Friday, 30 January 2009

Digital switchover

Much as I enjoy John Redwood's blog (I find it quite stimulating, particularly on economic theory) it's a rare day that I agree with him. However, I'm happy to endorse this post 100%.

He could usefully have dwelt on Andy Burnham's plans for libraries while he was about it though.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Good money after bad

It long since ceased to be good money after bad. If our nation has any money left at all (very doubtful) it's a case of good money after good money after good money after good money after bad. And all with not one jot of an effect on the economic recession. More likely it's made it even worse.

How come? Well, mainly because the Government is chucking cash into the hands of institutions that have no incentive to stimulate the economy, but plenty of incentive to reshuffle whatever so-called toxic debt they've found themselves landed with, and writing off the sums they have thrown away investing in fraudulent pyramid financial schemes that have involved them moving vast amounts of money outside the UK. Writing off these major debts leaves balance sheets appearing deceptively healthy and those at the top of the financial heap that is The City creaming off more bonuses. Given the state of the UK economy you can be pretty confident that those bonuses will be heading offshore even as I type this post.

Since the Government is throwing such vast sums into some impenetrable black hole it is clear to everyone outside the UK that as a nation we are well on our way to bankruptcy meaning that whatever money is circulating in the world's financial markets will be giving us as wide a berth as possible, compounding our problems.

£85bn should have been more than enough to fend off the worst of the recession and protect our economy for the long term. But money should have been sent to those who would spend it in a form that obliged them to do so. Businesses are saved by having customers, not by endless state handouts.

So £85bn has been spent destroying the remnants of our economy. And now Gordon and Alistair are supposedly planning to spend more. Where on earth do they think it's going to come from and why do they suppose that they'll be any more successful than they've managed this far?

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Those minutes

I'm not going to hold my breath.

Jack Straw again

I'm afraid Jack has scarcely paused for breath after scrabbling around in the dirt hoping to find Cardinal Newman's earthly remains (not that it did him any good). Now it's the Coroners and Justice Bill, presently being debated by Parliament.

Jack Straw is of course the Justice Secretary, whatever that means. Jack's notions of justice are not what you and I think of as justice though. More important to Jack that the Government be spared public embarrassment than that the families of soldiers killed in Iraq or Afghanistan get justice. More important that the Government be spared public embarrassment on anything come to that. More important that MPs be spared embarrassment. He tried again a couple of weeks ago.

But there are bits that have been included in with the Justice & Coroners Bill that are not even directly relevant to justice. Data sharing has nothing whatever to do with justice nor for that matter with coroners, so Jack has included clauses that allows the Government to share our personal data with anyone it feels like. In his role as Justice Secretary Jack has responsibility for Freedom of Information; I think he takes this to mean that the Government should be free to do whatever it likes with information about us (unlike us even getting information about them).

I'd like to pick up on one of Jack's other ideas. Ministers who misled Parliament obout the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Make them wear orange bibs emblazoned with 'I LIED ABOUT IRAQ'. That'd be some sort of justice at least.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Barcelona and the Holocaust

Barcelona has cancelled Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremonies in response to the current situation in Gaza. However terrible some people think Israel's current conduct, it in no way alters the horror of what happened in Nazi Germany where 11 million people died, and Barcelona's decision is an appalling insult to their memory.

The BBC and the aid appeal for Gaza

It is almost beyond comprehension, the BBC's decision not to air an appeal an emergency appeal for Gaza on behalf of our Disaster Emergencies Committee. Almost but not quite since the BBC is indulging in one of those periods of navel-gazing that inevitably follows any crisis such as the recent (fully justified) furore over Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. So that's what we get this week, the return of JR on his obscene salary and the refusal to help the citizens of Gaza where £6m would prove of a lot more use.

Thankfully, our other broadcasters have now decided to take a different line.

The ceasefire in Gaza

How quickly the news agenda moves on: Gaza already gone from the headlines and Zimbabwe (where things continue to worsen) all but forgotten.

Many supporters of the Israeli actions complain that those who so vociferously condemn Israel's recent conduct are reluctant to criticise Hamas whose firing of rockets into Israel is what sparked the crisis. Not me, I regard Hamas as an exceptionally unpleasant organisation who disregard all the basic values of human existence when it suits them to do so. But I do have higher expectations of Israel, a country which shares the democratic and broader ideals which mark the post-enlightenment West. However difficult their position, resorting to actions which indiscriminately harm Palestinian civilians simply means they sink into the same moral cesspit already occupied by far too many in the Islamic world.

Israel has the greater problem in that she is a small country surround by neighbours harbouring various degrees of hostility. Should the situation move to all-out war, any victory she achieved would be worth little since it would just harden attitudes among the other Arab nations. While her immediate neighbours may not yet possess nuclear weapons Pakistan certainly does, along with a volatile political landscape and an Islamic population not totally averse to terrorist action.

There is a depressing spiral of blame where each side in the current dispute claim the other is the instigator. It serves no purpose, sooner or later the two sides have to find a solution acceptable to both and that can only be achieved by diplomacy not by bombs.

The West should have been playing a far more prominent role in finding a settlement than it is but its hands are too tied by its dependence on oil sourced from countries with which it would otherwise have no truck politically. Britain and the US have the additional problem of severely tarnished reputations post-Iraq.