Saturday, November 22, 2008

Death In Real Time

I wrote what seems like an age ago :

Humphrys has called for assisted suicide to be made legal. I'm sure there are people who'd pay good money to watch the death in real time - with perhaps a lottery involved, the lucky winner to remotely operate the barbiturate driver from their PC or mobile.

This week :

It’s thought that up to 1500 people watched 19-year-old Abraham K Biggs, of Broward County, Florida, take an overdose on website, earlier this week.

Numerous online sources have reported that his broadcast – the copy of which has since been removed from the web – showed Biggs swallow a mixture of pills before becoming unconscious.

Anxious viewers called local police after Biggs’ body lay lifeless on a bed for several hours. The broadcast also showed police and paramedics bursting into the troubled teen’s room.

A Dhobi-Wallah's Daughter

Times :
An Indian teenager who dared to write a love letter to a sweetheart from a higher caste was beaten and paraded through the streets before being thrown under a train and killed.

Manish Kumar, 15, a member of India’s Dalit, or “Untouchable”, community, was seized by a gang of men as he went to his village school.

He was beaten and his head was shaved before he was thrown on to the tracks, as his mother begged for mercy, witnesses said. It was alleged that police looked on as the incident took place.

A teenager has since been arrested and a policeman has been suspended. Five other men were detained.

Three months ago the boy sent a letter “expressing his interest” in a girl from the Dhobi community, another Dalit sub-caste, which has traditionally washed clothes for a living – but is fractionally above the Ravidas in the Hindu hierarchy. The note was discovered by the girl’s parents.

Hmm. I don't know why, but I've got this story in the back of my mind :
Urgent action is needed to boost the number of Muslim officers in counter-terrorism units, the National Association of Muslim Police has said. A survey carried out by the association and think tank Demos suggests Muslims remain under-represented in the police. Half of the 51 UK forces took part. There are 27 Muslim counter-terrorism officers out of a total of 2,300, and few officers overall in high ranks.

The association said progress on diversity was "painfully slow".

I think the idea that to police Community A you need officers from Community A, with its implication that Community B officers just can't cut it (for reasons of racism if B = white) is an extremely dangerous one. What you need are officers who'll enforce the law impartially among all communities. Otherwise, what happens when Community A come into conflict with Community B ?

Well, we see what happens when those officers have more loyalty to "their" community than to the law. I'm presuming the officers in India who watched the killing of Manish Kumar weren't Chamar (ac/t the Times, "another term by which the group is known, chamar, is considered a grave insult"), any more than the officers watching/encouraging/participating in the 1984 killings of Sikhs were Sikh, or than the officers who told the killers of Ehsan Jafri and others that they had three or four hours to work in were Muslim.

Up to now, the vast majority of officers in the UK have been natives, something that causes our rulers no end of breast-beating and soul-searching. Although I'm informed that officers did not intervene during the 1919 Liverpool riots, when natives were doing the attacking, they certainly intervened in 1958 in Notting Hill, probably the last UK 'race riot' when the attackers were natives. They also famously guarded mosques all over the UK following the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks.

If the police and firemen who turned up at Manningham Labour Club had been more representative of the the local community, would those elderly Yorkshiremen and women still have been rescued from immolation ? It's a question worth asking - because one day, perhaps not so very far away, they will be (this report says that Muslims will be 15% of the workforce by 2017).

It's not Muslims in particular - all the Indian examples of partiality above featured Hindu officers. But the question still stands - it's one I've asked before. Import people from countries where there is a higher incidence of corruption or partiality among State functionaries than there is in the UK. What exactly is the mechanism by which the lower levels of corruption and partiality in the UK are transmitted to its new citizens ?

Friday, November 21, 2008

"cricket truly is a metaphor for everything in life"

Another idiotic post by NuLab MEP and all-round nasty person Mary Honeyball, transformed by the wit of the Guardian commentariat ... yes, it's Comment Is Free Cricket !

  • WheatFromChaff's profile picture WheatFromChaff

    Nov 21 08, 11:19am (about 8 hours ago)


    I might start keeping a record on how long it takes someone to blame 'the left' on every single sodding CiF article. haardvark wins the prize this time, by pointing out that the author does work for New Labour, and is therefore a representative of the hive-mind of everyone with socialist leanings.

    Anyone can play. Just find something you don't agree with, and define it as 'the left'.

    What a good idea.

    You can get a run for every time somebody blames "the left", "the right" or "Fatcher".

    A four any time blames "Major" or "Attlee".

    And a wicket every time somebody points out that the Nazis were socialists.

  • JayReilly's profile picture JayReilly

    Nov 21 08, 12:36pm (about 7 hours ago)

    "I seem to have wandered into a Daily Mail forum" - continual padding up to a leg spinner? Not worthy of dismissal but tiresome for all involved.

    "This comment has been removed" - 20-20 cricket. Repugnant and a sad indictment of the times....

  • SwiftyBoy's profile picture SwiftyBoy

    Nov 21 08, 12:42pm (about 7 hours ago)


    Yep, agreed.

    Just goes to show what right-minded people have been saying since it was first played - cricket truly is a metaphor for everything in life.

  • Benulek's profile picture Benulek

    Nov 21 08, 12:47pm (about 7 hours ago)

    How about virtually every comment ever made by the blessed MrPikeBishop?

    Opening the batting as regal, Ganguly-esque Viceroy of the Libertarian Free Town of Mogadishu - looks the bowler sternly in the eye, watches him hawklike as he steams down to deliver, canters forward to slog him back over his head ....... and BLAM! splattered wicket! How's that for a slower ball?

  • tommyjimmy's profile picture tommyjimmy

    Nov 21 08, 12:49pm (about 7 hours ago)

    I'm still looking for a "middle peg uprooted cartwheeling toward the wicket keeper"-type clean bowled. I suspect the Daily Mail might be there or thereabouts. Godwin's Law could be a sneaky glance for a couple to fine leg.

    Ah, but it depends on the pitch and the bowler. On any Russia thread, 'war criminal Saakashvili' sends them flying. 'Sky Pixies' on anything by Theo Hobson. And if Woolly's bowling, 'Nutty Troofer Denialists' on any global warming thread. Similarly, if Politicus is up, I'll have 'Russophobia', please.


  • SwiftyBoy's profile picture SwiftyBoy

    Nov 21 08, 12:58pm (about 7 hours ago)


    Brilliant, and you're absolutely right, of course. Something dull and worthy by young Rowena Whatsername is a slow, low turner, not much life in it, making for a brisk day in the beer tent.

    Whereas... a Polly Toynbee, Inayat Bunglawala or Julie Bindel effort is a veritable West Indian firecracker of a pitch, bouncers, rattled slats and bruises all over the place, rivetting viewing.

    Oh, and Martin Wainwright is Headingley. Obviously.

  • gillesboy's profile picture gillesboy

    Nov 21 08, 1:02pm (about 7 hours ago)

    Bah! I've just googled 'scantily clad school girl' and have ended up on this fascist Nulla-Bore rant. That's five minutes of my life I'll never get back.

  • SwiftyBoy's profile picture SwiftyBoy

    Nov 21 08, 1:08pm (about 7 hours ago)

    "And gillesboy trudges back to the pavillion, bat under arm, eyes on the big screen, a solitary streaky single to his name..."

Nov 21 08, 1:26pm (about 6 hours ago)

Bindel would surely be the 'Murali' of CIF? Generates a lot of results but from a rather shameful technique.

  • SwiftyBoy's profile picture SwiftyBoy

    Nov 21 08, 1:42pm (about 6 hours ago)

    From Wisden:

    "Many commentators say KillingTime produced one of the finest innings of CiF cricket ever seen in this country. Indeed, only socialistmike managed a higher score in the game's brief history, although it has to be said that the pitch (a truly dreadful piece by Harry Phibbs) was a gift to a "buzzword batsman" of his calibre."

  • JayReilly's profile picture JayReilly

    Nov 21 08, 1:47pm (about 6 hours ago)

    Yes i think Tatchell is a competent Harmison.

    Who would the mods be? What sort of life draining, souless, spiteful, po faced, narrow minded, cowardly, spineless, sniggering parasite of the thinking mans game could possibly be worthy of the honour? Glen Mcgrath?

    In fact, perhaps the mods would be rain clouds, inconsistent, sometimes nowhere to be seen, sometimes virtuously balanced and scattered, but always threatening to completely ruin a game with a sudden downpour of misery.

    I havent got high hopes for the life span of this post, a youngster suffering cruciate ligament damage to the knee perhaps....

And so on .. and on .. and on .. England hasn't run out of good men yet.

  • Mendoza's profile picture Mendoza

    Nov 21 08, 2:33pm (about 5 hours ago)

    Max Gogarty - Don Bradman. Quite simply a legend

    Cathy Elliot - Jack Russell. Stubborn, small, can be prickly but plenty of character and bundles of belief

    Bindel - Monty Panesar. Not a journalist who has written 33 articles for the CIF, but one that had written the same CIF article 33 times

    Ariane Sherine - Brian Lara. Walks on with a breezy grin and proceeds to demolish the record books

    Charlie Brooker - Merv Hughes. Scowling Curmudgeon who puts you in mind of a particularly pissed off ee-yore.

    John Harris - Darren Pattinson. No-ones quite sure how he ended up getting picked?

    Ally F - Shaun Pollock. A ginger, consistant all rounder, who doesn't miss much.

JayReilly's profile picture JayReilly

Nov 21 08, 2:47pm (about 5 hours ago)

I dont know what PMSL means, someone help me out goddamn.

Mendoza on Gogarty/Bradman - one of the finest comments i have seen on CIF. Spot on, Goggarty was in a class of his own. That was the most brutal onslaughts i have ever witnessed. I'll bet that was more of an 'experience of the real world' than any amount of wiping rhino's arses in the Congo. His thrashing became a news story in itself.

Come on chaps, who is the Tendulkar of the below the line team? Who consistently wields a vast array of prohibited words and sophistry, who is the master of the trade? SocialistMike doesnt count, he only used two words, racist and fascist, he just uses them so often they are more punctuation.

Boycott? Tricky one....

  • WheatFromChaff's profile picture WheatFromChaff

    Nov 21 08, 3:08pm (about 5 hours ago)

    And there's another beautifully taken boundary from Dave Swift - he really has got himself well and truly set now.

    For those just joining us, it is a lovely day at Honeyball and the visiting "below the line" team has clocked up 208 shortly after lunch. No wickets yet, in spite of the rather uneven pitch, and some spirited bowling by NaturalBlond.

    I'm joined by Swifters, Reillers and Jamo, and we are just tucking into a lovely Dundee cake sent up by a Mrs Elliot, currently stranded in a train near Truro.

    In the meantime, the commentary will be taken up by Benelers.

Dow hits new lows ..

and the FT100's not much above last months low ... although they were lower in 2002-3.

It'll get worse before it gets better. I gather Japanese markets are up overnight, so today might see some respite.

The Northern Rock saga continues. As part of their sustainable business model they created a Channel Island company (or was it a trust ?) called Granite, sold it their mortgage book, and then Granite sold mortgage-backed bonds to global investors.

Now : "The government is orchestrating the wind-down of Granite, the complex web of companies created by Northern Rock to raise billions of pounds on international capital markets using its mortgage book as collateral. Granite's £35bn of assets will be sold and investors in the bonds it has issued will be repaid."

Presumably 'selling the assets' means selling on the loans to someone else. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this wouldn't seem to be the best financial climate for unloading £35bn of mortgages.

If they can't raise enough money ? "Taxpayers could face a loss of £3bn on the wind-down."

Remember the Paulson plan, to buy out 'troubled assets', rejected by Congress then passed because otherwise the entire world financial system would collapse ?

Since then, if Caroline Baum is correct, Paulson and his advisers have been making it up as they go along.

Every time Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson updates us on the government’s efforts to stabilize the financial system and announces the latest twist in the Troubled Asset Relief Program, I get a sinking feeling in my stomach.

I know he will introduce a host of new acronyms for new lending facilities to rescue new asset classes from new and anticipated distress.

And I know that, no matter how hard I focus on what he says or how many times I read the press release and accompanying stories, I won’t be able to get my arms around the details.

And then it hits me. There are no details. Only a set of loosely linked concepts -- something between a trial balloon and a hot-air dirigible -- that flows out in a stream-of- consciousness format, with the details to be filled in later.

There were no details when Paulson delivered a three-page draft of a bailout proposal to Congress in September, authorizing him to spend $700 billion buying “troubled assets” from banks, with no questions asked and no provision for oversight.

There were no details when Paulson announced in October that he was shifting gears and using the congressionally authorized funds to recapitalize the banks, a provision of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and an option Paulson had dismissed weeks earlier in favor of buying troubled assets through some kind of reverse auction.

... Too bad it was a non-starter ...

Last week, Paulson announced that TARP, the program for buying troubled assets, was dead. (How can you have a TARP without the “T” and the “A?”) In its reincarnated form, the program will be reoriented toward helping the consumer.

There were no details.

Now to be fair, it may well be that what prevented ? postponed ? world financial meltdown eight weeks back was simply the fact that somebody was being given lots of money to do something. Markets are strange things. In that context the details aren't so important. But it certainly doesn't fill one with confidence to realise that the people at the top during the years when the disaster was being constructed don't seem terribly sure as to what to do next.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BNP Brouhaha

Laban, way back :

"as long as demographic change on this scale continues, banning the BNP from Facebook, harassing and sacking its activists, "duffing them up in the street" (copyright B.Bragg) are in the long run not going to make a difference.

The BNP may have many idiotic ideas. They may also have some very nasty ones at the heart of their ideology and among their senior people.

But that isn't why people are voting for them. The native Brits haven't suddenly become swivel-eyed types with obsessions about black IQ, Jewish conspiracies and the other things that make a BNP ideologues eyes light up. The English don't do fascism. They just don't want to be a minority in their own country.
And again :

"a big heave this election might keep the BNP vote down. But the effort needed will be higher each time as the tide rises."
Well, the effort gets higher. Yesterday's news that the entire BNP membership - names, addresses, phones, email - was out there on the internet, along with news that mass immigration continues at historically unprecedented levels, marks a new escalation. It's likely to be very damaging - no-one likes receiving threats, the witch-hunts and sackings have begun, chaps are piteously pleading their innocence of the grave charge of belonging to a legal political party. Early 50s America, or seventeenth century Salem ?

Generally I am a firm believer in Mr Cock-up rather than Mr Conspiracy. But the thesis put forward by Nick Griffin yesterday - that the list was released by a senior ex-member who thought the party were too moderate - seems unlikely. I'm not a guru of BNP internal politics, but I thought last years split was over tactics and personalities rather than strategy.

No, this looks like Labour really are crapping themselves as the economic crisis deepens (seen bank shares this week ? the sector's dropped 20% in three days), the country feels more and more Weimar-ish, and the Govt, having long given up on enforcing existing laws, are passing new ones criminalising men who pay prostitutes. I thought it was not paying them that was the crime.

I'd say State involvement is as likely as not. You would tend to assume that MI5 have someone at a senior-ish level in the party - after all, the late Julia Pirie, PA to the general secretary of the Communist Party, was a State agent. I take it as a matter of course that every visit and email to the BNP site is logged.

But it's a sign of desperation. As I said, the effort needed gets more each time. After this there's only really one escalation left, short of making the party illegal.

As you know, the secret ballot isn't in fact terribly secret. Each voting slip has a number, the number of your slip is noted as your name's ticked off on the register and it's handed to you - it would not be beyond the wit of our rulers (with a major track record on vote fraud) to organise a reconciliation. What happens, I wonder, to the voting slips and polling station returns after the count ? Anyone know ?

If, as I think quite likely, the BNP get Euro seats next May, the only list left to publish will be that of their voters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Girlie Vocalists ...

Mid-60s London, and one Andrew Loog Oldham, Rolling Stones manager, trawls the city for pretty girls who want to sing. One is Marianne Faithfull. I pass her by like the idle wind, heeding her not.

Another of his finds rose to fame in New York before a long, drug-fuelled decline and an early death. A third lived quietly in the country, raised children and found acclaim only twenty five years later.

Mr Loog Oldham presents :

Nico - I''m Not Sayin

Vashti Bunyan - Some Things Just Stick In your Mind

Here's a few folkies I missed in the previous posts.

The wonderful Shirley Collins - perhaps an acquired taste but a lasting one.

Big-eyed, quizzical looks and another pure voice - Pentangle's Jacqui McShee.

A woman I could listen to till the cows come home - Mary Black.

Perfect voice for the song - the late Lal Waterson sings 'To Make You Stay". What a pity her "Fine Horseman" is not out there.

Finding an affordable recording of Tex Ritter's 'Old Paint' - and it's got to be the really gritty, primitive version Hank Wangford played on his Radio 2 series "Ghengis Khan Was A Cowboy Too" - is difficult. I have no idea who mmcs122 (aka Molly from Nashville) is, but this version by her is, while not at all gritty, quite charming.

Bits and Bobs ...

Andrew Rawnsley on Sunday :

It is astonishing to behold Gordon Brown tearing up all the rules by which he spent more than a decade swearing. The Chancellor who used to eviscerate the Tories for reckless fiscal 'black holes' has transmogrified into the Prime Minister who now hails unfunded tax cuts as the 'fiscal stimulus' that will save the world ... The man who once swore that he would stick to his rules on borrowing, come sunshine or showers, now declares that the never-never is the new prudence. This is a stunning inversion of what were once all the basic axioms of New Labour.

It is absolutely breathtaking. But the breath that has been most taken away is that of the Tories. They simply cannot comprehend how the Prime Minister can be getting away with it. Dazed and confused, they search for a goat to scape.

I'm not George Osborne's biggest fan, to put it mildly. But if even Vince Cable can't nail Gordo, what chance does Osborne have - in the short term ?

This crisis has yet to run its course - IMHO we're only at the start. Gordo's bounce will probably deflate. Although there is the (to the Tories) dreadful possibility that things will get really bad, and the worse they get, the more we'll cling to him.

In the light of the new BBC campaign against saying nasty things about da youth, a link to the origial 'chav hunting' video, and the wonderfully po-faced BBC commentary thereon.

David Green in the Times on the welfare state and its disincentives to work and marriage - or even coupledom :

Worst of all, low-income couples with children – precisely those who can make ends meet only by combining their efforts – are discouraged from living together. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, if a single mother earning £10,000 was contemplating living with a boyfriend earning £25,000, the pair would be £5,473 per year better off if they told the government they lived separately – a bonus of 22% for doing the wrong thing.

Many single parents live with a boyfriend or girlfriend despite such financial pressures. A survey for the work and pensions department in 2004 found that 23% gave up benefits to “re-partner”. Their decision to live together was a triumph of romance over economics and we can conjecture that, without powerful government incentives to live separately, more people would marry.

We now have a big problem with welfare dependency. In 1960 all social security benefits cost 5.5% of GDP. In 2006-7 the cost of “social protection” was 13.4% of GDP. The solution is not to harden our hearts and invoke a crackdown. It is to put the welfare state on a new footing: reciprocity.

The Jersey children's home murders turn out to have been a mass outbreak of moral panic - Richard Webster at spiked.

L’Obama, ossia L’Avvento del Messia
Opera in Tre Atti

And a magnificent film review by David Cox in the Guardian, of all places. Think he'll be asked to do any more ?

Hunger, the much praised and garlanded Britflick hagiography of Provo hunger striker Bobby Sands, didn't quite do it for me.

It began by laying bare the supposedly brutal treatment of Republican prisoners at The Maze. I'd been under the impression that standards at this facility were carefully maintained, if only because the cunning Brits were keen to fend off international protests about their dubious judicial arrangements. This wasn't, however, my problem. That lay elsewhere. Far from being shocked at seeing the inmates roughed up a bit, I found myself wishing they'd been properly tortured, preferably savagely, imaginatively and continuously.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cash For Crash

A few stories - Luton :

The 13-man gang was sentenced at St Albans Crown Court 4 August. It had been making dishonest claims to insurance companies for compensation totalling more than £250,000 relating to road traffic collisions that had never happened. Members of the gang were associates or relatives of two brothers, Bobby and Umear Gul. One of the gang-members was a partner at a garage in Luton, which claimed to have towed away vehicles from the staged-accident scenes. Investigations began when the Hertfordshire Constabulary officers contacted the IFB because some of the collisions hadn’t been reported to police. The IFB subsequently identified numerous interlinked car insurance claims. Officers took hundreds of statements from insurance companies, auction houses, vehicle examiners and other related agencies as part of investigations.

The gang's sentences. Not exactly hefty deterrent sentences, to put it mildly :

Umear GUL (30)
Rickmansworth Rd, Watford
Sentenced to two and a half years' imprisonment.

Ummar HUSSAIN (29)
Leagrave Rd, Luton, Beds
Sentenced to 15 months' imprisonment.

John DAVIES (43)
Rickmansworth Rd, Watford
Six-month suspended sentence.

Nichola DAVIES (38)
Rickmansworth Rd, Watford
Four-month suspended sentence.

Charlotte BATES (26)
Courtlands Close, Watford
Sixteen-week suspended sentence.

Umbreen RAHMAN (33)
Busch Close, Isleworth, London
Sixteen-week suspended sentence.

Nabeel SARWAR (25)
HMP - Serving a sentence for a previous fraud
Sentenced to four months' imprisonment.

Nadeem BUTT (38)
Charlock Way, Watford
Twenty-week suspended sentence.

Stephen CARVER (37)
Lark Rise, Hatfield
Twenty-week suspended sentence

Shuaib SIDDIQY (30)
Denbigh Rd, Luton
Four-month suspended sentence

Allan ELTON (41)
Ackworth Crescent, Luton
Twenty-week suspended sentence

Khaleeq UR-EHMAN (30)
Milford Close, St Albans
Six-month suspended sentence

Bolton :

A MOTORIST admitted deliberately causing car crashes so he could make bogus insurance claims. Mohammed Patel, aged 23, tried to make people crash into him by braking suddenly and swerving, then used false witness statements to back up insurance claims, a court heard. Patel, of Nottingham Drive, Bolton, admitted to 17 charges, including conspiracy to commit fraud, dangerous driving and driving whilst disqualified when he appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester. He is one of the first to be charged with this kind of crime in an ongoing investigation by the police and the Insurance Fraud Bureau.

Figures released by the IFB show that Bolton is the fifth worst town in the country for “crash for cash” fraud. The IFB estimates that there have been 986 staged accidents in Bolton since 1999, placing the town above Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle in the hotspot rankings. Only Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham and Oldham have worse records.

Hmm. Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Oldham and Bolton. What could be the common factor here ? It must be that they all vote Labour or Lib Dem !

This sounds a little more sophisticated :

The director of a multi million pound accident management company was arrested for conspiracy to scam UK motor insurers.

The 23 year-old director has possibly made millions by submitting fraudulent accident claims to insurers and has covered this activity by engaging in other business activities, including involvement in numerous London-based accident management companies.

Officers from the Traffic Operational Command Unit began their investigation, codenamed Operation Scarp, eight months ago when insurance companies identified irregularities in the claims being made and the IFB contacted the police.

So-called 'cash for crash' scams have typically involved staged crashes, where fictitious paper-based claims were submitted to insurance companies. They have usually involved a low and high value car, where the low value car was 'at fault'. The party was able to reap maximum pay-out from the claim, including cost of repair, vehicle storage and significant sums for often phony courtesy cars.

In the case of the arrested man, detectives estimated that the director was making an average of £40,000 per dishonest claim by engaging in this type of activity. Part of this sum was generated by his company’s leasing business, which specialised in hiring out high value vehicles such as Mercedes, BMWs and Jaguars costing insurance companies several hundred pounds a day.

Weimar Here We Come ...

I noted a few weeks back that the UK was starting to feel a bit early 1930s. But I was being somewhat tongue in cheek - inflation at five or even ten per cent, while robbing those on fixed incomes (pensioners), isn't going to wipe out the savings of the middle classes and produce the (righteous IMHO - how would you like to play by the rules all your life and then have your savings stolen ?) anger which found an unrighteous home in the National German Socialist Workers Party.

A couple of wee straws - well, rather large ones, actually - make Laban uneasy.

First, Guido :

Gavyn Davies, a former Goldman Sachs managing director and MPC wise man is close to the Brownies - his wife Sue Nye was Gordon's diary secretary and is now the Director of Government Relations in Downing Street. So when he advocates, as he does this morning, turning on the printing presses at the Bank of England and just printing more money to solve our woes, you can believe this is being discussed in Downing Street.
Now that is scary. Davies is quite serious.

The sale of bonds needed to finance today's tax cuts can only be achieved if the rate of interest on these bonds is made sufficiently attractive to induce people to buy them. The resulting rise in real interest rates may harm consumer and company spending, offsetting the beneficial effects of the tax cuts. What then?This is where governments might need to be even more unorthodox. The tax cuts do not have to be financed by selling bonds. They can be financed by asking the Bank of England to offer an overdraft to the government, which is a polite way of saying by printing money. If you think about this as a process in which the central bank prints bank notes (essentially at zero cost) and gives them to the government to hand out in tax reductions, you would not be wrong in any meaningful way.

Trouble is, he's not the only one. Let's stand back a pace and review.

I keep reading comments on Robert Peston's blog to the effect that the UK may be heading for an Icelandic scenario - that the amount of dosh needed to bail out the banks will be rather more then UK plc can lay its hands on. Willem Buiter raised this possibility in a Today interview last week.

Will Hutton's saying more or less the same thing :

The foreign savers on whom the government and banks rely to finance their debts went on strike 12 months ago. Now they are actively withdrawing their cash. Last week one of the US's top banks, the Bank of New York Mellon, revealed that in September and October, three quarters of the capital that foreigners had brought into Britain in the preceding four years had left - more than £100bn.

What worries them is that with plunging property values, the viability of British banks remains questionable, but the UK government has not got a deep enough pocket to bail them out again. British savings are inadequate. If a company gets into this situation it declares bankruptcy because it has not the cash to continue trading. If foreign cash continues to leave, the UK faces the same fate.

And then ?

There is the Latin American option. Instead of trying to sell bonds, the government would simply instruct the Bank of England effectively to print money. It may want to do this anyway if deflation looms, but now its hand would be forced. But once on this path there is no easy way back; savers and investors are crowded out by the printing press and the country gets locked in a cycle of inflation in a broken-backed economy with an angry, rapidly impoverished middle class.

The next option is to organise a jumbo - up to $200bn - loan from the IMF, EU and US to tide the economy over. The Europeans and Americans would both insist that Britain negotiate a deal with the IMF as the precondition for the loan. It would be a re-run of Labour Chancellor Denis Healey turning to the IMF in April 1976 - only now it would be Alistair Darling and Gordon Brown. One insider, contemplating the prospect, acknowledged it would be political suicide.

The last, best and most palatable option is to join the euro.

Hmm. Interesting times. Two Nu Lab gurus talking about printing money. If Prudence was alive today (she OD'd in a crack house last month) she'd turn in her grave.

Of the three necessities, I see tinned baked beans have gone up by about 40% in the last month, and gold has also risen 20% because of sterling's fall against the dollar. I believe shotguns and cartridges are steady, but that won't last. Buy now.

Some muddy boots from the curate's hall

OK, so we've known for ages that France's youth of North African heritage aren't integrating tebbily well.

More straws in the wind :

They are born in France and called Louis, Laurent or Marie but they want to become Abdel, Said or Rachida. Such requests from immigrants’ children for name changes are mounting in the French courts and worrying a state that lays store on melding a single national culture.

In a sign of a new assertiveness, children with families from Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco are reversing the old custom in which immigrants from the old colonies gave French names to their children.

Driven by a feeling that they do not belong to their Gallic Christian names, the applicants are meeting resistance from judges who are reluctant to endorse what they see as a rejection of France.

Under France’s strict administrative laws, an official change of first name requires court consent. Until 1992 parents could only register their babies with names from an approved list.

“The way I look is out of sync with my name,” said Jacques, 25, who wants to adopt a name from his parents’ native Algeria. He rejected the standard view that a French name overcomes the persisting reluctance of French employers to recruit nonwhite minorities.

“There is a double-take when I send a job application and then turn up for the interview. They hesitate, as if the person they have summoned could not be me,” he said.

There is abundant evidence that, despite antidiscrimination laws, French employers discriminate against job-seekers with foreign names. Nadine, who is in her forties, failed to convince a Paris court to let her go back to Zoubida, the name she had before naturalisation. “I want to return to my roots,” she told Judge Anne-Marie Lemarinier, according to Le Monde newspaper.

“My name change makes me feel guilt towards my family.” The judge replied: “Madame, I can understand that you want to identify with your community but the law does not have to bend to people’s moods.”

Frédéric Grilli, a Melun lawyer who acts for applicants, said that there was a connection between the desire to claim Maghebrin (North African) identity and France’s three-year-old ban against girls wearing Muslim headscarves in state schools.

Dominique Sopo, president of SOS Racism, a campaign group, said that France’s policy of integration was failing. “It rejects, stigmatises and consigns to the ghetto. This incites a retreat into community identity,” he told The Times.

“There is an enormous gap between political speeches on integration and the reality. But who can believe that changing a name can change something? It is sad to have got to that point.”

Another immigration scam. Damn clever these Chinese. You'd think such clever people could just read up to pass the 'citizenship tests', but no :

A criminal gang used elaborate James Bond-style spy gear to help Chinese immigrants cheat on citizenship tests. Two men have been jailed after using hi-tech hidden cameras, transmitters and surveillance gadgets to tell candidates sitting the exams the right answers. The Life in the UK test is the last step towards earning citizenship and those who pass are then entitled to apply for a British passport.

But there are fears unsuitable candidates may have earned the right to settle here thanks to a highly sophisticated scam to cheat the questions. Participants, who did not understand English, went in to a test centre in Wimbledon library, south west London, armed with a hidden shirt buttonhole camera, microphone and earpiece.

In a scam akin to a scene in a James Bond movie, two fraudsters sat outside in BMW car packed with hi-tech equipment and a laptop and directed them to tick the right answers via the secret link. When police first came across the pair they thought they were running a cashpoint fraud, skimming the cards of unsuspecting users. But it emerged they were helping Chinese nationals undertake the multiple choice immigration tests in the nearby building. Police fear the gang were earning thousands of pounds and a sophisticated network that could be spread across the UK.

In the Life in the UK test, applicants are asked a series of multiple choice questions about day to day life and traditions in the country. It is supposed to allow them to demonstrate they have a basic command of English and knowledge of the country they are hoping to settle in. But it has been open to abuse. Last year four men were quizzed over claims of a nationwide scam at a centre in South Yorkshire to help immigrants achieve British citizenship status.

In the latest case, Sergeant Dominic Washington, of Merton Borough police, said those behind the elaborate scam made thousands of pounds profit. He said: "When we first arrived at the scene it was very confusing as to what exactly was going on. However, working with colleagues from across the borough and the Met we believe that we have uncovered an established criminal enterprise that may be in operation in other parts of the country. We will now be educating colleagues about this type of crime, and hopefully its raised profile and extra vigilance from police will deter others from getting involved."

Steven Lee, 36, and Rong Yang, 28, of Redhill, Surrey, were jailed for eight months at Kingston Crown court earlier this week after they were found guilty of facilitating a breach of immigration law. Two Chinese men who took the test, Ka Hung Pang, 52, of Horsham, and En Zhuang, 38, of Deptford High Street, were sentenced to 180 hours community work for deception.

Remember the new phenomenon (strangely prevalent in certain towns) of 'cash for crash" fraudsters ? The guys who brake sharply in front of you, supply witnesses to the accident, and who all turn out to have been injured in the bump ?

It looks as if a toxic mix of cash-for-crashers and ambulance-chasing persoanl injury solicitors (those "if you've been involved in an accident - and it wasn't your fault - call us" adverts in local radio and Classic FM), plus the happy fact that whiplash injuries are self-reported, is spurring a boom in personal injury claims for whiplash.

Over 430,000 people claimed for whiplash in 2007, up by a quarter in the last five years. These claims cost nearly £2 billion a year in compensation.

Treating whiplash injuries now costs the NHS approximately £8 million a year in consultation fees.

The UK is the whiplash capital of Europe: 75% of motor personal injury claims are for whiplash, compared to an average of 40% throughout the rest of Europe.

Many drivers and passengers are at risk: 75% of drivers are unaware how head restraints should be correctly positioned.
They have to say that last bit. After all, some of these claims might even be kosher. The ABI report (pdf) reflects this ambivalence - outrage at the ripoff tempered by the knowledge that you can't start calling all the punters crooks. There's lots of stuff in it about getting the headrest set up properly. But the key bits are :

"Over 432,000 people make a whiplash claim every year – equivalent to one in every 140 people in the UK. This is six times more than the total number of people who make workplace injury claims every year. And the problem is getting worse – the number of people with cause to make a whiplash claim has increased by 25% over the last five years, so it is no surprise that whiplash now leads to nearly £2bn per year in compensation payments – accounting for 20% of the typical car insurance premium."
That means my family's stumping up about £200 pa in whiplash claims. Admittedly our premiums are high because our eldest is a driver.

At the same time that whiplash claims are rising, the Government’s road casualty statistics suggest that our roads are getting safer ... We must also consider why, though, we seem to have such a greater tendency to get whiplash than the rest of Europe. Do we really have weaker necks? Part of the answer must lie in our failing personal injury compensation system and our no-questions-asked approach to whiplash ... it is important that it is not always assumed that everyone in a car collision is likely to get whiplash, and that GPs take this into account in their more rigorous approach to handing out sick notes.
Translation - "these ******** are ripping us off - or more precisely, ripping the non-claiming motorist off - after all, we just raise the premiums. The personal injury firms and the 'injured' are conning us - and the GPs are turning a blind eye"

This increase in whiplash claims contrasts with the Government’s road casualty statistics, which indicate that the number of ‘slight’ injuries from road traffic collisions is falling ... Whiplash claims form a much higher proportion of personal injury claims in the UK than elsewhere in the EU.
Translation - "therefore it's likely that most of the claims are fraudulent"

"The diagnosis of whiplash injuries is dependant on self-reported symptoms .."

Translation - "So if you say your neck hurts you'll get the money ... the solicitors are coaching the claimants - not that they need much encouragement .."

The current level of legal costs is completely disproportionate. For every £1 paid by insurers in personal injury compensation, an additional 88p is paid to claimant representatives in motor claims under £5000. The majority of whiplash claims fall in this bracket;

It (the current system - LT) encourages the practice of solicitors paying for details of those involved in road collisions. Once the solicitor has paid a ‘referral’ fee to organisations that collect such information, the solicitor has a vested interest in ensuring a claim materialises.
Translation - "Like a large number of claimants, the solicitors are crooks who are in it for the money. They're making nearly as much as the claimants"

Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB) estimates that those detected fraudulent claims based on ‘staged’ accidents represent 5% of whiplash claims, costing the insurance industry between £75 - £110 million per annum.
So the 'cash-for-crash' industry is a £100 million pa industry. And we're paying them through our premiums.

In addition there are opportunistic fraudulent claims, which are less easily detected and therefore difficult to measure.
If whiplash is diagnosed on self-reported symptoms, once word gets round you're dependent on the general level of honesty in a society. Oh dear.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Help !

It's the son's Christmas quiz, and parents are allowed to help - but this one's a killer.

Where's this building and what is it ? Not a good picture, but the street looks low-rise USA (or perhaps Aus/NZ) and by the shadows the picture's taken from the north, if the time on the clock is 5.40 (it's a bit blurred). It appears to be at the top of a rise, there's a small statue in front of the main clock tower, which appears to have a cross on top and also appears to close off the whole road. But the tower's main feature is the unusual top - bit like corn on the cob.

Has the air of a memorial. I'm sure I've seen the picture somewhere before, but Lord knows where.

The location begins with R. The strange top (despite the cross) made me think Rangoon, but I can't find anything like it on Google images. Tried Raleigh, Roanoke, Rostov, Riga, Rotorua, Rawalpindi, Rappahannock, Richmond. The US seems short of decent sized towns beginning with R.

Any ideas ?

It Gets More Like England Every Day

There's certainly a hefty tradition in Ulster of everyone knowing and no one saying who the guys with the guns are. Obviously exists south of the border too.

Even in song this city of 90,000 is divided. Contrast the proud anthem of Garryowen – “Our hearts so stout have brought us fame/ For soon ’tis known from whence we came. Where e’er we go they dread the name Of Garryowen in Glory” – with the “gangsta” rap of Ballinacurra Weston, Moyross, Southill and St Mary’s Park of the Island Field, where grey streets are punctuated with boarded-up houses and burnt or rusting debris lies scattered across the greens, picked at by roaming horses.

The soundtrack and the style here is alien to Limerick’s rugby culture – a sport introduced to the city in the 19th century by the British Army garrison.

Graffiti lauds Bullitz, a local rap star whose song Da Graveyard tells the story of another Limerick. “It’s sad but true / Limerick life can be cruel . . . God knows down here the next time someone dies / there’ll be retaliation / I can’t get a job with this Limerick life / I’m feeling like I’m trapped and I can’t survive / There’s people round here they don’t even care when you’re messing with death / you know what to expect / the war will continue until you’re put to rest.”

In one visit by The Times this week, hours after Mr Collins’s home was searched as part of the Shane Geoghegan murder inquiry involving 30 raids in Limerick, Cork and Dublin, police examined waste ground and scorched, gaping houses for drugs and weapons. One officer said: “If we find anything we don’t touch it until we’ve called in armed support. If we tried to leave with the stuff they’d just take it off us.”

The officer didn’t look up from his task but it was clear that he was referring to Jimmy and his friends, armed with baleful stares and hockey sticks standing a dozen yards away.

And, just as in the UK, the whole thing's state-subsidised - not to mention the factor of the derisory sentencing which recycles killers back to their estates inside a few years.

The problem is that there seems to be a conveyor belt of criminals from the sprawling, neglected estates of Limerick so that every time they take one gang member off the streets another takes his place. And it is back to these estates that the debate always returns.

About 41 per cent of all housing in Limerick city is local authority. This is the highest in the country by far and almost twice as high as Dublin, with 21 per cent. The unemployment rate in the city, according to the 2006 census, was the highest in the Republic at 14.6 per cent. The estates are among the biggest in Ireland, with more than 1,000 dwellings in many of them. It is a planner's dream gone badly wrong.

Some of these estates are wastelands. Rubbish has been tipped everywhere. Houses - in some parts rows of houses - are burnt out and boarded up.

Some would point to the boarded up houses as proof that people are being relocated ahead of the planned regeneration project. But these estates have been in a similar condition since at least 2003, when this reporter began making his by now regular trips to Limerick.

The law seems a little short of friends in that part of the world :

Two Limerick-related trials produced two of the most egregious examples in recent years of memories failing in an Irish court room.

Liam Keane (19) was at the centre of both. In January, he testified under oath about a knife attack on him in Limerick city centre last year, and confirmed a garda statement in which he said: "Kieran Ryan stabbed me in the back." But when asked if he could identify the man in the dock, Kieran Ryan, he said: "No."

Judge Carroll Moran then said he was left with "no alternative" but to direct the jury to find Ryan not guilty. Later that week, Ryan was abducted only to turn up safely a week later.

In a reverse scenario last week, Liam Keane was freed at Dublin's Central Criminal Court after six witnesses denied making statements implicating him in the stabbing to death of Eric Leamy (19). Detectives admitted that none of the witnesses was intimidated.

Officers attributed the attitude of the six witnesses to a "culture" prevalent among some people in Limerick. The bizarre events surrounding the Keane trial embodied the spirit of justice Limerick-style: a system which might or might not involve a trip to court, and where witnesses reserve their right to withdraw sworn statements.

"It's part of the culture in Limerick," according to Anthony Galvin, author of a forthcoming book Family Feud: Gangland Limerick Exposed.

At least 15 garda criminal investigations in Limerick have failed in recent years because of statements being withdrawn, said Galvin.

"The withdrawing of the statements during the last peace pact has contributed to the culture of non-cooperation with the gardai." John Creamer (30) is a case in point.Two years ago, he was shot in the head, neck, chest, arm, leg and an inch away from his heart by a 16-year- old armed with an Uzi submachine gun. Creamer survived,but was unable to identify his assailant.

The almost indigenous inability of witnesses to identify gangland gunmen in Limerick was best illustrated in the case of the late Eddie Ryan, an armed robber, drug dealer and occasional hitman.

In 2000, Ryan, armed with a handgun, walked up to his former associate Christy Keane and pulled the trigger.

Unfortunately for Ryan, the gun jammed, and a week later Chr isty's brother K ieran Keane is believed to have shot him dead in the Moose Bar in Limerick. Christy - serving ten years in Portlaoise prison - had been unable to identify Ryan to the team investigating the first gun attack.There is no suggestion that Christy had any knowledge of Ryan's death.

"There is this code of silence in Limerick, sometimes it's a principled stance by the witness. Secondly, there has been some intimidation. I would not say it's a factor in the case of Liam Keane," Galvin said.

Those who agree to testify face an uncertain fate. Keane's father, Christy, was cleared of murder nine years ago after one of the main trial witnesses was murdered. Michael McCarthy was gunned down on New Year's Eve, 1993, months ahead of the trial arising from the murder of his brother Pa McCarthy.

Hmm. They're taking the mick. Like the British state, the Irish state has long given up on being what I call 'the nutter of last resort' - i.e. the person you really don't want to cross.