Spring Forward!

Three weeks have passed since the Italian election of which the only clear result was a resounding kick in the goolies for the pro-EU Socialist Party.

As negotiations continue between the Unspeakable and the Uneatable Italy remains without a government and nobody has any idea what the outcome is likely to be.

Fortunately this situation has not prevented the march of the seasons here, the clocks have gone forwards and my plum trees have burst into blossom despite the late frosts:

(I’m afraid my photographic skills don’t really do them justice!)

Spring is also the time of the year when geese are at their most active in terms of laying eggs (and squawking in the mornings).  Mrs H has found a brilliant way to make poached goose eggs, on bacon and toast what a breakfast:

Washed down with an Aperol Spritz of course (well it IS Sunday!)

Who needs a government?

Missing The Point

There’s a story in the telegraph this morning:

The iconic blue passport is set to make a return 

In a move set to infuriate Brexiteers, sources have told this newspaper that Gemalto, which is listed on the Amsterdam and Paris stock exchanges, is close to signing the contract [to produce the new passport] after undercutting rivals, including a British firm, by around £50 million…Sir Bill Cash, chair of the influential European Scrutiny Committee, said the decision which is expected to be finalised shortly was “completely wrong and unnecessary”.

It seems to this blog that if the Government can save 50m quid of taxpayers’ money, then that’s all good.

The move doesn’t infuriate this brexiteer.  It sends a signal that despite Brexit the UK is determined to trade intelligently with its neighbours.  To deliberately spend 50m more to print them in the UK would have been a stupid move (but not necessarily out of character for the May government).

The point of Brexit is to reclaim sovereignty over these isles, not to behave like North Korea.  The kind of autarky which Bill Cash is apparently clamouring for would certainly guarantee a disastrous outcome for the UK economy.   Wealth comes from trading, and particularly from importing stuff which costs you less than it would to make yourself.  The EU collectively is set up like an autarky (among its many other disastrous failings) and it should be no surprise therefore that it is suppressing wealth creation among its citizens.  Which is going to be the principal economic benefit of leaving.  By stimulating non-EU commerce the laws of comparative advantage will have more scope to work their magic.

Our only slight query is that given the imminent collapse of sterling as reported elsewhere in the paper, we trust that the government has the price nailed down already in GBP?  Don’t answer that…

And So The Betrayals Continue…

Regular readers of this blog, both of them, will not be surprised by the headline in the Telegraph today:

Theresa May is facing a Brexit backlash from Tory MPs over her “abject betrayal” of Britain’s fishermen with rebels planning a fishing boat protest on the Thames

It has been fairly obvious for some time that Mrs May has been preparing the ground for some humiliating betrayal, and England’s fishermen were always a likely target.

Unfortunately they are unlikely to be the last victim’s of Mrs May’s disastrous handling of the whole business.

The truth is there have been alternatives all along the way, and she has consistently chosen the wrong ones.

Secrets And Lies

Tim Worstall has an article at the Continental Telegraph in which he points out (quite rightly) that it is certainly preferable for non-state actors (such as Google and Facebook) to be the ones holding vast amounts of personal data for commercial ends rather than state organisations holding it for political and surveillance reasons.

We’re at this stage of digitisation that someone, somewhere, is going to have this information given how much we like using the various digital platforms…So, who do we want to have the power over that information? Ellie is obviously insistent that people engaged in the accumulation of mere filthy lucre shouldn’t be those people. At least not as the ultimate arbiter of what is done with it…A little story, the Germans used Hollerith card machines – supplied by IBM – to tot up the results of the Census in the 1930s. Come the round up to the camps all they had to do was run the cards through again and note who had put “Jew” under religion. So, we’d like the State to have all that power would we? Note whose cards are, quite literally, marked?  Myself I’d prefer those who only care about the loot really. Ellie would prefer those who might actually use it.

However right Tim might be in principle, an article in Zerohedge reminds us what we already knew really, that in fact, these tech giants are deep in bed with the NSA and it would be naive in the extreme to imagine that the Feds don’t have wide ranging access to all this information and more:

In 2013, the Washington Post and The Guardian revealed that the NSA has backdoor access to all major Silicon Valley social media firms, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple – all through the notorious PRISM program which began in 2007 under the Protect America Act…Microsoft was the first company to join the PRISM program.

And:

[Klein] learned from a co-worker that similar cabins were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego, he said…The split circuits included traffic from peering links connecting to other internet backbone providers, meaning that AT&T was also diverting traffic routed from its network to or from other domestic and international providers, Klein said. -(Quoted from Wired) …”They are collecting everything on everybody,” Klein said.

We hear periodically the government complaining about end to end encryption on WhatsApp for instance.  Personally I believe that is just a smokescreen to lure people into a false sense of security, and in reality they can get what ever they want.

Without a warrant because in today’s lovely world of G.W.Bush’s War On Tourism, warrants are so passé…

It’s become a clichè that you don’t write anything on the web that you don’t want the NSA or GCHQ or whoever else to know, and you shouldn’t say it within earshot of your phone, even if it’s switched off.

There Is No Alternative!

Remembered as a catch-phrase of Britain’s greatest post-war Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – TINA seems to have been adopted by the far less impressive Mrs May.

Richard North on EU Referendum, in between gloomy analyses of the likely outcome of Brexit as a result of the astonishingly negligent handling of the issue by the government, has a piece discussing the nerve agent poisoning attack in Salisbury.  Gratifyingly he agrees with the conclusions of this blog regarding the infelicitousness of Mrs May’s response, and points out further,

Yet, for Mrs May, there was “no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian state was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter, and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey”. This, she said, “represents an unlawful use of force by the Russian state against the United Kingdom”.

What in fact, her statement represented was either a failure of imagination or a determination to close down her options before even starting to evaluate them. And, as an intellectual exercise, if you play this game, it is inevitable that you end up with “no alternative conclusion”.

We remember that Mrs May’s first action on assuming the premiership, was to rule out any sort of Brexit in which Britain sought membership of the EEA, at least as a transitional arangement.  Such a policy would have completely avoided all the problems she is trying and failing to get to grips with now, most notably the Irish question.

In both cases she has closed down her options before taking the time to evaluate them properly.

So it is, that we have a PM who takes important decisions impulsively rather as if she was out shopping for one of her trademark pairs of leopardskin shoes.

With both Brexit and Russia there were alternatives, which she ignored, at OUR peril.

Untangling the consequences of these decisions is going to take decades.

Differently Victorious

With all the dark inevitability of a Greek tragedy*, Mrs May continues her betrayal of the British people.

From the Telegraph we read that in her determination to secure an agreement, any agreement, with the EU Mrs May has instructed her so-called “negotiators” to concede every single point of disagreement:

British negotiators expect to clinch a deal on Brexit transition terms as early as this weekend following a series of climbdowns to secure a deal from the EU

To be honest it’s not hard to reach a deal if you give the other side everything they ask for!

Mrs May is basking in cross-party approval of her stance on Russia and the attention of the press is distracted; so, as we suspected, the time is as ripe as it ever will be to give away the farm.

Negotiators are scheduled to work throughout the weekend in a bid to finalise a legal text for the 21-month agreement that will be hailed by Downing Street as a significant win for Theresa May, and a key stepping-stone on the road to Brexit

Of course it is being spun as a victory, (as was Dunkirk) but in truth it has been obvious from the start that May has no stomach for the fight.  As Home Secretary she was notable for her authoritarian instincts allied to a supreme absence of principle.  She has no intellectual attachment to British exceptionalism (we invented the common law after all, which fundamental incompatibility is one of the main reasons why membership of the EU is so profoundly baleful) and in fact has done as much as anybody to consign it to the past.  To treat people who care about their history and their culture as “little Englanders.  Rather like Obama’s contemptuous dismissla of American patriots as people “clinging to their guns and to their bibles”.

She is a managerialist authoritarian and her approach to Brexit has reflected this.  The UK has had plenty of miserable PMs since Thatcher, in fact they have all been.  None of them has made any effort to stand up for the British people.

Well, know this Mrs May – we may have no guns, and we might have swallowed all the humiliation you and your ilk have heaped upon us in all these years.  But in the end we will win, we always have.

It was the British people who forced John to sign Magna Carta, and who cut Charles I head off.

We have form.  And you take the piss at your peril.

*PG Wodehouse

Holding The Government To Account

Jeremy Corbyn is taking flak for his defence of the position of the Russian government against Mrs May’s accusations of murder and mayhem, and threats to turn their computers off.

Quentin Letts in the Mail is on fulminating form, laying on with gusto:

Corbyn, the counsel for the Kremlin, descended into peevish, dribbling gibberish: QUENTIN LETTS watches the Labour leader’s remarks on the spy scandal met with disbelief from MPs

This blog is no respecter of Jeremy Corbyn.  However, it is the role of the House, and especially the Leader of the Opposition, to hold the Government to account, and to question actions which might have important consequences and be quite possibly mistaken.

It is not unreasonable to point out that the Government should be prepared to present concrete evidence for its accusations, and it would not be wrong to question whether Mrs May’s approach is sensible given the limited means at her disposal to punish the Russians.

It doesn’t in fact matter that his position was no doubt based more on opportunism than principle.  At least he asked the question, even if he was too useless to insist on getting a proper answer.

We should always be highly suspicious of parliament when it acts harmoniously and in a spirit of cross party goodwill.  That is when clusterfucks like the “Energy and Climate Change Bill” get passed.

The catcalls, booing and animal noises which genteel comentators so deplore are in fact the mark of the adversarial approach which is the check and balance of the British constitution.

 

An Island Of Coal In A Sea Of Fish

At one time it was said that England’s fortune was to be an Island Of Coal in a Sea Of Fish.  That was true once.

But then, our priceless fishing grounds were given up as dowry when we foolishly walked down the aisle with the EEC (as it was then known), and are likely not to be returned with the ring on the occasion of our divorce.

And then, that act of unimaginable national self harm, the Energy and Climate change bill (prop. E Milliband) committed the government to shutting down all coal fired power stations ASAP.

Christopher Booker again:

our few remaining coal-fired power stations [are] running flat out to contribute up to a quarter or more of all the electricity the country was using…last Friday 67 per cent of our power was coming from unsubsidised fossil fuels, and only 11 per cent from “renewables”.

The fact is that when the remaining coal stations are closed, the country’s energy supply will be severely compromised.  There is no way on earth that so-called renewables can make up the difference.  No way.

One of the many consequences of this idiotic policy is the sad case of Drax power station, which has been mostly closed or converted from coal to run on wood chips.  This supposedly sustainable environmentally friendly fuel is derived by felling vast square mileages of virgin forest, chipping the results, shipping the stuff halfway across the US and then across the Atlantic and finally burning it in a process which is significantly less efficient than burning coal which could be mined in this country.  Disastrous in both economic terms and CO2 emission terms.   Absolute madness.

It sometimes seems as though the government are absolutely determined to ruin us all.

Update

Raedwald has an interesting post about the Governments new generation of fisheries protection vessels which with the trademark perfidy or Mrs May’s administration, are going to deployed everywhere, except to protect UK fisheries.

A Rough Ride About To Get Rougher

Further to yesterday’s post which pointed out how a timely spat with Russia is just what the spin doctors ordered to make Mrs May’s government look tough and combative prior to a major Brexit betrayal, today we hear that the EU’s “negotiators” have conceded something we already had.

The Continental Telegraph has the story:

Britain will be free to sign trade deals during the Brexit transition period without permission from the European Union after a climbdown by Brussels, The Times has learnt.  EU negotiators have accepted the UK’s demand that it should be able to pursue an independent trade policy while remaining inside the customs union and single market.  Publicly, the EU’s negotiating guidelines still state that Britain will not be able to implement trade deals “unless authorised to do so by the union”. Behind closed doors the position taken by Michel Barnier, the bloc’s chief negotiator, is understood to have softened significantly. The latest draft of a potential transition deal says that Britain will be able to both negotiate and sign trade deals during the period.

In two weeks there is an important EU Council meeting at which it is expected to settle the Irish border question, and given May’s record so far it is hard to avoid the conclusion that someone and probably lots of people, are going to be sold down the river.

As Christopher Booker writes in the other Telegraph, the time is drawing nigh that various illusions about Brexit are going to be shattered.  One such risks being fishing grounds:

Hammond says EU fishermen could have access to British waters post-Brexit  .He then stated that we would be reclaiming full control of our fishing waters, oblivious to the fact that this would be against UN law, which protects other countries’ “acquired fishing rights”.

The going is getting tougher, and as usual Mrs May has only herself to blame.

 

 

Unwholesome Growths

Spring is famously the time of year when all-but-forgotten hardy perennials re-emerge to delight us.

Some are less welcome than others.  One such is the renewal of the drive to eliminate cash as a means of exchange and store of value, as described by Ross Clark in the Spectator.

It always takes a few hours for the nasties in a Budget to become clear. That is as true with today’s seemingly content-less Spring Statement.

A reasonable sounding proposal made by the lamentable Chancellor Mr Hammond (memorably described by Tim Worstall as “like Gordon Brown but with higher taxes and more spending”) was to eliminate 1p (ok) and 2p (less sensible) coins, and then move to eliminate the £50 note, not because its value has been eroded by inflation, but because pesky people use it as a store of value (er, what it was designed for actually…)

This stuff has been putting down roots for years, David Cameron nearly blurted the plan back in 2015:

a proposal to end physical currency very nearly made it into David Cameron’s Conservative conference speech. Britain, he was going to say, would become the world’s first cashless economy by 2020.

and its tentacles reach in to the UCB, the Fed, the IMF – big cheeses from all these institutions have been making these noises for years.

It is obvious that this is one of the next big things, it being the only way The Powers That Be can think of to head the next recession off at the pass, that is by helping themselves to savers’ money at source from their bank accounts rather than having to go around mob handed looking under matresses (although you can be sure they wouldn’t balk at that either).

As Ross Clark explains, this will be a move deeply at odds to the interests of the citizen, for a host of reasons; and it is one that must be resisted.

Bitcoin, gold, uncut diamonds…