THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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July 2009

Should BA survive?

British Airways needs job cuts to survive, CEO says.

It pays to stop from time to time, look at your business and ask "If I were starting today, is this how I would do it?" If you apply this test to BA, the answer is certainly "no." In many respects, BA is the opposite of what you would do.

I stopped flying it years ago. It is a complacent organisation, long buoyed up by its heritage of flag carrier slots out of the worlds busiest (and shabbiest) international hub. It is almost heroically indifferent to its customers. Outside of a long marriage, it is hard to be taken more for granted than you are when you fly BA. Flights are routinely unpunctual (in a business where it takes real effort to stand out negatively). Its domestic terminal at Heathrow has the rancid atmosphere of a provincial bus station. The much trumpeted launch of its new international terminal merely reinforced the nation's reputation for organisational incompetence.

Generally, as a company, it has what can only be described as "a bad attitude." As a frequent flyer and a patriotic Briton, I would be sorely tempted to crack open the champagne in celebration if it were to collapse and cease to embarrass the nation by its frumpy mediocrity.

Having said that, for the sake of the poor shareholders, I hope its management can turn it round. Recessions are precious opportunities to shake up ossified businesses. To put it another way, if it were not for recessions, all businesses would eventually become as bad as BA. In current circumstances, if it is not radically transformed in the next few months, it will never survive. It is close to collapse, perhaps, but it is also closer to salvation than it has been since it was formed. How so? Its situation is now so dire that even a trade unionist ought to be able to grasp it. At such points, great things can be achieved.

Difference and Similarity

Dreamstime_6091591 I am spending this week and next in Shanghai for my work, which pleases me greatly. It's only my third visit and the first where I have been able to stay a while. I have always been fascinated by China. This is a culture which has existed continuously for thousands of years.  I don't have any profound thoughts to offer today. Moving between an hotel and an office block in a central business district is no way to understand a civilisation. I have lived too much abroad to jump to any rapid and foolish conclusions.

My only observation so far is this. Why has our own - supposedly shallow - culture had such a powerful influence around the world? Take dress for example. The Chinese men in the streets of Shanghai are dressed exactly like their counterparts in the City of London. The women too - at least around the offices and shops of the city centre- wear "Western" dress, albeit (apart from the occasional power-dressed businesswoman or administrator) a rather girlish version.

Why? Western dress for men in particular, is boring. There is so little scope for colour or individuality (especially in a recession, when even tiny flamboyances are forbidden). Why did our choices prevail?

Harriet Harman is as daft as a brush

Discrimination against northerners to be banned under Harriet Harman plans - Telegraph.

Indeed, lads and lasses, if brains were gunpowder, she wouldn't have enough to blow her bloody hat off.

I grew up "oop North" among just the kind of hatred to which she is now pandering. I remember a new boy whose father had moved from St Albans to work at a local factory being bullied remorselessly by cretins (including teachers, sad to say) with nothing better to be proud of than their local roots. He ignored them disdainfully, made such friends as he could and eventually wreaked an elegant revenge. He worked his way one by one through all the most attractive girls. His elocution did not seem to be a problem to them.

The hatred of "soft Southerners" is childish and pathetic. It's not worthy of attention. For a government minister to promote it by giving credence to the ludicrous notion that Northerners are unfairly discriminated against is to sow more division and mutual hatred in a country already riven by discord.

A decent government would strive to bring harmony and unity. This indecent one doesn't care how much inter-communal damage it does, if by pandering to ignorance and prejudice it has any faint hope of saving its sorry electoral hide.

I hate Harriet Harman and all her ilk. I plan to discriminate against them at every opportunity. I recommend, dear reader, that you do the same; especially when it comes to elections.

Does Shahid have a point?

Twitter / Shahid Ahmad: When Theo van Gogh was mur ....

 Blogger Shahid Ahmad of Suspect Paki is tweeting furiously about this shocking story. A Russian in Germany was being prosecuted at the instigation of a Muslim couple for "insult and abuse". The accused strode across the court room and stabbed complainant Marwa el-Sherbini 18 times in front of her 3 year old son, killing her. She was pregnant. It is a disgusting crime, which in the Muslim world is now giving rise to rage against "the West" in general and Germany in particular.

Of course, no decent human approves of the crime. Of course, the killer will be prosecuted for murder and (unless proven insane) convicted. But Shahid is convinced that, not the incident itself, but the way in which the media have reported it is evidence of "islamophobia" and "racism."

He makes the point that when Theo van Gogh was murdered it was treated not as the act of a madman, but as an expression of Muslim extremism. He asks why this incident is viewed differently. Perhaps one answer is that it's because there are no organised groups encouraging such behaviour or applauding it when it occurs. Another might be that "Western" public opinion is united in considering the action wrong and the actor evil. So where's the story?

One has to ask though. If one strips away his hyperbole does Shahid have a point?

What is libertarianism?

Libertarianism – Counting Cats in Zanzibar.

This is an interesting perspective on what libertarianism means. I am not sure I entirely agree, but it's certainly a good counter to the stereotypes of "selfishness" and "anarchism".

...what’s the difference between charity and socialism? What’s the difference between a free society and a coercive state?What’s the difference between sex and rape?

Libertarianism in England never had to explain itself because it was in the national DNA. Now that it has been beaten into a corner by Socialism and statist paternalism, it is time to articulate what never before needed to be said.

Note to Chris Bryant: the British Empire ended some years ago

They're Joking. Aren't They?: Goldfinger.

The English cliché I miss most is "it is none of my business." It is a wonderful phrase, but one which Labour ministers seem not to know. Government derives its power from us, the people. Unless you believe in Divine Right, what other source of power could there be, apart from the brute force of a tyrant? No man can give what he does not have (Nemo dat quod non habet, as we lawyers say). Therefore, since the government has its power from us, it cannot have more than, in aggregate, we had. It cannot properly engage in activities which would be improper for us. Other peoples' sexual activity is none of our business (as long as it is either harmless or consensual). Therefore, our government cannot properly make it its business.

Of course, this way of thinking precludes most of what this government has done in connection with "gay rights." Not to worry. It precludes most government activity. I am a libertarian, so no surprise there. If government should not concern itself with private matters of sexuality at home, still less should it do so on our behalf abroad. Chris Bryant is therefore, somewhat anachronistically, an imperialist. No surprise there either. So is Tony Blair. So are most Labour politicians.

Perhaps I should explain the quotation marks I placed around "gay rights." I know some readers will be poised to take offence, but hear (or rather, read) me out. If you are still offended afterwards, be my guest. In my (I hope, uncontroversial) opinion, a homosexual is human. He or she therefore has the same liberties and rights as any other human. If there were such a thing as a "gay right" that could only mean a right specific to homosexuals which differs from other peoples' rights. Logically that would mean either that a homosexual was subhuman (if it was a lesser right) or superhuman (if the right was additional, or greater). Neither, in my humble opinion, is true. Therefore the very concept of "gay rights" is mistaken. If I were the sort of person to take offence, I might even call it offensive. Feel free to apply this reasoning liberally to other groups seeking not rights, but privileges.

Of course, I feel sorry for homosexuals who live under political or religious regimes which take a contrary view to mine, but that is really a matter for the nation or religion concerned. The only legitimate activity for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this respect would be to advise British homosexuals to avoid such places or abstain from sexual activity while there. Our diplomats should avoid personal involvement in local campaigns, for fear of damaging goodwill which may be useful for their legitimate role in promoting our interests. They have no right to give that goodwill away. It may save us all from harm someday, if diplomacy has any value at all.

Adding the barbed wire

Is the state guilty of child kidnap? - Telegraph.

The gentleman in the linked story approached his child's school with a request based on a perceived risk (he is related to European royalty) of her being kidnapped;

He asked that he could be allowed to drive into the school grounds when picking up his daughter, because he did not want to leave her waiting, potentially vulnerable, in the road outside.

The headmistress agreed to this, but, concerned about other children's safety, contacted the local police, who in turn passed on their concerns to social services. The result of this was that, on May 18, when Mr and Mr Jones, accompanied by their younger son, arrived at school to pick up their daughter, they were met by a group of strangers, one as it turned out a female social worker. She asked, without explaining why or who she was, whether he was Mr Jones. When she three times refused to show him any ID, he was seized from behind by two policemen, handcuffed and put under arrest.

He was driven by a policeman to a nearby mental hospital where he was told that, because of "a number of concerns", he was being detained under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act and "sectioned" under S.2 as of "unsound mind". His wife, it turned out, had been similarly arrested, for loudly protesting at the handcuffing of her husband and the forcible seizing from her arms of her young son. The three children had been taken into care by social services.

A mental health tribunal has ordered his release, but - far from apologising and preparing their defence on charges of false imprisonment - social services have kept his children. 

The only reason offered ... for the abduction of the children is Mr Jones's "delusional belief system" that special care should be taken of his children because of their elevated family connections.

As JuliaM acidly remarks, (with more humour than I can muster in the face of such horror);

Excellent! That gives us ground to lock up and remove the children of all those MPs who voted for their children, and the children of celebrities, to be exempt from the child database

I can't remember who said that Labour had not yet turned Britain into a police state, but that it had erected all the fence posts. All that remains is to affix the barbed wire. In a society where the state can seize your child and have her adopted against your will (a risk this gentleman now faces, having innocently made official enemies) how likely are you to stand up to state power?

No child should be taken from its parents (except in case of a reasonably-grounded perception by a policeman of  immediate danger and then only for a maximum of a week, pending a hearing) without a court order. Neither should anyone who does not present an immediate danger of violence be "sectioned" without a court hearing in advance.

Social Services should have no more in common with the SS than their shared initials.

PS: A new blog to me (a well-established one with a weird Wordpress users only comment policy) has pulled together some of the best blog posts on this story.

Obama hits CTRL-ALT-DELETE; Russia declines to reboot?

Obama heads to Moscow for reset summit | World | Reuters.

I shall be in the same city as "the One" for a day or two. Yawn. I shall work from home tomorrow. The traffic in Moscow is quite bad enough without the POTUS motorcade.

I fear Mr Obama's hosts will have some fun at his expense this week. They enjoy these diplomatic set pieces and are rather good at them. Perhaps the White House is learning though. The President's undiplomatic "one foot in the cold war" remark only makes sense as a preparatory cover for failure.

It's a shame relations between the two countries are no better. Given a more friendly chat, President Obama's hosts could have shared some useful experiences of socialised medicine with him, for example. Future generations of Americans would have benefitted from that. As it is, I doubt either side will learn anything.

More strutting. More posturing. More money thrown away. Government business as usual.

Is it democracy they don't understand, or the English language?

Drivers back bans for using mobiles |

So, I glean from the linked article, less than a third of motorists are nanny's boys who think the state should ban - for an unemployment-inducing six months - those caught using a mobile phone while driving. Hurrah for common sense, you might think. After all, phoning while driving is still legal throughout the civilised world. That it's illegal in Britain is hardly worth mentioning. After Labour's creation of one new crime a day for more than a decade, almost everything now is. In Britain, the list of lawful activities may soon fit around the circumference of a pound coin. Something like this perhaps;

"Vote Labour, pay taxes."

I am sure it will sound better in Latin. But I digress. How does the Metro report the views of a small group of busybodies notable mainly for their irrelevance?

"Drivers back bans for using mobiles"

So then, according to this journalist, the views of a few craven submissives aching for the firm crack of the state's whip are more important than those of the majority of drivers? To be fair, given how few Labour voters it needed last time to produce a thumping majority in Parliament, one can forgive some confusion as to whether this democracy thing involves living with the choices of a majority or a minority.