Saturday, July 05, 2003

He said 'Jehovah' !

The Berslusconi 'controversy' is being plugged by the BBC and others for all it's worth - about 5p in my opinion. I know comparing a political opponent to the Nazis is a 'debating' tool copyrighted by the liberal left, but surely what's sauce for the Green Party goose, who started the handbagging by comparing one of Berlusconi's supporters to a Nazi, is also sauce for the Forza Italia gander ?

But Berlusconi is a BBC target only bettered by GWB and Georg Haider (who once said that Hitler built a lot of autobahns or something equally outrageous). A year or so ago the R4 current affairs series 'Crossing Continents' devoted a sympathetic programme to the 'radical left' in Italy, and how they were reacting to the Berlusconi administration.

OK, put aside the fact that a sympathetic Radio 4 programme about how the 'radical right' were responding to Schroder in Germany or Blair in Britain is about as likely as a Woman's Hour feature entitled 'Back In The Kitchen Bitch'. What was amazing was the omission of perhaps the most noteworthy response of the 'radical left' - the shooting dead by the Red Brigades of two advisers involved in drafting employment legislation with which the left disagreed.

Imagine (without smiling please) that Combat 18 had shot dead Will Hutton and Anthony Giddens. Could you really see any news organisation worth its salt discussing the response of the 'radical right' to Blair's government and not even mentioning it in passing ?

Straight Outta Compton (Warning - Link is Parental Advisory)

Serena beats Venus.

If people who talk about 'the cycle of deprivation' were right, that the poor will inevitably stay poor and those born in the ghetto are destined never to escape, we'd still be living in caves and banging rocks to make fire. After all that's what our relatives were doing a few millennia back.

Comtpton's more famous for rappers like Dr. Dre and Ice T. and for its industrial-scale violence and drug abuse than for tennis, yet these girls learned on public courts - though they did have to sweep the glass off first. Obviously they must have talent - but how many other talented kids stay in the ghetto ?

"His wife Oracene said tennis and other matters ranked a distant third on the Williams' list of priorities -- behind religion and family".

The Walrus Of Love - R.I.P.

Harry Hatchet says it all - Respect. That man had Luuuurrrrvvv enough and to spare. As a BBC correspondent said 'Heaven has gained a rather large angel'.

Friday, July 04, 2003

We're All Doomed !

Fascinating Spectator article by Steven Nixon on the forthcoming energy crisis, as the oil and gas run out and the nuclear power stations age and are not replaced.

Energy policy has been strange ever since Mrs Thatcher closed pits and coal-fired stations in order to meet emission targets on CO2 and sulphur dioxide. I can't understand why she's not a Green heroine .....

Nixon writes

"Not only is the government failing to address the problem, however; it is actually making it worse — by reducing our energy diversity. Coal, which used to deliver 80 per cent of our electricity, is virtually obsolete, a victim of strict new environmental laws. Now the government is determined to run down the nuclear industry, which produces 23 per cent of our power. All but one of our nuclear power stations are to be decommissioned by 2010 and no new ones will be built. Instead, the government says that we will make up the difference from renewable sources — primarily wind. By 2010, it wants 10 per cent of our electricity to come from renewables, rising to 20 per cent by 2020, up from less than 1 per cent today.

These are preposterous targets. Professor Ian Fells, a supporter of wind power, reckons we’ll be lucky to get 7 per cent of our electricity from wind by the end of the decade, and 10 per cent by 2020. To meet the government’s target, we need to install 20 2MW windmills every week from now until 2020. Yet no one knows where these windmills will go, let alone what they will cost to install. Most will have to be located offshore and new transmission lines will have to be built to bring the electricity to the national grid. Indeed, the grid itself will have to be substantially reconfigured. It is designed to transport power from large central power stations to the periphery; wind power will require it to do exactly the opposite. What’s more, windmills run at optimal capacity for only a few weeks every year. This means that 100 per cent back-up is needed. But where will this back-up come from? The government hasn’t a clue. "

It could of course be a cunning plot to tie us to Europe. We are I believe connected to the French system - but the link at 2000MW is only to help cope with peaks in demand. No, it's cockup not conspiracy. Just as with their inability to build prisons, our Government is looking the other way and hoping that the laws of physics and economics will be suspended just for them.

A few weks ago we took the kids to Big Pit, a day out I'd thoroughly recommend. Blaenavon is set in magnificent country - the back road over the hill from Abergavenny is wonderful, and the National Mining Museum of Wales is free. At last a use for my taxes I can approve of. And the children, who hadn't been keen, loved it when they got underground.

There is only one other deep mine left in Wales, Tower Colliery.

If this article is correct we need to start building nuclear stations and re-opening mines now. There is no chance at all of this government doing anything of the sort.
While successive New Labour Home Secretaries have continued the policy of increasing use of imprisonment begun by Michael Howard, they (or the Chancellor) have resolutely refused to fund the building of new prisons, with the exception of a few privately funded ones (of which by the way I completely disapprove. Prisons, like police and defence, should not be privatised).

Yet the population is remorselessly increasing - if the American experience is anything to go by, our prison population will probably have to double to 150,000 or so before crime is reduced to U.S. levels (did I really write that ? What have we come to when the U.S. is a low-crime paradise by comparison ?).

But the countryside is still relatively low-crime, although increasingly targeted by town-based or travelling thieves, as well as our own local smackheads (yesterday our neighbours had their trailer stolen, and a 90 year old woman in the next village found a burglar in her house). Certainly a police presence is non-existent - the village bobby went 30 years ago. The only advantage being that our local can 'lock-in' with impunity on a Friday night.

So the decision to ban hunting should pose an interesting policing problem. ACPO, the Association of Chief Police Officers, is one of the more politically correct bodies in Britain, as Chief Constables are increasingly recruited from fast-tracked sociology graduates, rather than hard-nosed guys who've come up the hard way. But its Rural Affairs spokesman is screaming about the issues which will be created by mass civil disobedience in the countryside.

It's pretty obvious. If all hunts go out simultaneously on a Saturday and mobilise their supporters - say one, two or three hundred thousand people - there won't be enough room in all the cells of the UK for us. And the towns will be empty of police. The young lads will enjoy blocking off the lanes with bales or trailers to stop them getting through - and if they do, even a 4x4 isn't much use for catching someone on a horse in woodland.

I suppose they could always arrest the hunt followers - who round our way are lovely old boys in battered vehicles .....

As behaviour and civility has declined over the last 50 years, the countryside has remained on the whole courteous and law abiding. Goodbye to all that ?

Wednesday, July 02, 2003

The Church May have Nothing to Say To Marxists, But Marxists Certainly Have Nothing to Say to The Church

A hilarious article by Michael Malkin at the Weekly Worker on the 'gay bishop' saga - enjoyed it immensely. It's impossible to say which was the best bit - probably the bit about Carlisle being 'a third-rate see if ever there was one' - surely Trollope himself speaking. I had no idea the CPGB was so au fait with the Church.

Or perhaps the 'loaded language' of which Malkin (not alas the wonderful Michelle Malkin ) complains, just after describing the traditionalist bishops as a 'coterie'.

The punctuation's interesting too - especially for a writer who criticises the Church's 'genuflection in the direction of political correctness' - god and bible are lowercase, King James, Saint and Torah uppercase, the j/Jews both. Perhaps Marxists should respect royalty but not divinity.

It's always entertaining to see a Marxist, dedicated to driving out primitive superstition with the light of reason and science, debating theological points. Malkin mentions Aquinas, Aristotle and St Augustine of Hippo, the greatest of the African saints - but you can't help feeling he's more comfortable when assailing 'ecclesiastical dinosaurs'.

He's a historian and anthropologist too. 'It is surely the case that in the period covered by the Torah, there was no concept of ‘sexual orientation’ .... and their procreative function was self-evidently determined - sexual preference was never an issue.'

Really ? What were all those prohibitions in Leviticus for then ? And what did those bad boys in Sodom want to do to Lot's guest ? I don't pretend to be a historian, but surely homosexuality has been with us from earliest times.

And last of all we're told that in contrast to the Church, 'for us Marxists, sexuality in all its diversity and complexity, rooted in the materiality of the human condition as it exists, is an intrinsic part of what it means to be a human being'.

I remember Engels in particular had a lot to say about 'sexuality in all its diversity and complexity', particularly in relation to Lancashire mill-girls.

Not to mention Lenin in his great works 'One Step Forward. Two Steps Back. Withdraw Nearly All The Way, Then Put It Back In' (Progress Publishers 1972 edition), and 'Left-Handed Masturbation - an Infantile Disorder'.

And as a Marxist with an interest in bestiality, necrophilia and flagellation, am I flogging a dead horse ?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

So Much Things To Say .....

Normal service resumes - and where to start ?

I guess the Labour constitutional shamble reshuffle thingy is as good a place as any - and what a mixture it was too.

Two particular appointments struck me - Margaret Hodge as 'Children's Minister' - I guess as a stopgap while Ian Huntley is indisposed and geneticists work on cloning Gilles de Rais - and Chris Mullin, an appointment welcomed by Tom Watson and British Spin, but queried by an angry correspondent.

The Bush Bashing Corporation declared a special 'Hate America Day', ironically titled 'What Does The World Think Of America ?'. Driving to work Radio 4 offered me Georgeous George having his boots oiled with brandy by John Humphries. I listened to ' ... thousands of Iraqi children killed by .....' - and R5 was on, Fi Glover featuring a self-hating American and some chap who really hated America - the author of 'Why The World Hates America'. Five minutes of him (typical sample - that failing to ratify the Kyoto treaty was 'a slap in the face for the world' - I bet in Mali, the South Moluccas and Vladivostok they talk of little else) and it was back to local FM with its tedious 50/50 mix of rap and boy bands.

Labour's inevitable doom .....

It's not just the polls - this government is doomed by the fact that its policies simply won't work. The schools and the NHS are not getting better, don't mention transport, and the crime and asylum issues are being tackled in the traditional New Labour style by eye-catching initiatives and announcements, none of which will actually be implemented.

The economy is slowly worsening as more and more burdens are piled onto business, we become less competitive, and manufacturing jobs head off to Eastern Europe or the Far East. The increase in claims fostered by ambulance chasing solicitors has lead to huge insurance increases. Many small manufacturing companies are now operating illegally without insurance.

And much bigger than a man's hand is the pensions crisis, of which more later, and which will make the mis-selling scandals under the Tories look tiny by comparison.

A pity for Gordon Brown really. For two years he followed Ken Clarke's policies - remember the Prudent Chancellor ? Then the internet bubble-boom was on and he could undo the purse-strings a little. Then Labour won that all-important second term - and Prudence was put onto crack cocaine and made to work the streets. Suddenly all spending records were being broken and the Guardian's jobs pages were two feet thick - just as the stock market was halving its value.

In the Thatcher years the orthodoxy was that service industry jobs would replace manufacturing. But without a manufacturing base the service sector will inevitably move away in time. After all, what's it going to service ? No problem, says Randeep Ranesh in a Pollyanna-ish Guardian article, we'll just have to move on to the 'next wave of technology', aided by our 'superior infrastructure', education system, and 'technical know-how'. Well, none out of three ain't bad.

Just as many of Mrs Thatchers educational and economic reforms seemed designed to create a nation of Tesco shelf-stackers, so Mr Blair's fetish with information technology and the internet (about which he admitted he was almost totally ignorant - shades of Harold Wilson and the white heat of the technological revolution) brought the nation of call-centre operatives ever nearer.

Alas this was even less viable a long-term strategy than Mrs Thatcher's. You can't move the baked bean tins to Uttar Pradesh but you can move the call centre to Bombay or Delhi. Why pay a young school-leaver with her devalued GCSEs (and whose main life-motives are to get smashed and laid as frequently as possible) £10,000 when you can pay an Indian national, better educated and far better motivated, £3,000 to do a better job. Globalisation in the information age also means that many IT jobs will move to whereever the educated people are. The overall failure of "education, education and education" implies that this is unlikely to be Britain.

Stand by for a flood of outsourcing to India over the next few years. The only service industries to remain onshore will be those where the servicer has to be physically close to the consumer. Cleaners, masseurs and lawyers will be OK, but I.T. professionals will be hard hit. Pity - that's what I do for a living. Why can't I get the sidebars and links (or even the fonts) right on this site then ?

In future posts I'll look at crime, education, transport and asylum - but a word more about the pensions crisis. For years Britain's occupational pensions were the envy of Europe, but they have been made uneconomic by Brown's tax, increased longevity and the stock market collapse. The pensions holidays taken by employers, many of whom are still not contributing even now, haven't helped either. (Of course they should have built up surpluses to protect funds against a rainy day - but a bit of Tory legislative wizardry in the 1980s made it uneconomical to do so. Thanks, Nige.)

So what is the Government's response ? In case funds go broke, they'll set up a special pot of cash which can bail out the poor pensioners. Brilliant idea ! And where will the cash come from ? From a charge on the pension funds ! And if more funds fail as a result of the charge ? - presumably increase the levy on the funds which still have cash !

It's possible to imagine a pyramid-style scenario in which one fund after another collapses, increasing the levy on those left, until at last the best-run and most prudent funds, milked by levies to compensate other pensioners, finally go under - leaving their pensioners uncompensated.

Labour have added one more little straw to the pensions camel - the recently announced 'gay partnership' legislation, by which couples who bowl round the wicket will enjoy the taxation, inheritance and pensions benefits of married couples. Alright, ignore the tax benefits (there aren't any). If you believe biologists and sociologists, somewhere between three and five percent of the population take the other bus. If you believe gay campaigners like Stonewall or the NSPCC, the figure is more like twenty percent.

Either way, a largeish number of people who previously didn't qualify for a cut of the pensions cake will now do so, imposing a further burden on the funds. Of course, Jacqui Smith, bringing the same sure touch to Equality that she brought to Education, consulted widely with the pensions industry before the legislation, didn't she ? In your dreams.

But I look forward to the reaction of the delightful elderly couple featured prominently on the BBC, when they find out that the pensioners Minimum Income Guarantee, previously set at £98 for each of them, will now be £158 for a 'married couple' !

Of course there is one class of people whose pension provisions have never been better. Non-contributory, index-linked, not taxed by Gordon Brown, and best of all unaffected by stock market collapse, Robert Maxwells or anything short of World War III. Not only that, but the job itself is usually pretty secure. And it's all paid for by taxation - perhaps by that very taxation that is closing non-state schemes down across the country.

Step forward, Mr. Guardian-reading state employee ! Step forward, Lord Irvine of Lairgs !
Labour's Final Days ?

I'm not sure I completely believe the polls, but if true they are tremendous news. Their glory is that electorally Tony Blair has always been Labour's greatest asset. I can't see any successor having half his appeal, certainly not Brown or Blunkett. Of course a good section of the 'Labour movement' have always hated him - and if they think he's a liability he'll be out the door quicker than you can say 'Margaret Thatcher'. Yet during the Gulf War Labour looked into the abyss of life without Blair and said 'no thanks'. Can things really have changed that much since then ?

The Tories are playing very sensibly. The Left, including the BBC, are attacking the 'dossier' as a way of attacking the war, which the Tories fully supported, but they are happy to watch Blair and Campbell swing in the wind for a while. The Labour Left don't realise how much they owe to Alistair Campbell - his departure would indeed be a godsend to the Left, but a much bigger one to the Tories. It would certainly be fun to have him and Fiona Millar all over the media like Amanda Platell for a few years, always good for a negative quote. There is a chance of course that he'll do the decent thing and keep shtum until the Memoirs.
You can tell the Tories are recovering somewhat - I hven't heard Kenneth Clarke or Lord (John) Taylor on the BBC for months !