31 August, 2013

der, die, das

A new law in Germany enables you to register yourself as Male, Female or 'not telling'.

I suppose this may be normal for a nation where the words for knife, fork and spoon are three different genders, but it does seem odd. I think Germany must be the only nation where this is possible.

30 August, 2013

Useful Idiots

I don't have much time for Ed Miliband, and don't think he is the right man even for his own party, but there is no doubt he has played a blinder on the Syria debate.

First, he said that we should wait a couple of days for the UN Inspectors' report. Cameron had been ready to attack without seeing it. I don't know if you remember this with Iraq a decade ago, but there was never any time for the weapons inspectors; we had to go in now, now now, and Hans Blix was pulled out. I smelled a rat then and I smell one here.

So the debate, no longer being about authorising the Government to unleash tons of sophisticated ordnance on an already terrorised people, was about the principle of our fighting in Syria, and Miliband's Labour Party together with 39 coalition rebels voted it down.

There is much talk of this being a heavy defeat for Cameron, and Nick Robinson, the BBC politics editor, said it showed he was not on top of the foreign policy of his own party. In my opinion he will get over this fairly quickly.

What this has been about is Britain's place in the world. Many of us were getting fed up with the idea that we have to join every war. The spurious logic inflicted on us appears to be that we have to have a huge military because of our international role, and then, given we have a huge military, we have to use it. At the time of the Gulf War the Conservative Opposition, led by Ian Duncan Smith, followed unquestioningly the rather dodgy antics of Tony Blair, taking the attitude that 'if there's a fight, we're up for it'. And it's better if the whole thing is near some oil, have you noticed?

Many people don't want this. We never seem to use our superb military for humanitarian reasons; we didn't intervene in Rwanda, we didn't help Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma, a former colony, we didn't stir a muscle when Mugabe was starving his own people in Zimbabwe, another former colony. But anything America decides is strategic and we're sharpening the blades on our bayonets.

Another thing I must mention is that it makes even less sense slavishly following Obama than it did Bush. Dubya genuinely liked and respected us. Obama hates Britain, and as discussed in these pages, has gone out of his way to show it. We would have been nothing more in this adventure than what Lenin called 'useful idiots'.

In my view it is not too much to say that the burden borne on British backs since colonial times has suddenly been lifted, and the British people can look forward this morning to a bright new future as an independently minded nation.

And, remarkably, it is largely due to Ed Miliband.

26 August, 2013

Nice work....

Steve Ballmer, the head of Microsoft, is going to retire.

When he announced the news, Microsoft shares shot up, making him instantly $1 billion richer, for promising not to work.

Syria again

All the signs are that David Cameron is about to embark on an insane military intervention in Syria without the approval of the United Nations.

Many MPs are demanding that Parliament be recalled and this is quite right. Cameron should be allowed to mobilize the military without consultation if the UK is threatened with attack, but that is not the case here.

The effect of a successful intervention in Syria would be to put into power a motley group of rebels some of whom, doubtless, are secular and sensible, others of whom are mad terrorists. Who will that help? The people of Syria? I don't think so.

Obviously every compassionate person will be very sorry that chemical weapons have been used. But that is no reason to compound the problem with Western missiles, which kill just as many people.

Let the MPs be recalled and let them put a stop to this nonsense.

24 August, 2013


Would you rather die by a chemical weapon or by a machine gun? For myself I'd just rather not die.

It is worth remembering that the business of chemical weapons use being some sort of red line is a construct of Obama who had been talking tough on Syria while unable to back it up.

Now that chemical weapons have been used, and we still don't know by which side, remember, he seems to want to do something. He has let it be known that he is repositioning his Mediterranean Fleet.

For Obama to attack Syria without United Nations' approval, which means without Russian approval, would be utter folly. And on which side would he intervene? This is a civil war between a murderous autocrat and some murderous islamists.

Sometimes it's better to remain silent.

Pulling the rug

Italian factory owner Fabrizio Pedroni sent his employees off on their annual holiday and quietly moved the entire operation to Poland. His business was being strangled by high salaries and low productivity. An employee on €12,000 a year in fact cost €30,000 due to social security and pensions provisions.

'If I had told the unions I intended to transfer production to Poland they would have had my property confiscated.' he said.

This is an all too common tale, which Italy needs to sort out if it is ever to emerge from the economic doldrums.

Incidentally the factory is called Firem.

22 August, 2013

Brave New World

The Snowden affair has been more interesting in the whereabouts of the leaker (who has now successfully sought asylum in Russia, a country which will have giggled at America's peccadilloes) and the more recent story of the Guardian journalist and his partner than in the actual details of the case.

It's probably worth remembering that Edward Snowden, a former operative for the American security services, revealed a comprehensive network of surveillance by the Americans and British (and others) covering private conversations over the phone, email and text.

I can't say I was very surprised about this. We knew years ago that GCHQ  would trawl the airwaves for key words. A computer technician used to send me emails finishing 'bomb, guns, explosion' and so on just to waste their time.

And I can't see that we can get along under the present islamist threat without doing something of this nature. It's not easy to put a limit on one's own rights but I believe I am entitled to know what they are looking at, but not entitled to know how they do it. As regards Mr Snowden, of course, he just released gobs of information without filtering it in accordance with these criteria (perhaps without being able to).

I have tremendous respect for the likes of Mr Snowden, and of course Bradley Manning who has been sentenced to 35 years for releasing fairly low-level information. I have no respect, however, for Mr Snowden's seeking asylum in Russia, as if it were some bastion of openness (glasnost, meaning openness, went out with Yeltsin, and there hadn't been much of it then). I rather think that these people should follow their consciousness if they believe this sort of stuff should be broadcast, but that they should accept the consequences of their actions, as Manning has done.

Then came the affair of the journalist and his partner. It emerged that the partner of a Guardian journalist who had released the Snowden stuff (the Guardian being the organ de choix for this sort of thing) was stopped at Heathrow en route from Berlin to Rio. The partner's name is Miranda, a nice name, although in this case it is the second name of a man rather than the first name of a woman.

Mr Miranda was questioned for nine hours under the Terrorism legislation and the Guardian screamed that this was attacking the innocent partner of a journalist in order to warn him off. If you had gone on holiday at that moment - to Russia, say - that is what you would have believed. However it then emerged that Mr Miranda was travelling on a ticket paid for by the Guardian, which insisted he wasn't a journalist. So what, then, was he? The Security Services thought that he might be in possession of classified information which he had couriered to a film maker in Berlin. It would be illegal to be in possession of such stuff, so they confiscated his laptop. Seems fair.

Then two things came to light. Firstly Miranda was not suspected of terrorism so they say he shouldn't be questioned under the terrorism legislation. There is espionage legislation, which wouldn't have allowed him to be questioned for quite so long. The second is that the police told senior figures in government they were doing this and the government told the CIA.

Funny name Miranda, although I repeat it is the man's surname. 'To be wondered at'.

I don't know if it is relevant, but Bradley Manning has decided to live as a woman, which presumably means he will be getting his own way all the time.

What do I think?

I want our security services intercepting things in order to protect me.

I want to know what they are allowed to intercept, what the rules are and I want to be satisfied that there is some oversight to make sure they don't overstep the mark.

I want whistle blowers to tell me things I don't know in respect of the above, and I want them subsequently to defend themselves in the Court of Public Opinion. I shall be on their side.

I don't want British Police automatically to reach for the terrorist legislation because that is the law which gives them most freedom of movement. Some 140,000 cases have existed over the last two years and without any detailed knowledge that seems excessive. And I want the police disciplined if they misuse these laws.

The Guardian, which also put up a smokescreen about laptops being destroyed by Security Services (also untrue, in that they were destroyed by Guardian staff in order to avoid an expensive legal case) has gone down in my estimation.

Oh brave new world, that hath such people in it
                                      Miranda, The Tempest

21 August, 2013

Consult the omens

I fear I shall never completely understand Football but occasionally one gets little glimpses.

Before their match Shakhter Karagandy of Kazakhstan sacrificed a sheep, whilst their opponents, Glasgow Celtic, did not.

Shakhter 2 : Celtic 0

20 August, 2013

Joy in death

It is reported that Germany is concerned about British plans to celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

I can't see that there is anything to celebrate in the outbreak of a war, even a war which we eventually won (at the cost of millions of lives).

Why don't we save up for a jolly great party in 2018, to celebrate the end of the conflict, or, better still, not celebrate it at all.

18 August, 2013

However, Cameron yields

What do you think about Russia? I think most people don't much like the idea. Many of us have grown up with warnings about what to do if they showered some of their many missiles on us. I don't like Putin, who seems a cross between a third world dictator and a Tsar, with enormous powers to wipe out opposition. And I didn't like the communism and don't like the aftermath. There's plenty more.

What the celebrity Stephen Fry (once described to me as 'a stupid person's view of what an intellectual is like') dislikes about Russia is the way they treat homosexuals, although it doesn't seem as bad as some Muslim countries that he never complains about. He wants us not to be allowed to enter the winter Olympics in Russia.

There's nothing wrong with this view or this prioritisation, except that Mr Fry is a celebrity and people, unaccountably, think his views important. For myself, I am not interested in Mr Fry's opinions, be they on Accounting standards, football or agriculture.

But David Cameron agreed to meet Mr Fry to discuss this, in a pub in the East End of London. This is naivety in the extreme. If I wanted to meet Mr Cameron in a pub, would he? Or you? Is his criterion, therefore, for meeting people to hear their views whether they are a celebrity? Is this the way we want government managed?

Cameron, or some very junior aide, should have told Fry that you don't get to exert personal influence on the Prime Minister just because you have been on the telly.


Oh dear. The football season has started, in the middle of August, if you please. Already we are seeing managers ashen faced with disappointment, men with impenetrable Scots accents celebrating their win, the whole lot united in taking themselves very seriously indeed.

For those who can't stand it, the fifth Ashes test starts on Wednesday, and there is still full five-day coverage on the BBC (even though the metropolitan trendy lefties in the Corporation have been trying to stop it for years). Listen to Aggers and Blowers and tell yourself that football is played in winter, and by some pretty silly people.

17 August, 2013

I yield to no one

I suppose it was inevitable that the test drilling in Sussex by a company involved in fracking would bring out a few 'C' list celebrities - the sort of people Joan Collins said would go to the opening of a root canal - but we are now treated with the views on drilling techniques of the designer Vivienne Westwood.

I yield to no one in my admiration for Ms Westwood's work in bringing modern fashion to the short sighted and colour blind, but she should stick at that. Neither she nor it would appear any of the other protesters know anything about this even though the BBC reports their uninformed opinions uncritically.

15 August, 2013


Perhaps because of its size, Egypt seems to have replaced Syria in the consciousness of the West, even though the death toll in Syria is far greater and UN inspectors are going down there to investigate claims that both sides may have used chemical weapons.

Estimates of the Death toll in the latest violence in Cairo and Alexandria vary widely: the Muslim Brotherhood says thousands, the regime some 500. But it is clearly bad. The question before us is similar to that in Syria: what should we do?

The first thing is to call a spade a spade. Calling what is going on 'events' or 'regime change' is to ignore the facts. The elected government was rounded up by the military and replaced with one of their own. the military is funded at least in part by America so this is a Western-funded military coup.

That isn't to say that Mr Morsi hasn't deserved his fate. A coup can be justified if it is for the benefit of the people. Morsi lied in his electoral promises, fiddled the constitutional negotiations to suit his sharia based ideas, and put religious fervour ahead of the welfare of his people. Morsi was Egypt's first attempt at government after its Arab Spring, and it was a botched one.

What can happen now? The Army-backed government must present a new constitution to Egyptians, a secular one permitting all kinds of worship (10% of Egyptians are Christian) and it must conduct open elections on this. All we can do is tell them that we regard the present arrangement as transitional.

09 August, 2013


The American chat show hostess, Oprah Winfrey, says she wanted to look at handbags in a shop in
Zurich and the assistant refused to let her look at a particular one, sayng it was too expensive.

Naturally, she has claimed it was racial discrimination (she is black).

This is to misunderstand completely the nature of Switzerland. The assistant is probably trained to look at the way customers dress, and the girl probably thought Winfrey had previously confined her patronage to charity shops.

The only discrimination you find in Switzerland is against poor people.

They can't stand those.

08 August, 2013

Priceless Publicity

The other thing that has our lefty friends foaming at the mouth is a remark by UKIP MEP Godfrey
Bloom about foreign aid, to the effect that if you give money to 'Bongo Bongo Land' it ends up being spent on sunglasses, Ferraris and fighter jets.

Yesterday a particularly idiotic interview on the Today Programme conducted by Left-wing Jim Naughtie began with 'where is Bongo Bongo Land?' and later suggested that the British Aid Programme had helped eliminate an outbreak of polio in Sudan so it was OK.

Today the Guardian splutters away; Zoe Williams: 'Bigots like Bloom must not be tolerated'.

90% of listeners to the Today Programme, if not Readers of the Guardian Comment Pages, know exactly what is meant by Bongo Bongo Land: a third world country, quite possibly in sub-Saharan Africa. James Naughtie should try to get out more. It is not racist to suggest that, even with the excellent polio eradication programme, some of the money might have been creamed off by some princeling or warlord, nor that he might have enriched himself to the tune of a Ferrari and some sunglasses or indeed some military hardware to help his cause. That's what most people think happens to some (not all ) of the aid programme. And it is not racist to suggest that the aid programme should not be kept so high at a time of financial exigence.

I have met Godfrey Bloom a couple of times. He is blokey, the sort of person you would meet at the golf club, and I remember forming the impression that he was harmless, albeit not as amusing as he thought he was. What has happened here is the lefties taking themselves so seriously that they couldn't spot that Bloom was taking the Mickey, and getting some priceless publicity for his own party.


Neil Wilson pleaded guilty to having sex with a child and owning images of child abuse. It is a story regrettably only too common.

But this one is different. During the course of the trial a barrister said the victim, a thirteen year old girl, was predatory and sexually experienced. The judge also described the victim as predatory and said there had been sex but that it had been instigated by her. He gave Wilson a suspended sentence.

Naturally the bien pensant left-wing media are up in arms.

Interestingly the barrister who said this was representing the prosecution. This hs been widely reported but not cmmented on. If a defence barrister thinks he has to attack the victim in order to help his client (this is not a defence, but can be mitigation) it may be regrettable but we cannot stop it, otherwise we are tampering with the law.

But why would the prosecution barrister say this? Unless he thought it, and felt it his duty to say it? And why would the judge repeat it? What if she was, in fact, at 13 years old, sexually experienced and predatory?

One doesn't like to think some things but they must, nevertheless, be thought.

05 August, 2013

Spain & Gibraltar

This year marked the three hundredth anniversary of the Treaty of Utrecht, under which Spain permanently ceded Gibraltar to Britain (it was following the end of the War of Spanish Succession). At least they can't claim, like Argentina with the Falklands, that they never gave it up.

Now the Spanish are threatening to charge £85 for a border crossing. So a European country is charging for the movement of goods and people but only to one nation - The Portuguese and French get in free of charge.

If this is permitted surely it marks the end of the European Union. Surely?

03 August, 2013


I outline the disaster for Silvio Berlusconi in The Commentator.

Any Citizen would surely think he has to disappear from politics. Any lover of the spectacle of Italian politics will miss him.

But he's not quite finished yet.

02 August, 2013

Nice work

The Birth of the Young Prince George has been registered and his mother has described her profession as 'Princess of the United Kingdom'.

Nice work if you can get it, but is she a princess? And if she is, why go by the lesser title of Duchess?

All very mysterious.