Saturday, December 31, 2011

The invisible revolution

As we lose faith in politicians and democracy, Dominic Sandbrook in the Daily Wail sketches out a possible scenario for 2012, relying loosely on 1932 as his historical model.

"The experience of 1932 provides a desperately valuable lesson" he writes. "As a result of the decisions taken in those 12 short months, millions of people later lost their lives". Today, he continues, "on the brink of a new year that could well prove the most frightening in living memory, we can only pray that our history takes a very different path".

The thesis thus set out is intriguing, and not dissimilar to the scenario posited by this blog, where we have been warning for several years that the necessary outcome of the decay in democratic governance would be violence.

However, at different times – but perhaps not with quite the same emphasis – we have been pointing out that we are unlikely to see mass street demonstrations, or anything approaching the revolutionary conditions that we saw in 1932.

Nevertheless, given that Sandbrook is right to draw attention to the parallels between then and now, it is worth pointing out some of the crucial differences, in an attempt to assess their potential impact.

And one of the first things one notes is the obvious but often forgotten communications revolution. In 1932, with radio in its infancy, mass television a distant dream, and the internet not even a vague concept, if you wanted to know what was going on in terms of great events, you had to go out into the streets.

In the Sandbrook piece, we see a photograph of the scene outside the New York Stock Exchange after the crash of 1929, with crowds gathering, presumably to learn more of what is going on (pictured top). Supposing we had a similar situation in 2012 – Blackberries and iPads notwithstanding – the bulk of the people would be in their offices or homes, as we were with 9/11, glued to their televisions and computer screens.

The point, of course, is that information gathering, from a communal exercise, has become a solitary task. Not as a crowd but as individuals do we seek to be informed. Then, most likely, we will share that information and discuss it not with the people physically close to us, but with those with whom we have the greatest affinity, via telephones – fixed and mobile – and the internet.

Bizarrely, we can end up with a situation where the crowd exists, but in name only as a physical entity. In reality, it is a group of individuals, each locked into their own personal communication web. Group dynamics no longer prevail. The modern crowd is a very different animal.

Another change we see is in the technology of crowd control. Although pathetically useless in dealing with the fast-moving, mobile groups which typified last summer's riots, the police have mastered the conventional mass demonstration.

Against the police in their "robocop" uniforms, with their high-tech fencing, tear gas and even water cannons – together with techniques such as kettling – groups marching on a fixed location such as parliament, are unlikely to prevail.

Then, there is the simple fact that the desperation simply does not exist. Sandbrook recalls George Orwell looking on the slag heaps of Wigan, where he saw "several hundred women" scrabbling "in the mud for hours", searching for tiny chips of coal so they could heat their homes.

Not even the worst of deprivation in this welfare state of ours could approach this level. The millions on the dole are in many ways better off than they have ever been, and are more likely to riot because they are "deprived" of their latest-model plasma TV than any perceived shortfall in the democracy of government.

These and many other changes make it unlikely that we could see a repeat of 1932, under current conditions. But there is a game changer – one word: energy. More specifically, it is electricity, or the lack of it, that could change that political and social dynamics, more or less overnight.

To a degree not fully appreciated by the public at large, and especially the political classes, we are dependent on a continuous electricity supply. A prolonged interruption, or multiple breaks, could have the country on the edge within a matter of days, bringing angry crowds into the street, which no amount of high-tech policing could deal with.

Yet, bizarrely, to safeguard against such eventualities, the excuse for a government which we currently suffer has put in charge of maintaining and developing our power system, the unreformed greenie and full-time idiot, Chris Huhne. If ever you wanted to see the political classes commit slow-motion suicide, this is it.

The widely predicted collapse of the electricity supply, however, is unlikely to happen this coming year. More likely is the collapse of the euro, with effects that are impossible to predict. Experience tells us though that their manifestations might take longer to appear than expected. Thus, a complete crash in, say, Greece, this year, might not exhibit its most destructive effects in Britain for two or three years.

On the other hand, there are more insidious pressures at work. Sandbrook talks glibly about a loss in faith in democracy, but even to this date we have never really had democracy in this country. What has kept the show on the road have been the trappings of democracy – elections, parliament, etc. – and a general belief that we are making progress towards empowering the people.

But, alongside the establishment of the European Union, where the "colleagues" are not at all shy about talking of a "post-democratic society", we have the growth of the quangocracy, and the emergence of a political class which has largely abandoned its pretence that it is here to serve the people, and is quite evidently more interesting in self-enrichment at the expense of the taxpayer.

This in turn has led to what Sandbook calls the "loss of faith". But it is not – and nor is it apathy. What we are seeing is indifference. People are retreating from politics. It is seen as an activity which has no relevance to daily life. The practitioners are seen as alien beings, and their strange electoral rituals are increasingly ignored – hence the last by-election returning an MP on 15 percent of the popular vote.

What then happens is hard to predict, but riots, revolution and the emergence of 1932-style demagogues seems unlikely. Instead, we are seeing a loss of societal cohesion, a lack of community spirit and that wholesale indifference to politics and even the government.

The result of this is, without any formal statement to that effect, a breakdown in the glue that binds the people and their governments – consent. Increasingly, the only way routine administration can be carried out is by coercion. No longer do we have the rule of law, but the rule of force, the rule of the fixed-penalty ticket and the bailiff.

Resistance then will come not in the crowds that besiege the Palace of Westminster, or tear down the gates of Downing Street. Rather, individual acts of resistance, cumulatively making this nation ungovernable, will degrade society to the extent that whole sections cease to function.

This will not be immediately obvious, and some of it is already happening, as we see basic systems becoming dysfunctional or so expensive as to be beyond reach. The effect, therefore, is a slow-motion revolution. One might even call it the "invisible revolution".

But whatever form it takes, we are not going to see crowds of millions in the streets – not just yet – or the latter-day equivalents of Hitler and Mussolini driving down the Mall.


Hannan loses it

No one ever said Hannan was thick … quite the reverse. He's a bright cookie really, although so full of himself that his lack of homework lets him down. But he remains bright enough to understand the point we have been making about Cameron's fantasy veto, and if the man is setting himself up to to project that there was a veto – which is precisely what he is doing - then he is playing games. That's what politics (and ego) does to the intellect.

In a piece originally entitled "What exactly did ~David Cameron veto, again?", thus thus attempts - as the title suggested - to explain what it was The Boy actually did in Brussels. And while such manifestations can usually be ignored, what cannot pass without comment are the intellectual contortions young Daniel is having to undergo in order to make his point.

Telling us that the "veto took place behind closed doors, and it was several days before the draft accord emerged", people, he says (including himself - making up the whole country, you will be pleased to know), were cheering the fact of a veto rather than the blocking of a specific proposal. It was enough to know that, for the first time since Margaret Thatcher secured the budget rebate in 1984, a British prime minister had said "no".

Saying "no" and a veto, of course, are not the same thing, but Hannan - presumably - seeks to argue that they are. But in his muddled piece, he acknowledges that the "colleagues" are to adopt a separate intergovernmental treaty among themselves. He also tells us that it is regarded as "transitional" and that there is a general expectation that, eventually, its provisions will be folded into the main treaty structure.

This is actually no great secret, as this is what the Merkozy were aiming for in the first place, Furthermore, the statement by the euro area heads says exactly that. Thus, we have another of those occasions when the dastardly "colleagues" are saying exactly what they mean – the swines.

In yet another non-revelation, Hannan then informs us that the eurozone countries plan to make full use of EU institutions, which is again no great secret, although The Boy briefly hinted through his underlings that the UK might seek to prevent this. As always though, this came to nothing.

But it is this that is troubling Hannan. In his terms, The Boy blocked changes to the EU treaties, which meant in theory that the "colleagues" would have to operate outside the framework of European Union, and without support from or use of the institutions.

Needless to say, the "colleagues" are ignoring such fine distinction, driving the poor little Hannan into something of a tizzy. "The use of EU structures was not part of David Cameron's veto; it was David Cameron's veto", he complains. "If we were to give in, we would have attracted all the opprobrium for nothing. Nothing".

Alarmingly, to the Hannan, if this is true, the applause from the country – which has apparently been cheering Cameron to the rooftops, "would turn out to be bogus". Sadly, that is the fate of The Boy's fantasy veto.

What, then, must be done? And here Hannan really should know better. "We should take Nicolas Sarkozy and the other federalist governments at their word", he says. "They say that Britain has opted out of European integration, electing to stay only in a free trade area. So be it".

What he says is that the core group should not go on to form their own Fiscal Union (FU!) – but oh dear! What is left outside the core is not and never has been a free trade area. It always has been a customs union, and Hannan should know that.

But, basing his nostrum on his own fantasy, we are led to believe that the way out is for the FU to become the primary vehicle for political integration. He thus asks: "Shouldn't powers pass from the EU to the FU, until the 27-state treaty is left as the simple free trade area of which Sarko speaks?"

At that point, Hannan asserts, it (the rump of the EU) might as well merge with the four EFTA members, and call itself EFTA. The core, eurozone countries would remain within that free-trade area, but would also have their FU (which by now might be Federal Union) alongside it.

Even at this point, the man is gibbering. The trading bloc is the EEA, of which EFTA is part. And all EU members are part of the EEA. The EFTA issue is a complete red herring because, if the FU did as Hannan suggested, the EEA would remain.

No fantasy begets fantasy, and which Cameron is supposed to adopt, a ploy that would raise him to the rank of statesman – and would, incidentally, guarantee him a landslide at the next election, says Hannan.

One is getting to the point here where reality is getting so distant in some quarters that it seems impossible for it to be clawed back. Commentators like Hannan are regressing, retreating into a fantasy world that is increasingly unrecognisable. The only compensation seems to be that his comments are not entirely supportive. By some, Myrtle is being recognised for what he is.

And not least of those is Your Freedom and Ours, who has tended to be more charitable than us, although no longer. Interestingly though Helen points The Sun, which has The Boy doing a "EU-turn" over the treaty, preparing to sign a "new version" of the treaty.

We will not attempt to unravel this muddle (yet). But the MSM have got themselves into a right old mess, and don't seem to know whether they are coming or going.


Friday, December 30, 2011

Find your inner ape

One suspects that they did not have to try very hard. But they are most definitely taking the mick.


Spot the difference

The difference between this approach and this tells you all you need to know about the nature of modern government – and the character of David Cameron Esq.


The great and the good?

He is a Marxist and was a long-standing member of the now defunct Communist Party of Great Britain and the associated Communist Party Historians Group. As such, he has been (and still is) an apologist for one of the most vile regimes this earth has ever spawned, openly justifying a system responsible for the death of 15-20 million people (at the very least), and denying the extent of its crimes against humanity.

Yet Eric Hobsbawm is president of Birkbeck, University of London, and recently president of the Telegraph Hay Festival. He was appointed a Companion of Honour in 1998, a British honour unique in that it is the personal gift of the monarch for outstanding achievement in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion. And even to this day, he is fêted by the BBC as a great historian.

This being the case, and quite understandably, Your Freedom and Ours believes we have lost the propaganda war. But it also speaks of an establishment that has lost its way, one that has no true idea of values and one which has demonstrated a complete inability to make sound judgements.

We have no lessons to learn from him or the people who support and applaud him, other than that it is quite possible for the establishment to be totally, completely and vilely wrong.


Thursday, December 29, 2011

What if

… the euro collapses?

Swiss wealth manager Sarasin reckons the impact will be a meteor striking the earth. Not pretty.

But will it wipe out the dinosaurs?


Slow on the uptake

Brazil was this week listed as sixth in the world economic league table, with a GDP of $2.5trillion, easing the UK into seventh place with a GDP of slightly less than that amount. So wealthy has the country become that BMW is rushing to build a new car assembly plant there.

Yet the Department For International Development admits to a current £730,000 aid programme to Brazil, in the form of a "large emerging economies programme" to "develop a shared agenda and promote global poverty reduction objectives". Furthermore, Brazil is not on the list of countries, to which it is planned to cease aid.

Bizarrely, through the IMF, Brazil is supplying aid to cash-strapped Europe, having already contributed $10 billion in loans to the fund since 2009, and has indicated a willingness to lend more from its $350 billion reserves, becoming one of the ten most influential members of the IMF.

Readers will nevertheless be comforted to learn that the EU is ahead of the game. Unlike the British government, the EU commission has recognised the new status of Brazil and has marked it down for the cessation of aid in its 2014-20 budget.

Referring to "mutual interests" that promote "European values" and issues of global concern (climate change and food security), counties such as Brazil are considered "more like partners of the EU in facing these global challenges", says EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs.

Perhaps someone should tell Andrew Mitchell this. He seems to be a bit slow on the uptake.


Why we must leave - 5

We congratulated the Grauniad the other day for only being three months behind. So what do we make of the Daily Wail being more than five year behind the curve as it highlights a "loophole" in EU law which is allowing thousands of immigrants into the UK via a back door?

We first identified this problem on 4 May 2006, the source being Directive 2004/38/EC. We gave it more detailed treatment in 2007 and again in 2008, keeping up our commentary to this current year.

It is, of course, a weakness of this blog that we speak to such a small audience, but that is nothing by comparison with the MSM which seems to be totally detached from reality, taking years to find out what is happening on its own doorstep.

The delay is also a reflection of the limited range of sources used by the MSM - here we see the newspaper relying on an MP as a classic "comfort zone" source. Despite certain blogs being ahead of the game for years, the ostrich-like behaviour of the MSM does not allow them to acknowledge their presence. They would rather live in ignorance.

This extends to the current story, where the newspaper fails to identify the offending directive or properly to explain the situation. But it does inform us that, "officials admit there is little they can do to curb immigration from the EU, because free movement of labour is a fundamental principle of the single market".

That is similar to the very point we made in 2006 ... although this has nothing to do with the single market. It is one of the "freedoms" enshrined in the Treaty of Rome and carried over into the Lisbon treaty, a "fundamental objective", as we wrote, of the European Union.

And that is another reason why we must leave the European Union.


A perfect storm

Thomas L Benton, in The Chronicle of Higher Education (via Small Dead Animals) comments on the dire situation in undergraduate education. Although addressed to an American audience, it has a considerable resonance here, this following passage catching my eye:
... many tuition-driven institutions struggle to find enough paying customers to balance their budgets. That makes it necessary to recruit even more unprepared students, who then must be retained, shifting the burden for academic success away from the student and on to the teacher. Faculty members can work with an individual student, if they have time, but the capabilities of the student population as a whole define the average level of rigor that is sustainable in the classroom. At some institutions, graduation rates are so high because the academic expectations are so low. Failing a lot of students is a serious risk, financially, for the college and the professor.
Some years ago, I experienced this personally when I helped out my PhD supervisor, doing the preliminary marking for first year honours degree dissertations. Applying basic rules of literacy and logic as my measure, I "failed" more than 60 percent of the papers.

Very much in accordance with the above, my supervisor reinstated all of them. The motivation was entirely economic. Keeping a course running is entirely about "bums on seats" and failures make the courses economically unsustainable.

Thus, first year students who should not pass are kept on. By the time they are in their third year, they cannot then be failed for inadequate work. Questions would be asked (not least by the students) as to why they had been allowed to continue. Thus, not only do we have second-rate degrees, we have second-rate students passing them, debasing the degree qualification as a whole.

A major part of the problem, in my view, was the destruction of the polytechnic system, turning well-founded vocational diploma courses into substandard degrees. Students who otherwise might have emerged with useful skills instead come out with something not half as good, yet with an inflated sense of their own worth and importance.

Yet, for all the volume of discourse on higher education, there seem to be few if any politicians who are prepared to address the fundamentals. There are too many degree courses that should not exist. Turning good polytechnics into second-rate universities has been a disaster, and needs to be reversed.

And, while university degrees might continue to be provided on a fee-charging basis, many vocational diplomas would attract employer subsidies, providing a secure entry for disadvantaged students into gainful employment.

However, one need not expect change. Modern politics is not about solving problems, but about perception – a miasma of belief systems designed to attract a following and garner sufficient support to gain office … where, of course, the system is run by former second-rate students with second-rate degrees.

I won't say we are domed, but it is difficult to see a way out.


Standing up for Britain?

In trying again for a minimum price of alcohol, The Boy must have something up his sleeve as he can't be this stupid, can he? As Boiling Frog notes, even the Failygraph is being up front about the EU involvement, to an uncommon and highly suspicious degree.

Furthermore, the provincial government suggested minimum prices for alcohol almost exactly only a year ago, in January 2010, then to have the ECJ rule in March that minimum pricing on tobacco would violate EU law – in circumstances exactly analogous with alcohol minimum pricing. The EU problem is, thus, well known.

However, it looks as if The Boy might indeed have a cunning plan, relying on raising taxes on alcoholic drinks, based on the number of units of alcohol in a drink.

Such an option would be permissible under EU law and would also be highly attractive to the Treasury, raising about £700 million in extra revenue in a full year. Justified on health grounds, this would escape the opprobrium of a straight tax hike, and since it will hurt the plebs most, The Boy might think that the political fallout for him would be minimal.

It is still a puzzle though as to why he should make the announcement now, and whether increasing tax revenue is the main motivation, rather than the health benefits. After all, considerable doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of price increases in curbing consumption.

One groans inwardly, therefore, at yet another political stunt. Clearly there are complex sociological reasons for the extensive and very public alcohol abuse that we are seeing, and the epidemic of binge drinking that is doing so much damage to health, and especially to young women.

There can be few responsible people who would not like to see these problems solved and none of us want our taxes spent on dealing with alcohol abuse or, for that matter, having our hospital casualty departments cluttered with drunks, our streets soiled and our police wasting time with inebriates.

Thus, had The Boy come up with a range of measures which might have some real effect on the problems – such as getting pubs back in the loop, where binge drinking is more easily controlled – he might get some real applause from a wider audience.

But perhaps this "standing up for Britain" malarkey over his fantasy veto has gone to his head. With the publicity over the EU link (possibly deliberately highlighted by the Failygraph) he might think that side-stepping (but not confronting) EU law will add to his "eurosceptic" credentials. Looking to strengthen the adoration of his party faithful, his idiot party is so easily pleased that the right spin would easily get them on board.

But surely he must realise by now that, in order to get elected, he must not only satisfy his party, but also attract a majority amongst that diminishing band of electors that is prepared to go out and vote. And, even if he does position this as "standing up for Britain", I can't honestly see it being a vote winner.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Slaves to the media

I wrote this yesterday – and then a forum member refers me to this by William Bowles:
The old Anarchist cry of "Do not adjust your mind, there's a fault in reality" takes on an entirely new kind of import given the power of the media to determine what's "real" for us.

What this means is that the media effectively acts as an agent provocateur for the state and big business as it decides for us what is actually going on in the world. In turn, progressives make decisions based not on what needs to be done, but as a reaction to the "news" in a weird political version of the Heisenberg Effect.
The media is something of a pre-occupation of this blog, or so it would seem. Actually, ours is a greater concern: democracy. And the media is essential to the proper functioning of a democracy, or so it is said – hence the interest.

The Bowles piece chimes absolutely with some of my own pieces. The ultimate ambition of the contemporary media is (for whatever reasons) to set the agenda. Ours is to realise this, and to render those attempts futile. A free man decides for himself what he thinks. Slaves go for their instructions – and in this society they get them from the MSM.


Home for the stupid

Reporting on the recent Conservative Home survey (open to anyone who clicks the buttons), the Independent tells us that: "by a huge margin of 92 percent to 5 percent, Conservative 'members' believe Mr Cameron was right to veto the treaty".

Some 70 percent "regard it as his best moment since becoming Prime Minister. More than half (52 percent) think it was as big a moment as Margaret Thatcher winning the rebate on Britain's EU contributions in 1984".

One should not mock the afflicted, but this is self-deception on a heroic scale.  The applause is for a man they so desperately wanted to be a "eurosceptic", a group which agonised over Cameron's refusal to give them a referendum on Lisbon but who now has redeemed himself in their eyes by "standing up for Britain".

If anyone conducted their normal daily lives in such a miasma of fantasy, medical intervention would probably be thought wise, but in politics it seems, psychotic behaviour is not only acceptable but, for a huge group of people, is the norm. However, it is comforting to know that they have a home to go to, where they can share their opinions and feel good about themselves and each other.

The great concern, however, is that it is not going to be the meek that will inherit the Earth … but the stupid. If this contagion spreads, there is very little hope for us.


Why we must leave - 4

The picture above is no more in the UK. More than 80 million battery hen spaces have been upgraded as a result of EU law. Almost all British egg producers will be compliant with the law that comes into force on 1 January. Others are not.

Spain, France, Poland, amongst others – eight in total, including Belgium - are not ready, and will continue producing eggs from battery cages, despite having had 13 years to prepare for the new law, one which introduces standards the British would have adopted, with or without the EU.

This, says the Independent, has led to fears that cheaper, illegal eggs from the Continent will flood into UK wholesalers, manufacturers and caterers – undercutting British egg producers, who say they feel "let down" by the Government's refusal to unilaterally ban eggs from non-compliant EU states.

These eggs are not going to be on sale in supermarkets, but will feed the processing trade, where they will form ingredients of made-up foods, the source unidentified.

Such is the structure of the egg trade, with perilously narrow margins, that processing eggs often comprise the profit in a business that often just breaks even on its core production, or even delivers at a loss.

When it comes to regulation, therefore, producers are reliant on uniformity of misery – every competitive country being treated the same. When some major competitors are unencumbered, this can have a disastrous impact on business.

Yet, despite the importance of this issue, the EU is once again found wanting. No doubt the commission will suggest that it needs more enforcement powers, the doctrine of "more Europe" being the answer to every problem.

But a cheaper, quicker and more effective answer is for compliant countries to ban non-compliant produce. But that, under EU law, is not allowed, thus penalising countries which obey the law. Which is yet another reason why we must leave the EU.


Catching up?

It is always fun to see the MSM catching up. We did the story in September so to have the Grauniad only three months behind isn't bad going. The paper does, however, illustrate the huge sums involved in the bailiff scam, with our friend Fern Silverio, the divisional director of collections and housing benefits at Harrow council, telling a conference of bailiffs this year:

Councils will be under pressure to find more income streams, and on a big contract covering all debt the bailiff can still make an enormous profit. [Harrow] council will pass debts worth around £10m to our bailiff partners. From that, they should expect to collect between £3m and £4m, which should generate fees of more than £1m.

The paper also gets the point that this money is going to be extorted from the poorest, least able members of the community, a typical response of a parasitical system that knows no moral bounds.

We thus get a quote from John Kruse, a leading expert on bailiff law in the UK, who also works for Citizens Advice in east London. Referring to "some of the more image-aware members of the [bailiff] sector", he says they are warning that that if bailiffs are asked to pay money to councils then that has to come from somewhere. The way it is going to be produced will be by bailiffs upping the fees that they are charging or being more aggressive about the way they chase people.

Kruse adds, "The amounts that they collect at the moment are fees that they are allowed to collect by statute. That's their profit, so if the council is saying, 'We want to cut that profit now,' then it's either a case of the bailiffs making less money, which is unlikely, or they collect more money one way or another".

Despite the extremely dubious legality of this scheme, and the outright illegality of most bailiff operations, we still see no broader interest from the MSM, which is hardly surprising. But they, no doubt, will be so surprised when we start seeing dead bodies. That certainly is the direction of travel.

Either the government or the police are going to have to intervene, to rope in these cowboys, or there really is going to be murder done. But if either or both want to abandon the rule of law, then they really cannot complain if people take their law into their own hands.

The deal is they enforce the law so that we don't. But if they don't, we have to. They can't have it both ways.


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Burn the boxes

Christmas Day television viewing figures for the major channels is significantly down on last year. The top five "most watched" programmes attracted a cumulative audience of 43.7 million, compared with 51.2 million last year.

Furthermore, this decline is part of a long-term trend. Ten years ago, Christmas Day 2001, the top five got 71.2 million viewers. The most watched programme this year took 9.9 million viewers. Ten years ago, the audience was 21.3 million.

Part of that, of course, is the fragmentation of the media. Viewers do not have to put up with what they are given and can channel-hop. Then, increasingly, there is available streamed entertainment via the internet. People can pick their own films and other programmes, download them at will and watch them at their leisure.

One likes to think that that is an expression of people power – that we are no longer in the thrall of a few media giants, who dictate what we watch. But real power will probably only come when we burn our televisions. That is not going to happen for some time yet.


One-dimensional thinking

Mary Ann Sieghard in the Independent complains about Westminster City Council plans to abolish free parking on Sundays, evenings and bank holidays, likening the absence of democracy and accountability in the system to the situation to Greece.

She is right to complain, of course, but like Simon Jenkins and Philip Johnston who have dealt with aspects of this issue, her thinking is alarmingly one-dimensional. This really isn't just about parking, but about the whole range of council charging, to which Booker drew attention and I have explored.

There are two elements here – firstly that local authorities gain only the small part of their income from council tax (less than ten percent), the segment that is vaguely accountable to the public. As much again comes from other fees and charges, of which parking fees is a part, but none of which income is subject to any real accountability or democratic control.

For Mary Ann Sieghard, it is fine to single out parking, but it is about time that she and other journalists saw the bigger picture. These charges as a whole are offensive, not least because they enable local authorities to by-pass what little controls there are over their expenditure, and thus frustrate attempts to rein in their spending.

But most of all, what should be realised is that councils gain most of the income from central government – more than sixty percent. He who pays the piper calls the tune, to which extent local government is local in name only. Largely, it is an agent of central government and does its bidding.

Speaking for myself, I tire of the ritual warnings by councils, complaining of "tax dodgers", as if they somehow had a rightful claim to our money. But with a democratic deficit so huge, and an almost total lack of accountability, morally we owe them nothing.

We pay their taxes because we are force to pay – because, we get sent to prison if we do not pay. And if we do not pay their loathsome charges, they set bailiffs on us, with rip-off charges that amount to theft, about which the police do nothing. That is not democracy. That is the action of a totalitarian state.

It is about time Mary Ann Sieghard and other journalists looked around them and noticed what was going on – not that they will. Most are not capable of getting the point.


A pre-New Year resolution

Already, with precious little currently to report, the newspapers (and, I presume, the broadcast media) are doing a Proverb 26:11, revisiting its stories of the past year, and with it their distorted world view.

That view is the cumulative effect of their output. Some of those stories are pure invention. A few are reported accurately but all reflect the inbuilt selection bias of a media which leaves far more information unused than is ever reported. Nevertheless, this is a media that finds space (and time) for acres of trivia and tat - and multiple pages for saturation coverage of single stories - thus completely distorting the news agenda and our perception of it.

For the newspapers, this is unlikely to be malicious. The people who run them are largely in the business to make money and, to do that, they are all chasing circulation and advertising. That shapes their coverage or, more to the point, the mistaken view of the print media on how to complete with 24-hour TV news coverage dictates their response.

Central to this is the belief that youth and female readership must be fostered, to which effect the middle-aged, middle class, white male has been abandoned. Long ago, the media declared war on us, deciding we were not wanted on passage. Not for them was the understanding that the reason I read a particular paper was because my father read it, and his father before that.

Thus, as even the Failygraph gave over the bulk of its page to the yoof and girlie agenda, abandoning news and intelligent analysis in favour of tat passed off as entertainment, we its core readership are abandoning it in droves, visiting only the website, some of us more to stare in disbelief than to be informed.

What is disappointing and terrifying in equal measure though is the evident propensity of so many readers still to believe uncritically what they are told. Most will claim to subscribe to the aphorism, "never believe what you read in the papers", only then to believe what they read or see on the television.

Some time ago, before the collapse of the Soviet Union, dissident Czech novelist Zdener Urbanek observed: "In dictatorships we are more fortunate than you in the West in one respect. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know it's propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West, we've learned to look behind the propaganda and to read between the lines, and unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive".

What he might have said, though, is that the whole truth is subversive. I am more and more convinced that the primary means by which the agenda is shaped is by leaving so much unsaid. News is only news – in the opinion of the MSM – when the MSM says it is. The rest, by inference, shall be ignored – and it is that which distorts our perception of the world.

Hence the pre-New Year resolution. We shall ignore the MSM retrospectives – they don't mean nuffink, other than to perpetuate the distortions the media have been hawking all year.  Their news is not our news. The MSM are aliens in our midst, trying to sell us a false bill of goods.


This England?

There are times when it is hard to believe this is the same country I was born in. It seems to have changed beyond all recognition – and not for the better.

In fact, it is seriously hard to believe that people like Liverpool Mayor Wendy Waller actually exist. She is telling her taxpayers: "With the festive season soon approaching, household waste generally increases and residents are reminded to ensure their household waste is sorted and correctly placed in the right bin".

She adds: "Different areas will be selected for monitoring, to help the council gather valuable information about common contaminants that are being placed in recycling and garden waste bins".

Residents who have had their bins inspected will be notified by letter. If a garden and or recycling bin are found to have contaminants, photos will be sent to the household.

Strangely though, this isn't England ... it is Australia, New South Wales. That I could so easily believe that it was England tells its own story.

But even ten years ago, if anyone had told me that council spies in any developed western country could go round photographing the contents of peoples' bins, marking down defaulters for "re-education", I would have thought you mad.

Now, if you thought this a solution, I would think you sane.


Monday, December 26, 2011

Babies at work

On the basis of a supposed "leak" from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the Sunday Times, most newspapers today are hyperventilating about the Convention of Human Rights and the behaviour of the court in Strasbourg, announcing that the UK is variously "pushing for" or "demanding" reforms.

Buying almost completely into the FCO spin, the babies of the Fourth Estate breathlessly announce the government will "do such things", all in the name of curbing the powers of the errant court – thus demonstrating that Her Majesty's Government is still in control, and giving those foreign Johnnies what for.

However, not one of the babies seems to have checked with the Court itself, or its sponsoring organisation the Council of Europe. Although these organisations are closed down for the Christmas break – which is why, presumably, the FCO leaked the story now, when there were no court or Council press spokesman around – their websites are up and running, and give the background to a story which is very different from what is presented.

Turning to the actual media reports, the wibble from the Failygraph, courtesy of the Great James Kirkup, is that "Britain tries to curb powers of European Court of Human Rights", with the strap, "Britain has launched a formal bid to curb the powers of the European Court of Human Rights, which wants British prisoners to have the vote".

The Grauniad has the headline "Ministers to urge changes to European court of human rights", with the quite bizarre strap, "Britain has recently taken over control of the Strasbourg based court that rules on human rights within its 47 member states".

This paper is telling us that "Ministers will this year push for changes to be made to the functioning of the European court of human rights or could defy the more controversial of its rulings that have included the decision to give prisoners the vote".

The Daily Wail, is even more strident, declaring: "Ministers 'will defy meddling EU over votes for prisoners'" (later changed to "Europe" after it realised its mistake), asserting that the Foreign Office has drawn up blueprint to reform European Court of Human Rights and that Britain has Switzerland’s support in its campaign to 'address growing public and political concern'.

All this is focused on ministers who "are preparing to defy Europe over its insistence that Britain gives prisoners the right to vote", hence we are told (by the Foreign Office) that the Foreign Office "has drawn up a blueprint to reform the European Court of Human Rights, aiming to win back power for national governments".

The pièce de résistance, though, comes from the Independent, which headlines: "Ministers' secret plan to stop Europe 'meddling'", with the legend that: "The Government has warned that it may defy the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners in UK jails should be allowed to vote in general elections".

What makes the these reports utter b******s, though, is that the FCO-inspired story refers to changes that are being negotiated through the system and are part of an ongoing process of "reform" that has been going on since 2009 and before. Thus, the "secret plan" is so unsecret that one can see elements of it on the Council of Europe website. So routine is this, in fact, is that the court itself has its own specific pages on "reform".

What is happening here, therefore, is that the FCO spinmeisters are taking advantage of the shortage of hard news over the holiday period, to get their agenda into the frame.

The motivation is obvious. With hostile stories frequently in the media on the court of human rights, the administration is presenting itself as taking action, and reasserting control at a time when the papers are desperate for news, and will print almost anything. It is thus talking up minor administrative changes in the court system, and claiming credit for work in progress, then "leaking" them to a gullible media.

Look to the Interlaken Declaration last year, though, and one sees the "action plan" was already agreed in the dying days of the last Labour administration, to which effect, work is proceeding apace.

It is this to which our government is now reduced – spinning developments to give the impression that it is still in charge, in an attempt to conceal quite how emasculated our ministers have become. And the babies of the MSM fall for it every time.


The "bounce" fades

For what it is worth, the man masquerading as our prime minister is doing relatively well in the polls – according to The Guardian. It has 48 percent of those who responded "thinking" (if that is the right word) that he is doing a good job, against 43 percent who say he is doing a bad one – a net score of plus five.

This compares with a similar poll in June, when he dipped into negative territory for the first time, the score almost reversed with 42 percent saying he was doing a good job, as against 47 percent saying bad, a net score of minus five.

In the March, incidentally, The Boy had scored plus five, but the previous June (2010), just after the general election, the score had been +23.

The Daily Wail, never one for subtlety, clearly attributes this reversal of fortunes as part of the "veto bounce", although it tells us this is fading when it comes to the parties.

Recently the Tories were celebrating a six point lead (40 to 34 percent), compared with 38 percent to Labour and 36 percent to the Tories in November. Now we are looking at 36 percent to Labour as against 37 percent to the Tories.

There are good reasons, however, for not taking this current poll seriously. Always error-prone, Christmas polls are often thought to be particularly unreliable, with so many people on the move, and most focused on other things.

Despite that, it is vaguely entertaining to see Clegg's net score at -19 percent and Miliband at –17, with the preposterous Osborne, at minus two. For each of those, one can only register mild surprise that the scores are as high as they are.

All this aside, if what the Guardian terms the "Brussels bounce" is actually fading, it will not be too long before that reflects in The Boy's personal score. There is no substance to his "fantasy veto", and his europhiliac tendencies have not changed one jot, so it can only be a matter of time before disillusionment sets in.

Cameron's greatest asset, it would seem, is not "Europe", but the utter uselessness of MiniBoy Ed. It takes remarkable political skill, verging on the genius, to make Cameron look good, but this Miliband has achieved – albeit only by contrast. But in a land of political pygmies, a dwarf can walk tall.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas greetings from Bradford

A photo from my Emma the artist. It doesn't all look like that, of course. This is one of the better bits.

Anyhow, a huge thank you to everybody who sent in their best wishes and otherwise made contact those six weeks ago, at a very trying time. I don't think I can express enough how much that meant to us, and how comforting it was to Mrs EU Referendum.

To be perfectly blunt, I did not expect to be here this Christmas. Yes, I know the odds were very much in my favour, but I'm the sort of guy who gets the Friday car, who gets the breakdown the day after a service, and who never wins lotteries. I actually wrote my own obituary for the blog. Mercifully, Peter deleted it before it appeared.

Six weeks down the line, with added pig, life looks and feels very different. Mrs EU Referendum and I celebrate a quiet Christmas together, just the two of us – and the blog, a family of thousands who have come to be part of our lives. I think, without the blog, life would feel different again, but less complete.

So, to you all, friends near and far, relatives (mostly far), and the thousands of blog readers, plus the smaller family of forum members, a very Merry Christmas.

Traditionally, one also wishes for a prosperous New Year, but after the politicians have done their worst, that is too much to hope for. Thus, we will content ourselves with wishing for an entertaining, interesting and, above all, healthy one for all EU Reffers, that select band of people who gave us hope and something extra to live for.

Normal grump will be resumed tomorrow, so don't get carried away.


Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas shenanigans

It comes to something when Christmas is seen as an opportunity to bury bad news or (effectively) to obscure important policy shifts. It is somewhat worrying though, as Your Freedom and Ours points out, that there is an international dimension to this.

It seems that vigilance cannot be relaxed over Christmas. Even then our masters are up to no good.


Why we must leave - 3

Christmas is a time of good will to all men but, clearly, not all women – and especially the ghastly Cathy Ashton. In fact though, her very existence is a benefit to the cause, a testament to the very nature of the nature of the "evil empire" that rules over us.

But, it seems – according to Bruno Waterfield - even the "evil empire" is sick to the back teeth of the woman – just supposing empires, evil or otherwise, have back teeth.

This is not news to us. For some time, there have been murmurings of discontent, but latterly divers foreign ministers have added their voices to the growing chorus of discontent. Strange though some people might think it, we don't actually give a rat's bottom. The "colleagues" can have her with our blessing – in a delicious inversion, their loss is our gain.

The only real problem is that the woman is paid such an obscene amount of money - £230,000 plus expenses, pensions and all the rest. But here there is one small advantage in being in the EU – we only have to pay about 12 percent of her total cost, the rest being shared between the other member states.

Of course, if we left the EU altogether, we would have to pay nothing at all to the woman's upkeep and the "colleagues" would have to bear the full burden of her costs, as well as having to put up with the woman. That, as Raedwald observed is a reason to be cheerful. More to the point, it is yet another reason why we must leave the EU.


A retreat into dogma

Ministers, we are told are considering proposals under which the private sector could play a large role in the procurement of weapons and equipment for the armed forces. Says The Guardian, the civil servant in charge of defence procurement, Bernard Gray, has submitted a report setting out options for bringing in private expertise, and a decision is expected in the New Year.

The problems, however, are not going to be solved this way. Contrary to popular belief, the procurement system is actually quite efficient. If the services want a particular type of widget, and tells the system to go out and buy a requisite number, it will usually do it, on time and within budget.

Where we have the major issues with "big ticket" equipment purchases, though, the excess costs arise for a number of reasons. One is the failure of the services to define properly what they want, and then to keep changing the specification through the procurement process.

Another is the use the defence budget to support British (and increasingly European) defence industries, with purchases dictated by political rather than operational need. And then there is the "pork barrel" dynamic, where equipment is purchase from specific areas, again for political advantage.

Of all the issues, though, the definition problem is perhaps the most acute – and the most expensive. That, basically stems from the fact that we have lost sight of what we really want our Armed Forces to do. Military equipment is (or should be) the ultimate in functionality, and if we are unclear as to the functions needed, it is almost impossible to specify the right equipment.

Thus, it seems as if we have a Tory-led government, with no real idea of what to do, retreating into dogma, and privatising some functions which should properly remain in the public sector. After all, if you don't know what kit you really want, getting Tesco to buy it isn't going to make things any better.

That aside though, whatever the merits or otherwise of such decisions, now – during the Christmas break - is not the time to announce them. These are major changes, with profound implications. They should be subject to full discussion, and should not be rushed.


Friday, December 23, 2011

Semi-hidden Europe

First, there was this (above), based on a report in January 2007, when the "European Commissioner for Competition Policy" decided to get stroppy. Last year, sharp-eyed observers might also have noted the EU commission statement which said:
Credit card fees have been the subject of extensive investigations. The Commission is currently coordinating the efforts of the national authorities in charge of airline price transparency. In addition, a reflection is ongoing on the impact of the introduction of the Single Euro Payment Area (SEPA) tools on cards, including the possible solutions to the potential problems determined by this process.
Then, of course, we have the Payments Services Directive, adopted in 2007 and coming into force in 2009, with certain provisions held over until 2012.

Although these do not deal directly with credit card fees, the writing is on the wall, with the EU commission putting pressure on the banks. Statutory action under SEPA is only a matter of time, and the Consumer Rights Directive is already in force, which will ban businesses in many sectors, including airlines, from imposing above-cost surcharges on payments from mid-2014.

And then, out of the blue, we get this - although this report does mention the EU dimension. Not so, in some of the popular press, such us the Failygraph, which has Tresury (sic) minister Mark Hoban making the announcement, with narry a mention of our supreme government.

However, the Evening Standard gives the game away, reporting that: "There is disagreement between ministers and Labour over whether the Government or the EU should take the credit for this move. Consumers will not much care: this is a long-overdue reform".

But, with the EU commission in on the act in 2007, long before this current administration took office, with it "coordinating the efforts of the national authorities" and with EU legislation in place, and more to follow, it takes little imagination to work out who is running the agenda here. Once again, we have an administration in office moving to anticipate EU legislation, and thus foster the myth that it is still in charge.

How pathetic it is though that some newspapers cannot bear to admit who is really running the show.


Fantasy business

It was British business, largely, which supported entry to the then "Common Market". The ostensible reason was that it would open up continental markets, but an equally important (if undisclosed) reason was the belief that the exposure of industry to European competition would help break the power of the unions.

On both counts, "business" was wrong. Joining the EEC did nothing to boost exports, but merely opened the British market to the continentals – as well as severely damaging Commonwealth allies - and it was to take Thatcher to start taming the power of the unions, quite independently of what was by then the EC and soon to become the EU.

These errors, however, typify the relationship of British business to the EU – invariably lost in some misty-eyed make-believe, its "leaders" have been staunch advocates of the Single Market, and thereby firm supporters of continued membership, even if enough of them were to take fright at the prospect of joining the single currency.

At least, in its inability to understand European politics, however, "business" is consistent in getting things wrong, hence a new survey of business sentiment reported by the Daily Mail today. Joining the ranks of political fantasists, the leaders have overwhelmingly backed David Cameron's decision to veto a new EU treaty.

A poll of members of the Institute of Directors found that 77 percent "support the defiant stand he took at a Brussels summit earlier this month" and 63 percent wanted "a looser relationship with Brussels". Of the 1,000 questioned, 42 percent wanted to see the repatriation of some powers from the EU and 21 percent wanted complete withdrawal.

Indicating an apparent change of heart, Graeme Leach, Director of Policy at the IoD, says: "The euro crisis has become a game changer. Our members are saying: 'Hang on a minute, are we really gaining from this system? '" He adds: "There really does seem to be broad brush support for a renegotiation of the relationship across the board".

In fact, though, nothing of substance has changed. This is simply a repetition, in a slightly different format of the same old, same old agenda, tirelessly pumped out by the europlastic Open Europe and the motley crew of Tory MPs.

Business, such as it is capable of sentient – much less sensible – thought, is still firmly in favour of continued memberships of the EU. The figure to focus on is that only 21 percent of those polled supported withdrawal, a considerably smaller proportion than in the population at large. In any fudged referendum (and there will be no other sort), business will opt for the inevitable "renegotiation" ploy, diluting and thereby neutering the withdrawal vote.

The one good thing to come out of this, though, is that it is spooking Chris Huhne, who seems to be taking Tory europlastics at their own estimation of their value, accusing them of plotting to make the UK a "semi-detached" member of the EU and giving the impression they wanted to "destroy" the 27-nation bloc.

Showing about as much understanding for the political situation as he does climate change, he fails to realise that Tory sentiment is primarily driven by electoral considerations and that that core beliefs of the Tories differ little from his own.

It may suit Cameron for the moment to allow his licensed dissidents free rein, but in any electoral situation, they will be quickly brought into line and, like all good tribalists, they will obey the Great Leader.

Thus, all Huhne seems to be achieving is to give unwarranted gravitas to a group of Tory opportunists, who revel in the descriptions he affords them, conveying an image which they are at pains to convey to their electorates.

In short, therefore, in this run-up to the holidays, we are seeing nothing more or less than the usual empty political posturing, reinforced by the usual fog of incomprehension from the business community. One wonders how much of this will survive the Christmas firewall, although the continued demise of the euro is bound to keep the EU in the headlines for some time yet.


"Trappists monks" do the Hallelujah Chorus

Dun enuff for today. I'm tired and wanna go to bed. Enjoy.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Words have meanings

A masterful exposition on the word "veto" and The Boy's relationship with it from Your Freedom and Ours. There cannot, as Booker said last Sunday, be many occasions where a political event has been so widely and completely misrepresented, a process which continues to this day. And, as the myth continues its stately progress, we will have to continue pointing out that the emperor ain't got no clothes.


Have yourself a very merry Christmas

The assistant chief executive at Luton Borough Council, we are told, will receive a bumper pay rise in his Christmas stocking after cuts to the authority's corporate directors saw him promoted. Robin Porter's role has been merged with that of the director of customer and corporate services, Steve Heappey, after the council agreed more cuts to senior management.

Securing the new "director of commercial and transformation services" post will see 38-year-old Porter's salary rise from the current £65,000 to £72,000 range to the £111,000 to £122,000 range commanded by the council's existing corporate directors.

He is currently in charge of the council’s cost-cutting "Luton Excellence" strategy, a role he took on after heading up the authority's £200 million Building Schools for the Future project, which was scrapped by the government last summer.

Then there is this little madam - done alright for herself in a job that was so important that the post is not to be replaced. Another one of the parasite class – basically useless and grossly overpaid.

Before joining Hertfordshire, she worked for five years with Kent County Council, leading on the implementation of new community care legislation. She worked for the NHS for 18 months, managing mental health services, and started her career in Dorset where she trained as a social worker. In her last full year, she took £203,427 salary, £5,857 benefits in kind and £41,906 in pension contributions.

Another madam sitting on her own private pot of gold is Joanna Killian who, for her money tells us "I didn’t have the greatest education, or the sort of background many would expect of a chief executive. There is that dimension which has helped me to want to be in public service and stay in the job I am doing".

She has the nerve to call her pot of gold a "calling", despite being the best paid female chief executive in the country. God knows how much she would want if she was in it for the money, although she is an expert at taking the piss, having taken a highly publicised pay cut of £4,000 in the summer, only then to collect a £6,900 bonus and an extra £1,100 towards her pension.

The looting is not confined to local government, of course, with the parasites just as evident in the NHS. Prof Stephen Smith, who was chief executive of Imperial College Healthcare trust until September, has a pot of £3.3 million - which will pay him between £135,000 and £140,000 a year when he retires, after a lump sum of at least £405,000.

The chief executive, who earned £247,000 a year, announced plans to resign earlier this year, as the London trust admitted it was facing a £40 million black hole in its finances.

Jan Filochowski, chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals trust, paid £280,000 last year, will get an annual payment of between £135,000 and £140,000, on retirement, plus a lump sum of £415,000, thanks to a pot valued at more than £3 million, after 36 years in the public sector. Sir Ron Kerr, chief executive of Guys and St Thomas' Foundation Trust, in London, will swap a salary of £254,000 a year for a pension pot of £3.06 million when he retires.

There is no end to this sort of looting and one wonders how they live with themselves, this one in particular taking home an annual salary equivalent of £300,000. How many hip operations do you get for that sort of loot?

Meanwhile, in order to keep the parasite class in the luxury they most definitely do not deserve, staff – many of whom earn under £20,000 a year - are being charged to go to work. As the song once went, "It's the rich wot gets the pleasure, it's the poor wot gets the blame".

But hey, never mind … I am sure all these gifted public servants look at their payslips and repeat the words of that nauseating television advertisement: "because I'm worth it". Never mind that people are actually starving in this country, while food banks are doing record business. Their needs come first.

And these people are so shocked when they learn what we really think of them? Scum does not even begin to describe it.


Why we must leave - 2

You always have to take the Daily Wail with a pinch of salt but, on cross-checking this story with the official press release, the paper seems to have got it essentially right. The judgement states that an asylum seeker may not be transferred to a member state where he risks being subjected to inhuman treatment, and further, EU law does not permit a conclusive presumption that member states observe the fundamental rights conferred on asylum seekers.

Under normal circumstances, asylum seekers are supposed to claim asylum in the first country in which they land in the EU. When they then move on and seek to claim asylum in a second country, that country (in this case Britain) is entitled under the so-called "Dublin II" Regulation, to return them to their country of entry.

But, the ECJ now says, if the initial recipient country breaks EU law by not providing adequate facilities for asylum seekers, to the extent that they may be subject to "inhuman treatment", that negates the rights of second countries to return them to their country of entry.

This is madness – absolute barking madness. But it is even worse. The rights British citizens are being trampled on wholesale here, by a political court which is attempting to stitch together a failed policy by imposing on those least likely to squeal.

In the Wail piece, we get the usual talking heads saying how terrible this all is – classic of the "he says, she says" school of journalism. But that isn't good enough. This is outrageous. The trouble is that decades of such outrages have blunted our sensibilities.

There is, however, only one answer to this sort of thing. We have to leave the EU … and the sooner the better. If they are so interested on asylum seekers' rights, they can park them on the lawn outside the EU parliament - either Brussels or Strasbourg ... I don't care which. I am sure the MEPs will happily contribute to their upkeep. I don't see why we should.