Saturday 13 September 2014

Lite blogging

I'm off to the USA. Back soonish.

Friday 12 September 2014

How to be right about everything all the time

My reputed "privileged epistemological faculties" are not all they seem. I have no direct antenna into the cosmos that makes me an oracle on all things. But I do have something most people do not. Universal scepticism. Not only am I sceptical of the left, I am hugely sceptical of the right too. But it doesn't end there. There is a certain knack to it.

All media is cyclical, but if you look at a story arc and view it as a product lifecycle and you view everything as though somebody were trying to sell you something, the same questions come to mind as if you were actually buying a product. A bit like buying a new outfit. Does it look right? Does it fit? Does it clash? And will it last?

In a 24 hour news cycle many rush in to be the first to comment, the first to express their outrage and the first to diagnose. There is no need to rush, and there is no need for a flap. Just wait for the white noise of media to saturate then start from the position that all of them are wrong. Then measure your own views by the same standards and assume oneself is wrong as well.

The things that inform our initial reactions are based on a hierarchy of preconceptions derived from previous experience. When certain things confirm those preconceptions we add it to the pile. But things so very often change. The further we get from events, the more is added to our understanding, thus what we initially thought was the case no longer applies.

In five, fifty or a hundred years the Iraq occupation will be viewed very differently as more of the consequences and outcomes are realised. The value based judgements will change as it is contrasted with the Syrian civil war, and much of what we think we know will have moved on. Similarly various tweaks to energy policy just recently mean that the lights aren't going out and we won't have rolling blackouts. But memes live on as certainties and are repeated by a media that has neither the time or the resource to challenge those certainties.

Being aware of this dynamic is absolutely critical to forming an opinion. Very often we leap to conclusions and make snap judgements, when in each case, a careful and constant reappraisal of our prejudices and preconceptions is necessary.

It is for this reason I very often refrain from making concrete judgements and instead prefer to just point out the inconsistencies, contradictions and fallacies. Current affairs do not spring up out of nothing, and most of history is repeated like the first season of The Simpsons. Nothing we are seeing in Central Africa, or any of these modern tribal uprisings is anything new. The dynamics change a little with the introduction of modern weapons, communications and social media, but if you look at the very essence of each new story, cut through the hyperventilation and panic and view in the historical context, very little seems worth getting worked up about.

Beheadings aren't new, nor are tribal uprisings nor is council corruption or police incompetence. It's easy to stitch together a narrative from disparate facts and assumptions, and it's easy to sound plausible if you know what you're doing. But narratives are problematic. We see military and technical analysts with very little understanding of the political - and vice versa. They view eachother with similar disbelief and confusion, each adding weight to their own specialisms with little regard to how much they do not know.

In between historical blips like ISIS, much of what we see is quite mundane, but presented in the light of an existential threat by a media that thrives maximising scare potential. It is consumed more as entertainment than news and much of it is pure titillation.

It is designed for the maximum reaction. Everything is clickbait, everything is meticulously engineered to get your attention and provoke a reaction, and the more doomed we look, the more traction it has. It is for this reason I believe nothing, trust nothing, and am certain of nothing.

Pivotal events are happening all over the place without the attention of the media. While the world's media was fixated on a few thousand people taking refuge up a mountain, absolutely nothing was said of a major offensive to retake Tikrit, and there was a complete media blackout for over a week. Their perception of news is not in line with my own view of what is important - and I trust mine more than theirs knowing the deficiencies of the media as intimately as I do.

Following the media means following their agenda. Not having a television I often don't know what the daily scare is, thus I am drawn deeper into my own channel of investigation, often find things of greater consequence to worry about.

For sure, fisking Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbot, Richard Littlejohn, Owen Jones, Con Coughlin and the other brain-deads is an entertaining way of whiling away the day, but why should we give a damn what any of these people say or think? They do not speak for anybody but themselves and to follow their agenda is to be the dog that chases every passing car. Sure, a lot of people read The Guardian and Telegraph and watch Newsnight, but tens of millions of people don't, and I am happy to have joined their ranks.

Their influence is only sustained by people drawing attention to them. Outside of the media bubble, who has actually heard of any of these people or even cares? What they say is not important, very little of what they say is right and every moment spent barking at passing cars is a missed opportunity to be doing something more productive.

The only hard and fast conclusion is that all of them are talking crap most of the time, even the people with whom we agree, and so long as you remain acutely aware of that then you have the mental architecture to sit back and take a cold, dispassionate look at what we actually know for a fact. When you apply the necessary scepticism to what we think we know, then it usually turns out that even the best of us actually know very little, much though it may seem otherwise.

Thursday 11 September 2014

Peter Hitchens has a point. Cannabis is rubbish

Peter Hitchens is a prohibitionist. Before I dive into his arguments I want to make it clear that it would be easier for me to list the drugs I have not taken than the ones I have. I think Peter Hitchens is absolutely correct in his view that cannabis is a bad thing. I have no doubts whatsoever that cannabis is a "gateway drug". Of all the common recreational drugs I have taken I would say cannabis was the most harmful.

I am particularly sensitive to cannabis. Almost immediately I experience unpleasant psychological effects and it causes severe panic attacks lasting several hours. It may be that my brain chemistry is more susceptible to active ingredient, but I can say with absolute certainty that its effects are not mild.

I think it fair to say that most of my cannabis smoking friends suffer from some kind of depression. It is now ubiquitous, it is habit forming and most of the people I know who smoke it do so every single day and cannot function without it. Or so they say. It turns them into colossal bores who talk an awful lot of crap, and much though I love my friends, if they're having a stoner session I prefer to be elsewhere. Being sober in a room full of stoners is horribly tedious.

What pisses me off especially is how it seems to eat into people's motivation and potential. All of the people I know who smoke it could be so much more than they are. Perhaps they choose not to be and that is their choice, but it really saddens me. I fear it will have consequences for later life which they will live to regret.

I am also of the view that it is getting progressively stronger and much more potent in its psychotropic effects. The engineering that goes into its production rivals that of Monsanto. Ironic than many stoners complain about genetically modified food because it isn't organic and natural but are perfectly happy to ingest a highly toxic artificially engineered product.

I am not in the least bit convinced that cannabis is a particularly good pain killer and if it contains usable elements for medicinal purposes then it it would have been incorporated into prescription medicine by now (if it hasn't already).

As to other common recreational drugs, there is less cause for concern. Ecstasy and MDMA is not habit forming. The lifestyle is the habit and the drugs are part of that lifestyle. But it is a corrosive lifestyle and eventually it gets mighty dull as one loses one's health and vitality. You can have your fun with them but it gets old eventually.

Most people who experiment with drugs eventually grow out of them. Uncontaminated MDMA is a great deal of fun and in sensible doses, it's mostly harmless. I know plenty of people who are extraordinarily successful, well adjusted and sane who have experimented with it and it isn't a big deal. I don't actively seek it out but if it's put in front of me, I'd probably take a cheeky dose.

That said, I've made no secret of the fact I have mental health problems. I can concoct a number of bullshit reasons as to why I have them, but I would be disingenuous if I said a decade of drug use had nothing to do with it. It's no coincidence that the symptoms I suffer from are worst when I have indulged in a "cheeky dose". I made a few mistakes, and I paid a heavy price. Thankfully it is not constant or seemingly permanent.

This why I believe being as honest as possible about it with people, kids especially, is the best way to tackle drug usage. Even if it doesn't cause mental health problems for most people I do think drugs, (cannabis and alcohol especially) over a long time fundamentally changes a person and robs them of a certain vital spark.

This is not to say that agree with Peter Hitchens on prohibition. It is precisely because of the "war on drugs" that key ingredients are intercepted by authorities and then replaced by an inferior, less safe ingredients making them more dangerous or more scarce - and that is the probable reason behind the growth of lethal "legal highs". I'd rather drugs be legal and properly regulated.

Peter Hitchens ignores human nature. A great many of us will always want to experiment and will always want to have fun with various substances. You can't stop people from doing it and the more you try the more underground it goes and the less control we have over it. The law never stopped me.

If we want to to tackle drugs we're not going to achieve very much by slapping kids with a criminal record or banging them up. What we can do is tackle the social conditions to cause the proliferation of drugs and I would start with welfarism, then tackle the youth unemployment problem - and finally I would stop trying to scare kids with health concerns. The bottom line is youngsters think they are invincible and they are not going to listen to the likes of me or Peter Hitchens.

What we can tell kids is that most drugs probably won't kill you, they probably won't give you long term mental issues, but the lifestyle drugs eventually lead to is a boring and skint life, and a miserable one as you miss out on so many opportunities - and will probably end up in a grubby bedsit listening to prog rock and thinking brown corduroy flares are cool. You'll be a no good, dirty god-damn hippy. If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of kids, I don't know what will.

Kids will ignore scares, they will ignore the law, but they will listen to reasoned arguments made by rational people. It is for that reason I expect my niece and nephew will probably never bother with drugs, and have a better life than either my sister or I could ever have imagined. We never lied to them or tried to scare them. We just told them the truth. Drugs are a bit pants really.

Casualties of war

A man has been beaten half to death. This is not a good thing. But it is not altogether surprising. He is a traffic warden. I certainly understand the red mist impulse. I have felt it many times. Too often these vultures are ever keen to swoop, with no reason or remorse, draining our wallets and using fines and forfeitures as a revenue stream for wasteful and unaccountable authorities.

They are a feature of British life which make things just that little bit more expensive and unpleasant. Moreover for those who cannot pay, the fine quickly doubles and is enforced by bandit bailiffs who routinely operate outside the law while the police turn a blind eye. There is no justice for the victim and little in the way of legal recourse.

We have seen various "reforms" which tilt the balance in their favour rather than addressing the injustice. In the face of this, it then becomes a low grade war between the people and the authorities. Thus I consider this individual a casualty of that war and I expect we will see more of this. I won't shed a tear. These individuals cannot hide behind the "just doing my job" excuse. They have chosen to make a living collecting revenue for a morally bankrupt system.

Since there is no other way to get justice and no proper democracy whereby we can change policy, I can certainly see why some would opt for more instant resolutions. It is the only reasonable response to a system which holds us all in contempt.

A war on greedy councils is now long overdue. The traffic warden to the CEO must know that we have had enough and to push us any further is a very dangerous thing to do. No council employee has a right to expect courtesy or decency from me. They have chosen their side, I have chosen mine. How many more get hurt in the line of duty is entirely up to them.

Wednesday 10 September 2014


"For now, with NATO and Russia both preparing for the worst-case scenario, it is more important than ever to stop the triumphalist rhetoric and refocus our efforts on ending the conflict, not escalating. Make no mistake: there is no military solution to this challenge. Only a reasoned dialogue and political settlement can put Ukraine on the path to long-term stability and peace."

From the Washington Post.

Monday 8 September 2014

The tribal uprising NATO can't bomb

They are primitive backward savages with a stone age mentality and their brutality knows know limits. They are tribal in nature, unable to adapt to modern civil society and have contributed very little to the world apart from their natural resources. But that is not to say I am in favour of Scottish independence.

I have to confess to not liking Scotland very much. It was a nation enslaved and they never really shook the mentality. Take away their chains and they'll forge stronger ones for themselves. Having grown up in a Northern mill town I thought I had seen the extent of petty authoritarianism but my time living in Scotland demonstrated otherwise.

I've lived in a few places in the British Isles but never felt welcome in Scotland. Scots are not fond of the English and it couldn't be more apparent. The year or so I was in Scotland was perhaps the most miserable one and moving there was the biggest mistake of my life. Scotland chewed me up and spat me out. I still find cause to go there now and then but I don't enjoy the journey. The police are officious, predatory and humorless and the courts are even worse. As to the culture, the reputation for tight-fisted mean-spiritedness is one well deserved.

The economy of Scotland is basically made up of golf and paternal public services, largely made up of English middle class social workers whom the Scots loathe, and I don't blame them either. If you spent your life being bossed around by those arseholes you could be forgiven for voting for the quasi-fascist SNP. In their shoes, I might.

In fact I have to dig deep to say anything complimentary about Scotland. They used to have some stunning countryside before it was plastered with eco-crucifixes of the rotating variety, but that's about it. The beaches are nice enough but I'm from Yorkshire and we have Runswick Bay so no sale on that score.

The fact that Scotland is still wedded to backward ideas such as the NHS tells me all I need to know, and it's why I wouldn't want to live in the new Scotland. Britain has yet to fully recover from the socialist era and now Scotland wants to turn the clock back. So worried about Scotland's tendency for national suicide that my sister is considering moving back to England if the yes vote wins. On that score alone I find myself rooting for a yes vote.

But there's something more important than any of that. Britain is not just a union of territories. It is a tradition and an idea that has conquered the world and twice liberated Europe from tyranny. Much though I loathe Scotland, there is nothing I would not do for a past or present member of our armed services. We are united in blood in all the ways that matter. Scots are our family and we hate the London claque who rule us every bit as much as they do.

Together we have fought tyranny all over the world in the name of the Union, and it is together that I hope we will fight the growing tyranny in London. Nothing Scots could say about London rule could not also be said by a Geordie, a Taff, a Tyke or a Brummie. If Scots think that a yes vote will isolate them from the misrule of London then they are mistaken.

Faux independence is not the end of the battle. Scots are just pulling their forces out of the fight. If that's how the Jocks want to play it, it will just confirm to us English what a bunch of turn-coat wusses they really are. I'm asking the people of Scotland to leave the surrendering to the French and join the fight for a United Kingdom that works for all of us, inside the M25 or not.

Fighting ISIS doesn't look like a very good idea

If NATO forces are committing to fighting ISIS inside Syria we are de-facto siding with the Assad regime. Considering the US has seemingly used Saudi Arabia as a proxy to arm the Free Syrian Army, this would be a perplexing turn of events. If the objective is to assist Iraq in securing its own borders, then everything must be done to assist Iraq in so doing. But that is the fullest extent of it.

If the US is looking at a long campaign over Syria, possibly outlasting the Obama administration, then NATO will need total air supremacy as it did in Libya. This means a large operation like Unified Protector to first remove air defences, which by default is a no-fly zone in a civil war where the Syrian Air Force is still very much active. This probably means disabling any and all air defence assets including those of the regime. It is unlikely that Assad's word will be sufficient to secure the safety of NATO aircraft.

Rather importantly, many of Assad's anti-air assets are Russian owned (on hire purchase) and, in many instances, Russian operated (or with Russian technical advisors close to hand). For US/NATO forces to take such action would be regarded as a seriously unfriendly act, perhaps triggering more unhelpful activity from Russia on other frontiers.

So what then? Given NATOs extreme reluctance to cause civilian casualties, an such sorties would consist of Brimstone and Hellfire precision missiles against soft targets and vehicles in open territory - while feeding intelligence to whichever force is in pursuit of ISIS - possibly the FSA, possibly the Assad regime. The US will then have to make up its mind what it really wants. Is this a precursor to regime change? Or is that just an inevitable destination for such ill-defined interventions?

ISIS would likely then adopt Hamas style tactics and operate only within civilian areas making the whole operation expensive, limited in effect and risking months of stalemate. This can only be sustained with a permanent presence in the air which is simply not viable or desirable. We are then also in the position of fighting Iraq's battles which is precisely where we did not want to be. There are soft power solutions for dealing with the domestic terrorist threat, which is overstated in any case, so it's difficult to see merit in direct involvement.

Once again we're seeing something-must-be-doneism without much consideration to the consequences and wider repercussions. While the final outcome of such would be unpredictable, you can be assured it would consist of more chaos and more bloodshed. If this is about Iraqi territorial sovereignty then the fight must stop at the border and the fight must be theirs. If not, then this is more thoughtless tinkering and vanity politics that serves no purpose at all.

Al Jazeera

A couple of good pieces from Al Jazeera today. There's this one which echos my own thoughts on Israel's strategic blunder, and this one on a rehab initiative in Denmark to recover ISIS fighters. This chimes with the thoughts I was having yesterday. There is also this piece which has plenty room for debate and disagreement, but at least is considerably less parochial than the output of the BBC. If only our BBC were even half as good.

It is becoming the case that I only draw attention to British media in order to point out its many inadequacies, but only where I expect better. I make virtually no reference to the BBC. It has little to offer and I have no great expectation that it ever will. Why this anachronistic self-absorbed institution still exists is beyond comprehension.

Sunday 7 September 2014

Amnesty for ISIS?

One of the key strategies in bringing the Iraqi army back into play to fight ISIS was to offer an amnesty to Sunni fighters who had defected. Many have now been reintegrated into the Iraqi army and are instrumental in driving ISIS back into Syria. Perhaps we ought to consider the same strategy since it works?

We have seen politicians ramping up the rhetoric and there are moves afoot to waste fatigue hours on GR4's, flying in and out of Syria to fire low yield Brimstone missiles to limited effect. The justification being that there is a direct domestic terror threat. Syria is becoming the vacation spot of choice for foreign fighters, many leaving Afghanistan now that US forces are leaving.

British Jihadi's look to be caught between Iraq and a hard place. If they stay and fight they die, if they return home they face permanent detention. If we accept that radicalisation is the product of failed domestic policies, then perhaps a more pragmatic approach is needed, setting up retrieval centres to bring these kids back home and put them through a de-radicalisation process. They could then perhaps be put to good use in talking to young British Muslims at home.

It would be a politically contentious policy, but if it doesn't involve more pointless air strikes that accomplish nothing at great expense, then I'm all for it. Gung ho posturing has accomplished nothing thus far.

Friday 5 September 2014

Rotherham: what has to change

My local police station. Or what's left of it.

My first flat was an attic bedsit in Manningham in Bradford. At the end of the street was St Joseph's Catholic College, one of the very last schools in Bradford where the kids wear proper uniforms. I had a Pakistani family living next door. The noise levels were at times intolerable. One afternoon I knocked on their door to ask if they wouldn't mind not playing their music so loud at night. The young mans response was to brutally beat me around the face.

I called the police and the man was arrested. The following day two Honda civics were waiting outside and as I left my flat they made throat slashing gestures at me and followed me at a slow pace every time I left the house. You know how this story ends: Me moving out in a great hurry to somewhere safer and the violent thug walking away with no punishment having been too afraid to testify.

It was reported to the police, but the answer was the same one we always get. "There isn't much we can do". Which begs the question, if this is not most basically what the police are for, then why have them at all? Those same thugs could often be seen loitering outside the gates hurling abuse at the girls leaving the Catholic school and spitting on them. Never a plod in sight.

The narrative is that the police are too afraid to arrest Muslims because of "multiculturalism", yet while Muslims represent only 4.7 per cent of the population in England and Wales, according to the most recent Census, one in seven prisoners (14 per cent) in England and Wales is a Muslim, according to the statistics.

It is not they don't arrest Muslims. The thug who battered me was arrested immediately and swiftly. But these gangs of young Muslim men were never once dispersed because the police were never there to see it. They apparently haven't got the resources to engage in this kind of community policing, but they evidently do have the resources to mount huge blitz operations to harass ordinary people on their way to work, with dozens of officers at peak times sitting by the roadside with radar guns picking off victims one at a time.

This is not policing. How often do we see the words "police blitz"? These are high visibility operations that clear the monthly quotas, but they do not represent proper policing. Good policing is measured by the number of arrests they don't make, but the system is entirely statistics driven and policing priorities are set by officals and politicans, not the public.

If a crime has not been investigated I can complain to the local plod who will investgate himself and find himself innocent, as I discovered during my recent council tax campaign, or I can make an official complaint through a long-winded process that will be equally futile.

We can of course complain to the "local" Police Commissioner, whose patch covers, Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, North Devon and Yeovil (which is two hours away by car). She has the power to sack the chief constable, yet town councils don't have the power to sack useless district constables. Democratic accountability this is not. The police are not in any way duty bound to do as their communities tell them.

It is for this reason Ive been watching the phenomenon of privatised crowdfunded policing in the United States, whereby communities procure and sack their own police forces, comprising of individuals with the same rights and authority as everyone else. They are as obliged to obey the law as the public are. I see a place for this model in the UK where the police force becomes an overseer of private community forces to ensure they themselves are not overstepping their authority. Consumer choice being the best regulator.

As it stands, our local police forces are at liberty to ignore us, they answer mainly to central government and they answer to pretty much nobody. If your local police station inspector's pension and mortgage was dependent on mounting regular street patrols and dispersing the gangs waiting outside schools and colleges, you would find their fretting over political correctness would soon evaporate.

But as it stands we no longer even have local police stations. We have district managers assigned to a community, many of whom don't even live on their own patch and commute in from miles away to central police call centres located miles from crime hotspots. This is not local, and it isn't policing.

If we want effective public services and we want to avoid another Rotherham, then we need public services who answer directly to us.

Oh come off it, our politics is just as tribal

Norman Tebbit, among others are making the case that:
A blind eye was turned to election practices imported from Pakistan. Indeed the evil doctrine of political correctness and the perversions of equality legislation, alongside those foreign election practices were used to intimidate politicians into silence about the scandalous crimes being openly committed.
Because that never happened in Northern Ireland huh? Or shall we talk about the threats and harassment that caused whistle-blower, Helene Donnelly, to leave Staffordshire altogether. Or shall we talk about the cosy relationships between chief constables and council chief executives in South Yorkshire? Or the rivalries between unions during the miners strike. Long time readers of Private Eye will know especially well how bent local politics in South Yorkshire is. Nobody ever made it to a public office without having various factions of the mining unions on their side.

You don't have to have a council run by hill bandits from Kashmir to find planning stitch-ups, bribery, cover-ups and wide spread denial of child abuse. The prolific child abuse by Catholic priests was pretty much an open secret. All of this was going on long before the "doctrine" of multiculturalism.

In any bureaucracy it is easy to conceal corruption and you'd be surprised who has their hands in the till at all levels. One of the reasons there are preferred government suppliers and proscribed purchasing procedures resulting in the likes of Serco, GS Halls, McAlpine etc is to stop public officials giving out £10k service contracts to their mates to change a lightbulb. As it happens we still end up paying £10k to change a lightbulb but at least the process is marginally more transparent.

As sure as it rains on a bank holiday, local government is, was, and probably always will be bent. Where there is power, there is corruption. What matters is how we respond to it when it is discovered and that all are equal under the law.

Hiding behind political correctness is merely bog standard moral cowardice and that does not make it the cause. It's just one of the many sniveling excuses the police and social services hide behind for their many failures to investigate. It's political correctness this time, but what will the excuse be next time? Is multiculturalism the reason behind the Staffordshire massacres?

Of course, much of this has to do with the police not having a clue what is going on in their own back yard. This has much to do with a total retreat from local and community policing where the beat has been replaced by high visibility patrols of PCSOs who are too dangerously thick to be extended any authority. Policing has become remote, bureaucratic, corporatised and impersonal. I have never known confidence and trust in police to be lower.

This is what happens when the system is run for the systems own convenience, with no democratic oversight or influence. And no, you cannot pretend that the tokenism of police commissioners represents democratic oversight. Especially when half of them are former public officials and councilors. Police authorities now cover regions larger than many countries and for all the use they serve they may as well be merged with the Office of National Statistics and HMRC.

We have seen a total retreat democracy and a gradual, now accelerating, obliteration of local services. Police, social workers and environmental health inspectors can work massive regions, don't know their patch and don't know who the repeat offenders are, with cases passing through the hands of dozens of different officials and officers. It is little wonder then that critical information gets lost as communication breaks down. Individual responsibility, along with consequences for failure are removed from the system. Each council employee is just a node in a chain of minor functionary positions, none of which have the freedom to innovate or the authority and autonomy to act.

All of our services are now sprawling corporate monopolies, accountable only to themselves and you and your opinion does not matter to them. You do as you are told, and you pay what you are told to pay. It is a master-servant relationship we have with our government. Feel free to prate on about multiculturalism if you like. Blame Islam if you so choose. But you're ignoring the very large elephant in the room. That democracy thing. Or the lack thereof.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Has Douglas Carswell gone mental?

Here is Douglas Carswell in his own words.
I'm joining UKIP not because I am a conservative who hankers after the past. I want change. Things can be better than this. I am an optimist. Britain's a better place than it was when I was born in the early 1970s. We're more open and tolerant. We're, for the most part, more prosperous. More people are free to grow up and live as they want to live than ever before.

As the father of a young daughter, I've come to appreciate what feminism's achieved. Most girls growing up in Britain today will have better life chances than before thanks to greater equality.

There's been a revolution in attitudes towards disabled people. What was once dismissed as "political correctness gone mad", we recognise as good manners. Good. So much about Britain is so much better. Except when it comes to how we do politics.

UKIP is not an angry backlash against the modern world. Modernity has raised our expectations of how things could be.
Has he joined some other inclusive and not at all Islamophobic Ukip that I don't know about? If such a thing existed I might be tempted to join. But you don't have to look much beyond the comments in The Telegraph (a newspaper Carswell writes for) to find shining examples of Ukip bigotry, intolerance and hackneyed, hate-fueled cliches.

Being comments administrator on it's always the ones who come on to say that Ukip isn't a xenophobic backward looking parochial party who very often confirm that Ukip is precisely that.

It should be noted that the measures to which Carswell refers that caused the revolution in attitudes towards disabled people are the same ones where people no longer causally refer to people as pakis, darkies and niggers. The fact that Ukippers are busy conflating the Rotherham scandal with Islam tells us that there is still a way to go in educating the public.

We've already had the Islam isn't a race shtick from them, which then precedes a tirade against Islam which would very much be called antisemitism if the word Muslim were exchanged for Jew. While nothing in Ukip's public make up is racist or Islamophobic, it is certainly no coincidence that these people like the smell of Ukip's excremental vapors.

In the main my hostility toward Ukip is directed at Nigel Farage because it is he maneuvered for the BNP vote (and got it) and dragged Ukip into the gutter. Perhaps that will change with Carswell in the mix. Should Carswell keep his seat, then he is de-facto leader from the Commons. I don't see any other heavy hitters in the party, insofar as Carswell could be said to be a heavy hitter

In order for that to happen, Farage will have to shut up and get out of the way. I cannot see him doing that, certainly not while he remains an MEP. Farage will as always be pulling the strings and undermining Carswell at every turn, and a fall out is inevitable. It's what Ukip does best. Then again, it may be that Carswell loses his seat in general election in which case he will then look a bit of a prat.

Unlike Farage, I have no particular dislike of Carswell. Of all the MPs his politics are probably the closest to my own, but I don't think he is leadership material in any way. He's a nice enough guy on the face of it, but he is certainly no savior of the cause. I think Farage has already done too much damage and Carswell has too much baggage.

Carswell outlined his reasons for defecting, preceding each reason with "I came to realise" but if it has taken him since 2005 to realise that the Tory party is an empty shell, with an equally empty leader (for whom he voted), then we're dealing a man who isn't especially bright. His policy proposals are in the right ballpark, but as I have outlined time and again, these measures are the furniture of reform, not part of an architecture as outlined by The Harrogate Agenda.

Few seem to get that tinkering around the edges with electoral procedure is not going to deliver the reform that we need. We need a revolution in our relationship with government and nothing Carswell says really demonstrates that he gets it. Similarly we were told to wait on the great sage, Tim Aker, for a comprehensive package of policies, but again it's looking like a rag bag of tinkering proposals built on the paradigm of rule from the centre. And that is why Ukip is little different from the others, and I can't get too excited.

As to the significance of Carswell's defection, I don't think he will be the first of many as some are speculating, nor do I think very many people have even heard of Carswell. Outside of the bubble his defection is already forgotten. At best it is inconsequential, at worst he might just have blown the only chance we had of getting a referendum and handed power to the Labour party. I think we need change, but that is not the change I had in mind.

Uniform public sector stupidity

To my surprise I've found myself on the wrong side of a few people when I say the Rotherham scandal isn't much to do with multiculturalism, political correctness or Islam. I think what we are seeing here is symptom of a much deeper malaise in governance.

The suggestion that multiculturalism the primary culprit misses a crucial factor. Bureaucracy. As much as political correctness has departed from reality in many respects, a lot of it exists for a very good reason. Or at least there was a time when it did. There was a time when the workplace was rife with racism, prejudice and discrimination of all kinds and educating people that it's not ok was necessary. The public sector is the one place where government has reach and that is where it has to set the standard. It has worked. And that's a good thing.

But there's a problem. Bureaucracy never knows when to quit. We have a quangocracy across the board producing ever more stupid initiatives to justify their existence long after they have ceased to be useful. Self-perpetuating bureaucracy for its own self-interested sake. The green establishment works in precisely the same way, resulting in statutory reporting requirements which means mechanisms to record and measure, which means more people going looking for signs of something. As it goes down through the chain the intent mutates as it's often executed by thick as pigshit public sectoroids who shouldn't be trusted with even a TV remote.

This is what happens when you have local authorities as managerial agencies of central government. The system cannot cope with individual actors using innovation and initiative to solve problems outside of the proscribed way, thus as it matures, we see a brain drain from the public sector leaving only the sort of people who thrive in box checking cultures.

This is why police and teachers are leaving the profession in droves leaving only the dregs behind. That's why we have failing services and that's why they are unable to cope with cases like this. Few among them any longer have the capacity to think. Worse still it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Central government agencies run by London graduate high flyers know just how thick and parochial our town halls are and consequently don't trust them to run their own affairs. And I don't blame them at all for thinking that. This then means the procedures and process become tighter, more restrictive and more proscribed, with some statutory obligations carrying fines for non-compliance.

If we want effective public services which are capable of responding to highly localised problems, then we need local authorities who can adapt according to the mission. This cannot happen if government is a top down initiative where standards are codified into statutory procedures and practices which give councils very little room to maneuver. Often we see parallel operations in any bureaucrat where there is one operation to satisfy the statutory requirement and another to actually get the job done, which could not be done were it to follow process. The result being chaotic replication and everything is fudged to get things to work.

The more restrictive a process becomes, the more unintended consequences pop up which in turn trigger new restrictions and it becomes game of whack-a-mole, to the point where only the most ridiculous option is allowed because nobody thought to ban it. Any system administrator will tell you that there is a constant asymmetric battle with users to stop them doing stupid things and users always beat you with their initiative for bypassing policy. The result being activity that is not monitored at all with a massive back office of inspectors and auditors inspecting and auditing each other. The culture this creates is one whereby nobody is a responsible for anything and nobody is accountable to anybody which is precisely the opposite of what it was intended to do.

So what's the answer? The assumption is that central government is the best auditor and inspector. It isn't. We are. The customer. The public is the best watchdog. Therefore we the customer need more say in how things are run. By breaking the hierarchical system of government we break the means government and NGOs have of dictating policy and procedure, allowing councils to collaborate with each other and hire the people they need to do the job they think needs doing rather than placeholders to satisfy some regulatory requirement.

At present we have public consultations but councils may only react within a very narrow framework which means the findings of consultations are seemingly ignored. It is not that they are ignored wholesale, only that there is only so much within the power of local authority to change. Because there is no public veto on local government spending, and only minimal and inadequate democratic oversight, councils are a law unto themselves and stuffed to the gunwales with kleptomanics and snivelling jobsworth beancounters. Nobody with a spark of life or initiative could or would work in such an environment and certainly not for the money on offer.

The inevitable consequence is a sprawling and bloated empire, full of competing smaller empires, each playing for larger slices of the pie, with no consequences for failure. Little wonder then that we keep seeing the Rotherhams, the Hillsboroughs and the Staffordshires. Islam isn't a common theme, multiculturalism isn't a common theme, but a culture of denial, procrastination and shirking of basic obligations and human decency is. You want to stop another Rotherham? That's where to start.

That is why we need The Harrogate Agenda.

No, it's nothing to do with Islam.

Here we have a pretty typical "it's all about the muslims" rant doing the rounds on Twitter. The suggestion being that all these men being Muslim means that the "Muslim community" is complicit and shares in some of the guilt for not speaking out. A pretty broad brush with which to sweep. I notice that all these men have eyebrows. Therefore should we cast the same blame and suspicion on all of the eyebrowed community if that logic holds. Or is it the brown skin? Why not use that measure? It's about as specific.

By this logic, by way of being C.of E. an individual is somehow complicit in the crimes of Catholic priests. We're talking about the faith of over a billion people here. So apart from the coincidental, we have to a be a bit more specific here. What else do these men have in common? They are predominantly of Pakistani origin and living the North of England, which means the majority will trace their heritage back to remote, rural tribal areas. What we are seeing is a very specific consequence of immigration from a highly localised culture (which predates the arrival of Islam), which is massively incompatible with our own, dropped into post-industrial northern mill and mining towns. The clues are all there.

As far as the police not investigating, I was recently congratulated by a judge having successfully managed to get Avon and Somerset Police to do even a cursory investigation on an unrelated matter. It is next to impossible to get the police to act on so much as a house burglary let alone a rape. Their reluctance to act on rape in any circumstance is legendary. The reputation of the police for being little more than state revenue collectors is a perception well deserved.

There is a political correctness aspect to this but to blame this scandal on that specifically is to miss the point, while scapegoating Muslims when it is nothing to do with Islam. It ignores the much more serious and obvious issue: Our public services, the police and social services especially, simply do not work - and will not be fixed without a radical rethink of governance. They are bloated and bureaucratic beyond salvation. A bit of tinkering to diversity policy isn't going to change anything.

It's precisely this kind of ugly quasi-racist ranting that brought political correctness and diversity training into being in the first place. This woman sounds little different to my Muslim colleague who can go off into explosive rants about Jews. It's offensive to me and such ranting in the workplace would have him sacked from a public sector role on the spot - and rightly so. You wouldn't take his views seriously on matters of sociology and governance, so why are we seemingly blinkered enough to take this crap as gospel?

Spine chilling stupidity

There is nothing more terrifying than stupidity with a bit of authority. The above picture is doing the rounds on Twitter which is an excerpted screenshot from Panorama, reporting on the Rotherham report. The hyperventilation has it that this is the smoking gun proof of multiculturalism in action. I'm not buying it. What you have there is your typical low grade public sector supervisory stupidity and cowardice. These second rate councils do not attract high flyers and thinkers.

Combine natural back office public sector stupidity with the mill town mentality of the North and you get a particular brand of authoritarian jobsworthery where initiative and free thought is frowned upon and actively discouraged. My short time at Calderdale Council informs this view, where ex-field "workers", who are too expensive to sack, are stuffed into places of administrative authority where it doesn't matter too much that they spend more time in Benidorm or slipping away for doctors appointments with weeks off sick in between.

We see the product of Welfarism on our streets every day but the lowest of the low, the worst of the parasitical vermin, can always be found in council offices on foot deodorisers, stressing even the most robust office chair and sucking up precious oxygen that could be put to better use elsewhere.

We can weave complex and sinister conspiracies into the Rotherham scandal if we like, but it's always going to be better explained by the breathtaking dull-wittedness of our local councils - and those "dedicated, hard-working" public servants therein.

Tuesday 2 September 2014

Lacking the energy

Another subject that bores the pants off me is energy generation and the national grid. It is one of those long stagnated debates where very little originality is ever injected and much of public discourse is framed around misapprehensions, distortions and falsehoods which lead to tiresome debates that produce only white noise.

Even now, leading academics and journalists are years behind in their understanding of what is happening because it is a diverse subject that has technical, political and regulatory dimensions and specialists cannot be expected to be experts in all of them.

You can be enormously well versed in the various technologies but still remain entirely ignorant of grid management strategies and regulatory devices that help regulate energy, some of which are of labyrinthine complexity and on the surface defy common sense. It is very easy to plough in with plausible know-it-all opinions as Daniel Hannan has, but they often bear little relation to the facts. Being this an industry that is quite opaque, very subtle changes can have repercussions on any forecasts and if you're not paying an attention old narratives soon become obsolete.

In 2007 you could have climbed into the debate, as many did, to discover there was a very real policy vacuum and a capacity shortfall, which has since been filled by a series of small innovations which collectively make a huge difference.

Unfortunately, most of these small innovations are of a technical nature, pretty boring, time consuming and very often contradict the strongly held belief that we are in imminent danger of rolling blackouts. This has become an article of faith for climate sceptics, Ukipists and columnists with an axe to grind. It is not helped that some of the more sensible ideas are wrapped in CO2 reduction clothing and promoted by government. That in itself is reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Because of the political dynamic at play there is a market for a scare story, and the perennial spectre of blackouts gets the blood pumping for the Twitterati. Thus a myth continues to thrive, column inches are filled and hot air is spoken.

In fairness, when it comes to technical reporting of such matters you could get a lot worse than Emily Gosden of the Telegraph, but as the story becomes fashionable again we will as usual see self-appointed experts crawling out of the woodwork. In they will wade, attempting to simplify a complex subject to fit a narrative (going from obsolete media reports), missing out all the finer points and glossing over the details. That's when you're dealing with charlatans, not journalists.

Monday 1 September 2014

Off the shelf explanations will not do

Further to my piece earlier on the bullshit of multiculturalism, the reason I'm so blatantly trolling my readers is that the doctrine of multiculturalism is not at all new, it is long established, and it has become an article of faith. It is not an off the shelf answer for what is a multifaceted problem which in this case has specifics that require more than the application of generic theories. For starters, this is less about multiple cultures and about a very, very specific singular culture from a very specific locality.

If you want to understand an issue, the first thing you do is slay the sacred cows and revisit old theories however well established. The multiculturalism explanation is a well worn narrative that has been rinsed to death for over ten years by various journalists, and was long promoted by Melanie Phillips and latterly the BNP and then Ukip as it became a more politically mainstream view. As sure as apples fall from trees, if something becomes the mainstream view and is dusted off to explain something like the Rotherham scandal then it is most likely wrong. This is no exception.

I take the view that in this is primarily an economic issue coupled with a massively degraded system of governance. The fact this particular problem is mostly a problem with Pakistani Kashmiris ought to be largely irrelevant if we had a functioning system of local government, policing and effective border control.

Yes there is a major cultural aspect to consider in this specific case but the fact that such grotesque lapses happen across all government tells you that whatever is wrong in Rotherham is not happening
elsewhere by sheer coincidence. Bad and ugly things are going to happen as a result of policy failings we cannot change. But how we respond to them is something up for debate and when the state has abdicated its most basic duty to protect then clearly the problem starts with us and our broken system of government.

The bullshit of "Multiculturalism"

Whenever you get a scandal like Rotherham, the lame brains will come out in force to criticise the mythical policy of Multiculturalism. I'm certainly not one to talk since anyone who knows my writing from back in 2003 will know that I used to riff off the same garbage.

The central tenets of the argument being that the state not only prevents integration but actively encourages minorities not to. Of course when asked to present any actual evidence of a deliberate policy all we get is speculation, supposition, and a misreading of the facts on the ground, citing a "Gramscian Marxist plot by Common Purpose" or somesuch other drivel involving shape-shifting lizards from the fourth dimension.

No doubt there are central government diktats regarding the handling of ethnic minority communities which are fed through to council executives which are in turn fed to key workers in the social sector, who tend to be overweight, long term sick ex-field staff, working class, and thick as pigshit, who interpret any such rules regarding discrimination as a directive to censor anything even remotely controversial or resembling common sense. This is more a consequence of the natural stupidity found in the rank and file of council offices.

The accusation levelled at Muslim communities is that they do not integrate. As it happens they do. If you move to Dewsbury, the Islamic republic of, and you end up living there for ten years with poor English, no job and end up involved in some or other nefarious dealings including grooming, money laundering or narcotics, then you've integrated just fine. You'd be indistinguishable from the local norm. Ah, but they don't integrate with British culture I hear you say. To which I ask, what British culture exactly?

I'm just old enough to remember the traditional working class Sunday where you woke up and did what you needed to do to shake last night's hangover, go to church, then bugger off to the pub for a quick pint while the womenfolk sorted Sunday lunch. This would be followed by a lazy afternoon and a walk up the lane, and maybe another quick one down the Black Lion on the way back, then back in time for Last of the Summer Wine, Antiques Roadshow, and a row over whether the youngsters can stay up to watch The Two Ronnies. Then to bed, so as to head out to the mills, the mines and the fields the next day. No such culture any longer exists.

We have dispensed with our faith and our family rituals. The mills have gone, the mines have closed and the fields are tended by machines and Polish immigrants rather than British kids who are instead languishing on the dole, unable to complete. If there is a culture with which to integrate then I'm buggered if I know what it is. British culture insofar as it exists involves going to work in an office, coming home and watching television while munching on a ready-bake pizza. We brought this on ourselves.

The mill owners were keen on immigration to keep their mills running and stay competitive but little thought was given to what would happen when the last of the mills closed. Nothing ever replaced that industry, but the door has remained more or less open ever since, importing Bangladeshis and Pakistanis from undeveloped regions, adding to an already acute integration problem.

Now that we have closed ranks on our youth and effectively frozen them out of the work force, denying young people a shot at the somewhat pedestrian English dream, it is little wonder that my place of birth, like so many other Northern towns, has become a festering jihad incubator. The only quintessentially English culture there is in the North is welfare dependency, and young Muslim males are doing a pretty good job of integrating into that.

When we herd our working class into welfare ghettos where the only chance of improving your lot is to spawn yourself a meal ticket, it is little wonder that white girls are viewed as prostitutes, because in most respects they are - and can be bought cheaper than their professional counterparts. We don't value them. Why should they?

This problem is merely symptomatic of a much wider malaise in British society where all strata of governance is breaking down. The simple narrative is that it's those dreaded "Tory cuts" have turned us into a "neo-liberal free-for-all", but the New Labour years showed us that we don't get better governance even when our councils have more money than they know what to usefully do with.

Some believe this would all go away if only we reopened the mines and started believing in god again, but there is no going back. Some believe it is simply a matter of teaching "Britishness" in schools. But we can barely define what that means.

I don't believe that anything I have read adequately explains the systemic decay that is eroding British society. Immigration is part of it, the culture we imported is part of it, welfarism is a huge part of it, but ultimately the factors on the ground point to one thing. It is primarily an economic question - and that is a failure of governance. We have corporate managerialism for local government, and our local authorities are little more than appointed regional development agencies working to a London agenda without the autonomy to tackle local problems at a local level.

We have seen "economic regeneration initiatives" but this largely amounts to big ticket white elephants that make for handsome payouts for the CEOcracy, but have no sustainable impact on Northern economies. All the while London gets richer. Those whose sole measure of wealth is a GDP graph on a flipchart fail to recognise there is a whole other world outside the M25 - and it is slowly dying.

Until our regions have the autonomy to offer something to challenge the stranglehold London has on the UK economy, Northern towns will continue to fester and continue to produce headlines that shock our London commentariat, but come as little surprise to those of us who have lived with it for decades as an every day reality. That is why we need The Harrogate Agenda.