November 2010

27 November 2010
Stuff I learnt in Germany last week
  1. Bi-lingual children become mono-lingual at about the age of six.  At that point fitting in at school is more important than fitting in at home.  Presumably, they never entirely lose the ability to understand or speak the deprecated language.  I hope so anyway.
  2. Germans are not happy at the prospect of being asked to work until 70 so that Greeks can retire at 60.
  3. Only two German states (Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg) are net contributors to the national budget.  The Ruhr ain’t what it was.  This is rather frightening.  Because if every country in Europe is bust except Germany and every part of Germany is bust apart from the South the bailouts are not going to last long.
  4. Women feel safe to walk around Munich at night.
  5. Actually, Munich is a really nice city.
  6. Germans like their training courses.  If there’s an activity and that activity has a training course they’ll have the training first thank you very much.
  7. I would love to comment on the beer but, sadly due to my under-developed taste buds, for the most part it all seemed the same.  But none of it was bad.  So, I guess it was good.
  8. Germans are big on winter tyres. 
  9. Germans smoke in groups.  One of them decides it’s time to light up and so they all get up and go outside.  One out, all out, so to speak.
  10. I still don’t understand the Germans.  Every other country in Europe, yes (well, as well as I can) but Germany, no. It remains mysterious, unpredictable.
Hokey-cokey sectarian!? Who knew?
...this from the same church spokesman who two years ago supported a claim that choruses of the Hokey-Cokey could be regarded as sectarian abuse because of comic references to the rituals of Mass.
All part of the fun of Scottish football. Croziervision respectfully asks readers to try not to laugh.

26 November 2010
Sometimes when I confront the appalling financial mess the UK (see Wat Tyler for some of the gory details) is in I come up with some sort of wizard wheeze for solving it. One of my favourites is the one line bill that states that all government pension promises are hereby null and void. Another is a return to the tax-payer franchise (no representation without (net) taxation).

And then I think: "Do I really want this to be solved constitutionally?" There is so much unpicking that has to be done of taxes and regulations and contracts and international agreements that I doubt it's even possible. I don't doubt the horror, at least initially, of a constitutional collapse, especially with so many members of the population convinced socialists (of one flavour or another) but it seems to me to be the only way of sweeping away the Sargasso Sea of government.

14 November 2010
How depressing was the Depression?

Howard Katz thinks not much:

“The period of the early 1930s was one of the best (economic) times in American history…”

And he has some data to prove it.  What do I think?  I have no idea.

13 November 2010
Why I don’t wear a poppy

1.  I don’t know what these people do.

2.  I am stingy.

3.  I don’t like charity.  This is partly because I am (as I said) stingy.  Partly because I don’t like guilt trips.  Partly because I get nothing from it.  Actually, that’s not quite true.  I rather like the Remembrance paraphernalia.  I like the sight of poppies.  I like the ceremonies, the Cenotaph, the Unknown Soldier, the Two-Minute Silence.  I think they are marvellously dignified.  (I was at Heathrow Airport a couple of years ago when it was called and, blow me down, it was observed!  Any foreigner there must have thought we were nuts.)  I like the collective message that is sent out to the world at about this time: “We had two appalling wars and we have not forgotten.”  Oh and the international confusion: “What are they wearing?” - it causes.  I like the fact that we share precisely the same poppy-wearing business with the Canadians (and probably a few other former colonies too).  Maybe, if the buying of the poppy were separated from the giving to charity I wouldn’t mind so much.

On this subject, Brian made some interesting points about charities a few years ago.  I am not entirely sure if I agree with him.

It occurs to me that he also made a rather good point in a speech to an Libertarian Alliance conference (this time talking about political correctness) about “package deals” (of which this is one): where along with the good stuff (being nice to black people) you get a whole load of bad stuff (speech codes, state violence etc)

4.  The black plastic centre.  This used to bear the words “Haig Fund”.  Because the appeal was in aid of the Haig Fund, the fund set up by Field Marshal Haig to aid veterans of the First World War.  About 20 years ago, at a time when the “Blackadder” school of history had managed to convince the world that the guy was a callous bungler, these words were changed to “Poppy Appeal”.  This has always struck me as an act of appalling cowardice.  And I don’t think I should be giving my money to cowards.

So, if they changed the words back would you buy a poppy?  Probably not.  But if they separated the poppy from the charity I probably would.

But, Crozier, “Haig Fund” is a charity.  How can you have something that mentions a charity but isn’t actually connected to it? Errrrr.  Hmm, yes that is a bit of a hole.

But, Crozier, the Chinese went mental when they saw Dave and Co wearing poppies.  Isn’t that excuse enough?  Almost.  Given that Dave has managed to anger both the Chinese and students in the same week I really should have more sympathy for the guy but the problem is I don’t think he means it.

5.  I am very suspicious of universal conventions.

Do you walk around naked?  OK, there are some universal conventions I respect.  Why this one and not that one?  Dunno.  Because it feels right.  Given long enough I could probably intellectualize it but I can’t just this minute.