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Signing off

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Right, that’s more than enough blogging for one year - I’m off to the pub shortly. A splendid, entertaining and prosperous New Year is wished to almost all who have called into this part of Blogotá since April, especially my regulars, but also to occasional posters, long time lurkers (dive in, the more the merrier), short term lurkers (ditto), googlers, blog stumblers etc. However, may blog spammers choke on their diet pills, prescription drugs etc etc.

Hope to see you all for more of the same tomorrow next year.

One for all the Bush haters

I have never counted myself among that number, but for those who accept the 'Bush is a crass, imperialist etc etc moron' agenda of the N1 set (bar Newmania, naturally) and so forth, a tale that might surprise:

"The president has tripled direct humanitarian and development aid to [Africa] since taking office and recently vowed to double that increased amount by 2010 -- to nearly $9 billion". Care of the Washington Post.

As has been discussed before, I have my doubts about the efficacy of direct development aid in lifting nations out of the Third World and consider that dismantling protectionism is better for both First and Third Worlds. Still, I'm looking forward to blindsiding someone with that nugget before too long.


A small update from yesterday

I am shocked, shocked that the Number Ten site does not mention Blair helping London's finest with their enquiries in its rundown of December news.

These, apparently, were bigger stories:

A jaunt to the Middle East
Attending an EU summit
Opening a Sure Start centre in the North East
Being interviewed by the odious Chris Evans
Launching the Number Ten interactive tour website.

Some *good* news for Saddam. Or at least his soul.

Apparently he died on a very auspicious date in the Hindu religious calendar: Vaikunta Ekadasi, which "according to Hindu Shastras, is the most auspicious occasion for a person's death, particularly for one seeking martyrdom irrespective of religion". More here.

Elsewhere, Hindu blog notes: "It is widely believed that the gates to heaven open - the Gate of Vaikuntha - on the Vaikunta Ekadashi day. The ‘Vaikunta Dwaram’ or ‘the gate to the heaven’ is opened on this day. This is the passage encircling the innermost sanctum of the Lord. Scores of devotees queue up to pass through the Gate of Vaikunta in the temples".


Frenchman of the year

Is Zinedine Zidane. Elsewhere, Yannick Noah, tree hugger Nicolas Hulot (why doesn't he go on holiday?), comedienne Mimie Mathy and singer Michel Sardou impressed. More here. Sego was top politician at 23rd, with Sarko at 42nd. Johnny Halliday's departure to Switzerland for tax purposes is credited with his plunge from 4th to 17th.

Strange bunch, the Gauls.

Meanwhile, Le Figaro notes that Chinese scientists have, through genetic modification, created piglets that glow in the dark. Should make future visits to Chinese restaurants entertaining.

Norwegian councillors must get sparse expenses,

because otherwise why would a councillor be selling Nazi memorabilia on an auction site?

Not the cleverest move by an elected politician I've encountered. I hope that Mr Liholt's rationale that he was only doing it for the money is true, as the Progress Party sounds a rather promising organisation: "[founded to protest against] unacceptably high level of taxes, subsidies and regulations, agaianst government interventionism and against the socioal democrat nanny state".

A special treat for tomorrow

Saturday, December 30, 2006
The Number 10 site has a run down of Mr Tony's adventures in the first half of the year, so there cannot be a shred of doubt that being quizzed by the redoubtable Yates of the Yard will feature in the July-December highlights, which presumably will be posted tomorrow....

The Croydonian New Year Honours List

I think that we can do rather better than the official honours, so nominations for Man / Woman of the year, Charlatan of the year, Person most adding to the gaiety of the nation etc etc, please.

Rumours that Saddam's hangman acted today purely to impress the judging panel (me), are unconfirmed.

Tony Blair - Z lister

Care of the Miami Herald:

"On the Miami Beach celebrity scale of J.Lo to your Aunt Hadassah at the Hebrew Home, British Prime Minister Tony Blair ranks somewhere around that homeless guy on Lincoln Road who wears a Santa suit all year round ...No paparazzi. No autograph hounds. Not even protesters against the war in Iraq, Blair's support of which has made him about as popular back home as Jack the Ripper".


Looks like the battle of ideas is far from won

Friday, December 29, 2006
Judging from this opinion poll at least:

"[a] survey of 1,000 adults revealed that fewer than a third agreed with the Government's decision to axe 100,000 Civil Service jobs."

"Only one in four said services in areas such as tax and benefits were not affected by the loss of jobs, while fewer than a third believed that private firms could do a better job than the public sector". (My emphasis)

While the poll was conducted by a reputable organisation, I can find no detail as to the phrasing of the questions etc, and it was commissioned by the PCS, which is led by Mark Serwotka, an individual I have featured before.

The flight from personal responsibility, pt 487

This time with regard to gambling. The Standard carries a warning over Electronic Gambling Machines (EGMs), which would appear to be glorified one armed bandits. The Casino Advisory Panel (whatever that is, and I didn't vote it) says "[EGMs] are a highly addictive form of entertainment". Well maybe they are habit forming, but attempted pathologising of card playing, drinking, or come to that blogging does not necessarily make such behaviour a problem. The paper also dug out an oursourced comparison of EGMs to crack cocaine. How very, very original. Remember 'crackberries'?

Further digging throws up a book review of a study of EGMs and their supposed addictiveness: "Despite overwhelming acceptance that gaming machines are associated with the highest level of problem gambling, the empirical literature provides inconclusive evidence to support the analogy likening electronic gaming to ‘crack-cocaine’. Rigorous and systematic evaluation is required to establish definitively the absolute ‘addictive’ potential of gaming machines and the degree to which machine characteristics influence the development and maintenance of problem gambling behaviour".

And just for a point of comparison: "The risk of becoming cocaine-dependent within 2 years of first use(recent-onset) is 5-6%; after 10 years, it's 15-16%. These are the aggregate rates for all types of use considered, i.e., smoking, snorting, injecting". Source

Scope for a mini Anglo-French bust up?

A tale covered in France but not in these parts concerns Foreign Office notes from '76, newly released, which deal with the Gauls and Giscard in particular:

"His somewhat didactic manner does not seem to irritate the French, nor his habit of declaiming each syllable through pinched lips". Elsewhere it was reckoned that "The more he is seen with the Royal Family looking like a friend, the happier he will be". Given that Giscard is still a Euro grande fromage, perhaps he will be seeking revenge...

Sticking with the North West of the continent, apparently mixed marriages à la Belge involve Flemings and Walloons, and account for just 1% of all Belgian unions. As I have said many, many times before, Belgium is doomed.

A very, very clunky attempt at news management

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Who defines what is newsworthy? In these parts, editors for traditional media, and readers / viewers for disintermediated media. Not, however, in the 'People's Republic' of China.

China Daily has this quadruple take of a headline: "Top 10 Olympic News Stories unveiled".

These include such reader magnets as "Supportive structures of the National Stadium removed successfully", the rather alarming "Over 240,000 Beijingers apply for volunteers" (sic), and "Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games Mascot Fu Niu Lele unveiled" (FNL looks like a rather able bodied cow to me, for what that's worth). However, number one with a bullet (which is what Chinese newspaper editors must be striving to avoid) is "Chinese government attaches great importance to Olympic preparation".

Perhaps readers would like to add their own Olympic news stories....

Keith Vaz doesn't have any mates

Or at least none who could be prevailed upon to sign this toe curler of an EDM:

"That this House welcomes the change of name of Nottingham East Midlands Airport to East Midlands Airport - Nottingham, Leicester, Derby; believes the airport will be a conduit for continued growth and investment; and notes that Leicester East Midlands Airport would be an even more fitting name given Leicester's position as hub of the Midlands".

Never mind that EMA is in Derbyshire, and nearer to both Nottingham and Derby than Leicester. Still, let us rejoice that he only a backbencher these days, and moreover has a below average attendance record.

And this is my 800th post.

The love between a swan and a pedalo

An unlikely alliance, one might think, but Petra the Münster-based black swan has fallen quite hard for a rather sizeable swan-shaped pedalo. More here.

There's a steal from Flann O'Brien involving 'it's bound to get you down in the end' to be had here, I think.

Guess who has fallen out of love with the Euro?

Oui, nos amis les Francais et Francaises.

Libé has the figures:

52% consider the Euro to be a bad thing.

53% think it has been bad for employment.

57% think it has been bad for them personally.

All of these figures are up from 2003, and elsewhere 58% of our German friends would like to to go back to the Mark. I wish I could point to a post of mine where I said it would all end in tears, but I cannot. However, I have been saying for years.

On the upside, blog readership is advancing outre Manche, with 8,717,000 reading a blog at least once a month, up 29.6% on the year.

Yet another less than bright idea from the government

Wednesday, December 27, 2006
The sky is darkening from all the kites being flown at the moment, but the latest monstrosity is the prospect of denying healthcare to people who have made 'bad life choices', with smokers and the overweight the yawn-inducingly predictable targets. More here.

Fine. Before following that particular powder trail, what prospect of a refund to those who have been paying into the system and then are denied healthcare? Or allowing people to opt out, perhaps? The internal logic of socialised medicine has long pointed to the possibility of the state taking it upon itself to lecture us on our choices, in the 'public interest', and there is no obvious break point as to those choices which are 'legitimately' ours, or 'legitimately' those of the health commissariat. Stand by for a National Food Service, and just imagine quite how awful a Dept of Food menu for the week would look.....

Anyway, some other areas of healthcare where the patient is the best cost avoider: pregnancy, STDs, sporting injuries, car accidents (And hey, use public transport, it will save the planet...), drug addiction, anything alcohol related, RSIs, back pain, diseases contracted abroad, food poisoning etc etc etc.

And indeed, we could follow Belloc's logic:

"Lord Finchley tried to mend the Electric Light
Himself. It struck him dead: And serve him right!
It is the business of the wealthy man

To give employment to the artisan".

Riots, rallies and marches.

None of which are exactly my idea of fun. However, a footnote in an item on the BBC site is an area for some concern:

"It also emerged that members of Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council lobbied the Home Office to close a loophole in the law to stop British National Party rallies taking place in the town. Councillors, whose names were deleted from released documents, pointed out that while marches could be banned by the Home Secretary, there was nothing to stop the BNP staging static rallies".

I should not really have to go through the ritual 'I hold no brief' etc disclaimer, so take that as read. Freedom of assembly is a fundamental civil right, and barring it to people with unpopular views simply is not good enough. It also irritates me beyond measure when carefully drafted legislation is referred to as having a 'loophole'. Loopholes are no such thing - they are there deliberately. As to marches, rallies and what have you, I would think that the pre-emptive banning of them is a very bad thing. The BNP, SWP, the various Islamic alphabet soup organisations should be free to assemble when and where they see fit, with the law only coming down on them if they slide into a riotous assembly, or otherwise break the law on incitement etc etc.

Why not return to reading the Riot Act? Which I have just discovered is worded like so:

"Our Sovereign Lord the King chargeth and commandeth all persons, being assembled, immediately to disperse themselves, and peaceably to depart to their habitations, or to their lawful business, upon the pains contained in the act made in the first year of King George, for preventing tumults and riotous assemblies. God Save the King".

"I am a Ford, not a Lincoln"

A very brief observation on Gerald Ford. He deserves our respect for these fine words in his oath of office speech:

"My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great Republic is a government of laws and not of men". The full speech is here

He was right.

A whistlestop European tour

Firstly Gibraltar. Gibraltar wants to join UEFA, and although doubtless well aware that it is unlikely to be become a football powerhouse, has the template of micro states like Andorra and non soverieign states like Wales and the Faroes to point to. However, "Mr Nuñez [head of the Gib FA] said he felt abandoned by the English football authorities, which had offered no support to Gibraltar's bid to join Uefa and that, instead, the territory had faced ridicule for wanting to play with the 'big boys'".

I wish I could say I was surprised at the way Gibraltar and our other overseas territories are treated, but I cannot, I'm merely disgusted. Again. Those with strong stomachs might wish to read Blair's message to the Falkland Islands.

Meanwhile, following on from Swedish angst, now we have a spot of Norwegian angst (Might there soon be something rotten in the state of Denmark?). Some key findings: 59% of public sector workers worry about overwork compared to 49% of private sector workers. Possibly because the former fear it might happen and the latter are inured to it? Young and old worry about climate change. Erm, if I was somewhere near Nordkapp, I'd welcome it. And where the young get the night terrors about car crashes, for oldsters electricity prices are the spectre at the feast.

More later.

And so there is, and what better than a pointless survey on shopping habits care of Tesco Diets:"Nearly 40% of women have bought clothes they knew were too small but promised themselves they would slim into them - with 70% admitting that the items are still hanging in the wardrobe unworn.... The survey also reveals that an overwhelming 82% of us would be happier if we were thinner and that nearly a quarter of us (22%) make a promise to "start my diet tomorrow" almost every day". There are some serious neuroses at work there, but there is some comparatively good news too: "The survey also reveals that whilst nearly all of the women questioned (98%) said it would bother them if they put on half a stone, the vast majority (70%) said they wouldn't care one bit if their partner gained half a stone". Adjusting my cynical hat, it might be because chaps do not want to be faced with the perennial Morton's Fork answer to 'does my bum look big in this?', or alternatively are hoping for carte blanche to keep working on the beer gut and to shun the gym.

America's most popular stamp

Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Is this one:

At more than 124 million sold, it easily outperforms the next best placed, 2006's 'Wonders of America' collection at 87.5 million. More on philately Stateside here

"Thank you, thank you very much".

Japan's very own Sven-Goran Eriksson

The comparatively small world that is East Asian women's synchronised swimming has been rocked by the news that a Japanese woman will be coaching the 'People's Republic' of China's team.

China Daily has the details, in staggeringly poor English: "[Masayo Imura]'s coaching evokes a great disturbance in Japan, who has been criticized betraying her country...The news break out only days after China exceeded Japan, which had been the dominant power in Asian synchronized swimming...Imura held a press conference as leaving Japan, clarifying that she is not helping China to beat over Japan, but would like to cultivate leadership to compete against non-Asian dominating powers like Europe, America, and Australia in international synchronized swimming field. "I believe Japan's international profile and leadership in the sport will beneficial if a person from the country coaches the national team of an Olympic host." Imura said.

I wonder if there was a wailing and gnashing of teeth from Malmö to Kiruna when S-GE was appointed as the England manager, or whether the Swedes managed a greater degree of sang froid? I can also forsee that Ms Imura's justification might be useful for anyone changing jobs.

Never let it be said that I fail to bring you all the most important nuggets of news from around the world.

Where are almost half of British soldiers on active service posted?

Germany, with 22500 Tommies. Compare that to 7100 in Iraq and 5800 in Afghanistan. There are 8500 in Ulster, 1200 in the Falklands, 800 in the Balkans and a fortunate 3000 in Cyprus. More here.

The same item carries the results of a poll on attitudes to the military, which I think are quite cheering, although also disclosing a percentage of people with odd views:

80% also agree that "The UK Armed Forces make a positive contribution to the UK", with just 3% disagreeing.

84% agree with the statement "The UK needs a strong Armed Forces", with just 4% disagreeing.

Got into trouble recently? Here's a useful, if rather unpleasant, excuse

I present this Deus ex Machina - Toxoplasma gondii - a parasite that enters one's system via raw or undercooked meat, and supposedly affects some 40% of the world's population.

If Australasian Science's findings, reported in the Sydney Morning Herald are to be believed, "Infected men have lower IQs, achieve a lower level of education and have shorter attention spans. They are also more likely to break rules and take risks, be more independent, more anti-social, suspicious, jealous and morose, and are deemed less attractive to women. "On the other hand, infected women tend to be more outgoing, friendly, more promiscuous, and are considered more attractive to men compared with non-infected controls. "In short, it can make men behave like alley cats and women behave like sex kittens".

So there you have it, it wasn't the drink talking, but rather one's collection of Toxoplasma gondii.

">"Every word is like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness"

Courtesy of Samuel Beckett. News that the National Library of Ireland has forked out for a Beckett archive (not that it is saying anything about how much) sent me off to find a quote a tad more imaginative and apt than yet another Godot reference. Thanks Sam.

One might note that our Hibernian neighbours claim him as Dublin writer, although Paris has a better case, based on length of sojourn, and that much of his writing was in French, including 'Godot'.

A little exercise in number crunching

Monday, December 25, 2006

Mulling, as one does, on the honours system I have been looking at what the 2006 working peers have been up to this year. It would appear that the average figure for division attendances is around 30%, so here are the divsion figures for working peers named by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Voting percentages have been taken from the Public Whip site


Lord Morris


Lady Jones


Baroness Ford


Baroness Kingsmill


Baroness Quin


Lord Bradley



Lord James


Lord Marland


Baroness Verma


Lord Leach


Lord Bruce Lockhart


Lord Sheikh


Lord Taylor



Lord Burnett


Lord Cotter


Lord Lee


Lord Teverson


Baroness Thomas


For all I know, Lord Leach may have been seriously ill.

I do not think that the present honours system ins reformable, and clearly it is open to the ruling party to dish out baubles to its friends, hacks and donors. I consider that the whole system has to be scrapped bag and baggage, other than military / police etc awards for courage, and possibly awards for long service. Thoughts please.

And the results are in

Sunday, December 24, 2006
A little sieving of notifications of new posts in Outlook disclosed my most active posters, so here is the top 15:

  • Peter Hitchens
  • Verity
  • Newmania
  • Rigger Mortice
  • IstanbulTory (including GC)
  • Ellee
  • PragueTory (including Witheshaw)
  • Colin
  • Phone Cam Foolery (whatever happened to him, eh?)
  • CityUnslicker
  • Suttonian (including many, many aliases...)
  • UK Daily Pundit
  • Dearieme
  • AJH
  • Tejus Ramakrishnan

No numbers, as it isn't a race, but the top nine all made three figures and everyone else broke 50. Another 16 posted ten times or more. Thank you to all of the posters this year (apart from the spammers and those who posted pretending to be one of my regulars), for making the blogging both hugely entertaining and informative for me, and I hope, the rest of you. Little though I approve of 'chain letter' blog posts, I challenge my most regular ports of call to do the same. You know who you are....

I trust everyone will have a splendid Christmas, and I'll give very short odds that I'll end up calling in tomorrow.

*Possibly* some very good news from Pakistan

Seems like South Asia is about the only place anything noteworthy is happening at the moment.

Anyway, The Hindustan Times reports, "Pakistan may amend its controversial blasphemy law, that provides for death penalty for non-Muslims convicted of insulting Islam and the Prophet and has frequently been misused over the last two decades. Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz could make an announcement on Christmas eve". Fingers crossed, as this would be very welcome for the five million or so non-Muslims in Pakistan. And Mushy, while you are it, make sure the changes to the unforgivably vile laws on rape are made real.

Indian PM to India: Stop slacking

Apparently 'chalta hai' is a bad thing, this being 'laidback' in Hindustani (?), and PM Singh has berated Indians for being too susceptible to it. Given the 9% growth the Indian economy managed this year, it seems a little harsh to accuse them of it. However, the devil (or shall we call it Kali?) is in the detail, as Singh notes "the unfavourable environment in the country continued to discourage industrialists from exploring possibilities on home turf". As has been noted before, India would gain from a lot more capitalism and an almighty bonfire of red tape.

A late Christmas present idea

If Libération is to be believed, the gift that keeps on giving, brings a smile to the face of one's loved ones yadda yadda yadda is a ton of C02. The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation has been hawking the carbon dioxide, or more accurately a certificate saying that the organisation has bought it on one's behalf. Showing a hugely creditable approach to making money, the Swedish bunny huggers buy the carbon dioxide for around a fiver and flip it for around £25. TallOil was a repeat customer, and has been dishing out the CO2 to customers and employees. I expect the latter were delighted with that as a Christmas bonus. Still, at least it won't get stolen by morally suspect Chicagoans.

Inventive, if low, criminals department

The Chicago couple who followed UPS vans around in Illinois and Indiana and then stole packages left on doorsteps, amassing "tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, including a collector's edition light saber worth about $800, a flat-panel plasma TV, stereo systems, clothing and toys".

Erm, when UPS deliver in these parts, one has to sign for the parcel. Perhaps there is a different approach across the Pond, as leaving high value items on 'doorsteps' strikes me as remarkably foolish.

Le Figaro knows what is newsworthy...

Saturday, December 23, 2006
The possibility of a global shortage of champagne, 'front page' today. Given that an awful lot of Gauls do not seem to have mastered basic economics, it describes the supply / demand equation, and notes that prizes are likely to rise.

As I am sure has been anticipated, blogging is likely to be light for the next few days.

Muscular christianity

Friday, December 22, 2006
At the risk of infringing His Grace's demarcation, this tale from the land of the Hellenes is just too good to pass on / over:

"Three rebel monks who were hospitalized overnight after allegedly being involved in a violent clash on Mount Athos in northern Greece have been banned from returning to the monastic community. A fourth monk was also told not to return....The monks who were banned yesterday were among those taken to the hospital in nearby Polygiros after a fight in which crowbars and fire extinguishers were used as weapons".

And the jaw dropper of a pay off: "Police chiefs recalled the leave of all officers in Halkidiki in order to step up the presence of security on Mount Athos due to fears of more clashes between monks".

I would hope that none of Great Britain's men or women of the cloth come to blows, but if it does, I cannot imagine the Archbishop of Canterbury is much of a pugilist.

Meanwhile, a joke: Why do Rangers fans outnumber Celtic fans? Because it is a lot easier to shout (cough) "stuff the Pope" than "Stuff the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland".

Another one of those wretched memes

What with it being the season of goodwill and what have you, I suppose I am honour bound to accept being tagged by Dizzy with another one of those gottverdommern memes. The pay off is that he sorts out the HTML problem which is vexing those readers using Internet Explorer.

So, without further ado, I ought to mull on 'the seven best things I've done this year', while excluding anything too salacious or anything that would make me retch if I read it elsewhere. Groan.

  • This blogging malarkey.
  • Appearing on 18 Doughty St.
  • Made money betting on a few events, the favourite being the 50 or so quid on West Ham / Arsenal.
  • Being taken for a native by confused tourists in Noo Yawk.
  • Continued to pursue my goal of getting away with it, and broadly succeeded.
  • Only falling asleep on the train and waking up at Brighton once.
  • Doing my bit to end the Red Terror in Croydon via the ballot box
If anyone wants to do this, feel free, but I'm not going to extend the curse.

A rose by any other name etc etc?

Over at Pravda Central there is news of a spectacularly silly name that is being inflicted on the doubtless good people of Doncaster: Not a bus lane, but a 'Quality Bus Corridor'. Does this mean that only higher end buses / coaches (or perhaps low end ones - it doesn't specify high or low, does it?) are allowed to use it, is the quality inherent in the corridor, or are clapped out, cough, public service vehicles automatically transformed once rubber hits the tarmac?

The French Huntin', Shootin' and Fishin' Party presidential candiate

Or more formally, Chasse, pêche, nature et traditions (CPNT). Frédéric Nihous, for it is he, has told high profile French green, Nicolas Hulot where to get off, in fairly clear terms. He will not sign his eco pact, and "we will not go back to the stone age, we are not on an Indian reservation". A late breaking candidate for if not Man of the Year, then at least Gaul of the Year?

Brown's first 100 days

A most entertaining evening last night with Newmania, CityUnslicker, Nick Drew and Mr R. Among many topics discussed was the prospect of what Broon might pull as and when he achieves his heart's desire and gains the Lord Protectorate.

Nick suggested that Bronwn will scrap inheritance tax. As an exercise in practical politics, the logic is impeccable: little money is raised from it, the Mail would love it and it would hit Middle England's G-spot like nothing else could hope to. Nick noted that Byers has asked questions about it in his role as one of Blair's glove puppets, with Brown's glove puppet Darling's response focusing on 'unfunded tax cuts' rather than denial. I would be delighted with IHT being done away with, having long regarded it as grossly morally iniquitous.

Further mulling brought forth the idea that Broon would wish to do something to establish his green credentials, with this being something that could be done at little cost. I would imagine that declaring that there will be no entry into the Euro during his incumbency is another dead cert.

Scope for mischief making

Thursday, December 21, 2006
The uncrowned king of IT related political blogging Dizzy has noted that the government might be about to find itself in an almighty mess. It has created an online database of statutes etc, but it uses a very unsecure platform, and thus is wide, wide open to being hacked.

Recalling the recent and hilarious Miliband 'owl magnet' shenanigans of the other month, it occurred to me that hackers with an agenda, or even a certain puckishness could have a lot of fun adding in some laws and deleting others. I don't suppose anyone reading this would have a clue how to hack the site, and as I would not wish to encourage criminality, perhaps readers would like to nominate what they would put in, and what they would take it. Facetious or serious approaches are equally welcome....


Holding back the Atlantic with a mop, yet again

A new outbreak of censorship / silliness: 24dash.com reports that a video on how to roll the perfect spliff went viral, prompting much handwringing and the hosting service taking it down.

Purely in the interests of research, I googled 'how to roll a joint', and got over 3.5 million hits.

A musical interlude

With thanks to Verity for the link. It is a hard rock / rap fusion taking it to our jihadist friends. It does contain some disturbing images, so take that as a warning.

See Calais and die

Or so it would seem. l'Institut national de la statistique et des études économiques (or INSEE to its friends) has done a bit of stat shooting, and has discovered that folk in the Deep North have the lowest life expectancy. Knowing the area, I imagine it is because faced with Dunkirk / Calais etc or death, the latter is quite appealing. Conversely, Ile-de-France is the best place to live to a riper old age, this being the Paris region and being the closest match to London plus home counties.

Elsewhere, our Gallic chums are still pre-occupied with Johnny Halliday going into tax exile, De Villepin testifying over Clearstream and the PCF choosing its candidate for the Presidential election - Marie-George Buffet. I do not think she and the other Buffet would have much in common.

Some odds and ends

Just what have Australian politicians (or 'pollies' as the SMH rather disgustingly calls them) been up to? The paper reports an evacuation following 'the discovery of white powder'. Rather unkindly the Oz authorities go no further than informing the world that it was 'harmless', although perhaps I will not be alone in pondering whether busy MPs just do not have the time to see The Man but instead have it posted to them.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Americans are making a hash of farm subsidies: "The very policies touted by Congress as a way to save small family farms are instead helping to accelerate their demise, economists, analysts and farmers say. That's because owners of large farms receive the largest share of government subsidies. They often use the money to acquire more land, pushing aside small and medium-size farms as well as young farmers starting out". Well duh. Over to Rep. Jerry Moran (R) "But we still find that today in agriculture. . . . It is a celebration of what too many in our country have forgotten, an endangered way of life that we must work each and every day to preserve". In a truly astonishing turn up for the libros, Mr Moran represents the workshop of America, Kansas. Reminds me of that line in Catch 22: "Major Major's father was a sober God-fearing man whose idea of a good joke was to lie about his age. He was a long-limbed farmer, a God-fearing, freedom-loving, law-abiding rugged individualist who held that federal aid to anyone but farmers was creeping Socialism".

No round up is complete without a brief stop off in Stockholm, so I present a useful line in ice breakers should anyone be trying to impress a Helga or an Inga: "Swedish men are less intelligent, lonelier and fatter than their female counterparts...There will soon be a large collective of uneducated, low-paid men who don't have any friends, and are unmarried and alone - as well as uninteresting for women looking for a relationship". The best price I can find for a flight to Stockholm leaving tomorrow and returning on the 27th is just under £330.

Next year's celebs. Apparently

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A bit of sniffing around has turned up 'The Hot 100' care of some outfit called Red Pages, and I think it fair to say they will not getting much exposure here in 2007..... In among the models/actresses/whatevers nestle a few MPs: Ed Miliband, Julia Goldsworthy and Nick Clegg. La Goldsworthy impresses them because she was in a reality TV programme this year. Simply tragic. They keep company with Kid Harpoon, 'Young Brit singer songwriter who has supported Dirty Pretty Things', Danielle Scutt, 'Up and coming British fashion designer namechecked by Vogue as one to watch out for' and Lady Emily Compton, ‘Glamorous socialite who has succeeded the Marquess of Milford Haven as the Social Editor at Tatler’.

So I suppose we can look forward to Miliband et al being photographed turning up at the openings of envelopes, falling out of taxis and hobnobbing with reality TV 'stars'. I can scarcely contain my anticipation.

Political funding, Tokyo style

One of the joys of noting donations to political parties is that one can then tailor one's custom accordingly. The Japanese LDP has just decided to spoil the fun for people who vote otherwise by opting to refuse donations from, get this, banks. More here.

I would so enjoy strolling into the nearest branch of the Bank of Tokyo or whatever and explaining why I was closing my account.

A rather depressing survey

Apparently 80% of our friends on the other side of the Pond would rather have the equivalent of a book token - a gift card - than a normal present for Christmas. Details here. I cannot find any details as to research method, so I'm taking this with a pinch of salt. Pretty miserable nevertheless.

Yet another word of the year poll

This time c/o dictionary.com. And truthiness wins out there too.

And the full results:

1) truthiness
2) Lincolnish
3) Wikiality
4) it-getter
5) grinchitude
6) factinista
7) superstantial
8) love
9) sex
10) defenestrate

Lincolnish? Presumbaly nothing to do with either the towns or the car. As God is my witness, I will not be using either 'factinista' or 'superstantial' after this post. ‘Defenestrate’ has long been a favourite, but opportunities are limited. The Defenestration of Prague is one of the all time great names for an event, along with the Diet of Worms.


Mr Tony's unreliable alarm clock

Either that, or he must have set it to snooze 27 years ago, as the Ozymandias of 10 Downing Street has "called on the world to wake up to the 'strategic challenge' posed by Iran". Erm, those of us who have read the newspapers and a bit of Middle Eastern history know that Iran has been making trouble for its neighbours since 1979. The Iran-Iraq war broke out because of Iranian attempts to destabilise Iraq.

What else hasn't he noticed?

Stupid criminal of the year

No, not the one who has been vexing us all of late, but rather the Floridan who sought the help of the Sunshine State's finest over a batch of dodgy crack she had been sold.

Meanwhile, my thanks to those perceptive individuals who have voted for me as blogger of the year chez Dale. What with secret ballots, I could not possibly confirm or deny that I voted for mysef.

Charles Haughey revisited

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
I raised the traditional toast of 'stoke well the fires of Hell' when Haughey departed this life, but a report by an Irish Republic mandated tribunal shows him up to have been still viler than I had thought:

"The Moriarty tribunal has published a scathing report into the finances of the late Charles Haughey in which it finds he accepted cash for favours from wealthy businessmen over 17 years and devalued the quality of the State's democracy. Among the key findings in Mr Justice Michael Moriarty's report was the fact that Mr Haughey spent a significant portion of the money raised for a liver transplant operation for his former colleague Brian Lenihan. It says that "as much as £265,000 may have been collected for that purpose, and that of those funds, no more than £70,283.06 was applied in meeting the costs and expenses attendant on Mr Lenihan's medical treatment in the United States".

That man would have stolen the pennies off his dead mother's eyes.

75 or older? Tessa Jowell thinks you are stupid

That's the only conclusion I can draw from the tsunami of cash her department is planning on spending on advising certain demographics, including the 75+ age group on the digital switchover. I will admit to being something of a geek when it comes to technology, but all that the digital switchover means for the man or woman on the couch is that you need to buy a digibox, plug it into a mains socket and run an aerial lead to it. Say 10 seconds time to do that, turn on the TV etc and it autotunes. Given that there will be a subsidised fee of £40 for "Older and disabled people who do not receive income related benefits" it seems pretty clear that the government has not exactly gone sniffing around for best value providers of this service. The equipment, note, is not included in the package of aid.

Will 'helpful' people be turning up unannounced at the doors of older folk offering assistance, or does the Culture dept expect to sit back and wait for the helplines to melt because older people cannot read the instructions that come with a newly acquired digibox? What next? Instructions on how to operate toasters, fit duvet covers or suck eggs? Just to put this in perspective, 1931 births include James Duvall, Tom Wolfe, William Shatner, Rupert Murdoch, Faye Weldon and Mikhail Gorbachev - none of whom exactly sit drooling in their bathchairs.

For those with nothing better to do on Thursday

In a pitiful attempt to ape Dale & Fawkes, fellow bloggers and regulars are invited to join Newmania and me as we hold court ourselves open to ridicule in Croydon's finest gastropub, the Glamorgan this Thursday for an evening's drinking and breeze shooting. I might even stand people the odd drink. The pub is five minutes walk from East Croydon station, and the station is all of 15 or so from Victoria.

EU intent on destroying the financial services industry

Not content with what it is likely to do to the chemical industry, the Masters of the Universe in St James and Mayfair had best watch out as hedge funds are liable to be up before the beak. The German finance minister thinks that they should be studied to see if they endanger the stability of the economy, and if so how they can be controlled. Trichet, head of the ECB, reckons the regulators are not 'wholly satisfied' with the regulatory regime and seeks a 'global consensus' on them. More here in Libé.

Before ploughing on, note that the UK based hedge funds control more money than either the Frankfurt or Paris exchanges. As I've noted before, financial talent is very mobile, and for all that the SEC, FSA and the rest of them want 'ownership' what will happen in the wake of a clunky new regulatory burden is that the talent and the money will go elsewhere, either to the tax havens or the Far East. Given the ridiculous outbreaks of armchair class warfare from pols and bishops at City bonus time, doubtless the envious will be delighted at squeezing money out of the economy and thus engaging in nose trimming as it serves 'social justice' and 'equality'. Also known as envy and the politics of Procrustes.

Spot the difference...

Both are called Topol, but one is double-barrelled and called Topol-M. Oy and indeed vey. The best I can do in spoofing 'Fiddler on the Roof' is 'If I were a Minuteman'....

Yet another fatuous poll

It is clearly the season for this sort of thing, as the editrix of those two journals of record 'Hollywood Dog' and 'New York Dog' (Doubting Thomases feel free to Google. I'm not making this up) asked her readership to name the best and worst celebrity dog owners. Oprah Winfrey impressed while Britney Spears did not. More here.

I am staggered more by the idea that there is a market for dog plutography than that the great American public has the presumption to judge celebs for their dog husbandry. Maybe it will be Miami Beach Pot Bellied Pig next.

And the latest Eurobarometer report has hit the streets

Monday, December 18, 2006

Rather ambitiously, the eurocrats attempt to poll the whole of the EU 25 plus candidate countries, largely on EU issues, but also on the likes of gay marriage and legalising cannabis, every once in a while. Full details of the current one here, but it is a pdf file.

I almost burst with patriotic pride that our very own Blighty was bottom of the class for thinking membership of the EU a good thing (34%), bottom for thinking we had benefited (39%), bottom for having a positive image of the EU (28%), and bottom for trusting both the commission and the 'parliament'(25%).

Teacher's pets are varied: 73 % of Slovenes 'tend to trust' both the 'parliament' and the Commission. 73% of our Hibernian neighbours have a positive image of the EU. Fancy that. Wonder if it has anything to do with being bought? Then again 87% of them think they have benefited, so what of the ungrateful 14%, eh?

Elsewhere, a hanging & flogging party could sweep the board in Cyprus, with 97% thinking 'criminals should be punished more severely'. The Danes are clearly mushy liberals, and trail the field at a trifling 70%.

I will not be moving to Portugal any time soon, as 80% consider 'we need more equality and justice even if this means less freedom for the individual'. The UK disgraces itself less than most at 56%, with the Dutch the least envious at 46%. Depressing.

The Dutch are keenest on freeing the weed at 49%, followed by Spain at 40% and the UK at 32%. The Finns and the Swedes clearly have not been listening to Peter Tosh songs, with only 8% and 9% in favour.

Finally, the Germans do their best to perpetuate the national stereotype, with the least support for the proposition that 'more importance should be given to spare time than work' at 27%. In contrast 69% of Cypriots want to spend more time sitting on the beach or under the nearest olive tree. Although presumably they do not want the same life of ease for the island's criminals, but rather that they should be breaking rocks in the hot sun.

Headlines that promise much, but disappoint

Like this one over at 24dash.com: "Fife's online bin collection calendar proves big hit"

I was hoping for something marvellous along the lines of the 2007 sheds calendar or the sadly missed Croydon roundabouts calendar.

Holy See FC

In a thoroughly odd development, the Vatican has ambitions of fielding a top level football team, apparently. More here

I can see a number of problems. Firstly, where will the pitch go? The minimum is 330' by 210'. Always assuming there are no stands... Here's a map of the Vatican to illustrate the problem:

Always suppposing that the Pope thinks it worth knocking down a building or two, what about team selection? Catholics only? (There's a very poor joke about left footers to be had here). Moving on, sponsorship could be a bit of a problem. Presumably not the London Rubber Company. Were Holy See FC to get into international competitions, fixtures involving Rangers might be a little troublesome. Sunday fixtures will be out of the question, but I hope we might see fewer fouls and the like, but doubtless the average observant referee might feel a little intimidated nevertheless.

Ridiculous surveys corner

This time from Norwich Union, which takes aim at stiletto shoes. A poll of 250 quacks found that 58% had treated stiletto related foot / ankle injuries, although whether these were wearer injuries or to bystanders who had been spiked is not clear. Further 'research' discloses the astonishing news that women are more likely to be wearing heels during the party season, and "23% said they suffered more accidents while in the shoes". Well fancy that. Having a truly terrible sense of balance, I fall off normal bloke shoes from time to time, so how heel wearers cope I know not. NU gives what will probably be the least heeded warning of the year: "We're seeing an increase in the number of patients causing themselves pain and injury due to impractical footwear and we urge all women to show caution when out socialising in high heels this Christmas". Presumably the company is not concerned with transvestites.

Broadening things out, I have a theory on shoes: few if any straight men have a footwear collection which runs into double figures including trainers, wellies etc, and outside of commune livers, try finding a woman with fewer than 10 pairs.

Kyoto protocol good for the economy?

That, so to speak, would appear to be the thesis of the United Nations Environment Program, personified by Achim Steiner, quoted in the National Post:"Canada's repudiation of its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol could harm its economy in coming years, warns the head of the United Nations Environment Program. Achim Steiner says Canadian business could be left out of major profit opportunities created by an international emissions trading system that he predicts will be worth $100 billion in 10 years".

The crux of his argument is that carbon trading has the scope to make some serious money, and is all too well known, I'm all in favour of economic acts between consenting adults, if more than a little envirosceptic. Many, many years ago I was once damned as being 'environmentally hostile', a slam which I still treasure

Croydon better than Kensington or Richmond

Sunday, December 17, 2006
If you are a fan of arson, anyway. The local rag has the London arson results in, and Croydon has suffered 728 arsons to the 114 in Kensington and mere 26 in Richmond. Tower Hamlets is the London-wide champion at 1,526, with Camden also impressing. Does TH have buildings more flammable than those in Richmond by a factor of almost 59, or are matches and so forth that much easier to come by dahn the East End?

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Leonid Brezhnev

Not someone I recall with great fondness, and the old monster would be getting his telegram from the Tsar this coming Tuesday. However, Brezhnev nostalgia is all the rage in Mother Russia, and one character comments: "For 18 years, the country lived in clover...[he] was very intelligent. Otherwise, he would not have been allowed by others to run the country for so long". Then again, the commentator happens to be called David Brezhnev...

The report found "that 31 percent of Russians would prefer to live during the Brezhnev era, while 39 percent picked Putin's time. Only 1 percent of the 3,200 people polled by the state-run VTsIOM longed for Boris Yeltsin's 1990s". As something of dilettante student of Russia and Russian history, this does not surprise me that much, since if there is one thing Russians do not like it is uncertainty - witness the Time of Troubles, the civil war and the collapse of the Soviet union.

Meanwhile, an antique Soviet era joke:

A woman is being asked a few questions by the KGB.

"Where were you born?". "Sankt Peterburg".

"Where did you grow up?". "Petrograd".

"Where do you live now?". "Leningrad".

"Where would you like to live?". "Sankt Peterburg".

A challenge to the readership

Saturday, December 16, 2006
Newmania has come up with a corker in the book review thread - "Take that quality for which the author is chiefly known and accuse him of not having enough it“, and gives some fine examples, of which this is my favourite: "Must Mr.Dickens skim so quickly past his characters , one scarcely is aware of them before the plot thunders on a breakneck speed. A little more time spent on quirky detail and he may achieve much".

I think we could apply this to political commentary to comic effect.

And my starters for ten:

"Mr Prescott's tendency to focus on the more cerebral elements of the political process risks making him appear to be ensconced in an ivory tower. He would benefit greatly from engaging with the public in a more populist manner, although earthiness is clearly beyond him".

"Patricia Hewitt is perhaps the most popular member of the cabinet, owing to her unerring ability to connect so directly with the man in the street and to articulate his concerns in such a way that it takes a great deal of effort not to warm to her, whatever one's politics".

"The Liberal Democrats seem to avoid the first rule for a minor party, which is to shun making clear policy announcements and to rank opportunism far above principle as a key to gaining power. Similarly, the gentlemanly way in which they conduct by election campaigns seems destined to deliver many more disappointments and lost deposits".

Credit where it's due department

Having made mock of Hammersmith council over the apparent pub crawl at the council tax payers expense, they have come up with the makings of quite a good idea: "A team of 27 hand-picked beat officers is to be put on the streets of Shepherds Bush to drive the yobs, thieves and muggers out of town, and Hammersmith & Fulham Council is looking for a sheriff to lead them".

Admittedly sheriff would not appear to be an elected post, but it is a start. There is also this jaw dropper buried in the report: "We will be the first council in the UK to put local patrols on the streets, day and night, every day of the year". What?!

A whole new dimension to lazy journalism

The Swedish book reviewer who savaged a book that had not been written, although it had been trailed in a publisher's catalogue, because he did not approve of the author's previous work. He reckoned that 'Fruktans Makt's' (The Power of Fear) "plot was "predictable" and said the characterisations were one-dimensional".

I have pondered in the past how much attention is truly paid to the books up for the Booker. Consider this: "The longlist of 19 books was chosen from 112 entries; 95 were submitted for the prize and 17 were called in by the panel of judges". Hmm.

And I wonder quite how many MPs really read all the legislation they vote for, given that Ken Clarke famously admitted he had not read the Maastricht Treaty, and shock horror, Blair does not read the petitions to Number 10.

India adopts shoot to kill policy against Osama Bin Laden.

Regrettably this particular OBL is a rogue elephant. Give a dog a bad name....

The Dale / Fawkes bash

Was immensely amusing. Our very own (if I might venture etc etc) Peter H was mentioned by name by Mr F as not being able to make it, to broad disappointment. A big hello to Mikey, Tom Paine, Dizzy, Paul Linford, Devil's K and the ever lovely Ellee - inter alia - with whom substantial breezes were shot. I hope you'll be proud of me for being among the last four standing along with Guido and James C. Alas we moved onto Chatham House rules at the end, so no grim details concerning the bitter end...

And a *huge* shout out to messrs Dale and Fawkes for their epic hospitality. And nul points to the cab driver non-plussed at being told he had just 'ad that Guido Fawkes in the back of his cab.

Ellee's report is here, and Tom Paine's here. More when other people get blogging....

What is an area of competence for an elected mayor?

Friday, December 15, 2006
Not, I would imagine spending public money on a publicity campaign calling for a debate on the merits of nuclear power. And doing so in tandem with the less than open-minded Greenpeace takes this from being dodgy to the status of full blown public outrage. That, however, is what we London council tax payers will be funding for one Kenneth Robert Livingstone. More details, straight from the horse's, erm, mouth here.

"Under the headline '£70 billion - Nuclear Waste?' the Mayor invites Londoners to participate in the debate now taking place about energy policy. The posters will appear on tube stations across the capital from Friday". But, so much for the debate as KRL says "Nuclear power is yesterday's solution to our energy needs. In London we want to lead the way in combating climate change by using the cleanest energy and most efficient technologies rather than adopting solutions that damage the environment. Developing the infrastructure for decentralised energy would be financially and environmentally more cost effective than using nuclear power, it would mean less carbon emissions and it would help reduce Londoners' fuel bills".

As I have noted before in a post called 'Livingstone's nuclear straw man' posted at Anyone But Ken, which I cannot as yet lay hands on, it is inconceivable that a nuclear power station would ever be built in London, either in Hyde Park or deepest Croydon, as British energy policy has always been to site plants in coastal areas well away from population centres. So, KRL is explicitly addressing an area wholly outside his competence, both geographically and in terms of legislation. He can mouth off all he likes, but when it comes to us paying for his opinion to be plastered all over poster sites, a line has been crossed. Do I hear 'propaganda on the rates' redux? Quite apart from the direct cost of renting the sites (or is Transport for London compelled to give them gratis?) , there is also the opportunity cost occasioned by others not being able to rent the sites.

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How much store should one set by an opinion poll conducted in a one party state?

Not very much, in my reckoning, but herewith some results by a poll taken among Cubans by Gallup:

The key question (and I bet the pollees were looking over their shoulders)"The Gallup poll released Thursday showed that 47 percent of the Cubans polled approved the job performance of their leaders and 40 percent disapproved".

And the less perilous:

"Only one in four Cubans declared to be satisfied with their levels of personal freedom. By contrast, four out of every five Latin Americans said they were satisfied with their personal freedom."

"Only 42 percent of Cubans believed they could get ahead by working hard, far less than the 77 percent of Latin America who held that opinion".

"Cubans also seemed less happy than their Latin American peers, with 62 percent saying they laughed or smiled a lot, compared with 82 percent for the rest of the region".

Kiss the hand you cannot bite....

What fresh Hell is this?

A report published in the BMJ, and reported by 24dash.com proposes taking the 'war on obesity' (do we have a Fat Czar yet?) to ever more absurd levels - and I am NOT making this up - including the mandatory placement of an obesity helpline number with the sale of larger sized clothes in shops. That is merely the most monstrous proposal, as there are plenty more, including 'Banning the placement of sweets and fatty snacks at or near shop tills and at child's eye level' and ' Introducing health checks for all school leavers, both primary and secondary'. Whatever happened to free will?

Meanwhile, I suspect that shopping abroad will be ever more popular, and maybe there will be a revitalised market in vintage clothing because it will not have labels declaring 'you are a fatso, shame on you' attached to it.

Rights to privacy and the like

Some wise person once noted that we have all done or said at least one thing that would look truly horrible on the front page of the News of the World. I know I have. Anyway, a Canadian folkie, one Loreena McKennitt, has succeeded in keeping sundry elements of her life out of a biography: "The Court of Appeal upheld an injunction preventing Miss Ash from publishing specified passages in the book..They included, for example, references to Miss McKennitt's state of health following a bereavement; "household minutiae" about her Irish cottage; and "something which happened in a bedroom in a hotel in Hawaii..However, Miss Ash was permitted to report "passing references to friendships with various men"; the "general background" to the death of Miss McKennitt's fiancé in 1998, as opposed to her emotional reaction to bereavement; and the fact that from time to time she had gone busking in London". Source.

I am struggling to seee much by way of a golden thread connecting the allowed and one connecting the disallowed. I consider those who kiss and tell to be fairly odious creatures, although if this 'right' can only be made fact through litigation, inevitably it will only apply to the rich and those on legal aid. As such enforcement becomes the issue, and it is unlikely that any except the very well connected would be able to get gagging writs in advance against the News of the World, Private Eye or our old friend Mr Fawkes. As the author points out, the future of biography, where it involves the living, is heading towards the untenable. Doubtless the book could be published elsewhere, Spycatcher style. We shall see. Should we accept, per Scott McNealy, 'You have no privacy. Get used to it' or is there a line that can be drawn that will not serve to muzzle legitimate journalistic / literary inquiry?

On a completely different topic, I urge people to read the obit of the recently deceased Lord Mowbray and Stourton in the Daily Telegraph today. The gentleman's life gives the strongest argument possible in favour of the hereditary principle .

By popular request, I give you Anthony Charles Linton Blair and his run in with the law

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I suppose we can now refer to him as 'known to the police', without fear of libel suits.

And some anagrams of his full name:

Born actor. Lethally nannyish
Nonchalantly slithery baron
Lynch nationals abhorrently
Hilly clans' bonny tartan hero

Meanwhile, note today's front pages, care of the Sky News website. The Telegraph covers itself in glory for leading with the Blair story, and the Graunaid with the SFO / Saudi disgrace. The others, bar the (yawn) Independent, which does Iraq, lead with the Diana business. Looks like it was a very good day to bury bad news.

Are UK broadcasters flouting EU law?

Which would be a first for us. I ask, because an item in the Herald Tribune notes that in a minor outbreak of liberalisation, "A one-vote margin of 324 to 323 determined that advertising breaks should be increased to every half hour. Currently, ad breaks are allowed every 45 minutes for dramas. For films, there are breaks after 45 minutes and 90 minutes, and a third after 20 more minutes. For news and children's programming, the present standard is an ad break every 30 minutes".

Erm, I have stopped watching films on the advertising funded channels because there are so many ad breaks, rendering films unwatchable in my opinion, and I will eat my hat (a black rabbit fur ushanka) if Five only breaks every 45 minutes rather than what seems to be about every 15.

An important confirmation from the BBC

Apparently some 300 people have had a brain bypass. And I thought there were around 350 Labour MPs.

The Village of the Damned

Pity the residents of the Swedish village of Fjuckby. They want to change the name as people, get this, make mock, and this has affected property prices. More here.

There was a vast outbreak of bowdlerising of British place names in the 19th C, and a village near my old barrio - Passingford Bridge - used to be Pissingford Bridge. The all time favourite has to Nottingham prior to it dropping the leading S.

Sticking with our European friends, and raising the tone a touch, yesterday the Belgians fell for a TV hoax news flash that Flanders had declared independence. I suspect that cut rather too close to the bone.

Ageism, sexism, sectarianism and racism in voting in the Land of the Free

Interesting item in the LA Times on prospective presidential candidates in 2008.

The really good news is that Hillary Clinton would get flattened by McCain - 36% to 50%, and even the gleeming toothed Mormon Mitt Romney would only be bettered by 42% to 36% by Clinton. Rudi and Condi were not tracked as candidates, but both were viewed favourably by Republicans at 80%+, way more than the 65% for McCain.

And now to the headline: 4% would not vote for a woman and 3% would not vote for an African American. However, some prejudices are clearly more palatable - 14% would not vote for a 72 year old (as McCain will be in '08) and 14% would not vote for a Mormon.

Holding back the East China Sea with a mop

Those freedom loving commissars in the 'People's Republic' of China have come up with another corker: "scrutinising all foreign music available on line in an attempt to clamp down on music which offends 'public morals or fine cultural traditions'" (As found in the 'graph, paper edition only).

I think that the commissars are going to have their work cut out, to put it mildly. I believe that hundreds of CDs are released every week, and there is quite a long tail of previous work for them to go through.

Starting with public morals, where to start? Maybe the Red Guards assume that 'bad things' only started in the 1970s, but they will have to start rather earlier than that. I suspect that Lucille Bogan's 'Shave 'em dry' might set a few alarm bells going, and that is from 1935. Link to the lyrics here. If drugs are an issue too, I could offer up the Memphis Jug Band's 'Cocaine Habit Blues' from 1930. There's a free download available, anbd is recommended.

'Fine cultural traditions' is a pretty nebulous concept, but I suppose it has been kept loose deliberately. Any other nominations for undermining Beijing, or alternatively, what might Blair / Brown seek to ban under similar legislation? Widening things out a bit, I suspect that dictionaries of quotations will be culled of most of the entries for Dr Johnson, with "The noblest prospect which a Scotchman ever sees, is the high road that leads him to England!" first to be red penned.

A rather curious Christian video game

Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Maybe I have not been paying attention, but I've tended to think that explicitly Christian entertainment, be it in the form of books, music etc would tend to be 'wholesome', shall we say?

However, 'Left Behind: Eternal Forces' a Christian video game would appear to be something that one would not give to a maiden aunt for her birthday, as "The game's story line game begins after the rapture, when most Christians are transported to heaven. Earth's remaining population is faced with a choice of joining or combatting the Antichrist, as embodied by a force called the Global Community Peacekeepers that seeks to impose one-world government". Further, "Our game includes violence, but excludes blood, decapitation, killing of police officers," the company says on its website, noting that a player can lose points for "unnecessary killing" and regain them through prayer". Further details here

What would His Grace think?

What is the Big Brown playing at?

UPS, known colloquially as the Big Brown (yes, really), seems to have a rather odd approach to operating its business. Verity has e-mailed me a story at Jihad Watch, wherein it is disclosed that UPS will not deliver to Jews beyond the Green Line in Judea Samaria, but will deliver to Palestinians, so it cannot be on basis of safety issues. DHL is quite happy to accept the business however...

Councillors find a new excuse for going on a bender at the public's expense

As if living in West London was not bad enough, it turns out that pubs and bars in the area are selling short measures.

While ensuring that bars comply with Section 28 of the Weights and Measures Act 1985 is a laudable aim, am I being overly cynical in wondering why councillors decided that now was a great time to go on an epic pub crawl and make "more than 100 test purchases"?

If anyone at Croydon Council wants to replicate the 'research' in these parts, I am willing to volunteer my services in return for the drinks money. My e-mail is thethreeforks@gmail.com

The EU intent on destroying the industrial base of Europe

Not that it seems to have recognised it. New legislation on chemicals requires producers to register "all those chemical substances produced or imported above a total quantity of 1 tonne per year. Registration will affect about 30,000 substances. For more hazardous substances, producers will have to submit a substitution plan to replace them with safer alternatives". Source. As Le Monde notes, "these chemicals are present in everyday products such as textiles, paint, electrical apparatus and toys".

I do not suppose that the average industrialist deems it a great idea to use something toxic merely because it is toxic, but rather because it is the most suitable raw material for the task at hand. I suppose we can now look forward to freshly laundered clothes with a new 'grey whiteness', clothes that fall apart or that fail to hold their colour and gadgets that do not work.

That the €440 billion European chemical industry is likely to end up spavined by this legislation is, naturally, not enough for 'green' extremists. Domenique Voynet deplores the idea that "the chemical industry and laisser faire attitudes of national governments were deemed more important than public health", and Greenpeace deplores "the risk of it having only a limited impact".

What goes up Swedish noses

Snuff. Turns out that the Swedes are enthusiastic snuff takers, with it accounting for half the nation's tobacco consumption, and there are 1.1m snuff heads out of a population of 9m. Who would have thought it?

Great business names of our time

I rather like this.

Independence for Artsakh

Tuesday, December 12, 2006
As I think is well known to my regulars, I have a bit of a thing about Armenia, and am a bit late with the news that Artsakh (or Nagorno-Karabakh as it is called in Russian) has declared a new pro-independence constitution in the wake of a referendum with 98.6 support from an 87.2% turnout. Ideally I would wish for Artsakh to merge with Armenia, but it is not politically expedient for Yerevan to go along with this at the moment. I regard Artsakh as a legitimate successor state to the Soviet Union, and I'll let the New England School of Law make the case:

"Nagorno Karabagh has a right of self-determination, including the attendant right to independence, according to the criteria recognized under international law ... The principle of self-determination is included in the United Nations Charter, [and] was further codified in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ... The right to self-determination has also been repeatedly recognized in a series of resolutions adopted by the U.N. General Assembly." The analysis further notes that, as NKR's "independence was declared not from the Soviet Union but from Azerbaijan," and as Nagorno Karabakh "at that time was part of a still existent and internationally recognized Soviet Union," NKR's declaration of independence "fully complied with existing law." In particular, "the 1990 Soviet law titled 'Law of the USSR Concerning the Procedure of Secession of a Soviet Republic from the USSR,' provides that the secession of a Soviet republic from the body of the USSR allows an autonomous region and compactly settled minority regions in the same republic's territory also to trigger its own process of independence." Furthermore, "the USSR Constitutional Oversight Committee did not annul the declaration to establishment the Nagorno Karabagh Republic, since that declaration was deemed in compliance with the then existing law."

Naturally, the EU, OSCE, Turkey, Azerbaijan etc are paying this no heed. I would hope for recognition for Somaliland at some point, but I'm not holding my breath.

Simple, but effective

Found at Boreme.com.

Conservativism in the arts

Newmania and I have chewed over this one a few times, and reckon that there is plenty of it about, but we have been struggling with creating a grand theory – is conservative art conservative by nature of what it addresses, its form, or because it is created for profit?

I advanced the idea that art, of whatever form, that deals with the here and now or holds up a mirror to our own times rather than focusing on the utopian lends itself to being described as conservative, whereas that which deals more with change, or its desirability, might be better viewed as, in the broad sense, left. I feel that using that as a starting point one can claim Shakespeare as one of us, and having performed that particular land grab, naming and claiming other figures becomes almost a question of detail. Newmania claims Austen as one of ours on the basis of form and content, although as I have conceded previously, I am not au fait with Austen.

In terms of form, Aristotle’s poetics is a helpful tool for examining drama – unity of time, space and plot in the context of drama. In terms of painting, I suppose one could focus on conventional figurative art rather than the conceptual and therefore claim most of western art prior to the impressionists. I recommend a small detour to read about The Stuckists in their own words and over at Wikipedia. For those pressed for time, here is a precis of their aims and methods: “The group are defined by their Stuckists manifesto, written by Childish and Thomson in 1999, that places great importance on the value of painting as a medium, as well as the use of it for communication and the expression of emotion and experience - as opposed to what they see as the superficial novelty, nihilism and irony of conceptual art and postmodernism. The most contentious statement in their manifesto is: "Artists who don't paint aren't artists". In a second manifesto, the Stuckists declared that they aimed to replace postmodernism with Remodernism, a period of renewed spiritual (as opposed to religious) values in art, culture and society”.

If art is conservative by nature of it being commercial, then it is game, set, match and championship to our lot.

I am hoping for substantial input from readers here, as this is very much the germ of an idea, and if I am hopelessly out of my depth, doubtless I will discover that all too soon.

Quango discovers the Philosopher's Stone

Or so it would seem, judging from this press release, as how else can it hope to create a school with a shade under £94,000?

Apparently, "The Food For Life partnership...will use their £16.9 million grant to bring healthy eating, cooking, farming and food growing to thousands of school children and their families...[and] will set up 180 Food For Life flagship schools in diverse communities across England - 20 in each of the nine English regions".

Somehow I doubt it. With £93,888.89, this group might manage to buy a garden shed, install a couple of ovens and employ a chef.

The nationalisation of food is beginning to irk me more and more, and sometimes I wonder whether the UK is ripe for a branch of the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance

A new frontier for 'sin' taxes.

Those of us with the usual vices are all too used to governments hiking taxes on petrol, booze and tobacco, but Mexico has come up with a new one - a 5% tax on fizzy drinks, in addition to the sales tax of 15% already levied on it. The LA Times notes that Mexicans guzzle "an eye-popping 152 liters of soda a year". Crikey, if that is 'full fat' etc, the man on the Guadalajara omnibus and his sister on the Oaxaca omnibus must be bouncing off the ceiling.

Meanwhile, at some point today there will be a fairly heft post on the theory and practice of conservative art, following discussions with Newmania on the issue last night.