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?