Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Anything I might say about this job would most certainly be taken down in evidence, and used against me ... resulting in a prolonged prison sentence. But the real offender is Camden Council. To waste money on such a fatuous appointment is criminal behaviour.


Twitter ye not

... if you are planning on saying nasty things about genocidal dictators, for you are not going to get any support from Twitter Trust & Safety. And although I've come to regard Twitter in general as akin to an infectious disease, even I had not bargained for quite how perilous it could become. You might be safer eating cucumbers.


And we need the MSM why?

This is the MSM's idea of a newsworthy item, carried by The Guardian, most of the national press and the BBC. The Daily Failygraph, normally so stingy when it comes to external links, this time offers an active link to the website.

And they wonder why this is a failing industry?



It is encouraging to see some original thinking about the state of things, and how we should respond, setting our own agenda on the blogosphere rather than relying on the MSM or the politicians to tell us what to think. We need neither when we have our own fora.

Into the fray comes Old Holborn who advocates voluntarily reducing "money based economic activity". He is trying it and, as a consequence, reduces the amount of tax the state is legally able to extract from him, starving the beast and thereby reducing the power and reach of the state.

He tells us that he has belatedly reached the conclusion that planting a carrot is one of the most subversive things a citizen can do. And his return to the quasi Good Life had not made him poorer in any practical sense. Rather he is spending more time with his family and his food quality has greatly improved.

Interestingly, I was today discussing this concept, before reading the OH post, noting a former BBC programme-maker who had done exactly the same thing. It is an option adopted by the EUReferendum household as well, where downsizing has precisely the effect of – quite legally – cheating the taxman. As a political statement, it has much to commend it.

However, stepping off the treadmill is not entirely the answer, as long as there are three major imposts – energy bills, water and council tax. These are not income-related, and through them the state can reach out to extract increasing amounts. Then there is the increasing burden of VAT and, as others are driven by state taxation to increase their charges, we have inflationary pressure on a wide range of goods and services.
Retreating from the state, therefore, it not the whole answer – nor even a safe answer in the longer term. The old aphorism applies: either you take an interest in politics or it takes an interest in you. You cannot just apply passive resistance to the monster. We have to reach out and chain it down. Unless Old Holborn has a better idea, he also needs to look at Referism.


Another day, another jailbird

So, Lord Taylor, the "token nigger" – as I heard him described by a very senior Tory MP (in whose party you can meet a degree of racism which would make the KKK blush) – is being banged up, with a sentence of 12 months. He will be out in three.

One cannot help but think that he is a token in more ways than one, other peers and MPs having been more adept at gaming the rules, without straying into overt criminality. On the other hand, Longrider brings us down to earth. "I am currently earning little more than minimum wage for a part time, dead-end job while I rebuild my life", he says. "I never forget that it is people like me who pay for these leeching bastards".

But the bigger problem is all those "leeching bastards" who rip us off and manage to remain within the law. We wouldn't even have enough prisons for them if we could bring them to book, and would have to make do with tumbrels and knitting. Now wouldn't that be a tragedy.


Another dozen

To our collection of independent British political bloggers, Max Farquar has added a further twenty four. With another twelve below, we are well on our way to the first hundred-mark:
Over on the IPB site Max has also started up a five-a-day series, highlighting five posts of interest ... not my choice, but then he's not me. That is the delight of independent bloggers ... we don't all do the same thing.  The invitation to join IPB stands - add your own selection.

The problem for all of us is the volume, and sorting the wheat from the chaff. You could easily spend the whole day touring the blogosphere and, while you would pick up some superb material, there would also be a lot of dross.

However, I am no great fan of the ranking system that Iain Dale used ... how do you rate one blog as better than another? But, I'm minded to look at grading, such as the star system, widely used elsewhere. Three criteria come to mind: writing (quality of); frequency; and presentation. A technical marking scheme should not be too hard to devise, with stars perhaps awarded by a panel of bloggers (peer approval?) on the basis of strict application of the agreed system.

Frequency seems easiest to rank, say: five stars for multiple entries per day; four stars for at least five daily entries in a week; three stars for at least weekly; two stars for at least monthly, and one star for less frequent.

Combine that with perhaps symbols to denote specialisms (economic; British party politics; Scottish politics; European politics; climate change; military ... etc., etc.), and there may be the germs of system that would help see off the likes of Huff-Puff and the MSM, which would like to take over the blogosphere, giving guidance to the readers who are, after all, the "customer".

What think you ... what say you? Forum is open for new registrations, or you can add a comment on the IPB site.


And for my next trick

And what am I supposed to do after breakfast?


Beware of Greek politics

As the situation in Greece comes to a head, Purple Scorpion is not impressed with the Greek protesters in Constitution Square. Rather than the start of a revolution against corrupt politicians, he ventures that we have "spoiled children" at play, imbued with an over-developed sense of entitlement.

With The Guardian weighing in to support them, one is inclined to agree, although I would like to think that we have both dynamics at play. And if the front ranks are spoiled children with their hands out for more (of our) money, well ... as was remarked recently by an anonymous cynic, someone has to soak up the bullets before the hard men get down to work.

Nevertheless, we are treated to a high-intensity "stream of consciousness" narrative from The Guardian, which notes a banner which has "flapped in the wind for almost a week surviving the rigours of sun and sudden downpour". Its "fading slogan" summed up the mood of the nation at the centre of Europe's debt crisis: "We want our life, we want our happiness, we want our dignity," it declared. "So out with the thieves and out with the IMF".

Suddenly, the newspaper achieves the impossible and has us rooting for the riot police, yearning for them to wade in and bloody a few of these Socialist wuzzies. This is not revolution but special pleading by a privileged minority.

"Openly we say that we have been inspired by the demonstrators in Spain," says arch beneficiary Simos Adamopoulos, an organiser who has spent three nights sleeping in a tent in the square. "Our motto is 'the battle that is never waged is never won.' We will stay here, and in squares up and down the country for as long as it takes".

Says Adamopoulos, "we're also really disgusted with the system, with the political establishment, with all those crooks and thieves. As we've got poorer they've got richer and that you could say is also spurring us".

Not least of Greece's problems, though – we are reliably informed – was an ill-considered period of electoral bribery during 2004-2009 when public finances fell apart after the government neglected to collect taxes to the tune of €93 billion. Chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost.

However, this does not stop a welter of accusations about the sale by prime minister Papandreou and members of his team of $1.3 billion-worth of credit default swap contracts (CDS on Greek sovereign debt) on or around December of 2009, shortly after coming to power.

The gist of the allegations rest on the charge that the insurance protecting against a Greek default was bought during the spring and summer of the same year, by the Hellenic Postbank, a public banking arm of the Greek government.

That insurance, it is charged, is today worth approximately $27 billion, which would go a long way towards preventing the privatisation and sale of the nation's assets.

Unfortunately, we are told, the Greek government sold the contracts in December of 2009, for a paltry 40 million dollar profit, to a private firm for "high net-worth individuals" founded in 2009, by the name of IJ Partners, the vice president of which shares board membership on a separate NGO with the prime minister's own brother, Andreas Papandreou Jr.

Thus we are pitched in to the minutia of Greek politics, without the information or background to understand what is going on, although with enough knowledge from our previous researches to know that the system is deeply and fundamentally corrupt. We are tempted to say a plague on all their houses, except that the UK is one of the IMF guarantors and we will have to pick up a large part of the bill - and the Greek prime minister is, of course, part of our government.

What one can observe from all of this, therefore, is that we need to be better informed of events which threaten to have profound repercussions, the nature of which we only dimly understand. If there is to be a revolution, we need to know which side to cheer.


The cruellest fiction

Thrown in with great fanfare at the end of the budget was Boy Osborne's "clever" tax on the oil industry, to finance a marginal reduction in petrol tax. But now we see the consequences of this particular piece of economic vandalism.

According to an "activity survey" by UK Oil & Gas, the tax will cost the UK £50bn and 15,000 jobs, scuppering at least 25 projects, accounting for over 1 billion barrels of oil and gas and £12 billion of investments. It will shorten the lifespans of 20 producing fields by up to five years, while investment earmarked for projects considered likely to go ahead over the next 10 years has fallen by 30 percent to £23 billion.

Also in the energy field, we learn that world-class research into future sources of green energy is under threat in Britain from the government's carbon reduction commitment (CRC) scheme, which imposes a tax on industrial electricity consumption.

Among the worst hit is the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire (pictured). It faces an estimated £400,000 payment next year, raising the spectre of job losses and operational cuts. "Considering our research is aimed at producing zero-carbon energy, it seems ironic and perverse to clobber us with an extra bill," a senior scientist at the lab said. "We have to use electricity to run the machine and there is no way of getting around that".

The Prospect union is urging the government to exempt energy use where the focus of research contributes directly to public good and government policy. "This [tax] will have a negative impact on important research into low carbon energy sources and that cannot be the right consequence of a policy the government is pursuing to promote a low carbon economy," said Sue Ferns, head of research at Prospect.

Another Oxfordshire laboratory, the Diamond synchrotron light source, expects a £300,000 bill under the CRC. A spokesman said the lab hoped to offset the bill by investing in better climate control and motion-sensitive lighting.

At the Daresbury laboratory in Cheshire, the CRC bill will worsen financial woes that have forced managers to draft redundancy packages and consider cutting back on equipment. "Science is already struggling here and now we are being charged an additional premium to go about our everyday business while working to address the government's own stated grand challenges in science for the 21st century", said Lee Jones, an accelerator physicist at the laboratory.

Readers will also recall that last year the government bought £60,000,000-worth of "carbon credits" for Whitehall and other government offices in the UK, as well as British Nato bases in Europe – another facet of this insane system that is going to damage our energy research effort.

And thus do we have exposed the cruellest fiction of all, that the government actually knows what it is doing, and is capable in any respects of managing its affairs.


Monday, May 30, 2011

First they came for the slaughterhouses

Paul Tucker, the Bank's Deputy Governor for financial stability, and Hector Sants, chief executive of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) who will become Deputy Governor for prudential regulation, told The Telegraph that the UK's proposed regulatory system risks becoming little more than a local police force applying a one-size-fits-all set of European rules.

They've done it for every other industry they've touched, so why should financial services be any different? And, for all those many years, what help have we had from the industry when, for instance, we were battling against one-size-fits-all rules for slaughterhouses?


Over the top

Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, addressed the media in Zurich this afternoon and insisted that Fifa was not in a crisis. "Crisis? What is a crisis?" he said. "We're not in a crisis". And to make his point, he also emphasised that there would be no investigation into the decision to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar.

And that took the first 20 minutes of the BBC main evening news. In fact, it was still going on when I turned off the TV. Even if this was vaguely important (international football corrupt, shock!), we see once again the MSM unable to act proportionately, obsessed by specific issues and unable to see the news in the round, much less report it.

Therein lies a serious problem for, while the media narrow down their focus, effectively handling only one issue at a time - of its choosing - many other things are happening that go unreported. The inability of the MSM to see this, and deal with the news agenda responsibly, is perhaps its greatest betrayal.

Any which way you look at it, the first 20 minutes of the main evening bulletin devoted to this subject is over the top. As if we did not already know it, the state broadcaster has lost the plot.

Pic by Anoneumouse.


Devil's Kitchen speaks

"The idea that the government - and local authorities - must come grovelling to beg us for their funds each and every year is enough to make the entire exercise worthwhile ... ". So says Devil's Kitchen, who today gives his endorsement to Referism.

DK was once one of Britain's premier independent bloggers, hugely enthusiastic about the medium which he – like many of us – took to for its revolutionary potential, only then to become disillusioned. But his instincts were not wrong. He was simply premature in his expectations, in what was still an immature medium that had yet to find its voice.

From the publication of their six points in 1838, it took the Chartists ten years to mount a demonstration on a scale that really scared government. Even then, they were not immediately successful, but they did change British politics forever. And their demands – all but one – were eventually met.  We need to have the same patience and persistence - and the belief that we can force through change.

With the MSM going into self-destruct mode, however, the truly independent blogosphere is almost in the position of the grown-ups taking over from the children, as it now confronts the issue of promoting that revolution. But, just as the MSM goes AWOL, the tide is turning in our favour. Never more in recent times has the public sentiment more favoured revolution.

What the blogosphere cannot do, as yet, is put people on the streets. We are not in the same dire situation as the peoples of Greece and Spain, although we share the same direction of travel. But what we can do – and have the power to do – is to set an agenda, lodging an idea and getting people talking about it. From a position where this was once the monopoly of the MSM, we are able to challenge it, and set our own agenda. And that is where real power lies.

More by luck than judgement, we may have more time than the unfortunate PIIGS, but our problem is the same – a government which is not under control, where the traditional democratic processes no longer provide an adequate – or any – check on its behaviour or performance. But, as DK so ably demonstrates, in Referism are the seeds of a mechanism which could bring our government into line.

In attempting to do so, our main enemy is us, ourselves – our lack of confidence in our ability to effect change. But, as I never get tired of saying, there are more of us then there are of them. All we need to prevail are a belief in our own power and a realistic objective to embrace. In Referism, we have an objective. With DK's piece today, we took a significant step towards believing it can happen.

The power of the idea is unstoppable.


A backwards look

The Cynical Tendency revisits the Heath and Wilson era, and asks: "what has changed?"


An invitation

Now that it is up and running, the Independent Political Bloggers site can accept up to 100 authors. We are now two, which means the system can accept another 98.

This blog, I feel, should be a joint property, and I would be more than happy to register any other independent political blogger on the site. If anyone wants to drop me a note from the "contact" link, smoke signals or whatever, I'll send you an e-mail and get the process moving.

I'm also thinking of doing a blogger-a-day feature: 200 words description, a screen grab of the site, and a link. Anyone who fancies kicking it off, send me their 200 words and I'll post it (subject to all the usual caveats) on EURef and the IPB site.


The power of an idea

There is a reason why the British media are ignoring the current demonstrations in Athens and Spain. They are intrinsically anti-establishment, which means they are beyond the pale. The media is the bastion of the establishment in this country and elsewhere, setting and controlling the agenda, keeping minds off the terrifying prospect that people are clamouring for power.

I'm going to write another of my on-line essays today, exploring this theme, and picking up some of the ideas rehearsed on the forum over the last few days. Hence, there is a "work in progress" sign up, and I will keep adding to this until it is finished.

Worthy of note, in the interim – the contagion seems to be spreading. In Paris, hundreds took part in a protest rally at the Bastille Square, in solidarity with demonstrators in Spain calling for a popular democratic uprising among Europeans. This could be something – could be nothing. But sure as Hell, the British media is ignoring it. The lack of coverage cannot be accidental.

Even the broader detail seems to be evading them, such as Friday's news that Greece was close to a run on the banks. From the early morning, there was serious pressure for withdrawals on deposits, especially small amounts.

The pressure began last Wednesday and it was significant that, on Thursday and Friday, an estimated €1.5 billion had been withdrawn, bringing the May outflow to at least €4 billion, up from €2 billion in April. The majority of withdrawals were made by pensioners and small savers, with amounts ranging from €2-3000, then increasing to €10-15,000.

But if we get nothing of this from the media, it will be for much the same reason we get 1,040 results on "referism" in the blogs and 3,760 results on the web (up 700 in two days), but then: "Your search - "referism" - did not match any documents". That is in the news section ... the voice of The Man - who wants to control the message and the agenda.

The media will be second-last to know. Those who rely on the MSM for information will be the last – as always. This is why so many politicians are so ill-informed. And part of the technique for keeping its readers (listeners and viewers) ill-informed is to project situations like the Greek financial situation through a conventional political prism, as if this were normal politics.

Thus we have CBSNews reporting prime minister Papandreou, "buffeted by negative polls and protests" vowing to continue his fiscal "reforms", telling us they are "painful", but they are starting to pay off and the economy will return to growth in 2012. This ignores the fact that, with a national debt 160 percent of GDP, no amount of such reforms will make the difference. This is not normal politics. The situation is unsustainable and irrecoverable.

But, where elements - relatively small factions at this stage, the 50,000 occupying central Athens compared with the 500,000 that the unions can routinely deploy - seek genuinely to force change, the media response is to characterise them as "anarchists".

This, we have seen with The Washington Post, which glibly talks of "a breakdown in the rule of law", failing to recognise that the criminals reside more in the portals of power than on the streets and that – as far as violence goes – the police are as much responsible as the people.

And, in the current round of Spanish protests, the demonstrators are at pains to emphasise the non-violent nature of their activities and their lawful behaviour, even if there are outcrops of violence from the so-called M-15 movement. And, as they begin to frame their demands to put to the parliament in Madrid, what they seem to be asking for does not sound very different from what we want – the ability to control their own governments.

That, then, is the "idea". Across Europe, in separate towns and cities, people are coming to the same conclusions - the systems of democratic control are no longer working, and somehow we need to reassert control. We the people want control. And the power of that idea is unstoppable. Even if those with the power are not going to relinquish it easily, they will eventually have to concede.


A fantastic fourteen

Here is another selection of independent political bloggers – fourteen this time in order to bring the total to fifty. I'll post that list, in alphabetical order, in the directory, but here is the fourteen to be going on with:
What strikes you is the huge range, the quality of much of the work, and - as a change from the claustrophobic narrowness of the MSM - the freshness. There is some clever, original writing here, passion, and wit. There is also – something the MSM have long ceased to provide – some really specialist knowledge.


Heatwave? Yeah, right!

That's what they've been telling us, and now we get from The Independent, the classic British bank holiday. A combination of travel chaos and indifferent weather has ensured that, for many, this one has been even more disappointing than most. Across the country, cloud cover and cool temperatures made for a gloomy weekend.

And they're still telling us that the world is coming to an end.


It's happening

Tens of thousands of people have flooded central Athens on the fifth day of protests against government austerity policies. This is a spontaneous protest inspired by Spanish demonstrators, with estimates of up to 100,000 people assembled in the Greek capital's central Syntagma Square, responding to calls on social networking sites for gatherings across Europe to demand "real democracy".

Below the parliament building, protesters held a placard claiming "poverty is the greatest abuse" while others beat empty pots, chanting "thieves", pointing at the parliament building. "I'm here to say that I've had enough. It's not right to have to pay for politicians' mistakes," said teacher Vivi Villa, 34.

The sentiment here, in common with the Spanish protestors, is decidedly anti-politician, in general – all politicians, on a non-partisan basis. We are seeing here a reflection of exactly the sentiment growing in this country, the polarisation between "us" and "them". Politics are being redefined and history is being made. There is no knowing where it will end.

When that history comes to be written, however, there will be a small footnote on the behaviour of the British media. Locked in its own infantile preoccupations, the world as we know it is falling apart, and if it has noticed, it has so far not bothered to report it. Heaven help those who rely on the MSM for their news.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Crisis! Panic! Disaster!

Greenhouse gas emissions increased by a record amount last year. We now have the highest carbon output in history. Hopes of holding global warming to "safe levels" are all but out of reach.

This is according to unpublished estimates from the International Energy Agency, and the "shock rise" means the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius – which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change" – is likely to be just "a nice Utopia".

It also shows the most serious global recession for 80 years has had only a minimal effect on emissions. Last year, a record 30.6 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide poured into the atmosphere, mainly from burning fossil fuel. That was – a rise of 1.6Gt on 2009, according to estimates from the IEA.

Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, says. "I am very worried. This is the worst news on emissions." Birol tells The Guardian, "It is becoming extremely challenging to remain below 2 degrees. The prospect is getting bleaker. That is what the numbers say".

Professor Lord Stern of the London School of Economics, the author of the influential Stern Report into the economics of climate change for the Treasury in 2006, warned that if the pattern continued, the results would be dire.

"These figures indicate that [emissions] are now close to being back on a 'business as usual' path. This could mean around a 50 percent chance of a rise in global average temperature of more than 4C by 2100", he says.

So .... are all the countries in the world going to sign up to emergency measures to cut emissions? Er ... France, Russia, Japan and Canada have told the G8 they would not join a second round of carbon cuts under the Kyoto Protocol at United Nations talks this year and the US has reiterated it would remain outside the treaty.

Meanwhile, Damian Carrington wants the world economy be re-engineered. In all probability  the man is as stupid as he looks. But he is likely to get his wish. Only it isn't going to be for the reason he wants, and he is not going to like the result.

We're domed ... domed, I tells you, utterly domed!


Not PIIGS but Pigs

Gratuitous violence from the Spanish police. The protests are not going to stay "cuddly" for very long at this rate.


The darkness gathers

If you talk to the serious men – not the stupid, empty politicians and their media claque, they will tell you of their concerns ... and you can see it in their eyes. They know full well that the collapse of a currency is a life-changing event and, for many, will become a life-ending one.

Now, those concerns are beginning to leak to the surface – nothing that any intelligent observer could not have worked out for themselves, and the thrust of much of what we have been saying. When the collapse comes, this is not going to be contained.

Letting the cat out of the bag, however, is the German popular daily Bild, which has got hold of a CIA report warning that the tough austerity measures and the dire situation in Greece could escalate and even lead to a military coup.

This in repeated in the Turkish press and you can bet your sweet life that Ankara is monitoring the situation very closely. A military junta on its doorstep, perhaps looking for foreign adventures to keep minds off domestic troubles, is not what is wanted at this juncture.

The point is, though, that there is no sensible person who now expects the Greek government to avoid default. Most certainly, the rest of the PIIGS will follow, and the knock-on effects will be catastrophic. Furthermore, it is by no means certain that the contagion will stop there. Spain is almost as vulnerable, and the history of military control more recent.

The situation is almost has the feel of the spring days of 1939, as the storm clouds gathered over Europe. By the winter to come, one might expect the political shape of Europe to have been completely remodelled, the effects of which no one can foretell.

Currently, therefore, Twitter, footballers and X-Factor slebs should not be top of the agenda – but it is perhaps indicative of the intensity of the storm to come that the British media, instinctively, is adopting the ostrich pose. It did it before WWII and, as the darkness gathers, it is doing so again.

On the bright side, it may take several years – even a decade – for the instability to spread to the UK, giving us time to adjust. The problem is, though, that there is no sign of a Churchill waiting in the wings, ready to lead to nation to the sunlit uplands (not that he ever did). But there is not even the prospect of a "finest hour" for us with lightweight fools such as Cameron in the driving seat. With him it may be our darkest hour. But how dark – and how fast it will arrive - no one yet knows.


Politics of the nursery

The revelation that the idiot Cameron bases his aid policy on having listened to Bob Geldolf on "Live Aid", when he was an 18-year-old, is staggering in its implications. Because a fatuous teenager listened to an etiolated pop star spouting gibberish, the British people now have to find £8.5 billion this year, rising to £12.5 billion by 2014.

But the fantastic stupidity of this comes home when we read via Booker that, despite the latest tax rises, the £10 billion the government had to borrow last month was the highest ever April figure on record.

Our revised borrowing figure for last year was just below £140 billion, which means that the government has been spending nearly £3 billion a week more than its income – and, despite those famous "cuts", its spending continues to rise.

It's good to know, writes Booker, that it only takes us 22 days to borrow the £8.5 billion we hand out each year in international aid, enabling that crass idiot who is pretending to be a prime minister to boast that we are the most generous country in the world.

But, if you think about it, here we are, borrowing money we don't have and can't afford, to give away to people who will most certainly misuse it, only for us then to have to borrow more money to pay the interest on the money we have borrowed, because we cannot afford to repay it.

Would someone like to suggest that, if we had an annual referendum on the budget, this one would be approved? But since Dave is in power, and has his armoured cars, his men in blue uniforms and machine guns, his gated community and armed guards, he can afford to ignore the unwashed masses who are forced to pay his bills.

And yes, it is the politics of the nursery – but it is backed by brutal force. Try not giving Dave his money and see how far you get.


The gentle art of revolution

The Mail on Sunday is telling us that "motorists have been fined a staggering £5 million for driving down a quiet residential street which has been dubbed 'Britain’s most baffling road'".

More than 41,000 drivers have been hit with penalties, the report goes on, after a council erected nine signs that confuse everyone who enters the road, and a CCTV camera. Most confusing is the rule that bans motorists from driving one way down the street in the morning and then from going in the opposite direction in the afternoon.

But we are not talking about any old "council" – this is the Peoples' Republic of Camden, one of the few local authority areas which voted in favour of AV. And thus, also, we are not talking about "motorists" – but the conformist wuzzies of Camden.

Elsewhere, in my little urban village, a decision was made some time ago to make our market square – which had become the overspill area for the local pub - into a strict no parking area. Transgressors would be clamped and charged a king's ransom for release.

In the first week of the scheme, the clampers pounced ... and triumphantly claimed their first victim. Whereupon, the entire pub turned out ... together with the pub across the road, and the one a little further down the road, and the one a bit further down from there, until the happy drinkers from some eleven pubs were attending the scene.

From amongst the many, a van appeared and, from the cavernous rear appeared a petrol-driven grinder ... the sort of thing one keeps for such contingencies. Only a very few minutes later, the victim was free and the broken clamp was being paraded through the crowd in a scene reminiscent of the fall of Bagdad.

At this point, the clampers rather unwisely decided to put in an appearance ... whereupon the now merry crowd decided that their van would look much more artistic if it was upside down. Shortly thereafter, we had the entertaining sight of two clampers departing at high speed ... never to be seen again.

Now, I am not suggesting that the residents of Camden should resort to equipment such as grinders. Aerosol spray paints, thermite and burning tyres would do just as well. Alternatively, there could be a peaceable way of doing things. At the annual budget referendum, the voters could reject the budget – and keep rejecting it until there was an undertaking that the officials would be brought under control.
You see, Referism isn't about money. It is really about power and control. There is an age-old sanction applied by harassed parents over their errant offspring. They stop the pocket money. When councils start taking the micky, you have a choice. You burn down the town halls, or you develop a system of reasserting control ... which enables you to stop their money until they come into line.

The big problem we all have here is belief. For centuries, we have been told we need leaders and governments to tell us what to do. We don't. For sure, we need governments, but the deal is we tell them what to do. But there is no point in looking to the wuzzies of Camden, or Notting Hill, for a lead. No revolution or meaningful political movement ever started in the capital.

We build our strength and then we march on London, grinders at the ready, and show the metro-wimps what to do.


Blogroll hopping

Hopping blogrolls is quite an entertaining and useful pastime. You open up one blog at random, read the top post, then go to the blogroll and pick another blog at random. Here is a list for starters – pick any one and go on a journey of discovery:
A few bloggers haven't quite understood the idea of the blogosphere, and have very limited or poor blogrolls, or they are poorly positioned. A surprising number have "Uncle Tom" entries, featuring links to MSM blogs that are never going to reciprocate.

That is one thing Iain Dale did get right – his instincts were not all bad. His motto was: "you link to me, and I'll link to you". I take it a little further. No blogroll, no link. Incidentally, if anyone has linked to EURef, and I haven't reciprocated, I apologise. Let me know and I'll remedy the omission.


Huff-Puff comes to town

A UK edition is to be launched in July, part of a series of international expansions. This is more competition to an already decaying MSM, but is also competition for the independent political blogosphere as well. However, I suspect that Huffington will find it harder going over here than she imagines. Not least, I can't see independent writers flocking to work for her so that she and AoL can build their fortunes.


Good news – for once

For once, we are able to tell a good news story in the Booker column, with the determination of an immigration tribunal which has permitted Epeli Uluilakeba "Pex" to stay in this country. This is the story we covered in February, with an update and then again in March, with a further reference later in the month.

Hero of the hour was Elaine Laga, a widow from Kidderminster who lost her son in an Army Land Rover accident. It was she that masterminded the campaign to save Pex from deportation and, without her intervention, I am pretty sure the outcome would have been very different. With the generosity of EURef and Sunday Telegraph readers, who delivered some very necessary cash at exactly the right moment, and with the further assistance of Veterans Aid – the only services charity worth a light (please don't start me on the British Legion) – Pex was pulled back from the brink.

What was also particularly pleasing was that Pte Steve Baldwin, the only other soldier (of five) who survived the bomb in that Snatch Land Rover, back in al Amarah in 2005, came to give evidence at the tribunal. His story is remarkably similar, told in the Independent on Sunday after he too had suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and then been kicked out of the Army because of his "temperamental unsuitability".

In 2007, The Independent was all over this story, with several bleeding heart pieces, including strident talk of betrayal. But that, of course, was when the paper had a political agenda, as indeed did the others – none of which were interested in Pex's story, apart from a brief input from The Times.

Equally, before the general election, the now defence secretary Liam Fox was full of the injustices done to soldiers by the last administration, but when he was asked for help in this case, response there was none.

Yet Pex was examined by Prof Ian Palmer of St Thomas's Hospital, who concluded that had he been given proper psychiatric help when needed, his problems might have been averted. And, on the basis of that evidence, immigration Judge Miles found that Pex "had been badly served in regards to mental health support" and that to deport him would betray the Military Covenant and be a serious breach of his human rights.

All we got from Fox, when one of Booker's readers wrote to him, was a postcard to say that this was a matter for the Home Office, and emphasising that Pex had been court-martialled. We hope that he will now read the judge's comments on why his government's treatment of Pex constituted a breach of that same Military Covenant which Fox was formerly so keen to see upheld.

For my part, I hope that there is a special area in Hell reserved for politicians who exploit misery and suffering for political gain. That is where Fox deserves to be, a low-life, totally unprincipled politician who would do anything to advance his own career.


Saturday, May 28, 2011

A lack of consideration

There are people these days who just have no consideration.


Stop the cheques

The Daily Mail has this piece today about how Marie Wastlund, 27, risked her life to stop a street robbery – while two police officers sat in their patrol car a few yards away. She was walking home from a night out when she saw three hooded thugs throttling and kicking a woman in view of the police vehicle. The student waved and shouted to get the attention of the officers – parked only 25 yards away – but they did nothing.

The Mail is good at this sort of story, but it is very bad at drawing together the threads ... and threads there are. It will come as little surprise to learn that we are dealing with our old friends the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Responding to this incident, we have the egregious Superintendent Ian Wylie – he of Stokes Croft riot fame – who tells us, with the classic wooden vocabulary of the bureaucrat: "I am grateful to the witness for reporting the incident and bringing to our attention her concerns about a police car nearby.

He adds, with all the sincerity of the mindless robot that he is: "We take allegations such as these very seriously and it is my intention to investigate how we responded to this incident to make sure that our officers are providing the highest possible standard of service". But this is the force which is so incompetent that it managed to spark off the riot in Stokes Croft, while then pouring in resources to investigate Hitler graffiti on a political poster (below).

Clearly, we have a force here which is – to be kind - "underperforming", with a gung-ho chief constable whose incompetence is matched only by his almost complete lack of accountability, as his Keystone cops blunder around the parish, variously beating up those with whom they disagree, while failing to support law-abiding citizens.

But this latest story is only one of a whole raft of tales of incompetence, over-reaction and – as we see here - extremely dubious use of public money. This is where a leading Scotland Yard official under investigation over "highly sensitive" misconduct allegations made by a female colleague has retired early with a £180,000 pay-off. Critics claim that Martin Tiplady, the Met's director of human resources, has been given favourable treatment because of his status in the force. They say the payout is an "abuse" of taxpayers’ money.

Clearly, something needs to be done to address painfully obvious deficiencies in the so-called police "services". The Carswell-Hannan solution is to have the control of budgets given to Sheriffs, elected on a county or city basis. And there we have the typical window dressing solution, interposing yet another highly-paid official between the people and the "service" that spends their money.

The real answer is for the people to assume the power to stop the cheques. Police forces these days delight in calling themselves services, and us their "customers" – but what defines the customer is the ability to take his custom (or his money) elsewhere if the service is not up to standard.

That is the very thing I was trying to do when I was locked up in prison – withholding the police precept after having suffered four burglaries and our car broken into outside the house. And those who sought my imprisonment called themselves the "Customer Services Department". This, I found truly offensive.
Stopping the cheques, though, is the only real way of bringing an out-of-control bureaucracy to heel – so we are back to "referism" again, but at a local level. As well as an annual referendum to approve the national budget, we need a local referendum to agree our local authority budgets ... which include the police precept.

Carried out at the same time as a national referendum, this would add little additional cost, and afford a powerful control over a system that is now beyond control. There is no getting round this – local democracy means local people taking control over local expenditure and tax gathering. Those who purport to "serve" us will respond to nothing else.


Another twelve

Autonomous Mind picks up the "referism" theme (again – not his first time) and gets the point entirely. It is about taking back power. We are not powerless. We are not helpless little wimps dependent on the mighty politicians to tell us what to do and to guide our mean little lives. The power is ours and we mean to have it back.

The other point AM gets entirely is that the independent political blogosphere is our voice – it is the authentic voice of free Britain. You have no idea how annoyed I was with Dale's piece in The Guardian earlier this month – a sad little Tory attempting to take ownership of a property which is not his.

There was another piece linked to that, and you can see the game – to corral "approved" bloggers under one roof and to freeze out the truly independent writers.

It says much for the genre that the MSM and the political élites have invested a great deal in trying to destroy it. But despite those attempts, the independent political blogosphere (IPB) survives and prospers – here are another twelve to be going on with:
Not all the writing is brilliant, and some is erratic – only in mediocrity will you find consistency, though. But to suggest that the independent political blogosphere is in any way lacking in variety, depth and fine writing is a blood libel. It beats the low drone of the MSM into a cocked hat.

It even has its own directory ... and the message to Iain Dale was stolen from Gaping void. Unfortunately, we cannot oblige.


Not on the back of the poorest

Defending the increase in the foreign aid budget, Cameron insisted he was "proud" that the UK would not "balance its books on the back of the poorest". Meanwhile, the Treasury has confirmed that the over-60s will lose additional payments, which were introduced in 2008 and designed to help them heat their homes while domestic fuel bills are rising.

The payments have been renewed in every Budget since, in the face of high oil prices. The elderly have been able to claim £250 towards winter fuel bills, while those aged 80 or over could claim £400. This year the payments will be reduced to £200 and £300 per household.


About 3,060 results

Three weeks ago, if you had typed in "referism" into Google, you would have got about 130 results. And you would have found yourself reading, amongst other things, about: "a Comparative Study on Diversion in Juvenile Justice between China and Germany Authors".

Now, you will get over 3,000 entries, by far the bulk taking you to the idea of an annual referendum on the budget. Douglas Carswell MP shows up as well, but he is far behind the curve. In his blog (illustrated above) he shares our concern about lack of control over spending, but suggests that select committees should be given the task of approving the budget.

Amusingly, one comment reads: "Hands up all those who think that dragging a politician in front of a bunch of other politicians is going to make any difference". Two other commenters put Carswell right on "referism", with links – that is why his blog shows up on Google.

It is likely, though, that Carswell will consider himself far too grand to follow the links, and it is almost certain that he will never pursue the idea. MPs are the custodians of the status quo. You will get window dressing from them, but never any truly radical ideas. They run a mile from those.

Two independent bloggers who do pursue the idea are Raedwald and Cranmer, and we also have Wittering from Witney and Purple Scorpion on the case. This is how blogging should work, when it works at its best – something the MSM has never really understood, which is why so many of its clogs are sterile.

The free use of links illustrates a community, and a willingness to share and debate ideas – and is the power of the blogosphere, contrasting with the MSM and many of the MPs, who have a dog-in-the-manger approach. They are happy to have people link to them, but are very selective about the links they offer. Look at Carswell's "blogroll", demonstrating a narrowness of view and a meanness of spirit.

What comes over from the Raedwald and Cranmer duo are fair and interesting reviews, expanding the concept and doing something that all good blogs do – they add value, giving their readers something extra. And what I like is the idea that "referism" is neither the child of the left or the right. It should have equal appeal across the political spectrum. To any serious democrat, it should also appeal.

However, the concept is going to struggle for recognition. It offers a true devolution of power, to the people, and those who believe it is their role to rule us are never going to give up power easily. I am still comforted, though, by the thought that there are more of us then there are of them. And just for once, "us" are setting the agenda.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Klepturition 5

OK, so building maintenance costs money, but not only does this sound excessive, No 10 is extraordinarily reticent about telling us what the money was spent on. This is the "new" Cameronian politics ... pay up and shut up.

Speaking of which, on Lord Hanningfield being found guilty of expenses fraud, we now learn that he had said he felt entitled to claim the allowance as he needed to go home to look after his dog, who he described as his closest friend. As he left the court he said: "I'm devastated but I have no regrets. I did nothing wrong".

This is another one who doesn't get it.


A voters' alliance

While the MSM deals with the really important issues, we need to explore the trivial issue of whether we can get ourselves out of our current mess. In so doing, I take as my cue for this essay the lament of Calling England, who declares:
There is no political party or even an outsider who can lead us out of this mess. The change that must happen must come from us as individuals and we must be responsible for our own actions instead of looking to others. No-one will come.
She is right. For too long, too many of us more or less passively have waited for The Great Leader to emerge, to guide us to the sunlit uplands. But, invariably, we end up mired in some foetid swamp, casting around for yet another figure, only to repeat the same process. But disillusionment is spreading. As Raedwald observes, the indifference of the young to political parties is growing.

This could be some small consolation to UKIP in that they could reflect that their dismal performance, alongside the BNP which is in the throes of terminal collapse, is simply part of the anti-party trend. How could they possibly succeed when the larger, better-funded parties are in trouble?

As an excuse, however, this has less power when one looks at the recent performance of the Green Party, which has not only put an MP in Westminster but also strengthened its power base in Brighton, very much in the manner that the Liberals used to be able to do before they became Lib-dims.

But there are other electoral groups of interest and of some importance – the ethnic Asian groups, particularly the Pakistanis and the Bangladeshis of East London. None of these have any party political loyalties yet they have Westminster politicians flocking to them, seemingly ready to concede their every wish.

The point about these groups is that they are localised, so that their numbers have an effect in the constituency-based system, and they tend to act as a bloc, with the votes available for sale to the highest bidder. We could learn something from this, using our votes in the same way, not supporting any party but using them to barter – they (the politicians) get what they want (power) if they give us what we want.  To achieve that capability, we need a voters' alliance.

Wittering from Witney alludes to this, with a piece he heads: "Could 'People Power' kill our EU membership?", in turn citing ukk41, yet another blog which is adding to the debate on our political survival – the one which the MSM is too childish to entertain.

Certainly, as it stands, the current political paradigm, witnessed by Dave's attitude on foreign aid seems to be "find out what really pisses off the voters ... and give them more of it". Never in one's wildest dreams could one imagine the current aid policy getting popular support - yet Dave feels no constraints about pursuing a policy which he must know is unacceptable to the majority.

Whichever way you look at the problem, it always comes down to the money. As long as politicians have free access to our money, and can demand more and more, with menaces – without there being any way of turning them down – then they will continue to treat us with contempt.

That brings us back to referism again, as a realistic way - possibly the only realistic way - of imposing discipline on our politicians. The very process of them having to refer back to us each year, and ask us for some money, will have a salutary effect.

The problem, however - the one that any political idea confronts - is the one of how do we get from here to there? And, in part, the answer, is to recognise that we are seeking to overthrow the status quo, changing the order of things.  That makes us, by definition, revolutionaries - and no revolution ever succeeded by working within the system. To achieve success, we have to learn from those which have been successful, and adopt some of the best techniques.

As we argued yesterday, developing the traditional political party is not the best way forward. A party, perforce, must expend the bulk of its energy organising to fight and win elections. Necessarily, it will devote the smaller part of its energy to the cause it was set up to promote. More usually, if we can take anything from history, it will eventually betray that cause.

History, of course, is written by the winners and is carefully devised to project a narrative which usually stresses that the primacy of the current ruling set is part of the natural order of things. Nothing in history will point towards the primacy of the people, or emphasise their power. Thus, we must also take our history with a pinch of salt, and write our own - a history that stresses the primacy of the people.

What this stresses is that we, the people, are the power in the land. And the only thing that constrains that power is the myth that we need rulers to guide and manage us. We do not - we need government, and particularly central government, only to provide limited functions on our behalf, acting as servants not our masters. To get back to that state requires nothing more than a simple article of faith - a belief in our own power. We are more powerful than those who claim to rule us, if we choose to use that power.

In the past, the exercise of that power would often involve rising up and marching on London, only then to meet the forces of the King, whence bloody violence would ensue. In more recent times, the demonstration has been a tool employed by the masses, and is still used to effect. But, as long as we have a system where the popular vote is still a relatively effective tool, we ourselves have another, one which has not yet been properly marshalled in an attempt to achieve fundamental change - the internet. We can organise a virtual revolution.

Now we start bringing various strands together. Power is a numbers game, large numbers of people acting in concert to achieve a stated aim. Traditionally, this has been done through the political party system, but the internet liberates us from its sterile grip. We can organise and share our views without the need of a formal structure, or the need to obey the diktats of a party hierarchy.

We must then ask, as does one of our commenters: what do the Green party and Muslims in the north of England have in common? They answer is that they have an ideology to which they subscribe over and above politics and which forms part of their core identity. They are then prepared to focus their votes on achieving an outcome which is beneficial to their interests.

To focus our power, we too need to adopt an ideology. In essence, we have one - one which underwrites the supremacy of the individual and positions the State as the servant, not the master. Referism - control over the budget - is a means by which we exercise our power. If there is a better way, I am open to offers.

The next question is: where do we start? The answer is here, on the blogosphere. We have a number of fine, independent blogs, written by independently-minded people. Here are twelve to be going on with:
Collectively, we reflect the views of our readers. If we did not, we would not have a readership. Now ask, from where does the BBC and the MSM get its power? Why do politicians listen to them, fear them and curry their favours? We are back to the numbers game.

Grow the independent political blogosphere. And if you have a view, start your own blog. We will support you. Want a voice? Either as reader or writer, or both, you have it ... your call.


And the value is?

Following a poll on UK consumer confidence, we are told that the "index of sentiment" jumped the most in 18 years in May "as Britons became less pessimistic about their finances and the economy".

The index saw a ten point increase from April to minus 21, the highest in five months, and the biggest increase since May 1993. It is considered that the "gain in confidence" may be partly due to a "feel-good factor" following two consecutive four-day holiday weekends and the royal wedding at the end of April.

Call me simple if you wish, but am I alone in wondering whether such information is of any value at all? Can we please get down to the essentials and concentrate on what is really important?