Saturday, January 10, 2009

And With One Bound ....

Rafa Benitez turns every soccer neutral (as far as the title race is concerned I don't think my Baggies are quite capable of catching up) into a Liverpool supporter.

The Spaniard said that Ferguson and his staff's haranguing of match officials when they leave the bench at half-time was so severe that his side had resorted to "marking" members of the United bench and he advised Luiz Felipe Scolari to do the same when he arrives at Old Trafford tomorrow. "We know what happens every time we go to Old Trafford," Benitez said. "Mr Scolari needs to know so that maybe he can use zonal marking against the staff of United because they are always doing man to man with the referees when they go to the bench and especially at half-time. Other managers need to know this."

Benitez detailed four instances – against Hull City, Southampton last week, his own side last April and Portsmouth in the FA Cup last March – of what he sees as Ferguson's repeated attempts to influence referees, as well as football authorities with his criticism of scheduling.

Fergie's a funny chap. I keep hearing how his Govan roots make him a natural Labour donor, but that strikes me as the one publicly visible streak of sentimentality in an otherwise pretty ruthless and focused operator who's also clever enough to know when he's bitten off more than he can chew. After all, Labour are no longer the party of those grim but golden days, having spent the last fifty years increasing reliance on the state, rewarding irresponsibility and punishing self-reliance - none of which spring to mind as core Fergie values when you see the way he runs his teams. He's IMHO more likely to think that the Lord helps those who help themselves. I don't think a Fergie Prime Ministership would have a great deal of time for benefit culture, to take one example. If he could personally interview all claimants I think we'd see claims dropping by 80% - and the truly deserving 20% would get more.

But he does always seem to need to push the envelope just that little bit more, doesn't he ? I tell you this - I would love it - love it - if Liverpool win the league this season.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Ray Fisher

1974, and Laban's in a small Leeds theatre to see the George Brassens of Yorkshire. The supporting act walked onstage, a slender, crop-haired, androgynous slip of a thing with a beautiful, crisp Scots accent and a deal of self-possession. Then she started singing Scots ballads - and I sat spellbound. I may have mentioned that I love women's voices.

I've been a fan ever since, though I've only seen her live once more - in the late 80s in a Camden pub, supported IIRC by the late Willie Scott.

Well, it was in October that I wrote of :

The glorious Scots folk singer Ray Fisher - I can see I'll have to get "Pride of Glencoe" or "Mill O'Tifty's Annie" onto Youtube.
To my delight someone's beaten me to it. Thanks to wrongwayup, whoever he be, for Pride of Glencoe, from my favourite (and almost impossible to get hold of *) 'The Bonny Birdy', recorded with Carthy, Hutchings et al in 1972. I think the backing on this track is by Liz and Stefan Sobell.

P.S. Those who have trouble with the Labanic musical taste will know enough not to click through when I point out that my post on the unavailability of the legendary Mrs Mills' oeuvre no longer applies .

* The Bonny Birdy, along with a host of other goodies like Lal and Mike Waterson's "Bright Phoebus", was recorded on Bill Leader's Leader/Trailer label in the early 70s. Alas the company (or a successor) folded, and as I understand it the contracts had no clause by which rights reverted to the artist in the case of insolvency. According to Folkopedia :

In the 1980s the Leader catalogue was sold to another record company which then went into receivership. Subsequently sold to Celtic Music, the vast majority of Leader records have remained unobtainable since then, with only a handful of tracks re-released on CD.
Celtic Music is apparently owned by a couple of chaps called Dave Bulmer and Neil Sharpley, who are sitting on a what appears to be a small goldmine of classic folk material (although a depreciating one, as the target market grows older, the tapes decay and downloadable mp3s of their products appear all over the Internet), capable of being exploited with a laptop, CD duplicators and a bit of time to set up a direct sales website.

For some reason it appears they don't want to do it. Like an aged recluse in a gorgeous but uncared-for mansion who 'doesn't want strangers poking round the house', even if they're there to stop it collapsing, they're sitting on their treasures like a hen on a bad egg. Don't ask me why. Admittedly the market for many of these CDs isn't that large - but 1,000 copies of 'the Bonny Birdy' would be gone in a month or so once word got round.

The problem is not just that Laban can't buy the CDs. While the company won't issue them, the artists, who aren't as young as they used to be, won't get any money either. Some of them are now dead.

It makes no sense to me at all. Don't they want to make some money ?

Partly because of the non-availability of the music, but IMHO more because of the financial impact on the artists involved, a lot of people seem to hate their guts (I don't think a thread headed 'photo of Bulmer required' is necessarily from a fan). I now understand why, when I mailed Ray Fisher a few years back to ask where I could buy her music, I was directed to Celtic Music but couldn't find that any was for sale. She must get fed up with people asking. Imagine having people wanting to buy your music, but the owners won't sell any !

Altogether a sad and inexplicable tale, and a depressing one. Because the mp3s are out there. When everyone who would have bought the CD has a download, Celtic Music won't make any money - and worse, neither will the artists.


As I scraped the ice off the car windscreen at 6.48 or thereabouts I saw what appeared to be a firework rocket in the northern sky, travelling west. As it faded out in sparks I realised it was a meteor - one of the biggest I've seen in a long time.

Got home, quick google of the news - well, the Quadrantids should have been last weekend. But it was from the right direction.

Maybe a stray Quadrantid took out that wind turbine last weekend.

"80% of ethnic minorities employed in public sector"

And "17% of people going into higher education are ethnic minority".

So sayeth Sandra Kerr, interviewed on yesterdays Today programme (at ten to seven, so not archived - I have an mp3).

Before joining Race for Opportunity, Sandra worked in the Cabinet Office advising Cabinet Ministers on diversity and policies on race, disability, gender, and work life balance across Whitehall. Prior to this she worked for the Department of Work and Pensions delivering frontline services to 33,000 customers whilst managing a team of 140 staff over a 5 year period. She also spent 4 years as a personal development trainer and IT skills trainer.

In her spare time, Sandra manages to work as a part-time consultant team adviser for the Work Foundation’s Premiere Leadership Programmes which is for senior leaders working in the public and private sector.

You amaze me.

I'm not going to go into the subject of her latest campaign (2m pdf file), which as presented is basically "not enough black faces in boardrooms", as I haven't digested the report - and when asked for figures by Evan Davis on the Today programme yesterday (at ten to seven - the programme is on Iplayer, shortly to be replaced by today's - the BBC only archives the seven to nine segment) she said 'it differs' - and apparently it's growing, but not as fast as the ethnic minority population is !

What struck me was

a) her remark about the ethnic minority percentage in higher education (17%), which is congruent with the 23% of ethnic minorities in English primary schools, although I'm pretty certain the schools figure is for all minorities, whereas Sandra's only concerned about dark-skinned ones. I'm pretty sure some minority groups (Chinese, Jews, Parsees, Jains spring to mind) do rather well in business.

b) her throwaway statement that 80% of ethnic minorities are employed by the state. This seems an enormously large percentage. What happened to all these hard-working chaps of whom private employers are in such desperate need ? Perhaps the racist state is discriminating against the natives in employment - without the hard figures it's hard to tell. It would be worth a look. I wonder where she got that number from ?

The whole thing falls into the standard mode of liberal campaigning, viz :

i) tax everyone
ii) recycle the tax to favoured pressure groups (see the list of sponsors for Ms Kerr's pressure group)
iii) produce report which is amplified by state-owned (BBC) and state-sponsored (Guardian) media.
iv) et voila ! Thus minority views get majority cash - as long as they're the right views.

Such techniques eliminate all the hassly bits of campaigning, like finding people who agree with you, getting them involved and getting them to put their hands in their pockets. Like so many other things, political activism has been contracted out by the State to its preferred suppliers.

Elsewhere, unbelievably, the natives are still fleeing London faster than incomers arrive :

Almost 1.8 million people have moved to London from abroad over the last decade, new figures revealed today. However the city proved less popular with British residents, and lost the largest number of people through internal migration of any area in the UK.

The Bank of Scotland research, published today, showed that between 1998 and 2007 nearly 2 million people moved out of the capital to other parts of Britain, while 1.6 million moved to it. This two million was equivalent to more than a quarter (26%) of the city's population in 2007. London was the only region of the UK to experience a net population loss, which was 344,558.
However, the capital's population was boosted over the 10 years to 2007 thanks to international immigration. London experienced by far the biggest level of net international migration, with almost 1.8 million more people moving to London from abroad than have moved from the capital to live outside the UK. However over that decade deaths in the city and internal migration from London meant that the capital's population rose by only 370,000.

The South East of England was the most popular region for people to move to from elsewhere in the UK, leading to a net increase of 550,889. More than 2.2 million people moved to the area, while almost 1.7 million left. The South West recorded the second highest level of net internal migration, gaining 514,511 people. Northern Ireland gained 10,681 residents through internal migration. The North East and North West were the only UK regions to see an overall decline in their population, losing 26,000 and 27,000 respectively.

Martin Ellis, Bank of Scotland Chief Economist, said: "There have been significant population movements across the UK over the past ten years. Regions in southern England saw the largest gain from internal migration with the South East proving the most popular region for people to move to from elsewhere in the UK."

Internal migration has boosted Scotland's population by 157,757. Between 1998 and 2007 the report showed that 542,524 people moved to Scotland from other regions of the UK, while only 384,767 left.

The report was based on data sourced from the 2008 Population Trends published by the Office for National Statistics.

Kevin Myers noticed that last time he was there :

What most struck me while watching BBC television news reports of the Christmas sales in the West End of London, was firstly obvious, and secondly, it was something that no-one with the BBC would ever have remarked on. It was this. The shoppers -- and there were thousands of them -- were overwhelmingly of Asian or African origin. In the vast throngs of faces, there was barely a Caucasian face to be seen; and when there was, of course, that was no guarantee that it was British.

Yazza gives us her own idiosyncratic take on Hazel Blears' tears for the poor whites.

A new government report finds that they feel "betrayed" and abandoned. Ruined by "ethnic minorities" they cry into their antimacassars and threaten to vote for fascists. The British working classes include people of every shade. But only white grievances matter. Nobody seeks to find out what life is like for the incomers living in the fog of nativist bitterness.
Antimacassars ? When did you last see one of those in a native household ?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Government Continues To Surprise

Blogging's light - too much work, alas. I'm too busy earning a living to make any money, as the saying goes.

I think almost every day that our rulers can't get any more despicable. Then I pick up the paper.

Hundreds of bail hostels are being opened in residential neighbourhoods without public consultation as part of moves to ease jail overcrowding.

People living next door to properties earmarked for suspected criminals and prisoners released early from jail are only told when the premises are about to take their first inhabitants.

Since the privately run hostels will not have live-in staff, neighbours are given a number to phone in the event of problems, according to a document leaked to The Times. Local councils will only be consulted on the “suitability” of a building to house up to five ex-prisoners and suspects granted bail.

I see. At least you find out about the new traveller camp. (Resistance is useless)

I see the government have officially denied reports that they're printing money. So it is true then. Obviously you can't call it printing money, with its resonances of Weimar and Zimbabwe. "Quantitative easing" is the approved expression. "Easing" is so much gentler a word than "printing".

So those on fixed incomes, already stuffed by low interest rates if they have investments, are simultaneously going to see their pensions eroded by inflation. Look at the BBC's example of Mr Routledge - a 77-year old bloated plutocrat with no less then £15,000 of savings.

Since a heart complaint forced him to take early retirement from his job with BOC, Mr Routledge has received a company pension - now £96 a month - on top of the couple's combined weekly state pensions totalling £150.

They receive housing and council tax benefit but lose out on the full amount because of the very savings they put aside to fund their retirement.

A couple with less than £16,000 in the bank qualify for the benefits and can hold £6,000 in savings without affecting their payments.

But for every £500 they have saved over that amount, the authorities assume they earn £1 per week in "tariff income" and reduce the benefit payments accordingly.

The Routledges' tariff income is calculated at £18 per week, or £936 per year.

But with their interest payments falling well short of covering this, Mr Routledge said it has effectively left them hundreds of pounds a year worse off.

In other words, the Government is assuming (for benefit-slashing purposes) a 10% return on the £9K of their savings over the £6K limit. It's grotesque. They're being punished for their attempts at self-reliance.

Roger Bootle was on the Today programme this morning saying 'nobody is worrying about inflation'. I see a new capitalist myth in embryo here. For the last 20 years all economics correspondents presented rising house prices as indubitably and self-evidently a Good Thing - apparently we talked of nothing else at "our dinner parties". It was only early last year that someone actually organised a poll which reported that no, people didn't see it as a good thing. Not surprising really, given that no one on a low or even average income could afford a house any more. What the myth screened was a slow-motion asset transfer of the housing stock to the wealthy.

Looks like the 'nobody is worrying about inflation' myth will attempt to cover the slow-motion destruction of private pension assets. After all, they've already been destroyed quite successfully at the front-end, the paying in end. Where are the final salary schemes of only eleven years ago ? Now it's time to have a go at the back end, at the people already receiving pensions.

(And is inflation that low ? Energy prices, council tax - the big hits on the fixed-income budget ? I don't think my council tax is likely to decrease - do you ?)

Who profits ? Well, if you have enough money, in such an environment working to preserve it is pretty much a full-time job. Hence my point at the front of this post about being too busy working to make any money. Those with a lot, and the time to shuffle it around, should make hay even in this economic climate. It's Mr Average who'll be stuffed.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Harry Robinson

Blognor Regis tells me that the latest Maynards wine gums ad features the magnificent "Hoots Mon", the 1958 classic by Lord Rockingham's XI.

Lord Rockingham's band were the creation of a son of Elgin, one Henry Robertson aka Harry Robinson, whose full life included marrying the aristocratic The Hon Myrtle ("Ziki") Olive Felix Arbuthnot, 11th Baroness Wharton (producing four children including the 12th Baron - it also makes him a distant relation of the Guardian's ultra-left Felicity Arbuthnot), music for most of the Hammer horror films and the fine string arrangements for Sandy Denny (on her 'North Star Grassman, 'Old Fashioned Waltz' and 'Rendevous' albums) and the late Nick Drake.

None of his arrangements for Sandy Denny are on Youtube, alas. Maybe I'll put a lo-fi version of 'Carnival' or 'All Our Days' up one of these days.

Fortunately Nick Drake's 'River Man' is. And it's gorgeous. Voice, lyrics, guitar, strings. As near to perfection as a song can get.

Labour Boost For British Industry

The vitally important gambling industry, that is. Those of you who actually make things can swallow the latest National Insurance increase.

Gamblers will be able to bet more and win bigger prizes on slot machines in pubs, clubs and amusement arcades after successful lobbying of the Government by the gaming industry.

Prizes will double from £35 to £70 and the maximum stake will rise from 50p to £1, the second rise in two years, under the plan authorised by Andy Burnham, the Culture Secretary.

The relaxation of gambling rules is expected to provide a boost to the industry in the downturn by generating an extra 20 per cent in revenue. The Treasury will also benefit from an additional £27million a year in VAT. However, critics fear that it will increase levels of gambling addiction.

Ministers were originally going to raise the maximum stake to 60p and the prize limit to £60 but ministers were told by the gambling industry that this would not be enough to reinvigorate the market.

There were questions last night about the morality of encouraging people to gamble more during a recession.

It must be that old-fashioned son-of-the-manse Old Labour morality I hear so much about these days. I didn't think it possible to despise this lot any more, but they retain the capacity to surprise. I wonder how the payback money's being routed to Party funds ?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

The Bad News Is ...

The police may be hacking your network without a warrant.

The good news is - well, let's hope they've outsourced the project to a large IT consultancy, in which case it will go in five years late, 300% over budget, and have lost 80% of the envisaged functionality - you know, all the features which sold it to the government in the first place (on that somewhat hazy consultancy-funded 'evaluation week' held on a private estate with hot and cold running women) .

According to a Times commenter IPCop, TrueCrypt, PGP are the things you need to ward off the baddies. Trouble is that for many of us, it's all a bit of a hassle.

More Labour Sleaze

I don't know why Labour want legislation to facilitate State (i.e. taxpayer) funding of political parties. They seem to be doing quite nicely as it is.

“Taxpayers’ money has been recycled into the coffers of the Labour party through a children’s charity,” said Nick Hurd, shadow charities minister. “It is very disappointing that the truth is having to be dragged out of the charity and the government bit by bit.”

Labour has already returned £15,000 to the charity. It said this weekend that it was “in the process” of returning the rest of the charity cash.

Catz Club , which has received £200,000 of lottery funding and a £1.3m loan from a Cabinet Office fund, first handed Labour £15,000 in the summer of 2007 for a “platinum” table at the Wembley function. A large chunk of its government loan was written off in March 2008.

Last year it again paid Labour £15,000 for the party’s sports dinner at Wembley. The charity has told the Charity Commission that it paid to attend the event to “lobby” politicians for funding for after-school childcare facilities. Out of total payments of £30,000, only £7,500 was declared by Labour as a donation.

One of the former trustees of the charity is Margaret McDonagh, a former general secretary of the Labour party, who stepped down from Catz Club in April 2006. Amanda Delew, who helped Lord Levy to raise funds for Labour, worked as a consultant for the charity until May last year.

The Charity Commission has now launched an investigation into the charity. It has already published a critical report on the second dinner in 2008. But it discovered only recently that the other dinner donation had been made in 2007. Both Catz Club and the Labour party had failed to disclose the payment.

Catz Club, which operates as Schoolfriendetc, was registered with the Charity Commission in 2004 and runs about 100 breakfast, after-school and holiday clubs catering for about 25,000 children.

As I said a long time ago :

You don't think the student union guys who made these state-funded parties possible were going to stop when they went into politics or local government and got access to some real money, do you ? One of the things I really wish Civitas would devote a researcher to for a few months is the enormous taxpayer subsidy to the cultural Left. You could start with the Guardian and BBC.

Charities are a favourite way of laundering taxpayer money to the Left.