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Friday, 29 March 2013

Mouth-breather fatboy bangs rattle on pram

Kim Jong-un, North Korea's mouth-breathing fatboy, knows something that the Western analysts don't. It could be that his prison-nation is facing starvation, or that a domestic insurgency is bubbling away dangerously, or a US counter-cyber-attack has killed his military computers, or that China has finally got tough and given him an ultimatum. Whatever the cause, the fatboy has felt it necessary to demonstrate to his slave-people his he-man credentials; for Jong-un's substitute for significance in the trouser department are his missiles. In the carefully released snaps from the fatboy-bunker they are shown as targeted towards the US - but it's also a reminder to China that they can equally easily point North, and to the North Korean people that he has the overwhelming means to massacre them should they disobey. 

Fatboy learning his letters
Unlike China's new leader, who has not been reticent in showing his glamorous wife in public, Kim Jong-un's wife has never been seen. Some commentators blame a slow-puncture problem. Others have suggested that he's eaten her.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

After riddance of Miliband rubbish, what about Qatada?

Peter Oborne is spot-on this morning. David Miliband is nothing but a greedy little failure throwing the sort of petulant hissy-fit that he could have learned from Edward Heath. Yet as Oborne points out, the BBC, Guardian and Common Purpose media establishment are reacting as though JFK had ceded the 1960 Democratic candidateship to Adlai Stevenson. Miliband was no JFK. He was just a spoilt, privileged rich kid with no experience of life and an enormous sense of entitlement who believed politics was the surest route to great wealth and fame. I hope he makes a success of his new life in America, and I hope even more that he never returns to the shores of this land.

In the farce that Qatada's continued avoidance of deportation to Jordan has become, it is important not to blame our judges. Unlike the rag-bag collection of untrained, unqualified political has-beens with a key to the dressing-up box who make up the ECHR, the Master of the Rolls sitting with LLJ Elias and Richards applied the law perfectly in rejecting the Home Secretary's appeal. We've dug ourselves into this mess, and though Mr Othman deserves little more than a trip to Tower Green and the keen blade of the headsman's axe we must dig ourselves out by the same convoluted legal means.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Privatising the scenery

You can't blame developers. Flogging the 'view' - something that doesn't belong to them - has always been a trick in their armoury to increase profit at little extra expense. So London's river is now lined on both banks with shoddy twelve-story blocks, almost identical, with galvanised balconettes, Ogee roofline and the universal use of coloured render stripes in blues and burnt orange. Immediately behind them are wide strips of undeveloped brownfield land. Dwellings built here won't have any view of course - it being blocked by the riverside apartments. You could easily fit half a million new dwellings on London's brownfield sites - but most of those left undeveloped suffer from not having a 'view', not being near the tube or DLR or having 'bad neighbour' development adjoining. So not attractive to housebuilders.

So of course the developers are looking at London's green belt; here there are free views a plenty. Well, at least until another speculative developer builds their estate over them. Short term profit, long term losses. Louis MacNeice's verse always come to mind
Splayed outwards through the suburbs houses, houses for rest
Seducingly rigged by the builder, half-timbered houses with lips pressed
So tightly and eyes staring at the traffic through bleary haws
And only a six-inch grip of the racing earth in their concrete claws;
In these houses men as in a dream pursue the Platonic Forms
With wireless and cairn terriers and gadgets approximating to the fickle norms
And endeavour to find God and score one over the neighbour
By climbing tentatively upward on jerry-built beauty and sweated labour.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Who would lend money to a bank?

Who would lend money to a bank? Well, all of us - everyone who operates a current account. Under UK law money paid into your account is a 'chose in action' and becomes the bank's property. You become merely a creditor of the bank I was reminded of this last year - with the matter still not resolved - when I became the victim of card fraud. Or rather, the bank did. When the fraud department asked "Have you reported this to the Police?" it was a question intended to verify the validity of claims rather than to elicit a useful response; the banks know very well that the Police won't take reports of card fraud from customers, as I explained to the clerk on the phone "No - it's your job, not mine, to report it to the Police - it's your money, not mine, that's been defrauded".

It's a fundamental point, and one which I suspect is not readily apparent to account holders with Cypriot banks. The banks don't put your savings in a safe and guard them - they gamble them recklessly, squander them in ill-advised ventures and lend them to people who can't repay them, and at the end of it all if the firm becomes bankrupt you are just another creditor with a shared claim on what assets remain. The government, of course, have intervened by guaranteeing deposits up to a certain amount, but this is a policy, and not a legal obligation.

Max Hastings in the Mail today calls the Cypriot action "One of the nastiest and most immoral political acts in modern times" - that is, requiring the shareholders and investors to take the haircut rather than the taxpayer. Well, frankly, it's not. Those savings haven't been 'stolen', they've been mis-invested in firms (banks) with an inherent risk of failure. One balances the risk of lending one's money to a bank and its failing against the risk of keeping the cash under one's bed and its being stolen.

And this is the real danger of Cyprus; not the legality or morality of the action, but that it may propel investors across Europe to feel better protected with their cash hidden at home than on loan to a failing bank. Once a run starts, once confidence goes, the whole fractional reserve edifice inevitably comes tumbling down.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Monday Round-up

In a frankly silly and ill-analysed piece in the Guardian this morning, Anthony Painter attempts to lump together every anti-establishment party and movement across the world as a 'populist' threat to social democracy. All are seeking, Painter says, to dominate the rights of minorities by imposing the democratic clout of populist majorities. The answer he says is for 'mainstream' parties to revitalise and respond. 

Well, I suppose for a man unable to see the world except through centralist, Statist lenses this may make some sort of sense. Painter seems unable to conceive of a desire for less government, rather than for different government; he seems unable to understand a desire for democratic pluralism and diversity rather than a cloying homogenous centralist political diktat, and he seems unable to distinguish between true liberal democracy and rule by an oligarchical political class. Above all he seems unable to recognise a desire for individuals to have more say over the regulation of their own lives rather than less say. It's not 'populsim' but true liberalism that drives political dissent in the UK. And it's as prevalent on the left as on the right - and on the perpendicular axis that has 'authoritarian' and 'libertarian' as its poles it's precisely away from the 'authoritarian' end that things are moving. 

The fact that the British people are rejecting authoritarian social democracy, with its forced equality of outcome, its manifest unfairness and its distortion of effort, merit and reward is not undemocratic in the least, nor is it 'populist'. It is Liberal, in a way that illiberal pieces such as Painter's can never fathom. 

I've written before that Boris' sexual incontinence will rule him out from higher office, and if his appearance on the Marr show is indicative, it's certainly a painful nerve. A man unable to keep his marital trousers on is less likely to be faithful to manifesto promises, or to devote to affairs of State rather than the other kind the degree of assiduity the public expects. The days when an old goat such as Lloyd-George could get away with it due to a compliant press (Oh how the Common Purpose luvvies must hark back to those days) are long over - even post-Levenson.

After royally screwing up the task of running the UK Border Agency, mandarin Lin Homer's promotion to the top position in HMRC left the Home Affairs select committee 'astounded' that someone of such demonstrable incompetence should be so rewarded. Never mind. Like Moira Wallace she can always find a suitable sinecure amongst the groves of academe as reward for failure.   

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bloody Windmills

One of the most effective Lent landscape-in-snow photos was published in the 'Mail' this week showing a sepulchrally beautiful moorland scene disfigured by several absolutely static wind turbines. With hardly a breath of air, one could imagine the crystal-bright icicles hanging from the tips of the unmoving blades. They will only start turning again when we don't need additional electrical power.  

Co-ordinating the UK's shambles of an energy policy is the DECC, and co-ordinating the DECC is the department's Permanent Secretary. From the department's inception under 'mentalist' Brown in 2008 until November last year DECC was run by Moira Wallace, a general careerist mandarin with previous experience of economics in the Treasury and of crime in the Home Office but unfortunately with no experience of Energy. She was replaced in January this year by Stephen Lovegrove, a former banker with previous experience of running the Post Office and on the board of LOCOG.  

Neither would have been appointed if they didn't believe in bloody windmills. So they run a department that's utterly away with the fairies; today a dossier on collecting methane from cows' bottoms, tomorrow a study on farming sunbeams and next week a plan for local councils to collect human faeces in wheely bins for power stations. All the while the most lunatic tax changes and Eurostandards are closing viable power stations, raising the costs of energy to levels that cripple commerce and industry and ladling out subsidies to every crank, fool and deluded moron with a hare-brained scheme to make electricity from daisies. 

Moira Wallace, as is the way with Whitehall's most dismal failures, has returned to Oxbridge to become Provost of somewhere or other. Lovegrove has already been decorated with a CB, like a small Christmas tree at the inception of its dressing with balls and tinsel. And the rest of Britain shivers and faces gas-outs, power cuts, food shortages and thousands of premature deaths.