THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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December 2007

Visiting with the Sopranos

Link: Tour Sopranos Sites in New York City and New Jersey.

Blogger_with_vitoBlogger_at_dinerDsc_2260Blogger_in_booth I don't think I have ever mentioned here how much I have enjoyed the TV series, "The Sopranos." Although it is uncomfortable viewing at times (your blogger is a sensitive soul with no appetite for violence) it is also witty, clever and well-written.

As I am in New York, I took the chance to join a bus tour of Sopranos locations around New Jersey. I was nervous that my companions might all be geeks and obsessives, but actually I may have been one of the worst Sopranos geeks there. It was great fun. To my surprise, a cast member turned up - Joe Gannascoli, who plays "Vito" in the series - and I was photographed with him.

Here I am on the steps of the diner where two aspiring young mobsters attempted to "whack" Christopher Moltisanti (played by Michael Imperioli). And here is the commemorative plaque in the booth at Holsten's in Bloomfield, NJ where the final scene of the series was shot. I was photographed there too, in Tony Soprano's last seat (click photos to enlarge).

I had a fun day and didn't think about Gordon Brown or the death of civil liberties in Britain once.

Slavery in Modern Britain

Yesterday, I walked around the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. On my iPod I was listening to Copland's "Lincoln Portrait", which includes a narration featuring some of President Lincoln's own words. One passage struck me as I enjoyed the Chinese art I had gone to see.

It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, 'You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it.' No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle." --October 15, 1858 Debate at Alton

Many people in Britain are living by that same principle today. Do the able but unemployed or "economically inactive" on benefits not say "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it". How do they differ, precisely, from tyrants or slave-owners? For five months of the calendar year until "Tax Freedom Day", are we not their slaves, forced to work without pay to support them? After all, £200 billion of the UK's £600 billion annual budget is spent on welfare benefits.

Just before I left England last week, I was horrified to hear the story of a young man in his twenties who had been signed "on the sick" for 15 years, after being diagnosed with depression. The logic of his doctor was that it can take that long to treat. So it can - and not always with success. Equally, many of the most successful people in our economy are depressives trying to prove to themselves that they have a right to exist by making a positive contribution to society! I have worked with several. This young chap should, of course, get help but he is unlikely to recover by sitting home between therapy sessions contemplating his sad psychological fate.

In what sane economy would a young man, physically strong, be told to stay home until he is in his late forties because he has a non-disabling illness? Economics apart, what sane doctor would discourage a patient in such a shocking manner? I suspect the doctor did not regard him as a genuine case and chose to give what he thought was a routine lead-swinger exactly what he wanted, without the need to see him again.

How can kind intentions and a desire for social security have led to the majority of us living half our working lives as slaves to idlers? I exempt from all criticism those who are between jobs and seeking work; those who are genuinely disabled and unable to work. My concern is for those (and they know who they are) whose "bad backs," "depression" or whose selfish desires to have more children than they can afford lead them to live their lives in idleness at the expense of their fellows. They are slave masters and should be despised as such.

New power to seize passports

Passport_thumbnail Link: New power to seize passports - Times Online.

It's Christmas. I am trying to focus on the good things of life. This blog is about civil liberties though, so how can I ignore this story? The phrase "police state" is over-used in dealing with the New Labour Project and I try to avoid it. I try to express my opposition to this authoritarian government (mostly) in a moderate and (I hope) persuasive way. But this is yet another piece in the jigsaw puzzle which - if we don't prevent it from being completed - will one day reveal a police state in Britain.

Anyone who has contact with Britain's officials knows that they revel in their new status under New Labour. Whereas, as a young man, I could - and one one occasion did - tell a policemen to get lost when he exceeded his powers, I would never do so now. At the borders, there are signs warning against "verbal assault" on the minions of the State; many of whom are in dire need of being put in their place as public servants.

My livelihood is outside Britain's borders. After Russia, I shall probably work in China or India or the United States. Though I remit profits home to be taxed, I have no vote in Britain because I have been away 15 years. I would be afraid to return if officialdom could remove my right to earn a living at whim. That right is fundamental enough to require the protection of the courts.

"Be you never so high," Mr Brown, "the law is above you." Or ought to be. My freedom of movement and my right to earn a living should not be jeopardised other than by decision of an independent court or (preferably) a jury of my peers. The Government is there to serve us, not boss us. It is time the voters of Britain made that clear. As I am disenfranchised, I would be very grateful if my fellow-citizens would do so on my behalf.

h/t Guthrum

Clarity at Christmas?

Link: seasons_greetings.swf (application/x-shockwave-flash Object).

Christmas_2007I guess this London law firm (follow link above) is simply making a seasonal joke about its marketing tagline - Clarity Matters - but this sort of thing still mildly gets my goat. Had they wished me "Happy Hannukah" or "Happy Eid" (as some very politically correct business contacts have done) I would not have been at all offended.

I am happy these days to have a happy anything. Happily, I can't see how someone wishing me to be happy could make me any more unhappy than I might otherwise happen to be. I cheerfully wished a Muslim friend in Russia "Happy Christmas" when we parted and he did not seem remotely bothered.  Why should he be? I was merely being pleasant and surely intention counts for something? Yes, in my moment of bonhomie, I had forgotten what religion he is, but it's hardly a topic of conversation with us. Indeed, I am only assuming he's a Muslim because 99.99% of his countrymen are. Maybe I am wrong? Either way, no sane person cares.

Few of us may be practising Christians in England now, but Christianity and its festivals are part of national life. Generations of Christians worked to make it that way, so - while modern Christians could take offence at the (from their point of view) insincerity of our casual references to their Saviour - they are not in a position to complain. If people of other faiths are offended by expressions of goodwill couched in superficially religious terminology, it is hardly in the best spirit of the inter-faith dialogue religious leaders are always promoting.

Blogging is going to be light here for the next few days as my family and I will be travelling. It's my youngest's 18th (she shares her birthday with Jesus Christ) and we plan to celebrate in style. I hope that you all enjoy your holiday celebrations with family and friends. As an atheist, perhaps I have no right to say so but - with the very best of kind intentions -  I wish you all a very merry Christmas (click card to enlarge).

National Debt

  Link: The Devil's Kitchen: National Debt.

National_debtDon't click through to the linked post if you are offended by bad language or economic mismanagement. Frankly, the details of the latter are so shocking, that you will be a sensitive soul indeed if you even notice The Devil's Kitchen's foul language. Such is the scale of New Labour's prudence economic ****wittery.

The Office for National Statistics (click graph to the left to enlarge) shows the National Debt as a percentage of GDP. In a sustained period of GDP growth, one might have hoped for a prudent government to reduce that proportion. Indeed, while honouring its first term pledge to keep to Conservative spending plans, Labour did so. The story has been rather different in the second and third terms; Labour's "Post prudence years."

After some googling, I was able to find figures for UK GDP since 1997 and make the graph below (click to enlarge). This shows GDP from 1997 to 2005 (no figures are yet available for 2006 and 2007).Gdp

If the government is spending £60 billion more than it takes in tax at the end of such a good economic run, imagine the carnage when GDP growth turns down. It is hard not to share DK's view that;

They are spending money like they are just trying to empty the piggy-bank as swiftly as possible so that whoever takes over from them is utterly ****ed.

By the way, you may be amused by a screen shot (below, click to enlarge) of what happens if you try to find the above basic data on the Office for National Statistics site.

Open_governmentTo add to all this, our darling Chancellor has further increased the National Debt by underwriting the obligations of a failing bank. It is difficult to discern what relationship this bears to his puppet-master's famed "prudence."  The consequences of Northern Rock being allowed to fail (with the established depositor protection for the small savers) would have been as nothing, compared to the mess we are wading into now.

When the government removes the lampposts in London on "global warming" grounds and makes private ownership of ropes illegal for "health and safety" reasons, we will know that they know they have been rumbled.

Pension details of 6,500 lost in new data fiasco

Link: Pension details of 6,500 lost in new data fiasco - Telegraph.

The Daily Telegraph says the Government is "reeling." In what sense? Lord Denning used to say that he had "all the Christian virtues, except resignation." The members of this Government don't have that, or any other, virtue. They are shameless rascals to a man and woman.

It is a paradox to say that, when politicians were amateurs, they were more professional. But it is true. A politician who follows the path from studying politics at university, serving as a researcher or working in PR/GR or the political media directly into Parliament knows nothing of real life. A politician who had been a lawyer, business person or even trade unionist (if in the private sector) at least knew how the real world worked; how wealth was created. These idiots quite simply don't. They are prone, in consequence, to propose solutions that people in business would fire underlings even for contemplating.

If they knew how the world worked, they would understand that government on the scale we have it now is doomed to fail. Millions of people administering tens of millions of other people's money will never take care of how it is spent. Especially when more can simply be taken by force to meet any shortfall. Such people will inevitably be taken for a ride by service providers. They will be overcharged and under served in every respect. With no meaningful economic forces at play in their lives, their employees will be lackadaisical at best; corrupt at worst. Yet our "leaders" have no such concerns. Every day they propose some aspect of our lives that they should manage. The grandiosity of their schemes varies inversely with their ability to execute them. The fascist ID database and cards are the best examples. Forget the moral case for a moment, the scheme's proponents lack even the wit to understand why they can't make it work.

Their incompetence is proved daily but, frankly, it needs no proof. With the best will in the world how could an unutterable loser like Gordon Brown have acquired any practical skills when he has never done an honest job? He has done nothing but spin and plot since he was a student politician. In a sense, he still is a student politician; a naif, for all his grumpy affectation of worldly-wisdom. Most of my junior staff could (under my supervision) take him to the cleaners, while juggling thirty other tasks. Our rulers may be professional politicians, but they are amateurs at life. Yet still they aspire to lead the skilled, the experienced, the industrious and the talented. What fools they are. What greater fools we are to let them.

NHS may deny care to woman over Avastin

Link: NHS may deny care to woman over Avastin - Telegraph.

MedicalOur Government does not believe in the death penalty for murder or even treason. However, it is ready to sentence a woman to death if she pays for a drug which the National Health Service cannot afford. Her crime, according to a spokesman from the Department of Health is:

"direct contravention with (sic) the principles and values of the NHS"

You could not make this stuff up.

Chief scientist in sports cars warning to women

Link: Chief scientist in sports cars warning to women - Telegraph.

NerdIt's official. The Government acknowledges no boundaries to its role in our lives. Now it is trying to tell women to which men they should be sexually attracted. One can't help wondering if they are being disinterested though. Does the Government's chief scientist (pictured, with cheesy grin) have no personal interest in suggesting attractive women should fancy nerds?

In the famous words of  Mandy Rice-Davies "Well he would, wouldn't he?"