Friday, 17 November 2017

Sorry, Europe, but our ways are simply better

The WEF, the World Economic Forum, has recently published its global competitiveness index. The overall rankings are pretty approximate - due to a misuse and misunderstanding of components such as productivity. No-one actually believes the UK is less productive than France. Their productivity measure doesn't include development or use of the world's biggest web platforms or apps, predominantly in English, nor many new IT driven services, just stuff like making widgets. EU nations with high productivity scores are generally late web and IT adopters with workforces poorly adapted to the coming AI challenges. No one will be re-writing software manuals in Czech or Hungarian, probably not even in French or German, so our EU chums had better either up their English classes or adopt AI translators to do the job for them. 

The real meat of the WEF report is in components such as the world ranking of Judicial Independence. Take a look yourself. We are 6th - Rwanda is 23rd, Germany 24th, France 28th, Saudi Arabia 30th, India 53rd, Spain 58th and Italy 65th. Telling us what we already knew - that the EU operate a system of political courts, where there is no real justice, just the judicial arm of the State. If the State is benign and acts in the interests of the people, the argument goes, there is no need for the courts to be independent. We have the Common Law and Equity - they have versions of the Code Napoleon. 

Likewise our constitution. We don't have one. We're not the nth Republic. We settled on our flag in 1703, not five minutes ago when their constitution was also written on a word processor. Fraser Nelson makes the point in the Telegraph - quoting a fatuous comment from the Dutcher Rutte, proving he, too, has no idea how the UK actually works.  

So when, as the Telegraph also reports, David Davis caught the heel of the jackboot in Germany yesterday, it doesn't mean what they think. David told his audience "Shared values are more important than our membership of particular institutions. Values of democracy, of the rule of law, of human rights", perhaps not quite meaning that the sharing was equal, implying perhaps that the EU had more to learn from the UK's shared values than we have from theirs. The German dogs barked. "If you are so committed to our common values, our common interests, our common approach, then why are you leaving the European Union?" demanded the moderator, Herr Krach. 

Because, Herr Krach, we're a mature and stable democracy whose people are committed to freedom of thought, to independent justice, to self-determination and to accountable government. Because when we uphold the idea of one man one vote we don't mean that the one man is Herr Juncker. Because, simply, our ways are better than yours but you don't realise it.

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

If Tory Remoaners bring down the government, voters will tear the throat from the party

There must be a temptation amongst MPs closeted in the plush and rarefied atmosphere of Westminster to imagine themselves inviolable from the wrath of voters, immune from the tensions and passions in the nation clearly audible from social media. Nicky Morgan, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, Antionette Sandbach, Dominic Grieve and others may even now be building their future infamy - a future of derision, loathing and contempt - if their jejune and anti-democratic posturing, their preening narcissistic self-regard, their contemptuous dismissal of the popular will, brings down this fragile government and disrupts the Brexit process.

If they do so, the people will turn upon the Conservative party and tear its throat out. Tories will be more rare in the Commons than LibDems. They will have consigned their own party to the dustbin of history, and destroyed for themselves and their families any personal prospect of help or support from their peers. They will be shunned like wet lepers, regarded more lowly than the ordure on our shoes, despised and scorned. 

They are playing not with their own pathetic petty careers, not with their own overweening mediocrity, but with the future of our nation. And that's bloody serious.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Venting popular steam and keeping the State under control

Each country has somewhere in its traditions, unless utterly repressed by a totalitarian state and its secret police, versions of letting off steam, of warning off the ruling classes or unpopular characters, and of reminding the authorities that democracy is a delicate bloom that must not be abused. In England this was traditionally 5th November; darkness, fires, masks and disguises so that participants can't be identified, and burning effigies. Today Lewes is the only one I know that maintains the full threat of years past - and I bet the local council are doing everything they can to close it down. 

Here the equivalent is Perchtennacht, the night of the Perchtenlauf or the run of the devils. The costumes are elaborate and frightening, there is a complete lack of English style health and safety, and the Perchten are violent and dangerous. They carry sticks, clubs and chains. Traditionally, this was when a village got rid of an unwanted member - a nonce, a cheat, a deviant - by hitting them with sticks, chains and whips. Hard. You see, not to be out and lining the route of the run is an admission that you're not part of the community, so it's obligatory to be there.  

In recent years most of the sting has been taken out of the tradition. Slightly anti-social offenders still get their knuckles sharply rapped with a stick, or get a poke in the kidneys as a gentle reminder, but death and serious injury are rare these days. Organisers are obliged to maintain an identity register, so miscreants can be named, and police maintain a presence. In Völkermarkt last night, however, the old ways were back. It was a riot. Two people targeted by the Perchten were seriously injured and it took the police an hour to restore order. Other people were injured as they fled violent assaults. 

Because this is Austria, no-one is calling for Perchtennacht to be banned and many are speculating whether the targets will now quietly move. Here it's still a reminder to the authorities that if they don't act, if they ignore long-building public disquiet, then people will do the job themselves. It's also a reminder to everyone (including me) of the importance of spending lots of time in the pub, greeting and chatting to anyone you meet and building friendships and trust ... you're either a member of the community, or you aren't. 

When, in the years after the German surrender, this part of Austria was occupied by the British army, a local maid and a lad from the Inniskillings fell in love. When his battalion was due to return home, he deserted. The whole community including the Mayor conspired to hide him until the end of the occupation, when they married and he spent the rest of his life here, dying only very recently. I talk to his daughter most mornings as she walks the dog. 

This is still a country in which local communities are not scared of their own power. I wish my England were the same. 

Saturday, 11 November 2017

All that glitters is not Green

You may have accidentally encountered recently one the many saccharine encomia gushingly worshipping at the feet of Norman Foster's new Bloomberg building in London. If so, you will have been covered in all the ordure of 'sustainability' and 'most environmentally friendly building in London'. It's mostly utter bull. 

Sure, the building has the very highest BREEAM rating, but BREEAM only measures environmental cost in use. I know both this and its partner civils assessment CEEQUAL well - in fact I'm a qualified CEEQUAL assessor, so know the devil in the detail. Neither scheme counts the construction cost, or rather, where this is acknowledged, it can be negated by petty measures such as reducing site waste or ensuring local waterways are protected during construction. You see, steel and concrete are the grossest environmental offenders in terms of manufacturing CO2 cost. They're also critical to new construction.

Bloomberg himself, a zealous Remoaner, also campaigns for the closure of coal-fired power stations. Now, I can't suggest that there's any numerical equivalent between the carbon cost of his new building and the 37m. tonne / pa CO2 output of the UK's  coal power stations, but his own contribution is not insignificant. His building used 15,500 tonnes of steel - twice the steel in the Eiffel Tower - 65,000 cu.m of concrete, 600 tonnes of bronze and 450 tonnes of aluminium. The carbon cost will be close to 250,000 tonnes of CO2. Yet in the Guardian, Rowan Moore almost achieves orgasm in his praise for the behemoth;
This is not just an office building, or rather two buildings joined by a glass link. It’s a full-spectrum chthonic-to-celestial, cultural-social-technological, natural-synthetic, virtual-real, analogue-digital phenomenon....Metaphors and allusions come easily enough – it is Starship Enterprise and baroque palazzo at once, somewhat Ian Fleming, the interior of the personal volcano of a benign Blofeld. There are those aquariums and, behind a big glass wall, a majestic view of St Paul’s, as if it were itself a great stone fish captured and put in a tank....creates a sort of field of art, in which different elements of a single artist’s work reappear in different parts of the building. It reinforces the field-like properties of the complex as a whole, the sense of a pervasive intelligence, a Kirk-Spock figure controlling the art, architecture, technology, sustainability, catering and wellbeing strategies.
Now this isn't a piece about AGW or the effects of CO2. It's a piece about hypocrisy; the hypocrisy of my industry which does everything it can to discount the environmental cost of its activities, and the hypocrisy of the Bloomberg apologists, who praise the great man's fight against CO2. The CO2 cost of new construction doesn't even necessarily count against the UK's total; usefully, CO2 is accounted at the place of manufacture of the materials and components. So Bloomberg's carbon could well be part of China's or Thailand's total. This allows the West both to splurge on high-carbon new buildings and blame the $10-a-day economies for polluting our environment. 

If this building 'saves' 250 tonnes a year of CO2 from its energy efficiency, it will still take 1,000 years to pay-back the construction cost before there's any net advantage. The building has an economic life of 75 years. 

There's little structurally wrong with the 1970s office blocks that are now being destroyed wholesale in order to give our big name architects new pictures for next decade's portfolios. And as long as global corporates are driven by vanity, our cityscape will get these self-indulgences, like Onan's seed falling fruitlessly to earth. 

Thursday, 9 November 2017

The more shrilly the EU begs for money, the longer we should hold out

Herr Barnier has been at it again. This time his shrill demands for money are accompanied by threats to 'shake the tree' to force businesses to relocate from the UK to the EU. This, of course, is a delusion common amongst unelected bureaucrats and petty demagogues who don't understand quite how business makes decisions. It is, however, revealing of Herr Barnier's attitude - and a taste of what we can expect after Brexit.

If the EU is planning how to discriminate against firms headquartered in the UK - even those trading with the EU on WTO terms - it is pretty certain that those measures will be implemented anyway post-Brexit. They will be faced with a nation that has two key weapons in her armoury - corporate tax rates, and state aid. When no longer constrained after Brexit from using these tools, the UK can also apply reciprocal constraints against EU firms, excluding them for example from bidding for government work and so on. A mixture of economic liberalism and targeted protectionism. 

The fact is that the EU are quite desperate for British money. They will beg and whine and try all sorts of blackmail in order to force an undertaking from us. Our tactic must be quite clear; no trade deal, no money. And  if we need to write-in clauses constraining Herr Barnier's tree shaking, that's useful to know.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

'Copper Cage' is not always a prison

One of the joys of ISPs here is that they provide high-speed unlimited volume 3G / 4G net access for around €1 a day. One of the miseries is that, the cities apart, it's all delivered over the mobile network and is susceptible to weather events. So whilst the UK is still debating how to lay cables with enough bandwidth to allow people to download .jpgs in under a minute, they're rolling out 4G here even to the most remote and sparsely inhabited parts. Austria, about a third as densely populated as the UK, has used the mobile network to escape the copper cage to the extent that the domestic landline has become a thing of the past - even the oldies have dumped them in favour of 'handys'.  

However, our first 8" of snow of the year combined with trees that have not yet shed their brilliant autumn foliage has left us with no web for the past two days. The network crawled back into life this morning and my little Huawei cube is now glowing away wirelessly. Just a reminder that the copper cage is not always a prison - it can confer resilience. 

I am of an age that simply finds alternatives when the web is down. A dvd or cd, a pile of Christmas cards and a fountain pen are useful. Not storing anything digital you own on someone else's server is also a plus. However, the pub yesterday evening was a scene of demented and addicted compulsive phone users checking their dead  devices every few seconds, becoming tangibly angry and frustrated into drinking out of nihilism rather than conviviality, so dependent are they on continuous 3G access.

Is this the way of the future? Will they grow out of it? Can they learn from us before they implode? I have a feeling that as the webwar hots up such outages will become more and more frequent, and Russia and China will throw resources at trying to secure cyberdominance. If the phone-addicks don't learn to live with it they have a lot of suffering to endure.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Forward to the Past!

There's a wonderful piece in the sad old Grauniad with some lovely maps on how the world would look with a rise in sea levels. For those of a historical turn of mind, their feature map of the Wash may look familiar... yes, it's exactly the same as the Anglian coastline back in Roman and Saxon times. 

To be frank, I can see only upsides. With the Norfolk broads once again decently under water and connected to the sea, all those ugly floating caravans known as broads cruisers would be dashed to matchwood by decent storms. Hull would cease to be. Old Anglian cities - Dunwich, Soham and Ely - would again be prosperous ports. 

Looks good to me.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Dirty Dog MPs need their tackle lopped

You can bet that Michael Fallon didn't jump because he touched Julia Hartley-Brewer's knees some years ago. Oh No. There had to be something much darker and nastier that threatened to burst out - rape perhaps, a serious sexual assault, an offence against a minor. Fallon's rapid resignation stinks of an attempt to stay out of jail rather than an attempt not to embarrass the government. 

What is it with male MPs that they're seemingly incapable of keeping their dicks in their trousers? Does their petty power act like a sort of Viagra? Or is it just the deviant narcissists that are attracted to politics in the first place? And no, women MPs don't behave in the same way. 

And I'm not writing about innocent horny flirtation; these men target their staff, juniors, researchers, new young female party colleagues. In other words they abuse their position to inflict their sexual attentions on those not in a position to repel them. If it was up to me I'd treat them like one does a dog that humps visitors' legs. Lop 'em off. 

Of course we mustn't let this become a witch hunt that uses harmless and innocuous banter and tentative try-ons to target the innocent and foolish. No. But we must scour Westminster of the threat of the really harmful dirty dogs. As with expenses, if they can't manage to restrain themselves, then we must introduce systems that do so.  

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The evidence says we're right to distrust 'experts'

I don't need to lay out the disastrous economic, environmental and industrial consequences of the idiot official moves, urged by 'experts', to encourage a switch to diesel engines for short-hop urban journey low annual mileage private cars. Non-experts said all along this was tosh, that diesels were suitable for long-hours, hot running and continuous load - for road freight, marine, rail engines. So now we have cities so polluted that 40,000 Brits each year are dying prematurely. It's not just diesels, of course; long before changes to building regs, Ken Livingstone made his own planning changes in London that required developers of large buildings to install renewable-fuel heat systems. They all of course chose the cheapest - pellet-burners - which along with diesels are the major cause of those lethal PM10 and PM2.5 particulates. Without intervention developers would have chosen clean gas-fired systems. Even when tens of thousands of Londoners were dying prematurely from their lying and incompetence, the 'experts' threw yet another lie into the mix to save their skins. All London's pollution, they claimed, was due to some middle class people in Highgate and Islington with wood burning stoves, which they lit each Sunday from September to March. Yep. Throw some hipsters to the mob - and keep the blame away from those crooked, bent, indictable 'experts' and the credulous incompetent politicians who listen to them.

Now a bunch of criminally crooked, lying, devious 'experts' from Public Health England are being exposed for falsifying scientific evidence and distorting scientific recommendations all in order to further their own bigoted and zealous opinions and agendas. I cannot recommend too highly the esteemed Dick Puddlecoat who normally does such a sterling job exposing the lies, distortion and hypocrisy of the anti-tobacco bigots but who gave a heads-up on the PHE alcohol lies on Twitter.  

The full disgraceful exposure of those bent bastards at Public Health England is in the Health-Spectator. I commend it to you. 

Whilst our rogue MPs may be obsessed with sex toys and childish acts of Onanism, along with stealing the stationery, the real rogues are these fake 'experts' who lie, distort, omit and make up false evidence all under the cover of a supposed academic credibility. We're right to distrust them - and we have the evidence.

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Blood and Force are no answer to Catalunya

There can be little I can write about Catalonia that has not already been said by every quality paper, every informed columnist and every intelligent journalist - that we are headed into a tragedy, that it's gone too far, that it never should have happened. And also that neither side, both so pig-headedly stupid, so intransigent, so puffed with ferocious virtue, will move. 

Blood and force will not solve the crisis, will not diminish the urge for self-determination. Civil war is not yet possible - unlike the former Jugoslavia, both sides are not in possession of military hardware. Catalonia's leaders will be consigned for the rest of their lives to grim Spanish prisons. Terrorism instead will emerge; taxes will be unpaid, ministers spat at, Civil Guards on patrol will be slaughtered, government buildings bombed, aircraft flown into the Cortes, the King assassinated, innocent lives destroyed. Eventually, after both sides are utterly sick of the bloodshed, Catalonia will regain a measure of self-government. 

Can we ever realise that we can avoid all the blood, the agony, the grief, the lost years, the economic turmoil and cut straight to the deal? Where in God's name is a Statesman or Stateswoman of stature who can halt this descent into Hell and bang both their stupid heads together? 

You cannot, you simply cannot, hold an entire people captive, subjugated, against their will. The right of self determination is inconvenient but unavoidable. That's why we agreed with Scotland's wish for a plebiscite in 2014, in which they voted No, a result (despite what the SNP may think) that both nations agree binds us for generations. We must also face the reality that Catholics in Northern Ireland will outnumber Protestants possibly within my lifetime, and if that rebalance results in a plebiscite that approves rejoining the Province to the Republic then we must learn to live with it. That's what an advanced and mature democracy does. 

For Catalonia, I pray that both sides will pull back, agree to restore the status quo ante, release the Catalonian hostages from Spanish prisons, and above all agree to a binding referendum on independence when heads are cooler, say in 2022, to allow the necessary changes to the Spanish constitution.  

Friday, 27 October 2017

Decolonising Academia


Please see the important communication below sent today by the Vice-Chancellor from an important academic conference in Val d'Isère

Sam Duggs
Faculty Administrator 

The faculty of Steeple Bumstead University have considered the many representations made by our BAME, LGBTQQIP2SAA and Identity Fluid students on the matter of decolonising our various undergraduate degree courses. We accept that our teaching, based on the canons of western thought, the First and Second Enlightenment, a Judaeo-Christian historical framework and a Eurocentric cultural bias, will disadvantage many students for whom these components are not endogenous. We have therefore made the following changes:-
- A new Chair, the Hegelian Professor of Rap, has been created and we are looking across the Atlantic for suitable candidates. Tunky Dog's Ass, JXee and Nickel Cap Head have unfortunately been appointed to academic posts with tenure at Harvard, Yale and MIT respectively, so will not be available.

- The University library has been decommissioned and converted to a multi-faith Mosque in which adherents of all faiths may worship as long as they accept Islamic restrictions on their beliefs. To promote Wimmin's Rights, we have secured separate facilities for female undergraduates to keep them apart from the men. Wimmin are also encouraged to wear the veil on campus to prevent inherent and unconscious academic bias that may occur if their faces were visible and they could be individually identified.

- We are introducing a number of new texts written in English. These include  "Busted! My crack whore years" by Snaggs Turdish (123pp, large text version with illustrations) "My poetry doesn't rhyme or scan" by Inca Pointless (both sides of the A4 sheet) and "Bollocks to God" by the Bishop of Woolwich (Gay Rainbow press, 422pp, 4to).

- However, the boldest change we're making is in changing the university's use of the English language in all teaching, seminars and tutorials. English is the very symbol of a colonialist mindset, and just hearing the language used triggers many of our more sensitive students. From next term, the University will use exclusively Khoe, the most prevalent of the Khoisan click languages used in Africa, for all lectures, seminars and tutorials, and for all written assignments. With a total vocabulary of barely a thousand words, we expect this to make any writing that students are required to do much simpler. However, as it will take rather longer to explain difficult concepts, it also means cutting large parts of course content to fit the available vocabulary. We will use the Isolate syntax (|gáro = ostrich, !nábe = giraffe, kx'âa = to drink). 
Academic staff will attend crash Khoisan courses over the holiday and students are recommended to purchase the Khoe primer for the discounted price of £89.99 from the University bookshop.

I myself am attending an important academic conference in the Maldives for much of next term but will return to see the final stages of the conversion of the old earl of Bumstead's seat at Palladian Hall into the Vice Chancellor's new residence. I wish you all the very best at this exciting time of change - and  ts'ókwàna ɦatʃ'pitʃ'i as they say in Mogadishu!

Tarquin Bevan
Vice Chancellor

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Billy the Fish on groping charges

I could tell from the way my after-work drinking chum necked his first beer that he'd had a tough day. He'd spent another hour being lectured by a locally prominent Union boss on his management shortcomings. These verbal assaults would be delivered regularly by the little man - barely 5'6", well into his 60s and who dyed his hair black and slicked it with Brylcream. Hence the nickname of Billy the Fish (after the Viz character). He would taunt managers to lamp him, or at least lose their cool and rant back at him - the only way to cope was to keep quiet, endure it and give him and his professional witness no excuse. 

Imagine the rejoicing when a case came to the Tribunal brought by two of the ladies who had resigned from the Union office because Billy the Fish was a serial groper. Others who had left previously gave evidence. One had caught him in an Onanistic act in the office. Billy the Fish was a broken man. The local paper carried full and explicit reports. Everyone took the piss out of him. Any attempts at bluster were met by grinning managers making groping moves or worse with their hands. He was destroyed, abandoned by the small pond of the local Labour Party and by his own Union.

Their own hypocrisy has delivered two Labour scalps in the past few days. Clive Lewis for shouting out "On yo' knees, bitch" and the vile Jared O'Mara for a series of even more vile homophobic expressions. The latter, until yesterday, sat on the Equalities select committee. The former was pulled up for blatent lying on election literature. Even more MPs are fearful of disclosures to come as women politicians scrape their recall to recount every inappropriate touch, every invitation 'for a drink', every hot breath in the lift. They all want to be a part of #MeToo #bandwagon. 

And, oh frabjous move, female staff in the European Parliament for whom being groped must have seemed an essential employment requirement are now starting to speak out - not to internal EU processes that buy their silence but to the press. Unelected officials are rapidly working out how to hush it all up. 

Let me be clear; I do find this both satisfying and amusing, but also deadly serious. No-one, man or woman, should have to endure unwanted sexual behaviour in the workplace. I'm not talking about workplace banter or healthy flirtatious behaviour but dark, unpleasant episodes. 

When I was young chap in my 20s I worked in a temp job for a blue-rinsed female supervisor with a full set of dentures. It took me a week to work out why the other guys in the office had arranged their desks so their backs were hard against the walls. The first time she leaned over me from behind pressing her withered dugs into my shoulders I thought it was a mistake. By week two I would dread her approach and cringed and leaned sideways to try to avoid the loathsome rubbing. No it's not funny. It was deeply unpleasant and I still feel the full unpleasantness. There you are. #MeToo.     

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Spanish State revives the Garrotte

I remember the 1970s very well. I was taking my 'O' levels and impatient for an end to the war in Vietnam; cheap air travel was just starting, though there was a certain hesitation about Spain as a holiday destination because the Fascist dictator there was still butchering his political opponents - Jake Wallis Simons in the Speccie;
Under Franco, Catalan language and culture were banned, and aspirations of independence repressed. Franco maintained this stance up until his death. Just eight months before the dictator shuffled off his mortal coil, a young Catalan revolutionary anarchist, Salvador Puig Antich, had his coil shuffled off for him by a State executioner armed with a garrotte. The killing took place at the notorious La Model prison, which was located about a mile from where those thugs were Sieg Heiling on Sunday. Rajoy has no more desire to see Catalonia break away than had Franco.

If anyone can tell me why the Catalan people don't qualify as a separate people under UN guidelines, and deserving of the proper choice of self-determination, legally overseen by the EU and the UN, I'd be interested to know. 

One can't rely on the Spanish courts - the WEF rates them as corrupt as the ECJ, less independent than courts in Botswana, Azerbaijan, China, Chile and Bhutan. The courts there still do what the Spanish fascists tell them to. Thay will stand by whilst Rajoy garrottes democracy. There's no justice to be had within Spain. In fact the rule of law everywhere in the EU except the UK is so piss-poor that Roland Freisler must be dancing in the flames.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Back to Brexit

If nothing else is certain, it seems now that both sides in the Brexit negotiations recognise that December is the crunch month. The decisions made by both sides at the end of the year will determine whether we leave with a deal or without one; without one, we then have fifteen months in which to prepare for a life with no transitional trade period with the EU, but richer by £13bn a year. That saving can pay for, amongst many other things, at least twenty new Fisheries Patrol Vessels and their crews.

Like others I have a certain faith in brinkmanship, having seen it in action many times. As public negotiations seem deadlocked and intractable, and as midnight approaches, the quiet private talks that have been going on in the background suddenly produce a deal to which both sides can sign up. So I shall avoid any didacticism until things go past the point of no-return. 

One point about what must be a paragraph-heading in the negotiations - a quid pro quo deal that involves the City, and the UK's exclusive economic marine zone. It has been suggested that in return for continuing to allow the City some advantage - passporting rights or somesuch - that we continue to permit EU fishing boats to harvest fish from UK waters. If we go out with no deal, and prevent EU vessels from fishing in our waters, they will have to pay (under WTO rules) a 30% tariff on any British-caught fish imported, as well as the idle-costs of many thousands of EU fishing boats and their crews who currently depend on UK waters for the greater part of their livelihood. The two issues may not be equal in financial terms, but excluding the EU from UK waters would hit the EU very hard where it hurts - popular perception.  

On the menu for last night's EU dinner was aiglefin fumé - smoked Haddock with a Parmesan mousse on a bed of butternut gnocchi. They'd better make the most of it; without a deal, from 2019 they'll be eating remarkably little Haddock. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Austrian election - Post 3

Emmanuel Macron's reign as the EU's wunderkind did not last long. He's been usurped by a man not only younger than he is, but one dating a girl his own age, rather than being married to his grandmother. And it may well be this small nation that influences EU policy more effectively than Macron.

British papers have picked up on the possibility that Kurz may take Austria into the Vizegrad group, thus forming an internal EU opposition group that runs from the Baltic almost to the Adriatic. They have also mentioned that the last Turkish seige of Vienna in 1683 left the country with a permanent identity as Europe's final barrier against Islam. To a point, Lord Copper. None I've read have mentioned that it was actually the Polish Jan Sobieski who routed the Turkish forces at the gates of Vienna and it was not Austria alone but a Christian alliance that finally turned Islam from Europe's heart.  

Today, Vienna is as well populated with Turkish kebab shops, per capita, as is London. Only here they're 'Kebap' shops, the pitta bread is round and the chilli sauce is bland and mild to suit Austrian palates. Most of Austria's Muslims are either Turks or from the Balkans; westernised, easy to assimilate, invisible after two or three generations. Not so Muslim migrants from Africa, Pakistan or Iraq. Austria's game plan is to assimilate the old migrants and block any more from settling; Saudi funding of mosques and imams is banned here, Salafist teaching forbidden and any segregated Islamist schools, even nurseries, subject to intense State surveillance and monitoring. And now the Burqa is banned. 

It would seem obvious even to the meanest intelligence that Austria, like Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, will refuse to take part in Juncker's mad plan to distribute tens of thousands of African Muslim migrants across Europe from Italy. Austrian tanks and barbed wire at the Brenner pass are symbolic; the little border road we use to go to Tarvisio for fresh market vegetables and a pizza lunch is manned by just a pair of bored guards. This does not, however mean that Austria will formally join the Vizegrad group; the country is proud of being a bit different, and is the EU's only neutral nation one of four neutral EU nations (and therefore not a NATO member). Austria sees itself as more Switzerland than Hungary, and will want to play a role with a foot in both Vizegrad and the Franco-German EU, holding a powerful but variable casting vote. 

The border
  Austria also desires an EU that suits it. A good example is electricity market deregulation. Only in Vienna and environs does one have a choice of power provider. Here 25% Länder-owned power company Kelag has the monopoly - in the face of EU requirements forcing competition - and the same applies in other Länder. As far as Austria is concerned, competition will only be implemented when it is advantageous to do so, not because Brussels says so.* Austria in particular believes state aid is a good thing, that maintaining jobs and the economy is more important than EU edicts. So firms employing over 15 or so people here rarely go suddenly bankrupt; once they've run up a million or so in debt and the banks won't extend, the local council and the province step in, arrange new contracts, commission orders, pump in money on easy terms, guarantee loans and put together asset deals, all utterly unlawful under EU rules but all utterly widespread here. 

Kurz regards these things as internal, matters that should be determined by individual nations and not dictated from Brussels. He is, in this, closer to Jeremy Corbyn than to Theresa May. The rail operator, OeBB, is wholly state owned and services are superb and fares low. There is a popular consensus that approves the economic role of the State and also accepts that it not need be too efficient, as inefficiency means more jobs. Even estate agents are protected here with statutory house-sale fees of 3%, half-each to be paid by buyer and seller. The consequence of this last is that Austria's estate agents are the laziest and poorest quality in Europe. 

There is an expression that one hears time after time in Austria - 'One hand washes the other'. It applies to everything from petty corruption to nepotism, crooked government deals and bribery. I really can't see that changing. Austria is 17th in Transparency International's corruption index, a way away from Switzerland at 5th place.   

Above all this election means that the EU has lost all pretence at being a homogeneous entity. Brussels must now, rather than uniting ever more closely, become even more expert at playing realpolitik with nations determined upon their own national identity, opposed to any further loss of power, and now with enough clout to make life very difficult in Brussels. Poor Herr Juncker. One can hardly begrudge him the cognac bottle for his breakfast this morning.  

*This has the knock-on that Kelag can dictate consumer hardware; instead of a UK style consumer unit costing £60 - £70 one is obliged here to install a locally-designed 'Kärnten verteiler' made by a local company and costing around €1,000. It is the size of a small fridge, made of steel, and weighs 60kg empty. It is called, without any irony, the 'Eco' by makers Schrack.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Austrian election - Post 2

A couple of weeks ago the Burqa ban came into effect in Austria, banning all clothing that covered the face. The first (and so far only) fine issued by the police under the law was to a performer wearing a shark costume whilst promoting the McShark computer chain. Austria's estimated 150 (yes, 150) Burqa wearers stayed indoors. Of course there's no Burqa problem now, say Austrian friends, but look at France, where the Burqa is used as an outward expression of Islamism to say 'FU' to the Fifth Republic. They don't want that to happen here. 

The election has been a single issue business, all about migration. On everything else there's an easy consensus between the parties; Austria is a protectionist, social-democratic republic with a socialist economy and conservative values. This has enabled the conservative OeVP and the socialist SPOe to govern in coalition for most of the years since the war. But it was Germany's stupidity in opening Europe's borders last year that provoked the backlash; until the young Sebastian Kurz took the initiative in co-ordinating the closure of the Serbian migrant route with steel fences, the tsunami of economic migrants all came through Austria, many staying. 

The Austrian Federal government went over the heads of the Länder in dispersing migrants as thinly as possible across the country. They didn't want to create ghettoes in Vienna. Here in my gemeinde we were allocated 74, though fewer than half that number are actually billeted here. The owner of a closed and tired small hotel, last refurbed in the '70s, volunteered his asset to the Vienna government with alacrity. He houses and feeds the migrants twice a day on boiled pasta and rakes in more money than he's made in the past decade. The Afghans shrug off the -20 winter cold and the snow, the Africans shiver in misery under their bedclothes. CAFOD have donated some bicycles (migrants can't drive in Austria) and volunteers now coach ex-Iraqi tank drivers, Afghan helo pilots and Sudanese taxi operators as they wobble uncertainly around the car park like children. 

Muslim migrants in particular have found an immovable cultural barrier. Not only do the valleys tintabulate to the sound of church bells three times a day, not only can you not travel more than 100m without meeting a crucifix or a Marian roadside shrine, only pork and beef can be bought in the shop, and there are no halal foods, but the locals insist on greeting them in public with a cheery smile and "Grüß Gott!". They know damn well that the God being asked to bless them is the Holy Trinity of the Christian Diety and not the sterile Allah of their own death cult. You can see them wince almost imperceptibly at the greeting. They do not respond. 

In dispersing the migrants so widely the Federal government scored a home goal. In those provinces in which most gemeindes had never seen a black face before the dispersal, the SPOe and Green vote has collapsed and the OeVP and FPOe have benefited. The message is very clear; thus far and no further. The migrants here themselves want to leave the rather bleak and isolated Austrian rural areas for German cities, and the Austrian authorities are complicit in turning a blind eye to their leaving; the whole mess was, after all, Germany's fault. In return, Germany is keeping the Austrian border closed - to intercept both migrants and Balkans cigarettes. 

All this has put Sebastian Kurz in the Ballhausplatz. 

I was in the local pub yesterday evening with a couple of young German friends and the place was fairly packed with folk watching the election results. I'd worked out that the full tables in front of us were SPOe until young Katz nudged me to point out an FPOe 'Strache' scarf draped over a chair on the table behind. This is how rural Austria works. There's only one pub, so Labour and UKIP share, and get on politely enough, greeting eachother in the toilet and enquiring about children. They're likely to be related, after all, in an Austria in which extended families have largely stayed in place on the same land their ancestors inhabited centuries ago. And community and cultural identity are always more important than party politics.    

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Austrian election - Post 1

I'm going to spread my reaction to the Austrian election over two or three posts. It really is all far more complex and nuanced that UK commentators are indicating. You'll hear the term 'Nazis' bandied about a lot over the next week, so let's start with that. 

Ulrichsberg, a short drive away, is a small ruined roofless chapel perched on a small peak above the village; on its walls are the regimental plaques of long-gone army units - mostly of the Austrian army as it was absorbed into the German forces after Anschluss. In particular, this was the recruiting ground for the Gebirgsjäger, the mountain warfare troops with the little Edelweiss on their sleeve, the local regiment of which scuppered a much more powerful British force at Narvik and spent the rest of the war in Lapland fighting Russians. Each year the old veterans with their Iron Crosses, their close combat infantry badges and wound badges, all made legal to wear after the war as long as the Swastika was ground off, met for a flag and prayer service of a type familiar all over Europe.

It enjoyed a semi-official approval; each year the Austrian army would lay on vehicles to take the old soldiers up the steep mountain and would maintain the forest track; they would provide a scratch oompah band and a couple of senior officers in uniform, and the local gemeinde would sanction the attendance of the Fire Brigade and use of local resources. All was well until a journalist identified ex-members of the Waffen SS (the ones who fought, but hardly honourably, rather than the ones who operated the extermination camps). Of course there was a stink, the army was ordered to withdraw help, the gemeinde said 'nothing to do with us, guv' and for the past two years the old boys have met in a tent down in the village - unable to get up to their ruined chapel. It was an official move to suffocate the thing - though long known about and tolerated - because of bad publicity. A very Austrian reaction - they are great hiders of unpleasant things.

The point is that these old boys are people's fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, loved and esteemed family members, who were conscripted into the Reich's forces and like soldiers everywhere who have fought, remembered this as the most intensely lived part of their lives. If they shared anything, it was a rather old fashioned belief in service, obedience, discipline, comradeship, self-sacrifice, domestic economy and a loyalty to their family, clan and province. Values still prevalent here in homes of all political persuasions.

In a simplistic Twitter world the shorthand for this sort of treffen is a 'Nazi Rally'. When an FPOe politician said recently that Austrians who served in the Reich forces should stop being ashamed of it, he of course raised a 'Nazi Spectre' storm from Der Spiegel to Guardian Towers. The reality is really far more nuanced than that. We'll hear a lot about Austrian Nazis over the next week.  
Values often skip a generation or two. So it seems sometimes with the Millennials, who can seem priggish, over-serious, politically unrealistic and far, far too didactic to we boozy, bloated, fortunate Gen-Xers. Ulrichsberg too was attractive to the old and the young, to the veterans and to their grandchildren and great grandchildren. It's about tradition and culture rather than fascist values, as far as I can see. I could be wrong, but I can see little evil in it. This lieder has had over a million views on You Tube - is it a fascist anthem or a folk song?

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Eight things to do with a whiteboard ......

The further I get from all the corporate crap, only some of which I pretended to understand in the wind-down year before I took the early bath, the more I wonder why there are people who still take it all so seriously. The risible idiocies coming through my professional body have now surely degenerated into self-parody; surely to God, no-one believes this to be serious?

What next? "Using snazzy sounds and transitions in Powerpoint to give evidence at the Construction Court - how to impress!"

I recall I once shared a complex but very plain spreadsheet with a director who gazed at it unmoved. The following week I resubmitted it to his PA with all the cells coloured in and a 48pt header 'Risk Management Dashboard'. He loved it. After that I found that calling anything a 'dashboard' was an instant way of engaging his attention, until 'agile' came along - when everything had to be 'agile'. Well, I was bloody agile at that point. By about a thousand miles.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Shengen isn't working ... broken by smuggled cigarettes?

Friends of mine here in Austria have recently made a couple of trips back to the UK by road, distributing stuff between their two homes. Both times they've been stopped at the border and inspected by the German Finance Police (like the Inland Revenue but in uniform, with pistols). Not looking for Jihadists, Sudanese migrants, Serbian surplus weapons but for cigarettes and tobacco. 

Germany has announced that she will keep her borders closed. So will Denmark, France and Austria, not to mention Hungary and Slovenia. The pretence is terrorism; the reality, I think, almost certainly includes smuggled tobacco products.

Austria is a nation of heavy smokers, and the legal price of ciggies at about €4.50 a pack keeps it that way; bars are mostly smoking-friendly, with only a ban coming next year for food and fags in the same room. It does my heart good to walk into a thick comforting fug of eye-stinging tobacco smoke down the hill at my local gasthaus - keeping alive the memory of pre-2006 Britain. It's not that the Austrian government, under strong pressure from the EU, doesn't want to increase tax on fags; it can't. The proximity of the eastern EU border, with fags coming in from Ukraine at €1.50 a pack, means any tax increase on legal fags will actually lower revenue. Poland's the same, as is Hungary.  Only the UK and Ireland, far from eastern Europe, can increase tobacco duty indefinitely.

So as the Shengen area border posts are reappearing and traffic queues that were recently just a distant memory are now returning on national borders, the nations of Europe are striving to stem the haemorrhage of tax eastwards and halt the tsunami of Chinese and eastern European fags flooding in. 

The prospect makes me chuckle that it's Europe's smokers who may be the final straw that broke Shengen. Now that would be sweet revenge ...  

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The war with the New Left is a fight for Enlightenment values

Following my Atlantic Charter piece below, two slightly unlikely mainstream voices have joined pleas for us to respect these most basic values. Most coherent is Allister Heath in the Telegraph, who recognises the same threat;
Contemporary “liberals” – the dominant group in the civil service, academia, the cultural industries and among young, highly educated urbanites – have all too often become born-again authoritarians.....Forget about democracy, people power and autonomy: the New Left loves authority, elite rule and cultural warfare.
I've commented before on the declining commitment of the young to democracy - of great concern, because even our most fundamental democratic safeguards of universal suffrage and the secret ballot are under attack from the New Left, who favour authoritarian rule by 'experts' i.e. them, for our own good. Big State centralist authoritarianism is something I've fought against my entire life, and just when I thought we were winning we face a new cohort of slavemasters. If you can, please read Allister's piece - it really is worth it.

The second and most unlikely voice is that of Owen Jones in the Guardian - yes, he whom I characterised as whining "The wrong people are using democracy!" after the Brexit vote. In an entirely unexpected piece he writes
I have little truck with pro-independence movements unless a nation is oppressed, like those subjugated by Europe’s former great powers – and Catalonia is not. Supporting Catalonia’s right to divorce does not mean endorsing it. But when democracy comes under attack anywhere, it is our collective responsibility to show solidarity.
Well, well.  

Incidentally, anyone after Quentin Letts' new book 'Patronising Bastards' will find Blackwell selling direct on eBay for £11.99 - the cheapest I've found, unless you know different ...

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

No cheap food or goods from Brexit? WTO deal revealed ...

I'll post the memorandum images below as I have them today from the European Commission. I'll leave it to those wiser than I in these things for definitive comments, but from my first reading it seems:-
  • We'll keep our separate 1995 membership of the WTO
  • On Brexit, we'll apportion EU import goods tariffs and quotas - so the end result for the 27 + 1 is as now for the 28
  • Same for agricultural subsidies
Does this mean that all the talk of Brexit freeing us from EU restrictive import barriers and enabling cheaper food and goods is just twaddle? And how long will we keep in lockstep with the Empire?   

Ah, pretty much as thought - Guardian has the detail
Guardian's take is that we & the EU have played a flanker in preventing the US dumping its unwanted ag surpluses on us both - but that it's not yet a done deal. I guess there's a difference between choosing to raise quotas and being dumped upon.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Moral courage that shames the dictators of Brussels

The Summer of 1941 was a bleak and fearful one in Britain. We stood alone; the public mood in the USA was against any involvement in the war, our cities were nightly being destroyed by Nazi bombers, Hood had been sunk, Rommel was pushing us back to Egypt in North Africa, Nazi U-boats were sinking tens of thousands of tons of shipping. A beam of hope shattered the gloom in June when the mad Hitler invaded the Soviet Union - and Britain, itself short of every piece of war equipment, with nary a .303 round to spare, under threat of invasion, gamely dispatched convoys of war material to Stalin, beggaring our own forces to do so.  

In August, at very considerable risk from U-boats, aircraft and the spiteful might of the Nazi behemoth, Churchill crossed the Atlantic to meet President Roosevelt to agree the foundation of a postwar world. It was a meeting of the most astounding confidence, with Britain at danger of falling to the Nazi jackboot and the US not even in the war. From it came the Atlantic Charter, a document of hope, freedom and justice, a candle to light the breath of aspiration amid the dark blanket of evil that fell across Europe and Asia.
The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world.

First, their countries seek no aggrandisement, territorial or other;

Second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;

Third, they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;

Fourth, they will endeavour, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity;

Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labour standards, economic advancement and social security;
Sixth, after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want;

Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;

Eighth, they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments.
It was the document that built the foundation of the United Nations, back in the days of its purity and before its corruption by lesser nations and little crooks in league with global corporatists. The right of self-determination was proclaimed unequivocally by the UK - at a time when a third of the globe was still coloured pink. It committed us to the most ambitious postwar programme of independence that the world has ever seen, as people after people, nation after nation, were given leave to exercise self-determination. The Atlantic Charter is an enduring document of the most profound moral worth, a foundation stone of peace and civilisation for the twenty-first century. 

Let us remember those principles of self-determination this week, at a time when the functionaries of the EU act even now to suppress the identity and freedoms of Europe's peoples under a new legal and economic jackboot. Let us also remember the moral courage, the almost unbelievable confidence in the power of Right and Justice, that was displayed by the leaders of the free world in 1941. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Spain blocks any meaningful dialogue over Catalonia

The next few days will be critical for hopes of a peaceful resolution to the Catalan crisis. 

El Pais sets out most clearly the Spanish position;
As things stand today, the Spanish Constitution does not contemplate the right to secession. It obliges all powers to preserve the unity of the state and to guarantee that sovereignty will remain in the hands of all Spaniards.

Accepting a dialogue, mediation or negotiation that might lead to a legal, agreed-to referendum with a binding option for Catalan secession from Spain entails opening up a negotiation for constitutional reform between the governments of Spain and Catalonia, and this is something that the central government cannot do unilaterally, much less under pressure or through international mediation.

The only body that can reform the Constitution is Congress – where Catalans are also represented, by the way. To this should be added all the citizens of Spain, who would have to be consulted in a national referendum.
And there you have it; Spain is indivisible, self-determination, even for a population that meets international criteria for a separate people, will not be permitted. With all offers of external mediation rejected, and Catalans not given the slightest hope of a legal referendum, Catalan leaders are being forced into an unlawful and unwarranted declaration of independence, or abject surrender to Madrid's rule. 

This is not the way to deal with devolution in the 21st century. Even at this hour I hope calmer heads will prevail to avert what would be a catastrophe for the peoples of Spain and Catalonia.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

Felipe of Spain - just the same old don?

Felipe VI of Spain showed his real attitude to self-determination back in July, on a State visit to the UK during which we pretended he was welcome and he pretended that he enjoyed being here. The toy king (founded 1975) who owes his throne to the unelected bureaucrats of Brussels refused to recognise the government of Gibraltar (founded 1713) or the rights of the people of Gibraltar to determine their own future; a true EUphile, he wanted instead to trade the freedom of the people of the Rock without any reference to their own views. 

His uncompromising and brutal speech on self-determination in Catalonia confirms his attitude towards extending democracy within his toy kingdom. No calls for dialogue, no door left open for a future legitimate referendum, no compromise. In the world of kings he is something of a counter-jumper, an arriviste, a nouveau roi. Perhaps his grasping approach to what is left of the Spanish empire is not unexpected; neither Ceuta nor Melilla, holdings far less legitimate and democratic than Gibraltar, will be allowed to slip from Spain's grasp. 

Many in Catalonia now blame Felipe for the paramilitary violence last weekend. They know their king better than we do, and have a shrewd idea of the extent of his power to direct Spain's military. This also raises whether Felipe is personally behind the long series of military provocations against Gibraltar this year. Is Felipe just the same old unreasoning, fanatical don that we have known before? Has loyalty to the Pope just been replaced with loyalty to the EU? 

I sincerely hope that both sides pull back from the brink next week, that Spain concedes a proper referendum, that the Catalan parliament resists declaring independence. Felipe and his EU masters have shown themselves to be both wilful and stupid so far, driving the region to secession. Let's hope more balanced voices are heard - possibly Switzerland, which has already offered to mediate, but has been spurned by both Spain and the EU. 

Felipe may want to take note. Switzerland is what an actual democracy looks like - and every Canton retains the right to leave the Swiss Federation. Perhaps he was sick on the day they taught democracy.

Felipe II and Felipe VI - the same old don?

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Council housing doesn't work any more

The Parker-Morris standards for Council houses are almost always described as minimum space standards. They are not. They are actually maximum space standards. When the committee was investigating during the 1950s, at the height of what was then called 'slum clearance' in which gorgeous Georgian terraces and the remains of 16th and 17th century urban villages were destroyed along with any houses that had inconveniently survived the Blitz, the government faced a demand problem. If they built houses that were wind and weathertight, with indoor privies, heating and all modern conveniences, good strong roofs and damp courses, better in fact than most privately rented housing stock, how would they curb demand? The answer was to make them small - with every square inch of space calculated; room for the bin, and the pram, for a small 2-person sofa, a table for the wireless, a dining table for two. Making them as small as possible - smaller than the private alternatives - was intended to restrict demand, and in the 1950s, to an extent, it worked. It also allowed economy in construction, housing 25% more people than new private construction for the same cost. 

In 2017, private housebuilding builds to almost exactly the same space standards as the 1961 Parker Morris quota. But with no room for the landrover baby buggy, the fridge freezer, the dish washer or storage for clothes and shoes twenty times the size of the lean post-war wardrobe. The owner of a modern estate home may also rent a self-store space in lieu of a garage and loftspace, or clutter their parents' homes with their overspill of stuff. 

Off-site fabrication, increased quality control that means thinner, leaner structural sections, eliminating wet-trades, de-skilling construction and global procurement* have all combined to deliver new houses at minimum cost and minimum size with barely acceptable economic life; you can expect the roofs to fail economically in twenty years, services to fail economically in fifteen years. However, for those houses built with a slot-in pre-plumbed bathroom wall that just needs connecting to water and bolting in, owners may well need to remove sections of the external brick cladding to replace the plumbing. Yes, we're now building instant slums, with poor soundproofing, shoddy materials and, still, hammer-induced fitting of precise components. 

It's no longer possible to build council houses better than private homes for lesser cost; there is also no longer a 'cheaper' option as private builders have already attained the nadir. There's just new housing, all the same. The only variable is land with planning consent. Unless the government cracks this one, new council housing just won't work any more.

*A consignment of cement-woodwool boards from Thailand on one of my jobs was delayed when HMRC found a few kilos of heroin hidden in the load.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Dear Evening Standard - saying "Death to Allah" is not illegal

From the strapline in the ES, you'd think the bloke was facing jail for saying something rude about the Muslim fetish-god, wouldn't you? One needs to read the story to discover that the crime was actually criminal damage, for writing on an expensive business class seat, or rather for 'religiously aggrevated' criminal damage. This is a curious quirk of English law; saying 'Mohammed Sucks' in criticism of the Muslim idol is fine, printing it on a blog is perfectly legal; indeed, one's right to do so is clearly enshrined in s.29j of the 2006 Racial and Religious hatred Act:-
Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system.
However, spraying a wall with the same message in a way that causes criminal damage can be 'upped' to the more serious offence. Clear?
Otherwise, saying 'Death to Allah' only becomes illegal when it escapes from the umbrella of s.29j - when it is proclaimed with the intention of breaching public order, causing hatred or violence, when it is used to harass to intimidate. When, in other words, the aim is other than legitimate 'discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse'

I know this entire concept may just be too hard for many simple minds to understand. It seems to have defeated Tristan Kirk, the author of the piece. Or this may be wilful obtuseness; it suits a certain metropolitan cabal to try to threaten, bluster and shock folk into saying absolutely nothing derogatory about religion. So let's thank goodness for all the Greg Tingeys out there who do such sterling service in the cause of free speech.  

Monday, 2 October 2017

EU regional policy - yet another grievous error

The EU set up the Committee of the Regions in 1994 with a huge lie. Its real purpose was to establish direct governance links between Brussels and European local government whilst bypassing those pesky democratic national governments and states. Sometime over the last ten or fifteen years, the EU decided either that this regional policy was a huge error or that, following the Treaty of Lisbon, that it was no longer needed. Today the Committee of the Regions is a poorly-funded embarrassment in Brussels, with an unknown President (the fourth or fifth EU President?), currently Karl-Heinz Lambert, and the third-smallest budget in the EU, largely spent on itself. The EU will never abolish it, of course, but it will just be gradually pushed further and further to the margins, absent from news releases, ignored, underfunded and unfashionable. Its Presidents and members feature on no ballot papers, and I'll bet there's not more than half a dozen people in the UK who know more than one of our 24 members. Shortly to go.

Yet during its lifetime, it has wasted more money and fomented more conflict than pretty much any other EU cabal. Ambitious regions, in conflict with their national governments, have even established 'embassies' in Brussels, in the most egregious display of snouts-in-the-trough misuse of tax money. Catalunya is one consequence, one that the EU now bitterly regrets.

It is quite possible that Catalonia will gain independence, but not from this referendum, at least not with any legitimacy. It will take a proper referendum, sanctioned by the Spanish government, overseen by observers, absent threat or coercion. 

What a bloody mess. What utter stupidity - Spain's and the EU's. Forgive me, but everything the EU touches turns to shit. This could all have been avoided if skill and experience rather than zealotry and purblind anti-democracy had driven these fools.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

EU seeks to destroy self-determination

The UK, post-WWII, has been one of the world's most fervent upholders of the rights of a people to self-determination. From Palestine in '45-47, Indian independence in '47, the wave of African independence in the 1950s right through to officially arranging TWO independence referenda in Scotland, few nations have done more to defend and promote self-determination.

In return, we assert those rights on behalf of the people of Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands. And also, with greater finesse, for the people of Northern Ireland, a falling majority of whom wish to remain part of the UK. 

Indeed, the West was very much in favour of self-determination until the fall of the Wall, when strangely there was a shift towards the idea of 'territorial integrity' trumping self-determination. Oh sure we believe in self-determination, said the EU, except when territorial integrity is more important. So for Western Ukraine, self-determination but for Crimea, territorial integrity. The EU's unelected officials love the new approach; it allows Imperial inconsistency. For an antidemocratic organisation that has fomented war and conflict in the Balkans, Ukraine and Baltic, which has encouraged the Spanish neo-fascists to provoke an armed incident in Gibraltar, it's therefore no surprise that the EU is wholly behind the neo-fascists in suppressing the people of Catalonia. Maybe Germany and France are even prepared to offer new Condor Legions to help the fascists.   

Now the EU, an unelected empire renowned worldwide for foreign policy incompetence, for creating division and for fomenting conflict, is blundering clumsily, foolishly and maliciously into Northern Ireland. The province is a matter for the British and Irish governments alone, and for the people of the province alone to determine. We can simply not allow the EU to destroy the carefully wrought peace. If they try to re-ignite armed conflict there, we must drop all defence and intelligence co-operation immediately, and walk away from Brexit talks. 

The anti-democratic nomenklatura in Brussels must learn one lesson - the power of the ballot box, whether in Catalonia or anywhere else.

Catalan independence supporter wounded by EU police today

Thursday, 28 September 2017

British independence websites blocked by EU government in bid to stop referendum

Brussels, 28th September
British authorities have accused the EU government of blocking websites aimed at spreading information about the country’s independence referendum. The move is part of a crackdown on the British independence movement to prevent the vote, which includes the confiscation of ballot papers and the deployment of extra police officers to Britain. Separatists hope the referendum will go ahead on 1 October to decide whether Britain, an autonomous former nation in the European Union, should declare itself an independent country.

The EU government has insisted the referendum is illegal and is taking action to stop it, including the spreading of information seen to promote the vote. Earlier this week, police summoned 17 people for questioning over the development of web platforms related to the referendum. A police spokesperson told AFP the people were suspected of “disseminating a website for people to participate in a referendum declared illegal by the European Court of Justice”.

An organisation which manages how users find websites with the extension .uk was raided by the EU security police force, Politico reported. The .uk Foundation, which manages the register of domains ending in .uk, was forced by authorities to block websites with information about the referendum.  The raid came shortly after the ECJ ordered the foundation block websites related to the vote. The homepage of the site now displays a message stating: “This domain name has been seized pursuant to a seizure warrant under the Judicial Authority and is under its administration.”

A spokesperson for the British government told the Guardian the move was denying people the right to freedom of information online.

Remember, they can't rewrite the result of 23rd June 2016. We may be the last nation allowed independence in Europe. 

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Con Coughlin: Saudi-funded Islamism better than Qatari-funded Islamism. For some.

It's always good to know there are some certainties in life, and Con's willingness to parrot the message of his contacts at the MoD are amongst them. Sometime, though, during his most recent lunch, he must have confused the reality, for today's column is contorted even for Con.

Although he half admits that Brit Islamist killers have well established links to Salafist / Wahhabi  extremism from KSA, he points out that Qatar, too, sponsors terrorists who want to kill us, and selling 24 Eurofighters to Qatar is a mistake. The Saudis are our real friends, Con says, despite them funding a network of terrorist madrassas, mosques and Islamist infiltration, despite them exporting Islamist imams intent on the destruction of the west. He doesn't have to point out that KSA directly pays the salaries of 2,000 MoD staff and offers lucrative if ostensibly corrupt employment opportunities to retired officers and civil servants who can influence procurement decision making, as well as being a source of assured profits to the global arms manufacturers headquartered in the UK. 

Clearly, for Con and his MoD chums, a few score Brits annihilated each year by Islamist killers is a reasonable price to pay for such lucrative wonga.