Friday, July 31, 2009

"as though any one mattered as much as all that"

The nurse stood irresolute, looking now at the kneeling figure by the bed (the scandalous exhibition!) and now (poor children!) at the twins who had stopped their hunting of the zipper and were staring from the other end of the ward, staring with all their eyes and nostrils at the shocking scene that was being enacted round Bed 20. Should she speak to him? try to bring him back to a sense of decency? remind him of where he was? of what fatal mischief he might do to these poor innocents? Undoing all their wholesome death-conditioning with this disgusting outcry–as though death were something terrible, as though any one mattered as much as all that! It might give them the most disastrous ideas about the subject, might upset them into reacting in the entirely wrong, the utterly anti-social way.

Poll Pot is the latest to bang the euthanasia drum. BBC news covers little else these days. Laban chips in :

a) the population is ageing, because the baby-boom generation now moving into retirement didn't have enough children, preferring to outsource the production of the next generation to immigrants

b) older people need more medical care to keep them upright

c) medical care is very expensive

d) our wonderful Government has run out of money - they seem to have been having a few financial difficulties of late

e) taxes will have to rise, both because of Government incompetence and because the base of net tax payers will have more elderly people (net tax recipients) to support

f) if history is a guide, these tax increases are likely to be resented

g) the resentful taxpayers will be all colours and cultures. The elderly recipients of the tax-funded medical care will be hideously white native Brits.

h) and the Guardian, BBC and the rest of our liberal masters have decided that now seems like a good time to add euthanasia to the available NHS options.

i) Naturally it will only be used on demand in ultra-special cases - just like abortions were going to be really, really unusual and rare when the law was changed back in 1967.

j) Hmm. This is one of those rare occasions when conspiracy theory and Occam's Razor both point in the same direction. Follow the money. Motive - saving all that cash. Opportunity - via new legislation.

More Liberal "Myths of the Myth of ..."

Diane Abbott in the Indie (on the anti-Trevor Phillips campaign - I blogged it here) :

Black people have watched with mounting dismay as he made a series of interventions on race which were at best silly and at worst revealed no grasp of the facts and figures. First came his attack on multiculturalism. This baffled and upset very many ordinary people, both black and white, who had spent a lifetime fighting racism in their communities. Then there was his claim that we were "sleepwalking to segregation". Manchester University academics had to point out that there was no statistical evidence of "white flight" from inner-city areas with high numbers of minority ethnic residents.
The 'Manchester University academics' being of course Steven 'Ludi' Simpson and perhaps the lovely Dr Nissa. I took a look at his idiosyncratic definition of integration in the first link. But the "myth of the myth of white flight" seems to have at last taken off.

Pity about this comment, by one john b ellis :

Of course some native Brits live pretty much unperturbed alongside new immigrants, and the children and grandchildren of earlier immigrants. The philosophy of "live and let live" and "take as you find" runs reasonably deep in the national psyche, and lots of folk find no reason to take flight.

But there's another side. My other half and I visited some of her vast array of relatives last week, and particularly an eighty-four year old step-aunt in Wolverhampton. That lady and her sister, neither of whom had married, continued to live for very many years, long after the death of their parents, in the council house in which they had been brought up in the Black Country town of Tipton.

They moved, rather against the grain, because of the effects of immigration. Gradually, most of the council houses around them had come to be occupied by families of new Commonwealth origin. One day, one of the sisters observed a neighbouring family carefully spreading one of their carpets down the middle of the street, and proceeding to wash it. Presumably traffic had to take a detour while the operation was in progress! They decided, quite quietly and without any conflict, that it was time to move house, and did so.

It wasn't a move spurred by hatred, or even dislike, much less fanatical racist ideology. They just felt uncomfortable. The customs were different. They no longer felt at home.

Another liberal myth. Remember a couple of years back, Margaret Hodge and her worries about the allocation of council and housing association ('social housing") properties ?

We should look at policies where the legitimate sense of entitlement felt by the indigenous family overrides the legitimate need demonstrated by the new migrants.

We should also look at drawing up different rules based on, for instance, length of residence, citizenship or national insurance contributions which carry more weight ... most new migrant families are economic migrants who choose to come to live and work here. If you choose to come to Britain, should you presume the right to access social housing?

Need is an important factor, but it's not the only factor. This is about a rebalancing; listening and responding to a strongly felt sense of unfairness in the allocation of public resources.

It caused a bit of a media firestorm, she was accused of giving aid and comfort to the wrong sort of people, of feeding the myths peddled by the likes of the BNP - that 'they' get all the houses - and generally of letting the side down. When the BNP won nearly half the council seats in her constituency she was blamed.

My thoughts at the time were to the effect that as long as the system of allocating housing was needs-based rather than entitlement-based it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that incomers would get a disproportionate share of what housing was available. Read this pdf - from the BBC, of all people. No conspiracy necessary. Sure, you might get a few corrupt types or white idealists (after all, no one ever got fired from a council job for discrimination against white people, whereas even an unproven accusation of discrimination in their favour would impact negatively on a career) tilting the balance a tad against the natives - but apart from the strange concept of the Black and Minority Ethnic Housing Association it really did seem unlikely that there was much overt, direct discrimination. The discrimination was indirect - natives being likely to have fewer dependants and higher incomes than incomers - and indirect discrimination is not a concept I'm terribly happy with. As the Guardian put it :

It is true that many immigrant families have larger families and can benefit from the points system but the system itself is racially neutral.

The great and the good leapt into the breach against Ms Hodge. The Guardian in May 2007 was chocker with HYS pieces deploring her 'dog-whistle', unsubstantiated myths. Jon Cruddas was in the forefront - but the interesting stuff was in the comments. This one was from IShouldApologise, a paid-up Guardianista :

I am sorry, but I have to agree with Margaret Hodge.

When we arrived back in the UK four years ago my wife had a small job and so did I and the only house we could afford was a small cramped second story flat. My children had to share one small loft together with barely enough room to stand up in. Furthemore, it was a firetrap.

One of my students was a Sri Lankhan refugee: a very nice man. He was not allowed to work, but I think he did anyway; in one of the network of Sri Lankhan shops in our area. At the same time the government had given him and his family, with two children, a perfectly fine three bedroomed house to live in rent free. I saw it.

It seemed rather unfair to me.

We couldn't find anyone to help us. We were earning just too much to deserve help from the government, but not enough to rent a decent place to live in. My children suffered. Perhaps if my wife had been a single mother the council would have given us priority on a housing list. Perhaps if we didn't both work, then the government would have come to our aid. Perhaps.

But they didn't. Bitter irony. I didn't resent it overmuch, that my student had been helped, I resented, and resent, that we hadn't been helped. We were left to suffer by the politically correct.

There is definitely something very wrong in the system. It shouldn't stop helping refugee Sri Lankhans, but it should think about helping working people with British Nationality more than it does at present.

One contribution by a housing officer was mysteriously deleted, but rescued by another commenter :

"What many of them do is, get a 3 month visa, register to vote using their passport, get a bank account using the confirmation of residence letter from the electoral registration office, then get a national insurance number from the job centre and a job 'fixing' the underground at night (ie putting their feet up). Then they can take those documents to the housing office and go straight on to the list. If they've got a big family (often the case) they get higher up the list. And there you have it." ..
"these people then apply for an 'indefinite leave to remain', then they get their families over here, then they are the priority list because their house is overcrowded. They're playing it according to the rules, there's nothing we can do."
While another housing officer's remarks survived :

As a Housing Officer I have worked in five different organisations, with five different waiting lists (including areas in Manchester and Blackburn - both areas with a strong ethnic mix) and newcomers are not the problem. Its the lazy-born and bred brits whose parent and grandparents have lived in council housing and who now know the system so well they can play it, and play it well. They're on every benefit going, have no intention of ever getting a job and are breeding like rabbits. They also know how to play the system. They apply for housing before they actually need it and they play the waiting game. Once in the system, you need never leave.
You can't imagine that a housing officer who talked about their minority clients like that would last very long in post, can you ? I think it's a pretty honest description of the UK underclass. On another thread she'd have been a hideous right-winger, blaming the victims of capitalism, the poorest and most vulnerable etc etc - here she was a heroine sticking up for the New Brits against the disgusting Old Brits.

"Any road up" ... with immaculate timing, even Gordon Brown managed to imply this year that he would "change the current rules for allocating council and other social housing, enabling local authorities to give more priority to local people and those who have spent a long time on a waiting list" - much to the horror of lefties everywhere. Shades of 'British Jobs For British Workers'.

And then at last over the hill came the cavalry - in the form of Trevor Phillips' shiny new Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The allegation that new migrants are jumping the queue for council housing and housing association homes was nailed as a myth by research recently published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Phew ! That's sorted that one. From now on, anyone raising the issue can be slapped with the research. Only trouble is, their stats are crap.
… The claim of a report published 7th July by the Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) - to have demonstrated that there is ‘no bias in allocation of social housing to immigrants’ - has been shown to be baseless by independent academic analysis.

According to a leading statistical analyst, Professor Mervyn Stone of University College London, the figures that EHRC has disseminated as if they were evidence for the claim are of zero inferential value.

The report therefore constitutes a serious betrayal of the public interest that whatever is the truth of the matter should be established scientifically. In consequence, Civitas has made a formal complaint to the UK Statistics Authority asking it to appraise the reliability of the statistical methods used by the report and the statistical reasoning that underlies its claims.

As Civitas put it :

“A democracy relies on the honesty of official statistics so that our differences can be settled by peaceful debate, but the EHRC report on social housing fails the most fundamental tests”

The report, by Professor Mervyn Stone, is here (pdf).

So we're paying to be lied to - the lies being in the service of a greater good - maintaining social cohesion and combatting the far-right. Admittedly that's the kind of thing we also get from, say, 'Manchester academics', who are also tax-funded, but the EHRC are far more directly an organ of government.

Sadly, this kind of tax-funded distortion may depress, but no longer shocks - which is in one sense the most worrying thing of all.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

When I came back from Lyonnesse

I must say the surf on the north coast of Cornwall is terrific. Definitely beats Gower, much as I love the place. You can stand up to your waist, only 20 yards out, and they'll come in breaking well over your head - sometimes a struggle to stand up to them. "Exuberating" as my daughter rightly said. Great for kids learning to surf or bodyboard - and the sea's warm enough that an aged father, t-shirted (the sunburn!) but not wetsuited, can spend three hours at a stretch in the water. You can hire a board for the day for a fiver. We respect such a sea, though - we're there when the tide's coming in and stick to the lifeguard zone. The board, soft-edged though it be, doesn't half hurt if it hits you on the head - I think it could probably knock you unconscious if you were unlucky. So when the RNLI pack up and go home, so do we.

Not far up the coast at Newquay, young men were dropping off the cliffs right left and centre - the town consisting of an excellent surfing beach surrounded by vertical cliffs - said cliffs topped by dozens of vertical drinking establishments. For some reason I can't fathom, they all seem to fall off in the early hours. My middle son, now seventeen, is off there tomorrow with three friends - and over the last week his father has been reading the casualty toll each day to him... inshallah something will sink in - although fiftysomething fathers can get into trouble there too.

We were in the water every day, but still found time for a few excursions - mostly ending in food and drink. Despite all that swimming and boarding, I've put on five pounds !

If you remember, Devon and Cornwall were the top locations for Brits fleeing West 'to escape the frantic lifestyle' (before West Wales became 'the new Cornwall') - and the place is indeed 'unhealthily white' - although still multicultural, the cultures ranging from upper-middle (plenty of RP blondes manning the surf schools - don't get me started on St Ives) through tattooed Cockneys in Merc 4x4s (with obligatory disabled parking badge) barking into their mobiles, to the Scally teenagers in the gift shop holding the pink illuminated squiggler to their trousers and roaring with laughter.

In fact you can drive for three hours up the A39 and quite forget what the rest of the UK is like - which brings me to the conversation we had with the lady who came to clean up before the next people took our house. Retired, but still hale and hearty, she'd lived there for nearly 20 years since leaving Sparkbrook - once a bit of Brummagem with a pronounced Irish tinge, now almost wholly Asian (update - I'm behind the times). Her husband was from Small Heath - an area even more completely transformed.

"We don't go back any more. All our friends have either died or moved out ... there's nothing for people like us there now," she hesitated - "well, there are no people like us there now."

Which transformation, inshallah, will be the subject of tomorrow's post.

Back to the A39. The A30 yesterday was down to a crawl as the first holiday week's visitors headed out, so we took minor roads then headed through Camelford along the 'Atlantic Highway'. Fifteen miles up a small sign for St Juliot caused me to hit the brakes and swing sharp left in pilgrim mode, down a steep, tiny road, across a ford and up a hill to a romantic setting which in Victorian times must have been remote indeed. It took a whole day, rising at four, to get there from just outside Dorchester.

For here it was that a young architect and aspiring writer called Thomas Hardy came in 1870 to draw up plans for the restoration of the church, then in a state of near-collapse. On arrival at the rectory (now a posh B&B) he found the vicar indisposed with an attack of gout, and was greeted by 'a lady in brown' - the vicar's sister-in-law, Emma Lavinia Gifford, and Hardy's wife-to-be.

I don't think it was in the end the happiest of marriages. Emma, who was marrying down, was a middle-class catch for an artisan's son - but within a few years she found her husband a celebrity, feted by all manner of aristocratic totty - something to which he was apparently not averse. Alas !

Your eyes on me were as eyes that rove
Over tedious riddles solved years ago;
And some words played between us to and fro -
On which lost the more by our love.

The smile on your mouth was the deadest thing
Alive enough to have strength to die;
And a grin of bitterness swept thereby
Like an ominous bird a-wing….
Well, I'd dragged Susan and the children to St Juliot, the kids were hungry and we'd promised a cream tea before we left - and Boscastle was just down the road - another romantic place. A tiny village in a narrow valley (which floods), with an even tinier harbour hidden from the sea by a zig-zag of cliff.

A neat if slow road, the A39. The section outside Lynmouth (which floods), up Countisbury Hill, is as spectacular as California's Highway 1 up to Big Sur.