THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
Previous month:
January 2008
Next month:
March 2008

February 2008

Yes, but which city?

Further to my previous post, it seems Paris is the big city for me. There was no question about speedy Mac repairs though...

You Belong in Paris
Stylish and expressive, you were meant for Paris.
The art, the fashion, the wine!
Whether you're enjoying the cafe life or a beautiful park...
You'll love living in the most chic place on earth.

Why I love big cities

The day before yesterday, in Frankfurt airport, I knocked my heavy suitcase onto my briefcase and damaged the screen of my trusty laptop, a MacBook Pro. Struggling with the one corner of the screen which worked, I emailed my secretary to find an Apple dealer in Moscow who could fix it. She came up with quotes ranging from 18,000 to 20,000 roubles ($800 or thereabouts) and with time estimates varying from 4 weeks to 1 working day. Obviously Mr One Working-Day got the job. The machine was delivered to him at 1100 today. It's 1830 now and I am blogging again from the repaired machine. I am not sure I could have achieved that in London, still less in the small Northern town which is home when I am in England. But in cities of 10 million+ people, anything is (or should be) possible. I can't imagine living anywhere smaller now. No retirement to the countryside for me.

I would praise the efficient Apple dealer by name, but I am not sure any of my readers are in Moscow. Should you want his name and number, click the email link in the sidebar. He's my hero at present and I will be happy to send business his way.

Top US accountability officer quits over job constraints

Link: Top US accountability officer quits over job constraints - Yahoo! News.

Dave_walkerPerhaps I spoke too soon in lauding the US system of government for allowing its Comptroller General to inform the voting public of the true, dire, state of the nation's finances. The gentleman in question, David Walker, is making an early departure from the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) to head a new public interest foundation.

In a press statement, he said;

As Comptroller General of the United States and head of the GAO, there are real limitations on what I can do and say in connection with key public policy issues, especially issues that directly relate to GAO's client -- the Congress

I wonder what those "real limitations" are.

It's amazing how often politicians attempt to hide the facts, rather than face them. It seems to be a defect in democracy itself that, since so few voters are paying any real attention, spin, lies and suppression of data work better, politically, than good performance. The more "professional" politics becomes, the more dishonest it seems to be.

Perhaps it's time to brush the dust off my plan (patent pending) to appoint legislators by lottery so that they are truly representative of society (and unable to form such lasting conspiracies against the public interest as the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties). Or perhaps we need term limits on legislators so that no-one can become a career politician.

Of course, it would be far simpler to shrink the state to such an extent that being a legislator could - as it once was - be part-time voluntary work.

Beware the sanitisation of public debate

Link: Taking Liberties - Simon Clark - Home - Beware the sanitisation of public debate.

Claire Fox, director of the Institute of Ideas, makes some very good points about free speech. Do read the whole thing. And while you are over there, why not sign up for a feed from the new "Taking Liberties" blog, which promises to be an important new voice from a broadly libertarian standpoint.

Max, 19, hits the road

Link: Max, 19, hits the road | Travelog | Guardian Unlimited.

Skinny3 Like everyone else, I went to this Guardian "blog" to laugh at the comments about Max Gogarty (son of travel correspondent Paul Gogarty) who is having his gap year travel subsidised by his Dad's employer. In return, he is going to blog regularly about his experiences. Yes, it's a bit of old-fashioned nepotism. Yes, I did laugh a little. Then I began to feel sick.

The kid is 19, for Christ's sake. He can't have anticipated this sort of reaction. Still less can he deserve it. Yet the commenters, good Guardianistas all, lay in to him with venomous will. If you want to understand just how repulsive British Leftists are, get over your schadenfreude about their mutual cannibalism and think about what they are saying. They are entirely driven by hatred and envy.

If you feel that's a contentious statement, here are some examples of what they  felt it appropriate to say about young, innocent, Max. This is the merest sampling of a torrent of abuse. Noting all the "deleted by moderator" markers, I wonder how vile were the comments that were not allowed to stand!

Instead of setting off on yet another inane, identikit trip around Asia before you take up your place at Oxbridge (or wherever), why don't you leave your family's Highgate mansion FOR GOOD, cut yourself off from your father's allowance, move into a council estate in Salford, STAY THERE, and then consider writing a blog about your experiences.

I wonder which council estate in Salford that commenter lives on? As someone who never visits England without spending some time with family on a council estate, I can't say I have met many Guardianistas there. I have a mental picture of the commenter as a corduroyed teacher from the ever-more-impoverished petty bourgeoisie spitting bile on behalf of a social class that doesn't give a toss about him.

Hooray! Just what is needed. Another blog by a posh boy related to a Guardian employee to keep us all up to date with his adventures in places that millions have experienced already. Wow, what a bright idea.

That one rather gives the game away, doesn't it? No real member of the working class would be under the impression that "millions have experienced" gap year treks to Asia. Only someone whose friends have done such things could possibly think so.

As for skinny jeans, Max if ever you eat from the street you may wish you had something a little more baggy and easy to remove, alternatively you could take some nappies.

I'm not sure that the street vendors take Amex though.

You can have your first ladyboy experience in Thailand, but maybe you won't journal that one, just look out for the adams apple.

Is this for the gold or silver DOE award?

Where are quentin, rupert and tiggy going to be? i'm sure the blackberry will keep you all in touch.

Why are class warriors are so keen on the hereditary principle? Young Max has had no independent life in which he can demonstrate his worth. Surely every young human being should be a vehicle of hope? Maybe he will make some great contribution? Maybe we will all be glad he was born? I certainly hope so, but for the commenter it's quite enough that his Dad is a member of the ruling class well-paid journalist. He needs no more excuse to hate Max. Whatever happened to "equality of opportunity?" Was it really (as I always suspected) only a code for "take from all others that which I have not had myself?"

I am literally sick to the back teeth of having to see/listen to all of these posh mummies boys who have never lived a day in reality of their lives talking like they have a clue about anything. They seem to have deluded notion that their opinion is more valid because everything they ever wanted has been handed to them on a plate.

If you want to go somewhere and find yourself, sleep rough in Glasgow for a few night

[Edited by moderator]

I would love to see the bit that the moderator deemed too rude! "Literally" sick to the back teeth? In a torrent of abusive comments about Max's clichéd writing, we get someone who thinks a cliché is not a cliché if you put the word "literally" in front of it. I wonder what "day of reality" (apart from the tedium of the staff-room alternating with the chaos of the classroom) he  has ever experienced?

British Socialists are invariably nasty and brutish and often short to boot. Losers to a man and woman, they get pleasure from hating anyone who is not. There is nothing they like better than a good sneer. Poor young Max has had an early lesson in life. I hope it does him good. Certainly it should show him who his true friends are.

Enjoy your trip, young man. Bless your good fortune that you have had the chance to make it and try to come back with enough wisdom to see through the Guardian's world view. In the meantime, I leave the last words to "djak", one of the commenters who managed to make me smile amid my despair at human folly;

What a nasty set of mean-sprited jealous bastards Guardian readers seem to be from reading the above torrents of abuse.

Don't read the damn thing then you pompous twats.

Anyway how will you find the time to, what? with all that homemade organic hummous waiting to be knitted?


Blogpower Common Room

Link: Blogpower: Blogpower Common Room.

BcrI have made available a meeting place in Second Life for members of Blogpower. Just click this link to be taken to a page which will (if you are a "resident" of Second Life) open your software and take you straight to the room. It's on one deck of a spaceship above my land. Please feel free to visit at any time and arrange to meet other members there. I look forward to seeing you.

YouTube - GAO: "USA is living beyond its means"

Link: YouTube - GAO: "USA is living beyond its means".

I don't feature this video to gloat at the financial mess the USA is in. After "the Greatest Generation" came "the Greedy Generation" which lavished unfunded benefits on itself. It happened in Britain even more than in America. My generation has paid, and my children's generation (if they are foolish enough to stay in Britain) will pay the debts which were run up by our fathers and grandfathers with their unfunded health care, state education and pensions schemes. All were described as "free", but they have cost dearly. The only plan of the people who conceived them was that we subsequent generations would pick up the bill. It was a demographic pyramid scheme, which went hopelessly wrong when the baby boom turned out to be a one off. The frantic attempts to pack our small island with immigrants is a direct consequence of that, as the baby boomers try to create the demographics they imagined when they laid their greedy plans.

I post the video rather to demonstrate - and to honour - how public accountability functions in a real democracy. Anyone who imagines the British Government would allow a public official to give such an honest public account of our national finances is deluding himself. Yes, the candidates in the current Presidential elections are promising to increase public expenditure further, even though present commitments are unfunded to an awesome extent. But the information is there for any citizen - or for any journalist - to call them out on their imprudence. The US press regularly does. In Britain, alas, we have only our dear and worthy friend Wat Tyler.

Our position is every bit as bad as, if not worse than, America's. Yet our press has utterly failed to hold the government to account. Our journalists have lazily swallowed the myth of Gordon Brown's "prudence." As for Britain's equivalent to America's Comptroller General, what can one say?  He isn't fit to hold a candle to Dave Walker.

h/t Devil's Kitchen

Absolutely, incredibly, utterly wrong! (or is it?)

Link: Absolutely, incredibly, utterly wrong! | Anatole Kaletsky - Times Online.

Northerncrock_thumbnailAnatole Kaletsky's analysis of the Northern Rock disaster says it all on the economics of the matter. He seems to miss the politics, however. He asks why the Government should put £100 billion on the line to save 6,000 jobs at the Crock, when one-tenth or even 100th of that could have saved many more jobs in more important and valuable companies. What a naive question. The Crock is from the corrupt heartlands of the Labour North where it's simply a given that the Party will look after its own. This was the building society that subsidised the miners in their struggle with the Thatcher Government. This is the bank that diverted profits (when it had some) to a list of projects which read like a New Labour manifesto, including IPPR "the only English policy and research think tank outside London" (which Guido describes as "New Labour's favourite think-tank and source of policy ideas")

Kaletsky then naively observes that

It is quite likely that the European Commission will veto the business plans for Northern Rock unless these provide for a rapid rundown of both its lending and deposit-taking operations.

He may be missing the point there. Of course this nationalisation expropriation is illegal "state aid" of the kind Brown has vociferously opposed elsewhere in Europe. In announcing "business as usual," Gordon Brown knows he cannot deliver, but also that he can blame the EU for his eventual failure to do so. It is in the nature of Britain's toxic relationship with the EU that it is used as an excuse for every unpalatable action. I am a Eurosceptic myself, but rational enough to know that the EU is not to blame for everything.

Wat Tyler today spells out the mess the Crock is in.

NR's Mortgages in arrears topped £1bn in December - up by nearly a quarter on the position five months earlier. The number of mortgages in arrears also increased by nearly 20% between July and December to more than 9, 000 households.

Repossessions in December more than doubled over the previous month. Northern Rock had to take the keys to 237 properties, swelling its pool of repossessed homes to some 1,100. Properties with mortgages in excess of the value of the property have also been steadily rising - up by more than 10% in five months.

These facts are well known to the government, which has spent millions on the best advice available. Gordon Brown may know nothing about economics but he is a well advised, viciously cunning politician. He knows he will reap political benefits from a pretence of "saving" Northern Rock. He has already recovered from much of the damage Northern Rock did to his opinion poll ratings. In opposing his actions, the Tories will appear to  an economically-naive electorate to be the nasty party from the South of England baying for Northern blood. The average voter simply cannot get his head around the idea of £100 billion (which is why I think the cost of all government projects should be expressed as the number of working lives consumed to pay for them).

When, finally, the government is "forced" to do what Kaletsky thinks it should, it will do so "reluctantly" in the face of EU pressure. "Brussels" will be cast in its usual role in Britain as the political equivalent of Satan.

Nationalisation may well be "Absolutely, incredibly, utterly wrong" economically, but it may not prove to be such bad politics.