Friday, September 30, 2011

The Euro- Still Doomed.

Writing in defence of the Euro, Oliver Kamm does raise some good points- that the principle cause of Greece's debt crisis is not the Euro but the lack of any fiscal discipline by the Greek state.

Even so this is not a reassuring argument for the future of the Euro:
The fundamental problem of the euro is the lack of a fiscal dimension. Successful currency unions, such as the US, have mechanisms for fiscal transfers from members that are thriving to those that are struggling.
This is completely true, but whereas people are willing to allow their money to be taxed in order to subsidise their compatriots, they are unlikely to be satisifed with transfering billions of Euros a year, for decades to come, to give to foreign countries. Every time a country that is a net recipient of fiscal transfers institutes some kind of benefit for their citizens that a net contributer does not provide, tensions will be inflamed.

Given that the theory behind currency unions was already well known in the 1990s, there is a reason why the architects of the single currency were unwilling to take that necessary step to ensure the project's stability.

It seems like a recipe for promoting nationalistic hostility between nations.

Australia's Shame

Australian newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt has been convicted of a crime for two columns he wrote in 2009 in which he noted that many Aborigine activists were in fact white. This greatly offended people like Pat Eatock who did not appreciate it being pointed out that she is slightly less convincing as an aborigine than Ali G was as a Jamaican.

So naturally she wrote to the newspaper demanding an apology- wait no she didn't do that- she went to the police and demanded that Bolt be charged. Which he was, and rather incredibly convicted. This is a confidence trickster's charter- develop an identity in order to siphon government grants then sue for racism when it is pointed out.

The plaintiffs go well beyond simply being con artists though, one of them, Geoff Clark- is a serial rapist of teenage girls.One has to wonder whether his hyper sensitivity to having his identity queried is because that provided a useful shield against criminal proceedings into his sexual abuse.

Equally incredible other journalists have rushed to support the verdict- that is to say they support giving the state the right to criminalise somebody whose views fall outside of a narrow range- this loathsome editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald is an example that should become notorious. Apologists for the suppression of free speech are claiming that Bolt deserved to be punished because his columns contained inaccuracies- as if mistakenly saying that someone's father was white European rather than their mother is some kind of libel worthy of censure.

The judge- Mordacai Bromberg embodies the same mindset as Mohammed Bouyari- the assassin on Theo Van Gogh- in that he believes that certain ethnic groups have a right not to offended or treated with sarcasm, and that transgressors must be punished.

This is a shameful verdict that has empowered those who want to use their pretend ethnic identity to put themselves beyond any kind of criticism and is more suitable to countries like Iran and Cuba than to Australia.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Hail To The All Knowing Ed Miliband.

Oh joy, Labour have a new policy:
The Labour leader will criticise companies with the “wrong values” who do not create jobs, invest in companies or train their staff.
Mr Miliband will tell the party’s annual conference that the days when all businesses are taxed and regulated equally should be over. Instead, firms will be judged according to how they make their money.
So Labour's solution to the economy is to micromanage businesses by judging whether they have the "wrong values"?

Equality before the law is one of the things that enabled England to become a financial and commercial centre centuries ago- as traders knew that if they had a legal dispute in England they would be protected by a legal system where the rule of law was what mattered- not if you were favoured by the powers that be.

This is a valuable asset to this country and to throw it away in favour of special rules for different businesses depending upon whether ministers (with no obvious qualifications for judging the worthiness of businesses) is insane.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Quote Of The Day

Indeed, a small leftwing publisher, Zero Books, has commissioned Atzmon to write a book on the Jews as part of an otherwise entirely credible series by respected left figures such as Richard Seymour, Nina Power and Laurie Penny.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Think Of The Children

 Child cage fight organisers will not face police action

I suspect that calls for prosecution are because mixed martial arts is a relatively new discipline rather than because of the inherent dangers posed given that the same publications that condemn it are happy to give space to promote youth boxing, which also has the potential to cause real damage.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lib Dems #Sigh#

Like other parties The Liberal Democrats have two wings, the economically liberal wing and the Labour-lite wing. In opposition this does not matter as they can unify around a few civil liberties and constitutional reform issues and fudge the rest. In government though you get this:
12.23pm: Danny Alexander has just started his speech. Now. He started with a tribute to his grandfather, who is in the audience and who has been a Liberal since 1936. But then he had a couple of rocky moments. He told a rather lame 'it's all Balls" joke about Labour (which was very funny when Michael Heseltine first tried it in the 1990s, but which made us groan in the press room). And then, when he talked about Gordon Brown's "unsustainable spending", someone shouted "rubbish".
 For a coalition whose unifying purpose is to rescue the economy, having one of the parties fundamentally split on whether there even is a problem is worrying.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Harigate- Part 3 of 3- Hopefully The Last Time Johann Hari Gets Mentioned Here

All of Hari's sins seem to derive from severe narcissism. This is fairly obvious in the case of his David Rose sock puppet where he writes things like this about himself:
'The only bully here is you, who is trying to insert false smears into an entry about an honest journalist who risks his life to report on human rights abuses and who has been given awards for his "courage" by Amnesty International, just because you think he is "self-publicising" and "a careerist".'
It also seems to like all his other failings- plagiarism, inventive reporting, blocking critics on Twitter, appearing as a talking head on any TV discussion show that would have him.

That there are literally hundreds of edits like that is remarkable.It also explains why he feels such deep and personal hatred towards those who remind him that he is not above everybody else- his vendetta against Christine Odone began when she told him not to use the New Statesman's printers for his personal use and his grudge against one of his professors began when he was told off for treating college staff like dirt.

Tim Worstall has written about Hari's economic ignorance for years, and this lack of knowledge about the things he is writing about extends into other areas, such as his piece on Haiti in which he clearly believed it was an island. When you realise that Hari wants to portray himself as a renaissance man it becomes clear why cannot simply acknowledge that he has no competence to write about an important event and move on. He has to reassure the World and himself that he really is a deeply learned figure who can comment authoritatively upon economics, post war history, climate science, Venezuela, Northern Ireland, literature, Big Brother and whatever other topic it is important for a commentator to discuss. To anyone knowledgeable in those fields his writings were often considered superficial but few people know enough about everything to call him out as a complete bullshitter. Though many were struck by his obnoxious behaviour when they did call him up on their area of expertise.

It is why he cannot simply admit that he was not up to the task of eliciting an interesting response in an interview and therefore simply lifts interesting quotes from other sources. It is why he cannot allow everyone to know that he had a fairly elite educational background.

He was not simply lazy and looking for shortcuts like Jayson Blair or a wild fabulist who enjoys making things up like Stephen Glass. He was constantly trying to assert and boost his status among his peers and the public.

It is also why he is still clinging with the assistance of his employers to the idea that he will one day be taken seriously as a commentator again. To realise that his name will not be spoken of alongside liberal intellectual icons like George Orwell, Christopher Hitchens or Roy Jenkins but instead be a footnote in a litany of fraudsters and fantasists alongside Stephen Glass, Damian McBryde and Jeffrey Archer must be exceptionally hard to take.

Yet it is exactly what he deserves.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Harigate- Part 2 of 3- Harigate Becomes Indygate

Johann Hari's inventiveness when it comes to reporting has been common knowledge for many years. See here for many examples. However in his faux-apology he still refuses to accept that he lied in his journalism. In particular he stands by the reporting from the Central African Republic that won him an Orwell Prize:

After it emerged that I had done this, some defenders of the powerful people I had taken on over the years for their wrongdoing saw an opportunity to try to discredit what I had written about them. Amid legitimate criticism of what I had done wrong, there were lots of untrue statements, but I’m hardly in a position to complain that some people saw it as an opportunity to take a free kick. 

In 2007, I travelled through the Central African Republic to report on the fact the French government had been bombing the country. An anonymous claim was made that I had exaggerated the extent of the French bombing, and that I had fabricated a quote from a French soldier on the ground. Two representatives of the NGO that I travelled with came forward to The Independent’s investigation into my journalism and they said my description of the bombing damage was entirely accurate, and that they have photographs of it. They also explained that they witnessed me speaking to several French soldiers when the person making these charges was otherwise occupied. 

The collosal self regard shines through- "defenders of the powerful people I had taken on over the years for their wrongdoing saw an opportunity to try to discredit what I had written about them".

As he is sticking to this story and the Independent have not fired him it must be assumed that they believe his denial. Which is to say they believe an absolutely extraordinary story- that African children were approaching French soldiers carrying the severed heads of their parents screaming for help- despite the fact that an aid worker who was there flatly refutes his claims.

Given that Hari's use of deceit has been proven- with anonymous libel on Wikipedia and misrepresenting other people's interview quotes as his own work- and he has had questions raised over his honesty since he was a student why would the Independent give him the benefit of the doubt over this wild tale? Is the aid worker who went to Private Eye with her complaint one of the shadowy "defenders of powerful people"?

Hari says that two other aid workers backed him up. However as it has already been established that they had become personal friends of his and he has used friends of his to support his lies before- by posing as the real life David Rose and Niko- that surely cannot carry any weight. It seems pretty unlikely that given the brazenness of the lies Hari admits to that his foreign reporting would be clean, as that is an area notoriously easy to fake.

It is quite clear that from the word go the Independent had no interest in investigating what Hari did. The absurd delay in investigating him, the fact that they did not speak to any of the other journalists who criticised him and the insistence in keeping the results of their investigation secret demonstrate this. 

The Independent's cover up means that they can simply not be trusted to report on any subject as they have made it clear that they do not respect their readers enough to tell them the truth.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Harigate- Part One Of Three- Wars Of The Roses

This week the Independent concluded their "investigation" into Johann Hari's various misdeeds. Just to go over them they came into three main categories:
  • Plagiarism.
  • Making things up.
  • Anonymous wikipedia vandalism.
I will focus on the 3rd of these in this post (although I will post about the other two later this week and the cover up by the independent. In his graceless non-apology, Hari confesses to vandalising the Wikipedia entries of those who crossed him:

The other thing I did wrong was that several years ago I started to notice some things I didn’t like in the Wikipedia entry about me, so I took them out. To do that, I created a user-name that wasn’t my own. Using that user-name, I continued to edit my own Wikipedia entry and some other people’s too. I took out nasty passages about people I admire – like Polly Toynbee, George Monbiot, Deborah Orr and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I factually corrected some other entries about other people. But in a few instances, I edited the entries of people I had clashed with in ways that were juvenile or malicious: I called one of them anti-Semitic and homophobic, and the other a drunk. I am mortified to have done this, because it breaches the most basic ethical rule: don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. I apologise to the latter group unreservedly and totally.
First of all it is hardly a "few instances", his list of vandalism under his David Rose identity stretches to almost a thousand entries over the course of years. David Rose was not his only identity, he was also active on other forums and had at least one other pseudonym "Niko".

Furthermore his habit of anonymous defamation did not begin with being unhappy about noticing things were awry in his Wikipedia entry. As Private Eye has shown- he was posting nasty reviews of a University professor, Simon Goldhill,  on Amazon under a pseudonym as far back as June 2000- before Wikipedia was even founded.

It's amazing how consistent different people's stories about Hari are- someone pulling him for some poor behaviour and him claiming the disagreement is about some greater issue which casts him in a heroic light.

Goldhill says he told Hari off for being rude to staff- Hari claims the disagreement began when he defended Mo Mowlam. Christine Odone today claims her squabble with Hari began when she told him off for misusing the New Statesman printer- he claims it was some epic dispute over antisemitism and secularism.

Many of his Wikipedia edits demonstrate a similar level of pettiness- he is desperate to not let people know that he went to an exclusive independent prep school affiliated with Harrow, he is very keen for everyone to acknowledge what a serious intellectual he is.

yet ironically it demonstrates that he is not merely nasty but also rather stupid- his bogus identities had aroused suspicion  for years and the fact he was so incompetent as to use the Independent's offices to conduct the vandalism without understanding things like IP addresses, is beyond moronic.

In addition he appears to have roped in friends to pose as David Rose and Niko when he met real people. Roping in his friends to help cover up his misdeeds is quite significant when you consider his rebuttal of the allegations made about his reporting from the Central African Republic.

It would not surprise me if someone whose entry had been vandalised sues Hari- they may have easily lost writing gigs as a result of his defamation if a lazy editor had used Wikipedia to do a spot of background research.

He would deserve this.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Non Sequitur Of The Day

From the Daily Mail's celebrity pages. A sleb used a 14 year old to model her clothes on the catwalk, a choice which is:
all the more surprising because she is such a strong advocate of animal rights - a passion that does not seem to translate into protecting underage girls.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Ideology- More Important than Theory Or Reality

The report by Sir John Vickers into how to reform banking so that we never again have to face a choice between bailing out bankers and risking a domino like collapse of the entire economy has made a number of recommendations- most prominently that retail and investment banking should be ring fenced  from one another.

What a brilliant idea, in order to avoid banking crises we should ensure that all banks either do nice safe low risk retail banking (like Northern Rock for example) or engage purely in risky investment banking so there would not be a knock on effect to the wider economy if they did collapse (like Lehman Brothers).

The Roosevelt administration brought in a similar law during the Great Depression- and bank collapses continued at a rate of 1 a week throughout the 1930s.

In theory spreading risk widely (by engaging in multiple sectors) should make banks sturdier.

And in practice none of the combined banks have actually suffered the kind of collapses that sent the economy into freefall in 2008 but they are the ones we should break up it seems.

So it neither works in theory or reality but in terms of ideology it is a winner.

Friday, September 09, 2011

Foxy Murderey Knoxy

As someone who did not follow the Amanda Knox case in much detail  I was getting the impression from the media coverage that there were serious question marks over her conviction for the murder of Meredith Kercher. This article by an American lawyer dispels those fears:

Knox's first-of-several alibis for the night of the murder was that she was at her boyfriend (and co-defendant) Sollecito's house all night, sound asleep until 10 a.m. the next morning.
A few days later, when that was proved false by telephone records, eyewitnesses and Sollecito's admission that it was a lie, Knox claimed she was in the house during Meredith's murder ... and she knew who the murderer was!
She said it was her boss, Patrick Lumumba, the owner of a popular bar in town:
"He wanted her. ... Raffaele and I went into another room and then I heard screams. ... Patrick and Meredith were in Meredith's bedroom while I think I stayed in the kitchen. ... I can't remember how long they were together in the bedroom, but the only thing I can say is that at a certain point I remember hearing Meredith's screams and I covered my ears. ... I can't remember if Meredith was screaming and if I heard thuds but I could imagine what was going on."
Solely because of Knox's claim that Lumumba murdered Meredith, he was arrested and sat in jail for two weeks before being released when the police discovered about a hundred eyewitnesses who could place him at his bar all night, the night of the murder.
If the police were intent on framing Knox for the murder, they were easily distracted by this wild goose chase.

It is a piece worth reading in full, although many people will dismiss it because the lawyer's name is Ann Coulter.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Handing A Madman The Controls

Alastair Darling's take on Gordon Brown tenure as Prime Minister is devastating even if it merely confirms what has already been written- that Brown was deluded about the economic situation, impossible to reason with, a bully and governed through lackeys.

It also confirms my belief that if Labour had wanted to be a serious opposition to the coalition, who could form a credible alternative government, then they should have persuaded Alastair Darling to stand for the leadership.

Still given that this is the latest memoir- following on from Mandelson's and Blair's- to confirm that all the hotly denied rumours of Gordon Brown's behaviour were in fact true and had been an issue in government since day one- why was he elevated to the leadership without any opposition? It is hard to believe that there were not enough MPs who knew about Brown's behaviour to give their signatures to a rival candidate. They chose collectively to put their own careers ahead of saving their party and the country the disaster of a Brown premiership.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

A Cunning Plan

The BBC has learned* that David Cameron set up a secret unit within Whitehall to mount covert economic operations against Colonel Gaddafi.
The UK has been conducting sabotage against the Gadaffi regime? That certainly explains this photograph:

Brilliant, yet diabolical.

* I believe "has learnt" means "has been leaked by spin doctors".