Saturday, 17 March 2012

The Hun at your feet?

Jonathan Freedland's piece in the Guardian this morning opens the possibility of a third state of German Sein to modify Churchill's dictum that 'The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet'; he seems to suggest they can also be at your throat whilst doing a good job of pretending they're at your feet.

But take heart; it can't last. Germany's dependence on high-tech engineering - selling the tools to make machine tools to China - has a finite life, as China builds its own machines to make the tools to make machine tools. The profits are narrowing for big Pharma, too, as they're running out of ailments to make drugs for. On the creative side they're weak. The last German art movement of note was Expressionism in the 1930s, the only music of the last half century was Nina with her short lived red balloons and Hollywood isn't beating a path to Augsberg to do green screen and post-production. Bratwurst and cabbage simply don't cut it on the international foodie stage and even the Belgians brew better beer. They've also fallen for the anthropogenic climate change myth like Parsifal was revealed in a mystic forest engaged in a nude picnic, and are wasting billions on snake-oil 'sustainability' remedies. So don't feel too anxious.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Eastern sore spots (2)

Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban will not have endeared himself to the comrades in the Berlaymont this week; he said
We do not need the unsolicited assistance of foreigners wanting to guide our hands, we are more than familiar with the character of unsolicited comradely assistance, even if it comes wearing a finely tailored suit and not a uniform with shoulder patches.

Hungarians will not live as foreigners dictate, will not give up their independence or their freedom, therefore they will not give up their constitution either. Freedom means that we decide about the laws governing our own life, we decide what is important and what isn't. From the Hungarian perspective, with a Hungarian mindset, following the rhythm of our Hungarian hearts. We will not be a colony. In 1848 we said that we should tear down the walls of feudalism and we were proven right. In 1956, we said we have to crack, we have to break the wheels of communism and we were proven right. Today also, they look at us with suspicion. European bureaucrats look at us with distrust today because we said: we need new ways. We said we have to break out of the prison of debt and we also declared that Europe can only be made great again with the help of strong nations. You will see my dear friends that we will be proven right yet again.

We have with us the silently abiding Europe of many tens of millions, who still insist on national sovereignty and still believe in the Christian virtues of courage, honour, fidelity and mercy, which one day made our continent great. As a thousand-year-old European nation we have one demand. We demand equal standards for Hungarians. As a European nation we demand equal treatment. We will not be second-class European citizens.

Eastern sore spots (1)

To be frank, I hardly remarked the little wooden dolls of shtetl Jews on the market stalls and in the shop windows when in Poland this week; they stood alongside other affectionate national caricatures - the fat angry policeman, the gypsy and the clochard. But this trip, for the first time, I briefly explored the old ghetto, and visited one of the old synagogues, where I listened briefly to a young American woman talking history to a small group. She offered the fact of these dolls, available everywhere, and often depicted holding money, as evidence that Poles were "still anti-Jewish". Restraining the impulse to respond "Tsshk - always the victim already ..." I quickly moved away. 

The truth was pretty clear to anyone whose thinking was undistorted by this kind of crass victim mentality. The dolls were all traditional caricatures of constituents of Polish society, and meant that those represented were nothing to be afraid of, nothing to avoid contact with. Handling a Jew doll is just a step away from shaking hands with a real Jew. The tragedy of it is that while the other dolls have been updated to their modern forms, so the drunk plumber has a mobile phone, the Jew remains stuck as he would have appeared in 1940, there being now too few Jews left in Poland to update the stereotype.   


Monday, 12 March 2012

Shengen cracks start to show

There is no prospect of the Shengen arrangements being changed, despite the hopeful headline in the Mail this morning. Sarkozy's warning is designed to achieve two things; to move his platform to the right for the forthcoming Presidential run-off, and to put further pressure on the 'front line' states  - Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta - to contain immigration from sub-Saharan Africa, the Mahgreb and across the Adriatic from the east.

That the greatest immediate enforcement costs fall on the EU nations least able to afford them, and the greatest long-term threat is to the wealthy economies of the north, must lead inexorably to a sharing or widening of border enforcement measures. But Shengen isn't just the EU; both Norway and Switzerland are Shengen signatories. Nevertheless, watch out for proposals for an EU border control force operating without restriction across the Union.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

If our money be gone, thank God, our eyes are left

This is not the first time in British history that the financial sector, having created a bubble and having survived its bust at cost to the British public, then through further sheer rapacity acted as a drag on the economic growth needed for recovery. 

Between 1720 and 1723 John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon published Cato's Letters. This is No 4. Sound familiar?

"SIR, All men are now taught, by miserable experience, that the project of the South-Sea, through the hard-hearted knavery of some, who have been in the direction of it, and through the folly or rather distraction of the people, has not answered the good and wise ends designed by the Parliament; but instead of that, has ruined thousands of innocent and well-meaning people, to glut harpies and publick robbers with millions: 

Unhappy fate of poor England, worthy of a better! For this, trade has been neglected: For this, industry discouraged: For this, credit undone; and all, that stock-jobbers might make fortunes, and small sharpers grow mighty men. 

Every one, therefore, seems to agree, that something is necessary to be done, in a legal way, to restore, once more, our publick credit. But it is hoped, we are far from consenting, that any thing ought to be done to repair the losses, occasioned by folly and covetousness, out of the estates of those, who always foresaw, who always opposed this mighty mischief; much less at the further expence of the honour and trade of the nation.
To set this matter in a due light, it is necessary to enquire what is meant by the publick credit of the nation. 

First, credit may be said to run high, when the commodities of a nation find a ready vent, and are sold at a good price; and when dealers may be safely trusted with them, upon reasonable assurance of being paid. 

Secondly, when lands and houses find ready purchasers; and when money is to be borrowed at low interest, in order to carry on trade and manufacture, at such rates, as may enable us to undersell our neighbours. 

Thirdly, when people think it safe and advantageous to venture large stocks in trade and dealing, and do not lock up their money in chests, or hide it under-ground. And, 

Fourthly, when notes, mortgages, and publick and private security will pass for money, or easily procure money, by selling for as much silver or gold as they are security for; which can never happen, but upon a presumption that the same money may be had for them again. 

In all these cases, ’tis abundantly the interest of a nation, to promote credit and mutual confidence; and the only possible way effectually to do this, is to maintain publick honour and honesty; to provide ready remedies for private injustice and oppression; to protect the innocent and helpless from being destroyed by fraud and rapine. 

But national credit can never be supported by lending money without security, or drawing in other people to do so; by raising stocks and commodities by artifice and fraud, to unnatural and imaginary values; and consequently, delivering up helpless women and orphans, with the ignorant and unwary, but industrious subject, to be devoured by pick-pockets and stock-jobbers; a sort of vermin that are bred and nourished in the corruption of the state. 

This is a method, which, instead of preserving publick credit, destroys all property; turns the stock and wealth of a nation out of its proper channels; and, instead of nourishing the body-politick, produces only ulcers, eruptions, and often epidemical plague-sores: It starves the poor, destroys manufactures, ruins our navigation, and raises insurrections, &c. 

The first loss is always the least; one half of the nation is ruined already; I hope we may learn wit from our misfortunes, and save the other half: In order to this, we may expect, that no new projects will be countenanced or received, which have any tendency to prejudice trade, or which cause monopolies, or set up exclusive companies; and that no privileges or advantages be granted, for which ready money might be got.

Some people have the assurance to publish it, for example, that a certain set of stock-jobbers, whose faith and modesty are now well known and felt, expect, among other gifts from the publick, that the island of St. Christophers should be given them, as a further expedient to get more wealth to themselves, and leave the nation none. Now, St. Christophers is worth three hundred thousand pounds sterling, and will yield so much: So that to present them with this island, would be just making them a present of three hundred thousand pounds; a sum almost sufficient to make the fortune of an under–South-Sea clerk; but such a sum as this poor nation cannot at present spare. 

I hope, therefore, that it will no longer be impudently alledged, that by parting with such gifts, we lose nothing; since that alone is worth nothing, for which nothing can be got. But the case is otherwise here; and from the nature of our publick gaming, and the spirit of the worthy sharpers who direct it, I dare pronounce before-hand, that every scheme which they themselves propose, to make their bubble and their roguery thrive again, will still be built upon the farther expence, upon the farther loss and misery of these unhappy nations. 

If our money be gone, thank God, our eyes are left: Sharpened by experience and adversities we can see through disguises, and will be no more amused with moon-shine. 

The nation and Parliament have been abused, and they will undoubtedly be revenged; they will not be put off with dark juggling, with knavish projects, to stifle resentments, and divert due vengeance: There is no attending to any new schemes, till the publick robbers are punished, with whom there can never be any accommodation. 

To begin then, in the first place, with the criminals, will shew that we are in earnest champions for honesty, for trade, for the nation, all oppressed by money-leaches. All other remedies will be mountebank remedies: It would be madness to concert new schemes, liable to new abuses, without first doing justice to the abusers of the old; impunity for past crimes is a warrant to commit more, especially when they are gainful. 

Such mighty mischiefs as these men have done, will be but meanly atoned for by such infamous lives, unless their estates be also confiscated; and even these, great as they are, will repair but part of our misfortunes. But what we can have of them, let us have; their necks and their money. 

To begin with any other project, they will take for a confession, that there is a design to save them; and to what that must be owing, we all know: What farther evils it may produce, may even surpass our fears, though already terribly great; but a method of justice presently entered upon, and impartially carried through, will give us patience under our burdens, banish all our fears, give credit to the publick proceedings, and restore hope to the almost despairing people."

But what we can have of them, let us have; their necks and their money.  Yes. And we're still calling for the same remedy today.

Christus regnat, Christus imperat

It's perhaps fortunate for Cameron that his mucky attempt to support a ban on the wearing of the crucifix at work will not be binding on the Sovereign. The opening of Parliament would look infinitely less rich if the Queen were to wear a baseball cap, say, in place of the crown.  For at its apex is a ball, representing the world. Above that is a cross. The motif is repeated in the Orb of State. The message is clear enough; Christ reigns above the temporal authority of the sovereign. The crown, and the cross, are ubiquitous in our society; on postboxes, in courts of law, on the helmet plates of police officers, on the rank insignia of officers of field rank or above, on regimental and naval crests, on our debased coinage. Our gallantry awards are crosses. The flag of England is Christ's cross. The symbolism is anchored deep in our national psyche, but hardly anyone notices it.

Ban the tiny gold crucifix worn by many Christians including soldiers in battle and you deprive them of the succour of the faith in the event of unexpected death - the reason many wear one. It's display tells the emergency services or the triage nurse that an ordained priest may be summoned, to administer extreme unction to Catholics; penance, anointing and Viaticum ('provision for the journey'). The anointing with oil echoes the anointing of a new Sovereign at the coronation, and for the same reasons.  

I suppose Cameron could cause all those devout nurses and airline clerks to have the crucifix tattooed on their breastbone instead, but surely even Dave can't be this crass?