17 May, 2015

Alive!

A HA!

I have been trying to get into this blog for some time using one of these tablet things. Harsh words were spoken about Google and its spawn but it turned out I had changed password and forgotten.

Reason for the tablet is I am recovering from an operation. Currently in what they call rehab (nothing to do with booze) and in excellent hands.

More soon

18 March, 2015

Andy Fraser

This blog says farewell to Andy Fraser, the best heavy bassist in the world. He joined Free at 15, having already played for John Mayall.



He had suffered a lot of illness, and died of AIDS. RIP

17 March, 2015

Political summary

The general election campaign seems to have begun in earnest at the beginning of January. Now, in mid-March, there are still seven weeks to go. For me it is one of the cases against fixed term parliaments: usually one of the big parties, maybe both, have a reason to string it out, diluting the message, so instead of a concentrated campaign you get months of meaningless guff, intended to nudge you rather than persuade you into voting one way or another.

There has been a lot of nonsense talked about debates. To the uninitiated it must seem as if televised debates are part of our constitution, mentioned in the Magna Carta, perhaps. In fact in our long democratic history we have only once had such debates, and that was last time. It is part of the American system because they only ever have two parties.

Debates never help the ruling party, since they can only show up other parties to a better effect. The only reason we had a debate last time was that Gordon Brown was so unpopular he had nothing to lose. In the end Nick Clegg did well. causing a surge in his party's popularity just in time for the election, only for it to decline immediately afterwards. The debate caused a completely misleading result.

Will there be debates this time? A debate with 5 or 6 parties would be an irrelevance but would harm Cameron less, preventing major challengers from hammering home their main points. 'Empty-Chairing' Mr. Cameron would not help anyone. He would go off and do something Prime Ministerial, like addressing Congress or coming up with a peace plan for the Middle East, and the debates would look like the squabbling of the also-rans.

Several polls are putting the main parties neck and neck, and I must say I find this astonishing if you look at the personnel involved. Milliband and Balls were, respectively, an adviser to the Treasury and Special Adviser to the Chancellor. These are the people who were saying 'Come on, Gordon, borrow a bit more. We can buy the votes of a few more special interest groups and our grandchildren can repay the debt'. It is surprising that the Labour Party even condones them.

But it all goes back to Cameron. In 2010 he missed a glaring open goal, failing to beat the hugely failed Gordon Brown. Now, against these two clowns, he has still failed to seal the deal with the British people.

In my view people find Cameron insincere. He could change opinions at the drop of a hat, being pro-Green, then referring to 'all this green crap'. He has been pro Europe and anti-Europe, pro-austerity ad anti-austerity.

Cameron is not what the French call an 'homme sérieux'. The Tories need a proper leader, not a chameleon.

Luvvie Fascism

One has interesting discussions with tailors. sometimes, but I really cannot imagine discussing In Vitro Fertilisation with one. Such, however, is the basis of a luvvie spat between Elton John and Dolce & Gabbana.

I suppose most of my clothes these days are made in Bangladeshi sweatshops but these people have never seen fit to express their views on this or any other important topic.

For myself I expect it makes me a bit of a dinosaur but I think it rather odd that two men in a relationship should want a baby.

What I think unpleasant, thogh, is people trying to force their opinions on others, boycotting Dolce & Gabbana's clothes because they don't hold the 'correct' opinins. It has a whiff of fascism.

12 March, 2015

Ciggies

I knew someone who affected Balkan Sobranie cigarettes, once. They were expensive and tasted like old socks, but they came in different colours.

Which got me thinking about the new plain packaging. All the manufacturers have to do is have their own colouring on the cigarette itself: gold for B & H, blue and white for Rothmans, red and white for Marlboro etc.

Which reminds me that if I don't give in to temptation, 1st April will mark 30 years since I have had a cigarette.

11 March, 2015

Jeremy Clarkson

Top Gear used to be owned jointly by the BBC and Jeremy Clarkson and a colleague. The BBC bought Clarkson out last year at a cost of millions.

The reason for the high cost is that Top Gear is very valuable property. It airs in more than a hundred countries and has made more than £100 million for the BBC. I heard there was even someone employed to copy Clarkson's verbal mannerisms into Pharsee, for the Iranian market.

Top Gear is nothing without Clarkson and he has a massive following worldwide. which does not include the politically correct lefties who run the BBC. The fans, amongst whom I count myself, don't much mind if Clarkson calls someone a darkie or (as is rumoured to be the current case) throws a punch at a producer.

We certainly don't want the show cancelled because the PC Lefties don't like him. We like the show; we don't much like them, an we deplore the flagrant waste of money that getting rid of Clarkson would represent.

10 March, 2015

The euro

I see that the euro has fallen to €1.40/£, which, interestingly, was the rate it was launched at in 1999 (bank accounts only).

I predicted at the time that it would last no longer than 15 years, so it has done better than I supposed, but I don't think anyone would call it a success.

Whose army?

The Americans are calling for increased defence expenditure in Europe. The fact is that they are tiring of defending an ungrateful but rich continent and would rather concentrate their efforts on the Middle East and the Far East.

The militarist lobby in the UK has interpreted this as a demand that Britain does not fall below the recommended 2% of GDP spent, although in fact Britain and France have been exemplary in maintaining their armed forces under difficult eonomic circumstances.

What America really meant was that Germany should come to the table. Its expenditure has been around half the requirement and its armed forces are in a terrible state of training and equipment. But the Germans prefer to let others defend them.

Britain should pull out of Germany as well.

In the middle of all this, up pops Jean Claude Juncker, head of the European Commission, to suggest that Europe, too, should have its own army.

Of course there has long been talk of a European Army and occasionally there are joint exercises, but it would be a nonsense without Britain's particiation, and fortunately we have refused so far. We should continue to refuse.

How would it work, Junckers's army? Would participation require unanimity so that Ireland, for example, which professes neutrality, could scupper any chance of it ever being used? Or would it be by qualified majority voting, which woud mean that several countries which were opposed to the Gulf War would have been forced to send soldiers?

Juncker wants this because an army is one of the trappings of nationhood. like a flag and an anthem, which he already has.

It is, however, an idea best avoided.

28 February, 2015

Out!

Apparently England's one-day cricket captain, Eoin Morgan, has refused to sing the national anthem.

In football, cricket and other sports England are brilliant on a day-to-day basis but rubbish at internationals. This is because they don't set much store by playing for their country, school having taught them that multi-culturalism is the important thing.

Mr Morgan should be told that if he doesn't sing the national anthem, and sing it lustily, not only will he not be captain, he won't be in the team.

Let 'em die

Also more tosh on Radio 4 about the number of pandas.

These creatures were carnivores which became too lazy to hunt and sat on their backsides eating bamboo. The bamboo doesn't have enough protein so they rarely have sex so they are going extinct.

Have no sympathy for pandas. They seem to want to go extinct and we should let them.

Je suis Spock

Incredibly I heard a discussion on BBC radio to the effect that the reason we liked Star Trek's Mr Spock was that he suffered racial confusion, not being quite human. It made him nicer.

For Heaven's sake, Mr Spock was a character in a TV science fiction. Let's try to get through the death of the actor who played him without resorting to drivel about modern self-awareness angst. He was a Vulcan with pointy ears.

No one is ever this nice to John Redwood.

23 February, 2015

La Barcaccia

Appalling scenes in Rome last week as Dutch football fans rioted and damaged a fountain.

Read about it in The Commentator - it's free!


22 February, 2015

Greece again

There has been a lot of talk about winning and losing, and very little about what is best for the people of Greece.

It seems Mr. Tsipras has given a fair bit more than Mrs Merkel but he went into the game with a very weak hand. The idea had been to unite the austerity-condemning governments of France, Spain and Italy into persuading the Germans to give way. Each of these has said publicly that austerity was not the solution but by the time it came to the crunch not one of them backed him. Tsipras must feel let down.

In the end, all Merkel had to do was make sure there was nothing Spain's extreme left party could seize on to upset the elections there later this year.

In fact the Greek people are not best served either by the German austerity plan or by the extreme left policies of Varufakis. Greece can never be competitive using the same money as the Germans.

Most people in Greece want to stay in the euro because they think it is stable money. What it means though is that instead of devaluing the currency when their inefficiencies catch up with them, they have to devalue internally - reducing wage rates to subsistence level.

Mr Tsipras will now have four months to hold an honest discussion with the Greek people. Do they want decades more of this, or would they like a drachma they can devalue, making tourism more attractive, exports cheaper?

It may be we haven't heard the end of this.

18 February, 2015

Greece

There's a lot of confusion in the press and the markets today to the effect that Greece will request an extension of its bailout, thus constituting something of a climbdown.

My information however is that it has merely requested an extension of the loan, not of the restrictions and targets that go with it, which would constitute the opposite.

Sometimes it is better to keep quiet than say the wrong thing.

17 February, 2015

ISIS

After the appalling killing of a Jordanian pilot, Jordan has joined seriously in the fight against Islamic State. Now with the murder of a number of Egyptian Copts, Egypt has joined.

This is as it should be: ISIS has killed remarkably few westerners but captured thousands of square miles of land in the middle east and slaughtered thousands of fellow muslims.

This is not our fight. We must make sure they have all the kit they need and let them get on with it.

The first thing which needs to happen is for Saudi and Qatar to find which of their citizens is shovelling money towards these madmen and stop it.

16 February, 2015

Imbeciles

A conversation I have had this morning

'Hello Mr. Hedges, this is the anti-fraud department at XXXX Bank. Can we ask you some questions about your finances?'

'No'.

'I'm afraid we need to confirm your details'

'Send me a letter'

'No, it has to be done over the 'phone in case we have any questions'

'Are you the people who keep writing to me saying there is a lot of fraud about and I shouldn't give my details to anyone?

'Weeeel, we do need this.'

'But I don't know who you are'

'I said I was from the bank'

So I called the bank: 'has one of your imbeciles operatives called me this morning?'

'Yes'

'Is this normal practice?'

'I don't know'.

Good grief.

14 February, 2015

Tax, when to pay

Possibly to Ed Milliband's annoyance, the people seem to be getting bored or confused or both on this business of tax avoidance.

Rather than spread malicious feeling about rich people (Stanley, now Lord, Fink was a commidities trader who was posted to Geneva by his company and opened an account with the Geneva branch of the bank he used in England) Mr Milliband needs some definition.

Tax evasion, we know, is illegal. The reason people haven't been prosecuted is that the tax office set up a scheme where you could pay a fine. Prosecution is expensive and time consuming - you have to prove the person knew what he was doing was illegal, which lets off someone who has just joined a scheme he was advised was OK. The fine gets the money back but lets the guilty off.

Tax avoidance, by contrast is perfectly legal. If you work for yourself and in a good year put a bit more into your pension, you are avoiding tax. Also if you give money to charity. As Stanley Fink put it 'everyone does it'.

What Milliband needs is to define something which is between these two.

It is possible to tighten up the definition of schemes which do nothing except save tax. But these can already be outlawed and the law is allowed to 'pierce the veil' behind foreign companies and trusts to determine their real purpose. There is something you can do here but not much.

Milliband's best shot would be to undertake to prosecute anyone above a certain amount of evasion. But this would be expensive, both in the costs of prosecution and in the loss of what can be clawed back from the penitent. Also it would require a lot more staff at HMRC.


Perhaps smearing the rich and successful is his best option.

 

11 February, 2015

Pas Charlie

It seems the British police asked newspaper distributor John Menzies for a list of newsagents stocking Charlie Hebdo and, incredibly, were given it.

Plod has now been round to the newsagents to ask details of the people who bought it.

Perhaps David Cameron who, you will recall, posed on the freedom of speech rally in Paris, could explain whether he thinks this a good thing.

08 February, 2015

The Commentator

Do read the Commentator, high quality journalism which is free.

My latest article is about the political importance of barbers.

Our NHS

A report shows that 1,000 people a month are dying unnecessarily in the British Health Service.

I can't say I'm surprised, but the next time I hear about 'our NHS' being the envy of the world I am going to boil over.

Our Ukraine

'Are Merkel and Hollande going to sell out Ukraine?' asked one paper.

Now, stop me if I've said this before, but I'm sure Merkel and Hollande need to take this on board as well.

The status quo ante in Ukraine wasn't great, but it worked. Ukraine is a large, bankrupt country which is ethnically around 75% European. It survives on rustbucket industries, subsistence farming and handouts.

The deal was that Ukraine had its independence and Russia had a buffer state on its border with Europe, in return for which it provided the handouts, some say as much as $20 billion a year.

After finding its post-independence, pro European government corrupt, Ukraine voted in President Viktor Yannukovic, a Ukrainian-Russian.

Unbelievably, the European Union grew covetous of Ukraine, dignitaries flew down there to glad hand the pro-European bit and a deal was offered to Yannukovic. It was nowhere near enough: the Europeans had no idea what they were doing, and the president knew that unless his people were to starve they would have to stick with Russia, which was at least signing cheques.

But a pro-European mob, strongly supported by the West (the Americans let all this go on, Putin-baiting at someone else's expense being just their idea of fun) overthrew Yannukovic and held elections which were boycotted by the Russian minority, obviously.

So the situation is that the Europeans have to face a massive bill to support a country with an economy still based in the 1950s, and Putin has lost his buffer zone.

Ukraine had faced break up as soon as Europe started to get involved. Putin will have to be given the East and Europe will have to be given the bill for the West.

The people that have really been sold out are the European taxpayers (that's you and me, unless we leave the EU).

29 January, 2015

The top 1%

I am grateful to Guido for pointing out that in the last quarter of 2014 Apple sold 74.5 million devices.

That is to say that in just three months, 1% of the world's population bought an iPhone.

Amazing.

And no, I didn't.

Pas du tout Charlie

This blog covered the events in Paris earlier this month with some scepticism. It is one thing to say 'Je suis Charlie', that is to say 'I support the right to publish whatever you wish', and quite another to walk the walk.

The French Government's newly announced response to this outrage is to insist that Facebook and other social media police themselves to eliminate anything which might be hateful. That is to say the Government announces what you can and can't say and the media, acting as an arm of the Government, enforce this.

This is a step exactly in the wrong direction. Just as the French Government makes it illegal to deny the Armenian genocide and just as Cameron in Britain tries to regulate the press, we are saying we love free speech so we are going to limit it.

This really needs to be thought out.

27 January, 2015

Greece

It seems one of my New Year's predictions has already come good: that Syriza would win the election in Greece but without a majority.

The question all over the papers is 'what happens now?'.

Greece should never have been let into Europe, and it appears that when it applied to join the euro, the European Commission was well aware that it had fiddled the figures. It happened because - and this will become increasingly important to bear in mind - Europe and the single currency are political, not economic, phenomena.

Greece did not have a set of responsible politicians. The same parties, indeed the same families, had run it since the era of the colonels, and they were corrupt and incompetent. They went on a spending spree. The standard of living of the average Greek increased by 36% between the start of the euro and the financial crisis.

The powers in Brussels, and indeed the Germans, knew this. But they said nothing.

Why? Because the spending spree had been financed by German banks, with help from the French (there was very little British lending to Greece). In one of the worst pieces of credit misjudgment in history they decided that all eurozone countries were an equal credit risk and since Greek debt paid more (why did it pay more? Aha!) they piled in.

Of course if you believe all eurozone risk is equal, you are assuming that countries in trouble will be bailed out. We shall have to give some thought to that in the coming weeks.

At the start of the crisis it was clear that Greece couldn't pay its debts and a chunk needed to be written off. But that would have exposed the incompetent German bankers so instead the Greeks were saddled with even more debt. Very little of this actually went into Greece - there was very little new money.

The Greeks had been shafted to save Germany.

So it isn't surprising that they voted for Mr Tsipras, who declares Greece should have the same kind of debt forgiveness Germany was given after the war.

But Europe can't do that because Italy and Spain would also want it.

What should happen is that Tsipras should take Greece out of the Euro and declare a full moratorium on its debt.

But it won't happen because the Greeks, poor ignorant souls, think the euro is a good thing: a badge of solvency.

There will be a fudge, and the Greeks will continue to suffer.

Colouring

Benedict Cumberbatch, the actor, has apologised for his language on American television. He says he is 'devastated' to have caused offence and that he was an 'idiot'.

He had referred to 'coloured' people.

I don't suppose I shall ever be interviewed on American television (particularly after they have read this) but I confess I thought 'coloured' was the polite version and that you weren't supposed to say 'black' or 'negro'.

How on edge must America's race relations be if this causes such a storm?

24 January, 2015

De mortuis...

The flags were at half mast in London yesterday and for a while no one knew whether it was for King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia or for Leon Brittan, the former Home Secretary.

Abdullah ruled one of the most corrupt, terrorist-ridden countries on earth, with an appalling human rights record, and which dealt out medieval punishments to its own people. The monarchy is in thrall to a gang of religious nutcases. It is possible but unlikely that Abdullah didn't know what was going on and possible that he just didn't know any different.

Leon Brittan was the only senior Conservative politician of the 1980s that I really didn't like. He had an unpleasant, supercilious demeanour and closed down argument rather than engaging with it. Along with Heath, Heseltine, Clarke and Gummer he lied and lied to get us into the European Community as it then was, going on to collect a decent sinecure and pension as his reward.

It turned out the flags were for Abdullah. 'Go figure', as the Americans say.

PS I should add that I know nothing of the tittle-tattle surrounding Brittan. A man is innocent until proven guilty.

20 January, 2015

The NHS

Delighted to hear Nigel Farage saying the NHS will have to move to an insurance based system within ten years.

The true ghastliness of the NHS is reported piecemeal in the papers - such as more than 1,000 people dying unnecessarily in South Stafford alone; people going into hospital with something fairly trivial and coming out in a pine box because of a disease they caught in the hospital; inadequate medicines, equipment, staff. But no one ever questions the structure.

It is the whole system which is wrong and insurance will help but not solve the whole problem.

I shall be putting forward my views on the NHS in my manifesto, due to be published in good time for the election, on the Feast of All Fools.

18 January, 2015

Italian culture

Happy birthday to ANSA, the Press agency, which is 70 years old. It performs an excellent service, unbiased although Italian-centred. Its website ansa.it can be read in English.

Another useful Italian service, if you are fed up with Radio 3 and Classic FM: http://www.radiofd5.rai.it/dl/portali/site/page/Page-e2d8dd75-9ebf-4de9-9880-514bdad658ad.html

This is a classical music service which just plays the music with a sombre announcer who just says what it is and names the performers. No chat, no traffic reports or news. No need to speak Italian. Just music

14 January, 2015

Easing

As I write, the pound sterling has risen dramatically against the euro.

The reason is that the markets believe that the European Central Bank will commence some quantitative easing at its meeting on 22nd January.

It would do this by creating money and using it to buy government securities whose holders, principally banks, woud then have cash they could invest in their economies.

Three days later, on 25th January, is the Greek election. The likely winners, Syriza, claim they will repudiate part of the Greek government debt.

So the ECB would be buying stuff which it knows in a few days might be worthless.

Doesn't seem too honest to be.

13 January, 2015

Aux armes, citoyens!

So what was it all about, this march in Paris, repeated all over France? Some say 3.7 million people came out.

Well....according to Piers Morgan in the Daily Mail, they were marching for 'freedom'; he seemed to imply that Obama's failure to appear meant the President was against the concept.

Most of the European Press seemed to feel they were marching against terrorism.

Now it's fairly easy to find several million people in favour of freedom or indeed against terrorism. But that isn't what the march was intended to be about. It was intended to be about freedom of speech. What 'Je suis Charlie' means is that you stand with those dead cartoonists willing to risk your life to publish what you want, however offensive. However offensive. So whether it's about the holocaust, or Mohammed or Princess Diana or Stephen Fry you are allowed to publish it and will stand by the risks of doing so.

Several journalists, notably Robert Shrimsley in the FT, said they were not Charlie, because they simply didn't have the courage.

The reason the moral thrust of the march is important is that if it was about being against terrorism, resentment that French citizens had been killed, that feeling will soon turn into an anti-muslim backlash and this, in my view, would be a very bad thing, if understandable.

If, however, it was against any attack on freedom of speech, it means something very different. Western Europe has been moving in the opposite direction to free speech. I mentioned France's laws against denying the holocaust and the Turkish / Armenian massacre. In Britain the police continually monitor social media for 'offensive' posts. And you can't say anything racist without plod turning up on your doorstep. Free speech would mean dismantling that whole apparatus.

I'd love to be proved wrong, but I rather think this march doesn't mean anything at all.

11 January, 2015

Hypocrisy (2)

And I'm afraid a miasma of hypocrisy is settling over the Charlie Hebdo affair. François Hollande, who has done more than most to cover up investigation of his own peccadilloes, has, if you please, called a sort of public demonstration (normally he sends the riot police to this sort of thing), inviting David Cameron (who wanted to regulate the press over the Millie Dowler business) and such free press stalwarts as Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.

I don't know if the presidents of Russia and China are turning up to look like Charlies.

Some people I hope are not attending are the trendies of the Hacked Off Group, which includes JK Rowling and Stephen Fry, who have led a campaign to limit press freedom in England, particularly when it comes to being horrid to luvvies.

If so we shall have to hand out 'Je suis hypocrite' badges.

Hypocrisy

A good article by Catherine Bennett in the Observer today pointing out that there seems to be one law for Ched Evans and another for Roman Polanski who is allowed to pursue his trade of film director despite having committed an even worse crime, raping a 13 year old.

10 January, 2015

The Commentator

Do read The Commentator - it's free. My latest article describes Berlusconi's comeback

09 January, 2015

Ched Evans

An aide to John 'Vince' Cable, the Business Secretary, has interfered in the talk about Ched Evans, a footballer who was convicted of rape and now wants to return to football. I have no idea why but this is one of those subjects which seem to throw up more nonsense than it should.

Both sides in the argument seem to be exhibiting gross disrespect to the British Justice System. First, have no truck with people who suggest that he didn't really do it. Evans was tried and found guilty of rape. He may be able to appeal the verdict, I don't know, but unless and until that happens he is guilty.

The other side also seem not to have understood the Justice System. A convicted criminal is sentenced not by the feminist twitter feed but by a judge. That sentence was handed down, he served it and is now out. The Judge didn't say 'Four years and you shall never work again'. It was just the prison sentence.

We have a great problem with recidivism in Britain. On release prisoners are more likely to return to a life of crime than not. Here is someone who can do a job and people are trying to stop him.

Anyone who is such a halfwit as to believe that footballers are role models needs locking up for their own safety. And even if they were it doesn't alter the fact that our system has released Mr Evans. Let him get on with his life.

2015

I should have begun the year by giving you my forecasts but to be honest they're more often wrong than right.

OK, here we go.

In the Greek election this month the left-wing anti-euro Syriza party will be the largest, but they won't have enough of a majority to do what they want. As a result a fudge will be organised to keep Greece in the euro. which is the last thing the people of that benighted country need.

After the British elections in May David Cameron will be Prime Minister but only after the sort of undemocratic stitch-up he used last time. UKIP, it pains me to say, will not do as well as people think.

The oil price will firm up a bit after the end of the summer.

There will be the usual amount of hunger, disease and war. There will be more Islamic terrorist outrages and Europe will increasingly see an anti-Islamic backlash, which, it will quickly be realised, is not a healthy development.

Out on a limb here: Italy will choose a woman president and the Labour Party a woman leader.

The euro will continue to look unsustainable but will not actually collapse. 

In America the Republicans will continue to fail to find a credible candidate to oppose Hillary Clinton.

The FTSE 100 and the S & P in America will reach new highs; the European bourses will not.

People will get fed up having to carry enormous smart 'phones around with them.

08 January, 2015

Perfect!

The supremely irritating TripAdvisor - why can't they spell adviser properly? - has just sent me an email entitled 'Paris in 2015 - sounds perfect!'.

Perhaps it is some sort of political statement.

Je suis Charlie (3)

The problem now appears to be how people react, in France and elsewhere. France has around 6 million muslims, the highest of any Western European nation, and feelings have been running high for some time.

People will see that the gunmen escaped to the Banlieue, the suburbs around Paris, which are effectively a police no go area. Political tension is palpable and more than a thousand cars are torched every year.

With Marine Le Pen riding high in the polls it will be Hollande's unhappy job to calm the feelings of non-muslims. There is a clear threat of backlash.

Elsewhere, there have been anti-muslim riots in Germany, and nationalist parties are on the rise in several European countries.

These are going to be difficult times.

Je suis Charlie (2)

By the way I'm not sure I want to hear too much from the French about freedom of speech.

If Charlie Hebdo, instead of printing cartoons about Mohammed, had said that fewer than 6 million Jews died in the holocaust, the magazine could have been closed and the journalists imprisoned. Equally if it had conducted a personal campaign against the President. The penalty for saying that the Turks didn't commit genocide over the Armenians during WW1? €45,000 fine and a year in prison.

A couple of years ago a French wine writer who described Beaujolais as a vin de merde was prosecuted for criminal libel.

Free speech should mean just that.

Je suis Charlie

There is only one way, in my view, to see the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris: it was an attack on us all, from the great international publications to this humble blog, down to the ordinary person who reads them.

I have read Charlie a couple of times (Hebdo means 'weekly' in French). It was often offensive, sometimes needlessly provocative, rude. But the point to be stressed is that it has every right to be those things. If you didn't like it you didn't buy it, tout simplement.

We have all been staring down the barrel of those guns. Let us now show how we can comport ourselves when threatened.

Happy New Year

I have neglected this blog over the last year, partly through illness and partly through getting involved in other projects. It is very much a part of my plan to keep it going, however, so there should be many more posts in 2015.

If there are any Readers left I wish you a Happy New Year

12 December, 2014

Immigration

I read that thousands of people are estimated to have been given British passports even though they are criminals or otherwise quite unsuitable. A recent report lists smugglers, illegal workers and in one case someone who admitted to stabbing a man to death, as successful applicants.

I had my passport stolen a while back and for months have been in correspondence with the Passport Office, who seem to me to be what I would call, were it concerning anyone else, utterly thorough.

I now wish I had given my profession as 'Serial Killer' - I'd probably have received a replacement immediately.

10 December, 2014

Torture

Using advanced interception techniques, this blog can reproduce the interrogation of a terrorist subject.

MI5: Do you know about a plot to blow up part of the London Underground?

Abdul (not his real name): Yes, I know all about it.

MI5: When and where is it going to take place?

Abdul: I'm not telling you

MI5: Dash it! The bounder refuses to talk! Oh well, nothing for it, those innocent commuters are just going to have to die.

See anything wrong here? If we think someone knows about a plot to murder thousands of people, I want him waterboarded, surfboarded, beaten with a copy of the Independent and forced to listen to a recital of EU Directives until he spills the beans.

When you enter a war, either against another state or against 'terror', nasty things happen. Thousands of innocent people died in our bombing raids on Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and so on, but we're not allowed to beat up a terrorist suspect in order to save lives.

That is how we should see the arguments on torture.

PS I should mention that I don't think torture should be authorised, as in the recent American case, by intelligence officers. I think it should be authorised by a High Court judge on strictly pre-determined criteria.

27 November, 2014

New Tories

How, I must ask, has the Conservative Party sunk so low? You meet them on the doorsteps, at parties or their fundraising events and something speaks to you that all is not normal, not as it was. Has some alien force invaded? How did they enrol these new people?

We hear a Judge confirm that Andrew Mitchell, a former Chief Whip, had indeed called a policeman (a policeman!) a f***ing pleb and tried to bully him out of doing his job. This week also we hear that David Mellor, a former Cabinet Minister, has been recorded swearing at a taxi driver, and listing his achievements - broadcaster, QC etc before saying the cabbie should get an education before arguing with him.

Having a rank in society or a good education brings with it obligation, not the right to sneer. You know what I think about people who use their position or their education to bully more ordinary folk?

I think they're f***ing plebs.

06 November, 2014

The way we live now

A lesbian couple, described as intelligent and sophisticated, approached a male gay couple, also described as intelligent and sophisticated, with a view to them, the lesbians, conceiving children.

The procedure was done by in vitro fertilisation. Two children resulted. Now the two sets have been quarrelling over 'parental access'. Legal action has been taken, the parties being known as 'Mother 1 and Mother 2' (M1 being the biological mother) versus Father 1 and Father 2 (F1 being father). The children are called Child A and Child B.

The action has been going on for 4 years and cost more than half a million pounds.

Custody has been awarded to the two Ms, even though they have a history of domestic violence with each other, M1 having been treated for psychiatric disorders and M2 being described as 'controlling'.

F1 and F2 are allowed to see something of B but only write to A.

The two children's lives have been 'irredeemably marred' by the court conflict.

I don't really know where to start here, so I'll just report it. Bonkers parents, unnatural relationships, domestic violence, children's lives ruined.


Immigration

Recent confusing figures trying to quantify the cost or benefit to the Exchequer of immigration are missing the point.

The important aspect is that a significant number of people in Britain - enough to turn an election - think that immigration has created ghettoised areas where English is not spoken and life not lived in an English way and that this leads to social upheaval.

The non-political class also recognise that these people need public services such as schools, hospitals, policing and so on, costs which don't come out in the figures.

It is not racist to discuss this and if the present politicians don't allow such discussion, either they will find themselves replaced by people who are more normal, or the hitherto silent majority will rebel.

I am just talking about discussing the matter, nothing more than that.

Europe

We now learn that some €7 billion of the European budget (around €150 billion in total) was paid out in error, whilst the masterminds behind this are asking Britain to stump up another €2.1billion.

I am not here making the traditional eurosceptic point. We knew it was corrupt when we joined; we knew they could ask a successful country for more money to subsidise the lazy and unsuccessful; we accepted that European Law takes precedence over ours.

We should pay up without all this whingeing: this is money we owe.

Of course we shouldn't have joined in the first place. Of course we should now leave (we should have left long ago). But this was our cock-up and we must take responsibility for it.

OH NO!

It seems that the head of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, has entered the pantomime season early. From a press conference to mark his new job:

JCJ: I am not the head of a band of bureaucrats
Public: OH YES YOU ARE!

JCJ: I deserve some respect
Public: OH NO YOU DON'T!

Dear me. I don't suppose we shall ever take these people seriously.

28 October, 2014

Close encounter

It seems that Dean Farley, a hospital worker from Leeds, barged into the prime Minister, David Cameron, who was emerging from a speaking engagement.

My first thought was that he was probably protesting against unchecked immigration and the cost of belonging to the European Union and that it would do Mr Cameron good to meet a member of the general public.

Mr Farley - alright I'm guessing here - is not an Old Etonian.

However the truth was even better. Mr Farley, who surely has a future on the world stage, didn't know who Cameron was.