Saturday, January 30, 2010

So how much more are we going to be paying?

On January 20 Lord Stoddart's Written Question [scroll right down]
To ask Her Majesty's Government what effect a 6 per cent increase in the European Union budget for 2010 will have on the gross contribution of the United Kingdom to that budget.
was answered by HMG.
Under the 2009 Adopted EC Budget, UK Own Resources payments were set at £10,879 million. Under the 2010 Adopted EC Budget UK contributions were calculated at £11,735 million.

A key driver for the size of the 2010 budget is the financing of the European economic recovery plan, as well as additional support from structural and cohesion funds for the new member states, many of whom have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. The overall budget increase is also partially driven by the expected acceleration in the delivery of those funds across the EU.
That comes to £856 million more, unless my maths is completely wonky. Why we should be handing more money over to the EU in the hopes of it creating an economic recovery or because that money might be delivered to other wasteful organizations faster is not entirely clear. Then again, compared the amount the government has wasted over the last few years, this is pitifully small.

Great title

An amusing piece about Greece's financial travails in the Daily Telegraph that does point out the ridiculousness of the eurozone, which consists of countries that ought not to be tied together in one currency (but then it was a question of politics defeating economics) and a rather silly discussion afterwards, full of irrelevant comments.

The best part is the title: Greece is the word that should strike fear into all those who love the euro. Indeed. Shortly to be followed by the words Spain, Portugal and Ireland, not to mention Italy.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fraser Nelson seems to get it

Presumably I am not the only person who is thoroughly bored with the Chilcot Inquiry, which as the Boss over on EUReferendum had predicted on numerous occasions, has wasted its time on pointless toing and froing about the start of the war, dossiers, legality and illegality (as if there were such a concept when it comes to war) and, above all, allowed all sorts of civil servants, senior military officers, and important legal advisers to explain that they never wanted the war, no, indeed, it was all that nasty Blair-man.

There has also been a resurgence of the "saintly David Kelly was most certainly murdered because he would have done such things otherwise" school of political thought. All of it is too boring for words and is, needless to say, displacement activity. While everyone goes haring after those dossiers and discusses David Kelly ad nauseam, no attention is being paid to what really matters and that is British failure during the occupation of southern Iraq. This is or used to be, as readers of both blogs know, the Boss's particular subject and I am not about to wade into it. He has written much and very eloquently.

However, it is worth pointing out that one journalist, Fraser Nelson, now editor of the Spectator does get it, as this article shows. But, of course, it was not just Blair. One man could not have created that disaster on his own.

Not given much attention

What with all the kerfuffle about President Obama's Teleprompter's first State of the Union Address (which seems to have gone down not at all well with anybody except the hard core of the faithful) and the fuss about .... errm ... nothing very much in British and European politics, one story was not given very much attention., except, for understandably reasons, in Germany.
(Though, to be fair, the Guardian has reported it.)

Der Spiegel reported that an Evangelical Christian family who wanted to home-school their children were granted an asylum in the United States. Though one might think it was the religion that was the problem from the headline, it was actually the home-schooling, which is illegal in Germany.

Judge Lawrence Burman in Memphis, Tennessee stated that the Romeike family were entitled to asylum because their basic human rights were encroached on.
HSLDA [Home School Legal Defense Association] attorney Mike Donnelly called the decision "embarrassing for Germany." According to Donnelly, the Memphis court issued a final ruling "that homeschoolers are a social group that is being
persecuted in Germany." A "Western nation should uphold basic human rights, which include allowing parents to raise and educate their own children," Donnelly said. "This is simply about the German state trying to coerce ideological uniformity in a way that is frighteningly reminiscent of past history."
There is no need, in my opinion, to remind people about Nazism as modern Germany is not a bit like Hitler's Germany. Furthermore, home schooling is a sore point in many countries. Indeed, there have been attempts to control it in the United States. Mostly they have failed.

Deutsche Welle takes out the religion and concentrates on the home-schooling.
While religious homeschoolers are often covered in the media, they don't represent all German homeschooling families, said Dagmar Neubronner, a publisher and therapist in Bremen who moved her children from Germany to France to homeschool them.

Neubronner told Deutsche Welle when her children were in public schools they often complained of not having enough academic freedom and of noise and disruptions from classmates.

"Our children didn't thrive in school," she said.

After attempting to get permission from German courts to homeschool her children, she says she was threatened with fines and jail time. It was then that she and her husband decided to move their children to France where they could legally homeschool them.

When asked whether homeschooled children have difficulty integrating into society, Neubronner said those claims were "not proven by reality."

"Just look around to all those countries where homeschooling is permitted," she said. "You don't find a group of ex-homeschoolers who fail in life."
Eugene Volokh, himself a successful past asylum speaker, raises the question of whether not having the right to home schooling does give one the right to asylum in the United States. Without saying so, he seems to be doubtful. The discussion, as usual, is very interesting and well worth reading in full.

There are many aspects to this case that will reverberate in other countries, not least Britain. The situation here as regards home-schooling is rather confused. Legally it is perfectly acceptable. It is not schooling that is compulsory but education, though LEAs (local education authorities), Ofsted ( Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills) and other suchlike organizations would prefer it if people did not know about this distinction.

Officials spend a good deal of time harassing home-schoolers and demanding proof that the education thus provided is "adequate", proof of which they do not seem to demand from schools. As the term "adequate" is defined by these officials with no reference to anything outside themselves and their ideas, proof of it becomes hard to impossible to provide.

Most recently, educational and "child welfare" officials have found another way in which they can harass home-schoolers. The latter would now have to prove that they are not paedophiles (after all, what other reason can one have for wanting to give one's child a real education?) and some of the children have been put on the at-risk lists. One wonders how many of them are now contemplating the notion of asking for asylum in the United States.

Man bites dog

According to the BBC, Human Rights Watch has rejected claims made by Hamas that it did not target Israeli civilians during the war in Gaza in December 2008. Goodness me, are you trying to tell me that Hamas does bad things and is not just the rightful expression of the Palestinian anger/misery (delete as applicable)? Now all Human Rights Watch and the BBC have to do is acknowledge the constant shelling of Sderot from Gaza, where the allegedly poverty-stricken people seem to have no trouble in acquiring rockets and explosives.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Battling the finances

Oddly enough, I do not propose to write about the brave battle that various incompetent politicians are waging against the not-very-competent-but-largely-wealth-creating financial institutions. Well, not this time, anyway.

Yesterday I attended a talk given by Jonathan Schanzer, organized by the indefatigable Henry Jackson Society, entitled Terror Finance and the Transatlantic Relationship. They could not have picked a much better person if they wanted to give us the more or less official point of view:
Jonathan Schanzer is a leading American author & scholar in Middle Eastern studies, and formerly a counterterrorism analyst for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where he tracked the activities of terrorist financiers. Prior to joining the Treasury, he served as a Research Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where he authored the book “Al-Qaeda's Armies: Middle East Affiliate Groups and the Next Generation of Terror”. He also participated in a Washington Institute fact-finding mission in Iraq in 2004. His most recent published book is “Hamas vs Fatah: The Struggle for Palestine”. In addition Mr Schanzer has published numerous scholarly journal articles, national newspaper editorials, and magazine features. He has appeared with frequency on American television channels, such as Fox News and CNN, as well as Arab television channels, such as al-Jazeera. Mr. Schanzer has travelled widely in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco, Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories. He will shortly be joining the Foundation for Defense of Democracies as Vice-President.
To be fair to Mr Schanzer he did make some comments that showed him to be not entirely in sympathy with the present Administration in its extraordinary financial profligacy and even more extraordinary assumption that it is a good idea to follow in the EU3's unsuccessful footsteps and "engage" with Iran. Nor did he seem to be terribly happy about the fact that no Administration has shown itself to be ready to tackle the vexed question of Saudi Arabia, the support for Wahhabi extremism and terrorism that comes from that country and the American reliance on its oil. I am not sure that his idea of renewables would provide a solution in the near future but, at least, he has noted the problem.

Most of the talk was along predictable lines but I was particularly interested in the points he made about Islamic charities and the need the US and UK governments faced to shut some of them down as they were channelling money to terrorists and terror educators.

Let us disregard the inevitable cries of "Islamophobia", which greet every shutting down of an Islamic charity that had been taken over by people whose idea of jihad is most definitely not self-enlightenment but the destruction of everybody else, including and especially other Muslims.

There is the unfortunate truth that many Western charities have succumbed to the same disease. This is not particularly new. I recall being somewhat puzzled when I found out that the address, phone number and personnel of Christian Aid in London was identical with an organization called Defence and Aid, whose work consisted of defending and aiding guerrillas in South Africa and the surrounding countries. Whatever one may think of these people's activity, it was not what people gave money for to the charity.

There is, however, one more point about the subject of funding of terrorism and, especially, terrorist education in places like Gaza - much of that money comes either from charities that have become NGOs and are funded, to a large extent, by various governments and transnational organizations. Even more importantly, funding comes from international aid of various kind. At the very least, that money is fungible; and, at worst, there are no checks at all on what it is spent on. That is why we get such things as the sickening children's programmes on Gaza TV. (Here is the latest news item about Tomorrow's Pioneers. I see there is another large psychotic animal present.)

That subject - the use of taxpayers' money - was raised by a couple of people in the audience (yes, yes, I was one of them) but proved to be a subject too far for Mr Schanzer who rather obviously avoided it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A necessary public announcement

It would appear that we can no longer refer to the process whereby the Toy Parliament gets involved in EU legislation as Codecision. That, too, was changed by the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty.

In a correspondence with Chris Bryant MP, present Minister for Europe, about a report the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union produced, which will be debated this Thursday, Lord Roper, Chairman of that Committee wrote (somewhat sardonically, in my opinion):
Thank you for your letter of 14 January about scrutiny of Codecision - which we must now call the Ordinary Legislative Procedure.
What, one wonders, might Extraordinary Legislative Procedure be?

The stimulus is a flop - let's have more of it

Oh dear, this is all so familiar. Socialism, we used to say, does not work in any way: economic, social or ethical. Ah yes, they would reply, that is because there is not enough socialism. We must have more. We hear the same about the EU - the reason the European project is failing and not delivering the promised attractions is because there is not enough of it. So, President Obama's stimulus package failed miserably and there are plans to shell out more of the taxpayers' money on another package. Here is Dan Mitchell of Cato Institute explaining why and how it failed. He may be talking about the US but it is horribly relevant to us.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Meanwhile in the House of Lords

Some interesting questions, answers and comment, particularly from such luminaries as Baroness Kinnock of Holyhead, formerly known as Our Glenys, the much travelled member of the Toy Parliament.

Wednesday's Hansard yielded a great deal, Thursday's not so much. First off, there was a Starred Question by Lord Ashdown (formerly known as Paddy, he of the permanently furrowed brow and eyes that look to the horizon):
To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their assessment of the present situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The Minister, La Kinnock, replied:
My Lords, we remain deeply concerned by the lack of progress on reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina and by recent challenges to the authority of the high representative and to the Dayton peace agreement. We are particularly concerned by positions taken in December by the Republika Srpska Government. We strongly support the Dayton agreement and the authority of the high representative and are engaging intensively with the Peace Implementation Council and European Union partners to address concerns about the current situation.
Thereafter followed the most extraordinary exchange between the Noble Lord and the Noble Baroness as well as other Noble Lords, during which it transpired that the Bosnians appeared to be completely uninterested in the incentive held out to them of European integration.

It was rather amusing to read all those strong statements about the need for Bosnia and Herzegovina to stay united or they cannot come into "Europe". Back in 1989 when the War of Former Yugoslavia was starting there were equally strong statements made to President Milosevic about that country, no longer with us by the likes of Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd and Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jacques Poos. In effect, they were telling Milosevic to do what he liked but keep that country together. We know what happened after that.

Then there was a rather odd Question from Lord Lea of Cronwall, a man of many transnational allegiances:
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have investigated whether increased expenditure on contraceptive services globally would produce a greater reduction of carbon dioxide emissions than many green technologies.
An even more curious discussion followed, which might be worth reading though from our point of view only one exchange is of interest. Lord Lawson of Blaby stood up and asked:
What is the Government's view of evidence that has recently come to light of seriously unprofessional conduct by the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Mr Pachauri, and of the worrying conflict of interests between his IPCC responsibilities and his business activities?
The Government's view as expressed by the Noble Minister appeared to be that this was irrelevant, though all discussions about climate change and human contribution to it is predicated on whether one believes the likes of Mr Pachauri. Nevertheless, Lord Brett, the Minister in question summoned his vituperative powers:
I am afraid that I consider that to be quite a long way from the Question on the Order Paper. The noble Lord seems to be becoming on climate change what the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has become on Europe.
So there we are: you want to insult a peer you compare him or her to the Lord Pearson of Rannoch, than whom there is no one more terrible in the eyes of the Ministers.

Monday, January 18, 2010

A hiatus

I shall be away for the rest of this week, in Vienna and Budapest. I might be able to post or I might not. A hiatus is the most likely development but that should not stop people from discussing matters and I hope they will.

I will return!

Is this important?

There is a feeling around, which I share, that we know far too much about politicians’ and other vacuous celebrities’ private lives. Do I really want to know that the wife of Northern Ireland’s First Minister had an affair and, feeling depressed, thought about suicide, even if she is a politician herself? Oh how I don’t. Then again, if there is a matter of public finance being misappropriated the or, at the very least, money being acquired without any indication of a clash of interests, story becomes justifiably public

Do I care which schools politicians choose for their children? Certainly not, unless they also ensure through their votes that the rest of this country’s population has no similar choices.

In other words, it is sometimes difficult to work out where private ends and public begins. Each case has to be regarded individually and the assumption ought to be that privacy applies to politicians as much as anyone else, particularly if it is a matter of health. Unless …..

Unless important events are happening and a political leader’s health is of vital importance. This relates to a review in the Wall Street Journal of a few days ago of a book about President Roosevelt and his health, particularly in the last few months of his life that just happened to include the Yalta Conference.

As the article points out:
There is a familiar, almost immutable narrative to Franklin Delano Roosevelt's life: A vigorous young patrician politician is struck down by polio at age 39, struggles to recover his mobility and his career, is elected governor of New York and eventually president by virtue of his grit and the press's willingness to play down his infirmity and, finally—in facing down the Depression and then Hitler and Tojo—works himself to death even as he gives life to a liberated world.
A quick look at the photographs of the three leaders at Yalta in early 1945 show that Roosevelt, the youngest of them, was looking considerably more tired and unwell than the other two. (Stalin was looking particularly pleased with himself, as well he might.)

At the time people did not want to believe that one of the war leaders should be mortally ill but since then there has been a great deal of discussion about the possibility that Roosevelt had, for some time, been suffering from cancer.
Why does it all matter? According to the authors, "it is inexplicable that FDR, given his grim prognosis, made no effort to ensure that, should the worst occur, he would be succeeded by a strong and capable vice president." Roosevelt's third-term vice president, Henry Wallace, was "dangerously naïve about Stalin and the Soviet Union; had he become president during the war, it is inconceivable that the conflict and the postwar world would have taken the same

As for the inexperienced Harry Truman, the slowly declining Roosevelt got
lucky with the selection of his fourth-term running mate. "FDR's Deadly Secret"
doesn't assign a nefarious design to FDR's behavior; he was, though, making "one
of the greatest gambles in world history," hoping to stay alive long enough to
achieve his goals.
Indeed, America and the western world were lucky in that it was not Henry Wallace, the man known to be one of the Soviets’ useful idiots, who took over in 1945 and the worries about Truman (who was not actually as inexperienced as people sometimes make out) proved to be unfounded.

There is another aspect to Roosevelt’s obvious health problems. What was it he really wanted to achieve beyond victory over Germany and Japan? Had he even formulated it to himself? Roosevelt’s inability to stand up to Stalin was notorious. Did this have anything to do with his health and the heavy medication he would have been taking? Or did it have more to do with the fact that he was surrounded by people like Alger Hiss, a very close presidential adviser at Yalta, throughout the negotiations and between them? One can go beyond that and ask how many people around Churchill may have been taking orders and reporting back to one of the organizations in Moscow? British investigations into that issue have lagged behind the American ones.

Interestingly enough, the December issue of Standpoint carried a long article on that very theme but dealing with British politicians. “Should we know about our leaders’ health?” asked Jeremy Hugh Baron who has had a seemingly distinguished career in medicine though not, I suspect, as an ordinary physician.

The article goes through the many problems Churchill and Eden had with their health, as well as the ones Attlee did. To us it seems quite extraordinary that it was not just the public who were not told about Churchill’s heart attack during the war, he did not himself. Moran, his physician, took a lot upon himself.

So how much of Churchill’s inability to stand up to Stalin, how many of his numerous mistakes were due to his ill health and how much of it would have happened anyway, given the complexity of the situation? Should the public have realized that the country was being governed by people who were seriously ill or their substitutes?

The most shocking tale is of Churchill’s second premiership, which, many would argue, ought not to have happened, anyway, as Sir Winston was past the time, because of his age and the condition of his health, when he could have taken on something as difficult as that.
In June 1953, Churchill had his fifth and most severe stroke, which caused him to stagger and speak with a slur. But the Cabinet noticed nothing amiss. His left side became paralysed and he was driven to Chartwell. He ordered Colville to tell no one. Moran warned that Churchill might die that weekend, so Colville sent for the Chancellor of the Exchequer Rab Butler and Salisbury and told the Palace.

Ordinarily, Churchill should have resigned, as his wife wished, and the Queen sent for Eden. However, that day Eden was being operated on in Boston. It was held to be unfair to Eden if Butler was appointed PM. Butler could have asserted himself, but as on two later occasions when he might have claimed the post, he loyally held back. There was no way a peer, such as Lord Salisbury, could have been made a caretaker premier, so a conspiracy was hatched.

The first problem was the bulletin. Moran had prepared, and he and Brain signed, a tactful but honest bulletin: "For a long time, the Prime Minister has had no respite from his arduous duties and a disturbance of the cerebral circulation has developed, resulting in attacks of giddiness. We have therefore advised him to abandon his journey to Bermuda and to take at least a month's rest."

Butler and Salisbury vetoed this because medical correspondents would correctly tell the public that their PM had suffered a stroke. When King George VI had his chest operation, a bulletin talked loosely about "structural changes in the lung", and while doctors assumed correctly that this meant cancer, this was not widely discussed in the press

Butler and Salisbury therefore prepared their own bulletin, which the two physicians agreed to sign: "The Prime Minister has had no respite for a long time from his very arduous duties and is in need of a complete rest. We have therefore advised him to abandon his journey to Bermuda and to lighten his duties for at least a month."

Colville sent for the three press lords, Beaverbrook, Bracken and Camrose, who agreed to a total gag. Butler took the Cabinet and told them of Churchill's stroke, although this was not minuted, while the business of the state was conducted by Colville and Churchill's son-in-law, Christopher Soames.

However, surprisingly, Churchill made a remarkable recovery, chaired the Cabinet, again refused his family's advice to resign and, helped by Moran's stimulant tablets, made successful speeches to the House of Commons and the party conference: "If I stay on for the time being, bearing the burden at my age, it is not because of love for power or office.
The idea that matters of state could have been conducted by the Prime Minister’s secretary and his son-in-law, whose political abilities were never of the highest order or even half-way good defies one’s imagination. The fact that RAB Butler did not insist that, in the circumstances, the Queens should have sent for him shows that he was not cut out to be Prime Minister.

There is, however, no doubt that, as a consequence of all this shenanigans he country and the Conservative Party suffered.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Iceland government split

The inestimable EU News from Iceland brings us yet another piece of happy sad news from Iceland. One of the goverment coalitions parties, the Left-Greens have reverted to their usual stance on the EU and are now opposing Iceland's membership.
The Left Greens have since the foundation of the party been opposed to joining the EU but decided not to oppose an application being sent to Brussels after the general election in the spring of 2009 in order to form a government with the pro-EU Social Democratic Alliance. Since opposition to the joining the EU has grown rapidly among Icelanders with about two thirds against the move according to the latest polls. The EU application, which was only narrowly approved in the Icelandic parliament in July 2009, has also been very unpopular within the LGM. The party council is the highest authority of the LGM between national congresses.
What with the forthcoming referendum on the whole IceSave saga and general dissatisfaction with the EU's and certain member states' behaviour (Britain being one of them), there seems a fair chance that Iceland will escape the trap.

Friday, January 15, 2010

They really do not understand

It is astonishing how often one says that about politicians: they really do not understand. I do believe that may be the clue to the mess this country and our cousins across the Pond are in.

Readers of this blog may well have been following the run-up to the special Senate election in Massachusetts, where Scott Brown, the Republican candidate seems to be doing extremely well. I shall not describe here the various shenanigans the Democrats have tried to use, changing the state's constitution twice in order to have a sitting Senator for the Obamacare vote and threatening to keep the man in his place if the Republican gets in. All this can be followed on various blogs, such as Sister Toldjah and, of course, Instapundit.

The story that intrigued and amused me in a grim sort of way was of the TV debate in which
Brown also bristled at suggestions that the seat he was seeking was a Kennedy seat, despite being held for decades by a family member or confidant.

“With all due respect, it’s not the Kennedys’ seat,’’ Brown said. “It’s not the Democrats’ seat. It’s the people’s seat.’’
This story made its way round the American blogosphere in no time at all. Neo-neocon had some more details as well as the video of the exchange.

It would seem, therefore, that the problems with politicians are very similar on the two sides of the Pond (as if we didn't know that). They really do think that seats and votes somehow belong to them. The story above reminded me of numerous discussions I have had with Tory Boys of all genders who would say quite honestly that they really disliked UKIP because the latter was "stealing Conservative votes". Ahem, I would point out, they are not your votes, they are our votes. We, the people, owe you nothing; you have to tell us why we should vote for you; you have to win our votes.

Do they understand this simple idea? I really do not know.

The Bruges Group party yesterday evening

Well, OK, these pictures are not the greatest, mobiles being fairly useful as cameras but not the best. I think people can see who it is and that she is having a good time. In fact, the lady was in excellent form and all who were there found themselves charmed anew. Good many young people, who cannot possibly recall her heydays but still insist that she is their heroine.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sadly true

The Wall Street Journal is running an editorial in which the recent Freedom House report "Freedom in the World 2010" is discussed. The conclusions are sobering: there have been many steps backward in various countries as far as freedom is concerned.

In particular, President Obama's policy of engagement (not heard much about it recently but I am sure it will crop up again) has not achieved anything except greater tightening of political control in the countries he was engaging with. As against that, the beneficiaries of President Bush's "democracy agenda" seems to have produced some beneficiaries on Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. I am not sure how long any of that will last with no President Bush to support that agenda.

Of course, adds the article, there are still many countries that are considered to be "free" and whose governments are freely and democratically elected. In the comments there are some interesting points as to whether democracy is really a measure of freedom or whether one needs a small, well-controlled constitutional government for that. This is a point that is well worth investigating.

There are also discussions about freedom disappearing in the United States but nowhere do I see the obvious point to be made about European countries, possibly because few people who read the WSJ care about them. Officially, we may be free and democratic as we elect our governments freely and democratically. But the truth is that the real government, the one in Brussels, the one that is gleefully imposing its rule on us all, may be free by most standards but is neither democratic nor accountable. So where should the EU figure in that list?

HMG has become lazier and more nauseating

This is not an attack on this particular government - I suspect the next one, if it is led by the Boy-King of the Conservative Party will be the same. Yesterday in the House of Lords, the all-purpose fawning europhiliac Lord Dykes asked a fawning europhiliac Starred Question.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what proposals they will make to the European Council to ensure the efficient functioning of the relationship between the President of the European Council and the existing rotating
What followed was nauseating even to seasoned watchers of political shenanigans. We had a great deal of self-satisfied self-congratulatory meandering about how wonderfully well all the EU institutions were working with each other, how much they agreed with each other and how intent they were on putting the Constitutional Lisbon Treaty into place and ensuring that lots more of our money was spent and lots more control was exerted by those completely unaccountable institutions.

Any question that stepped outside this this aura of self-congratulation, be it from Lord Pearson of Rannoch or Lord Howell of Guildford was simply swatted aside as being of no importance.

All this gloating reminds me of the word hubris and we all know what follows that. This is not just wishful thinking - I am not sure I can be accused of that. But there is something febrile in this dancing around and shouting we won, we won, we won, all pretence at democracy has been destroyed. The people have a way of putting such hysterical self-satisfaction down. Or so history tells us.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sad news

The BBC reports the death of one of the best film directors of the last fifty years, Eric Rohmer, a member of the Nouvelle Vague, who continued to make extremely watchable and sometimes infuriatingly Gallic films until just a year or two ago. I can't help feeling, though, that this comment was made by someone who has not seen that many Rohmer films:
His main works include the cycle of films Six Moral Tales. The third, My Night at Maud's, released in 1969, brought him international recognition.

His films are known for being almost completely devoid of action, featuring lengthy conversations between the usually young protagonists.

Pauline at the Beach, a typical work from 1983, features a 15-year-old girl's summer by the seaside and her observation of adult relationships.
Even those early films were full of small acts - no big fights, car chases or special effects but plenty of action though, naturellement, also plenty of discussion. Ma nuit chez Maud, for instance, which I watched a couple of months ago for the first time since my student days, is filled with discussions about Pascal, Catholic guilt, sin and sex. Heady stuff, I thought the first time round; not so much the second time. Françoise Fabian still looked good though; Jean-Louis Trintignant not so much, in fact rather creepy. Perhaps he was meant to be. Incidentally, both of them were in their mid to late thirties by the time the film was made and played characters of roughly that age, not youngsters.

IMDB has also caught up with the news. The biography section struggles valiantly with the whole concept of Rohmer's attraction to so many viewers and other film-makers. Somehow, I do not get the feeling that the person who wrote that enjoyed any of the films but had to acknowledge the remarkable influence Rohmer had even on people who did not like his work or found it fey and too languourous.
It would be dangerous to supplant the aforementioned "je ne sais quoi" with words. Without demystifying Rohmer's cinema, still there are broad qualities to which one may point. First, it is marked by philosophical and artistic integrity. Long before Krzysztof Kieslowski, Rohmer came up with the concept of the film cycle, and this has permitted him to build on his own work in a unique manner. A devout Catholic, he is interested in the resisting of temptation, and what does not occur in his pieces is just as intriguing as what occurs. Apropos to the mention of his spirituality is his fascination with the interplay between destiny and free will. Some choice is always central to his stories. Yet, while his narrative is devoid of conventionally dramatic events, he shows a fondness for coincidence bordering on the supernatural. In order to maintain verisimilitude, then, he employs more "long shots" and a simpler, more natural editing process than his contemporaries. He makes infrequent use of music and foley, focusing instead on the sounds of voices. Of these voices, where his narrators are male (and it is ostensibly their subjective experience to which we are privy), his women are more intelligent and complex than his men. Finally, albeit deeply contemplative, Rohmer's work is rarely conclusive. Refreshingly un-Hollywood, rather than providing an escape from reality, it compels us to face the world in which we live.
While I rarely have difficulties with Rohmer's films, I find that paragraph a little hard to understand. Indeed, I had to read it twice.

Probably my favourite of the Rohmer films I have seen is Triple Agent, which is based, more or less, on the true and horrific tale of General Miller's disappearance in Paris. He was kidnapped and murdered by NKVD agents as his predecessor in the White Russian Military Union, General Kutyepov had been.

True to Rohmer's preoccupations, the film revolves round the man who ends up by betraying General Dobrynin, though, possibly, unintentionally. Fiodor Voronin is a double, possibly triple agent, working for the White Russian Military Union, for the NKVD and, possibly, for the Gestapo. He is a brilliant man, who understands many aspects of politics that, for instance, his rather stupid French Communist neighbours do not. Yet, he is, in the end, too clever for his own good.

Perhaps, the clever clogs in the BBC should get the DVD of Triple Agent and watch it. They might learn some history as well.

The first thing this will do ...

... is double Fox News viewing public. And raise Sarah Palin's profile, as if she needed that.

Fisheries and discards

A Written Question by the Lord Teverson asked Her Majesty's Government
what was the total tonnage of fish caught by the United Kingdom-registered fishing fleet from species regulated by Common Fisheries Policy quotas in the past year for which the figure is available; and what was the total tonnage of those fish that were discarded.
The response was somewhat complicated and, dare one say it, inadequate. It seems that, to a great extent, HMG does not know the tonnage of fish that has been discarded (because according to the Common Fisheries Policy, it is over the amount our fishermen are allowed to catch and land).

As Lord Davies of Oldham explained:
UK fisheries laboratories send observers to sea to record the quantity of fish discarded and retained by fishing vessels. This sampling is intended to provide estimates of discards of the main commercial species, but at present is not representative of all UK fisheries. It is also only possible to sample a proportion of the vessels participating in any fishery. As a consequence, estimates of total discards are subject to uncertainty.
Not precisely helpful, given what a problem those discards are but we do know some:
Estimates of discards for 2008 are available for the following fisheries:

Fleet-English and Welsh vessels over 10 metres in length.Areas-North Sea (ICES area IV), and waters to the south and west of England and Wales (ICES area VII).Species-Demersal quota species (Cod, haddock, plaice, sole, anglerfish etc.).Estimated 2008 catches-37,000t, of which 27,600t were landed and 9,400t discarded.

Fleet-Scottish vessels over 10 metres in length.Areas-North Sea (ICES area IV), and west of Scotland (ICES Division Vla). Species-Cod, haddock, whiting and saithe.Estimated 2008 Catches-91,700t of which 56,600t were landed and 35,100t discarded.Fleet-UK vessels fishing for pelagic species. Areas-All areas. Species-Mackerel, horse mackerel, herring, sprat, blue whiting. Estimated 2008 Catches-203,200t of which 198,300t were landed and 4,900t discarded.

In total these fisheries are estimated to have caught around 332,000t of the relevant species in 2008, of which 283,000t was landed and 49,000t were discarded.
Thus, we can see that even for the limited areas for which there are estimatesof discards, we are talking about quite a lare amount of fish that is caught and discarded.

While we are on the subject of discards, let us not forget that the first thing the Boy-King of the Conservative Party did on becoming leader is to discard the very sensible fisheries policy produced by the Boss of EUReferendum and the then Conservative spokesman on the subject, Owen Paterson, and adopted by Michael Howard.

It so happens, that yesterday I was outlining the story of the Conservative fisheries policy and David Cameron to a political journalist who described herself as a "europhobe" but who was so mesmerized by the Punch and Judy show that British politics had become that she refused to see anything beyond the notion of getting rid of Gordon Brown and giving David Cameron a chance.

What of his performance over the fisheries policy? Perfectly understandable, she said. When Cameron became leader he had to get rid of the swivel-eyed, europhobic image to make the party electable. Comments like this from highly intelligent and knowledgeable people make me despair.

Response number one is that the Conservative Party was never eurosceptic, let alone europhobic except in the fevered imagination of the BBC, the Guardian and the Independent.

Response number two is that even if that had been true, a rational reorganization of our fisheries policy (which would, indeed, have entailed coming out of the CFP but had many other aspects) would have been popular among a very large proportion of the population and even the chattering classes, as the CFP is universally acknowledged to be a social, economic and ecological disaster. Nothing swivel-eyed even for the Guardian in getting rid of the concept of discards. Yet Cameron discarded the policy, presumably because he did not want to upset the Colleagues. Or, maybe, he thinks it is a good idea. Who knows?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The last few days have been complicated

Anway, I am now trying to get back into my stride with the blog because there is a great deal to write about. As the year goes on, I fear that I shall have to spend more time on EU matters plus British politics, both as dull as ditchwater but closely linked and of some importance with an election coming up. However, I do intend to write about other subjects as well.

In the meantime, here is a link to a fascinating article in the Times, sent to me by an American friend (I think they still take that rag seriously on the other side of the Pond but I am not sure) about opinions expressed in Yemen.

The title says it all: ‘We regret driving out the British,’ say Aden’s former rebels. Of course, they did not exactly drive the British out. There was a definite policy: Aden was going to go independent as everything else had gone independent. It was a perfectly sensible policy, as there was no point in keeping Aden with no Empire to serve but the last few months there were very nasty and the region's subsequent history has been even nastier.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Non-story of the day

It was my intention to brighten up my readers' day by putting up a video of Moira Shearer dancing in "Red Shoes", a wonderful Powell and Pressburger film, which I finally saw last week. (Three cheers for the National Film Theatre.) Sadly, it has proved to be impossible to embed the central ballet sequence, not, I may add, because of my incompetence but because of somebody's control freakery.

As I have no desire to post comments about the snow or the coldest winter since .... ooooh at least 1982 .... or any of the usual gumf about transport breaking down, schools closing down (that happened in 1987 or 1988, as I recall) and everything coming to a full stop. That leaves me with the biggest non-story of the day: the plot to oust Gordon Brown, its entirely predictable failure and the flap the Conservatives, politicians and commentators have got themselves into.

This morning everyone (well, about three dozen people) became very excited because a couple of Labour has-beens, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon, sent an e-mail to every MP in which they called for a secret ballot on Gordon Brown as leader. Of course, this disregarded several matters: the Labour Party's structure and constitution are such that it is well-nigh impossible to oust a leader who does not want to go; the last time they could have done it was at the Conference and they did not; nobody in their right mind would start a leadership election so close to a general election unless they absolutely had to and the Labour Party does not.

For several hours everyone (well, about fifty people) was on tenterhooks: will this succeed? No Minister has come out to support Brown, we were told breathlessly by one of the Tory bloggers (and I forget which one). This will lead to an early election, was the opinion heard everywhere (well, on Tory blogs and Facebook pages). Brown will have to go; Brown is a coward because he will not go; Brown .....

Well, there we are, ladies and gentlemen. By this evening two leading Labour Minister, David Miliband and Harriet Harman have come out in support of Brown and the crisis, it would appear, is over. Here are a few links that give the story in greater detail. ToryBoy blog tells us what Conservatives want from the Snowstorm plot (oh dear, the wit), then tells us that Hoon and Hewitt agree with Cameron that "we cannot go on like this", then assures us that the snowstorm in the teacup will be wonderful news for the Tories (having told us that if it succeeded it would have been wonderful news for the Tories).

Iain Dale spent most of the day updating the story with the odd interruption for the Peter Robinson story, which really should be of no concern to any journalist and blogger. (A politician's wife has an affair and tries to commit suicide is not something we all have the right to know about.)

I have no problems with wishful thinking; indeed, most of politics is wishful thinking. Therefore, I accept that the Tories got all excited because the Labour Party was about to tear itself to pieces over a leadership challenge. It might have been a good idea for them to find out whether this challenge ever had the slightest chance but that would have been realism not wishful thinking.

However, there are a few points one needs to make. In the first place, it might be a good idea for the Tories and their various bloggers to make up their minds whether they want Gordon Brown as leader or not and whether his presence is a good thing from their point of view or not.

Then it might be a good idea to make up their minds whether having an early election (which we shall not have, as this blog and EUReferendum have consistently predicted) is actually such a good idea from their point of view. Would calling an election in the middle of a really cold winter (an insane thing to do) make people feel warm about politicians at all?

Thirdly, the Tories should look outside the Westminster bubble. As far as most people are concerned today's non-events were of precious little interest. At present the Tories' lead is not so spectacular in the opinion polls as to justify their complacency and if this is the best they can do by way of political campaigning, they are not going to attract many more votes.

Fourthly, it is time to understand that the election will solve nothing. Regardless of who wins the most seats, the government in Brussels will not change any time soon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Birthday American Thinker!

My, my, how time flies. It seems but yesterday .... well I am not sure what seems but yesterday since American Thinker was going strong by the time I started reading it and wondering why we cannot have something like that on this side of the Pond. I am still wondering as American Thinker, one of the best conservative (small c, non-party, unashamedly patriotic) websites in the United States.

Thomas Lifson, Editor and Publisher of the American Thinker, writes about its sixth birthday.
Still the same, however, is our commitment to presenting thoughtful commentary on the events of public significance, from a wide range of people, going well beyond the usual suspects found in more venerable outlets. We remain grounded in an understanding of fallible human nature, the wisdom of the American Founding Documents, and the value of tradition as guide to the future.
Professor Lifson, "a recovering academic", realized immediately after 9/11 that he had a role to fill in the new war: he would take part in the intellectual battle.

This is something I support. On the fifth anniversary of that terrible day I wrote on EUReferendum:
As for me, that entire day will stay in my memory almost minute by minute. And one of the things I recall very clearly was my immediate conviction that we were at war. My second thought was to wonder where I can sign up. This was going to be a war of ideas, of propaganda as much as of bombs and bullets. I could do that, I thought. Well, it took a little while but I think I managed to sign up for the duration.

One of the most difficult things to define, particularly for a liberal democracy, which we sort of are, is what it is we are fighting for. We know what we are fighting against or, at least, some of us do. Far too many do not, as we have pointed out on numerous occasions on this blog. But what is it we are fighting for?
The American Thinker is one of those sites that helps us to define those issues. Happy Sixth Birthday and many happy returns.

There would be unintended consequences

Or maybe the consequences would be intended but not announced. Martin Howe, one of our leading constitutional lawyers, has an article in the Wall Street Journal in which he summarizes his pamphlet for Politeia.

After outlining the present situation as far as British and European legislation are concerned and quoting previous legal decisions, Mr Howe comes to an interesting conclusion:
The Lisbon Treaty expands the EU's law-making powers and correspondingly restricts the power of the U.K. Parliament to make law. So the U.K. Parliament, while under the transient majority control of one party, has apparently permanently restricted the law-making power of future Parliaments, by ratifying the Lisbon Treaty. This restriction on the future law-making power of Parliament has no political legitimacy because it was never put to the British people for their approval.

According to orthodox and accepted understanding of the U.K.'s unwritten constitution, Parliament had no power to do this. As a matter of the U.K.'s internal law, Parliament can disregard or disapply any laws of EU origin even if that step might put the U.K. in breach of its international treaty obligations.

British courts have commented on this issue a few times since the U.K. joined what was called the Common Market in 1973. They have expressed the view that the U.K. Parliament retains the power to override EU laws if it expressly decides to do so, but if it is silent on the matter there is a presumption that normal Acts of Parliament will give way to EU law.

But the U.K.'s rule of parliamentary sovereignty is not embodied in any formal constitutional text. Rather, it is the product of centuries of custom and practice. Its continued validity ultimately depends upon the willingness of the judges in the U.K.'s new Supreme Court to uphold and apply it. There is a risk that over time, as more and more powers accrete to the EU, our judges might revise or depart from our long established rule of sovereignty.

This is why the U.K. now needs a bill which will write formally into law the rule that Parliament is sovereign and that it can, if it so chooses, over-ride any laws of external origin including those originating from the EU. This bill will cement the rule of sovereignty firmly into a formal constitutional text and make it resistant to erosion.
A law of this kind, if passed and actually applied, unlike the posturing of the German Karlsruhe Court, could have serious consequences in the UK and the EU. Is the Boy-King going to announce it as part of the Conservative manifesto?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Plus ça change ….

How often does one use that title about all sorts of political developments? It's not that there is never any change. There have been many times in history, even recent history, when great changes were enacted. However, one of the things that never seems to change is the behaviour of transnational organizations who continue to spend huge amounts of taxpayers' money to set up more organizations, meetings, conferences and committees to try to control the world's economy. By and large they fail though in the process they manage to undermine real economic development through all those taxes and regulations.

A fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal reminds us of a failed predecessor to the recent Copenhagen Circus Conference, a similar event that took place in Lima in 1975. "Both conferences were failed, taxpayer-funded attempts to institute global economic governance."

I must admit that until reading that article I had not been able to recall the Lima Conference. Even now my memory is experiencing severe difficulties. In other words, the author is correct: these events do disappear from one's horizon.

However, I do recall the political and ideological (I hesitate to use the word intellectual) background:
Lima '75: Those were the good old days of "Third Worldism." The developing countries, spurred by the demonstration of force by oil exporting countries during the oil shock of 1973, called for the institution of a "new international economic order" (NIEO), aimed at securing a better place for these countries in the world economy. Once the call was made, international organizations started aligning their work programs toward that grandiose objective.

It should be recalled that in those days the dominant view in the corridors of international organizations favored strong state intervention in economic affairs. The prevailing view had its dissidents: Bela Balassa, an economist at the World Bank, as well as Little, Scitovsky and Scott, authors of a report commissioned by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to mention a few. These economists argued that developing countries would do better to place their hopes in the interplay of market forces rather than in state interventionism and, accordingly, should adopt policies aimed at encouraging foreign investment and improving the international competitiveness of their goods.

The governments of many developing countries that adhered to the dominant view arrived at Lima with the firm intention of obtaining the international community's endorsement of a "plan of action," stipulating that 25% of the world's industrial production should be generated in the Third World by the year 2000.
Nothing much came out of Lima but since then there have been adjustments in the economic balance of the world. An ever larger percentage of the world's industrial proeuction is generated in developing countries, a number of which no longer count as such, having developed quite well in the last thirty years. The thing is that all this happened to countries that abandoned the consensus of the seventies and accepted the views of those dissidents.

What of Copenhagen? What did that produce apart from a great deal of hot air and the coldest winter spell that city has seen for a long time?
Like third-worldism in the 1970s, today's environmentalism has its dissidents. There are many. They do not deny the existence of global warming, but question the role of human activity in this phenomenon. In addition, they tend to advocate technological innovation, rather than restrictions on the emissions of carbon dioxide, to deal with the impacts.

Like Lima, the conference in Copenhagen did not go beyond the declaration of intentions. Agreement was not reached on concrete measures to drastically reducing carbon emissions. And just as Lima relegated the hardest discussions to a series of consultations, so Copenhagen sent negotiations to another conference next year—without explaining why agreement would be easier in 2010, the year of mid-term elections in the United States, which will make the American Congress even more reluctant to alienate voters by approving costly measures to deal with global warming.

Beyond their differences, Lima and Copenhagen suffer from a common handicap: Both conferences were a failed attempt, at the expense of taxpayers around the world, to institute global economic governance by imposing quantifiable targets on the 192 member nations.
Fabio Rafael Fiallo, the author of the article, is reasonably optimistic. Lima, he thinks was the high point of "third-worldism" and Copenhagen will prove to be the high point of "environmentalism". The result will not be dissimilar: environmental and economic advances will happen if the consensus is abandoned and the dissidents who are far more vociferous now than they were in the seventies, by the way, will be listened to.
Taking the analogy between the two conferences a step further, it is possible to conclude with a note of optimism. In the same manner that developing countries succeeded in increasing their share in world industrial output through international competition, irrespective of the Lima planning, so one can expect that the issue of global warming will be dealt with, not through the Copenhagen Accord, but by technological innovations, notably those falling within the category of geoengineering. These techniques aim at capturing carbon emissions or, more directly, at cooling the climate.
I am not qualified to express an opinion on the warming/cooling/not going anwywhere special debate but I do understand the politics and, on the whole, I agree with those sentiments. However, I have to add a somewhat pessimistic rider.

These people do not give up. If they cannot get a plan for the world economy one way they will try another way. There will be more taxpayer-funded conferences and attempts to interfere with markets and economic developments. This time round we must grasp what the new ideology is before it takes serious root.