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Saturday, 22 February 2014

EU must scrap worthless 'External Action Service'

Sometimes, probably on the basis of monkeys, typewriters and Shakespeare, even Guardian columnists pen a plain truth. Almost. Timothy Garton Ash writes today "As the Ukraine expert Andrew Wilson notes, the EU took a baguette to a knife fight. In recent weeks, it has done better. Friday's proposed compromise is a tribute to the personal engagement of the German, Polish and French foreign ministers" What he means of course is that the EU wisely butted out and did just what this blog advised; hid all trace of the fragrant Mrs Ashton, and left the deal to the Quai D'Orsay and the Werderscher Markt, no doubt with US State Department briefings in the background. In other words, effective diplomacy remains something better done by the professionals of our national foreign ministries rather than the unelected dilettante amateurs of the EU. All credit must also be given to Poland - Ukraine's neighbour, across whose borders come Ukraine's largest Euro exports, smuggled cigarettes and prostitutes - a nation one watches with the pride of seeing an awkward teen growing into an accomplished adult.

And if real diplomacy is something best left to the nation states of Europe, what of the unelected Commission's favourite toy, the 'European External Action Service'? With over 3,400 employees, 2,000 of whom work outside of Belgium, and an annual Euro tax-theft of over £420m, what, exactly, is it for?

The answer is simple. It's to bolster the insane hubris of those who like little Luxembourger Viviane Reding fantasize a new European Empire. It's the twenty-first century equivalent of the Schloss Neuschwanstein, a sugar candy show castle with walls you could poke down with a stout stick. The visions of the mad King of Bavaria were never as fantastical as the ambitions of the EU Federasts. 

It demonstrated its utter failure in Bosnia. And until Europe's professional foreign ministries stepped in last week to take over, it was leading Europe's nations down a dangerous path. It is potentially far more harmful than any other government or agency in Europe. It must be disbanded and dissolved, and all power returned where it belongs - to the elected governments and foreign ministries of Europe's states.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Graduate Premium not worth having?

There's a piece in the Speccie that's taken me a day or two to get around to. When I was a youngster, one of the things that astonished me was the graduate premium - the earnings excess that a graduate could expect to accumulate during his / her lifetime against, say, a skilled plumber. At age 16 the lines on the graph started together, but the graduate's earnings remained flat for the following five years whilst the plumber's rose rapidly. In their 20s the plumber's earnings rose and the graduate's rose slowly to meet it. The lines crossed at about 30, after which the graduate earned more. At 45 the plumber's line hit a plateau and at 60 dropped sharply whilst the graduate's line continued to rise until 60 then flattened for the next ten or fifteen years. The area between the lines - the balance between the negative and the positive - was the lifetime value of the graduate premium. 

Forgive me for the somewhat tedious foregoing. The point is, when I learned of it, the graduate premium was an astonishing figure, something in excess of £1m even at the NPV of the 1980s. The current table in the Speccie shows something far less attractive, with a mid-range graduate barely making an extra £150k over a working lifetime. Either plumbers are earning a damn site more than they used to, or the GP has been seriously eroded. £150k over a (now) 50 year working life is £3k a year - not worth getting out of bed for.

Of  course, back then when only 5% of us rather than 50% as now went on to higher education we also had the choice to become plumbers. I'm not sure that today's youngsters even have that choice any more.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Ukraine is not Romania. EU should STFU and wait to be told what to do.

The people of Ukraine are pretty well split equally between those who want to be closer to the West and those who want to maintain links to Russia. There is no clear majority for either option. Interestingly, surveys suggest that a majority does support closer ties to both - a nation between east and west that wants to have its cake and eat it, and why not. 

The current outbreak of violence was in reaction to an attack on the Parliament by the protesters. The resultant killing is not one-sided - police and regional politicians have been assassinated. A middle-aged woman pedestrian has been gunned down by protesters in a 'drive by'. The police have fired indiscriminately at the crowd. The armed forces are holding back. 

A lot remains lost in the 'fog' of gross civil disorder, but one thing is clear - Ukraine is no Romania. This is not a case of people, police and military rising together to bring down an unwanted leader. 

Under the circumstances, the amateur bunglers of the EU are the very last people I would trust in formulating any western response. Allowing Ashton to do anything at all is akin to letting the job-experience boy negotiate a new construction contract. The message from Europe's foreign ministers to the EU should be clear; shut up, butt out and wait until we tell you what to do.

'Mail' a little slow

The Mail's 'exposure' of leading Labour figures today as Paedophile supporters is a little slow. We published this piece on the subject back in October 2012, concluding
There's always a price to pay for moral relativism, and it's always paid by the weakest, the most vulnerable and the most needful of our care and protection. And Harriet Harman, Jack Dromey and Patricia Hewitt should hang their heads in guilt and shame for their support and encouragement of all the sick Jimmy Saviles out there.

Denmark bans halal & kosher slaughter

Denmark, a nation that produces mostly pork, imposing a ban on halal and kosher slaughter seems a little like the Vatican state banning nipple-piercing. I suppose it gives those of us who enjoy a bacon sandwich the reassurance that our meat was processed humanely.

Perhaps it's fortunate that Giraffe kebabs haven't really caught on here.

Appeal Court proves its mettle

I can only applaud the decision by the five-judge panel of the Court of Appeal to uphold the right of British judges to pass whole-life sentences without these being subject to subsequent review. We have our own review process - its called appealing. We don't need an ECHR imposed additional stage; our process is whole and entire.

The issue of wrongful convictions isn't relevant here. The ECHR were not suggesting that prisoners may be released on review because there were doubts over their conviction. They have an idealogical opposition to whole-life sentences and are seeking to lever-in ways of shortening these on the basis of 'C'mon, hasn't he been punished enough now?". 

The judge hearing the case remains the best person to judge the heinousness of the offence of a person convicted of murder. It is right that we allow them to pass whole-life sentences, subject to appeal. 

There are those in the UK who think that we should have a compulsory review of whole life sentences, and that's fine - everyone is entitled to an opinion. If they want to work to achieve this, they should lobby MPs and Peers to change the law, and not rely on the interference of an alien and inexpert tribunal. 

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

EDL and UAF two sides of the same coin?

OK, I realise that just the post title will offend some reasonable, intelligent readers of this blog who support the EDL. It's unlikely that any UAF supporters are reading, but I'm sure the UAF has as many reasonable and intelligent supporters as does the EDL, and they will also be offended.

A piece by Damian Thompson in the Telegraph, with which I take issue but will leave Fisking for another day, has attracted over 3,900 comments - only some of which are relevant to Thompson's opinions.

I have often despaired of EDL's targeting of immigrants, and can't repeat too often that immigration isn't the fault of the immigrants. Terrifying poor foreigners whilst leaving the politicians responsible alone is truly reprehensible. And UAF have always struck me as being more like the Brownshirts than they would ever recognise; street thugs using fists and boots to enforce an immoral political orthodoxy. So, simple soul that I am, I see them as two sides of the same coin. 

Farage of course, in repudiating EDL, is demonstrating a moderate and democratic commitment that puts Cameron and Miliband to shame; if they repudiate UAF in the same terms they will demonstrate that they intend to fight the next election on the basis of argument and policy, not on the basis of the terror of their street-thugs.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Scots National Lottery

Of course a 'Yes' vote will also mean that Scots will no longer be allowed to buy tickets for the National Lottery; they'll need their own Lotto game, with a (proportionate) weekly jackpot prize of £150,000. And with much better odds, that'll send them into a lotto frenzy in Inverbollack.

But of course they won't be able to use the .uk internet top-level domain tag. However, most of the esses have already gone; Sudan's got .sd, Seychelles have got .sc, and .sa, .sb, .se, .sg to .so are taken, as are .sr to .sz with one exception. The only codes left for Scotland are .sf, .sp, .sq and .sw. 

And instead of the international +44 dialling code for the UK, they'll need a new 3-digit code (all the 2 digit ones have gone). I think +856, next to Cambodia, may be free. They'll need phones quite a lot, as Scotland won't be able to afford a postal service. In contrast, Royal Mail's costs will plummet once it doesn't have to maintain daily deliveries to some of the most isolated homes in our archipelago. 

Still, I'm sure the new SBC will make some fine TV and radio programmes, not at all parochial. After all, some very good TV has been made on the tiniest budgets. Talk shows, mostly, but still. And once they manage to convert all the Sterling vending machines to whatever new coinage they'll be using, they'll even be able to buy rail tickets to come to the UK and watch our TV whenever they want. 

I'm sure they'll have much more to thank Mr Salmond for.

Easyjet Category Error

You know category error. The mythical A&E admissions of those who had followed literally instructions such as 'Stand in saucepan of boiling water for 3 minutes' for a tinned pudding or 'Remove cap and push up bottom' for a stick deodorant. Nowhere is category error more apparent than in statements made by Euphiles.
"Free trade in Europe has brought great benefits, therefore Europe should be a single country"
Is perhaps the most pervasive. The most irritating have to be
"Europe has not been at war since 1945, therefore the EU causes peace"
"Everyone who loves Europe favours a federal union"
The government have therefore included in the latest 'Balance of Competencies' review the opinion of Easyjet that European airline deregulation was responsible for it flourishing. Ergo, says the government, a federal union is a good thing.  

Perhaps they're all waddling around Whitehall with deodorant sticks up their arses wondering why their armpits are still sweating.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

German War Guilt

Der Spiegel gives space to a lengthy piece examining how revisionist and counter-revisionist German historians interpret the causes of the Great War. It's a complex argument and has more to do with the causes of the holocaust; did the Germans learn the techniques of the Gulag and the execution pits from the Soviets? Would the Nazis have come to power if Russia hadn't had a Soviet revolution? It's all to do with War Guilt. 

Max Hastings of course includes all the possible factors in Catastrophe, a highly readable popular history of the start of the war. And concludes that Germany was primarily responsible. And this is the conventional view; the condemnation of Germany at Versailles was just, if the reparations were not. The German novelist Alfred Döblin captures the views of ordinary Germans in 1918, and does more to explain the causes of Hitler's rise than a tonne of academic histories. Hastings I think has missed a trick. He covers German 'beastliness' in Belgium but fails to develop its consequences; likewise, Der Spiegel's German historians who theorize that Hitler learned the machinery of repression from the Soviets have missed a trick in looking east rather than west.

Sometimes it's the minutiae that give useful insight. The design of British tanks that uniquely always includes a small boiler to allow the crew to brew-up. And John Lodwick, SOE and a much neglected novelist, writes of his experiences as an on-off prisoner of the Germans and their camp layout that inevitably included in addition to barracks, latrines and canteen a pig-killing pit. The Heer in the second, as in the first, war was made up of men who could handle horses, were happy outdoors and who could slaughter and butcher pigs with unconcern. 

If the British learned successful counter-terrorism techniques from Malaya, a small country far away, is it so extraordinary to suggest that Germany learned occupation from Belgium, the only western European country she occupied in the Great War? Were the lessons learned in Belgium applied later in France, Denmark, Norway, Greece and the rest? Army manuals are written by soldiers with relevant experience, not journalists. Blueprints for internment camp layout and administration must have come from Germans who had run them in Belgium, not journalists who had seen them in Russia. Plans for well-organised civilian round ups and internment were learned from the mass-round-ups of Belgians, not Kulaks. 

I have a folio of lithographs drawn by a Belgian artist in 1918, after his release from the German concentration camps. Each time I look through them, I see the model for Hitler's Reich. Here's a sample.