10% of your sales figure each year you're in deep trouble; writing off over 40% is criminal incompetence. What we need to get a true picture is the value of uncollected debt over 60 days held as 'live' by each hospital - and I'll bet this will expose a can of worms.  


Our NHS staff are a compassionate lot, ever ready to spend our money in a humanitarian cause. You'll bet they won't be keen on demanding payment in advance from a heavily pregnant Nigerian village girl. Or advise her to return to Lagos to have her baby. But you can bet the figures reveal only a fraction of the value of 'free' treatment enjoyed by foreign nationals not covered by reciprocal arrangements; if the NHS can't manage it themselves, we need to appoint some hard-nosed Almoners to our hospitals who will turn away anyone who can't pay (unless they have a disease that poses a risk to us - multi drug resistant TB, for example). If Parliament has decided that a whole class of people shouldn't be treated at public expense, it's simply wrong of local NHS administrators to ignore or subvert this. 

Friday, 15 July 2011

Institutionalised Corruption in the Met

Andrew Hayman, Met Assistant Commissioner, enjoyed a good troughing with tame journalists and media executives. These no doubt loud and vulgar boys days out, involving numerous bottles of expensive wine and the faux golf-club chic and fake stripey ties that signal a plod that's 'made it' are still viewed as a perquisite of the senior ranks in the Met. They don't even take time off - this theft of the public's time can be put down to 'media relations' and anyway no-one's going to pull them for it - even the Commissioner's at it. But on these pissed-up jollies at the taxpayer's expense, no doubt secrets are let slip and bonds of mutual protection formed.


And indeed the Commissioner himself is at it, as the Telegraph describes today. The better restaurants around Victoria must be heaving with more (out of uniform) silver braid on the lash with dodgy chums each lunchtime than you can shake a stick at. Of course, they'll tell you it's completely different to an ordinary beat copper accepting a beer from a local drug dealer. Completely different. Why, these man are senior officers and mature enough to dine with criminal suspects, to befriend them and even to employ them at public expense without anything being at all wrong. Because they're senior and it's different. It just is. 

Thursday, 14 July 2011

DK and EU Referendum have the truth of it

Devil's Kitchen and EU referendum are both spot-on about the poor sense in forcing a premature referendum on EU membership; we should work to resist this with all our collective might. Europe is amassing a press and PR budget of tens of millions to be deployed wherever there is such a risk; Cameron's government will also throw the whole weight of the government advertising and PR structures and budgets behind it, and that seeming 'Out' lead in the polls will melt like ice cream in the Sun. 


The best course of action is to stand back and watch the EU destroy itself. The success of a bid by Brussels to impose a direct additional VAT levy of 2% or 3%, to introduce direct taxation from the Berlaymont, long a dream cherished by EUphiles, will do more to set the mood of the British public than anything. And even MPs are gradually waking to the PR dangers of billions more in bail-out funds going to the IMF for Europe when ordinary people are struggling to make ends meet. 


The last government's ID card campaign shows how even the slickest and most expensive PR blitz can be worthless when people have discussed and rejected the issues in advance. We're not yet at that stage over the EU. But we're getting there. 


And don't forget that the Murdoch stable in the UK has been uniformly Eurosceptic; the Sun on Sunday can be expected to continue the Screws' editorial line. If Murdoch sells, a new proprietor may not be quite so helpful. Brown's petulant whingeing in the Commmons yesterday was not just the 'painful gratitude of slavery' - his resentment at his own dependence on the News Corp press - but part of a move by the EUphile establishment to neuter a loud and powerful voice against Europe.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Catharsis

Financial commentators are running out of cliches to describe the coming catharsis; 'The Gathering Storm', 'On the Edge of the Precipice' 'The End Game' 'On the Brink of Disaster' and variations thereof. And as CityUnslicker has pointed out, this year 'Sell in May and Go Away' is distinctly out of fashion. The position today is summed up pretty well by Buttonwood in the Economist;
THE sense of crisis in the euro area is building. Toby Nangle of Baring Asset Management pointed out that the 60 basis point widening in spreads between Italian and German bonds yesterday was a phenomenal move for the world's third largest bond market. After a very shaky start today, some stability has appeared on talk that the European Central Bank (or the bank of Italy acting as its proxy) has been in the market to buy Italian bonds.
But this is exactly where the European authorities didn't want to be. The rescues of Greece, Ireland and Portugal were all designed to buy time and prevent contagion spreading to Italy and Spain. That strategy has clearly failed.
As Italy has faltered, so the risk-off trade has taken hold. At noon today, the Stoxx 50 index was off 1.7%; the euro had dropped to below $1.40; oil was down 1.6%. There is a sense that the markets are moving faster than the authorities can keep up; one can find parallels with the ERM crisis of 1992, the first wave of the credit crunch in 2007 or the post-Lehman shockwaves of autumn 2008. Things may get worse after Friday, when the stress data on European banks is released and the market can identify the weakest zebras in the pack.

An end to the wartime economy - but only in the UK

Whitehall got the taste for petty power sometime after 1915. Under the guise of wartime exigency, the central State regulated for the first time a raft of matters that had hitherto been decided locally, or had not been decided at all. Alcohol Control Orders were originally made for just the areas around the Royal Ordnance Factories - to prevent well-paid munitions workers from drinking themselves silly. Some rural areas remained unlicensed until the days of peace, when Whitehall decided that it was a jolly good idea that should be rolled out across the nation. Our ardent spirits were diluted by law down to the strength they remain at to this day. It's been a long time since our Rum was ardent. You see, once the ratchet of wartime powers is applied, it rarely goes backwards. 


The Second War saw central State powers extended to an unimaginable degree - necessary to win the war, perhaps, but when war segued seamlessly into a Socialist State at peace, the wartime central command and control structures became institutionalised. The civil service is based not on the principles of Northcote-Trevelyan as it sometimes fondly imagined, but on those of Das Kapital. In wartime it's necessary to restrict rich people's access to food, fuel and clothing, to regulate the portion sizes and fat content of restaurant meals, to ration petrol, to impose swingeing taxes, to grant extraordinary powers to the police and to regulate human behaviour with a carrot-and-stick combination of penal measures and State rewards. But once the regulators - Whitehall - have got a taste of it, they're always keen to extend it. The wartime State reached its apotheosis under the last Labour government; the 'enemy' that justified the continued control over the minutae of our lives was not just 'terrorism' but cardiovascular disease, cancer and other health imperatives, inequality-of-outcome for its own sake and the wholly artificial construct of 'relative poverty'. State spending went up to 46% of national output. 


Well, all this must come tumbling down. State spending must fall to 30% or less if we are to be free of the debts run up to save the foolish and greedy bankers. Whitehall must give up its wartime powers. And so must the EU - and here hangs another tale. You see, the Hun administrators were just getting into their swing when Germany carelessly lost the war. In the last days of April 1945 they were still issuing Directives such as the one that allowed the substitution of 25g of barley-sugar sweets for 25g of chocolate as part of the special daily ration for balloon-observers, but only if they has ascended over 100m for at least an hour. At a time when the Reich had not a single observation balloon surviving. After a decent period of obscurity, they resumed the insanity under the badge of the EU. 


The boldest commentators today are predicting either the death of the Euro or the formation of a United States of Europe (without the UK as a member) by the end of the year if not by the end of the Summer. The former would liberate Europe, whilst the latter would create a permanent wartime bureaucratic super-nation on our doorstep. The choice seems clear to us - but don't underestimate the capacity of the rest of Europe to seek solace in the biggest Big State solution the world has ever seen.     

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Brown's snout deep in the trough

The electors of Kirkaldy are a tribal lot, and will probably not question why their MP is being paid full salary but never shows his face in the Commons. The latest issue of the Register of Members Financial Interests might explain why; he's too busy giving speeches to Nigerians (poor buggers - they probably thought Independence meant the end of being talked at by lunatic Scotsmen). Brown's latest returns show he's been a busy boy:-


Payments as Distinguished Global Leader in Residence at New York University: Campuses in 
New York, Abu Dhabi and Florence. 
Address: 70 Washington Square South, New York, NY 10012: 
Payment of £102,568.55, which includes transport and accommodation costs for me 
and a member of my staff to travel to the New York University Campuses.  Hours: 
ongoing commitment.   


Payment of £62,181.32 from ThisDay for speech.  Address:  35 Creek Road, Apapa, Lagos, 
Nigeria.  Hours: 4 hrs. Flights also paid for an earlier cancelled event: £1,714.98 (Registered 
24 November 2010; updated 20 January 2011)


Payment of £37.047.01 for speech to HT Media Limited.  Address:  Hindustan Times House, 
18-20 K G Marg, New Delhi, 111001, India. Hours: 2.5 hrs.  Flights also paid for me and a 
member of my staff:  £13,544.  (Registered 24 November; updated 20 January 2011)


Payment of £49,052.69 for speech to King Saud University.  Address:  P.O. Box 2454 Riyadh, 
Saudi Arabia 11451. Hours: 3.5 hrs.  Flights and accommodation also paid; value £6,832.27.  
(Registered 25 January 2011)  


Signature and delivery advance of £78,289.61 from Sterling Lord Literistic for book published 
on 7 December 2010.  Address: 65 Bleecker Street, New York, NY 10012.  


Payment of £7,050 from The Guardian, for extracts from book.  Address: Kings Place, 90 
York Way, London N1 9GU. (Registered 5 April 2011)


Payment of £48,166 for speech  to Visa International.  Address: 30 Raffles Place #10-00 
Chevron House, Singapore 0486622.  Hours: 2.5 hrs.  Flights and accommodation also paid 
for me and a member of my staff; value £16,627.55. (Registered 5 April 2011)



Payment of £36,639.66 for speech to Credit Suisse in Miami, Florida.  Address:  11 Madison 
Avenue, New York, NY 10010.  Hours: 2.5 hrs.  Flights and accommodation to Miami also 
paid; value £10,743.94. (Registered 5 April 2011)


Payment of £36,018.18 for speech to Comtec Med in Geneva, Switzerland.  Address of 
Comtec:  53 Rothschild Boulevard, PO Box 68 Tel Aviv, 61000 Israel.  Hours: 3 hrs.  Flights 
and accommodation to Geneva also paid for me and a member of my staff; value £2,949.13
(Registered 19 April 2011)


Payment of £35,873.94 for speech to World 50,  Inc in New York.  Address of World 50:  
3525 Piedmont Road, Atlanta, GA 30305 USA.  Hours: 2.5 hrs.  Flights and accommodation 
to New York also paid for me and a member of my staff; value £11,255.07.  (Registered 31 
May 2011)


Payment of £36,174.63 for speech to Pacific Investment Mortgage Company (PIMCO) in 
Newport Beach, California.  Address of PIMCO: 1345 Avenue of the Americas, New York, 
NY 10105, USA.  Hours: 4 hrs.  Flights and accommodation in California also paid for me 
and a member of my staff; value £12,484.87. (Registered 7 June 2011)


Payment of £36,174.63 for speech to Economic  Club of Southwestern Michigan in Benton 
Harbor, Michigan.  Address of Economic Club:  2887 Villa Lane, Benton harbor, MI 49022, 
USA.  Hours: 3.5 hrs.  Flights and accommodation in Michigan also paid; value £2,346.67
(Registered 7 June 2011)


Payment of £36,146.29 for speech to Skybridge Capital in Las Vegas.  Address of Skybridge 
Capital:  527 Madison Avenue, 6th floor, New York, NY 10022, USA.  Hours: 3 hrs.  Flights 
and accommodation in Las Vegas also paid; value £2,008.58. (Registered 7 June 2011)


Payment of £36,292.84 for speech to Citi Latin America in New York.  Address of Cit Latin 
America:  201 S.Biscayne Boulevard, Suite 700, Miami, FL 33131, USA.  Hours: 3 hrs. 
Flights and accommodation in New York also paid; value £2,008.58. (Registered 7 June 2011)


Payment for staff and research of £42,158.38 as Chairman of the World Economic Forum 
Policy Coordination Group.  Address of donor:  Route de la Capite 91-93, 1223 
Cologny/Geneva.  Hours: ongoing commitment. (Registered 7 June 2011)
Airfare and accommodation in Geneva also paid, £1,657.64.  (Registered 30 June 
2011)


Payment of £36,224.88 for speech to Pershing LLC in Miami.  Address of Pershing:  Pershing 
LLC, One Pershing Plaza, 4th Floor, Jersey City, NJ 07399, USA.  Hours: 3 hrs.  Flights and 
accommodation to Miami also paid for me and a  member of my staff; value £16,545.25.  
(Registered 21 June 2011)


Name of donor: Chinese People’s Institute for Foreign Affairs 
Address of donor: 71 Nanchizi Street, Beijing 100006, China 
Amount of donation (or estimate of the probable value): flight and accommodation in Beijing 
paid, £11,202 


Not in Blair's league, obv. And each entry contains the meretricious little clause "I am not receiving any money from this engagement personally. It is being held by the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown for the employment of staff to support my ongoing involvement in public life." Just in case any Calvinist souls in Kirkaldy question Mr Brown's ability to pass through the eye of a needle. 


And if only someone would submit an FOI request to the Met Commissioner to disclose the cost to the London taxpayer of the police protection provided for Brown's globetrotting self-aggrandisement, perhaps we could send the troughing bastard a bill? Not to benefit personally, of course, but to support the provision of a police service for the people of London. 

Public Services White Paper another Crock

There's a pattern to this government's White Papers. They start with wonderfully inspiring rhetoric, buzz phrases, self-evident truths, declarations of commitment and brave words. Then when you look for the meat in the detail, you find there is very little actual change at all; Whitehall have succeeded yet again in blocking any meaningful reform away from the centralised wartime State structure they have so carefully built. And the latest Public Services White Paper is no different. It's a crock.


Two things are required for the devolution of power from Whitehall; the devolution of tax raising and collecting powers, and the restructuring of local governance entities to give legal authority to new local bodies. Neither is even remotely on the horizon of this government. The wartime command and control  structure, with Whitehall dictating and it's local agents, the single-tier councils, implementing, remains wholly intact. This White Paper is one of the most mendacious pieces of spin and puff I've ever seen emerge from Whitehall. It's so pathetically piss-poor it's not even worth dissecting.


Those who say that Whitehall will never willingly give up a microgram of power are proved right yet again. 

Monday, 11 July 2011

Banking is still the real scandal - and Italy is next

It must be time for my monthly reminder that the world's banks created some $500 trillion of worthless derivatives out of pure greed and avarice, a sum that dwarfs the entire globe's GDP. And also to add the caveat that in truth they're not entirely worthless; when the trades are collapsed back, like Russian dolls, the best estimate is that UK banks are holding a net total of 'just' $10 trillion in worthless derivatives. Hence the squaking over Greece's potential default; ah yes, the bankers said, our direct exposure may only be $3 billion, but $600 billion of our worthless derivatives are linked to Greece. 


This month I'm not alone in remembrancing this scandal; John Redwood blogged about it on Friday, making the telling point that the book value of derivatives had changed not one iota since 2008. And now we must delve into the arcane world of shorting, Credit Default Swaps, naked Credit Default Swaps, Exchange Traded Funds and Synthetic Exchange Traded Funds. Suffice to say, they're all ways for bankers to get rich quick, are all founded on sand and all demonstrate that those gilded Onanists have learned exactly nothing since 2008. You can't do better than listen to R4's 'File On Four' to get a full flavour of the threat these tossers are continuing to create. 


And now to Italy. You may be wondering if only $0.6tn of our banks' worthless derivatives are linked to Greece where the other $9.4tn is linked to. Well, the answer for another big chunk of it is Italy. You also need to know the way CDSwaps work; it's in the interests of investors for the loan to fail, like it's in the interests of life insurance beneficiaries for the insured to die. Insuring other people's lives has been illegal since 1774 in the UK, but insuring the failure of others' loans apparently isn't. So these Ruperts are now turning on Italy, undermining in whatever way they can the country's financial stability so they can make a quick buck. You think I'm in tinfoil hat territory here? Assuredly not. This is one comment from John Redwood's blog entry;
I looked after Credit Default Swaps at HSBC during the crash. I cant say anything about their positions – but can say they didn’t harm them. They didn’t take on mortgage backed bonds and only got hit for a few years buying the US mortgage brokers Household – whose staff acted like double glazing salesmen. HSBC were a well run bank in the centervwith a good banking ethic. The other banks seemed to be put profit above risk. I still think naked short a CDSwaps are illegal under the 1774 Life Assurance Act – the Act is clear and short and still in effect.
You’re absolutely right that some derivatives are the problem. I still believe Italian banks will bring the Euro down. In the CDSwaps market a huge number of CDSwaps have been taken out insuring against Italian banks – more than any other banking sector. I’m not sure if that is published. Derivatives have hidden our debts and risks from all of us, including politicians. But risks are like water you cannot hide them.
You can financially engineer situations so that risks become highly geared – so huge losses come quickly and without fanfare. Of course the warning signs are all there but derivatives hush them up and politicians only oil the squeaky wheels. I think that is what is key about derivatives – they change the profile of the products. They allow debts to go off balance sheet, to be deferred, to swap short term small potential losses for large ones in the long term via risk transfer.
So Italy's in their sights this morning. And as the Telegraph reports, the EU stumbles into its next financial crisis. And though our enemies in the Berlaymont who are fighting like rats for the Euro would dearly like to see London's financial pirates strung up on the lamp columns of the Rue de la Loi I find on this occasion I really can't disagree with them. Investment bankers and EUphiles are down there in the dirt next to eachother.  

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The most hated woman in Britain

The pictures, snatched flash-lit shots through the tinted windows of a limo, showed the strain on Rebekah Wade's face; the predator had become the prey. There is a fitting parallel with the same shots of newly-convicted paedos or terrorists snatched through the tinted windows of the prison van, the staple diet of the Murdoch press. Wade wears exactly the same expression for the unexpected camera as have a score of child-murderers or unexploded Jihadists. There's one difference. This time it's not a Murdoch title that has made Rebekah Wade the Most Hated Woman in Britain; it's, erm, largely the Guardian. 


Greater love hath no proprietor than he lays down the life of a successful title for the love of his Chief Executive. And this will backfire. Next Sunday, when the stacks of papers in the newsagents are one short, when the substitutes the People and the Mirror are flung across three million sofas in disgust and disappointment, is a day when Ms Wade would be best advised to be at least 3,000 miles from Britain. Scores of pusillanimous MPs have discovered they actually have a backbone, and are writhing about in mock indignation like eels in a bucket; they will align themselves (of course) with the mob on this one. Last week they would have cringed, fawned and drunk their own warm urine for two favourable column inches in the Screws. 


And you can forget all the high-sounding platitudes you will read today; 'this is a victory for truth and justice' or 'today there is no place for wrongdoing in British journalism'. Piffle. Today is a victory for the inchoate fury of the mob. The Guardian won't sell a single extra paper. The MSM will continue the trend set by Ms Wade to turn the Murdoch papers into D-list showbiz comics and the others will follow. If 'today is a victory' for anything at all it's hypocrisy, self-serving and spinelessness. The Screws was a British institution, as familiar and comfortable as a K6 phone box or a Routemaster bus. And that bloody woman ruined it. 

   

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Hungary - exemplar or threat?

I make no apologies for featuring Hungary yet again; right now, it's the most interesting nation in Europe. Those of you familiar with previous threads will know that whilst my heart resonates to a new national will based on 'home, family, work, health and order' my head is ringing warning bells. Hence the post below. The BBC is parroting the calls for a new national media regulator 'with teeth' to replace the PCC on the basis that it would control Murdoch; they don't seem to have considered it could equally well control the BBC. Hungary's new constitution protects the rights of the foetus from the moment of conception, reserves marriage for a union between a man and a woman, does not outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation and permits imprisonment for whole natural-life terms without parole. But it's in the Preamble to the new constitution that Hungary's new 'national will' is most clearly expressed. I'll let you make your own minds up as I reproduce it below (my brief comments in italics).

GOD BLESS HUNGARIANS
National Credo


We, members of the Hungarian nation at the beginning of the new Millennium, bearing responsibility for all Hungarians hereby declare that:

We are proud that our King St. Stephen established the Hungarian state on firm foundations a thousand years ago and made our country a part of Christian Europe.

We are proud of our forefathers who struggled for the survival, freedom and independence of our country.

We are proud of the magnificent intellectual creations of Hungarian people.

We are proud that our people have battled for centuries to protect Europe (from the Moslem East) and have, with their talent and diligence enriched her common values.

We recognize the role of Christianity in preserving our nationhood. Likewise we appreciate the different religious traditions of our country (The Jews).

We promise to preserve the spiritual and intellectual unity of our nation battered by the storms of the past century. We consider the nationalities and ethnic groups living in Hungary as parts of our Hungarian nation.

We undertake to preserve and nurture our legacy, the Hungarian culture, our unique language, the man-made and natural treasures of the Carpathian-basin. We bear responsibility for our children; therefore we will prudently use our material, intellectual and natural resources, so as protect the essentials of life for future generations.

We believe that our national culture provides a rich contribution to the diversity of European unity.

We respect the freedom and cultures of other people; we aspire to cooperate will all nations of the world

We profess that the basis of human existence is human dignity.

We profess that individual freedom can develop fully only in cooperation with others.

We profess that the most important frameworks for our coexistence are the family and the nation, and the fundamental values binding us together are loyalty, faith and love

We profess that the strength of every community and the honour of every person is rooted in work and intellectual performance

We profess the obligation to help the poor

We profess that the common objective of the citizen and the state is the achievement of a good life, security, order, justice and freedom.

We profess that true rule by the people can only exist when the state serves its citizens and manages their affairs in an equitable manner without abuse or bias

[then 5 paras essentially negating everything constitutionally that happened between 1939 and 1990]

We declare that after decades of events in the twentieth century that led to moral decline we have an eminent need of spiritual and intellectual renewal

We have trust in the future we jointly build, the commitment of the young generations. We believe our children and grandchildren will use their talent, perseverance and emotional strength to make Hungary great again

Our Basic Law is the foundation of our legal system; it is a contract between Hungarians of the past, present and future. It is a dynamic framework which articulates the will of the nation, the framework within which we wish to live

We, the citizens of Hungary, are ready to base the order of our country on the cooperation of the nation (this doesn't seem to make sense until you realize that 'nation' is being used in the terms of 'indian nation' i.e. a discrete ethnic group with a common identity)