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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Another incompetent corrupt bastard quits

After selling the Irish economy to the international banks and the EU, Cowen is copping out, no doubt considerably enriched already by his time at the helm. His golfing buddies from the banking world will surely waste no time in finding a suitable series of non-executive directorships for this corrupt and bent bastard. His party is thankfully just about dead and is unlikely to survive the next election, his nation is screwed and Ireland's prospects for recovery are dim. But Brian has done well, and that's all that counts these days, of course. 

Political Class panics at Localism Lite reforms

Cameron's Localism Lite, the mildest and most minimally-radical reforming of the grip of the Central State that one can imagine, with no financial devolution, no new democratic structures and no meaningful devolution of power, is nonetheless causing panic amongst the Political Class. Central Statism is so engrained in the civil service, the structure at the heart of the State, that the least erosion of central command and control sends them into a spin. If you're a Central Statist, it's a matter of doctrine that;

  • The government is responsible for everything that anyone does
  • Parliament's primary function is to scrutinise government, and
  • Named ministers must be accountable for anything that happens in their area of responsibility. 

So, in the case of dogs biting postmen, the Central Statist believes that this is a failure of good government, a possible cause for ministerial resignation, and reveals insufficient regulation and enforcement from the centre. 

On the other hand, many of us believe the government ought solely to concern itself with matters of governance that can only be handled on a national scale; defence, treaties and international trade agreements, air traffic control, a system of civil law and the like. Dogs biting postmen is so faint a blip on the national radar that government shouldn't even have cognisance of it. The manager of the local delivery office and the local bench of magistrates are more than adequately capable of dealing with such eventualities. Not a single second of parliamentary or civil service time should be wasted on oral or written questions on the incidence of postman-biting by domestic dogs, the number of days sickness absence by postmen in each of the last three years as a result of dog bites or the number of dogs put down after biting postmen for the same period. Yet such nonsense is the bread and meat of the Central State - and it's the erosion of this pettiest of micro-managing that the Political Class fears. 

So Gus O'Donnell, High Priest of the church of the Central State, has been panicked into holding an enquiry into the impact of the Localism Bill on parliament's ability to concern itself with trivial issues, badged pompously and hubristically as "an erosion of parliamentary democracy", spurred on by Margaret Hoxha, Labour's doyenne of petty State regulation. 

If Cameron can't scotch even this minor impediment to true democracy, throw away your hopes for any meaningful reform. It's looking like only a sharpened hatchet will free the grip of the fingers of the Central State from our lives. 

Friday, 21 January 2011

The authentic voice of Islam

Baroness Warsi - who may consider that Islam recognises no such honorific as far as women are concerned, our 'bigoted' society breaching Muslim convention by honouring women in this way - may find time today to listen to the authentic voice of Islam, as spoken through the bearded mouth of Asrar Rashid, a Birmingham imam. The Queen, he says, is 'a disgusting woman' for knighting Salman Rushdie; no doubt had she instead sawed his head off with a bread knife on the red carpet of the Presence Chamber Rashid would not have found this 'disgusting' at all. 

Brownite Weirdos

With the departure of Alan Johnson, the sole authentic personality remaining in Labour's upper echelons, the shadow cabinet has become a caricature of a Students' Union exec, filled with weirdos and sociopaths none of whom has ever held a proper job for a single day in their lives. There's Ed, in his dad's old tweed coat with a 'Red Fist' tee beneath, who takes his laundry back to mum at the end of term; Ballsy, with the odd eyes, in  French worker's ripped leather jacket with a copy of 'Socialist Worker' stuck in his back pocket; Yvette in dungarees and purple woollen tights who believes against all the evidence that using only rainwater to wash her hair makes it shiny, and Hattie, banned from the Union bar since she let off her rape alarm and sprayed the bar manager with Mace for allegedly short-changing her.

We should therefore expect a manifesto based on Troops Out Of Ireland Afghanistan Malvinas, Women-only train carriages, the Abolition of Capitalism, and all bars forced to give a free packet of crisps with every three pints. 

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Ha Ha Hinoki

I've never been a chap for 'fragrances'; Coal Tar soap and everything else unperfumed has always been my preference. I haven't used aftershave since I was a teenager. However, I had one, single, bathroom indulgence and that was Muji's Japanese Cypress (Hinoki) bath salts. They had a terrific 'zing' and left one feeling incredibly fresh and clean. They stopped selling them several years ago, and since then I've made all sort of sporadic effort to find a replacement, without success. So this week I've been experimenting with Epsom salt, Bicarbonate of Soda, Tapioca starch, Sea salt and essential oils to try to re-create the Muji product, and I think I'm almost there. Another week of minor tweaking of the proportions and that will be it. I have to say, minor thing though this is, that it's given me the most enormous satisfaction (it doesn't take much - I'm very low maintenance).   

Muslims must be British first

Baroness Warsi's plea for us to exhibit less prejudice towards Muslims would fall on more fertile ground if the Muslim population learned the same trick as Britain's Jews and Catholics; how to be British first. There is no room in this small nation for the evil apartheid of multiculturalism; immigrants must integrate. That means modifying their behaviour, beliefs and identity to become lost in the great diversity of Britons. Our attitude towards those who refuse to integrate isn't bigotry; this nation isn't an hotel, it's our homeland, and we have the right to demand that those who want to join us also take on our ethics, morals and allegiances.

The 'growing intolerance' that the Baroness detects isn't towards Muslims as such, but towards the bigotry of Islamism, and this is entirely proper. The Islamic world has never undergone an Enlightenment, and consequently remains at heart unevolved. The majority of Islamic immigrants to Britain are poor peasants from Pakistan and Bangladesh, compounding their archaic belief with illiteracy and ignorance, susceptible to the most outrageous suggestions from village Imams. We cannot accept these 'views' as having any moral equivalency with the mores of an advanced Western society, and neither should we. It is quite right and proper to condemn such things. But we must take care that our condemnation of the lies, falsehoods and provocations of non-conforming Islamic doctrine doesn't become hostility towards towards the poor deluded fools who have swallowed this guff. They need all our help and encouragement to rise from the darkness of their backwardness into the light that is being British. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Blair a step closer to trial

It is a long time since 15th February 2003, when I walked along with a million others through central London in protest at Blair's intentions to wage war on Iraq. I knew then with absolute certainty that his reasons were spurious; the case was manifestly weak and fatally flawed from the start. Robin Cook reminded the Commons of the meaning of honour with his resignation from Blair's government, in a speech that resonates still;
The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians from the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq, but the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at least in the thousands. I am confident that British servicemen and women will acquit themselves with professionalism and with courage. I hope that they all come back. I hope that Saddam, even now, will quit Baghdad and avert war, but it is false to argue that only those who support war support our troops. It is entirely legitimate to support our troops while seeking an alternative to the conflict that will put those troops at risk.
It was a truth lost on the Conservatives, for whom the political expediency of being seen to act in concert overcame their disbelief of Blair's lies - and those who have subsequently admitted so have mired themselves in opprobrium. Others have chosen to rely on a fatuous post-hoc rationalisation that getting rid of Saddam made it the right thing to do, anyway, even if Blair misled the nation. Labour's own stinking hypocrisy is exemplified by Harman's enthusiastic applause at Red Ed's condemnation of the war, which prompted his brother to audibly demand of her "What are you clapping for? You voted for it".

Iraq has remained an open sore, yet each year has brought to light a little more of the evidence needed to put Blair on trial. Of the other great officers of state, Hoon is disgraced and a figure of public ridicule and Irvine is a wreck of alcoholic remorse and self-pity unfit to appear in public any longer. Only Straw remains at large and unaffected. I have no doubt that Hoon and Irvine at least would be happy to turn Queen's evidence if given the opportunity to do so. 

As Steven Glover reports in the Mail, the declassification of Goldsmith's evidence has already established conclusively that Blair lied to the Commons. Chilcot also has in his hands evidence that Blair conspired to wage an unlawful war, evidence that if available would, I suspect, be sufficient for an indictment. Gus O'Donnell has so far refused Chilcot permission to declassify this, but no matter; the evidence is there, and no doubt the courts will wheedle it out into the light of day in due course. 

This is a long haul, and Blair has less reason to sleep soundly with each passing day. This, at least, is an encouragement that should not be underestimated.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Inside Job

Chris Blackhurst reported in last night's Standard the screening of the Inside Job documentary, organised by the FT and Pi Capital. The audience were not dreadlocked trustafarians and crusties but City professionals. He concludes:
What was it Diamond said last week? That the time for banker "remorse" is over. This is what Ferguson said: "Even in my private and off-the-record conversations with financial executives I've not encountered a single honest expression of remorse or shame or guilt. I raised this too with Dominique Strauss-Kahn at the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and with the French finance minister Christine Lagarde - they both agreed that they've yet to hear any expression of regret."
Said the film-maker: "Those responsible blame 'the system'. Or they blame the bubble caused by irresponsible borrowers. Some of them blame low interest rates. In a grim way it's actually amusing to watch them blame anyone except themselves."
Please see his film.
If fellow bloggers are up for organising a screening in London, I'm in. Drop me a line and I'll see what I can arrange. 

Libraries or dead children?

As the Indie reports this morning, public anger is growing at the 'bloodbath' facing public libraries, with some 375 having been identified to date for closure by councils making savings. However, this is an entirely rational and self-interested move by council bosses; no-one will put them in the dock, or summarily dismiss them, for depriving their populations of access to books. If they have a child die on their watch, they face personal disgrace, even imprisonment. In fact, they will first cut not just libraries but every single traditional non-statutory function of local authorities before they reduce by one pound the budgets for children and child protection.

Sharon Shoesmith's fate sent shockwaves of fear through council bosses after the death of Baby Peter. Council social services structures have since been padded with layer upon layer of sacrificial managers all designed to protect the Chief Officers at the top from the consequences of having a child death on their patch. There is no more profligate spender of tax funds than a council boss building a wall of deniability around themself. The welfare of 'at risk' children, of course, has not improved by a single jot or tittle - as Booker has been reporting, if anything the State has responded by seizing more and more of them, sometimes for perfectly trivial reasons.  

Take a look at this year's budget breakdown for England's councils (spreadsheet). In addition to some £48bn for education, they are spending around £7bn overall on children's 'social protection'. This exceeds the  national bill for libraries (£1bn), parks (£1bn), refuse collection and disposal (£2.8bn), street lighting (£0.5bn), road maintenance (£1.1bn) and trading standards, food safety and environmental health (£0.4bn) together. 

It would be a brave politician who suggested that we're paying too much for child protection, but of course we are. It's a consequence of a Rousseau-esque State that's worked hard for decades to destroy the horizontal ties of family and community and replace them with a direct vertical link between every individual and the State. And this is the cost - and it isn't cheap. 

Monday, 17 January 2011

Balance of Trade 1560

The cost of imports was of as much concern to the first Elizabeth's government as it has been to the second's; one of the recent gems from the growing treasure chest that is British History Online has been the transcription of London port records from the 1560s, headed  'The particular valew of certayne necessary and vnnecessarye wares brought into the Porte of London in the second year of the Quenes Majestis reigne, the ouerquantyte wherof lamentably spoylith the realme yearly'

Allame (Alum) and Woade and Mader (Madder) for the dyers, of course, if one wanted blue and scarlet cloth, and Sope Ashes (Potash) if you needed soap, but amongst the 'unnecessary' expenditure that was an indicator of London's booming new middle class perhaps were Babies (dolls), Tennys Balles, Glasses to drinke in and to loke in, Gyrdells, Grenes for womens apernes (A fine green linen cloth used for aprons, originally from Doornick in Flanders), velvete and sables. But little surprise that the items that dominate the list are alcoholic; split generally 53% French wines, 32% on fortified wine from Iberia, 13% Alsation and Rheinish and a small quantity of 'bastarde' wine (we've all drunk it ...). Nor had the new fashion for bittering beer become self-sufficient, as we still spent as much on imported hops as on imported sugar. The table totals suggest that the trade deficit was something like 3% - actually a good deal healthier than the 13% commodity trade gap we have now. 

Plus ca change ....  

One for the 'B' ship

Along with Adams' hairdressers and telephone sanitisers, I would consign to the 'B' ship the entire marketing department of Georgia-Pacific EMEA for spamming blogs with details of 'one of the most appealing consumer innovations of the last decades'. What that? Nose hair trimmers? A device to remove pilling from jumpers? An electric shoe-lace tying machine? A plastic fridge container for canned anchovies? All close, but the blurb says
Brussels, 17 January 2011- Georgia-Pacific, one of the leading producers of tissue, paper, packaging and building products in the world, launches Aqua Tube™ in Europe, the first ever fully flushable, biodegradable bathroom tissue center tube, replacing the traditional cardboard core and offering consumers enhanced comfort and convenience. Recent research, commissioned by Georgia-Pacific, has shown that more than 80% of consumers are interested to use the flushable Aqua Tube™ as it will make their lives more convenient. Of respondents, 73% state that it’s always them having to clean up the core. Thanks to Aqua Tube™, there will be no more fuss or annoyance once the toilet roll has been finished: just throw the tube in the toilet, flush, and it will vanish. The product will be launched in Europe during the course of 2011 starting with Belgium, Spain, the Netherlands and Portugal, under the brands Lotus® and Colhogar®.
That's it? A flushable toilet roll tube?

It'll never catch on in the UK. Hasn't anyone told them about Blue Peter?

The selfish 'me' people and the Central State

It's in part a generational thing, this selfishness, this insistence on 'my rights', this always putting yourself first. The selfish used to disguise their vice under the cloak of 'anarchy' and now it's frequently 'libertarianism'. We've all had to tolerate the selfish ones; those with the 'right' to play loud music late at night, to suffocate us with their Summer barbeques, to screen the Sun from our faces with their Leylandii, to push and elbow and shove. Even on the seas these days, the last bastion of selfless courtesy, the ill-mannered louts have been in the ascendant with speed and wash and 'assertive' piloting. They seem not to have heard the same old Master Mariner who once gently advised that there were no rights in COLREGS (the marine Highways Code), only responsibilities. 

And as David Willetts writes in 'The Pinch', which I recommended last year, the more that individuals focus on themselves, the more that they disassociate from family, neighbourhood and community, the more that they eschew Burke's 'little platoons', the more they create the need for a powerful Central State to take the place of all these local institutions. The State must take on the responsibilities that extended families and communities used to shoulder. Even nuclear families lead this tendency; the better parents we've become, the more we care for our own offspring, the less time we have to volunteer and contribute to the care of those about us. Together with the collapse in trust from the prevalent paedophobia this has left even more to the Central State to do, or not be done at all. 

It is ironic, is it not, that those most vociferous in defence of individual rights, the anarchists and libertarians, are perhaps most crucial in implicitly if unknowingly supporting the Leviathan Central State?


Thousands of Irish gas and electricity customers face losing their supply from today as a moratorium on disconnections ends. It's an endearingly old-fashioned way of dealing with unpaid consumer debt, but perhaps better for the customer than the system now in use in the UK. Disconnected consumers have several ways to regain their supply; pay off the debt and make a hefty deposit, get a relative to take over the account, abstract illegally or (generally only for Nigerians) get reconnected using one of your other names. In most cases, the supply company will end up taking a hit on the arrears.

In the UK for some time now the procedure has been to continue the supply but to change the meter to a pre-pay type calibrated to charge at a rate to recover arrears as well as charging a premium 'dodgy person' rate for the power or gas currently consumed. Thus the utility companies avoid the opprobrium of cutting off widows and orphans whilst recovering their costs from their problem customers - a win-win solution. In fact so lucrative is the pre-pay meter that any of you not on a direct debit arrangement, who still pay on quarterly paper bills, will have noticed the gap between the first, second and final demands is now about three weeks. The old system of 'only pay on red' today risks the compulsory loss of your account facility and the installation of a pre-pay meter. I have to admit to having gas and electricity not only on direct debit but paperless, and monitoring of U Switch and churning my supplies means I'm probably paying about half as much for my heat and light as the poor folk down at the bottom of the hill. 

But don't be tempted to be a heat miser like my old chum. Fed up with his wife cranking the thermostat up from his 'economic' 19deg as soon as he left for the office, he installed a tamper-proof control that reduced the temperature to 15deg during the working day to 'encourage her to get out more'. She did. She spent sufficient time in Westminster reference library to mug up on divorce law. He can now have no heating on at all during the working day, but it doesn't seem to have compensated for losing his wife. 

Sunday, 16 January 2011

"Don't you yell at me, Mr Warwick!"

The look was more Mary Quant than Blitz, and when Susannah York barked out the line at the hapless WO it carried the passion of a sisterhood flexing its nascent muscles at a time of profound social change. Every schoolboy in Britain fell in love with her at that point. RIP.