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The Geographical Guide To Sin 13 May 2007

Posted by David in Comment, World.
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Michael Gove and his mother-in-law have introduced a new discussion game to Britain, as yet unnamed it seems. Apparently you have to match each of the 7 Deadly Sins to a country (I guess you could do it for anywhere really), and its very popular in Italy. So here goes;

Lust – France, need I say more
Anger – Iran, keen to destroy millions
Pride – Australia, where they fly their flag and can win stuff
Sloth – Spain, where everywhere closes at lunchtime
Envy – UK, where “keeping up with the Jones'” is endemic
Gluttony – USA, closely followed by the UK
Greed – Hong Kong, ultimate consumer city

No doubt it will be labelled politically incorrect, so enjoy your discussions while they last.

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Brown Towns 13 May 2007

Posted by David in Comment, Environment, Labour.
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David Dimbleby is in the Sunday Telegraph with his new book, How We Built Britain. I find it rather alarming that he finds the Lloyd’s Building “a work of genius” as it’s well known as London’s most depressing building to work in (with huge numbers of depression cases), something he just about alludes to with talk of it having “no natural light” but narrowly avoids – as do most supporters of modernism, who can dismiss any evidence of their architectural cult’s never ending failings confidently and callously with unbelievable ease.

But Dimbleby’s biggest mistake is when he says “The modernist architects adopted a rational approach to the problem, studying the way people seemed to lead their lives and designing houses to match, rather than offering the kind of houses people thought they wanted.” Whilst he is right that “it was a mistake”, modernists never designed buildings for the way people actually lead their lives – rather they designed buildings for the way they felt they people should lead their lives. Modernism has a huge, left wing and totalitarian history to it; un-human in scale, unnatural in material, inflexible in design, they are “machines for living in” designed by planners who see people as cogs in the machine (a la Modern Times) rather than human beings. Which leads me to Gordon Brown…

Gordon Brown, stepping out from the shadows, has announced plans for five new carbon neutral towns. Now, after getting over the shock of the term “new towns” – so gloriously epitomised in Milton Keynes and Crawley – we have to ask, where? How can you just build five “new towns”? Apparently brown field sites will be used, but there aren’t that many. Once again, more countryside will be destroyed.

Time For Civility, Please 25 April 2007

Posted by David in Comment, Conservatives.
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“Think of the messages parents give children from an early age. Be careful. Don’t do that. Do it this way. I’ll do that for you. That seems to me a fair summary of most of the messages that government gives the public. We are infantilising people – treating them like children, with the result that many of us are behaving like children. Policy is made for the minority who do wrong rather than the majority who do right.”

Few paragraphs could sum up the present day government than this one, from David Cameron’s speech on civility. Also worth reading is the sketch in The Times. But for all the ease of joking – and such a stance has much opportunity to lampoon – it’s true. As a society, civility has gone out the window. As he says, “We have come to assume, and to resign ourselves to the fact, that civility is on a permanent and inevitable downward slide. This is curious, since in other areas, we assume the opposite. We don’t assume that the economy will get worse.”

Look at the amount of swearing on television and in public, the downright rudeness and ignorance of some people, the fact every law and regulation is targeted for either the most utterly stupid or obsessively law breaking minority. Because one person may do something wrong we are all held back, like school children getting a class detention.

Some wrongly pin the lack of civility on Thatcherism – the creation of what they would call a “me, me, me” attitude – but this is wrong. The “me, me, me”attitude was just as present, even more so, in those out on strike (demanding X, Y and Z from taxpayers and using force to get it) than in those being successful in business. But this is not the cause of today’s problems.

The civility problems of today are not caused by economics, but by a complete attack on social values. An attack where the state takes over and induces a “help us” attitude rather than a “we can” attitude, where individual action to act is held back by over-regulation, and where the old values of decency, respect and civility are sneered and laughed at for being old fashioned, conservative and dull.

The ties that bind us – family, community, the nation, tradition – have been undermined and destroyed by people who detest what they stand for, failing to accept the strength we gain from such ties. “A love of tradition has never weakened a nation, indeed it has strengthened nations in their hour of peril.” Without sense of belonging, many – particularly young males – go looking for other groups to identify with, many leading to gangs based on race, religion or other divisions. Without sense of belonging, people are less inclined to help each other.

On the less extreme scale the young do not learn good manners and how to behave, and the rest of us soon give them up. The erosion of values and community also leaves us unconfident and weak. But “It is lack of confidence, more than anything else, that kills a civilisation. We can destroy ourselves by cynicism and disillusion, just as effectively as by bombs“.

How we rebuild civility, I really do not know, it is an organic and natural thing. We can however, at least, stop undermining and attacking it.

Saint George’s Day – 23rd April 23 April 2007

Posted by David in Comment.
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Today is Saint George’s Day, a celebration in England since 1222. Dan Hannan thinks Saint George’s Day is ideal for celebrating Shakespeare, annoying lefty songwriter and Z list celebrity Billy Bragg is talking about patriotism in the Telegraph, and even the BBC is pondering how to celebrate Saint George’s Day. There is of course the annual “it’s time for a new patron Saint” grumble.

To me, Saint George’s Day is a day to celebrate the best of everything English. Things such as the countryside, history and traditions. There should not be too many flags as we’re an understated country [A pride that dares and heeds not praise/A stern and silent pride] – but a nice flagpole looks good as long as it’s not overdone (like during the football).

I disagree slightly with Dan Hannan, who states that Shakespeare is the greatest ever Englishman. That honour of course goes to the greatest ever Briton, Winston Churchill, who summed up our country’s honour and values more than any other in both text and speech.

Anyway, whichever you prefer, have a happy Saint George’s Day.

Saint George’s Day 22 April 2007

Posted by David in Comment.
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Once again the 23rd of April, Saint George’s Day, has arrived amid the usual grumblings from left wing fanatics who find anything English or British to be somehow racist. This years main culprit, the far left religious solialist “think-tank” Ekklesia, who have suggested that the English should celebrate their role as “global citizens” and not as “narrow nationalists” on the patron saint’s day.

The BBC message board is full of pro-Saint George comments, although the one they decided to highlight on the main articlewas Andy Belkin from Norwich who wrote “why do we need to celebrate dimwitted pursuits such as patriotism?” They make it look like it is typical of responses, when in fact Mr Belkin is in a very small minority.

I support making Saint George’s Day a national holiday in England, I think it is a great tradition (celebrated since 1222) and chance to celebrate the positive things our country has achieved and stands for. This would be far better than May Day, which was only introduced by left wingers in 1978 so they could listen to the Soviet military parade through Moscow on the radio and is now just used by crazy anti-capitalist riot mobs as an excuse. Most other bank holidays were selected due to cricket.

Saint David’s Day should of course be a holiday in Wales, and Saint Andrew’s Day a holiday in Scotland. Alternatively we could replace three existing bank holidays instead of just the one, and have all three of the patron saints days as Bank Holidays across all of Britain instead of in just the one constituent nation. There should also be a “British” holiday, replacing another bank holiday that represents nothing. My suggestions being Union Day (1st May), Churchill’s Birthday (30th November), Trafalgar Day (21st October) or VE Day (8th May).

I think this would be far better than the largely pointless, meaningless dates now. What, for instance, is special about “the last Monday in October”, an ideal candidate for shifting to Trafalgar Day, or “the first Monday in June”?

Media Intrusion Splut William And Kate, Not “Class” 17 April 2007

Posted by David in BBC, Comment, Media, Royals.
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I really cannot believe the media. It was painfully obvious to everyone that their constant barrage of intrusion caused the break up of Prince William and Kate Middleton, who was forced to live in the glare of a media which photographed and published her every move – from going shopping to sitting on a bus – while they speculated about possible engagement (Woolworths even ordered the commemorative plates to sell). Talk about external pressure on a relationship. Everything she did, and everything her family did (including her Mother chewing gum), was being analysed and judged for suitability as future British Queen by a media that views everything but itself as irredeemably flawed. In the end, poor old Kate Middleton seemed to be dating the press more than she was Prince William.

Meanwhile, every night out Prince William had with his new Army friends was shown as him neglecting Kate (who was probably watching Friends or doing her hair anyway). God knows what they’d have said if Kate had been photographed out with her friends instead of William…

When the situation started to scarily resemble that of a young Diana – Kate being badgered down the road Starbucks coffee in hand by dozens of happy snapping paparazzi – the end was near. When the media even began to suggest it was very much like it had been with Diana, there was really no escape from it.

As was initially suggested, William and Kate were I firmly believe rightfully told by both their families they had to decide; marry and commit to the life (and get the security protection), or flee it. The painful balancing act couldn’t go on, it just wasn’t fair on either of them (especially Kate). By ending it, they have let Kate free. She has escaped from a terrible life time sentence, at least for now (no one has said they’d never get back together in a few years, older and ready to settle down).

But what I really cannot believe is that, clearly to blame, the media have gone looking for another cause of the split. And what’s the best they can do? Class. Pathetic!

The story that the Queen disapproved of Kate’s Mother Carole Middleton – because she used the word “toilet” instead of “loo” and “pardon” instead of “what” – is frankly outrageous. The Queen would firstly never express disapproval of anyone, she is too graceful and discreet to do any such thing. She has met some of the most horrible people in the World – such as “Lixard of Oz” Paul Keating (who as Australian PM told her he wanted to abolish her and grabbed her under his arm in a public meeting) – and remained graceful and polite. She has read Queen’s speeches in the 50s, 60s and 70s resembling the Communist Manifesto and not shown emotion. She even opened the Edinburgh Hollyrood Parliament without laughing. So I doubt she cared less about having someone chew gum or use the word “toilet”.

And secondly, the Queen mixes and has always mixed with a very wide variety of people across the entire Commonwealth, and has more enjoyment with what these (which Royal observers would see as being in a lower class) than she does with Royal observers like Nicholas Witchall, who Prince Charles described as awful. The Queen particularly likes people with horses, and there are few interests with a more mixed socially bunch of people than the horse World. If anyone it’s the Royal observers who disliked the Middleton’s “class”, not the Queen.

The Telegraph is strangely very interested in the “class story”, which I find odd for them. According to their Which Class Are You?survey I “probably have a coat of arms” (I have a coat and two arms, does that count?) and am just 50 points short of being Duke of Devonshire (because I don’t have any children to send to school, and have a PlayStation and not a dressing up box – a dressing up box is a bit odd for a Duke isn’t it?).

A Perfect Mess? 6 April 2007

Posted by David in Comment.
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A Perfect Mess:The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – how crammed closets, cluttered offices and on the fly planning make the world a better placeby Eric Abrahamson, Professor of Management of Colombia Business School and David H Freedman, a technology journalist, explores the value of disorder in our personal, professional and political lives.”

It’s already been reviewed by James Morris, and it’s got me interested because – I’m fairly certain – it’s right.

Here’s the thing. Individual and small group efforts, working with limited resources and constrained by time, doing things on the fly, achieve huge things – example, just about everything successful in the private sector, let’s say YouTube. Making do, getting along, experimenting. But giant state started projects with 5 year plans, implementation committess, blank cheques and armies of workers, flop – example, just about everything in the public sector, let’s say the Millennium Dome or 2012 Olympics. 

I must also point out that over-planning is also to be found in the private sector, and ‘planning on the fly’ can be found in the public sector, usually at non-management levels such as nurses on wards etc.

Now there’s a place for planning and order, we need both, but the difference is in the reason behind it. Is it really necessary? Or is it just planning for planning’s sake? Planning for plannings sake, exemplified by the filofax holding, dictophone dictating, cheap suit wearing twit, and also by the report obsessed official using management speak (a favourite of New Labour), simply complicates the situation.

Do we need a national action plan for getting rid of MRSA, or should we just hire some decent cleaners and sack the bad ones (and isolate the infected)? Do we need to “think out of the box” and do “blue sky thinking” or would common sense be better?

I think we plan and organise too much.

Iran Hostages: What is the Next Phase? 31 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, EU, Europe, European Union, World.
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Iran still has 15 British troops held captive, at an unknown location, and is refusing diplomatic access to them unless Britain apologises for entering Iran’s waters. But we didn’t enter Iran’s waters! Even if Britain forged the GPS signal and maps – as Iran has themselves – the original grid reference given by Iran is actually within Iraqi waters! Only when they realised the mistake did they give a new grid reference.

But what can we do? We cannot block trade any more than we have, as the European Union (Iran’s biggest trading partner) controls our trade policy, and both Germany (the current European Union President) and France (with a veto) have big trade links with Iran. France alone in fact is Iran’s 2nd biggest trading partner. As the Times reports, European foreign ministers failed last night to back Britain in a threat to freeze the €14 billion trade in exports to Iran.

We don’t even know where they are, so can’t mount a rescue bid, as dangerous and near impossible as it would be anyway. Would we really declare was for 15 people? Iran would probably execute them even if we did. And the public have shown a very distinct lack of interest really. As the Telegraph comments, public opinion has changed. Where our great-great-grandfathers clamoured for the rescue of Gordon, we have reacted to Iran’s provocation with a resigned shrug. Americans, in particular, cannot understand why we seem so indifferent to the fate of our own people.

I certainly agree that the Americans are confused, the internet is awash with comments from our friends over the pond who really do not understand what has happened to Great Britain – many pledging their military support to us. The US Republicans in particular are shocked by our lack of action. But what will the government do?

And so Iran has all the cards, and knows it. The letters and apologies are clearly forced by the Iranians, you can tell in the letters by the language and grammar, one lacking the definite article and reading “To British People” as if dictated by a foreign person with less than fluent English rather than “To the British People” as we would say. The mention of removing forces from Iraq so they can take decisions themselves is clear indication as to Iran’s power in Iraq.

Blair has got to step up the pressure. Appeasement doesn’t work. If you give in to one hostage taker, you invite a thousand more, with ever bigger and tougher demands. We cannot rely on the EU, they will not help us. The diplomatic heat must be cranked up, with tough sanctions banning trade, blocking entry to the country, halting flights over allied territories etc. Meanwhile we must begin to threaten military action – such as seizing the waterway, bombing nuclear plants and oil sites – with America and our other true allies, and let Iran know we will not allow such actions against our forces enacting a UN mandate.

But Blair and Brown are weak. They talk of the next phase, the next level, the next stage – but what exactly is it?

Don’t Forget Wilberforce 25 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, World.
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Last night there was plenty of coverage of the 200th anniversary of abolition – the end of slave trading anywhere under the Union Flag – but I was disappointed by it. Anyone tuning in would have seen not a celebration of Wilberforce and his heroic abolitionist’s victory, or the contribution made to the World by the emancipated slaves and their descendants, nor even a celebration of racial harmony, but rather a series of stunts in self-flagellation.

We had church leaders in chains, commentators saying “Britain is still living off wealth from slavery” but not explaining how or even what could be done about it, and John Prescott calling for a Slavery Day. Personally I’d rather have an Abolition of Slavery Day, can’t see how we’re living off 18th Century wealth, and don’t believe that the current population have inherited ancestral guilt – just as modern day Germans aren’t responsible for the Nazis.

Everything has to be pessimistic, down-beat and negative. Because of this we forget what people can achieve – like Wilberforce – which is remarkable and great. We lose inspiration and drive, and so fail to make similar achievements ever again. We quickly forget that we banned slavery, that the Royal Navy actively policed that ban across the globe, and that individual people – like Wilberforce and his other abolitionists – can change the World. There still is slavery, but self-flagellation about the past won’t fix it.

Update (1.04.07): An excellent article by Dan Hannan MEP – “You are descended from slaves. So am I. And from slave-owners, too, come to that. Statistically, it could hardly be otherwise. Forced servitude was common to all early human societies. It existed in the dark times, before cities and writing. It was carried into the first civilisations, in Ur and Sumer, in Egypt and Persia, in the Indus Valley and in Xia Dynasty China, in Meso-America and the Andes. It survived through the classical age, and into the mediaeval period. Slavery was endemic in African and Arab societies. Between 11 and 17 million people were taken from Africa by Muslim slavers between the seventh and nineteenth centuries. In the New World, too, slavery existed from the earliest moment of human settlement. The Mayans, Aztecs and Incas all practised it as, later, did the colonists. Although slavery sometimes had an ethnic basis, it was no great respecter of race. Muslim slavers traded in Christians: Georgians, Circassians, Armenians and others. Christians, for their part, enslaved Moors: as late as the sixteenth century, hundreds of thousands of Muslim slaves toiled on Spanish plantations. On the eve of the American civil war, there were 3,000 black slave-owners in the United States. We are, in other words, all in this together. Everyone alive today is descended from the exploiters and the exploited: it is simply a question of how far back you want to go. And that, surely, is what makes the arguments about apologies and reparations so silly. We can all agree that slavery was an abominable crime. From a contemporary perspective, it seems unbelievable that otherwise humane societies could tolerate it. It is understandable that, feeling wrenched with revulsion, we want to do something about it, or at least say tell people how miserable we feel about the whole thing. But tell whom? Anyone we choose to apologise to is statistically certain also to be descended from both owners and owned. What worries me about the campaign for reparations is that it unwittingly serves to sustain a racist view of humanity. By assigning guilt or victimhood on the basis of ethnicity, it implies that we are defined by our ancestry, rather than being free individuals. This was, of course, a popular Nazi idea, but I thought it had been widely discredited since. How strange to see so many well-meaning Lefties taking it up again.”

Happy Birthday To EU? 24 March 2007

Posted by David in Comment, EU, Europe, European Union.
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Today millions are being spent to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which founded the European Coal & Steel Community, which became the EEC, which became the EU. It feels like one of those children’s stories – “the cat that ate the mouse, who scared the maid, who milked the cow, who ate the grass, that stained the clothes, that irritated the parents, who remortgaged the house that Jack built”.

Regular readers will know that I do not like the EU, and the Telegraph lists some of the recent news stories that give reason for such a dislike.

March 1: The head of the European Commission says it would be illegal for any country to opt out of the Social Chapter. March 6: A report by Eurochambers shows that EU productivity is 20 years behind that of America. March 7: A Brussels magazine analyses the EU’s policy towards business in the light of the fact that 100,000 of the 170,000 pages of EU regulations and directives have been produced in the past 10 years. March 12: Publicans complain because the Commission wants the crown stamp removed from British pint glasses. It is revealed that the EU pays for free massages for the unemployed. The European Commission wants to set up a bigger embassy, a “House of Europe”, in London, costing £1 million a year. EU foreign ministers refuse to agree sanctions against Khartoum for massacre and expropriation in Darfur. March 13: A row about the EU attempt to ban incandescent lightbulbs. March 15: The Monetary Affairs Commissioner admits that trade within the EU has not grown since the creation of the single currency. March 16: Plans for a centralised European database of fingerprints, biometric information and criminal records are set out. A BBC investigation reports that the EU now has a “standing army”. March 19: 44 per cent of all Europeans and 52 per cent of the British tell an FT poll that their life has got worse since joining the EU. Fifty-three per cent of Europeans think that Britain has the biggest say in international affairs of any member state. Only nine per cent think this is true of Germany, six per cent of France. Disabled people won’t be able to go on holiday because the Working Time Directive forbids their carers to work more than 11 hours at a stretch. Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett says that Britain will “rise above” demands for a referendum on the expected new European Treaty, which will try to push forward the defeated constitution by other means. The European Parliament considers a proposal to regulate all football in the EU. March 20: A commission spokesman blames the previous day’s poll on “nostalgia and insecurity”. A British farmer is forced to destroy his £500,000 herd of cattle under EU rules because of irregularities between their passports and their ear-tags.

But my dislike of the EU is not based on news stories, but principle. I oppose the European Union on the grounds that I am a believer in liberal nationalism, rather than the EU’s crazy euro-nationalism. Let me explain.

I believe the “state” and thus the government should be freely formed around the naturally occuring and organic “nation” – a nation being defined as a group viewing themselves as a nation, distinct from other nations. Naturally this could lead to ever constant disintegration, so some limit must be placed on it, generally geographic sense, language and history.

This is the reverse of what the EU is attempting, which is to create a state/government (Romano Prodi said “for the powers I have [as European Commission President] there is no other word than government”) and then form a European identity around it, hence efforts to create Europe Day, flags, anthems etc. It’s also why the USSR had so many Stalin statues, Rome had the Emperor on coins everywhere, and why China is transforming Tibet.

You can see the difference. Liberal views build the state around the people, the other view builds the people around the new state.

But such a project is not only illiberal, but dangerous. When people live within a state but do not see each other as the same, the result will never gain legitimacy in their eyes. Then you see the rise of a violent form of nationalism, the nationalism of a people denied self-determination within a supra-national state – precisely such a state as the EU is becoming. Just look at Yugoslavia or Iraq to see that supra-national states cause trouble. And with the EU’s obsession with removing differences, and to standardisation (called “harmonisation – to soothe British feelings” as Schroeder put it), tensions will be a problem.

I am not anti-Europe, Europe is a continent, but I am anti-EU. I want independence not just for Britain, but for France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Poland, Belgium… Europe’s greatness lies in the fact it is many, instead of just one. Vive la difference, vive la independence.