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The retiring type

Props to President Hollande for mindless optimism in the face of harsh realities.

France’s new socialist government cut the country’s retirement age in the face of the eurozone’s deepening crisis, citing “social justice” to explain a move that goes against austerity efforts across the region.
Workers who entered employment aged 18 will be able to retire at 60 rather than 62, under the decree agreed at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
The decision follows pre-election promises from the new president Francois Hollande to reverse the rise in the retirement age introduced by his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010.

Actually, props to him for keeping an election promise. I thought politicians weren’t supposed to do that anymore? Perhaps it’s a French thing. And perhaps France is currently able to make it work. I know next to nothing about France’s economic situation or how this move will affect it, but I’m prepared to believe that at least in the short term the answers could be ‘not bad’ and ‘not much’ respectively. But assuming that France, like most western nations, has an ageing population how well does lowering the retirement age work in the longer term? As in the kind of time which will likely see the man who’s now the new president happily retired and writing his memoirs.

You see, the thing about ideals such as social justice is that mathematics really doesn’t give two fifths of a faint fuck about them, and so if the tax base isn’t there to support all a state’s retirees plus its other spending – and of course this is a point some countries have already passed – then it’s just not there. Borrowing to make up the difference will keep things going a bit longer but eventually even that won’t be enough, though by then you’ll have a lot of people expecting to get what they’d been promised years earlier and a lot more expecting the same or better when it’s their turn, and Greece is an indicator of how that could turn out.

Alternatively a state could take a different approach: leave retirement age to be sorted out between individuals and their employers.

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Europe giveth and Europe taketh away

On the plus side of the ledger this time Europe, or to be precise the European Court of Human Rights, has givethed ith blething… sorry, its blessing on the extradition of Abu Hamza to the United States.

The judges gave a final ruling on six extradition cases in a verdict which effectively passed judgment on whether America’s treatment of terrorist suspects amounts to “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” in breach of the European human rights code.
They decided it would be lawful for five of the six to be jailed for the rest of their lives in a so-called ‘super-max’ prison.
The ruling stated that the five, including radical preacher Abu Hamza, would not be subject to “ill-treatment” at ADX Florence, a so-called ‘super-max’ prison. The court adjourned its decision on Haroon Rashid Aswat pending consideration of further complaints lodged by him.

So a win, or at least most of a win.

The ruling granted the men the right to appeal to the court’s Grand Chamber, meaning any extradition could be some time away.

A wi?

Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “very pleased” by the ruling.

Really, Dave? If I had your job I’d be fucking ashamed that it’s up to a bunch of judges in a foreign court at all as well as the fact that this result doesn’t even address the whole question of it not being up to the United Kingdom to make that decision internally anymore, so if you’re satisfied with the odd decision going Britain’s way I guess we can add ‘easily pleased’ to the increasing list of your faults.

And of course there’s the takething away part that I was coming to, though it’d be more accurate to say that this is giving something that really isn’t wanted.

In Britain, even the most minor convictions for student pranks or breaches of the peace can come back to haunt jobseekers years later if they apply for positions as teachers, policemen or other “sensitive” roles.
But migrants from EU countries applying for the same jobs will be given a clean bill of health, even if they have similar convictions, because other countries either wipe the slate clean or do not keep records of low-level offences.
The problem also applies to British workers trying to get jobs in other EU countries.
[…]
Britain’s rigorous Criminal Records Bureau regime means that even convictions classed as “spent” remain on file for life and can be thrown up during background checks by potential employers anywhere in the EU.
In stark contrast, countries such as Belgium and Germany routinely destroy after just three years records of convictions resulting in prison sentences of less than six months or fines of less than 500 euros.

However, in fairness to the Europeans it must be said that this problem is entirely self inflicted. Only in Britain are there Bottom Inspectors looking forward to the day they can create lifelong criminal files on people for farting without being in possession of Class II Intestinal Waste Gas Evacuation Certificate (Adult – Unsupervised, Home/Workplace) because just about every other possible thing has been covered by legislation and can already fuck you up on a CRB check for the increasing number of jobs that seem to demand one.

May not be real.
Yet.

Nick Pickles, director of the civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: “The amount of information retained by the British police is hugely disproportionate compared to other European countries and this system will mean the serious flaws of the CRB system are exported to haunt British citizens wherever they may be in Europe.
“The huge amount of data held, often without any criminal conviction, has been a civil liberties concern for many years and yet the Home Office continue to fight to retain details of every minor misdemeanor indefinitely.”

Quite. I wonder if David Cameramong would say he was very pleased by this as well. More to the point, I wonder if the useless wanker will take his hand off it long enough to do anything about it.

Guilty ’til proven innocent (again)

Via email from Sadbutmadlad, quoted en bloc:

This is an email sent to all my contacts. I have your email address because we have been in touch at some point in the past, maybe brief, maybe dim and distant. My apologies if you have received this and no longer wish to keep in touch with me, just let me know and I’ll remove your address from my contact list.

So why have I written this email? Because Graham Mitchell, a fellow blogger and press photographer has been arrested under the European Arrest Warrant for a crime that he was acquitted of 20 years ago. He was not just found innocent on some technicality, he was found totally innocent of the crime because the victim identified other people as his attackers. However though he was free after spending 54 weeks in prison (in a story covered by the Daily Mail at the time) some 20 years later, the Portuguese authorities have found some reason (which even his lawyer can’t fathom out) to re-arrest him. Due to the Portuguese not filling out the EAW form properly he has been allowed bail, but only after he spent a short time in Wandsworth prison as a category A prisoner. He could be going to Portugal at any time, to spend weeks, possibly months in prison while waiting for his case to wend it way through the Portuguese legal system. All to be found not guilty again.

His story has been written about on http://www.annaraccoon.com where I urge you to go and read it. If you feel as strongly as I do, please pass on the link to all your contacts. Please tweet it and put it on your facebook wall as well.

The direct link to the story is http://www.annaraccoon.com/madeleine-mccann/portuguese-men-o-law/

If you’re wondering why Madeleine Mccann is in the URL above it is because it involves the same police who investigated her case so brilliantly – not! So you can see why Graham is very likely not to get a fair trail.

Do please go over to Anna Raccoon’s and read the whole thing. There’s also an update in which Anna notes that the warrant for Graham Mitchell’s arrest says that he’s wanted for murder despite the fact that the victim is alive and well, albeit paralysed from the waist down since the incident, and playing basketball. Oh, and also despite the fact that this not dead murder victim said that Mitchell was not his attacker at the original trial.

And remember that all this is possible because, thanks to the terms the UK government agreed to, any police force in the EU may issue an arrest warrant on their terms for anyone in the UK, even for things that are not even a crime under British laws, and they’re under no obligation to provide any prima facie evidence that the crime was committed, much less of the guilt of the subject of the warrant. So it shouldn’t be a surprise when they don’t. While its tempting to excoriate the previous government and its remnants on the Labour benches for this it should be borne in mind that the Cobbleition parties have not only shown approval of the EAW by failing to scrap it, they’ve gone so far as to extend the powers of other member nations’ police forces over people living in the UK by signing up to the European Investigation Order – another example of all parties in Westminster being as bad as each other.

With this in mind the obvious advice to anyone who’s ever had any run ins with any police force anywhere in the EU, even if they were subsequently found to be completely innocent of any wrongdoing, is to get out of Europe and stay out. A second option might be to begin creating a network of underground railroads so people accused of crimes they didn’t do can escape to somewhere freer. The way things are going in the EU that might turn out to be China.

Australia’s economic health

Could this be the reason why?

Admittedly I’m not all that sure if it would work with, say, retsina but with the Euro in the shitter and having been downgraded again the other day Greece may as well give anything a shot at this stage. More seriously any medium of exchange that’s hard for the state to control, and of course take its slice from, can’t be a bad thing. Joking aside I wouldn’t be surprised if this is already going on anyway.

Euro-trash? Moi?

According to the Grauniad, via the Filthy Engineer, that’s exactly what I am (him too). In my defence I’ll say that a few questions really didn’t have any valid answer for me but not being allowed to skip them I clicked the least inapplicable one instead. Still, 1% eh? Not bad for someone who hasn’t lived there for years and feels absolutely no loyalty to the place at all, and presumably a score of Euro-trash makes me so European that I can sing about masturbation on TV. And there I was always thinking I couldn’t carry a tune.

Chutzpah overload

David Cameron, not so much a gift that keeps on giving as a hypocrite who keeps on talking.

David Cameron has attacked the “madness” of European regulations and taxes in a speech to global business leaders in Davos, Switzerland. The Prime Minister said Europe is still at a “perilous time” because of its debts and must stop throttling growth with excessive bureaucracy.

Ahahahahahaha. Ahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

He said European leaders must stop destroying jobs and growth by “tinkering” with regulations and “hoping we’ll drift to a solution”.

Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.Oohooo.

He said: “In the name of social protection, the EU has promoted unnecessary measures that impose burdens on businesses and governments, and can destroy jobs.”

Come on, Davey boy, this is pots and kettles meeting motes and beams and settling down to raise a nice little family of über-hypocrisy. You’ve got a national debt that has grown so mindfuckingly huge even by conservative estimates that wrapping your head round it is only possible by means of weird thought experiments, you’ve got huge numbers on the rock and roll because they don’t have skills and their labour is worth less than the six quid an hour – as someone at Davos has kindly pointed out – you’ve got heaps of rules, laws and regulations, more than a few originating in the EU and gold plated by Whitehall to a standard of stupidity not actually demanded by Europe in the first place, all making life for small businesses just that bit more difficult when compared to their large competitors who can more easily hire an extra body or two to deal with red tape… and all that’s before we get to taxation and the 50% income tax rate that probably isn’t putting anything extra into the kitty and looks like it’s being kept for political reasons, import duties that are keeping manufacturing jobs abroad, and a shitty rate of 20% for VAT. Oh, and contrary to popular belief the Cobbleition hasn’t cut a single penny of expenditure and is in fact going through money even faster than Gordon Brown’s government.

Now, we all know that much of this is how it is because that’s what the Cobbleition inherited from Labour, so I’m not having a go at them for causing it. I’m not even having a go at them for failing to fix it, or not as such. I’m having a go because, as I’ve said numerous times, they’re doing much the same bloody things as Labour did and that there really doesn’t seem to be a fucking Rizla paper between them. Yes, they’ve planned to spend a little less than Labour had planned to spend, but when you’re two to four trillion in the hole and the economy’s in the shitter then something has to give, so I think it’s pretty likely that Labour would have scaled back those spending plans in the unlikely event they’d won. Other than that the government is basically pro-EU while talking tough on Europe, pro-tax and redistribution, pro-regulation and state control (though against regulation and control of the state, of course), pro-nannying and paternalism, and against letting people get on with their lives. Oh, and by their inaction I assume they’re anti-undoing even the most egregious legislation of the previous governments (Great Repeal Bill? Where’d it go?). Different on some specifics but broadly much the same breed of authoritarian cock sockets, and here we have the authoritarian cock socket-in-chief ripping into his counterparts for doing more or less what he’s either doing off his own back or carrying on from the Brown days through not having any better ideas.

I couldn’t stand Gordon Brown and still hold him in great contempt, but I really am coming to loath David Cameron with a passion.

Celebration time

Three things that are making me a happy Exile at the moment, though they didn’t happen all at once. First, late last week, a return of my interweb connection and hopefully an end to the interweb conniptions thanks to a man who took away some shitty old wiring and some money and left behind some shiny new wiring. Second, and still pending though really it looks like just a matter of time, is Australia heading towards a win in the fourth test against India, which will be a whitewash for the series. And third is Australia Day, a day for wearing Aussie flag themed bikinis, wrestling in Vegemite (optionally whilst wearing Aussie flag themed bikinis) and racing ferries in Sydney harbour – and people wonder why I stopped drinking – oh, and the First Fleet something something something.

But I have to say that I don’t think that’s the norm and that Aussies in general have a better grasp of their identity and history than many Brits, or more specifically many English, do of theirs – all the Vegemite bikini ferry wrestling means is that they’re imaginative about finding ways to celebrate it. Whether making 23rd April a bank holiday would help I don’t know, though I feel it’d need an explanation about what an 1800 year dead Syrian has to do with England in the first place. More problematic is that there isn’t really a single stand out date for England to point at and feel good about itself that means quite the same as January 26th does to Aussies or July 4th does to Americans. Nobody really has any idea when England was first settled and nor is there a particular date that was crucial to its independence as a nation. Maybe that’s a less practical reason for giving the EU the flick – there’d actually be a date where people could wave a few flags and, if timed for the summer month, wear Union flag swimwear and wrestle in Marmite. There could even be bus racing.

Or not.

 

Is this the same Nick Clegg?

Click for linky

On Friday night, François Fillon, the French prime minister, interrupted an official visit to Brazil to call Mr Clegg to “clarify” his recent comments that Britain’s credit rating should be reviewed.
The Deputy PM told Mr Fillon that his recent remarks and those by other senior French figures had been “simply unacceptable and that steps should be taken to calm down the rhetoric”.

Yeah, I know. Being told off by Nick Clegg. It sounds like being savaged by a kitten that’s been quite heavily sedated, doesn’t it? But you know, I reckon he meant it. He might even have meant it more than Cameron meant to say ‘no’ to the Merkozy being last week, and I wouldn’t rule out Clegg going for the full diplospeak version of je t’encule in the future.

Because I think Cleggy boy has noticed something. His reluctant BFF next door has suddenly become more popular with the electorate. Undeserved, perhaps, but even if Cameron stood up to the EU for Britain by complete accident he’d have got some political capital out of it, and Cleggy probably fancies a little of it for himself. Hang on, he may be thinking to himself, there’s votes in this Euroscepticism thingy. And let’s face it, for a man who’s only a liberal or a democrat as and when it suits him it’s not impossible that he might decide to be a Europhile only when it’s worth his while as well.

To paraphrase Marx – Groucho, that is – these are Nick’s principles and if you don’t like them he has others.

Do you have to be a European to believe the Euro is not all but dead?

And does the head in the sand approach mean greater problems when it finally keels over? Some certainly think so.

TOP US military officer General Martin Dempsey has admitted he is ”extraordinarily concerned” about the euro’s survival, pointing to potential civil unrest and the break-up of the European Union.

”The euro zone is at great risk,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, giving the strongest indication yet about the depth of Washington’s concerns over Europe’s financial tumult.

”We are extraordinarily concerned by the health and viability of the euro because in some ways we’re exposed literally to contracts but also because of the potential of civil unrest and break-up of the union that has been forged over there,” General Dempsey said.

I can’t help feeling that if the US are getting the Joint Chiefs of Staff involved they’re very, very worried over there. We all know that Americans aren’t allowed to die for any reason at all any more, and there are many tens of thousands of them in Europe at any one time. Warnings from economists may carry the weight of expertise but when a major power’s military starts talking about it it sounds like someone somewhere now expects the worst.

Has David Cameron grown a set?

Click for linky

Or could he see that capitulation would leave him even more unelectable than Gordon Brown was? Still, as plenty of other bloggers have pointed out it’s probably not enough and he’ll either be railroaded into it later or be forced to think the unthinkable and talk about leaving the EU.

My money’s on the first one. I’m sure the Civil Service do his thinking for him.

Timely

Via the Eye.

Gissa currency

Actually 17 currencies might be better. You could call them Francs, Marks, Punts, Pesetas, Drachmas…..

Silencing of dissent

Yesterday the Snowolf put up a video that was put on YouTube, apparently by the European Central Bank if the user name is any guide, in celebration of the Euro and its forthcoming tenth birthday. Wolfers suggests that with Europe’s current financial problems and the part the single currency has played no small amount of chutzpah must have been needed to post a video celebrating that, but he notes something else interesting.

Perhaps a little surprisingly (or not) the owners of the video have decided to disable comments on it.

No room for dissent, Comrades.

No room indeed, though when has the EU or its institutions ever shown much interest in what people think? However, in the spirit of freedom of expression, as enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, I’ve re-uploaded their video with commenting enabled and the following message:

Original video by YouTube user ecbeuro at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0YrRM7yee0
The European Central Bank has chosen not to allow comments on its video, and given current issues within the EU I feel this is disappointing and undemocratic from an institution ultimately dependent on taxpayers. Accordingly I’m re-uploading the video with comments enabled, which I feel is fair dealing under the law where I currently live (Australian Copyright Act 1968 – for the purpose of criticism or review (s41, s103A)) and fair use in the US where YouTube is based.

All rights to the video and soundtrack remain with its creators. I will happily remove this copy if the original opens to criticism/review in the form of YouTube comments.

Will YouTube take it down and give me a smack on the wrist over copyright or will my bit about the undemocratic lack of comments on the original and appeal of fair dealing be enough to keep it where it is? If it goes it’ll reappear on EyeTube, though not if the ECB enable commenting on theirs, but I hope YouTube will see what I’m getting at. In the meantime you can watch the ECB version either at Wolfers’ or at the link above, and if you want to be able to comment on the single currency then you can do it on the one I put up instead. At least for the time being.

You know something’s in bad shape when…

… when its creators begin to turn against it. Ladies and genitals, I give you former president of the European Commission Jacques Delors, who believes the Euro is fucked.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Jacques Delors, the former president of the European Commission, claims that errors made when the euro was created had effectively doomed the single currency to the current debt crisis

Admittedly he doesn’t actually say it’s fucked and he is saying that it would all have gone swimmingly if it had been done his way, but all the same there’s quite a bit he says that a lot of people would agree with.

Mr Delors claims that the current crisis stems from “a fault in execution” by the political leaders who oversaw the euro in its early days. Leaders chose to turn a blind eye to the fundamental weaknesses and imbalances of member states’ economies, he says.
“The finance ministers did not want to see anything disagreeable which they would be forced to deal with,” he says.

Can’t argue with that, and nor can I argue with some bits from the interview proper because they sound very similar to what I’ve said more than once myself.

It is a fault in the execution, not of the architects, which he claimed to have pointed out in 1997 when the plans for introducing the euro finally came together. At the time, he says, the best of the eurosceptic economists, whom he refers to as “the Anglo-Saxons”, raised the simple objection that if you have an independent central bank, you must also have a state.
Mr Delors thinks “they had a point”, but the way round this problem was to insist on the economic bit of the union as much as the monetary. As well as creating a single currency, you also had to create common economic policies “founded on the co-operation of the member states”.
I get the impression from Mr Delors that he thinks Mrs Thatcher would have agreed with this view. She certainly would not have agreed, however, on the Delors version of what that co-operation should produce — the harmonisation of most taxes, plans to deal with youth and long-term unemployment, and that social dimension for which he always called…

And when the Euro finally goes tits up the call will be for exactly that and possibly more. I’ve said it in comments on several other blogs as well as once or twice here – the former colonies in America formed the United States first and created their single currency later, and there will be Europhiles and Eurocrats who will seize on this as evidence that the EU attempted to put the cart before the horse and call for the full and immediate federalisation of Europe so that Son-of-Euro can be launched as quickly as possible. A United States of Europe wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if it was a federation of competing states, but does anyone think that’s even a remote possibility if it’s constructed on the foundations of what’s now the EU?

Not. A. Prayer.

We make jokes about the EUSSR now, but I reckon it’s not half as bad as it could be if formal union were to occur any time soon. It’s already been pointed out before that the European Commission and Parliament are not unlike the Politburo and Supreme Soviet, and if all the borrowed money had to be repaid it won’t even look as cheery as 1980s Gorky in the winter.

If they fail and the Euro fails with them it might only be the silver lining round a nasty looking cloud. The breakup of the EU is being warned, but if that sounds good to you my advice would be not to get your hopes up. More likely it’ll be patched together to save egos and careers as the architects of half a billion people’s misfortune say that the death of the single currency is not proof that Europe should remain a continent of independent nations but proof of the need for a federal Europe.

Questions to which the answer is "No"

Cick for linky

… the question arises, should the rest of the world take over management of Europe to prevent or mitigate disaster? Specifically, should the US Federal Reserve assume leadership as a monetary superpower and impose policy on a paralyzed ECB, acting as a global lender of last resort?

And for the answer I think we should turn to one of those well worn graphical illustrations of how deep America’s debt rabbit hole goes. This one is an excellent example from usdebt.kleptocracy.us. The first image shows the approximate US public debt by the end of the year if it was a piles of actual size $100 bills compared to quite a famous landmark, and the second shows that plus its unfunded liabilities.

If you’ve read the captions on those images (you can embiggerfy, or better yet go look at the original where you can see a similar representation of the US budget for 2011) you’ll have noticed that the first of those, the $15 trillion pile, is roughly the size of the Gross Domestic Product for the entire United States. In fact the captions are a little out of date – US debt will not now reach 100% of GDP by Christmas 2011 because that happened four weeks ago.

So actually the answer to the question of whether the US Federal Reserve should act as Europe’s lender of last resort is not just “No” – it’s “With what?”