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The EU joins battle in the fight against insomnia

Saturday, June 30, 2007
Yes, it is EU-Tube. I wish I was making this up, but I am not:

'"The European Commission has launched a dedicated channel on YouTube to make its audiovisual material more widely available to the public. "This initiative reflects the Commission's commitment to better explain its policies and actions on issues which concern citizens across the EU – such as climate change, energy or immigration" said Margot Wallström, Vice-President for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy'.

Because I am prepared to suffer for the benefit of my readers, I have just sat through all seven minutes and fifty one seconds of '50 years of EU in the World'. It is quite remarkably dull, and has lots and lots of clips of people signing treaties, and is just as misleading and downright mendacious as one would expect. Including the usual canard that 'Europe' has kept the peace in Europe for 50 years.

Elsewhere there is a promo for the dreaded media project which is decidedly Not Safe For Work as it features a range of couple reaching the heights of ecstasy under the title 'Let's Come Together'. Click at your own risk.

And a range of South Park look-a-like cartoons on mobile roaming choices scripted in gibberish. Like this:

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One for all the conspiracy theorists

This is a Carcano M91/38:

And not just any Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle, but rather one belonging to a certain Lee Harvey Oswald. Anyway, in an indication that the Italian Army or Esercito Italiano does not find itself with sufficiently full hands with operations in Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Lebanon it has been supervising tests "at the former Carcano factory in the town of Terni, around 100km north of Rome, where the alleged murder weapon was produced in 1940". Source.

And lo, and indeed behold, "According to the official Warren Commission report on the assassination, Oswald loaded and fired three shots at Kennedy in seven seconds in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He used a Carcano M91/38 bolt-action rifle. The first shot missed the president, the second went through his back and neck and the third hit Kennedy in the head, killing him. But the Italian tests showed that it would take a minimum of 19 seconds to load and fire three shots using a Carcano M91/38. So there must have been at least one more sniper for so many shots to have been fired in such a short space of time, the experts believe".

Hmm. That rates no more than a C-, I think. Far more entertaining is the '10 wackiest Kennedy assassination theories' page, to be found here.

Day of the Miliband

Friday, June 29, 2007
'You - will - vote - Labour'.

Click here if you prepared to have the abyss gazing into thee. Image lifted from the BBC's site

Something to keep in mind the next time you see the phrase 'Occupied Territories'

"16 percent of Palestinians said they favoured a return to full Israeli occupation". Source

That is just the most unexpected finding from a joint poll of Israeli and Arab opinion by two research groups.

Furthermore, "
Overall, 41 per cent of Palestinians supported dissolving the Palestinian Authority while 26 percent wanted it replaced it with an international trusteeship...However, 49 percent rejected dismantling the PA. Some 42 percent of the Palestinians surveyed favored the establishment of a confederation with Jordan".

Does not say much for Abbas's leadership, does it?


'Critical European infrastructure' - Nominations needed

Thursday, June 28, 2007
The European 'parliament' has cooked up a strategy for protecting critical infrastructures in case of terrorist attack. For some reason it has only been published in French, and it keeps re-iterating that it is the primary responsibility of member states to protect said infrastructure, so it really is lots of hot air. Probably just as well - I would not count on Euroman and woman swinging into action faster than a comic superhero if my local train station was filled up with semtex, frankly.

'Critical European infrastructure' is taken to include health, transport, power and communications installations, and I for one am looking forward to rural bus stops in Portugal, Romanian dentists' surgeries and Belgacom phone boxes being classified thus, while doubtless we will be sheepish about claiming the status for Gatwick Airport.

Sticking with all things EU, "A one-stop shop for EU-related terminology was today officially opened to the general public in a ceremony organised by the European Parliament and the European Commission. The InterActive Terminology for Europe database, more familiarly referred to as IATE, combines the terminology databases of the individual EU institutions and bodies in a single database containing 8.7 million terms and covering all 23 official EU languages. IATE ,which has been in use by the translation services of the EU institutions since 2005, already plays a major role in ensuring the quality of the written communication of the EU institutions and bodies".

'Gravy train'
is not in the database. Neither is 'bureaucrat'.


Another bright idea from Gadaffi

The United States of Africa: "One sole African government, one sole African army to defend Africa with a force of two million soldiers. One currency, one passport. Accra must hear this message". I wonder if he has anyone in mind as a potential leader?

Given that the OAU was a disaster and the African Union has not fared much better, I can't see this happening quite yet. Always supposing that the popular will existed, the common ground in terms of the Greco-Roman inheritance, Christianity etc etc for the nations of Europe is a good deal more, erm, common, than that between the African nations


The coming Brown terror

Well, the coup d'etat has finally come to pass. I am not sure which is more nauseating - the fact of a coronation, or the constant grinning (aided by vaseline on the teeth, a la Miss World contestants?)

A shy and retiring nark from the wrong side of the River (thanks Justin) has e-mailed me an internal Labour party document called 'Introducing Gordon Brown as Prime Minister to your constituency', so time for a little Kremlinology.

"Gordon Brown has set out eight clear areas that he will focus on as Prime Minister, detailed on the next page.If you are thinking about getting in touch with these groups then it’s important to identify what this change of leadership and focus will mean to them and include that message in any letter you write to them":

Britain number one for education - I would imagine that this will be achieved by more grade inflation and declaring that it has been done rather than there being any serious attempt to outdo Singapore.

An NHS that earns the trust of patients and staff - 'Trust'. I see this as a code for making the nation feel guilty for any criticism of the behemoth. Note that the producers are well and truly back in the catbird seat.

More affordable housing - He could loosen up planning controls, but that is not going to happen. Further schemes targeting Labour voters key workers seem likely. Still, 'more' is a wonderfully loose term - just one more block of social housing will allow him to claim success.

Every child the best start in life - Nice grammar. Meaningless cant.

Stronger, safer, more cohesive communities - Don't you just love social engineering? How in the name of all that is holy can central government make 'more cohesive communities'? Probably by telling us that they become such. However, it also looks like a hint that he will not be doing too much kowtowing to whichever alphabet soup organisation claims to represent Muslim opinion this week. So that's good.

Tackling climate change - Let's not even go there

Better work-life balance - Code for more interference in our lives.

The challenge of terrorism and security - As if we were unaware of it.

The suggested form letter is an absolute toe curler, and I do not doubt that there will be folk who forget to change this bit: "I wanted to get in touch with you to tell you a little more about Gordon Brown, our new Prime Minister and what this change of leadership will mean for our community here in <>"

And it continues, "I’ve known Gordon well for many years and it has been a pleasure working with him down at Westminster. I am proud that I supported Gordon to become Prime Minister because I know that he offers a new government with new priorities". I doubt that the Lord Protector would recognise most of his bank benchers. Might be worth checking future mail outs associated with the Brown refuseniks. And some more mangling, "Gordon’s visits across the country and talking with myself and other MPs have confirmed that there are new challenges today.."

There's much more of the same, detailing letters to local papers, recruitment drives and so forth, but I think I've suffered enough.

And while I'm at it, some thoughts on any spavined donkeys grandees from other parties tempted to shelter in Broon's big tent: 'Damn your principles, stick to your party'. Note also that if Brown were to win a mandate, said grandees would be out of his cabinet quicker than you could say 'opportunism'.


Did Leif Ericson have a better travelled colleague?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Possibly, as Norwegian archaeologists have discovered 1000 year old Incan bones in their patch. There is no obvious reason why Incan bones would be found in the Oslo region, although it is not inconceivable that the dead Incan did not actually die there, but rather the bones were transported there some time after the fact.

So much for the dull explanation. Speculation as to the Vikings making it to South America, or a Kon-Tiki style voyage from 'Peru' to Northern Europe is far more entertaining.

Because it can

This is really rather good. It takes a few seconds before it is obvious what is going on, so bear with it.

And as a clickthrough.


Erm, deterring what, exactly?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007
This beauty is the USS Nimitz.

Not enormously newsworthy in itself, but sundry Indian lefties and the like are all a-flutter over the possibility that it might be carrying nuclear weapons when it moors off Chennai, better known as Madras . Given that it is nuclear powered, such concern seems a little silly, and the left parties might wish to occupy themselves with the Teeth of Shiva.

Over at the Nimitz's home page, its mission is defined thus: "USS Nimitz provides a global reach to deter aggression by would-be foes; preserve freedom of the seas; promote peace and stability; and when called upon, to deliver precise and persistent combat power directly to our enemies". However, an Indian MoD bod said it "is not known to be carrying weapons with nuclear warheads".


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Someone really dislikes Broon....

Or so it would seem, judging from this petition to No. 10:

" We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Requisition Concorde as an executive flight".

Erm, the Dour One is supposed to steal one from BA or whoever? And in the wake of Air France Flight 4590 (in 2000. Good grief) , "Prior to the accident, Concorde had been arguably the safest operational passenger airliner in the world in terms of passenger deaths-per-kilometres travelled (0). After the accident the death rate was 12.5 deaths per million flights, more than three times worse than the second worst aircraft. However no aircraft's safety can be accurately measured from a single incident and safety improvements were made in the wake of the crash". (Source)

Be that as it may, "On 10 April 2003, British Airways and Air France simultaneously announced that they would retire Concorde later that year. They cited low passenger numbers following the 25 July 2000 crash, the slump in air travel following 9/11 and rising maintenance costs". And what is more, note "Airbus' unwillingness to provide maintenance support for the ageing airframes".

Failing to get the point about pride in one's culture

A rather sad story from Brittany, where a small gang has just been arrested for vandalising chapels, votive fountains and wayside crosses. The state prosecutor explained their 'rationale' thus: "Christianity snuffed out the ancient Celtic religion" and "they think too much attention is given to [churches] and not enough to those expressions of the traditional culture and beliefs of Brittany, like certain places in the forest of Huelgoat or Carnac". Had this rabble had the courage of their convictions, they might have taken on Saint-Corentin cathedral in Quimper. Anyway, so far so mundane and much in line with similar desecrations in Sweden and elsewhere.

What is a little out of the ordinary is that the vandals have been marking their handiwork with 'TABM', which apparently stands for 'True Armorik Black Metal'. These are individuals who supposedly did what they did in the name of traditional Breton culture, and yet they express themselves not in Kerneveg Brezhoneg or even Parisian French but rather in English. And I do not think that the Celtic roots of Black Metal are exactly obvious.

As a minor meander, Goths are called 'les Colds' in France.


What have they done to deserve this?

Say hello to Derek Wyatt, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, proud possessor of a majority of 79. Rather than addressing his efforts to the doubtless good burghers of S 'n' S, he appears to have a bee in his bonnet about the Olympic games. Not as one would hope, by seeking to rid the country of the horror that will befall us in 2012, but rather to inflict similar horrors elsewhere:

"I thank the Secretary of State for that. There are five rings in the Olympic flag, representing the five continents. Only two and a half continents have yet had an Olympics. If by 2024 or 2028 the games have not gone to Africa, south America, India or the middle east, what is the point of them? I wonder whether she could widen the remit of the legacy to include what legacy we will give back to the IOC for the games". Source.

Two and a half? Take your pick of the half from North America, Asia, Europe and Australasia. If the wretched al fresco steroid abuse fest has not thus far made it to the banks of the Nile, Amazon, Indus or Euphrates, perhaps it is because none of those countries have applied, or if they have, that bids were deemed inadequate. A little light googling shows that there are prospective candidates, of varying degrees of seriousness, for 2016 and 2020 that cover all of those regions and more. I'm sure that a Tel Aviv games - 'conducting feasibility study, admits challenges' - or ones in Dubai, Azerbaijan or Qatar would go just swimmingly.

If the bally thing has to keep going, might it not be an idea to site it permanently in Greece, perhaps?


The almost Lord Protector speaks

Monday, June 25, 2007
I'm not in the habit of reading the Mirror, as one left wing newspaper / website per day is enough to keep my blood pressure up to scratch, but it carries a beautifully stage managed interview wherein we 'see the real Gordon'. Uh-huh.

Choosing a sandwich bar where he orders a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich is pretty rich, but it gets better, "away from the spotlight he is warm, relaxed and punctuates his conversation with hearty laughs".

His TV viewing sounds carefully choreographed, "And what does Gordon switch to if he can grab the remote? "Football, rugby, athletics or tennis. And I quite like some of the crime programmes... Law And Order and The Bill."I saw a bit of the Apprentice and like Sir Alan Sugar very much. He's been a good friend to me and he's encouraged young people to be far more entrepreneurial."I liked Dragons' Den with Duncan Bannatyne and thought Britain's Got Talent was interesting because of its idea that you've got talent so let's help discover it and develop it. It's a good principle." Not quite as comical as the Arctic Monkeys nonsense of last year, but still quite rich.

And the obligatory football reference: "Going home also gives him the chance to watch the local football team he has supported since his boyhood in Kirkcaldy. "I've already got the Raith Rovers fixtures list for the start of the new season," he smiles".

And a special one for the C2/D/Es - his evening meal is called 'tea': "Having a fearsome work schedule means Gordon often has to rely on takeaway food. He says: "I'd be lucky if I got home for tea, because I'm usually working later than that. Funny (sic) enough I was working in the Treasury the other night and ordered in a Chinese lemon chicken." Erm, that rates as a 'funnily enough'? I'd hate to be stuck in a lift with him.


Coming soon to a TV near you - the funeral directors' channel

If you can pick up German TV, that is. In possibly the oddest channel launch in at least a month, the Bundesverbandes Deutscher Bestatter, or German Association of Funeral Directors has decided that what Germany, and possibly Austria, needs is "a station...featuring programming on mourning, cemeteries and obituaries 24 hours a day". Yes, really.

A spokesbod hopes it will "help remove the taboos around the subject of death", but I imagine that those who feel uncomfortable with the notion are unlikely to be tuning in. And the target market, rather than goths, is the German elderly.

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A Zionist and a member of Unison? Time to consider your position.

Friday, June 22, 2007
Taking time out from demanding its usual laundry list of re-nationalisations, pay rises all round, cakes and ale and the like, those delightful people attending the Unison conference have voted by a 4-1 majority for AgendaID 053, on 'Palestine':

" 1) withdraw to its 1949-67 borders;

2) allow the refugees of 1948 to return home;

3) remove all its settlements from the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Occupied Syrian Al-Joulan;

4) take down the Apartheid Wall; and

5) respect the Palestinian people's right to national self-determination and to establish a state in the West bank and the Gaza Strip with its capital in Jerusalem.

Note that clauses 2 and 3 are pure Judenrein - Jews can only live within the '49 borders, whereas Arabs can live anywhere, and 'right of return' is the cat's paw for a demographic overwhelming of Israel.

And, "Conference believes that ending the occupation demands concerted and sustained pressure upon Israel including an economic, cultural, academic and sporting boycott".

Big doff of the homburg to Engage for this sorry tale.


It's The End of History - again

At least according to an article by Guy Sorman, summarising his speech to the Asia Foundation.

"Globalization's very existence limits the temptation for aggression among rogue dictators; globalization is bad for these dinosaurs, their end is near."


"The losers are the authoritarian rulers, not the people. Let us mention an easy and convincing demonstration: in a closed world, rulers were accustomed to print money in order to finance their whims. The victims were the people ruined by inflation. Today, inflation by State fiat is impossible; the people would demand a more reliable currency. This is the way globalization works. Because of globalization, it has become impossible to rule a company, a country, a church, or even a family by decree".


"we are closer to peace than at any time in the history of mankind; we are immediately aware of any armed conflict or repression anywhere in the world and the so-called world community quickly reacts, slowing down the process of violence. Military violence still exists, but it remains local and very often contained, even in the Middle East; major wars do not occur any more and probably they will not".


"Against economic protectionism, it can easily be demonstrated that globalization has generated sustained world growth that benefits billions of individuals. Huge masses emerge from poverty through the free market. Mass poverty is actually disappearing, except in those parts of the world, like Africa or the Arab Middle East, which are not yet economically globalized".


"According to World bank statistics, the year 2006 was the first in the history of mankind when all nations did grow thanks to global free trad
e" (Probably not Zimbabwe. C)

There's a whole lot more, and it is well worth the read. The key difference between Sorman's 'End' and Fukuyama's would seem to be that Sorman does not take liberal democracy's victory as being a given.

The man with a conscience on a time switch

Mr Tony, it would appear, is going to Rome. Shame it is not Canossa.

This is not the place to argue the rights and wrongs of individual faiths, but what is interesting is that Blair's move to Rome has been foreseen for so long, but only now with his term in office nearly over is he going to take the plunge, apparently.

If someone has a a sincere belief in anything, be it a conception of God, a position on abortion, the death penalty or whatever, there comes a time when the spiritual Rubicon is crossed - one believes something that one did not believe before. For Blair to hold on like so, apparently, puts him in the category of those vegetarians who decide that they need just one last steak, or more likely one last hamburger, before taking the step.


A little light fisking of Brendan Barber's speech to Amicus / TGWU 'Unite'.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Found here.

'This is a critical time for British workers. Yes, we've conquered the spectre of mass unemployment, but inequality, unfairness and insecurity still disfigure our workplaces.

Unemployment is at the same level as in 1979. I don’t remember Len ‘MadeiraMurray judging everything to be fine and dandy then.

'Despite the genuine progress delivered by Labour - the minimum wage, union recognition rights, family-friendly policies, all the rest of it - we have yet to move from high employment to high-quality employment. That remains very much work in progress.

Remember the ‘high quality employment’ the state gave us through nationalisation?

'And next week, of course, a new political era will begin.


'A chance for this Government to make a fresh start.

'Not to retreat to the failed policies of the past, but to develop an imaginative agenda that once again resonates with ordinary working people. One that rebuilds the winning coalition of 1997; that appeals to the aspirational middle class but not at the cost of the heartland vote.

So Brendan concedes that the Attlee/Wilson/Callaghan model failed? That’s big of him.

'And I believe a vision of good work must be at the heart of the new Prime Minister's programme. Recognition that work is central to people's lives. That the workplace is as much about social justice as economic competitiveness.

‘Social justice’ eh? Let’s call a spade a spade and call it redistribution of income courtesy of ever more punitive levels of taxation. Try looking up ‘Laffer curve’.

'That the only way we can succeed in the global economy is by raising standards not lowering costs.

Meaningless cant.

'So today I challenge Gordon Brown to be bold and to open a new dialogue with the TUC on the way forward.

Yes, it’s beer and sandwiches again. Or perhaps lager and wraps…

'To reject the low regulation, low skill, low productivity malaise that has held this country back for so long. To revisit a faith in flexible labour markets that leaves one in five workers vulnerable and many more insecure.

So more regulation will make the economy more successful. What a fascinating, and indeed novel, idea.

'And yes, to have the courage to stand up to those at the top of our corporate life who seem to see themselves as the untouchables, a law unto themselves, floating free from the realities faced by the people they employ.

Ah-ha. Out pops the cloven hoof again. Nothing like a nice bit of class warfare to gee up the troops, eh?

'The FTSE-100 directors who award themselves an average pay rise of 28 per cent, then complain about the minimum wage being inflationary. The captains of industry who enjoy telephone number pensions, then close down decent occupational schemes for the rest of us.

Not heard of remuneration committees and corporate governance, Brendan? It really is not that simple.

'And the partners of private equity firms who enjoy riches beyond the dreams of avarice, then leave workers to pick up the pieces of the corporate wreckage they leave behind.

I don’t know, my dreams can be remarkably avaricious. And the likes of 3i, Permira and so on buy up companies just to wreck them do they? And there were you banging on about low productivity just now…

'My argument is simple. Britain at work could be - should be - so much better. More equal, more innovative and more productive. And that applies just as much in our public services as it does in the private sector.

More equal’. So damn the size of the cake, what matters is the size of an absolute slice. Maybe you would like to take the lead on ending restrictive practices and the like in the public sector?

'Indeed the most urgent task facing the incoming Prime Minister is to re-engage a public sector workforce thoroughly demoralised by an endless cycle of reform, restructuring and reorganisation.

The most urgent? Poor darlings with their gold plated pensions, unlimited sick leave, 35 hour weeks, pay on a par with the private sector and the like. If the public sector is quite so ghastly, why does it not have much trouble recruiting?

'It goes without saying that we welcome the massive investments that have flowed into our schools and hospitals under Labour.

Most of which has gone into pay rises.

'And despite what the detractors may say, despite what the right-wing press may claim, this has made a real difference. But that progress is now at grave risk from a toxic cocktail of privatisation, contestability and cuts. 'Untried, untested reforms, imposed from above without consultation, that command neither the support of the workforce nor the backing of the general public. We urgently need a meaningful, wide-ranging dialogue about the way forward.

Translated – no reform of public services, and no accountability.

'And we seek not an abandonment of reform: but a new way of doing things that delivers for service users, taxpayers and workers alike.

And it so happens that Brendan has stumbled upon that particular Philosopher’s Stone? Talented chap.

'So to Gordon Brown I say: Listen to us, consult us, and involve us in shaping change. Together, let us deliver the world-class services this country deserves.'



Raising Kane

The American Film Institute has just published its 100 greatest films list, having polled "artists, critics and historians", and here it is:

  1      Citizen Kane                                           1941
  2      The Godfather                                          1972
  3      Casablanca                                             1942
  4      Raging Bull                                            1980
  5      Singin' In The Rain                                    1952
  6      Gone With The Wind                                     1939
  7      Lawrence Of Arabia                                     1962
  8      Schindler's List                                       1993
  9      Vertigo                                                1958
  10     The Wizard Of Oz                                       1939
  11     City Lights                                            1931
  12     The Searchers                                          1956
  13     Star Wars                                              1977
  14     Psycho                                                 1960
  15     2001: A Space Odyssey                                  1968
  16     Sunset Blvd.                                           1950
  17     The Graduate                                           1967
  18     The General                                            1927
  19     On The Waterfront                                      1954
  20     It's A Wonderful Life                                  1946
  21     Chinatown                                              1974
  22     Some Like It Hot                                       1959
  23     The Grapes Of Wrath                                    1940
  24     E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial                             1982
  25     To Kill A Mockingbird                                  1962
  26     Mr. Smith Goes To Washington                           1939
  27     High Noon                                              1952
  28     All About Eve                                          1950
  29     Double Indemnity                                       1944
  30     Apocalypse Now                                         1979
  31     The Maltese Falcon                                     1941
  32     The Godfather Part Ii                                  1974
  33     One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest                        1975
  34     Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs                        1937
  35     Annie Hall                                             1977
  36     The Bridge On The River Kwai                           1957
  37     The Best Years Of Our Lives                            1946
  38     The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre                       1948
  39     Dr. Strangelove                                        1964
  40     The Sound Of Music                                     1965
  41     King Kong                                              1933
  42     Bonnie And Clyde                                       1967
  43     Midnight Cowboy                                        1969
  44     The Philadelphia Story                                 1940
  45     Shane                                                  1953
  46     It Happened One Night                                  1934
  47     A Streetcar Named Desire                               1951
  48     Rear Window                                            1954
  49     Intolerance                                            1916
  50     The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring      2001
  51     West Side Story                                        1961
  52     Taxi Driver                                            1976
  53     The Deer Hunter                                        1978
  54     M*A*S*H                                                1970
  55     North By Northwest                                     1959
  56     Jaws                                                   1975
  57     Rocky                                                  1976
  58     The Gold Rush                                          1925
  59     Nashville                                              1975
  60     Duck Soup                                              1933
  61     Sullivan's Travels                                     1941
  62     American Graffiti                                      1973
  63     Cabaret                                                1972
  64     Network                                                1976
  65     The African Queen                                      1951
  66     Raiders Of The Lost Ark                                1981
  67     Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?                        1966
  68     Unforgiven                                             1992
  69     Tootsie                                                1982
  70     A Clockwork Orange                                     1971
  71     Saving Private Ryan                                    1998
  72     The Shawshank Redemption                               1994
  73     Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid                     1969
  74     The Silence Of The Lambs                               1991
  75     In The Heat Of The Night                               1967
  76     Forrest Gump                                           1994
  77     All The President's Men                                1976
  78     Modern Times                                           1936
  79     The Wild Bunch                                         1969
  80     The Apartment                                          1960
  81     Spartacus                                              1960
  82     Sunrise                                                1927
  83     Titanic                                                1997
  84     Easy Rider                                             1969
  85     A Night At The Opera                                   1935
  86     Platoon                                                1986
  87     12 Angry Men                                           1957
  88     Bringing Up Baby                                       1938
  89     The Sixth Sense                                        1999
  90     Swing Time                                             1936
  91     Sophie's Choice                                        1982
  92     Goodfellas                                             1990
  93     The French Connection                                  1971
  94     Pulp Fiction                                           1994
  95     The Last Picture Show                                  1971
  96     Do The Right Thing                                     1989
  97     Blade Runner                                           1982
  98     Yankee Doodle Dandy                                    1942
  99     Toy Story                                              1995
  100    Ben-Hur                                                1959

I have seen seven of the top ten (musicals etc are not my thing) a, and 66 of the top 100, which I think is fairly respectable. The trouble with 'Kane' is that one can never see it with the eyes of a 1941 audience, as all of the innovations it used are now so familiar. Quite sad in some ways. It would appear to be US productions only, although that is only stated indirectly in the press release (registration required).

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Has the UN actually been paying attention - for once?

I ask, because it is considering decolonisation, again, and the list of places it features does not include Gibraltar. However, all the territories listed are either ruled by us or by our Uncle Sam so no surprises there.

Hidden deep in the text is this little gem about Pitcairn: "...according to a 2004 statement by a representative of the island Mayor, the people of Pitcairn did not fully understand all the possibilities or the significance of the various self-determination options available to them". Given that there are fewer than 50 Pitcairners (1), the individual concerned may well have conducted individual grillings on civics with all of them, but it is still pretty insulting.

Elsewhere, a range of dog bites man observations were made by Guamanian independence activists, including this shocking comment found in the archives : "In a secret memo issued on 21 November 1945, Vice Admiral G.D. Murray, then commander of the Marianas Navy Force, stated that “the economic development and administration of relatively few native inhabitants should be subordinate to the real purpose for which those islands are held”. Vice Admiral Murray had stated that the island’s commercial or industrial value were “of little or no relative importance to the welfare of the United States”. Erm, a war had just finished and that part of the Pacific is not exactly awash with deep water ports and the like.

(1) - Of no relevance to the foregoing, but some years back I engaged in a confectionery / film title competition with some friends, and by comment consent 'Mutiny on the Bounty' was the winner, followed by 'Mars Attacks'.

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Union leader to Broon: be less right wing or lose the election to a more right wing party

Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Yup, that's what Dave Prentis of Unison reckons: "Labour is drinking at the last chance saloon. Unless there is a change of direction, unless they abandon the privatisation agenda, there will be no fourth term". Source

It is possible that he thinks the Trots/Burka Alliance will sweep to power in Labour's stead, but somehow I doubt it. For a man with a Masters from a prestigious university, he also does an impressive line in clichés.

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How did he keep a straight face?

Whoever would have thought that there would be a Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs? But there is, and he is Barry Gardiner, who represents the Arcadia that is Brent North, and he has put his name to an unintentionally hilarious (OK, mildly amusing) press release at Pravda Central, entitled without a jot of hyperbole, "England's trees key to future wellbeing". Yes, really. Perhaps our Celtic neighbours think other factors are more important?

This, I think, is the best bit: "We have a vision of what we want England's trees, woods and forests to look like in the years to come". Erm, green? Leafy?

Although there is plenty more that is risible: "Trees and woodlands make a big difference to the quality of people's lives, enhancing where they live and work, so people must be able to get involved in planning and caring for them too. What we want to see is the right trees in the right places, where they can contribute most in terms of environmental, economic and social benefits". Perhaps this is a kite flying exercise for another yet scheme to get Brian Haw out of Parliament Square - "Sorry Brian, but we need to plant some beech trees in order to 'make a big difference to the quality of people's lives', so you'd best be on your way".

Bringing it all back home for Bazza himself, perhaps Wembley stadium needs to be knocked down and replaced with row upon row of aspens.

I think he should have quoted Stevie Wonder's 'Tree Medley':

"Tree - you are the longest living one we know
the largest of all plants and still you grow
Tree - within your branches there's such history
so much of what we're searching for to know"

(Now with puns and other japery in the comments thread)

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When did we win the Cold War?

Not, I would think in 1982. Brezhnev was in power until November of that year, Trident and cruise missile deployments were, ahem, controversial, the Red Army roamed freely in Afghanistan and Central and Eastern Europe were well and truly under the Red Wheel. While Thatcher and Reagan were doing a splendid job of sinew stiffening, it was by no means clear that the miracle of '89-91 was on its way.

So much for the history lesson. I pose the question as the Finns have decided to open up the archives to show the results of surveillance of the Finnish Communists. Said party was aligned with Moscow, polled 15-20% in elections and Finland was, after all, 'Finlandised'. While I imagine that the records will be mainly taken up by interminable exegeses of dialectical materialism and the like, I would imagine that there are a few bombshells lurking in the minutes of the central committee's meetings. The relevance to 1982 is that the then Finnish president decided that year was a really great time to pull the plug on the operation as "he did not feel that the surveillance of communists was necessary". I find that a surprising choice.


An outbreak of extreme stupidity, or perhaps malice, from the Spanish Socialists

Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Imagine you run a business, already imperilled by new technology and the like, and the government comes up with the idea of obliging you to make 25% of your stock something that you do not believe there is a market for. Furthermore, you have limited space, and your business is very time sensitive.

And that is the extraordinarily liberal, laissez faire, well thought out, rational proposal that is threatening Spanish cinema operators.

Spain's cinema law "would oblige cinemas to ensure that one out of every four films they show is of European origin". Perhaps like the gems that the EU part funds. Possibly Madrileños are hideously frustrated that there is not enough Ken Loach being screened at El Odeon, but if so they are best off lobbying cinema owners to show more non-Hollywood (because that is *exactly* where this is aimed, isn't it folks?) films, or otherwise voting with their feet. There will always be would be arts commissars who think that it is acceptable to interfere with the market in entertainment as 'the proles' need to be educated for their own good, while lacking the courage to start businesses and take risks themselves. Perhaps if this is a 'success', next steps might include compelling shoe shops to have a quarter of their stock sandals, or for supermarkets to load up on organic / 'fair' trade / what ever is fashionable this week in the same way.

We have, of course, been here before. The French inflicted a quota of French language songs on radio stations, thus unleashing dangerous levels of Celine Dion on blameless public.

Meanwhile, the Spanish cinema owners are protesting loudly, and 93% refused to open yesterday. I wish them every good fortune in fighting this cretinous bill.

And lest I be accused of being a philistine, I have watched 'Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes' and 'Trzy Kolory: Bialy', with great enjoyment, in the last week.

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Planting the flag on Iwoto

Which is what happened in the photograph below:

Might take a bit of getting used to, but the Japanese Geographical Survey Institute "said the name was changed at the request of the island's former residents, who were displaced by the Self-Defense Forces". Source


Amicus statement : jobs cause poverty

Or in full, "The union is also calling for the removal of the lower rates of pay under the National Minimum Wage for workers under 22, which causes confusion, poverty and exploitation".

Savour that if you will - the concept that poverty is caused by jobs. And there was I thinking that a rational person will choose a job over not having a job as it should (Broon's meddling nothwithstanding) make him or her better off.

While doubtless someone under 22 would prefer to be paid more, and who would not?, younger workers inevitably have less experience than their elders, and if minima are equalised an employer has a disincentive to hire them. From my own experience as a one-time would be trainee solicitor, minimum wages set above the value that an employee has to an employer results in the destruction of job opportunities.

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Just where does the Treasury get its figures from?

Pravda Central is agog at an initiative to combat 'financial exclusion' by siting "non-charging ATM cash machines in low-income areas".

It seems to reckon that (and spot the sleight of hand here) "The free cash machines already in use are enabling over 260,000 residents in low-income areas to access cash more easily, with a further 822,000 standing to benefit from the confirmed free cash machines still to come on stream". And all this from 600 machines. So circa 1800 per cash machine. Or each machine serving a round three square miles, based on an average population density of 629 people per square mile . I suspect that they just hit on a figure of a million (because it sounds impressive) and then added 82,000 to make it appear more credible.

Being a cheapskate, I prefer to avoid charging ATMs, but will behave in an economically rational manner when faced with a need for cash - I will pay a fee rather than walk half an hour up the road to find another one. Time being money and so on. What this also fails to deal with is that the most 'financially excluded' do not have bank accounts, and therefore will not have cards with which to make withdrawals. If they do have cards, then doubtless they will also have chequebooks, Switch cards and the like, so what is really being written about is a proposal to make things a little more convenient for some rather than delivering corn to Egypt. Meanwhile, doubtless post office closures will continue, and rural areas will be ignored as this initiative is focused on aggregate total inconvenience, rather than degrees of individual inconvenience. So do not expect any cash machines to be based in lighthouses.

Mr Tony having trouble with facts again

Monday, June 18, 2007
"But I think the danger is - and I say this as someone who has had a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with the House of Lords over the years - but I do think we benefit from having people who have not necessarily spent their life in politics who come in with broader experience and so on." Source

There are an awful lot of Lords, and I lack the time or the energy to go through every last one, so I am restricting this to the Labour Lords A-B, reckoning that it /ought/ to be reasonably representative. Anyone feeling enthusiastic can find them all here.

Lord Acton - 4th of that line, and unlikely to be a patch on the original

Baroness Adams of Craigielea - Former Labour MP
Lord Adonis - Lifelong wonk / hack / academic
Lord Ahmed - Recent appointee. Focuses on Muslim issues.
Lord Alli - Known Tony crony and media type
Baroness Amos - Councillor prior to being ennobled
Lord Anderson -
Former Labour MP
Baroness Andrews - Former Kinnock adviser
Baron Archer of Sandwell - Former Labour MP
Lord Ashley -
Former Labour MP
Baroness Ashton - Quango queen
Lord Attenborough - Yes, that Attenborough
Lord Bach - Lawyer
Lord Barnet - Of formula fame. Former Labour MP
Lord Bassam - Former councillor and Labour PC
Lord Berkeley - Biography as yet unfound
Baron Bernstein - Major contributor
Lord Bhattacharyya - Academic. "
He has often claimed that his father was India's ambassador to the UN but this is not true". Source

Lord Bilston -
Former Labour MP
Baroness Blackstone - Academic
Lord Blease - Career trade unionist / NI Labour party candidate
Baroness Blood - "Baroness Blood possesses the natural abilities of a vampire, including enhanced strength, hypnotism, the ability to replenish her strength by sucking blood from others and transform others into vampires. Thanks to her having drunk from the Holy Grail, she can exist in sunlight indefinitely, and can temporarily share this power with other vampires who drink from her. She can also generate and control lightning". Apparently. Although this might be a different one.
Lord Borrie - Lawyer

Lord Boyd - Lawyer
Lord Bradley -
Former Labour MP
Lord Bragg - Or Melvyn to his friends
Lord Brennan - Lawyer at Matrix chambers...
Lord Brett - Public sector trade unionist
Lord Brooke
- Public sector trade unionist
Lord Brookman
- Public sector trade unionist
Lord Brooks - Former Labour PC
Lord Burlison
- Public sector trade unionist

but I do think we benefit from having people who have not necessarily spent their life in politics who come in with broader experience and so on." Indeed Tony, indeed.

And with that I'm off out to Doughty Street.

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Do fires and other emergencies affect races and the sexes differently?

London's mayor would seem to think so, as he has refused to accept most of the nominations made by the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats for the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, as they "failed to tackle the under representation of women and Black, Asian and ethnic minority Londoners on the authority".

Not that he is playing politics, as he has been happy enough to confirm the nominations of white males by the Greens and One London.

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A new frontier for state interference - finger wagging on holiday destinations

Imagine you live in the Antipodes and fancy a jaunt to Fiji. Understandable, I would think.

However, Helen Clark, the NZ PM 'urged Kiwis not to be lured by discount holiday offers."The question is whether people want to take that bargain or look at some of the wider factors"'. Source.

The root of this is a long running diplomatic spat between Wellington and Suva, which has just seen the High Commissioner expelled. Meanwhile, the Fijian head of state is Commodore Frank Bainimarama, his title being owed to the awesome might of the Fijian navy - nine patrol boats.

Still, if the good people of New Zealand decide to do Ms Clark's bidding, it will doubtless be another dagger in the heart of the Fijian economy. They lost the right to hold the 2007 World Netball championship as a result of the December coup. Guess which Pacific island nation with a large number of sheep will be hosting it instead?

Previously Fiji has had it out with Oz, and I'm waiting to see if it will go the whole hog with the Anzac duo and take the Papua New Guinean 'nuclear' option of refusing aid.


Helpful advice from the TUC, and other odds and ends

With regard to the prospect of pandemic 'flu, it suggests that employers should not panic.

Doubtless FTSE 100 chairmen and others will be disappointed to hear that pulling a headless chicken act is not what the TUC advises.

And sticking with statements of the obvious, the Swedish police have concluded that a bomb attack on a Göteborg pizzeria was 'deliberate'. As opposed to all of those bomb attacks that just happen randomly.

Over at UN HQ, Ban Ki-moon has come up with a contender for the world's greatest euphemism in his description of Kurt Waldheim: "He lived history". Hmm.

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Time for a 70's revival...

Thursday, June 14, 2007
At least in the minds of the T&G ahem, 'Unite'.

Ford appear to be intent on selling off Land Rover and Jaguar, and Unite does not like that prospect one little bit:

"Tony Woodley [said]...If the only choice is the asset stripping private equity option then there should be some form of direct government intervention to make sure these manufacturing champions, these iconic brands and a major plank of British manufacturing industry are secured for the longer term, both for jobs and the economy of our country".

He also "rejected the private equity route pointing to independent studies done for the T&G section of Unite which, he said, showed that wages and conditions were cut and jobs were lost".

Uh-huh. Not that it linked to the research, and I do wonder quite how independent and comprehensive those studies were.

Reading the 72 point helvetica between the lines, he is actually calling for nationalisation of the two brands. Wouldn't that send out a fabulous message to investors about the British business environment? Meanwhile, fellow grey beards may well recall the fabulous success that was BMC/British Leyland/Rover group/MG Rover group.


Flying to Russia any time soon? Be warned

From the Moscow Times:

"The government has approved a range of counter terrorism provisions, including one that allows hijacked planes to be shot down without warning. The provisions were drawn up by the Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service and approved by the government Saturday in an attempt to tie up loose ends in a 2006 counterterrorism law. Planes can be shot down and sea vessels destroyed without warning if authorities receive "reliable information" that they are being used to carry out a terrorist attack, Kommersant reported Wednesday".

Reasonable enough, I suppose, but it still looks a little stark written down like so.

And then there's this rather odd additional piece of legislation: "The new provisions also forbid the use of weapons against visibly pregnant women, disabled people and minors unless they are armed and present a threat". So if one is none of these things and do not present a threat one's life is potentially forfeit? I would recommend that Tom Paine, James Higham and other bloggerati in the Rodina invest in walking sticks for when out and about.

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Sarko several sheets to the wind?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Sarko bourré�
Uploaded by guerillapicardia

He had been meeting Putin at the G8 and swears aveugle he had only been drinking water....

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Chutzpah - a new definition

Courtesy of Spanish Socialist Party secretary, José Blanco. Regional elections were held in Navarre in May, and resulted in no overall majority:

UPN (Allied to the Popular Party) - 22
Nafarroa Bai (Basque coalition) - 12
PSN-PSOE (Socialists) - 12
CDN (Centrists) - 2
IUN-NEB (Communists) - 2

So, the Socialists won less than a quarter of the seats, and if in coalition with the UPN it would expect to be the minor partner, yes? Maybe get a few cabinet seats or somesuch?

However, Blanco - get this - says the UPN should "'show generosity' and put a Socialist in power". I am not making this up. A PP spokesman rebutted that it was "generous enough" to allow the Socialists into the coalition. I look forward to the Left trying similar tricks elsewhere.

Sticking with things Hispanic, Libé notes that the Spaniards are trying to come up with words for La Marcha Real, the Spanish national anthem, which is officially wordless. A spokesman for the right reckons it can be done in 'two to three months'. Yup. Not enormously interesting, but what is comic is that Libé's writer notes that 'certain groups on the right already have a proposed refrain', which even with my non-existent Spanish I can tell to be the Pemán lyrics used under Franco, but the hack has not bothered to discover this. Very impressive.


Changing the way the world, or rather 0.0000002%, of it thinks

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Defra has put a rather grand sounding release on 'Biodiversity Indicators': "A new publication has been launched today to highlight trends and provide an overview of the country's progress in protecting biodiversity. This is the first time that a set of biodiversity indicators for the UK has been published".

It has quite ambitious aims: "The aim of this publication is to make the indicators easily accessible to a wide audience and to enable everyone to judge where progress is being made and where the challenges lie". So far so good, but in the same paragraph it notes "Around 2,000 copies will be distributed both nationally and internationally".

Naturally my calculation is based on the English billion with 12 noughts, although if I was being really generous, I could apply the US billion (9 noughts) and assume that every copy will be fought over and thumbed through on a daily basis by a couple and 2.2 children. Which takes us to 0.00084 of a rounded 6 billion (US) population. Should anyone want to read it, there is a PDF here.

It also headlines itself 'Biodiversity in your pocket', which put me in mind of small boys loading up their pockets with frogspawn, worms and whatever else they can lay their mitts on.

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Fact o' the day

"More than 80 per cent of the days lost last year were down to strikes in the public sector"...The rate of union membership amongst public sector workers is much higher than in the private sector, 16.6 per cent compared to 58.8 per cent according to Department of Trade and Industry figures". Source.

Rather amusingly, the TUC has nothing to say on the matter, and neither does Unison, 'the union for people delivering public services'.


With the aid of both hands and a bank of klieg lights, the EU finds its backside

Monday, June 11, 2007
The ever wise commissariat has been looking at the intervention system for maize, and appears to have stumbled upon some very, very basic economic principles. Which is nice.

Here is what currently happens with maize: "The EU intervention system for cereals is a single price of €101.31 per tonne which farmers receive for selling their cereals into public storage, if they cannot find an outlet on the market". The intervention will be phased out completely over three years.

So, what they have been doing is deliberately setting a minimum price for maize that is above that which the market will support. Guess what happens - a glut: "By the end of the 2005/2006 season, EU maize intervention stocks had spiralled to 5.6 million tonnes, or 40 percent of total public cereal stocks. Without changes to the current system, these stocks, which are bought and stored at public expense, would have risen to as much as 14.1 million tonnes by 2013. Possible outlets for maize stocks are limited, and maize is unsuitable for long-term storage". One does not have to be that cynical to ask quite how enthusiastically a producer of either goods or services would market said goods and services on the open market if there is already a schmuck buyer ready to pay over the odds

Marian Boell, the agriculture commissar and occasional blogger notes, "When we abolished rye intervention in 2003, the market became immediately more dynamic and prices rose. I anticipate a similar result for maize".

And yet "As well as maize, it is currently applicable to breadmaking wheat, durum wheat, barley and sorghum". So Marian, how about an intervention on those interventions?

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Terrible news from South Africa

"Consumers should brace themselves for a shortage of their favourite beer in the next few weeks, Business Report reported on Monday...The shortfall has been caused by the shortage of glass, mainly the green and flint or clear glass".

And its all the fault of hypocritical green types: "[SAB sales and distribution director Wayne McCauley] said the high demand for brands in returnable bottles had put pressure on these packs' availability, and growth in demand for non-returnable bottles had resulted in temporary stock shortages of certain brands, which would continue intermittently over the next two to three months"

See what I mean?

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Rabbinical cursing.

Not something I had encountered before, although given some of the more blood-curdling passages in the Torah / Old Testament, I suppose it is none too surprising.

Anyway, the Jerusalem Post notes that "..rabbis from the extremist anti-Zionist Eda Haredit sect on Sunday placed a curse on the organizers of the [Jerusalem gay pride] parade and participants...'To all those involved, sinners in spirit, and whoever helps and protects them, may they feel a curse on their souls, may it plague them and may evil pursue them; they will not be requited of their transgressions from heavenly judgement'".

I've heard worse.


Headlines that flatter only to deceive

Friday, June 08, 2007
Like this one from the Maritime And Coastguard Agency, which is nevertheless still my favourite quango:

'Playing Around' : an apology".

Sounds like it could be amusing, does it not? Alas they are apologising to the owner of a yacht of that name. Sigh.

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Did it go to a vote, and if so, was it a secret ballot?

"[Jack Straw] said that the Cabinet supported his suggestion that a message of good wishes and a speedy recovery should be sent to the DPM. Asked who was standing in for him, Mr Straw said that a variety of Ministers, including himself, were taking on some tasks and fulfilling engagements". Source

Isn't it nice that the engagements are fulfilling? Who gets the unfulfilling engagments?


Have you taken the opportunity to 'to honour the oceans and products they provide' yet today?

Because apparently I should have done, as today is World Ocean Day. The toe curler in the headline is from a Wiki entry.

Other things on the to do list include:

"..think about what the ocean means to them and what it has to offer all of us with hopes of conserving it for present and the future generations".

"..take the time to think about how the ocean affects you, and how you affect the ocean, and then organize or participate in activities that celebrate our world ocean".

The EU has a take on it too, but it is far too dull to make the effort of mockery worthwhile.

Should I find myself anywhere near an ocean later on, maybe I will buy it a drink.

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Good news for Americans - making faces at police dogs appears to be constitutionally protected free speech

Thursday, June 07, 2007
Or so a report in the New York Post would suggest:

"A prosecutor has dropped charges against a woman who was arrested for staring at and making faces at a police dog.

"Prosecuting a woman for `staring' at a police dog is absurd," said her lawyer. "People are allowed to make faces at police dogs and officers to express their disapproval. It's constitutional expression".

Drink would appear to have been taken when Jayna Hutchinson was nabbed by Vermont state troopers (
that she was from New Hampshire may well be relevant too - state motto: 'Live free or die'...): "After a heated exchange, she approached [the trooper's car] where his dog Max was waiting, putting her face within inches of the window and "staring at him in a taunting/harassing manner".
On Tuesday, two days before Hutchinson was to go to trial, Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter decided to drop the charges, after viewing a videotape of the incident over the weekend.

"I think it was going to be difficult to prove her conduct changed the dog's behavior," Porter said. "Most of the time (in harassment cases) people would come tell the court what it felt like. Dogs can't do that."

Wonder if it is protected free speech to question the sexuality of police horses in the Land of the Free?

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Dinner table discussions in Dordrecht, Delft and Den Haag

Would appear likely to drift towards the discussion of organ donation, judging from yet another Eurobaromoter survey, this time on, erm, organ donation.

Some 75% of the Dutch have discussed donation and transplants with family, compared to 43% in these parts. The Romanians, Czechs and Cypriots clearly find football, the evening's television programmes and the weather more entertaining, with fewer than one in five reckoning that the fate of one's kidneys and the like makes for an ideal topic of conversation.

The survey is not enormously exciting, but it is mildly comic that 37% of men and 45% of women claim to have discussed it with family members. I very much doubt that the disparity is explained by a prevalence of all female households, more likely that Eurowoman raised the topic when Euroman's mind was elsewhere and he grunted 'erm, yes, that's nice dear/liebling/cherie' etc.

A brief note on the Six Day War

As all but the most uninformed will have noted, it is the 4oth Anniversary of the Six Day War.

Over at the UN, the soit disant 'Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People' is rather less happy about the result of the Arab started war (1) than I am, and has headlined '...40 years of occupation' and reckons that 'continues to prevent the Palestinian people from exercising their inalienable rights to national independence and sovereignty'.

Curious that there is no reference to the hundreds of years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks, the British mandate, and cutting straight to the crash, the carve up between Egypt and the then Transjordan in '47. Gaza and Judea Samaria respectively were incorporated into those states, and from the 'Palestinians', nary a peep.

(1) Yes really. The blockading of the Strait of Tiran was a casus belli, and the Arab states have admitted that they were indeed intent on attacking Israel but were beaten to the punch by the IDF.


Labour and Lib Dems in three-way 'Ugandan discussions'

Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Yes, really. It is right there in Hansard, and involved Margaret Beckett, and the rather more obscure Ann McKechin and Paul Rowen.

What will Leo say?

And an explanation....

If someone else is paying, I'm having filet mignon

Those wonderful people at the Department of Communities and Local Government, or so it styles itself this week, are crowing about the choices it makes with public money that people responsible for their own spending do not. In this case it is money spent on roof insulation, cavity walls and the like. Apparently "Over three quarters (77 per cent) of social sector housing has cavity walls, compared to just over two thirds (67 per cent) of private homes. Just a quarter (27 per cent) of private homes have adequate loft insulation, while almost a half (44 per cent) of social sector houses boast 150mm of insulation or more." And Yvette Cooper reckons "Council houses are now much greener than private homes". Well whoopee do.

This raises a number of issues. Spending one's money on double glazing, cavity wall insulation or rolls of that ghastly yellow stuff that makes your skin itch for days may well be an economically sensible choice, but if all of our choices were strictly rational private health care spending and the like would be considerably greater. However, faced with a range of possibilities for spending, private property owners are not rushing to do Yvette's bidding: "The most energy inefficient stock tends to be older, privately owned, larger housing and is often amongst the most valued housing". Perhaps they have precious little discretionary cash left over after they have paid the mortgage, or perhaps they make 'bad' choices with their money and choose to eat out and go on holiday. Or perhaps they consider that the degree of energy inefficiency from sash windows is the price that one pays for having a period property, rather than ripping them out and replacing them with uPVC horrors.

As to those people in social housing now swelling with pride at their greenness, I very much doubt that they were ever asked where they wanted the money spent. After all, an infantilised population cannot be expected to make the right choices, can it?

The headline is part owed to a useful analytical tool from Nozick (I think), who posed the four possibilities involving cost and value when choosing how money is spent:

My money spent on me - cost and value are both important considerations.
My money spent on someone else - cost and value considerations vary.
Someone else's money spent on me - I'm having the filet mignon.
Someone else's money spent on someone else - who cares?

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">"Absurd in philosophy and formally heretical"

Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Thus did Galileo recant helicocentrism. This came to mind when skimming an EU press release and survey on the Galileo navigation system, which it would be not unreasonable to call 'controversial'.

In order for opinion polls and the like to have any validity, the asking of loaded questions is considered poor form by the UK trade body, but Gallup seems to have been quite happy to do the EU's bidding in the way it formulated its questions.

Having bowled a few easy questions about uses of satnav, the survey then delivered a Shane Warne special:

"Before I ask the next question, let me explain you [sic] a few things about navigation systems. [READ OUT SLOWLY, REPEAT IF NECESSARY] ­ Navigations systems are used by an increasing number of applications, such as for example car navigation, shipping, aviation, in agriculture to monitor the use of chemicals. ­ The US owns and controls GPS, which is primarily for military use, but also provided for civilian use, however without quality of service guarantees.­ Russia and China are working on setting up their alternative navigation systems. These are mostly military systems as well.

Q4a. According to your opinion, should Europe set up its own navigation system, or should Europe rely on American, Russian or Chinese systems?" (My emphases)

Not exactly neutrally worded, was it? Faced with Soviet Union election result of a question, a heroic 20% of the Euro populace were not cowed into giving the answer apparently so devoutly to be wished. The Greeks were the most swayed at 90% and the Danes the least at 61%. Meanwhile, 59% of those polled have not heard of the Galileo project....

And there's more:

"Galileo is the name of the positioning system that the European Union has started to develop seven years ago. Currently, it seems that in order to complete the Galileo system additional public funding is necessary (about €2.4 billion, which is the cost of about 400 km motorway). What do you prefer:
The EU should secure the necessary funds in order to complete Galileo as soon as possible. The EU should not secure extra funds, even if it means that the project will be significantly delayed, or even that it fails".

So more weaselling, no mention of total costs, and a parallel made with something rather less fluffy than say education or healthcare. Even so, 63% wanted to throw good money after bad and 23% prepared to see it 'significantly delayed or even fail'. We, along with the Danes and the Swedes were most prepared to go for the latter, at around a third of those polled, while Bulgarians and Romanians clearly hanker after central planning / know full well that they won't be picking up at the tab, with 79% in favour of further funding. Worth bearing in mind if the news media runs with this 'poll'.

I'm off to Doughty Street shortly, so comment moderation is on.

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