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Saturday, 2 July 2011

America's Somme

The Somme may have been bloodier (60,000 British casualties alone on the first day, compared to 50,000 from both sides over three days) but whilst 1st July marks in British minds the start of that disastrous offensive, to American minds it signifies the first day of Gettysburg. And in many ways the mass casualties of civil war have a capacity to wound the living unlike those of wars between nations; Kineton produced only 1,000 dead, a drop in the bloody bucket, yet the memory of those frozen corpses below Edgehill can still provoke silence and awe on that place. 

And Lincoln articulated exactly why Gettysburg is important for us, too;
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth

(NB Amazon currently have the 4 hours of Ronald F Maxwell's definitive film on DVD for under £4. Buy.)  

Europe is not the European Union

You must have noticed that when EUphiles and Fedarists are called upon to say something positive about the EU, all they can ever come up with are the many positives that rightly belong to Europe and exist completely independently without the EU. Architecture and culture? Music and fashion? Sleek motor cars? The rail networks? Glorious food and drink? Superlative literature? Stunning landscapes? All are defining factors of the continent and its constituent nations, not of the evil Behemoth that is robbing us of so many good things. Yet the EUphiles will without shame claim them all for the EU. The Polish PM Donald Tusk does exactly this when he proclaims "The European Union is great. It is the best place on Earth to be born and to live your life."

No Herr Tusk. Europe is great. It is the best place on Earth to be born and to live your life. And would be better still without the insufferable arrogance of the EU and its nomenklatura

Friday, 1 July 2011

It's Immigration, innit

It was not long ago that the UK construction industry all took a Summer holiday at the same time. The annual August shut-down worked well; builders' merchants, suppliers, concrete batch plants all shut down at the same time, and even the Architects behaved themselves and flew off to the Algarve for a fortnight. The pressure from most developers these days is to keep going, and no programme I've seen in recent years has shown a Summer break at all. Which is bad news for contractors whose sites are being built by Portuguese labour. You see, the Portuguese all go home at the end of July, and return at the start of September. All over, there will be pressure on many migrant workers in the UK to go home to help with the harvest - whether this is grapes, wheat or roots. Tsk. You didn't think they were going to spend a month on the beach, did you? 

These lads, living in crowded multi-occupied slums while here, remitting their earnings home, living parsimoniously, will go home to listen to granny nagging about the dilapidations that need fixing, the goat that got loose, the bad knee, the cost of everything, the muck-heap that needs spreading and a new hole that needs digging for the privy, whether working in a bar makes the granddaughter a putana and why no one is there to do stuff for them. And when they get back here, they'll have to work sixty hours a week to catch up on lost time on site. And they will do. 

Iain Duncan-Smith may cry foul as loudly as he likes, but which sane employer would swap these lads for their British counterparts; soft, lazy, lippy, hungover, chippy, skiving, thieving whining asthmatics. Welfarism has robbed the working class not just of their independence but of all resilience, all hardness. Hard doesn't mean getting bladdered and fighting outside Witherspoons, it means grafting six days a week in gruelling and demanding labour for low reward. It spurs a hunger and thirst for education as a way out, it engenders a self-sufficient but interdependent network of clan, caste and kinship, and it recognises Merit and will fight for an 'equal go' (as the Australians have it). And we've lost it. 

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Professionals. Not.

Every synapse is screaming at me this morning that Simon Jenkins, a mind that normally delivers a succinct and cogent analysis with which I mostly agree, is wrong, horribly wrong, in his Guardian piece. It wasn't immediately apparent why, but here's a start. 

The 'professions' used to be a fairly limited set of occupations that severely restricted entry and thereby enhanced income for their members. To preserve and sustain this arrangement, it was necessary for each individual member to share in a caucus of knowledge and to take personal liability in upholding professional standards; the professions were self-regulating and government largely left them alone. They were directly descended from the mediaeval guilds, institutions that competed with the power of the Church. The modern professions likewise were (I say were) institutions that competed with the successor to the Church, the State. Of course, in the twentieth century numerous occupational groups saw the advantages of becoming a 'profession' and there was a scramble to obtain Royal Charters from everyone from tyre-fitters to IT consultants. 

At the same time, the State encroached on the preserve of the professions to regulate themselves; first by interfering in their rights to determine entry based on criteria designed to benefit the professional body and imposing instead a duty to determine entry based on criteria of equality of outcome defined by the State, and secondly by the introduction by the State of rules, regulations and codes of practice that superseded the internal caucus of knowledge. This was coupled with a change from the rights of professions to exercise disciplinary control over their peers to the State - through the civil courts - to do so, thereby cutting one of the major strengths of the system. The only profession that has so far maintained this ancient right is that of the barrister. In reaction, the professions eschewed individual and personal liability and either formed groups of LLPs or became employed by a private or public corporation that would instead be the prime object of legal action. 

None of which has improved the service enjoyed by the 'laity' nor the cost of the service by one iota; it has been a record of sustained assault by the State against institutions that competed with the central State for authority. They have bureaucratised the professions. As the State, rather than the profession, now regulates competition, and therefore earnings, it is the State that the professions must now lobby for their gold. The 'professional associations' are no longer anything of the sort; they are now Trade Unions in all but name.  

Jenkins scores some direct hits - Shaw's quote "all professions are conspiracies against the laity" can equally be rendered as "all professions are conspiracies against the State" - and "Generals, admirals and air vice-marshals – party to the biggest fraud on the taxpayer of modern times (the defence budget)" is a gem, but in attacking the BMA (a Trade Union), the Law Society (a Trade Union), the RCGP, RCP, RCS, RCA and the rest (all Trade Unions) he's actually attacking the travesties that the State has created. 

Here's an example. Thirty years ago, a civil engineer took personal professional liability for his design. There was no government manual, no State code, no British Standard for a composite design (BSs in those days confined themselves to standards of constituent materials). Now a monkey with a mouse can do the job just by looking up the standard construction detail in the BS. And even if the monkey picks the wrong table, s/he is protected because they're a member of a Limited Liability Partnership, but as long as they stick to the standard detail in the BS and refrain from exercising any individual skill or judgement, they're safe. We've turned professionals into clerks.

Jenkins also quotes the Milly Dowler trial as good reason to abolish juries, forgetting the dictum that hard cases make bad law. The preservation of juries he ascribes to the intransigence of the embedded legal 'profession' rather than the preference of the British people to be tried by their peers rather than by the State for serious offences. 

Why my synapses were snapping is that Jenkins sees all this as reason to strengthen the State through the power of the mandarins rather than sweep away the rubbish in a tsunami of re-empowerment. He's wrong, grievously wrong. And I'm very disappointed. 

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

It's not an insurance scam, it's a crime

Jack Straw's mealy-mouthed condemnation of the practice of insurance companies selling-on the details of those involved in accidents to ambulance-chasing lawyers for up to £1,000 a time is a little late. After all, much of the groundwork for the 'scam' opportunities was laid down when he was in government, much of it when he was Lord Chancellor.

Such practices would clearly be against the Data Protection Act, would be criminal, unless, as seems likely, the small print of our insurance policies contains a clause acknowledging that our data may be passed onto third parties - in other words, they have a defence in that we have consented. However, such a clause may be open to challenge under contract law legislation if consumers have no choice. This is a complex area of law and clearly needs testing in court - probably by a class action.

So I'm sure it won't be long before a new advert appears on daytime TV; "Have you been cold-called by an accident claims company? Have your personal details been passed on by your insurance company? Have ambulance-chasing lawyers pestered and harassed you? You could make a successful claim! Mr X of Wendover won £6,000 when his insurance company sold-on his personal details to a rep who called him 37 times on his mobile and left 40 texts. Contact us now!"

As thee sow so shall thee reap*

*This is often quoted as 'As ye sow' etc. but contrary to the beliefs of Hollywood scriptwriters no-one in English history ever actually said 'ye''; 'ye' is not and never has been a word in the English language. The superscript 'y' was used in written material as shorthand for 'th', thus 'As ye sow'  

Monday, 27 June 2011

Girls will still choose pink, and women will still have babies

You've got to hand it to those social engineers, they don't stop trying. Some friends of mine made huge efforts to avoid any gun or sword toys for their two boys to no avail; the boys used sticks, bits of pipe and the most unlikely scavenged household objects to replace plastic moulded Chinese toys. Eventually they gave up. Now some Swedish fascist (and I've always thought the Swedes made the most vicious concentration camp guards; they invented compulsory euthanasia after all and were still forcibly castrating morons in the 1970s. I'll bet Sweden will be the first nation to start killing fat people) has decided that children should grow up without knowledge of 'gender' difference so that inequality in adult life may be eliminated. Three points.

1. As my old latin master, used to say: Nouns have gender, people have sex. 
2. Even if you keep a girl in complete sensory and educational isolation with no knowledge at all about her sex, she will still choose pink. It's a DNA thing. 
3. The proximate reason women on aggregate earn less than men, and I cannot repeat this loudly enough or often enough, is that on aggregate the female workforce is less experienced than the male workforce because women on aggregate spend long periods out of the workplace having babies. 

Sweden, of course, is an overpriced, overtaxed EU Hellhole in which 87% of housewives (and oh how they'll hate that word) have banned smoking in the home and is the model nation chosen by Lady Toynbee as her exemplar.