We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Think of it more as… an opportunity

Surely nobody would be so callous as to use the Asian tsunami disaster as an excuse to try to extract money out of people by force, would they? That would be so cruel and contemptible and venal and heartless.

And true:

This last week has seen a rare and stirring demonstration of people power. Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do – or we will take it off you in tax. Either way, it’s time to start paying.

Mr. Freedland proves he is no slouch when it comes to leveraging an opportunity. He has now positioned himself perfectly to blame any post-tsunami suffering on a failure to turn the taxation screws with sufficient gusto.

Cunning to be sure but he might at least have waited a discrete period before making his move.

73 comments to Think of it more as… an opportunity

  • His claims as to the expected profits of various companies look totally bogus to me. I wish I could find the financial reports online for one of those companies, because I think he isn’t reading the report right.

    He claims that Vodafone’s profit for the fiscal year ending last May was £10bn, or about $19bn. If so, that’s stellar performance, since it’s more than twice Microsoft’s fiscal 2004 profit of $8.168bn. (I also looked up Verizon, and it seems to be making about $7bn/yr.)

  • What more does Freedland want? The world has already pledged some $2 billion in aid. That oughta last them at least a few weeks, no?

    These people are truly one-track records. Astonishing.

  • News Flash: Theft addicted Thug writes article in Guradian suggesting more force backed thuggary.

  • Stephan

    Ignorant baffoons like this fellow dont seem to possess any capabilities for rational cognitive thought. They just can’t grasp that thieving governments that extort the successful wont help worth a damn and that allowing such “evil, big companies” is exactly what will bring redevelopment to a quick pace.
    It is so typical of state lovers and interventionists everywhere.

    Stephan

  • Edward Teague

    Rule 1
    The capacity of idealists to spend other people’s money is infinite.

    Rule 2
    The authors of such schemes have a capacity to build wealth in directly inverse proportion to their desire and propensity to spend the results of others wealth building.

  • Johnathan

    Well said David. BTW, the Guardianista classes are no doubt trying to soften us all up for a further round of tax rises from Labour in the March annual budget.

  • JuliaM

    Hmm, I wonder how much (and what percentage of their income) the Guardian itself, or it’s columnists, actually sent….?

    Besides, rather than companies announcing they will send ever more increasing sums of money, in a ‘My d*** is bigger than yours’ competition, wouldn’t it be better if they sent goods or contracted for services locally, rather than cash? After all, while some of the main aid agencies are usually up front and honestly accountable, I’d hesitate to send any more money for anything ‘overseen’ by the UN, to vanish into the pockets of administrators or on their room service bills…..

  • I'm suffering for my art

    What a goose. And a moronic way to look at the situation. So we’re reduced to quibbling about fractions of profit donated, eh. Even if all the companies that this clown considers wildly profitable (and Abbey National, which he concedes made a loss, but that doesn’t deter him in the slightest in pushing his ill-considered comparisons) donated 5% of their profits, he’d probably still complain. It would constitute an enormous sum, but after all, (go on, Johnno, tell us)

    [it’s] perhaps a lot of money to you and me, but not to Vodafone, to which it is pocket change.

    So yes, when we look at it that way, 5% doesn’t really sound like much. What about 10%? Well, that would surely be unacceptable. I mean, they get to keep 90% of their ill-gotten profits!!! What a disgraceful situation! What the hey; Vodafone, BP et al should bow to Freedland’s rapier-like analysis and do the right thing; convert into not-for-profit organisations, donating freely to whatever needy cause Guardian journos identify. Better still, let’s nationalise these thieving corporations. We can be sure the new owners will busily set about making ‘em less profitable. A blow for social justice! Make those “misers”, “Britain’s super rich” pay. Take that, nasty shareholders who have the temerity to expect some return on their investments. Come to think of it, there’s a pretty good chance Johnno’s in that group; no doubt his pension plan holds assets in some of these bastard companies, or maybe he does privately. He’s taking rice and chappattis out of the mouths of tsunami victims! Shame, Johnno, shame!

  • Effra

    “A discreet period”, methinks.

    Companies should be forbidden by law to make donations for any political or charitable purpose. The whole of the net profits after tax each year should be distributed to shareholders, the owners, to dispose of as they see fit.

    BTW, it’s heartwarming for Britain’s EU-ruined fishermen to know that their taxes are helping to pay for the revival of the Sri Lankan fishing industry.

  • Dave

    If so, that’s stellar performance, since it’s more than twice Microsoft’s fiscal 2004 profit of $8.168bn. (I also looked up Verizon, and it seems to be making about $7bn/yr.)

    Vodafone is pretty much the world leader – they also own 45% of Verizon, or did – can’t recall if they sold that stake. Looking at Hoovers they have operating revenues of $61bn a year, but I can’t find the profit slice of that. They did make a loss a few years ago when they wrote off the 3G license investment.

    Why on Earth shouldn’t they be making more than MS?

  • No mention that civil war or government incompetence might have made these countries less able to plan, protect and recover from such a natural disaster.

  • Dave, I used to work in that industry. All the cellular operators have immense capital investments in operating equipment which have to be amortized, and for a long time all of them routinely operated in the red while building up their businesses. If Vodafone has suddenly become a “cash cow”, it suggests that they’re coasting and not keeping up their investment in equipment for upgrades and to improve coverage.

  • Mavan

    Hang on. Hang on.

    On the one hand we have 100’s of millions of people with destroyed lives: no food, houses, jobs or future.

    On the other hand we have companies like Vodafone and Tesco who make untold riches each year, who really could make a substantial difference to the lives of hundreds of millions of people. But chose not to.

    We then have people leaving messages on blogs saying that corporate charity donations should be banned and that British fishermen must resent helping Sri Lankans.

    Now, I might be unusual, but I find that situation rather sick.

  • Stehpinkeln

    I know it’s bad form to attack the source, but when the Guardian is the source, it is often the quickest way to settle the matter. What the Guardian is guarding is Socialism, so of course EVERYTHING they print is slanted toward their agenda, which is a World State. With them in charge, of course. If they can’t spin it they don’t print it.
    ANY major project that involves billions of Dollars, Pounds or Euros is a form of wealth redistribution. Aid supplies don’t grow on trees. The Guardian is just pissed because they are too stoooopid to figure out how to get a chunk of the swag. I’m willing to help them with that.
    Some thought needs to given now to feeding the hungry a few months down the road, after the klieg lights have moved on. Chickens. They produce eggs and are tasty if treated properly. Plus the Guardian could serve a higher purpose lining the floor of the coop.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    “A discreet period”, methinks.

    Re. Effra’s post and a great many others – why are so many members of the commentariat hopeless pedants? It doesn’t make your argument any stronger. In fact, in most peoples’ eyes it marks you out as a windbag and a bore. I believe a pedant is either insecure or immature. Actually, most likely both. Who cares if there’s a spelling error? Error in syntax? Grammatical error? As long as one understands what is being communicated, there is no need for correction.

  • Stehpinkeln

    Mavan, what you and the Guardian don’t seem to understand is that those corporations don’t Keep that money, they pay it out to their stockholders. Google the term “Owners Equity”
    That is what makes the moroon who wrote the article and the Idjit who gave him the assignment so amusing. They lack any understanding of how the world actually works. If you want to see what Vodafone and Tesco actually contributed, you need to match their stockholder list to a list of aid donors. But that would require a lot of work. Journalists don’t get into journalism because they like to work.
    I’m gonna keep this as simple as posssible. A corporation constists of 3 things. Assets, Liabilities and Owners Equity. What is left when ones subtracts Liabilities ( what the Corp. owes) from Assets ( what the Corp. owns) belongs to the stockholders (Owners). This is an extremly simplified explanation, one that I hope you can understand.

  • Dave

    Dave, I used to work in that industry

    Well, Steve, I work in that industry right now ;) – in fact I was having lunch at your old employers HQ about 3 weeks ago.

    Vodafone took a £6bn ($11bn) hit in 2003 when they wrote off their entire 3G spend in one fiscal year – it’s allowed them to start with a clean sheet, so to speak. They certainly are spending a reasonable amount on investment, particularly in inventory management and service delivery. They’re probably leading the world right now in UI design for driving customer ARPU.

    There are some significant differences in the business models of the large old GSM operators and US carriers – although now the US is shifting towards GSM that is changing… anyway, this is a little off topic. Email me if you want to know more…

  • Dave

    From the Vodafone website, the delcared operating profit for 6 months to September 2004 was £5.7bn – so he’s extrapolating by multiplying by 2. Not something I’d recommend. But I suppose it’s good enough for government work.

    Apparently they now have 146.7m customers worldwide. Pretty amazing though.

  • GCooper

    Never mind the ravings of Freedland and his fellow socialist clowns, I’m still furious over this bloody three minutes silence. What half-wit came up with this pathetic display of feeling someone else’s pain?

    Is there going to be an incremental extra minute for each and every tragedy that comes along? Will the next 9/11 or earthquake demand four minutes? And five minutes for the one after that? How long before it’s the regulation half an hour’s feet shuffling and arse scratching following the loss of someone’s pussycat up a tree?

    A single, solitary minute was deemed good enough for the fallen of the Great War. So what does the extra minute achieve other than a touchy-feely glow for all those standing round in the rain?

    Oh, of course. It shows how much we care.

  • Luniversal

    Apparently the three-minute interlude was at the behest of the European Union. Of course, that lot always take that much longer to achieve anything;-)

  • Effra

    “As long as one understands what is being communicated, there is no need for correction”

    But I didn’t. Did he MEAN “discrete”?

  • Mavan

    Stehpinkeln,

    I (and probably Jon Freedland) understand fully what a corporation is. I understand what stockholders are, and I understand what owners equity means. I understand how the system works.

    The point is that a system that allows millions to be suffering without food and shelter at the same time as corporations rack up billions of pounds of profit without offering much help IS A BAD SYSTEM.

    I am not attacking Tesco personally, I am attacking the system that fosters the whole distasteful sight of rich companies celebrating record profits whilst 100’s of millions are suffering and in need of help.

  • Verity

    G Cooper, if I were anywhere in Britain or Europe, I would ostentatiously walk around shopping and chatting loudly into a mobile phone during that obscene three minute silence. It’s disgusting.

    This silence creep began, as did so much else that is vapid and faux, with Diana. One minute for the fallen on the battlefield who died so that millions might live in liberty. Two minutes for a pretty but thick pain in the neck who died in a car crash with her Arab boyfriend after a night of aimlessly driving around jewellery stores and restaurants in Paris.

    Now three minutes for … what? Being a victim? If I remember rightly, in Europe they had a silence for the victims of the Madrid bombings. How soon before we have a four minute silence every time someone dies in a traffic accident – or dies in hospital?

    Of course, I am sorry that these people in south Asia died so horrifically, but not one of them was of any consequence to the states of Britain or Europe. We owe them no gratitude (as we do to the people who died fighting for us).

    The flying of the flag at half mast used to be a profound and grave symbol. This is one more step in Tony Blair’s drive to sideline the monarchy. In Tony Blair’s eyes, not a sparrow falls that cannot be turned into a photo op.

  • Verity

    Mavan – I am attacking the system that fosters the whole distasteful sight of rich companies celebrating record profits whilst 100’s of millions are suffering and in need of help.

    Well, why don’t they just buy shares in Tesco?

  • toolkien

    The point is that a system that allows millions to be suffering without food and shelter at the same time as corporations rack up billions of pounds of profit without offering much help IS A BAD SYSTEM.

    I am not attacking Tesco personally, I am attacking the system that fosters the whole distasteful sight of rich companies celebrating record profits whilst 100’s of millions are suffering and in need of help.

    The fact that you only see things in terms of ‘one system’ is the root of the problem. There is no ‘one system’ but a plethora of systems. No individual or entity has an obligation to help anyone. They may or may not, as they see fit, whether it is altruistic or smart business to do so. But they should never be forced to do so to fit your conception of ‘the system’.

    The people who died made the choice to live or vacation where they did. No one forced them to (by and large). They were making their way through life as best they could against the vagaries of life. The fact that they didn’t assess the risks properly is no one else’s fault. Simply because an individual or association, completely separate and disinterested, is successful in making their way through life is no reason that a claim should be made against their success.

    You may go ahead and state your opinion that those who are properous should make some allocation voluntarily, and that is simply part of the culture. But if start talking about ‘systems’ it connotes a State who uses force to make reallocations between unrelated, disinterested parties. That position is contrary to the thinking of the large part of the people who write or comment here.

    Your support of a system that forcibly reallocates destroys individual value systems. You seek to superimpose your system of value over that which other people have created, thereby cancelling it out. You assert that your system of value is superior to a point that force should be used to make it efficacious. The issue you (and collectivists in general) seem to forget is that the wealth was created by severality and the set of values associated with it, and it is hypocritical then to cull from it after the fact. You seek to undo liberty, simply looking at the results and centrally making reallocations based on your values. You are welcome to your conviction. I just hope that you use persuasive means versus force.

  • Verity

    toolkein – Masterly!

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Effra – It’s abundantly clear from the context of the statement what he meant. You were being pedantic. My criticism stands.

  • Mavan

    Toolkien, I’m not sure what on earth made you think I was about to use force to make Tesco donate more money; maybe you had visions of me driving up to their headquarters in a tank? Anyway, let me reassure you that I won’t.

    But, let me respond to a couple of your points.

    You seek to undo liberty

    Well, perhaps. But it seems to me that you (with your anti-state, anti-taxation, anti-redistributive rant) are seeking to preserve liberty for the rich, but to deny it to the poor. This comes through most clearly when you put forward the quite ludicrous claim that “the people who died made the choice to live … where they did. No one forced them to.” I suppose you are right to say that no person forced them to, but clearly circumstances forced them to. It is quite wrong to suggest that the rural poor in India or Sri Lanka can relocate at will. I suggest you visit India to see for yourself the situation that millions find themselves living in. It seems to me to be quite wrong to want to preserve your own liberty when the cost is reducing others. A balance needs to be struct.

    That position is contrary to the thinking of the large part of the people who write or comment here.

    I’m sorry for intruding. I’ll leave you alone to complain about minutes silences and how much charity there is in the world by yourselves. Cheerio.

  • Jo

    > Think of it more as… an opportunity

    I don’t disagree that the linked article is cheap political point scoring, but quite frankly that’s what you’re doing too.

  • Verity

    Not only is it our capital markets and our entire capitalistic structure that enabled the West to hand over $2bn, just like that, as a gift … but it was the prepared, war-prepared nations that delivered it. The only ones with trained military and state-of-the-art military transport to hand. First in with supplies (before the cheques were dry – indeed, before most money had been pledged) were the Americans, the Aussies and the Singaporeans. All of them with superb armed forces and systems.

    Ireland and Sweden, living in a John Lennon dream, would have had to mail their cheques in. Or catch a commercial flight and take bags of grain on board as carry-on luggage.

  • toolkien

    Toolkien, I’m not sure what on earth made you think I was about to use force to make Tesco donate more money

    Perhaps this is part II of the difference of vision. Taxation is taken by force. If you desire the State to tax away property, they do so by force. Ergo you desire to use force. Whether it is an agent you hire or you yourself drive up in a tank, it makes little difference to Tesco.

    I suppose you are right to say that no person forced them to, but clearly circumstances forced them to …

    What do the circumstances of people in Indonesia or Sri Lanka have to do with the circumstances of a provider of services in Britain or anywhere else? One person’s misfortune is not another person’s (or entity’s) concern unless they desire to make it so based on their value system. I’m beset by all sorts of circumstances. Shall I lay a claim on you to rectify them?

    It seems to me to be quite wrong to want to preserve your own liberty when the cost is reducing others

    I’m not reducing anyone else’s liberty. I demand to be left at liberty to make my why through the losing propistion that is life. They have their circumstances and I have mine. If I am bound hand and foot to mitigate other people’s problems, I am left without the resources to mitigate my own. Need is endless. Need existed before this natural event. Need will exist after. I will not be compelled to sacrifice for anyone. I will not have my life and labor confiscated because you (et al) feel that I must.

    But it seems to me that you (with your anti-state, anti-taxation, anti-redistributive rant) are seeking to preserve liberty for the rich, but to deny it to the poor.

    You, as do all collectivists, somehow define liberty as an equality of outcomes. That is your frame of reference, and the indestructible paradigm you live by. Again you decide to sweep away all the behaviors and values that make rich people rich. It is that ‘tidal wave’ of meaninglessness that makes poor people poor, and it dwarfs the likes of this tsunami. More people have been enslaved and done to death by man-made collectivist ideologies than any natural disaster ever will.

    That position is contrary to the thinking of the large part of the people who write or comment here.

    I’m sorry for intruding. I’ll leave you alone to complain about minutes silences and how much charity there is in the world by yourselves. Cheerio.

    It’s not up to me to welcome you or steer you away. I was just giving you a heads-up that your position is likely to be contradicted perpetually, and you aren’t likely to change anyone’s mind. I’d certainly be interested in a concise argument which clearly states that individuals and entities are directly interested parties and should be compelled to give their property to others, without relying on some (quasi)-theocratic principal.

  • Maybe we ought to turn to the big companies and say: you can no longer have it both ways. Either you give as generously as we do – or we will take it off you in tax.

    Corporations give to tsunami relief

    Pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. said it will give $10 million to local and international relief organizations as well as $25 million worth of health care products, including anti-infective products Zithromax, Zyvox and Diflucan and will match contributions by its employees

    I see the Evil Yankee Corporations are out to screw the little man again. /sarcasm

  • Richard Easbey

    Toolkien:

    I’m SO glad you’re on our side. Mavan just doesn’t get it.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Toolkien: This could be your finest blogging hour. That’s what I call lucidity!

    Verity: An excellent post. Great insight. Wholly agree.

    Preaching to the choir is kinda sucky, but sometimes it scares me how right we are.

  • Edward Teague

    Verity
    Curiously, Our Dear Leader has been very restrained – my own view is the whole thing was caused by him attempting to part the Red Sea for the assembled holidaymakers at Sharm El Sheikh, and it all went horribly wrong …

    The 3 minute silence was of course an EU diktat – Continental mourners mirroring the mawkishness that the Dumb Blond Boris identified in Scouseland, an echo of the remarkable events surrounding the funeral of our own dear Queen of Hearts.

    I must add, that knowing how precise you like to be, I first read your comment to say thet TB could turn a “sparrow fart” into a photo-op with some surprise, not understanding fully how you could photographically capture such an event . I thought this was a bit of a stretch and realised after more careful scrutiny, and adjustment of my glasses, I discovered that it was a “falling sparrow” to which you alluded.

    Soaring birds are more The Dear Leader’s style…raptors preferably…. power…. blood… flesh… the kill. (Apologies to the Estate of Dr David Kelly)

  • Don’t look now but the Guardian (or one of its columnits) claims that those killed or injured in the tsunami were victims of the Iraq war.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Sorry to keep on about this, but the Guardian seems to be obsessed with proportional mathematics. What America gave to the tsumani victims is equivalent to one and a half days’ spending in Iraq. What Britain gave is equivalent to five and a half days’ spending in Iraq. Are Guardian articles written by computers? Or, in the words of Basil Fawlty, was it quicker to train a monkey?

  • Pete_London

    Edward

    Our Dear Leader is obviously champing at the bit.

    My estimate is we will need to spend from government several hundred million pounds. So we will far and away more than match the generosity of the British people, he said.

    That’s nice of him. I’d like just a million for myself. Do you think that if I ask politely he’ll let me know where the government gets theirs?

  • Al-andrew

    Hello, first post on this site.

    Vodafone generates a lot of revenue but hasn’t made a profit for years. You can get the firm’s financial statements at their website:

    http://www.vodafone.com/home/0,3044,CATEGORY_ID%253D0%2526LANGUAGE_ID%253D0%2526CONTENT_ID%253D0,00.html

    They have, as Freedland pointed out, made a substantial gross profit but this mitigated(wiped out) by a hit to “goodwill”. This happened to many other similar firm’s, eg. Nortel.

    They, in good faith, bought other firm’s, whose proprietary technologies were thought to be of great value. Their surmise was incorrect. But having spent a great deal of money on something had to accounted for. That is done by writing off goodwill. This revalues the company to reflect its true assets.

    That clothing manufacturer sitting on a million bolts of pink gingham is not likley to remain in business very long.

  • Al-andrew

    Easier link:

    (Link)

    Go to investor relations

  • Patrick B

    Clearly the next step for the Guardianistas is a proposal for a World Tax for the UN to use as disaster relief. When the immediate blather has settled over the tsunamis, the usual reports will be done, largely blaming (1) the USA; (2) Halliburton [oil drilling in the Indian Ocean]; (3) tourists [hotels built on beaches attract locals as staff etc.]; and (4) affluent nations for being “stingy” and war-like.

    The simplistic arguments Freedland uses are nevertheless persuasive to the un-informed. A World Tax, say 1% of each nation’s GDP, raised by a progressive tax on individual and corporate incomes, would be so easy to sell to the guilt-ridden hordes of brain-washed liberals in the US and Europe.

    And, like income tax, it would (1) never disappear, and (2) steadily rise.

    Maurice Strong, the dangerous eminence grise of the UN and the present Canadian government, has toyed with such an idea in the past. The Canadian Liberals, ever willing to fling themselves at daft notions, would not hesitate to get the ball rolling. And so we would be one more step down the road to world government by and for “those who know best”.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Forgive me, but I cannot help but find something rather bonkers about Verity referring to today’s three-minute silence as “obscene”. A rather hysterical choice of adjective. Hundreds of thousands of people get killed by a freak of nature. I don’t see any sort of “Diana” cult mentality in paying one’s respects to the souls of the departed after such a horrific event.

  • Verity

    Richard Easbey – Yes, having toolkein on our side makes me proud to be on our side.

  • Verity

    Jonathan – I beg to disagree. The idea of the minute’s silence was to reflect on the sacrifice that those fighting in two world wars made that we might be free. It was a moment of remembrance, gratitude and recognition of the magnitude of the sacifice they had made for us – and perhaps to reflect for a few seconds on whether we are worthy of it.

    I feel that all these silences for victims degrade the original intention. Victims, by their nature, have done nothing to be commemorated for.

    I feel governments trying to force the public to feel grief for victims they’ve never even heard of to further the governments’ victim agenda is, well, obscene.

    The place to remember the departed souls is in their own communities, by people who knew them and loved them and interacted with them. In their own churches or synagogues, or school assemblies. That would be genuine loss and would mean something.

    This is just co-opting and cheapening another, very touching, tradition. And to elevate 100,000 or more victims who died because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, over the millions who died for our freedom by according them three minutes of faux grief is sleazy politicking. (Of course, to the continentals, this tradition doesn’t have the same resonance because it was our dead [to include, of course, the brave Commonwealth and American armed forces] that won the wars and theirs that lost them.

    With respect, Jonathan, I would defend my use of the word ‘obscene’.

  • Edward Teague

    Pete London

    I heard the Dear Leader on BBC “pm” , I don’t know what he’s taking, but I want some.

    He sounded as though he had a bottomless bag of money, ministering to the disposessed, the hungry, the tired , the homeless of the world. jesus neede 40 days in the desert, the DL manages with 12 days. A hybrid from the improbable union of Mrs Proudie and the Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo.

    Loaves and fishes to follow.

    Unctuous self-serving, …. he would make a good Reverend Obadiah Slope….. where is his nemesis ?

  • dunderheid

    I take it then we should forget all about the Holocaust and its 6 million pathetic victims.

    Look I too find the over-emotionalistaion fo modern culture distasteful and agree that remembrance inflation is beginning to demean those we are trying to remember. However the vehemence of the language and feeling expressed over something which, despite it flaws, stems from compassion and sympathy is disturbing.

    I never met or had any relationship with any of those 150000 who died in the Indian Ocean; or with anyone in the Holocaust, or 9/11, or any of the 100’s of traffic deaths every year. I doesn’t mean I can’t feel a modicum of grief for their passing.

  • Verity

    dunderhead – the Holocaust is a false and cheap analogy. These people in the Indian Ocean were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were victims of an accident. They weren’t targetted for torture and murder by the millions in an attempt to eliminate their race. So please. Develop some grown-up arguments and don’t insult an entire race of people in an attempt to make a point. If you cannot do better than this, you have no point to make.

    However the vehemence of the language and feeling expressed over something which, despite it flaws, stems from compassion and sympathy is disturbing.

    Again, you seem to be arguing from a separate planet. Stems from compassion and sympathy? You think Jacques Chirac, Gerhardt Schroeder, the EU commissioners and the rest of those who serve that vast structure shed a tear because 120,000 people died in a natural disaster in south Asia?

    Don’t you understand that this is an attempt to nationalise grief? Grief by fiat! No need to go to church or synagogue to hear comforting words from priests, ministers and rabbis! The faceless EU has attended to your grief for you! You refrained from picking something off the shelf in Tesco for three minutes. You’ve done your bit!

    Again, the proper place to remember these unfortunate victims is in their own communities and workplaces, where they were known and liked or disliked as human beings, not statistics. Or attend a church or synagoge to listen to what the priest, minister or rabbi had to say.

    Frankly, I hear an echo of jackboots in this uberstate sponsored “grief”.

  • Ravi

    Verity, you seem to be changing your point mid-rant.

    Victims, by their nature, have done nothing to be commemorated for.

    But victims of the holocaust should be commemorated? Why? Targetted or not, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The proper place to remember these unfortunate victims is in their own communities. Or at least it would be if their communities weren’t all dead. So, may as well forget them, eh?

    There are many people in the UK, myself included, who have friends and relatives living in Sri Lanka and India. Is it really so outrageous for the country to come together to pay its respects to the victims of this tragedy?

  • GCooper

    Ravi writes:

    “Is it really so outrageous for the country to come together to pay its respects to the victims of this tragedy?”

    As it was I who initially raised objections to the inflationary nature of state-sponsored grief, perhaps Verity will forgive my responding directly to your point.

    Personally, I don’t give a tinker’s cuss if you and the rest of the planet wish to observe a ten week silence, in true Bill Clinton fashion, to share the pain. That is your choice.

    I do however care about being instructed or advised by some bunch of political opportunists to do so and I do consider it patently absurd that the single minute deemed sufficient tribute to those who fell in the Great War has been inflated, for no reason at all, to three minutes.

    Why three minutes? Do you somehow suppose that an Indonesian fisherman gains anything at all from this outpouring of orchestrated synchronised grieving?

  • Ravi

    No one is instructing anyone to do anything. If you have no respects to pay then of course you shouldn’t take part. It is quite another matter however, to react as if the idea is some quasi-nazi infringement on your liberty.

    For the record, however, you are wrong to say that “a single, solitary minute was deemed sufficient” to honour the dead of WW1. You clearly don’t pay your respects on rememberence day either, otherwise you’d know that there is a nationwide two minute silence at 11am on 11th Nov.

  • GCooper

    Ravi writes:

    “It is quite another matter however, to react as if the idea is some quasi-nazi infringement on your liberty. ”

    Mr Hyperbole is not our friend. I said I find organised grief extremely distasteful – particularly when orchestrated by attention-seeking politicians. I’ll leave the Nazis (quasi or otherwise) to your imagination.

    As for the two minute vs one minute debate, you have yet to explain why you feel a full three minute grief-fest is called for on this occasion. Nor, how many more have to die before it is inflated to four.

  • Verity

    Ravi – If you have relatives in Sri Lanka or somewhere else that was hit by the disaster, you do understand that you are perfectly free to grieve for them if you wish, without direction from the state?

    But why on earth you think “the country” – meaning 60m Britons, I assume – should be frogmarched into grieving for them, too, is a puzzlement.

    At least a hundred thousand people die daily, all over the world. Just because these victims all died in one area, due to a natural disaster, doesn’t change the fact that it’s a hundred thousand people I don’t know and will spend the rest of my life not thinking about. I’m sorry.

    I truly pity the relatives who have been so suddenly and unexpectedly bereaved. It is normal that they mourn their terrible loss, for which they didn’t have time to prepare and it’s normal that we feel human sympathy for them. But I am not going to pretend it is my loss or that their loss has some consequence for my country.

    Second point which no one yet, including the esteemed G Cooper, has pointed to. This was one more cynical exercise in pretending the EU is, rather than a landmass, a country. The news broadcasts will have gone out overseas with the press release: Europe Mourns Europeans lost in S Asia disaster. Silent pictures will have been broadcast of Brits stopping against the background of, where else, Big Ben. Parisians will have been photographed with the Eiffel Tower in the background, Berliners with the Brandenburg Gate blah blah blah.

    This is how it will have been presented to the world. With the intention of making Yurrop look like a country coming together in grief. As if French people give a stuff about dead Portuguese or Swedish or British holidaymakers.

    The Tony Blairy, touchy fairy message will have been that “Europeans draw together” as though some huge “national” tragedy had occurred. They (Blair & Cie) are forcing French and German and Portuguese and Swedish citizens to play a role they did not seek, but which serves their masters – and I use this term intentionally.

    Any vertebrate prime minister would have told the eurocrats that we don’t dish out three minute silences for natural disasters in Britain – especially at the “suggestion” of foreigners.

  • Giles

    Its also worth beariung in mind that the S Asia death toll is about 2-3 months worth of deaths in the current Congo civil war. Any chance of a half hours silence for them – or even half a headline? Remember too that this was a war which the EU made a gestrure to stop in one town and then promptly gave up.

    The three minutes silence was appropriate – as a time to consider what a mawkishly useless institution the EU is.

  • Faust

    US online holiday shopping hits $23.2b, up 25%.

    …women, minorities hardest hit in “worst economy since Pres Hoover”.

    I’ll buy that for a dollar…

    And Kofi and his Mini-Mees at the UN are leading but not really doing anything themselves for the Tsunami victims. Australia, Britain, the US and India are doing all the hard work and supplying all the real needs. But You won’t read that in the Guardian. Even those America hating Moslems in Indonesia are having to swallow their pride and face the fact that MOST of the aid relief in their country is being led and done by those filthy Western Yankee Infidels. I bet that really sticks in their throats, especially considering that the Oil Rich Gulf States like Saudi and Kuwait have only coughed up a mere $5 million a piece to help their fellow Moslem survivors. So much for Moslem brotherhood. It seems those wealthy Arabs really don’t give a shit do they?

    The US is doing the relief work and they are doing it for Indonesians who are Moslems. And when the work gets done… sweet old Kofi will take a bow… while he stays at a five star hotel and has sparkling champers and King Crab on the menu. He will worry that the Tsunami is causing the refugees to sell their children. But the UN Peacekeepers in the Congo know all about buying and selling children for sex. They got that down to a fine art.

    Bush donated ten grand of his own money. And it is the United States which is doing most of the organizing and the work while Kofi is flying around saying he will do something someday.

    Kofi thanks you for your checks though. A man’s gotta have something to pay for his hotel bills while he dines on the best.

    And the U.N. official’s recently had the nerve to say that America’s contribution to the Tsunami disaster was “Stingy”. The United States remains the UN’s largest contributor. The US tax payers pay 22% of its regular budget, and about 27% of its peacekeeping costs. On top of that, we give generously to support the work of UN agencies providing humanitarian relief, electoral assistance, food aid, and a lot more.

    If it wasn’t for the American tax payer, there probably wouldn’t be a fucking United Nations. Who picks up the bill for them? We do.

    United Nations….. Bunch of cocksuckers.

  • Johnathan

    Verity, I understand the point about there being a difference between victims of a natural disaster and soldiers in combat. But the dividing line is not always that clear. For example, take the victims of the Great Terror in Russia. They were victims, but it is right to commemorate them, IMHO

    You strike me as someone who is so, perhaps understanderbly, at odds with any sort of “Dianafication” of human affairs that you have allowed yourself to take a curmudgeonly alternative extreme. No offence but I find it a rather crazy use of language. Use “inappropriate” if you want. The English language is a fine thing, so use it properly.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    Sorry, folks, but I have to agree with Verity’s use of “jackbooted” above.

    I recall that I was back in eighth grade in junior high school when the Challenger space shuttle exploded. In order to honor the teacher on board (none of the other astronauts were so honored), the school principal decided that our school should have all its students sign a condolence card to send to her school, which was set out in the lunch room for everybody to sign during their lunch period. I didn’t particularly care to sign it; I didn’t feel any more grief for her than I did for any of the other astronauts or any of the folks you read about in the newspaper who get killed in fires or auto accidents. When the lunchroom staff found out I hadn’t signed it, they began to hector me into signing it.

    On a slightly off-topic note, one of the more irritating things about the tsunami coverage is any presenter who breaks down the death toll by the percentage who were children. Would it be OK if only adult males had been killed?

  • Verity

    No, Jonathan, I simply take a view that is opposed to your own. The English language is indeed a fine instrument of expression. I cannot imagine how you came to imagine yourself a judge of its proper employment.

    Thanks for your instant analysis of me, someone you don’t know. But the assumption that Dianafication jolted me into some curdled emotional hell is wrong. I’ve always loathed cheap sentimentality and always disliked people who affected it – long before that New Age duo Diana and Blair.

    I’m afraid I have a knowledge gap regarding the Great Terror in Russia, so cannot answer you. But I would stress that there is a vast difference between people suffering from the malign intent of their fellow human beings and people suffering from a natural disaster.

    Death happens. One hundred thousand dying all in the same place unexpectedly is tragic for their families but not, frankly, for anyone else and I am not going to pretend it affects me any more than the deaths of all the other people who died over the last 24 hours in traffic accidents and hospitals scattered all over the world.

    This is in no way to dismiss the pain of their families, and like most other people, I felt a pang of pity for the relatives who were bereaved so harshly. And we are right to come steaming in with assistance for the living -to alleviate their suffering and to help the helpless to rebuild their lives.

    But a national mourning period victims of a freak of nature is assinine – especially at the behest of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. It is also a sly furtherance of the EU agenda and I am surprised that more people haven’t spotted this. No foreigners has any right to impose such things on us.

    Disagree with me with reasoned arguments and I will read them with interest. Adopt a lofty, patronising tone and I will think you a prig. The last thing one would expect to encounter from a regular contributor to a libertarian blog is the insistence that correspondents adopt the blogger’s personal ethics system. And no, I will not descend to using pedestrian, lefty, town council language at your behest. I will not write “inappropriate” when I intend to convey something much stronger.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Okay Verity, we will have to agree to differ. I think describing the marking of 200,000 folk’s death in a natural disaster by asking folk to observe a period of silence as “obscene” is well, daft. I don’t for the life of me see how such a period of silence somehow diminishes those public ceremonies that one has to mark the loss of life in wartime. I am not analysing you – I would not be so presumptious, but your language often gets so heated that I find it out of balance with the issue involved.

    Also, do we have to find an EU conspiracy everhwhere? It is nearly as bad as the left going on about Bush and the neocons!

  • Verity

    Jonathan, yes, we will agree to differ. If you choose to apply the term ‘heated’ to the writing of someone who holds points of view with which you disagree, that is your privilege.

    As to the EU lurking under every bed, well, I disagree with you there, too. I do not like three minute silences or anything else being imposed on Britain from Brussels. Since when have the defeated countries of Europe been in a position to tell the British to lower the Union flag to half mast?

    The EU has been nibbling quietly around the edges of our sovereign nation for 30 years and has done enormous damage to the fabric of our country. It has arrogated more and more powers unto itself. It has all been done in such tiny increments that there has never been a point at which the ordinary Brit has felt justified in putting his foot down and saying, “OK. That’s enough!” It has all proceeded in an obfuscatory fog of lies and ridicule for those who object.

    So I don’t find the Bush/neocons analogy a true one. Sometimes, there really is something gaining on you.

  • GCooper

    Johnathan Pearce writes:

    “Also, do we have to find an EU conspiracy everhwhere?”

    In what conceivable way was Verity succumbing to a conspiracy theory? That this embarrassing three minutes ritual was directed by EU fiat is a fact. The motivation behind it can only be doubted by someone who is wilfully blind to the relentless process of EU assimilation.

    As for your suggestion that she use the word “inappropriate”, that beggars belief. If ever a word should have been declared taboo by lovers of individual freedom, it is that shibboleth of the moral equivalence brigade – those kindly folk who insist we talk of ‘inappropriate sexual conduct’ when we mean paedophilia.

  • I don’t for the life of me see how such a period of silence somehow diminishes those public ceremonies that one has to mark the loss of life in wartime.

    Well those in War get 1 while those choosen by the EU get three – so there is an attempt a diminuation.

    If tthat wasnt the intention, why didnt the EU grant just 1 minute or 30 seconds? Because it wanted to make the statement that greif sanctioned by Brussels is more important than that national traditions.

  • Verity

    I don’t for the life of me see how such a period of silence somehow diminishes those public ceremonies that one has to mark the loss of life in wartime.

    Jonathan, the two minute silence is not to “mark the loss of life in wartime”. It is to remember the people who died fighting to keep Britain free. It is the active, not the passive, who are being remembered. The armed services and the brave people in the intelligence services. It is not to commemorate victims of bombings, for example. It is a period when we reflect that people went into battle and made an awful sacrifice for us.

    To conflate this grave and moving ceremony by giving three minutes to remember victims of a natural disaster is repellent. And Giles is correct when he sees it as an attempted diminuition of our ceremonies to hail warrior qualities.

    I would further add to Giles’s comment that it is also a sly attempt to diminish nationalism. They are trying to force people to pretend that they care equally for everyone who died.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Verity, apologies if you thought I was being patronising. My mistake. To go back to the original point, I was taken aback by the sheer viciousness of your use of the word “obscene” to describe the idea of remembering hundreds of thousands of dead in a disaster. It really amazed me. And I say that as someone who has agreed with you on about 99 pct of issues in the time I have been a contributor to this site.

    As an ardent individualist, I agree that it is wrong to stipulate how one ought to feel about an unhappy event. I loathed the collective mental breakdown that we had to endure at the death of Diana, and given my own family’s military history, I need no reminding of the depth of sacrifice involved in war.

    “A sly attempt to diminish nationalism”. Really? I don’t think that is how most Britons will view it. A bunch of unelected twits in Brussels cannot undermine this country by such means, so I should not worry about that.

    On to other issues.

  • Daveon

    The EU has been nibbling quietly around the edges of our sovereign nation for 30 years and has done enormous damage to the fabric of our country.

    “Our” country?

    IIRC Verity, you live in Mexico now, having moved there from the South of France. You have mentioned living in the UK in the distant past but gave the impression you didn’t like it. You have certainly said you didn’t pay much attention to news or current affairs.

    So what exactly is it you mean by “our” country? It doesn’t seem to be my country you’re talking about.

  • Verity

    Jonathan, please forgive me if I implied that you didn’t appreciate what the 11th of November is about.

    I still feel that designating three minutes of official silence and ordering national flags flown at half mast for people who died in a natural disaster is repellent and diminishes the lowering of the Union flag to half mast, and is yet one further ratchet up the New Age grief fest.

    “A sly attempt to diminish nationalism”. Really? I don’t think that is how most Britons will view it.
    That is precisely the problem. Lambs to the slaughter.

    Daveon – Not that it’s any of your business, but I left Britain because I absolutely could not abide that hissy little poseur Tony Blair and the way he was laying to waste OUR country – trashing OUR history, diminishing/discrediting OUR achievements, dismantling OUR traditions and allowing unlimited immigration from alien cultures in an effort to diffuse our sense of one nationhood. If people don’t feel they have a country they recognise, it’s easier to slip it out from under them. After an entire century of whimpering from the liberal left, Britain has finally fallen victim to the Gramscians. With a vengeance.

  • ernest young

    Regarding expatriate comment on ‘our’ country. I’ll have you know that I still very much regard England as ‘my’ country.

    I have on numerous occasions stated that I am not so much an emigre, more an exile, forced into making a move by an ever increasing statist government, and with ever decreasing means to effect any change.

    It is something that has been obvious for a long while to anyone interested in life in general, rather than being preoccupied with the current fashion of short sighted self interest.

    Having seen several relatives killed defending this country in WWII, and having served, (albeit under sufferance), in the military, both in Korea and Malaya, I feel that I have every right to call England – ‘My country’.

    What is so sad is that all those lives lost in protecting our freedoms, all the willing sacrifices made by those who had a sense of duty, vocation and integrity, have fallen prey to such shoddy socialist political dogma as now exists. So many lives, wasted….

    As MLK said” I have a dream..”, so did the post-war generation in Great Britain, only we saw our dream subverted and stolen by an ‘enemy within’, of third rate politicians and politically motivated academics, whose sole intent was to destroy what so many had struggled to achieve, all in the name of a ‘class struggle’.

    Yes, it is still ‘My country’, and don’t you go trading it off for a case of wine and a piece of cheese!….

  • Daveon

    Ernest,

    Interesting comments. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree but I’m not clear if I agree with either sentiment expressed. I’m married to a ex-patriate who moved to the UK and now considers the UK “her” country, even though she has no ancestral links to the place. I know other “ex-pats” now in the UK who feel the same.

    Would I feel that the UK was my country if I actually took the step to accept the passport of another nation? Hmmm… I really can’t say.

    Do I think the UK has changed substantially since I was a kid in the 70s or when I was growing up in the 80s? No. Actually I don’t. Certainly not compared to some other countries I’ve lived in.

    If they pass this insane ID card law then that might change dramatically but for the time being I don’t feel that way.

    Verity, Not that it’s any of your business. As you brought up the issue, and the other places you’ve lived/do live then, yes, I think you’ve made it my business. If you hold a belief I’d like to think you can defend it rationally.

  • GCooper

    Daveon writes:

    “Do I think the UK has changed substantially since I was a kid in the 70s or when I was growing up in the 80s? No. Actually I don’t.”

    Pass me those rose-tinted spectacles, would you?

    Those in the urban park I was walking around yesterday, wondering why yet another black-on-black drug murder had taken place there an hour or so previously would, like me, react to such a ridiculous statement with a hollow laugh.

  • Freddy

    Oh for the days when there were only white on black murders.

  • ernest young

    Daveon,

    You cannot possibly know what it was like prior to your appearance, in what – the late 60’s.

    After all, isn’t your generation aptly named the ‘gimme’ generation, or some such similar name, not that it is your fault in particular, but that era was when the groundwork was laid for the current NuLabour cartel, and the Nanny State. That was the era that Britain sold it’s soul for a place in the welfare queue.

    Heath, Wilson, Home, Callaghan, all were very third rate, and at the mercy of the trade unions, many of whose activists of that time, are now in government, and several as Cabinet Ministers. They were, to a man, considered as extremists then, and still are, it is the public’s perception, and general acceptance of their dogma that has softened, worn down by the stealth and sleight-of-hand style of so-called ‘socialism’. That Britain has not performed to expectation is hardly surprising.

    Having lived through the period under discussion, I feel that I can give a rather more valid opinion of the changes during that time. After all, and with all due respect, you only have the rather shoddy end product on which to form an opinion.

    Please have the grace to not respond to the last sentence with some trite cliche about ‘old timers always thinking that those were the good old days’. We know that things were not perfect then, but they were still substantially better than anything we (you) have now.

    Comparing Britain’s progress to other places, is not really a valid comparison, we are after all, starting from different levels on the ladder. Maybe Britain has seen fit to dumb down it’s culture to levels of mediocrity, perhaps as atonement for some supposed ‘guilt’ feelings re colonisation. Whatever the reason, the end result is a betrayal of dreams and promises made to earlier generations.

    Rhetorically ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’, based on little else than political dogma, has not proved to be a roaring success.

    Of course, new residents like to think of Britain as ‘their’ country, – a perfectly natural reaction, but surely any proprietorial feelings, in this context, are really only truly legitimate when one has contributed something to society – other than being a tax-payer, and making yourself ‘at-home’ .

    That old, corny test of ‘which is your country’, being reduced to the frivolous ‘which team do you support in a Test match’, still holds good.

    As an exile, rather than an emigre, I have a British passport, and only a British passport. I regard Britain as one would a decrepit, alcoholic old uncle; with affection, but beyond redemption…

  • Verity

    Ernest Young says: “I am not so much an emigre, more an exile, forced into making a move by an ever increasing statist government, and with ever decreasing means to effect any change.”

    That is how I feel, too. Blair is the most authoritarian, bossy, controlling, ignorant prime minister ever visited upon Britain. He has laid about the structure of our society with an axe, hacking down anything he doesn’t understand – and being rather thick, he doesn’t understand very much. Like all dictatorial personalities, he cannot brook dissent. He’s a disgrace, but, for the moment, he has power. It is clear that the tenth-raters around him were only too thrilled to be next to that power, and there was no thought of restraining him, the lack of such motivation being either ignorance or venality. Toneboy ‘n’ Cher run Britain as though they were playing at being in government in the Petit Trianon.

    Government by sofa with no minutes taken. No one will ever know (until the books come out; and they will) what was said at those “rolling meetings” in Toneboy’s “den” about the disposition of Dr David Kelly. The man should be impeached.

    Daveon is the same vapid little twit who used to post under the name of Dave. As Dave isn’t a great reader and therefore does not have too much in the way of frames of reference, all his little points are illustrated with jaw-cracking anecdotes about himself. Brace yourselves for an avalanche of ill-informed opinions with supporting evidence in the form of vignettes about that expat wife from S Africa who has had some life experience that illustrates whatever point he is striving to make.

    As you brought up the issue, and the other places you’ve lived/do live then, yes, I think you’ve made it my business.”

    No, you untutored jerk. Because I, like most people on this blog, have, on very rare occasion, alluded to some aspect of my life, in a very limited way, does not mean that that I have made it “your business”. It means I have said as much about it as I intend to say.

    If you hold a belief I’d like to think you can defend it rationally.”

    “Daveon”, trust me on this because I mean it very sincerely: I don’t give a pile of steaming monkey crap about what you would like to think.

  • I'm suffering for my art

    Youch, it’s getting heated in here! But onto something completely different. I’m seeing a lot of league tables popping up in articles whingeing about corporate stinginess. I’m sure they’re appearing in papers all over the world; I’ve certainly read a few here. You know the sort – these big nasty corporations that make a bazillion gazillion megatrillion dollars a year have only given one million dollars to the aid effort! And often less! Then they’re ranked in order of generosity – from very stingy to extraordinarily stingy. Ignoring the issue of whether it’s ethical to give money away that should be distributed to shareholders, from a PR point of view, wouldn’t it be smarter to just give nothing? The company wouldn’t end up in some miserable league table, there would be no negative press because I don’t see any articles chastising companies that have given a grand total of $0 to the relief effort. So the Guardian (and its peers) are sending out a very instructive message to companies – keep your wallet in your pocket and you won’t be fingered. Or even noticed. Interesting.

  • Rob"Sir Chasm" Read

    Art, Large companies should sack say 3000 staff and give their wages to charity as a demonstration of what forced charity actually does.