Saturday, December 01, 2007

A New Dawn Has Broken...

Kevin Rudd
Other side of the world
but the same tired agenda
...has it not? Well perhaps not such a new one from a more global perspective.

Amongst the news stories I had clipped away during my hiatus from serious blogging I found quite a lot on the aftermath of the sad demise of John Howard's administration in Australia.

It's not worth revisiting them in detail a week on but from a bird's eye view there is something very tiringly familiar in the the tone of the various headlines that Kevin Rudd's camp have managed to generate in the international press after their election success about the direction he wants to take his country.

Take this, from Sky:
  • "Rudd To Apologise To Aboriginal People"
Yes, a new administration, elected promising real change for ordinary people in fact focusing first of all on a politically correct, but fundamentally meaningless gesture. Yes, treatment of Aboriginal people in Australia was appalling, but Kevin Rudd didn't do it, nor for that matter did John Howard.

Then there's this from the Telegraph:
  • "Calls for Australia's Rudd to hold referendum"

This of course refers to calls for a referendum on becoming a republic. Frankly this is a matter for Australians on which I have very little in the way of opinion. Rudd is a keen republican, which is fine, but, in common with most other leading Australian republicans, he seems to be a little bit reticent about his views on the details of how a democratic presidency should work. So then, a personal commitment to constitutional reform with out clarity on the end point of the changes. Sounds familiar?

Other stories have commented on the firm commitment to remove Australia's welcome, but small and non-critical contingent of troops from Iraq, an issue that is doubtlessly popular with much of the Australian public, but is hardly an earth shattering act of political leadership. On the environment he has promised much the same line on climate change that our own politicians have been asking us to swallow for a few years now. Yes, I'm sure action will be taken, and the changes Australia will make will have the same effect on the the climate as our own, none whatsoever.

Rudd seems like a nicer kind of human being than our own revolting Prime Minister and that may secure him a longer tenancy in Canberra than it looks like Incapability Brown might be offered of Number 10 by the British People. It still looks though, very much the same threadbare, visionless modern left agenda of our own government.

The old left was something I always disliked, but at least they had a substantial dream of the sort of country they wanted to create. It is true that the same critique could be applied to the modern right in our own country to some extent, but at least the core values of the value of individual freedom against an over mighty state guarantees them some relevancy long in to the future. With their former economics thoroughly discredited by the realities that history teaches us, and the idea of campaigning for a bigger state, at least overtly, something of a bygone age it's pretty hard to understand what purpose those that describe themselves as left of centre serve any more.

Sadly my Australian friends, I suspect you are facing just what we have had for more than a decade. More tax for little more benefit than covering up the inadequacies of your ruling classes and ill considered gesture politics. I think Rudd does have a role model for matters more serious than emptying bodily orifices in Parliament and I'm not convinced he has picked wisely.

The Road to Adulthood

The Scowling Marathon
The weekend has not been a pleasant one in the Village. It would appear that the high street is playing host to the winter games of the XVIIth Chavolympiad.

All bus stops and most shop doorways are occupied. It seems that the bus stop near the Base Camp is playing host to the boys under 15 getting mullered on a single bottle of Budweiser finals, while doorway of the florists down the road is hosting a round of the teenage girls screeching contest.

I don't like to sound too old-gittish about it, but it's hard not to look back and think 'was I ever like that?' and realise that I'm pretty sure I was not, and nor for that matter was anyone in the town in which grew up, a far less well heeled area than that were I live today. There are a hundred and one explanations tossed around for the growth of what tends to get lumped over the term 'anti-social behaviour' but to be honest few of the ones I've heard seem to me to get to the heart of the problem and consequently most of the solutions seem way off the mark too.

The Labour government, of course, with its incredibly stunted imagination believes the solution lies in bans, crack-downs and restrictive legislation; the merit of each initiative is assessed in it's potential for hogging newspaper space to displace the daily diet of tales of government failings.

Cameron's vision of National Community Service or whatever it was at least showed some originality of thought even if it is, as I've said before, a vision that can probably only be preached to the converted. There is, and I think always has been, an instinctive distrust from teenagers of activities organised by them by the adult world for their greater good. To a large extent I actually think that there is a actually something perversely healthy in this scepticism.

I can't help wondering, with my Conservative leanings, why the market has not provided a solution. After all, there is a clear large demographic group which in many parts of the country, surveys tell us, relatively cash rich. When I look at the plethora of identikit coffee shops up and down the high street I wonder why one doesn't try providing the same kind of social environment as some of the more popular bars in town, with everything bar the alcohol. With the relative proportion of the increasingly similar drinks prices extorted by the government in the two types of establishment differing so wildly it's hard to imagine it being an unprofitable venture to offer evening opening and a teen friendly environment that they would actively choose.

Of course, it might just be that my own view of organised yoof activities is a little bit jaundiced by my own limited experience of it. It was decided, at I think about thirteen that I should be packed off to the local scout troop every Wednesday evening. As it happens it was quite good fun, but perhaps not quite in the way that Baden-Powell may have hoped.

On the plus side it gave an early introduction to democracy, in that we were allowed to elect our own patrol leaders. We exercised our choice wisely, selecting the most mature both in attitude and appearance. The latter consideration may seem a bit superficial, but in fact it was the key criteria in determining their chances of buying beer and cigarettes for those who were still too youthful to bring their own provisions for the post meeting festivities.

Friday, November 30, 2007


Teddy Bear
Gordon Bear
Now that is offensive
I hadn't meant to pass any comment on the current furore about Gillian Gibbons, being hopelessly skewered between the ridiculous actions of the Sudanese government in seeing this case go to court and my dislike of the stupidity of a person who goes so ill prepared to a particularly fucked up part of the world, where an especially fucked up version of a religion that even in it's more reasonable form I find tests my tolerance with its distrust of many values I hold dear.

This is not to say I would not have felt the same indignation as most had some more barbaric punishment been handed down by the court, but frankly under the circumstances I didn't feel any deep and abiding anger over the 15 days in jail that actually was issued. I like a few pints of an evening, as such I've never had the slightest interest of visiting even a more reasonable Islamic state for more than a couple of hours and with a loose tongue and a hot temper I would never want to risk going to a hard core one where I would know I would have to think twice about by every word or deed.

It is not a position of intolerance, far from it. Whenever I have travelled outside the safe cocoon of the core Anglosphere or Europe I go out of my way to understand and respect local customs, even when the punishment for a mistake is no more than a disapproving stare. When I was in India I respected the need to not engage in public displays of affection towards somebody I have a lot of affection for and I tied myself in knots avoiding showing the soles of my feet to those locals sharing the cramped sleeping compartment of an overnight train from Jaipur. Facing the risk of criminal action in a justice system so devoid of the slightest trace of common sense or tolerance is not a risk I would take.

I have to be honest then and say Ms Gibbons has seemed a bit of prat thus far and I have had little sympathy for her. I still don't, as long as she gets to do her 15 days and comes home safe; It is today's demands by Sudanese mobs for Ms Gibbons' head that are the truly shocking sight, not the doubtlessly unpleasant couple of weeks she faces.

The Danish cartoon fiasco was bad enough, but maybe, when I stretched my mind far enough I could understand some offence being taken, however much my non-religious mind baulked at the degree of offence and how it was publicly manifested. I can't really apply even this very little degree of understanding to the current case. To call for the death of fellow human being over what, if it was a failing, was a minor and well intentioned one, I hope would shock people of all religion or none.

There are far too many calls for moderate Muslims to stand up to repudiate the more extreme actions committed in the name of their faith. Even if I felt that my own Christening into the Church of Scotland was anything other than it was 'what you did' at the time, as well as an excuse for a party, I wouldn't expect to be called on to show any contrition for the many bad acts of the Christian faith down the ages.

If though I was a believing, moderate Muslim looking at the image presented by my co-religionists in the Sudan though, I would be thinking of the image that was being presented of my faith and wondering how that image could be improved. To have the public face of a system of belief distorted by such lunacy should be a major issue of concern.

Oh, and as for the argument about "how would you feel if your child had a bear called 'Moses' or 'Jesus'?" I think the answer for most Christian parents would be "delighted, just as long as it's not 'Gordon'".

The Price of Pride

Navstar...It's there,
it's free, it works
It appears that the faintest glimmer of hope that common sense may prevail has finally been extinguished over the ill-starred Galileo project, with the news that EU member states have decided that the opportunity to piss several billion euros up the wall, on what is essentially a vanity project, was too good to pass up on.

Last minute hopes that sanity may have prevailed with rumours that the Spanish had major objections quickly evaporated when it transpired, unsurprisingly, that these objections were not rooted in a principled disagreement with the fundamental wastefulness of the project, but rather rested on a demand that more of the money be wasted in Spain. In any case, in the shape of things to come Spain, a EU state of some size, was simply outvoted and ignored, until some face saving compromise could be agreed.

With the deal secured, the need to maintain the party line on the very questionable real world benefits of funding another new global positioning system from the taxpayers pockets (private enterprise having lost interest long ago) could finally be dispensed with:
...[EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot] pointed out that once up and running, Galileo will "ensure the economic and strategic independence" of the EU, as "special navigation is an indication of power" on the world stage.

Source: EUobserver

Yes, as it always was intended, we have to fork out at least €3.4 billion for something that is indeed nothing more than a dick length extension for our lords and masters.

Even the figure of €3.4 billion should ring alarm bells, not because it seems horribly large, but in a sense it seems far small. Considering the research and development still to do, the size of the constellation of satellites required, and the well known eye watering costs of space projects it seems completely and utterly unrealistic. I can't help but suspect the number is more related to the amount in the pot, from underspend on agriculture and administrative budgets, the 'politically acceptable' amount.

Naturally though, the 3.4 billion is enough in one sense. Once it has been expended the 'in for a penny, in for a pound arguments' can be deployed and more money can be squeezed from the taxpayer to see the dreams of EU leaders, if not those of any sane EU taxpayer, realised.

Anyway...the Commission says €3.4 billion, delivery in 2013, so I'll start the sweepstake. I'm going for €8.5 billion and I think that 2016 will be the year we will rush to buy Navstar GPS receivers before some form of compulsion comes in to use the EU alternative when it goes live in 2017.

Incapability Brown

Michael Ancram
All Hail the Chieftain
So it's official; Knacker of the Yard is back on the case of that serial offender, the Labour Party.

It may be that there may be the slightest glimmer of a smile on the face of some at Labour HQ. They will doubtlessly hope that the treatment the treatment of Ian Blair will be reciprocated in deciding whether actions were criminal, incompetent by design, or incompetent by accident.

There are already signs that the die hards of the left know the game is up. On another blog I saw in the comments left by one such pitiful creature whose proud boast was that even if recent polling data (properly treated with caution with those on the right) that the Conservatives may have a 13% lead in the popular vote was replicated at a general election, that a 20 seat majority for NuNuLab could be the outcome. He may well be right, but it's not something I'd be proud of even if I had the required mental insufficiencies to be a Labour supporter.

To be honest, on the facts alone, though serious, the latest Brownian debacle is the least serious charge standing against this group of pointless muppets. It is its position at the bottom of a long list of failures that makes it so significant, as does the general reaction of the media.

The only game in town over PMQs was whether it was Vince Cable or David Cameron who landed the heaviest punches on a Prime Minister who came into the ring with a large number of standing eight counts already counting against him and already knowing his only weak counterpunch would be to reel of a few discredited statistics.

On this matter I think the best contribution, quietly delivered as it was, was overlooked. Cameron's final assault was delivered well after an average start, and was harsh, but at the same time reflected the general mood of the media, and in that, for once, in all probability the instincts of all sentient life; Vince Cable's 'Mr Bean' joke was snappier, and drew the most instinctive support.

I though, give the trophy to someone that I had to abuse on the only other occasion he has drifted in to my political conciousness, Mr Michael Ancram.

He asked a simple question:
Mr. Michael Ancram (Devizes) (Con): In the face of the recent crises that have beset the Prime Minister, particularly this last one, he has told us that he learned about them only at the last possible moment. Why does he think that members of his Government—and, indeed, of the party that he purports to lead—are apparently so intent on keeping him in the dark?

Source: Hansard
Quite, and let us not dismiss the idea that Brown was completely unaware of what was going on, pathetic as it is, out of hand entirely, for there is a reality that many, who have worked in the management structures of large organisations, will all recognise.

It is simply this, that one of the most identifying hallmarks of a bad manager is that he or she becomes a person that his immediate juniors feel they must hide every personal or organisational defect from. It's a pattern of behaviour discussed at length in every serious MBA course in the land and the 'villain' in every discussion is the person higher up the corporate food chain. Seeing Brown's ritual humiliation of West and Miliband is a better case study than any dusty textbook of why this is the case; a bad manager, by the very nature of who they are, engenders such behaviour.

I doubt, but do not entirely discredit, the theory that Brown was only aware of the manifest incompetence of his juniors days (and 'days', even in the singular, is, in of itself unacceptable) before it became public knowledge. Yet, even if this remarkable proposition is accepted it may raise more questions than it answers about Brown's fitness for office.

Management is a tough job. It's not something I was born to, and it's something I struggled with and sometimes failed on. I'm not Mother f***ing Theresa, but I did realise the overall failures were in no small part my own; I learned, and I moved on, and worked out how the world really works.

Sadly I think our Prime Minister would consider this beneath his dignity and, if we are to believe the 'I knew nothing' line he should, in any sensible society, realise that even the couple of years that our constitutional settlement will allow him before his name only has currency as part of a joke, is two years too many.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Getting into the Spirit

Xmas Decorations
Blogging has been a little bit light of late due to paying work commitments and a bit of the general miasma that seems to have struck a couple of the authors of other blogs I enjoy. Now, refreshed by an invigorating couple of weeks of almost daily bad news for a rotten government I feel ready to spout forth my usual drivel again.

I'm a bit loathed to start with a Christmas tale, being very much a fully paid up member of the 'Christmas starts too bloody early' brigade and somewhat of a bah-humbug even when it does come in its proper time. That said I was quite amused to see the transformation at my local purveyor of tobacco products in the Village.

My local off-licence has recently been taken over by a group of, I believe Sikh, gentlemen who have improved the place immeasurably, not only in terms of the merchandise on offer, but also a genuine old-school welcoming attitude to their customers.

It is always 'service with a smile', but perhaps never more so than tonight as they were in stitches putting up their Christmas decorations, and very proud of their dressing of the cigarette display.

Little scenes like this, along with the selection of unhealthy but tasty range of Polish food the same shop stocks, is the positive side of multiculturalism if one exists, enjoying the positives in a festival that you do not celebrate, but are happy to join in the spirit of. It's a stark contrast to the po faced multiculturalism of the left, where all that makes us different must be suppressed, at least if it is from the more entrenched part of the indigenous culture, for fear of an offence that is never intended and very rarely taken.

I do believe this is a lesson that has, in the greater part, been learned, but I still hold out little hope that I will get to the New Year without hearing of ridiculous act of stupidity from one of the last remaining bastions of dogmatic, counter-intuitive, irrational leftism.

I don't believe, so I won't be shocked or offended, and even if I did I would not be. In either case though, I will be, or would be, saddened to see such ridiculous behaviour.