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Saturday, 7 March 2015

Breedlove fans the flame of war

Giving a passable reprise of the role of Gen Jack D Ripper (played by Sterling Heyden) in Dr Strangelove, the improbably named Philip Breedlove, current NATO boss, seems determined to start a war with Russia whether we need one or not. Ripper of course was insane, but whether or not Breedlove also believes that Fluoride in the water supply is affecting his 'precious bodily fluids' is unknown. What's certain is that he's doing his best to de-stabilise peace efforts in Ukraine - and as Der Spiegel reports, is seriously worrying the German government;
For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove's numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America's NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO. The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove's comments as "dangerous propaganda." Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove's comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
As close an ally as the US is, we must remember that she always acts wholly in her own interests. At a time when the US is closing bases in Europe and continuing to run down military commitment to NATO, why should Breedlove, presumably with official support, seek to talk up a war which would be largely fought by Europeans, and which would act to destroy Europe's delicate economic recovery? 

Friday, 6 March 2015

Getting used to multi-party politics

John Major's intervention through the pages of the Telegraph urging Labour to rule out a post election pact with the SNP demonstrates just how much the UK political landscape has changed recently. Many Scots are burdened with a grievance at the outcome of the referendum (cynics may comment that many Scots are always burdened with a grievance and that it is never difficult to distinguish between a ray of Sunshine and one such) and no doubt many will paint themselves in woad and wear kilts of ancient clans to which they may or may not belong as May approaches in order to demonstrate their allegiances. 

In England, the Greens have become the insurgent party of the young and unfulfilled - all those young people with useless degrees from third-rate educational institutions who in years past would have made perfectly adequate hairdressers or clerks without the burden of tens of thousands of student debt. UKIP of course are the insurgent party of my own Alzheimer generation, fearing mental decline and the loss of national character in equal part. And some people may even vote Liberal Democrat.

All of this means that there are no 'constitutional conventions' to apply as the intense electioneering approaches. Whether this election of many parties is the harbinger of future multi-party politics or a one-off remains to be seen. What's certain is the result is more uncertain than at any time in my life. And that's actually a good thing.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Two bridges too far

With apologies for those of you in real England for a London piece, yesterday was a day of two bridges.

The first is bouffant Boris' and the fragrant Joanna Lumley's elitist fantasy playbridge with a private garden on the top, aimed at private champagne parties for West Londoners. Nothing wrong with that, in itself, as long as they pay for it all themselves. But now it's emerging that the design tender was close to fraudulent, that the deal will cost London taxpayers a fortune in capital and revenue costs and that Boris has deceived and obfuscated his backing for this daft idea. The planning consents are dodgy, the business plan jejune and support for the white elephant is draining away like Deptford Creek at the ebb. If London needs a new bridge, it's to the East of Tower Bridge, not the West, and unless access roads are very substantially improved, should be designed for pedestrians, cyclists and light rail rather than ordinary road traffic. All of which probably means it will get built anyway.

The second is the massive, ambitious redevelopment of London Bridge station - unlike Balham, the real gateway to the South. One can't fail to have been impressed as the widthways track expansion over the roofs of Borough Market and its pubs and shops moved south, crossing Borough High Street. However, the station rebuilding and associated crowd management (or shortfall in same) is causing chaos - and Tuesday evening came as close to a fatality as I've seen so far. And that comes with thirty years experience as a construction professional. Here's a warning to all concerned - sort yourselves out, today. Once there's just one death, you'll have nowhere to run - and will face ruin and a spell in prison. 

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Child Protection: Another step backwards

We have commented before that more rigorous requirements in respect of child protection do not result in better effort or increased professionalism amongst those primarily charged with delivery, but merely to more tax money being thrown at the matter. Councillors, when faced with prosecution and prison if they fail to protect children, will simply transfer to this service all the money they can from libraries, roads, street lighting, refuse collection, street sweeping, parks and every other available budget. You know they will. And when voters complain about broken suspensions from running into potholes in the pitch dark, they will blame the government. 

Two of local government's greatest problems are that it's being run by the wrong people and it's too big and not democratic enough. The wrong people are the Common Purpose snouts in the trough self-serving freemasonry of Council bosses who segue seamlessly from one golden hello to another as they stuff their mouths with public gold. The wrong size and shape because Councils are now just a branch of central government; Whitehall tells them what to do. The Town Hall is now little more than a branch office of the DCLG. Decision taking is restricted by law to 10 councillors - the ten who will face prosecution under Cameron's new law. 

So now even more resources that could be used for real child protection will be used primarily for councillor, officer and social worker protection - for every worker in the field will be two on a review panel to ensure due diligence, with even more undertaking bottom line scrutiny and oversight, all geared at keeping Councillor Jobsworthy out of the dock. 

Richard North has the most convincing answer - the serial abusers, whose mugshots resemble those taken of rednecks in the states of the deep south in the 1920s to illustrate congenital birth defects and low intelligence from inbreeding, come predominantly from one ethno-cultural-linguistic cohort. Rotherham could do worse than recruit its next PCC from the senior ranks of the Indian Police Service well versed in dealing with such badmashes.  

Monday, 2 March 2015

HOW many times do they need telling?

Danny Alexander is one of the more obtuse cretins infesting Whitehall, it seems; his launch today of a new plaque to appear on public capital works just repeats the sort of stupidity Mr Alexander can't understand. OK, just one more time: The government doesn't have any money. All money spent by government is from tax - including borrowing, which is just future tax. These works are taxpayer funded. 

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Putin is Bad, not Mad

The Speccie spoils an otherwise excellent piece by Marina Kim with the strapline 'Putin may be mad – but not mad enough to have had Boris Nemtsov killed'. Frankly, I don't think Putin is in the least mad. He's ruthless, he's a killer, maybe even gifted with that cool psychopathy that marks a host of great military and national leaders - including British ones. But not mad in the meaning of mad-insane rather than mad-a good laugh. He's deeply patriotic and prepared to ride roughshod over international law for Russia's sake - but then so is the USA. He believes the trappings of State enhance the status of the nation - but then so do the British. And he imposes a requirement for domestic discipline and obedience that has the Hun panting in jealousy. All of this makes him Bad, not Mad.

I'm no expert on either contract killings or State assassinations, but a killer who fired seven shots only four of which hit the victim and only one of which, to the heart, was fatal seems to me to be a lucky try rather than the work of a professional. I suspect that if Putin had killed Nemtsov his method would have been more subtle and with at least an element of deniability.

The long-legged 23-year old Ukrainian 'model' with him at the time may help shed light on the assassination. No doubt her mobile phone records will be of great interest to the Russian authorities.