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Friday, 3 April 2015

Time for Scotland to go?

I am reading Simon Jenkins in the Guardian this morning, writing in accidental juxtaposition to accounts of Nicola Sturgeon's success in last night's debate.
"However much Euro-enthusiasts wish it were otherwise, the craving for lower tier self-government refuses to die. Indeed, it is booming. In Scandinavia, Italy, Spain, even the UK, concession after concession is made to devolutionary sentiment. It is made with a patronising nod at the parish-pump quaintness of separatist leaders, dubbed populist, extremist or right-wing, never just democratic......Countries dissolve when the political logic that held them together dissolves. There is no reason why an independent Flanders should not be as resilient as Slovakia, Slovenia, Ireland or the Baltic states. Bigness is no guarantee of prosperity, usually the opposite. Big statism is a hangover from 20th-century imperialism and the needs of perpetual war."
Sooner or later, Scotland will force independence, probably after having screwed a few billions more out of England first. Why not save the money, face the inevitable and let her go sooner (though preferably not  during the reign of our sovereign lady). At a time when the oil price and north sea investment have tanked and global whisky sales are down 30%, a clean break could be the making of Scotland. It will require poverty amongst its people, austerity on a scale never imagined, Scots being turned away from Northern hospitals unless they can pay and Scots immigration to the richer areas of Europe such as Romania - but should they stick it, they will have their pride and freedom to keep them warm. 

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Russia sets out red lines

Though the Indie's sub-editor has given the story a headline that is frankly a lie (according to the story beneath) the paper prints a clear account of Russia's intentions in relation to its western borders. Putting aside the spin, Russia laid down red lines and provided assurances;
  • Any return of Crimea to Ukraine is a no-no. Crimea will be defended in the same way as all other Russian soil, with weapons including nuclear if necessary.
  •  Further NATO arms to Ukraine will provoke an escalated Russian military response - more 'green men' and more Russian arms 
  •  Russia will not abandon Russian minorities in the Baltic states, but will not use 'green men' or supply arms.
The message to NATO and the west is clear. Russia will not militarily violate NATO borders or nations. NATO must recognise the de facto new borders of Russia and undertake a similar restraint. Ukraine is not NATO and retains the potential for proxy military action, dependent on how much each side provokes it. Russians in the Baltics will be backed and funded. 

The final point is one worth watching. At the end of WWII peoples of German descent living outside of Germany's boundaries, sometimes for many hundreds of years, in Bohemia, Moravia, east Prussia, Poland and the Baltics were 'ethnically cleansed' in ways as brutal as anything the Nazis did. A surviving film clip (if you can bear the horror) alerts us that not only Germans are capable of crimes against humanity. Since the wall came down, ethnic Russians in the Baltics have had a very hard time, discriminated against in civil life, excluded from employment, health and education, all in an effort to get them to leave. Since 1989, and particularly since 2004, about three quarters of a million have done so, leaving about a million still with lives and homes there. Many of the 'Natashas' here in London are ethnic Russians with post-accession EU passports from the Baltics. 

Russia's position is lucid and succinct, and even if we don't agree with her, we can't claim we don't know where the red lines now stand, and the response we will provoke if we cross them.   

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Two stories, little comment

The first story, about Islamist dog Choudhary, sees him telling British Muslims that voting and democracy are unislamic and they should refrain.

The second is that the overwhelming majority of British voters believe that Islam is not compatible with British values.

One can't really add much more to that.

The right to forget

There are some crimes so heinous, so evil, that they call for all trace and all record of the perpetrator to be expunged from human memory; the perp is unhumaned, in other words. I do sincerely wish that the wretched papers would stop printing stories about the person who has just murdered 150 of his fellow men. I don't want to see him mentioned, remember his name, see his photograph or read about his life. For God's sake let all memory of him be lost, forgotten and rejected.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Ed speaks to the global corporates

Ed has taken four pages of the FT to speak Milibollox to the boards and shareholders of the global corporates, those mega-businesses behind the EU, to tell them that an EU referendum may be disadvantageous to their business aims. 

Had he actually wanted to speak to the UK's SMEs and micro enterprises, drivers of economic growth and innovation, he would have taken space in the Mail, Telegraph or Express. But then of course these businesses are all opposed to the EU. 

So it's just a clear punt to the globals to support a Labour/SNP coalition, then. Good. Glad that's clear. 

By Laws

The Manifesto Club have scored a first today - by persuading both the Mail and the Indie to bite on the same tedious and inaccurate press release, each paper printing almost identical stories. HERE and HERE.

In fact, local by-laws are often the only answer to a particular nuisance. The Libertarian test - whether one person's actions have an adverse effect on others, and if so, if the effect is disproportionate, there is justification in restricting the actions - apply pretty much to by laws. You can't make by laws banning pink, or making beards compulsory. By laws aren't about tastes, as Manifesto would have it, but about local nuisances not covered by existing national laws. 

For example, lycra boy-racers are cycling furiously through a shopping precinct. Everyone's fed up with it, and fearful for kids and the elderly. The police say they can't act because it isn't a public highway, and the council's security guards have no powers to stop cyclists and have been abused in the past by the pedal louts. There are three things you can do; erect traps and barriers to make all cycling impossible but also making buggy and wheelchair access very difficult, enact a new national law banning all cycling in all shopping precincts, or enact a local by law making furious cycling in the Blogsworth Centre illegal. Which is the least intrusive of the three?

As a Localist, I want more, rather than fewer, local variations to the law. Local magistrates used to be sensitive to varying the penalties for statutory offences in accordance with local custom; drunkenness in  Frinton would cost you £50 but drunkenness in Yarmouth only £5. Manifesto are a Statist, centralist pressure group who want the socialist solution under which one size fits all - the same solution is applied everywhere, like a cudgel, rather than specifically, like a scalpel. 

They offer as an example the following;

"Oxford City Council has passed a PSPO prohibiting people under the age of 21 from entering a tower block, unless they are legally resident in the block or visiting a legal resident."

Uhm, yes - tower block stairwells are frequently misused for drug dealing, drug taking, prostitution, sex, as toilets, covered in vomit, broken glass or with passed-out crackheads. I imagine if you lived in such a tower block, you'd welcome any measure that tackled these particular nuisances - after years of the police telling you they could do nothing about it, and the council having tried locks, cameras and wardens without any effect. Do Manifesto really  want to condemn the poor sods living in such conditions to fear, helplessness and inaction? Perhaps they do.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Nice if you can afford it

My generation will recall the great days of evening classes on the rates during the 1970s and 1980s; local councils funding nil or nominal cost classes for adults in pottery making, woodwork, car maintenance, Serbo-Croat and flower arranging. It was all very Margot Leadbetter, in that the beneficiaries were generally the aspirational middle classes who could afford to buy a pottery kiln, set of carving chisels or bathtubs of cut flowers. A chum of mine, an accountant, did a car restoration course at the local tech and afterwards spent about £20k buying and restoring an old MG.

History, of course, is not written that way. For those under 40 such as the Guardian's Lola Okolosie, adult education was about brave councils fighting poverty and class disadvantage and bringing the light of literacy to the poor and ignorant. The slow death of evening classes on the rates for Lola is symptomatic of a war on the poor rather than the consequence of the ever-expanding costs of child surveillance and custody by councils.

Lola is of the generation and milieu that believes that the State should do everything for them, including no doubt wiping their arses. The State, however, can't incubate the drive for self-improvement, so strong in our people in the early part of the last century that it supported an entire mass publisher - Dent - bringing an Everyman's Library of cloth-bound 8vo knowledge into Glasgow tenements, Plaistow attics and rented rooms. An amiable Scots vagrant once accosted me on the Strand quoting Wordsworth - his mother was a Dent subscriber.

Whilst early evening classes may have been the continuation of self-education by the local State, they didn't stay that way for long. Do gooders and social fiddlers soon realise that the poor are not queuing in droves to spend several hours of good drinking time learning irregular verbs. So the classes soon changed to attract motivated middle-class attenders keen to learn Spanish or Italian for their holidays, or how to bend and spot-weld steel sheet in the case of my accountant chum. Nice if you can afford it - but now we can't.