Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Sterling Values

The collapse of sterling by 30% has little to do with trade imbalances, but is the result of capital outflows. New Labour is not just unwilling to stop what is happening, it is unable to do so because they do not have the foreign reserves to anchor sterling in their famous global environment. They are lucky that hedge funds are short of liquidity or making a killing on sterling (again) would have become a favourite pass time.

English manufacturing is not benefiting in the slightest from this, as there is no spare capacity. The balance of payments ought to benefit from devaluation if Marshall-Lerner conditions apply, but it is doubtful whether import and export elasticities of demand and supply are high enough (cf Economics 101) .

What devaluation on this scale and in these circumstances will do is vamp-up inflation, with a lag, possibly towards double digits.

Euro parity is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for entry to euro salvation. Until recently relative exchange rate stability could have been used for making a case for reducing the two year qualifying period of membership of ERM 2. But now sterling will have to demonstrate its ability to stay within a 15% band of a basic exchange rate, to be negotiated with the European monetary authorities. The theoretical possibility of printing money, but friendless, may be preferred, though the forcible removal of choice out of blatant weakness is hardly an objective or achievement of competent government.

2009 will be the year of the inflationary throughput of 2008's devaluation.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Pay Your Bill, Mr Yushchenko, and Keep Your Contractual Word

Ukrainian Prime Minister Julia Timoshenko, (she of the halo of blond plaits) has been undoing the damage President Yushchenko caused with his 'can't pay, won't pay' stance adopted towards Mr Putin. After a special cabinet meeting it was announced that 'Gazprom may prepay Neftegaz Ukrainy [for] transit of Russian natural gas to Europe... ' Neftegaz will use the money to pay for late 2008 gas deliveries. A government press office said “The government had a special meeting on Monday evening in order to discuss the gas problem. The premier is tackling the gas problem right now.”

If the bill is not paid by the end of tomorrow then there is no legal basis on which Russia can supply gas for Ukrainian domestic consumption. Last time the bills weren't paid Russian gas transiting the Ukraine for delivery to other parts of Europe was siphoned off and used to meet domestic consumption. This behaviour was unattractive then but now, when the Yushchenko faction is pressing so desperately for the Ukraine's acession to NATO, they might care to think what we, who are NATO, think of their breaking contractual obligations, stealing our gas, and trying to stir up anti-Russian feeling.

It was not Russia that threatened gas supplies to NATO countries last time, but the Ukraine. If they want in on NATO they should understand that they need to show that they pay their bills and meet their contractual commitments. They should recognise too that NATO has reconstituted discussions with Russia on securing and optimising security and peace-keeping throughout Europe - east and west.

Silly behaviour based on dead ideologies and confrontations leads to economic and political marginalisation, falling levels of investment and technological change, and the reinforcing of alliances the silly behaviour was designed to undermine.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Cutting to the Chase

"I just talked with Viktor Andreyevich (Yushchenko) - the Ukrainian president - for almost an hour, but we haven't reached any accord so far," Russian Prime Minister Putin told reporters.

When asked why the sides had been unable to reach an accord Mr Putin replied: "they don't want to pay."

Sunday, 28 December 2008

No Respect

Taking up the cudgels against New Labour vulgarity in its latest expression are a group of nonagenarians. Brighton and Hove council workers, on the side of the barbarians, have demanded to know if they are gay, lesbian or transgendered.

And were told to mind their own business. How dreadful that such questions can be put to anyone by council workers. How much worse that people who have most certainly done their share in fighting, quite literally fighting with weapons of war, the tide of fascism in the middle of the last century, are called upon again to defend us all as they did in their days of strength.

We are so very fortunate as well as honoured, to have them with us still. We need them still.

The Mail reports that Phil Wainwright, director of human resources for Pilgrim Homes, said he was told by Brighton and Hove council that the home had to ask residents if they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual or ‘unsure’, even if they objected. Many of the elderly rebelled, however, and the home wrote to the council saying residents did not want to participate. The council workers took away a grant that makes a contribution to warden services.

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Big State, No Shops

The loss of opportunities to buy, the fall in consumer surplus, is the difference between what people actually pay for their purchases and the maximum price they would be prepared to pay for the total amount they purchase.

It was an observed characteristic of a state-owned, state-run economy that there were not enough shops, and not enough goods in the shops that there were. People queued to buy, from immediate post-War England, to the countries of eastern Europe before 1990 and their overthrowing of realised socialism. The centrally planned provision of goods could not be made to match demand. There were not enough goods, and the goods there were were the wrong ones, produced to meet targets rather than meeting demand. They produced sewing machines, bicycles, cameras when we wanted televisions, cars, fast food. It took the overthrow of the state for people to have access to a pizza, even though these countries could land men on the moon.

Here and now, there is a queue to sell, (a sales person standing doing nothing is actually queueing), and we see queues to buy only when prices are known to have fallen temporarily during the sales season. Credit contraction has led to falling prices of the goods currently in stock, as those goods must be afforded now out of after-tax income, rather than paid for by indebtedness. As the large shops and chains that drove out small retail suppliers collapse into bankruptcy the problems of restocking will not be theirs. But the closures reduce availability of goods, (as well as reducing outlets), all the same. And small retailers are unlikely to return to fill the gaps. The impoverished consumption environment will spread more and more rapidly.

Having over 40% of income removed at source doesn't help consumer choice either. We choose what we buy with only the remains of our wages, and of necessity consume what the state offers for the rest.

Anyone who saw the the Soviet satellite states in their heyday would not wish the dreary daily round through empty shops and distant markets looking for desired or even needed goods wished on anyone on earth. Of course we are nowhere near such controlled, government- directed incompetence. But our direction of travel is towards lower levels of choice from fewer outlets that are harder to access, poorer quality as stocks are replenished using a grossly weakened pound, and an increasing standardisation of provisions. And we stopped being a nation of shopkeepers too long ago for their entrepreneurial skills to have survived within the general population.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Angelic Greetings for Christmas and New Year

'Angels affect us oft, and worshipp'd be.
Still when, to where thou wert, I came,
Some lovely glorious nothing did I see.'

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Begging Bowls Out and Filled Across the World

United States car makers are now after tax payers' money from the rest of the world, having mulcted the United States tax payers of the usual incomprehensible series of noughts on the end of a large number.

Canada has closed its Parliament and now can hand over C$4 billion ($3.3 billion) as well as 'refusing to rule out further 'aid'. (Bloomberg).

Germany is holding out so far, but the only thing stopping New Labour making its contribution to cars'r'us-and-so-is-your-tax is the remiss failure to shut down democratic governance institutions in England for more than Christmas.

Yearning and Subjection

David Mills's trial in Milan has reached the end of the case for the prosecution. Counsel for the Prosecution Fabio de Pasquale, declared that Mr Mills accepted, by his own admission, later withdrawn, six hundred thousand dollars. According to the Prosecutor, the accused, one of Berlusconi's lawyers from 1995 to 2004, acted from:

"yearning for money", and out of "professional and economic subjection" .

Mr Mills is alone in the dock, left holding his ass in his hands, as his wife has left him, and the Prime Minister of Italy has had passed legislation exempting holders of high office from trial. At least that's democratic - holding high office in the United Kingdom seems to be justification enough for signing mortgage applications without checking what is involved.

The Defence opens on 20 January 2009 and the verdict is expected shortly afterwards.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Russia's Pipelines Run From Sea to Shining Sea

Russia has invited OPEC countries to participate in a meeting of the gas exporting countries in Moscow on 23 December. Russia is considering options for its cooperation with OPEC – from observer status to full membership. Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin announced:

“ will be only natural for us to develop such cooperation. It can take a variety of shapes – from observation to membership, from joint work on stock market floors and creation of new indicators, to the emergence of an oil bank that would establish a reliable payment system..."

"As is known, all countries that produce liquid hydrocarbons are gas producers as well, and they take great interest in the work of the Forum... All the main approaches have now been coordinated and there is understanding of what sort of documents are to be signed in Moscow. This work is identical to that in which OPEC is involved, so I would like confirm once again that no backstage deals are on the agenda. The ultimate goal is the protection of the producer countries and coordination of their work. It is a great pleasure for us to know that the relations of gas exporting countries will be formalized in Moscow”.

When asked if a future Gas Forum might decide to control production, (reports Tass), Deputy Prime Minister Sechin said, “Let us wait till December 23.”

Russia hopes for the stabilization of oil prices by the time the second pipeline of the East Siberia–Pacific Ocean carrier goes operational at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012, according to Mr Sechin, and while dwindling oil exports are "a serious problem for us,... for builders who create infrastructures, lower prices of metal and pipes are a great benefit. The way we see it, the implementation of transport projects is very important. They will guarantee contracts for providers and machine builders.”

“The East Siberian - Pacific Ocean carrier is to reach the Pacific coast at the end of 2011 or the beginning of 2012. We hope that as a result of our joint actions – by oil companies and OPEC partners – the market situation will have changed by then,” He pointed out that Russia’s declared intention to cut oil production by 16 million tonnes a year next year was the consolidated position of the Russian oil companies, whose chiefs were present at the OPEC conference.

The Deputy Prime Minister added that at this point it was hard to predict next year’s oil production and he was in 'no hurry' to make forecasts.

There has been no comment from the Office of the Leader and Saviour of the World.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Soothing Raedwald, or Some Still Care

From Angels' mail:

I thought you might like this for your blog which I assume has not such faults.
Off to Peter Jones for lunch ...
More Christmas trees making a late appearance to cheer things up.

Dear Colleagues
One of the most important features of a quality newspaper should be headlines that accurately reflect what is in the story under them. Our splash headline on Monday read: "Barclays chief says property prices will fall 30pc". The problem was that he said nothing of the sort. We use the future tense to communicate that something is going to happen: it hasn't happened yet. What Mr Varley said (according to our story) was that prices had already fallen by 15 per cent and "we've got another 10 to 15 per cent to fall between now and the end of next year". Our readers are miserable enough about the decline in their asset values without our misrepresenting it to them as about to be even worse than predicted.

Also, the present tense was used in describing what Mr Varley said. He was not speaking in real time to our readers any more than anyone we report in our pages does. This is a tabloid device, and is why the style book specifies the use of reported speech in news stories. Please adhere to this in news reports at all times. It is a fundamental of serious newspaper reporting.

There seems to be confusion about the hyphenation of ages. In nouns it is a 17 month-old or a 34 year-old. In adjectives it is the 17-month-old baby and the 34-year-old man. Could I also remind you that where we are representing profanities we don't need to give a hint of what the word is: leave that up to the reader to decide in keeping with his or her level of incipient coarseness. So the most offensive word in the English language is ----. We had it in a blog as c---t, making it an offensive five-letter word, presumably "count".

Could we also please bear in mind that the past participles "brought" and "bought" mean two different things (you wouldn't, after all, get much of a result with a bring and bring sale)? Also, a spendthrift is not parsimonious; he is profligate. If you don't know what a word means it is generally a good idea not to use it until you have found out. Also, the passive voice of the verb "to beat" is "beaten": the headline last Sunday that said why "board games can't be beat" was not even semi-literate.

Some of us are writing so carelessly that we miss words out. Please don't. One story about abandoned pets had horrors including "as many 131,400 dogs were" and "worried that people losing their dogs don't where to turn"; we could have a little Christmas competition to fill in the blanks, I suppose. As if to compensate for these omissions, the writer then included a word twice: "said Clarissa Baldwin, the charity's chief executive, said." Senses of humour about this sloppiness are starting to wear thin.

There have been some factual difficulties in recent days. Several readers in Lowestoft were outraged to be told they lived in Norfolk. We are getting increasingly bad at allocating towns and villages to their correct counties. The readers really mind. If you don't know, look it up. We also claimed that William Blake's most famous poems are "Jerusalem" and "Daffodils". The poem now vulgarly named "Daffodils" was called "I wandered lonely as a cloud" when Wordsworth wrote it, and his view ought to be taken seriously. Blake, who was a different man altogether, also wrote such trifles as "Songs of Experience" (including "The Tyger") and "Songs of Innocence", which perhaps we should have pretended we knew. Finally, St Andrews is not part of the Russell Group of universities.

The Madoff scandal has caused some readers to inform us that a Ponzi scheme and a pyramid selling scheme are not the same thing. The former relies on a "hub" to which investors are attracted by supposedly remunerative financial instruments; the latter relies on investors recruiting others underneath them. The need for the latter to grow exponentially is what makes it likely to fail more quickly than a Ponzi scheme. In this and other contexts the word "scam" is unutterably tabloid and, like most slang, should be avoided in a quality newspaper.

Some of our literals this week would be amusing were they not so undermining of our reputation for quality. Apparently, "the Pound is now broadly week against a basket of currencies". Something "belconged" to somebody, which was quite astonishing. Best of all, the man who "through" shoes at President Bush has appeared in court.

Could we think a little more about punctuation, especially about the promiscuous use of dashes where commas do just as well? Could we also go easy on our use of acronyms, which tend to jar with the readers? If we talk about the Council of Mortgage Lenders they can just as easily thereafter be "the council" as "the CMA". Another tabloidism with which we are becoming too cosy is the verb "to fuel". It has a legitimate use in contexts concerned with energy. It is now hackneyed to use it in contexts such as "fuelling hatred", "drink-fuelled" and so on.

And I think we have had enough crackdowns for the time being.

Best wishes
Simon Heffer
Associate Editor
The Daily Telegraph

The Rest of the World is Not involved in Our Global Economic Catastrophe

Increasingly what is happening to the United Kingdom economy confirms that this is an old-fashioned, standard economic and financial crisis brought on by Labour and its attempts to use state power to redistribute, to reward client voters, and to meet the requirements of its paymasters. That is what Labour is for and we should not be surprised at its persistence in following its mission. Nor should we be surprised that, as usual, in the end we run out of money and into a run on the pound.

The difference is the chutzpah with which New Labour is denying responsibility for: willed lack of financial regulation; incompetence in the allocation of roles and means in the economic and financial governance of the state - the Bank of England, regulatory bodies like the FSA and the Treasury; a tax regime designed and instituted to obscure transparency and raise complexity, coupled with the highest levels of state-dependency seeking; a wholly experimental response to standard Labour policy economic damage, in the taking on of truly monstrous debt; and the equally monstrous extension of the numbers of state employees which is co-involved with the rolling out of European Union governance, institutions and regionalisation.

The last factor that changes the game is the willingness of the media, led by the BBC, to provide the propaganda that what is happening in England is not the dreary reappearance of the Labour end crisis. The media are pro European Union governance and complete assimilation of our nation state, to a man. They are the voice of the current ruling elites, after all, and within the European Union they will be undisturbed by electorates and democracy. So what is happening must be portrayed as global turbulence demanding global solutions, led by lions bold enough, with courage enough, to choose the course that will save us all from the misery of the Great Depression. And when the misery of the Great Depression does not arrive, and what arrives, indeed has arrived, is just the generalised misery of the usual socialist failures, they will say, 'See! We have averted complete disaster and now will lead you into the Promised Land.'

So we are going to have five years of low standards of living, worklessness, blighted life plans and integration as a region of the European Union, instead of Labour slinking off after a general election defeat that tells them once again it's not ideology that makes us reject socialism and the big state, but common sense.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Fundamentally Remiss

Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Lochaber) (LD): While the Prime Minister was correct to speak of the plans to bring home the remembrance memorial for the 178 personnel whom this country lost in Iraq—let us hope that that total is not added to over the next six months—was there not something fundamentally remiss about his statement? It made no reference whatever to the last memorial that we leave behind, of the vast number of innocent Iraqis—men, women and children, young and old alike—who perished during all this. Most shamefully in terms of history, the Americans and ourselves did not even bother to count the tally. Will the Prime Minister acknowledge that while those people may be lost to history, they are not lost in the hearts of their families and communities, and that that bitterness and legacy of hatred will now go on for generations? Is there anything arising from today’s statement that he and his American counterparts will endeavour to do to redress the grotesque oversight of no body count and no names?

The liar and war criminal that is, to our utter shame, the unelected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom replied in full blown, tractor statistics mode:

The Prime Minister: I acknowledge the sufferings of the Iraqi people. [No regret, no apology, no begging of pardon - merely acknowledgment, ed] It is precisely to protect and support the Iraqi people that we have been trying to provide better facilities, jobs and help [for hard working families, ed.] in the area of Basra where we have been most active. I think the right hon. Gentleman will find that, according to opinion surveys, [and selected groups whose minds were focused wonderfully at the barrel of a gun, ed.] the Iraqi people believe that the presence of British troops has made a difference to the quality of their lives. [No denying that; being dead in large numbers is qualitatively different from being alive, ed.] He must not forget the violence practised against the Iraqi people by Saddam Hussein, [and they must not forget the violence practised against them by the New Labour regime, ed.] and we must not forget that we were dealing with a dictatorship and that we now have a democracy. [whereas we once had a democracy and are now dealing with a dictatorship, ed.]

The Leader then turned to lying on other aspects of the leaving of Iraq.

A General Election, Not an Iraq Enquiry

The humiliation in Iraq of New Labour's Leader continues today when he must come to our Parliament and explain himself and his regime's failures in foreign policy. Bolstered up by whatever means are used to enable him to face our own country's representatives' contempt for what he and New Labour have done, he will babble of tasks completed and courage displayed.

Courage even to death has been displayed. But not by him. He failed to oppose the illegal invasion, and he failed to provide resources and equipment for the soldiers he sent into battle. He fails today, as he has for years, to provide the long term expenditures that a standing army requires.

The lies and misrepresentations of what has happened and where responsibility lies will be reinforced by the diversion of attention to an Enquiry into the Iraq Invasion. Focussing on denying this Enquiry is to be substituted for the bitter condemnation of evey part of New Labour and its Leader in this evil use of power.

There is no need for an enquiry. What has happened is widely documented. And any enquiry conducted by a New Labour regime will be yet another narrative of lies.

What is needed is a general election, so that the people can pass judgment on New Labour's foreign policy just as much as on on its financial achievements.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Hands Together, Eyes Closed

Let us pray

Leaving Iraq

Failing to present himself before the House of Commons to be questioned on his regime's failures and incompetence yet again, the Prime Minister has flown away to Iraq to do the Foreign Secretary's job instead of his own duty.

The four thousand troops at Basra airport will have no more status than any other group of heavily armed men illegally in a foreign country, after 31 December. The agreements signed between the Iraqi government and the occupying US troops have been negotiated, debated and passed in the Iraq Parliament but do not apply to the United Kingdom. At first they were told to leave along with all the other remnant 'coalition of the willing' by the end of the year. In a desperate face-saving operation cobbled together by the Prime Minister's special adviser on foreign relations - what is the Foreign Office for, never mind the Foreign Secretary? - another of those 'I have here a piece of paper' waving moments was engineered which says US troops will take over any duties being carried out from the Basra airport base by May and the English really must be gone by July at latest.

Of all the terrible things brought down upon the United Kingdom by New Labour, this illegal war has been the worst. And it ends with their Leader hiding from his own Parliament, telling lies in the capital of a wronged and damaged country to our wronged and damaged forces.

It is to be hoped that the Iraq Parliament will pass the legislation put before them today to agree the time to pack, or there will have to be a mad scuttle even to get the people out; but, then, the equipment was always poor and in inadequate supply so it doesn't matter if it's just abandoned.


The Iraqi Parliament has defeated the second reading of the bill that would have permitted 4,000 British troops and tens of troops from Australia, El Salvador, Estonia and Romania, to remain in Iraq past 31 December 2008.

Referred to as 'other entities' during the negotiations between the Iraq government and the United States government to establish a Status of Forces Agreement that would come into force when the United Nations legal mandate expired on the last day of 2008, it was assumed that the UK contingent would be added in an end clause to be covered on the terms agreed for the United States' forces. The suspicion that part of the bargaining to get the US Status of Forces Agreement through Parliament at all was that no such cover should be extended to the other entities grows. It was only after the Agreement had been signed and then ratified by the Iraq Parliament at the beginning of December that the reality of the situation dawned on New Labour. United Kingdom forces have no United Nations sanctioned status in Iraq except that expiring on 31 December.
After his frantic flight to Iraq on Wednesday to try for a solution that excluded the democratic assent of the Iraq Parliament. Brown said:

'On 1 January 2009, with the expiry of United Nations resolution 1790, Iraq will regain its full sovereignty. Yesterday in Baghdad, I told Prime Minister Maliki, and he agreed, [just listen to the language, 'I told..' , what manner of speech is that? ed.] that British forces in Iraq should have time to finish the missions that I have just outlined. In the past three weeks, concluding with our talks yesterday, we have made substantial progress with the Government of Iraq. We have defined: first, the tasks that need to completed; secondly, the authorisations needed to complete them; and thirdly, a way to provide a firm legal basis for our forces. At all times, we have worked closely with President Bush and the Americans, and our other coalition partners. [But did they work closely with us? ed.]

On 16 December, the Iraqi Council of Ministers agreed to submit to the Council of Representatives a short draft law to give the presence of UK forces a legal basis after 1 January. The law is now going through the Iraqi Council of Representatives; it had its first reading yesterday and is scheduled to have its second reading on 20 December. We expect the process to be complete before UN resolution 1790 expires. In the event of the process not being complete, the Iraqis have told us that Coalition Provisional Authority order 17, which confers protection on coalition troops, will remain in place. Our troops will therefore have the legal basis that they need for the future. '(Hansard)

Order 17, signed by Paul Bremer in June 2004, is intended to cover the operations of contract forces such as Blackwater, and foreign missions, advisers, etc. It does cover multinational force troops as well but confers none of the legitimacy of the United Nations resolutions. These are very different grounds for our troops to be present in a sovereign country.

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

That's the Way to Do It

Some of Germany’s largest companies are pledged to avoid mass job cuts as part of Berlin’s response to recession. The German Chancellor, Peer Steinbrück the German finance minister, and Axel Weber the Bundesbank president, have agreed a second multi-billion euro fiscal stimulus package to be refined in coming weeks and put in place early next year.

'Under the plan, large companies would renounce mass redundancies for a period yet to be defined, in return for a rise in government subsidies for employees placed by companies temporarily on shorter working time or lower wages.' (reports the FT). In this way the resources of skilled labour will not be run down or lost.

“The focus of the government will be on measures that will not just benefit the economy right away but also have a positive, long-term structural impact,” said a source; attention will be on large-scale infrastructure investment. Communications, education, and a cut in mandatory health insurance contributions are central. The weekend meeting, of government and business leaders in Berlin on Sunday, with 11 companies represented, including Josef Ackermann of Deutsche Bank, Peter Loescher of Siemens and Rene Obermann of Telekom, centred on not cutting jobs next year. The Chancellor has scheduled a further meeting in early January 'with heads of companies listed in the Frankfurt stock exchange’s blue-chip Dax-30 index to finalise the package. The government declined to confirm its details.' (FT)

Germany has so far committed €12bn in growth-boosting measures spread over two years. Notoriously in outright rejection of New Labour's analysis and policies for the devastation the United Kingdom economy has been brought to, Germany (and many other continental European member-state governments) has refused absolutely to raise deficits to boost consumption, either by cutting income tax, value added tax, or providing consumer tax hand-outs. Raising the savings rate in the majority of eurozone economies is only too easy. Mr Steinbrück, having ruled New Labour's cut in VAT as costly and ineffective, considers longer-term investments as 'the right thing to do' (to borrow a peculiarly New Labour phrase.)

Infrastructure investment, subject to local and regional authorities' planning restrictions, is likely to exceed €10bn, and the sixteen state premiers will meet with the Chancellor on Thursday to agree a list of projects advanced enough to be completed quickly. The European Commission’s relaxation of state aid and procurement rules will help.

Berlin will finalise the measures to be undertaken so far on January 5. They will be set out publicly after President-elect Barack Obama, who is sworn in on January 20, has provided details of the fiscal stimulus being prepared by the United States' new government, and taking this into account.

Don't Tell Him, Pike

The Public Accounts Committee says the introduction of the Department of Transport's shared corporate services project was "one of the worst cases of project management it had ever come across." Intended to save £57m by 2015, the department's plan to share IT services will cost an extra £81m. Edward Leigh, the committee chairman, said:

"The DfT must now work to deliver a functioning system.... The Department must also overhaul its project management capabilities, closely examining the expertise of its project managers, setting up systems for subjecting future plans to rigorous challenge and, crucially, establishing incentives to officials for success and penalties for failure."

The computer system was inadequately procured and tested. Computer glitches took away staff holidays, accused them of being off sick and answered questions in other languages. Staff do not trust it. One civil servant told the National Audit Office:

"When you log on, it tells you in German that your password has expired."

Monday, 15 December 2008

We Can't Afford Keynes

The economic arguments for keynesian intervention are impeccable in certain circumstances. Those include not being monstrously in debt. Public and private debt.

Italy would be most unwise to go for a keynesian solution and has Mr Tremonti to make sure the idea would not even cross their ancient, malevolent, calculating minds. Italy did 'New', even 'New Dawn' once in the last 2000 years and it will be another couple of milleniums before they go for it again.

Unfortunately the United Kingdom lacks experience and world weariness. New Labour are doing keynesian reflation, with public debt even worse than Italy, and household debt that is being admired from Alpha Centauri.

Creating Deprivation and a Deserving Poor

The country is splitting in two. As the appalling financial and now economic damage caused by New Labour's power-seeking installs itself irreversibly into our economy, defence mechanisms set classes against one another.

The high earning highly qualified, with low mortgage exposure and embedded cultural and economic goals, are paying off all and any debt, saving, limiting large optional expenditures, and concentrating on acquiring positional goods, both skills and physical goods as well as services. The less fortunate, or less informed, are wasting time and communally-supplied resources maintaining and trying to continue to expand, immediate consumption.

Both groups are acting individualistically (even the unionised still in employment) and defending personal or at best category interest. It is another aspect of the disaster that is New Labour that this destruction of a co-operative model of socio-economic behaviour has been embodied in the United Kingdom. Had we a politically competent government there would long have been investment in social and communal infrastructures, serving, and promoted as serving, the common good.

Local services would have been essentially for community consumption, not individually commandeered by favoured clients. Libraries, including extensive and accessible internet facilities and teaching, instruction and training as well as education in the broader sense, available to all age groups; sports facilities that included facilities to work out and facilities to play team games, widespread access to sporting activities in winter too, with covered facilities. Transport and communications not defined as free bus passes but as good networks and for all, not just over sixties or under sixteens. Add your own particular interest: art, music, dance, access to the countryside or access to the great cities and their knowledge centres, ......

Universal provision, not means tested discrimination by New Labour's watchers, made affordable by providing for the many not the few, with the resultant saving on sorting those who qualify and those who do not (and on such doubtful grounds as New Labour uses), should have been there. As once it was, and as what it once was - the realisation of the social and economic justice the Labour Movement stood for. But that dream has been lost for ever under this regime, and the means and opportunity to pay for it lost until the cycle advances.

So the competent will be safe, enhancing their lives and realising their hopes for their children and themselves, but the least-defended will be the victims yet again of their short term understanding, their various inadequacies springing from self- and other- inflicted disadvantage, that will be visited on their children and their old, as well as on themselves.

This will blight decades for people locked into lifestyles and localities they will never be able to afford to leave.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Extraordinary Rendition of the Leader and Saviour of the World

On 3 April 2006 Prime Minister Blair wrote to the leader of the Opposition Mr Cameron:

“As you will know, it is customary for the Prime Minister of the day to authorise pre-election meetings between opposition spokesmen and senior civil servants . . . The purpose of this letter is to let you know that I will be ready once again, on request, to authorise meetings on the same basis and for the same purpose from January 1, 2009.”

On 19 November the Opposition leader wrote to Mr Blair's defenestrator suggesting that the Conservative Party Chairman and the Cabinet Secretary should fix up a schedule of meetings beginning in the New Year.

Brown won't answer. The scheduling is delayed. The content of the meetings would be completely confidential. Imagine Brown's mortification - discussions of policy in every department of State with a potential incoming government.

Mr Blair has left behind the most cruel of devices. It's torture.

Bully Boy Brown

Look at the photograph in the Telegraph of Brown 'speaking' to the Chancellor of Germany. His jacket is touching the Chancellor's hand, he is using the difference in height between men and women to lower over her, his face a sick, grey mask of aggression and demand. Brown is in Angela Merkel's personal space and threatening with it.

If the Chancellor of Germany were a man the equivalent body language would be a raised fist.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Lange Lives! It's Not Just Plumbers from Poland But Defunct Economists

Foreign policy in the United Kingdom is in as bad a state as our financial and economic position.

The defeat, by its own victims, of socialism and of the centrally-planned economies of the big-state ideologies of Russia and eastern Europe has never been accepted as final by the New Labour regime. Under our appalled gaze they grin and caper with 'our hour has come at last' actions - nationalising banks, taking on further and unbearable debt, expanding the state sector, removing civil liberties, installing democratic centralism within their Party, stripping local democracy of money and autonomy to act.

'This time', they grunt to one another, 'we have the technical means, the number-crunching capacity, the focus group-based policy making, to replace markets, and install market socialism. Long live Lange and the Central School of Planning and Statistics.'

Thus it is that New Labour's foreign policy condemns capitalist Russia, neo-liberal Poland and the Czech Republic, market loving Baltic states, but most of all Germany whose Chancellor grew up in Honecker's German Democratic Republic and understands so clearly what New Labour, in all its anachronistic economics and politics, is about.

How Did We Let It Happen?

It was on Tuesday, 2 December 2008 that Angels remarked on:

Brown: A Prophet Without Honour in Anyone Else's Country

and on the orchestrated attacks on Chancellor Merkel's refusal to accept either the grotesque warping of 'keynesian' economics proposed by Brown (in truth our assumption of massive further debt and the printing of notes is nothing more than the helicopter last throw before disaster, not Keynes at all), and the equally firm refusal to accept the environmental agenda pushed by the Saviour of the Globe and a nuclear power-driven Sarkozy.

European member states are with Germany: fiscal restraint, intervention where needed, greenery being cut back in the interests of cultivating our manufacturing and industrial sectors.

New Labour is in desperate, desperate straits. Once more the Labour Party in power has caused a sterling crisis with its sterile socialist redistribution policies that contribute nothing to the establishment of manufacturing industry and its technical and research support systems within the social economy, nor to transport and energy infrastructures that are needed for steady growth. For Labour the creation and satisfaction of their client base always comes first, and always ends where we are now. Not just Labour client supporters though, all of us - blighted with worklessness, ignorance, low living standards, catatonic industrial and manufacturing sectors. Truly they have some brass neck to call themselves the Labour Party, both in terms of what the original Labour Movement sought, and in terms of what they are now.

Stanislaw the Young Polish Plumber, (commenting on Guido) pins down the cherry on top that is Brown and his Leadership:

"... out on his own, somewhere at the far end of sanity's galaxy. How the fuck did this happen, a lonely, criminal, lunatic, mincing and pouting, jibbering, spluttering, bad-tempered, delusional, spiteful and incompetent, running the fucking country ?

Wednesday, 10 December 2008


The Times is reporting that offering £60 at the airport to be changed into euros, their reporter was told. "if you give me another 65 pence I can give you 60 euros."

It would be nice if we stop at parity but perhaps we will just wave as it flashes by on our way to hyper-inflation and demonetisation.

Anything But Brown

What is to be done about Brown? Even Speaker Martin had a problem with his self control - it almost made him acceptable - but not quite. The Keepers of the Prime Minister think they have explained the world, pointed out the likely pitfalls, explained why being proud and smirking isn't good when people are losing their jobs and savings and hopes for life, warned him they'll have to reconsider letting him keep Downing Street and Chequers if he doesn't follow the script right down to the tiniest gesture.

And he gets up in the House of Commons, on national telly, and says "When I saved the world I wasn't even picking my nose and eating the bogeys any more".

"What?, I did save the world, I did so. You said I did..."

A Political Economy Requires a General Election

Our democratic deficit glares out across Europe and 'abroad' is beginning to stare.We need abroad to believe in government economic and fiscal policy, and essentially involved is to believe in the stability of our state.

The deficit is not just at the level of central government, with a Leader unelected by Party or country. Our regional government, set up to meet European Union requirements, is appointed not elected everywhere in England outside London, and monies for regions and smaller local government areas is allocated from central government and distributed by government appointees in parallel organisations set up beside our debilitated elected local authorities. Where regional votes have taken place, in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and in London, regional elected governments are subjected to constant and gross central interference.

Undeniably we have, too, an enormous public and private sector deficit that must be dealt with or we will default, with all the misery that implies. There is nothing to be gained from going over whose faulty economics, or just plain fault it all is, or even why it happened. That's done and dusted. But what we don't have to put up with, and what we could remedy at once, is the important matter of stable governance that enjoys our support and a democratic mandate from us all.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that the state we are in is utterly different from that of 2005. We need different strokes and may well need different folks. When the Conservative Party offered its co-operation and support as the full horror of our financial and economic situation was revealed, it was met with a rebuff filled with class loathing and powered by the desire to retain just that - power, even power over a ruined country. True to some sense of commitment to the country rather than sectional political advantage, the Conservatives have continued to refrain from undermining our government, even at the cost of earning not just the jibes of the Labour Football Club but from many of their own Supporters as well.

It's over. If the madness of the economic policies being pursued (in Angels' view in a purely social experimental way) by Labour's Executive are not reviewed by the electorate in a general election, even the meagre hopes of their success will fall in the face of external lack of confidence in the United Kingdom's democracy.

Nutty Slack

Our environment is of central interest to us all, as it always has been. From keeping house, through gardening, Keeping Britain Tidy, planning regulations, investment in research and technology - on we go, making our world in our own image.

How ironic that as concern about the environment increases with our numbers we find the agenda has been hi-jacked by at least two kinds of nutters: tax-seeking politicians and apocalyptic killjoys. Both groups display a nasty turn towards authoritarianism and direct action. So instead of rational and co-operative choices and actions directed to continuing our natural inclination to care for our world, from closest to us, to further away, to distant but interacting, we are pitched into a battle over what often feels like controlling the universe.

So yes, my house is insulated so well there's total silence from the outside world, yes it uses solar and electricity generating panels, yes it's got the reed beds and the falling levels of waste disposal (not too clear about that but the engineer knew what he was at), yes it has a woodburning stove and a chipper (no, not that kind, though I would like one)and burns every kind of agricultural by-product. And the government gives tax relief on installing all this, in the countryside or in towns, isolated houses or blocks of flats. Everyone is putting it in as fast as circumstances permit - soon there won't be a tree left standing and we'll be herding the oxen back into the open plan kitchen at night to keep us warm upstairs.

And no, I won't be without a car, our life-styles are premised on having a car, no I won't accept wind farms and their disfiguring of the landscape (or seascape) and the skyline, nuclear power stations ditto and dangerous with it with safety and waste disposal problems that can best be summed as Think Chernobyl. No I won't stop flying round Europe no matter how many prance about in Hatfield forest at dawn.

Nick Stern is a nice man and so, no doubt, is Al Gore. But they have axes to grind and I'm not going back to axe-grinding on their say so and propaganda. We want to be warm, mobile, and electrified. As usual it's the reasonable, the concerned, the dealable-with who are getting the aggro, not the unreasonable, the savage depletors of planetary resources; just like with taxes - go for the middle classes.

Before lowering my standard of living I want to see all the climate nutters dealing with the United States' refusal to accommodate the slightest interference in its energy use, China required to clean up its industrial act, India and the former Soviet empire prevented from tearing and ripping at the ground and at the sky.

And slack-jawed, slack-minded, slack-moralled if not mad New Labour and its Leader are infinitely less convincing in their environmental agenda than Mr Berlusconi (which is quite a benchmark to fall below).

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Re-open the Mines

France hasn't much coal. It has nuclear power stations and the expertise and manufacturing capacity to go with it. So it's keen on nuclear. Unfortunately it has a lot of nuclear waste as well. And a lot of decommissioning to do, and pay for. Hence Sarkozy being Brown's bestest friend. Even if there isn't any money to put up the new plant there's the English dumping grounds for contaminated waste - (and Scottish too if Brown finds a way to wrench environment control back from the Scottish Government). And the cost can be spread around at least as far as England, game to borrow lots of money to make a very few jobs.

So it was worth the kisses and the smiles but now the German Chancellor has put her foot down on the global warming, as well as the massive borrowing, scams. In the mass-circulation tabloid Bild Mrs Merkel said she will not approve any European Union climate rules "that endanger jobs or investments in Germany." Poland's joined in too. They're going with coal, and the French are providing the clean coal technology so President Sarkozy is not going to put the kibosh on that. Bye bye climate change agenda, going the same way as spending our way out of economic collapse.

At least there is lots of coal and some old miners who could teach the unemployed how to mine it in the United Kingdom.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Europe is Passing Into Hyper Liberal Hands

Babysitting Brown must be a nightmare. Apart from his personal comportment there is the delusional state about the United Kingdom economy he labours under. Holding the six month Presidency of the European Union, sitting the baby falls to President Sarkozy of France.

The President has had to put up with Brown kissing Madame Sarkozy full on the mouth, eyes closed, lips licked and pursed, on the world stage of the steps of 10 Downing Street. He has had to beg for the 'British' Prime Minister to be admitted to discussions of the European Union on how to deal with current financial and economic problems, only to be mortified by Brown's bombast and aggression in expounding his policies and role as saviour of the world. He has had to bite his tongue as Brown has rubbished his rapprochement with Russia over the Russo-Georgian conflict, with only the later sensible EU and NATO decisions to console him - with perhaps an ironic nod from Russia that they understand his 'British Brown' problem.

And now he must come to London for a Global Europe Summit, called by - yes, of course, Gordon Brown - and has been told by Germany that he's on his own, Chancellor Merkel really has an economy and a country to tend to.

As Brown shrieks for a global response to a global problem that started in America (some ally, Brown), President Sarkozy instigates a 23 billion euro package that will be applied as and where needed. More or less what Germany did, and Italy, and Poland, with much of it already allocated before in any case. Brown threw three times that at a failing, de-mutualised northern English (or should that be North British?) building society over a year ago.

But Europe cannot let the UK go under; even the nuclear waste disposal arrangements for the French are worth the coping with Brown. And there is an awful lot of oil and gas in undeveloped, untouched fields off the Scottish coast. Not to mention a population of 60 million just dying to get the plastic out and running through the readers again, with a Leader quite insanely uncomprehending enough to try and get that for them. Certainly it's a long shot, but he just might persuade (or threaten) some kind of domestic and foreign investment back into his mad maw.

Anyway, it is a consoling thought that this must be positively the last time, before Mr Sarkozy can get back to talking with the grown-ups in Germany and Russia. Then it's Václav Klaus, the Czech President 's turn to visit the madhouse.

President Professor Dr Klaus is a fine hyper-liberal economist who is not enamoured of closer European union, nor of Europe-wide economic governance. Humouring the sick man of Europe may be coming to an end.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Pied beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches' wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swíft, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

Oxford University Press has removed most of these words from its Junior Dictionary and replaced them with words like "blog", "broadband" and "celebrity". The publisher claims the changes have been made to reflect the fact that Britain is a modern, multicultural, multifaith society.

Vineeta Gupta, head of children's dictionaries at Oxford University Press, said: "We are limited by how big the dictionary can be – little hands must be able to handle it [there are no more desks upon which a book might be laid and opened? ed.] When you look back at older versions of dictionaries, there were lots of examples of flowers for instance. That was because many children lived in semi-rural environments and saw the seasons. Nowadays, the environment has changed. [there are no more seasons? How far has global warming got? ed.]

"We are also much more multicultural. People don't go to Church as often as before. Our understanding of religion is within multiculturalism, which is why some words such as "Pentecost" or "Whitsun" would have been in 20 years ago but not now."

She said children's dictionaries were trailed in schools [trailed through what exactly? PC ordure? ed.] and advice taken from teachers. Many words are added to reflect the age-related school curriculum.

Angels needs a dictionary to find out what 'age-related ' might mean in the New Labour context.

Give It All Back

The Palast der Republik has been torn down . Angels went to look, more than a year ago, before its destruction began, just a last glimpse of the Communist East, but felt no regrets, not for the end of the seat of government of Honecker's nightmare, not for the minor provincial city, sub-Bauhaus architecture of the building, with its cheap, copper-clad, not even brazen face.

The Italian architect Francesco Stella is to design the €552 million replacement, on such an important site, in central Berlin. The outside 'will mimic the baroque-style Hohenzollern palace which stood there from the 15th century, when the Prussian royal family began construction, to 1950, when the East German government decided the war-ruined palace was a reminder of a decadent old world and destroyed its remains.' (Der Spiegel). Part of the new complex, the Humboldt Forum, will house Berlin's Ethnographic Museum.

All museums are ethnographic museums. They are collections of objects removed from their provenance and displayed as trophies. They are all small to large-scale, temporary to longstanding, expressions of power. Rarely is a collection put together by an artist to speak of the artist's work as a collectivity. Usually objects have been taken by force, or purchased at the highest offer - another way of using force - and removed as spoils and souvenirs. Their final resting place is invariably a hotchpotch of acquisitions, sometimes with a small order imposed by imaginative and inventive keepers.

These artefacts, lying in a state of death in their bereft surroundings, should be returned to where they belong as soon as is practicable. From the Elgin marbles, through the torn out hearts of frescoes and triptyches, ikons and paintings, grave goods and mummies, the contents of long houses, and the shrunken heads of the Haddon, all should be returned and re-integrated into the culture they yearn for and express.

It is not just what was taken between 1939 and 1945, or in other wars, or from private hands, or from dominant cultures that should concern us. It is all of it, taken any where, at any time. And if Berlin fills the new palace on the banks of the Spree with the embodiments and representations of cultures removed from the world they might as well have left Honecker's Palast standing and used it to continue to administrate and house stolen treasure.

The Year Has Come Round Again

In choosing 'In the Deep Midwinter' as the best Christmas carol, choirmasters give the game away. They don't like the rest of us, the congregation - and can you blame them? We are truly awful but awfully game. We sing too low, we sing around rather than in tune, we slow down and speed up unwarrantedly, we wobble off - the brave or conceited among us - into descants that fall to earth defeated, we divide words wrongly and hang on to notes that we happen to hit squarely for far too long; if divided into male and female choirs, we compete, the women singing of the Virgin and her feelings for the Christ child out-shrieking the men being angels telling the good news like a roar of battle against the skirted congregation.

'In the Deep Midwinter' trembles in its icy perfection, its keatsian imagery, its trebles soaring where we cannot go, and dare not try, lest all should collapse beneath our everyday weight.

Beautiful? Oh yes. But give me that moment when the organ speaks to summon the rest of us, when the choir has laid the ground and the pitch upon which we all will play:

O come, O come, Emmanuel!
Redeem thy captive Israel,
That into exile drear is gone
Far from the face of God's dear Son.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, thou Branch of Jesse! draw
The quarry from the lion's claw;
From the dread caverns of the grave,
From nether hell thy people save.

O come, O come, thou Dayspring bright!
Pour on our souls thy healing light;
Dispel the long night's lingering gloom,
And pierce the shadows of the tomb.

O come, thou Lord of David's Key!
The royal door fling wide and free;
Safeguard for us the heavenward road,
And bar the way to death's abode.

O come, O come, Adonaï,
Who in thy glorious majesty
From that high mountain clothed with awe
Gavest thy folk the elder law.

And then the choristers show us how to fly a descant. Rejoice, rejoice.

Prince's Landing Stage

" The untold story of recent weeks is the gigantic withdrawal from British banks of funds on deposit, not so much by disenchanted individual savers as by multi-national corporations, which have more of a choice. As a result, some of our biggest banks keep going only by borrowing increasingly vast sums on the overnight market. This makes them very nervous indeed, in a Northern Rocky way." ( Dominic Lawson in the Sunday Times)

Quite a lot of 'disenchanted individual savers ' have been walking away for the last year; some are starting to run.

The only reason this brief period of relative quiet has been enforced is to permit the get-out.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Out of the Mouths of Babes

One of the small HGs has sent me this from London.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Chilling News From Canada

Carrying a vote of No Confidence after defeat on a major issue in the Commons is the standard way of forcing the relinquishing of power by a prime minister in the United Kingdom Parliament.

Canada, whose parliamentary democracy is modelled on that of the United Kingdom, has just had its Parliament prorogued by the Governor-General who represents the Head of State Queen Elizabeth II. This has been done to avoid a vote of No Confidence next Monday which, supported by an ad hoc coalition whose purpose is to remove the ruling Party, would almost certainly have been successful.

'The news of the parliamentary suspension came after a two-and-a-half hour long meeting in Ottawa between Harper and Michaëlle Jean, the governor general. Harper, speaking to reporters amid snow flurries outside of Rideau Hall, the governor general's official residence, said:

"The public is very frustrated by the current situation in Parliament and we are all responsible for it."

"Today's decision will give us an opportunity—and I'm talking about all the parties—to focus on the economy and work together." The first item of business when Parliament resumes will be the budget, he said. (Herald Tribune)

Stéphane Dion, the Liberal Party leader and head of the Opposition wrote to the Queen's representative bitterly opposing the move:

"A prime minister cannot request that the Parliament be prorogued to avoid a confidence vote,... It would be an abuse of power on the part of the Executive branch without precedent in the history of Parliament."

Lying With New Labour

Lying on a mortgage application form was sanctioned by the behaviour of Lord Mandelson, who lied on his. Lying on job applications about qualifications and experience is reported to be at epidemic levels. Lying about residence, family composition, income , settlement status, intentions, past, is everywhere. New Labour has created a world where lying is universally practised to survive. Not to lie has become a privilege, almost a self indulgence by those with the means to take care of themselves. And the means to take care of ourselves has been circumscribed and withdrawn steadily by New Labour as a policy, disguised as helping hard-working families.

In childhood, lying was the worst of sins. Lying, we were taught, could be by commission or ommission, but the worst of all was 'lying knowing you were lying'. Smart answers on the lines of not knowing meant not lying were met with more severity as being 'the height of ignorance', and 'ignorance' carried a heavy burden of wilful bad manners and comportment, as well as lack of knowledge.

Speaker Martin is a roman Catholic. He knows about lying, and in just these straightforward terms. Which explains so completely why he stood before our country and our Parliament yesterday, as red-faced and ashamed, as small-voiced and as guilty, as a child. In his heart of hearts he knows what he has done. Perhaps he will find at least the courage to admit that he does not have the courage that it takes to hold the Speaker's office.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

No Entry

When Speaker Martin appointed a clerical officer to be Sergeant-at-Arms he degraded the duties and responsibilities of the job as well - a further reason why the Queen was concerned enough not to receive Ms Pay in her best bib and tucker.

Ms Pay has responsibility only for the Chamber of the House. The anti-terrorist police entered and searched a Member of Parliament's room within Parliament without authority to enter of any kind: no warrant (even if it would have run within Parliament); and no invitation by anyone with the power to proffer it - either the House itself or, as its members were not there at the time, their Speaker.

They just walked in and started rummaging about; surprised they weren't shot.

Monarch Declines Speaker Martin's Choice For Royal Bodyguard

Major General Grant Peterkin, an officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders and educated at Ampleforth, reliably could sing:

I am the very model of a modern Major-General,
I've information vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights historical
From Marathon to Waterloo, in order categorical;
I'm very well acquainted, too, with matters mathematical,
I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical,
About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news,
With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
I'm very good at integral and differential calculus;
I know the scientific names of beings animalculous:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from The Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
Then I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
And tell you ev'ry detail of Caractacus' uniform:
In short, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
In fact, when I know what is meant by "mamelon" and "ravelin",
When I can tell at sight a Mauser rifle from a javelin,
When such affairs as sorties and surprises I'm more wary at,
And when I know precisely what is meant by "commissariat",
When I have learnt what progress has been made in modern gunnery,
When I know more of tactics than a novice in a nunnery—
In short, when I've a smattering of elemental strategy—
You'll say a better Major-General has never sat a-gee.
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.

Unlike the clerk who, despite coming from the Department of Employment technical and vocational education initiative, and currently pretending to the oldest post of royal bodyguard in England dating from around 1189 in the time of Richard I, wouldn't know an education from a hole in the ground.

And if there is to be flaunting in black and lace and silken tights, Angels would rather it were by an officer of the Queen's Own Highlanders, as it would seem does the Queen, than one of the fat-thighed, clumsy women favoured by New Labour.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Brown: A Prophet Without Honour in Anyone Else's Country

The United Kingdom will not be allowed to default. It is too large an economy to be treated as its Prime Minister treated Iceland. And its default would possibly damage other member states of the European Union more than is acceptable. But unless the desperate campaign mounted by our government to try and force the core of Europe to finance the UK's eleven year debt binge succeeds it is going to be subjected to strictures that will humble, and sharply cut living standards. Public spending will have to be dramatically cut back; taxes will have to rise greatly - the standard IMF et al., bail-out package. And the supervision will be close and galling. Inevitably the regime, the thousand year, post-democratic New Dawn Project, will come to an end.

The measure of how close is the endgame is the markets' assessment of what they need to take the risk of lending to the UK; and the virulence of the attacks upon the German Chancellor for leading, from a position of strength, all those member states, also in some position of strength with reasonable levels of debt (household debt, not just public debt), in a principled and sensible rejection of massive borrowing and unfunded spending.

Centre-left parties and media are spewing torrents of abuse and false analysis in the effort to re-establish the 'keynesian' consensus and save their fellow member of the Socialist International, the Labour Party, from humiliation and loss of power.

Mrs Merkel enjoys, fortunately, the support of well over ninety percent of her Party, and most of her countrymen and women. And that of most other member-states too; including France, despite the rhetoric, that has not yet instituted extraordinary stimulus measures (but will do so, they claim, in coming weeks); including Italy that, despite its public debt problems, has a population with savings in solid gold, neatly stacked under the bed and whose stimulus is just 30 billion euros worth of bank recapitalisation to bring perfectly sound banks up to EU norms. The east has either obtained its bailout and is already under tutelage, or in decent enough shape, like Poland.

There's a lot of talk, from the left, even some conviction from the old European free trade area countries, but deep in their continental European hearts, they know that Brown is wrong - and mad.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Poland Refuses to Fall for Debt-Fuelled Panaceas for Recession

Poland has aligned itself with Germany on how to handle the recession.

“When I talk to European politicians who boldly tell me how much money they are going to pump into the economy, I pose the question, ‘Where do you have the money for that?’,” the Prime Minister of Poland told the Financial Times.

“I don’t think that borrowing money on a huge scale is a good method of resolving the crisis.”

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, last week warned that increased borrowing to tackle what Brown insists on referring to as the 'downturn' could lead to further crisis.

Poland has 'announced an economic stabilisation package totalling 91bn zlotys (€24.1bn), although it contains almost no new spending. The major items were 60bn zlotys to revive the interbank market and a series of smaller measures to make it easier for Poland to gain access to European Union funds.' (Financial Times)

“The effects of this crisis are not particularly visible in Poland,” Mr Tusk said. “If there are negative effects, that is mainly because things are not always that good with our neighbours.”

Slower growth during 2009 - forecasts see it falling from 4.8 per cent to 3.7 per cent, are thought to be optimistic by the Governor of the Bank of Poland who suggests a growth rate of just under 3 per cent and a resultant revenue short fall of 1.7bn zlotys. (FT).

The Finance Minister, Jacek Rostowski, stated his resolve to keep the deficit unchanged at 18.2bn zlotys.

“I am determined investors, both Polish and foreign, should understand we shall maintain the health of Polish public finances and they can trust Poland, and particularly the Polish government, as a debtor....I see no advantage in increasing the deficit and just finding that this is chewed up by increased debt service payments.”

After the events of the early eighties and the gruelling experience of the negotiations with the Club of Paris and the Club of London, Poland knows what default feels like, and how ineffective are planned economies and state run banks in allocating market resources.

Keeping Oneself to Oneself

UK Government figures show more than 800,000 people, with almost 100,000 of these in Scotland, have claimed incapacity benefits for more than a decade. This is almost one-third of the 2.65 million on benefits.

In October, a survey further showed that long-term unemployed people in Scotland held out little hope of finding a job and almost 60% did not want to. (Herald)

A disinclination to work is the ultimate disqualification. Imagine having staff like that forced upon you. Any business would be wrecked within weeks, energies diverted to trying to get people to turn up regularly, learn their job, and carry it out willingly and efficiently. Many of these people can be written off as contributers to the economy in any meaningful sense; well over half of them own up that they do not want to work.

How, though, can we ensure that their self-regarding agendas do not impinge on the lives of the rest of us? We pay good money to keep them, but how do we keep them away? An army of political disrupters seem intent on funnelling them into our lives via state services that are consumed by all of us, and by promoting an ideology of 'inclusion'.

For anyone who has the misfortune to be unable to support themselves, or must turn to state welfare temporarily, it must be particularly galling to be thrust in with the don't work, won't work brigade. It would be best if the delivery of the support we must provide to everyone were separated out into tailored delivery systems so that the inclusion ideologies no longer excluded many from even considering approaching the essentially tiding-over, proper use of welfare services.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

English democracy stands on the edge of an open grave. For eleven years it has been forced to dig, shovelling enabling legislation, with sweeping powers that can be made operative by Executive decree, through its Parliament. Protesting bitterly it has been forced to hollow out its own resting place and install the apparatus of European Union administrative governance. Steadily it has been backed towards the edge facing the firing squad manned by the men and women of New Labour.

The surrounding people who armed New Labour know nothing, see nothing, have no idea, never imagined, are just getting on with their lives, believe in the Labour Movement as a force for good both for themselves and for the decent and ordinary in the country.

What matters is a job, a house, and a chance for the kids. The sounds of firing in the woods? Nothing to do with them.

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Do It Yourself Gordon Voodoo Kit

The voodoo doll of Nicholas Sarkozy that is available with twelve needles and instructions on their application and the correct attitude while sticking them in, must carry the judicial ruling:

"... the encouragement to poke the doll that comes with the needles in the kit, an activity whose subtext is physical harm, even if it is symbolic, constitutes an attack on the dignity of the person of Mr. Sarkozy."

The dolls sold out their first 'edition' and a second wave has now hit the shops.

Now then, where are those studies on voodoo? They're in with my old anthropology texts somewhere.

Common Sense

The core European Union countries are agreed now on how the recession is faced. With the relaxation of the constraints of the Stability and Growth Pact, each member state can react to regional expressions of the economic and financial threat, without infringing formal rules and their goals, devised for use when times are good. Communitaire sentiment is reliably deep-seated enough to permit this flexibility yet maintain long term interest.

The central agreement is extreme caution in borrowing, or attempting to restart the excesses of generally expanding credit. Case by case and locality by locality considerations of interventions by government are the order of the day. Where key economic and industrial interest is at stake there will be action by government, by private sources and by sectoral representatives, brokered by a long-established democratic set of institutions. There will be no sales-tax cuts, ineffective in enticing consumer spending anyway. There is recognition of the stable patterns of private consumption in core European member states, and the remarkably low levels of personal indebtedness. There will be no irresponsible expansions of public debt, certainly not to levels that would have most Europeans out on the streets protesting. The steady-as-she-goes tactic makes a great deal more sense than the systemic-crisis, demanding big bang solutions, cover up.

As the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (reported in Der Spiegel) writes:

"After the bank bailout, Chancellor Merkel has been feeling her way through crisis
management carefully. Balancing possibilities requires courage in a time when... governments faced with a flood of bad economic news, are heading for quick 'grand solutions' without regard to the negative impact on budgets or the disastrous consequences for competitiveness. In so doing the big bailout crowd runs the risk of encouraging worry and, with it, procrastination on the part of economic actors. We should be thankful to Angela Merkel for her calm probing, for grand solutions are difficult to audit and to calculate; they conceal big risks -- and a glance at the writings of Keynes won't deliver any panaceas...".

This view is embodied in the actions of all the core member-states.

The complete rejection of the analysis and policies adopted by our government by core Europe means that even if it were correct, the policies cannot work. Our non-financial economy is too small and too damaged, and our shattered financial economy too weak now; even the United States will find it hard to act effectively alone. And the United States is led by a popular, charismatic, elected leader - these political facts matter just as much as economic and financial realities.

For us there is only massive borrowing - not to implement keynesian-style solutions as is pretended - but simply to keep the financial fabric of the country from collapsing into holes. And if lenders choose not to lend, there is the monetisation of debt and inflation that frightens. Or both.

2009 is going to be bad. If we could face it together, acknowledging the need for retrenchment, enjoying some political and cultural unity, some political honesty about the state we are in, this would serve better than any more pseudo-keynesian claptrap and blaming its certain failure on the caution and prudence of others.

We don't need Leadership and global interventions by deluded messiahs. We need consensus and co-operation in our own country, we need the pragmatic and responsible application of the common sense other countries are demonstrating.

To obtain that the people need to be consulted in a general election.

Friday, 28 November 2008

The Home Secretary is Ignorant and Powerless

When the Mayor of London dismissed Labour's police chief he made it plain that the Home Secretary was in office but not in power. She could no more raise a hand to stop Mr Johnson from ridding us of a politicised and dangerous officer, than stop a London bus.

Now there are denials at the highest levels that she knew anything of the arrest of a Member of Parliament and the Speaker's authorisation of the search of Parliamentary offices by anti-terrorist police, until it had been done.

We know who is running the Metropolitan Police.

Who is running the Home Office?

The pretend Home Secretary must resign.

The Smack of Firm Government

International capital is not concerned with political niceties. It is concerned with political stability. Where it lends it wants to be sure that the institutional status quo will be upheld and maintained while its investment is at risk. Or the charge for risk may be too high for the borrower.

The United Kingdom Labour government must borrow heavily. It must show convincingly the stability and permanence of its control over the country. The apparatus to do this has been installed since 2000. Willingness and capacity to use it is being demonstrated.

'Whatever it takes' applies now to the arrest by counter-terrorism police of a Member of Parliament and the authorisation by the Speaker of the intrusion by police into the Parliament and a search of a Member of Parliament's offices.

We should expect more propaganda tokens of the extent and permanence of the Mandelson/Brown regime.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

The Mandelson-Brown Pantomime Horse That Is Now New Labour

In clammy embrace, as they animate the poor old Dobbin of the Labour Party, Mandelson and Brown cavort their last on the political stage.

Mandelson speaks through the front orifice, reassuring us all that Woolworth's employees will keep their jobs over Christmas and that high level government intervention will defend pic'n'mix and the 'British' economy.

Brown's voice drones through the rear orifice, claiming to speak for the entire world, on everything from condemning attacks on hotels in Bombay to leading the planet to the sunlit uplands of fiscal probity and steady economic growth.

Given the complete lack of any constitutional or institutional rules or constraints it is impossible to visualise what will bring down the final curtain on this ridiculous performance.

Cold Turkey

Christmas dinner for four at under £10 is on offer from some shops. Ever since seeing it I've been considering how that can be possible. Economies of scale, industrialised production... even so , while feeding four for under £10 is perfectly feasible for a run of the mill meal, Christmas dinner is supposed to be a feast - THE feast of the year.

A feast has many courses, is made of the finest ingredients, includes foods that are costly as part of the show and part of the pleasure of eating a rare treat, and is an exhibition of the esteem in which the feasting are held by the feast-giver.

Giver. That is the heart of a feast. A gift. Generous to the point of profligacy, offered with joy, appropriate to the occasion, bringing gladness to the company, creating a separate time where care is put aside. A glorious lighted interval in the dark of winter to be looked forward to and worked for, and to be looked back on with happiness created, and the inclusion that gift-giving and accepting creates. And that is not to be achieved by offering a slice of turkey and a mince pie ready meal.

Poor? Save up for it. Unable to candy fruit, make a galantine, cook brussels' sprouts to taste of chestnuts, ....Practice. Don't like the cheap contents of the crackers? Replace them with something better (and funnier jokes). Don't want to? Then don't.

The thing offered by the supermarkets is a cultural insult. I can do insults for under £10.

Most of us can do insults for free.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Confidence in UK Government Securities On Brown's Watch

The cost of insuring against the British Government defaulting on its gilts in the next five years surged to 100 basis points above libor at one stage yesterday...The soaring cost comes as the Treasury unveiled record amounts of spending in the pre-Budget report, with plans to issue an unprecedented £146.4bn of gilts in this fiscal year. (reports the Telegraph).

A spokesman for the Debt Management Office said £77bn has been raised through gilt sales so far this financial year and these government assets "generally remain the preferred risk-free asset for major international investors and are in strong demand internationally and in the UK".... "We think investors in UK Government securities will be assured by the fact that the UK Government has never defaulted on a payment since the origins of the national debt in 1694."

So after only a year as Prime Minister (though admittedly the previous ten years busy wrecking the United Kingdom economy and the Treasury) Gordon Brown has undone over four centuries of trust and confidence and forced the need for statements like this one. The shame.

Power and its Placing

Looking at the Chancellor of the Exchequer during and after his presentation of the New Labour PBR it is clear that his heart isn't in it. Not only was there a smirking, writhing, inattentive Prime Minister misbehaving behind and beside him, there was the knowledge that he is regarded as Brown's puppet.

This is not true. The Chancellor is Mandelson's puppet, as is the Prime Minister.

The democratic deficit, that widened immeasurably with the toppling of the elected Prime Minister in 2007 that was not followed by a general election to confirm the 'change' in policy and governance under Brown, has become a yawning abyss over which our country is poised. Brown's abject failure to measure up to the job, demonstrated within months, led to the imposition of yet another unelected head of the UK Executive.

Hoiked into that part of the United Kingdom's legislature that is peopled by inheritance, Executive appointment, or purchase, 'Lord' Mandelson replaced the challenged, usurping incumbent. In doing so he made a small contribution to the intellectually interesting but democratically destructive evolution of power location in UK governance. The transfer of the autocratic powers of the Crown to the Parliament, then to the lower House, then to the Cabinet, then to the Prime Minister, has moved on.

Under the New Labour Project there was first the transfer of the powers of the Prime Minister - and the draining of remaining powers of the great offices of State - to the Chancellor, which we all watched from 1997 on. With Brown's failure while in the office of prime minister, we are watching the transfer of that concentrated power into the hands of a Party strongman - regardless of whether elected within the inner Party or, even less important, the country.

As Chancellor, Brown had the power but, within his wounded ego, yearned for the trappings of that power. Now he has been allowed to keep the trappings, but the power itself is settled in autocratic hands without the least interest in gaudy (which is not to be confused with interest in luxury).

Autocrats are essentially committed to the belief that the wielding of power is personal, face to face, and individual. It is not office-holder to office-holder, government to government, state to state, and answerable to the elected representatives of the people, from whom that power has been drained and from whom it arises. So with whom does our pet autocrat have these kind of relations?

Since the precipitation from Brussels we know of: Brussels and the European Union itself; Russia; and the oil rich states of the Gulf. Nice kula partners.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Keynes and the Tailor

In advanced capitalist societies the standard form of governance is pluralist democracy. It produces stable, safe nation states with high levels of co-operative contribution from citizens. It reduces risk. The United States has just given a demonstration to the world of how it's done.

The United Kingdom suffers from a burdensome democratic deficit. It is all very well saying dismissively that the Constitution is what we do, when we are relatively independent in choosing how we act. But that independence comes from a productive, vibrant, growing economy that provides a sufficient standard of living to the populace for them to behave as if they are within a pluralist democracy. When the economy threatens to collapse, when its survival becomes dependent upon investment by others in the United Kingdom, then the nature of its political and constitutional settlements gains as much importance as its economic and financial parameters.

Who would lend to an economically unstable state that does not enjoy either a democratic and written Constitution enforceable under the rule of law? Where the means to affirm their continued co-operation, if not their content, with their form of government is not available to the people except when the Executive is good and ready to permit its expression, rather than constrained to meet the people's judgment. And if such a fundamental part of a modern state is set up as 'what we do', where does that leave property and contract?

Loans of the order of trillions of pounds cannot be sought, and will not be given, on the word of Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson. They do not have the reputation, even if they think they have the power. The power and the reputation rest with our country and without a general election and the restoration of democratic government in the United Kingdom there will be large premium to be paid by us all.

As we know from our hurried reintroduction to keynesian analysis, there is always a price at which payment can be delayed; until, that is, doubt as to capacity to meet, or be held to, the debt asserts itself.

We cannot afford New Labour ; international capitalism charges for risk, including that of political and social instability generated by under-determined institutions of the state.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Centenarian Holes Brown in One

"Some claim that human societies merely express, through their mythology, fundamental feelings common to the whole of mankind, such as love, hate, or revenge or that they try to provide some kind of explanations for phenomena which they cannot otherwise understand—astronomical, meteorological, [economic, ed.] and the like. But why should the societies do it in such elaborate and devious ways, when all of them are also acquainted with empirical explanations?"

I m convinced that Levi Strauss was thinking of Gordon Brown when he wrote the Savage Mind.

Though as the Master is 100 this week, perhaps Brown is a throwback.

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Will Worlds Collide?

The absence of any acknowledgement of external reality within the New Labour Project is one of its foundation pillars, others being permanence in power, post democratic administration by appointees, identification of government with the state. Consequently New Labour cannot err, it merely shifts policy emphasis to maintain its balance and achieve its objectives.

This does not mean that external reality does not impinge upon New Labour, but when it does in the form of criticism, warning or advice there is a standard policy response of attacking the source as unhelpful, destructive, renegade or terrorist (depending on the level of threat posed by the criticism), and when it is from events these are invariably generated from outside New Labour's areas of control and implementation.

There has been extraordinary forbearance towards this unpleasant and unEnglish ideology and practice because those who have suffered from its overbearing ministrations have been state dependents of the waged and unwaged varieties. The self-sufficient have remarked on it but ignored it while it has not touched them. Outsiders have been content to use the unregulated casino of London's financial markets and pay taxes that are no more than a token gesture.

The victims of New Labour's external aggressions have been the civilian populations of Afghanistan, Iraq, and the former Yugoslavia - even more distant than Czechoslovakia.

Europe, Russia, America, Asia, have taken what they can use, particularly Brown's 'British' tax havens and his entrenched resistance to their control, and laugh a bit at the rest.

But if New Labour seriously tries to slash taxes, continue to lower interest rates, and mind the gap by raising funds borrowed on the strength and stability of the United Kingdom state and its economy, then default will finally bring down the New Labour temple.

Let us, on this Sunday morning, pray that the propaganda of the last weeks is just that, and tomorrow the usual mouse-sized actions, instantly reversed in the small print, will leave us to get on.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Weather Warning

You might like to sing them all to yourselves just once more before New Labour abolishes the British Isles.

Bankers' Manifesto

This arrived by email. You might like to share it.

Congressman Charles A. Lindbergh, Sr. revealed the Bankers Manifesto of 1892 to the U.S. Congress somewhere between 1907 and 1917.

'We [the bankers] must proceed with caution and guard every move made, for the lower order of people are already showing signs of restless commotion. Prudence will therefore show a policy of apparently yielding to the popular will until our plans are so far consummated that we can declare our designs without fear of any organized resistance.

Organizations in the United States [and this would go for the United Kingdom too] should be carefully watched by our trusted men, and we must take immediate steps to control these organizations in our interest or disrupt them.

At the coming Omaha convention to be held July 4, 1892, our men must attend and direct its movement or else there will be set on foot such antagonism to our designs as may require force to overcome.

This at the present time would be premature. We are not yet ready for such a crisis. Capital must protect itself in every possible manner through combination [conspiracy] and legislation.

The courts must be called to our aid, debts must be collected, bonds and mortgages foreclosed as rapidly as possible.

When, through the process of law, the common people have lost their homes,
they will be more tractable and easily governed through the influence of the strong arm
of the government applied to a central power of imperial wealth under the control of the leading financiers.

People without homes will not quarrel with their leaders. History repeats itself in regular cycles. This truth is well known among our principal men who are engaged in forming an imperialism of the world. While they are doing this, the people must be kept in a state of political antagonism.

The question of tariff reform must be urged through the organization known as the Democratic Party, and the question of protection with the reciprocity must be forced to view through the Republican Party.

By thus dividing voters, we can get them to expend their energies in fighting over questions of no importance to us, except as teachers to the common herd. Thus, by discrete actions, we can secure all that has been so generously planned and successfully accomplished.'

Friday, 21 November 2008

Banking Done By Grown Ups, Not Brown

Italian banks will need a capital injection of some €21bn to bring their financial strength into line with other European banks. They are resigned to accepting a government bail-out package expected to be announced soon, after weeks of resisting any interference from the government.

With little exposure to toxic assets their capital ratios are low compared to banks in countries such as the United Kingdom, which have had to take dramatic steps to recapitalise their banking systems.

With an initial €15bn to €20bn in total, in the form of a mandatory convertible bond issue, all banks could boost their core tier one capital ratios to that of European banks in general, around 8 per cent, from the current ratio of less than 7 per cent. There is no official requirement for the banks to raise capital, but analysts say a core tier one ratio of 8 per cent is likely to become the minimum standard.

The Italian government is not expected to set a new benchmark for the country’s banks as part of the package, reports the FT, and it will be up to the banks themselves to decide whether they want to participate in the state aid package. Individual banks have taken measures already, such as cancelling dividend payments and tapping shareholders.

' No Italian bank has required the sort of bailout that was offered to Fortis, Royal Bank of Scotland, and other European banks.' (FT).

Hillary Needs A Mobile Home

Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State is not an attractive proposition. A woman following another woman in this office begins to downgrade it. It shouldn't, but it does; just as all kinds of professional roles have been downgraded by their filling with women candidates. The medical profession in the Soviet Union sank in esteem, rewards, and quality of recruitment as women spread through it reducing its attractiveness to ambitious men. The teaching profession has sunk in attractiveness as it has come to be dominated by women in England, and in many other European countries. It is as incorrect to notice this as it is to mention it.

The American Secretary of State is, more or less, the Foreign Secretary of the world's greatest, and imperial, power. Power embodies military power and, while women serve with courage and distinction in the armed forces, most women have no military experience or culture - certainly Clinton and Rice do not. Furthermore, what might be acceptable, even commonplace in the United States is not so in many of the countries and non-country power-bases in which an American Secretary of State acts. There have been giggles already about Clinton's claims to frontline experiences in the former Yugoslavia.

From the posturing viewpoint adopted by New Labour of course, appointing a female Foreign Secretary with the support and advice of her elderly husband could be portrayed as following their lead. Perhaps if Clinton is being taken on with a view to getting two for the price of one, a form of bargain in which she once offered herself on her husband's election to high office, then all she needs to do is get herself a caravan to close the deal.