Saturday, July 16, 2011

Curses ...

It's grey and somewhat mizzly. Not great weather for watching big boys toys. But isn't that beautiful.

Still, it's forecast to clear up later. Decisions, decisions.

What Do You Call A Trustafarian In A Suit ?

Remarkably - nay, amazingly sensible chap is Judge Nicholas Price. I'm just not used to judges wth judgement :

Gilmour, who apologised afterwards for his behaviour, had claimed he had not realised the significance of the Cenotaph - an excuse the judge scoffed at.

"For a young man of your intelligence and education and background to profess to not know what the Cenotaph represents defies belief," he said.

That's a call any reasonably educated Brit could make. Say what you like about Oxbridge, their intake are neither dim nor ignorant. But judges these days seem to be chosen for their gullibility towards the defending counsel and scepticism towards the prosecution.

Remarkable sartorial transformation the law induces. From the tracksuited scally redeemed by a Burtons suit, to the twisted firestarter turned into what looks like an actuarial student.

As the prison gates clang shut, we should draw a veil over this lamentable and amazing episode*.

Fair play to Mr Gilmour Sr. though, standing by his adopted son as a father should. If people were unloved on the grounds that they were self-centred idiots, what a cold world this would be.

* at any rate until the stories of drunken parties and hot and cold running women start emerging from whichever open prison he's in - which will be a few months yet.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peter King - "Contemptible"

No one's less of a Rupert Murdoch fan than I, but believe it or not, there are actually worse people in the world - and when they slither out to join in the kick-fest the harsh light of publicity should be shone on them. When it comes to casting truckloads of stone on the Dirty Digger, let he who has the fewest sins chuck the first barrowful - and let he who is weighed down by sin keep his ugly, bloodstained mouth shut.

"Republican Congressman Peter King - who is chairman of the House homeland security committee and represents a constituency in New York that lost more then 150 people in the 9/11 attacks - called on Wednesday for an FBI inquiry.

"The thought that anyone would have hacked into the phones of either those who were killed, those who were missing, the family members, during that tragic time... is contemptible," he told the BBC on Thursday."

He thinks hacking into phones is bad, but blowing up Brits is cool :

"We must pledge ourselves to support those brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry," Mr. King told a pro-I.R.A. rally on Long Island, where he was serving as Nassau County comptroller, in 1982. Three years later he declared, "If civilians are killed in an attack on a military installation, it is certainly regrettable, but I will not morally blame the I.R.A. for it."

There's loads more on Wiki - he seems to have been in up to his neck :

King did not meet Gerry Adams until 1984, four years after his dalliance with the IRA began. At this time he was friendly with Michael McKevitt, the common law partner of Bernadette Sands, sister of the IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands. McKevitt was at the time a senior leader of the IRA and was its Quartermaster-General, in charge of arms acquisition. McKevitt planned a massive series of arms smuggling operations of weapons provided to the IRA by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during the mid-1980s. During this time, King would stay in their home in Co. Louth while visiting Ireland and was also very close to the IRA's former Operations Officer in Belfast, Anto Murray, who was convicted in 1990 of kidnapping a suspected British spy. As Belfast Operations Officer, Murray planned or authorised every IRA bombing, shooting and killing in the city. King would stay with Murray and his wife Lucy during visits to Belfast and after Anto Murray was imprisoned, he hosted Lucy Murray on a tour of the Capitol when she visited the United States.

Nice ...

"He stopped supporting the IRA after being offended by Irish public opposition to the invasion of Iraq"

And I'm not sure why that makes him look like an idiot, but it does.

(He's all over the BBC. They'll use any stick to beat Murdoch - even one with blood all over it.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Another World

Who says we didn't have diversity in the UK long before the Windrush docked?

Oft have I reflected on the differences, say, twixt the Central Belt of Scotland and a Banffshire or Aberdeenshire village.

I was in Manchester in 1974 on the day Glasgow Rangers played United in a friendly. At Victoria Station, I saw a strange sight - all the United fans, as they got off the trains, took off their scarves and put them in their pockets, or zipped their jackets up to the neck to conceal their United allegiance.

This should have been posted last night really, for the 12th. A small fraction of the Rangers support make their way past (I think) the Arndale Centre in Manchester, taking the pretty route to Old Trafford for the 2008 UEFA Cup final (what a pity Tommy Ducks is no more - I think they'd have liked it). Now there are some pretty wild boys in that city - but this is something else :

Admit it, for good or ill, you don't see a sight like that every day in an English city.

The tune is the mid-70s Fields of Athenry*, the words I think are a Loyalist song called "A Father's Advice", accompanied by disparaging references to the late Bobby Sands. Great drumming. It may be an optical illusion or a piece of dust in my eye, but I could have sworn I saw someone with a "**** Catholic Schools" banner...

* composer Pete St John is also responsible for another instant classic - The Rare Old Times, perhaps the only Irish political song that isn't about the English. You really would think there'd be more, given recent events.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The End Times Are Upon Us

The Church of England faces being wiped out as a significant national force without an "urgent" campaign to recruit more believers, a report warns. In the last 40 years the number of adult churchgoers has fallen by half while the number of children regularly worshipping in public declined by 80 per cent, the study says.

The Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham, the Rt Rev Paul Butler, will present findings to the Church's national assembly, the General Synod, in York on Saturday. Synod members will be urged to vote for a new national drive to recruit more members.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has acknowledged that the Church must devote more energy to increasing the number of regular worshippers over the next five years.

In other news :

"Church of England report calls for affirmative action on race"

"Affirmative action" = the practice formerly known as "racial discrimination".

"The Church of England is to give the go-ahead for the appointment of openly homosexual bishops."

It's one of those strange historical oddities, like Britain being invaded and conquered every thousand years, that the Church of England was born of the adulterous desires of one prince, and on its sick bed condoned the adultery of another.

But the (IMHO terminal) sickness of the Church of England is no cause for rejoicing. It was great once, a noble Church of a kind that we should not dare to raise our voice against. It is fallen, and its cure is beyond us; but I would that it lived, in the hope that it may find one.

UPDATE - the great and good Rev. Peter Mullen :

"Frankly, much of the Church has been mad for decades."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You Couldn't Make It Up ...

One of the results of mass low-skilled immigration into both the UK and US economies has been to depress wages, by the simple mechanism of supply and demand. As Marx put it :

“The main purpose of the bourgeois in relation to the worker is, of course, to have the commodity labour as cheaply as possible, which is only possible when the supply of this commodity is as large as possible in relation to the demand for it”
So far so bad for those at the sharp end, so far so good for the people who employ them.

But why stop there ? As long as your income's safe - and let's theorise that you're one of the elite - why not expose a few people higher up the economic food chain to the bracing discipline of "if you don't want to do it, there are plenty of other people ...". After all, you don't pay anywhere near as much for cleaners and clerks as you used to. Why can't you cut the cost of your accountants and engineers?

But how do you do lobby for this without saying why? In the case of the low-skilled imported worker, it was easy - they were "doing the jobs the natives just didn't want to do for £5 an hour", but you needn't mention that last bit. They were doing us a favour by coming here at all - we should be grateful - how would the NHS run or City offices get cleaned otherwise?

So what's the narrative to be?

"Tell you what - and this'll kill you - how about social justice?"

"What ?"

"Well, you know how the incomes of the wealthiest have spiralled away while incomes at the bottom stagnated or declined?"

"Do I ! Great, isn't it !"

"Well, lots of people think it's very bad that we're stonkingly rich while some chav serving in Maccies is a tad penurious. There's something called the Gini coefficient ... but I had this thought. All we have to do is deflect attention down a bit - let's say onto something called 'high-income people' - you know - accountants, engineers, IT, scientists, the analysts and bean-counters - we can define who qualifies - and we can argue that their wages - and hence inequality ratios - are kept artificially high by lack of global competition - no, they're "subsidised by their protection" - no one likes a subsidy - "

"I do - I love 'em. Where would we have been without the bailout? "

"Will you let me finish? - and so we should allow far more high-skilled immigration, because that means greater equality - and that means we can do to their terms and conditions what we've already done at the bottom!"

"You, my son, are a ******* genius"

"But it doesn't stop there. You know how mass immigration's depressed wages in lower-paid jobs - the sort young people often do"

"I might have heard something to that effect ... nonsense of course (cough)"

"Well, we can also argue that their lower incomes indicate lower productivity - and that therefore we really need more high-skill immigrants to provide the productivity the natives just don't want to provide"


"And there might even be some truth in the bit about productivity. Between ourselves, you know and I know that some of the people who've come over aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer (anyone who says that is a racist, of course, and we'll say it's down to bad teachers) - so it's possible that the 20-somethings really aren't as productive. Either way, it just means we need more high-skill immigrants."

"Awesome. All we have to do is get the ball rolling."

Obviously, the above is just complete fantasy.

At The Globalist, an interview with former Fed chief Alan Greenspan :

Q. How could immigration reform reduce income inequality?

A. “Most of the debate on income inequality correctly focuses on raising the level of low-income individuals. However, it also works by lowering top-level incomes via more competitive immigration. There is much academic research demonstrating that it is the relative position of people in society that fosters views of ‘fairness,’ not one’s absolute status.

Q. Turning back to the United States, what demographic shift will have major economic implications?

A. “In the United States, we are in the process of seeing the baby boomers — the most productive, highly skilled, educated part of our labor force — retire. They are being replaced by groups of young workers who have regrettably scored rather poorly in international educational match-ups over the last two decades.

Q. What else points to the inability of young workers to compete?

A. “Most disturbing is that the average income of U.S. households headed by 25-year-olds and younger has been declining relative to the average income of the baby boomer population. This is a reasonably good indication that the productivity of the younger part of our workforce is declining relative to the level of productivity achieved by the retiring baby boomers. This raises some major concerns about the productive skills of our future U.S. labor force.

Q. Can the U.S. government counter this trend?

A.“Yes, there are options to combat that decline, but contrary to what many people believe, we do very poorly in opening up our borders to skilled immigrants. Our H1-B visa restrictions are a disgrace. Most high-income people in our country do not realize that their incomes are being subsidized by their protection from competition from highly skilled people who are prevented from immigrating to the United States. But we need such skills in order to staff our productive economy, so that the standard of living for Americans as a whole can grow.

Q. What needs to change with respect to U.S. immigration?

A. “My view is that we should give a green card to every immigrant who gets an advanced degree in the United States. The proportion of those people who will be terrorists is miniscule. That would have a major positive economic impact.

Attock Fort

The gateway to the Khyber road, the fort at Attock on the Indus. Formerly spanned by a bridge of boats, the river is now crossed by the Peshawar-Kabul road.

View Larger Map

It's an impressive structure, in an impressive setting.

A marble slab inscription set above the inner north gateway of Attock Fort bears the completion date 991 AH (1583 AD). The work was supervised by Shamsuddin Khawafi. The fort is purely a military post designed to hold the river crossing and guard the bridge of boats. The fortifications are built mostly of local shady rock set in thick lime mortar. For arches, vaulting, domes, and the external string-course, small lakhauri brick has been used. The original gateways are of sandstone resembling that found at Taraki in Jhelum District. An interesting feature of the fortifications is a narrow gallery contrived high up in the wall to give the defenders head and back cover. The greater part of the gallery has a vaulted roof, but in one stretch, thick, flat roofing slabs replace the brick vaulting. The battlements, loop-holes and machicolations bear evidence of changes to meet new needs arising from changing armaments.

Akbar not only built the fort, but also established a ferry and a mint and settled a colony of boatsmen from Hindustan, the descendants of whom still live in Mallahitola. The place soon became important for transit trade. To meet the needs of the traders, a serai (inn) was also built. On the road side and up on the hill near a spring there developed several places for ziarat (pilgrimage). Mosques and temples were established up to meet the religious demands of the people. All these buildings have deteriorated.

Picture and info via the excellent and informative