Tuesday 29 November 2011


Much fuss, sorry I mean analysis, I'm sure will be made of Osborne's pre-budget report today or the Autumn Statement as it's now known because the Tories promised to abolish the PBR. Promises, promises eh? Oh and the Tories also pledged to report to Parliament first not leak stuff beforehand, something they criticised Labour for. That'll be yet another promise broken then.

Anyway, some are referring to it as Brown's 13th budget, which indicates not only the lack of substance - tinkering about the edges - but deliberately making it more confusing: such as flipping between using Office for Budget Responsibility figures on growth and debt but using Treasury figures on the deficit. Witterings from Witney has also come to similar conclusions - labelling Osborne as an economic prat. I must say I can't disagree.

Yet it doesn't matter what the forecasts are - they've been wrong four times in the last 18 months already - the continuing eurozone crisis renders any such predictions as null and void.

Interestingly though Ed Balls, in response to the Chancellor's statement gave a great demonstration of a political dog whistle:
"If we are all in it together, why is it families, women and children always pay the most?"
See what he did there? The vast majority of men have families too, in some form or another, including the multi-millionaires: Osborne, Clegg and Cameron. So the statement is factually correct and logically he's referring to almost everyone in the country but the implication Balls' wants to give is entirely different.

Talking of agendas, out of all the 'announcements' made by Osborne see what the BBC has gone with just before tomorrow's strike:

Monday 28 November 2011

Every Man For Himself

At first it was a drip drip, but now the messages warning of an Euro breakup - or euphemistically called 'a major event' - is gathering pace. The Financial Times warns that there are only 10 days left:
Italy’s disastrous bond auction on Friday tells us time is running out. The eurozone has 10 days at most.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gives very chilling forecasts that the Eurozone is rapidly deteriorating (my emphasis):

THE OECD says the eurozone crisis is now one step away from plunging advanced economies into an abyss of recession and even depression, with waves of bankruptcies and wealth destruction in Europe.

"The euro area crisis represents the key risk to the world economy at present," the OECD said in an unusually stark outlook report.

"A large negative event would... most likely send the OECD area as a whole into recession."

"If not addressed, recent contagion to countries thought to have relatively solid public finances could massively escalate economic disruption,"
Not only that but there's a large scale 'quiet' bank run on Eurozone banks and a very visible one a la Northern Rock in an another EU country - Latvia. Money is pouring out of the Eurozone at an alarming speed and the Euro banks are rapidly reaching a liquidity crisis. Welcome to credit crunch 2.0.

Those warnings continue with Zerohedge's post here (my emphasis):
Moody’s and others are indicating that time is running out and it may be a matter of days. ICAP, the currency trading facilitator, said it is testing its systems for a return to the drachma or even the Deutsche mark. Italian PM Monti admitted that the breakup of the Eurozone has been broached at meetings with top leaders.

This morning European stocks and U.S. futures are spiking sharply. The pundits are trying to pin the spike on everything from Black Friday sales to an IMF bailout of Italy. We think the spike is the reaction of a very oversold market to the resurfacing of the Sarkozy based rumor of a treaty deal for fiscal linkage. But, even if it’s true, can it be implemented quickly enough for a situation thought to be days away from crisis or climax?
Normally I'm reluctant to take the apocalyptic view, however clearly there seems panic behind the scenes. As this piece for the Telegraph asks, why haven't the supposed FCO warnings of possible riots and chaos in the event of a Euro collapse been published officially?

The radio silence from the EU (apart from some recent desperate unworkable announcements) lead to the suspicion that, like a falling dictator who quickly takes as much money as possible before he scarpers, the EU etc are desperately sandbagging to save themselves.

In short now it's every man for himself.

Update: Just seen that Richard North has more.

Sunday 27 November 2011

RIP Speedo

As a football fan, to say I'm stunned by today's news that Gary Speed has died is an understatement. He had a wonderful career epitomised by honest hard-work, endeavour and intelligent movement that allowed him to drift into scoring positions at the last minute. I've had the privilege of seeing him play on a number of occasions.

He also had a beautiful wife and two children...and yet...it still apparently wasn't enough. It just shows that you can never truly know someone, and undoubtedly there will be many many hurt people tonight who believed they could have helped if only he'd approached them.

Despite all the headlines of the danger of drugs and knife crime, suicide is a much bigger killer of men, particularly young men, and one that could be largely prevented if not for the stigma of its causes. If nothing else hopefully today's tragic news will help reverse that.

My condolences go to his wife and his two children at this terrible time.

RIP Mr Speed

Friday 25 November 2011

"Awful Auction"

From the Financial Times:
Bond yields on short-term Italian debt rose above 8 per cent on Friday as Rome was forced to pay euro-era high interest rates in what analysts called an “awful” auction.

Italy raised its targeted €10bn in an auction of two-year bonds and six-month bills but at sharply higher yields.

“Rates have skyrocketed. It’s simply not sustainable in the long run,” said Marc Ostwald, strategist at Monument Securities in London.
It's all falling apart, but those that advocated this stupid, ridiculous and unworkable currency will get away scot free; it's the rest of us that will suffer the consequences when it all goes wrong.

What To Believe?

The Euro crisis naturally is rumbling on, and in the Noddygraph we have this from Benedict Brogan predicting Euro armageddon but don't panic 'call me Dave' is (sort of) on the case:
The Economist, with its cover of a euro coming down in flames, asks "Is this really the end?" and answers that, basically, yes it is. A senior minister explained to me a few days ago that contingency planning is now well under way, and takes in both preparations at home for a shock on the banks and work with consulates and embassies abroad, specifically in the eurozone, to anticipate social and banking disruption when it all goes wrong.
See, now I have a dilemma with this report. On the one hand Government ministers would be bloody stupid if they weren't conjuring up contingency plans for a Euro collapse, yet on the other hand they are bloody stupid. And to top it off Benedict Brogan is an apologist for Dave, whose 'lack of talents' knows no bounds. So what to make of it? One gets the feeling, that I've expressed before on here, that groundwork is being prepared for the blame game.

The reality seems pretty clear; the Euro crisis is coming to a conclusion, despite the EU rhetoric. The fundamental differences between German and France have not been resolved yet the 'record' has not changed for months, so one is inclined to accept this final paragraph from Brogan:
The betting in Team Dave seems to be that the game is as good as up for the single currency. "It's in our interests that they keep playing for time because that gives us more time to prepare," the minister told me. Anyone who has any kind of exposure to the euro – a euro mortgage for example, or a euro account, or euro contracts – should be taking advice now on how to mitigate the risk: politicians in the eurozone have their heads in the sand, and won't admit that behind the scenes officials across europe are scrambling to fill the sandbags while there is still time.
But then we remember that Mr Brogan writes crap like this and this and this. So what to believe? Probably like a broken watch which is still right twice a day, Brogan may have it correct this time, but if so, that instils another rather large concern - we're facing the biggest mass sovereign default in history, so if Cameron is really organising the sandbagging, then God help us.

Thursday 24 November 2011

On Standby

Out of necessity I've had to purchase a new idiot's lantern. It's nothing particularly special, I don't really watch much television but I'm pretty pleased with it.

Naturally the box was festooned with copious environmental messages, most of them images with red lines through, telling you not what to do such as; don't dispose of in a wheelie bin, or throw it at your neighbour's cat - that sort of thing. On the box also was a large logo with the words "Planet First: Making the world a greener, cleaner place to live".

Inside the box, the 'think of the polar bears' theme continues. Included is a foil sticker which contains an EU energy rating and has energy consumption figures on it. Mine is rated 'A' so apparently that's good (it looks remarkably similar to those foil club badges in Panini football sticker albums).

And so onto the instruction manual. Now, don't expect it tell you how to set the tv up, because it won't, there's the e-manual on the tv to do that - saves paper you see. So you have to turn the set on in order to get instructions on how to plug the tv in. Instead, in the paper version, we get more environmental messages such as the carbon footprint and the following advice:
Do not leave your tv in standby mode for long periods of time, as a small amount of electric power is still consumed.
So all well and good, I've bought a new tv and have nice warm feeling inside that I've done my bit for the environment.

However, there's a problem...

There's one feature my shiny new tv doesn't have that all my previous ones did...an on/off button. It doesn't have one, no push button, no rocker switch, no nothing. That then leaves only two options. Either unplugging the set, which means clambering around the back, fighting the cable spaghetti to unplug it from a four gang socket (for Mrs TBF this is a complete non starter). Or...wait for it...leave it on standby...permanently.

Genius, eh?

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Quote Of The Day

From today's German paper Bild, with the headline:
Britain, America and the EU: All want our [Germany's] Cash,
...the last paragraph says, translated from German courtesy of Google translate (my emphasis):
In plain English: The French want to go to big money - and that may be in Europe at the end, only the German one.

Who Will Blink First

As Eurozone contagion swirls around Germany, Merkel has apparently made her position clear with what appears to be a Shermanesque statement:
"I am firmly convinced that the mandate of the European Central Bank cannot, absolutely cannot, be changed."
So now what? There are two stark options for Merkel; integration or break-up. Instead what we have here is a game of brinkmanship being taken right to the wire where all of our lives are being messed about on a whim. We've been here before, but it won't affect them it will instead affect us.

We should not be accepting this.

Last Man Standing

Contagion contagion everywhere; Spain is being hit with ever higher borrowing costs, so has Belgium, and Italy - bond yields which are again above the 7% level - and Portugal and so on. The markets have already assumed that France will lose its treasured AAA status. Then this morning contagion has hit the last man standing - the benchmark - Germany. 'A disaster' is what the German bond auction is being called (my emphasis):

LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - German government bonds fell sharply on Wednesday after investors shunned the country's auction of new 10-year debt, signalling that the fast-spreading euro zone crisis was eroding the safe haven status of German debt.

Germany drew significantly less [sic] bids than the amount on offer for its Bunds, with investors deterred by very low yields. The euro zone powerhouse was caught between the best and worst possible scenarios on the euro zone crisis.

"It is a complete and utter disaster," said Marc Ostwald, strategist at Monument Securities in London. "If Germany can only manage a 0.65 cover in actual terms for what is going to be their next benchmark then what hope for everybody else?"

"It really tells you that the Bund yields are at the completely wrong level ... never mind that they are a safe haven. There's certainly a partial element of 'they (investors)would rather not have euros' in there."

The decisions by Germany are essential to the survival or otherwise of the Euro. As argued before on this blog, Germany faces an impossible position; it wants the survival of the Euro but is unable to take the steps necessary to ensure this. In a great piece Acting Man calls it An Intractable Problem.

The EU of course is arguing for more integration via Eurobonds as a solution:
The EC is launching a consultation to assess if the 17 eurozone countries can issue the bonds to raise cash.

Mr Barroso's 'stability bonds' plan would see much more investigation and control of the budgets of countries within the eurozone, to avoid a repeat of the bailouts and crises affecting the region.
But the EU must know that this would be illegal under German Constitutional Court rulings, it makes one wonder whether not only is this the last desperate throw of the dice for more integration but the laying of the groundwork for the blame game when it all goes pear shaped - that it was Germany's fault for not listening to the EC and its 'messiah' Barroso. The collapse of the Euro will cause enormous political ramifications and fallout.

The Financial Times has interesting piece that the markets have effectively 'smoked out' a stealth operation by the Bundesbank to try to control the German bond market, which spectacularly failed this morning:
That, alongside the fact that the Bundesbank is retaining an ever greater share of bonds from auction, suggests only one thing to the logical mind. It is the Bundesbank which is cornering the bund market on purpose. And it’s doing so to ensure that the one last repo rate in Europe that can be controlled remains suppressed.

The rate is important to suppress because almost all interbank funding is now done on a secured basis against the best quality collateral. Which implies two important points: 1) that the ECB itself has lost control and depends almost entirely on the Bundesbank to enforce its low rate policy target and 2) that the Bundesbank is having to retain more bunds from the market than ever before just to ensure the last functioning repo rate in Europe doesn’t spiral out of control.

That, we would say, is a big deal.

Whatever the case, Wednesday’s auction suggests the Bundesbank’s stealth operation has finally been outed. The question is, will the Bundesbank now be broken too?

One thing is for sure, though, now that Eurozone contagion has infected Germany, it's game over.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

ClimateGate II

This subject is not really my speciality but here we go again, And here; even the BBC is doing a slightly better job than last time (not difficult and 'slightly' being the operative word which underlines the seriousness in which the BBC are taking it)

Apparently the UEA says (my emphasis):
"If genuine, (the sheer volume of material makes it impossible to confirm at present that they are all genuine) these emails have the appearance of having been held back after the theft of data and emails in 2009 to be released at a time designed to cause maximum disruption to the imminent international climate talks".
That will naturally be reported, by the MSM, as an entirely different type of data theft in comparison to this, this and this.

Stupid Questions

Readers probably recognise the above picture as an Ishihara colour plate used to test for colour blindness. These were my nemesis at school. I was subjected to these more than most because I neither had perfect sight nor full colour blindness - just somewhere inbetween - something which completely confused my testers. ("but you must be one or the other"). For example (apparently) with the above plate if you have normal sight then 74 should be visible those with full colour blindness you may see 21. Me? I just see dots.

My problem was not trying to find tennis balls in the grass nor distinguishing traffic lights but subtle differences between certain colours. Now, this has never been much of a problem: it only ever really cropped up with some computer games, notably older versions of Pro Evolution Soccer, where it would choose the teams' kits and you couldn't amend them. Certain clashes of strip colours meant that whilst I could see the difference when the game was paused I couldn't pick out the teams when the game was in progress and the players were moving about. The result was that in those circumstances I got heavily beaten (well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it).

Anyway, 'my eyesight problem' has cropped up this morning. I've been installing, for the company I work for, a new server monitoring software, which uses a really rubbish traffic light system to detect problems. Basically it gives a red alert for a major hardware failure, a yellow alert for a minor failure and a green alert for all ok. However the subtle differences between the shades of green and yellow that are used means that I find it difficult at first glance to differentiate between the two. This resulted in the following conversation:
  • Him: "It's that one" (pointing to the yellow alert)

  • TBF: "Oh right thanks, sorry I'm partially colour blind"

  • Him: "How can you not see that?"

  • TBF: "I just can't, sorry"

  • Him: "But it's obvious it's yellow, how can you not see that?"

  • TBF: "Sorry, not to me it isn't"

  • Him: "Jesus, you're weird"
Needless to say my response at this point was delivered in full and frank Anglo-Saxon language.

Fed Up

Richard North once described membership of UKIP as; "optimism, descending into frustration, to disillusionment and to betrayal"

I'm rapidly coming to similar conclusions.

Monday 21 November 2011

Compare And Contrast

Compare the interview that Ken Livingstone gets on Andrew Marr (circa 25:00 mins in - also worth watching Jon Simpson on the paper reviews earlier - being biased and then trying to deny it) and what Nigel Farage endures on the Politics Show later (circa 8:00 mins in, with an intro that is less than ...erm... balanced).

Going by this interview presenter Jon Sopel's own views are obvious - his line of questioning is clearly seen to be less to do with holding a politician to account on his policies but more to do with expressing his personal views. I know this is "do bears shit in the woods" stuff but it really is a disgrace.

Friday 18 November 2011

The Enemy Is Within

As expected much will be made of apparent German moves to deny us a say. The fallacy of a German EU takeover was not only highlighted in my previous post, but also in a piece by Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights:
The Tory press seems to be making out Germany as the villain in the current political shenanigans concerning the disintegrating EU. Those of us in favour of independence should steer well clear of this evocation of the ghosts of past conflicts. This is not about the struggle of nation against nation, but of the parasitical political/bureaucratic class against the common people in this nation and in others.

David Cameron, clueless puppet though he is, should be the object of our ire, not Angela Merkel. He is the point-man for the EU's continued take-over of this country. The fact is that events are blowing gaping holes in the political position of the pro-Brussels gang. In this country they have forever lied to us that the EU was not about ever-closer union, leading inevitably to something resembling the United States of Europe. Elsewhere this has been discussed openly, but the pro-Brussels gang have not wanted such a debate. Far better to mislead the public for as long as humanly possible as to the true nature of the 'Project'.
Absolutely spot on, a point also echoed by Daniel Hannan this week, in a post I've only just seen.

The problem is by seeing the EU as a German 'problem' not only does it identify the wrong enemy, but it becomes in effect a coward’s cult. By that I mean that incorrectly portraying a 'superior' enemy who is all seeing and all powerful (something very common to most conspiracy theories) it in effect, and ironically, renders the critics powerless. As a consequence it thus becomes an excuse for inaction used by those who don’t have the stomach to engage in real political battles. In short it's easier to blame the Germans, than actually do something about it.

The tragedy is that there are more of us than them and we don't utilise that fact; we have the power to bring down the Cameron coalition government in days should we wish - the fuel protests showed the way, we could also have a tax strike or we could challenge the finances of local government. Instead it appears to be easier to blame the Germans and do nothing.

Thus I have a lot of sympathy with Captain Ranty's frustrations.

"10 German Bombers..."

As Richard North wrote on Wednesday "Anti-German sentiment is still only skin-deep in much of British society" and with Cameron meeting Merkel today in what has been described as a tense meeting so it proves. Following on from recent copies of the Express and the Daily Mail, today's Telegraph (pictured above) indulges in a non-too subtle form of 'hun-bashing'. As a result I'm already suffering from 'Godwin's law overload' trying to follow the Euro crisis - and it's still only mid-morning as I write.

But nevermind, apparently German plots are afoot to deny us our say... which is nonsense. If we wanted a referendum in this country we can jolly well have one, there's little the Germans or anyone else can do about it. The real reason we won't get one lies a lot closer to home; more specifically David '3-line whip' Cameron. That somehow the Germans are preventing a referendum that Cameron really wants is ludicrous - at least it gives him someone to blame though.

Not that any of this will prevent outbursts that the EU is really a Fourth Reich or ODESSA-on-steroids. The reality is much different, as revealed by even only a cursory look at the EU's French origins and the consistent manipulation of the EU by France for its own ends, a classic example being the CAP. Rather than a plot, the Eurocrisis has meant that Germany has been reluctantly dragged kicking and screaming into the current limelight primarily because it holds by far the biggest chequebook.

If the EU was really a German plot then this Eurocrisis would not exist. Instead we would have a fiscal union dominated by Germany, playing by German rules, solving at a stroke the fundamental flaws in the currency - the markets would be popping champagne corks.

However we have a crisis because she is doing precisely the opposite. Germany faces an impossible choice between accepting fiscal union, and thus giving up sovereignty (which the German Constitutional Court has ruled illegal) or facing the breakup of the Euro resulting in it being a pariah in the EU - taking the blame for its collapse. Damned if she does, damned if she doesn't.

All of this 'Nazi' blame game though conveniently overlooks the fact the real enemy lies elsewhere. It doesn't reside in Berlin, nor Paris, but in London - Whitehall. The EU never attacked our castle walls with copious Trebuchets and forced entry, instead we lowered the drawbridge, lifted the portcullis and invited them in. Not only that, we also laid on the biggest banquets, gave them the best rooms and told them that they could stay as long as they liked.

One of the first rules of battle is to know your enemy, and if we can't even get past that then we are doomed to lose the war (oops did I mention the war?).

Wednesday 16 November 2011

3 Days After Remembrance Sunday

A major European country ceases to be democratic (my emphasis):
Italy Prime Minister-designate Mario Monti on Wednesday unveiled his new cabinet to deal with his country’s debt crisis.

The former EU commissioner named himself as Italy’s new economy minister.

Monti’s cabinet does not contain a single elected politician.

His ministers are drawn from the worlds of finance, academia, and law.

The 68-year-old does have the support of all major political parties.

Only the right-wing Northern League has refused to back him.

Monti must win a vote of confidence in both houses of parliament before he can officially take office.

Wearing a poppy means bugger all, the best way to honour those who gave their lives for 'their tomorrows' is to continue the everlasting fight to preserve freedom and democracy:
"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." - Ronald Reagan

Facts - Up In Smoke

I, personally, don't smoke, never have - my vice of choice is ale. My wife does though or more accurately she did until she gave up for the second time a couple of months ago. I don't like my wife smoking, she knows that but ultimately it's her decision and I leave it at that.

Yet it was with some irritation to both of us that BBC Breakfast this morning had as their main headline news a report from the British Medical Association that smoking should be banned in cars. Funnily enough when it comes to smoking, any civil liberty or freedom is too much - we've been here before. As Velvet Glove, Iron Fist correctly predicted yesterday, it's ground hog day:
Word has it that the British Medical Association is going to have another stab at campaigning for a smoking ban in cars today. This is turning into an biannual crusade and I don't have any more to say about it than I did in all these previous posts.
Yep, an organisation with vested interests on a regular basis releases a press statement that is regurgitated verbatim and with enthusiasm by the BBC without critical comment. The same old weary pattern seen with many other issues such as minimum pricing on alcohol and obesity. As VGIF points out, the report is inaccurate at best.

It really is pathetic. And not just the BBC, the lies were repeated right across the MSM. It's no wonder why me and many others have stopped listening to them. It's bloggers - the voices of little (unpaid) guys that are filling the void - the MSM is becoming irrelevant and are writing themselves out of the script.

Shooting Up The Priority List

One of the most common arguments against a referendum, or discussion on the EU, is that it doesn't register in the list of voters' concerns. That of course overlooks the fact that 99% of issues in the top ten of voters' concerns do involved the EU in one way or another - to paraphrase Lord of The Rings; one issue rules them all - and that this logic never applies to climate change.

However leaving all that aside, the latest YouGov poll shows that Europe is now seen as the 3rd most important issue facing country (click to enlarge):

As I've blogged before, this was always going to happen - the Euro crisis has simply brought the inevitable forward. So no longer can this be treated as a fringe issue, and no longer can our political class ignore it. The EU nettle simply has to be grasped and hilariously it's happened on Cameron's watch.

Tuesday 15 November 2011

A Little Bit Pregnant?

Englands Freedome, Souldiers Rights has a superb post highlighting that the position of EU membership just doesn't affect the Tories but all of the political class - namely that they still want membership of the EU but try their best to disguise it to the electorate:
So Labour have decided to re-badge themselves as quasi -Euro-sceptics.

Should I point out the depth of their collective treason and unexpungable guilt?

They are still, however, defending their criminal theft of the referendum they promised us, and still all members of the anti-democracy, anti-sovereignty, pro-Brussels faction, but they are aware that their position is unpopular. They need to reposition, all the better to betray the people.

Hence this recent talk about ‘re-negotiation’ and ‘no further transfers of power’, ‘repatriation of powers’ etc. The aim is to craft a third way between sovereignty and the destruction of sovereignty. It goes without saying that there is no such third way.

There are, certainly, a handful of stalwarts in the Party, such as Kate Hoey and Austin Mitchell who have been vilified for years. All the rest are party hacks and traitors. See what Douglas Alexander says:
"There's even a tendency … to say people keep rejecting pro-European propositions because they aren't proposed in a pro-European enough way."
Really? A tendency? Well, there you have it. Our enemies don’t like being burdened by defending the status quo. They want to have their cake and eat it too. They don’t want to deal with the reality, but keep focused on the long-term goal of continent-wide Empire.
As EFSR rightly argues there is no third way between being sovereign or not sovereign. Europhiles like to argue about the sharing (or pooling) of sovereignty but it is a concept which is akin to saying you're a little bit pregnant.

So we go through the same old boring tedious game again - when in opposition parties pretend to be 'eurosecptic' then as soon as elected they say; "yes EU, no EU, three bags full" etc. The dividing line between left and right no longer exists in politics, it's now a line between us and them.

"I'm Mad"

Despite the EU's overtly anti-democratic manoeuvres last week to tell Italy and Greece what Government they should have, it hasn't worked - the Euro crisis continues unabated, contagion has hit Spain, France and Belgium. It's getting to the point where it's easier to list the Eurozone countries that aren't in trouble.

It's clear that the EU or member states cannot take the necessary measures to stem the crisis - they are sleepwalking into Euro meltdown where the consequences will be massive but are largely unpredictable.

I should be magnanimous in these times, but I'm afraid I can't be. I don't for one minute enjoy the consequences of the chaos on the impact on jobs and the economy but what is amusing is the ever desperate rhetoric from those that have always supported the Euro - Nick Clegg (my emphasis):
It means absolutely nothing to millions of people across the EU who are worried about economic security. They are worried about prospects for their children. The only people who will benefit will be populists, chauvinists and demagogues, who will exploit that lack of political leadership."
Oh here we go - more labels, more insults. This is why, after decades of abuse for trying to argue against a flawed system of government and currency thus being inundated with abuse I have little sympathy. The battle against the EU has largely been a lonely and hostile one - those in favour refusing to engage in debate but instead chuck insults about like cheap confetti at a wedding.

So it is with some amusement that I read this post from the Europhile blog EU Weekly:

I am mad and disappointed.

I am mad at an half finished euro, which has been created without any sort of exit close in the treaty – Not that I ever wish for such a close to be used, just that it is a good sign of a well thought project to have an end-point ready, just in case.

I am mad at an over-optimistic eurozone that accepted Greece despite its lag in matching the growth and stability criteria and continued to ignore the obvious reality as long as things were looking OK and the illusion could be held.

I am mad because the euro is not just a great project or a nice dream. It has become a reality, it has been built upon and brought successful growth and integration among the european states. The euro add solid results and consequences making it impossible to be dismantled or even weaken. It has to be saved, rebuild, made stronger… there is no other options.

That’s why more than anything I am mad and disappointed at the European leaders who fail again and again to tackle the problem and do what is needed to make the euro as strong as it is supposed to be. Every major actor of the financial world agrees to say that the best option is to go forward into a federalist union with eurobonds as the core of the public debt for member states, but all that Merkozy et al. are doing is finding workarounds to the issue, half-fixing the problem for a few months.

It reads like a perestroika advocate within the Soviet Union - believing that the system is fine; it just needs a little retuning.

No. The EU is flawed, it's conception was flawed, the Euro is flawed, everything about it is flawed. In years to come, when the EU and the Euro has collapsed, historians will wonder with bemusement how earth did we fall for this trick for so long?

Spot The Difference?

Magritte's famous painting "This is not a pipe"


"The famous pipe. How people reproached me for it! And yet, could you stuff my pipe? No, it's just a representation, is it not? So if I had written on my picture "This is a pipe," I'd have been lying" - Magritte

More Tory Delusion

Of all the bloggers I least expected to fall for the; "Tories are Eurosceptics" guff, it was the usually erudite Cranmer. But no, it seems even blind party loyalty gets to him (or deluded stupidity, I'm not sure which). The arguments he uses are well-worn and somewhat tedious so I'm not going to fisk them here in detail. Suffice to say he argues; that the Tories are really eurosceptic, that UKIP prevents a Eurosceptic Tory Government, that UKIP supporters are really Tories and so on. This blog has countered these arguments many times before as have others.

Yet it never ceases to amaze me how after 40 years of evidence to the contrary that some still believe the Tories are sceptical. I wonder how much more obvious do they need to be to prove that they're not? Not only do they willing pick up the soap but they offer to build the shower in the first place.

I think the key to Cranmer's position lies in the first couple of sentences:
Have you noticed that UKIP is about to replace the LibDems as the UK’s third party? Apparently, they are now regularly polling a 7 per cent approval rating, just a tantalising single point behind the LibDems.
That UKIP has gone from a standing start to being nearly the third party in less than 20 years is a remarkable achievement. Personally I believe they should be doing much better, but that is for another blog post. But at least it demonstrates, with the recent outbursts, that Tories are rattled.

However instead of listening, Cranmer demonstrates clearly the default Tory position - wagon circling and repeating tired lame anti-UKIP messages, little realising that on a whole host of issues, the Tories, and indeed the whole political class, stick to a consensus that isn't matched by the British people. Nature abhors a vacuum and UKIP (partly) fills that vacuum.

And as the collapse of the EU continues, the Tories will still be reciting the same old messages that they've being doing for years - as if stuck in a time warp, despite that the rise of UKIP shows that it is not working.

It won't be UKIP that kills off the Conservative Party, instead the Conservative Party will kill itself off.

Thursday 10 November 2011

A Non Story?

The Daily Mail reports:
Commuters in 4x4 vehicles are demanding larger railway station car park spaces so they can avoid being fined for straying over the white lines.

Irate commuters at Didcot Parkway railway station in Oxfordshire say parking bays are too small for their cars.

Motorists who have complained most drive the expensive up-market Range Rover models, which are popular in rural Oxfordshire.
Interesting...because Didcot is my local station which I use very regularly for work and travelling to football. The only issue of parking that has ever cropped up in my local paper, to my knowledge is one of a lack of spaces, not the size of them - an issue epitomised by the demolition of a grade 2 listed pub to make way for extra parking - strangely enough the Daily Mail has never highlighted that.

Now, Didcot Parkway is undergoing a bit of a revamp at the moment on the forecourt - the taxi rank is being moved, more spaces are being made available for drop-off and for disabled travellers etc. None of this is of course mentioned in the piece. Didcot Parkway also has at least four separate car parks (including one very large one), as fitting for a 'parkway' but it's hard to know by the Mail report which car park they refer to.

However a quick search shows this on the BBC local site yesterday:

People parking at an Oxfordshire car park say they are being fined for not keeping within the white lines.

The size of the spaces at Didcot Parkway railway station, on Foxhall Road, are unconfirmed but some commuters claim they are too small.

Ah the Mail have nicked the story from elsewhere, a story which refers to a carpark that has been there longer than I have (over 10 years) and whose parking space sizes have remained unchanged since. The space sizes are no different to the local supermarket ones and certainly they are wider than the ones in a nearby shopping centre.

So this leads me onto the quotes that help 'colour' the article:

One commuter, Penny Reid, from Wantage, drives a Land Rover Freelander and recently received an £80 Civil Parking Notice at the car park.

She said: 'I can fit within the space, I'm a good parker - but if there is a car parked next to me I can't get out.'
"I can fit within the space" So why did Penny get a ticket for not doing so? Hmm. Then...
Edward Hanrahan, from East Hendred, Oxfordshire, regularly parks his Audi A4, which he describes as a 'medium sized car', at Didcot Parkway.

He said: 'I got an £80 parking ticket, then three weeks later when I hadn't paid it I got a final demand and a doubling of the payment.

'Since then I've had another demand from a solicitor and debt collectors - it's all just scare-mongering.'
I've parked an Audi A4 (courtesy car) in that particular carpark, no problems, yet Edward got an £80 parking ticket - for what? The piece doesn't specifically say. (and he admits he didn't pay, or possibly challenge it)

It seems that the Mail have embossed a non story with a '4*4' in rural Oxfordshire slant, chucking in easy quotes from a couple of disgruntled motorists.

I have sympathy that some parking attendants can be over-zealous, but it becomes laughable when trying to defend what is essentially a non-story by describing Didcot as a rustic rural place - when it has one of these beauties residing on its doorstep.

But then we've been here before with the Daily Mail.

Don't Laugh

Romanian president Traian Basescu still wants to take his country into the Euro. Apparently he told journalists not to laugh:
We want to join the eurozone in 2015. Please don't laugh. We do not believe in a fragmented Europe. Romania supports the process of integration.
The ludicrousness of that statement reminds me of the mid 90's track Don't laugh by Josh Wink which about half-way through encourages you to do preciously the opposite.

A New Phase

Just my luck, on the day the Eurozone entered a new and more dangerous phase - yields on Italian Bonds smashing through the psychologically important 7% figure yesterday - I found myself on family business which meant I had no internet access.

Not so much as hit the buffers, the Eurozone has instead crashed right through them, as Italy enters bailout territory. One problem, it's too big to bailout. To illustrate the seriousness of this new phase, an orderly breakup of the Euro is now being seriously discussed, in effect jettisoning the peripheral countries and France and Germany going for a smaller Eurozone. But, given the glacial speed of EU decisions, events look set to overtake them - contagion is already reaching Spain and France today. It looks set to be another bloodbath.

One thing's for sure, we are witnessing European history in the making.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Liberal And Democratic?

This tweet, from Sunny Hundal, tells you all need to know about the Liberal 'left' view of democracy:

Basically bollocks to Italian voters.

Monday 7 November 2011

Groundhog Week

Rumours are now swirling about that Italian Prime Minister, Berlusconi, is going to resign, then it was denied, then confirmed again. I'm not so sure, whatever Berlusconi is, he is a political survivor - still PM despite scandal and numerous trials.

What odds on that he announces a referendum soon or decides to pull out of the Euro altogether as a last desperate measure?

That Euro Crisis (Again)

The events in Greece are now a sideshow as the Euro crisis moves to Rome. The yield on Italian 10-year bonds rose to a euro-era high of 6.6% - this is dangerously near bailout territory. And given that Italy is the 3rd largest economy in the Eurozone, a crisis there is a whole different ball game to Greece.

Talks of a possible Euro breakup are now openingly being discussed as German tour operator TUI writes to hoteliers demanding that they agree to renegotiate contracts in Greece's old currency - the drachma.

There are conspiracy theories this morning that the pressure on Italian bonds is being used to force the removal of Berlusconi. The collapse of the Italian government would bring relief to the markets. That a government collapse could help market confidence is a strong indication of how bad this crisis is. I'm not so sure about the conspiracy theories, my feeling is that the crisis is starting to snowball, to escalate out of control towards its inevitable conclusion; that the markets no longer believe (rightly) that the EU has the capacity to solve the problem. We can only wait and see.

But don't worry the EU have everything in hand, their solution? To announce another Eurozone crisis meeting. On November 17th.

Saturday 5 November 2011

The Tory Delusion

The blog The View from Cullingworth has a post titled Why UKIP members should join the Conservative Party. It contains the usual Tory clichés which have been wheeled out for years if not decades. I posted a lengthy comment in response (Now approved) which I reproduce here:
If I may, as a UKIP supporter, I would like to respond to a number of points that you raise in your post.

Firstly I get the impression that you're implying that UKIP is an exile party for former Tories. This is simply not the case. It derives its support right across the political spectrum. For example one of its heartlands is in the South West which is Lib Dem territory and one of UKIP's best recent performances was in Barnsley - a Labour stronghold. Asking UKIP members who used to be Lib Dem or Labour to vote Tory is a bit of a long shot to say the least. I personally have never voted Tory and am very unlikely to ever do so.

The second point I would like to make is the loose term of the word Eurosceptic - it is a term that is often misused. The vast majority of Tories want to stay in the EU.

You write "that half the backbenches in parliament supported an in/out referendum reflects that fact" That is not entirely true, the motion also contained an option to "repatriate powers" which means continuing membership - this what attracted backbencher support. The vast majority of Tory MPs agree with this latter option as indicated by your comment here: "My Party becomes more opposed to the continuation of EU integration with each passing day."

Repatriation of powers, though technically possible is not going to happen. Technically it's possible for me to land on the moon but the chances of it happening is precisely zero. Arguing for repatriation woefully misunderstands 'ever closer union' and the process of acquis communautaire. Euroscepticism is a term used to try to keep the Tory faithful on board while keeping EU membership - it is a deception.

And that leads me on to my third and more important point - that the Tories are not eurosceptic.

Andrew Carnegie once said “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.”. This most definitely applies to Tories. In nearly 40 years, despite the rhetoric, they have:
  1. Entered the EEC on a lie (read the 1971 internal document FCO 30/1048)
  2. Campaigned in the 1975 referendum for a yes vote, including Thatcher
  3. Passed the Single European Act
  4. Shadowed the Deutschmark in preparation to enter the ERM.
  5. Entered the ERM which directly lead to the early '90s recession
  6. Passed the Maastricht Treaty
  7. Have become, in Roger Helmer's words the most pro-EU government ever, since elected in 2010.
Actions speak louder than words and no amount of rhetoric can cover the fact that the Tories cannot wait to constantly integrate further.

To use a football analogy; I have supported my team for over 25 years, in that time I've criticised players, managers and the board but every year I still renew my season ticket. That makes me a supporter not a sceptic. And the same is true of Tories, despite the criticism of some aspects of the EU, when that EU season ticket renewal comes up they gleefully renew. They are supporters not sceptics.

Then there's this comment: So long as UKIP leaches those votes, there will not be such a majority and we'll remain on that seemingly inexorable course to a federal Europe. Leaving aside the question of 'Tories are Euroscpetic' as countered above this assertion has been my experience for a long time as a PPC and a local candidate. Tories have a habit of accusing UKIP of 'stealing our votes' or 'splitting the vote so Labour gets in'. Not mine or UKIPs problem I'm afraid, party polices are rather like goods in a shop, if no one wants to buy them that's the shop's fault not the customers. The solution to the Tories haemorrhaging voters and members is to look in the mirror.

And it's for those reasons that I will never support them or any other of the main parties.
Update: Simon Cooke (Magus), author of the post, has tweeted rather weakly, in my view, that all of his comments miss the point. In what way? I'm happy to be corrected. I suspect I won't be because, rather than miss the point, the comments tell an inconvenient truth.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Confusion (2)

The Mail doesn't know its (stage) left from right (circled - click to enlarge):


I meant to write a blog about today's G20 summit and the continuing Eurozone crisis, but events are moving so fast that I can't keep up at the moment. For a number of hours now we have had reports that Greece's PM George Papandreou has resigned, then oh no he hasn't, then oh yes he has ...and so on. And it's not even pantomime season yet.

Also Italian bonds continue to rise to record levels, as Italian politics is in a bit of turmoil. France and Spanish bonds have also risen. Van Rompuy and Barroso can't decide whether to hold a press conference or not. The sleepwalking into chaos continues.

Meanwhile a rather revealing twitter exchange between myself and pro-EU Telegraph journalist Daniel Knowles. I was simply arguing for an orderly break-up of the euro - the only realistic option left to prevent a chaotic collapse. This response below from Daniel was rapidly deleted, but I have a screenprint:

"You people"? Hmm interesting. And then the follow up:

What is really dangerous is that the Euro is heading rather rapidly for a disorderly collapse because no-one will make any of the very difficult decisions required to stabilise the crisis. When the collapse happens Mr Knowles will then find out what the words idealistic and extreme really means.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Germans Say Nein To Greek Football

From Greek paper Ekathimerini:

The German soccer federation suddenly informed its Greek counterpart on November 2 that it cannot host Greece's friendly game with Romania at Reutlingen on November 15 «for security reasons."

Greece had arranged the friendly in Germany in order to satisfy the huge demand by Greek expatriates to see their national team play, but less than two weeks before the match, the DFB told EPO it could not stage it after all, according to an EPO statement on Wednesday.

How strange...or maybe not:
The German federation's decision came just 24 hours after the Champions League game between local Borussia and Olympiakos at Dortmund with some 4,000 Greek fans in the stands whose behavior could not be faulted.

Speculation in Athens suggested that the decision may be down to the political uncertainty in Greece that could turn the match into a demonstration, although that appears to be quite far-fetched.

It is also likely that the German federation was upset by the behavior of Olympiakos fans in Piraeus during the home game against Borussia on October 19, as they produced a banner (pictured above) that appeared to be offensive to Germany.

EU harmony continuing as normal...

Greece Will Vote Yes

The referendum question according to the FT has been decided, and as expected it will be couched in terms of EU membership not the bailout itself (my emphasis):
Greek voters would be asked not to approve or reject the terms for Greece’s next financial rescue, which European leaders set at a Brussels summit last week, but a broader question centred on support for Greece’s membership of the European Union and 17-nation eurozone.
Greek enthusiasm for EU membership runs at more than 72% - George Papandreou will win the vote. Like most referendums it's going to be rigged.

A Question

As the Greek referendum fallout continues, (Richard North has excellent analysis of Papandreou's strategy), a thought has occurred to me. Will the Greeks even know what bailout package they'll be voting on given that it doesn't actually exist yet?

The deal announced to great fanfare last Thursday was vague, and short on details. The details have yet to be hammered out on the banks agreeing to voluntary haircuts, on leveraging the European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) effectively to a trillion euros, who pays, and whether the bank recapitalization program is even sufficient.

And EU finance ministers are not expected to agree on these nitty-gritty elements of how the EFSF will work until sometime in November, with the exact date not fixed. It is probable that agreement on it and other elements of the deal will drag on longer maybe into next year (if at all).

As the referendum might take place as early as December, the Greeks may end up effectively voting on a deal that no-one knows what it is.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

Another Greek Surprise

The Guardian, links to a report from Athens Times that the top officials in the Greek military have been replaced today in a 'surprise' move:
In a surprise move, the defence minister proposed on Tuesday evening the complete replacement of the country’s top brass.
At an extraordinary meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (Kysea), which comprises the prime minister and other key cabinet members, Defence Minister Panos Beglitis proposed the following changes to the army, navy and air force and the general staff:
  • General Ioannis Giagkos, chief of the Greek National Defence General Staff, to be replaced by Lieutenant General Michalis Kostarakos
  • Lieutenant General Fragkos Fragkoulis, chief of the Greek Army General Staff, to be replaced by lieutenant general Konstantinos Zazias
  • Lieutenant General Vasilios Klokozas, chief of the Greek Air Force, to be replaced by air marshal Antonis Tsantirakis
  • Vice-Admiral Dimitrios Elefsiniotis, chief of the Greek Navy General Staff, to be replaced by Rear-Admiral Kosmas Christidis
It is understood that the personnel changes took many members of the government and of the armed forces by surprise.
As a consequence there's much speculation that it is being done to prevent a military coup. However there's no indication yet that a military coup is on the cards, though given the financial turmoil in Greece and that its Government is close to collapse this evening, nothing can be ruled out. Also EUobserver reported this morning:

There are other signs the government is losing control.

In recent weeks, members of the Greek police forces have also protested against the troika outside EU offices and French and German embassies, while retired army officers stormed the Greek defence ministry.

Defence minister Panagiotis Beglitis in October warned that the Greek military establishment is a "state within the state."

On Tuesday, he convened an unscheduled meeting of the Government Council for Foreign Affairs and Defence, the supreme decision-making body on national defense.

According to sources within the ministry quoted by Greek daily Eleftherotypia, Beglitis is planning to replace the leadership of the military with "his own people." Unnamed officials described his actions as "politically mad" and "militarily dangerous."

One interesting question, posed before on this blog, if Greece does become a military dictatorship (again) will the EU throw it out because it fails its democratic criteria? And what of its membership of the Euro?

Interesting times.

Have Your Say...

...on whether Greece should have their say. The Guardian wins the 'ironic piece of the day' award:

You can vote here on whether the Greeks should be allowed to...er vote.

That Bombshell

I wrote yesterday's post about the referendum proposal in Greece in a bit of a hurry. Partly because I was at work when the news came through on my phone and partly because it was such a bolt from the blue. It completely surprised everyone even George Papandreou's own parliamentarians. But whatever the reasons behind his decision, much amusement can be had from the obvious sheer terror he invoked across the EU. Daniel Hannan writes:
I wish I could convey the sheer writhing horror that George Papanderou's referendum proposal has provoked in Brussels. Eurocrats instinctively dislike referendums. They feel that their work is too important and complicated to be vulnerable to the prejudices of hoi polloi.

A referendum at any time would be regarded by European leaders as irresponsible. But a referendum when the euro is teetering on the brink is seen as the height of ingratitude, selfishness and recklessness.
Wondrous joy. As expected the markets this morning have taken on a plummet trajectory - over two months of uncertainty now lie ahead until the vote. That Greece will default is a given, the markets have priced that in; how and when are the key questions. Now with the referendum there's another possibility that's been thrown into the mix, that in the event of a no vote that Greece could not only exit the Euro but possibly the EU altogether.

And it's the last point that means a Greek no vote is not a certainty.

Firstly it will significantly depend on the referendum question asked. If the question is along the lines of the bailout package itself and more austerity then a no vote is a likely outcome. However if the question is couched in terms of a no vote meaning exit from the Euro and the EU, and I suspect strongly that this will be the case, then the outcome is far from certain. Not only do referendums tend to favour the status quo but much scaremongering will be deployed - Greece leaving 'will be a disaster' they will cry.

Secondly the EU will use every tactic in the book; blackmail, threats, coercion and bribes. They have form on this - Lisbon, Ireland anyone? Then there's the infamous EU's last resort of; 'wrong answer vote again'.

A no answer is not guaranteed by any means.

What Papandreou has done though is start a risk of contagion of similar demands in other countries. Already, after last week's deal, Spain, Portugal and Ireland started making noises about getting more concessions from the EU as Zerohedge highlights:
...just as expected, the weakest PIIGS - Portugal and Ireland - wasted no time to start rumblings about a "suddenly slowing economy" in the aftermath of the Greek bail out which achieved nothing but to delay contagion by 48 hours and to unleash demands by everyone else to get the same concessions, in essence pushing Europe into an even deeper hole...

Confirming that the tsunami of demands has been unleashed is today's announcement from the Bank of Spain that not only was Q3 GDP flat (read: negative), but that the deficit target for the year would not be achieved.
How long before they start to make threats of referendums as well?

Another pressing problem is Italy, here the Eurozone has real immediate problems. I suspect that Greek Finance Minister Evangelos Venizelos's hospitalisation due to stress related health problems won't be the last amongst Eurozone politicians.