Hey, there! Anthony boy!

First this from the BBC:

Large banks are getting ready to relocate out of the UK early next year over fears around Brexit, the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) has warned.

Writing in The Observer, its boss Anthony Browne also says smaller banks could move operations overseas by 2017.

“Their hands are quivering over the relocate button,” he wrote. Most banks hadbacked the UK remaining in the EU.

Mr Browne also said the current “public and political debate at the moment is taking us in the wrong direction.”

Hmmm.  The BBC is reporting on an article written in the Observer by one Anthony Browne who is scaremongering over Brexit.

Next, via the comments at Tim Worstall’s, we have this article at the Daily Mail:

Banks and Tory MPs last night dismissed as ‘nonsense’ dire warnings that financiers will move their business abroad due to Brexit.

Anthony Browne, head of the British Bankers’ Association, sparked fury yesterday by saying smaller banks could react to the uncertainty by moving operations overseas within weeks.

And then:

Mr Browne – a former journalist for the BBC…

Ah, now it becomes clear: the pro-Remain BBC is reporting on a pro-Remain article written by a former BBC journalist.  Odd that the BBC didn’t mention the connection, isn’t it?

They really do think we are stupid, don’t they?

Walloons good, English bad

Plucky little Wallonia, a French-speaking part of Belgium, is threatening to derail years of negotiations between the EU and Canada by refusing to agree to a new trade deal.  Apparently, under Belgium’s constitution, the Wallonians Walloons (thanks, dearieme) have a right to do this.  EU leaders are now falling over themselves to get to Namur, where the hold-outs have their gang hut, in order to persuade them to come on board.

One is permitted to contrast the reaction of the EU leadership towards Wallonia in the past few days with their reaction towards Britain voting to leave the EU and, prior to that, Prime Minster David Cameron’s attempt to get some concessions ahead of the vote.  One would have thought that accommodating a country of 60m people would be of greater importance than a region of 3.5m to the EU, but obviously it’s not.  To see why we first need to look at an Forbes article on the subject written by Tim Worstall, who speculates as to why the Walloons have rejected the deal:

There are some out there who are simply hostile to the idea of any trade deals at all. This is an undercurrent in left wing and environmental politics over here. There are actually people so deluded about economics that they think that trade is something bad, to be avoided. Goods and services should be locally produced and locally consumed. Economies should be small and self-contained. Yes, I know, it’s an absurdity but it’s a very real current in European politics. The various Green parties near all sign up to this idea as do all too many unthinking leftists. They’re all failing to see that it is trade with its attendant division and specialisation of labour which make us all so much richer than our peasant forefathers.

We then need to look at a post on another blog which I now rather embarrassingly cannot find (I thought it was at Nourishing Obscurity, but I haven’t been able to locate it).  It was a photo taken in Brussels of a street sign which bore the name Salvador Allende Square.  As the blogger noted, if places are being named after communists in non-communist countries, that tells you a lot about the local politics.  France is no different: the Parisian suburb of Montreuil has an Avenue du Président Salvador Allende.  Lyon has a Salvador Allende Tram stop, and Nanterre a Salvador Allende public car park.  Paris also has a Karl Marx college.  The city of Brussels even has a tribute to Salvador Allende on their webpage.

Time of for an anecdote.  I have an acquaintance here in Paris who worked through from the 1970s to early 2000s for EDF, the French state power company.  He told me the company was “openly communist”, which I took to mean the management and employees were either communists or communist sympathisers.  Because of EDF’s nuclear expertise, my acquaintance used to travel to the USSR, North Korea, and other communist states to share nuclear technology.  He told me he went as a visitor to the top-secret bomb-making facilities in the Soviet Union where there were portraits of the Rosenburgs on the wall.  I’ve included this anecdote just for fun.

The point is that Belgium, France, and many other European countries are far more left-wing than England is.  I say England because Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, are more left-leaning than England but even they are not as left-wing as places like France.  In France, the Socialist party holds power and is being challenged from the left by a Communist party.  By contrast, the communists in England consist of a gaggle of clowns who think the Soviet Union is still in existence, and the socialists under the banner of Labour only managed electoral success when they shifted rightwards.  When Labour ran as socialists under Neil Kinnock they were roundly rejected by the electorate.  Britain’s most successful post-war Prime Minister in terms of time in office was the decidedly anti-communist Margaret Thatcher and the second was Tony Blair who the left-wing hated for abandoning socialist principles.  Now Labour is being led by socialists and communists and they are a laughing stock who stand zero chance of attaining power unless they ditch this lot for some who are much further to the right.  The only place in London bearing Karl Marx’s name is his grave.  The closest we have to Salvador Allende avenues in the UK are places named after Nelson Mandela which lefty councils foisted upon cities during the apartheid struggles.

And this is why the EU leadership – particularly the French and some Belgians – cannot stand Britain: we are right-wingers who lean towards free markets and capitalism whereas they are made up largely of socialists.  A good number of French and other Europeans believe that the EU should be more socialist and more powers granted to the centre, whereas most British believe the exact opposite.  Socialist Europeans know they cannot attain, or retain, power at the nation-state level (or make the books balance) and so are attempting to do so at the EU level: Britain leaving represents a setback to this goal.  Listen to Francois Hollande – a socialist – saying Britain must “pay the price” for leaving.  What price?  Scuppering the plans of European socialists?  Whereas the Walloons are good, old-fashioned socialists pushing back against capitalism, and so they get treated with kid gloves.

It is also enlightening to look at how the Remainers in the UK lean politically: most of them are left-wing.  Having failed to bring about many of their desired policies via national elections, they have been quite content to see them imposed via the EU where socialism holds much more sway.  They know that without their fellow travellers in Europe, socialist policies in England are pretty much dead.

A lot of the anger around Brexit is not actually about Britain leaving: it’s about communists, socialist, and other left-wingers not being able to join forces and impose their policies on the English who are stubbornly centre-right.  And this is why it is getting so damned bitter.

Social Engineering

Staying on the subject of gays:

A bill that would have wiped clean the criminal records of thousands of gay men has fallen at its first parliamentary hurdle.

The private member’s bill would have pardoned all men living with UK convictions for same-sex offences committed before the law was changed.

Mr Nicolson says he was motivated by his work as a BBC journalist in the 1990s: “I made a documentary in the 1990s looking at the discriminatory laws which criminalised gay men.

“There were some shocking injustices. Men were arrested aged 21 for having ‘under-age sex’ with their 20-year-old boyfriends,” he said.

Section 12 of the Sexual Offences Act 1956 concerned buggery.  Which means 60 years ago politicians sat down and decided what two grown men of sound mind could and couldn’t do to one another, and how the rest of the country should treat them.  Does this sound reasonable to you?  It doesn’t to me.  There is an argument that this is what the majority population wanted, but I don’t see any reason why the wishes of the majority should be taken into account when two independent adults decide what they’re going to do behind closed doors.

Had the principle of individual freedom and liberty been in force in 1956, this law would never have come into being.  This is why the war cry of the gay movement was “Get the Government out of the Bedroom!”, implying what two men get up to is no business of the government’s or anyone else.  On that basis, the gays of the day would have had my full support.

Across the Atlantic there is a parallel: pre-Civil Rights Era laws requiring blacks to be segregated from whites, and the two treated differently.  At some point legislators sat down and determined that blacks should be treated differently from whites, and anyone breaking these laws – be they black or white – would be subject to criminal prosecution.  Regardless of whether a free individual of one colour wanted to interact with a free individual of another, this was prohibited by law, which in turn was justified on the grounds that this is what the majority wanted.  Only if individuals are truly free then they can associate with whomever they please, and it ought not to be a matter to be decided by the majority.

My point is that not so long ago legislators put severe restrictions on supposedly free individuals as to how they could interact with each other based on rather arbitrary criteria beyond the individuals’ control.  They justified these laws by saying that this is what the majority wanted and it was for the greater good of society.  These laws, the majority agreed, made for a better, safer society.

Only now we look back and most people are in agreement that these laws were an abomination and ought never to have been passed.  Hence the attempt now to pardon those in the UK and the rioting and looting in the USA.  I’m being ironic about that last one.

Fortunately politicians and the voting public learned their lesson that individual liberty and freedom is paramount and governments have no business passing legislation as to how free individuals should interact (short of causing actual physical harm or loss of property, reputation, etc. covered by laws that have been in place since Man first wandered out of the Great Rift Valley).

Oh wait.  No, actually they didn’t.  With breathtaking hubris they determined that although the last lot of politicians and voters were catastrophically wrong, they are much smarter and hence are able to write laws setting out exactly how individuals must interact in a hideously complex society to achieve the absolute optimum outcome in terms of happiness and security for all.  Clever folk, eh?

So now we have laws which actively discriminate between people of different skin colours and religions, insist that gender – which can be changed on a whim – should be both ignored and acknowledged simultaneously, maintain an ever-growing list of sexual orientations all of which deserve special treatment, allow grown men to wander into women’s toilets a fundamental human right, and make formal (and even informal) criticism of all of this practically illegal.

Whatever happened to the principle of all humans are equal?  Or the principle of individual freedom?  Well, that’s the problem: there are no principles being applied, it is simply a small group of people deciding this is what they want to do, claiming a democratic mandate, and forcing it on everyone else.  Just as they did when they criminalised gays and made blacks drink at a different fountain.

Some people call this Social Engineering, and it’s a good term.  But engineering is all about the application of principles, not doing whatever a gaggle of people fancy doing this week.  If you tried to build a bridge like this it would collapse.  As will our society if we keep this up.

Keeping Britain Safe

I find this story a bit pathetic:

A flotilla of Russian warships is passing through the English Channel en route to Syria.

Two British naval ships are shadowing the vessels. The Ministry of Defence said they would be “man-marked every step of the way” while near UK waters.

The ships are within international waters but Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the UK would “be watching as part of our steadfast commitment to keep Britain safe”.

Oh please.  As if the Russian carrier is suddenly going to hang a right and splurge little green men all over Kent.  This is just an opportunity for the Defence Minister to sound tough and the Royal Navy to show that it’s still relevant.

The UK’s Type 45 destroyer HMS Duncan, escorted by the Type 23 frigate HMS Richmond, steamed from Portsmouth on Tuesday to track the Kuznetsov group as it headed south from the Norwegian Sea.

Why?  To give them something to do which might be slightly less humiliating than being captured by Iranians and made to cry?

Sending a large Russian flotilla through the North Sea and the English Channel sends a clear message to the West: anything you can do, we can do just as well – or even better.

You don’t need to be a supporter of the Russian military or their actions in Syria to find this ridiculous: the English Channel is the most logical route to follow.  Did the Belgians send any ships out?  The French?  This isn’t the Channel Dash.  Next time just ignore them, eh?

And this amused:

A Russian tug, believed to be in convoy with the taskforce, entered the channel first off the coast near Ramsgate.

As Streetwise Professor is fond of pointing out, the Russian navy can’t go anywhere without its rescue tug.  The accompanying video of the Admiral Kuznetsov shows columns of black smoke belching from its twin funnels, a feature which probably wouldn’t have helped the Japanese at Midway.  Neither navy comes across particularly well in this report.


This amused:

Film director Ken Loach has criticised the current crop of TV period dramas for indulging in “fake nostalgia”.

In response to a question about Downton Abbey in a Radio Times interview, Loach said: “This rosy vision of the past, it’s a choice broadcasters make.

Loach said nostalgic dramas were “the opposite of what a good broadcaster should do, which is stimulate and invigorate”.

Allow me to translate that for you:

How dare those awful oiks watch things they enjoy rather than the artistic masterpieces I am paid handsomely to create with taxpayers’ money!

As an additional point, Downton Abbey must seriously grate with the BBC chiefs.  The BBC was always considered the global leader in “costume dramas” and in theory it is they who ought to have spotted the opportunity for Downton Abbey and reaped the millions its extraordinary success has generated.  But that fell to ITV, their bitter rivals in the ratings wars, who are dependent on getting eyes on the screen rather than simply lifting billions from British owners of television sets on threat of imprisonment.

NatWest and Russia Today

There was a lot of fuss in the news yesterday about Russia Today – the Kremlin’s English language propaganda arm – having their banking services withdrawn by NatWest bank in the UK.  Leaving aside the point that NatWest is free to do business with whomever it chooses and is under no obligation to provide banking services to RT if they don’t wish to; and also leaving aside the fact that it would be monumentally stupid for any member of the British government or authorities to put pressure on NatWest to withdraw their services; take a look at the letter that was sent:

I think at this point I ought to say to Russia Today: welcome to British banking!  What, you thought you were a customer and ought to be treated with respect and in a manner of transparency laced with helpful dialogue?

As the kidz say on FaceTwit: lolz!

No, this is simply British banking as they treat all their customers: arbitrary decisions which tick some regulatory box or other sent out of the blue via curt letter and of maximum the inconvenience to the customer.  Usually there is no name appended and customers are simply informed of what has happened or invited to call a helpline where somebody on two rupees a day wearing (probably) an adult diaper will tell you there’s nothing they can do.

Not that I have any sympathy with Russia Today.  Not because of their output – which is abominable – but because banks in Russia are no different.  I’ve had a bank in Sakhalin ordering me to get my bank – based in Geneva – to write them a letter (in Russian of course) in order to address a “problem” with a single letter of a person’s name that was not transliterated properly between Latin and Cyrillic.  I was also told I couldn’t open a local bank account as a foreign resident: only my employer could open one on my behalf.  And forget about trying to get foreign currency transferred into a ruble-denominated account in a straightforward, sensible manner.  Vrach, heal thyself!

Apparently NatWest has now backed down, making their statement that the “decision is final” to be a complete falsehood.  RT has quickly learned what I did with British banks: make enough fuss and they’ll back down, every time.  The difference is us ordinary folk can’t threaten them with a nuclear strike.

Yet More on Brexit

A namesake, fellow engineer, and former colleague/boss from my pre-expat days makes a welcome return to my comments section with this observation:

The brexit aftermath has been a clusterfuck of the highest order

I couldn’t have put it better myself!

I get asked a few questions about Brexit by overseas folk.  One of the common ones Europeans ask is “Why were they allowed to have a vote?  Ordinary people can’t make these sorts of decisions!”  Which is as compelling an argument for divorcing ourselves from Europeans as any I’ve seen put forward to date.  The answer, of course, is UKIP realised a lot of British people didn’t like being part of the EU (for whatever reason) and demanded a referendum.  The Tories, fearing they might lose seats otherwise, acquiesced to UKIP’s demand in their manifesto leading up to the 2015 General Election.  In other words, the people were denied a vote for decades and eventually got one when politicians thought they might lose their seats over the issue.  It’s the same reason why unemployment is so high in France: their population demands it.  Democracy in action!

I also get asked why Nigel Farage was “allowed” to resign and walk away from “this whole mess he created”.  Foreigners have this odd perception that being on the winning side of a referendum campaign entitles you to run the country.  Supposing I campaigned for an airport to be built on Skomer Island because I thought it was vital to Britain’s economy and long-term national interest.  I launched a website, whipped up local support, went on TV, and generated enough support that people were considering putting themselves forward for election on this single issue in Conservative safe seats, and the incumbents were worried.  A lot of people, it seems, really wanted this airport on Skomer.  Eventually the Conservative government, who were heading into a tricky General Election, decided it might be prudent to adopt this odd policy and put it to a popular vote, as is the custom with new airports on Skomer.  They did, the Conservatives won the election, and a referendum was held.  We won.  After twenty years of non-stop campaigning, I find my lifelong ambition has been achieved: Skomer will get its airport.  Now I can sit back and let the government’s Department of Airport Construction get on with building it.  I can’t wait to take a flight out of there and buy a toy puffin in duty free.  Except the next morning there’s a knock on the door.  There’s a mob outside, and they’re angry.

“Oy!,”  they say.  “Why are you still in your pajamas?  You need to get cracking on that airport!”

“Eh?”   I reply.

“”C’mon!” they say.  “It was your idea!  So we need to know where the runway will go, how many passengers we can expect in the first few years, how much concrete is needed for the terminal building, where the batch plant will go, what potted plants go in the departure lounge!  There’s a lot to do, sunshine.”

“But what about the government’s Department of Airport Construction?” I ask.  “What are they doing?  What did they do when Gatwick got built?”

“Oh, they never wanted this airport in the first place, so they’ve decided not to get involved.  Yeah, that’s the way it works apparently.  So, about that access road, my friend has a pub nearby and he’s worried that…”

You get the point.  Nigel Farage was not permitted to assume the role of government of the United Kingdom because he lead a successful campaign for Brexit.  This simply isn’t how Britain works.  The elected government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, is responsible for running the country and they were responsible for implementing the outcome of this referendum – not Nigel Farage or anyone else.

David Cameron must take the lion’s share of the blame for this.  He ought to have put in place a plan of action in the event of a Leave vote winning.  I fully understand that he didn’t want to be Prime Minister in such an eventuality, but his resignation ought to have formed part of this plan.  This should all have been thrashed out by the Conservatives and possibly even put to the public before the vote.  Instead, our political classes assumed the Remain vote would win and everything would carry on as before.  Only things didn’t go according to plan and they got caught with their pants down.  Cameron – who was the man responsible for running the country regardless of the result – just threw his hands in the air and walked away.  He makes the captain of the Costa Concordia look like Chesty Puller.

Since that moment it has been a complete mess.  The Tories are making an utter hash of the whole thing because they have been caught totally unprepared.  You can blame Farage and those who voted to leave all you like, but the Tories are the ones who put themselves forward to run the damned country – and that includes managing every eventuality, not just the ones they like (such as telling us how much sugar we should be putting in desserts).  The Remainers are all over social media lamenting that Labour is in such disarray and the country needs a competent opposition.  Oh yeah?  What would Labour do?  Simply repeat the complaints of the losing 48% in the hope that things will improve?  Or would they just ignore the wishes of the winning 52% and dismiss them as racist thickos?  In other words, do exactly what they did when in power for 13 years.  Yeah, that’ll work.

The problem is the political classes are useless.  This is the reason why Brexit is a clusterfuck, because our current crop of politicians – from any party – would make a clusterfuck out of just about anything.  They couldn’t empty water from a welly boot if the instructions were written on the bottom.

Take a look at the mess that is the British railway system.  I have neither the knowledge to comment authoritatively on this nor the desire to acquire it, but it went from an awful state-run British Rail to an awful mess of private and quasi-private operators who seemed to be caught in a veritable thicket of regulations and bizarre incentives which has resulted in misery for the travelling public but doesn’t prevent the company executives from doing very nicely out of it.  And the taxpayer is still footing the bill.  The Lefties in Britain who get misty-eyed when thinking about giant factories belching smoke and producing substandard goods in grim towns oop narth think this is evidence that the railways should never have been privatised.  In other words, because the political classes have screwed something up we ought to leave it in the safe hands of the political classes.  Uh-huh.

The scenario where doing something sensible (e.g. getting rid of British Rail) and demanding it is done it competently seems as alien to British minds as a house without a minuscule patch of rough concrete they call a “garden”.  Which is why, despite my free-market ideology, I think privatising the NHS would be an absolute disaster.  It would be exactly the same as the railways: a cosy stitch-up between politicians, civil servants, and private “service providers” where conflicts of interest and back-handers abound and the result is a conspiracy against the public who will see worse outcomes and bigger bills.

That politicians have demonstrated time and again that they make a clusterfuck out of everything they touch is a strong argument in favour of severely limiting their remit.  The political process is simply not a good instrument for handling more than a select few issues, and there are an awful lot more that it is manifestly unsuitable for.  Yet the supposedly cleverest people in our society – the self-declared experts – think that expanding the remit of politicians and continuing in a supra-national, continent-wide political regime that determines power limits for our kettles is a good idea.

I have another plan.  Start hanging politicians at random and when the screaming reaches a crescendo tell them the fun’s over and their remit’s been reduced.  They can start by keeping the streets clean and the bins empty and we’ll see how they’re doing after a couple of months and take it from there.

More on Brexit

There are two fascinating parallel situations ongoing right now, one on each side of the Atlantic.  I’ll deal with the British one first.

The front page of today’s Times carries the headline:

Brexit risks closing door on economy, bosses warn

And underneath:

The leader of Britain’s biggest business group has warned Theresa May that she risks “closing the door” on an open economy with her immigration clampdown and Brexit policy.

All week Times contributors on Twitter have been railing against Brexit, and pointing to this headline as if it means something.  What I find so astonishing is how deluded and out of touch both the media and political establishment is showing itself to be.

That “business leaders” should want to remain in the EU is not news, and only somebody as cloth-eared as a Times editor would think it was and stick it on the front page as if it were an argument for Remain.  Business leaders were clamouring to stay in the EU before the vote because remaining suited the interests of business leaders.  The people who voted to leave could not care two hoots what “business leaders” wanted, because it was blatantly obvious that such people were only looking to feather their own nests, as they have been for decades.  Citing the concerns of “business leaders” over Brexit would be like citing the concerns of the Soviet Politburo over Lithuanian independence.  It still hasn’t sunk into the thick skulls of these idiots that the Leave voters were in part specifically rejecting the wishes of “business leaders” as well as the media and political establishment.

In the same period Oliver Kamm, also of the Times, has taken to Twitter bemoaning the appalling state of Labour and the need for there to be a strong opposition in order to make the case for the EU, single market, and immigration.

To which I say: WTF?  Did Oliver Kamm miss the period between 1997 and 2010 when New Labour was in power and made such things a central plank of their policy?  It is precisely this which voters have rejected, both in the 2010 and 2015 General Elections and this year in the EU referendum. They lived, ate, and breathed the EU, single market, and immigration for 13 years and more.  What sort of bubble must one live in to think that a resurrection of New Labour’s policies would swing public opinion back around when it these exact same core policies which drove people to vote Leave in the first place?

And that’s the issue, isn’t it?  Those who wanted to remain are so convinced of their moral and intellectual superiority that they think the only reason they lost is because their arguments weren’t made forcefully enough and/or those who voted to leave are both thick and racist.  They have made no effort whatsoever to understand why somebody who does not have their educational and career advantages might not be able to see the benefits of EU membership and ever-increasing immigration, and instead just double-down on the arrogant, condescending behaviour which was a primary cause of them having lost the vote to begin with.  The establishment set failed to understand the chasm between them and the ordinary person they seek to control and govern, and having had it demonstrated to them in stark fashion they continue to act in a manner which will only see it grow.  Do they really think this will end well for them?

As for Theresa May, well she’s turning out to be just the sort of authoritarian, nannying control-freak of a Prime Minister that she was as a Home Secretary.  Her latest wheeze is some rubbish about making firms list their foreign workers, something which is sending establishment Lefties into fits of pompous outrage.  But whose fault is this?  It was Tony Blair’s government that decided politicians should be allowed to poke their noses into every aspect of business and personal life, and privacy and civil liberties were old-fashioned concepts with no place in modern Britain.  How many of those people complaining the government wants companies to list foreigners think the government should take an interest in how many women and minorities these firms employ?  The overlap will be substantial.

Let’s be clear, there is no principle being upheld here.  Most of the complaints about idiotic Tory policies are not based on the principle of limited government and keeping a healthy separation between government and the individual, they are merely complaining that the busy-bodying and nannying is being targetted at the wrong group.

The same goes for people complaining that the post-Brexit process is a mess.  Yes, it is.  The government thought it would win the Remain vote hands down because the entire media, business, and political establishment was on board and hence they didn’t bother planning for the event of a Leave victory.  And now they’ve been caught with their pants down and are making it up as they go along.   Apparently, according to our liberal elite, this clusterfuck means that the media and political establishment was right all along and those who voted Leave should listen to them.

The arrogance is breathtaking.