Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Ignore fake Gouta 'outrage' - it's a smokescreen

With Agent COB revelations bubbling away as a foretaste of more news of Corbyn's past stupidity to come, as the deep establishment has now decided it's time to cut him off at the knees, it's a good time to take a look over to Syria. 

The manufactured horror in the Western media is peaking with 'humanitarian concern' over a rebel held pocket on the outskirts of Damascus. The press forgets that Russian-backed Syrian army re-taking of urban areas is brutal but thankfully rapid, with ground forces clearing house-to-house shortly after bone-numbing artillery and air attacks. Unlike US / Iraqi faffing about, with endless attritional bombardment including US White Phosphorus causing mass casualties because the ground forces won't risk themselves in combat. Not only is Syria's approach ultimately kinder, but the civilian population in the rebel area has already had every encouragement to move out into safety in the Assad-held areas but has chosen to remain. 

Media concern here is manufactured and is a smokescreen. Take a look at the current war map; ISIS have been all but vanquished, the Kurds have occupied territory from the Turkish border to the Euphrates, and the remaining US-backed Islamist rebel enclaves are shrinking. Assad must eliminate the rebel pockets around Damascus before a major offensive against the US / Turkish backed rebels holding land east of Latakia. We are now entering into the most dangerous stage of the war - in which Russian, Turkish, Iranian, Israeli and American ground and air forces are at high risk of direct conflict. 


 Der Spiegel has a good taste of the confusion now emerging on the ground;
What do a counterfeiter from Syria, an Iraqi-Afghan militia fighter under Iranian leadership and a Russian Cossack have in common? More than you might think. They all took part in a strange offensive involving around 300 men on Feb. 7 -- an attack force that was bombed by the U.S. as it crossed a pontoon bridge over the Euphrates River in an effort to capture one of largest natural gas fields in eastern Syria for the Assad regime. Located near the city of Deir ez-Zor, the so-called Conoco field had been wrested from Islamic State (IS) last September by Kurdish-led troops -- with the help of U.S. Special Forces who have been stationed in the area since then.

The Americans are using the Kurds to promote their own interests and the Turks, in addition to their own soldiers, are using anti-Assad rebels to fight on their behalf. Iran, meanwhile, has a diverse mixture of Iraqi, Afghan and Pakistani recruits under its command, in addition to its own people. Since 2013, the tens of thousands of troops under Iranian control have been propping up the regime of Bashar Assad. They are commanded, trained and financed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which wants to keep its Syrian ally in power at any price. One of these multinational Shiite militias was also involved in the attack on the Conoco gas field -- a collection of fighters straight out of a dystopian catastrophe film. 

Two local tribal militias also took part in the attack, including one controlled by counterfeiter Torki Albo Hamad. Once wanted in Qatar for murder and document forgery in Saudi Arabia, he was known in Syria for being the leader of a gang of highway robbers. In 2013, Damascus offered him money and impunity if he and his men would place themselves at the service of the regime.
This is the real story; the big boys are now playing out the end game for land, gas and oil, and our sucker media is just too easily distracted by planted fake news intended to turn our focus away from the important stuff. With the BBC still soundly smarting from the spanking it got over its wholly fake White Helmets reporting from Aleppo (there weren't any) they've fallen straight into this one. Perhaps when Czech intelligence officers branded Agent COB 'stupid' they didn't know he was representative of a whole cabal of 'stupid' at the heart of the British establishment.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Give to charity, but don't buy from an OXFAM shop

I am very grateful to commenters on here who have described how to donate efficiently and get aid to the people that need it. Just to prove their point I've been through the accounts filed for 2017 by OXFAM to find possibly the least efficient way yet devised of giving aid - buying those cute 3rd world sofa throws, gourds or greetings cards from an OXFAM shop or OXFAM online. Here's what happens to every £1 you spend:-

You Spend £1.00





Less 20% VAT*
£0.17
Sub total
£0.83




Less cost of trading
£0.66
Less OXFAM admin costs
£0.05
Sub total
£0.12




Less 5% political campaigning
£0.01




NET TO AID
£0.11




*VAT charged on gifts, cards, commissioned goods but not on donated items


Source: 2017 accounts submitted to Charity Commission



First point is that VAT is chargeable on all those commissioned gift items - but not on donated goods. So if you're buying an old frock rather than a new greetings card, the net will be bigger. Oxfam shops are really just PR - a subtle way of pretending that the charity gets most of its money from public gifts and donations rather than from central government aid. Once you take off the costs of running the shops and the website, and the costs of HQ staff and executives, you're left with just 12p of that £1.00. And then OXFAM skims off a further 5% for its domestic lobbying and anti-poverty campaigning - leaving just 11p to go on aid and development.

For anyone paying £3 a month by direct debit, your yield is a bit better. But be aware that OXFAM has 11 executives earning over £100k pa. Assuming they're all at the midpoint of the first £100k+ band, it takes 37,000 x £3 direct debits just to meet their salary bill each month. News that 1,000 folk have cancelled their DDs as a result of the sex scandal will hardly dent them - unless another 36,000 join them.

Looking at the figures really does bring the waste into sharp contrast. The lesson is, if you want your money to reach the people in need, follow the suggestions in the comments, and please, please, look at the accounts before you spend.

Friday, 16 February 2018

Rejecting moral relativity is not Puritanism

I don't want to ban the Lithuanian hookers who hang-out in the marble-clad cocktail bars of the 4* 'international' hotels around Euston Road. I certainly don't want to ban grid girls, darts dollies or the lady in the bikini on cards of peanut packs. I don't want to stop Max Mosley hiring tag-teams of prostitutes to cater for his deviant S&M sexual preferences (though because he funds the fake press regulator Impress, I do want to retain the right to report on his activities). And as some of my most stably married friends met whilst working together, I certainly don't want to stop office flirting or tea-room romance. 

But I do want to stop 'aid workers' in their 40s, 50s and God help us '60s using their positions of power and trust to sexually use very young girls from some of the most vulnerable, poor, disadvantaged and helpless places in the world. Paying women for sex is not a good thing, but where there is a degree of power equality and willingness on both sides it degrades only those involved. This is not the case in aid zones, in places where the UN flag flies, where the gross disparity in situation of the abuser and the consentor to sex makes it, in my eyes, rape. And please don't tell me that 'those girls look older than 13' or 'those African girls mature quickly, you know' - it makes you part of the problem. 

When I look into the helpless eyes of a person barely out of childhood who has nothing, absolutely nothing, and is dependent utterly on external aid and assistance, I really do believe that any man who harms or abuses such a one is better off throwing himself into the sea with a large rock tied to his neck. They certainly have no place in our society or that of any other people. They are pariah dogs, outcasts, lower than snakeshit. 

The UN has seen ill-disciplined African 'peacekeepers' rape very young girls to a disgraceful extent in DRC and other intervention zones, but at least has a Code of Practice which just needs to be enforced. Unlike Oxfam, which has said in recent days that it does not prohibit its field staff from using local prostitutes on human rights grounds. This is reason enough for DFID to withhold all funding from Oxfam until it not only imposes this COP on all its field staff, but has the structure to enforce it. If Oxfam aid workers want to use whores, they can wait until they get back to London, Brussels or Copenhagen. 


Thursday, 15 February 2018

Boris laid an egg fit for a curate

Yesterday was vintage Boris. I usually imagine him assuring anxious aides who are begging to see the text just hours before a speech is due to be delivered "Don't worry. Got a few ideas scribbled on a napkin. I'll wing the rest ...". Yesterdays speech, I suspect, was actually written in advance and cleared first by Mrs May. No cod Latin, no jokes about the War and only a hint of seaside postcard (sorry, Thailand). 

There was also nothing for Remoaners to pick apart; it's hard to criticise someone bestowing hope, love and best wishes to everyone. What are they to protest? "No, we don't want good relations with the EU, we want, er .." so it was clearly written as a proper speech, all sunlight, optimism and rolling uplands. That's fine. I can buy into that. But it's not premier league stuff - mostly forgettable in ten minutes. 

With one exception. The edible part of this curate's egg was the Foreign Secretary's warnings of the danger of a nation polarised by the Brexit vote. He's right. It's not enough to dismiss the 48% with "You lost. Get over it."

First, we have to leave. All the Soros money and the Gina Millar show need to play out, the Lords need to make their red leather benches damp and we need to get to March of next year. After that we have serious work in re-building a nation; those 48% are Britons, our brothers and sisters, with a share in and commitment to the United Kingdom every bit as great as ours (if mistaken or confused). Boris was spot-on with this one warning; our most urgent task after Brexit is not to secure trade deals, but to rebuild One Nation.

Monday, 12 February 2018

A post Brexit vision? About time ...

News that the cabinet's Brexiteers are to go on tour doing some speechifying on the benefits of a post-Brexit Britain. And about time. If stories are true that Rudd and Hammond have been restrained from spreading gloom whilst this is going on, then all the better. So just to get the ball rolling, here are just a few of my own hopes for our post-Brexit realm;

Exemplar
An example to Europe and the world of fairness, equity, tolerance and the rule of law. One nation needs to stand apart and show what freedom, justice, liberty and democracy really mean, particularly at a time when Europe's nations again face the most fundamental challenges to their national and cultural identities. Our law, our courts, our judicial independence, our language and our values stand head and shoulders above the pygmies of the Berlaymont.

Alacer
Europe's sclerotic and glacial systems of governance, dependent on serried ranks of bureaucrats reaching consensus in the absence of democracy, doesn't make for an agile government, to abuse the middle management buzzword de jour. I don't really like the term agility; it's too much like what monkeys do, rather than what statesmen should do. So alacrity then - from the latin alacer - that without Europe's lead weight we may respond and react to world events with greater speed and clarity.

Defensor
A nation with teeth that can bite - military, of course, but diplomatic, cultural and scientific, too. We are defending not just an Island but a system of post-enlightenment rational belief, free speech and freedom of expression and a way of life. We remain foremost in technological development. We must be proud of who we are and what we stand for - and that includes Britons of every creed and colour, across the political spectrum. Integration and social coherence within the realm are vital.

Mercator
A favourite word, this, embracing both merchant / trader and the dominant system of map projection vital to understanding world trade. The last time Europe imposed a trade boycott on the UK, back in old king Henry's time, our merchants simply sailed farther and wider to find replacements, and in the process established a system of global trade that sustains the nation today. These early merchant venturers also developed capitalism as we know it today, with the practice of jointly investing in speculative voyages in a way that shared risk and reward. You've really only to stand and listen in a crowded, beer puddled, jostling City pub on a Thursday night to find that we haven't lost it. 

Domesticis
Leaving the EU will also mean divorcing our metropolitan elite from their EU support network; they face a separation from the main body of the cancer that has eaten at our society and people. Our abused working class, so despised and feared by the privileged neolibs, can rightly take credit for winning - and need be ever more vigilant in protecting universal suffrage and the secret ballot from the wheedling, corruption and manipulation of the Grayling class. Just as their efforts in two world wars won hard-fought rewards, they will also bear the immediate brunt of leaving the EU, and we must be absolutely explicit that we will make changes as fundamental as were the NHS and post-war housing to ensure they are valued and rewarded, and that the benefits of Brexit don't simply accrue to the sharp-elbowed metropolitan elites who suck the life out of everything else.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

If you read just one thing today, read this

I cannot write without subtracting from the clarity and cogency of AEP's column in the Telegraph today. Please, if you read just one thing today, read this.
As a private citizen, I have made up my mind. The current negotiations with the EU have become intolerable. Britain should walk away immediately. It should ask for nothing from Brussels beyond a smooth handling of the switch-over and common-sense treatment of technical issues such as landing rights, Euratom, and cross-border finance. It should withhold the exit fee until the EU has complied. 
Edit - just this once...

"The nightmare recurs. Call it the British Versailles. Theresa May is ash-white and exhausted after sixteen hours of cliff-edge talks. The grim ordeal lasts deep into the night on Friday, October 19.
Britain’s friends around the table at the Justus Lipsius – named after the stoic Flemish author of "De Constantia" – wince with pain and sympathy at the emotional spectacle. Yet they say nothing. The sum of the European Council is of a different character from its parts.

The document sitting before Mrs May spells out the terms. There is no bespoke deal, and no market access for services. The "Canada plus" model has degenerated into a deformed variant of "Canada colonial" with a permanent EU veto over larger areas of British law and policy. It is the worst of all worlds: a limited trade deal under draconian conditions. Medieval historians would call it suzerainty.

The ghastly error of British negotiating strategy is laid bare. Either Mrs May signs, or she walks away and invokes the sovereign fall-back option of the World Trade Organisation. But by then it is already too late for the WTO. The customs machinery cannot safely be activated in the four months left before the Article 50 process expires in March 2019. There is not enough time for the necessary global diplomacy. With Treasury warnings of a sterling crash and a "Gilts Strike" ringing in her ears, Mrs May buckles to overwhelming pressure.

It is a diplomatic defeat of the first order. It brings about three quarters of the alleged trend damage to UK economic growth suggested by Treasury forecasts – 6pc of GDP over the long run under a free trade pact – without securing the central objective of British parliamentary self-government.

Note that the alleged damage would be only slightly more at 8pc under a WTO clean-break, an option that would still be possible (only just) if set in motion today. So even if we accept the Treasury figures – as a Gedankenexperiment  – the difference between a WTO deal that upholds British independence and a "Canada colonial" deal that ties down the UK in perpetuity is barely noticeable when stretched out over fifteen years.

Perhaps my dreams deceive me. Perhaps there will be a fudge of sorts. But what if the nightmare comes to pass?  Paris and Berlin have not retreated one millimeter from their core condition: that there can be no deal on services unless Britain accepts the Norway model (EEA). The UK must swallow the single market package, with euro-judges, and open-door migration, and EU directives forever.

The torrent of leaked EU strategy papers from Brussels are a disturbing foretaste of the relationship that awaits the UK as a "demandeur", pleading for leniency from a position of psychological defeatism. They strongly indicate that the EU is not only insisting on an asymmetric deal that locks in its £80bn goods surplus with the UK, but also that Britain should be bound by sweeping extra-territorial control and should pay annual tribute for the privilege of its own infeudation. It is not a Canada option at all. Canada would have rejected such terms without compunction.

Theresa May hopes to muddy the waters, arguing that the summit "breakthrough" in December refutes the critics and shows that deals can be struck after all. The cold truth is that she gave way on almost everything, and agreed to pay an £50bn exit fee on EU terms, largely in order a secure a transition that does not even allow Britain to strike fresh trade deals with the rest of the world.
As we are learning fast, even this transition is toxic.  The EU’s text threatens suspension of market access, the imposition of tariffs, curbs on banks, and the loss of landing rights, if Britain drags its feet on implementing new laws over which it has no control or is deemed to have violated transition terms, with the EU acting as judge and jury.

This follows leaks of internal papers last week that spoke of Britain almost as a pirate state, so depraved that it might start poisoning its own workers in chemical plants or starting belching black coal smoke from power stations in order to gain a competitive edge after Brexit. 

The text leaves no doubt that the EU aims to control Britain’s future tax policies, regulations, employment laws, and industrial regime, in fine detail – beyond any normal governance codes set by the WTO and the OECD – and that this deviant island should be watched, coerced, and brought to heel. These demands are self-evidently at odds with the supremacy of Parliament. In my opinion the language is indecent.

Some on the Remain side might say "I told you so", but such an argument will not carry them far in British politics since most voters ultimately put some value on such old-fashioned notions of country and national honour. The tribe of footloose "Anywheres" with a high reflexive loyalty to the EU idea, to borrow from David Goodhart’s sociology, makes up 20pc of the population, and most would probably display deep reserves of patriotism if push ever came to shove. Real "Global Villagers" with few qualms about the humiliation of their own country are just 3p
 
My question to Anna Soubry and the hard Remainers in Parliament is how they imagine that Britain would function as a colony inside the EU single market over time, and under the sort of regime that Brussels has in mind. Is it not a formula for perpetual conflict? Is it not bound to further poison relations between Britain and Europe, and to compound error upon error?

I say this as somebody who previously supported a Norway model, at least for a decade until the UK had secured other trade deals and become less vulnerable. Yet events have moved on and trust has been shattered.  As ex-EU commissioner Lord Hill told the House last week, the status quo ante no longer exists.

The act of Brexit has itself changed the political dynamic in Europe, leading to a dirigiste, anti-market, anti-City, and anti-innovation lurch in Brussels – which must lower the EU’s economic speed limit over time, nota bene. It is therefore even more urgent for Britain to reassert self-government. “For an economy that is as dependent as ours on services, how could we in all seriousness subcontract all our rule-making to someone else?” he asked.

The leaked EU documents tell us that Germany and France will not allow the UK to have a Norway deal on anything like Norwegian terms because the UK economy is much larger and – in their mind – poses a much greater danger to the EU project. Our trading rights could be revoked at any moment without the normal protections of the WTO."

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

There should be no online Safe Space for the political class

I suspect it is true that an individual's motivation to stand as an MP is a mixture of a desire to do good and make the world a better place and a desire for personal aggrandisement. The balance between these two drivers will be different for each MP. They are not necessarily contrary, nor incompatible. I have never had any desire to enter Parliament (except to visit its infamous bars) because I have neither the front nor the requisite talent for dissembling and neither a hunger for fame, power or wealth nor a skin like a rhino. I do though have a desire to do good and to make the world a better place, and that is why I write. We all do what we can.

Of one thing I am absolutely certain, and it is that no MP should end their life being butchered in their surgery car park, like the late Jo Cox, and no MP should go in fear of such violence and threat. We must rightly protect our MPs from crazed killers, terrorists, death threats and the vilest intimidation. We must also protect them from vexatious prosecution, civil or criminal, for what they say in Parliament - and for this we have Parliamentary privilege. Thus empowered, thus protected, they can go about their business, which is our business. 

However, every MP now sitting knew fully well that with their ambition would come both restrictions on how they can behave in their personal lives, and political abuse. Not one sitting MP was so naive as to believe they would be immune from vituperation, anger, frustration, contumacy, criticism, argument, dislike and insult. At one time this came only from journalists writing in newspapers and periodicals, and from crowds at public meetings. Now it comes also via social media. Well, that's a challenge, but not novel or different enough to require a new degree of protection for MPs. We can't create a safe space for the political class without also enacting censorship of valid commentary and opinion, however crude, however illiterate. 

Nor can blogs such as this be fora for prolix balanced consideration. One has a reader's attention for perhaps a minute, often less, and must be both succinct and direct, employ hyperbole and emotion, to opine clearly and memorably on any issue. I've tried equivocal posts, perfectly balanced posts, kinder gentler posts and they don't work. People don't read them and they don't attract comments. 

I wrote above that I don't have a hide like a rhino, and that's why I use a pseudonym. This way I can fully preserve free speech here in my little kingdom and anyone may comment just about anything without wounding the real me. MPs have no such padding. We must ensure that their legal protection from criminal intimidation, and their safety from physical violence, is as absolute as we can make it. But we must preserve also our right to call them fatuous, vacuous talentless sheep without the imagination to run a whelk stall, should we so wish.