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Giant earwing on the loose in Baden-Wurttemberg

Saturday, September 30, 2006
Yes, really.

I'll steer clear of Aalen, I think.

Islamonutters up to their tricks in France

It was bound to happen eventually, wasn't it? Liberation reports that Robert Redeker, a philosophy teacher from near Toulouse has gone into hiding and has police protection in the wake of death threats following an article he penned for Le Figaro (which I had thought about blogging at the time...) which calls the koran 'a book that encourages violence' and refers to its prophet as 'a master of hate' and 'a plunderer, slaughterer of Jews and a polygamist'. The final clause is beyond dispute and the first one is yet another of those self-fulfilling comments.

PM De Villepin's reaction is less than a clarion call for freedom of expression: "We live in a democracy, everyone has the right to express themslves freely, but with respect, of course, for others. It is the only limit to this freedom which is acceptable." Redeker rebutted that the minister and the teaching unions had abandoned him. Shameful, but then again the Satanic Verses affair established the template that people could call for murder in this country and get away with it.


The Dutch are loutish and ill mannered? They think so

According to a poll of Hollanders by De Teegraaf, thankfully rendered in English by Reuters

In their reckoning, only the Russians and the French are worse, with the Swiss, 'Scandinavians' and the Belgians top of the class.

From family connections I've been led to believe that the Dutch are given to bluntness, but the ideas of the Belgians being polite is a jaw dropper. In my experience, les Belges make the French look like small town Iowans on the charm / friendliness stakes. Folk tell me that Israelis do a stunning line in rudeness.

Having gone for a root around on the originating site, I haven't been able to find the article, so can't say where we British types rank.

Any thoughts from overseas blog visitors, or the well travelled?

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Some rather good news

The Evening Standard reckons that Mr Tony is about to get questioned by Her Majesty's finest over 'cash for peerages'. No wonder French politicians are so keen on immunity from prosecution...

Rubbing my hads with glee to one side, I also think that is totally unacceptable that 'Scotland Yard sources' can put this information out.

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One bloggers' convention later...

Friday, September 29, 2006
Got to meet (in alpha) Alan (Prison works), Ellee, (Ellee Symour), Geoff (Geoff), Iain (Iain Dale),Prague Tory (Prague Tory) and Tom (Injured Cyclist and a splendid time was had. I look to be the first one to blog it, so I win.


Will Hutton

This week's Spectator notes that Will 'Yawn' Hutton is going to be addressing the Tory conference next week. I'm not best pleased, and hope that it is only a fringe meeting. Who's next? George Galloway? The Work Foundation, his baby (formerly the Industrial Society...) is drowning in words like 'Ideopolis' and 'paradigm'. I feel quite nauseous.

Anyway, I can comfort myself with the notion that every second hand bookshop I've visited in the last few years has stacks and stacks of untouched, or barely touched copies of 'The State We're In'. Meanwhile, an ebay completed items search shows that the last 9 copies of it put up for acution failed to sell, even the one listed for forty pence.



Expensive beasts to deal with, by the look of things. The Telegraph reports that it will cost £250 to remove a pigeon nest atop the Scottish Parliament in Auld Reekie, while our beloved Mayor of London's campaign against them in Trafalgar Square has cost £225,000 to date, or £90 per London Council Tax payer for every one of the blighters removed.

Must say I'm not enormously keen on pigeons, especially after one of them left its calling card on my suit some years back. A friend with foodie tendencies swears blind that London pigeons taste of cheese & onion crisps, owing to that being a major part of the average urban pigeon's diet. A 'farm' pigeon is a rather different proposition, and well worth eating.

Further thoughts on the Scottish dimension from David of Freedom and Whiskyhere. (a fine combination - C)

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Trouble in Broon's back yard

24dash.com is making a big hoo-hah about a council by election result in Fife:

"Labour was rocked by a landslide by-election defeat uncomfortably close to Chancellor Gordon Brown's political homebase. The Scottish National Party's John Beare won Fife Council's Markinch and Woodside East seat on a 30% swing since May 2003. The ward comes under Glenrothes' Westminster constituency, next door to Mr Brown's Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath".

As I've noted before, I am not especially keen on the SNP but for the time being my enemy's enemy is my friend.... Mind you Broon took 58.1% of the vote in 2005 to the SNP's 14.5%, so perhaps I should not get too carried away.


18 Himmelfahrtstrasse

18 Doghty Street is not alone in harnessing the interntet as a news tool. So is the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands. (All links to political parties are Wikipedia entries, not to the party sites)

Der Spiegel has the details:

"Germany's right-wing NPD party used to shy away from the Internet. But now it has discovered the benefits of the new technology -- and created its own online news show. The party has big plans for its own "critical news" show... The Internet broadcasting project marks the beginning of a new era for the NPD. In the past, the party had shied away from the Internet, dismissing it as an American "imperialist" invention".

Lest there be any doubt about its neo-Nazi tendencies, the party has made it clear where its sympathies lie:

"And a report from Cologne described a neighbourhood that wanted to get rid of its non-German citizens. The far-right menu of news stories was garnished with praise for a Tehran exhibition that writes off the Holocaust as a myth....The very first instalment of the news show already featured amateur footage of an NPD demonstration in front of a local Jewish centre and of a Rudolf Hess memorial march".

I am, as I hope my regulars know, by no means a supporter of these kind of people, but I do believe that free speech has to be defended at the margins if that freedom is to mean anything at all. If the NDP is not inciting crime then I can see no reason to attempt to ban its somewhat amateurish broadcasts - it is using youtube at the moment. After all, the United States suffers the frankly terrifyingNational Alliance, they of the deceased William ‘Turner Diaries’ Pierce, to make audio broadcasts, and thus far the ‘Herrenvolk’ have not risen up and seem somewhat unlikely to do so.

An Entertainment

Thursday, September 28, 2006
Inspired by a video mash up of George Formby 'playing' Motorhead that Dizzy has posted, here's something similar:

The Future arrives - six years late

Way back lost in the mists of time (the early 70s) I read a book called "School in the year 2000", and an image has stuck with me ever since, that of virtual classrooms where teachers had a row of TV screens showing the pupils rather than rows of desks. Anyway, something similar is happening now, apparently.

All of the research I've seen suggests that average home schooled children outperform average schooled children in terms of qualifications, but my chief concern is that such an environment is rather isolating and is unlikely to speed childrens' social development.

Still, an interesting development, and should it catch on the scope for cost savings are enormous, quite apart from freeing urban traffic from 4x4s / Volvo estates with one little prince or princess sitting in the back....

Selfish, selfish Prescott

He's going to stand down when Blair does, thus ruining much of the fun. Not a good 24 hours.


A teachers union says something I agree with. I'm in a state of shock

And that doesn't happen very often. I regarded the introduction of a national curriculum as a huge error at the time - it is overly prescriptive, limits the scope for schools to specialise and was legislating for a 'problem' that did not really exist. How many schools has anyone heard of that do not teach literacy and numeracy?

Anyway, the ATL is not happy:

"ATL leader Mary Bousted said the system was failing to engage children and should be replaced by a skills-based curriculum drawing on local knowledge. But the government says the national curriculum is broad and balanced, with scope for flexibility and innovation. Dr Bousted said: "We believe giving teachers greater freedom to set the curriculum would help raise results and keep more children engaged in learning so that fewer leave school at 16 feeling failures, having been failed by the system."

Sounds, on the face of it, quite sensible.


A transfer market in politicians...

A thought that occurred after reading a post on Vaclav Klaus at Prague Tory's place is a transfer market for politicians. I would very much like to have both Vaclav Klaus and John Howard as UK politicians. There are plenty I'd like to transfer out of our market too.....

More fun & games at the Francophone summit

Chirac has called on his Francophone club to sign a Unesco declaration on cultural diversity. Yes, agreed - dull as ditchwater.

However, this is coming from a man who presides over a country which only allows its historic linguistic and ethnic minorities a sort of biscuit tin lid expresion of identity, let alone that of ethnic Arabs and Berbers. Brittany, which I know quite well, does not provide state education in Breton, and I believe the same holds true for German in Elsass-Lothair, Flemish in the deep north or Provencal / Occitan in the South. Motes and beams, eh?


Jospin throws in the towel

Former French PM, Lionel Jospin, has given up trying to fool himself he has a chance of winning the Socialist's nomination for the presidency. Sundry buffoons on this side of the channel might benefit from his example....

(Apologies for late start - my internet connection is erratic)


Quiz o' the Day

Wednesday, September 27, 2006
While digging around in some boxes of books I re-discovered an old favourite, so your starter for ten is, which living (household name) political figure wrote this?:

It is an undisputed fact that both man and woman are human beings. It follows as a self-evident fact that woman and man are equal as human beings. Discrimination between man and woman is a flagrant act of oppression without any justification. For woman eats and drinks as man eats and drinks. . . Woman loves and hates as man loves and hates. . . Woman thinks, learns and understands as man thinks, learns and understands as man thinks, learns and understands. . . Woman, like man, needs shelter, clothing and vehicles. . . Woman feels hunger and thirst as man feels hunger and thirst . . . Woman lives and dies as man lives, and dies.

But why are there man and woman? Indeed, human society is composed neither of man alone nor of woman alone. It is made up naturally of man and woman. Why were not only men created? Why were not only women created? After all, what is the difference between man and woman? Why was it necessary to create man and woman? There must be a natural necessity for the existence of man and woman, rather than man only or woman only. It follows that neither of them is exactly the other, and the fact that a natural difference exists between man and woman is proved by the created existence of man and woman. This means, as a matter of fact, that there is a role for each one of them, matching the difference between them.

This is a verbatim transcription of the official translation.

Apparently 'The Thinker (....) does not present his thought for simple amusement or pleasure. Nor is it for those who regards ideas as puzzles for the entertainment of empty-minded people standing on the margin of life'. So no sniggering at the back.

The past is a different country...

Another tale from 'Islamic Imperialism', referring to the Greek war of independence:

"In Istanbul itself, the sultan shocked all of Christendom, especially Orthodox Russia, by having the venerable patriarch, Gregorius V, publicly hanged at dawn on Easter Day [1822]. It mattered not that Gregorius had preached restraint to his congregation; as far as the sultan was concerned, the patriarch, as the head of the Orthodox millet, was the guarantor of the community's loyalty. Having failed to deliver this, he had to pay the ultimate price".

(I am NOT recomending this as a course of action the government of this country should take).

..."is a "useless" woman with no sense of humour and should stop holding hands with her husband in public"

No, not Cherie Blair, but Jane Howard, in the reckoning of Margaret Whitlam, wife of former Oz PM.

I think the rot set in with Jimmy Carter, and apart from politcians, the reckoning is that anyone over the age of 40 seen holding hands in public has embarked on post divorce dating. Or am I being too cynical?


France's ex colonies have their 1973 moment

When the UK joined the Common Market as it then was, the Commonwealth was hung out to dry. Now the Organisation internationale de la francophonie thinks that the same thing is about to happen to them, with Le Monde quoting African leaders to that effect. Admittedly the anticipated shafting is more to do with a possible curtailing of aid when France has lots of Bulgarian and Romanian farmers to part fund rather than over trade issues as happened to our friends in the Antipodes and elsewhere. This is because those two noted French speaking countries have joined the OIF.

Jean-Didier Somda, the Foreign Minister of Burkina Faso commented "When you have two people eating from the same plate and then a fifth appears, you think that the late arriver does not have the right to be there".

On the upside, Abdou Diouf, Secretary General and former president of Senegal reckons it is a good thing: "When Romania and Bulgaria join the EU there will be 13 of the 27 helping us to get our message across".

Curiouser and curiouser said Alice…

So, off to the blogger's friend in search of further and better particulars. It turns out that 'Francophone states' in Europe don't end with France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland but include Austria, Georgia, Moldova and Lithuania inter alia (incluing associates and observers). Egypt is in on the act too, the ingrates - they could have joined the Commonwealth and have not.

I do get the feeling that the Quai d'Orsay will do anything to project French influence. Makes quite a change from the way the Commonwealth is routinely ignored. Plenty of intriguing factoids here, including interest from Norway, Cambodia and Rwanda.


Good grief - The SNP has 'Tartan Bookers'.

Here is something truly astonishing:

"One of the Scottish National party's leading figures today sets out a radical plan for greater involvement of the private sector in the provision of public services. Michael Russell, a former MSP who is virtually guaranteed to return to Holyrood next year, warns that the government in Scotland is fattened "to the point of dangerous obesity". Among the proposals the two put forward are for education vouchers, previously a Tory policy, the private sector competing with the NHS and for the abolition of Scottish Enterprise.

I am by no means religious (a sort of Anglican agnostic/atheist), but this seems apt:

"I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance". Luke 15 7.


Comments now have names

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Or so Dizzy tells me. Lord willing and the creek don't rise, this is going to work.


A whole new way of looking at Albion

Click here

Or, come to that, the United Kingdom

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A rather more imaginative opinion poll

The Jerusalem Post reports a survey on the attitudes of Israeli rabbis to the internet and to the media generally. Most of them were not keen:

"Despite a majority belief that the Internet was dangerous, all rabbis believed in the freedom of speech and the free press".

I appreciate that opinion polls are not cheap to undertake, but could not the likes of Yougov, Mori etc try something as novel for once?

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Those big mouthed Blairs

And there's more:

It was claimed that while Mr Brown was on his feet yesterday, Mrs Blair walked past the Communication Workers' Union stall and said with a wave of her arm: "This is all rubbish."She was then said to have turned to two people near the stall and said: "Anyway, you lot should be supporting Alan Johnson".

Surely there must be some enterprising hack / hackette out there who can coax one of the Blairlets into saying something equally as helpful as Cherie's interventions. Come on, get a DC stringer to catch Euan saying something indiscrete on tape, please? After all, if Jack Straw's boy can be persuaded to score some weed for a Mirror journalist, doubtless Euan can be lured into a comment for a drink or two?

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Freedom of the press - again

A thoroughly pleasing item in the which asked sundry journos about freedom of the press in their countries. Most of it is fairly humdrum, but at least three cheers for Mubashar Jawed Akbar of the Asian Age / Deccan Herald:

"It is my view that Indian unity cannot survive dictatorship and its favorite child, censorship. Freedom for us is not a gift from government, but a fundamental fact of our unity and independence".


Brown's speech - what the papers make of it

Thought I'd go for a trawl through those with op-ed online and find out:

Fawningly positive

Daily Mirror

"Gordon Brown has cleared his first hurdle in the race for the top job. No other Cabinet minister save Tony Blair could have delivered such a unifying sermon".


The Sun

The Chancellor put up a strong performance. So it was a pity to see it overshadowed by Cherie Blair’s farcical one-woman protest.

Mildly positive

The Times

If Mr Brown was trying to place a vast plaster over Labour’s (self-inflicted) wounds, he largely succeeded.


The Guardian

"Gordon Brown attempted a spectacular evolution yesterday - and although he did not fully succeed, his address to Labour's conference left him as the frontrunner, still, to succeed Tony Blair. A poor speech might have broken him and a brilliant one might have made his arrival in Number 10 a formality. This one was neither of those things.."

The Independent

Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour Party conference was not, despite all the advance billing, the speech of his life: it was nothing like the prime-ministerial tour de force he had delivered the year before. But then it did not need to be. It was a thoroughly competent and confident performance, which did more than enough to stake his claim to be the party's next leader and the country's next Prime Minister.

The Scotsman

"Like most job applications, Gordon Brown's speech yesterday to the Labour Party conference in Manchester attempted to tell his audience what it wanted to hear. So the Chancellor was at pains to mend fences (in public at least) with Tony Blair, to reassure the Blairites that he was still New Labour to the core".

The Herald

He certainly avoided the sort of banana skin that upended David Davis's chances of leading the Conservatives last year, but did he do enough to see off potential challengers and look like the man to take on David Cameron? The carefully stage-managed 175-second standing ovation cannot be regarded as a litmus test,


Daily Telegraph

Then there was the text of the speech itself. Given the importance of the occasion (billed as "the speech of his life" by the media), it should have been possible for Mr Brown and his speechwriters to produce prose that was less tired and hackneyed...He would, he said, "relish the opportunity to take on David Cameron", but there was precious little in this speech that would give Mr Cameron cause for concern.

So, the dour one will presumably be quite pleased with his reviews. If anyone can supply me with quotes from the Mail and Express I would be grateful. The FT and the Daily Smut Star seem to have ignored him>

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That Cherie Blair story

Monday, September 25, 2006
How long before we get unattributed comments from the Labour spin machine attempting to smear Bloomberg as a 'right wing' news organisation (because of Michael Bloomberg being a Republican)? I reckon it will kick in before the day is out.

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Factoid of the Day

"In 1211 the Great Wall was effortlessly breached and in the next five years the Mongols completed what has been estimated as the conquest of one hundred million people by one hundred thousand solidiers".

(Islamic Imperialism - A History. Ephraim Karsh. Yale University Press 2006)

The Labour Party goes retro..

Yup, its the 1970's all over again, as Harriet Harman seeks the deputy leadership by throwing some red meat to economically illiterate activists decides it is time for a little class warfare.

This time it is City bonuses in Labur's sights..

Quoth Harman: "Inequality matters. The big gap between those at the top and those at the bottom makes for a sick society. I do take the view that we are in the Labour Party because we don't like to see some people struggling while others are hugely rich."

And there was I thinking that 'new' Labour was more interested in increasing the size of the pie rather than in dividing up the existing one. Quite apart from the right of City companies to engage in economic acts between consenting parties, this seems like a really great way to destroy the City of London by having its best and brightest decamp for New York, Honkers or wherever.

Still, what's the point of having a successful sector of the economy when it can be bled white for the very short term benefit of Labour's client vote? What Harman also doesn't realise is that a lot of the City big boys and girls have comparatively modest salaries, and the bonuses are what keep their incomes up to snuff.

I have neither the ability nor the stamina to cut it in the City, and those I know who have succeeded have made unbelievable sacrifices to get to where they are. That's their choice, and if the rewards are enormous, so be it.

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Buzzword Bingo with Gordon Brown

Depending upon work etc I might watch Broon's speech later on, and given how mightily dull it will be, I think it could be livened up with a bit of buzzword bingo.

So some near certs:

New Labour
Fouth Term
Any mention of his sprogs

Olden but golden:

Forward not back
New Labour, New Britain

Not so likely:

'My friend Tony/Charles/Alan/Stephen'
Nye Bevan

I'll eat my hat if he says it:

I have no ambition to be Prime Minister
Croydonian is my favourite blogger

Any other suggestions?

Freedom of the press

I'm quite keen on it. It looks as though the Egyptians are not. The Herald Tribune reports that "Egypt has banned two editions of a French and a German newspaper, Le Figaro and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, because of articles that it has deemed insulting to Islam". Not a huge story, I'll admit, but here's the kicker:

The Egyptian agency said: "The minister of information said that he would not allow any publication that insults the Islamic religion or calls for hatred or contempt of any religion to be distributed inside Egypt". Anyone who has ever looked at the Memri site might be excused a hollow laugh.

EU Commissioners

Sunday, September 24, 2006
Just seen a report of Mandelson's comments to a fringe meeting at the Labour party conference which is positively over-seasoned with references to 'we', 'our' etc etc.

I've always been uncomfortable with unelected commissars, but theoretically:

"the Commission is intended to be a body independent of member states. Commissioners are therefore not permitted to take instructions from the government of the country that appointed them, but are supposed to represent the interests of the citizens of the EU as a whole". (source)

Can't say I'm convinced, but having read that, consider these Mandelson quotes and ask quite how independent he is of the UK, let alone Labour:

"Speaking about the renewal of Labour's policy agenda he said: "It will not come out of one person's head." Mandelson added: "We need to include all the talents.".

He added that Labour should "applaud the leader who has delivered us three successive election victories".
"If we don't cheer our prime minister, why should we expect anyone else to?"

I'm an 'EU citizen' Peter - are you representing me?

Caption competition...

Well, everyone else has them, so why not?

As found at the BBC site.

Brown's plans for the nation

It is remarkably hard to look at a news website, newspaper etc without being assaulted by endless coverage of what Broon fancies inflicting on the nation should he get his heart's desire and become Lord Protector PM. The plans are not really worth examining here, as I'm interested in personalities not policies this time around.

So, if there is not a cigarette paper's difference between Brown and Blair as the incarnation of 'new' Labour, and NL is all about the chimerical third way (what works, not ideology yadda yadda), why the sudden outbreak of new policy ideas from Brown?

I can see two possibilities:

1 - Brown brought up the ideas in Cabinet and they were shot down for being hopeless.

or 2 - Brown is a ferociously ambitious chancer whose interest in the good of the nation is wholly subordinate to his managing a successful grab and holding on to the brass ring of the leadership of the nation, and therfore he has kept these various plans and schemes to himself rather than allow us their supposed benefits accruing to Blair.

Die Tat ist alles, nichts der Ruhm. (Goethe) Or in English - The deed is everything, the glory naught.

A brief guide to using betting exchanges

Since Verity was showing interest in this topic over at Iain's place, herewith a brief run down:

I'm going to focus on Betfair, because that's what I use, and my political betting has been conspicuously more successful of late than my punts on the nags and football.

If anyone fancies signing up with them, send me your e-mail address as we both get kickbacks for someone new signing up.

Anyway, supposing that has been done, Betfair uses decimal odds rather than the more usual 4:1 etc. It takes a bit of getting used to, but they are easier to make sense of for a new punter than English odds.

From the sidebar on the left, choose 'politics' and then (for sake of argument), UK, next Labour leader. Due to Betfair's use of frames I can't link directly. Broon is currently trading at 1.44 / 1.45, meaning you can back him at 1.44, which if you win gives you your stake plus 44%. So, a tenner punt gives you £14.44 gross. If you don't fancy Broon's chances, you can make a lay at 1.45. Broon is currently very liquid, whereas other figues have a much wider spread between back and lay prices - Alistair Darling at 300 / 500. While a bet on Darling at 300 would be taken instantly - depending on the size of your punt - you don't have to go for 300. In the backing box (click on the blue box) it will then offer up 300 for you to place your stake. The odds can be raised, and there the bet sits until someone is prepared to offer those odds, or it lapses because nobody is.

So, assuming you have staked ten pounds on Darling, and are convinced he will win, you can sit back and wait for the result. Let us say that the entire cabinet bar Darling are imprisoned for electoral malpractice and Darling becomes the only game in town at 1.1, you could lay off the bet with the same stake. On that basis, if Darling does not become leader you have lost nothing, and if he does, you still get the vast bulk of the winnings you would have had at 300.

There's a lot more, but that covers the basics. Betfair's own site has ample explanation and helpful demonstrations on how to bet too. Minimum stake is £2.00. It's pretty easy and a minor rush when you win. I made some useful money on the Lib Dem leadership, the Bromley by-election and the Swedish general election. Here comes the caveat - never gamble with money you can't afford to lose.

Some novel thinking from Australia

The head of the New South Wales Liberals has come up with an intriguing idea - performance related pay for ministers:

"Mr Debnam today announced that wages would be linked to ministerial performance if he wins the state election in March next year. Coalition ministers would receive their backbench salary, but 50 per cent of their ministerial allowance would be withheld until the end of the financial year, he said. Ministers would then receive all or some of the withheld component of their ministerial salary depending on the outcomes they achieved in their portfolio".

The idea got monstered by the current Labor (sic) administration in NSW, and I'm not all convinced that achievement / non achievement by ministers is measurable in a way that is transparent and equitable. However, turning to home - I give you John Prescott.....

Trotskyite front organisation's demo represents the British people, apparently

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Or so the Stop the War Coalition claims. Even supposing I should accept their figure of 100,000 people attending the demonstration in Manchester, Bianca Jagger's claim that "the protest proved that most of the British people were against the war in Iraq" is more than a bit rich. I make that figure equivalant to 1 in 600 people. The Plod's claim of 20,000 gives 1 in 3000.

For purposes of comparison, the Countryside Alliance's London march mustered 400, 000, and there are no more than a handful of football teams that regularly get more than 20, 000 people attending a match. Maybe 'most of the British people' support West Ham...

Don't say I didn't warn you....

Thought I'd dive in and just go for a new template. It is still a bit rough around the edges, but maybe I can impose on Dizzy's patience, again, to finalise it.

Great piece on moral relativism in the Washington Post

The wonderfully named Charles Krauthammer has taken aim under the title ''Tolerance: a two way street' at the supine Western media over our Islamic chums. He's not come up with anything particularly new, but he does have a way with words:

"In today's world, religious sensitivity is a one-way street. The rules of the road are enforced by Islamic mobs and abjectly followed by Western media, politicians and religious leaders....And Islam, of course, spread with great speed from Arabia across the Mediterranean and into Europe. It was not all benign persuasion. After all, what were Islamic armies doing at Poitiers in 732 and the gates of Vienna in 1683? Tourism? However, the inconvenient truth is that after centuries of religious wars, Christendom long ago gave it up. It is a simple and undeniable fact that the violent purveyors of monotheistic religion today are self-proclaimed warriors for Islam who shout "God is great" as they slit the throats of infidels -- such as those of the flight crews on Sept. 11, 2001 -- and are then celebrated as heroes and martyrs".

There's plenty more. All good stuff.

The French spooks think Osama Bin Laden is dead.

Not a lot to add to that headline, but Le Monde is running with the story reported in L'Est Republicain. Anyway, the claim is that the paper has seen a confidential memo from the DGSE (check out the hideous logo) which claims the Saudis think OBL has died of typhus but are waiting for confirmation before announcing the good news.

Le Monde's source at the DGSE would not comment. Anyway, if L'Est Republicain is right chalk up one for the regional press. Mind you, OBL has already died more often than Sinatra had comebacks.

The joys of newspaper website interactivity..

Friday, September 22, 2006
Go to this article by the Hefferlump and search for Onno among the comment makers - it is worth it, honest.

The Animal 'rights' mob on the march again.

Animal Aid is cock-a-hoop as after months of putting the squeeze on Wyevale Garden Centres, resulting in WGC deciding to stop selling pets, not that the business put it quite like that. AA describes itself as 'campaigning peacefully against all animal abuse ', which I suppose I should take at face value. Quite how fringe this organisation is can be judged by this footnote that I spotted:

"For simplicity's sake, we have used the word 'pet', even though we would prefer to use the words companion animal. Equally people shouldn't 'own' pets, but in reality they are able to buy and sell them as commodities".

Naturally, they are against drug testing on animals, but also seek to ban the Grand National and pheasant shooting. It also enthusiastically promotes vegetarianism / veganism.

I don't have a 'companion animal' and have no desire to have one, but I think this caving in by WGC is regrettable. In brief, my position on animals is utilitarian.

A bit of a bombshell.

Just seen this in an Indian paper:

"The United States had threatened to bomb Pakistan "back to the stone age" in 2001 unless it co-operated in the US-led war on terror, President Pervez Musharraf said in a [CBS] interview.. due to be broadcast on Sunday. "I think it was a very rude remark," Musharraf says in the interview. "One has to think and take actions in the interests of the nation, and that's what I did."

One of the many things I admire about English as she is spoken in South Asia is understatement, and 'rude' is an absolute classic of its type.

Reminds me of a tale from 1978, just after the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran. Apparently the Iranian ambassador to Moscow was summoned to the Kremlin, and once within its walls was asked to pass over his watch to Kosygin or whoever. The ambassador was fixed with a gimlet eye, the watch was dropped to the floor and this ensued: "That watch is your holy city of Qom, and if you seize our embassy, this happens". Watch is stomped on. Or so the story goes, anyway.

Art exports...

We are having another one of those intermittent 'we must 'save' this work of art for the nation' brouhahas, this time involving a Turner painting. We had a similar thing with Canova'a 'Three Graces' a few years back - can anyone remember where it is? No googling. And furthermore, has anyone bothered going to see it?

Anyway, these things irritate me for two main reasons:

Firstly, I am irked by the intrusion into privity of contract - there is a willing buyer and a willing seller. The trade should be their concern, and theirs alone. This applies to the sale of other consumer products, so why not art?

Secondly, if this 'principle' had been in place centuries back, art would remain where it was created, thus the Met would be singularly lacking in European art, the National Gallery would be remarkably empty, ditto the Louvre etc etc. I think the Uffizi would still be quite impressive though.

That I really do not like Turner, at all , is not hugely relevant, but my points stack up, I believe.

'Israelis feel insecure'

All very pop-psychology today, isn't it? Anyway, there's a New Year poll in the Jerusalem Post on the state of the nation:

I can't help but think that 45% regarding Israel as being 'the best place to live' is a pretty impressive score. As a footnote, the sample of 501 is really very low - pollsters here generally quiz at least double that number, and hence the very high 4.5% margin of error.

And L'shanah tovah.

Gordon Brown on the couch

Interesting piece on the Man who would be King in the Telegraph today, which includes this oddity:

"..as one member of the Chancellor's inner circle puts it: "People want to feel that a politician is somebody they'd like to have on their sofa. You wouldn't mind having Gordon on your sofa, but you might feel you have to bring out your best china. Gordon's got to lighten up."

I don't know about the rest of you, but if Broon was on my couch I could imagine him as being the dinner party guest who just will not leave, and has bored everyone away with his neoendogenous growth theories and is making substantial inroads into the port. A friend's father (a Legion d'Honneur holder...) deals with such characters by offering them orange juice, hoping they will get the message.

The EU's Strasbourg Sessions

Thursday, September 21, 2006
Doubtless most of us are aware of the lunacy of the Brussels mob sauntering off to Strasbourg every once in a while just to please the French. Anyway, a Swedish MEP started a campaign to stop this, and thus far has collected 1m 'signatures' on an internet petition. Not hugely interesting, agreed. However, the BBC site quotes the almost very suitably named Labour MEP Gary Titley thus:

"one million European citizens have spoken - Europe's politicians now need to respond".

Right-o. Current population of the EU is 457,030,418, so that makes a rounded 0.22% of the EU's population. I thought I'd have a look at Mr Titley's result in 2004 . And lo, and indeed, behold, by Titley's reasoning, the remarkably obscure Countryside Party and the Pro-Life Alliance also 'spoke for the people' in his constituency.

Meanwhile, the departement of Bas Rhin (wherein is to be found Strasbourg) has a population of 1,026,120. I'm sure they could rustle up a million folk to 'sign' in favour....

A bit of amusement....

Was sent this by the Divine Ms S, she having found it here.

All sorts of interesting things in Der Spiegel

Very decently Der Spiegel translates much of its content into English, making life rather easier for me - my German 'O' Level is considerably older than I was when I sat it.

Anyway, some links:

A feminist publisher takes aim at moral relativism over Islam

Germany's pseudo-culture wars

Which includes this little nugget:

"Over the weekend, 20,000 Muslim Germans -- mostly Turkish -- took to the streets of Cologne in an anti-terrorism demonstration".

Come on MCB/IHRC/MPACUK - you *are* against Islamic terror, aren't you?

Economics 101 revisited

The British Retail Consortium is arguing that the government's minimum wage has led to 78,000 job losses. While the numbers would always be open to debate, setting a wage above the market level was always going to have this result.

As the BRC's DG notes, "Retailers tell us they are being expected to find £2.7bn extra for wages over just two years," said BRC director general Kevin Hawkins. He warned that with rental, energy and other charges "shooting up" some employers are looking to cut staffing costs".

Not that the TUC etc will concede the point, but then again it is there to serve the interests of its members, not those who might like the opportunity to become members....

Chris Evans

Am I alone in having been hugely disappointed that it was Chris 'Bioscience' Evans rather than Chris 'deeply irritating self-publicist' Evans who has just had his collar felt?

Shirley Williams talking (a degree of) sense shocker.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Never thought I'd be typing that out.

Anyway, the dishevelled one spoke to a Social Market Foundation fringe meeting and made this observation:

"She said it was a "tragedy" when a teacher is afraid to put their arm around a child who has grazed their knee in the playground for fear of being branded "a potential criminal". "That's ludicrous. This particular meeting is called loving your neighbour. If you can't love your little neighbour, if you can't show any love to your little neighbour you are already beginning to destroy his or her sense of trust in other human beings".

She also discusses the frequent panics over child molesters, oldsters' disproportionate fear of crime etc. She blames the meeja of course, so it isn't all good.

Jenny Tonge

This woman has form, shall we say. She thinks 'suicide' bombings in Israel are justifiable, inter alia. However, now she can afford to offend anyone she likes as she is in the Lords, and has gone off on one:

"The pro-Israel lobby has a grip on the western media - a financial grip" - Baroness Tonge. (quote stolen from Guido)

So, this looks very much like the old 'the Jews control the media' canard in an arguably more subtle form. Restricting myself to the UK media for now, we can list some noted pro-Israel media organisations - The BBC, the Guardian group, the Independent group, Mirror group, Reuters. Desmond is the only Jewish proprietor of UK dailies that I can think of, as News Int, the Barclays, Associated and those listed above most certainly are not. And that's before we get on to the regional dailies and evening papers....

Still, 'Western media' is quite a broad term, isn't it? So, the French national press? Nope. The German press? Nope. Spain, Italy, the Low Countries, Scandinavia? Nope. The Japanese press? Nope. Australia - well, there's Murdoch's 'Australian', but the Fairfax papers are more significant there. Likewise the Globe & Mail in Canada vs the more 'sound' National Post. In the US there are only two truly national papers - the Journal and USA Today, both fairly pro-Israel.

So, there you have it - those wicked Yahudi do not exactly have a total lock on the Western media, but why let the facts stand in the way of a slur?

The Pope - again

Interesting analysis in the Jerusalem Post from the Miracle on the Med's former envoy to the Vatican. Well worth reading in full, but this bit jumped out at me:

"Today, Europe in particular and the West in general lack a clear strategy for coping with the Muslims who live in their midst. Premier Romano Prodi and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's notion that the Palestinian problem is at the center of the crisis in the Middle East does not explain why recent terrorist acts have been carried out in Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia - all of them Muslim Arab countries".

And there's a contrarian take on things by Christopher Hitchens at Slate.

Guess which country has judges that don't understand the internet?

Not France this time, but Belgium. Google News has been caned by the Belgian courts, and has to remove Belgian newspaper content upon pain of a €1m fine per day. Detail here, from Liberation.

I imagine most of us would not think it worth going to the barricades over what Belgian judges get up to, but maybe we should:

"It is 'necessary' that the Belgian judgement against Google "becomes law in the whole of the European Union", claimed the National Federation of the French Press".

Electoral fraud

Few things get me more irate than electoral fraud, and I was more than a bit surprised to see that there are allegations of it against the Social Democrats in the Swedish elections - more here.

I realise I'm mixing chalk with cheese, but Sweden rates 6th worldwide for perceived lack of corruption according to Transparency International.

I've yet to find any information on penalties upon conviction in this country, but I very much doubt that they are as ferocious as I would wish them to be. Meanwhile, check out the 'shoe polish method' here.

Begging everyone's indulgence - again

Tuesday, September 19, 2006
As some of you know, I think this place needs a bit of a tidy up, and I'm thinking of using this template:

Yes, no, maybe, why bother? I also plan to clean up the links and dump zoom clouds / the referer.org list in favour of just the Technorati stuff.

Caledonian craziness

A lifetime of cynicism has inured me to being surprised at the deranged ideas people come up with, or at least I thought it had.

Those of my vintage may recall the 'wages for housework' campaign by radical feminists back in the 70's, but I now offer you wages for being a single mother.

It is being suggested in all seriousness by one Professor Marshall, Scotland's Children's Commissioner that "For single mothers, there should be the option of being supported by the state if need be, rather than them going back to work...I think there are many who would prefer to be at home with their children and the children would benefit from that".

Well yes Prof, but do you have any idea about how incentives and disincentives operate within the economy? Or *any* idea how much this would cost?

I don't doubt that anyone who has not spent a lifetime in academia and the quangocracy could explain this to her.

The Honours system

I'm not keen on it, as I do not believe that it can ever be so transparent as to remove all questions of impropriety. That is a story for another day, but I would scrap it all bag and baggage apart from awards for bravery and perhaps some kind of long service award.

Anyway, if you go here you will find a form for nominating someone for an award. You don't get to nominate a particular award, although it looks like you could nominate yourself. As Dizzy pointed out, it doesn't say who to make the cheque out to...

Anjem Choudary

The /delightful/ creature behind the Westminster Cathedral stunt has had his rather murky past dug up by the Evening Standard. Most amusing.

Apparently he could neck a pint of cider in seconds, smoked weed and took acid inter alia. Looks like he won't be getting his 72 raisins....

Our Yellow friends with the snake in the grass emblem

The BBC site has a link with this name:

"All you need to know at-a-glance from the Lib Dem conference". And it doesn't link to a blank page.....

Moral Relativist Corner

Madeleine Bunting has made this astonishing discovery:

"But while the Pope has tried to build a more appealing public image, what has become increasingly clear is that this is a man with little sympathy or imagination for other religious faiths".

Well, duh...

The Obesity Panic

It isn't just here you know - it has spread to France, with it reported in Liberation that nearly a third of the French population are 'overweight or obese'. So much for that 'Why don't French women get fat?' bestseller - unless the 19.8m are all chaps of course.

There are all sorts of intriguing factoids in the research, like the note that in nine years the average Gaul has put on 2.1 kilos but only grown 4mm. The North, East and the Paris basin have seen the biggest increases, apparently

Sad News

John Young, of Young's the brewer, has just died. Young's probably isn't that well known outside of this neck of the woods, being a South London based operation, but it should be as it is A - a brewer of excellent beer, B - a pub operator of great repute and C - a fine example of a family run business. Full obit of Mr Young here.

As a sleeper member of CAMRA and occasional real ale bore, I followed Mr Young's career closely and for a man of advanced years he showed a remarkable ability to manipulate the press and defend the independence of the family business. The company had (and I think still has) a share structure with A & B class shares which gave A shares a greater say in the running of the company, and one of the institutional inverstors would regularly make a stink at AGMs about both the shareholding structure and the direction of the company. One year Mr Young appeared at the AGM in a beekeeper's outfit, in order 'to ward off b-stings'.

One of my aphorisms is that there is no such thing as a bad Young's pub, and I'm yet to find an establishment where that does not hold true - they look after their beer properly, have decent landlords and don't turn their pubs into horrible theme pubs or target 'vertical lager drinkers' and so forth. So, ideal for a quiet chat, which is what I look for in a watering hole. I trust the good family Young will continue in the best traditions of John Young and his ancestors.

Much though I loathe mission statements (and I might do a post on them one of these days), this is the one at Young's: "Delighting our customers with stylish pubs, unique beers and great service". Quite laudable I think.


Apologies to anyone checking in earlier who found a near dead blog. Not quite sure how in testing of templates and so on I managed to revert one of my old test blogs.

Could someone post a comment to see if this works, please?

His Grace has a new pastime

Monday, September 18, 2006
Judging from this item, His Grace is called Scotty, and is a dab hand on a BMX bike. How he finds the time and the energy I do not know.

Here's an extract:

"Cranmer quickly silenced the HP Pavilion crowd, pulling a no-handed front flip up the step-up....Cranmer attacked the course aggresively, yet flowed between obstacles, pulling technically difficult tricks off of the biggest jumps. Double-tailwhips, 360 whips, turndowns, barspins to X-ups, you name it, he pulled it off the hardest jumps".

Ford & GM had merger talks

I'll admit that this probably isn't anyone's first port of call for business news, and I'm not intent on making it so, but this story is a monster.

For what it is worth, the two behemoths are plagued by enormous pension etc responsibilities and far higher wages and less labour flexibility than their Japanese competitors - which do a lot of car building in the US, especially in the South. It is increasingly difficult for Ford and GM to compete on price under those circumstances, and if memory serves, it is only the finance arms which are keeping them afloat.

Blog slang

While nosing around earlier, I found this rather amusing set of acronyms to use on blogs.

Here's an extract:

Liberal/Progressive blogs

AAS - another angry student
IAKBIAA - I already know Bush is an a**hole
INKWYABWAYF - I now know what you're against, but what are you for?
CESM - cheese-eating surrender monkey
TECATM - this "equality" concept appeals to me
YBIGTBTCOASR - your blog is going to be the centrepiece of a social revolution

All Blogs

BAD - buy a dictionary
WDYB - why do you bother?
OCBIWYTVMB - only commenting because i want you to visit to my blog
AYAASWOWF - are you also a sociopath when out with friends?
SICHBA - sorry, i came here by accident
GABDY - got a book deal yet?
DAWTCDFYBWYCDFT - ask not what Technorati can do for you -- ask what you can do for Technorati
YMETWDIBLTP - yet more evidence that web design is best left to professionals

The Swedish Election

Among my many terrible vices, I love elections and psephology in general. I've been sniffing around trying to find a results map for Sweden, but thus far have failed dismally. The rather uninspiringly named Moderate Party are clearly the good guys in that they are afiliated to the International Democrat Union.

Dagens Nyheter has very kindly included an article in English on the results, and an editorial . They seem quite pleased, albeit in a rather understated Swedish fashion:

"According to conventional wisdom, solid growth and increasing real wages should have secured power for the governing party. In Sweden, this rule of thumb is supported by 70 years of political experience. Only under exceptional circumstances has anyone else than the social democrats been voted to power. Not this time. The liberal alliance has proven, both to itself and the voters, that socialist dominance can no longer be taken for granted in this country....For the first time ever, a right wing coalition is taking over in properous times. It is a historic shift in Swedish politics".

And it just gets better, having seen this in a Reuters report:

"The incoming prime minister favors Sweden joining NATO if there is broad agreement. He wants Sweden more involved in the EU but has no plans for a referendum on the euro currency in the next four years. Swedes rejected adopting the euro in 2003".

And here's a lengthy English language piece entitled 'Why should the world care how Sweden votes?

Design issues

I think the blog needs a tidy up, and maybe a new template. I'm not risking blogger beta what with it not taking comments as yet. Zoom clouds, the link list etc - any bright ideas people?

Just a quick French update

Liberation has the deathless headline 'French Muslim organisations not overly concerned' over its report on you know what.

Meanwhile, the French socialists are still in ferret in a sack mode. The Herald Tribune has a good run down of what's what (and it saves me having to do too much translating). No hoper Jospin is plugging the old Bennite line of 'never mind the opinion polls, feel the ideology' while Sego has instead gone for the 'I've got this sewn up, so stop bickering and unite behind me' approach.

Perhaps there could be some sort of wrestling 'death match' between whoever wins there and whoever wins for Labour here, with winner takes all. If so, and for the sake of Albion, I hope Labour chooses wisely and chooses Prescott..

Imam to Pope - convert or die


The Jerusalem Post notes that our friends in Gaza have upped the ante:

"Citing the words of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim religious leaders in the Gaza Strip on Sunday warned Pope Benedict XVI that he must "accept" Islam if he wanted to live in peace....One of them, Dr. Imad Hamto, called on the pope to "repent and ask for forgiveness." He added: "We want to use the words of the Prophet Muhammad and tell the pope: 'Aslim Taslam'" Aslim Taslam is a phrase that was taken from the letters sent by the Prophet Muhammad to the chiefs of tribes in his times in which he reportedly urged them to convert to Islam to spare their lives".

Somehow I can't see that happening. While the Pope has possibily dampened things down to a degree with his non-apology apology, this is typical of the pattern of danegeld demands we are all so used to.

And there's more, care of Reuters

"We tell the worshipper of the cross (the Pope) that you and the West will be defeated, as is the case in Iraq, Afghanistan, Chechnya," said an Internet statement by the Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq's branch of al Qaeda.

"We shall break the cross and spill the wine. ... God will (help) Muslims to conquer Rome. ... God enable us to slit their throats, and make their money and descendants the bounty of the mujahideen," said the statement.

How could any fair-minded person read that and think that there was an undercurrent of violence in Islamic thought?

The Pope's Regensbug speech

Sunday, September 17, 2006
Not exactly worth chewing it over here, given that there is a high-end debate going on at the archbishop's place and a more earthy one at Guido's.

However, I've found this rather, erm, imaginative take on the affair in the Iranian press, translated and reported on at this site.

Some choice extracts:

"The reality is that if we do not consider Pope Benedict XVI to be ignorant of Islam, then his remarks against Islam are a diktat that the Zionists and the Americans have written (for him) and have submitted to him." "The American and the Zionist aim is to undermine the glorious triumph of Islam's children of Lebanese Hezbollah, which annulled the undefeatable legend of the Israeli army and foiled the Satanic and colonialist American plot".

"There are many signs that show that Pope Benedict XVI's remarks regarding the great prophet of Islam are a link in a connected chain of a Zionist-American project".

Quite possibly the silliest piece of Islamic paranoia since the suggestion that the 2004 tsunami was caused by a joint nuclear test involving Israel, India and the US. Perhaps I should feel slighted that Perfidious Albion was not fingered as in on the deal.

The Blue 100

In a spirit of goodwill to all etc, I've made the first 50 into hyperlinks. Trust me, I didn't have to type it all out..... I'll do the rest in a bit.

Antonia Bance has done a number with the Red 100, and has kindly linked to it in the comments, but I've also just linked to it in this sentence....

1 Conservative Home
2 Iain Dale
3 Burning our Money
4 Boris Johnson
5 Dizzy
6 Clive Davis
7 James Cleverly
8 Cranmer
9 Ellee Seymour
10 Welfare State We’re In
11 Tory Radio
12 Social Affairs Unit
13 West Brom Blog
14 Croydonian
15 Conservative History
16 Kevin Davis
17 Trevor Ivory
18 Dodgeblogium
19 Natalie Solent
20 Spin Blog
21 Antony Little
22 Bel is Thinking
23 Mr Eugenides
24 Road to EU Serfdom
25 Allan Andrews
26 Tax Cutter
27 Ed Vaizey
28 Tangled Web
29 Bailey Blog
30 Leah Fraser
31 Gavin Aylin
32 Dunderheadedness
33 A Petrosexual’s Tuppence
34 Right Links
35 Drinking from Home
36 Daily Pundit
37 Tim Roll Pickering
38 Contra Tory
39 Adrian Yalland
40 Chris Whiteside
41 Benedict White
42 Make Socialism History
43 Peter C Glover’s Wires
44 Iain Lindley
45 This Scepter’d Isle
46 Remittance Man
47 Cunning Title
48 Man in a Shed
49 Civitas
50 Martine Martin
51 A Political Crossroads
52 Theo Spark
53 Outside Story
54 Politics Through the Eyes of a Teenager
55 Mikey’s Tent of Reality
56 Caroline Hunt
57 Last Boy Scout
58 Freedom & Whiskey
59 Aberystwyth CF
60 Conservative Future TV
61 David Davies MP
62 Vote Franco
63 Thurrock Tory
64 Prague Tory
65 A Very British Dude
66 House of Dumb
67 Blair’s Britain
68 Andrew Woodman
69 Tommy G
70 Daniel Hayward
71 Laban Tall
72 Conservative Party Reptile
73 Nigel Fletcher
74 Public Interest
75 Blue Torch Solutions
76 Mincing Metrosexual
77 Marcus Wood
78 Young Conservative’s Viewpoint
79 Thunder Dragon
80 John Wilkes
81 Raw Carrott
82 Choice Cuts
83 Unenlightened Commentary
84 Jageet Singh-Sohal
85 Tory in the Wilderness
86 Quentin Langley
87 Resident Alien
88 Dan Hassett
89 Curly’s Corner Shop
90 Matthew Dean
91 Chameleons on Bicycles
92 The Tap
93 Brentwood, Essex, England
94 From the Right Side
95 Trust People
96 Sabretache
97 Cynical Chatter
98 Joe Mooney
99 Tin Drummer
100 Right Thinking

Miliband for Labour leader?

It is what Mr Tony wants, according to nameless quotes made to the Mail on Sunday.

I'm still somewhat surprised that more trouble hasn't been made over Owl Magnet's deceased Marxist father, Ralph (formerly Adolphe) Miliband.

Meanwhile, Owl Magnet can be had for 38 over at Betfair, with both Broon and Johnson fading a bit. I dropped a couple of quid on McDonnell, just on the remote chance the People's Party are sufficiently silly to elect him.

Guido does quite the monstering of Miliband in his essay in Iain's blog guide. Most amusing.

Anyone fancy making some trouble?

Well, if so, here's a great opportunity. Just seen an item on political blogging on the BBC Site, and the staggeringly lame site of Thirsk and Marston Labour Party - the official Labour conference blog - is going to allow comments. It dosen't make the Red 100 at Iain's, by the way.

I'll give you Lombard Street to a rotten orange that moderation will be enabled, but if Mystic Croydonian has it all wrong, the scope for mischief making will be enormous....

The perils of running adverts on your blog...

Saturday, September 16, 2006
The good people at Conservative Home have an advert from Amazon promoting a book called 'Blinded by the Right'. I clicked through, and the synopsis runs thus:

"The author describes his disenchantment with the neo-conservative movement and offers an insider's view of the hypocrisy and treachery of the right-wing political force that abandoned its principles to sabotage the Clinton presidency".


It might take a few F5s (or the Mac equivalent) hits to bring it up, but I have a screenshot for any doubting Thomases/Thomasinas if necessary.

Raymond Baxter

I was going to add this as a comment over James Cleverly's place, but blogger beta seems to be behind my non ability to add comments.

Anyway, an outstandingly good broadcaster and sadly missed. However, betcha don't know, betcha don't care that Baxter was the uncle of "> Carl 'Tate Bricks' Andre.

Iain Dale's Top 100 Tory Blogs

Hurrah - I'm in it, at #14.

Shall we say I'm feeling more than a little pleased with myself. From a quick scan, just about all of my favourite blogs make the list, but special props to my mate Dizzy for a richly deserved #5.

Behold, my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed

To quote Axel Oxenstierna. While this could well apply to any number of governments, including our own, this came to mind while reading about the deeply deranged Saparmurat Niyazov of Turkmenistan in the Telegraph.

I already knew about his predilections for making the populace study his political 'thought' and for erecting statues of himself, but he has now made pay grades and employment status for teachers dependent on getting articles praising him published in the press. Furthermore, "no reporters are permitted to mention that the President is a very short man (5'1", approx. 154 cm), or that he wears a toupee" (source).

While this sounds mildly amusing, it gets much, much worse:

"Knowledge of the Rukhnama makes up the vast majority of the school syllabus. Even medical students must spend most of their time learning from it. The only other author they are allowed to read is the 11th century Persian physician Avicenna. Hospitals outside the capital have been closed and surgeons ordered to work in the cotton fields. As a result, Turkmenistan has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, with babies and children dying from misdiagnosis and wrongly administered medicines".

I trust that the unfortunate Turkmen will be rid of this evil man before too long.

Meanwhile, I've had a mull on sundry other lesser known insane presidents and so forth.

Francisco Solano Lopez of Paraguay deserves a mention. He had the brilliant idea of declaring war on Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay in the pursuit of access to the sea. The war was lost, at the cost of substantial territorial loss and upwards of 60% of the population.

Jean-Bédel Bokassa also merits his place in the hall of infamy for declaring the Central African Republic (perhaps the world's least inspired name for a country) an Empire with himself, natch, the Emperor with his coronation costing one third of the Empire's annual budget.

Enver Hoxha had 300 000 one man concrete bunkers built - equivalent to one for every five Albanians, and banned facial hair, flares and Americans inter alia. Radio Tirana used to be a source of much amusement when on holiday (I could never pick it up here), and made Moscow, Warsaw etc seem positively flippant . Way back lost in the mists of time I read an article in The Times, I think, which suggested the only entertainment to be had from it was trying to guess which regime it would denounce next. Turns out The Thunderer had it all wrong: "Radio One Tirana also provided weather forecasts that, for various reasons, were designed to be inaccurate and thus disrupt economic activity in the UK".

Perhaps I'll add to this later.

Pope Benedict XVI vs the Ummah

Friday, September 15, 2006
Updated 16/9/6

Cranmer has covered this in his usual masterful way and it would be redundant of me to attempt to duplicate his efforts. Expect a spirited but intellectually heavyweight debate over the next few days.

Meanwhile, sticking with all things Islamic, the Telegraph has a rather sweet tale of a Muslim girl from Plaistow who ran off to India to marry a Hindu boy she met on the internet. So far, so very run of the mill. Her father's reaction is quite telling:

"She is a Muslim above all and she has married a Hindu and that is the most shocking thing about this — not that she has lied to us and married against our wishes...But we could do nothing to protect our daughter from the evil of the internet. While we slept at night, this evil came into our home and has led to our daughter marrying a Hindu boy".

Looks like he needs some cultural sensitivity training....

More fun and games with surveys

The DTI has published a survey on passenger satisfaction with train services. I can't the original on the DTI site, so I'll have to make do with the version on 24dash.com, which includes these rather non-matching figures:

Headline: "92% of passengers happy with rail travel"

"Respondents were positive overall about rail services. 63% of respondents rated short distance services as good; 20% as poor. For long distance services the respective figures were 62% and 14%".

Not spectacularly interesting, but I did like the reasons for not using rail:

The main reasons people do not use trains or only do so infrequently are the perceived convenience of other modes of transport, the location of stations, and the cost of rail fares. The most common factors mentioned as likely to increase use of rail services were a reduction in the cost of fares, better location of stations, and improved frequency, reliability or speed of services.

Shades of the old complaint about airports being so far away from city centres. Only much, much sillier.

Absolutely beyond belief

How would you feel if you parked your car, and then got ticketed when your session got timed out because you were inside a police cordon? Not very happy I expect.

This happened in Westminster yesterday. Anyone care to argue the toss that ticketing *isn't* just tax farming?

Orianna Fallaci has died

Or at least the New York Times is reporting it. Not unexpected, but sad nevertheless. She did get a tad carried away in her writing sometimes, but her heart was clearly in the right place.

More here.

Our 'friends' at the BBC.

Thursday, September 14, 2006
Some bright spark decided to start a comment thread on the basis of the news that apparently the public are prepared to pay an average £162.66 for a licence. I would dearly love to see the way the question was phrased, but meanwhile, this.

At the moment, the entire first page of comments ordered by number of reader recommendations is deeply hostile. Lovely. I would not be surprised if there is an outbreak of vote rigging shortly....

J.K Rowling has an outbreak of 'Don't you know who I am?' syndrome

Just spotted this on the Noo Yawk Times site.

J.K was in NY for a book reading, and had taken the one handwritten manuscript of her latest Potter opus, and threw a hissy fit at the somewhat unflexible security goons at JFK when they would not let her take it on as hand luggage. As my regulars will know, I regard the current security restrictions on hand luggage as frankly silly, and smacking of tokenism. However, rules are rules, and should be of universal application. Beyond that, does this particular multi-millionaire not think that it might be an idea to invest in a scanner and a printer and then take a second generation copy of her materials when travelling?

And the classic retort to DYKWIA is to announce over the PA system that there is a confused person at the desk and to ask if anyone can help identify the confused soul.

Voting at 16, smoking at 18...

A somewhat silly position to hold one might think, but some of our legislators don't think so, having checked EDMs on voting and smoking.

How many MPs hold this position ? A couple of rather confused and / or obsessive EDM signers? Nope, I make it 19.

And here they are:

Peter Bottomley
Tom Brake
Vincent Cable
Martin Caton
Janet Dean
Clive Efford
Mike Hancock
Diana Johnson
John Leech
Chris McCafferty
Greg Pope
Joan Ruddock
Bob Russell
Bob Spink
David Taylor
Rudi Vis
Betty Williams
Stephen Williams
Phil Willis


Good ideas (?) department...

Time for another one of my occasional policy ideas. Education is not exactly my specialist subject, although I will admit to having gone through the education system. While I think that the more rigorous testing of school children is /broadly/ a good thing, unless children face the prospect of repeating a year, American style, unless they achieve a certain level those indicators are verging on worthless. I don't have the energy to engage in a debate about whether or not standards are falling, but would rather focus on what ought to be the core aim of education - teaching literacy and numeracy. Everything else should be subsidiary to that.

The prospect of being held down a year and being away from one's friends would be a huge incentive to under performing children, and I think has much to recommend it. An additional tool used in Texas, on the advice of Ross Perot (if my mate from those parts has his facts straight) was for all extra-curricular activities to be off the agenda for children unless they reached the required standard. In the case of sports players that threat was hugely effective.

Thoughts, insights, additions, death threats etc please.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Look what Dizzy has found...

A curious photo choice made by the Muslim Public Affairs Committee to illustrate an opinion item on 'Israeli brutality' on their website. It is a photo of Patricia Smith - the daughter of the only NYC policewoman to die on 11/9/2001 - attending the memorial service on Monday.

It is his find, and he deserves the comments. However, whether by accident or design the MPAC site is down at the moment.....


18.30 . The site is back up, but the mods have not passed this innocuous post I made several hours ago:

"Why are you using such an inappropriate image to illustrate this item? That image has been published all over the internet in the last few days and the girl is remembering the terrorist attack on New York in 2001".

What's the oddest job you've ever had?

Saw this on a (cough), non-political place I hang out on:

"My ex-sister-in law got a great job counting wildlife. (I still call her "the weasel counter"). Actually, she was a marmot counter -or "marmoteer". She trapped them all summer and painted numbers on their butts. With Lady Clairol Basic Brown".

Sarko tours America

Just seen this in the New York Times. The Gaullist presidential hopeful has gone to see his Uncle Sam, and is laying it on with a trowel:

"He told Jewish leaders of his love of Israel, American business leaders of his love of free enterprise, and Francophiles of his love of America. He confessed that he loves to read Hemingway and watch movies like “Miami Vice.... ..So for him, the nickname “Sarko the American” is not an insult, but a badge of honor. In his speech on Tuesday, he blamed journalists on both sides of the Atlantic for writing reports often “so far from the truth” about France’s adoration and envy of the United States. The French, he said, “wear American jeans and love American burgers and pizza. “Nothing makes a French person prouder than seeing a French actor in an American film,” he added. “All French parents dream of sending their child to an American university.”

I'll see if I can find reports in the French press a bit later.

New Culture Forum 11/9/6

Tuesday, September 12, 2006
(As promised earlier. There are further notes to transcribe, and my own take on it yet to come. I have worked up my rough notes into a dialogue, so nothing written should be taken as beiung a verbatim quote from Robin)

13/6/9 UPDATED

‘Can We Trust the BBC?’ Robin Aitken and Peter Whittle discuss the issue in the form of Q & A

PW: Should we need to trust the BBC, or could we be more distant?

RT: No, as the BBC is not just another media outlet and is quite possibly unique. Its raison d’être is its supposed trustworthiness and its reputation is based on that. It cannot be allowed to let that rest as it is bigger, more powerful and has a greater reach than any other media outlet in the United Kingdom. The question is quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – who watches the watchmen. The public rely on the BBC and yet it is not examined and analysed in the manner of other institutions. At the root of this issue is the BBC’s bargain with the British people. We pay for it through a compulsory tax and in return we should expect fairness. The BBC is failing to uphold its side of the bargain.

PW: You coined the phrase ‘institutional leftism’ to describe the BBC. What do you mean by that?

RA: I felt that the BBC was showing a consistent bias and had reported that to senior figures in the BBC, up to and including the governors. The McPherson Inquiry termed the Metropolitan Police ‘institutionally racist’, meaning that the Met is not explicitly racist, but was inadvertently so owing to its institutions and culture. Likewise, I believe the BBC and its people act in good faith, but they cannot see the elephant in the living room. The institutional leftism shows up in its instinctive mistrust of capitalism, and it should be remembered that it is a pre-war corporation set up along with similar institutions like the Forestry Commission. The BBC model was not the only possibility, and it can be compared to the US model of a free market broadcasting model. Similarly, the presumption of the BBC is that public spending is automatically a good thing. It does not challenge that idea. Why not?

The natural instincts and values of ‘BBC Man’ are protean – he or she will probably be an arts graduate and will be fully signed up to the progressive agenda: anti-racist, internationalist, sceptical of moral conservatism and religion - particularly the American religious right, in favour of increased public spending and multiculturalism. Issues on that agenda are deemed not to be open to discussion, and at programme planning meetings that would be wholly evident. There are questions on British contemporary morality that cannot be asked, and the issue of multiculturalism only became an area for ‘legitimate’ debate when the Left started discussing it. In a programme planning session there would be no conservatives, or at best one in twenty. With age, one could become a ‘mad right winger’ and be treated as something like a court jester.

PW: How does the BBC react to criticism? Does it think it has to enlighten people?

RA: Consider the Northern Ireland peace process. This was assumed to be a good thing and the Unionists were treated as being ‘anti-peace’ and obstructionist. Even though Sinn Fein’s arguments were undermined by change in legislation etc in Northern Ireland, the BBC suppressed relevant information because it was considered to be unhelpful to the peace process. The BBC may well have a responsibility not to encourage conflict, but it is required to be bias free, no matter how ‘good’ an agenda it seeks to advance.

BBC people have a supreme self-confidence, and this can be seen in credibility of reporters when they are door stepping. I was once let off by a Moscow traffic policeman when he discovered I worked for the BBC… The BBC is convinced it is on the side of right and has a cast iron sense of its own worth, and complainers are seen as being mad, bad or deluded. It is not good at engaging with critics.

PW: Looking at Islamism, Lebanon, Iraq etc, do you see the coverage as being distorted?

RA: The phrase ‘Islamic Terrorism’ was banned by the BBC… The BBC thinks or assumes it is right and wants to avoid giving offence or inflaming community tensions. However, there is no escaping that there are home grown terrorists. The BBC pulls its punches for the best reasons, but it is nevertheless wrong headed to do so. Consider the hoo-hah it would make over the annual stop and search figures released by the police, showing a high number of young black men were being stopped. Some 80% of street crime is committed by young black men, but those figures that would have contextualised the data were never mentioned. The BBC does not want to make trouble, but it is tailoring the news. The BBC, is it the best? Maybe, but it could be better, as it isn’t perfect.


I found Robin's thesis highly persuasive, and he gains an immense amountof credibility from having been on the inside for so may years and being a highly respected journalist. He clearly has an immense amount of fondness for the organisation and his criticism is very much that of an insider who is a candid friend who wishes to save it from itself, rather than being an ideologue who seeks a Year Zero approach to reforming the corporation. His own politics appear to be soft right / mainstream, and despite the monstering I expect him to receive from the BBC and its amen corner in the left wing press, attempts to smear him as being (take your pick) as a failure, an opportunist hack, a puppet of a 'vast right wing conspiracy etc are unlikely to have much credibility with any other than the wholly credulous. Likewise, I suspect that we on the right will be in error if we attempt to portray him too much as one of us when the book hits the book shops, and would risk undermining him as a fair minded critic.

Like many of my readers, I find much of the BBC's news coverage (let alone some of the other dreck they pump out) induces teeth grinding and I'm glad I have a digibox so I could watch Sky News coverage of the Israel / Lebanon action as the BBC's reporting was so utterly infuriating. While I day dream about scrapping the licence fee and making it a subscription channel, I do not think that there is anything like the political will, whoever forms the next government, to take the organisation on. What I do think has possibilities is licence fee top slicing (whereby funds from the licence fee go to any broadcaster broadcasting public service programmes - whatever they might be deemed to be), and I know from some consultancy work I have done that this prospect terrifies the corporation. Given that Channel 4 broadcasts some programmes that are at least as worthy of public funding as the average day's schedule on BBC1, I think the idea has legs.

Heading away from the serious, while discussing the BBC with sundry folk ahead of the Q&A session I mentioned the way PBS is funded in the US. This is federally funded in part, but also by telethons, and we tossed around the idea of something similar for the BBC. Imagine if you will the likes of Toynbee, Alibhai Brown, Livingstone etc emoting on camera for the BBC and explaining how 'only your money can help us make us programmes on ennui among Bulgarian turnip pickers'. Someone whose name escapes me suggested calling it 'Lefties in Need'.