Thursday, 24 July 2014

Unfortunate name

Here is a rather disturbed individual...

David Ruffley MP, Wife beater

Nominative determinism strikes again. Seriously, if your name is Roughly Ruffley then you need to avoid cautions for common assault. The Tabloids won't be able to help themselves anymore than an yappy little dog can ignore ankles.

Just saying.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Nick Griffin has resigned as BNP chairman

As reported here by the BBC. And a very strange article it is too; not snide; not full of malicious falsehoods; just the facts - good and bad - very unusual for the Beeb, and to be fair, the rest of the national media.

Officially this blog is sad to see him go; thinks he has done a good job converting the BNP from unelectable to would-be-elected-if-it-were-not-for-UKIP and notes he has finally put the finances in order and got the accounts passing audit for several years in a row.

The leadership toll on Griffin must be quite considerable. He has endured several court cases, all spurious but all with the potential to send him to jail if he lost. The cost of defending these has led to his personal bankruptcy. There has been continual vilification from the media.

When he looks back his two high points are likely to be: being elected as an MEP, and his Question Time appearance.

QT was a mixed bag, many said he fluffed it, but there was a serious support boost as a result. Being an MEP has been central to his life for several years; the loss of those three letters cannot be nice.

Griffin intends to remain in the party and has invented the new post of Party President for himself. In the chair as pro tem leader until elections next year is Adam Walker, a former teacher with a certain amount of "history" but essentially a sound fellow and a close friend of Griffin's.

Officially Griffin's reason for leaving is because the BNP failure at the Euro elections has caused dissent in the ranks and he wants to let the party heal itself. And it is true that a lot of nationalists hate Nick Griffin and would be members of the BNP if he were not there, or cannot be members because Griffin has banned them. In theory Walker could reach out to these disaffected potential (and often former) members and rebuild the membership with them. In practice it may turn out that being a friend of Griffin's means he has the same enemies as Griffin and the people currently outside the tent will remain outside the tent. The next few days as Walker grasps the reins will be informative. He could announce a blanket amnesty on banned former-members, but he probably won't.

It is also worth remembering that Griffin has "stood down" before now and somehow ended up still being chairman. There are scheduled leadership elections next year - why not stand down in the run up to them rather than so much sooner? Is it because he actually intends to be a candidate after Walker has taken the flack off him for a while? Alternatively it may be to give Walker some exposure in his appointed role before putting him up as a candidate for elected chairmanship.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Who shot down MH17?

No, this article does not contain the answer to the question. It just considers the options.

It seems generally agreed that Malaysian Airline's Boeing 777 flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on the 17th July 2014 by someone using a Russian BUK anti-aircraft missile system. But everything on top of that is controversial.

Who operated the missile system? Who gave the orders?

Option one is that the "Ukrainian government" ie the government in Kiev (which came to power via a coup d'etat back in February you will recall) used a BUK system inherited from the Soviet days to shoot the airliner and the deed was done by forces loyal to Kiev fighting the separatists near Donetsk.

The problem here is that there is no real motive. The "separatists" do not have aircraft of their own so there is no chance the Ukrainian forces miss-identified the plane as enemy. The suggestion has been made that the real target was President Putin's personal "air force one" but again this is very unrealistic - the Kiev government is trying to keep Russia out of the conflict, not provoke then into attacking - and the chances of Putin overflying the region is remote. He's not completely stupid.

Option two is that the separatists fired the fateful missiles. This requires them somehow to have acquired a BUK system (comprising a minimum of 3 tracked vehicles and requiring a crew of at least ten to operate) and learned how to use it. The separatists are not professional soldiers. Until recently they were coal miners, factory workers and the like. In all probability they could not successfully deploy a BUK system even if they had one. Also, the separatists have no real motivation to shoot down a civilian airliner.

Option three is that a Russian BUK battery came over the border, did the deed, and retreated back over the border. The Russians have the kit and the expertise, and of course, they would have the full connivance of the local militia.

It should be noted that at least two Ukrainian Ilyushin army transport aircraft had been shot down in the area in the days immediately preceding MH17. It seems likely that a Russian BUK battery had been operating in the area, giving local separatists air cover and this battery shot down the 777 after mis-identifying it as military.

But this is where the blame starts to get difficult to pin. MH17 had been ordered by Kiev Air Traffic Control (ATC) to fly lower than it would normally have done. It was also flying 300 miles further north than it normally would, but we don't know if this was under orders from Kiev ATC or not.

So the possibility exists that the Ukrainian government, having lost two transport aircraft in the last few days and realising that a Russian BUK battery was operating in the area, decided to order a civilian airliner into harm's way in the hope that it also would get shot down, by accident, and this would force the Russians to remove their anti-aircraft missile battery and allow the Ukrainian airforce to operate freely in the area.

The Ukrainian government has released a recording of the BUK commander reporting to a "major" that they had shot down a civilian airliner by accident. This could be a faked recording but it seems likely it wasn't.

The most compelling scenario at the moment is then that the Russians were operating the missile battery and the Ukrainians managed to trick them into shooting down a civil airliner by ordering it to follow a flight path more typical of a military aircraft.

This constitutes a Ukrainian "win" since the Russians are now getting all the blame and have most certainly by now removed the BUK system from the area, thus giving the Ukrainians control of the skies again.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Oh Israel

Do you want to be a leader?

What does it take to be a leader? A leader of people; the leader of your country? What are the qualities that will make you a leader? No, not the qualities a leader should have, the qualities a leader needs to have to become leader in the first place?

The Bible provides some guidance on this: Proverbs 12:24 "Work hard and you will be a leader; be lazy and you will be a slave." (OK, I've munged it a bit.)

A potential leader is going to be judged against other potential leaders on how hard they work at delivering what the people want. Generally what the people want is peace and prosperity in that order. And when they've got that they want even more prosperity.

So what a wannabe-leader really needs is an enemy to fight. There is little better than a war against a despised and reviled enemy for a leader to show his mettle.

It's worth remembering that in both World Wars Germany was no threat to Britain. In neither conflict did Germany threaten us or declare war on us. On both occasions we declared war on them after disregarding overtures of peace from them. And on both occasions one man was at the heart of the decision to fight - Winston Churchill.

At the start of WWI he was Secretary of the Navy and sent the telegram that started the shooting. In WWII he was Prime Minster and established the doctrine of Unconditional Surrender which gave the Germans no option but to fight on and on long past any real desire to do so.

Right now in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe is reviling the British and warning his people that a British invasion is imminent. Here in UK we have largely forgotten that he even exists.

In Palestine they fight the Jews. To be a leader in Palestine you must lead the fight against the Jews. To topple an old leader and become the new leader you must fight the Jews with even more vigour than the old leader. You must sacrifice more of your followers to the Jews and provoke the Jews into showing how seriously the Jews take you by bombing your houses and killing your women and children.

That is how power is won in Palestine. So the war against the Jews can never end. Any leader who stops fighting the Jews stops being leader (which can be fatal in Palestine) since the Jews cannot be defeated.

Gaza vs Israel is completely one-sided. The Israelis can win anytime they want. Their constraint is not military might - it's public opinion. The Israeli public wants peace and world public opinion sees the disparity in causality numbers and assumes Israel is an evil aggressor. There are only two possible futures in Palestine: continual war, or Israel wins. Any negotiated peace is inevitably temporary. Any Arab faction tempted by peace will get displaced by a more warlike group. But world opinion will never let Israel use enough force to win.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Leon Brittan vibe

Leon Brittan

Former MP, Cabinet Minister, EU commissioner, now Lord Leon Brittan is the subject of an accusation of rape by an anonymous woman. The alleged incident occurred in the 1960s. By a strange coincidence, Brittan was in the frame last week for being Home Secretary back in 1983 when the Home Office lost a dossier on paedophiles in Westminster.

The internet is rife with rumours about Leon Brittan, strangely few of them alleging a sexual interest in young women. Readers are directed to perform further and better research at The site should be avoided because it is effectively reporting that it is under legal injunction not to show certain results.  Also note that when you type in manually you will get automatically redirected to the google site of your own country - you need to click the link above to stay on the American site where the information is uncensored.

The Prime Minister has announced a "no stones unturned" investigation into historical child sex abuse. It looks like a lot of dirty linen is about to be washed publicly. Home Secretary Teressa May will speak to the Commons about this in a few minutes.

In the meantime: you decide. People have been saying they "always knew" about Jimmy Savile and Max Clifford, but Rolf Harris was a surprise. What kind of vibe are you getting off Leon Brittan?

Monday, 23 June 2014

UK and Spain bond yields

Check out this table of 10-year gilt yields for various European countries... (Source)

Germany is paying 1.35% to service its debt, as befits the powerhouse of Europe. France 1.79% because they don't have a massive debt like we do. Greece (5.86%) and Portugal (3.51%) are paying a premium for being risky - not currency risk, they all borrow in euros - but default risk.

The UK is paying 2.73% and Spain 2.72%, practically identical. That's a bit surprising. Are we really equal in the default risk? The Spanish economy is supposed to be flat-lining.

Well, let's have a look at the cost of insuring sovereign debt against default. The so-called credit-default-swap (CDS) market. Here is the cost in percent of insuring debt for 5 years... (Source)

So the UK is actually the cheapest to insure. According to the markets we are the least likely to default on payments. Spain is more that three times as risky as the UK. Even Germany is just sliver more likely to default than the UK.

To square our low default risk with our (relatively) high cost of borrowing we can only assume that the markets are pricing in a fall in the value of sterling. According to the markets, if you buy UK bonds you risk losing money, not because of default, but because of a fall in the value of the pound vs the euro.

Maybe it's time to buy something European.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Gulf War 3 - This time it's not personal

A quick recap. Back in 1990 Iraq president Saddam Hussein noticed that his neighbour to the south, Kuwait, was encroaching by moving the rocks that marked the border, and was also helping itself to Iraqi oil by means of some creative sideways drilling from their side of the border. Saddam resolved to teach the tiny nation a lesson by annexing it. Being a cautious fellow he checked out his plan with the Americans first.

US ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie was dully consulted and advised that the USA was unconcerned about Arab-on-Arab conflicts and gave him the green light (the go-ahead coming originally from her boss Secretary of State James Baker.)

So in August 1990 Iraqi troops entered Kuwait and had conquered the whole country a few hours later.

At which point the then world's bigger oil producer Saudi Arabia caught fright thinking they were next on Saddam's list and persuaded US president George Bush Snr to kick the Iraqis out of Kuwait. A coalition of 34 nations was put together and a big military presence was built up in Saudi. This was called Operation Desert Shield.

Iraq was attacked from Saudi in Operation Desert Spear. Needless to say the Americans (with a bit of British and other help) won easily. This was Gulf War I. It cost $60bn, and most of the cost was paid for by Saudi Arabia. Saddam was left in office as president of a much weaker Iraq.

This war could generally be considered "a success". The mission objective was achieved. Someone else paid most of the bill.

President George Bush Snr only got one term in office and was succeeded by Bill Clinton at the start of 1993. Clinton had his problems in office (the Oval Office mainly) but he didn't actually declare war on anyone and served two terms as president, ie until January 2001.

George Bush Jnr, "Dubya" to his friends, son of the previous President Bush, was "elected" president in 2001, despite receiving fewer votes than his rival Al Gore - for a month or so no-one really knew who had won. Nine months into Dubya's presidency nine-eleven happened and America went to war in Afghanistan. By 2003 Afghanistan was deemed done and attention turned back to Iraq.

By this time Tony Blair was PM in the UK and was getting on quite well with Dubya. Dubya seems to have decided to pick up where his pa left off and have another crack at Saddam. Blair, playing the Thatcher role, was right behind him. Some dodgy dossiers alleging that Saddam was building "Weapons of Mass Destruction" were downloaded from the Internet and published far and wide. The British parliament voted; the UN security council voted; and before you know it Gulf War II was born.

Gulf War I was reactive to Iraqi actions; albeit actions the US had originally condoned.

Gulf War II was more of a: let's have a war and think of a reason afterwards. Both the main players, Dubya and Blair, were walking in the footsteps of previous leaders much greater than them: Dubya, his father; Blair, Mrs Thatcher. This was a war born out of the insecurity of two of the most powerful men in the world.

Thus in March 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom began. Half a million Iraqis were killed and the basic invasion was over by April. Saddam ran away (he was captured in December that year and executed in 2006) Baghdad was taken and statues were toppled. However American and allied forces were kept busy in Iraq dealing with insurgencies until 2011, ie Dubya never finished the job and left it as work-in-progress for Obama who took over in 2009.

Saddam Hussein was not a strongly sectarian leader. His regime was essentially Sunni but he had Christians in his government, and even women.

After the invasion the Americans ran the country by decree for a year, during which time they passed laws allowing "foreign investment" ie asset stripping, and granting immunity from all civil and criminal court actions for foreign contractors.

Then a Shiite called Allawi was elected prime minister. He lasted a year and was succeeded by another Shiite called al-Jaafari , who, topically, was educated at Mosul university. He lasted a year and then al-Maliki, also Shiite, took over in 2006.

Meanwhile all the Sunnis Saddam used to employ as army officers, civil servants and the like, were out of work and feeling the odium of being an oppressed minority. However, since Iraq is a Shia majority country there hasn't been much they can do about it.

It has to be said that al-Maliki has not attempted any sort of inclusive or conciliatory government. All his appointments to high office have been Shiites. He has openly hob-nobbed with the Shiite elite in Iran.

Now it seems the Sunnis  have finally got their act together to do something about this "unfair" situation. Sunnis are 70% of all muslims. Al Qaeda is Sunni. The Saudis are Sunni; 99% of all muslims in the UK are Sunni. So the new kid on the block, Sunni ISIS, can expect money to be lavished on it, and foreign fighters to come flocking to its banner.

This is where it all gets a bit confusing. The Saudis would naturally like ISIS to take over in Baghdad. The Saudis have major behind-the-scenes pull in America. Taking the US presidency requires money and money comes from Saudi. Bushes Snr and Jnr were both "oil men" ie, beneficiaries of Saudi largess. But Obama is more of a Israeli pawn, and he will be in office through the end of 2016. So the strong Sunni alignment isn't there. It looks like even the Shiite mother ship Iran is coming in out of the cold. The old instinctive animosity isn't there at the moment. (Iran has been PNG to America since the CIA-employed Shah was kicked out in February 1979. The embassy hostage crisis of November 1979 didn't help.)

At the moment, the Americans don't care if a Shiite regime runs Iraq. The media offensive to build up ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as a major villain in the mould of Saddam Hussein or Bin Liner hasn't really got any steam behind it and the America sheeple have not been revved up to get boots on the ground. The Saudis aren't getting traction with the White House and Israelis don't care enough to make anything happen.

So Gulf War III? Mainly a low-key affair consisting of drone strikes and persuading other countries to do the grunt work and accept the inevitable body bags.