Saturday, 30 June 2007

The Masses and their Celebration

Benedict XVI has decided to issue a motu proprio reinstating the Tridentine Mass.

Codified by Pius V in the mid-sixteenth century, the latin rite was re-elaborated repeatedly in the intervening years until Paul VI placed its celebration beyond any priest without permission from his bishop. Pius XII revised the Easter ceremonies and, in 1962 John XXIII, four centuries after the Council of Trent first settled the various texts of the mass and determined the first Roman Missal, issued the Missal most remember.

A missal is given (along with many other gifts) at first communion. Bound in limpest, finest calf, printed on thinnest india paper, arranged in printed columns, divided by silken cords, its pages interspersed with holy pictures that resemble nothing so much as cigarette cards of the saints with cvs and invocations printed on the verso, a missal is a life long project and highly personal possession.

With endpapers of watered silk and a tiny crucifix in mother of pearl let into the inside of the front cover, black, mine is a perfection of restraint. Mr HG carries his mother's missal, (embossed silver cover, silk velvet endpapers, crucifix in silver, silken ribbons, santini). Both are printed with most of the typeface in black, with red and, rarely, glorious blue highlighting. Mine has the English text beside the latin, his of course, does not.

The length and breadth of Christendom we all have the same texts, calendars, invocations for appropriate days and occasions, gospels, admonitions, confiteors, standings-up and kneelings down. From earliest memories we were all hit with the intricate extraordinary barrage of lights and flames, swishings and genuflectings, thuribles and incense, and sounds, strange words, the contrast between the packed, concentrating, silent congregation occasionally bursting out in a hymn, and the stage set at the altar speaking in another language, in every sense , and muttering secrets, back turned.

In what other way would a small girl learn to sing plainchant, read those squared-off marks on wavering black lines, pronounce the latin words and pass the time during the boring bits (those long sermons, those banns '..consanguinity, affinity, or spiritual relationship... ' would roll round the church like distant thunder menacing the plans of people known and discussed at home), comparing the English with the latin text and working it out; or considering what on earth much of the litanies could mean - tower of ivory, house of gold.. - And there is still no dismissal quite so absolute as Ite missa est, and the translation of that united concentration into outside, that congregation breaking into all its components in chats and smiles and ignorings and everyday concerns.

It was a deprivation to remove this richness, and the greater deprivation for the poorer, although the usual reasons were given to justify it - engagement, out reach, non-discrimination, multifaith openness, multicultural correctness (there was a prayer for the conversion of England and another for the Jews; frankly the idea of Jewish conversion to roman Catholicism, or vice versa would make members of either faith giggle, but the correcties were upon us).

Benedict XVI has done two good deeds that shine brightly in this world inside a week :
He has told Blair what he is and what he cannot be for now, considering what he has done; and he has pushed back the Roundheads from the Cavaliers' sunday mornings.

Mass outside my bedroom windows has returned to its universal form. Et introibo ad altare Dei: ad Deum qui laetificat juventutem meam. And I can sing along!

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Labour Zombies

'...after all that, I make 22 member of Gordon Browns cabinet. 16 were cabinet members under Tony Blair - or 73%! 4 were senior ministers and you can really only say 2 are "new faces" - less that 10%.', writes a commenter on Dale.

So it's not a problem of personalties misrepresenting 'real' Labour then. It's the Labour Government, Party and Movement that is a corrupt, dishonourable, sleaze-ridden, putrid disgrace to its ideals and its once worthwhile achievements.

From the Cradle to the Grave

Providing our children with house and home, an education both formal and intimate, ensuring their health and their safety, and settling them into their own lives and futures (which too, are our own futures) is central to the lives of most of us.

Never did we think that the post War settlement of universal free access to these basics of society would yield the mechanisms for the wholesale surveillance of our lives.

There is no longer a Ministry of education. Instead there is a Ministry for children and schools (that's our children, not some 'out there' children suffering bad upbringings) and, should we think of ever getting away, what used to be our business, life itself, is to be the object of life/work balance.

Our Prime Minister has already wrecked our pensions.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

New Poverty

When Mother needs a few objects for the church Bazaar she goes to Liberty's, leaving Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane (with the Lamb to be kept happy and entertained) on their good behaviour; but with adults in the house as well. The burned nursery carpet is replaced with a persian rug from the secondhand shop in nearby Camden High Street. The children display an education that covers literature, grammar, geometry, history, geography, and considerable social skills.

So how much a year is there here, in this English middle class family living respectably but prudently on Father's work? £100,000 would not be enough, £150,000 would be on the low side.

Today the reckoning so often predicted by economic doomsayers has arrived, not with the cataclysmic instancy predicted but with a slow, irreversible loss of lifestyle for millions.

While the middle class was never millions' strong, it punched above its weight spectacularly, proffering a civilized, interesting, enjoyable way of life without offending sensibility on exclusion - social or economic. Aspiration and determination led to inclusion, and the compexity of its cultural endowment (whatever culture it might be, for middle classness is found in all our cultures) could be passed through the generations even when misfortune or incompetence led to economic poverty.

Centuries of writing centre on the social consensus to support this ideal; Fanny Price may live in a Portsmouth slum with a pig of a father but she, and her siblings, are gathered back ( motivated naturally, at first, by family self interest). Leonard Bast may end up dead, (and today Charles Wilcox is released), but he got far enough to be killed. Pick your own novel, but no-one is denied the chance to try or denied the support to stay.

Until now. In the last ten years there has been the most vicious attack upon the most characteristic, the defining, notion of our open society. And, in the name of 'equality', 'the ending of poverty', 'social integration' we are to be confined to our own sphere, controlled by the withdrawal of economic independence, education, intergenerational ties, family connexion, personal privacy, and freedom of movement.

Punitive taxation, gift prohibition, inheritance denial, means testing, social imprinting rather than the acquisition of culture and learning, the atomisation of kinship groups, and grotesque invasions of personal privacy by 'health' and 'social' services compulsorily funded by us all, reign; and as all faces are forced to turn towards the State and away from one another, isolation is consoled by pornography and licence.

We cannot think of the damage only to ourselves. Think of what we can give our children, and how little it is when we think of what our parents and theirs, gave to us.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Nymphs and Shepherds

The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in the University of Birmingham has one of the finest of works by Domenico Beccafumi, delicious in its luscious colours and sensuous form.

If London art historians think Siennese artists, and Beccafumi in particular, are 'almost unknown to the public in England', they underestimate the Brummie eye for a reclining nymph.

The floozie in the jacuzzi was so contemptuously named with popular and educated discernment.

4000 Holes in Blackburn Lancashire

Nuclear power generation may or may not appeal to you but it appeals to the Labour government in England. So that's what we're getting (what Labour is getting in return is another question).

Intrinsic to nuclear power generation is nuclear waste disposal. There are two schools of thought:

Do not create nuclear waste (but this is not acceptable to the Labour government or to their nuclear power industry best friends).

If you have created nuclear waste, keep it close, and keep it monitored (this, too, is unacceptable to Labour and its nuclear supporters, for the vitrification of nuclear waste costs profits or even economic viability; and the public display of the other side of the nuclear power coin is bad for business, as well as causing local revolt).

The Third Way is to push it down holes in the ground, preferably where the locals cannot prevent this from being done. Then forget about it. The undesirable consequences - sickness, mutation, disability, death being the most immediate, but there is the over all problem of the blight of any geologically challenged location too - cannot be allowed to stay the march of Progress and Electrification.

It was planned to fill Scottish holes with anything and everything that glows in the dark for aeons. Scotland has developed another kind of power, so Labour can't.

If there are any holes near where you live, and if you are feeling powerless, move.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Disentangling Scotland

The Civil Service Commissioners (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 provides a blueprint for the separate Scottish Civil Service that is being sought by the Scottish Government.

The Order, signed by Secretary of State Mowlam, provides for an independent civil service in which: '... no appointment shall be made to any situation in the Senior Civil Service, or to any situation prescribed by General Regulations or by directions for the purposes of this Article by the Commissioners with the approval of the Secretary of State, without the written approval of the Commissioners, whose decision shall be final.' In northern Ireland the civil service answers to its own Civil Service Commissioners.

The Scottish executive (that is the civil service working for the Scottish Executive which is the Government of Scotland) answers ultimately to the United Kingdom civil service and its hierarchies. As do those civil servants working in Scotland but for UK home civil service departments, such as Defence.

The prime minister of Scotland, First Minister Salmond, requires an end to all that and a proper Home Civil Service for Scotland, answering to its own Commissioners.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

No Referendum

Rejecting in a referendum what the Labour Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer accepted last week in Brussels fails to provide sufficiently for the democratic expression of what is wanted by the electorate.

Only a general election, fought on the policies of remaining in the European Union as it is now constituted, or leaving on the friendliest of terms but with the governance of our country secured in our own hands, can do this; and only a general election can encompass the issues that must be decided, and recognize their centrality in the nature and structure of our country.

What was enacted last week by the Labour government was a democratic outrage.

A referendum is not enough.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum

The European Union has everything it wanted:

The ending of veto by a single member-state;
The Charter of Fundamental Rights;
A permanent President;
A Foreign Office and Minister for European Union relations with the rest of the world;
And, to all intents and purposes, a single identity.

The optouts inserted for itself by the United Kingdom affect only the UK, and possibly only England, and possibly not even England; that is for the courts to decide.

The main effect of the failure to impose a view of the European Union as a free trade and competition area of nation states was to consolidate a tightly-knit group intent on acting as a federal state both internally and externally.

That is theirs to choose, and they have the strong support of their electorates now that the defence of European interests against globalised competition has been asserted.

It will not be a choice the electorate here has made. Here we have chosen neither what is now settled, nor what the Labour regime tried to impose. Nor will we be allowed any expression of dissent to any of it, either in a general election, or in a more narrowly based referendum on our country's future.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Universal Mourning

More than sixty years after the horror that was the second world War, Poland tries to assert that Polish dead count for more than all the other souls sent to their Maker in those dreadful years. Over one group alone should heads be bowed for ever; the Jews of Europe, killed by every country of which they were citizens and intrinsically part, including Poland. And in every country, too, there were those who tried to save them, and died too, because of it.

For the rest of the War dead, we can all produce the numbers, they are carved in cold stone in every parish church, in every village and town, in every city, everywhere.

Falling Apart

The outgoing Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has demanded that the Charter of Fundamental Rights, adjunct to the European Union amended treaties, should be explicitly non-justiciable under English and Scottish law.

How good to see the recognition that these are separate legal systems.

Has the Scottish government been consulted on these demands? Under the Concordats it most certainly should have been. What would the Scottish Parliament and people like? It's quite clear what the English people want.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Parliament has voted in the first stage of abolishing Council Tax. It is to be replaced with a local income tax.

Agreement has been reached between the Welsh and northern Irish Assemblies and the Scottish Parliament, to alter the fiscal relationships with the Westminster regime. The Barnet formula arrangements are at least as unsatisfactory to the Welsh, Irish and Scottish as they are to the long-suffering English taxpayer, though for different reasons; not unnaturally, as theirs are very different agendas from those of the Labour junta in Westminster .

Thursday, 21 June 2007

European Union Redux

What will be signed-up to will be a simple statement of intent to move European Union governance into greater transparency and ordered simplification. The Charter of Fundamental Rights will be accepted by all but the United Kingdom, which will have an optout; this optout from the Charter is already agreed and the window dressing is the written-in explicit confirmation of the optout, which will be emphasized in the English press as standing out for the defence of the common law and the provisions for the 'war against terror'. The text of the Charter will be accessed by a single clause in the Treaties but not embodied there.

Much of the agreed text of the new Treaty will be consolidation and cleaning up of extant treaties - the Treaty on the European Union, and the Treaty on the establishing of the European Community; there will be two Supplementary Protocols by which innovations to these two treaties will be adopted and ratified together with the new Treaty - A Protocol on the Functioning of the Union and, A Protocol on the Developments of the Union's Policies in Order to Meet the Challenges of the XXIst Century. This last will provide the structural framework for innovations to be agreed at future IGCs (intergovernmental conferences).

So after the consolidation of the amendments introduced by the Protocols the European Union will be governed by two treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

Expect all attention to be focused on the Charter optout and its explicit confirmation, and on the future policies of the EU. A Downing Street official spokesperson stated "we believe it is in the national interest of this country and the interests of Europe as a whole that we move on from discussing the constitution to practical matters.

"Europe has shown that when it talks about issues such as energy and energy security and climate change it can make a real difference. That's where the focus should be and therefore we need to agree a practical way of working together to get the maximum benefit out of European co-operation,".

Got it? You will, whether you like it or not.

Manners Makyth Man

Children in Scotland are to be taught in classes of 18 in infants and juniors, the Scottish Government has announced.

Children in England will continue to be taught in classes of 30 and more in infants and juniors but education is a priority, the Interregnum confirmed.

The Scottish people expressed their satisfaction that they are no longer ruled by the Westminster Interregnum.

The Bogey Man from Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath orderd English teachers to teach social skills and better manners to pupils in English schools.

Scottish pupils are to be taught reading, writing and arithmetic, with art, music, games and sport, and drama in the afternoons.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Roman Summer

What European literary culture has offered in the creation of European morality was the subject of a 2 day conference at La Sapienza, Rome’s oldest university.
Most of Europe’s ancient seats of learning contributed (an inquiry into what made the European spirit can only be investigated seriously in Rome in June). The Bible (and scriptures of some other major faiths) was taken as the frame in which the study was set; so was Homer.

As Ulysses went to the borders of the known universe, not just those of Europe, to encapsulate Ulysses’ human predicament we Europeans were advised to pursue “virtude e cognoscenza” “fatti non fummo per viver come bruti”. Il Contrapasso - that wonderful assertion that punishment should fit the crime - is such a satisfying contribution to our European culture (or it should be); certainly it was acclaimed as such when Benigni packed the piazza S.Croce for nights on end as he preached Dante to the Florentines, native and adopted, and held thousands in absorbed, breath- held silence as, at the end of each glorious evening, he read the best bits.

The brains powered on in Rome: Shakespeare, who gave us Doubt, took up more time than most, though any pause given to authoritarian socialist righteousness, the plague of the last 100 years and with us still in England, is welcome.

Bigotry met its end in the Dictionnaire philosophique, and Candide; here Europe arrived, laical and at the end of ipse dixit, enlightenment and reason re-take their place. On we galloped, Cervantes and idealism, Goethe, Kafka... but we had parted ways.

A group beckoned to me that others did not heed:

Cesare Beccaria whose Dei Delitti e delle Pene brought the rule of law, no torture, and no death penalty - all the most basic of civil rights and their guarantees we watch destroyed today, disgraced by their abolition.

Maynard Keynes - discoverer of the determinants of income and employment in capitalist societies, (of course Richard Kahn was feeding him potted Marx which is why, chewed and digested (though indigestible to most) it is used in keynesian understanding.

Beveridge - whose ideas and policies ended absolute poverty in Europe.

Gramsci, whose rational version of communism inspired or antagonised us all, whatever degraded version has reached us.

The prize for wrongest of all yet so influential goes to Freud. No women here? Ask him.


Trust in political leaders has been so damaged in the last ten Labour years that the temptation to turn away from all who represent us in our social and political lives has to be resisted. Some politicians have earned and continue to deserve our attention.

William Hague, Conservative shadow Foreign Secretary, stands in that long line of Conservative politicians who can articulate the political will that transcends Party allegiance, except among the most bigotted and self-serving party crawlers.

David Cameron's speech today addresses the moribund and ugly socialist authoritarian collectivism embodied in the Labour government Executive and much of the constituent factions that make up Labour support. It does not address what most people in England are concerned about, (insofar as their concerns are political for we all have lives), the European Union Treaty for a Constitution for Europe, and England's involvement.

Quite rightly so, for the Conservatives regard relations with the European Union as the field of responsibility and competence of the Foreign Secretary; there is no 'one Party, one Leader' smack to Conservative governance, as Cameron underlines today. Nor is the Conservative Foreign Office portfolio assigned to a washed-up, conformist hack seeking to please the narrow focus of an even narrower Labour party faction that is definedly disloyal both to Party and to the electorate.

To hear Mr Hague in a considered and at length setting-out of Conservative understanding of past relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union , the current position and Conservative policy on it and, more than anything, a clear exposition of Conservative intentions and determinations towards the union of the United Kingdom and its relationship with the federal European state that is to be constituted this year, would be a contribution to our polity above Party, and beyond price.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Marquess of Berkhamstead in the County of Hertford, We Need You!

Representing the Scottish seat of Paisley and Renfrewshire South, the Scottish Minister of Transport for England, Douglas Alexander, bosses the English about in the matter of our rundown rail system, over-taxed (in every sense) road system and generally presides over the difficulties of moving about in England at all.

This man, unelected by and not answerable to a single England elector, also claims that 'After the 2005 General Election, he was given the role of Minister of State for Europe, part of the Foreign Office, with special provision to attend Cabinet. This job was seen as crucial to successfully piloting the referendum on the European Constitution, a significant electoral pledge by Labour. On June 7, 2005, he was made a Member of the Privy Council.' So we know what his orders must have been and how doglike was his faithfulness in their execution.

Alexander is also the fool (or knave) who insisted on a single ballot paper being used in the Scottish elections, against the advice of civil servants and Scottish electoral officers, directly blamed for the invalidating of over 100,000 votes cast. The Labour Executive had thought thus to enhance their vote by a near fraudulent practice, which resulted in a blowback that threw them out of office in their Scottish colony.

The Scottish member of parliament for the Scottish constituency of Kirkaldy and Cowdenbeath, who claims to have qualified to assume the office of Prime Minister of England by virtue of ousting the current Prime Minister from the leadership of the Labour party, intends to advance Alexander's capacities to wreck English governance.

The Duke of Cumberland has been gravely misrepresented.

The Economics of Happiness

That the poor are always with us is long acknowledged, and studied in the economics of relative poverty. The Nu-Speak of the economics of happiness merely allows yet more poseurs of the Labour party to clamber aboard the gravy train of nomenklatura profit while pretending to social concern and moral commitment in the Fabian style.

In truth there is a measure that would provide the greatest happiness of the greatest number in the socio-economic reality of England : an immediate and binding vote on the single issue of withdrawal from the European Union.

Referendums enjoy ambivalent status in our Constitution, even the savaged remnant that is left after the last 10 years, and it might well be safer to have a general election in which leaving the European Union immediately was a manifesto policy.

But if happiness is a serious criterion for policy pursuit, then more English people would be made instantly and considerably happier by casting their vote to leave, to leave now, and to restore English rule within England's borders than anything else in the world.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Concurrence, Contagion and Concordats

When they got so clever they cut themselves (and the United Kingdom too) setting up devolution in 1997, the Labour party thought they'd never not rule Scotland.

But they don't. The prime minister of Scotland is First Minister Salmond.

The Concordats foisted onto the Scottish people and their Parliament by the Labour party in 1997 as purely administrative arrangements for determining how conflicts over areas of policy that affected both Scotland and the rest of the UK might be resolved, and how policies adopted by diverse kinds of authority, both geographical and hierarchical, should be ordered, are central.

'That concordats have no base in constitutional law does not mean they are without constitutional significance.', is the essence of the argument that these Concordats should have been debated in the Scottish Parliament, and should have been ratified by the Scottish people; and such changes to our country and our governance should have been put as well to all the people making up the United Kingdom.

The Concordats were drafted by the civil service, drawing on past experience of imperial and colonial possessions moving through dual governance, and concerns for responsibilities to other parts of the governed whole, to separate sovereignty.

That the destination of separate sovereignty would not be reached was to be guaranteed by extant Labour party hegemony, prolonged for more than half a century in Scotland, and the principal Labour party objective of the maintenance of permanency in power in the rest of the UK. As backstop, the European Union fundamental policy of subsidiarity, would exclude Scotland from direct, sovereign state relations with Brussels.

Scotland's sought after separate sovereignty can be contained and masked by accession to the Treaty for a European Constitution which, like all such consolidating treaties, temporarily strengthens the highest level of governance. If the Labour Executive does not accede to the EU constitutional treaty, then the way is left open for Scotland's government to press on alone and do so; for the Concordats are open and justiciable, not aspects of Labour Executive privilege. The meaning and content of Reserved Powers is yet to be determined by the Courts, and Scotland has one of the finest judicial systems, and some of the finest lawyers, in the world.

Either Labour cedes more powers to Europe, or Scotland has a powerful case to choose to leave the United Kingdom.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Alive, Well and Living in Germany

As the European Central Bank raises the interest rate in conformity with the Maastricht enshrined friedmanite theories on controlling inflation by restricting money supply, Germany follows positively neo- keynesian policies to enjoy a growth rate of over 3%.

Two characteristics stand out: the investments in infrastructure at both federal state and regional Lander levels, using European Union regional funding and allowances; and the utilisation of lower wage and other costs in the newer Union member states, to where medium and low level manufacturing is being rapidly outsourced. This last is particularly important in providing manufacturing to the high, guaranteed German standards that are recognised and sought by consumers; China, India and Brazil aren't getting a look-in.

In the meantime, and with the encouragement of state direction and provision, investment is being poured into cutting edge technologies; the provision of financial and other services as the basis of the moden state's economy has been rejected in favour of highest tech research and manufacturing together with the maintenance of a standard manufacturing base next door (so to speak). Education, education, education has returned high investment by providing a skilled and ready workforce that equally readily is rewarded with high quality work.

While Friedman is doubtless making his hyper-liberal contribution to holding down inflation, the web of trade union/ employers/regional/federal state agreements on wages and conditions, welfare and social provision must have its recognition too; Germany and indeed much of central Europe where this model holds, has updated its trade unions and its workforce relations with other engines of growth and well being.

Ten wasted years after the New Dawn, we have a London city-state and a depessed and dependent hinterland, unreformed unions, inefficient welfare and social provision at enormous cost, with Scotland and Wales making for the hills.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Craig Murray's Blog

The Angels post on extraordinary rendition (Nacht und Nebel) has been put back in its place in the files; CM was blogging on extraordinary rendition and censorship, but Iain Dale's commenters on the post he (Dale) put about Craig Murray's blog being unreachable, say it is a server failure because of a spam attack. A commenter called Bob Piper, who says he suspects he has the same server, is up and running, though CM is not. Iain Dale has posted no further news on any answer to his earlier today email to CM asking where his blog has gone.

CM's blog is running again. It's usually best to ask where a journalist and author's blog is, as Iain Dale did, and keep asking, as some of us did, till it returns, if there is a break in normal communications for (in professional blog terms) quite a long time. Regrettably the time when absence by a journalist critical of the Executive could be ignored is gone- and concern does not necessarily indicate conspiracyloon paranoia, but that a lot of civil and political liberties always taken for granted as integral to our culture are gone now; and their demise has not left a vacuum but is filled by repressive legislation often well-analyzed and criticized by Craig Murray.

As he remarks, the divide in our political culture is no longer centred on economics, and right and left, but on libertarianism and authoritarianism, and right and wrong.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Ending Up In Italy

FIAT's negotiations for Land Rover and Jaguar have paused while FIAT considers the effect of the acquisition, of what were once the pride of the British former car industry, on its bonds' investment grade rating .

FIAT has only put off buying Land Rover and Jaguar temporarily as it has good logistical reasons for the purchase; it intends to expand in off road vehicle production, and the Jaguar acquisition fits with its expansion plans for Alfa Romeo in the North American market.

Coventry and Birmingham seem as far away as the 1980s.

Sic transit gloria mundi (though it's pleasing that the Defender will soon be so much at home here).

Libyans Discover Scottish Government

The new government in Scotland is faced with its first public, though doubtless not first unpublicised, problem with the Labour party Executive in Westminster not grasping what is no longer within its jurisdiction.

The Libyan convicted of involvement in the PanAm Lockerbie plane bomb has been the subject of discussion between the Westminster Prime Minister and the President of Libya. Unfortunately the Prime Minister at Westminster has no say in the fate of a prisoner held in Scotland, convicted in a Scottish court, of a crime committed in Scottish airspace.

Attempts by English Foreign Office civil servants to advise the Labour Westminster Prime Minister that this was a matter for Scottish Prime Minister Salmond were not accepted (or understood).

The Libyans have got it now though and, according to the Sunday Herald, are not best pleased. The Herald notes in a leader,

'...Alex Salmond is using the full authority of his position to challenge Westminster's ways of doing things - from leading talks with Europe on fishing to signing memoranda on prisoner transfer with Colonel Gaddafi. The SNP government will shortly publish its white paper and bill for a referendum on independence.'

The MP for the Scottish constituency of Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath and Leader-designate of the Labour party is looking ever weirder as candidate prime minister at Westminster.

Federer v Nadal

Quarter to three: cherries from Grignano, delicately dipped in black chocolate, (thank you Lilith), a jug of water with ice, pastis, heavy glass. Champagne being brought up to the fridge as I write.

Update: Nadal wins so I get to drink champagne. So I would had Federer won, of course.

What Can the Matter Be

A German journalist friend with whom we were dining (and waiting for inside gossip on the Heiligendamm Conference ) was able to speak only of this:

He put in to Boulogne-sur-Mer, paid his dues and was issued with the shower block number code; ever an early riser he was up and about well before 6 the next morning, popped into the only open loo (the others close during the night) and went into town for breakfast and a look about, leaving a couple asleep on board (his wife had entrained for Cologne the day before - mother's birthday).

Alone he returned, shortly before seven, popped into the loo again and, while there, heard a series of soft clicks. The timeswitches had locked-up the night-loo and opened the shower block. A well-fitting door to a windowless cubicle entombed him at seven on a Sunday morning.

He called the sleeping on board friends - no answer. Lots of paper (good thing it was a French loo) but nothing to write with made obtaining a long, difficult to recall number from emergency services a no no.

There is no way of making a dignified announcement and appeal for help to your wife, breakfasting on the Cologne-Paris express in all its German luxury and speed, in these circumstances. So he made a desperate plea from his darkened French bog and, when she recovered her composure, she had German efficiency call on French courtesy (Sunday is sacred, after all). With one click he was free, but what that half hour had done for ever to his psyche, nay, his soul, he could only express in German.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

Get Your Money Out

A short while ago Mr HG went to America. "I'm going to Washington next week." "Why is that?" "Bank stuff." Impressed, started checking suits....

He came back looking triumphant. 'Done it." Sacked Wolfowitz? Replaced Wolfowitz? No, the Bank of America had refused point blank to hand over our dollars unless he turned up in person; no phone calls, emails, faxes, written instructions, nothing would make them let our dollars go.

Italians know about authoritarian regimes and petty bureaucrats; they're equipped from birth with carefully preserved out-of-date passports, decades-old bank statements, timed-out credit cards, every number ever issued to them; gun licences from 1910, they know their mother's brother's affines' second ascendant generation's grandmother's maiden name quick as a flash. And they know to dole these treasures out one by one to all and any officials trying not to let them have something that is theirs.

At every cleared hurdle the level of official rose until, after an hour of silly behaviour, the dollars were handed over, begrudged but undeniable.

Then he went to New York and enjoyed them.

"Move the Pounds!" "Now?" "Yes, quick before it starts in England too". It's started.

Not Just Doing Their Jobs

High-ranking civil servants are more than tools for carrying out the will of their political masters. The very continuity of their service to changing Executives has caused these outstandingly clever men and women, with their experience, education, and honed skills, to be pushed aside in favour of political appointees with narrower learning and inferior training, by the current Executive in its almost paranoid suspicion of the Home Civil Service having its own agenda, separate from that of the New Order.

Senior civil servants act under at least two kinds of constraints from which the New Order is wholly free: the constitutional and legal structures of the United Kingdom, which the Labour Executive sees as an obstruction to their purposes and to be peremptorily removed from their path whenever encountered, rather than the product of centuries of controlling and blocking despotic tendencies in the use of power; and an awareness of their service to the state itself, i.e. us, in a pluralist democracy, and our political and cultural longterm objectives and achievements, rather than to temporary holders of elected office.

Unsurprisingly it is the lawyers and the very senior civil servants who have broken ranks first. Elizabeth Wilmshurst's resignation from the Foreign Office and her distinguished career there, on 18 March 2003 ended ...' I cannot in conscience go along with [this] advice - within the Office or to the public or Parliament...' and '... am therefore discussing ...whether I may take approved early retirement. In case that is not possible this letter should be taken as constituting notice of my resignation ...I joined the Office in 1974. It has been a privilege to work here. I leave with very great sadness.'

What of the lawyers who are Parliamentary Counsel? One has remarked, [The]'analytical function of the drafter is vital. The capacity to stand back and to question is one of the greatest qualities needed in legislative drafting. But it is not enough simply to destroy ideas. The capacity to contribute fresh and constructive ideas is also important. Of course the basic policy is for others - ultimately for ministers. But it is a definite part of the drafter's job to point out any traps inherent in the policy, and where possible to offer solutions. It is sometimes surprising how much the drafter contributes in this way to the formulation of policy.'

How are they reacting to drafting the measures that abolish our civil liberties? What do they do when the policy they are helping to formulate puts people in prison without any of the legal or constitutional former safeguards that are being legislated away? Does the belief that '..members of Parliament want to avoid any possible injustice. For instance, if a Bill infringes people's liberties safeguards will be needed.', hold now ?

In the higher echelons of the Foreign, Diplomatic, and Home Civil Service people have resigned, been sacked, spoken out to newspapers in frank language. “Stalinist ruthlessness”, "Brown, like Blair, requires not just loyalty but total obedience ".

If, as all the evidence shows, the objective and determination of the Labour Executive is to retain power permanently, these people are as much in the way as the electorate and the judiciary. Cleansing a professional and highly competent administrative class requires time, so that at entry level there can be vetting on conformity (usually accompanied by a fall in achievement quality of entrants), at intermediate level a promotions policy that favours the acquiescent and disappoints innovative and independent thinkers, and at senior level the favouring of early retirements, and/or forced resignations.

Ten years. Nearly there.

Comment is Unnecessary

June 9, 2007
Comment is Free - But Not That Free

I wondered how the Guardian would react to my criticism of their editorial staff on comment is free. What they appear to have done is attempt to delete the entire article altogether. I tried to do that with a posting on this blog, but found that if you had the exact url it would still appear, no matter how comprehensively off this server. So this link still works -

The remarks in question come in a comment I added at the end of the thread.

The Guardian has removed any reference to the article from the home page and cif listings, so there is no way anybody visiting the Guardian today knows it is there. I don't know whether it is still possible to post a comment below it.

So I am asking everybody with access to a blog or site to post the above link over the course of the next week, to defeat the Guardian's attempt to cut off dissent at its abandonment of its liberal tradition.

We have now mirrored the Guardian page just in case they do manage to find a way to scrub the original

People can also, of course, post on other Guardian comment is free threads protesting at the deletion of this article. Then we will see how free comment really is at the Guardian.

Posted by craig on 9:41 AM 09/06/07 under UK Policy | Comments (1)

Friday, 8 June 2007

The First Parliamentary Reform is an English Parliament

Parliamentary reform requires a parliament for England. The effrontery of the England of the Regions propaganda compounds the failure of the Union of the United Kingdom within the collapse of democratic representation and its expression in the Westminster Parliament.

Scotland, Wales, and northern Ireland answer to their local electorates on all and any matters of immediate significance to those voters - health, education, housing, infrastructures and, in Scotland's case, some weighting of tax burdens and the facility to initiate legislation.

England is to be governed by an Executive whose leader is unelected in England (and unelected in his own Party), and whose Party has been defeated in Scotland yet uses Westminster MPs from Scotland to maintain control in England.

This Westminster Executive disposes of all the powers of the Crown, which are used without reference to the Westminster Parliament in the case of England, but are ceded to the Scottish Parliament in the case of Scotland and, to a lesser extent, some of which are ceded to the Welsh and northern Irish Assemblies in matters concerning those countries.

The powers of the whips at Westminster are a function of this Executive power (the whips do not derive their control from charm or even force of character), and from the powers of prime ministerial patronage. Any Westminster MP sitting for a Scottish, Welsh or Irish seat can hope for advancement only from the Westminster Executive, so they do precisely what they are told, although what they're ordered to do will apply only to England for anything affecting normal everyday life. They do not represent English voters, nor do they care what they want.

Until this Parliamentary reform is carried out, all other discussion is a waste of time.

Nacht und Nebel

On December 7th, 1941, SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler issued the following instructions to the Gestapo: " is the will of the Führer that the measures taken against those who are guilty of offences against the Reich or against the occupation forces in occupied areas should be altered. ... An effective and lasting deterrent can be achieved only by the death penalty or by taking measures which will leave the family and the population uncertain as to the fate of the offender. "
Field Marshall Wilhelm Keitel continued: "Efficient and enduring intimidation can only be achieved either by capital punishment or by measures by which the relatives of the criminals do not know the fate of the criminal. The prisoners are, in future, to be transported ...secretly, and further treatment of the offenders will take place here; these measures will have a deterrent effect because - A. The prisoners will vanish without a trace. B. No information may be given as to their whereabouts or their fate."

'Night and Fog prisoners were ... usually arrested in the middle of the night and quickly taken to prisons hundreds of miles away for questioning and torture, eventually arriving at concentration camps ... if they survived.’

In today’s papers we read, “large numbers of people have been abducted from various locations across the world and transferred to countries where they have been persecuted and where it is known that torture is common practice." and there is ,"now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA [existed] in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania". ...‘run "directly and exclusively" by the CIA with... "collaboration at various institutional levels of America's many partner countries".
(Report to the Council of Europe by Swiss senator Dick Marty, a former state prosecutor heading the Council’s inquiry into ‘extraordinary rendition’)

The full extent of British logistic support for the extraordinary rendition programme was first disclosed by the Guardian, which reported in September 2005 that aircraft operated by the CIA had flown in and out of UK civilian and military airports hundreds of times.

Here are the Directives of 7 December 1941, setting up the practice of Night and Fog: (put the word ‘State’ for the word ‘Reich’, ‘elsewhere' for the word ‘Germany’).

Directives for the prosecution of offences committed within the occupied territories against the Reich or the occupying power:
I. Within the occupied territories, the adequate punishment for offences committed against the Reich or the occupying power which endanger their security or a state of readiness is on principle the death penalty.
II. The offences listed in paragraph I as a rule are to be dealt with in the occupied countries only if it is probable that sentence of death will be passed upon the offender, at least the principal offender, and if the trial and the execution can be completed in a very short time. Otherwise the offenders, at least the principal offenders, are to be taken to Germany.
III. Prisoners taken to Germany are subjected to military procedure only if particular military interests require this. In case Reich or foreign authorities inquire about such prisoners, they are to be told that they were arrested, but that the proceedings do not allow any further information.
IV. The Commanders in the occupied territories and the Court authorities within the framework of their jurisdiction, are personally responsible for the observance of this decree.
V. The Chief of the High Command of the Armed Forces (or for the 'War on Terror', the CIA) determines in which occupied territories this decree is to be applied. He is authorized to explain and to issue executive orders and supplements. The Reich Minister of Justice (the Attorney General) will issue executive orders within his own jurisdiction.

A Nacht und Nebel practice keeps the State from being held accountable;
avoids complaints by other governments or humanitarian organizations; prevents the exact cause of internment or death, indeed whether or not the event has occurred, being known; avoids public outcry and reduces the moral qualms of the public as well as that of servicemen, in an agreed and/or ignorant silence; permits the silent veto of international treaties and conventions.

This time, we have been told.


The Mail on Sunday is reporting that one of the planes known to be used in extraordinary rendition landed at Mildenhall a few days ago and was immediately surrounded by US military; it left later with no declaration of who or what is being carried. The photograph shows it landing.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007


The Italian Senate has just voted 160 to 155 to defeat the Berlusconi party attack on Prodi's democratic coalition. As the criminal, squealing, disgusting animal of public and personal corruption under Berlusconi (Blair's ally and personal friend) is dragged from its lair and exposed to view, the House of Liberty (or Liberty Hall, as it might be called) descends into squadristi behaviour, mass demonstrations and placard carrying by senators in the Senate itself, the howling down of the Finance minister Padoa-Schioppa as he sets out the reasons why the head of the taxation service was required to resign, and splits into its opportunist factions.

They've been seen off once again, as Italy reasserts the democracy it so nearly lost over the last decade.

Straw Man

Prime Minister Blair is abroad; deputy Prime Minister Prescott is in high-level hospital care. The Leader of the House should be running things in their absence. Unfortunately who is really pushing and shoving us all about and wrecking lots of careful inter party work, while bullying 'journalists' is the usual bogey man suspect, Brown. Why is the United Kingdom being treated like these people's play thing?

The Constitution may be unwritten but it is supposed to be there. Let's hope nothing more serious than being at war on two fronts, facing quite bad economic problems, and other chronic situations, doesn't hot up into a crisis before the Prime Minister's victory tour is completed.

Burning Books

The minister of Culture in Warsaw has issued a Directive banning certain books from the lists of texts to be studied in Polish schools for the national curriculum.

Witold Gombrowicz is banned for homosexuality; Herling-Grudzinski, who wrote of the gulags long before Solzhenitsyn, too. These are not left intellectual classics, to say the least, but banned they are.

As is Goethe (too German, and immoral for writing of characters entering into pacts with the Devil); Kafka (condemned with a single word, Nihilist); Dostoyevsky (too much attention to a criminal's confessions in Crime and Punishment).

The peculiar twins who run Poland have called in the Directive for 'consideration' after an outburst by Adam Michnik (of Solidarnosc fame), but the Teletubbies (gay) are not offered such distinguished defenders.

The Roman Catholicism that keeps an Index of banned books is alive and vigorous in Blair's favourite European ally.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Bella Presenza

Watching the French Open it's nearly as much fun watching the crowd as the players. The French are so good to look at; they wear elegant, well-ironed clothes, they have gleaming hair that flies about in well-cut swathes, they have smiles and chit chat and uproarious laughing; well-fed isn't really right because they are thin within their types, yet look so healthy. They can sit still and attentive, looking graceful, and burst out with frenzied approbation or disgust - and still look as if they're having the time of their lives.

Age does not wither them, and they come in infinite varieties. When I grow up I shall be French.

Selective Destructiveness

Schools used to provide twice-yearly reports - Christmas and Summer.
The Report would be handed in a sealed envelope (despite clear teaching that letters to be carried by hand of friend should never be sealed) in the last days of term. A worried journey on the 341 would end with a ceremonial opening, family in full, gloating fig at the table, after eating.

I have some of these yellowed pages, with their beautiful script expressing such cruelties. They are essays, works of compressed art; if ever there were arguments for mastery of juxtaposition and punctuation, these marks and comments are it.

The first is from the last term at primary school:Number in class 41, position in class 1st. 'HG is capable of much. If she continues as she has done here she will achieve it....every good wish.' Here is a confidence booster that needs dealing with. And it was.

Latin 72, Term work better than this result (?); General Science, 93, Good. Conduct, very good (i.e. not excellent, the de rigeur mark). The next round they really get down to it: Latin, 76, impetuous. Needlework, fair ( fair? my work was literally soaked in blood and tears). Conduct, good (i.e. really bad), and by Form IV they're well away: English 84, HG begins to have an exaggerated opinion of her ability. A pity! History 82, a satisfactory examination result. So just as a very young woman begins to find her voice, her enthusiasms, her interests and passions, there it is: Geometry, 76, careless work. Drawing (I'd been drummed out of Needlework), 78, good, (oh, the disappointment, not even an amplification). Number in form 36, place in form 3rd, HG does not do her best, Conduct, Good.

Mmmm, said Mr HG glancing over my shoulder, sette in condotta, in a convent! What were you doing, exactly?

Actually, I was giving up.

Berlin's Treaty

The Treaty for a European Constitution is going through with all the powers and settlements intact, as ratified and deposited with the Italian government by the vast majority of European Union member states; what has been agreed to be toned down is the the achievement's presentation - no bells and whistles. Even that has been resented by those who eagerly and determinedly are building a united Europe.

What to do about the United Kingdom? Usual problems there, usual response - give them an optout; and the New Order will pass it off in the UK as a responsible and effective defence of Britain's sovereignty. Unfortunately this opting out is all to do with the assertion and guarantees of individual liberties, including rights of movement and settlement, practices and modes of criminal prosecution, and constraints on the use of arbitrary state authority.

Perhaps most of us prefer our own way of acting in these matters, which is a good thing because that's all we're going to be allowed.

And the pretence that Blair is doing this alone, without the New Order imprimatur, is simply silly.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Building blocs and the Spirit of Shanghai

Coming up to the Berlin Treaty meeting it's worth glancing at another Union, the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation.

'The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation has a population of nearly 1.5 billion and covers 3/5 of the Eurasian continent...

Four years ago in the city of Shanghai leaders of Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan announced the birth of this new organisation of regional cooperation. The SCO makes efforts to strengthen good-neighborly relations, mutual trust and friendship between its member states; contributes to effective cooperation between its member states on economy, trade, transport, energy, tourism, environmental protection and humanitarian affairs; combats forces of terrorism, separatism and extremism; protects peace, security and stability in the region; promotes the creation of democratic, just and rational international political and economic order'.

'..the SCO has basically completed its work on mechanism [organisation] building... and establishing external ties. A recent summit in Astana outlined strategic plans, aimed at further development of the SCO, and, following the admission of Mongolia to the SCO as observer state, accepted Pakistan, Iran and India as new observers.' The United States sought observer status but was refused, as was Ukraine the last on the grounds that it is a European state.

Every year the Union strengthens: customs union, inter-Union transport, particularly highway links, energy supply and use agreements, investment, environmental protection, foreign relations, (that is Union relations with other blocs), banking, development funds, health and social welfare, human rights; by now the organisational structure from Secretary General through various councils of ministers from head of state level to interministerial co-operation, representation in discussion forums, budgets, bureaucracy, is complete.

'The Council of Heads of Government /Prime Ministers/ of SCO Member States agreed to hold its next meeting in Tashkent in 2007'.

A look at the map to remind oneself where these countries lie, and the thought that although they are more or less at the stage the European Union was in the late fifties, the speed with which the SCO has formed, developed, and established itself in only 5 years is increasing, puts Berlin into another light.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

An English Parliament for the English People

Committment to the United Kingdom by the Irish, Welsh, Scottish, and English could not be at a lower ebb. Every nation within the Union that has had the opportunity for democratic expression of their requirements in the present, and plans for their future, has voted for a separation of the United Kingdom governance into national Parliaments.

The English People have had no chance to speak directly through the ballot box, as have the other nations, but in the strangled inadequacy of recent elections to drained-of -power local authorities, the insistence on an English Parliament can be heard.

Not English regional bodies, de-humanised and detached as they are from long-determined regions of England, nor even English regional bodies that could be more appropriately carved from England's realm.

An English Parliament that stands for all of England, from its south western tip to the Scottish borders, from the North Sea to the Welsh Marches is right. There is nothing to prevent a more local representation of, say, Cornwall, or the Ridings of Yorkshire, should that be desired. An English Parliament suffers no threat from the expression of local ties, but is strengthened by the clarity with which real regions can express their aims, and sustained by providing a forum and the means by which those aims can be reconciled within England.

Formerly the Westminster parliament was the English parliament, governing northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. With the last elections this has ceased to be so. The governing Party at Westminster is not the governing Party in northern Ireland or in Scotland (in the case of Wales it probably won't be very shortly, once the perfidious 'Democrats' of the Liberal Democrats pull themselves together.)

The factors that have caused the urgency and essential requirement for an English Parliament for England are: the effects of economic globalisation on the wealth producing sectors of the British Isles; the effects of membership of the European Union; the complete unresponsiveness of the head of state of the United Kingdom to all and any of the wrenching changes that have occurred in the last decade. From within there has been the constitutional wrecking and anti-democratic destruction, accompanied and facilitated by the skewed redistribution of England-generated wealth; from without the opportunities presented by accession to a larger federated Union that remedies many of the failures that have destroyed the lesser federation of the United Kingdom.

England should accept a Prime Minister and Executive exercising all the powers of the English state (but not those of northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland, whose people have chosen to confide their democratic authority to their own Parliaments) elected only by the English people, and answering only to an English Parliament.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Macaulay and his lessons

The glittering ranks of the armies of the Etruscan city states, Lars Porsenna at their head, stand at the Tiber. Before them lies the narrow way across the bridge to the river gate and into Rome, defiant in its overthrow of Tarquinius Superbus and the king's drab replacement with Republic men.

With the Etruscans are some Romans loyal to Etruscan civilisation and its superior culture, but party to that culture's corruption, in Rome, by self interest and cruelty (symbolized in Lucretia's rape), that has caused the Roman revolt.

The Etruscan forces, gorgeous in their person, culture and achievement, incredulous that they should be called upon to fight, will not be put to flight, nor defeated in a set-piece battle; although their hero, when at last he deigns to step forward across the corpses of lesser men, will be struck down by the power of Horatio's desperation to assert the New Order and impede its distruction by such superiors.

Just as Horatio's fully-armoured survival in the Tiber was applauded by Porsenna as he staggers from the water, so they will accede to the republican's drab demands for recognition of what has been wrong in Rome. And from this fatal courtesy the republicans will spread outwards, assimilating, rewarding fawning (or even acquiesence), punishing with death, torture, exile, exclusion, any local and individual resistance - too little and too late.

For the moment was to force the bridge before it was hacked away, but the Etruscans were taken by the spectacle of individual combat and its rules, when there should have been all the powers of their civilisation and its laws, expressed in their presence and their strength, used against the usurpers of proper rule and the city of Rome.

There's not a lot of time left for us, either.

Friday, 1 June 2007

cherry ripe

This area is renowned for the deliciousness of its cherries; there are two harvests, the first of red, the second of almost black cherries.

Grown ups prefer the red ones, the sweet, crispy uber cherry. Watching the French Open on a big screen, eating these with a glass of Vermentino is almost heaven.

The ultimate black cherries, beloved of those who like butterscotch fudge, champagne, Federer playing Nadal, all these are next week's paradise.