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An awesome fisking by Praguetory.

Thursday, August 31, 2006
The other day I saw a spectacularly foolish article in The Guardian on post '89 Eastern and Central Europe which I suggested to PT merited a demolition job, and that with his knowledge of the area that he was ideally placed so to do. He has duly stepped up to the plate, so stand by to be impressed.

Here it is


The trouble with product labelling

Some time back some bright spark decided it would be a great idea to remove tar and nicotine level information from cigarette packets et al, along with banning the use of 'Light' etc as part of a product name. Doubtless this was based on the idea that all smoking is bad and the people smoking the likes of Silk Cut Ultras (as they were called) were under the impression that these were less bad than filterless Camels, Capstan full strength and so on. While in very, very broad agreement that smoking is not good for one's health, that piece of regulation struck me as utterly foolish at the time, and still does. I switched to smoking cheroots a while back, and occasional attempts to stop (every time I'm trying to charm a non-smoking would be girlfriend...) notwithstanding, it irritates me that I am barred from having any information about tar and nicotine levels of individual brands and sub-brands, but rather have to spot the codewords in product names or presume that the blue tins have the milder cigars.

This came back to me when I saw an item in the Washington Post on research by the Massachusetts health authorities that has shown that nicotine levels in leading brands has risen over the last few years. Over here, we would never know such things, and my philosophical position is that the information should be generally available, rather than the health apparat presuming to infantilise us.


The Belgians being less than communautaire

Le Figaro notes that the Belges are well and truly ras le bol with their neighbours to the south west. Is it because of the jokes the Gauls make about them? No. Is it because of all the noted Walloons people regard as being French? No. In fact, this is all due to French medical students taking up their studies in Belgium. Being a crafty lot, said Gauls have found getting into Belgian med schools easier than ones in France, and therefore are taking full advantage. Le Figaro says that last year up to 86% of some courses were filled with Gauls rather than Belgians. The response on the part of the Belgian state is to bring in quotas.

Naturally there is an EU dimension to this, and the rector of the University of Brussels claims "The solution is for Europe [meaning the EU, rather than asking Iceland and Albania, presumably. C] to get involved. One can't preach mobility and then push students back".

So, watch out for an EU land grab on education....

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Yet another reason to shun Ryanair

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
My least favourite airline (see passim), is intent on making sub-cattle class aviation even more unpleasant - allowing in-flight mobile phone use. Dear god, no. I can just about understand that some business travellers really do need to make phone calls in flight, but the prospect of endless pings from folk sending text messages to and fro and declaring loudly 'I'm on a plane' fills me with absolute dread. Right now one of the few things to be said for the Underground is that mobiles do not work below ground, and I regard planes as also offering a haven of sorts. Just shoot me now (form an orderly queue please).

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Freesheet wars in London

I see that competition between free papers is hotting up, with Associated adding another title to complement Metro, and News Group will be following suit. First off, why the ghastly names?: London Lite and Thelondonpaper (sic). I suspect there is also some positioning going on ahead of that man Livingstone's 'issues' with Associated and the value of the London Transport contract.

I got into the habit of reading newspapers a long time ago, and the standard ritual chez moi was to ask my Pa if I could look at The Times and the Sub Standard when he got home. It was a while before I paid much attention to The Times, and tended to focus on the cartoons and so forth in the Standard. Well, I was quite young. Since then, the idea of a morning without a newspaper fills me with horror, and despite having all of the resources of the net to hand, for me nothing beats a flick through the Telegraph first thing with the first coffee of the day.

Returning to the point, while I am a fan of the newspaper /form/, I am deeply unimpressed with the freesheets as they lack the identity of paid for papers - little or no opinion, no 'name' writers etc and with their reliance on wire reports end up rather like the turgid French regional press. I fear that the cannibalising of the paid for title market by these papers could end up making the traditional newspaper business model unviable. OK, if I want opinions there are an awful lot of bloggers out there, but equally well something is lost if I don't have the awareness that my ideological soul mates are reading the same columnists and so forth. This has already happened, to a degree, with television - with satellite, cable and the plethora of digital channels, the chances of a collective viewing experience beyond the likes of major sports events etc is much reduced. Not sure that my point really goes much beyond a vague existential melancholy.


Aging Belgian rocker comes out for Sarko.

Now I have your attention, Liberation reports that Sarkozy has the blessing of Johnny 'Jean-Philippe Smet' Halliday in his pursuit of the presidency. The paper has some fun:

"Ah how the UMP is young, cool and rock' roll. Oh yeah. And to him that Sarko is all that at the same time. Ah that he likes him. He even calls himself a "fan". "It", it is Johnny Hallyday."

France's equivalent of Cliff Richard (well, he's arguably slightly less naff than that, but now is not the time to go soft on him) declared thus: "Nicolas absolutely must be our president. I will not content myself with merely voting for him, I will help him out to the best of my abilities".

I do not know whether France routinely suffers the curse of celebrity endorsements of politicians, but if so maybe we can look forward to Eddy Mitchell, Catherine Deneuve, Fanny Ardant and Gerard Depardieu piling in. I could see the big fellow supporting the Huntin', Shootin' and Fishing party (Chasse Nature Traditions). As to that other noted Gaul, Brigitte Bardot, her tendencies would place her somewhere near the Front National.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Trying to hold back the Atlantic with a mop....

The Grauniad carries a tale of the Gray Lady blocking access to a story about the alleged bomb plot to UK sites because of our contempt of court laws. I haven't had a chance to read the story as yet, but have asked one of my NYC contacts to e-mail it to me. I don't doubt that vast numbers of us will be doing exactly the same thing, and the tale will be whizzing around the net over the next few hours and creating far more interest than if the NYT hadn't blocked it. Doubtless another blog will end up publishing it. Information wants to be free, as the saying goes.

Shades of the infamous Spycatcher fun and games of a few years back - if the government had not sicced its lawyers on the Australians, I don't suppose more than a tiny number of people would have bought the book.

Update: I've now read the article in question, and whether it is prejudicial or not I am probably not best placed to judge, but it does appear to me that such information that the NYT ran came straight from the Met / Special Branch etc etc.

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Fatuous reports corner

The Law Society has been investigating homophobia in city law firms, and has decided that 'constant trips to Spearmint Rhino, rugby matches and drinking sessions hold undertones of homophobia'.

I can appreciate that the average gay man might not be hugely keen on lap dancing clubs, although that would also apply to many women, and come to that, an awful lot of heterosexual men. As to rugby, well, there are gay rugby teams (The Kings Cross Steelers, is it?), and all the gay men I know are quite happy to pile into the booze. One might note that if gay men and women don't drink, an awful lot of bars must be rather foolish in targeting the pink pound.

This also has rather broader implications about one's liberty to spend one's free time as one wishes, as I very much doubt that any of the Magic Circle firms encourage trips to lap dancing emporia. It would seem to me that if off duty straight lawyers want to go to these places, that's their business, in exactly the same way that if groups of off duty gay lawyers want to go to venues that might not appeal to the average straight, that's no one's concern but their own.

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The single silliest claim of a false flag operation yet

The Sydney Morning Herald carries an extract from a TV interview with Abu Bakar Bashir of Jemaah Islamiah, who claims that the 2002 Bali bomb was carried out by the CIA. Nothing new there. However, he just has to push it a *little* bit further and claims:

"the device that killed most people in the Bali attack was a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) "micro-nuclear" bomb."The micro-nuclear bomb that did so much damage was a CIA bomb, not Amrozi's bomb," Bashir told the ABC".



Charles Kennedy

The business of his boozing is back. It all reminds me of the old saw that an alcoholic is someone you don't like who drinks more than you do.

Meanwhile, Charles missed out on a golden opportunity when the men & women with grey sandals came to offer him the LD equivalent of a pistol and a bottle of scotch, whatever that might be. He should have read 'How to ace your intervention'.

Given the gallery of grotesques that make up the parliamentary LDs, the Counter Attack section would have been useful:

Now that you’ve blunted their savage assault, it’s high time to launch your own vengeful attack. The only people bold enough to conduct an intervention are those who consider themselves very close to you, so you most likely will know more than a little about their habits. And everyone, even Mother Theresa, has bad habits. Attack these flaws with a strident, yet deeply concerned tone.

If one of them is overweight, point out that being obese is very bad for the heart and his gluttony is putting his life in great jeopardy. If one of them smokes, point out the dangers of second-hand smoke, and remark that at least when you’re drinking you don’t go around spitting bourbon into people’s mouths. If one of them doesn’t drink at all, point out that not drinking is as dangerous to the heart as being morbidly obese, and they will die years before even the heavy drinker. If one of them drives an SUV, inform her she is selfishly destroying the environment and the future of her children. If one smokes pot or uses other drugs, ask him why he would take away your perfectly legal system of killing stress and adding pleasure to life. Say, “You look agitated, Ralph, sure you don’t want to go smoke one of your doobies? Isn’t it time to pop a Valium, Joan? Score any cocaine lately, Sammy Boy?” Get on your feet and ask if you have the right to force them to change their personal habits.

I think he might have pulled it off.


Monday, August 28, 2006
Good news for underage drinkers, students and derelicts

According to researchers at Glasgow University, drinking cider has marked health benefits. Nevertheless, I'm sticking to ale, red wine and scotch.

Shoah denial

Our delightful friends in Iran, the ones who think Israel is a 'tumour', are holding a conference on the Shoah in December, as has been reported by Le Monde. The organisers claim that 'It is necessary to create a favourable climate so that the researchers can present the hidden and invisible points of the most important question of the twentieth century'. Somehow I doubt they will be extending a welcome to the custodians of Yad Vashem, or that Martin Gilbert will be the lead speaker.

With the exception of sundry conspiracy nuts that claim that the moon landings were faked, I am struggling to think of any historical event where there is an industry engaged in trying to 'prove' it did not happen. Meanwhile, what is the evidence for the reign of Cyrus?


Sir Alfred Sherman

This blog is in mourning for Sir Alfred Sherman. Full obit in The Telegraph. While given to rather blunt statements from time to time, he was a great man and is sorely missed. In my own secular goyische way, I will say Kaddish for him.


Sunday, August 27, 2006
Recycling and the like.

Blairite think tank the IPPR wants to bring in penal rates for people who don't recycle, not that it expresses it thus. Full press release here, but herewith some extracts:

"The UK is at the bottom of Europe’s recycling heap along with Greece and Portugal, according to a new report from the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) and Green Alliance...The report will recommend that local authorities are given powers to charge a ‘pay-as-you-throw’ fee for collecting un-recyclable rubbish. The report, to be published ahead of the Local Government White Paper and the new Waste Strategy, will argue that ‘pay as you throw’ is the best way to meet current recycling targets and move towards a target of zero waste. (my emphasis)...."The UK is bottom of the heap in Europe when it comes to recycling. The Government should give local authorities powers to charge for collecting non-recyclable waste. Our European neighbours have shown that where charges are common place, recycling rates will rise...."There are few better routes to higher recycling than through giving householders financial incentives. They are a proven, positive and logical way of changing our throwaway society."

There are a number of things that jump out from this, the idiocy of aiming for zero waste being just one of them. I will accept the idea that paper, glass, cans etc all lend themselves to being recycled, but what of organic waste? Ponder briefly on attempting to do things with organic waste - Is there to be a network of urban pigsties to deal with that, or are we urban types supposed to have compulsory composting facilities in our living rooms? Apart from the immediate questions of practicality, what this really represents is far more the desire of the gauleiter class to compel the people to behave in a certain way rather than any serious interest in the environment. Feel free to compose your own recruitment advert for bin snoopers - to be advertised in the Guardian, natch. However, the Great British people being what they are, stand by for a vast outbreak of fly tipping, filing up other people's bins in the dead of night etc etc. It *will* happen, I promise. As noted before, if one does not drive and one does not have children, the bin service is by far the most visible council service, and for this to be turned into a force for social engineering / tax farming is yet another slap in the face.

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Saturday, August 26, 2006
Pizza au foie gras, anyone?

There's a rather amusing tale in Le Figaro on a ban on foie gras in Chicago. On the day ahead of the ban (last Tuesday), chefs were offering up pizzas, hot dogs and - gulp - ice cream garnished with foie gras. One especially rebellious chef came up with an outlaw menu which included foie gras, absinthe, unpasteurised cheese and sundry other unlawful products and is planning on opening a gastronomic speakeasy.


Friday, August 25, 2006
Is Guido losing his shyness?

Guido has a post referencing a project he's involved in, Message Space which is his vehicle for getting ad revenue for his site. Not enormously interesting. However, a click through has that refers to the ownership of Messagespace and includes this photograph:

Hilton sports a rather poor 'tache, and the be-turbanned fellow is Jag Singh which leaves the other fellow as the owner of Global & General which owns the majority of Messagespace. Now why would Guido choose to have his image on the site, eh?


Scimitar rattling in Damascus

Memri is reporting some bellicose noises in the Syrian press over the Golan Heights, as Assad "repeatedly emphasized that resistance is the way to peace, and that Syria would liberate the Golan "by [its] own hands."

Can't say I fancy their chances, and Syria is far weaker vis a vis Israel than it was during the Yom Kippur war. It is also worth noting that Syria lays claim to the whole of Lebanon, Jordan and Israel, the latter two apparently being 'integral parts of South Syria'.


Israeli Opinion Polls

Just seen a polling report at the Jerusalem Post, which shows heavy falls for Labour and Kadima and a sharp upswing for the Likud and Yisrael Beytenu.

Here are the predicted seats for the leading parties, with current seat totals bracketed:

Likud 24 (12)
Yisrael Beytenu 24 (11)
Kadima 14 (29)
Labour 9 (19)

The item doesn't give a full breakdown for the religious parties, but past experience suggests that there is very little movement in their support year on year. The make up of the 17th Knesset can be found here.

While Israeli governments are invariably coalitions owing to its particular system of PR, those results would put the ideologoical Right firmly in the driving seat, and Likud/YB would be rather less reliant on the religious parties for getting an overall majority. Both parties are a good deal less flexible in dealing with the PA than are Labour and Kadima. Interesting times, and the slump in support for Labour is intriguing. This, after all, is the party than ran the country uninterruptedly from '48 up until the Likud breakthrough in '77.


The Blairs in Barbados

I see that Euan Blair, he of the ill-advised facial hair and friend to DC's night life has contracted a stomach complaint. I imagine the scope for mischief in Barbados when his family is around is limited, but one might note that 'stomach complain', along with 'exhaustion', is one of those euphemisms publicists use as a code for suffering the after effects of over indulgence. And the boy does have form.

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Thursday, August 24, 2006
A new nadir in stupidity

An unbelievable story over at Sky News, involving a New Yorker who embezzled over £1m from her employer and then - get this - spent it all on lottery tickets. I was under the impression that people bought lottery tickets in the hope of getting rich, rather than using it as serious investment vehicle once they had wealth. Can't say the lottery is one of my vices - I prefer straight ahead gambling, as at least I can try to convince myself that a degree of insight is in play rather than just the hand of chance.


Cherie Booth in blagging shocker....

The Guardian has an interview with Cliff Richard.. Not really my cup of tea musically, but Iain Dale is a fan, so out of blogger solidarity I'll avoid critiquing Cliff's oueuvre .

Anyway, here's the interesting bit:

How, I wonder, did Cliff and the Blairs get to know each other? "Cherie came to one of my concerts. We got a request for some tickets then we had a meal and a couple of times later Tony was able to join us. Our relationship has not bloomed into a close friendship yet. I wouldn't think of calling Tony up."

I've seen estimates of La Booth's annual wedge from QC-ing as being anywhere between half and a full unit (as American millionaires call them), and Tony doesn't exactly have to dig down the back of the couch when he needs to fund a night on the town. The least uncharitable interpretation is that the pair of them were queue jumping rather than dealing with the likes of Ticketmaster like the rest of we proles, but given the tales we've all heard about the gruesome pair's love of freeloading it seems reasonable to see it as cheapskatery.

A mate of mine (and occasional reader...) sat near Cliff at Wimbledon one year and reckoned Cliff didn't exactly smell April-fresh.....


Trotskyites Corner

Tommy Sheridan's ego being what it is, he has decided that Scotland need another party of the extreme left, given that his comrades are not exactly falling over themselves to co-operate with him post his libel suit win. So far so not enormously interesting, but I feel certain that the readership can come up with a name for his new party....

I'll kick it off with the Caledonian Economic Illiterates Party, but I'm sure someone can come up with something better. Extra points for a good acronym.


Random good (?) ideas - again...

One of the banes of the NHS are people who make appointments and then don't attend their appointments. An idea I have been chewing over is that when someone signs up with a GP, they make a refundable deposit of some more than token sum - say £10 - which they would forfeit if they break an appointment with less than 24 hours notice. Another option might be for a deposit only to be payable if the patient has previously broken an appointment without notice. Apparently the best time to see a quack without an appointment is when it is raining, as a lot of 'sick' people do not show up when the weather is inclement.

Any thoughts?


Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Living on the edge....

Is what I'm doing by living in Fairfield ward in Croydon, apparently. Some data mining of crime stats shows that the West End and parts of Newham and Southwark are the dodgiest for muggings, but Fairfield makes the Top Ten. Makes you proud, doesn't it?

As I've commented in the past, the Croydon 'strip' is not a fun place to be on a Saturday night if your tastes don't run to vertical lager drinking, wearing a football shirt or other chav finery and getting down to handbag House, but I can't say it has ever struck me as especially dangerous. Apart from the risk of slipping on a pile of vomit. I've lived in or near Peckham, Streatham and sundry other less than sought after parts of London and have so far avoided being the victim of crime, despite wobbling home across Peckham Rye, in a suit, with a briefcase at midnight, inter alia. I still take all sorts of 'risks' of the same sort, but like to think that after a lifetime spent in or around London I've developed a radar for avoiding trouble. My number one top tip is never go on the top deck of a bus during the hours of darkness.

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/Just/ what the nation needs - a 'Minister for Fitness'

Caroline Flint, the admittedly easy on the eye Minister for Public Health, has been tasked with getting us all fitter ahead of the 2012 Olympics. Detail here.

Quite why the Olympics represents a marker in the road is open to question - are we supposed to be competing in this wretched steroid fest, or is it so only the beautiful people will show up in shots of the crowd?

I've long been intrigued by the US and British approaches to obesity, with it deemed OK to hector the hefty in these parts, whereas Americans of size lobby furiously and have the delightfully named National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance. I'm not making this up - google it for proof.

The fact that we have healthcare funded by taxation gives the State the 'right' to lecture us on what we should or should not do with our bodies on public interest grounds, whereas the picture on the other side of the Pond is rather different. As it stands, discrimination against the obese is already being portrayed (in some quarters) as being as unacceptable as that based on race, gender and sexual orientation, but there is no sign of that here as yet, and for the reason posited earlier, I suspect it will not come to pass any time soon.

Full disclosure time - I have a BMI of 22.7, which puts in the 'healthy' range, apparently.

Meanwhile, it would be wholly remiss of me not to note that our old friend Rosie Winterton is also berthed at Health, and is rather rounder than Ms Flint.

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Airbrushing out smoking from popular culture

Everyone has read the tale about smoking being censored from Tom & Jerry, and further back the removal of Brunel's cigar from a photo, but it looks as though the culture wars are being broadened out, judging from an item in the Sydney Morning Herald. Now it is the Flintstones too, and here is the bone-chilling rationale: "proposed editing any scenes or references in the series where smoking appeared to be condoned, acceptable, glamorised or where it might encourage imitation," Ofcom said, adding that "Texas Tom" was one such example. Ms Akindele said scenes where a villain was featured with a cigarette or cigar would not necessarily be cut".

As has been noted elsewhere, the easily imitated violence in cartoons is deemed less dangerous by Big Nanny than the depiction of smoking. Just how is a small child supposed to develop a nicotine habit anyway? What this says to me is that the ebb tide of the age of reason is speeding up, and the joyless puritan who kicked this off has decided to blame 'society' rather than address the issues him or herself.

Within the next few years there *will* be digital re-editing of films to remove smoking scenes. Mark my words.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Osama Bin Laden, popular culture fan

One of my narks has sent me a link from the Evening Standard that alleges Osama Bin Laden has the hots for alleged crack fiend Whitney Houston, which is pretty amusing, but even more so is that Marge Simpson's sisters and OBL are both fans of McGuyver. Can't say I've ever seen the programme.

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Least anyone had any doubts about Hezbollah, here's a quote from their man in Tehranm Muhammad Abdullah Sif al-Din:

"the only purpose of Hezbollah in Lebanon’s war against Israel was to bring about the destruction of the Zionist entity".

So no more talk of it being a resistance movement, thank you very much.

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Ever been sacked / made redundant / downsized / rightsized?

I have (twice) and it isn't much fun. However, in both cases it was from fairly small companies and neither, thankfully, suffered from that plague of our times, a 'Human Resources' department (ever noticed how people in personnel have the most car-crash messy personal lives?).

It could have been much, much worse, and here's a tale from the US that proves it. The Smoking Gun has got hold of a document called "101 ways to save money" that some brain donor at Northwest Airlines decided to include with the pink slips (P45s) for dismissed workers, including such morale boosting ideas as "don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash", "Never grocery shop hungry" and "Cut the kids hair yourself".

OK, some of the tips are sensible, but what on earth was the HR droid thinking? Northwest pulled the leaflet after complaints.

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Fun and Games on the other side of the Ditch.

While sniffing around on Le Monde's site, I found an old story about a hatchet job done by a French hack on Mr Tony. Since Blair is being attacked from the left, there's not much I'm in agreement with, but it does include some exciting new insults etc: "Diabolical vacuity", "the state is the victim of a Faustian pact between the private and public sectors" and "The UK is the USSR". Ho ho, very satirical.

Meanwhile, yet more evidence that the French just do not understand the internet, as evidenced by this tale from The Register. Now the French luxury goods companies are gunning for ebay over knock off Louis Vuitton hand luggage et al. As anyone who has ever visited France will know, every market, in every town (or so it seems) has sad-eyed Malians / Senegalese hawking exactly the same stuff. Still, those fellows must be a lot harder to control by legal process than ebay.

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Memes of 3.

Having tipped off Dizzy that James Cleverly had tagged him for this, he's got his own back and tagged me. So, time to step up to the plate, head to the wicket:

Things that scare me

Going blind
Buff envelopes marked 'On Her Majesty's Service'
The prospect of a Brown government

People who make me laugh

Steven Wright
The scriptwriters for Futurama
Sundry friends who will remain nameless

Things I hate most

Moral relativism
Airport departure lounges

And now I'm bored with it....


Monday, August 21, 2006

Someone e-mailed me this, so here, for your delectation is a video short making light mockery of David Cameron. Quite slick, but it does seem a little overdone for its core message of DC having aristocratic connections.


Self-selecting polls - US style.

In a *hugely* encouraging development, the media and political classes across the Pond are taking a positive poll for Hillary Clinton seriously. A self-selecting poll at Time.com has been followed up by ABC.com, and notes '53 percent of those surveyed have a favorable impression of the freshman Senator'. Time is not exactly a neutral title (and has been dubbed part of the liberal septet that dominates the US national media), and that only 53% of its readers like HC should be a cause for alarm. Although there is no real equivalent of Time in these parts, similar readings for propective candidates from click polls on a UK news site would be pretty predictable.

Anyway, run Hillary run - and we can then have the pleasure of seeing John McCain wipe the floor with you.

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Tag Clouds

Thanks to Dizzy for finding a tag cloud blog add on, which was almost, if not quite, idiot proof. Still, as the joke goes - make something idiot proof and the universe will throw out a better idiot. I will tweak the cloud in the pursuit of the relevant as and when I have the time and inspiration.


Fun and games in the Czech Republic.

The Telegraph notes that the wronged wife of the Czech prime minister has taken her revenge by running for a rival political party. Perhaps Belinda Oaten and Pauline Prescott would care to follow her example......

MySpace, or perhaps, MonEspace.

Le Figaro notes that MySpace is coming to France. It is probably all down to me being horribly old (40...), but the whole MySpace thing strikes me as solipsistic in the extreme, and completely passes me by. Can any more conventional bloggers make head or tail of it?

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Sunday, August 20, 2006
Dianne Abbott in the Sunday Times.

Not entirely sure why, but I've long had a bit of a soft spot for Diane, but there were a couple of big tells in her 'life in the day of' piece in the mag:

"My better [de-stessing mechanism] is listening to dance and soul music'. Living in Hackney, you can have it on loud and nobody's bothered" I doubt it - from my experience of London, people are no more enthusiastic about noise than anywhere else, but there is a fear of what will happen if you complain to the /wrong/ person.

And the this - "Even when I'm retired and on the beach in Jamaica with a toy boy...". Try recasting the genders of those involved and just imagine how hot the water for any male MP to make such a comment would be.

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Terrorism in Germany

Saturday, August 19, 2006
Unless I have not been paying attention, a tale of bombs planted on trains in Germany in July didn't make the British news, but the Herald Tribune takes up the story. It looks as though our friends from the 'Religion of Peace' have been up to their tricks in Germany. Germany, we might note, has not exactly been an active participant in the war on terror, but as has been blinding obvious for a long time, that is not going to save it, any more than it will France or anywhere else in the West.


Wither Belgium?

Now that headline's a reader magnet, as they say in business, isn't it?

Anyway, The Telegraph reports some scathing comments on Belgium by the Flemish prime minister, including that it is 'accident of history'. I'm inclined to agree. Belgium has always struck me as a rather odd entity, cobbled together in 1830 as the first major revision to the post-Napoleonic settlement and roughly covering what was the Spanish Netherlands.

At the time the Walloons had the whip hand, and held it for a long time as they had the industry, the commerce etc, while the Flemish were more given to agriculture. With demographic change and the decline of Wallonia's rust belt industries, the Flemish have the upper hand, and the tensions between the two halves grow ever greater. As an indicator, a factoid: the Belgian Olympic Committee is bi-partite, with half the team selected from Walloons and half from Flemings (it certainly was true in the late 90's when I read about it in Le Monde Diplo). Savour that nonsense for a moment - imagine there are two outstanding Flemish sprinters, or a couple of world beating modern pentathletes from one half of the country, but one has to stand down in favour of someone less able from the other half of the country. If memory serves, the same item suggested that without the EU, Belgium would have split long ago.

I can't say I would be especially sad if the country split in two, although doubtless there would be some wrangling over Brussels, a French speaking island in the middle of Flanders.

Now for some anecdotes: The burghers of Brussels are the rudest and most charmless people I have ever encountered, and make Parisians seem like over enthusiastic Americans from fly over country. Brussels itself seems more like Norwich than a capital city, and is singularly lacking in impressive buildings, although the station is quite pretty. The Telegraph's article notes the trouble with monolingual road signs, and I have been caught out by not knowing that Rijsel is Lille in Flemish, very nearly missing a ferry back to the mother country because of it. Speaking French in Flanders is a recipe for being ignored, and I was blanked in a petrol station before I switched to English. A mate who ran (remotely) the IT operation for the Belgian subsidiary of the company we both worked for topped that with a tale of a Flemish colleague and a Walloon shopkeeper engaged in a Mexican stand off as each refused to speak the other's language.


Friday, August 18, 2006
'Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade' claims Hizbollah 'won' because the IDF is full of gays...

Saw this on newsnow.co.uk, and decided I had to investigate. The story has been taken up by Gay.com, which quotes 'Abu Oudai, chief rocket coordinator for the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade' thus: "If we do [what Hezbollah accomplished], this Israeli army full of gay soldiers and full of corruption and with old-fashioned war methods can be defeated also in Palestine."

The writer further notes, "Oudai may not be impressed with the prospect of gay personnel, but security and mental health officials for the IDF have found no evidence the long-standing inclusion of homosexuals in the IDF has harmed operational effectiveness, combat readiness, unit cohesion, or morale in the Israeli military. No doubt, Oudai believes that homosexuals are non-existent on the West Bank; hardly surprising considering most gay Palestinians would rather live under house arrest in Israel than at home. Considering there are five forms of death prescribed by Islam for homosexuality, it’s unlikely that Oudai would meet an out gay terrorist amongst his ranks".

Given the military successes of the Greeks and the Romans, inter alia, the idea that homosexuality is an impediment to military success seems like an odd one to me.

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When 'events' get in the way of a business model.

Ryanair's shy and retiring chief Michael O'Leary is faced with part of his business model - phasing out hold luggage - being scuppered by the reduction in the permitted volume of cabin luggage, and true to his usual form is flailing around trying to mau-mau the government into relaxing the restrictions.

I think it ill-behoves an Irish company to lecture our government on the national interest and how to defeat terrorism, frankly. Having suffered ordeal by Ryanair and their non-existent levels of customer service on numerous occasions, I'm always willing to pay a premium to avoid using their 'services' and wish their competitors every success.

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The 'pardons' bandwagon picks up speed....

The Telegraph is reporting on the next level of idiocy that this has descended to, much as I'd foreseen. A playwright with a zest for self-publicising has suggested that Admiral Byng be pardoned for his execution by firing squad, and the paper is running with the idea and has rounded up some rentaquote writers to name a few others that 'deserve' to have the verdict of the time set aside. So far no-one has named Cromwell. I suspect that this one will run and run, and doubtless we will see all sorts of nonsense voiced before the silly season grinds to a halt.

However, I do have to single out Anne Begg for suggesting that the Salerno mutineers be pardoned. I think it is safe to say that Ms Begg has never seen active service and does not have much of an idea about military discipline under combat conditions


Thursday, August 17, 2006
Several drinks with Dizzy later....

Having spent a thoroughly entertaining evening out on the lash with my fellow Anyone But Ken conspirator Dizzy, we are working on a vague plot: who's up for a bloggers' pub crawl convention somewhere in London(ish) sometime soon?


The Iranians attempt to cause offence.

Liberation reports on the long awaited exhibition of anti-semitic cartoons in Tehran. One of the organisers claims 'We've opened this exhibition to find out just where the West's limits on freedom of expression lie'. It looks to contain all the usual yawn inducing iconography of Shields of David mutating into Swastikas etc. Anyone who knows the Arab dailies (or looks at Memri.org) will know that there is nothing new in this, and such cartoons are the bread and butter of Arab cartoonsts.

Meanwhile, some Israeli cartoonists rose to the challenge with this lot . One of the organisers commented: “We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published! No Iranian will beat us on our home turf!”

I rather liked this one:

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Pardoning World War Deserters etc

As a special 'treat' I deliberately steered clear of internet access while away, but could not resist looking at any newspapers lying around or the lure of a little mobile phone web browsing, and the 'posthumous pardons' story was something that jumped out at me.

I have two major problems with the idea of 'pardoning', the first of which is essentially philosophical - when modern standards are applied to the past, the risk of slipping into moral absolutism is almost unavoidable and presents a huge ethical problem. Using the same moral compass has already given apologies for the Crusades by the Church, apologies (and lawsuits seeking reparations) for the slave trade etc etc. Following the same reasoning, we could easily end up with apologies to women for not granting the vote at the same time as it was for men, apologies to homosexuals for previously discriminatory legislation and so on and so forth. I would expect lawsuits from the descendants of the executed deserters as a near inevitability.

Secondly, I have misgivings about the jurisprudential dimension, that is applying present legal ideas to past actions, and in particular to those already six feet under. Posthumous appeals, doubtless funded by 100% legal aid, have the scope to be hugely expensive in terms of both money and time.

Beyond that, it does not require a huge leap in imagination to recognise that where a 'wrong' has been identified, there has to be a new villain of the piece - the commanding officers, the firing squad or whatever. The same process is already evident in Australia, where being descended from a convict now has a positive status rather than one prompting shame and it the judges who sentenced early 'Australians' to transportation who are now viewed as the criminals. Incidentally, C19th criminals used to beg to be executed rather than be sent to the Antipodes.

I think that we apply retrospective judgments to the past only at our peril, and consider that it is something the authorities should steer well clear of, no matter how wronged certain people may feel.

Your thoughts please.

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Gatwick at the sharp end, the Silent Strongbox etc etc

Lo and behold Gatwick on Sunday was utterly shambolic, and bore a close resemblance to the fall of Saigon. Having requested that passengers arrive at the airport three hours in advance rather than two, did easyJet allow an earlier check-in? No, of course not. Instead cue much milling around land side with suitcase, with a woeful absence of anywhere to sit down. The security checks were suitably over the top, with BAA jobsworths clearly enjoying their ability to humiliate and generally inconvenience the travelling public and everything bar tickets, passport and money banned from being on one's person when going through the gates. After all, nicotine chewing gum is of course the terrorist weapon of choice. Just think how easily one could bring about a Caliphate by sticking bits of chewed gum onto advertising posters. Newspapers may well have been the weapon of choice for football hooligans in the 70s - in the form of a Millwall brick - but given that one could spend to one's heart's content once airside, that particular ruling slid straight into the idiocy matrix. At least I was able to buy something to read on the plane. One thing that struck me in comparing LGW with Geneva, and come to that pretty well every airport outside the English speaking world is the complete lack of signage in a language other than English. While English is the world's lingua franca, BAA's use of nothing but English for signs is really pretty poor.

As to Geneva/Lausanne/Montreux etc: all very pretty, but if you imagine somewhere on the English Costa Geriatrica but with rather less dynamism and liveliness if with much better scenery, you would have a pretty good idea of the place.

I'm back.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

I'm away for a few days, as all the regulars will have long ago worked out. Anyway, I've turned on comment moderation, and will approve any comments when I get back, or if the lure of blogging is just too much, maybe I'll check in while I'm away.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Croydon, 'the post-war English Alphaville'

Just spotted that reference in a council press release on Croydon buildings in the September Open House project. I first encountered the Alphaville reference some years ago on a 'Late Show' item on ideas for redeveloping, tarting up etc Croydon, which included such, erm, 'novel' ideas as blue street lights to render cars more like the fish in Bishop Whitgift's ornamental pond. I am NOT making this up.

Anyway, it is something of an infelicitous metaphor, as in Godard's film, "the citizens of Alphaville have lost their ability to think, to communicate, and to love".

I might have a look at some of the buildings on the 16/17th, but I do not think that Croydon's entries for Openhouse would even 'merit a detour' as they have it in the Michelin guides. However, anyone with an interest in architecture and British history is urged to have a look at the Foreign Office - the interior is quite beautiful.

Fun with boycott lists.

Here's one on a website called 'Innovative Minds'. Google it, I'm not linking to them.

So, without further ado, some companies you might wish to support because the mob above want you to boycott them for having links with Israel:

AOL Time Warner
Estee Lauder
Johnson & Johnson
Kimberly Clark
Marks & Spencer
News Corp

And erm, Arsenal FC. I'll draw the line at that one

Unexpected benefits from the banning of most hand luggage from aeroplanes.

Not having to endure second-hand nosebleed techno from the Ipod of the passenger next to you.

Connectivity a-holes not being able to engage in last second texting / phone calls before the order to switch off comes through.

Some schandenfreude from watching consultants etc utterly bewildered at the prospect of time away from their true loves (Crackberries, laptops etc).

On the downside, I am more than a little queasy about entrusting sundry bits of electronic kit to the tender mercies of conveyor belts and ground crew.

A French usage I wish the English language media would start using.


We all know the word, and it is a good deal more pithy than my usual phrase, 'homicide bomber', and infinitely better than the weaselly 'suicide bomber'.

Good sense in unlikely places department

Kim Howells has told the Islamic lobby where to get off. As has doutbless been noted by anyone reading this, an alphabet soup of organisations with M or I in their names have been making none to subtle comments to the effect that we kaffirs have got it coming unless the UK adopts their foreign policy agenda (roughly speaking, death to Israel, massive aid to failed Muslim majority states around the world, withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan etc etc etc). Howells had this to say:

"He said: "I have no doubt that there are many issues which incite people to loath government policies but not to strap explosives to themselves and go out and murder innocent people. "There is no way of rationalising that. I think it is very, very dangerous when people who call themselves community leaders make some assumption that somehow that there's a rational connection between these two things."

Well done that man. And it isn’t the first time he has been similarly robust:

“It is not enough to assume that if people eat the right kind of muesli, go to first nights of Harold Pinter revivals and read The Independent occasionally, the drug barons of Afghanistan will go away. They will not”.


When being grilled by Peter Mandelson about his leftwing past by the selection committee for the Pontypridd seat, he retorted that he had not spent "his entire life preparing to be an MP".

The future of flying - at least for the next few weeks

Given the frankly absurd new restrictions on that which one can carry on to flights (OK, I can just about accept that there is something approaching a rationale in banning liquids, electronic gear etc etc), in particular reading materials, what on earth am I supposed to do once I've exhausted the delights of the duty free mag and read the back of the sick bag a few times? I'm not big on striking up conversations with strangers at the best of times, especially when they are jammed right into my personal space, and we can't all have window seats and admire the view (always supposing there one).

I forsee outbreaks of plane rage from bored & restless passengers, or at the very least great enthusiasm for the booze trolley. Perhaps the pan-stick coated flight attendants will start behaving like holiday camp red coats and will attempt to whip up group sing-a-longs or left aisle / right aisle games of charades. I can feel my will to live sinking by the day. As I will be having the delights of flying cattle class to Geneva on Sunday, with maybe four hours airside without any form of diversion beyond auditing my fingers, I'm a tad exercised by this. Any bright ideas?

Friday, August 11, 2006
Islamofascist Apologists / fact dodgers corner.

And first out of the stalls we have this from Hizb ut-Tahrir:

"It concerns us that there is already talk in the media about the ethnic identity of the suspects and that suspects are presumed guilty before any due process. Given the now infamous and fictitious cases (ricin plot, Manchester United Football Club plot and the recent Forest Gate raids) and the despatching of the army to Heathrow airport in 2003, we urge caution before jumping to conclusions".

More updates when I find them, but the MCB and the soi disante Islamic Human Rights Commission haven't said a mumbling word thus far.

12/8 00.30 update

Some telling quotes on a Reuters report

"In today's Britain, Muslims are perceived to be guilty until proven inncent," said Anjem Choudary, a former leader of the radical Al Muhajiroun group which praised the September 11 attacks on the United States. "I wouldn't be surprised if it was another case of a high-profile operation whipping the general public into this frenzy with very scant evidence," he told Reuters.

(Maybe it was the provisional wing of the Methodists)

Abul Khair, who runs an Islamic bookshop near the East London Mosque in the Whitechapel district of east London, said: "The government says it's Muslims, but it's propaganda. Muslims can't do such things. It's not allowed."

(Uh-huh. If it isn't those pesky Methodists again, maybe it is the few remaining Muggletonians. Then again, we have all sorts of acts of slaughter against non-Muslims by Muslims everywhere the two come into contact. Perhaps if Abul closes his eyes and hums all of those inconvenient facts will just go away)

Meanwhile, still nothing from the MCB or the IHRC. Or Respect, or the hand in its glove puppet, the SWP.

And the BBC still just can't bring itself to the use the 'M' word and the FT has editorialised with this "The first response must be to adopt a foreign policy that saps terrorists of support without pandering to their demands." The drink of your choice to the first person who can come up with anything approaching an explanation of what on earth that could mean.

A bit of Croydon-related light relief.

Just seen this on the local rag's website: Croydon wheelie bins turning up in Essex.

It looks as though the criminal fraternity in the county where I spent my formulative years have been nicking Croydon's wheelie bins. Does seem a rather pointless endeavour, unless Basildon's (even we Essex types are embarassed by it) blaggers thought that Croydon bins would raise the tone. Can't see any mention of it in the Basildon newspaper. Both places make it into The Idler's list of crap towns, although Croydon sweeps the board on Chav Towns.


Prescott, Reid and COBRA.

Apparently the increasingly absurd Prescott is "incandescent with rage" at reports that he is out of the loop on yesterday's events, and the the BBC is reporting Reid's attempts to soothe Prescott's bruised ego. So far, so not particularly interesting.

This, however, is the kicker: "Mr Prescott did not go to either of the initial meetings of the government's emergencies committee...Mr Reid has chaired three sessions of the Cobra committee since late on Wednesday night and will head another meeting later on Friday. Mr Prescott missed the first two meetings but attended the third".

What, pray, could have been so important Prescott that he would not clear his agenda? I'm sure we'd all love to see his diary for the week.

How Le Monde sees the British dailies

The French dailies are, unsurprisingly, leading with that story, and do not to be saying anything particularly new or different from what is being said here .

However, the bracketed pigeon holing of the dailies by Le Monde is quite amusing:

Daily Mirror (the only overt tabloid supporter of the Labour party)
The Sun (anchored to the Right)
Guardian (Centre Left)
Financial Times (Business daily)
Independent (Left)
The Times (Centre Right)
Daily Telegraph (Conservative)

Not quite how I'd see it, but then again Blairism probably seems pretty right wing to Le Monde, which I'd classify as being a bit like a left wing Times, from when The Times was still a semi-serious newspaper.

Another quality photoshop competition at B3ta.

Of particular appeal to all of we frustrated Libertarians - The Future of the Nanny State

As ever, not always safe for work.

Some observations on yesterday's events

Having grown up in the 70s and 80s, I well remember the horrors the Fenians inflicted on us, and have hazy memories of the Baader Meinhoff gang, the Red Brigades etc etc, but what separates the urban terrorists of that period from the Islamofascists of today is the rather clearer modus operandi of the former, and their more selective targeting. Even considering all out inter state warfare, Kyoto was blocked from being a nuclear target in ’45 because of the importance of its religious sites to Shintoists, and the Germans were somewhat surprised that Monte Cassino abbey was bombed.

As I have noted before, the IRA etc were more than capable of causing massacres, should they have sought them, and it was notable that when they killed the 'wrong' people, like that poor child in Warrington, the IRA's command were quick to issue (admittedly mealy-mouthed) apologies. They recognised that the broader constituency they were appealing to - SDLP supporters in Ulster and bone-headed 'Irish' Americans (there are more Americans descended from Ulster Protestants than from southern Irish Catholics) - were likely to be appalled by such actions. In contrast, the methods of the Islamofascists, as evidenced by yesterday, 9/11, 7/7 etc is to slaughter indiscriminately, and there has been nothing approaching a backlash within the Muslim communities against the actions performed in their name. Even the pseudo-moderates mutter bromides about ‘community anger’ about the chimaera that is Islamophobia, or about Western foreign policy. And of course they have then gained (im)moral support from moral relativists (by far the kindest phrase I could use) like Jenny Tonge and Cherie Blair.

It is notable that none of the apologists for Al Qaeda and its wannabes have ever, to my knowledge, expressed any regret for the death of Muslims caused by their 'spectaculars', let alone we infidels. Apart from the obvious savagery towards those who are not they, it also tells us that 'collateral damage' is more than acceptable to them.

Broadening this out, the Islamofascists have gone out of their way to attack soft targets, whereas the terrorists we got used to /generally/ mounted attacks against what could, in their terms, be seen as legitimate targets - the law, the armed forces, politicians, and local 'enemies'. It is perhaps worth pondering on why the Green terror has not been applied systematically against the state, and why attacks on Jews have been limited to the odd shul / graveyard desecration and beating up Yeshiva students. Given that most of our homegrown Islamofascists have roots in Kashmir, it is also notable that Hindus and Indian-linked targets have not found themselves to be primary targets.

Thursday, August 10, 2006
The bomb plot

Not much point in providing a hyperlink as everyone will know what I'm writing about. The list of freshly banned objects for carry on luggage goes to even sillier lengths than that which we were already labouring under, and I am not relishing the prospect of maybe four hours airside/flight time with no reading material beyond in-flight magazines on Sunday.

I tend to think that a lot of the banning etc of this, that and the other in these circumstances is more psychological than practical - much like getting people to donate pots and pans to the WW2 war effort - and is aimed at giving a sense of threat and 'something being done' more than actually achieving something tangible. As a case in point, imagine what one could do with a non-banned CD/ DVD snapped in two and compare that with the ban on nail files, crotchet hooks etc.

And let's see if the BBC manages to use the 'M' word before the end of the day.

An update:

Everybody's /favourite/ Mayor has had this to say:

"No community in London can or should be targeted or blamed because of the actions of people who are pure criminals".

Uh-huh, and the police should target people in wheelchairs as being just as likely as 20 something males to make trouble at football matches, and the Met was derelict in not investigating Liberal Democrats at the time of the Brixton and Soho bombs? It may well be inconvenient for those Muslims who do not break the law, but profiling is the only sensible way to go about anti-terror policing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Random good (?) ideas department

Praguetory is less than impressed with the five hours it takes to process an arrest. It would be very hard to disagree, and for some time I have been chewing over the possible virtues of the plod being issued with customised PDAs. Anyone who suffers ordeal by SW Trains will have seen ticket collectors armed with PDAs and printer units that allow them to crank out tickets etc, all based on a few clicks, stylus strokes etc.

Clearly police work is a tad more complex than that of a ticket collector, but I imagine the vast bulk of police note taking revolves around a comparatively small set of offences etc, and feel that a PDA would be a vast improvement on a notebook. One problem that would have to be dealt with would be the laws of evidence, as the scope for falsifying records could exist without proper safeguards. However, the time savings based on syncing an Ipaq back at the station (or better still, transmitting the data while out and about) would be enormous, and allow Her Majesty's various constabularies to get on with policing and not to spend so much time on admin.

Thoughts, especially of a technical and / or policing nature, and comments, please.

Jim Sheridan's sudden outbreak of scruples

I don't suppose many of us wake up of a morning and wonder quite what is going through the mind of the member for Paisley & Renfrewshire North and now former PPS to the Defence Ministry.

Anyway, he's resigned, claiming ""I don't expect my resignation will have any significant impact on the prime minister's objectives in the Middle East, which I genuinely believe to be honourable on his part, but I don't believe they reflect the core values of the Labour Party or indeed the country." All very moving I'm sure we'll all agree.

So, let us examine his voting record, and what do we find: slavish following of the party line including being strongly for the Iraq war. So much for core values, eh Jim? Perhaps he wants to spend more time with his bank account, or is manouevring for something else. However, I doubt we'll hear from him again.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year odds on Betfair

The ever excellent Paul Linford has blogged about the annual nonsense fest that is that event, and there's no need to duplicate his thoughts on that.

However, a quick shufti at Betfair's odds for the event discloses that the third favourite after Monty Panesar and Steven Gerard is David Walliams. The first two are potentially worthy winners as they are at least sportsmen, if not necessarily 'personalities'. Comedian Walliams swam the channel for some charitable cause or other, which was a worthwhile thing to do, but hardly makes him a sportsman in my book.

Since this is my blog and I can meander every which way I want, I'll just add that I consider 'Little Britain' to be vilely misogynistic.

Conrad Black fired up about Hizbollah.

I was not aware that Conrad Black was doing anything much beyond keeping out of sight these days, but there's a rather punchy article with his name to it in today's Canadian National Post

"The world is now divided over Lebanon among five groups: the righteous, if dilatory wielders of the Sword of Israel; the United States, U.K., Canada and a few others, holding the door open for Israel to do what civilization and justice, in all faiths and none, require; the majority of the EU and Muslim and other countries shuffling weight from one foot to another, but hoping Israel does the necessary; nostalgic replicators of the compulsory cheerfulness of the Coue System, like the EU's Xavier Solana, who would look upon the end of the world as an exciting consciousness-raising opportunity; and the unmitigated evil of Hezbollah and its sponsors. To adapt Cato the Elder, speaking of Carthage: Delendum est Hezbollah!".

Whatever the governance goings on at Black's companies, I thought he was an excellent proprietor of the Telegraph (and The Spectator), and saved it from inexorable Express-style decline and / or sale to someone wholly unsuitable.

(Re the Coue System, I had to look it up : 'Émile Coué - French psychotherapist. He is remembered for his formula for curing by optimistic autosuggestion, “Day by day, in every way, I am getting better and better.”)

Trotskyites, Tankies and the man with the Zapata moustache

Remember this chap? Well, José Bové is putting it about that he's ready to to accept a nomination to run for the French Presidency next year and has called on the wilder fringes of the French left to 'have the courage to consider a candidate who is not a Party member'.

Roughly translated, this means 'I fancy a tilt at the top job but don't have much of a campaigning machine behind me and therefore I'm quite happy to go along with dialectical materialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat etc etc if I get the use of party workers. And I might have a book coming out'. A little sniffing around turned up his claim that Mossad arranged the 2002 fire bombings etc of shuls in Paris. Nice man.

A comment maker over at Liberation adds a comment so naive it is almost touching: "In order for the anti-liberal Left to have a [single] candidate, the Trotskyites and Communists need to bury their differences". Uh-huh. Like that is going to happen, ever.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006
An update on Gina Ford

There has been a quite remarkable outbreak of very critical reviews of 'The Contented Little Baby Book' over at Amazon.co.uk, which readers might find interesting. I wonder if Foot Anstey will be sending a letter similar to this to Jeff Bezos......

A small piece of Tuesday cheer

I was much cheered to see that professional irritant George Monbiot apparently labours under a sentence of life imprisonment by Indonesia, albeit handed down in absentia. Rather less cheering is the UK not having an extradition treaty with Indonesia.

(Note for any po-faced luddites greens gearing up for a rant about free speech etc, I am not being entirely serious)

How long is a piece of string?

The classic answer is any length you like, but I pose the question because of this staggering piece of nonsense from an assistant commissioner at the Met, who "wants an independent judicial inquiry into radicalisation of young Muslims after the 7 July bombs".

One might note that a judicial inquiry investigates where there are facts to be found rather than deciding that there is a fact and then seeking evidence to prove it. The suggestion of a judicial inquiry here is akin to tasking a highly paid QC to pick up mercury with a fork.

Trotskyite corner

The Scottish Socialist Party (henceforth the SSP) looks an awful lot like a Trotskyite entity to me, and yet Tommy Sheridan's decision to seek the leadership of the SSP looks rather like he might be guilty of falling prey to Trotsky's anathematised 'cult of leadership'. Still, the extreme left is never happier than when engaged in in-fighting, so the rest of us should sit back and enjoy the show.

If only I'd been wearing an 'I'm blogging this' T-shirt.

I've been away from base for the last couple of days, and yesterday was persuaded by my considerably better half to try out a vegetarian restaurant in Marylebone High Street called 'Eat and Two Veg'. I'm pretty much a career red meat eater, but was prepared to give it a go. Big mistake.

We were shepherded to a table rammed into a corner and were constantly jostled by the people on the next table, who had arrived after we did. Strike one for poor table arrangement, especially given that the place was not exactly rammed with customers. Furthermore, my lady friend had to suffer a very badly positioned air con unit blasting cold air straight down her neck. So far, so pretty far from impressive.

We ordered at circa 1.10 ish, and the rather suspect looking juice drinks turned up, accompanied by some industrial grade French bread portions in a cake tin that looked like a stranger to professional dishwashing. At 1.35 ish we were getting a tad restless, and got up to ask the waitress what was going on. Bear in mind the place was far from full, and although I do not like waiting staff that hover, anyone who deserves to be termed a waiter or a waitress ought to be keeping an eye on 'their' tables, otherwise we are more in the realms of food porters, rather than customers having to get up to find a waitress. We were told, 'just another five minutes'. Given that we had ordered the vegetarian equivalent of fast food, five minutes from scratch would have been about right.

Another 5-10 after that the manageress (?) came over and half-heartedly 'explained' that the order hadn't gone through because the printer had run out of ink or somesuch, and it would be 'another 5 minutes' and would we like another drink in the meantime. I think the drinks were going to be on the house, but by this time I'd had more than enough, told the manageress that it was completely unacceptable and we were off. They had the grace not to attempt to charge us for the drinks. My companion reckoned the manageress was a bit taken aback by this, so maybe veggies are routinely prepared to put up with non-service. I'm not, and allowing the incompetent to get away with it serves no-one's interests.

So, that's my handy hint for the day - don't attempt to eat at 'Eat and Two Veg' in Marylebone unless you just love being badly seated and messed about / ignored by incompetents who are a disgrace to the waitressing profession.

Another three cheers for John Howard

Just seen this in the J Post :

"Australian Prime Minister John Howard was mobbed in Perth last weekend after declaring that Hizbullah "is not some kind of inspirational liberation organization, it's a terrorist organization."But for several days beforehand, Australian Ambassador Tim George, who is winding up his term, had been stating that the attack against Israel was "unprovoked and unjustified." It would seem his opinion was not only personal but official".

Meanwhile, why is the Sydney Morning Herald giving rather more prominence to Stephen Bayley's characterising London as 'filthy, lawless and expensive' than the UK press, eh?

The Contented Little Blogger, or perhaps not

Grim prospects for UK bloggers are ahead of us based on a rather alarming item in the Telegraph today, concerning what would appear to be a rather heavy-handed approach to fair comment and freedom of speech. Gina Ford, author of ‘The Contented Little Baby Book’ has unleashed the dogs of law on mumsnet.com, a discussion site for mothers. She has taken umbrage at what she has called ‘gross personal attacks’ on her character and reputation by users of the site, and via the medium of a solicitor’s letter has sought to compel the site’s owner to remove all and any threads referencing her, not merely individual comments that she deems libellous. The site was quite prepared to kill individual comments, but this was deemed insufficient, and Mumsnet has had to place all discussion of her and her works off limits due to the threat of defending a potentially hugely expensive defamation suit. As owner Justine Roberts commented, "We feel deeply sad and frustrated, we have done everything we can to meet their various demands, but how can we pre-vet everything when we have 10,000 posts a day? We cannot be absolutely sure the odd comment does not slip in. It seems to me the law is an ass and that it allows people with deep pockets to shut down huge websites."

There is clearly a huge implication for bloggers who accept comments on their blogs, although the fact of Blogger’s servers being hosted outside the UK makes for additional legal difficulties that would appear not to apply to Mumsnet. At present Winterton vs Global & General Nominees (That’s Guido) does not appear to have kicked off, but as I have noted before, this has the scope to clarify the cyberlaw dimension of English defamation.

As English libel law stands, one libels someone by publishing something which is untrue, the defences to which are truth, and fair comment. Not knowing quite what has been said about the evidently well-fed Ms Ford, I have no idea whether the posts could have been classed as fair comment or not, but the site's owners have presumably decided that discretion is the better part of valour in this case. I think that there is a need for an urgent overhaul of defamation law, and a vital additional requirement for defamation needs to be malice, as it is in US law (see Westmoreland vs CBS) . In the meantime, I can safely state (based on her own website) that Ms Ford does not claim to have either academic or clinical qualifications as a paediatrician: "Gina was born and grew up in the Scottish Borders. After studying Hotels and Catering in Edinburgh, she had an opportunity to become a maternity nurse and discovered her flair with babies".

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Another French round up.

The French Socialists have banned their electees from signing nomination papers for candidates for other parties. Now this does not strike me as a particularly outrageous demand, but one Alain Krivine of the LCR (Revolutionary Communist League) calls it 'an insult to pluralism'.

You have to admire his chutzpah, don't you?

Elsewhere, Le Monde has found a way to fit in a bit of Britain bashing on the sly. It notes a survey has found that 'a quarter of Her Majesty's subjects between 18 and 20 intend living and working abroad' and refers to 'a haemorrhage of talent' occasioned by disgruntlement with high taxes, public transport etc 'and especially for Northerners and Scots, to get away from grey skies'.

All good knock about stuff, agreed, but it will be a cold day in hell before I routinely believe what the average student declares he or she is intent on doing. If one of the questions had established how much time they spent in the company of daytime TV, we might have had a benchmark for veracity.... A little web-based Sam Spadery suggests that this survey does indeed need a dump truck full of salt, as it would appear to be this one at the IPPR. Which is self selecting and offers a prize too. Hmm.

Meanwhile, blogging is likely to be light for the next day or so.

Saturday, August 05, 2006
STWC up to its old tricks

Trotskyite front organisation the Stop the War Coalition has come up with a new stunt, calling on its gulls to "Bring children's shoes to the national demonstration on Saturday 5 August. We will leave them at The Cenotaph, on Tony Blair's doorstep".

I have not been able to establish what is the tariff fine for littering in
Westminster, and would appreciate an update if anyone knows. I imagine it would be at least £50. Meanwhile, stand by for a possible repeat outbreak of life imitating art and someone setting fire to the wreaths on the Cenotaph. I think that was first featured in a Tom Stoppard play, but I may well be wrong.

The useful idiots along for the ride might take note that there are no condemnations of Hizbollah anywhere on the STWC site, and the SWP "are happy to join the Arab masses in expressing our solidarity with the fighters of Hizbollah".


Compare and contrast how the BBC's site and the Sky News website report on the march. Particularly the headlines.

Friday, August 04, 2006
Yet another 'binge drinking' scare

The 'meeja' is having one of its periodic panic attacks (what are we up to now - one a week?) about Britons drinking too much, especially Up North. I've included the rather arresting Hogarth as a reminder that there is absolutely nothing new under the sun. My compatriots have been over-imbibing for centuries, and indeed it seems to be entrenched in our popular culture. Doubtless there will be lots of hand-wringing articles in the 'serious' newspapers tomorrow bemoaning the ghastly proles getting lagered up and being so very different from our frightfully civilised neighbours across the Channel. They will not, however, bother to examine research showing quite how much the French drink, let alone the Finns and sundry others. I'm sure we could all knock up a Daily Mail standard 1000 word 'why oh why?' article in no time.

I do not believe that there is substantially more drinking - especially among men - now than there was a few decades, or come to that, a few centuries back, but rather it has become more visible. I would put this down to City Centre superpubs having taken so much of the market, and the mass exit at closing time makes matters all the more obvious. When people did the decent thing and supported their local hostelry, chucking out time looked rather less like the Fall of Rome and the presence of friends, neighbours and relatives would have acted as a significant restaining inflluence on behaviour, if not necessarily on the quantity consumed.

Tory candidates for Mayor of London

I see the deadline for registration has been extended.

Whether this brings forth the 'Big Names' the party are so keen on remains to be seen, but this is desperately unfair on the candidates who have already pitched in, doubtless spending a great deal of time and effort to get their campaigns up and running. There was a long lead time for would be candidates and should Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms Big (or come to that Doctor Big) come forward, it will take a lot for them to impress me given that they could not even manage to play within the pre-announced rules. Not impressed. At all.

An interesting piece on Golda Meir

Le Figaro has an item on Golda Meir, noting that the modest former official residence of Israeli prime ministers is to be turned into a museum.

It notes, 'It was here in the kitchen, and without standing on ceremony, that Golda Meir... used to convene ministerial meetings'.

Meir was quite a character, and Ben-Gurion referred to her as 'the only man in my government'. Although not the first female head of government, she is - to my knowledge - the only woman in modern times to have led a country during a life or death war, to whit, the Yom Kippur war of '73. I cannot find the reference, but there is a tale of her being told of the attacks by the Arab states and declaring in Yiddish, 'Nur das fullt mir' ('Now that's all I need'). A bit of googling etc shows that she was played by Ingrid Bergman in a TV mini-series, which is just way too surreal, frankly.

Getting a little closer to home, I'm strongly in favour of our elected leaders living in comparatively modest housing, and while 10 Downing Street is hardly a shoebox, it is a good deal less showy than the White House, or across the Channel, the Matignon or Elysee palaces.

Israel's nuclear weapons

The centrepiece opinion item in today's Telegraph argues for a nuclear free Middle East, and runs with the idea that if Israel closed Dimona etc etc there would be a US guarantee of Israel's safety, integrity and a preparedness to take out any attempted nuclear proliferation by its neighbours. Alistair Horne then goes on to ask what the Israelis are actually deterring.

It seems to me that he does not understand Israel's historic nuclear strategy. Israel had a rough and ready nuclear arsenal as far back as the 1970s, and I suppose one would think that the obvious targets would have been Cairo, Damascus, Baghdad and so forth. This would be wrong, the target were a good deal further North: for missiles the southern Caucasus and for plane mounted weapons, Moscow. The underlying idea was that Syria, Egypt etc would only ever go as far as Moscow permitted them, and therefore Israeli nuclear strategy addressed the organ grinder rather than the monkeys.

Moving towards more modern times, the Russian Federation has little or no clout in the region, but as we see with Iran, Israel has plenty of foes further afield and Teheran is the hand inside the Hizbollah glove puppet. Horne seems to think that Israel would only go to DefCon One in a war that had already got the Americans thinking the same way. Again, I think the writer is barking up the wrong tree. Looking at Gulf War I, the aim of Saddam in firing missiles at Israel was to bring Israel into the war and to fracture the anti-Iraq coalition, but Saddam was not prepared to launch chemical weapons at Israel precisely because of nuclear weapons. Sounds like a job well done to me. What I consider to be the most seriously wrong headed in the writer's scheme is that a nuclear-free zone would extend only so far as to Iran's eastern border. While Iran is seeking to lead the Islamic world and is certainly making the most noise at the moment, it is hardly the only contender. Moving a little further to the east we have Pakistan, currently a less than stable state, and it is hardly outlandlish to envisage a less than friendly regime in Islamabad some years hence that decides that just the thing it needs to establish its credentials is to attempt to incinerate Tel Aviv.

Thursday, August 03, 2006
Wonks' Corner

This blog has just reached a new high for site and page hits (feel free to click on the site meter for more details) , so I would like to extend my thanks to the people who have made this a port of call, and particularly to the comment makers, as you good folk give it its texture and make it more than just me talking to myself. Thank you again, and I hope I can continue to make this a place judged worth looking at.

Some light entertainment....

The Hezbollah video dating service, as sent by a co-conspirator.

Nominations for the nation's most irritating pressure groups

The Howard League has managed to get under our collective fingernails, so I would be interested to know what other pressure groups, NGOs etc are betes noir for you good people.

I'll kick it off with those joyless puritans at ASH and Alcohol Concern.

And on a completely different tack, a small spot the difference 'competition':

Me, Tuesday: "Fellow blogger and all round good guy James Cleverly also impresses".

Guido, today: "James Cleverly, www.jamescleverly4london.com all round nice guy, blogger".

Ahmadinejad doesn't like us very much

MEMRI has a translation of one of his fire and brimstone rants, and quite entertaining it is too. However, while the crowd chants 'death to Israel' and 'death to America', we get left out. Maybe we need to raise our game.