Thursday, March 31, 2011

Foxtrot Foxtrot Sierra

From the school of vertically inclined micturition in an alcoholic beverage manufacturing establishment – failure in the organisation thereof – we have this delight:
Families could see energy bills soar by £434 a year as it emerged ministers underestimated the cost of rolling out a new smart meter system. When the installation of the meters in every home and business was given the go-ahead in May 2009 the cost was put at £9 billion. But this week it was revealed that the cost of installing the devices in some 53 million homes between 2014 and 2019 will reach £11.3 billion.
Is there anything this bunch of fools can get right?


Blowing smoke

The British EU contribution increased from £5.3billion in 2009 to £9.2 billion last year says Robert Winnett in The Daily Telegraph - yet another of these dozy hacks who can't get his minuscule brain round the labyrinth of the EU budget.

Winnett cites the Office for National Statistics but, as you would expect, it is playing games by citing the net contribution. The figure of significance, though, is the amount we pay out, or the gross contribution – as Myrtle the Judas goat keeps telling us.

Myrtle says the actual gross figure was £19.7 billion (presumably for 2009) but God knows where he got that figure from. He quotes himself from 2009, spraying a raft of figures that bears no relation to the one quoted.

To be fair, though – which is something I try to avoid doing, especially when Myrtle is involved – EU figures are a nightmare, not least because the EU and the UK calculated on a different basis and use different financial periods. Even the euroslime Independent doesn't do it much better. To clear up the confusion, though, the government has helpfully explained why they should be so different.

However, using the Commission sources, the gross figures stand at €11.42 for 2009, €12.918 for 2010 and €13.13 billion, in 2011 - respectively £10.04, £11.36 and £11.54 billion at current exchange values.

Referring to the net figures, however, Winnett states that the increase is equivalent to the extra money being raised from the increase in National Insurance for higher-rate taxpayers, or the new 50p top rate of income tax. He also says that taxpayers are being forced to contribute more following Tony Blair's decision to reduce the size of this country's rebate.

The fact is that the reduced payments from the EU, reflected n the higher net, do not require extra spending from the UK to make up the loss. The comparison is spurious. Yet this does not stop Tory Boy Stephen Booth, "research" director of Open Europe, prattling that: "We're now starting to see the full effect of Tony Blair's 2005 decision to give up a huge chunk of the British rebate".

Similarly, we get the ghastly Matthew Hancock, Tory MP and former aide to the preposterous Osborne, saying: "The consequences of Labour's rebate sell-out are becoming clear. These shocking new figures show that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown signed billions of pounds of our money away in return for absolutely nothing".

This is typical of the dire Tory party political games – where everything has to be couched in terms of something Labour did or did not do.

However, the rebate is actually taken into account in calculating the gross figure. The changes to the net figure result largely from reductions in farm subsidies, and regional funding. For sure, if the rebate had not been reduced, then the gross figure would have dropped, and thereby our net payment would have been cut by a similar amount.

This though, is not the point. The rebate reduction was agreed to redress distortions in the Thatcher-agreed rebate calculation, to reflect the changes in the budget structure arising from enlargement (which the Tories agreed) and the changing proportions of spending in the EU budget.

The fact that the current gross contribution is increasing roughly in line with the general increase in the EU budget is a testament both to the need for the adjustment and its success. It is one that, had the Tories headed the administration, they would have agreed as well. As it stands the UK correction in the 2010 budget still amounts to around €4.0 billion.

The real issue, therefore, is not the rebate, but the fact that we are making payments of £11.54 billion to the EU. This is happening under the current administration, led by the Tories. Little Camerslime has no intention of changing that. And that is why we are getting the Tories blowing smoke, to hide the unpleasant fact that a sum equivalent to roughly a third of our defence budget is going to the "colleagues" in Brussels.


Outgunned and outfought

"Libyan rebel forces retreated in disarray yesterday as the battle in the east swung dramatically in favour of Colonel Gaddafi", says the Daily Mail. "Gaddafi loyalists are once again closing in on the key town of Ajdabiya, which they had abandoned on Saturday in the face of "devastating coalition airstrikes". Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad had already fallen again".

Then you get The Independent which has the rebels in Libya "in terrified retreat", enmeshed in recriminations against their own leadership and accusing officials dealing with the international community of misrepresenting the reality on the ground.

After twelve nights of Western military intervention that had been seen as irreversibly changing the course of this conflict, the revolutionary forces had been pushed back by yesterday evening to the last city before Benghazi, the capital of the opposition provisional government, seemingly with their confidence drained and showing little will to continue the fight.

The collapse by the revolutionary forces in the space of 48 hours "was spectacular", says the paper. But what is equally spectacular is the almost total lack of judgement of the "international community", which has got itself caught up in something it does not understand, and over which it has no control.

Right up front, of course, is the most spectacular incompetent of them all, from Boy Wonder Cameron and Hippy Dippy Hague. Not only do these buffoons seem not to have a "plan B", they didn't even seem to have a "plan A" worth talking about. Now this bunch of losers wants to give another bunch of losers more guns. And I suppose they are calling this a winning strategy?

We always knew this pair was incompetent, but they really are breaking new ground. And how interesting it is that the newspapers that were so gung ho for this adventure, and had the hots for the Great War Leader Cameron, now seem to have gone silent. There's a strange coincidence.

But Hey! At least the rebels can afford the petrol.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What a bloody mess

Libya's rebels appeared to have abandoned the country's most important oil terminal today in a chaotic headlong retreat from government forces. The retreat came despite renewed Western air strikes around the town of Ras Lanuf and as coalition allies considered the possibility of arming the rebel forces.

Cameron is not only a moron, he is a very dangerous moron.


Foxtrot Oscar

Do you ever get the feeling that you just don't want to be part of this world any more? You read of the unutterable fool Clegg, and his vapourings on nuclear energy. Then you see that they really are going ahead with smart meters - the "big brother" in every house that can cut you off when you have gone over your "carbon" quota.

Then you see this and this, and you know that we've come to the end of the world as we know it. There is no way back. It's gone too far.


To a benefits queue near you

Today Lampedusa, the tiny Italian-owned island ... some tens of thousands of Tunisians who have fled their own country – with possibly more Libyans to follow. Having necessarily developed a robust approach to unwanted immigrants, though, the Italians encourage these people to move on, and they all know which is the softest touch in Europe.

Yet our administration, which is progressively clamping down on immigration and work visas from recklessly undeveloped trouble-spots like New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United States, is open house to Italy's cast-offs, throwing benefit cheques, free housing and other aid to all-comers.

In nice white Witney, of course, little slimy Dave is not troubled by the inner-city blues which would have people rushing to vote BNP if his constituency was used as a dumping ground which the white, working class areas are expected to tolerate.

But with Britain overstuffed with more immigrants than it can safely deal with, even to the extent that recent immigrants are saying "no more", all little Dave can offer is a further clamp-down on non-EU immigrants. Yet the back door is wide open, and they are coming in through Italy just now, and Greece and Spain, headed in our direction for the benefits queues.

Without dealing with our membership of the EU, though, Dave can't do anything – and because he won't do anything about our membership, he won't do anything about this problem. And that, he will be finding in the fullness of time, isn't good enough.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Judge not Judge Judge

Judge Judge, the chief judge (I kid you not) is telling us that he and his mates are "not guilty" for the barmy rulings made under European human rights law.

There is that little thing called the Human Rights Act in 1998 that incorporated the European Convention on Human Rights in to UK law. And that was passed by, er ... parliament. So if the politicians don't like what's coming out of the courts, then it is up to them to change it. Except, of course, that they won't.

Judge Judge was on less secure ground – metaphorically speaking, as he was addressing the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in a speech entitled "The Judiciary and the Media" – when he warned against overt criticism of judges by journalists.

He said undermining confidence in the judiciary within the community could lead to its independency being diminished by politicians. An independent media was as important as an independent judiciary, he said, but judges were often unfairly criticised for imposing a sentence in accordance with sentencing principle, or guidance, or statute.

So, it seems, Judge Judge doesn't want hacks to complain about judges who don't act independently, because they've been hamstrung by a sentencing principle, or guidance, or statute - in case it diminishes their, er ... independence. Judge not Judge Judge, would appear to be the watchword.


Many a true word

... spoken in jest.

The trouble is, of course, that some jokes get elected. Dellers is on the case of the preposterous Osborne, soaking up £3 billion of our money to give to his rich chums. It is precisely such weapons-grade pillocks who govern us now, says our man.


The real Dave stands up

Euroslime Dave is pleading "frustration" at having to support the EU bailout scheme, complaining that he was dropped in it by Labour, and will now have to find billions to bail out Portugal.

Yet, here he is in November last (above), actually speaking up for the bailout scheme, saying we have to support it. "We have a very open economy and therefore stability in other countries has an impact on the UK".

But the, if we go back to May, just when Dave is complaining that he was dropped in it by Labour, the redoubtable Bruno Waterfield informs us that the deal was set up by qualified majority voting. In other words, it would not have made a blind bit of difference whether it had been Labour or Cleggerons, the outcome would have been the same (see below).

Of course, it is a classic Cleggeron tactic to blame Labour – as indeed we got so used to hearing about eighteen years of "Tory misrule" from Labour, but in this instance, the blame lies fairly and squarely with our membership of the European Union.

And there we see the real Euroslime coming to the fore. He is quite happy to slag off Labour, any day of the week, but when it comes to his darling EU, not a word of criticism will he utter. It would never do to let the voters know that he is just as powerless as the rest of them.

But the whole spat is a con anyway. It turns out that, back in May, Dave agreed with Labour that the bail-out fund should be set up, as there was nothing that could be done to stop it. However, the poor little lad seems to forget we have internet now, so we can see exactly the games he is playing. The real Dave has just stood up - and it shows.

This is developed further by Bruno (above). Alongside The Mail, he also relays the claim that Alistair Darling, the former Chancellor, in the dying days of the last Labour administration, sought and obtained "cross–party consensus" before agreeing the establishment of the fund.

A document to that effect has now emerged (below), and we have Darling denying that, during an emergency meeting in Brussels on 9 May he ignored advice given to him by Mr Osborne. Darling says: "What we discussed was not voting against but abstention, recognising that Britain could have been outvoted".

In response, Euroslime Dave tells us: "I have had a full discussion with the Chancellor about this issue and he was absolutely clear it was not something Britain should agree to". But that version is not incompatible with the above. We were all clear at the time that we should not agree to this, but it was also clear that we had no option but to agree with it.

This is happening all the time under QMV, and way back we have noted the process. When it becomes clear that the UK will be outvoted, as a matter of policy, our administration always votes for a measure, even though it may disagree with it. This goes back to the days of the UK needing to show it is communautaire, avoiding the "awkward partner" label.

Nothing, therefore, affects the central point – that agreement required QMV and we could not stop this bail-out fund going ahead (apart from the fact that it may well have been in breach of EU law ... but that's another story).

Now Dave is having to come to terms with the reality of EU membership, and he doesn't like the idea of being seen as a powerless clone, who has to fall into line with whatever our masters decide. But that is the reality. He can scweam and scweam until he is thick, but it won't make the slightest bit of difference.

And, with The Guardian pitching in, we see that little Dave is taking flak from his own side as well – although most of the MP toadies are running for cover. We had th label for it last year.

Way back, that year ago, we were reminding the Tory tribalists that it didn't make a blind bit of difference who we voted for in the general election, as on the substantive decisions, the power resides in Brussels. All we were doing was voting for an electoral college that had the right to decide who goes to Brussels as our European Council member.

So it comes to pass. The Brussels representative in the UK has discovered who his real masters are. And if he doesn't like it one little bit, tant pis. Now he should know how the rest of us feel.


Ice cold in Petersburg

It was only just over a week ago when they were drafting in the Russian answer to Fukushima in an attempt to get their ships moving. But, rather than improving, the situation goes from bad to worse. More than 120 vessels have become stranded in ice in the Gulf of Finland, with their number growing by 20 ships every day, the St. Petersburg seaport administration has admitted.

The Gulf of Finland has been iced over for more than a month, with dozens of ships waiting for assistance because they are unable to ply their way through the heavy one-meter-thick ice floes. The situation in the gulf deteriorated last week after a cyclone from the Norwegian Sea hit the region.

A total of eleven icebreakers, plus the Taymyr-class Vaigach nuclear powered icebreaker, have been sent to the area to help the stranded ships out. As of early Monday, 121 vessels out of 135 sailing in the gulf had been trapped in the ice. Only seven ships are currently sailing through the area, moving through ice channels cleared by the icebreakers.

And nor is it just a matter of shipping. The knock-on effects are acute, with the Ford Motor Company factory located in Vsevolozhsk in the Leningrad Oblast recently forced to stop production because car components could not be delivered by sea.

The Toyota plant in St. Petersburg also stopped production for a day earlier in March. Strong winds and repeated freezing had disrupted port traffic so much that it became impossible to get the supplies through. And now those strong winds and snow over the gulf have continued to hamper shipping, and are now holding up rescue operations.

Dodgy stuff, this global warming. It was never that bad, before we got all this climate change.


Beyond barking

This is so utterly mad that you cannot believe that anyone on this side of a secure mental ward could actually offer it as a serious suggestion.

But the biggest farce of all is the EU's blithe assumption that it can suggest policy that will take effect in forty years. At the current rate, the chances of it still being in existence in even four years is pretty remote. And even if it does last that long, I would not take any odds on it lasting ten years.

Between petrol cars and the EU, I would put my money on petrol.


Unintended consequences

One thing which is crystal clear about the Libyan adventure is that the boy Dave hasn't thought it through. But someone here has - and the unintended consequences may be far more damaging than we can even imagine.

Peter Hitchens really isn't impressed either, and complains that we have in Dave another PM who treats Parliament like a neutered Chihuahua. Actually, parliament does that to itself, so it deserves the contempt it gets.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Not even an airshow

The RAF risks running short of pilots for operations over Libya as cuts to the defence budget threaten to undermine front-line operations, says Thomas Harding of The Daily Telegraph.

Since the conflict began, a squadron of 18 RAF Eurofighter pilots has enforced the Libya no-fly zone from an air base in southern Italy. However, a shortage of qualified fighter pilots means the RAF may not have enough to replace all of them when the squadron has to rotate in a few weeks.

The situation is so serious that the RAF has halted the teaching of trainee Eurofighter pilots so instructors can be drafted on to operations. But it gets worse. The handful of pilots used for air shows will also be withdrawn from displays this summer.

That has to be the ultimate pits ... the RAF can no longer even run an airshow.


Take your pick

If it was simple enough to understand, it probably wouldn't be a problem. But with the media all over the place, different figures being splattered about and any number of divergent opinions, you just know that something extremely serious is going down.

I refer, of course, to the looming Portuguese bail-out, which now has Ewald Nowotny, a governing council member of the European Central Bank, pitching in telling Portugal that it should take the money. Jean-Claude Juncker, the chairman of Eurogroup, is also at it, saying he thinks Portugal would need an aid package worth €75 billion, and there are many more besides, all telling this benighted country to take the money.

This is getting like that dreadful TV game show, Take Your Pick, where the contestants had to answer a few simple questions and then decide whether to "take the money" or "open the box". In this case, the box is Pandora's box, and there ain't no prizes inside, but the money is no big deal either, because it comes at a hefty price.

Needless to say, Portugal is not on its own. Ireland is trying to secure an extra €60bn (£52bn) of medium-term funding from the ECB to replace emergency temporary help given to the banking sector by Ireland's central bank. They are all in a rush before yawning gaps are discovered in the banking system, with some pundits suggesting that Ireland's biggest banks need as much as €15bn to €20bn of extra capital.

Then there's Spain, which has so many people rushing to say how everything is fine that you just know that it is teetering on the edge. Certainly, when The Guardian says "there are no fundamental reasons to fear a Spanish sovereign debt crisis", start getting seriously worried.

But the really interesting thing is the Financial Times (no link), which is reminding us that the bit of witchcraft last week, with the European Stability Mechanism (ESM), isn't due to get started until 2013 and won't be fully funded until mid-2017, with a paid-up capital base of €80bn – if at all. But that leaves the current bail-outs to be dealt with under current mechanisms, including ECB black magic and IMF hand-outs.

And that, as the Irish are finding out, is a different sort of game. It's called Hobson's choice – any which way you turn, you get shafted ... although it could be Morton's fork. Either way, even opening Pandora's box would be a better bet.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dem cuts

Nothing new to this blog's readers, but Booker has a go at the "increasingly surreal state of our public finances", as highlighted by several events last week, not least the Budget. There, those who could stomach listening to the preposterous Osborne, will recall that he claimed he was intended to encourage growth in the economy while continuing to remedy the hole in our bank balance created by the last government's reckless overspending.

Yet, despite the general impression that the Cleggerons are cutting back on public spending – as Channel 4's Jon Snow put it, we are facing the most severe cuts since World War Two – the budget revealed that our spending will in fact increase even faster than we were told it would last October.

In the small print of last year's spending review, little George told us that annual spending was due to rise from £696 billion to £739 billion in four years' time. In the small print of last week's Budget, spending is projected to rise from £694 billion this year to £743.6 billion in 2014-15, an increase of some £50 billion. That, of course, makes it even more bizarre that we should be throwing money at the Libyan adventure, to which effect Booker brings up the issue of the million-pound Storm Shadow missiles.

That invites a rather entertaining comment that "Baroness" Ashton's remuneration and pension package, servants, cars, homes and expenses, amount to about £1m per annum, same as the missile. Why don't we drop her on the Libyans?

If we could then enlist the RAF to drop off the 500,000 or so who were demonstrating against the "cuts" yesterday, then we might at last have found something useful for the junior service to do – even if Ryanair could probably do it cheaper.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

The tyranny of the crowd

As the public sectariat go on the march to protect their grip on our wallets, Liam Halligan, chief economist at Prosperity Capital Management, asks a few questions:
Why aren't Osborne and Co. explaining these catastrophic realities [of our debt serving costs] and their impact on our medium-term ability to maintain our public services, using them to rally support for austerity measures that are long overdue? Why aren't such stark facts thrown back into the face of those who claim that the Tories' retrenchment plans are "driven by ideology rather than necessity"?
The answer, he then says, is "fear and a lack of respect". Fear that the British public would be critical of such candour. And a lack of respect for their intelligence.

It is that latter response which caught my eye. You can treat the British public in one of two ways. Either, they are the gormless, lumpen masses of the type that we see marching today in London. Or they are thinking individuals. There is a huge overlap, the difference being between "the crowd", and the individual.

The crowd has an animal intellect, and reacts emotionally. It has no IQ, as such. Only the individual thinks – and the decisions made will vary according to whether the individual is in charge, or subsumed by the crowd psychology. "Osborne and Co" cannot see individuals. They see the crowd, without intellect ... the "sheeple" to be led by the nose and deceived.

And there, it suddenly occurred to me why they do it. Because they can. Voting, although done in the privacy of a polling booth, is a "crowd" activity. People don't vote. The "crowd" does. And that's how the likes of Osborne and Co get elected in the first place. The get elected by the crowd.

How you change that, I don't rightly know, but if we can't change the electorate, we have to change the system. Otherwise our politicians will continue to have a lack of respect for our intelligence and, as we observed, will continue taking the piss.


None the wiser

It is beginning to look very much as if Portugal will be needing about €100 billion by way of a bail out, although the Irish Times is suggesting about €70 billion. But, with different sources coming up with different figures, the only thing that is absolutely clear is that no one really knows what is going on.

The Independent is telling us that, yes, we are going to have to find money for the bailout – about £3 billion. But it says that we contribute through the IMF, not the EFSF soon to become the ESM, although it is not there yet and the details have yet to be finalised.

Needless to say, the Daily Mail is coming up with something different, suggesting £6 billion, which is equivalent to £300 for every family in the country, as a down payment. Further than that, I really can't make sense out of the British media. But then the Irish Times comment is talking about a "messy summit in Brussels", which means that it doesn't really know what is going on either.

That notwithstanding Spiegel seems to think it knows what is happening. EU leaders achieved a breakthrough in Brussels on Thursday night, reaching a deal on the permanent crisis fund that will come into effect in 2013.

Our biggest problem, I suppose, is we don't really want to know what is going on. We just want the EU to curl up and die. No one will worry in the slightest if we never see any more three or four-letter acronyms again from this dire organisation.

As always, though, amid the confusion, there are two certainties. One is that this is going to cost us an awful lot of money. The second is that our masters are not going to ask our permission before they put their hands in our pockets again. The third is that, for the time being, there is very little we can do about it. And if you want a fourth, well, nothing ever stays the same for ever.


Friday, March 25, 2011


Via Helen, an American perspective of the great Libyan imbroglio. It all looked so good on paper, Obama wails ...


Military execution

No doubt the magnificent Kermits in their flying machines are patting themselves on the back for shooting down a Libyan jet yesterday, caught defying the "no-fly" zone. Swooping down in their high-tech Rafale fighters, launching their multi-million-euro guided missiles, there was no escape from our gallant allies.

Doubtless, these steely-eyed defenders of democracy – and Sarkozy's election prospects – were completely justified in what they did. It is a real pity though that the Libyan jet was a 30-year-old Soko G-2 Galeb trainer, which was apparently already on the ground after flying briefly over rebel-held Misrata, 130 miles east of Tripoli.

This is the technological equivalent of a Spitfire shooting down a Tiger Moth, which is about as brave as brave can be. In fact, so brave is it that it is probably the nearest thing to murder you can commit, without having to go to court.

Quelle heroisme!  We are so proud of you.


On the trot

The European Council has agreed on the fiscal framework of the permanent rescue mechanism in the Eurozone called the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

The ESM is to replace the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF), a temporary bailout fund set up in May 2010 by the cabinets of countries in the Eurozone, whose fiscal assets reach €440 billion. ESM is expected to become operational in July 2013. The joint assets of the ESM will be €700 billion.

This was the substance of the treaty change sneaked past parliament, regularising a position where the EU has been acting without treaty cover (i.e., illegally) in bailing out Greece.

The news was announced by the European Council President, Herman van Rompoy, who says that: "We reconfirmed the operational features of the permanent stability mechanism. We will make sure that €500 billion is available."

What makes this very different, of course, is that it locks in, as a treaty obligation, the requirement for non-Eurozone countries, such as the UK, to contribute to this fund. Hence, when Portugal comes begging, the government will be putting its hands in our pockets to keep the "colleagues" solvent.

But, having stuffed us all for what is estimated to be another £3 billion – when and if it is called off – the happy chappy cammy is seen chuntering away to his new bestist friend Sarkozy as they go for a little trot this morning in Brussels – snapped by an incredulous reader. Does he ever stop pontificating?

It is quite entertaining, meanwhile, to have Warren Buffett prick the bubble, telling us what we knew already: that the collapse of the euro is far from "unthinkable". Never mind that it is only a matter of time, and many of us have been confidently predicting its demise ever since it was set up.

Nevertheless, Buffett believes there will be "huge efforts" to preserve the euro, which will continue to be the case as long as the "colleagues" can dip their hands in our pockets and do not suffer the consequences of their own stupidity. One notes, in that context, that ex-prime minister Socrates turned up at the European Council, this time as the "caretaker" prime minister of Portugal. No doubt Dave touched him on the sleeve and murmured a few kind words of sympathy.

In the meantime, says Buffett, struggling peripheral countries like Portugal must find a way to resolve fiscal crises. "You can't have three or four or five countries that are in effect free-riding on the other countries. That won't work over time," he says.

I suppose that's what being a guru is all about these days ... making statements of the bleedin' obvious. So why aren't we rich and famous?


What goes through their minds?

"The death toll from Japan's worst post-war disaster topped 10000 Friday as the operator of a radiation-belching nuclear plant warned that work to stabilise it may take another month". That is from Giles Hewitt of AFP.

But with phraseology like that ... "radiation-belching", you seriously do wonder what goes through the minds of these journalists. Is that their mental construct of the episode? In a way, it really is like dealing with children – you have a group here which actually lacks the mental equipment to describe what it sees. No wonder the reporting has been so distorted. If events outstrip the capabilities of the journalists to understand them, then you are not going to get credible reporting.


Ben Dover

His actual name is Den, but the ECJ has just told him what to do. England Expects has a few pertinent comments. The most chilling point of all, though, is Dover's main line of defence: they were all doing it.

The man is 72 now, but I suppose you are never too old to experience new things ... like prison. And the world would be a better place if all his colleagues joined him.


Creative writing

Dellers is in fine form with his latest piece: "I wrote the epitaph on Dave Cameron's Tories the day they were elected. It has been downhill ever since. And don't get me started on this bloody pointless new war…", he writes. Thus does he demonstrate, as he has been doing with a few pieces of late, that there is life after climate change, an issue which is just as vibrant and expensive as ever it was – although clearly leaving increasing numbers of people unmoved.

Nonetheless, one of the commenters on the Dellers piece adds a link to this piece, which details Georgie's new "carbon tax" in yesterday's budget, dubbed the "2011 budget for growth". This new tax is the floor price for "carbon" and is going to have a drastic effect on energy costs and on intensive energy users, such as steel-makers and metal foundries, but it has been sneaked in largely without comment, all contributing to the pressures which are going to restrict growth.

This is perhaps what really gets up your nose about the Cleggerons – their patronising lies, patronising because they tell them so glibly, with no real attempt to conceal them, in the blithe assumption that we are too stupid to understand what we are being told.

What people are very, very conscious of though is this dynamic, where they do indeed see growth – but only in inflation. They are, according to this piece, spending more and more on food and getting less and less for it. They then look at the plump, cherubic faces of the overstuffed Cleggerons and their easy lies, and dark thoughts that have no place in a civilised society start to bubble to the surface.

Add to that, this sort of thing where we see warnings that standard of living is set to fall for two years (and then some), especially as we see the details fleshed out:
In its analysis of the budget, the independent thinktank also estimated that the average household would lose £750 this year as a result of higher taxes and benefit cuts implemented by the chancellor since coming to power. "Over the whole parliament, tax and benefit changes will hit household incomes to the tune of more like 5 percent, or £1,500 a year," said the IFS director, Paul Johnson.
Listening to the prattling of the preposterous Osborne, and the rest of the Tory claque, one comes away with the inescapable conclusion that there is something fundamentally unserious about them: they are taking the piss (a thought by no means unique to us). There is no better way in the English language of expressing the sentiment and, as one confronts it, little thought bubbles start rising.

We are having to work harder, for less. And all we have to look forward to for the foreseeable is getting less and less for our efforts. Yet those plump, cherubic faces are stealing even more of our money in taxes, which they are not even honest enough to call taxes – feeding us on a diet of lies, tripping out empty slogans and facile, unconvincing promises, and making plans that unravel within days of being announced. And this is all for what, precisely?

Returning to Dellers, we see he tells us he wrote the epitaph on Dave Cameron's Tories on the day they were elected. But if they keep going on like this, the only piece of creative writing he'll need to do in future is their individual obituaries.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

A new Hague doctrine

The case for continuing military strikes remained "utterly compelling", says Willie Hague. But the case he doesn't make is why it should be our military and our money which is being spent on this venture.

Nor has this pretend foreign minister given any indication as to what his administration expects to achieve for our money. "It is not for us to choose the government of Libya - that is for the Libyan people themselves", he says. "But they have a far greater chance of making that choice now than seemed likely on Saturday, when the opposition forces were on the verge of defeat and the lives of so many were in danger".

And, if as a result of his benign intervention – at our very great expense – the Libyans then end up with a new government, led by Gaddafi's former justice minister, a man with not a little blood on his hands, what then?

It seems as if we are in the process of a new Hague doctrine – not so much benign as blind intervention. We rush around lobbing million-pound bombs, chanting the mantra, "stop the killing, stop the killing", and then stand idly by while the next lot of thugs take over and ... er ... start the killing. Then, presumably, we sign an oil and gas deal with them.

One would like to think that there is more to this, some seriously Machiavellian plot that we have not been told about, but the terrifying thing about this bunch of idiots is that what you see is probably what you get. They really are that stupid, that superficial and that trite ... and, of course, they think they are sooooooo wonderful with it.

They don't seem to have the first idea how far behind they have left the rest of us, and how much on their own they really are. All you can hear is the gentle sawing of that branch, the one they are sitting on.


To amend the Treaty

All you have to do is put it to the vote and the boys and girls will roll over and give it their assent, without so much as a second thought as they pocket our money. Trebles all round chaps.

They seem to have forgotten who they are working for.


Another day, another crisis

Now that he's had his fun in his toy parliament, Euroslime Dave must attend the business of our supreme masters, flying out to the ruling European Council for a meeting that the media babies still insist on calling a summit, and probably will to the end of time. There is probably no better example of the fourth estate's inability to come to grips with the realities of the modern world than this.

As you gaze in awe at the comics this morning, it comes over once again how far the babies have lost it.  They are still locked into past, the days when budget day meant something other than the politcal theatre it has become. There is one grown up on the block though - but he's not in the MSM.

Anyhow, at the real seat of power, high on the agenda will be the political crisis in Portugal. Dave will immediately be plunged into discussions on whether another bailout will be needed. The UK is variously reported as being exposed to the tune of £3 billion, to help the "colleagues" drag yet another delinquent country from the brink, in an increasingly vain attempt to save the euro and the European economic system.

The funny thing is that we got that posturing child Osborne yesterday giving his pretend budget, hailing the £2 billion he was going to extract (i.e., steal) from the oil companies, in order to "pay" for his pathetic cut in fuel duty. And here we have the very next day the cheerful little chappie having to find that amount, and fifty percent more, to throw into the European conflagration.

What will actually be going on in Brussels, though, is anybody's guess. They go through this tired ritual of issuing a communiqué, but it is long since that everyone knows it is written in advance and agreed before the Council gets under way. The actual business being conducted will bear very little relation to the label on the tin. Moreover, much of what is up front is so complicated and convoluted that most people have long since stopped taking an interest. But it's all make believe anyway - events are driving the wagon, not this motley crew.

By way of light relief, there will be some fun on Libya. The Great War Leader will be earnestly consulting with his confères in a last-ditch attempt to sort out which of the French interests should be placed first in the order of priorities. Following that, Dave will emerge, suck in his lips and look pompously important, in order to tell the hand wavers what is reely going on.

Round about his pretty little head, one would like to think that the whole financial caboodle is about to go totally awol and will soon go screaming down the Rue de la Loi like some demented Katherine wheel that has worked loose from its nail. But things never seem to happen quite that way – unfortunately. Nevertheless, this time could be different and we could be about to see the whole damn box of fireworks blowing up.

We live in hope, but not much expectation.


Sense and stupidity

The stupid headline of the week surely has to be from the Financial Times which declares: "Cut in fuel duty placates motorists". I haven't spoken to anyone since the budget speech who hasn't treated little Georgie's "penny off" with derision. But then the FT actually tells you why that should be, in the very article that has such a daft headline:
For a two-car family, the monthly cost of filling up petrol tanks has risen by £34.40 to £283.47 over the past year, according to the AA. Motorist groups said that the cut in fuel duty would provide relief for drivers, but the average savings for families would equal just £14 a year.
So, petrol has gone up by £412.80 in a year for an average two-car family, but the average saving is £14 for the same period. And people are supposed to be grateful?

Despite its daft headline on this, though, the same paper offers a perfectly sensible story, telling us: "Ireland’s bond yields leap on default fears". The contrast is quite extreme, making you wonder whether they really have it altogether. Zero Hedge has the same story, though, telling us with delicious brevity:
Now that Europe is expected to keel over any minute, starting with the collapse of the Portuguese government, and proceeding right through the bankruptcy of Ireland, the market is starting to once again wake up. The first snooze button: Irish 10 Year bonds just passed above 10%, with numerous stops hit for the first time in history.
The Portugal story is done in more depth in The Guardian, and it's quite interesting to see Socrates in the mire once more. But having Portuguese governments go belly-up is not that unusual. And if Belgium can do without one, I'm sure they'll manage for a while.

The LA Times is amongst those now saying that Portugal will need a bailout, which could mean that Zero Hedge has got it right - "Europe" is going to keel over.  Where is Ambrose when you really need him? For the rest of us though, despite little Georgie's efforts, we need bail outs just to fill the car with petrol.


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Payback time

You should treat chancellors like stage magicians. Whenever they want you to look in any one direction, look around to see what they are trying to hide. Patrick Collinson in The Guardian is pretty sure he's got the measure of the beast, telling us that the real impact of the budget on families is the "pre-announced" tax and national insurance policies and decisions on Threadneedle Street.

I couldn't even begin to disagree with Collinson, which turns the whole budget charade into the usual "smoke and mirrors" exercise. This is, of course, well evidenced by the fatuous "three-year moratorium" on new domestic regulation for all businesses employing fewer than 10 people.

Given, as my colleague points out, this does not include EU regulation, it is about as much use as closing a porthole in the Titanic to keep out the encroaching waters. Yet, after the initial announcement, England Expects noted that the fact that EU regulation was excluded had to be dragged out of the Cleggerons.

However, Collinson notes a trend begun by Gordon Brown, but taken up with alacrity by Osborne, where budget speeches now rarely tell you just about the year ahead. Crowd pleasers (fuel tax giveaways, job creation programmes, the £630 rise in the personal allowance) are brought forward, while bad news has already been "pre-announced" and can be safely brushed under the carpet.

Meanwhile, says Collinson, in the real world of personal tax – what will actually happen to your wage packet next month – it's payback time.

And that, of course, is the bottom line. This budget is vaguely described as "fiscally neutral", but to redress the damage cause by the pre-announced tax grab, it would have had to have been a record give-away. So, when the smoke has abated, and the mirrors have been put back in store for the next occasion, we will all be poorer, and sadder.

But I suppose if we look on the bright side, one day it'll be our payback time.


Unfinished business

In many essential aspects, the leader in The Mail today could have been EU Ref, as you find it synthesising the sentiments from our piece here and this one here, plus the issues raised here - from last night.

The Mail has the advantage of coming in late, but its heading, "Focus on the war that matters most" tells you most of its message, the theme being that the government needs to concentrate on issues at home, rather than pouring money down the drain on foreign adventures.

But what is especially interesting is that it shares our view that the MPs are out of step in voting for Dave's war so enthusiastically, when the people have been a lot more cautious and reserved. These are other facets to emerge from little Dave's pretendy (but expensive) war – the detachment of the Westminster village, and how different it all looks when you get outside the bubble.

Some MPs used to be quite skilled at taking the temperature of the nation, but they seem to have lost even that now, as they retreat into their little world bounded by the hand wavers and Sky News, who are telling them what to think.

And this is why things are so different from possibly any time since before the war. The term "political classes" has re-acquired its old meaning, We're back in the bad old days of the 20s, where they had completely lost touch and were running the country into the ground, without the first idea what to do about it. There was nearly a revolution then ... and that's beginning to look uncannily like unfinished business.


The peddlers of prestige

The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail become the first newspaper to inform us of the true cost of a Storm Shadow missile – over a £million each. I can't begin to tell you from where they gor the information but it comes after yesterday which saw multiple stories all giving the wrong information.

That all the others got it wrong provides a fascinating insight into the herd mentality of the media, and of that all-powerful property known as prestige - without which it is impossible to operate effectively in the political arena.

As we can see from Channel 4 News, the source of the "duff gen" was Professor Malcolm Chalmers (whom the hand wavers called Charmers), currently of Kings College but in this instance claiming the far more prestigious linkage with Royal United Services Institute for Defence & Security Studies ("World Class Research" and "Incisive Analysis").

Bizarrely, Chalmers is not a defence expert as such. He is primarily a security policy wonk, with very little knowledge of "toys" and things military. On the RUSI website, he describes his own area of expertise as: "UK security policy, international burden sharing, arms control, conflict prevention".

Not having any real idea how much a Storm Shadow costs, Chalmers thus comes up with an "estimate", otherwise known as a guess, offering £500,000, based on nothing very much other than another guess, as to the cost of a Tomahawk missile. Classically, his is a guess based on a guess.

In order to make these guesses stick, however, the media must talk up its informant, so Channel 4 has Chalmers down as a "defence expert", while in The Guardian he becomes a "leading defence economist" - something he is not and never has been, leading or otherwise. Bizarrely, The Independent calls Chalmers a "fellow in British Security Policy", which correctly describes his area of expertise – which isn't in working out the costs of toys.

Needless to say, there is nothing to say that Chalmers couldn't work out the cost - it's not that difficult. But the fatal problem is that these above-the-liners get lazy, relying on their inherent prestige as a substitute for doing the work. As long as you have "prestige", you can trot out any old tosh, and the media will lap it up uncritically.

This is but one small but very good example of how the dynamic works, demonstrating that is not the value of what's on offer that counts – or its accuracy – it is the degree of prestige afforded to it. Prestige will always trump content. And the reason why this particular bit of information matters, of course, is this statement when the missile was ordered on 25 July 1996 by a Tory Government:
To meet the Royal Air Force's requirement for a conventionally armed stand-off missile, the Government have decided, following the conclusion of a very successful competition, to buy Storm Shadow missiles from British Aerospace Dynamics, subject to the negotiation of satisfactory terms. This decision will provide the Royal Air Force with a highly capable stand-off missile able to mount precision attacks on high priority targets, the need for which was demonstrated in the Gulf War. This decision will give excellent value for money for the taxpayer. It will also cement the recently announced merger of the missile businesses of British Aerospace and Matra of France. This will strengthen British Aerospace's ability to play a leading role in a restructured European industry.
Crucially, the claim was that it would "give excellent value for money for the taxpayer". Over a million pounds a pop is not "excellent value", but unless we are told what the damn thing costs, we will never know that. Nor will it know the real truth of the matter, that the reason for the project was to "strengthen British Aerospace's ability to play a leading role in a restructured European industry". The prestige of professor Chalmers has not proved to be an aid to transparency.

Seekers after the truth will tend to ignore prestige and go for the substance of an argument, but unfortunately the media are not in the truth business - and politicians most certainly are not. They are peddlers of prestige, which means that if you rely on them, tosh will very often be your daily fare.


Political incomprehension

The average British household has seen its real-terms income fall by £365 in the worst three-year squeeze since the early 1980s, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, dragging it down 1.6 percent since 2008. During the previous half-century, the average income had risen by 1.6 percent each year.

Against that, inflation is up to 4.4 percent, taxes are up, and are set to increase further with today's budget, as Government finances continue to spiral out of control.

This is balanced by reduced entitlements, poorer services, increased charges and public sector fees – all the while the ruling classes continue to pay themselves more and better salaries and pensions, while the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

This, it seems, it just the time to embark on a foreign adventure, to keep the minds of the plebs focused on the bread and circuses – except that most people aren't buying it. They are deeply suspicious of the cost and alarmed at the evidence that the Boy doesn't actually know what he is doing.

This is getting close to the stuff of revolution. We are not there yet, but each of these developments brings us a step further down this perilous road, from which there is no turning back once the destination is reached. But not only are our ruling classes out of touch, they seem to have lost the ability to understand the consequences of their own actions.

Put it altogether, in very simple terms – cut people's incomes, increase their outgoings, and then treat them with contempt, and they will bite you. This should be easy enough to understand but, one fears, in today's budget we are going to see another example of political incomprehension. Unless our political classes have a death wish, however, they should never under-estimate the power of people who have nothing to lose.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

It's a start

... but not enough. If the hand wavers could cut evening and daytime programmes as well, we might be getting somewhere.


Costing us a bomb

The Times (no link) is asking questions about the cost of Dave's little adventure in Libya, and so is the Daily Mirror. Even the hand wavers are asking questions. Nice to see them catching up with the derivative blogs.

I've revisited my own figures, and found I had over-egged my original calculations. The GR4s are cheaper than F3s, a about £33,000 an hour. I've assumed that VC10 and TriStar costs and AWACS are about the same as Nimrod, at about £33,000 an hour as well. An eight-hour sortie for three GR4s, therefore - with support - costs about £1.5 million.

From what I can see now, the Tornadoes carry only two, not four Storm Shadows. But here there is the greatest variation in costs. The Times is saying £500,000 – without giving a source. The Mirror has defence "expert" Francis Tusa saying that Britain pays around £1.5million for a pair. They are both wrong.

The hand wavers quote Prof Malcolm Charmers, from defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, who gives £500,000 as the cost of the Storm Shadow. That tells you all you need to know about Charmers and RUSI. He is wrong as well.

The total programme cost for the Storm Shadow was £981 million, and we bought 900 missiles. The sum includes development costs, INITIAL support costs and unit procurement costs. There are also the aircraft integration costs - the costs of adapting the aircraft to carry and launch the missile.

Thus, we have the typical MoD trick of separating out the costs under different headings. But the real cost is £981 million divided by units procured ... 900 as far as we know. That makes £1.1 million each in round figures, and puts the single mission cost - with six Storm Shadows at £6.6 million - at slightly over £8 million.

The Brookes cartoon in The Times shows a stylised GR4 with its external stores, each with a label. One Storm Shadow is labelled: "half a school", the other: "the other half". We also get "tuition fees", "disability benefit", "one hospital" and so on. Against that, what have we to show for our down payment of £8 million, plus all the rest of the money being poured down the drain?

Cameron has made a serious miscalculation here – and so have the grubbly little MPs who have rushed to support him. Either we are broke, and we must cut spending to the quick - including defence spending - or we are swimming in cash and have plenty to spare for something that isn't directly our problem. They really can't have it both ways.

If they now want to tell us that we must tighten our belts even further, just so that little Dave can enjoy his ego trip, they are likely to meet with a less than sympathetic response - and instructions which are biologically impossible to carry out.

But there is another element here. Throughout the Arab world, people are losing their fear. You never know, this might just catch on here, and our masters might regret taking us for granted. We didn't ask them to go to war, we haven't given them our permission - we didn't even vote for them as a government - and we are certainly not happy about having to pay for it.

Even our masters can only treat us with this level of contempt for so long, before we've finally had enough of them. This has brought us a whole lot closer.


Nuke to the rescue

The nukes at Fukushima may be down and out but in the Gulf of Finland, nuclear power has been drafted in to rescue 63 ships stuck in the ice.

The job has proved too much for the eleven diesel-powered Russian icebreakers waiting at the country’s Baltic harbours, which has led to an historic decision. The nuclear-powered icebreaker Vaygach sailed from Murmansk on Monday to assist the trapped ships.

This follows on from the drama earlier this month and it is the first time in recent memory that a nuclear-powered icebreaker has been sent to work in the busy Gulf of Finland.

The nuclear icebreaker is spending a large part of her time assisting the passenger ferry Princess Maria that operates between Helsinki and St. Petersburg. The ferry cannot cope with the trip alone, which is why the icebreaker has to assist it in Russian waters.

The Vaygach is an interesting ship. Built in the Wärtsilä dockyard in Helsinki at the end of the 1980s, she is one of five in the active Russian nuclear fleet. Officially designated as a shallow-draft river icebreaker of the Taymyr class, she has a crew of 91, who can be at sea for as many as seven months without a break.

However, as the vessel left Murmansk only one and a half weeks ago, the crew still have fresh fruit and vegetables to eat. It has enough fuel - namely uranium - for five years. There is also enough entertainment onboard. There is a sauna, a swimming pool, a gym, a sports hall, a library, and a recreation area aboard the 50,000 hp vessel. Playing chess and watching films are favourite pastimes.

But nothing is too good for these heroes. Combating this global warming can really be hell.


We have not heard the last of this

With his announcement on drink driving, Hammond has obviously not realised who is in charge. The "colleagues" will not leave it there. They will be back.


And we should care?

Events in Japan have changed Moonbat's viewof nuclear power. You will, he says, be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.


Cameron's game of silly buggers

There seems to be mixed response to Dave's little African adventure, which has a ComRes/ ITV News poll telling us that 53 percent of respondents think British forces should not risk death to protect Libyan opposition forces against Gaddafi's regime.

Only 35 percent agree it is right for the UK to take military action, while two thirds either disagree (43 percent or don’t know (22 percent). Nearly half (49 percent) agree that military action in Libya is an unnecessary risk for Britain, although 31 percent disagree. Asked if they feel they have a good understanding of why the UK is planning military action in Libya, more than half (52 percent) agree.

However, just to illustrate how you can get virtually any answer you like out of opinion polls, a YouGuv poll has 45 percent of respondents agreeing that Britain, the US and France are right to take military action against Libya. Only 36 percent think it is wrong.

By contrast, Blair's folie de grandeur, the invasion of Iraq, had in 2003 some 54 percent in favour, and 30 percent against. Even the best response for the Heir to Blair doesn't match his approval rating.

Meanwhile, the babies are squibbling about a dust-up between 13th Century Fox and Gen Richards, over whether Dave has permission from the UN tranzies to kill Gaddafi. With the former GP saying "yes" and the professional soldier saying "no", and No. 10 briefing against its own CDS, one yearns for regime change ... in Whitehall. But why do Richards and his bag carrier wear DPM? Why aren't they in proper uniform?

As to Dave's War, more Tornadoes are now on station, and the Eurofighters at £70,000 an hour are now in Italy, strutting their stuff. Never mind that no one is quite sure whether there are enough pilots. Dave's ego has to be served.

Yet, after scrimping on the basics and firing fast jet pilots, he is running up a bill faster than a lawyer on overtime, stacking up the defence budget that he was so keen to cut. And that may be the ultimate outcome of Cameron's game of silly buggers – that policy and financial rectitude are infinitely flexible when the tranzies come calling.

The funny thing is that Dave also got "overwhelming support" in the Commons for his bid for glory. Even though the Boy is sluicing money down the drain, MPs have voted by 557 to 13, a majority 544, in favour of the wee pretendy war. Yet again, one sees the Westminster bubble speak ... and the nation does not follow. MPs are engineering their own redundancy.