Saturday, 11 February 2012

Grexit

Grexit being Greek exit from the Euro, of course. Willem Buiter and Ebrahim Rahbari at Citi who previously rated the possibility at 25% - 30% (read 55% - 60%) now rate it 50% (read 80%) likely. What's more, they reckon it's manageable; the ECB would rally round to prop the Euro up, the impact on EU exports to Greece would be marginal (they're not buying much from the rest of us anyway) and our national banks have had a year to get rid of all Greek liabilities so can take the hit.

The suggestion is that Germany has made the austerity conditions just painful enough to force Greece to leave; with Greek Parliamentary elections due in April, the political class there are looking to position themselves on a platform that will win popular votes, and defiance of Germany is popular. Merkel can then, like Pilate, wash her hands in innocence saying "we did all we could to keep them in". 

The Greek police have also declared their lot on the side of the strikers; the powerful police union released a statement saying its members refused to "stand against our parents, our brothers, our children or any citizen who protests". If they disappear from the streets, the government will have no choice but to deploy the army - with all the painful historical baggage that comes with it. No-one wants the colonels back. 

Let's see where we are on Monday morning.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Do we care too much for children?

When dearly missed Sandy Fawkes, then a young reporter on an 'Express' with a circulation in the millions, came across the story of a horrifically abused child her editor spiked the copy. "We don't publish that sort of stuff; people don't want to read about it" she recalled he told her. Sandy persisted (she could be very persistent) and in 1973 the story of Maria Colwell broke to a shocked nation. If sex began in 1963, child abuse followed a decade later. 

Communal or shared responsibility for the welfare of our young is the keymark of a civilised community; in a Sicilian village, even in 2012, in the absence of the State, it is a duty happily assumed by all. You can let your eight year-old out alone at 9pm to find his friend on the other side of the village without worry. A score pair of watchful eyes along the way will guard his every step (and provide intelligence of the latest movements of the Inglese for the morning coffee). Try it in Bolton and the State will remove him to a child-pen and prosecute you for neglect.

The Mail reports this morning that the number of children taken into care is set to hit 10,000 this year. If the record number of kids imprisoned in the State child pens is anything to go by, we're a very loving and caring society indeed. That dog Rousseau, who would remove children at birth from their families into the care of the State, would be delighted. Now take a look at your local Council website and find the proportion of the budget going on 'Childrens' Services'; since all single-tier councils amalgamated schools and child social work (to disguise the costs of the latter) it's not unusual to find it taking half the budget. And it's growing.

The question in the title should perhaps rather read "do we care enough?".  Councils, fearful of another Baby P, will throw resources at a zero-risk strategy that removes every child at the slightest hint of harm. No doubt many wrong decisions will be made, great pain and injustice caused, in securing councillors and fat-cat bosses from dismissal and media opprobrium. For that, after all, is what it's about.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

The Brussels Shuffle

Your view of the EU, if you live in Ushgarod in Trans-Carpathian Ruthenia, will be very different from someone from Godalming in Surrey. Your ancestors had become so used to being invaded periodically by each of many larger neighbours they evolved an advanced mental arithmetic that could convert Zloties, Roubles, Schillings, Reichsmarks and Koruna in multivariate combinations against the only stable local unit of exchange, the chicken. EU membership offers notional national independence within a political framework that even grants you a voice at the big table, a common stable currency and mates with big armies. Being an EU Gau, even with an EU Gauleiter in place at the Treasury and Finance Ministry, may be preferable to the alternative.  

 
However, this is not the case in Greece. Or Ireland. Or Portugal. Voters, angry and intolerant of Brussels imposed austerity measures, yet incapable of reaching the shadowy decision makers responsible at the Commission, are kicking their domestic governments instead. Add to this the new-found audacity of EU leaders in openly interfering in the national politics of others; a Merkozy 'shared smirk' sealed the fate of Berlusconi and ousted Papandreou, and warned others. It's not a good time to be a national politician in Europe. 

The inevitable exit of Greece from the Eurozone has even spawned a horrid piece of Berlaymontspeak: Grexit. Others may follow. If the UK also maintains its semi-detachedness, we may see the EU start to turn into a close fiscal and political alliance between France, Germany and a host of little nations, with an 'associate membership' of larger nations. Unlikely? Stranger things have happened, and European politics is the pinnacle examplar of the rule of unintended consequences. Interesting times indeed.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

If May can't take it, she must go

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has ruled that Abu Qatada should be deported to Jordan. The ECHR, squirming around with specious pseudo-legal rationale to the extent it has disappeared up its own fundament, in a move branded 'otiose' by Simon Jenkins, demurs. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has no doubt discussed with her mandarins the option of simply strapping the bugger into a C130 and flying him to Amman. They will have advised her that such a move would leave her personally liable for legal action, that she might even face charges under international humanitarian law. So May gave us the spectacle yesterday of one of the most senior Officers of State floundering in a quicksand of mendacity and pusillanimity in the Commons in defence of the indefensible, in reality wriggling in an embarrassment of personal cowardice. She simply hasn't the balls to put her nation before herself.

As Jenkins writes of the ECHR
As for the European court of human rights, its role in helping him avoid deportation is otiose. The convention it claims ponderously to enforce prohibits anyone's removal to places where there is "a real risk" of torture. No one says Abu Qatada risks torture, so the court, frantic to administer Eurosceptic Britain a bloody nose, conflates opposition to torture with article six on getting "a fair trial", where a plaintiff might be vulnerable to evidence derived from torturing someone else. The fair trial article is so vague it could plausibly be invoked against any justice system. The ECHR is bogged down in empire-building and is a mess.
Either Abu Qatada must go, or Theresa May must go. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

UK threat from left wing terrorists

Europol predict an increasing threat to the UK from left wing and anarchist terrorism. In their most recent analysis of terrorist threats throughout Europe, analysing attacks and terrorist activity in 2010, red terrorists were responsible for some 45 attacks resulting in six fatalities, including a Greek police officer. The same report shows zero activity for right wing terrorists in Europe during the same period. Although attacks have previously occurred in central and southern Europe, the report warns that attacks may be co-ordinated throughout Europe; "Social unrest among the population, caused by the global economic downturn and the reduction of state spending on social welfare, may have influenced this development, which has been noticeable since 2007. The modus operandi in a number of attacks showed signs of increased internationalisation of left-wing and anarchist groups – although both have historically been international in outlook."

Have at you, Gaston!

The Englishman's Castle picks up on a story from the Scotsman in which the Jimmy Reid Foundation complains that too many of Scotland's £9bn a year of infrastructure construction contracts are let to firms outside Scotland. This is, of course, an EU requirement for all contracts over £4m - that any EU firms can bid for public contracts, which the vast majority of these infrastructure contracts are. Does this signal cracks in Scotland's commitment to EU membership? Or just, as the Englishman proposes, an imperfect understanding of economics?

Monday, 6 February 2012

BBC's blatent agitprop

The Home Affairs Committee have just published a report on tackling violent extremism. "Roots of Radicalism" is published on the Parliamentary website, and presumably news organisations were given advance access to the embargoed version to allow them to craft suitably considered articles. The majority of the MSM, even the Guardian, correctly introduce the report as being primarily concerned with Islamic extremism. A rough reading suggests that some 98% of the report is about Islamic extremism. So how do you imagine the BBC reports the publication on its website? Correct. "MPs fear far right terror threat". As a distortion of the truth, it's up there with "WWII bomber found on Moon" and "Freddie Starr ate my hamster". 

Anyway, apart from this breathtaking distortion from the BBC, with never a mention of Islamic radicalism in its headlines, the report usefully defines radicalism as
"vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also include in our definition of extremism calls for the death of members of our armed forces, whether in this country or overseas"
The report identifies Islamic terrorism as by far the biggest threat to the UK, followed by Northern Ireland-related terrorism, the threat from which is 'severe'. But not a mention of either of these in the BBC's headlines. Instead it concentrates on what is described as a minor threat, with no incidents since 1999, from a collection of deranged individuals, and which threat is rightly classified as of minor concern in the report. 

And we are taxed to fund this agitprop rubbish. There's more truth in Pravda than from the BBC these days.