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Friday, 7 September 2012

Back to the '70s

If you visited Homeric Greece, rural Spain or even the Mezzogiorno in the '70s you will have been struck by several things. Firstly, that they had no effective toilets. Second, that all the young men were gone - fled to contract work on the coastal resorts, in the cities, gone abroad - but gone from the stone-washed villages in any case. Thirdly, you would have remarked the freight-carrying capacity of an average 5'5" grandmother; I once saw such a one with a sheeted bundle on her back followed by a donkey also carrying a load, with the grandmother's about twice as large. Today, of course, things are vastly different. The young men lounge about on benefits, with no jobs to be had and the EU have fitted load-restricters to the grandmothers. The toilets still don't work, though. 

As the markets get over their two-day long little blip of hope at Draghi's announcement and look for the meat, the focus will return to Greece. Unusually the Guardian has secured a column today from a relatively sane correspondent (the Blessed Simon Jenkins excluded, of course) in Costas Lapavistas
Banks are at the epicentre of the eurozone crisis, not states. The solution would have been to shut down bad banks and create healthy ones across Europe. But this would have meant German and French taxpayers bearing the costs of restructuring Italian and Spanish banks: an impossibility. Thus, national banking systems have been allowed to drift closer to their own nation states during the past three years: banks have relied on their own states to be rescued, and states have relied on their own banks to borrow. The result has been the fragmentation of eurozone banking, producing enormous divergences in interest rates among member countries. The monetary union is collapsing from within.
But Costas makes the fundamental error so often exposed by Richard North in supposing that the EU's leaders are struggling to find economic solutions to what is in essence a political crisis; as is becoming clear, the economic measures are just a sop to the markets to keep things ticking along whilst they ratchet up political union to the next stage. 

So when Greece (to her eventual benefit) is pushed out of the euro-balloon her citizens can rest assured they have been sacrificed for the greater good of a core European State. One may excuse them for resenting that everyone's been pretending that their fundamental economic strength is greater than it was in the 1970s.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Immigration, poverty, fake charities

It's a milestone step that the left can no longer dismiss concerns over immigration as racist or bonkers. Paradoxically, we probably have Gordon Brown to thank for this; his deluded and paranoid 'bigoted woman' comments on the eminently sane Gillian Duffy's mild questioning exposed Labour's lunatic purblindness like nothing else. Now Frank Field can join Nick Soames in penning a Mail column that sets out without obfuscation how Labour increased immigration from 50k a year to 250k a year between 1997 and 2010 without a clamour of condemnation flooding the bankrupt Guardian. This is a good thing.

Mental Brown's ex aide Justin Forsyth meanwhile has jumped from the madness of the bunker to running one of Labour's foremost fake charities, Save the Children, without managing to shed the insanity of redistributionism. Christian Guy in the Speccie does a succinct demolition job on Forsyth's mendacious and ill-advised recent ad campaign so I shalln't bother. However, until the verity of the message that Welfarism is the biggest cause of poverty gains the same acceptance as the immigration argument, we will continue to see such risible nonsense bubble up from Labour from time to time. 

Meanwhile the bonkers and bankrupt Guardian opts to remain in away-with-the-fairies land; Peter Wilby, who looks every inch a chap with a three storey townhouse in W11 under his belt, writes "After the reshuffle, Ed Miliband should realise that voters are focused on jobs, benefits and rents, not on pensions, shares and house prices". Ah, so at a time of national crisis we move to stoke the flames of class war, do we Peter? Well, I'd have expected nothing less. 

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Pink lamb and cats

Amongst the many curiosities of the Toxoplasmosis scare is that so many of the truths are counter-intuitive; Toxoplasma Gondii is a cunning little devil. Cats eating rats and mice are so vital to its life cycle, for example, that infected mice will actually be attracted to the smell of cat urine - giving even the laziest mouser a good chance of a meal. Here are some more of the weirder facts;
  • About 1 in 100 cats are infected - cats must eat rats or mice to get infected
  • Cat owners who hate gardening are less at risk than their green-fingered cat-hating neighbours - TG is transmitted to humans through 2-day old or more cat poo by accidental ingestion after contact with soil
  • TG can live in the garden soil for up to a year - long after the cat-poo has disappeared
  • Somewhere between a third and a half of the world's population are infected
  • Handling raw meat incurs a high risk of infection; butchers and chefs are therefore more likely to be infected than vets
  • Eating pink lamb is more hazardous than licking an infected cat's bottom
  • Eating unwashed organic veg is more hazardous than eating pink lamb
  • TG infection can be beneficial to people with acute anxiety disorder, making them more laid-back
  • TG infection can be beneficial to female students; a 1999 study found infected women displayed higher intelligence and greater guilt-proness
  • Depressed men will also benefit from TG infection, though they'll be more liable to have traffic accidents
  • Civil servants will also benefit from TG infection, as it tends to lower risk-aversity
So the highest risk group are keen organic gardeners,who also make their own sausages, growing their own veg who live next to cat owners. If you're one of these, sorry. On the upside, your brain will make lots more dopamine - so at least you'll be cheerful about it.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Whips have had their day

Cameron is the product of a small, centralist metropolitan elite formed around Conservative party HQ and Westminster. For all his talk of localism, of empowerment and of devolution of power, Cameron is as committed a central Statist as the rest of them - which is why it's no surprise that this government's 'localism' agenda is worth less than a pitcher of warm spit. And when faced with a 2010 back bench intake many of whom took Cameron's glib glasnost at face value, and who exercise the sort of Parliamentary independence they believe they ought to, Cameron's reaction is to attempt to reintroduce the bullying terror of the Whips. 

Lord Cormack was the sort of Tory MP that Cameron must loathe; a knight from the shires, with deeply independent views, wedded to an older Conservatism and with nothing in his private life that the Whips could use to blackmail him with. Paradoxically, with the 2010 intake Cameron has gifted the house with whole benches of new potential Cormacks; you couldn't make it up. Cormack famously pronounced "It's Country, Constituency, Party. In that order." With Dave, of course, the priorities are entirely opposite - but he's deluded if he believes that a new breed of 'Malcolm Tucker' type Whip can restore the Parliamentary party's central Statism. Once they've tasted freedom, even a foul-mouthed bully reeking of whisky and halitosis and gripping their arm in a vice-like bruising cramp to ensure they go through the right lobby won't work. The 2010 intake are closer to the mood of the country than Cameron can guess - and the Whips have had their day.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Correcting injustice is what ministers are for

There cannot be a single reader of Professor John Tulloch's story who doesn't cringe at the injustice if the threatened deportation of a man as British as the white cliffs of Dover; a son of the Empire with three generations of Indian Army before him, a family with roots in England since the 14th century. His error was to take 'dual' Australian citizenship whilst working there - a mistake that has allowed the Home Office to apply the petty and exact rules of citizenship to invalidate his right to live in his home country.

This case doesn't need a change in the law. It doesn't need a lengthy case in the ECHR. To correct bureaucratic stupidity, ministers have available the remedy of exercising the Royal prerogative - it's what they hold the seals of office for. Over to you, Theresa May. It's what you're for.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

"Thou shalt not kill ...."

RIP His Eminence Cardinal Martini, a man who during his life suffered the misfortune of being largely misunderstood by the liberal press, who today claim him as one of their own. Ever in search of a simple headline, Martini bore with fortitude such stories as 'Cardinal supports right to die', 'Cardinal in favour of condoms' and 'Martini supports married priests'. The actuality was that Martini's views were far more nuanced than was usually reported. 

The English medical profession struck the nail squarely many years ago with its stance on the 'right to die'; 
Thou shalt not kill
But needst not strive
To keep alive
The Vatican, ever prolix, renders this unimaginatively as
When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take the decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate.
I understand that Cardinal Martini refused the later treatments for his Parkinson's that would delay his natural death but strove until the last to fulfil his vocation with every living breath. May he rest in peace.