Sunday, November 26, 2006

[warning] radical reconstruction ahead

There has to be a purpose to blogging, to my mind. To that end, I’m going to try to draw together the recurrent threads of what many bloggers have said about the economic and social restructuring of society and paraphrase them in layman’s language, as a layman is what I am in these matters. After all, isn’t it the ordinary Joe Bloggs who’ll be affected? I imagine this will take the best part of three or four months.

First stop is L’Ombre de l”Olivier’s piece: Radical UK Financial Reform. Here is a paraphrase of the main intent, as I see it:

# As DK, Freebornjohn and Mr E note … smallish government is a desirable principle. # S&M reported over a year ago [and I’ll look at him next]the principle of a flat tax and "Citizen's Basic Income" that replaces all benefits and is given to all people regardless of income. Tim Worstall, I believe is for this and I’ll summarize his proposals separately.

# Associated huge reduction in bureaucracy in DWP and Inland Revenue.

# Remove the income tax personal allowance, the Working Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and Child Benefit, which since you are giving everyone £5200 including kids would seem pretty fair.

# Give the kids £100/week allowing you to remove most of the education budget too. Give £50 in voucher form up to age 16 or still in education. £2550 per child in vouchers and 12M children 16 and under is £30B There are about 2 million university students (+300k non UK ones) and I would guess another 2 million or so secondary school students aged over 16. This adds up another £10B at the same £2550/student and one could obviously increase the amount from university students.

# Make it clear that is the kid's money not the parent's by requiring the child to have a bank account for the dosh to be paid into, and then obviously, permit the parent to have access to it. Possibly after age 12 (say) the child has to be a co-signer or something so that the kids get experience managing money.

# Remove the minimum wage legislation and a bunch of similar busybody employment rules. Then by limiting the payment to UK citizens you create an interesting incentive to hire UK citizens rather than immigrants - it would allow you to remove almost every work permit requirement because the foreigners would need to have an extra £5000 from somewhere to have an equivalent income.

# The CBI ought to please the trades unions.

So that's the start of a working paper for Joe Bloggs.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

[meme-tags] one thing you'd never see me do

Sweet photo of Iain Dale shamelessly stolen in a raid on Paul Linford

Simple piece by Iain Dale who must be chuckling over the mayhem: Power of the Meme: Prague Tory needs to get out more. Click HERE to see why.

When you do click on it, Praguetory makes his feelings known about his disdain for the meme and yet he's produced the most amazing analysis of the latest one on 10 Things I'd Never Do.

[chatham house] freedom of information

W. Mark Felt


Lady Ellee of Ely is as incensed [surprised?] as Tim Worstall but for a different reason:
If you are attending a conference on freedom of information, secrecy, truth, lies and political spin, then the last thing you expect is for the Chatham House rules to be invoked. And, much to my astonishment, that is what happened yesterday. Could there be any greater irony?

I challenged the reason for this during the question session … It transpired that one speaker had specifically sought the Chatham House rules -
Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain’s best known diplomat. I later asked him the reasons why. He said he was concerned about the way his comments would be interpreted. He told me he he had requested this condition in advance.

A commenter,
Chris Edwards said: The Chatham House rule does not say you can’t write about what was said - only that you don’t identify the speaker or their affiliation … It’s not some kind of gagging order … People always speak more freely if they think the quotes won’t be attributed to them. They will also lie more freely, but that’s one of the things you just have to deal with …

Ellee replied: Chris, I do understand the rules, but a story does not stand up unless you can attribute its source, you could easily be making it up. It’s so important to be able to attribute quotes.

Both make good points. An on the record story is next to worthless and yet the top stories don’t wash if attributed to ‘unnamed source’, ‘reliable source’ or ‘deep throat’. This was the whole problem in the early stages of Watergate
when Woodstein couldn’t get anyone on the record.

Update
- Chris Edwards has now added, in reply:
So, having complained about not being “allowed” to write anything, the real reason for not posting about the event is that no-one stood up and said anything interesting. You have permission from all but one speaker to attribute their quotes (except the Q&A, and even that might not be a restriction if you check back with the sources) on what you said above were “important issues”. But no blog post, other than a nugget from Hans Blix after the event.

The idea that you can never use non-attrib sources anyway is laughable. With private conversations, you might need to work more to stand things up sufficiently for readers to accept it, but we’re talking about statements made at a public forum witnessed by a hundred or more people. If the information was that important, it would find its way out. And without being to use any anonymous sources, newsgathering would grind to a halt. No-one wants to use non-attrib sources, but sometimes that is your only choice. The world is not going to reshape itself around the desires of bloggers.

[the cross] b.a. backdown not necessarily correct

So BA boss Willie Walsh has finally backed down following an avalanche of criticism. The airline had faced four days of angry condemnation from an overwhelming alliance of Cabinet ministers, 100 MPs, 20 Church of England bishops and, finally, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Dr Rowan Williams called its stance 'deeply offensive' and threatened to sell the Church of England's £6.6million holding of BA shares. Just five hours later, the airline capitulated.

The atheistic and humanistic among the readers of this blog would have expected me, a known serial-Christian, to be crowing. Not a bit of it. Actually, I don’t believe what she did was right and the photo of her in a light blue outfit, with matching cross, had me shifting uneasily in the chair.

This strikes me as being as bad as the burkah issue where the woman was clearly doing it to provoke and to make some money. I see where this Nadia is coming from [very Eastern European name, where icons are central to the faith] and it’s not a cynical exercise, rather one of defiant outrage.

And yet … it’s not right. It’s not what the cross is for. Certainly it shouldn’t be hidden away but neither should it be flaunted. This is not in keeping with the nature of Christianity, which should go about its business quietly. It’s not about taking up arms and burning heretics. It’s about personal belief and trying to spread goodwill.

[iraq] shake your head, weep, pray, do something

People, are we so inured against feeling that we can pass over this lightly: Six burnt alive in fresh Iraqi brutality?

Am I in company in feeling the way the media reports it is almost as nauseating as the acts themselves?

Shi’ite militiamen seized six Sunnis as they left prayers yesterday and burnt them alive with kerosene in a savage new twist to the brutality shaking Baghdad. The attack in the Iraqi capital came after suspected Sunni insurgents killed more than 200 people in Baghdad's main Shiite district.

Contrast this to the face of the Iraqi girl in the photo and the peaceful river scene in the previous post on Iraq. Will she ever smile like this again? Has law and order so completely broken down? Where the hell are the Yanks? What are they doing? Who’s ordering the troops to stand back? Where are the new Iraqi authorities? Has America met its match in the sheer demonic frenzy of these crazies? Do you doubt that tht’s what we’re witnessing here – demonic insanity?

How to stop the slaughter?

[les étrangers] how the americans and french really see one another

Another gem from the pre-blogging days, this is entitled: The Problem with the French is that they have No Word for Rapprochement. It’s by Gene Weingarten who writes the Washington Post column Under the Beltway on Sunday afternoons and can be forum e-mailed on Tuesdays. Click on the Post link in the left sidebar to find him. Hope this brings a smile to the face:

The French Minister of Agriculture politely awaited my question. We were seated in the study of his ministry in the heart of Paris, overlooking a garden with ancient statuary.

At 43, Herve Gaymard [post coming up tomorrow morning on his political scandal] is already a member of the national cabinet, custodian of nothing less formidable than the French wine industry. Sandy-haired, lithe, urbanely handsome like Paul Henreid in "Casablanca," the minister was in shirtsleeves, slacks and -- as became apparent when he crossed his legs -- loafers sans socks. He looked effortlessly fabulous, of course. He is French.

This interview almost didn't happen. I had requested an audience with the highest French official available, on the subject of the strained relations between our two nations over the war in Iraq. The French Embassy initially seemed reluctant, at which point I observed that it would be a pity if, to secure an official audience with a French dignitary, I had to seek out Jean-Marie Le Pen.

That would be the race-baiting crypto-fascist whose stunning showing in the last presidential elections threatened to create an international embarrassment for the French of a magnitude unseen since a swastika flapped beneath the Arc de Triomphe.

Soon afterward, Monsieur Gaymard was made available.

Continues here

[les étrangers] how the british and french really see one another

From the pre-blogging days comes this BBC gem and I’m not being ironic. The comments from readers which follow it are also revealing:

Two-hundred years to the day after France's defeat at Trafalgar many Brits still view their cross-channel neighbours with suspicion and antipathy. The French however, think we should just get over it.

France is the UK's top tourist destination, with 12 million British visitors each year, while the UK is the second most popular spot for French tourists with over three million visits a year. The air route from Paris to London is the busiest in the world, carrying some 3.3 million passengers a year... then there's the Channel Tunnel.

Such statistics might fool a person into thinking the British and the French actually like each other. But even though it is over 100 years since the Entente Cordiale was signed, pledging Britain and France to a lasting political friendship, relations on many fronts are decidedly frosty.

But the main problem seems to lie here. Stereotyped by the Brits as garlic-loving, snail-eating, skirt-chasing, shoulder-shrugging "Frogs", the French don't really care what the British think.

"Les Rosbifs" are not important to the average French person. Nobody is pretending that this is full blown racism, rather the inheritance of 'acceptable' attitudes of suspicion and isolationism," says Richard Kaye, organiser, Entente Cordiale exhibition

"Most of the French feel neither burning animosity nor deep affection towards the British," says Christian Roudaut, author of a book on Anglo-French relations, L'Entente Glaciale. "I'm sure the British would say this represents precisely the sort of arrogance for which the French are notorious in the UK.

And the age-old French stereotypes appear to show no signs of disappearing in the UK. 72 % of Britons questioned in a recent survey believed the French warranted their negative stereotype, while only 19% of French believe the Brits deserved their "Rosbifs" tag.

While Franco-British enmity stretches back centuries, many of the xenophobic stereotypes of the French in today's society stem from the post-war period, according to Professor David Walker, from the University of Sheffield.

"The French are a kind of sibling, cast in the same mould as us, but showing how the same genes can express themselves in alternative ways," says Dr Wendy Michallat, an expert in popular French culture.

Read more here

[the ashes] death of cricket and of life as we know it

This series is the Ashes, commemorating the death of English cricket back in the dim, dark past. But now we have a dim, dark future and the death of cricket has become, first the erosion of all forms of enjoyment, then a flood of suppression, all in the name of security. Security?

Balderdash [there are ladies present]

Just what are the draconian security measures supposed to prove? What exactly do they prevent? Would they prevent an organized guerilla group dropping from the skies or lobbing grenades? There was an attempt at a Mexican wave and whereas it would have been good-naturedly tolerated earlier, this time it was ruthlessly suppressed and the culprits dragged from the ground. These were hooligans, that’s all. Hooligans with a skinful on a hot summer’s day. These were not terrorists – not in any way.

I resent this. I resent that the PTB created this whole political situation by misrepresenting it to the patriotic public, stirring up the muslim world then, by allowing known malcontents to slip past the screen, creaed 911 and 7/7 and right there and then was the pretext to rob the ordinary person of everything he had and to militarize the state. Oh it's on the way to being militarized all right and they don’t give a tinker’s cuss for any talk of 'rights'. They say that bodysearching cricket fans and over regulating a festival of pleasure, a cricket match [well, not pleasure from England’s point of view maybe] is a necessary counter-insurgency measure.

Bullsh-- [excuse my French]

And anyway, England will fight back on the field sooner or later, by the way.

Friday, November 24, 2006

[iraq] there are things which don't add up here

Happier moments in Iraq

The Reuters headline said it: Mosques torched after worst Iraq bombing. It doesn’t add up. There are too many anomalies here. For a start, it was done ‘untroubled by a curfew enforced in the capital by U.S. and Iraqi forces’. How so? Then there was the simple fact of Muslims burning down their mosques. Then this: One witness said 14 people were killed in his mosque during Friday prayers: "It was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades. That had to have been funded and the hardware had to actually have been brought in.

The original split between the sects came in the 7th Century over what was essentially a political dispute over who should lead Islam after the Prophet Mohammed. The Shiites wanted the leadership to pass through the prophet's family. When his cousin Ali was passed over for the job, his followers became known as the "Shiat Ali," or "partisans of Ali." Sunnis and Shiites live and work side-by-side, intermarry and, broadly speaking, follow the same core religious tenets. So how can they rocket attack and burn buildings dedicated to Allah? Torch each other – that’s possible.

In Algeria, there’s a clue: The GIA [Muslim guerillas] started coming up with new touches to keep the game interesting: burning people alive, bayoneting babies, raping and killing children in front of their parents. All in the name of God, you understand. Then came the GIA splinter group I read about - the Disciples of Satan. They started out as GIA fighters, but they got so messed up by what they'd seen and done that they decided there must not be a God at all. They turned into Islamic Satanists and went around trying to find newer and sicker ways to kill people as a way of making Satan happy. So they were doing the same sick stuff as ever, but in Satan's name instead of Allah's. He appears to be alive and well in Iraq as well. After all, the I—tar Gate is a national monument in Iraq and you know whom that’s dedicated to.

[animal lust] right old rogering in a christmas window

Time to lower the tone. Yesterday, in a Melbourne department store window Christmas display, a platypus appeared to be rogering a wombat.

A malfunction caused the “accidental and unfortunate positioning of the two characters in this year's Christmas windows titled Wombat Devine,” the store apparently explained.

"I don't know what to think," said a mother of four. "They look like they are ... involved."

Morning radio programs were flooded with upset callers who thought what they had seen in the particular window was in bad taste. But some people weren't at all upset by the graphic scenes. "It's for kids and they don't think like we [adults] do so I'm sure they wouldn't even notice it," said one woman with her grandchildren. In another scene, two koalas appeared to be intimately involved and this was posted on youtube.com. Looks a little more than a 'malfunction' to me but I might be much mistaken.