Vir Cantium

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Monthly Archives: August 2011

From the ‘North Pole’ to Gaza

I am indebted to the excellent Prodicus for highlighting this little gem, via the fine Orphans of Liberty blog:

British crew become first to row to magnetic North Pole
The six-man crew’s 450-mile journey was only possible because of an increase in ice melting over recent years.

A six-man British crew celebrated Friday after becoming the first to row to the magnetic North Pole.

On the final 50 mile leg, the crew rowed most of the way but then had to haul their 1.3-tonne boat over nearly two miles of ice rubble in a nine-hour slog.”

Yep, that’s right, they didn’t row all the way at all. Didn’t approach the actual North Pole and didn’t actually reach the current magnetic North Pole either.

Perhaps it’s my deranged right-wing mind that saw a very tenuous but interesting parallel to be drawn between this story, and one particular incident in a part of the world with rather less ice to clamber over, in January last year:

Egypt bans Gaza-bound humanitarian aid convoys
Egyptian FM: Aid bound for Gaza will be barred from Egypt after activists clashed with police this week.

… members of one convoy led by British MP George Galloway committed “criminal” acts on Egyptian soil on their way to Gaza.

“Egypt will no longer allow convoys, regardless of their origin or who is organizing them, from crossing its territory,” [then Egyptian Foreign Minister] Abul Gheit said, according to AFP.

“Members of the [Viva Palestina] convoy committed hostile acts, even criminal ones, on Egyptian territory,” the foreign minister added without elaborating.

The comments come a day after a foreign ministry official told Galloway he was no longer welcome in Egypt as he flew out of the country…. Egypt accused Galloway, who once called at a London rally for the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak*, of trying to embarrass the country, which has refused to permanently open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

What connects the two? They both involve groups inculcated in the left-liberal worldview being mugged by reality. One regarding the ‘settled science’ and truth about climate change, the other expecting Gaza and their crusade for its people to be an ‘access all areas’ pass in the Arab world as much as it is in the studios and newsrooms of the left-leaning media. With no disrespect to the northern explorers, I can’t help but chuckle at both.

*of course, George got his wish, but the Rafah crossing can still be a bit hit-and-miss it seems.


Is Louise Mensch a Conservative?

Louise Mensch, Piers Morgan’s least favourite groupie, endured something of a Twitter and Facebook storm on Wednesday after she suggested that:

… there is a case for local authorities to force landlords who keep property vacant to rent it, if it is determined that the vacant stock is anti-social or being abused. It might be forcibly made available for social housing, but that of course is legitimate and pays rent to landlords. Not as first resort, not immediately, but one effective sanction that might both relieve social housing pressure, and avoid squatting.

This idea is wrong in so many ways. Who is to determine what is “anti-social” – a subjective term too open to arbitrary interpretation? It fails to acknowledge the economic factors behind housing shortages (the lack of supply isn’t only restricted to social housing provision and is in no small part a result of planning restrictions). Squatting should be tackled through the law – it is theft after all – and not by the state effectively employing similar tactics.

In fact such powers already exist in some ways, in that local authorities can compulsorily purchase vacant property in certain circumstances and transfer it to social housing stock. It’s not clear whether Louise Mensch was already aware of this, though to be fair her idea is slightly less draconian.

Unsurprisingly Louise was criticised, correctly in my view, for proposing that the state should stick its nose into how someone should choose to use – or, more relevantly, not – their property. This is a more fundamental principled objection, though, which highlights what I fear is a lack of a coherent political philosophy behind the Cameron government.

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Admiral @RichardJMurphy: “I See No Laffer Curve”

Richard Murphy in an earlier life: "Ships? No such thing. What am I standing on? Oh."

It’s a long way yet from a flat rate tax, or even the flatter tax system that George Osborne mentioned some time ago, but the runes on the future of the ’50p’ tax band are promising.

The Treasury already know that it can be cut to 45% with little lost revenue. If that’s a carrot, the stick is the evidence that the high tax rates, both personal and corporate, are leading to emigration abroad, particularly from the City.

Now we would expect the news that bankers are leaving to be greeted with joy by the economically illiterate, but it seems even those who claim to be quite good with numbers and stuff are saying things like this:

It made him smile. That’s nice. Like seeing a Curry’s looted might please someone who has an ill-thought out gripe against the evils of corporate retail … until one day they realise that such businesses employ people and yes, even pay various taxes for schools’n’ospitals and things.

A Murphite then helpfully demonstrated their ignorance with this response:

That’s the trouble with Twitter; it’s short, quick and easy to post your thoughts without proof-reading or checking your logic. The 50p rate isn’t raising much … those liable to pay it are leaving to avoid it; perhaps the two are related?

As a dweller of the reality-based community then pointed out:

Now, where have we heard of that effect before? Raising taxes so far that they actually raise very little in additonal revenue, as people who can move do so, and others avoid it through other legal means (even including working less, since the marginal increase in take-home pay is worth less than the opportunity cost of the time spent earning it).

I’ll give Mr. Murphy a clue. This phenomenon starts with an ‘L’ and ends with ‘affer’. He won’t guess it though because, as he reminds us regularly, the Laffer Curve doesn’t exist. Strange, then, that even he and his union paymasters aren’t campaigning for a 100% flat tax to cure the deficit.

From One Lib-dem Led Government to Another?

Front-page of The Sun from Saturday 11 April 1992.

It's that Murdoch again

Guido seemed to having a “It’s the Sun Wot Won It” moment yesterday. That’s not to say that he swayed the electorate in a last minute clarion call – for neither did the Sun in 1992, if truth be told; rather they and he simply read well and had faith in the opinion polling close to polling day. In the Sun’s case it was the eve of poll results. These days the pollsters have honed their skills, and there is such depth now to the data, that one can get a pretty good idea of the result even a month beforehand, as did Guido.

Anyway, he is appears to be hinting at a Lib/Lab coalition after 2015.

Reading the runes again it seems to Guido increasingly likely we are looking at a one-term Tory-led government.

I could comment that we actually have a LibDem-led government. He then goes on:

Right now the bookies favour no overall majority, polls suggest Labour could be the largest party, in that event the LibDems, probably without Clegg, will in all likelihood support a Labour government.

Guido is circumspect enough not to actually call it for another coalition but the implication is there. He raises two key points in his analysis: the danger of a global double-dip recession and the possibility of Andy Coulson being tried and convicted close to the next election.

As regards Coulson, I think Guido is suffering from Westminster Proximatosis. The public are already tiring of Hackgate, and as the economic picture plays out this will only increase the apathy. Remember, the public only started taking an interest when Milly Dowler entered the picture; attention was briefly re-engaged with the Murdochs’ appearance before the select committee. The riots then largely killed the story in the popular soap-opera-following, where’s-next-month’s-mortgage-payment-coming-from conscience. As more newspaper titles are implicated in the scandal, so one may find the print media going rather quieter on the subject than previously.

As always, though, it will be the economy stupid, and I think Guido is right to focus on this as there clearly is a danger.

The primary cause will be the economy, the probability of a double-dip recession is rising. The US economy is in trouble, the Eurozone is in turmoil, growth is faltering at home and abroad. Inflation is out of control, real incomes are actually falling in the UK. By 2015 the answer the electorate will give to Ronald Reagan’s Are you better off than you were four years ago?” question may well be “No.”

However, many people, if asked if they feel better off than four five years ago, will only tend to think of the last one or two years’; by 2015 that only takes us “back” to 2013, two years’ away still from now, and the 2013-15 period should see us naturally emerging (albeit slowly) from any double-dip. Also by then I predict that the armageddon promised by the Left as a result of the cuts will have failed to materialise. In any case, it would be easy to underestimate people’s intelligence in how they react – it’s not as if Labour have been nowhere near the tiller in eighteen years.

This is not to say that I am a fan of the Cameron-Osborne clique. Reducing the deficit is key and the timescale is realistic (if not particularly bold), but it’s the detail where they have shown a disconnection with people. Ringfencing overseas aid but cutting defence, and then exacerbating it with the Libyan adventure has damaged Cameron beyond the Tory hardcore. The government seems to suffer from a chronic inability to defend itself – even, for instance, through the simple expedient of properly explaining the benefits to students of the new tuition fees system. A drip feed of incompetence stories will also, if unchecked, erode political confidence among floaters. They could even, arguably, have slowed any recovery: not by the cuts, but by over-doing the rhetoric to a degree not warranted by the necessity of playing to the audience in the markets. Recessions are ultimately states of mind, and can easily become self-fulfilling prophecies.

Finally, Cameron can always be relied upon to lose his cool with euro-sceptics; whether it’s ridiculing UKIP (a bad move, given that many Tories sympathise with the ‘Kippers) or condescending remarks on the desire for referendum on continued EU membership. Insulting your core supporters is never a good strategy especially when those supporters, who previously could only stay at home as a protest, now have another option to show their displeasure in the form of support for Nigel Farage’s gang. Lest we forget, finally, Cameron failed to win the general election – and for that he largely has himself to blame.

There is a possible saving grace, though, which really is difficult to call even if closer to an election: the Lib Dems. They have been thoroughly contaminated by coalition. They’ve spent a hundred years striving to get back into government in any meaningful sense, and they couldn’t have picked a worse time. With so many Conservative seats formerly seeing the Lib Dems as the natural challengers, we may now see the defections of former Lib Dem voters to Labour simply moving the colours around on the map, but making no real impact on the Conservative majority. Indeed, the prospect of a hung parliament in 2015 may be further away than at any time in decades. In what way this plays out depends on how the LibDems behave after Clegg. So, just as the final outcome of this election depended on the fortunes of Nick Clegg, so will the next.

The EU Endorses International Price Fixing

Let’s imagine for a moment that there was a collection of large corporations which held monopolies, or at least pretty unassailably dominant positions, in a number of key markets in their respective countries.

In each of their home territories these companies had the ruling politicians, and much of the opposition, on their payroll.

Abusing their monopolistic positions they were delivering poor quality services to customers who had little other choice but to take such services, and so they were able to charge pretty much whatever they felt like.

You would think that such corporations would be the target of some ire, not least among the Left. There would be calls to break up these organisations. They would be held up as an example of the ugly face of capitalism and certainly, in the current times, UKUncut and their fellow soap-dodging travellers would be occupying their branches, boycotting their businesses, marching and violently smashing their way to “social justice”. The intelligentsia and self-appointed experts would opine about the morality of such companies and what should be done to cut them down to size.

Then, as if to rub salt into a fatal wound, these companies openly colluded to fix prices across the EU. Those more enlightened businesses who saw an opportunity to benefit, by not going along with the racket, were bullied into line. Would you not expect – be you of the Left or Right – something to be done?

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Rioter Evictions: Don’t Kick Them Out, Kick Them Down

Not surprisingly

David Cameron back[s] councils planning to evict rioters
The prime minister has said people who “loot and pillage their own community” should be evicted from council houses.


David Cameron told the BBC he thought evictions were a way of “enforcing responsibility in our society”.

That David Cameron is backing a populist move I’m not going to criticise. He’s a politician. Alas we can only compare them by the number of bandwagons they jump on.

Back to the point, though: it’s a daft idea. Not the principle – abuse taxpayers’ ‘largesse’ and expect us to take such support away – it’s the practical aspects that cause the problems.

Why should children suffer because their sibling is a thieving scrote? What’s the point making them homeless when we’ll then end up re-housing them anyway?

On the other hand, it’s right that parent(s) take responsibility for their offspring’s crimes. Whining that “I can’t watch him and also keep an eye on little Chardonnay, Tyson and Kyle … I mean, have you seen the price of Sky subscriptions these days innit?” isn’t good enough. Children are a responsibility that you cannot turn off when you feel like it – it’s 24*7 – that’s even (slightly) longer than they have the widescreen telly switched on for.

Talking of parental responsibility and standards, we can’t ignore this gem from yesterday:

‘Sexy’ pics at 12, pregnant at 15 …and her proud mum’s delighted

A SCHOOLGIRL who posed aged 12 for controversial bikini pictures in a magazine is now pregnant at 15 – to the joy of her mum.

And why is her mum so overjoyed? Being a grandmother (again)? Looking forward to being a great-grandmother in her early sixties? Nope:

Jobless single mum Janis, 48, said she was delighted because the council will now have to give her a bigger house.
She added: “Our three-bedroom place was already overcrowded with her sisters Coco and Ritzy, her brother Tarot, Soya’s boyfriend Jake and one of her sister’s babies. Once the new baby comes the council will have to find us a place with four or five bedrooms.

“We’ve already started packing.”

F. F. S.

Interesting, in the context of evicting rioters, is what this tells us about what the parasitical classes value as status symbols. Yes, we can all think of the bull terriers, the plasma TVs, the chavved-up hot hatchbacks, but top of the premier league must be the size of your house.

(Not that different from so many, of course … except that if Joe Bloggs at last weekend’s barbeque had a five bedroom house, the assumption is that he owns it and honestly earned the money to pay for it (or service the mortgage). At a stretch, it may have come out of an inheritance, but the bequest was presumably not made under duress.)

So if the size of the house is such an important factor in what passes for the lives of the feckless, then we have a credible compromise when it comes to whether or not to evict rioters and their families. Don’t evict them from social housing completely – just move them into smaller accommodation. Had a four bedroom house before you smashed up the High Street? Now it’s a two bed. Had a two bed? Now it’s a studio flat. Hit them where, clearly, it would really hurt.

The cost to the taxpayer is reduced and the point is made, but without going through the ultimately pointless and even more expensive motions of eviction, B&B and rehousing in somewhere of equal size – or possibly, it cannot be ruled out, somewhere better than where they are now.

Now they can start packing.

What’s All the Fuss About David Starkey?

David Starkey, noted historian, and one who is fast moving up the liberal left’s league table of People It’s Obligatory To Hate (And Assault On Camera If You Get The Chance), is in trouble again over remarks made on BBC’s Newsnight regarding the causes of last week’s riots.

Image of Ali G, as performed by Sacha Baron Co...

Ali G being black, err I mean white ... no, black errm....

These, it seems, were the juicy bits (h/t to Toby Young who saved me having to patronise the BBC website):

“I’ve just been re-reading Enoch Powell. His prophecy was absolutely right in one sense. The Tiber didn’t foam with blood, but flames lambent wrapped round Tottenham and wrapped round Clapham.” (I bet you could just hear the sharp intakes of breath, couldn’t you?)

“What’s happened is that a substantial section of the Chavs that [Owen Jones] wrote about have become black. The whites have become black. A particular sort of violent, destructive, nihilistic, gangster culture has become the fashion. And black and white, boy and girl, operate in this language together, this language which is wholly false, which is this Jamaican patois that’s been intruded in England, and this is why so many of us have this sense of literally a foreign country.”

“Listen to David Lammy, an archetypical successful black man. If you turned the screen off so you were listening to him on radio you’d think he was white.”

I have come across the development of this story in reverse, in that I have read some of the left-liberal reaction hysteria before watching the actual comments, which has only made me more perplexed as to what the fuss was about.

I suspect that it arises from Dr. Starkey making the following two cardinal sins:

Firstly, he mentioned Enoch Powell in less than condemnatory terms. As all good liberals know, Enoch Powell was the devil’s own disciple. That he was warning of the dangers of immigration leading to violence, and that those warning in some ways appear to have been vindicated over the years are irrelevant. The liberal reaction is to ignore the message and focus on how it was said and be offended.

Secondly he used simplistic headline-esque language which will naturally attract unfair accusations of stereotyping. By talking of whites becoming black, we was using ‘black’ in the sense specifically of a street patois and culture. This is not ‘black’ culture but a culture of black origin. After all, we talk of ‘music of black origin’ – or ‘black music’ for short. He made a minor error in referring to Jamacan patois when it probably owes more to African-American street culture, but you’d have to very uptight to get upset over that, surely?

Similarly, saying that David Lammy was now “white” was in the context of Lammy (whose stock seems to have deservedly risen somewhat across the political spectrum in the last week) now appearing to fit in more comfortably into the traditional middle class “white” professional mould. Again, we are supposed to ignore the message, focus instead on how it was said and be offended. At the risk of being ironic here, I think that commentators are not accounting for Dr. Starkey, and his language, being a product of an older white academic background.

No doubt many of those getting worked up about Dr. Starkey were the same who accused Sacha Baron Cohen of racism over his Ali G character. Ali, over a decade ago, was a razor sharp satirical caricature of the “wigga” – the white chav who spoke and behaved like a faux west-side gangsta. Just as the Left ignored the message and focused on the method of delivery then, so they now ignore the very similar point being made in a more erudite way by Dr. Starkey.

Some people who have made a good living out of being offended and getting uptight about the language used by critics instead of trying to understand the arguments, and perhaps learning from them. It’s been said before time and time again: the liberal left need to start listening instead of trying to close down any unpalatable message with accusations of racism. If you don’t agree with Starkey, he still deserves to be met with intelligent argument.

The true causes of the riots are many, there are plenty of Lessons To Be Learnt from the last week, but perhaps this is another to be added to that syllabus.

Is Hugh Orde the Top Cop Union’s Official Candidate for Met Commissioner?

One could be forgiven for thinking so.

Admittedly, whether ACPO – the Association of Chief Police Officers – is a trade union or not is a nuanced point. They say they are a professional body, which for many white collar roles is the equivalent of a trade union (just as my own is in the world of accountancy). It works, it says, in the public interest – though you’ll have trouble finding a trade unionist who doesn’t think that their members’ interests are largely aligned with the public’s. There is a Chief Police Officers’ Staff Association, but the boundaries between it and ACPO will inevitably become blurred at times.

Bill Bratton

Old Bill not so keen on Bill Bratton

ACPO is certainly seen to oppose elected chief constables; the government policy that threatens to end the closed shop and cosy club that is the higher ranks of the police service. Now its General Secretary President, Sir Hugh Orde, attacks the idea of a foreigner – the American Bill Bratton – becoming an adviser on gang crime, and thus implicitly his suitability for taking over as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police; a job that Bratton is rumoured to be favoured for by Number 10 ‘in the longer term’. This is done just as a ‘traditional’ trade union might grumble over the use of foreign labour ‘taking their member’s jobs’ – or, as they would more likely put it in politically correct terms – compromising the quality of service or safety that otherwise only their members British workers can provide.

This being ACPO, Sir Hugh also throws in the ubiquitous complaint about politicisation of the police (which is equally debatable, given its implied assumption that the service isn’t already politicised).

To be fair, though, so far Hugh Orde is just doing his job as the leader of the ‘trade union’ of the top police brass, but with one crucial added factor; he sees himself as being in the running for the vacant job at the top of the Met. Slagging off the Prime Minister might be a strange way of going about making the case for his appointment, though it may well chime with the views and ethos of the Home Office civil servants who will be drawing up the short-list and advising the Home Secretary.

What is not so clear is how all this will be received by any other potential candidates among the top ranks. A chief constable of another large provincial force, say, might not be so happy with the interventions of Sir Hugh. Not that he or she might disagree with what he is saying, but that there can be little doubt that his comments would receive far less attention were he not the top man at ACPO.

ACPO themselves would no doubt say that the title of this post is a QTWTAIN. However, others might suggest that a more circumspect organisation would endeavour to put up spokesmen who would not be seen to have such a potential personal interest. After all, these days in politics how things look often trumps how things are.

An Alternative 2011: Mayor Livingstone Reacts to the #Riots

Day 1: Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, expresses shock at Tottenham riots, but said people needed answers over Duggan shooting.

Day 2: Ken is concerned over spread of rioting across North London. He “understands the protestors’ grievances”. He makes comments suggesting that Tesco’s had it coming, but points out to the rioters that they’re wrong because some of the small businesses being hit are run by black business people. Blames the Coalition cuts.

Day 3: Ken says that violence is never the answer and achieves nothing. Announces more cash for youth centres, sponsorship of street artists and grants free Olympic tickets to all under 21’s and single parents in Haringey and Enfield. Blames the unrest on lingering resentment over Iraq and Afghanistan.

Day 4: “Londoners need to come together to say no to racism, hate speech and incitement to violence”, Ken says, adding, “we need calmer voices of reconciliation to be heard”. Announces a summit featuring Lee Jasper, Jody McIntyre, Lindsay German and Ali Desai.

Day 5: Demands explanation after groups complain of police using violence against rioters and kettling of 12 year old looters. Blames the rioting on the legacy of Margaret Thatcher.

Ad nauseam until May 2012….

Bloggin Is Light

This week, of all weeks, is the one when I’m out of range of any wifi or fixed internet access, amd have to make do with a woefully inadequate 3G connection combined with the iPad’s pathetic on-screen keyboard.

Yes, blogging will be light.