The Mayor's outburst

29 October, 2010

Even allowing for the fact that he is a maverick with the knack for being unconventional, Boris Johnson's remarks today are so wide of the mark and so divorced from reality that they beggar belief. The claim that the changes to housing benefit are in any way tantamount to 'Kosovo style social cleansing' is not just a foolish comment but an insult to victims of racial persecution. His attempts to distance himself from these ill judged remarks (the old chestnut about words being taken out of context) are utterly risible.<\p>

But his attack, when expressed in moderate terms, is also wrong. It may indeed be true that some poor (in relative terms) families will have to move out of affluent areas because they are only receiving £400 per week. What Mr Johnson should be asking is why working families that can't afford to live in a leafy suburb should be subsidising other families, who aren't working, to do just that. Housing benefit has become another engine of welfare dependency that the country cannot afford. So why the intransigence from our Mayor? An impending re-election bid perhaps...?<\p>top

The PA continues its war of aggression

28 October, 2010

Now we have even more evidence of how 'moderate' Palestinian Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, truly is. He has told an Italian newspaper, Corriere Della Sera, that the Palestinians will declare an independent Palestinian state by August 2011. In his words, 'The deadline is next summer, when the Israeli occupation of the West Bank must end.'

There are two ways to look at this curious comment. The first is that this is a negotiating tactic, a clever ploy to get the Israelis to up their concessions to the other side. The second is that this is a statement of intent and that the Palestinian Authority, with UN connivance (of course), really will declare independent statehood next August.

The second interpretation is more plausible because the first suggests that the PA are actually interested in the current round of talks and are merely unhappy with what they have been offered thus far. But if the PA and their 'moderate' leaders are so desperate for a good deal, why did they reject the offers made by Ehud Olmert, a set of territorial concessions that went far beyond what any Israeli government (certainly the current one) could offer?

One also wonders why they evaded any direct negotiations for most of the 10 month settlement moratorium. The plain truth is that they sensed that there was an anti Israeli momentum in the White House and thus they had little reason to offer anything to the Israelis.

More likely, Fayyad is giving voice to the PA's intentions and this is yet more evidence of bad faith. For one thing, it shows how the PA are already reneging on their commitment to Obama (only 6 weeks have passed since Abbas promised bilateral peace talks with Israel). The key word here is bilateral.

Of course, a unilateral declaration of statehood would achieve nothing substantial on the ground. It would shift no settlements and change no borders; the status quo would remain in other words. But it would further demonise Israel in the eyes of the international community, which has of course been a prime aim of the PA/PLO for five decades. In other words, it would be a continuation of the Palestinian/Arab/Islamist war of aggression which has always been, and remains, the primary cause of this conflict. And yet we are still being told that the PA are moderate. Tragic...


False equivalence

26 October, 2010

Once again an envoy from the infamous club of tyranny (aka the United Nations) has revealed total moral bankruptcy in commenting on the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a meeting today with the Palestinian Prime Minister, Salaam Fayyad, the UN Special envoy, Robert Serry, compared the violence of some settlers in the West Bank to the genocidal terrorism of Palestinians. He declared:

"Israel states its condemnation of attacks, and I welcome this. But its record in imposing the rule of law on settlers is lamentable. Israel must combat violence and terror by Israelis, as is expected of the Palestinian Authority in the case of violence and terror by Palestinians."

Groups of hardline settlers have indeed attacked Palestinian olive groves in recent weeks and months, with their actions condemned by Israeli politicians. They do not represent the mainstream in Israeli society. But to compare the actions of these extremists, who carry out acts of violence against property, with the protracted menace of jihadi suicide bombers is morally reprehensible and utterly obtuse. Is it really possible for the UN to stoop any lower?


Political positioning spoils the cuts program

21 October, 2010

For a politician who prides himself on fairness, Cameron will have been hurt by the recent revelations from the Institute of Fiscal Studies. The respected think tank announced that the coalition's cuts would hurt parents with children the most and most severely affect the poorest in society, a claim seized on with glee by the Labour government. But this is perhaps the least of the PM's problems.

Let's be clear: the axe taken to public spending is both welcome and urgently needed, not just because it is the only plausible way to deal with the deficit but also because it is ideologically sound. The public sector that consumes nearly half of national wealth and employs some 6 million people is absurdly large. In the long term, this cost cutting program is an important starting point for re balancing our economy in a more productive direction.

But Cameron's problem is that his economic judgement has been trumped by wanting to be perceived as a 'soft' Tory. What sense is there is imposing draconian cuts on his departments but ring fencing spending on the wasteful NHS? Does the Prime Minister assume that Gordon Brown wasted no money when he doubled spending on this behemoth over the last decade?

Does he seriously imagine that every person employed in the NHS does a useful and productive job? Worse, the government will increase spending on international development until it reaches 0.7% of GDP, despite the rampant corruption and autocracy in many of the aid dependent nations. How the government can justify this while simultaneously reducing our defence budget is beyond comprehension.

As Con Coughlin argues in the Telegraph, the government:

'has decided to throw bundles of aid cash at failed states, in the hope that this will persuade them not to harm our interests. Perhaps DFID could start by making a sizeable donation to the Revolutionary Guards' veterans' fund?'

The simple truth is that Dave is still obsessed with political positioning. He wants to deflect the charge of being the leader of the nasty party, and be remembered for creating a new brand of 'compassionate Conservatism.' This all sounds like a bad case of spin and an ill judged presentational gimmick for the media. If Mr. Cameron wanted to be the heir to Blair, he has gone about it the right way.


Making a mockery of academia

19 October, 2010

It is a well known fact that some of the UK's more misguided academics have been spearheading the movement to demonise Israel. Under the banner of free speech and liberty, they have tried to silence Israeli academics, using the campaign for divestment and boycotts as their primary vehicle. Tonight has seen yet another example of such mindless bigotry in that a leading pro Israel academic has been prevented from expressing his opinions in public.

Some months ago, Jewish Chronicle columnist Geoffrey Alderman was invited to appear on a panel debate at the Belfast Festival on the Middle East peace process, due to take place tonight. He was to be joined by Avi Shlaim, an Israeli historian and noted critic of his country's policies and Professor Beverley Edwards, an academic who advocates talks with Hamas.

Then last Friday, Alderman received an email from the festival's director, Graeme Farrow, effectively disinviting him from the panel, though not from the event. He was told it was "a mistake in agreeing to extend an invitation to you Geoffrey without consulting the academics in question”.

Naturally Alderman was outraged at such shabby treatment and in a meeting today with Farrow, offered 3 options: Allow Alderman to join the panel and if his fellow-panellists were to object, "they could stay away": to let him to take part while sitting on a separate table: or call off the event. The event has now taken place with Alderman left to fume in his Belfast hotel.

It is hard to know what is more sickening here - the silencing of an academic for his pro Israel opinions, the organisers' gutless cowardice in bowing to the demands of bigots or the complicity of another Jew (Shlaim) in these shameful proceedings. What a mockery of academia.


The commission for unfairness and stupidity

17 October, 2010

The noted think tank Civitas has torn apart the latest report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the absurd quango that has mysteriously escaped the latest quango cull. In its report which comments on whether Britain is becoming fairer, the EHRC commends Britain's progress in respecting diversity and equality but still says 'other long-standing inequalities remain undiminished; and that new social and economic fault-lines are emerging as Britain becomes older and more ethnically and religiously diverse.' It then outlines an agenda for fairness with 15 recommendations. Many of the organisation's complaints follow familiar ground and below is a selection:

*Men and women from the highest social class can expect to live up to seven years longer, on average, than those from lower socio-economic groups (based on life expectancy at birth).

*Black Caribbean and Pakistani babies are twice as likely to die in their first year as Bangladeshi or White British babies.

*Forty-four per cent of Black, Indian and Pakistani students are at ‘new’ universities compared to 35 per cent of others. Eight per cent of Black students are at Russell Group institutions, compared to 24 per cent of White students.

* Seventeen per cent of children with special educational needs get five good GCSEs including English and Maths, compared to 61 per cent of children without identified special needs.

*The mean gender pay gap for women and men working full-time in 2009 was 16.4 per cent; and progress today appears to be grinding to a halt. Women aged 40 earn on average 27 per cent less than men of the same age. Women with degrees are estimated to face only a four per cent loss in lifetime earnings as a result of motherhood, while mothers with no qualifications face a 58 per cent loss.

*On average, five times more Black people than White people are imprisoned in England and Wales and there is now greater disproportionality in the number of Black people in prisons in Britain than in the USA.

Women represent less than a quarter of Westminster MPs and barely three in 10 councillors in England. Four per cent of Westminster MPs are from an ethnic minority background.

Yet these complaints about 'unfairness' are largely groundless. As Civitas point out:

More Pakistani babies die in infancy than White babies, not because of poor social conditions (Bangladeshis have similar living standards to Pakistanis yet their infant mortality rate is lower than for Whites), but because they suffer disproportionately from congenital defects which are probably due to high rates of cousin inter-marriage.

The well known 'gender gap' is not primarily the result of institutional discrimination against women (though this is hardly non existent) but of women's lifestyle choice in having children, a decision that forces many to forego promotion opportunities and to work part time. As for the educational 'inequality' this is again nothing of the kind. We would surely expect those who have genuine special educational needs to achieve much lower grades than those not similarly classified; why else would they require additional provision?

In any case, we could scarcely judge this unless we knew that average IQ levels were the same across the social classes, which they are blatantly not.And there are more black people proportionately in prison compared to whites because, presumably, there are more crimes committed proportionately by blacks than whites. Without evidence that this is not the case, the EHRC's complaint is meaningless.

In conclusion, Civitas state the obvious: 'The report equates 'fairness' with 'equal outcomes,' yet it is obvious that unequal outcomes can often be fair, and that forcing equal outcomes onto people could be very unfair.'

Indeed. But if the ECHR is on such dodgy ideological territory, why are we continuing to pay for it?


Too much political cross dressing

13 October, 2010

So let's get this right. There used to be two main parties in Britain. The Conservatives were in favour of the middle class, low immigration, fair taxes and the small state. Labour was all for redistribution, equality and the working poor. Then Labour switched party clothes and became more right wing - they were the party of aspiration, fair taxes and the middle classes. In actual fact, they were very left wing on the equality agenda and high state spending. So the Tories switched too and became more left wing, championing the hugging of hoodies, sharing the proceeds of growth between public spending and tax rises, welfarism and Polly Toynbee.

Then Labour, under Gordon Brown, seemed to go, well, a bit more red again. It was all about nationalisation, higher taxes and equality. So the Tories changed and became a bit more right wing, with traditional messages about immigration and the economy until the coalition era when, with the help of their friends, they became a bit more left wing (soft on crime, ring-fencing the aid budget). Now the Tories are unfair on child benefit (which hurts the middle class) while Labour is crying fowl about the 'squeezed middle' of Britain.

Red went blue, blue merged with red, and now they are all one amorphous mass that no one quite understands anymore. But don't worry - they are actually all green.


Recognise Israel as a Jewish state? Nah, that's racist (apparently)

10 October, 2010

So the cat’s out of the bag then. The PA has now rejected an offer from Benjamin Netanyahu for a renewed settlement freeze in return for Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Saeb Erekat has given a firm thumbs down, declaring that the offer constitutes a set of ‘racist demands’ that are not tied to a settlement freeze. In his view it is racist to declare that Israel is a Jewish state, even though it is also home to well over 1 million non Jews who are equal under the law in a democratic state. Is it also racist to declare that Palestine is an Arab state, or Iran a Muslim state? I think we all know the answer to that one.

His remark sheds further light on the outlook of the PA leadership. For if the Israeli request is racist, why should Abbas and Erekat ever make the concession being demanded? The left who argue that such recognition is a quid pro quo for a deal on settlements, Jerusalem or the right of return, have been shown up as phonies, not for the first time. For the point is that the right of return is non negotiable for the Palestinians if they cannot recognise Israel as a Jewish state. In other words, while they may not be about to launch intifada no 3, their mindset remains as annihilationist as ever with little prospect for an end to the conflict.


Dave's latest disaster

06 October, 2010

It’s hard to believe that the most memorable part of the Tories’ welfare reforms (child benefit axed for top rate taxpayers) has been botched so badly. Already the recriminations and apologies are flying and the Tory spin machine is in overdrive. Yesterday Cameron was forced to apologise and other ministers are decidedly coy about how much they knew. As many have pointed out, while it is absurd to have high earners expecting welfare payouts, those who are earning £44,000 are not in this category. Moreover, a couple who collectively earn £85,000 will receive child benefit while a single person earning £44,000 will not. Fairness this isn’t.

More importantly, the middle class ‘rich’ are not the real abusers of the system. Instead child benefit is exploited and abused by those at the lower end of the socio-economic scale, that is people who see this benefit (and associated benefits) as a financial incentive to have more and more children, thus avoiding work and entrenching themselves in state dependency. A Wisconsin style model of welfare reform, in which people were limited to 5 years of handouts, would have been a much bolder option.

The botched and bungled child benefit policy is designed to fit in with the new Tory narrative of ‘compassionate Conservatism’ but which involves pandering to a public mood that wishes to bleed the rich dry and impose swingeing taxes on the affluent. Fairness, or bad ideology trumping fairness?

Yet this isn’t the most worrying thing about these developments. Once again Cameron has ridden roughshod over the grassroots in attempt to prove to the party faithful that his party really has moved on from its uber right wing image. If so, this is merely another example of the radical disconnect that is growing between the Tory leadership and the party, and between government and the people.


Wilders on trial for his opinions. How Voltaire would be spinning in his grave.

4 October, 2010

Geert Wilders may not be everyone's cup of tea when it comes to criticising Islam. The maverick Dutch politician has compared the Koran to Mein Kampf and described Islam as 'fascistic,' claims that will strike even the most ardent opponents of Islamism as somewhat overblown. His argument in Fitna, where he accuses Islam of stoking terrorist violence, lacks the nuance and sophistication that is necessary for such a sensitive subject.

Though he is a staunch defender of Western freedoms, Wilders' interpretation of Islam in such black and white terms is highly questionable. But surely that is the point: his views should be questioned, debated, scrutinised and discussed in the court of public opinion, not in a court of law. No one, certainly not a leading politician, should be criminalised for merely having the 'wrong' opinion.

Yet in the twenty first century, Western freedoms are being subverted to the secular religion of political correctness. Offend a minority (particularly one that resorts to violence) and you are in real trouble, as Wilders has found out. Prosecutors in Holland have brought 5 charges of inciting hatred and discrimination against the Dutch MP. His comments, according to the Dutch Court of appeal, rendered a 'criminal prosecution obvious for the insult of Islamic worshippers.' Notice the word 'insult.' In PC Europe, insulting Muslims by labelling the Koran 'fascistic' is tantamount to a hate crime. No wonder that Wilders has stated: 'The freedom of expression of at least 1.5 million people is standing trial together with me'.

If Wilders had called for Muslims to be killed, it would be quite right for him to be put on trial and convicted of inciting hatred against a minority. If he had called for mosques to be looted or burnt, the same sanction would apply. It is people and property that need protection under the law, not ideas. Islam does not deserve special treatment, nor can Muslims claim the right not to be offended. Has Richard Dawkins found himself in the dock for launching his scathing attacks on Christianity or calling for the Pope to be arrested? Certainly not, and quite right too. But then Dawkins has attacked a majority faith, and one which is castigated by the high priests of multiculturalism.

So in one of the most tolerant nations on earth, renowned throughout the world for its love of freedom and democracy, a leading politician is standing trial for his opinions, while Western politicians remain silent. How poor Voltaire would be spinning in his grave.

To Voltaire is attributed the quote: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.'


More stomach churning UN hypocrisy

01 October, 2010

Robin Shepherd has posted a great article on the UN's grossly institutionalised hypocrisy and moral corruption. Yesterday, the 'Human Rights Council' voted by 30 to 1 to endorse a report that had accused Israel of “wilful killing”, “torture” and “inhuman treatment” over the Mavi Marmara incident. The US opposed the motion and 15 EU countries abstained. There is hardly anything new in this oddly named council voting against Israel for it has an anti Israel obsession, fuelled largely by the 57 member Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Shepherd points out, of the 30 countries that voted in favour of the report 'no less than 80 percent are either only partly free — meaning they are grubby, corrupt and often murderous pseudo-democracies — or are not free — meaning in most cases they are outright tyrannies.' He goes on to comment:

To think! Being judged on a human rights issue by China, Libya, or Saudi Arabia? Actually this is no laughing matter. It is a depraved and disgusting statement on what the United Nations has become.'

It is bad enough for the world's most mature democracies to be judged on their actions by tyrannical regimes and autocracies. It is equally egregious that the EU, the supposed bastion of world democracy, did not vote against this report. After demolishing the self serving justification offered by (Belgian) Alex Van Meeu, Shepherd offers some reasons why:

Cowardice in the face of Muslim minorities at home; appeasement of the OIC and its oil and gas producing members at the UN; a spineless political correctness in not wanting to rock the boat inside a UN institution which has as much respect for human rights as a paedophile ring does for the rights of children; etc; etc; etc.

A great article. And all very worrying, once again.