THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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December 2006

Jeremy Clarkson - The Good The Bad The Ugly [2006]: DVD: Clarkson

Link: Jeremy Clarkson - The Good The Bad The Ugly [2006]: DVD: Clarkson.

My Christmas tradition includes, as regular readers would guess, the Jeremy Clarkson DVD. Last year's was not so great and this one started badly with a dose of his least endearing feature; his anti-Americanism. However, it has got my Christmas off to a terrific start with a predictably poisonous review of the disgusting Toyota Prius - followed by a suspiciously photogenic "redneck" shooting it to bits with a interesting collection of armaments. Bliss.

Life, despite the viciously mendacious best efforts of our enemies, is bliss. Merry Christmas, gentle readers. God bless us, every one.

2006: a vintage year for ideas that will change our world

Link: 2006: a vintage year for ideas that will change our world | Comment | The Observer.

Will Hutton, over at the The Observer, is wondering (among other things) what makes us happy, and reaching predictable conclusions.

For two or three decades, economists and philosophers have questioned whether technology and rising wealth automatically mean greater well-being. In 2006, we finally realised that we are too inattentive to what makes us happy, a crucial step forward. Happiness is about earning the esteem of others, behaving ethically, contributing selflessly to human betterment and assuaging the need to belong. We have finally understood it is not economic growth that delivers these results - it is the way we behave

This hopelessly misses the point - in the best traditions of the journal for Britain's muddled thinkers. The straw man set up to be burned is the idea that anybody ever thought economic growth, per se, made us happy. Of course it doesn't. It just gives us more opportunity to pursue happiness.

If I were living as a subsistence farmer, it would take all my strength just to live and reproduce. As it is, I live in a high-tech society and can make my way in the world by relatively short hours of work. That gives me time which I can squander on drugs or daytime TV, or spend in pursuing my social, intellectual or spiritual goals. Only a Socialist was ever materialist enough to consider that non-Socialists thought about nothing but money!

Why do the Guardian and the Observer always have to promote the notion, if not that economic activity is actually evil, at least that only uneconomic activity is truly ethical? They are not mutually-exclusive. In fact, the one permits the other. Ironically, it takes the economic efforts of millions to keep those lazy, slack-brained lefties in a position to earn a crust by criticising those who keep them in lentils and corduroy.

Anyway, gentle readers, whatever it is that makes you happy, I hope it is working overtime for you this Christmas.

Fund manager raises alarm over dropping of BAE inquiry

Link: Fund manager raises alarm over dropping of BAE inquiry | Special Reports | Guardian Unlimited Politics.

I am an English-qualified commercial lawyer, practising in Moscow. My government's Christmas present to me has been to make my work more difficult.

Western clients negotiating joint ventures with Russian companies are anxious to build in contractual safeguards against corruption. You can imagine that the Russian companies take offence - sometimes real, sometimes synthetic. It's a delicate topic and I often feel sorry for honest Russian businessmen dealing with the consequences of their country's less-than-stellar reputation.

Britain's reputation as a relatively "clean" business culture has at least allowed me to deal with the issue straight-faced. Now I face a New Year full of nods, winks and references to Britain's "selective approach."

President Putin enjoyed teasing British journalists at the St Petersburg G8 summit this year with references to Lord Levy. Now his business compatriates get to join in the fun. Thanks, New Labour. "Forward, not back" - ever deeper into the mire.

As for the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, he should be disbarred for uttering the shameful words

"It has been necessary to balance the need to maintain the rule of law against the wider public interest"
Nothing has served the British public interest better than the rule of law. Nothing has damaged that more than the disrespect into which New Labour has brought the law by what Andrew Marr called "binge legislating." Now Goldsmith demonstrates, in a different way, the contempt that the failed lawyers of New Labour feel for the legal principles they never grasped in their careers.

Gentle reader, I promise you I am casting about for something Christmassy and cheerful to post. Fingers crossed. There are still 24 hours to go.

Baby dies and five are infected as bacteria strain infests neonatal unit

Link: Telegraph | News | Baby dies and five are infected as bacteria strain infests neonatal unit.

Imagine the scandal if this tragedy were to occur at a private hospital. "Our NHS" kills with impunity however. Bill Bryson once wrote that Britain is one place where Communism might actually have worked, because the people are so willing to queue. He underestimated their docility. They are also tolerant of State incompetence, even - apparently - unto death. People routinely die of diseases spread in filthy NHS hospitals. This story is the norm, not the exception. Only the poignancy of the death of an infant elevates it to a modest headline.

Every day I wait for the British people to "draw the line". Every day, I fear that Bryson's wry observation had more truth in it than he knew.

Tagged: The 7 best things I have done this year

James Higham has tagged me, so I must do my duty. I am not tagging anyone else though. These things have to end somewhere and it might as well be with me. Reading them over, I can't see why anyone else would be interested as they are all terribly personal.

1. Watched my elder daughter’s eyes she opened her offer of a place at her chosen college.
2. Took the call from my younger daughter about her GCSE results.
3. Moved to a much better apartment in Moscow.
4. Drove my car from the North of England to the South of France and back.
5. Found one kindred spirit in my firm to replace those “characters” who have left or retired.
6. Offended the Staffordshire Constabulary's Department for Dunning Innocent Motorists by forgetting to remove the $100 note from its traditional East European location before sending my driving licence in for its first endorsement in 30+ years of driving.
7. Organised the best ever birthday party for my wife.

Bloggers not the equivalent of Tom Paine

Link: The Leaf Chronicle - - Clarksville, TN.

It is good to know that my namesake is so valued in Clarksville, Tennessee - even if that esteem is manifested in a desire to defend his shade from the accusation (made by Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine) that

"Thomas Paine was in effect the first blogger" and that "Ben Franklin was essentially loading his persona into the MySpace of the 18th century, 'Poor Richard's Almanack."'
I defer to no-one, not even the Leaf Chronicle of Clarksville, in my admiration for the original Tom Paine. But I am with Mr Stengel in feeling that, were he alive today, Tom would blog. The Leaf Chronicle is particularly harsh in stating that
"Paine was perhaps history's most consequential pamphleteer. There are expected to be 100 million bloggers by the middle of 2007, which is why none will be like Franklin or Paine. Both were geniuses; genius is scarce. Both had a revolutionary civic purpose, which they accomplished by amazing exertions. Most bloggers have the private purpose of expressing themselves, for their own satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with that, but nothing demanding or especially admirable, either. They do it successfully because there is nothing singular about it, and each is the judge of his or her own success."
Ouch. I guess it depends on how you define success. To a professional journalist, the voluntary outpourings of bloggers must seem strange, whether well written or ill. The original Tom was an humble corset-maker and the first extraordinary thing about him, in the England of his day, was that he got up the nerve to publish. I venture to guess that there were thousands of unpublished Tom Paines with as much to say and perhaps even the ability to say it as well.

Most of the 100 million blogs will not much reward the effort of finding them; that much is certain. Tom would have been pleased to have so much competition, though I do not doubt he would have seen most of it off quite easily. He found his audience, but he would have published - had he the means - without one. He wrote because he had no choice; his views brimmed over and could not be contained. How like a blogger was that?

Dr David Haslam

Link: National Obesity Forum - Dr David Haslam.

Follow the link to see the face of the affable family doctor who believes the State has the right to assault your child.

Speaking of a government survey on childhood obesity which has failed to gather enough data to be useful, David Haslam, clinical director of the National Obesity Forum, said:

"This is potentially a very useful tool but is turning out to be worse than useless. The main problem is that parents have been given the choice of letting kids opt out."

I always wonder if such men understand the implications of what they say. If parents were not "given the choice" then the State would logically be entitled to compel children to be weighed and measured. How? At gunpoint? How many parents would the good Doctor be prepared to fine or imprison in order to compel them to present their unwilling child?

Incidentally, I just love the idea that they are "given" the choice. Who gives it to them? In Dr. Haslam's world-view, do the parents and the children belong to the State? How does he distinguish - in his own mind - between such hapless zeks and full-blown slaves?

For once, the Government is (no doubt temporarily) on the side of the angels. A Department of Health spokeswoman said:

"Children and parents obviously have the right to withhold consent."

It's not so obvious to Dr. David Haslam, evidently. Such are the, often well-meaning, imbeciles who are delivering us to tyranny.