Monday 7 September 2015

How many Pakistanis can you fit in a Mini?

Somebody asked me "how many Pakistanis can you fit in a mini?". I'm really the wrong person to ask because I need specifics. If we are talking about the original model then legally, five occupants depending on whether it has been retrofitted with a central seatbelt, but then that's unlikely since there would be insufficient legroom. Outside of the realms of the law you could possibly fit a small child in the boot and perhaps one or two very small children on the laps of passengers. It really depends whether we are staying within law or whether we are pushing it into absurdity in some kind of world record attempt. If it is the former, the question must specify whether the vehicle is in Pakistan as the regulatory regime is different and the enforcement much less stringent.

But then there is also the modern variant of the Mini, which comes in many configurations including an estate version with fold down seats in the rear compartment. But this estimation also requires other parameters be considered in that there is in fact a factory approved, road legal six wheeled limousine variant for which there is no reliable dimensional data available. It also depends on the type of fixtures and furnishings which are also unspecified. This has an impact on the internal volume of the cabin. Certainly a champaign bar would reduce the carrying capacity.

We also need to specify whether the occupants would be alive or dead in that corpses can clearly be manipulated to occupy less space in a way a living individual would find impossible. Were the occupants dead, technically you could liquefy them and thus as a fluid would mean a much inflated figure. And then it depends on the ambient temperature as particle density could make the difference. Also, if it's a convertible and prone to leakage, then there are intrinsic limitations. I'm not saying it is an unanswerable question. Merely that you would have to be in full command of the facts and properly define the parameters of the question before taking anything like an educated guess.

This is actually a serious post though. We often hear the refrain "politicians never give straight answers". The media wants you to hold this view. This is how they assert their supremacy and power over politicians. How often have you listened to a weasel like Eddie Mair or Evan Davies or Jeremy Paxman bully a politician into giving a yes/no answer? Their assumption is that you are stupid, cannot cope with anything with nuance and need everything breaking down into binary options according to parameters that they themselves define - thus controlling the message and preventing politicians from adding new dimensions to a discussion. What is seemingly a simple question can be one badly directed, often deliberately so, that is adjacent to the central issue as a means of diversion.

To properly answer a question, you have to set out the circumstances, make distinctions between the respective components, specify your personal weighting on what you think are the likely parameters and then give your answer according to the scenario you envisage - rather than the paradigm you are being goaded to accept.

It is a highly effective tool of media bias, where the likes of Paxman build their prestige and reputations as a slayers of untruthful politicians when in fact they are political players in themselves attempting to frame the discourse to produce answers they want to hear, rather than what is pertinent to the debate.

Effectively it's the same as insisting on an answer as to how many individuals can fit in a 1960's Mini when in fact the Mini is a modern BMW variant. The interviewee will seek to avoid answering the question because its the wrong question, and yet they come off badly for doing so. This is how the media creates a toxic atmosphere and hostility to politicians which gives them power. Real power. They then become the trusted prism through which we conduct our national conversation.

There is a classic example of this on this Youtube where you can see Evan Davies attempting precisely this deception. He can't cope with the arguments Owen Paterson is making thus uses the technique to steer the discussion on to grounds he is comfortable with. THAT is how they own your opinions.

Mind the (skills) gap

It should be noted that the migration crisis that reaches our screens is not actually the concern of Britain. If we wanted to significantly reduce the inflow, while the revising 51 convention would solve the EU's problems, it would have only minimal effect on us. Where we have a virtually uncontrolled influx is from India. The way it works is they send their most capable in the family to take a highly paid job in engineering, IT or the medical profession. From there, they establish the right to bring in family who in turn can bring in their own extended family. That's if you actually want to call it a problem. But if you wanted to reduce the numbers, you would start there.

But before I started tinkering with human rights laws and immigration policy I would pop over the road and ask Airbus why it is they feel the need to advertise their aerospace engineering jobs there. They would tell me what we already know. There is a skills gap among our own, and a shortage of applicants even when the rewards of such a career are high. We need to a address a more philosophical question as to what is driving the poverty of ambition. I think welfarism has an influence among other factors and am happy to listen to opinions on that.

Though anecdotal, I think I have something of an insight. As a kid I was obsessed with aviation and like all young boys dreamed of being a pilot in the Royal Navy. But that seemed to me about as far fetched as being an astronaut. Then I thought of being an aerospace engineer. But then decided I wasn't smart enough. There is a perception that the profession is full of smart people who know how to do complex sums who went to Oxford. When I started working at Airbus I soon realised that nothing could be further from the truth. In most cases, aerospace engineers are a bunch of overweight hairy Bristolian men who sound like farmers who give their design solutions to Indonesian CAD jockeys.

See, you'd never know that growing up in Bradford where you fall out of school with very little clue of what's possible and certainly you grow up with the idea that kids from Bradford drive buses and mend cars. There were no apprenticeships and few opportunities to train. What I learned was how to tinker with computers while lounging around on the dole. The local college courses were crap, half of which closed down halfway through due to attendance atrophy - and the wages in the north seem to have a glass ceiling no matter how skilled you are.

I may be making excuses for myself, I don't know, but really programming chose me, and I didn't choose it for myself. That was just my ticket out. Of the people I used to hand out with, most resigned themselves to a pedestrian unambitious life - and I've always said that was a pity because I grew up with some great kids who could have been anything who have since been robbed of their vitality by Bradford.

Somehow, somewhere, we got it badly wrong, and I think it starts with our industrial policy and our welfare policy and I think we have set a course to become second class citizens in our own land as we are gradually replaced by a more agile, more willing and better qualified workforce.

It's always been the case that if you do well, the chances are that your kids do well, and your proximity to London improves you chances. So there is an inherent class barrier and there is a north south divide. I also think the north is being robbed of its talent as London sucks in the bright sparks so there are few people who have succeeded as role models.

I think also our welfare system does just enough to prevent poverty but pays so much as to suppress real ambition. The will to succeed is often born from failure and how can one fail if one is prevented from doing so?

We can also say that because there is now a global marketplace for labour and labour is a commodity, where corporates have no national allegiance, they do not feel duty bound to invest in people. They can import talent at will. Employers expect loyalty from employees but show none in return. They demand high skill sets but do not invest in training, nor do they interview on the basis of best fit and attitude, merely on whether boxes can be ticked in terms of skills. The have lost the ability to recruit and nurture real talent. Instead, they look overseas.

In the final analysis, if we want to slow the rate of immigration from India, we shouldn't be putting restriction on businesses and closing the borders. We should be upping our game to make sure our own young are in with a chance of applying and that they have the skills and the self confidence to compete.

There is no magic-wandery we can deploy in tinkering with immigration policy if our own people are not up to the jobs and can't even be bothered to do the basic jobs. If we take that approach why should businesses come here at all? They say that inequality is disappearing, but I would argue the inequality of opportunity is still rife for those with the misfortune to be born in the north. And while Westminster (actually Whitehall) still has choke hold on policy and governance, how can we even the odds? That is why we need The Harrogate Agenda.

We must have a humane policy, but we must still control our borders

As shambolic as our asylum policy is, the answer is not to open the borders. In many respects, that there are so few waiting at Calais is a sign that our border controls are actually working and the message has got out that if you get to Calais, you have reached a dead end. It's working as it should, which makes something of a mockery of Ukip's scaremongering.

If anything the ones in Calais are comprised of those who can't see any other option than the UK, or are determined to get in for more nefarious reasons. We are succeeding in keeping them out. While they make good TV during silly season, they are not actually central to our problem. It's a problem for Europe, but less so a problem for us. Our immigration problems are a wholly different strata of law and a wholly different type of migrant.

As to taking a share of Syrian refugees, it's a bit of gesture politicking that is neither here not there. It's an astute moving in building good relations with our neighbours. That's all. In terms of broader policy, it tackles only the symptoms, not the causes. It's one thing to say it's great for Germany to take 800k migrants. There is room and the former NATO bases are more than large enough. The question is, what about next year? Unless we turn off the tap by amending the 51 convention, they will keep coming.

Some have suggested abandoning any attempt to control the borders. There is certainly a case for liberalising border restrictions in that some migrants fear that if they come here on a limited visa they may not be let back in if they go home - so they remain here and disappear into the woodwork. Allowing free flow means that some migrants would, and very often do, go home. Certainly increasing the number of legitimate visas reduces attempts at forced entry. If anything irregular migration is a consequence of tight border controls. Nothing creates illegal immigrants quite like more immigration law.

But that is not to say we can or should open the borders. Some argue that humanity has the capacity to overcome the problems and that people are problem solvers. But the fact of the matter is that large influxes do cause problems and not short term ones either.

I like the idea that people are problem solvers. But as a rule they are entirely selfish in their solutions where the consequences of solving their own problems are somebody else's to deal with. That is why we have regulation of the civic sphere and planning to ensure basic standards of living and sanitation are upheld.

What we see when we have rapid influxes are entire communities who are wholly ignorant of procedure and pretty much do as as they want, from discarding refuse in the gardens, building over drain manholes, and then there's the antisocial behaviour that really does rip into community cohesion - the consequences of which are largely felt by the bottom decile. It's one thing for middle class urbanites to say "let them in" but the consequence of their moral posturing are felt by somebody else.

Already we have environmental health working overtime, not least to deal with overcrowding. You can take the lofty presumption that people do not equal more problems, but more people equals more cars - and more cars means more problems, more space constraints, massively disproportionate externalities and more pollution.

Then there is the aspect of safeguarding culture and heritage. Marxists certainly give me the impression that absolutely nothing is sacred and they would happily concrete over anything and everything is fair game. Immediate humanitarianism needs come first in their book. Again, that's a powerful moral sentiment, but at the same time, these are the same people who persistently complain about the lack of humanities and arts etc.

What makes Britain majestic is that some places and things are frozen in aspic. We do safeguard the distinctive and we do protect against urban sprawl in order to give people the cultural assets and the green spaces they need. Leave it to Marxists and they'd bulldoze everything until everywhere looked like the shit end of Croydon with no green spaces whatsoever. People who think Hackney Marshes constitutes a green space.

Part of what makes Britain something different is that the people here are custodians of something worth having. We have an island story that people come from all over the world to see. Preservation and cultivation of such assets are essential to the spiritual life of the island. I would argue that these things are the things that inspire us and are paramount.

While there is no theoretical upper limit, there will always be an absorptive capacity if we want to keep any semblance of social cohesion and preserve those features and freedoms that make Britain a desirable destination. That the open borders bunch would gladly see it wrecked makes them both philistines and hypocrites as well as fantasists.

We must always ensure that the rights of the settled are respected and that any influx that puts them in the minority, means the total breakdown of systems that facilitate the high quality of life we enjoy - those systems that make up the invisible government all around us that maintains those things we take for granted and are barely aware of. Without managing influx so that systems can keep pace, we very soon become that which most migrated from. Dirty, crowded, dysfunctional and unsafe.

In that respect, we are already overstretched, especially when I see presumably Pakistani youths in pyjamas battering each other with clubs on Hounslow highstreet in the day time and Somali gangs shooting at each other in Woolwich. Course, the pious bunch who would never venture to such places wouldn't see it, so again, it salves their moral problems but the consequences are visited on somebody else. In that regard, I find the open borders bunch not only risible, but contemptible.

Bloody cheek!

I love this notion that I'm supposed to be a "team player" after both Ukip and Breitbart have spent the last three years soiling the bedsheets in terms of winning the referendum - and then directed invective at me for saying so.

Then when the poor gal is a bit stuck she has the nerve to ask me to source a Youtube video for her pet hate rag. Clearly googling the keywords "riot Afghani Syrian Greece" and looking at the first five search results is beyond the capability of these little darlings. No wonder they are manifestly incapably of getting their facts right. You have to admire the nerve though.

Assuming I'd helped the dear gal it would have looked a lot like this:

Darkies from bongo-bongo land of military age have been rioting and looting on the streets of Athens culminating in clashes with ISIS terrorists as they divide their loot. It's all the EU's fault for having open borders (inserts something about completely irrelevant Dublin Regulations) and YOU are paying for it. (pads out for fifteen paragraphs, claims credit months after the Daily Mail ran it.)

Ho hum.

The "new teeth" narrative

There is a narrative kicking around that the father of the boy washed up on the beach risked drowning just to get new teeth in Canada while supposedly safe in Turkey.

Let's consider this for a moment. Can you imagine being a dad and having no teeth? Can you imagine what that does to your self-confidence and your health and your self-worth? Can you imagine how that might affect your ability to do the best for your son?

Moreover, while Turkey is a signatory to the 1951 convention and has signed the 1967 protocol, it has entered an "exception" to the geographical extension. Thus, it only recognises refugees from the Council of Europe area. We can apply for asylum in Turkey but Syrians can't.

Legally in Turkey they are not defined as refugees. The guest status means that Syrians do not have rights in Turkey and that the State has the right to make the decision to deport them at any time.

Such a charitable approach rather than a rights based approach also feeds negative public opinion in Turkey towards refugees. Many local people have expressed their discontent with the Turkish government allocating resources to Syrians instead of Turkish citizens who are in need, such as earthquake victims. Some of the words they use to define Syrians include “beggars”, “looters”, and “exploiters”.

Syrian refugees enjoy no right to work and would not be employed even if they did. So they are faced with with the prospect of raising their children in camps or unsafe accommodation, where girls are sucked into prostitution and the young men recruited by militias.

The story about "wanting new teeth" is just a bit of flotsam trivia, taken from an interview with the dead boys distraught aunt. It was a reason, but clearly not the whole of the reason, and to latch on to this and say "it was a lifestyle choice" is cherry-picking and unpleasant. The fact is that this man had an opportunity to raise his son in Canada with family rather than waiting around as a second class citizen in Turkey. He took the chance, as would you.

It should be noted that had the land routes not been closed off by fences there would be no need to attempt a sea crossing. Meanwhile, some have observed the boy had no life jacket. Somehow I doubt the Turkish coast has a branch of Surf Shack for all your maritime safety needs. Moreover, the chances of a toddler surviving even WITH a life jacket, out in the middle of the sea are... none - certainly not without fresh water.

Yes, the father does have some agency in this, but we see a chain of failures of policy that made this possible, not least the stringent anti-money laundering rules that prevent larger sums of money being transferred from Canada and the failure to exert diplomatic pressure on Turkey to accept refugees.

More than that, we only have a partial version of the story, as told through the distorting prism of media and while Turkey is notionally a safe country, were you in his position, you might have a different definition as to what constitutes safety. The asinine and nasty posturing over this is utterly repellent and nobody is deserving of such scorn for the crime of trying to do what's best for his son. Would that men went to such lengths to do the best for their children in this country, perhaps they'd be in decent jobs rather than complaining about immigrants taking theirs.

Sunday 6 September 2015

Dispatches from Calais

A good friend of mine went to Calais to get the measure of things. This is his report.

Saturday 5 September 2015

Think before judging

Anybody who insists "they are economic migrants" is asserting something of which they have no proof. The government doesn't even know so why should we take some Ukip grunters word for it? The fact is, for whatever reason, they are coming - and even though reform of the 51 Convention could slow the tide, there are those who will try their luck anyway. In those instances, it's not Calais to watch. It's Heathrow. Those who come on limited visas and disappear into the wood work. In all likelihood, if they went to Calais, they are seeking refuge from something.

You can have all the strict border controls you like, but that does nothing about the majority who come through with permitted paperwork on short stay visas.

Once again I must draw readers attention tot he fact that there is no hard and fast rule that says Asylum seekers must claim asylum in the first safe country. The law says they CAN, but nothing says that they must, And why would they pick some Balkan hovel or Greece or Southern Italy where basic governance is falling to pieces and the jobs are in short supply?

Now I am not making the case for unlimited immigration, and in fact I think those who do are contemptibly stupid. To gain control over the situation is going to take a massive multi-agency effort, massive intergovermental cooperation and the there must be measures taken at the global level all the way down to parish councils.

In this leaving the EU is neither here nor there. There are some measures we can take to deter EU migrants - ones which are already within our power and councils should be doing that anyway in order to uphold certain basic standards. That would also detect the problem of those overstaying their visas. More than that if we want to attack the problem immigration then we need serious revision of our drugs prohibition in order to take the profit motive out of it for Nigerian and Somalian gangs.

I won't make this a long post. I could, but the main points are thus. Do not make judgements of these people you see in the media. You are not faced with their choices and you do not know for a fact what action you would take. Secondly, the naff expectation that they should camp out in Southern Europe is not a viable proposition and and if it were a choice you faced, you definitely wouldn't opt for that. Lastly, we are not threatened by Syrian refugees. That they are Muslim is neither here nor there. They are escaping the likes of ISIS, as indeed would you. And if you had a family, you would not wait around in some dangerous refugee camp to see your daughter sucked into prostitution or your son recruited by a militia.

Regardless of whether they are economic migrants or refugees doesn't matter. They are humans with the same basic needs as me and you. They have the same motivations as me and you. Macho right wing pronouncements are easy to make from the comfort of your office chair. If you are going to do that, at least bother to inform yourselves of the basics before venting your ignorant bilge.

The reason you'll see a great deal of moral and intellectual inconsistency is because nobody quite knows what to do. Just about everybody recognises the need to protect that which is worth protecting while at the same time we have to extend basic human kindness to the needy. In that, there are compromises and sacrifices and not all of them are politically convenient - and often logistically difficult. Anyone who makes grand pronouncements and thinks this can be solved with the wave of a magic wand is someone speaking from pure belligerent ignorance.

Thursday 3 September 2015

The problems won't go away by ignoring them

This isn't meant to be a detailed post and there are many caveats to consider but I wanted to outline the basics of the solution to the migration crisis.

First and foremost, these people are human beings. You have to start from that basic recognition. If they made it as far as the continent, they are here, they have immediate human needs - food, sanitation, medical care. That IS our problem.

In this context, there isn't a migration crisis, per se - there is a refugee crisis and within that an exacerbating factor of economic migrants piggy-backing on the refugee flow. We need to manage that and make the distinctions.

That said, we have to be pragmatic. FACT: Greece, and Southern Italy are not safe, there are insufficient resources to deal with them, and there are no jobs for them and the administrative systems are not mature enough to cope. So, they must be distributed evenly over Northern Europe. That means we take more than we presently do.

We need processing camps and we need to make sure they are safe, clean, policed and secure and so we can adequately determine genuine asylum cases. We need a very big one in Calais, and we need to take our fair share. When we do, we refuse right to settle in London. Our Northern cities could use some diversification and re-population. The binary Muslim-White culture needs to be broken.

Meanwhile, any EU migrants here without a job or place to stay, will be expected to return to their place of origin. EU law permits this. We also make sure we enforce housing overcrowding rules and minimum wage rules so that EU migrants don't get to undercut domestic workers. That means word gets back to Eastern Europe that it's expensive to come and there's no sympathy if you arrive and expect to doss on the streets. That much is not unreasonable.

Crucially, the reason refugees are risking the Med is because land routes have been closed off by fences. Fences which do not serve as a deterrent. Take them down - but at the same time, stop the rescue boats. They are an incentive and reduce the risk of trying the journey.

Next up is to create more legitimate means of legal entry, so we don't see such widespread abuse of the asylum system. That gives us short to medium term relief.

Long term, we have to invest and invest big in Africa, dredging the ports, building roads, building good governance and supporting property rights. Build offshore asylum processing centres in Africa, run by the UN, and audited by our own government to ensure sanitation and safety. We then say that to gain entry, you will be refused at Calais, but if you go to an offshore processing centre, and wait your turn, we will get to you.

But as much as we need to fix Africa, we need to fix Greece and Italy - so they can take their share of migrants and ensure migrants actually can stay there.

To do all this we have to start with reform to the Geneva Convention. Immediately - in order to reduce the incentive. It is part of the pull factor and a reason for migrants (not refugees) to ignore the legitimate immigration processes.

We could do this, we can afford to do this - and we could do it tomorrow IF there was the political will - but the British public want reductions in immigration - which is just not possible. We'd rather the problem festered and got worse and seemingly we'd rather see people getting tear-gassed and festering in squalor.

The truth is, we are not going to be able to close our borders or even adequately control them, we are going to take on a lot more people, but if we manage the distribution that need not be a bad thing for Liverpool, Hull, Bradford and Newcastle. Many will go back to Syria after the war - and so will Iraqis, and in the mean time, the remittances they send back will be better for international development than any aid programme. There will be an outflow eventually if we act now. We need to make Africa wealthier.

We cannot ignore the problem, we're going to have to take more people - and suck it up because we have no other choices - other than that which Ukip proposes, which is to close the borders and leave people to rot hoping the problem will go away. If you have any sympathy with that view or that party, you need to be elsewhere - because if that's what you think, you have nothing to say that I want to hear.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

An immoderate and pissed off rant

I don't really buy the garbage about a free press. I can't think of anything more unhealthy and toxic than a shitrag like the Daily Express that has precisely no interest in serving the public good. It knowingly misrepresents the facts, it knowingly shitstirs and it does so with no genuine concern for enhancing public debate. It wilfully produces asinine garbage for the consumption of bigots and shows no remorse in needlessly fucking with people's lives and livelihoods, sabotaging their careers while creating a toxic atmosphere of scares and panics. It is an abuse of prestige and position and it is to the detriment of society - and liberty.

Moreover, it is not done casually. It is compiled by expert contortionists, using sophisticated innuendo and marketing psychology on a platform that gives them unprecedented reach and influence when neither is deserved or even earned. Why it should be at liberty to destroy lives and bankrupt entire industries for its own entertainment without consequence, when motivated by pure malevolence, beats the hell out of me.


If we can legislate for a pop up message warning about cookies, we might as well do that. Course, we'd get all the libtards talking about infantilasation of the public, but it does rather look like people believe the shit that they read in newspapers in spite of their proven inability to get the facts right even when they are trying.

Course this is never going to happen, because some people bizarrely think that such trash is the sign of a free country. Personally I think it's an affront to liberty in that we all live under the tyranny of these vessels who hold sway over policy because of how they will misrepresent the truth in a protected market position. And puhlease, don't give me the crap about truth being subjective. They are practised and professional liars and they know when they're doing it.

Certainly we cannot censor them, not least because it doesn't work, but it is time there was a market intervention to ensure bloggers are returned in news search results. The Google listing guidelines lend undeserved weight to these vessels. The guidelines work on the assumption that that somehow the legacy media has a deserved reputation for accuracy and editorial responsibility in spite of their being zero evidence to corroborate this.

We are told that in a free society, we have to accept things as they are warts and all for a healthy and vibrant democracy. There is nothing healthy about the current discourse on migrants and certainly the cesspool comments sections betray just how toxic their influence is. The old tropes no longer apply in the internet world. They have used their influence to garden wall and corporatise the internet and have used their market position to bury the alternatives and atomise any audiences that would threaten them.

Worse still, they parasite off blogs, often stealing content wholesale and never crediting the sources while decimating journalism. Regulating the press may not be the way to go, but certainly breaking their deadlock on the market is justifiable and very necessary if we really want a vibrant and healthy media. I would accept it "warts and all" if I could see something other than warts.

Frankly, we'd be better informed if we fire-bombed the lot of them. They are not the sign of a free press. They are an inhibitor to it.