Monday, 27 December 2010

Sing Along

Flash Handel 

(it's just too lovely not to put it on Angels too)

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Blood Banking

The NHS released this appeal:

'We especially need O negative donors at the moment as we have experienced higher than expected orders for this type of blood in the past week. With Christmas rapidly approaching and the holidays this year falling over a weekend, we would also like to remind anyone due to donate to step forward
now, weather permitting. Maintaining healthy stocks of all blood groups is essential as people will still be in hospital and requiring treatment...   New donors are always welcome too.  Availability of all blood types is constantly monitored to ensure suitable amounts are available for use in hospitals. We already have been appealing for O negative donors but more are needed.'

It is commonplace in Italy for people about to enter hospital for surgery or other treatments to provide blood of their own or of their immediate family earlier; with more commonplace blood groups friends often contribute.  In this way general contributions can then be used for those unexpectedly facing a blood transfusion.   Also there is nothing so good as your own blood when you need it.  Angel's blood is quite rare ("It must be your father," remarked my worried mother when trouble developed over a newborn O positive HG) which is how this kind of blood-banking became familiar.  (I offered to give blood for others too, but anyone who lived in England between 1989 and the late 1990s is refused).

It seems a very useful and sensible measure to have in place.  Most surgery and treatments are planned.


First hunt your boar.  (Preferably get a hunter to do it for you and deliver neatly butchered boar in freezer bags ready to put away, otherwise there is a lot of trotting about in oak woods at first light and very expensive clothes and guns to buy).

INGREDIENTI         Ingredients
(dosi per 4 persone)  For 4 people
  • 600 grammi di spezzatino di cinghiale  600 grammes of  de-boned, cubed boar
  • una carota                                               a carrot
  • un porro                                                  a leek
  • una costa di sedano                                a head of celery
  • 12 prugne secche                                   12 prunes (large)
  • 1 litro di brodo                                        a litre of consumme
  • farina di riso                                            rice flour
  • sale e pepe                                               salt and pepper
PREPARAZIONE                                            PREPARATION
Infarinate i pezzi di cinghiale nella farina di riso e fateli rosolare in un tegame alto in cui avete fatto scaldare 4 cucchiai di olio. 

Flour the meat with the rice flour and brown lightly in a heavy pan with 4 large spoons of olive oil.

Aggiungete il porro, la carota e il sedano tagliati a rondelle, coprite il cinghiale con le verdure e le prugne secche denocciolate.
Add the leek, carrot  celery chopped to cover the boar, then the stoned prunes

Coprite con il brodo caldo continuate la cottura per tre ore con coperchio.
Cover the whole with hot consomme, put on a lid,  and cook till done

Controllate a metà cottura: se risulta troppo asciutto aggiungete brodo caldo. Mentre, se verso la fine risulterà un po' troppo umido, scoperchiate per gli ultimi dieci minuti e alzate la fiamma.
check every now and then adding hot consomme if it starts to dry out or cooking uncovered if too liquid

It's necessary to marinade the meat overnight in a mixture of red wine and vinegar with some chopped onion and juniper berries to take away the taste of wildness.   The marinade should be discarded and the meat dried carefully.


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Take it or Leave It

International investors who pretend to be worried about European sovereign debtors' solvency are politically repellent and economically naive; they should understand that if they wish to invest in Communist China, collapsing imperial America, fascist Brazil, underdeveloped India,  or criminal Russia -  off you go and  with the best of British luck.

Europe, home of Angels, is the most beautiful, richest, most interesting, most culturally worthwhile part of the world.

Prendere o lasciare or, as the saying goes, O mangiare questa minestra o saltare questa finestra. 

Jack Frost Seizes Florence

I'll have to walk, it isn't far,
I'll leave the car at Grassina.

So Rupert  tied his scarf on tight
And set off walking in the night.

The Duomo can be seen from space!
I'll see it soon. Keep up the pace.

The Arno took two hours to reach
While Rupert lost the power of speech.

The phones were down, as was the snow,
But beauty kept him all aglow.

Through muffled streets  to Florence' Dome
And Rupert made it to his home.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Costs of the Appeal Against Assange's Bail

Those who appealed against Assange's bail  (whoever they may be and your guess is as good as mine) have, according to reports in La Repubblica, had costs awarded against them.  The Italian view is that they  were condemned to pay legal expenses because:

'In England those who waste the state's time, pay.'

Couldn't have put it better myself. 

Finely Balanced

The top floor and the first floor are usually closed, asleep behind their shutters, when there are only two of us here.  Christmas means hoovering,  and catching spiders' webs with a curious brush of bristly, well, bristles on the end of an ever-extending telescopic handle (nothing else will do; it wraps the webs around itself and the spiders make off sulkily under the beams). And opening all the windows to air out before switching on the heating.

The external shutters are surprisingly heavy and once they start swinging outwards are balanced to keep going till they meet the wall and can be fixed back.  Two of them tried to pull me out of the window this morning as I had forgotten to let go and they had lost the metal pivots that fit inside the hinges.  The wind plucks and plucks at them until these work free and fall out.  Fortunately the bits of metal hadn't hit anyone in the piazza or the garden.

This is the kind of problem that niggles.  A tiny adjustment that requires a man to balance  high on  windowsills holding a heavy shutter, a hammer, a selection of pivots, and a can of easing oil.  It is snowing lightly, the wind icy and it's a week before Christmas yet after a call there was a young man at the door who had everything mended and had checked out all the surrounding hinges on the more exposed windows within half an hour.   Goodness knows what 'Elf an' Safety would have made of a head for heights, agility, quick hands and a thorough knowledge of a specialised carpenter's trade.  

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Women Politicians Should be like Thatcher and Merkel, Not Like This

'Ashton argues tomorrow that the recent midterm elections in the US have brought a shift in the political landscape in Washington and that Europe should play a supporting role in enabling Barack Obama to pursue his aims. [Eeeek, ed.]
"Pressure to reduce US international engagement may increase ... The US needs help to achieve its global objectives.  [Eeekier, ed.] This means an expectation that we can manage our own neighbourhood. The US will continue to value an EU with the means and mindset to act globally."[Eeekiest, ed.]

Ashton proposes that where European and American interests or policies diverge on certain issues, the EU should repackage its aims to make them more attractive to Washington, for example on climate change or on relations between the EU and Nato. '

Were it ever necessary to illustrate the irrelevance, inappropriateness, incompetence, just plain weirdness of the appointment, by the failing Labour prime minister last year, of the head of the Hertfordshire Health Authority to be the European Union Foreign Secretary,  her policy  paper, trailed in the Guardian, is up there with Picture Post.

Some of us have reservations about the current United States President and about current, and past, United States 'global' policies.

Just Doing Her Job

Gemma Lindfield.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

CPS Opposed Assange's Bail

I draw your attention to Head of Legal's latest post on who is responsible for appealing against Assange's bail.

Unbelievably Silly Content in Wikileaks Cables

'2. (SBU) The Vatican is highly hierarchical [sic] with the Pope ultimately responsible for all important matters. Yet it is also highly decentralized in its decision-making. [the Roman Catholic Church tends to be High, ed.] This structure reflects belief in the principle of "subsidiarity": leaving decisions to those closest to, and best informed on, a particular matter. [there have been complaints over aeons about God being like this. He is, of course, best informed, but He will leave us to make our choices. (And the Pope is  His representative on Earth, even now, even to America, ed.)]'

Monday, 13 December 2010

Stuck Up North

The olives having been picked by  plumbers, accountants, bar-owners, professors;  and last year by the same plus philosophers, linguisticians, advertising executives,  hunters, editors,  seamstresses, lawyers, musicians, why on earth can't people from the north of England pick cherries?

I Spy With My Little Eye

Mr Berlusconi should never be underestimated.  While the commentariat has settled on an interpretation of what is going on, Berlusconi is hearing secret harmonies.  We may think that he seeks to gain immunity for himself and his colleagues and businesses from any judicial threat and that he will then leave his office for the pleasures of private life.

After all, he has stopped the social democratic, socialist, and communist left, indeed he has reduced them to a jelly.  He has removed particularly irksome taxes that were difficult to dodge - in Italy inheritance tax and property taxes are life-enhancingly slim.  He has delegated competently that which had to be administered competently - thank you Mr  Draghi and Mr Tremonti.  He has acted to severely restrict people-trafficking.  He has maintained excellent relations with the Church.

Death, taxes, immigration, and  cultural homogeneity: that's quite a settlement programme delivered.

Unfortunately he has also delivered a form of criminal governance that is best exemplified in Russia.   You want a result and democratic institutions and practice get in the way?  Legislate to change them, buy the office-holders, kill the problem.   There is another aspect of Russian governance that appeals to him enormously:  the interplay displayed by Putin and Medvedev - now the Prime Minister now the President shuttlecock.  Mr Berlusconi is very close to the Russians and their game, and Italy is very dependent on Russian energy and the riches it can provide to both sides; Italians, too, will accept anyone who keeps their factories and homes and cities going, and leaves their privacy, particularly wealth and possessions privacy, secure and, above all, alone.

Mr Berlusconi may wish to step not down, but up, to the Presidency.  The real question is who is to be helped into place  as Prime Minister leading the absolute majority of the centre right.  Who can command the support of the current Prime Minister, the support of the Northern Leagues, and the support of those calling for a 'technical government' during a time of severe financial crisis?

Something beginning with 'T'?


Berlusconi has carried both Houses in the vote of Confidence, the Lower House by 3 votes: 314 -311.  The Senate was always going to be comfortable but 3 votes  in the Lower House is not enough.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Touched in the Head

The NSPCC is demanding that pupils should not be touched  by their teachers while being taught to play musical instruments.

What are they going to do about this sort of thing then?  Touching fingers is as nothing to the  touching of the emotions and the soul that goes on.   Some keys must be banned, clearly,  And what about composers?  They do it on purpose, you know, touch.  They're worse than the teachers.

Friday, 10 December 2010

University is not a Uni Youth Club

Universities are not schools.  They are not about teaching and students.  They are about learning and research.  When undergraduates are awarded  a degree they have attained a level of intellectual assurance and a level of knowledge that enables them to begin contributing to the university - or not if they prefer to work elsewhere or the university has no place for them.

It was always a false goal to want 50% of the age cohort admitted to a university.  That's what comes of an inability to think straight, of confusing access to resources and training and the better jobs with access to universities.  It would be helpful for schools if the tertiary education sector were more highly differentiated so that schooling itself is not blighted by the demands to be met for university entrance.  It would be helpful for the universities if undergraduate teaching were provided in colleges organised for undergraduate teaching, preferably that could be accessed from the age of 16 - post GCSEs.

Too many vested interests for such a reorganisation and, from the other side, too many entrenched notions of what is privilege.  But the price is the decay of our universities, an enormous waste of public resources on a Rolls-Royce tertiary education sector we can no longer afford, that many are consuming with little enthusiasm, and riots.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Too Much Money Has Been Thrown Away. Now What Should Have Been Funded Must be Paid For

If Angels were Members of Parliament they would vote for higher fees.  Fees should not have been levied in the first place but once the pass had been sold and an undergraduate degree was no longer tax-payer funded it's simply silly not to charge enough to give more funds to already half-starved universities.

To vote against higher fees will not return us to a pre-fees world.  It merely refuses to recognise the arguments of so many Vice-Chancellors that they cannot continue underfunding research and underpaying university teachers and expect to run first class universities.

Perhaps those who have benefitted so much from a university education can now contribute towards scholarships, bursaries and research funding so that universities can be released from constraints on their ability to raise money altogether.   We don't want the worst of both worlds - fees, but at too low a level to make a serious contribution. 

All All In

The lorry came this morning and took the last of the olives to the mill.  The biggest harvest since the early sixties when the land was abandoned by the people who worked  it.  Every hillside is now patched with revived olive groves from here to Florence.  All the woods are trimmed, even open fields are ploughed ready for sowing. 

Vineyards have made  less of a comeback, partly because of the limitations placed by needing licences for them so reinstatement is not so easy:  the licences are auctioned,  and   bought up  by the 'names'  for lots of money; partly because wine-growing is so skilled and labour-intensive that prices haven't pulled all the abandoned, marginal-land vineyards back into production.  Producing for the local co-operative is not attractive because generic wine prices are so low, though buying from the local co-operative is so attractive for just that reason.

It's not going to be my generation that brings back the vineyards everywhere, as the olives have come back, but the next. Once the co-ops really get themselves organised like the other international wine producers have then Chianti will knock spots off lots of wines currently occupying the shops.  At the moment the Australian winemakers are working with the big name Chianti producers of expensive wines but their expertise, and the organisation and marketing expertise, is trickling down to the co-ops;  then the countryside will take the final step to looking as it should.

It is the fashion to denounce the EU's agricultural funding but in providing a proper career structure, formal training and qualification, with a pension at the end,  and  a means to furnish the people who work the land with access to the land while compensating its former owners, the policy has come good in the end.  It has been a motor for redistribution and increased equality of access to resources,  the preservation of a range of skills, and all that denounced funding is now enabling the meeting of a fast-growing demand for produce untainted by doubtful mass-farming methods.  Not in the UK unfortunately; there the money just went to the large landowners and, to a lesser extent, the medium ones.  But here it wasn't used like that, it went to  owners, farmers and land workers who are very small indeed.  And it has saved the day which has now come;  and the countryside, as well as yielding a less measurable but equally valuable social cohesion and identity of interest across time, and class, and place.

The mill offered to buy all the oil, as I mentioned, but it's selling quite briskly to people in the village - they say it tastes as oil did when they were small -  so I'll take delivery secure that Leo will be right when he warns that after their big effort this year the trees will rest next, and produce far less in 2011.  He knows the trees one by one, he prunes them, he ploughs them, he adjusts the natural fertilisers they're given now and then.  So we'll still have something to sell when the realisation dawns that there's going to be an oil shortage and high prices next year.  Insider information always helps with pricing and stocking.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Boycotting (sigh)

Mastercard, Visa and now Amazon.  Oh dear the walls are closing in around me.  I'll have to go down to the bank at the bottom of the hill and get out piles and piles of money; more sadly, I'll have to go to Feltrinelli and buy all my new books in the flesh (so to speak); and I'd only just settled down in front of the fire for the winter with my new Kindle.

Books for Christmas are back on the present list.  Worse, I'll have to think of another present for one of the small HGs.  Travelling about a lot it would have been ideal to have been able to summon up any book during a boring journey.  But no, Amazon have to blot their copybook and creep to American authoritarians.

They don't want to offer service to Wikileaks?  Angels don't want to offer custom to them.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

C'mon Australia. Why Are You Letting a Ten Pound Pom Speak For You?

Australian Prime minister Julia Gillard left Barry (she's Welsh, South Welsh at that)  as a Ten Pound Pom.  Gillard  names Nye Bevan as one of her greatest political inspirations. The other may well be Judas Iscariot but she's too cowardly to say so. She says her start in life greatly influenced her leftist sensibilities and willingness to fight her corner.

Contrast and compare the Australian-born human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson, QC,  (a native Sydneysider) who will represent Mr Assange. He will be joined by an extradition specialist from his Doughty Street Chambers in London. A full hearing of the extradition case must be heard within 28 days.

The Australian national hero (except it seems for the Australian Labor party) is wanted for questioning by Swedish prosecutors for sexual assault.  Seeing as one of his accusers is CIA and the other jealous we should be unsurprised that he denies the allegations.  (Oh go and look in the Daily Mail for what the poor bloke is supposed to have done). 

In an opinion piece published in The Australian today, Mr Assange argues for freedom of speech and criticises the Gillard government for its ''disgraceful pandering'' ('pandering' - now there's a lovely word) to threats against him from the US.
 He and his lawyers plan to fight the extradition because of growing fears the case will allow for a handover to US authorities where a death sentence has been demanded.

The Australian  federal Attorney-General, Robert McClelland was consulted last week about the case.  Let us hope that real Australians, including, if we can,  their Prime Minister will return to their proper and usual stance versus 'the authorities'.

Jemima Khan Saves Women's Face

So far we have Miss A, Miss W,  Gemma Linfield,  Marianne Ny,  Sarah Palin, and the Prime Minister of Australia.  All  Hunts - and I don't normally speak with a Florentine accent.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Christmas Conversion

The Eight O'Clock News  reports that some shops at Christmas are accepting old Lira.  Surprising amounts of cash are appearing from under mattresses, out of old overcoat pockets, from nefarious and long-hidden plastic bags, and from little old ladies'  crocodile handbags scented with ancient perfumes.

Interested I looked up the conversion exchange rate: L 1,936 and a bit to the euro: L 2,288 and  similar bit to the Pound.  It all looks very ordinary to me in terms of current (very current) purchasing power.  What's all this fuss about euro debt crisis and Italian vulnerability then?  No-one's objecting to those rates this evening.

The Mint Does Print a Good-looking Banknote

In the rush to get a ticket for Florence at Pisa airport I grabbed a £20 note from my bag and pushed it through the screen.

"Very pretty, lovely printing job," the clerk said admiringly, "Only here we use real money."

I found a 20 euro note and handed it through.  He was right though.  £20 notes are very pretty. 

Eurobonds would not be a Safety Net but a Trampoline for Fiscal Profligacy

The European Union budget as a percentage of European GDP is 1.25% and  cannot fall into deficit; were it to fall into deficit a tax is levied on member-states proportionate to their national GDP, to cover it.  Were there a larger budget and, indeed, a deficit to fund, then eurobonds could make sense.

As it is eurobonds might be issued, say by the European Investment Bank, to fund, say European infrastructure or to lend funds to the PIGS so that they might retire their own high-interest, sovereign debt.   But to be European they would have to be covered by a collective and several guarantee from all member-states or, at the very least,  those belonging to the eurozone. The eurobond would have to yield a higher interest rate than that of the Bunds, because of guarantors such as Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain  And even if the EIB borrowed directly, its interest may still have to be higher once it was known that it was just a vehicle for borrowing by the PIGS. What then, is the  incentive for Germany and other countries who pay lower interest rates on their sovereign debt to raise funds at a higher interest rate than they need?

These proposals have been around for such a long time - it feels like decades, they were being touted by people like Stuart Holland (remember him?  the  Labour future once who could not persuade Jacques Delors in, oh, 1992?  to take up the notion).  I wonder if he is on the eurobonds stump once more.  It seems Labour politicians are never dead but merely sleeping until their turn shall come again.

And what are Tremonti and Junckers thinking of in today's FT?  A system of internal compensations that would reduce the gain for the high interest payers, would not be automatic and would, therefore, be subject to endless negotiations?   What would Germany want in return?  

Anyway the real problem is that access to more funds on cheaper terms would encourage spending and therefore aggravate the size of overall sovereign debt.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

No Global Financial Management - Ever

The vast, truly vast quantities of hot money running round the world are creating instabilities in zone after zone.  At the moment it's Europe's turn.  No-one argues seriously that the ECB's capacity and authority to control and direct the fortunes of the euro is insufficient, although many disagree bitterly on the policies that are being pursued.  The same is true for the Fed and the dollar (and its hangers-on), for the Chinese and the remnimbi, for Russia and the rouble;  even the Bank of England and sterling's management are efficient and appropriate (now).

What is not lacking is any further international body to 'oversee', 'regulate', 'manage' or otherwise interfere with relations between these blocs.  The IMF and the World Bank contain enough  political concessions by bloc powers needed to provide any international missing  links.  Nor would any one of these entities be willing to cede an iota of their political control over their bailiwicks; and don't think of Ireland, or Greece - those countries melded their economic and financial affairs into the ECB when they joined the eurozone, no matter what they said    to their national electorates at the time (or is pretended still) .

The United States looks as if it is setting a political course to make Obama a one-term president ; with him will go the last redoubt of of the globalised financial overseers control dream.  Until then we can expect to see the excess international liquidity in search of high return causing various local problems for which current institutions both national and international are wholly competent to deal.   

And  we can all continue to have fun arguing about the various political stances the dealing-with should embody.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

NEVER Pay Tax Unless You Must

Determining how much tax we must pay is as clear as mud to me, as it is to most people, even those labouring under pay as you earn systems.  Which is why the sensible person has an accountant do their tax return.  Then what is due gets paid and what was not gets paid back - which repayment often covers the cost of the accountant.

The idea of paying what is not due is ridiculous. We are required to obey the law not make charitable donations to government-determined or Opposition to government-determined, objectives.  And it is hardly surprising that some of us choose to live in pleasanter places than England was showing itself to be in Oxford Street this afternoon.

If quite a lot of Mrs Green's employees find themselves out of work in the very near future it will be only to be expected. 

Politics is not Love or War

The Election Court has been upheld in its decision that  barred Mr Woolas,  formerly MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth, from the Commons for three years and declared the election in May void, after finding that he used “illegal practices” to win the seat.  
In the High Court Lord Justice Thomas said: “The statements made were not of a trivial nature; they were a serious personal attack on a candidate by saying he condoned violence by extremists and refused to condemn those who advocated violence.” Campaign statements amounted to attacks on the “personal character or conduct” of  his Liberal Democrat opponent, in breach of the Representation of the People Act.  Unfortunately those 'illegal practices' were not put in place or operated by Mr Woolas alone.

We can assume that a party has issued clear advice to its candidates on how an electoral campaign is to be conducted - and how it is not.  Were the Labour activists in Oldham east and Saddleworth who wrote and distributed this illegal material, and who engaged in its conception, ill-disciplined or ignorant?  In either case it is not just Mr Woolas who stands condemned.  Worryingly the behaviour of some members of the Labour party both in the PLP and the constituency party, and even the party at large, seem to believe that the rule of law should not apply to them. 

How to do it

President Dmitry Medvedev called the Wikileakage  a display of cynical speculations whose publication  “can be harmful to foreign political relations because. ... They show how the cynicism of  such assessments and speculations weigh on the policies of some countries, and here I mean the United States. ...But I do not see anything critically important.  ... Moreover  speculations and assessments can differ. ... If some of the assessments made by  the Russian Foreign Ministry,  or the Russian security services had  leaked in the mass media, particularly of our U.S. partners, they wouldn't  have been very pleased either,” Medvedev added.

“But do we need this? Diplomacy is a discreet matter , as is  banking, which should be conducted  on similar   principles,” the Russian president underlined. 

The Russian president  made the statement after  bi-lateral state consultations with the Italian Prime Minister at a  meeting in Krasnaya Polyana, the mountain resort outside Sochi.  

Considering what they were discussing, first in their tete-a-tete meeting -  the Russia-NATO summit results, the OSCE summit in Kazakhstan, the upcoming Russia-EU summit in Brussels, and G20 issues, and the fact that  “The parties may also discuss Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear program,”  - and then in the broader format including the ministers of Foreign affairs,  Defence, Industry,  Energy, and  Communications - will be  'working on a number of documents including: an executive intergovernmental protocol  on a visa-free regime with the European Union;   a number of commercial agreements are  to be signed at the consultations, including Russia’s Vnesheconombank to sign an agreement with Italian partners on cooperation in funding small and medium-sized businesses; and a framework agreement  to be signed between the two countries’ postal services. - it's unsurprising Wikileaks is regarded merely as an irritation and an example of how  inappropriate was the US way of conducting its diplomatic relations.
A presidential aide remarked. “This will be the seventh round of extended consultations. We consider interstate consultations as one of the basic elements of bilateral trade and economic and research and technological cooperation.”  And not vulnerable to internet publication either.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Pope's Mind Changed by Wikileaks Charges

The charges against the Wikileaker Assange look more American every time they are written about.  (h/t Leiter  again).  No wonder the Pope's changed the Church's ruling.   Every Catholic in Sweden would have been on a charge.

Hatfield and the North

Reading A View from the Foothills Chris Mullin comes over as a very decent man.  I'm only a third of the way through (it's 600pp and clearly I should have started earlier) yet the thought that there are many countries inside the United Kingdom over and above Scotland, Wales etc. ... arises and persists.

If Scotland can be devolved as it is now, and further after the Scotland Bill comes in,  the North must be a candidate for devolved government.  Not north of Watford Gap, but the de-industrialised north, the historically and culturally identified north; the North that is not just geographically distant from Greater London and the Home Counties, but the North with its wholly different  ideological mindset.  The decent Labour mindset displayed by Mr Mullin.

In the North  embracing state provision/high government expenditure/high tax ideology makes sense.  People there were thrust-up against the forces of globalisation, the export of work, the effects of wage competition so abruptly and forcefully that communities and generations'-long lifestyles collapsed.  It was not just unkind and gratuitously rude to deliver a benefits culture, it was grossly inefficient.

London (and the South, its hinterland) is now an international metropolis; there, those who need the tempering of the winds of market capitalism can be sheltered by the Big Society.  Those who do not like or accept market capitalism, who cleave to a more dirigiste version of social and economic justice  and protection, can realise their Jerusalem among those dark satanic mills.

It is urgent that Westminster becomes a federal parliament, and that the 'one size fits all' model of governance that creates so much bitterness between us is reconsidered.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

David G. Blanchflower

I thought a Wikileaks level set of remarks on this man should be made widely available to us.  After all, we can all find someone who knows something that can be reported back on.  So here we go.

"An undistinguished economist.  His claim to fame is work on profit-sharing (in collaboration with others) on which he was particularly keen as part of his 'labor' and doubtless Labour agenda.  In this work he was  "over-enthusiastic about it at a time when enthusiasm was what profit-sharing attracted.  He may have done work on monetary policy that justifies his former position as a member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee but he is not known for it.  Probably I would have heard if he had been.  He seems to have associations with United States and German institutions of a kind that might signal government agency connections.  He's good enough for a professorial chair - I suppose - depending on who else might be competing.

A  Buiter he is not  by any measure."

This is what is going on with Wikileaks.  This why none of the information has a qualification higher than 'confidential'.  What these communications are is a betrayal of social trust - information elicited over a glass of wine given either in ignorance of circumstance and interlocutor's intention, or given in spite.

Chinese Whispers

Louis Susman's command of English rather than American needs to be considered.  The nuanced speech used by the Governor of the Bank of England would have had to be transmitted verbatim for the conclusions being drawn by some Labour-supporting public figures to be valid.  And even if  verbatim accounts were cabled just how good would  the  understanding in Clinton's office - or her own for that matter - have been?

 Was there even  a focused discussion of the Prime Minister and Chancellor in waiting's  grasp of the country's economic difficulties?  I  doubt it.  It's  likely that   general talk has been filleted and  elaborated  to provide a response  to  American enquiries.  After all, actually speaking is required behaviour at social and even formal gatherings;  but Mr King  will not have   proffered any more than the most anodyne remarks, and assents to suggestions  from his host, of that we may be quite certain.

Just Our Cup of Tea

All parties are coalitions.  The   coalition currently governing the United Kingdom is  only slightly unusual because some of its constituent parts are organised formally into different parties -   and   that too  occurred sufficiently frequently in the last century to be  catered for in our governing practices.   These formal coalitions  tend to occur in times of great political stress, and we should have been much less  surprised when  the  regime run by Brown generated  fracture along such socioeconomic stress lines, and huge political bitterness  rather than co-operation between the various sectors of society;  add in  that regime's truly remarkable ignorance of the effects of socialist policies, even   'by stealth and renamed' socialist and redistributive policies, and a 'coalition government in time of need' response was duly delivered by a democratically mature electorate.

It would have been no use delivering a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition.  In that case the Liberal Democrats'  left-of-centre  dominant strain  would have been  readily absorbed by a left-of-centre  dominated coalition  and the disaster being produced by  interference with market capitalism  and gross levels of  government expenditures would have been further embedded into the state itself (and with all that  brings for individual liberties and freedom).

A right of centre coalition with  the Liberal Democrats pulling to the left  was a considerable coup by the electorate.  As the infiltrating left, the descendents of the Gang of Four, howl and wail their way back  towards the Labour party they so  disgracefully tried to derail  from its trades unions and the disadvantaged track,  we are able to see the real  Liberals, reduced in number but  strengthened in commitment, containing the undeniably nastier parts of the Conservative  diaspora.

 It is a misinterpretation  of  current politics to see this containment (and the departure of Labour-supporting Democrats) as  a breakdown in the Coalition government and/or the end of the Liberal party.  What we have is a   sophisticated and dynamic politicoeconomic response to a government  and a debased party that  was a terrible threat to our democracy and our standards of living.

Monday, 29 November 2010

The Two Cultures Revisited

The BBC used to broadcast this (download the lecture, ignore the rest, h/t Leiter) kind of programme  while we were cooking the dinner, or taking a break as the children rested in the afternoon.

I last saw Onora O'Neill in an extraordinarily lovely house in Norfolk when the world was full of hope and we thought that we had won for individualism and democracy and  beauty.  Quite a long time ago.  But she is still as fascinating and as right as she was then.  So when you start the dinner, turn her on.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A Perfume is for Life as well as just for Christmas

As a very young editor I was changing planes at Frankfurt on my way back from Warsaw and took a moment to buy a bottle of scent (duty was very high in those days).  Except I had no idea what I was looking for and little time.  The commessa looked me over and handed me a   tiny box. "No you can't try it", she said briskly, "Just buy it."  I gave her what felt like an enormous amount of cash and headed for my plane.

This is what I had taken so meekly:

'There are perfume legends, there are perfumer legends, and then there are perfumes that become obsessions. Fracas is all three, which is a hat trick less common that you’d think. Still more extraordinary, Fracas is built on a concept of tuberose, a small white flower (unrelated to rose; the name comes from the Latin word describing the plant’s tuberous root system) that generates an overpowering scent and is notorious among perfumers for being a difficult raw material to master. Which is perhaps why Fracas’s perfumer, Germaine Cellier, managed it.

Born in Bordeaux in 1909, Cellier was a pioneer in every sense: a professional woman, a chemist, an artist working in the olfactory medium, tall, beautiful, abrasive (and possibly lesbian), a brilliant and intellectually voracious friend of Cocteau, a proponent of synthetic raw materials. She was also the creator of a striking style. “She transposed Fauvism and Abstractionism into perfume,” Jeannine Mongin has written. “She created in dissonance.”

And the creations have lasted. During WWII, the designer Robert Piguet asked Cellier for a perfume. She created Bandit for him in 1944. In 1946, she did Coeur Joie for Nina Ricci, and in 1947 the landmark Vent Vert for Balmain. Then Piguet asked her for another scent.

It is possible that the secret of Fracas (1948) is an equilibrium between the power of Cellier’s style and the power of tuberose. Perfumer Aurelien Guichard is the caretaker of the formula, which he calls “incredibly complex.” (Due to bans on various raw materials for toxicology, no mid-century perfume is street legal in its original form, and Guichard is charged with conserving Cellier’s vision while constantly updating it with non-allergenic materials.)

Cellier packed her formula with Indian tuberose absolute, which gives it huge power and “sillage” (the olfactory trail). Like all good perfumers, she was an illusionist. To achieve an even more lifelike, more raw tuberose (this flower smells of armpit, flesh and decay due to heavy molecules called indoles; jasmine is similarly loaded with them), she used an even larger quantity of Tunisian orange blossom absolute, plus some astronomically expensive French jasmine and Italian iris root butter. Add natural violet leaf to give the sweet, heavy scent a refreshingly harsh, wet green aspect, iris for a woody depth, synthetic civet (the smell of unwashed construction worker) for power, the synthetics C18 for an unctuous, milky, soft tropical quality and methyl anthranilate for fizz. The result is a signature, a persistence on skin, and a diffusion that are – all three – astonishing.'

Then for some years it became almost unobtainable;  the only source was the Profumeria Inglese in via Tornabuoni and the price became ever more astronomical.  It was a good thing so little was needed because I only ever was given it at Christmas.  In the '90s  it reappeared elsewhere again and became newly fashionable.  But the packaging is black now, not pink, and I'm not sure it's quite what it was.  But perhaps it's me, not quite what I was.

Towards Defeating Progressive Anti-Happiness Agendas

It dawns on me that there has been a huge movement to define desirable things as 'bad' rather than unaffordable.  Killjoys of the left and progressive media have lowered their  aim from houses at the seaside, yachts, jewels, and fine furniture, right down to clothes of such natural materials  as cashmere, silk, linen and even wool or leather.   They've started on scent now.

So just to make it very clear - it being coming-up-to-Christmas-time -  Angels are in profound disagreement with progressivism.  Should a bottle of  Piguet's Fracas, or a spray container of Sander's Sport  cross your mind, or your present-buying line of sight, do not worry that it might be received with misgivings on its correctness.  Either (or both?) would be absolutely correct and received with such happiness that government indexes would probably jump upwards.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Dinner Time

"So he put to me that we are growing too fast - the world that is - that mankind is consuming already one and a half times the renewable resources of the planet;   the current consumption rate  is unsustainable.  We must reduce our growth rate."

"And you said?" I asked over the stuffed artichokes (recipe later).

"You can only deny the benefits of growth to the poor  if you are willing to redistribute wealth and income to them on a truly massive scale.   You can only reduce growth somewhat by redistributing somewhat.  There is no alternative."

"There is," I remarked.  "Up to now the alternative has been that of killing them,  not redistributing to them, growth or no."

"Not on a large enough scale." 

Then he added after a few more chews of artichoke, "To solve the problem, I mean."

Unemployment Figures Do Not Rise

The commander of HMS Astute has been told he can't be left in charge.

 "From  November 26 he was removed from command of HMS Astute. "

Never fear for Commander Coles, though.  "He's going to continue with the Royal Navy. He will be reappointed to another post. It's an internal administrative matter between Commander Coles and his senior officers." 

The spokesman said it was not known what the new post will be.  Well, it's hard to imagine what can be offered to a submarine commander who runs his submarine into a sandbank and, when it floats off with the tide, bumps into a nearby tug sent to pull him off if the tide doesn't rise enough.

 The submarine returned to its base at Faslane on the Clyde three days after the incident.  'Limped home' doesn't begin to cover it.  What were they doing?  Rowing?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Moving Right Along

 Another world - a world that illustrates how much has happened with 'the "trans-valuation of values," ... where the highest...values are debased and the lowest elevated: that is to say where the same, the proper, and the identical cede their privileged place to the other, the alien, and the non-identical.'

But '... the Nietzschean trans-valuation is far from being complete: in its second stage, at the threshold of which we find ourselves today, it will necessitate a de-hierarchization of the already inverted values, so that alterity, too, would lose its newly acquired transcendental status, just as sameness and identity did..'

Living with the 'already inverted values' isn't much fun, I'm glad they're inevitably going to be dealt with by the dialectic.  Though it's a bit worrying contemplating the forces that are needed to move things along - the last inversion took two world wars, two oil shocks and the imposition of authoritarian 'socialist' regimes.  The current one seems to be drawing on American imperial decline.  Gulp. 

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Be Careful What You Ask For

Everyone in Italy has residenza: the listing in some comune or other, that confers access to the society and its social provisions, beginning with a simple identity card that costs 5 euros and has a photograph, a date of birth, a place of residence, and the mayor's signature. Then you are in.  Health services, schooling, social housing, means-tested benefits, access to passports, driving licences, down to car-parking and  driving about in  one's place of residence (don't even think of doing either in restricted zones in other cities) - all this requires residenza.  Angels has it in Florence - well,  there are lots of angels in Florence, makes any Angel feel quite at home -  but there are requirements (other than wings and conformity to anachronistic and monocultural aesthetics).

These requirements, taken together with the longstanding demands of trade unions, and social pressure groups, some of which have been enshrined in law, - a minimum annual income; a stable contract of employment; housing meeting health and safety standards (which include notification of any non-registered persons even temporarily in the dwelling), etc. are being used now to eject economic migrants out of towns and cities in the north of Italy.  If you cannot conform to these requirements and thus  obtain residenza, be listed on the anagrafe, then you are evicted from whatever means and place in which you have established yourself, and even the most basic social claims die - no health service, no schooling. Resisting can lead to the  foglio di via obbligatorio  by which you are sent back where you  came from, but no-one wants to set that in motion, so they just go. 

And why is all this of interest to English readers?  Because much of what Labour and its hinterland wished to establish in our society leads to this: the unforeseen consequences of demands for minimum standards and equality of treatment results in means to judge and then act on outsiders unable to establish their conformity with well-meaning rules.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Mr and Mrs Brown

The shocking account of the behaviour of the man we had to suffer as prime minister so unjustifiably between 2007 and his electoral ousting in 2010 is made worse, if that is possible by the side accounts of the behaviour of his wife.

Constantly publicised, not least by her own efforts, as a non-political wife lovingly ministering to her husband in his unable-to-communicate but such-a-good-and-clever-man-really tragedy, she is revealed as without scruple in her support.  Supportive of anything that  closed down criticism of Brown's obvious unsuitability for office or even attempted to ameliorate it.

The suggestion that she tried to maintain McBride in post even after his plans to tell vicious lies about the present Prime Minister, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and their families, seriously disturbs her self-sought image as merely defender of her family from the fall-out of  a spouse holding high office.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Oil News

The yield is 16 kilos per hundred kilos of olives (the local average is 14).

Acidity is 0.15 (the lower the better, so that's good as up to 1% of acidity is permissible).  This minimum level of acidity is necessary for the oil to taste good.

We're booked for the 29th for the next lot and it's pouring down.  Still, we may be able to keep the appointment if the next week improves to not-raining.

Current price per litre at the mill (in 1 litre bottles) 8 euros a litre.  There is a 6.5 euros a litre offered on ours, loose, so to speak,  at the moment.  I think I'll wait just a bit - there are voices that other producers have had a poorish harvest.  These commodities, very worrying to deal with.

Anyway, it's absolutely delicious, a bright greenery-yallery colour, very slightly peppery, and pleasingly viscous.  Back to the garlicked toast with a sprinkle of salt and the taste of another year's work.

The Last King

A King Charles is so unattractive.  Having read avidly all the Wedding stories - well it started on the Gatwick train when someone left a Mail behind and then I was hooked, she said defensively - it is clear that the Prince of Wales is the real squeezed middle.

His mother is one of the most competent heads of state we could hope for and seems in the best of health, and with a healthy capacity to cut down on minor head-of-state-appearances, which are taken over by her, well,  minors.  There is the statement, too,  that there will be no abdication from duty by the Queen.

To her credit the Prince of Wales's wife has made very plain her preference for a private life as a private wife, rather than a public role; and when the hoary old question of what to call her rolled round once more the feeling of passe and bad news was overwhelming.  Enough!  It was bad that her husband had to be told by his mother to get a divorce and stop abusing his public wife; it is worse that he then refused to recognize that there is no  room for second wives, however obtained, whatever their prior marital statuses (or his),  in the more mystical parts of our Constitution.  He's not Henry VIII, nor does he have Henry's political excuses for mixing personal predilection with marital duties.

There are many voices calling for Elizabeth to be the last hereditary head of our state but they cannot be listened to because of the lack of means within our political institutions to prepare anyone else for that role.  Until the House of Lords is wholly elected by democratic vote, until the second chamber of our legislature becomes a democratically answerable revising chamber and a back-stop restrainer, after the Commons, of the Executive, then we will need at least one more reign while these reforms are made.  We will need a transition monarchy that sees the United Kingdom safely into the 21st century and out of the 17th, while we all take a good look at those we have deemed worthy to be elected to the Lords as senior statesmen, and take a view on who might best protect our fluid and subtle constitution from any Executive taken over by thugs of the left -  or right.

That monarch cannot be Elizabeth, her whole life has been  dedicated to remaining head of state.  Nor can it be Charles - not because of his alleged incompetence, or inappropriate interference in matters beyond a constitutional monarch's role, or his unworldliness, all unjustly substituted for the real criticism: that he wishes to take up his mother's mantle. But it could be William.

William has no decades of commitment by action and by declaration to the continuance of an in-the-end unacceptable hierarchy.  He can make the historic contribution to our democracy's development by facilitating and encouraging our choosing of our head of state and the reforms demanded for their preparation.  Then our monarchy could go out with a bang, not a 'carolingian' whimper.  And without leaving a gaping hole, torn  perhaps violently, in our  constitutional structure that could be filled by charlatans, demagogues, and worse.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Otherness and Us

Not for nothing is Leiter in Angels' blog list.  You may care to chew this over.

Crushed Asians (and Africans)

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev sent his greetings to the organisers of, and participants in,  the 'Women Leaders of Economy and Politics summit', which opened on November 18 in St. Petersburg.

“You represent  non-governmental, academic, business organisations from many countries. And by your impressive achievements prove the important role played by women in today’s world, in economics, politics and culture,” he writes in his message,  published on the Kremlin website.  The President of the Russian Federation  pressed on, candidly, with:

“today we need to do everything possible to improve the social activities of women, open up their creative and intellectual potential. It’s one of the conditions for a stable and efficient development of any state.  ...I hope that your forum will serve further to strengthen the women’ s movement, deepening international economic and humanitarian contacts,”

President Medvedev  wished the Summit fruitful and interesting work.

Gee, thanks.  

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Ninety Billion Pounds

Anthropologists report on peoples who count "One, two, three....a lot".

That's more or less where we are with our Brown-bailed-out-with-taxpayers'-money banks RBS and Lloyds and, doubtless all the de-mutualised building societies he was using for his deluded schemes.   It's not Ireland that's in it up to the neck - it's us.  Greece pales, along with the German and Spanish banks caught there, into insignificance compared with our luck and the Irish.

Multiculturalism and 'all cultures are equal' is all very well.  But the natives of Kirkcaldy are One, two three, a lotters and should never have been accorded any status other than 'primitive'  in the hierarchy of usable ideas and personnel.


Fly to Israel - face the security checks. The staff in Rome Fiumicino are Israelis, not Romans  (judging by their command of Italian) and little surprises them.  Most of the security is question and answer-based: where are you going? why? who suggetsed that? why did they?  how do you know them? how long?  where are you staying? how did you arrange that? .....

It all boils down to "Who you? Who with? Why you?"

Mr HG was his courteous, long-suffering traveler, patient, self: after all he's been up against a wall at gunpoint in some countries (machine guns in Zambia), stranded in Chop with the Soviets saying 'Leave!" and the bordering countries saying" It's Friday night, We're shut!"  The poor chap has suffered travelling with Angels for years and years  - "What do you mean it's Turkish?  All right, a hole in the floor with footprints, but is there loo paper?   But he cracked in Rome.

"Why me?  Why have they invited me?  Pause, "Because I'm famous, famous for this sort of thing."

Collapse of stout, Israeli security party.   Waved on.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Labour Comes to its Senses Too Late to Prevent an Outpouring of Class Hatred

'...the shadow chancellor, is to launch an attack on Gordon Brown’s stewardship of the economy, saying he allowed Britain to become overdependent on tax receipts from the City and housing.' (Financial Times).

That Labour presided over “an unbalanced economy” is admitted by the shadow Chancellor.  What did they expect leaving an unbalanced man in charge of government economic and financial policy for 13 years? 

It's no good wrecking the vestibule of Millbank Tower and flinging heavy objects from nine floors up onto police officers.  Labour's outgoing junta has admitted,  'There's no money left'.  The Coalition government is trying to protect and preserve the core welfare state - the health system and the provision of an educational foundation free at the point of use. 

The vicious, opportunist stirring up of distress to the point of assault on others,  and of vandalism and the destruction of property seen today underlines not the lack of care and concern of our Coalition government, but the disconnect of sectors of the population from any understanding of what Brown did and, more importantly, of the years - decades and more -  that it will take to purge the effects of his insouciant, incompetent  incomprehension of the market capitalist world in which we live.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Mistreating the Unemployed

'... a discretionary tool for JobCentre advisers to use only on the most intransigent long-term unemployed who have resisted other incentives to find a job. It will not be based on the length of time a person is out of the jobs market.', will not do at all.

Job Centre advisers are not   competent to hand out sanctions (severe sanctions at that) to other citizens.  Removing someone's livelihood cannot be a bureaucratic act.  There would have to be a specific offence  and evidence that showed the offence had been committed and there would have to be determined penalties inflicted by a court.

 Apart  from arbitrary use of diversely imposed penalties of varying severity, there is another  obvious point that if work is  available to be done then it should be done on proper terms and conditions; there is no work that is so unskilled and undesirable that  workers doing it can be treated as if they are worth less than those 'employed'.

If there are people wilfully refusing to work when offered work (and the  constantly cited examples, gardening and street cleaning are respectable and sometimes even highly-skilled jobs) then  what jobs are so awful people will risk  abject poverty rather than do them?

Ruling the Waves?

“The incident involving HMS Astute was clearly not a one-off, and the MoD must explain why previous groundings have not been made public”, reports the Sunday Herald.

Incidents took place off the coast of Northern Ireland, in the north Norwegian Sea, in the Arctic, in the Red Sea, in the Atlantic, and off Australia. In all, Britain’s nuclear submarines have run aground 11 times, collided with two other boats and an iceberg, and snagged the nets of two fishing vessels.  The worst incident was on November 22, 1990, when HMS Trenchant snagged the net of the Antares fishing vessel in Bute Sound, north of Arran. The boat sank with the loss of four lives, and an official inquiry blamed mistakes by submarine commanders.

The  list published by the Herald  reveals a previously unreported accident in April 2009 somewhere in the Eastern Mediterranean. “HMS Torbay grounded in soft sand and mud to avoid a merchant vessel which was sailing erratically,” an MoD spokeswoman told the Sunday Herald. The craft had not been damaged, she said. “The incident was investigated and no further action was taken.

An independent expert on nuclear submarine safety, John Large,  called on the Royal Navy to review its navigational training. 

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Woolas: Judge for Yourself

Head of Legal links to the judgment.  You might like to read it, say after lunch on Sunday if it's wet.  I did wonder if the misrepresentations had not been so racially sensitive Woolas would have been whacked quite so hard.  But then he was an immigration minister, he must have been up to speed on the greater weight given to politically incorrect offensiveness as opposed to mere offensiveness.

I wondered too whether if the winner had been thrown out for offending, shouldn't the runner-up be seated automatically?  After all, having to run the race again in different circumstances and against other candidates hardly rights the wrong done at the original election.  Perhaps British justice isn't in the business of righting wrongs.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The Price of Berlusconi

Mr Berlusconi has raised the price from an apple and half a crown to an Audi and 7000 euros but the activities are still unbecoming, particularly to a prime minister and party leader.  Complain as he will Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Secretary must come to terms, as must all the other Berlusconi satraps, with the fact that they have a 74 year  old man who consorts with minors (to quote his wife as she left him) purporting to represent Italy to the rest of Europe.

Until Berlusconi has been made to step down (and this can only be done by the members of his own Party for he has outfaced charges of corruption, tax evasion, brushed aside public buffoonery, ridiculous addresses to international conventions, and brazenly sought to subvert the Italian Constitution)  other states will want no dealings with Italy.

The problem is the deadlock between the ruling Coalition's factions.  Bluntly the Northern Leagues want to retain their riches for themselves and subvert the unity of the Italian peninsula; the Fini faction want to reinforce unity by recognising that there must be some redistribution of the wealth generated in the north to the less-developed south, and impose some sort of normal political structure and behaviours upon an essentially criminal governance in the south.   Berlusconi wants immunity from prosecution for himself, his family and his enterprises; and he's having a whale of a time using his powers of office for personal purposes.   Only Parliament could grant that immunity, and it won't, and even if it did the President of Italy would block any such constitutional perversions.

Meanwhile the Left and former communists and socialists bleat for new elections (which are wholly unjustified as there is a majority to be obtained in the House) and which they would lose anyway even as they thus reinforce Berlusconi's position.  The Italians do not want a big state, high taxes government of the progressive left any more than does any other country in Europe.  They will vote for anyone who guarantees their taxes are low or, if nominally high, do not have to be actually paid.  The Left would do well to sit down and be quiet while the Right does what only the Right can do.

Once the Frattinis of this Italian world come to their senses and tell Berlusconi they will bring him down in the House or he can step aside himself and be involved in brokering the deal to choose the new centre-right leader (which might be preferable to having no say at all even if he can't have his immunity price) only then  can they complain about  Italy having no say at all in deals between European Union member states.

Remember, Remember 4 November

Florence, 1966

Coping With Rising Prices

So what can we produce here at HG Towers, I wonder, as prices rise and rise? 
wheat: yes, though it hasn't been grown for years and years the wheatfields are still there, if some of them are under trees, but those can be cut for fuel;
meat: yes, currently venison, boar, and hare but could be expanded to chicken, guinea fowl, duck, and rabbit;
corn: yes, did that quite recently as it attracted a subsidy;
tobacco: yes, but truly awful cigarillos come from it;
olive oil:yes;
wine: not at the moment but could be re-established although really not worth it when it can be bought at 1 euro an excellent Chianti litre;
veg. and salads: yes, in quite scary quantities;
fruit: some now, others the trees all had to be replanted so we'll have to survive on figs, apricots, cherries, and quince for a bit; 
from the wild there are mushrooms and berries (how Levi-Strauss).

It sounds quite good but I'd have to set up a food processing plant to cope with it all and it's bad enough already (the word 'tomato' makes me reach for my gun) - self-sufficiency is really about processing and storing your own just as much as growing it.

As for, coffee, tea, sugar, orange juice and hard alcohol (though I'm told there's a primitive still somewhere in the cantinas - probably buried under an avalanche of books) it'll have to be the supermarket.  And I'm not boiling the washing with ash and soap root either, never mind cleaning my teeth with sage leaves dipped in salt.  So I may as well get all the stuff above while I'm doing the Lidl run, after all, I wouldn't like to waste petrol.  And I could pop into Prada en route,   and get a few things before cotton prices get out of hand.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Poor Social Democracy

The United States mid term results are a terrible blow to reconstructing social democracy as an attractive and valid political stance.  In its time and place social democracy has served some countries well: Germany, for instance , while now led by a centre-right Chancellor and Coalition, has prospered and continues to prosper in part  because of social democratic ideas on working people's input, and embodiment into decision-taking in firms and institutional systems, remaining in place.

Indeed it can be argued that the best of social democracy has been accepted and that what is left is now being hi-jacked by two main groups: former socialist, communist and even iffier idealogues of the wilder shores of the defeated left; and private careerists who see in politics a personal route to and enjoyment of a lifestyle and living standards otherwise for them unattainable .

The first group will be seen off in the nature of things - anno domini will take them into old age and political irrelevance;  their main function now seems to be delivering the physical and financial resources of the working people's former organised defence structures - trades unions, co-operatives, mutualised financial institutions, foundations etc., into the hands of the latter, the careerists.  Not that the old placemen of the left are not willing to enjoy the rewards of office, if not Office.  After all, they didn't come into politics not to take what they deserved, not most of them anyway.

The careerists are simply destructive of the ideals that belong, rightly, to social democracy.  Self-righteous, self-important, determined in their occupation of what they define as the moral high ground, moulded into an apparatchik mindset by the democratic centralist tendencies imposed by former practioners of the socialist and communist movements who control the purse-strings, they are, above all, committed to the ending of democracy in the market capitalist state.  Their objective is the managed economy in the managed post-democratic region under global progressive governance.  With themselves as the managers.

These people are already enjoying the heightened life styles they seek to instal for themselves permanently; even lowly minions are business-classing about the world and have made it into the four stars in desirable metropolises. The bigger fish command personal security, private jets, discreet airports, free mansions, and all life-expenses paid, with every whim from the personal abuse of others to launching invasions of other countries catered for.  Cut off their heads at the polls and they are reborn into the networks of 'casualties of as yet undefeated democracy' to continue their pernicious assaults on our lives and wealth, tended by their creeps and learner-careerists, safety-netted from the fall into obscurity by knowledge gained from office, or Office.

This is why it is so important for them to maintain a public face of virtue unrewarded, minor failure to communicate rather than major disaster that brought the country to its economic knees, launcher of wars, yes, but of just wars; no different from, wholly comparable with, other political, historical and admired figures. 

They haven't gone away, you know. There is just too good a thing to be made of  riding on poverty, inequality,  unemployment, unfairness and unhappiness in all their forms.  There's a perfect example of their way of being at the weekend in Rome - one or two elders and a raft of careerist juniors come together in considerable style (in an out-of-date sort of way) to discuss 'Renewing Social Democracy: contribution to a European-wide debate'.  It's funded by the European Institute for Progressive Studies, the Gramsci Institute, the Fondazione Socialismo, and the Ebert.  Lot of our taxpayer money in there, and a lot of our fathers' and grandfathers' and even great-grandfathers' resources, so painstakingly put aside to help the working people.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Lovely Profile

'...two explosive devices were discovered inside printer cartridges at the UK’s East Midlands airport and in Dubai after tip-offs to the intelligence services. The packages were bound from Yemen to the addresses of synagogues in Chicago.', reports the Financial Times (and lots of other papers).

So there you are, sitting in your synagogue in Chicago, writing your talk for next Saturday, and your spouse comes in and says there's a package from the Yemen just arrived.


So why isn't there profiling of addresses of senders and recipients, of unlikely juxtapositions; why isn't there a non-acceptance of anything at all from certain countries?  Meanwhile innocent Ryanair passengers  are traipsing about half-clad on dirty floors , trying to keep half an eye on their valuables that have just disappeared into a dark hole and the other half on their trousers in all their beltlessness.

It isn't hard to work out who are the baddies, or where they come from.  So stop putting the rest of us through treating-everyone-equally purgatory.   That way,  those jetting off from London to Rome to save social democracy next weekend (in the Hotel Majestic? in the via Veneto? Or perhaps !! - clearly a case for profiling and special measures) will not inconvenience Angels flying in the opposite direction to see their family.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Who Controls the Principal Defence and Weapons Sites in the UK?

Who has control of the United Kingdom's nuclear weapons and delivery systems?  The suggested takeover by United States' private companies of the Scottish submarine bases and warhead storage plus their servicing facilities in Scotland seems to hand over what little control our government has of these weapons to not just he United States government, but to a US  multinational with very different operational criteria, not to mention democratic control, from that of a sovereign government.

A local member of Parliament is to make a  rarest of appearances in his workplace today to appeal for the servicing of the flightless aircraft carriers to be carried out in this, his, area of Scotland.  A servicing contract that runs for half a century.  The appeal will be cast in terms of jobs for the local boys, but there is to wonder if this isn't really an attempt to channel profitable contracts to American armaments makers, to add to their already too extensive presence in our defence sites.

At least the contracts going to the French  bases and servicing facilities would leave more of this very sensitive armaments area in European hands and under a European democratic governmental control, where such issues should be. 

As for who has control over the UK's nuclear  weapons, it is a pity that the chain of command is not in the least clear, certainly nothing like as clear as it is for the French nuclear deterrent.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Tenants Paying High Rents Need to Organise Themselves

 The housing subsidy row is being hi-jacked by the Labour party to channel criticism and dislike onto the Coalition government.  Clearly rents are now so high in many parts of the country that some families are unable to pay for their housing without benefit of taxpayers' assistance.  Bluntly, this is the way of the world.  Wages are kept as low as possible in the face of an open economy, and governments, particularly big state social democrat and socialist governments, seek to increase their revenues; thus family income, particularly in the aftermath of the socialist high tax regime of the last 13 years, is squeezed endemically.

This is not, however a problem for central or local government unless some administration has made it so (hence Westminster seeking the lifting of the last administration's impositions upon them to meet housing need that is not really the problem of all of us, that is the all of us Westminster council is supposed to answer to and serve).  It is a problem for tenants to resolve with landlords.

Tenants alone are relatively weak in the face of their own landlord.  In normal societies they band together into associations and co-operatives of various kinds and face the landlords, themselves organised as a group in response, in an at best constructive and at worst disruptive fashion, to fix rental levels in some semblance of what  tenants can bear and  landlords must accept.  The role of  government comes from ensuring there is no illegality in the two sides' dealings with one another - no bullying and no illegal seizures of property.

The socialist Dementors' kiss has sucked the life out of those in our society who are weaker economically, educationally and culturally.   They seem unable to think of what might be done other than turn on the government, with their wholly reasonable (in the main) claims that rents cannot be afforded among the low-wage and unemployed sectors; unable to grasp that their distress has been seized upon by political left-wing opportunists to decry not exploitative landlords who siphon off the help taxpayers can afford to offer, but to attack a government that has turned them out of office for incompetence to the point of malevolence.  These 'voices' are not the friends of tenants - they too are exploiters.

The Coalition, as it  clears up Labor's 13-year economic disaster, has offered generous transition payments and longterm subsidies for the rent payments of those who cannot meet what the landlords have managed to ratchet-up during the long years of Labour-encouraged housing exploitation.  What are the tenats going to do to get themselves organised and ensure that social payments to help them now are not confiscated by the landlords who are exploiting them.  Rioting in the streets, the standard 'left' response to a perceived but often not government-induced injustice, is a very inadequate and destructive response. 

Tenants could learn much from looking at the way tenants organisations are put together and operate successfully in other advanced capitalist European countries to obtain fair rents and tenancy conditions for their membership.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Off My Trolley

When Philippa Foot died I thought briefly about mad philosophers roping people across railway lines; but then found I kept returning to consider the situation.  I wanted to reach a decision, to settle what I would do.  That the literature on the subject is extensive was no hindrance because I wasn't really interested in how others had thought about this:  it was my thinking that interested me - selfishness personified, but there you are - it would be foolish not to accept selfishness as part of self.

As you know, a mad philosopher has tied five people to a railway line and you are in charge of a train that is rushing towards them.   There is a branch line to which you can divert.  If you do there is a single person on that line who will be killed but the five on the main line will be saved. What do you do?

I didn't think first that I would save the largest number; which surprised me.  After all, the scarcity of information about those on the line suggests the sole criterion of saving the most. Then  I felt resentful at having to choose;  but, not believing in destiny or the hand of God, if I was thinking about this, choose I must.

Each person tied down is an individual with no greater claims to live than any other individual; being part of a set of five shouldn't give higher claims to life than being alone.  I was being invited  surreptitiously to award lives and losses to the potential victims and think times five was worse than one. But if I could do that, then I could admit other attributes to the six.  Which took the thinking out of the box even though, admittedly, the box had smuggled-in assumptions on worth and  more being worse.

Could this be something that could be thought about usefully at all, if the only thing I knew about the victims was that they could be more or fewer? Can I keep myself from surreptitious attributions?  Do we attribute characteristics no matter what, as part of the way we think at all?  And are we are just pretending when we claim to have not?

Right now I am minded to run down the five so that the principle that the many do not outrank the few can be upheld.  

Friday, 29 October 2010

Angela Pulls It Off

Mr Barroso and Mr van Rompuy have been charged to produce  a reconciliation of the 'no bail out' of 125 and the maintenance of the Euro in the face of the worst that its disparate membership can throw at it.  They're as slippery a pair of subtle thinkers on reconciling the irreconcilable as you're likely to meet outside of Dr Amato.

Weighing-in on their side, too, is the fact that all the euro-states are in favour of a permanent mechanism to prevent behaviour likely to precipitate a crisis, and deal with it if an economically rogue government comes to power in a member state  - as it did in the United Kingdom (though what was happening to us worried the EU less than what has been going on in  Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland).

To get the Euro into existence required putting up treaty-entrenched defences of economic and financial policy-independence for individual member states.  Now we know that as such independence can be abused by ideological fanaticism, the politically obnoxious building of a client state, and the prioritising of non-European Union agendas by some member-states, these treaty-entrenched defences must be dismantled if the Euro is to survive and flourish.

At the moment a 'minor adjustments' theme is being played as the task is tackled, but when the Presidents come back with their proposals it will be clear that a giant  step for Europeans is being taken.

We shall need a referendum in the United Kingdom whatever currency we are using.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Ins and Outs of European Union Membership

It looks as if events - or perhaps that should be les evenements -  have come already for Mr Cameron's administration.  The German Chancellor is so right to demand that the Lisbon Treaty must be revised to provide  permanent mechanisms to deal with the kind of financial meltdown threatened in the last years and the behaviour of some member states in their irresponsible borrowing behaviour (and, in the case of some, owning up to it in official statistics).

What is to be done is a matter for negotiation: the level of automaticity in institutional responses, the retribution for rule-breaking, all this must be settled by negotiation.  What cannot be negotiated away is the need to reopen the Treaty to achieve any useful change in the economic and financial governance of the Union.  And to contemplate introducing changes of the order required while the Treaty is reopened for the admission of the Croats is not serious.  Setting up crisis avoidance and control measures for the Euro  is a central change in the relations of the member states to the Union; and it is irrelevant that the United Kingdom does not use the Euro; the UK is as bound by the Maastricht (and the Stability and Growth pact) conventions as any other member state of the European Union.

The Coalition holds diametrically opposed views on the EU:  Conservatives committed against any further concessions of sovereignty and the retrieval of some powers already given over; Liberals committed to all and every EU goal,  to ever-deeper union.  There's no point rehashing all the arguments over the Lisbon Treaty, but they all stand.  This time there must be a referendum and the question to be answered must be In or out?  Yes or no?

The temporary emergency measures for the crisis come to an end in 2013.  Apart from this the Germans will not permit as a permanent solution  the transfer of their money, or even their guarantees, to peripheral and fiscally undisciplined member states. Nor are the centre-right member states, in the vast majority among the 27 member states now, willing to accept ever again the kind of deficit-drunk, vulgar-keynesian economics espoused by those  who have had to be bailed-out, or have pulled back from the brink only just in time.  Certainly, too,  there is full awareness  that a post-Lisbon treaty will trigger referendums in those countries where constitutional change of this order overtly requires it, and in the UK.   So Germany wants to make a start straight away, this week; has made a start.

Mr Cameron should say at once that  changes like these do affect the United Kingdom, even though we have retained the use of Sterling; that we must engage fully in the negotiations; that the government will report back to Parliament  as these negotiations progress; that once the best deal available for the country has been set out to the country there will be a referendum; and that the question will be whether or not the country wishes to remain within the European Union under the terms of the revised Treaty.   Then his government can get on with sorting out the mess left from the last 13 years of economic and financial mismanagement.

And when we do vote the anti-European Unionists might find they have a very close run for their money. 

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Cherie Buys a 10-piece fish cutlery set for £34.99 on e-bay

Phone for the fish knives, Norman
As cook is a little unnerved;
You kiddies have crumpled the serviettes
And I must have things daintily served.

Are the requisites all in the toilet?
The frills round the cutlets can wait
Till the girl has replenished the cruets
And switched on the logs in the grate.

It's ever so close in the lounge dear,
But the vestibule's comfy for tea
And Howard is riding on horseback
So do come and take some with me

Now here is a fork for your pastries
And do use the couch for your feet;
I know that I wanted to ask you-
Is trifle sufficient for sweet?

Milk and then just as it comes dear?
I'm afraid the preserve's full of stones;
Beg pardon, I'm soiling the doileys
With afternoon tea-cakes and scones.


The court has given its judgment on our culpability in turning a Second World War shelter in the olive terraces near the ecohouse into a tractor shed rather than putting up a great big, metal, prefabricated building that would do the proverbial sore thumb.  (Not unnaturally the shelter was discreet and, from even a short distance, near invisible unless you actually looked for it.  That's what shelters are all about when you are for hiding from a retreating, defeated army, and a  German army at that.)

Mr HG is,  'Assolto perche il fatto non costituisce reato.' [Acquitted because the act is not an offence.] I'm unsure if it is possible to acquit someone of an act that is not wrong in the first place, but never mind.  At least we don't have to start on the bureaucratic nightmare of converting a prison sentence into a stiff fine - Mr HG in gaol would be so unkind - and he's quite capable of insisting on going rather than paying.

And to all those greenies who worry about the selling off of woodland by the government in England: private ownership does not equate with lack of means to prevent deturpation of lovely countryside, even if, on this occasion, we hadn't.

Are We Incapable of Common Humanity?

Failing is invariably damaging to anyone.  For lots of people  an explanation for their lack of paid work  may well be understood quite literally as an incapacity.  While those of us more robustly armoured by education, private income, some grasp on the economic realities that sweep through our lives providing and with-holding opportunity that is entirely outwith our capacities to control, those of us who do not identify ourselves and our lives with  our paid job, we are not made incapable by not being employed for short or long periods.  But others, more vulnerable for all sorts of reasons, are.

If the disgraceful mess left by the last 13 years of Brown/Balls/Miliband requires that welfare benefits to those without paid work and who have no other resources but to claim support from the taxpayer must be cut then why can we not just say so?

Say,  'We must reduce the payment you receive because there is no  more money left.'

There is no need or humanity in subjecting people already rendered incapable of finding a job, often by circumstances beyond their control, to subject themselves to humiliating assessment by an arms-length government agency asking them to touch their knees and walk a line.  Not for £30  a week.   Not for anything.  

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

There is No Need for Any More G20 Meetings

It is now patently clear that the G20 is a waste of time.   Its first great initiative was supposed to be to implement a concerted quantitative easing; only Germany wouldn't, indeed Europe wouldn't.  It was supposed to reform, and eventually  replace, international financial institutions or, at the very least, ginger them up a bit to act more authoritatively and with more resources behind them.  Only nation states are, and were, already perfectly capable of beefing up the IMF's resources without international jamborees.

The meeting of Finance ministers in South Korea lacked the man from Brazil.  There are going to be missing heads of state and government at the next round.  People simply have better things to do, and better ways of doing things the G20 tried to arrogate to itself. 

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Marriage Banns

Peter Tatchell, of the campaign group, OutRage! has begun a campaign for marriage or civil partnerships to be available to all.

"Civil marriages and civil partnerships should be open to everyone without discrimination."

At the moment this demand seems to be set in the context of same-gender couples being able to marry, and different gender couples being able to civilly partner (there doesn't seem to be a suitable verb). Marriage is a much more far-reaching and structurally-important institution in our society than is civil partnership.

Subrosa has a fine post, and many comments from differing viewpoints,  on this topic.  What though does this campaign want precisely?  There have been arguments, for instance, that civil partnerships should be extended to co-habiting siblings.  It would be wholly outside of our cultural mores if such an extension were pressed after civil partnerships and marriage had been made interchangeable. At the moment many do not want gender to be a constraint upon one or the other.  What about degrees of kinship? 


Stoned in Sydney

Sheikh Shady al-Suleiman from Sydney will be addressing the Global Peace and Unity meeting at the Excel Centre in Docklands.  Honestly.  Angels didn't make him up. 

He calls for the  the stoning of adulterers.  So watch it all you Sidneysiders.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Taking Things Seriously

HMS Astute, one of Britain's fleet of submarines  has grounded on rocks off the Isle of Skye.  

"This is a not a nuclear incident,"  the Defence ministry said in a statement. "We are responding to the incident and can confirm that there are no injuries to personnel and the submarine remains watertight. There is no indication of any environmental impact."

Officials said the incident wasn't serious.  A crew of around 100 are typically aboard the ship.

A hundred of them?  And they can't drive our submarine in home waters?  Not serious?

Reducing the Cost of London's Government and Services

Westminster, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Kensington and Chelsea councils (all Conservative)  are discussing setting up a single 'back office' and having  a single chief executive and set of senior directors. They would share also the entire range of children’s services, education and social care, as well as bin-emptying and street cleaning.    Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham  (all Labour) are at an early stage of exploring extensive sharing of services.  Camden and Islington councils are  in discussions.

The proposals  reconsider  the way in which not only councils but some health and local authorities could share services and (senior and specialist) staff.  Reported savings for the three Conservative councils are between £100 and £150 million.  Even if the projected saving are lower for the other regrouping councils the order of saving is impressive.  Even more could be saved, as the London councils regroup, by a reformation of the Greater London Authority and the office of the London Mayor. 

What point is there in having a pan-London body that is duplicating pan-London bodies?   

Friday, 22 October 2010

A Small, Open Economy Must Acknowledge its Status in the World

The costs of borrowing for the UK government have fallen to the lowest since the 1980s.  Long time ago the 1980s. A generation.  The credit rating agencies are confirming the UK's triple A status.  And the costs of the mismanagement of the UK economy, and the fears of what that mismanagement might have done to our ability to borrow at all, recede.

Meanwhile, Her Majesty's Opposition does its level best to undermine this outcome.  They are in wholesale denial of any need whatever to cut our coat to fit our cloth.  They are also committed to a political stratagem of splitting the Coalition government and forcing either a general election or a Labour administration supported by the Liberal Democrats or, a remote alternative but much beloved by the Union Thugs' wing of the Party, major civil unrest resulting in the Coalition government reneging on its deficit-reducing programme.

This is not Opposition.  This is destructive irresponsibility for party political ends.  And the BBC needs to examine its conscience too. 

Thursday, 21 October 2010

German Jobs Not to be Transferred to Wales

The states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Lower Saxony which have to cope with the earlier-than-expected withdrawal of British troops from the Rhine area seemed to have attracted the concern of the shadow Welsh Secretary Peter Hain when he said said it was "a disgrace that the government is binning a world-beating training facility for our armed forces".

But it turned out he was complaining about not spending billions of pounds building up a new training area and a defence college in mid-Wales, rather than the closing down of more or less the same thing in mid-Europe.

The Hateful Mr Johnson

"We have seen people cheering the deepest cuts to public spending in living memory...  This is what they came into politics for. "

What a very nasty man Alan Johnson is.  It took the whole country voting to get rid of the failed administration that had imposed itself, unbidden by the voters, upon us all.  In the sense that we  have now an administration for which we voted, we are all in this together.  In politics.  And we didn't come into politics to hurt other people.  We came because we had to protect ourselves from being forced to live in a socialist country.  We like capitalist society Mr Johnson. We don't have to shoot people in the back as they flee your version of the good society.

It would be bad enough -  if the country had been brought to such a pass by a centre-right government - to have it believed that there being no money left pleases us because coping with the situation can be used as an excuse to curtail social provision that has taken more than a century to build.  But for the spokesman for the socialist party that brought this mess upon us to accuse us, the majority of the electorate of vandalism and schadenfreude is an abuse too far. 

Much of the welfare state you lay claim to, Mr Johnson, was put in place by Liberal and Conservative administrations.  The Labour party's claims to being the author of  all social provision and compassion is historical pornography

What has been done yesterday was what we voted for.  There will be more: tax cuts; a major reconsideration of the National Health Service's mode of financing and operation (why should we have a great lump of socialist planning in the middle of our economy emanating baleful effects on everything else?); schools that meet educational needs; the ending of government snooping into everyone's lives. 

But you won't be told, will you?  You and all the people represented by those who were seated behind you.  People like you came into politics to deny that getting on with your life, making a living, enjoying whatever takes your interest, does not require imposing on other people, helping yourself to other people's hard-earned money, and abusing others when we protest by attributing the vilest of motives to our reasonable refusal to be pushed around any further.

Democracy, Mr Johnson, requires that you submit to all the people's judgment every four years, not just your own closed circle of self-righteousness.  That is why your party worked so hard to extrude our democratic institutions from any decision-making process.  The electorate got you in the end though.  So you expose the meanest of your own motives for what you did, and attribute them to us all.