Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ukip: mutton dressed as lamb

Driving a horse and cart through Ukip "policy" is all the rage these days. The left is at it, the right is at it, and I've been here saying much the same thing all this time. But as the Ukip website notes, these are not policies. They are announcements. Again we have the Ukip policy tombola spinning out vague aspirations with no detail.

One thing that has plagued politics since 1997 is the steady stream of soundbite announcements dressed up as policy, keeping the churnalists and twitterers fed - and rather than pushing a vision, politics is all done on premise of "fly the flag and see who salutes". They grub around for votes from wherever they may come, shorting principle for sentiment until what remains is a carefully managed brand image, hollowed out from the inside. Just like Ukip! Sounds pretty much like the old politics to me.

But Ukip knows as well as anyone that poring over policy with a fine-tooth comb is not something the average voter does, and thinking certainly isn't what Ukipists are accustomed to doing. All that matters to them is the message, which thus far is "we need to leave the EU because foreigners". However much appeal that might have with a significant swathe of the working classes, it is not a sentiment that will ever put Ukip in government, nor is it likely to win any referendum. Especially when it hasn't the first idea what it is talking about.

For a party so concerned with immigration one would think they would have published a detailed policy on it by now, and if "taking control of our borders" means leaving the EU, you would also think some specialist effort had gone into detailing precisely how that would be achieved. EUreferendum has already outlined how the Ukip position on this is totally incoherent, and if tested in a referendum debate they will lose the argument. Ukip's position is to take us out of the single market, on which livelihoods depend, is ultimately the fear factor that will ensure the status quo and it is an argument Ukip doesn't even need to have.

Moreover, the justifications for such a policy are hazy when you ask a Ukipist. Without having done any serious homework, without knowledgeable people able to defend policies from a common frame of reference, all we will get from Ukip spokesmen in the run up to a referendum is off the cuff justifications for stupid policies, which if exposed to expert scrutiny (as indeed they will be) will be a total embarrassment to the eurosceptic cause.

Meanwhile, the chief complaint by Ukipists is the disconnect between "the establishment" and "the people" but we still get the same array of managerial top-down tinkering we get from all other parties, with nothing that really changes our relationship with a distant and aloof establishment. There is no integrated platform of democratic reform and there is nothing I could identify as radical. It's just boilerplate right wing stuff in BNP clothes. But then I said this would happen didn't I?

Not that this matters to Ukipists. They now have a tribe, a sense of identity and a support group for their loser politics, and finally they are getting the recognition they have craved. All very well, but now that they have it, they don't know what to do with it - and consequently will be the deciding factor in us staying in the EU.

Had I know the party I stood for all those years ago and toured the country leafleting and campaigning for would turn into this amateurish quasi-racist, statist monstrosity I would have devoted those years to something more productive. Who would have thought that the United Kingdom Independence Party would squander every chance to leave the EU just for the sake of a few seats in the commons? What on earth was the point?

If Ukip hasn't got it's act together by now, it never will. It has unprecedented resources, access to knowledge and money it has never had, and yet still their output could have been scrawled in crayon on the back of a fag packet. If this is all euroscepticism has to offer then not only will we lose a referendum, we will deserve to lose too.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Souring the milk

As much as any election is about issues, it's very much influenced by image and personality. More so now than ever. No single policy, act or event defines a party. It's as much about vibe. People vote for the party they identify with. Politics is tribal.

Being that Ukip has a scattergun approach to their message, if you wanted a character reading of Ukip you would have to look at their output, which of late has becoming increasingly brash and vulgar, from their awful colour scheme to the faintly xenophobic billboards to a calypso song released this week. It's pretty naff, but among the Ukip Twitterers this is a political masterstroke.

It remains to be seen whether such jovial shenanigans pay off for Ukip. My bet is that it will in the short term. The Ukipists love it. But on this blog we have explored with reference to the BNP how rank populism has an inherent glass ceiling, and since Ukip have managed to cannibalise the BNP vote and swallow up the "also-rans", I doubt there is much further ground to advance upon. Anyone who was going to turn probably already has. Beyond that, Ukip is a bit of a turn off to the "po-faced" and the middle classes, especially as they contemplate the possibility of Ed Miliband as Prime Minister.

Brits have always had a strong suspicion of populist movements and while Ukip thinks it represents the whole of the working class, outside the Ukip bubble I still encounter many ordinary working class people find them distasteful too. It's a matter of public conduct, and as you can see from the exchange above, Ukippers are clearly not guarded in parading their bigotry.

Of course, mine is but one opinion among many, but I do have a hunch that Ukip is bumping its head on that glass ceiling. Much further down the path of reactionary populism and I can see a lot of the Ukip old guard losing faith in the project. Irrespective of Farage and my own distaste for the man, I believe even I would be questioning the company I was keeping by now. The steady drip of anti-Ukip media (such as last weeks Panorama) may not have any immediate bearing on Ukip's opinion of Ukip, or it's by-election success, but it does have an effect and they are complacent to discount it.

Ukippers are keen to remind me that they now enjoy unprecedented popularity, but popularity alone is not going to win the argument - and they will never be popular enough. The more popular they become as a populist "working class" movement, the more they limit their chances of securing the appeal to force an EU referendum win. But this reality does not intrude.

Ukipists are oblivious to any longer term objectives. In their collective delusion they believe they can win, and they believe any other objective or outcome is secondary to that. Their tribe takes precedence to any immediate political goals, and thus is more like the old politics than they would care to admit. Admittedly, they have succeeded in putting the cat among the pigeons, but if this grubby party continues on it's present trajectory, all it can do is turn off the very people we need to finally leave the EU once and for all.

Our best hope is for Ukip to implode before any referendum campaign kicks off. Euroscepticism urgently needs to decouple from Ukip.

Friday, 17 October 2014

Letting them decide...

An MP, whom I do not recognise, today uttered these words in the House of Commons...
"It is not just about the trust that we should show in the British people by letting them decide but about restoring trust in this place (Westminster)"

That the commons should "trust the British people" in the exercise of power implies that it is they who hold the power. That they should "let" us decide is an admission that in this decision they are temporarily relinquishing power to the people. Being that the word democracy is derived from the term "people power", by his very inference, we the people do not hold the power, thus it cannot be said that we live in a democracy. It is a dictatorship in which we get to elect our dictators, the majority of whom hold very little collective power over the actual government, which does not even reside in London.

What is more disturbing, Labour has said that it does not believe that a vote on our membership of the EU is in the national interest. How can it be said that membership of the EU, a supranational project which seeks to abolish Britain as a nation state, is in our national interest? And how can it be said that a referendum to leave is not in our national interest? This is because our politicians have never fully understood what the EU actually is. They still speak of it as though it were a trade association related only to the exchange of goods on which jobs depend. It is an entity with its own flag, currency, parliament, passport, foreign policy and soon an army of it's own - and we have been taken into this without ever being consulted - and it has happened without our consent. And they wonder why we don't trust them.

And then in the Telegraph we find this... The European Union must offer Britain “meaty and substantial” reforms, the Foreign Secretary told MPs this morning, as he said the Government is “lighting a fire under the European Union” Addressing the Commons at the introduction of Conservative Bill for a referendum on EU membership, Philip Hammond said public consent on Europe is “fragile”. He said the EU had “morphed” into a “putative superstate” that has encroached on the power of national parliaments since Britain last held a referendum on membership. Whether to remain is the “most important strategic question facing the country today,” he said.

You would think a foreign secretary would have bothered to familiarise himself with what the EU is before taking up such a role. The EU has not “morphed” into a “putative superstate”. That was the intent of the project from the outset. The EU has always said so. And the very nature of the EU means that "meaty and substantial reform" cannot occur without a treaty change, which cannot happen prior to an IGC and cannot happen without unanimous agreement from member states. So here we have a government minister responsible for foreign affairs who does not know what the EU is or how it works - and expects us to believe that any kind of meaningful "renegotiation" can happen. Not surprising then that we get the likes of Ukip on the rise when our government clearly takes us for fools.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Plenty of options, but none of them good

There's no doubt Ukip is enjoying a degree of popularity at the moment. But the real question is whether it is popular enough to win a referendum should we get one. Ukip's anti-immigration stance is popular, but it is popular enough? In any referendum campaign the rhetoric will intensify and as with the 1975 referendum, the establishment will be choosing the very weakest players to represent the anti-EU cause.

We have discussed at length the tactics of fear, uncertainty and doubt which won out for the Scottish referendum, compounded by the unpopularity of Alex Salmond. Transpose that dynamic to the Euro debate and things do not look good. Nigel Farage is popular among Ukip but he is also a huge turn off to moderate people who don't appreciate his bloke-in-pub persona. Similarly, Paul Nuttall has a certain working class appeal but his ability to win arguments is limited because he only has stock answers and prepared responses. Up against more capable debaters (ie everyone in the world ever), he is easily wrong-footed.

In any referendum the propensity is toward the status quo and if there is any doubt because of a failure to provide comprehensive answers, then we will most certainly lose a referendum. As with the Scottish referendum, technical questions will require reassuring and comprehensive arguments, arguments which  pass muster when fact checked. We can't afford the kind of own goals Ukip keeps making and just one of their "shooting-from-the-hip" blunders can quite easily blow it.

Moreover, the aggressiveness of "cybernats" could be said to have been an influential factor in the Scottish referendum. As the rhetoric against Ukip intensifies, the more aggressive Ukippers get. I take the view that the same dynamic will play out.

Because of the media noise surrounding Ukip, Ukip has de-facto become the voice of euroscepticism, just as the SNP fronted the yes campaign. Similarly, I can see Ukip becoming more belligerent and more complacent as they make more gains. You might think that electoral successes for Ukip would equate with a greater chance of leaving the EU, but the more Ukip takes ownership of the issue, the more I can see floating voters being repelled.

For writing this post I will no doubt be subjected to the usual meme arguments suchas "holding a grudge against Ukip", but even voices within Ukip are saying exactly the same. A referendum at this stage ought to be an easy win but if there's one organisation that can (and will) blow it for everybody, it is Ukip.

I see but one glimmer of an opportunity to win, and that is if both Farage and Nuttall disappear completely from the Ukip stage. Ukip are the ones who have been telling us to put country before party, well perhaps it's time they took their own advice? I think the only way we can risk having a referendum is if Carswell is leader - and even that has risks and complications - and that still requires a Tory majority.

On the flip side, there is the question of whether we can afford to turn a referendum down. If we don't get one now, then when? Who knows how long a Labour government would last or when the next opportunity would be, or what the dynamics look like then for winning that referendum? If Labour wins the general election they will be able to say by way of winning that there isn't enough support for a referendum - on account of this election being a referendum on whether to have a referendum. It's a crass argument, but it's one they will use.

I have been asked for some consistency as to what I think. The simple answer is I don't know. But there are some clear choices: If you don't think we can win a referendum then a Tory government is undesirable. If you think, as EUreferendum.com does, that this is the only offer on the table, then we don't have a choice but to vote for the Tories. The only consistent thread I see is that is is mainly Ukip who can prevent us from having a referendum, and if we get one, on present trajectory, it is Ukip who is guaranteed to lose it for us. A strong Ukip is good for Ukip, but it sure as hell isn't good for those of us who want to leave the EU.

Ukip voters have some thinking to do. Wearily and reluctantly, while a referendum might not be a good idea right now, I think we have to take the only offer on the table. Whether we win it or not is up to Ukippers, and whether they are prepared to tackle the arrogance and amateurishness in their leaders. Knowing how the establishment will fight (and they will fight dirty), I believe Ukip will be outclassed. They don't have a strategy, they haven't prepared for the possibility, and they do not have a consistent position that can swing a referendum. It's getting late in the game and the kind of winging it we have seen from Ukip is not enough to win.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Spiked: Stopping short of offering something

Insomuch as I can be bothered reading anyone's opinions these days, here's a good one from Frank Furedi on the subject of Ukip and populism. He makes the case that there is an inherent fear of democracy among our political classes, especially at the EU level. Their attitude is similar to that of Blackadder when he says "Give the likes of Baldrick the vote and we'll be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner". You could be forgiven for sharing that view if you took one look at Ukip.

No, this is not because I am part of the snooty liberal elite. I just happen to be well acquainted with a great many Ukipists whom I used to call fellow campaigners. I never minded it being an eccentric party but if you scratch the surface now, it is unhinged and dangerously incompetent.

One of the many criticisms I have of Ukip is that we are hurtling toward an EU referendum and the lack of credible ideas and calculated responses to a very predictable referendum campaign means that we have every chance of losing it. The tribal loyalties of Ukip mean that pointing this out is an attack and that I should just shut up and support the great leader whatever he does. I should learn to love Ukip policies no matter how demented or destructive.

The truth of the matter is that full extraction from the EU is not something that will be easy or cheap and whatever anyone says, there will be consequences and it will take decades. Put such a delicate process in the hands of wreckers like Ukip and pretty soon you have trade wars, protectionism and draconianism. Our technocratic rulers might well be bad, but a Ukip government run by Farage et al honestly scares the bejesus out of me. Populist policies dreamed up on the spot by Ukip is no way to run a modern first world country.

Frank Furedi makes the case that populism, as he defines it, is not altogether a bad thing, and I'm not going to pick an argument. But what is so typical of Furedi and Spiked in general is that they always set out the diagnosis in crystal clear terms, repeated many times over the years, but always stop short of offering an idea.

"Populism on its own is not enough". says Frank. "To address the EU’s democratic deficit, what is required today is the crystallisation of the populist impulse into a political movement that might infuse the aspiration towards solidarity with the ideals of popular sovereignty, consent and an uncompromising commitment to liberty. Now that could really represent the making of a movement to shake up public life and add meaning to politics."

Yeah, we know. We call it The Harrogate Agenda. Where've you been Frank?

Monday, 13 October 2014

All too predictable

It's a bit of a laugh that this should come from Conservative Home of all places but as I predicted, now that Ukip have their public profile, people will start to look very closely at their policies in search of a central message - and discover that there isn't one. It will become highly fashionable to dig through Ukip tract to highlight the glaring inconsistencies and the sheer implausibility of their ideas - not to mention their complete lack of EU knowledge. And you will hear me grumbling as praise is heaped upon mainstream hacks for discovering what I've been saying relentlessly for the last two years or so.

What will be amusing is the contortions Ukipists will go to in defending feeble policies scribbled on the back of a fag packet by Farage and co in a hurry (while they accuse me of being one of the liberal elite (Oh yes, I've made it that far!). The naked tribalism will send them further into their ever growing mutual support group as they kid themselves that they are going to lead us to sunlit uplands of prosperity and take us out of the EU. Put it to them that their "common sense" might need a bit of a rethink when it clashes with reality and you'll soon become an un-person and automatically labelled as a supporter of the establishment "LibLabCon" so they don't create any friction between their two respective brain cells.

I never thought I would say this in a million years but now I'm kinda rooting for a Labour government because if these fools are at the forefront of euroscepticism by the time of a referendum, then we are sure to lose it and Britain ceases to be a country. If "the establishment" ever needed to invent a false flag operation it would look a lot like Ukip.

Ukip: Winning battles - but losing the war

Apparently there was a Ukip documentary on the BBC. I didn't see it. It's not a debate I can any longer find the energy to engage in. Ukip is what it is and if people can't see that, then that's really their problem.

It's looking more and more likely that by 2017 there will be an EU referendum. The BBC will drop any pretense of impartiality to make sure we stay in the EU - and that is why the exit campaign will be dominated by Ukip figures such as Farage and Nuttall. They are the perfect useful idiots. Those two men have very a shallow understanding of the EU and their arguments are hackneyed, uncosted and without detail. Because the pair of them are total intellectual lightweights who make up their replies on the spot without doing their homework they will be taken to pieces very publicly.

I had the misfortune of hearing Paul Nuttall on Any Questions on Saturday and while Ukipists thought he did a wonderful job I was cringing because the whole debate was a rehearsal of what a referendum campaign debate would sound like.Turning the whole thing into an immigration debate is a tactical blunder. There are means to keep the single market and free movement of people and goods without being in the EU and still control immigration.

Those arguments could have completely disarmed the europhile pre-programmed responses because they simply wouldn't have had an answer to it. We still keep the jobs that depend on the single market and there is no way the xenophobia label sticks. Instead, the europhile panel won hands down - because they had good answers to long standing narrow complaints about the EU. Had Ukip bothered to research an exit plan Nuttall would have had detailed answers that could have easily upstaged the opposition and resoundingly defeated them.

Nuttall walked away from that sounding like a scalded child and some of his responses were like those of a petulant Kevin the Teenager. He came over as a lout which may have a certain working class appeal but it's a huge turn off to those who have yet to make up their minds.

Not once did I hear a distinction of what the EU was. Nobody is making that central case that the EU is a political organisation with supranational ambitions - and that is the only direction of travel. People still think of it in terms of a trading block which, like it or not, does have distinct advantages for us.

Even as a lifelong opponent of the EU I am hugely in favour of international co-operation and open markets. This debate was an opportunity to remind people that the EEA is central to that, not the EU and that we could have a more central role in shaping it were we free of the EU. There was an opportunity to show that the exit campaign was more progressive, more liberal and bolder in vision than the narrow EU cul-de-sac.

Instead, thanks to Ukip, the side for leaving the EU will be painted as a mildly xenophobic, insular, reactionary, populist movement who stand on an entirely negative platform, who do not have comprehensive arguments for very serious economic questions. That's not a referendum winner.

There is now little hope of leaving the EU now the exit campaign is represented by intellectual lightweights like Nuttall and co - and painted as a Daily Mail reading band of malcontents and losers. Such might be popular, but not popular enough - and the more it goes down that road, the less likely our chances. I have been accused of holding a grudge against Ukip. It's true. I do. And here's why... I want to win - and with Ukip in the way, I just don't see that happening.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Lite blogging

I'm off to the USA. Back soonish.

Friday, 12 September 2014

How to be right about everything all the time

My reputed "privileged epistemological faculties" are not all they seem. I have no direct antenna into the cosmos that makes me an oracle on all things. But I do have something most people do not. Universal scepticism. Not only am I sceptical of the left, I am hugely sceptical of the right too. But it doesn't end there. There is a certain knack to it.

All media is cyclical, but if you look at a story arc and view it as a product lifecycle and you view everything as though somebody were trying to sell you something, the same questions come to mind as if you were actually buying a product. A bit like buying a new outfit. Does it look right? Does it fit? Does it clash? And will it last?

In a 24 hour news cycle many rush in to be the first to comment, the first to express their outrage and the first to diagnose. There is no need to rush, and there is no need for a flap. Just wait for the white noise of media to saturate then start from the position that all of them are wrong. Then measure your own views by the same standards and assume oneself is wrong as well.

The things that inform our initial reactions are based on a hierarchy of preconceptions derived from previous experience. When certain things confirm those preconceptions we add it to the pile. But things so very often change. The further we get from events, the more is added to our understanding, thus what we initially thought was the case no longer applies.

In five, fifty or a hundred years the Iraq occupation will be viewed very differently as more of the consequences and outcomes are realised. The value based judgements will change as it is contrasted with the Syrian civil war, and much of what we think we know will have moved on. Similarly various tweaks to energy policy just recently mean that the lights aren't going out and we won't have rolling blackouts. But memes live on as certainties and are repeated by a media that has neither the time or the resource to challenge those certainties.

Being aware of this dynamic is absolutely critical to forming an opinion. Very often we leap to conclusions and make snap judgements, when in each case, a careful and constant reappraisal of our prejudices and preconceptions is necessary.

It is for this reason I very often refrain from making concrete judgements and instead prefer to just point out the inconsistencies, contradictions and fallacies. Current affairs do not spring up out of nothing, and most of history is repeated like the first season of The Simpsons. Nothing we are seeing in Central Africa, or any of these modern tribal uprisings is anything new. The dynamics change a little with the introduction of modern weapons, communications and social media, but if you look at the very essence of each new story, cut through the hyperventilation and panic and view in the historical context, very little seems worth getting worked up about.

Beheadings aren't new, nor are tribal uprisings nor is council corruption or police incompetence. It's easy to stitch together a narrative from disparate facts and assumptions, and it's easy to sound plausible if you know what you're doing. But narratives are problematic. We see military and technical analysts with very little understanding of the political - and vice versa. They view eachother with similar disbelief and confusion, each adding weight to their own specialisms with little regard to how much they do not know.

In between historical blips like ISIS, much of what we see is quite mundane, but presented in the light of an existential threat by a media that thrives maximising scare potential. It is consumed more as entertainment than news and much of it is pure titillation.

It is designed for the maximum reaction. Everything is clickbait, everything is meticulously engineered to get your attention and provoke a reaction, and the more doomed we look, the more traction it has. It is for this reason I believe nothing, trust nothing, and am certain of nothing.

Pivotal events are happening all over the place without the attention of the media. While the world's media was fixated on a few thousand people taking refuge up a mountain, absolutely nothing was said of a major offensive to retake Tikrit, and there was a complete media blackout for over a week. Their perception of news is not in line with my own view of what is important - and I trust mine more than theirs knowing the deficiencies of the media as intimately as I do.

Following the media means following their agenda. Not having a television I often don't know what the daily scare is, thus I am drawn deeper into my own channel of investigation, often find things of greater consequence to worry about.

For sure, fisking Polly Toynbee, Diane Abbot, Richard Littlejohn, Owen Jones, Con Coughlin and the other brain-deads is an entertaining way of whiling away the day, but why should we give a damn what any of these people say or think? They do not speak for anybody but themselves and to follow their agenda is to be the dog that chases every passing car. Sure, a lot of people read The Guardian and Telegraph and watch Newsnight, but tens of millions of people don't, and I am happy to have joined their ranks.

Their influence is only sustained by people drawing attention to them. Outside of the media bubble, who has actually heard of any of these people or even cares? What they say is not important, very little of what they say is right and every moment spent barking at passing cars is a missed opportunity to be doing something more productive.

The only hard and fast conclusion is that all of them are talking crap most of the time, even the people with whom we agree, and so long as you remain acutely aware of that then you have the mental architecture to sit back and take a cold, dispassionate look at what we actually know for a fact. When you apply the necessary scepticism to what we think we know, then it usually turns out that even the best of us actually know very little, much though it may seem otherwise.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Peter Hitchens has a point. Cannabis is rubbish

Peter Hitchens is a prohibitionist. Before I dive into his arguments I want to make it clear that it would be easier for me to list the drugs I have not taken than the ones I have. I think Peter Hitchens is absolutely correct in his view that cannabis is a bad thing. I have no doubts whatsoever that cannabis is a "gateway drug". Of all the common recreational drugs I have taken I would say cannabis was the most harmful.

I am particularly sensitive to cannabis. Almost immediately I experience unpleasant psychological effects and it causes severe panic attacks lasting several hours. It may be that my brain chemistry is more susceptible to active ingredient, but I can say with absolute certainty that its effects are not mild.

I think it fair to say that most of my cannabis smoking friends suffer from some kind of depression. It is now ubiquitous, it is habit forming and most of the people I know who smoke it do so every single day and cannot function without it. Or so they say. It turns them into colossal bores who talk an awful lot of crap, and much though I love my friends, if they're having a stoner session I prefer to be elsewhere. Being sober in a room full of stoners is horribly tedious.

What pisses me off especially is how it seems to eat into people's motivation and potential. All of the people I know who smoke it could be so much more than they are. Perhaps they choose not to be and that is their choice, but it really saddens me. I fear it will have consequences for later life which they will live to regret.

I am also of the view that it is getting progressively stronger and much more potent in its psychotropic effects. The engineering that goes into its production rivals that of Monsanto. Ironic than many stoners complain about genetically modified food because it isn't organic and natural but are perfectly happy to ingest a highly toxic artificially engineered product.

I am not in the least bit convinced that cannabis is a particularly good pain killer and if it contains usable elements for medicinal purposes then it it would have been incorporated into prescription medicine by now (if it hasn't already).

As to other common recreational drugs, there is less cause for concern. Ecstasy and MDMA is not habit forming. The lifestyle is the habit and the drugs are part of that lifestyle. But it is a corrosive lifestyle and eventually it gets mighty dull as one loses one's health and vitality. You can have your fun with them but it gets old eventually.

Most people who experiment with drugs eventually grow out of them. Uncontaminated MDMA is a great deal of fun and in sensible doses, it's mostly harmless. I know plenty of people who are extraordinarily successful, well adjusted and sane who have experimented with it and it isn't a big deal. I don't actively seek it out but if it's put in front of me, I'd probably take a cheeky dose.

That said, I've made no secret of the fact I have mental health problems. I can concoct a number of bullshit reasons as to why I have them, but I would be disingenuous if I said a decade of drug use had nothing to do with it. It's no coincidence that the symptoms I suffer from are worst when I have indulged in a "cheeky dose". I made a few mistakes, and I paid a heavy price. Thankfully it is not constant or seemingly permanent.

This why I believe being as honest as possible about it with people, kids especially, is the best way to tackle drug usage. Even if it doesn't cause mental health problems for most people I do think drugs, (cannabis and alcohol especially) over a long time fundamentally changes a person and robs them of a certain vital spark.

This is not to say that agree with Peter Hitchens on prohibition. It is precisely because of the "war on drugs" that key ingredients are intercepted by authorities and then replaced by an inferior, less safe ingredients making them more dangerous or more scarce - and that is the probable reason behind the growth of lethal "legal highs". I'd rather drugs be legal and properly regulated.

Peter Hitchens ignores human nature. A great many of us will always want to experiment and will always want to have fun with various substances. You can't stop people from doing it and the more you try the more underground it goes and the less control we have over it. The law never stopped me.

If we want to to tackle drugs we're not going to achieve very much by slapping kids with a criminal record or banging them up. What we can do is tackle the social conditions to cause the proliferation of drugs and I would start with welfarism, then tackle the youth unemployment problem - and finally I would stop trying to scare kids with health concerns. The bottom line is youngsters think they are invincible and they are not going to listen to the likes of me or Peter Hitchens.

What we can tell kids is that most drugs probably won't kill you, they probably won't give you long term mental issues, but the lifestyle drugs eventually lead to is a boring and skint life, and a miserable one as you miss out on so many opportunities - and will probably end up in a grubby bedsit listening to prog rock and thinking brown corduroy flares are cool. You'll be a no good, dirty god-damn hippy. If that doesn't scare the bejesus out of kids, I don't know what will.

Kids will ignore scares, they will ignore the law, but they will listen to reasoned arguments made by rational people. It is for that reason I expect my niece and nephew will probably never bother with drugs, and have a better life than either my sister or I could ever have imagined. We never lied to them or tried to scare them. We just told them the truth. Drugs are a bit pants really.

Casualties of war

A man has been beaten half to death. This is not a good thing. But it is not altogether surprising. He is a traffic warden. I certainly understand the red mist impulse. I have felt it many times. Too often these vultures are ever keen to swoop, with no reason or remorse, draining our wallets and using fines and forfeitures as a revenue stream for wasteful and unaccountable authorities.

They are a feature of British life which make things just that little bit more expensive and unpleasant. Moreover for those who cannot pay, the fine quickly doubles and is enforced by bandit bailiffs who routinely operate outside the law while the police turn a blind eye. There is no justice for the victim and little in the way of legal recourse.

We have seen various "reforms" which tilt the balance in their favour rather than addressing the injustice. In the face of this, it then becomes a low grade war between the people and the authorities. Thus I consider this individual a casualty of that war and I expect we will see more of this. I won't shed a tear. These individuals cannot hide behind the "just doing my job" excuse. They have chosen to make a living collecting revenue for a morally bankrupt system.

Since there is no other way to get justice and no proper democracy whereby we can change policy, I can certainly see why some would opt for more instant resolutions. It is the only reasonable response to a system which holds us all in contempt.

A war on greedy councils is now long overdue. The traffic warden to the CEO must know that we have had enough and to push us any further is a very dangerous thing to do. No council employee has a right to expect courtesy or decency from me. They have chosen their side, I have chosen mine. How many more get hurt in the line of duty is entirely up to them.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014


"For now, with NATO and Russia both preparing for the worst-case scenario, it is more important than ever to stop the triumphalist rhetoric and refocus our efforts on ending the conflict, not escalating. Make no mistake: there is no military solution to this challenge. Only a reasoned dialogue and political settlement can put Ukraine on the path to long-term stability and peace."

From the Washington Post.

Monday, 8 September 2014

The tribal uprising NATO can't bomb

They are primitive backward savages with a stone age mentality and their brutality knows know limits. They are tribal in nature, unable to adapt to modern civil society and have contributed very little to the world apart from their natural resources. But that is not to say I am in favour of Scottish independence.

I have to confess to not liking Scotland very much. It was a nation enslaved and they never really shook the mentality. Take away their chains and they'll forge stronger ones for themselves. Having grown up in a Northern mill town I thought I had seen the extent of petty authoritarianism but my time living in Scotland demonstrated otherwise.

I've lived in a few places in the British Isles but never felt welcome in Scotland. Scots are not fond of the English and it couldn't be more apparent. The year or so I was in Scotland was perhaps the most miserable one and moving there was the biggest mistake of my life. Scotland chewed me up and spat me out. I still find cause to go there now and then but I don't enjoy the journey. The police are officious, predatory and humorless and the courts are even worse. As to the culture, the reputation for tight-fisted mean-spiritedness is one well deserved.

The economy of Scotland is basically made up of golf and paternal public services, largely made up of English middle class social workers whom the Scots loathe, and I don't blame them either. If you spent your life being bossed around by those arseholes you could be forgiven for voting for the quasi-fascist SNP. In their shoes, I might.

In fact I have to dig deep to say anything complimentary about Scotland. They used to have some stunning countryside before it was plastered with eco-crucifixes of the rotating variety, but that's about it. The beaches are nice enough but I'm from Yorkshire and we have Runswick Bay so no sale on that score.

The fact that Scotland is still wedded to backward ideas such as the NHS tells me all I need to know, and it's why I wouldn't want to live in the new Scotland. Britain has yet to fully recover from the socialist era and now Scotland wants to turn the clock back. So worried about Scotland's tendency for national suicide that my sister is considering moving back to England if the yes vote wins. On that score alone I find myself rooting for a yes vote.

But there's something more important than any of that. Britain is not just a union of territories. It is a tradition and an idea that has conquered the world and twice liberated Europe from tyranny. Much though I loathe Scotland, there is nothing I would not do for a past or present member of our armed services. We are united in blood in all the ways that matter. Scots are our family and we hate the London claque who rule us every bit as much as they do.

Together we have fought tyranny all over the world in the name of the Union, and it is together that I hope we will fight the growing tyranny in London. Nothing Scots could say about London rule could not also be said by a Geordie, a Taff, a Tyke or a Brummie. If Scots think that a yes vote will isolate them from the misrule of London then they are mistaken.

Faux independence is not the end of the battle. Scots are just pulling their forces out of the fight. If that's how the Jocks want to play it, it will just confirm to us English what a bunch of turn-coat wusses they really are. I'm asking the people of Scotland to leave the surrendering to the French and join the fight for a United Kingdom that works for all of us, inside the M25 or not.

Fighting ISIS doesn't look like a very good idea

If NATO forces are committing to fighting ISIS inside Syria we are de-facto siding with the Assad regime. Considering the US has seemingly used Saudi Arabia as a proxy to arm the Free Syrian Army, this would be a perplexing turn of events. If the objective is to assist Iraq in securing its own borders, then everything must be done to assist Iraq in so doing. But that is the fullest extent of it.

If the US is looking at a long campaign over Syria, possibly outlasting the Obama administration, then NATO will need total air supremacy as it did in Libya. This means a large operation like Unified Protector to first remove air defences, which by default is a no-fly zone in a civil war where the Syrian Air Force is still very much active. This probably means disabling any and all air defence assets including those of the regime. It is unlikely that Assad's word will be sufficient to secure the safety of NATO aircraft.

Rather importantly, many of Assad's anti-air assets are Russian owned (on hire purchase) and, in many instances, Russian operated (or with Russian technical advisors close to hand). For US/NATO forces to take such action would be regarded as a seriously unfriendly act, perhaps triggering more unhelpful activity from Russia on other frontiers.

So what then? Given NATOs extreme reluctance to cause civilian casualties, an such sorties would consist of Brimstone and Hellfire precision missiles against soft targets and vehicles in open territory - while feeding intelligence to whichever force is in pursuit of ISIS - possibly the FSA, possibly the Assad regime. The US will then have to make up its mind what it really wants. Is this a precursor to regime change? Or is that just an inevitable destination for such ill-defined interventions?

ISIS would likely then adopt Hamas style tactics and operate only within civilian areas making the whole operation expensive, limited in effect and risking months of stalemate. This can only be sustained with a permanent presence in the air which is simply not viable or desirable. We are then also in the position of fighting Iraq's battles which is precisely where we did not want to be. There are soft power solutions for dealing with the domestic terrorist threat, which is overstated in any case, so it's difficult to see merit in direct involvement.

Once again we're seeing something-must-be-doneism without much consideration to the consequences and wider repercussions. While the final outcome of such would be unpredictable, you can be assured it would consist of more chaos and more bloodshed. If this is about Iraqi territorial sovereignty then the fight must stop at the border and the fight must be theirs. If not, then this is more thoughtless tinkering and vanity politics that serves no purpose at all.

Al Jazeera

A couple of good pieces from Al Jazeera today. There's this one which echos my own thoughts on Israel's strategic blunder, and this one on a rehab initiative in Denmark to recover ISIS fighters. This chimes with the thoughts I was having yesterday. There is also this piece which has plenty room for debate and disagreement, but at least is considerably less parochial than the output of the BBC. If only our BBC were even half as good.

It is becoming the case that I only draw attention to British media in order to point out its many inadequacies, but only where I expect better. I make virtually no reference to the BBC. It has little to offer and I have no great expectation that it ever will. Why this anachronistic self-absorbed institution still exists is beyond comprehension.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Amnesty for ISIS?

One of the key strategies in bringing the Iraqi army back into play to fight ISIS was to offer an amnesty to Sunni fighters who had defected. Many have now been reintegrated into the Iraqi army and are instrumental in driving ISIS back into Syria. Perhaps we ought to consider the same strategy since it works?

We have seen politicians ramping up the rhetoric and there are moves afoot to waste fatigue hours on GR4's, flying in and out of Syria to fire low yield Brimstone missiles to limited effect. The justification being that there is a direct domestic terror threat. Syria is becoming the vacation spot of choice for foreign fighters, many leaving Afghanistan now that US forces are leaving.

British Jihadi's look to be caught between Iraq and a hard place. If they stay and fight they die, if they return home they face permanent detention. If we accept that radicalisation is the product of failed domestic policies, then perhaps a more pragmatic approach is needed, setting up retrieval centres to bring these kids back home and put them through a de-radicalisation process. They could then perhaps be put to good use in talking to young British Muslims at home.

It would be a politically contentious policy, but if it doesn't involve more pointless air strikes that accomplish nothing at great expense, then I'm all for it. Gung ho posturing has accomplished nothing thus far.