Sunday, 31 August 2008

Last Lunch in Moscow

"It is inconceivable that the Georgian action in South Ossetia was not considered at Presidential level."
'So it wasn't some low-level sanctioning which failed to understand the realities?'
"Inconceivable. Any decision, such as there was, was at Presidential level."
An 'of course we support you, have you fully weighed all possible consequences?' that was taken by those who wanted to hear a 'yes,do it' as just that?'
"There may have been a failure to communicate on our side."

'So is the New American Century ending before it has barely begun?' The Russian face became what Italians describe as scuro in volto - utterly dark -
"Yes. It is the end, too, of Russia's century. The things coming out of Georgia are so bad."

Both speakers have long acquaintance with their countries' power elites, past and present. Neither Russia nor the US are monoliths; there is more than one current of belief, power centre, agenda (long and short term). It might be best if the meddling and grandstanding of some European Union state leaders was toned down, and the principals alone, in this frightening readjustment of relative strength between and within two great powers, resolved it.

Mr Darling Learns His Lessons

I thought Moscow was where this kind of thing was supposed to happen.

BBC Scotland’s political editor Brian Taylor asked Mr Darling why he had given such a bleak assessment of the economy.

Mr Darling replied: ‘I think it’s important that I tell people that we, along with every other country in the world, face a unique set of circumstances where we have got the credit crunch coming at the same time as high oil and food prices.

'That means there is a profound difference in the economy, along with every other country in the world.’

Mr Taylor: ‘But isn’t it the job of the Leader of the Opposition to say – and I use your words – “we are p****d off” about the economy?’

Mr Darling: ‘I think it’s important that Government Ministers and me in particular are level with people and explain that every other country in the world, ours included, have a credit crunch the like of which we have not seen in generations at the same time as oil and food prices going up.’

Mr Taylor: ‘But Chancellor, the strategy here is puzzling. Shouldn’t you be reassuring people rather than talking down the economy and saying it’s the worst for 60 years?’

Mr Darling: ‘I think it’s important that while we, along with every other country in the world, are facing the unique combination of a credit crunch, high oil and food prices, that we do everything possible to help people.’

Mr Taylor (clearly becoming frustrated): ‘Do you regret blurting out the truth in such a frank fashion?’

Mr Darling: ‘I have been saying for many weeks now that we along with every other country in the world are facing a unique set of circumstances: the credit crunch along with very high oil and food prices...’

Mr Taylor: ‘Chancellor, forgive me, but you have made that point a number of times. What I am after is what was the thinking behind this?

'Usually Chancellor of the Exchequers should provide calm reassurance. You are talking about people being “p****d off” with the economy and the worst crisis for 60 years. Won’t this make things worse?’

Mr Darling: ‘I think it’s important that when people ask why are these problems facing countries across the world, that finance ministers explain that we have got a credit crunch the like of which we have not seen in generations and rising oil and food prices causing inflationary pressures.

'And we also explain that’s why we need to support the economy now and help the economy through what is undoubtedly a difficult time.

Russia isn't facing this 'unique set of circumstances...' though.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Authoritarian Capitalism

The collapse of Communism was, in the dominant view, brought about because soviet-type central planning was economically inefficient, unstable, unsustainable, and unreformable. The only alternative was a capitalist, liberal, open market economy. [Those averse to history may skip the next paragraph, Ed]

The socialist model was consolidated in the USSR between 1928-32; it transformed from War Communism 1918-1921 to the New Economic Policy 1921-26, to central planning in 1928. It went through many other major changes from vertical integration to Soviet regional decentralisation (1958), the repressed reforms in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968), the Yugoslav self-managed market economy (since the 1950s), from Chinese local de-centralisation and market progress after 1978, to Gorbachev's perestroika 1985-1990. The wave of 'Improvements in the System of Planning and Management' that began in the 1960s, and the extensive radical reforms towards market socialism,particularly in Hungary and Poland right up to the Shatalin Plan 500 Days for Russia, made the system remarkably more efficient and closed the distance with a market economy.

In truth, it was capable of extensive reform. What did for it was inflation and fear of inflation resulting in endemic, large scale excess demand for goods and services that were under-priced with respect to market-clearing levels. This repressed inflation was due to the impossible pursuit, by an economically uneducated leadership, of fixing both quantities and prices arbitrarily. Market clearing prices are required under any orderly and efficient system of central planning, as the Chinese accepted from 1978, with their two-track price system, part controlled and part free. Russia ran out of time, the imbalances were too large, and there was too little administrative capacity. Two other obstacles to the successful construction of market socialism: failure to liberalise foreign trade and failure to allow private ownership of land and the formation of new private enterprises (rooted in another political, not economic, ideology) completed the debacle.

Russia was pitched into embracing a hyper-liberal model of capitalism with neophyte enthusiasm in 1992-1999, and suffered economic and political decline, quite unnecessarily, had the transition been undertaken more gradually. The political shock was enormous and led to default and a decade of international weakness that is now being retrenched. The capitalist system Russia seems to have implemented from 2000 is '...a dual economy, in which the rules of the economic game have been evolving rather differently in different sectors'.

Since Mr Putin's second term it has been veering towards statism. The private sector share of GDP is falling (70% in 2000-04, 65% 2005-07).The state share in the oil industry rose from under 20% in 2004 to over 50% in 2007. State control has increased in banks, engineering, defence related industries. State holding companies have been set up (cars, aerospace, shipbuilding, pipelines, railways) and there is a declared policy to Russify or nationalise unspecified strategic sectors. Its sovereign funds own capital stakes within Russia and globally.

A dose of statism seems quite compatible with deep involvement in the globalisation process. It seems too that the socialist model was reformable, was reformed radically and successfully, and a move to the new market socialism or to market socialism 'lite', the European Social Model, might be horribly attractive to our beleaguered Labour regime.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Another View of the Cold War

The Chairman of the Praesidium of the Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Sergei Karaganov offered his take on the re-emergence of the Cold War. The accepted understandings and further analysis are so different from received views seen elsewhere they provide not just another, but a complex other world view, narrative, and future policy possibilities.

Russians traditionally chose between Europe - modernisation, individualism and freedom - or Asia, associated with traditionalism, collectivism, and tyranny. Now they stand poised between a democratic but stagnant Europe which is culturally important, and the rapidly developing, but authoritarian or semi-authoritarian Asia. When communism collapsed it was thought there was only one road map to development, via liberal-democratic capitalism; for countries in the process of development, a category which still includes Russia despite recent economic successes, the Asian model of development now looks at least as promising.

The authoritarian model of development has been accompanied by 'a weakening of international power positions in the West;a redistribution of control over energy resources from consumer to producer states, crisis in traditional ways of managing the international financial system, a decline in the efficacy of international governance, and the consolidation of the state and statism after decades of liberal development and weakening of state power.' Who is now defining the international agenda for the future has also begun to shift, in part due to 'too much self serving rhetoric' and too many mistakes, particularly from the US, and specifically in Iraq. Russia's renaissance from near failed state status in 1998-9, which was accompanied by persistent political efforts to change the rules of the game set at the time of its greatest weakness, has coincided with these adverse changes for the West, indeed Russia has become a symbol of these unfavourable changes for the West, although it is not the cause. Seen as part of an ascendant Asia - as a fast-growing semi-authoritarian state - it looks like a successful model of authoritarian capitalism, providing relative wealth and a 'palatable' level of personal freedoms. Not only is Russia's energy wealth no longer to be at the West's disposal as it seemed only a decade ago, Russia has the third largest currency reserves in the world, and a great part of the country's economic growth is generated by the non-oil and gas sector.

Now that on the whole Moscow is satisfied with its new stature and influence, it is turning its attention to its relative backwardness, demonstrated by an obsolete and decaying infrastructure, corruption, poor medical and social services and an economy yet to move to the post-industrial and post energy-export stage. For this agenda of profound modernisation of the economy and society, Russia turns towards the West and its social and political cultures. Russia has long feared Asia.

Yet 'Asia' is a creation of European culture and political thought. There are at least three Asias: China and Japan, India, and Central Asia and the Middle East. Tha Asias of China and India mean Russia should not now form an industrial policy in the old sense, it cannot compete with Asian production any more than can the West. Russia too has a very expensive and small workforce and can only compete in a tiny area of advanced industrial production. It must build an advanced, knowledge-based economy.

The problems of Russia's relations with the third Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, are different. Despite the influx of petrodollars, it lags behind in development, and is at odds too with the increasingly affluent East and South Asia. The 'conflict of civilisations' is not just along the Islam/Christianity divide, but has an Islam/Buddhism-Shinto-Confucianism divide as well. It is the only 'Asia' that presents the same concerns as it always has and here Iran plays a crucial role. Relatively successfully developed with good prospects, it is a key to the modernisation of the entire "Greater Middle East'.

All three Asias have been shedding Western economic as well as political postulates as they develop. The 'Washington Consensus' and western institutions are no longer accepted, although there is no anti-western path, rather cooperation if on new terms. After all, the West is for free trade and investment flows and is their main trading partner.

Russia should systematically reorient much of its trade investment and energy supplies to the growing Asian markets so that it does not become merely a materials source and eventually political appendage of China, the next great power. At the same time the modernisation of Russian society must remain the primary agenda and Russia's transformation into a knowledge economy must take place in step with the continuous modernisation of its political system to prevent any slide into stagnant authoritarianism while using semi-authoritarian state capitalist methods to achieve the knowledge economy while times are favourable. Russia must strengthen, too, its European orientation and reassure the Europeans on energy supplies, perhaps by exchanging some of Russia's oil and gas fields for some of Europe's distribution networks in a European energy consortium. Nato must be strengthened by cooperation on many international security issues - not used as a threat to Russian interest by its constant expansionist pressures along the arc of Russia's borders. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation should transform into a new comprehensive alliance in order to fill the political security vacuums in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. Russia should build cooperation with leading nuclear powers to deal together with the greatest imminent nuclear danger - a destabilised Pakistan.

Here is seen a wholly different view from Moscow. Asia is no longer experienced as a threat but provides an alternative model of development and an economic opportunity; capitalist development itself is no longer tied to liberal democracy; the resolution of European energy problems, whch precipitated the stand off in Georgia, can be secured by some exchange of resources between supply and distribution. The notion of an 'alliance of democracies' seems not to fit the newly emerging powers in Asia or the new models of economic development being so successfully applied (in terms of growth and providing rising living standards) there. Not just Russia but the West faces adjustment in its notions of ways to economic success.

However, it is worth quoting these words in full in their expression of Russia's double reinvention, economic and cultural, of itself after the failure of Communism:

'There is no alternative to social or political rapprochement with Europe. Europe is the cradle of what is best in Russian civilisation and the source of social modernisation. Without Europe we are not Russians; we will lose our identity.'
It could be added that without Russia, Europe would be a lesser, poorer, weaker and sadder place.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Five Days That Will Not Shake the World

Angels fly to Moscow at the crack of doom. European Regional Airways (aka Lufthansa) will oblige with bigger wings, and bug resistant leather seats. Equipped with a transliteration of Cyril's alphabet and a supply of Le Carre a new interpretation of the latest aspects of the Cold War will be offered.

Mr Miliband is to go to Kiev, Georgia has had large provinces recognised as separate entities by the Russian Federation, Russian troops are dug in deep inside the Near Abroad; the Impressionists will be examined closely for their view (surely more informative than those of politicians and economists). The IT consultant will put up any comments, suggestions, recommendations and may post.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Paedophilic Murderer's Image Will Often Offend

The tourist board Visit London said in a statement: “This is a general three minute video of London in which an artwork by Marcus Harvey very fleetingly appears.

“The video is not for general public use and has been used many times over the last few years to show to the tourism trade.

“There has never been a complaint made about the video up until this point. However, if any offence has been caused, we will withdraw it from use with immediate effect.”

There are some very sick people working at Visit London, who should be dismissed.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Free the Blackburn Three

What is it with Jack Straw and accusations about politically motivated murders?

During his time as her political adviser, Straw was asked by Barbara Castle to examine the social security file of Norman Scott, who had claimed that the Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe was behind an attempt to murder him. Castle had been asked by Harold Wilson to investigate Scott's file to see if it contained any evidence that he was involved in a security conspiracy against Thorpe.

Now MP for Blackburn, three of Straw's constituents are being held on suspicion of conspiring to murder Gordon Brown. The men arrested, all from Blackburn, Lancashire, are aged 21, 22 and 23.

To have been involved once in murder accusations involving politicians might be considered unfortunate, twice begins to look like carelessness.

Thursday, 21 August 2008


Mr Brown said to British troops he had taken in on a stop over on his way to the Olympic Games:

"we are celebrating the Olympics where we have had great success.
"This week also I believe, that our Olympic athletes, who like everyone else in the country, will remember you have shown exactly the same courage, professionalism and dedication."

So competing in running, jumping and standing still is of the same order as giving your life for your country.

The Holidays are Over; a General Election Now

Continuing to hold power by the Brown junta is now bordering on the illegal. Certainly it has crossed the line into the immoral and deliberately destructive. Other governments have survived great unpopularity and been re-elected, not least because an intelligent electorate has seen that economic and social change was not engendered by government but that its after effects were being coped with effectively by government; that is not what we are facing.

The United Kingdom is sinking under persistence in false analysis, technical incompetence, intellectual hubris and undeclared corrupt agendas practiced by a tiny group of dug-in fanatics committed to themselves and a burnt out ideology. They are sheltering behind a misinterpretation of constitutional practice, and the obscurity of means to enforce redress. It is not good enough to argue that matters are not sufficiently serious for an intervention by the Head of State to obtain a general election. There are two non violent courses to be taken: the current Leader of the Labour party can be forced to act by the disclosure of the myriad 'compromises' that any political power holder makes, with much of that pressure coming from the Conservative Party - who cannot hang fire any longer as they assess their own advantage; or that book can remain closed, but our constitutional claims to democratic representation are enforced, in our curious 'constitutional monarchy', by the Monarch in the role of defender of our democracy.

The electorate cannot be subjected to a 'we have lost but nothing will be left standing' choice by a vindictive Brown and his losers. Already eleven years of financial mayhem for profit takers, accompanied by 'social market' agendas in conformity with European Union 'voice' strategies in economic and social affairs for the rest, has left a disaster. People are losing their jobs, their housing, their health treatment, their and their children's social and educational provision, their consumption levels, the worth of their earnings, their standard of life. Much of this, as has been demonstrated widely and repeatedly, lies with the activities of the Brown cabal. Desperate times call for the use of the toughest of measures and of reserve powers.

We cannot be expected to accept being governed by a driven madman because of a constitutional convention on calling elections that has both been ignored by our unelected current Prime Minister and is out-ranked by the preservation of the general interest and the well being of the people, and the preservation of our democratic state.

Another year and a half of this viciously irrelevant and incompetent response to the economic and political security of us all will leave too few, for democracy, able to prevent themselves being cowed into an authoritarian, poverty-stricken subservience.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

The Labour Leadership Does Matter

The Guardian's poll, with its confirmation of miserable ratings both for Brown and the Labour Party, asked the wrong question. It would be interesting to know if Labour might recover from standing reduced to its core vote if a tri-partite leadership, Harman/Johnson/Cruddas were to be installed. Miliband is clearly as big a turn off as Brown, and for the same reasons - mired in the same New Labour stench and corruption, and failure on every measure.

A Harman/Johnson/Cruddas Front would appeal to women tired to death of the Aspergers boys and their obsessions, reintegrate not just the Unions but the other sectors of the Labour Movement - co-operatives, mutuals, friendlies, more widely-based movements for social and civil liberties, out reach educational movements. Most of all it would offer the kind of policies so acceptable to the population and successful in enlisting their support that are provided by Mr Salmond and the Scottish Government.

This would imply two major reformations: a redrawing of relations within the United Kingdom so that for domestic affairs there is essentially an English Parliament as well as the extant devolved Parliaments, which would be then disposed to intense co-operation in matters of concern to the British Isles; and a Party level reform of Labour, decentralising power and reintroducing constituency party level authority. For how can a political party renew itself as cohorts move into retirement when there is no local level recruiting organisation reflecting the divers communities and localities, and renewing the interest of different sectors of our society? CLPs are hollowed out shells, serving boroughs the central Labor party has sought to make rotten by the purchase of a client vote. It is to the credit of the electorate that once they grasped they are being bribed with their own money they have thrown the New Labour charlatans out at every opportunity since Blair, who at least they elected, was forced out of office by Brownian usurpers.

A Harman/Johnson/Cruddas party would ensure that there is a general election. It will ensure that more than just Labour's irreducible core vote Labour, and could regroup with sensible policies on UK federalism, on relations with the European Union, on investment in infrastructures and power supply, on civil liberties, and on offering a centre left alternative to the Conservative Party.

If Brown/Miliband/Straw/Balls are to retain power then it will be by some means of sidelining the electorate. Brown has presided already over a financial system that has permitted blue murder for the last decade, washing money, arms dealing, tax avoidance on a global scale; London, its unsupervised practices, and its high return currency has started to fall apart. What might Brown agree to preside over in our politics and our state?

A Monroe Doctrine For Our Times

David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, said that Nato would be giving "serious co-operation - militarily and politically" to Georgia in the wake of the crisis in the region, as part of a route to their full membership of the alliance. (Telegraph)

All those weasel words: co-operation, wake of the crisis, part of a route...Not supply, immediately, and membership offer now.

The Near Abroad is not going to join Nato, unless Nato is offering effective membership to Russia. There's a thought; Russia could take the role of the United States in Nato and be senior security partner in maintaining vigilance against terrorism and failed states. The United States could be senior security partner in its own Near Abroad.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Five Minutes to Midnight

Anatoly Nogovitsin, the deputy head of the Russian armed forces, warned Poland that by hosting the US missile shield it could become the target of a nuclear attack in war time. “The US is concerned with its own anti-missile defence, not Poland’s. But Poland, by deploying [the shield], will be exposed to attack.”

Presumably that goes for the inhabitants of Air Strip One, as well.

Some Talk of Alexander, and Some of Hercules

We used to have the British people, the British army, the British them or loathe them their country deserved the Great in its name as well, considering their impact upon the world and its history. But now all that British carries is a single, overpowering message: New Labour and its Scottish Leader.

The words Britain and British are becoming toxic waste.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Really Hard A-Levels

Here are some sample questions from an A-level politics paper:

Critically examine sociological contributions to an understanding of the nature and distribution of power in industrial societies.

Discuss the Marxist view that institutions such as the mass media maintain the political status quo by spreading the ideas of the dominant class to the rest of society.

"Voting behaviour is now based less on traditional class loyalties and more on individual choice." Discuss.

How and why have sociological explanations of voting behaviour changed over the last thirty years?

Critically examine the view that the State is simply "a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie".

"In the last 20 years voting behaviour in Britain has become much less dependent on factors associated with social class." Critically examine the sociological evidence for this viewpoint.

"Britain is dominated by a ruling class." To what extent do sociological evidence and arguments support this statement?

Evaluate the different sociological explanations of the role of the State in industrial societies.

Examine sociological contributions to an understanding of the ideological differences between political parties.

Examine sociological explanations of the successes of the Conservative party in general elections since 1975.

Examine the view that fundamental changes are taking place in the relationship between social class and voting behaviour in Britain.

"The evidence of the last three general elections suggests that we should no longer consider class as the major determinant of voting behaviour." Discuss.

Would you care to tackle any of these? And the intellectual hinterland shown by some of the questions is worrying. Social class is not the same thing as rank, particularly in a society like that of the United Kingdom; and many of the questions are straining very hard for an analysis that fits a leftist ideology. Still - I think these are very challenging discussions indeed requiring high levels of historical and informational input, and sophistication in handling complex data.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Is This Our General Election Chance?

A majority of over ten and a half thousand would normally do. Not after Glasgow East and the leads the SNP is currently displaying in the polls. So is this the moment of truth for Brownian Labour?

A by election cannot be avoided in our normal political world, and will certainly inflict devastaing damage on Brown's prime ministership and the Labour Party as once again appalling failures in economic, financial, domestic, social and foreign policy for the last eleven years are revisited and the lucky Scots vote themselves out from under. What is to be done?

Hold the by election and precipitate Brown's fall from power? That would be best for the Labour Party. They could sort themselves out with a Leader who stands for something identifiably Labour, go into a general election, lose it, but lose it respectably and use the respite of opposition to regroup into decency.

Call a general election straight away, with Brown still Leader so that at least his oh so deserved humiliation is delivered by the whole country and Labour goes into opposition still saddled with a Brownian faction that will find a thousand reasons to stay a least in Party power? This would be the worst possible outcome for the Labour party and is a serious threat to its continuing as one of the two political power holders in the UK.

Argue now that so great is the threat facing the Union from a surging SNP, from financial instability and recession, from international tension after the resurgence of Cold War actions by Russia added to the newer threat of international terrorism that, temporarily, stability springing from continuity of governance requires all electoral processes to be put on hold.

It ought to be replace the Brown Leadership (either forced by the loss in Fife or chosen by those with an interest in self and Party preservation) and a general election; but I wouldn't bet on it.

Give us a vote

A statement from the office of the Westminster MP for Central Fife issued this morning said: 'In March 2007, (Mr MacDougall) underwent radical surgery as part of a medical trial in London, a procedure that held out hope of him being able to continue the job that he so enjoyed. Sadly, despite a considerable amount of therapy, Mr MacDougall enjoyed very little quality of life in the aftermath of his operation.'

It seems only death can now force any voting by the electorate onto this grotesque Brownian regime. Despite being clearly unfit for work for the last year and a half not only was the constituency of Central Fife represented by this close colleague of Gordon Brown, but he enjoyed positions on numerous local and regional bodies.

How many other Westminster Parliament constituencies are just ticking over, for whatever reason, because Brown dare not face a voting electorate?

Beauty Magic no Longer Gazed Upon While Wearing School Uniform

Thou still unravish'd bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of silence and slow time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fring'd legend haunt about thy shape
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy?

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter: therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear'd,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal - yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair!

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearied,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love!
For ever warm and still to be enjoy'd,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy'd,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue.

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea shore,
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of this folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e'er return.

O Attic shape! Fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form, dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st,
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Beauty Magic and School Uniforms

The Sepim and the Massik may seem as remote from English school children and their dress as Czechoslovakia was from Chamberlain. But 'only connect' and worlds of understanding open.

Our sense of self, expressd through our bodies - our skin, our eyes, hair, and their styling, adornment and clothing are an exploding blossom of communicative exchange with others and assertion of identity with others and against others. And we take our characteristics from the environment's characteristics that are predominant and reflective of our sense of identity. Are we focused outwards on exchange and external linking or inwards on identification and defence? Are we smooth or hairy? Silken-skinned and silkily dressed, or scarred and armoured?

So when schools face the principle, almost only, means of self expression commanded by their young purpose, conflict is de rigueur. Some people never get over the hairiness of defined uniforms right down to colour of gym knickers - the ties, shirts, jerseys, flannels, pleated worsted skirts, specified weights of stocking, belts, indoor and outdoor shoes, with bars, with laces, length of sock, hats velour and panama, overcoats, gaberdines, aertex, divided skirts, gloves black in winter white in summer. These are the essentials of exclusivity and no exchange.

The anguish of those who belong with the Massim, locked into the world of the Sepik, is expressed in tiny trangressions of loosened ties, rolled-up skirt waists, folded hats, tights not lisle, while their happier age cohorts wear what they choose, or 'preferred colours in appropriate styles for the active life of school'. Yet many of them try to formalise the slovenly silkiness of their fellow students, and close the gates against the intruder, the foreigner.

All of this is reinforced by parental generations reliving their own identification struggles and issuing final instructions on what can and cannot be worn. The tyranny of brand and cheap fashion is just as cruelly enforced as black lace-ups and no nonsense.

How we present ourselves to the world is our first and our most important statement. Perhaps those who preach 'school uniform' and those who cry 'no' could reach an Italian compromise. Wear what you like but cover the lot with an overall - black for boys, dark blue for girls. Oh... all right, any colour but standard cut.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Go, Birmingham!

Brummies have been known to rip the roof from Birmingham town hall to get at the politicians inside when incensed sufficiently by the impact of government policies on their lives and work. And burn down the houses of 'intellectuals' (rapidly becoming a dirty word from its usurpation by government sycophants).

[the Brown regime wants to hold a cabinet meeting in he West Midlands to show that it is 'listening to the people'. We know you are listening to us Brown and your vile junta is watching us too, all the time.]

Just Not Good Enough, Labour

“It is clear that the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary are at loggerheads; they are actively plotting against each other. What happens if there is an international disaster in the next few months? Either Miliband needs to come up with the courage to challenge Brown or Brown needs to move him. A poor working relationship between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary is not just undesirable, it is positively dangerous.” William Hague has pinpointed a crucial characteristic of Brown's regime.

As Georgia's extraordinary assault on the enclave of South Ossetia ends in the predictable slap down from Russia and opens the way for Russian assertion of hegemony over other enclaves, the government of the United Kingdom has its Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary wholly engaged in Labour party infighting over the leadership. As British troops wait at Basra airport without role or permit to function, the Foreign Secretary, the part time Defence minister (to whom all action at Basra must be referred for permission to proceed), and the Prime Minister leave them publicly accused by the United States and the Iraqi government of secret deals with rebels so as to fail to carry out their ostensible mission of containing violence in southern Iraq; meanwhile the Prime Minister devotes himself to planning his nth relaunch. Attempting to appeal to the electorate, over the heads of his own Party and their contempt for his political and economic failure has taken precedence over running an effective administration, let alone sensible policies in those areas represented by ministers with whom he is feuding being produced. And characteristically, Brown is feuding with everybody, even Darling.

Failure to run an effective administration threatens us all; crises other than the collapse of the pound and the recession (and surely those are enough) are going to occur, one just has. It is imperative that a general election is called and a competent government, of whatever hue, put in place.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Recapturing Enthusiasm

“The Prime Minister is very focused on what we need to do to recapture people's enthusiasm. The Prime Minister, when he comes back from his holidays, will set out very clearly what he intends to do.” Alistair Darling, offering hope to the United Kingdom.

After all, he couldn't be intending to propose any more years of Gordon Brown and his regime, could he?

The idea of 'over the next 20 months I will lay the foundations for another five years of maladministration, economic incompetence, financial irregularity not to say corruption, and further war-mongering; all to be accompanied by the gross impoverishment of every man jack of you. This will be brought about by the abolition of all voting on any occasion and the use of focus groups and appointed citizens' advisory panels, expressing the choices of hard working families to be realised by regional bodies in the newly constituted Britain of the Countries and the Regions (BCR) within the over-arching hegomony of the agreed Lisbon constitutional arrangements.'

He is going to say 'I am going to the palace and asking the Head of State to dissolve the Parliament and call a general election.', isn't he?

Isn't he?

Tidying Up

"Hours ago Russia's Black Sea fleet started to move to Gerogia's territory in Abkhazia," , "Russian troops and heavy equipment are in upper Abkhazia.", said Saakashvili, Georgia's leader.

The eastern member states of the European Union must be pleased to be safely in Schengen. Perhaps the wilder shores of the current United States government's foreign policies will be abandoned at last.

Or are they really willing Armageddon?

Bear Baiting

Never attack Russia is the bottom line for any commander. It was hubris and a vulgar triumphalism from some sections of United States policy-makers to declare that there was only one world power now when the ossified structures of Soviet socialism fractured. Russia itself remained one of the most powerful countries on Earth and even at the low points in the last years of the 20th century was never out, just down.

Russia controls the mineral wealth of its territories, and the access routes from them to the markets they serve. Failure to recognise and accept this will produce the silly and dangerous adventurism displayed by Georgia's leaders and encouraged by strands of Western policy analysis that was summed up succinctly by Ed Shils on Vietnam 40 years ago: 'We are doing it in Vietnam because we can.' And it is as wrong now as it was then. No you can't.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Cheeky Chancellor. Answer the Questions.

Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, was supposed to be interviewing the Chancellor this morning about the lessons of the credit crunch.

"It was something I'd arranged with the Treasury over the past fortnight, to mark the anniversary of when it became much harder for our banks to raise money and a serious downturn in our economy began." The interview was cancelled when the interviewer could not agree to asking no question on the delay, or cancellation of stamp duty.

The financial impasse is impacting on everybody with devastating force - from threatening current housing arrangements, preventing future housing arrangements, causing unemployment, creating gross inflationary pressures.....

Robert Peston writes the finest analysis of economic and financial current affairs available and, as the Business Editor of the BBC, which we all pay for in its status as the public service broadcaster, has every claim, further, to interview the Chancellor on our behalf. The Chancellor can turn the question, give what are for him good reasons not to answer the question, but there is no excuse (though ample explanation) for failing to meet his obligations to our public service interviewer.

New Labour may regard this as news management in their arrogant ineptitude; but they will pay. They are paying now.

Cut Taxes and People Will be Able to Pay Their Way

To go to university in London costs £15,000 and to a provincial university £13,000.
Yet one in four parents said they will only be able to contribute less then £100 a month towards their childrens' student years. A study carried out by Norwich Union found that parents feared helping their children financially during their university years would impact on their own lifestyles considerably.

Well, it would, wouldn't it? Children consume. And being children cannot produce wealth until they are adults. Whoever else should they turn to in their dependent years but to their families? Indeed families usually pull together to provide all sorts of things that are needed at different stages in life and different stages in earning capacity.

The problem is that so much tax is being mulcted that meeting obligations of primary importance to family members is moving steadily beyond the reach of millions. When Cheryl Cox, of Norwich Union, said: "Another generation of UK teens will enter higher education this autumn and, while parents may well be filled with pride, this looks set to be overshadowed by fear and panic over how they are going to shoulder the financial burden.", there are many other causes of 'fear and panic over shouldering the financial burden' it applies to as well. How are obligations to elderly parents and grandparents to be met? Or the needs associated with setting up a new household, including buying a house at all, or changing to more appropriate housing. Or medical requirements unmet by the NHS. Or even keeping warm and reasonably fed?

There must be a drastic cut in tax burdens and government-levied charges of all kinds. It's not just that we do not like, believe or trust the New Labour regime and its policies at home and abroad; we cannot afford them.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

What We Are Facing

Sometimes commenters say it best, better than the blog can. Here is Steve, (and pace Alice who holds another view). Steve said,

'Unfunded pension liabilities of public sector employees amount to around GBP 800 billion according to a recent letter to the FT. As the author commented, these represent deferred remuneration and any attempt to welsh on them will come up with strong legal challenges from the unions. So much for GB keeping to the Golden Rule.

PFI and PPP liabilities are also a joke. Conveniently the ONS allows them to stay off balance sheet, to us to meet our Maastrict obligations, whereas the NAO thinks that they should be classified as state liabilities (which clearly they are) and should be accounted for as such.

Transfer payments to claimants of Job Seekers Allowance and Incapacity Benefit, as well as salaries of those who work in the public sector have to be paid by someone - either today's taxpayers, [or]to tomorrow's. An intellectual case can be made for lumbering our children and grandchildren with this burden, but unless I was on holiday at the time, I haven't heard Gordon make it.

After ten years of Finance Bills each of which run to thousands of pages we must now have the most complicated tax code in the developed world, complete with convenient features to keep private equity bosses paying lower marginal tax rates than their cleaners, and non-doms paying practically no tax at all.

You ask what is to be done. To me, it's obvious. The only way to get the government (i.e. future taxpayers) off the hook is to take back control of interest rates from the Bank of England and let inflation rip. It will be pretty grim for some (pensioners certainly, but also investors from the Far East and the Middle East who have bought gilts) but will be wonderful for the rest of us. It will also mean that those of us who are saddled with large mortgage liabilities will see them melt away.

So what if we have to run the printing presses a bit harder?

02 August 2008 23:40'.

We were in a similar position in the 70s with destructive conditions for the fixed income,fixed salary, pensioner and welfare brigade. You have all just experienced a wealth transfer from the salaried and secure to the poor, deserving and undeserving. No other category has been affected, least of all the well-to-do upwards. You will now return to Go, together with those who had a whale of a time for the last years of New Labour scam economics and kept voting them back. For those who paid real, hard-earned money to fund their housing, the education of their children and grandchildren, their retirement and any misfortune, you have been had - again - by Labour whose short term clients want your hard work attributed to their living standards. This time it was dressed up as 'prudence'and 'Brown's financial and economic skills and probity'. In the 70s it cavorted as redistribution in the interests of fairness and access.

If you can, get your money and run. Because you are required to share all you have with those who do not earn, do not save, do not tell the truth, and do not care.


Another commenter (Telegraph)

'the taxpayers have set a precedent; spend , spend, spend and don't worry about tomorrow for, if God helps those who help themselves, the Government helps those who don't.'

Friday, 1 August 2008

Curtains for Gordon

The collapse of the deal between EDF and the sale of sites in England for nuclear power stations and waste disposal, which was to have been signed today, is the latest in Jonah's loss of power. The trouble seems to be about how much EDF has to put upfront and how many of the sites currently graced by closed-down and clapped-out nuclear power stations EDF would have been able to exploit in dealing with French nuclear waste.

If the man can't even sell nuclear contaminated land for hard cash he really is in trouble.