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Saturday, 20 November 2010

Labour whines as its dirty tricks are nixed

Labour is the party of political corruption. It was Labour that maintained an electoral system that made sure a Tory vote was always worth less than a Labour vote, Labour that froze boundary reform to a glacial pace that preserved their utterly corrupt electoral advantage. Now the coalition is taking the sword to Labour's Gordian Knot, they are whining like spoilt brats. And don't forget, it was Labour who, in creating more of their own peers than Tory peers, attempted even to unbalance the Lords to their corrupt advantage. 

You may be astonished to know that Labour left the Lords with 234 Labour peers to just 193 Tory peers. If those seats on the red benches were allocated according to last May's vote share, it would be 237 Tory peers to 190 Labour peers. 

No. Labour are whining because all their electoral dirty tricks, all their cheating and unfair advantage, all their corrupt, unscrupulous and rotten deceits and deceptions are being cleaned out, and our political system being returned to something with fairness, probity and transparency. And that's what they hate.   

Friday, 19 November 2010

Ireland should remember the Darien lesson

England spent 700 years trying to secure Scotland by military force, but in the end it was sorting out Scotland's debt crisis that brought the North Britons into the Union.

In the 1600s Scotland looked with envy at the booming economy of its neighbour; this created perfect conditions for a 'get rich quick' scheme in which the Scots invested a fifth of the wealth of the country in return for a promise of huge asset returns and universal wealth. Sadly, the investment turned out to be a fly-blown swamp in central America. Whilst the bankers and fat cats lived on ships in some luxury, the poor punters died in their hundreds in mosquito ridden shanties. When the fat cats dealt with their misery by giving them more alcohol, it just killed them off faster. The false boom almost bankrupted Scotland. 

So when England came along with an offer to underwrite the debt and to buy Scots currency at the rate of an English Shilling (5p) for each Scots pound, the Scots gladly signed up to the Act of Union in return. And the poor sods have been regretting it ever since. 

As Joseph O'Connor writes in the Guardian this morning;
Psychiatrists tell us that grief comes in four distinct stages: denial, anger, bargaining and depression, before finally the goal of acceptance may be reached. In the last year, the country has staggered its way through that grim quartet of emotions. We made ourselves believe that the boom would last for ever, denying the facts when it became clear that it wouldn't. We then told ourselves the fallout wouldn't be as vicious as some predicted, even as the dole queues lengthened and businesses collapsed, and every single one of us had a family member or colleague who lost a job or couldn't pay the mortgage any more. Then followed the grotesque period of passivity and botched action, which the historians of 21st-century Ireland will ultimately remember as the doom of a country's self-image.
Ireland Unite; you have nothing to gain but Europe's chains.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

An end to the Duty to Discriminate

Harman's Law - the public sector Duty to Discriminate on Taste Grounds - is to be scrapped to universal rejoicing and to great benefit to the economy. Make no mistake, taste discrimination (what economists term discrimination on the grounds of sex, caste, creed, faith, sexuality or colour) is a thoroughly bad thing and has no place in hiring, firing and promotion and reward decisions in the public sector. 

For despite all the lefty rhetoric about 'bad' capitalists discriminating on taste grounds, the overwhelming mass of taste discrimination exists in the public, and not the private sector. You see, capitalists (with the exception of those at the Mom and Pop enterprise level) are out to maximise profits and will employ the very best people to help them do it, irrespective of their colour or sex. This is also the reason for most of the difference in pay between men and women.

Employment and reward decisions in a fair and equal jobs market with no taste discrimination are made on the basis of education, ability, experience and an 'employability' factor. The American Hay system, for example, scores these in a grid, and is used as an example of how employment decisions should be made in the public sector. Now, overall in the working population, women will score on aggregate significantly lower on the 'experience' factor simply because many women spend many years out of the workplace having babies. When I learned my post-grad economics, the academic consensus was that this experience difference accounted for about 14% of a then 18% pay gap, with about 4% due to taste discrimination. 

So eliminating taste discrimination altogether from the public sector should leave us with an overall pay gap of about 14% between men and women. Anything less than this is an indicator of inefficient and poor quality employment and reward decisions. 

I'm sure Theresa May understands all of this. The tragedy is that the Deputy Leader of the Labour party simply doesn't. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

How long can the Hun take it?

The poor old Hun has always been a great hoarder; from the gold coins buried under the hearth to store cupboards full of pickled vegetables. Their savings accounts are bulging. But now they're being asked to spend all their hard-hoarded wealth to bail out the improvident Southern Europeans who live just for the day. How much more can they take before the backlash starts?  

Taking down websites

If a Jihadist group advocated on their website tactics to defeat security measures to detect arms and explosives, few would disagree that any responsible society should suppress it. When a website representing violent offenders, as 'Fitwatch' did, advocates avoiding detection and defeating forensics by hair dye, false whiskers and a change of clothing, clearing phone memories and the like, it is also right that a responsible society should suppress it. Likewise websites advising kiddie fiddlers how to avoid detection, or advising Nigerians how to defraud banks. 

I have no problem closing down genuinely criminally inclined websites. I have huge issues with who should be able to do it - to which the answer is, not the police. 

The police may by all means take their evidence before a High Court Judge, who should be able to issue an appellable interim order suspending the website. If the police are wrong, as they frequently are, those damaged can bring their evidence to open court and seek restitution. A police detective inspector is a form of life little higher than a parking warden, and not one often gifted with balanced powers of judgement, particularly in the area of free speech and free expression. Such junior office-holders should never, ever, be entrusted with such draconian powers. 

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Royal wedding GDP boost

As Vanity Fair predicted, 2011 was always the favourite year for a royal wedding; competing with both the Jubilee and the Olympics in 2012 would have been just too much. The potential for a boost to GDP is also handy; nice to see the Family doing their bit, Ma'am. Sweden found that Princess Victoria's recent wedding increased GDP by some 5bn Crowns, against a direct cost of 20m Crowns. Not bad. Lets hope St James' gets its act together on image licensing and IPR protection, or the pound shops will be filled with the most appalling  Chinese-made miniature manikins of Waity Katy and Big Will next Easter. 

New design for Twenty Punt note?

A few months ago I heard a rumour that new plates were being prepared for security printers across Europe as the prospect of the Euro's collapse gathered probability. No doubt the Irish government has contingency plans in place to rapidly print and distribute replacement punts across the republic, though goodness knows what the swap rate will be. Anyway, I suppose I could do worse than have a little punt (snarf snarf) on De La Rue stocks; Europe's premier banknote printers are at an affordable 627 at the moment, down from a high of about 980.


Blogosphere disagrees with Iain over Woolas

I feel a certain sympathy with Iain Dale's penchant for championing unpopular causes. He's not a bloke to take racing tips from, put it that way. First there was the defence of the unspeakable tea-leaf  Derek Conway, then the defence of the mad Nadine Dorries and now he's come to the defence of Woolas. When last I looked, Iain's readers were almost unanimously opposed to his position - including this comment from Tom Harris (no, not that Tom Harris);

The fact that you think Woolas' leaflets were "appalling" and "disgusting" makes your decision even more bizarre. Parliament puts law on statue book (complete with punishment). Man breaks law and court administers punishment. Iain Dale labels it a miscarriage of justice!
And this is the nub. It's not about judges trumping electors, it's about the Election Court applying a Statute passed by Parliament, i.e. us, and in doing so upholding democratic rule over favouritism and cronyism, i.e. the teflon protection that the loathsome political class seek for themselves. Rather a triumph for democracy, I would have thought.  

A foul pact between the banks and the political class

The extent of the foul pact between the banks and the European political class at the expense of the people of Europe is becoming apparent. As leading Irish economist Morgan Kelly wrote on Monday 8th (H/T EU REFERENDUM)
September marked Ireland’s point of no return in the banking crisis. During that month, €55 billion of bank bonds (held mainly by UK, German, and French banks) matured and were repaid, mostly by borrowing from the European Central Bank.
Until September, Ireland had the legal option of terminating the bank guarantee on the grounds that three of the guaranteed banks had withheld material information about their solvency, in direct breach of the 1971 Central Bank Act. The way would then have been open to pass legislation along the lines of the UK’s Bank Resolution Regime, to turn the roughly €75 billion of outstanding bank debt into shares in those banks, and so end the banking crisis at a stroke.
With the €55 billion repaid, the possibility of resolving the bank crisis by sharing costs with the bondholders is now water under the bridge. Instead of the unpleasant showdown with the European Central Bank that a bank resolution would have entailed, everyone is a winner. Or everyone who matters, at least.
The German and French banks whose solvency is the overriding concern of the ECB get their money back. Senior Irish policymakers get to roll over and have their tummies tickled by their European overlords and be told what good sports they have been. And best of all, apart from some token departures of executives too old and rich to care less, the senior management of the banks that caused this crisis continue to enjoy their richly earned rewards.
And Peter Oborne writes in today's Telegraph;
The peripheral eurozone nations are being prevented from taking this sensible move (ditching the Euro) by a cynical alliance between the big banks and the Brussels elite. The banks cannot countenance any contraction of the eurozone because once Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain pull out, they will have no choice but to default on their debts. Such a move would bankrupt almost all European banks. Between them these four countries have a combined sovereign debt of well over £1 trillion. A very large part of this debt is owned by the major European banks. The Bank of International Settlements estimates, for example, that French financial institutions have lent the equivalent of 37 per cent of total French GDP to these failing countries.
So, reader, you are not going to be fleeced by George of another £2,000 this year to help some poor ordinary sod in Oughterard, Porto or Barca - though painful, I could grit my teeth and bear this - but to keep some privileged bastard of a Euro Banker in luxury. And that's way too much. It must end here.   

Dispatches: Job done

There was nothing new in last night's 'Dispatches' on C4; over its running time the programme relentlessly rehashed a melange of old stories of EU and MEP fraud and corruption. Sure, the MEPs caught signing in at 7am on Friday morning before skiving off were new, but that was about all. It was boilerplate. Yet not a single one of the programme's estimated 1m viewers can have thought anything but what a crooked cabal of bent bastards the whole lot of them are. So job done. 

We really need one of these documentaries every fortnight or so, until the national clamour to close off that rancid trough becomes overwhelming. 

Monday, 15 November 2010

Is the Commons finding its balls?

Reports that enough Tory MPs may support amendments to Cameron's 'Sovereignty' Bill to actually make the thing meaningful are encouraging; not that, I suspect, their action will make any difference to the Bill, but because it demonstrates that Parliament is rediscovering what it is it's supposed to be doing. All strength to their arm.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Remember Justice in Victory

Frank Walus was typical of the many millions of civilians uprooted by war. Born to Polish parents living in Germany but returning to Poland before 1939, he soon found himself back in the Reich as a conscripted forced labourer. Just 5'4" tall at 17, he was hardly an imposing figure. He spent the entire war years working as a forced labourer on German farms. After the war he went home, to Kielce in Poland, where he endured the Communist regime for a number of years before entering the USA in 1959. He became a naturalised  American citizen in 1970.

Poland's Jews had just cause to resent the behaviour of many Poles during the German occupation; the willing collaboration of a significant number of Poles in the deportation of the Jews to the extermination camps has been well documented. Perhaps many even resented all Poles, innocent or guilty, because of the behaviour of a few. In any event, Walus was denounced to the OSI by Simon Wiesenthal as a Nazi guard. Wiesenthal produced a number of witnesses from Israel who all swore blind they had personally seen Walus in Poland forcing young girls to undress before shooting them, executing prisoners, smashing babies against walls and all the panoply of human cruelty that could be imagined. It was all, of course, at best false memory, and at worst malicious fabrication. But the US put Walus on trial for it anyway. 

It took a long time, but dogged investigation uncovered incontrovertible evidence that Walus had, as he had claimed, worked for the entire war as a forced labourer, and that he had never left Germany. Eventually, and grudgingly, he was cleared. 

We know all this because a research group in the US has just forced the Justice Department to release the full version of a 2006 report into America's Nazi hunting activities.  

As we remember today all those who have fallen in war, spare a thought for all the Frank Waluses who were not cleared, who didn't receive justice; the innocents who became victims of 'victors' justice' and whose lives were so carelessly and gratuitously taken in proxy for the guilty. Whatever the nationality of the military victor, victory without justice is hollow indeed.