Sunday, 22 December 2013

Christmas Present

The Emperor’s New Clothes 

Twice upon a time, the great reading public were approached by two brothers, “We are ever so clever and very stylish”, as they described each other, “but my brother is also quite wrong.”

 “Readers, we are the finest political writers ever to put pen to page or fingertip to keyboard. We can look at any subject; see immediately how wrong the other journalists and historians are and weave the finest stories from words that we define ourselves precisely.” They took a sip of whisky and coffee respectively and continued,

 “We are so contrarian that the warp of our stories runs crosswise and the weft lengthways. Isn’t that brilliant? Everyone else has got it wrong, of course.” “And the thread is spun from the finest individual hand-picked cotton bolls as we metaphorically describe facts. If the colour and texture of the cotton boll doesn’t match the thread of the cloth we plan to weave we discard it unless we need some that are thicker and darker for emphasis.”

 The great reading public was very impressed with the brilliant brothers’ description of their talents and sat on the edge of their seats waiting for the brothers to research and then write a brilliantly controversial article or two because the brothers always disagreed with each other so that they could write more articles. When the articles were published the great reading public paid for the newspapers, books and magazines they appeared in and the two brothers became rich as a consequence.

 However, the great reading public was rather disappointed by the articles, “You’ve simply written the opposite of what other journalists have written,” it complained. “No we haven’t” said the two brothers, “Unintelligent people might think that because they aren’t clever enough to understand that actually … other journalists have written the opposite to us.”

Not wanting to appear dim, the great reading public readily agreed with that elegantly constructed logical argument for which there was no possible rebuttal and became very hostile to other people who had doubts about the brilliance of the two brothers, whatever they cared to write.

 A succession of critics noticed the errors in the brothers’ articles but they were smeared as background noise and lasagne, whatever that meant and were ignored and became unpersons just as the Trotskyists had taught the brothers to do in their first flush of contrarianism.

 Paradoxically, the brothers became more unpopular as they became more popular with their polarised fan bases. One took pride in calling himself Hated when actually he was pitied more than despised (Perhaps the reasonable person’s definition of Hated was actually Consistently Correct). But the younger brother was happy because he was finally getting the attention for which he had desperately yearned all his life (he was never on radio and the telly because he was right and reminded his readers of that injustice before and after every appearance). And he lived happily ever after.

Monday, 21 October 2013

How To Pay For Nuclear Power Stations And Own Them

Hinkley C Nuclear Power Station cost      = £16 billion

International Aid (using borrowed money) = £12 billion annually

Thus, a power station supplying 7% of UK electricity demand costs 16 months' international aid.

I propose a 16 month aid moratorium to pay for a nuclear power station. The net profits from the power generated by the power station can be "ring-fenced" for international aid if a referendum agrees to it. After a decade over a half of electricity demand will be provided by British owned nuclear power stations. And we'll have a flourishing British nuclear power industry (Rolls-Royce already make naval submarine reactors) and the all important energy security that means we won't have to be nice to nasty foreign governments to get their gas.

Net effect on public spending and borrowing nil.

Why didn't you and the bright sparks in the Treasury think of it George?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Bongobongoland - A Howler

Godfrey Bloom MEP was wrong because Any Fule Kno that Bongobongoland changed its name to the Democratic Republic of Bongola when it gained independence and a set of fancy dress but kept its allowance from the former Mother Country.

Friday, 10 May 2013

A Challenge To Peter Hitchens

Statue of Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris outside the central church of the RAF, St. Clement Danes. The front of the stone base bears the inscription:
G.C.B. O.B.E. A.F.C.
1892 – 1984
1942 - 1945
The side of the base bears a plaque with the words:

The sculptor was Faith Winter, the architects were Tony Hart and Mike Goss

Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens refuses to amend or even acknowledge an error he made regarding the rank of Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris in an article published on 30 June 2012.

This is any open opportunity for him to justify his assertion and I offer him the hospitality of this site to do so, as he was able to do last year on a related topic.

I found an excellent quote about Tony Cliff of the International Socialists in Jim Higgins "More Years for the Locust"

"For Cliff the “brilliant” insights of an individual (himself) could be submitted to popular approval on two conditions: one; that they agreed with his proposal in double quick time, and two; that if they did not agree he won anyway." 

Someone evidently had a good teacher.

Update 2 January 2014: "Arthur Harris's eventual rank on retirement has no bearing whatever on my arguments about the bombing of German civilians. Pedantry must be its own reward."

I shall let Comrade Hitchens wallow in his self-righteous ordure:

 "Now that we have a memorial at last to the thousands of men who flew and died in Bomber Command, can we please cart away the ugly statue of that unpleasant man Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, GCB, OBE, AFC?"

Takes one to know one.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Useful Idiots And Conditional Surrender In WW2

In WW2 Bishop George Bell of Chichester and Basil Liddell Hart were both opposed to the Allies' decision in January 1943 to adopt a policy of unconditional surrender by Germany. The "Good Germans" had been led into the war by Hitler and his Nazis, indeed the weak foreign policy of France and Britain had forced Hitler, a reasonable statesman into a war that he had never planned nor desired - the impish AJP Taylor's donnish joke in his Causes of the Second World War (indeed, as a result of the book some very literal-minded mouth-breathers believe that A. Schickelgruber was easily led :) and it was all our fault and everything that Britain did was wrong (for example, the anti -area bombing Fotherington-Tomas crowd who with the touchingly simple faith that the American Norden bombsight could "drop a bomb from 20,000 ft into a pickle-barrel" in daylight). I shall return to that fallacy later.

What were the terms that a non-Nazi Germany would have agreed to to end the war? Apparently, Colonel Claus Stauffenberg (the 20 July 1944 bomb plotter) had two contacts with the British, via go-betweens (was one of the contacts, Bishop George Bell in Sweden?) According to my copy of the excellent "The Nazi Germany Sourcebook by Roderick Stackelberg and Sally A. Winkle, p312,

May I suggest you buy a copy for reference as it's packed with translations of interesting documents.

Stauffenberg had written a memo on 25 May 1944 setting out the plotters' terms of negotiation (I've italicised my comments):

1  Immediate abandonment of aerial warfare (so the joint efforts of Bomber Command and the US 8th AF were working - is it unreasonable to wonder if Bishop Bell had been prompted to make his infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech against the RAF's bomber offensive to help his German friends and, disturbingly, albeit unwittingly, abet the German war effort?)

2  Abandonment of invasion plans.

3  Avoidance of further bloodshed. (Except in the East and see point 11 below).

4   Continuing function of defensive strength in the East. Evacuation of all occupied regions in the North, West and South. (To concentrate forces in the East. One presumes the pro-German puppet regimes in the formerly occupied countries would remain in place, along with the schemes of forced supply of labour and materials.

5  Renunciation of any occupation.

6  Free government, independent self-chosen constitution.

7  Full cooperation in the carrying out of truce conditions and in peace preparations.

8  Reich border of 1914 in the East (ie West Prussia and Upper Silesia taken from Poland).
    Retention of Austria and the Sudetenland within the Reich.
    Autonomy of Alsace-Lorraine.
    Acquisition of the Tyrol as far as Bozen, Meran.

9  Vigorous reconstruction with joint efforts for European reconstruction.

10  Nations to deal with own criminals (this was important for the plotters as most, if not all, could have been indicted for war crimes, especially those who had served on the Eastern Front (eg the Commissars and Severity Orders).

11  Restoration of hour, self-respect and respect for others (well, the murder of the Hungarian Jews hadn't yet begun).

Thus, the Wehrmacht plotters wanted to turn back the clock to 13 September 1939 with no apologies and no questions asked. Just as if five years of killing and destruction hadn't taken place. Does anyone still consider that unconditional surrender was the wrong policy?

Update 21 October 2013: The murder of fifty recaptured RAF and other air force escapers from the Great Escape breakout at Stalag III on the night of 23-24 March 1944 took place after Bishop Bell's infamous February 1944 House of Lords speech attacking the area bombing campaign. Any causation between the two events?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

LSE Attacks BBC Panorama Over North Korea Trip

The LSE founded by Sidney and Beatrice Webb has demanded that the BBC cancel an edition of Panorama in which a BBC reporter pretended to be a PhD student on a student field trip to North Korea (not much worse than Llandudno in 1982 in my experience). Apparently, the students were "not given enough information to enable informed consent" and were "endangered".

In addition, "the BBC's actions may do serious damage to LSE's reputation for academic integrity"

Pause for laughter........ This is the same LSE whose director Sir Howard Davies quit over funding by the Gadaffi regime in 2011. including a e £1.5million bung from PhD student Saif el-Gaddafi. Here's the Woolf Report into the scandal. Not to mention the marxist filth taught by Ralph Miliband during his tenure there. 

Academic integrity? It would appear to the casual observer that Pyongyang can still deal with this Fabian work unit.

Friday, 12 April 2013

It's Marshal of the RAF Sir Arthur Harris, Comrade Hitchens

Peter Hitchens writes a corporate webleg for the Mail on Sunday newspaper. On 30 June 2012 he wrote an article attacking the reputation of "Bomber/Butch/(Anything but Ginger) Harris, whom he referred to as Air Chief Marshal throughout.

Now, anyone who has read a book about Harris (I recommend Probert's excellent Life and Times) will know that Harris was only ever an acting and temporary ACM during WW2, but he was substantively promoted to Marshal of the RAF (the highest rank, an honour normally only accorded to retired Chiefs of the Air Staff) on 1 January 1946. It was published in Flight on 10 January 1946.

I have brought this error to Mr Hitchen's attention several times and also the Mail Group Corrections & Clarifications column, but to no avail because bitter experience has taught me that Peter Hitchens considers  he IS ALWAYS RIGHT ( he likes to occasionally embolden text on his clog). I won't link to it because he tends to be a bit boastful about his traffic and pride is a sin - best not to encourage him.

When I try to picture the inside of his head, it always begins with  the image of a muddy creek at low tide in which an old Flower-class corvette is moored next to a Norman church. A bicycle is chained to the shore end of the gangplank. Next to it is an old kitchen table piled high with books by Peter Hitchens (but no one else) and an honesty box. Dotted about in the golf-green manicured sward, like a dystopian version of Caol Ruadh Sculpture Park are large stones with instructions carved on them : Keep On The Path, Keep Off The Grass, Atheists Eat Babies, Only Christians Are Moral, etc. Beware the reflecting pool of pure vitriol. From the funnel of the old boat an acrid pennant of stewed coffee belches out all day long (that reminds me of another sign CAFFEINE IS NOT ADDICTIVE AND IS SAFE BECAUSE I LIKE IT. ) This is all, of course, a fictional construct of my impression of the mind of Peter Hitchens, not of the Orwell Prize winner himself. I have no doubt that the real Mr Hitchens lives in a large villa next to Inspector Morse's old one in a respectable part of Oxford, and that he functions near to the normal end of the DSM.

But I do wish he would admit his error.

Update 21 April: Harris had another nickname when AOC 5 Group in 1939-40: "Tubby". It was due to a combination of increasingly desk-bound duty and his appetite. And apparently the "Butcher" epithet was coined by lovable Josef Goebbels and has passed into mythtory as a consequence of German revisionists (Ve vere Victims, too), pro-Nazis and pacifist lefties with an anti-patriotic axe to grind (the sort George Orwell rightly despised).

Sunday, 17 March 2013

I think the man from Coventry should concentrate upon his own blog, rather than trying to piggyback on my audience here.

So spake Peter Hitchens (PBUH) on 16 March 2013 at 12:11 pm on his clog.(Please click through because he is very keen on traffic stats). Oddly, I'd never mentioned having a blog in my coomentsand would never commit the faux pas of linking in a comment. As awful as wearing a red bow tie with, one presumes,  a scarlet cummerbund.

I wonder why Mr Hitchens, as I always addressed him, refused to use the name I posted as, ie Brian, Coventry? A quick interweb search (as quick as it takes to prove that addiction is actually LMF), produces authorities who state that removing someone's name has a twofold result: it dehumanises the person by denying their rightful identity, and it permits the aggressor to objectivise his victim and remove any guilt or remorse about subsequent ill-treatment. It is a tactic used down the ages, eg the Man in the Iron Mask, the Gulag, concentration camps, Pol Pot's Cambodia.

Mr Hitchens is a member of the Church of England. Earlier this year he complained that the new Archbishop of Canterbury should tackle littering and anti-social drinking in Canterbury (actually a job for the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral if within its precincts, and the Police/Canterbury City Council partnership if elsewhere) instead of gay marriage/women bishops/international aid. Actually, I think that Justin Welby, another "man from Coventry" might be more interested in one of the Bishop of Oxford's flock who clearly needs help. I, as a modern day Samaritan, can't cross over to the other side of the road to ignore his suffering.

Update 25 March: The irrational fear of a name is nomatophobia.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Instead of Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol

Why not delegate the matter to supermarkets via their loyalty card systems? Every quarter I get Tesco vouchers, so it would be a simple matter to include a money off voucher for a set quantity of booze. Otherwise, alcohol wouldn't be discounted as a loss leader to attract shoppers.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Italian Election Results

The BBC are distraught that their institutionally favoured left-wing party, led by a former communist ( are former nazis allowed similar rehabilitation?) hasn't gained a majority. They are narked that the "populist" (it's a democratic election darlings) Five Star Movement led by Beppe Grillo has got 25% of the votes. He is described as a clown or stand-up comedian. Er, that's a sine qua non in Italian politics, all politics in fact.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Peter Hitchens versus Lord Heseltine

BBC Question Time Thursday 21 February 2013 St Paul's Cathedral.

Between about 07:45 and 08:02 on the Iplayer recording of the programme there is the following exchange between Lord Heseltine and Peter Hitchens that I hope I have transcribed accurately :

Lord Heseltine: We mentioned age. Well, we're perfectly prepared to send people out at age of eighteen to kill in Britain's name all over the world where it's appropriate. Are you seriously telling me that they are too young to make a judgement about what is right or wrong? I don't believe that.

Peter Hitchens: Yes I am

I can't see this mentioned in Mr Hitchens' own partial transcription on his Mailonline clog (corporate-hosted blog) which covers the programme from about 11:48 -13:10. I wonder why. Is it because he was able to say that Lord Heseltine mistakenly claimed he used the word "stupid" about young men instead of "unwise", thereby enabling Mr Hitchens to claim a win? Stupid isn't an exact synonym of unwise, but are eighteen year olds really too young to make a judgement about what is right and wrong?

I'm surprised I got no  response to the open-goal I posted on the Hitchens Clog  to lure a correction. Unfortunately, two commenters confused criminal responsibility with maturity for jury service.  In the second and third paragraphs I wrote about juries:

Mr Hitchens,

So if you consider that eighteen year olds are too young to make a judgement about what is right or wrong, ought the age of criminal responsibility be raised?

Changing the topic, I am genuinely interested in developing what might be called a common standard of competence for jurors. It would certainly include questions to identify people with sociopathic/psychopathic traits, but wonder if, for example, autism or Aspergers should be sufficient reason to disqualify someone. How would fairness and scepticism be measured? Perhaps you could ask your readers for ideas in a future posting.

My very simple solution to getting more middle-class, better educated people to sit on juries is for them not to attempt to be excused for what are often selfish and spurious reasons. Jury service is an honour and a significant responsibility and those who dodge it are shirkers. You wrote " it ain't what you got but what you do with it," (although the use of "ain't" should disqualify anyone from everything) and those that have got it should do more with it than those with less..

Posted by Brian, Coventry 23 February 2013 at 01:08 pm

Anyone with a basic knowledge of the jury system would be aware of the widening of the pool of eligible jurors and the restrictions on excusing jurors that were introduced by the amendment of the relevant sections of the Juries Act 1974 by s321, Sch 33 of the Criminal Justice Act 2003. The scope for middle-class professionals to dodge jury service has been ended as this Guidance for Summoning Officers illustrates. Indeed, the selection of jurors from the Electoral Roll by the Jury Central Summoning Bureau actually increases the proportion of middle-class professionals because who is less likely to register to vote? The people who aren't, supposedly, suitable for juries.

One wonders in the light recent cases,  if Section 10 of the  Juries Act 1974, ie

Discharge of summonses in case of doubt as to capacity to act effectively as a juror.

Where it appears to the appropriate officer, in the case of a person attending in pursuance of a summons under this Act, that on account of F12. . . insufficient understanding of English there is doubt as to his capacity to act effectively as a juror, the person may be brought before the judge, who shall determine whether or not he should act as a juror and, if not, shall discharge the summons; and for this purpose “the judge” means any judge of the High Court or any Circuit judge or Recorder.

will be used as a matter of course to filter unsuitable jurors.

Update: May I recommend the excellent UK Criminal Law Blog 

Update 26 February: I'm surprised Mr Hitchens refuses to acknowledge his statement on Question Time as he is a defender of  so-called "cruel lawyers".

Update 28 February: It appears that Mr Hitchens thought Lord Heseltine was going to say something else, which is why he said what he did. Oddly, Lord Heseltine isn't accorded the same latitude over his subsequent mistaken use of "stupid" as a synonym for "unwise". To permit that would detract from Mr Hitchens' constitutional status as The LibLabCons Despise Me For Always Being Right Figure (If only people would accept his opinions as the facts he knows they are). But then, to quote Kenneth Williams as Caesar in Carry on Cleo, "Infamy, Infamy, they've all got it in for me."

The whole affair reminds me of a junior school spat: "Sir, Heseltine called me a pleb, sir", "And why did he call you an pleb?" "Dunno, sir", "Heseltine, why did you call Hitchens a pleb?" "'Cos he called me an oik, sir." "Oh, run along you fools and let me finish my coffee." The truth is, Peter Hitchens' USP is that he is different and says things most people don't agree with. That's why he is invited on to Question Time, to raise the audience's hackles as they boo the caped villain in the melodrama.

Friday, 18 January 2013

"Children just aren't going to know what snow is"

Apparently, someone called Dr David Viner said that in 2000. He is a climate expert. We had about 5 inches of some unknown white stuff fall in the garden here today.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Back To Blogging

The Christmas and New year break was extended due to a close relative suffering a temporary ischaemic attack or mini stroke caused by a blood clot. Kudos to the excellent FAST advert which enabled me to recognise the symptoms immediately and call an ambulance, to the ambulance call handler who told me to support the patient's head upright, to the fast response paramedic who came fast, did all the tests and gave reassurance as the symptoms subsided. To the ambulance crew that took the patient to hospital and to the excellent NHS that swung into clockwork action to treat and arrange a speedy battery of tests.

Good to hear that Andrew Marr is feeling better after his stroke. Take note of your body's recovery timetable and try to accept your successes and improvements as real achievements; however, you will feel frustrated if you use an earlier benchmark.

Next, I was saddened  to solve Aruacaria's Guardian crossword puzzle yesterday, but thank you Rev John Graham for the equal portions of torment and delight your clues have given me over the years.

I am also delighted that the Sky At Night is (IMHO) as good as it was when Sir Patrick Moore was hosting it. It is testament to his generosity of spirit and love of his subject that he encouraged and brought on a cluster of very bright and interesting presenters to carry on the legacy. Thank you, Sir Patrick Moore.

And I thought of many other things over the period that may me laugh or that I drew fresh connections between, but I didn't write them down and can't remember them now. Proof that the only life and death things are life and death.

Returning to the hospital, I took the opportunity to have a wee while waiting for the conclusion of a vascular ultrasound on the patient and was so shocked by the state of the loo that I had to clean it before using it standing up as chaps do. Is it too much to expect people to take some responsibility and use the loo brush when necessary? Probably yes.

Finally, being offered a patronising £200 bung when all I had expected since last April was advertising on a website is beneath contempt. Sometimes one has to put £434.40 down to experience in order to learn that  people may not be as nice as one expects them to be - the old mistake of assuming that other people share one's ethics.