I Beg Your Pardon?

They want to do what?

Passengers travelling between EU countries or taking domestic flights would have to hand over a mass of personal information, including their mobile phone numbers and credit card details, as part of a new package of security measures being demanded by the British government. The data would be stored for 13 years and used to "profile" suspects.

Brussels officials are already considering controversial anti-terror plans that would collect up to 19 pieces of information on every air passenger entering or leaving the EU. Under a controversial agreement reached last summer with the US department of homeland security, the EU already supplies the same information [19 pieces] to Washington for all passengers flying between Europe and the US.

But Britain wants the system extended to sea and rail travel, to be applied to domestic flights and those between EU countries. According to a questionnaire circulated to all EU capitals by the European commission, the UK is the only country of 27 EU member states that wants the system used for "more general public policy purposes" besides fighting terrorism and organised crime.

You\’ve got to be tagged and recorded when you cross any intra-EU border? Good grief! Can we just cut to the quick here and shoot them all please?

Credit card details? Seriously?

Snark, Snark

Many British expatriate communities refuse to integrate with their host nations. They congregate in ugly ghettos in the French countryside and along the Spanish coast, eating their own food – egg and chips; imported Marmite – and speaking their own language. They offend the tolerant and peaceable people of their host nations with their imported and alien customs of "binge drinking", promiscuity and visible displays of pink flesh.

Though many of them claim to have been "forced" out of their own country by a "totalitarian" government and a punitive tax regime, let us be clear: these people are selfish economic migrants. The worst of them write seditious letters to newspapers back home in an attempt to destabilise the Government.

A large number sponge off their host states – taking advantage, for example, of the advantageous tax regime available in the Republic of Ireland, or earning money in the United Kingdom by "teleworking" and failing to declare it in their host nations. Some join the black economy – taking payments in cash or avoiding tax by domiciling their assets offshore. Still others turn to crime, using their expertise to join the banking sector.

But to stereotype all emigrants in that way is to ignore the vast contribution they can make to the countries in which they live. It is to fall victim to one of the ugliest and most canting paranoias of our age.

The vast majority of emigrants are people who only want the best for themselves and their families. Indeed, many of them form the backbone of their host nations\’ economies – bringing skills in short supply over there, and doing the jobs that natives of those countries consider beneath them: as lawyers, public relations executives and marketing men.

Is it so bad to take advantage of the lowest tax regime you can find, within the law? And is it so wrong to save up as much of your monthly pay-packet as you can, so as to send money – as very many do – home to your family back in England?

Tee Hee. Very good Sam.

Drugs and Prostitution

Not quite Vicki:

Something must be done. It\’s obvious to me, if not to others, that what must be done is not "reducing the demand" or tightening up the prostitution laws (thus making it harder for women to take responsibility for their own safety) or banging up punters or "ending the world\’s sex industry" or any other highfalutin soundbite – but dealing with the drugs.

We have a muddled and messy drugs policy in this country. (I\’m not surprised: we have a muddled and messy alcohol policy.) Ipswich police are doing their best to handle the acute situation in which they\’ve found themselves. They\’re lifting girls off the street, offering them methadone (that won\’t help, but let it lie), driving busily about to frighten off punters (that won\’t help long-term, either). They can\’t draw the obvious conclusion about £120 bags being worth four to six horrible encounters every night (either give them the damn bags, or lots and lots of very expensive rehab at the taxpayers\’ expense) because we\’d need a "Swedish model" of state funding to do so.

Not quite. The cost of that heroin is vastly inflated by its very illegality. A few months back I went and looked up the price of diamorphine in the NHS formulary (I think that\’s the right word). Enough to keep a determined addict happy costs about £20 a day.

At first glance simply giving addicts (depends upon who you believe, perhaps 40,000 registered ones, 400,000 in total seem likely numbers) their dose is wildly impractical: £900,000 to £9 million a day,  over £3 billion a year at the top end.

However, when offset against the reduction in costs of the crime caused by addicts, the abuses of our civil liberties, the prostitution mentioned, it all begins to sound rather cheap. Overall we\’d be spending less than we do already, that I\’m certain of.

Leningrad Cowboys

A great, great movie, very much worth watching.

And just for a Friday afternoon, part of one of their live concerts.

The entirely twisted imagination necessary to come up with this….one can only stand and stare in awe.

Hang Them, Hang Them All

Those responsible for burdening us all with this monstrous mountain of bumpf.

We are due a visit from it shortly. We had the early years person round to check all was in order. She looked through it all, nodded her approval, paused. “But you haven\’t,” she said, “got a Going Out For a Walk Policy.” No kidding.

Gibbets to the fore lads, hempen to hand.

Excellent News

The Government may retreat from its commitment to make all drivers use an increasing proportion of biofuel in their fuel tanks.

Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, announced a study into the impact that the production of biofuels has on the environment. The Department for Transport (DfT) said that it would not support a European plan to increase the proportion of biofuel in petrol and diesel to 10 per cent by 2020 unless it could be proved that it reduced overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The DfT will maintain its Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation, which requires all forecourts to provide 2.5 per cent of their fuel from biofuel sources from April 15.

Ms Kelly said: “We are not prepared to go beyond current UK target levels for biofuels until we are satisfied it can be done sustainably.”

The study will be completed by the summer and, if it finds that the effects on the environment are negative, the plan for forecourts to supply 5 per cent of their fuel from biofuel sources by 2010 could be abandoned.

When the facts change, changing one\’s mind is a useful thing to do. Government, by it\’s nature, finds this very hard to do but at least we\’ve got something sensible here.

Ooooh, Polly?

The CBI claims 250,000 jobs would be lost – but service jobs always need doing.

Umm, you\’ve never hard of substituting capital for labour? Being a counter clerk in a bank is a service job. We\’ve a lot fewer of them than we would if we didn\’t have ATMs.

You\’ve failed to understand the most basic point. If agency workers become more expensive (which the application of permanent employment rights would do) then there will be fewer jobs available to agency workers. Might take a litle time to work through the system, but it\’ll definitely happen.

There\’s an Answer to This

There is in short a systemic problem – a roadblock on the route to meritocracy. Roughly 7% of children are educated at private schools, but these pupils take up 45% of Oxbridge places and a disproportionate amount at other top universities. When so many prizes are still going to a narrow, self-selecting pool of expensively coached talent, this makes a mockery of New Labour\’s protracted silence on the subject.

Recognising this is in 2008 the crucial first-order priority; ways of reducing the unfair premium can then be devised. I am not (unlike Alan Bennett) advocating abolition of private schools. Parents are perfectly entitled to spend their money on giving their children a first-class education. What they are not entitled to is the present assumption that that education almost automatically confers major socio-economic advantages.

Make all schools private. Slap a voucher on the back of every ankle biter and let the market sort them out.

Well Said Sir Simon

Lovely piece: Jean Monnet and all the rest are just following in the footsteps of Julius Caesar, Charlemagne,  Charles V, the Hapsburgs, Napoleon and Hitler. Doomed to failure:

Europe has never tolerated being led. It is a continent of cats, not dogs. Diversity is its glory, cantankerousness its defence. It is not a family or a community but a marketplace, a cultural entrepôt. Those who have sought its unity, even as a political metaphor, have come to grief.

ID Systems

Well, quite.

The summary said: "It should be noted that risk can only be managed, not eliminated, and therefore there will always be a risk of data security incidents occurring."

As with the children\’s database, so with the National Identity one. It can never be fully secure: thus we shouldn\’t have it.

Euro MPs

There does seem to be something of a disconnect here, doesn\’t there?

But the parliament said yesterday that it saw no need for an investigation.

"As the internal auditor\’s report has not revealed any individual cases of fraud, he has not recommended referring his findings to the EU anti-fraud agency OLAF," it said in a statement.

EU and Parliament officials have tried to play down the internal audit of parliamentary assistance allowances as a dull and complicated "systems analysis".

In some countries the reaction to the point "MEPs are fiddling the expenses" will be, of course they are, they are politicians. In others it will be a little angrier, in some it will be outrage. Something of a pity that the Parliament seems to be run by those with the first attitude.

More Northern Crock Nonsense

Jebus:

A tiny charity based in a modest Newcastle semi, which is supposed to be the beneficiary of a £45 billion offshore fund set up by Northern Rock, has not received a penny from the bank, and may never do so.

Around half the assets of the state-owned bank are owned by Granite, a Jersey-based organisation which gets tax breaks because it is set up as a charitable trust.

It names Down\’s Syndrome North East (DSNE) as its beneficiary. However, until recently, the small charity was unaware of Granite\’s existence and, while the off-shore trust made billions through its links to Northern Rock, DSNE, which is run by parent volunteers from their homes, raised just £76,000 in 2006.

Yes, OK, so if when Granite is wound up there is a profit in there, ten the DSNE will get it. If there\’s a loss they won\’t get hit with it. In the interim, while we wait to find out,. it makes no damn difference to them. So?

You know, I have a feeling that this whole thing is based upon the sayings of this man. The last couple of days of very dodgy reporting across all of the papers about Granite, what it means, the risks to taxpayers (none) and so on.

Something of a pity that the whole country is dancing to the tune of a man who appears to have his head firmly inserted fundamentally.