Saturday, 25 June 2011

Blair, heir to Dönitz

Karl Dönitz was the Third Reich's last President, occupying the position of the Nazi empire's Head of State for just three weeks following Hitler's suicide. As he waited in his Flensburg headquarters for the final collapse he must have looked back on the days of pomp and braggadocio, the brave banners and bold anthems, with all Europe under one government. Economically, of course, the Third Reich was a Ponzi scheme; even in 1941 the top rate of Income Tax in Germany was 13.5%, compared to 23.7% in the UK. 


Against all reason and sanity, Blair's support of the UK joining the Euro is quite transparently not what it seems. He still harbours hungry ambitions to be Europe's President, and his declaration is intended more for consumption in Paris and Berlin rather than in London. I'll even bet Cherie has her eyes on the Egmont Palace in Brussels, presently used by the Belgian foreign ministry, as a suitable home for the new President and First Lady of Europe. 


In the chaos and collapse that the EU now faces, who knows but that he may achieve his ambition before the final curtain falls on the Fourth Reich. Dönitz penned a book entitled 'Ten years and Twenty Days', referring to the years of Nazi power and the length of his Presidency of the Reich. It strikes me that only the second part of the title would need changing for a post-EU Blair memoir; would he do any better than Dönitz' three weeks?   

Friday, 24 June 2011

Brussels will live on in Whitehall

If Martin Kettle's opinion piece in the Guardian this morning isn't quite an obituary for the EU it's the closest I've ever seen to one from a Guardianista;
The question facing Europeans is therefore this. Not to forge an ever closer union in which, for all the EU's successes, the word forge seems unhappily to be increasingly appropriate. But how to manage the now foreseeable breakup of the EU in a responsible and restrained way, preserving and strengthening such forms of co-operation as we can. The goal would be to minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless: all more real dangers in the next generation than the last. But that, ironically, was why the EU was created in the first place.
Though the EU and its institutions are the focus of popular antipathy, we may get a nasty shock if we expect Westminster to regain a range of powers at the EU's demise; those powers will stay where they have been for many years now, in Whitehall. The demise of the EU will serve only to expose that our true masters are not in fact the sleazy, avaricious and corrupt elected MEPs in Brussels but a cabal of zealous and unelected officials in Whitehall, who have long been working in league with a similar cabal of equally zealous and equally unelected officials in Brussels; Whitehall, twinned with Berlaymont. 


And yes, zealous is the right word. Civil servants should have no business being zealous, you might have thought, but I've met them. I've worked with them. They're zealous. They believe that they alone have been entrusted with the good of the commonweal, that they alone can work towards goals of social justice, peace and international equity, they alone can interpret what is a responsible defence of the national interest. They hold themselves responsible to a vague locus they term 'the Crown' - not the person of the monarch, you understand, like the loyalty of simple soldiers, but to the symbol of monarchy. And above all they believe that for our own good we cannot be trusted to exercise the powers of government ourselves, that management of everything from Whitehall is the most beneficent and fair of all options. They genuinely believe  not only in the rightness of their collective outlook but that their stewardship of the nation is a good rather than an evil. They are not only zealous, they are well-meaning. They are proud that their treacle-like impact on the plans of politicians dilutes and delays change and prevents extreme swings; like diodes they gatekeep, allowing through legislation that benefits their aims and blocking and revising that which doesn't. They are neither of the left nor the right. They are central Statists. 


And as for Kettle's belief that it was the EU that had as its aim to "minimise the dangers of war between states, ethnic conflict within them, and immiseration of the most defenceless" I think this is exactly the core of belief of Whitehall and its Euro counterparts, and they genuinely believe that only they stand between a fair and ordered world and anarchy. And this is the most dangerous delusion of all.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Firefighting

Labour's Statist and centralising ambitions knew no bounds. The Fire Service, for example, works quite well and is valued by the public. Good reason to leave it alone, one might have thought, but no. Despite the distribution and despatch of fire appliances being one of the most local services one can imagine, Labour decided that what the Fire Service really needed was a multi-million pound national computer system and the reduction of the 46 county fire control centres to 9 regional control centres. Cassidian, or EADS Defence and Security before it adopted a silly name, was the lucky firm looking forward to profiting from the years of delays and massive cost overuns that define government computer projects. Sadly for Cassidian, the new government has cancelled the lot.


In my favourite exemplar Localist town of Vail in Colorado, the Fire Service is also on the agenda. Vail has two fire stations with seven appliances between them (plus two fire cars - one each for the station commanders). The Fire Service also provides Emergency Medical Assistance in the US, rather than a separate Ambulance Service. Vail also has its own police service, with 31 police officers and 32 support staff.  The town's emergency services are paid for from local taxes, mainly a sales tax, and commercial charges. Because there's a direct link between the wallets and purses of Vail's townspeople and the pay packets of the police and firefighters, the services provide good value and are responsive directly to the needs of the town rather than to distant political posturing in Washington DC. They also have their own very local control centre, just for the town area, which is currently advertising for a new controller. The job description alone tells one more about how services can be managed and funded locally than a whole ream of Cameroonian drivel;
Ensures community safety through effective communications duties via phone and radio systems in support of county-wide Police, Fire, and EMS agencies. Dispatch duties include, but are not limited to receiving and analyzing 911 calls as well as non-emergent and TTY phone calls for Police, Fire, and EMS service; performing Emergency Medical Dispatch when appropriate; operating and utilizing the Computer Aided Dispatch Computer System (CAD) throughout all calls for service; distributing calls for service via the 800 MHz radio system; receiving and monitoring alarms throughout Eagle County; performing various requests on the CCIC/NCIC system including warrant entries; responsible for updating the media broadcast information on road conditions; initiating the Emergency Alert System when needed; training new dispatchers; and being responsible for individual projects.
Excellent verbal communications skills necessary. Computer skills helpful and typing skills necessary. Multi tasked oriented essential. Polygraph, typing and spelling tests required. Rotation through varied shifts. Holidays and week-ends are often required.
The Town of Vail offers an excellent benefits and compensation package, including health/dental coverage, town-funded retirement, 457 pre-tax savings plan, ski, tennis, and golf passes and other wellness benefits. Employee housing may be available.
Salary Range: Starting - $20.19/hour

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

A Junkie's word

Like a smack-head desperate for a fix, Greece is ready to promise anything to get its hands on the next instalment of EU / IMF cash. "On my mother's grave, it's for milk for my baby" she pleads, before using the cash to buy the next wrap of brown poison. There can be few who actually believe Greece will enact the austerity measures promised; to do so would be to invite complete revolution. But the EU / IMF aren't quite ready to deal with Greek default, so they pretend to believe that Greece means it, and agree to buy another 12 weeks of time at a cost of £100bn.


I cannot find one single informed commentator who actually believes that Greece can recover from this crisis without defaulting. 

Derivatives again

In the strange make-believe world of pretend bank liquidity it's best not to think about the $500 trillion of worthless derivatives created by these greedy muppets. Actually, though I say worthless, there is some residual value, when all the Russian dolls are collapsed back into eachother the real junk value, the true 'worthless' balance of derivatives is much less. The UK banks are only exposed by some $10 trillion. If they wrote it all off at once, they'd all crash. So they run rings to pretend it's not there, with the connivance of the Bank and the government. 


But as the Mail reports this morning, inaccurately as is becoming usual, this $10 trillion exposure gets aired from time to time when the banks are feeling threatened. UK banks direct exposure to Greek debt is a mere £2.5 billion, we're told. Small enough for the banks to bear the loss if Greece goes into default (as it will, in September, when the next £100 bn bail out doesn't happen). Ah but, the banks say, that doesn't include the worthless Greek-linked derivatives we've created; of our $10 trillion exposure, some $600 billion is tied up in Greece (and here comes the con) and this would cost £14,640 for every family in the UK


Uhm, no. It would cost every family in the UK precisely nothing. Because we're not bailing you all out any more - you can all just crash, taking your worthless derivatives with you. And if in the chaos that follows, a few hundred fat cat bankers are hanged from the portes-cochere of Canary Wharf, well , heck. 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

'Scottish studies' is crude apartheid

Proposals have been made by the Scottish Education Secretary to introduce the new subject of 'Scottish studies' to Scottish schools.  Russell says in an interview with the Glasgow Herald "We have fragmented the issues and the problem has been there has been a lot of complaints that there is not enough access to Scottish history, Scottish literature, Scots language or Gaelic.I have a view that we should unite these different strands to give pupils an opportunity to see Scotland and its place in the world in the round. This will provide a good opportunity to provide a new topic that will help develop a better-informed populace in Scotland."


Imagine the howls of rage from north of the border if it were proposed to teach English Studies in English schools. And no doubt it will have exactly the same effect as the teaching of 'ebonics' did to black pupils in American schools - that of fostering racism, encouraging apartheid and accenting dissent and difference. 


One's knowledge of our culture and being comes informally from friends, family and local institutions, is shaped by living and socialising in our own cultural environment. It is not something to be indoctrinated by the State - except a totalitarian State. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Does anyone under 30 know what NATO is?

Back in the days when we only had three TV channels in the UK and they all went to bed at 11.30, when the telephone was wired to the coldest part of the hall, weighed 4kg and cost £100 a second  to use, and way before the internet, if you wanted midnight entertainment out in the countryside your only option was short-wave radio. I recall turning the tuning knob on the old valve set in my bedroom by increments of a fraction of a millimetre, listening and hoping to catch the elusive and haunting 'Moscow Nights' station ident of Radio Moscow. Whilst listening to Communist radio wasn't actually an offence, one nonetheless kept the volume down. It was sort of private. Tirana Radio, from Albania, was another English-language favourite of mine. As far as I know, not a single English person ever wrote to the stations, which didn't prevent them making letters up. "Mrs Armitage Shanks writes from Nuneaton, near Plymouth, to ask us to play again the Chairman's speech to the 31st Delegate Plenary of the Tractor Praesidium" the announcer would intone, in Belgian-accented English. You see, they were the Enemy. Crouched over the glowing thermionic valves, one felt a little like those listening to Alvar Lidell in Nazi occupied France. 


There was no shooting, but it was a real war. In Suffolk the sky was full of screaming F4 Phantoms flying at 250ft. A walk down the lane would leave one's coat smelling of aviation kerosene. We became expert at aircraft identification and I could recognise an A10 Warthog hidden from sight by sound alone. My neighbours would sneak off in their Observer Corps uniforms to do duty in the secret observation bunker, the location of which we all knew intimately. The purpose of NATO, as far as we were concerned, was to sacrifice itself bravely and slow down the Soviet advance to the English Channel for long enough to allow Bridget Bardot to be evacuated to London. We were also, as far as we were aware, just four minutes away from being vapourised in a nuclear Armageddon. Of course, it all gave the central State the perfect excuse to govern the country on a wartime basis. Just about everything was an Official Secret in those days. 


The 'Economist' has published the following illuminating graphic;


The failure of NATO less the US in 2011 to be able even to successfully wage a minor colonial campaign against a poorly armed and organised enemy in Libya has been remarked upon by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates.  In truth, for many years much of Europe has been happy to allow the US taxpayer to shoulder the burden of defence whilst it diverted tax income to social programmes. Well, those in the US under 30, and the growing Hispanic population there, cannot be relied upon to continue this largesse. Those under 30 here will be similarly ignorant of NATO's former importance. If the US reduced defence expenditure to 2.4% of GDP it would still be spending as much as the world's next five most powerful military powers together. 


It's really time we planned to stand on our own feet again. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Not 'realists' but 'Statists'

In a piece in the Telegraph today, Tim Montgomerie opines that within government a cabal of 'realists' headed by the Chancellor has gained ascendency over the 'radicals' headed by Cameron. By 'realists' of course he means central Statists; those who agree with senior civil servants that a wartime mode of government with micromanagement of everything direct from Whitehall is the only feasible option.  


Montgomerie thinks Cameron is both lazy and uncommitted, a dilettante Prime Minister and dinner-table radical whose radicalism doesn't outlive the following morning's breakfast. The real torchbearer for reform is his advisor Steve Hilton;
Hilton fought hard to preserve the NHS reforms, but was overwhelmed by Clegg, Osborne and Downing Street civil servants. Clegg began as an ally of the radicals, backing IDS on benefits reform, but has been captured by the Left-wingers who dominate the Lib Dem benches in both Houses. Now he’s the new roadblock to reform, the Brown to Cameron’s Blair. As for Hilton, his next battle is the public services White Paper, which aims to give private and voluntary groups the chance to run government services. If he loses that battle, he may decide that it’s time to cycle into the sunset. His departure – which is marginally more likely than not – would be a massive loss. Despite being caricatured as a hippy, Hilton is actually more Thatcherite in his views on education, family policy, the EU and the failings of the Whitehall machine than anyone else in Downing Street.
Osborne of course is the ideal establishment puppet; mediocre, uninspired, unskilled, inexperienced and unable to connect with the public. A perfect future Prime Minister as far as the Mandarins are concerned, pro-EU, obedient and infinitely malleable. 


The only way in which we will break the stranglehold of the Mandarins is to starve their three big Statist and pro-EU parties of the oxygen of funding, allowing a chaos of smaller parties, groupings, loyalties and allegiances space to grow, to fill the chamber with members not in debt for central party HQ patronage and with an animus against the repressive Central State that has held them back for so long. The Mandarins will be doing everything they can to push forward Hayden Phillips' corrupt, foul and distorted recommendations on State funding for the centrist parties (well what did you expect from an ex-mandarin?) in order to maintain the status quo. The report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, so grossly overdue that one suspects the horse-trading has been done and that the Committee is only looking for a 'bad news week' to sneak the recommendations out, is unlikely to do anything that will weaken the puppet parties. 


Only an external political or economic shock of force 7 or more on the Richter Scale may provide an impetus for real change. The collapse of the ECB, Santander, Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Bank, Westdeutsche Landesbank, Commerzbank, and the Bayerische Vereinsbank, all of which I suspect are technically bankrupt as I write, may just do it.