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Saturday and Sunday....

Sunday, September 30, 2007

First time in Blackpool, and it is a bit of a culture shock. Despite not going out of my way to dress up for the occasion, the locals etc can tell I’m not here for a stag night. Maybe it is obvious because I’m not wearing a football shirt.

Passing a club with Dizzy and another mate, someone shouted out ‘free entry for Tories’. We decided not to take up the offer, as I suspect the prize was going to be a kick in the shin. Hey ho.

Having got my days mixed up we headed for the Freedom Association bash at the Hilton, which is in fact scheduled for today. Still, the bar was quite pleasant, especially when the SE9 Tendency rolled and stood the drinks tab. Thanks chaps.

Dizzy finally got his pass at the third attempt. He has seethed at length elsewhere, but seems somewhat cheered now, and we have repaired to the Winter Gardens. The Winter Gardens is a magnificent building, if showing its age in places. What is amusing is that the building is filled with folk handing out leaflets, which all seems a tad Socialist Worker. Mind you, I have joined Conservative Friends of Israel, which I should have done years ago.

Meanwhile, there is a chap outside haranguing the great and good (and the rest of us) over the infamy of selling cigarettes in sweetshops, and he also seems to think that smoking causes the sea level to rise. As I said to a friendly plod (who was being singled out for a special harangue because the smoking enthusiast was not allowed over the barriers), he seems to have opinions far in advance of current thinking. He also reckoned that cigarettes were more deadly than bullets, which would put quite a spin on the last cigarette for the condemned man in front of a firing squad. Notable also is that there is a disability scooter shop opposite the main entrance to the conference.

Anyway, less guff and more substance later, once I've attended a few fringe meetings and been dragged away from the bar.

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Tory Conference

Saturday, September 29, 2007
I'm off to (sunny?) Blackpool and will be blogging from conference over the next few days. Normal service will be suspended, with probably all posts until Thursday focused on conference and the fringe.

If anyone reading is also in Blackpool and fancies meeting up to breeze shoot and sink a few, e-mail me and I'll send my mobile number.

Meanwhile, Dizzy and I have set up an aggregated feed of conference bloggers at toryconference2007.blogspot.

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Great news for teenagers everywhere

Friday, September 28, 2007
Or indeed anyone else dependent on pocket money. A study by a student at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore suggests "High school students who take part-time jobs for pocket money may be more likely to start smoking than teens who don't join the after-school and weekend work force".

So, the way forward for impecunious teenagers is clear - "Dad, if you don't give me more pocket money I'll have to get a job. And then I'll start smoking, and you wouldn't want that, would you?".

(No more smoking-related posts today, I promise)

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How to hurt a business you dislike

Thames Water, perhaps?

Anyway, the London Councils Group has come up with a really well thought out wheeze - seeking an extension to the Street Litter Control Notices Order 1991, which will allow councils to levy fines (up to £2,500) on companies that do not clear up cigarette butts and the like from outside their premises.

The existing law is comparatively sensible in that it targets, for example:

a). Premises used wholly or partly for the sale of food or drink for consumption off the premises
....
(e) banks, building society offices or other premises with the automated teller machines located on an outside wall of the premises.

In the case of a burger joint, its litter is going to be pretty obvious, likewise an ATM receipt with Northern Rock on it, but how, pray, is one to tell a discarded fag end smoked by someone at Mega Co from one smoked by an employee at Ultra Co, or come to that a passer by with an animus against Mega Co who has chosen to make it his or her life's work to daily decorate the company's doorway with a collection of fag ends and ash?

The Labour Party is headquartered at 39 Victoria Street, London.

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The things you find on ebay - Burmese junta members

And here, for the moment at least, it is:


(Click image for improved visibility)

Than Shwe has been listed by a group of Danish art terrorists at Ebay.com in the following category: Home & Garden > Gardening & Plants > Other Gardening & Plants. Yes, really.

And the item description:

"General for sale
We know that former generals can be cumbersome to handle.
They are often very overweight after many years in power, and they always wear military outfits.
That is certainly the case with Than Shwe, whom we are offering for sale to the highest bidder.
He is soon a man of the past in Burma, where everyone wants him to get a good home far away from us, with nice and kind employers. As a worker, Than Shwe is rather heavy going – he is fat and lazy. So his new owners should start with a hard disciplining programme. No luxurious food and champagne for Than Shwe for many years, but plenty of hard work and a simple bed. Gardening, weeding and gathering leaves would suit him well. Not work requiring independent thought – remember that as a head of state, he ran a whole country down! Washing up would also be good for Than Shwe – but be prepared for plate throwing if he hears the word ”monk”!
Due to his hot and unpredictable temper, we recommend that the new owner chains him after the end of the working day.

With best wishes
The people of Burma

Despite the auction being for a fixed $1m, it has been bid up to over $2m already.

Thanks are owed to Libération, which is running this story, and for naming the pranksters as artist Jan Egesborg and journalist Pia Bertelsen. Previously, "[they] went beyond its usual medium by placing an advertisement in a small Tehran newspaper with an insulting but hidden message describing the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the acronym "SWINE".



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Thames Water gives me the shaft - and the Government profits

OFWAT, in its infinite wisdom, wants to fine Thames Water £12.5 million for the following reasons:

"The economic regulator plans to fine the company £11.1million (0.8% of 2006-07 turnover) for failing to provide it with robust information and £1.4million (0.1% of 2005-6 turnover) because poor processes and systems meant that customers received poor service. They also missed out on payments they were entitled to".

Maybe I am being terribly naive, but if a wrong has been done to me and the other however many million users of Thames Water's 'services', surely the restitution is owed to us. Yes?

But no, not at all. Note footnote 7 to the press release:

"Penalties are paid into the Consolidated Fund and are not returned to customers".

And what is the Consolidated Fund when it's at home? This: "The Consolidated Fund is the Government's general bank account at the Bank of England. Payments from this account must be authorised in advance by the House of Commons". And further, "Under the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866 most of the revenue from taxation, and all other money payable to the Exchequer must be paid into the Consolidated Fund".

So, there you have it. Having been wronged by Thames Water, instead of compensation being made to the users, the entire tax payer base gets a minor benefit by way of the State having 12.5 very large to play around with which it will not have to find elsewhere.

Marvellous.

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Trots for mortgages?

Unite is rather pleased that it "has invited the General Secretary of the Zambian Union of Finance and Allied Workers (ZUFIAW) to show support for the employees of Northern Rock in Newcastle on Friday (28th September). Joyce Nonde of the ZUFIAW will visit a branch of Northern Rock in Newcastle in a show of solidarity for the hard working employees of the bank".

I'm sure that will come as a great comfort to the paper clip hoarding Geordies, but it is the stuff I've found about Ms Nonde that is interesting. She has made regular appearances in the Socialist Worker, leads a union which had a membership of 3000 in 2005 (so how easy is it for it to afford junkets solidarity tours for its leader?) and can be seen on Youtube shouting 'Abash (sic) Imperialism!'

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A useful pointer from Kenya

Pity the Kenyans: they have 300 registered political parties, and presumably voting slips that look more like phone books.

President Kibaki is seeking state funding for parties (not good), but has come up with some qualifying hurdles:

"The Bill also provides tough rules to tame the culture of defections. It demands, among other requirements, that an MP intending to ditch a party shall give his party 14 days notice.

And if it becomes law, politicians who have been hiring gangs to disrupt rallies organised by their competitors will also pay a fine not exceeding Sh15,000 (circa £110), or face a jail term of not more than two years, or both".

Given that no Kenyan party is affiliated to the International Democrat Union, I have not bee able to work out who are the good guys as yet.

The first bit would make party conferences and the like less panicky affairs, I think.

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Home Secretary - getting back to where we started from is a triumph

Thursday, September 27, 2007
"And we are making progress: Violent crime at its lowest for a decade". Source

Being liberal, I will pretend that I believe whichever set of crime figures the government puts its name to this week And let me think - just which party was in power in September 1997? And who has been the MP for Redditch through out that period, so she is unlikely to have forgotten?

Isn't this government wonderful?

(And this exciting low takes us to circa two and a half million reported violent crimes per annum against circa 40m English and Welsh adults. So you only have a one in 16 chance of being a victim).

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Memo to Brown from the OECD

Available in full here.

"The budget deficit remains large, and slower growth in government expenditure will be required over the coming years, as well as more effort to ensure good value for money in public spending"

"Incentives to join the workforce and to progress in work should be improved for certain groups such as second-income earners, lone parents, and incapacity beneficiaries. This may require reducing marginal effective tax rates and providing greater access to child-care support. A slower rise in the minimum wage may also improve the employment prospects of the low-skilled".

"Tax competitiveness should be improved by continuing to broaden the corporate tax base while cutting the rate. The corporate tax system should be simplified and there may be room to shift taxation to less mobile sources".

More later, possibly.

(Ahem, headline typo fixed)

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Terrorism in Croydon

The Met has released a breakdown of data for stop and search etc under the Terrorism Act for April to August, and here are the figures for this fine borough:

Type of search

  • Stop & account - 36
  • Stop & search - 591
  • Vehicle or vessel - 7

Age

  • Under 21 - 105
  • 21-40 - 368
  • Over 40 - 150
  • Not recorded - 11

By ethnic appearance

  • White - 321
  • Asian - 148
  • Black - 129
  • Other - 26
  • Not recorded - 10

By gender

  • Female - 37
  • Male - 590
  • Not recorded - 7


There is plenty more, broken down by borough and to sectors of Westminster and Heathrow. Excluding Westminster and Heathrow, the hot spots are Barnet, Enfield, Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets, all with over 1000 stops. Hackney had the fewest, at 186. In the case of the latter, it could be that the self-detonating community think that there's nothing worth blowing up, or the Plod are too scared to venture down Mare Street in the first place.

Now including flippant commentary on borough data by age and gender in the comments....

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Rumbling from the Kiwis

Care of the graphic arts department at the New Zealand Herald, here is the Helen Clark approved design for a Union Flag-less flag for New Zealand kin:



A bit lopsided, isn't it?

Mind you, it is better than some of the other horrors on offer:


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A timeshare air force

Not here, but that is the proposal on the other side of the North Sea, with the Norwegian Luftforsvaret and the Danish Flyvevåbnet considering a merger:

"A proposal by the Danish People’s Party to establish a co-operative alliance between the Danish and Norwegian air forces has been met with approval by a majority of the parties who voted for the current national defence act....Establishing a joint fighter squadron would help reduce the cost of the investment, according to Hans Christian Skibby, the Danish People’s Party’s defence spokesperson. ‘There are obvious benefits of having a common air force,’ Skibby said. ‘If we operated together, we would need fewer jets than we would if we each had our own air force.’"

Now I am all in favour of avoiding needless government expenditure, and our Norwegian and Danish friends are both in NATO, have avoided fighting each other in a very long time and both have those scary Swedes to worry about. However, what are they going to call it? What manner of fin colours will the planes sport? And, after all, it is an awfully long way from Flensburg to Nordkapp, let alone Thule or Svalbard. I imagine that attempting to maintain air superiority over Bouvet Island is out of the question...

I think it is fair to say that the RAF and l'Armée de l'Air will not be pursuing a merger any time soon.

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Failing to walk the walk

Wednesday, September 26, 2007
In a development that politicians the world over are bound to seek to emulate, "[Japanese] Justice Minister Kunio Hatoyama proposed Tuesday scrapping the rule requiring the justice minister's signature for executions because "no one wants to put his signature on an execution order."

Possibly not, but there is a little thing called taking responsibilities for your actions.

A law professor rebutted, "[the] proposal is not only irresponsible but also an extreme argument, coming from a top member of the administration. I believe Justice Minister Hatoyama, who is known for advocating the death sentence, just wants to leave behind an institution for allowing executions at any time".

Had the presiding judges and other officers in the trial of Charles I kept their anonymity, Bradshaw, Cromwell and Ireton might not have been posthumously hanged, and a further 12 hanged, drawn and quartered while still breathing. Francis Hacker had it easy - he was merely hanged.

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The art of the pointless press release - a master class from Margaret Hodge

The DCMS have put out a release with this headline:

"Taking the Cultural Olympiad to the UK's regions - Culture Minister Margaret Hodge names eight creative programmers for England".

Seeing the headline I reckoned it would be worth checking the names for known Labour party collaborators, but alas this was not possible, as despite there being the thick end of one thousand words of blether, the eight lucky quangocrats are not named. No they are not.

However, it does have a link to a comparatively high resolution image of Margaret Hodge for her fans to download and keep.

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Winston Churchill does techno trance

Courtesy of those wonderful people at EUtube:




Someone just a little bit more 'street' than I am tells me that the backing music at the start is techno trance, but morphs into breakbeat at the end.

Anyway, it is this speech by the Greatest Ever Englishman that the EU is mucking about with, and it has been used in a more than slightly misleading fashion. Note the following extracts:

* 'The first step in the recreation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany. In this way only can France recover the moral and cultural leadership of Europe. There can be no revival of Europe without a spiritually great France and a spiritually great Germany.'

* 'In all this urgent work France and Germany must take the lead together. Great Britain, the British Commonwealth of Nations, mighty America, and, I trust, Soviet Russia -for then, indeed, all would be well - must be the friends and sponsors of the new Europe and must champion its right to live.'


Delving into pointless pedantry, the evolving map of the EU shows the former DDR being part of the then Common Market in 1957, which makes the reference to Germany reuniting after the fall of the Wall look a bit silly. I suppose the inhabitants of the DOM/TOMs, let alone l'Algérie Française as it was at the time of the '57 treaty, might feel aggrieved for not showing on the map either. Same goes for Greenland.



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Tessa Jowell's boss to Brown: bring back flying pickets

Or so it would seem. One time card carrying Communist Derek Simpson of the Amicus half of Unite, speaking to the Labour conference been quoted thus at the Amicus site:

"The joint head of the UK’s largest trade union called for an end to restrictions on secondary action following the Gate Gourmet dispute and to the time consuming and expensive balloting procedures trade unions are required to comply with by law".

And the connection with Tessa?

She is one of over one hundred Labour MPs that are part of the Amicus parliamentary group, including, rather hilariously, Sean Woodward and Barbara Follett. Other members include Douglas Alexander, the Speaker (yes, really), and Hilary Benn.

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Harriet Harman to spend more time with her bank account?

That would seem to be a reasonable inference to take from her comments to the Labour Party's conference:

"The law should be changed to allow all black short lists in parliamentary constituencies with large ethnic minorities, Harriet Harman said" (Daily Telegraph, print only, page 14).

A bit of digging shows that that Camberwell & Peckham, HH's constituency, had the following ethnic breakdown according to the 2001 census:

White: 54%
Black: 35.2%
Asian: 3.3%
Mixed: 4.1%
Other: 3.4%

So come on Hattie - surely a high earning, St Pauls-educated, law degree-holding, paper QC-holding white woman married to a high earning white man cannot hope to represent the good people of Camberwell & Peckham, can she?


I look forward to her applying for the Chiltern Hundreds later today.

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There'll always (well, for at least another 250m years) be an England

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
(Click for enhanced visibility)


That's us at about 15 degrees / North North East / 00.30. But it is looking as though the Alliance of Small Island States will be out of business.

Brown compared to a wife beater by a leading trade unionist

"It is the most Labour speech we have heard for a decade.” Derek Simpson, Joint General Secretary of Unite, said: "It was a captain's innings - safe, solid run making but no sixes. He's Geoffrey Boycott, batting for Britain". Source

Perhaps Simpson has a limited knowledge of cricket, but a comparison to Boycott is perhaps not the one that Brown would most welcome:

"In 1996, Boycott was accused by Margaret Moore, a former lover, of assault. Boycott denied the charges, claiming she had fallen over and hit herself. He pointed to the fact that Moore was in financial difficulties and said that he would never hit a woman. However, in January 1998, Boycott was convicted before a French Magistrates court and given a three-month suspended sentence" Source.

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Brown's hypocrisy

Not for the first time, the Lord Protector is not very good at matching action to rhetoric. Spotting an opportunity for a bit of grandstanding, he is now talking a good talk about Burma / Myanmar:

"The Prime Minister has called on the international community to take a tougher stance with Burma as pro-democracy demonstrations in the country intensify".

However, we still have an embassy in Rangoon, and British companies still trade with Burma. Still, care of the EU, there appears to be no legal arms trade with Burma, so I imagine that is supposed to make it all right.

There may well be good reasons for maintaining diplomatic links, and there are plenty of other vile regimes we do business with, but all that this outbreak of cant amounts to is 'If everyone else agrees, we'll help out. Maybe'.

Meanwhile, they are doing things differently on the other side of the Atlantic:

"President Bush announced today that the United States was taking a series of steps to tighten economic sanctions on Myanmar’s leaders and their backers and would impose a visa ban on the leaders and their families..."The country’s rulers have been coming under increasing pressure from the United States, which has imposed sanctions on Myanmar for years, including a ban on all Burmese products".

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Obligatory complacency break

I am honoured and delighted at my showing in the Blue 100 chez Dale, taking fifth place behind the big beasts that are Iain Dale, Dizzy Thinks, Guido Fawkes and Conservative Home.

While I was on the panel ranking the right-leaning blogs, I resiled from ranking myself......

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When is a small island not a small island?

A moot point, as I have just stumbled upon the Alliance of Small Island States.

Papua New Guinea looks to be the largest member, and at 178,703 square miles is the thick end of twice the size of the UK, which is not a member. Then again, Cyprus and Singapore are, so it is not a de facto club of third world islands. Sticking with European islands, Iceland and Malta have not signed on the line.

And then it also includes Guyana, Suriname and Belize, all of which have land frontiers.

As a sidebar, a friend who claims to know these things has told me that 'you're just from a small island' is a popular 'insult' from folk of Jamaican descent to Barbadians etc.

They do things differently in.... Sweden

(One new SATA cable later....)

It has been a while since I last worked in a conventional office environment, but unless things have changed a lot, the number one topic of conversation in the average workplace is moaning about management / underlings, depending upon whereabouts one sits in the food chain.

Not, however, on the other side of the North Sea:

"Few topics of discussion are off limits at the office - current affairs (56 percent) and work-related issues (52 percent) are the subjects most talked about; the manager(s) (9 percent) and health (7 percent) are at the other end of the scale".

Perhaps more alarming is that 9% of the Swedes surveyed thing that flirting with the boss is just fine. Further, "24 percent are content to talk behind the backs of their colleagues". Or perhaps 76% are in denial.

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Yes, it's Socialism 3.0

Monday, September 24, 2007
Not announced by the Lord Protector, but rather that is the distinctly grand aim of Fair Russia / Justice Russia (translations vary).

Anyway, showing an odd understanding of the evolution of socialism, they reckon Bolshevik socialism was the 1.0, Euro socialism the 2.0 and what they are working on as socialism 3.0.

However, the report of the announcement in the Moscow Times is a bit thin on ideological detail:

"Speaking with journalists amid tight security in a hall decorated with Russian flags and Soviet-style displays depicting different moments in the party's brief history, [Party leader and Federation Council Speaker Sergei] Mironov said A Just Russia was not opposed to the market economy. "We just want the government to fulfill its role in the social sphere," Mironov said".

Given that AJR was formed from a three way merger of parties, including the Russian Pensioners' Party, I do not think that it would be too hard to work out what 'fulfilling its role in the social sphere' means. It all sounds a bit like Scandinavian-style welfarism to me.

However, Mironov gets one bullseye: "We already had the first type of socialism -- the Soviet one -- the second was the Western-European kind, but they were both helpless".

UPDATE: I have major IT problems at Croydonian Towers, and doubt I will posting today. Sorry.


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Petition o' the day

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to 100% guarantee all bets and other types of gambling and risk taking, or reverse his decision to 100% guarantee all bank deposits." Source


"Following the development of the Northern Rock crisis the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, along with the Chancellor Alistair Darling, have declared that they will 100% guarantee all bank deposits. Prior to this declaration, such deposits, like all investments, involved a small degree of risk involved in giving money to banks. This risked encouraged savers to seek secure and trustworthy banks though they were free to do the opposite if they so pleased, and live with the consequences of their actions as adults ought to.

Mr. Brown's recent knee-jerk reaction has changed all that and removed the risk from bank deposits at great cost. Mr. Brown should either reverse this ridiculous decision or be consistent and guarantee all risks of all kinds, including bets and other types of gambling".



He's got a point, has he not?

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Galbraith: "In 1929, the authorities were making the same reassurances"

J.K Galbraith (remember him?) is grilled in Libération on confidence in the markets etc today, and a rayon de soleil he is not.

No, I am not consorting with Keynesians, so to speak, but felt that it might be worthwhile taking this to a smaller audience:

Libé: "Do the scenes of queues outside Northern Rock branches raise the spectre of 1929?"

JKG: "The crisis was inevitable, and the contagion, real. One saw scenes of panic in Great Britain - based on the irrational - of deep seated distrust, of a crisis of confidence. It is only the beginning of a banking crisis which could recall 1929, but which would be invisible. The effects on the real economy are clear already with the free fall of the housing market and soon with consumption and perhaps employment".

.....

Libé: "But economic commentators tell us that "the fundamentals are good", that "companies are prosperous", that "world growth is solid".

JKG: "Yes, but they said precisely the same thing before the 1929 crash. The Twenties saw full employment, based on extraordinary growth and stock exchange speculation, in the image of the Nineties...Since 1995 the US has seen growth...financed by the debt of both individuals and companies to the advantage of the internet bubble and its business plans based on hot air, then to this property bubble...The same charade is at work today"...

Libé: "In other words, the pilot doesn't have control of the plane?"

JKG: "....The drama is that the central banks by acting as lenders of last resort have encouraged commercial banks to extend their more speculative operations. Any successes will be to their profit and any failures will be paid for by the rest of us. Thus the banks are absolved of all their sins".

....(Lengthy discussion of regulation etc)....

Libé: "Alan Greenspan, ex head of the Fed, predicts a serious economic crisis. Which is astonishing for someone who fed the successive bubbles".

JKG: "He spoke the truth. He is no longer constrained and no longer disguises his words".




Anyone described as 'famous' almost certainly is not

Try it - famous President George Bush, famous footballer Pele etc etc.

So: "well-known German vocalist and activist, Wolfgang Hildebrandt". I have never heard of him, he does not appear at allmusic.com, Wikipedia English or German. So perhaps not a household name. He does, however, have a myspace page, wherein is declared "OF ALL THE AMAZING TALENTED PEOPLE IN THE WORLD OF INSPIRATIONAL MUSIC, Wolfgang Hildebrandt soars to the top of the charts".

And why am I telling you this? Because the UN has come up with another one of its brilliant ideas: "An international galaxy of stars will take to the stage...aimed at raising both funds and awareness to educate and empower children around the world".

And it is called "World Peace Tour 4 Children". Has no one told them that text speak is soo last week?

And who is in this galaxy of stars?:"Joining the Tour would be Kool and the Gang (They have had one US chart single in the last 18 years. C), Peabo Bryson (who sang with Celine Dion on the soundtrack of Beauty and the Beast), Andrea Bocelli, Carlos Santana (who is 60), Quincy Jones (who is 74) and Whitney Houston (out of rehab now?) , said Mr. Hildebrant, adding that former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev would act as master of ceremonies. The actor Richard Gere would also participate".

The tour kicks off in Namibia, and I for one find it a little hard to imagine that Gorby will take to the stage in a spandex cat suit and declare 'yeah, awright, we are going to rock you Windhoek'. Still, stranger things have been known.

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That cycling thing in London yesterday

Guess which mayor thought it was a great idea to close off a sizeable chunk of London yesterday, in order that cyclists could run, or rather pedal, riot?

I had been meaning to blog about it in advance, as every time I saw a poster advertising this event I was filled with foreboding, but somehow it slipped down my agenda.

Anyway, some 38,000 supposedly showed up yesterday, and I'm sure it was entertaining enough for them. However, on the downside, trains to and from the centre were filled with bikes which blameless travellers like humble narrator and his better half had to scramble over. And as ever, with no assistance from said cyclists, who seem to revel in the level of inconvenience etc that they are able to cause other travellers.

So far not much worse than a small irritation, and not much different from the daily delights of fighting one's way past idiots with suitcases the size of wardrobes, always jammed in the middle of the carriage doorways, or taking up seats with the bally things. Next indignity is having great swathes of central London cut off from normal traffic, thus necessitating lengthy detours and so forth. I was not best pleased about that either.

However, Croydonian curmudgeonliness to one side, there is a more serious point to be had. If the people whizzing around town in various fluorescent shades of fire hazard material were expert urban cyclists, then why privilege them over other road users? If they were amateurs not used to negotiating Hyde Park Corner et al, then the ostensible point of the exercise - to encourage folk to ride bikes in London (rather than the secondary point of annoying drivers) - is actively dangerous. Anyone who raced up and down the Mall, or pottered along the Embankment yesterday is going to find things very, very different today. There will be an awful lot of unforgiving traffic, and - I will wager the usual Lombard Street to a rotten orange - an awful lot of accidents and trips to casualty with split heads, broken limbs and the like. I would also expect that there will be more cyclists than usual thinking themselves entitled to cycle on the pavement and transfer the risk to pedestrians. Which they do, with great enthusiasm. My usual mutter of 'maybe you need stabilisers too' never seems to have any impact....

I have a friend who is a serious urban cyclist, and he reckons the odds are for a London cyclist to be knocked down at least once a year. And those who do dare to cycle in the centre have doubtless built up expertise cycling in more out of the way places. And remember what happened to the Trojans when they did not listen to Cassandra.

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So that's what Northern Rock has been doing with *our* money

Sunday, September 23, 2007
"....it has been agreed with Unite that the company will pay staff double time for all overtime between 14th – 21st September. In addition, Unite has secured a guarantee from management that there will be no compulsory redundancies following the events of the last week". Source.

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A bit of a mixed bag from Benedict XVI

To be found in a fuller form here.

I like this bit: 'The pope branded international terrorism an "extremely grave phenomenon"'.

Not so keen on this bit: "Benedict went on to amplify his recently expressed views that economic activity based solely on the profit motive is bad for society at large. He criticised "the tendency to identify (economic) welfare with profit" and urged the politicians present to work against "ideologies that can obscure or confuse consciences and convey an illusory vision of truth and good". Benedict said the absence of an ethical dimension in business could "threaten profit itself".

Joseph Ratzinger does not have much of a background in the profit making part of the economy. His father was a cop, and he himself has served in the military (he was drafted, and I'm not going to make any cheap cracks about the Wehrmacht), and been an academic theologian apart from his career in the church.

Some hints for Cameron from the Canadian Tories

Saturday, September 22, 2007
Well, they were not directed to DC, but I'm going to fillet the Ten Commandments of Conservative Campaigning published in The Globe & Mail:

1. Unity
2. Moderation
3. Inclusion
4. Incrementalism
5. Policy
6. Self-discipline
7. Toughness
8. Grassroots politics
9. Technology
10. Persistence

The article gives the detail, but the list is pretty well self-explanatory.

Anyway, discuss.

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"European Values" - a guide for the perplexed

Courtesy of a German language (but subtitled) video at EUTube:



Apparently 'equitable distribution of income' is a European value, as are peace, human dignity etc etc.

Anyway, see how long you can watch before toe-curling sets in.

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Roll over Amazon.com

Friday, September 21, 2007
Let me present the Nato e-bookshop:

And what a lot of things they've got available for downloading or ordering, and in an awesome array of languages too, ranging from Albanian to Uzbek.

"Helping secure Afghanistan's future" is available in Pashto and Dari, and is doubtless popular fire side reading for the Taliban.

Perhaps more alarming is the range of publications available in Russian, including "Improving capabilities to meet new threats" and "The Nato Handbook". I appreciate that there will be English speakers at the FSB, (the Russian Secret Service) and the effort to translate NATO's opuses is unlikely to bring Mother Russia to her knees, but is this really that good an idea?

Nothing in Arabic or Chinese though, which is a comfort of sorts.



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Friends in low places

Taiwan has been turned down for UN membership for the 15th year in succession, to no-one's surprise.

However, here is the honour roll of countries that supported its application one way or another:

  • The Gambia
  • Honduras
  • Palau
  • St Vincent & The Grenadines
  • Solomon Islands

Well done people, but do not expect to be getting New Year cards from the PRC.

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Hollywood Babylon, Nashville Babylon and now Wellington Babylon

Yes, amazingly enough our kin in New Zealand have been up to all sorts of debauchery, apparently:

"A book touted as a tell-all about New Zealand's media and celebrity industry has been gagged, just as printed and bound editions were poised to hit the shelves...News of the book's conception had sent ripples through the often-intertwined media and celebrity circles, whose secrets [former women's magazines editor Wendyl] Nissen was often privy to".

Who would have thought of it....

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There is nothing like a Dane

Thursday, September 20, 2007
Where else would you find farmers so confident in their ability to make a living, that the head of the farming lobby would come up with this:

"The higher the market price of our goods, the more difficult it becomes to defend [EU] agricultural subsidies,’ explained Peter Gæmelke, the president of Danish Agriculture, a farming lobby group. ‘We expect that prices will remain high, so there is less of a need for subsidies than before.’"...There are some parties that will tax us to death in order to take away the subsidy,’ said Gemælke. ‘I would definitely prefer to do away with the subsidies. They put us in an unfortunate situation where we receive money, property prices rise which lead to these price rises, and then we get taxed.

I am not expecting the NFU to declare solidarity with our splendid Danish friends....

Meanwhile, ARLA - they of Lurpak - are being targeted for boycotting because of the latest Mohammed cartoon row, so I may well switch back to it, having abandoned it when they bowed and scraped to guess which lobby during the previous row.

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Sauce for the goose...

In a delightful up ending of the normal course of events, the Italian equivalent of the CBI (Confindustria) has lambasted the nation's MPs for paying themselves too much and for democracy being a rather expensive business.

Herewith extracts translated from Le Figaro:

"Public funding of political parties is the most expensive in Europe: €200.8m (£139m) per annum, compared to €132m (£92m) for Germany, €80m (£56m) for France and €9m (£6.3m) for Great Britain (sic). The average cost per parliamentarian is $1.5m (£1.04m) in Italy, double that of France and Germany, quadruple that of Westminster".


(I get pretty irate about state funding of parties in these parts. Were I an Italian, I fear my blood pressure would have led to an explosion by now)

"At the national Parliament, each 630 deputy receives approximately €21,500 euros per month (£15,000) between basic salary (€11,703 (£8,170) as with the Senate) and various allowances".


Not a bad scratch, is it? I think Confin's head honcho, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, head of the FIAT group might be on to something.

And when are the CBI, IoD and the like going to stick it to our MPs, and folk on the other side of industry?

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"The sea coast of Bohemia"

Almost, but not quite. It is the sea coast of deeply land-locked Afghanistan that is at issue:

"Strongly condemning the violence that continued to destabilize Afghanistan, the Security Council decided this afternoon to extend the authorization of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in that country for another year beyond 13 October 2007.

By resolution 1776 (2007), adopted under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter by a recorded vote of 14 in favour to none against, with 1 abstention (Russian Federation), the Council also called on Member States to contribute personnel, equipment and funding to strengthen the Force and make it more effective.

Speaking before the vote, the representative of the Russian Federation said his country had traditionally supported ISAF and the continuation of its mandate as the Force continued to be important in combating the terrorist threat posed by the Taliban and Al-Qaida. However, the Russian delegation had abstained in the vote because the new issue of maritime interception had yet to be clarified".



Erm.... So nothing to do with asserting Russian interests in the 'near abroad', and nothing to do with being truculent with the US.

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French sociologists. Doncha just love them?

Where would we be without French intellectuals?

Well, we would not have earth shattering revelations about the French and their use of le téléphone portable. Alas they are not as intriguing as those Roland Barthes might have concocted, but here goes:

"...instead of going normally, people with a telephone slow down at moments, turn on themselves, and walk with less grace..."

"the researchers also note the paramount role of the thumb in these contemporary gestures".


Well knock me down with une plume.

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Former Kinnock aide praises his ministerial boss. And says so in an interview...

Say hello to Andrew Cahn, Chief Executive of UK Trade & Investment, a quango attached to the DTI, cough, Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform.

Here is an excerpt from his biography:

"Andrew Cahn, 55, joined UKTI from British Airways, where he was Director of Government and Industry Affairs from 2000 to 2006. Prior to that he worked at the European Commission as Chef de Cabinet (Chief of Staff) for Neil Kinnock, Vice President for Administrative Reform and European Commissioner for Transport".

Think he might be used to dealing with Socialists?

Anyway, in the best tradition of brown-nosing underlings everywhere, he thinks his new boss is great. Really great. Or does he?:

"In Digby Jones we have a high-profile, passionate minister, dedicated to trade and investment who will be banging the drum for British business overseas,” he says. “Digby is a fantastic asset to us. He is a larger-than-life character".

Admittedly Diggers is more than a little on the porky side, but it does seem a little unmanly to draw attention to the fellow's size.

And then:

"He said he is going to do one long-haul, one short-haul and one regional visit a month – I know he will deliver on this. He will be overseas batting for Britain and that’s very valuable to me..."

Diggers has been in his post since the 29th of June. Does this mean that the Minister has not been racking up the air miles in the last 3 months?

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">"Drug addicts offered money to vote Labour"

Wednesday, September 19, 2007
That is the claim that has been made, anyway.

Before anyone gets too excited, it is not our own, dear, dear Labour Party, but rather its ideological comrades and fellow Socialist International members, the Norwegian Labour Party (known in those parts as the Det Norske Arbeiderparti) that has been doing its bit to A - get elected and B- keep the smackheads high.

The bribe was not enormous, at NOK 50, or about £4.50. Apparently kebabs were on offer for those junkies suffering more from the munchies than cold turkey.

I suppose it is to the credit of one Else Marie Romset that having been bribed, she did indeed vote for the Labour Party candidate.

As Dizzy pointed out to me, this looks an awful lot cheaper than some of the more indirect bribes / bungs passed the way of our electorate.

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The 'funky' Left stumbles upon fire and is amazed

In the form of a post at Demos.

Anyone who has travelled outside the English speaking world, or tuned into a TV or radio station from beyond these islands is well aware of the impact of our language on popular culture. Watching the Eurovision Song Contest would probably have got the idea over too.

However, this has prompted quite the 'gosh wow' reaction at Demos, which is agog that the English language version of the latest Harry Potter has sold more copies outside the UK than here. Mildly interesting at best, but hardly an earth shattering revelation.

However:

"Apart from wizard-fever, this shows how important popular culture is in relation to the globalisation of English, a theme we discussed in As You Like It'. It's also pretty revealing, it's difficult to imagine either a German-language or Mandarin book selling 1m pre-order copies in the UK".

Well yes. Obviously. The language of global popular culture is English, and has been for decades. 'Difficult to imagine'? Erm, impossible actually, as there are nothing like a million people with a sufficient command of German or Chinese in these parts.

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Good news. For once.

The Cambodian authorities have arrested and will charge Pol Pot's second in command, Nuon Chea, 'known as Brother Number 2'. "He is expected to face charges of crimes against humanity and possibly genocide". Source.

This delightful individual was the chief ideologist of the Khmer Rouge.

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">"Britain, you keep the whole world soaked in blood, the whole world will hate you"

The comment does not, for once, come from our 'friends' in the Middle East / South Asia, but rather from Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Russian Liberal Democrats, and a man given to somewhat less nuanced statements than Ming and his merry band.

And why has he got it in for Perfidious Albion? Mainly because of the efforts of the government to get Lugovoi extradited in connection with the death of Litvinenko. However, enough of the background, and on with the insults:

"Zhirinovsky said London could not prosecute Lugovoi because Britain itself was providing a safe haven for Kremlin opponents such as tycoon Boris Berezovsky. "You cover cheats, extremists and criminals".

"You are all accomplices, all of you are similar bandits and criminals, your whole government, together with your queen."

"He blamed Britain for backing the Bolsheviks during the 1917 revolution, financing Chechen rebels and opening the second front too late during World War II." Although not, apparently for the loss of the Kursk.

"Half of your embassy should be thrown out of Moscow," he barked at the reporter representing a U.S. media outlet. "They are not diplomats, all of them are spies. ... You in Britain are good for nothing, you only plundered Europe." Hmm, I rather thought the Marshall Plan sent money the other way....

"Britain will disappear under the water one day. And it will serve you right ... Even your sheep die every day and every hour due to your sickening British policies".


I think Vlad could have been more inventive, and I offer up this 1953 East German laundry list for describing this Sceptred Isle:

"Paralytic sycophants, effete betrayers of humanity, carrion-eating servile imitators, arch-cowards and collaborators, gang of women-murderers, degenerate rabble, parasitic traditionalists, playboy soldiers, conceited dandies".


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Understanding civil servant speak: No. 1 in a series.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Higher end civil servants have been grilled for a survey on risk, and oh how telling is the terminology:


"Reputational risk, particularly the non-delivery of major programmes, were the biggest threat for 32 per cent of managers".

What I believe this means is 'if I screw up, my job is on the line'. Welcome to reality folks.

"People-based risks, including difficulties with recruitment, retention, training, motivation and morale, were mentioned by 30 per cent and many thought such things would grow to become the biggest problem the civil service faced".

So that means pay rises all round, presumably.

"Worryingly, the vast majority were pessimistic about their ability to deal with such issues, with 90 per cent saying their management of people and resource related risks was either only partially effective or not effective at all."

And this is the upper mandarinate? Admitting it is not, cough, exactly good at dealing with underlings?

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A delusional nation

Or so a Eurobarometer survey would suggest.

The survey is focused on medical and health research, and is pretty dull in itself, but includes some amusing (or rather downright dishonest, I think) responses to this question:

"For each of the following topics, please tell me if you are very interested, fairly interested, not very interested, or not at all interested".

It offers the following, which I have put into alpha:

  • Art and literature
  • Celebrities and entertainment
  • Economic and social matters
  • European and international news
  • Home and gardening
  • Medical and health research
  • Nature and the environment
  • Science and technology
  • Sports and outdoor activities

Bearing in mind that the highest circulating magazines cover TV listings, entertainment & celebs etc, the high circulating papers spend three months a year focused on the activities of a series of half wits cooped up in a house / TV studio and sport routinely attracts high TV ratings, it would be reasonable to guess that 'Celebrities and entertainment' and 'sports and outdoor activities' would top the table. But no, those of my compatriots polled came up with the following preferences for that which interests them:

  • Nature and the environment 87
  • Medical and health research 78
  • Sports and outdoor activities 73
  • Home and gardening 71
  • Economic and social matters 67
  • European and international news 67
  • Science and technology 62
  • Art and literature 58

And bottom of the heap:
  • Celebrities and entertainment 43
Yeah, right.

Meanwhile, it is the Maltese who are most likely to admit to following Tinseltown and the like (66%), whereas those achingly high-minded Spaniards (the people who inflicted Hola / Hello! upon a blameless world) and the volk of what was East Germany claim 68/69% uninterest.

Meanwhile, the Hellenes are most likely to say yes to 'read any good books lately?' with their 73% claim of interest in the arts etc, while a good place to escape the Olympics and the like would appear to be Romania - 50% are interested in sport etc, and 47% are not, and a clearly confused 3% just do not know.

More later, perhaps.


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Ségolène has her Howard Dean moment?

The Woman who would be Queen is dodging around Quebec at the moment, and has been saying some very bizarre things about the utter hash she made of her run for the Elysée. None of it was her fault, naturally.

Jospin has a book coming out later in the month, and it looks as though Ségo has seen the galley proofs or somesuch as she seems quite well informed about what he and others (do I hear François Hollande being mumbled sotto voce?) have to say

Le Figaro thinks she is being ironic in commenting "Reading these works I had the impression that if I was Joan of Arc, I would already have been burnt at the stake".

I am not sure she does irony, and there is context which strengthens my stance:

"[Father] Forgive them, for they know not what they do".(And Le Figaro makes the point that she is quoting scripture. I am not gilding the lily. C) "I forgive those who attack me as I think they do me less evil than they do to the Socialist Party, or to the Left".

However, here comes the ne plus ultra:

"Unfortunately I also believe that there was - and perhaps it was sub-conscious - in all of these attacks sexism, and to see it so strongly, and even I am surprised by it, I think it is connected with racism".

Royal may well have been born in Dakar, but it was in a Senegal under French rule and no-one could mistake her for being anything other than French to a degree that the Front National would approve of.

Perhaps the split up with Holland has been particularly trying, or given that Jospin was born a Protestant and Royal is Catho maybe she might have been conflating creeds with races.... Of the other big beasts of the Left or 'elephants' as the French press calls them, Fabius, Lang and Strauss-Kahn are Jewish by birth, while Martine Aubry and Hollande look to be Catho.


Draw your own conclusions, but I don't think Royal looks anti-semitic.

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No turnips, the Swedes.

(Headline courtesy of Dizzy)

Consider our fortunate friends on the other side of the North Sea:

"The government has pledged to introduce income tax cuts worth 10.8 billion kronor (£800 million) at the beginning of next year. Writing in Dagens Nyheter, the four party leaders promised that this second wave of income tax cuts, combined with the first, would result in a total increase of 1,000 kronor (£75) per month in take home pay for all those in gainful employment". Source

Could they be persuaded to launch another Viking invasion, please?

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Hurrah for the good sense of the Lib Dems, including Lembit Opik

(Yes, I am a bit bewildered to be writing that).

And for why? Because they have rejected calls for an academic boycott of Israel, and "a motion condemning it passed overwhelmingly".

The motion itself hits a bullseye:

"It said that academic freedom and the exchange of ideas are of "paramount importance," adding that it is wrong to boycott individuals on account of their nationality, "whatever policies their country's government pursues." Israeli academics "can no more be held accountable for Israeli government policy than British academics can be for British government policy," it said.

The motion called it "perverse" for academics to boycott only Israel when other countries with far worse records of academic freedom are not also to be boycotted. "Israeli universities are centres of free debate and discussion including Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Palestinians," it added".


Our man with interests in the Balkans voted in favour of the motion above, and my regulars will not be surprised that the odious Tonge was the only 'name' in favour of a boycott.


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">"Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast"

Monday, September 17, 2007

Not since Susan Sontag decided that what a besieged Sarajevo really, really needed was a performance of 'Waiting for Godot' (I'm not making this up) have artistic types come up with something quite so spectacularly muddle-headed:


The United Nations orchestra.

Yes, really. If all the UNO was intent on doing was playing high-end elevator music for sundry dictators and so forth, the initiative would not be of any great note, but nope, it has much, much greater ambition:

"The Orchestra is a unique project which will galvanize support for the UN through music and multi-media projects focused on the UN’s ideals, values and priorities"....The innovative concept is the brainchild of [Director of the United in Music Foundation] Mr. Boogaard who approached the United Nations with the support of the Government of the Netherlands. The most important objective of the Orchestra is to communicate the essence of the United Nations to hundreds of millions of people and to show the world what the United Nations stands for. In so doing, the Orchestra will become a communications tool for the UN. “We often need a thousand words to get a simple message across and sometimes we only need one language: music. I view music as a way to inspire people to embrace the ideals of the United Nations and to feel the need for voluntary action.

"Mr. Boogaard’s career has included five years as a business manager of the Ricciotti Ensemble -- a 40–piece youth orchestra -- during which he produced some 400 concerts in unusual locations, from the cathedral tower in the city of Utrecht to the southernmost point in Africa on the Cape of Good Hope, from an opera for the homeless to a concert tour through war-torn Bosnia".

Mr B is Dutchman. I wonder if his concert was in Srebrenica....

The orchestra, naturally, will not be sticking to Mozart: "The Orchestra will be composed of 52 professionally-trained young musicians from all the world’s regions and cultures (Only 52 regions and cultures? Fancy. C). When the Orchestra plays abroad, it will include guest musicians from the countries being visited. The Orchestra will play music from around the world or music specially composed for it, but will not be a classical orchestra".

I look forward to the Janjaweed militia laying down their arms, and outbreaks of peace, love and understanding in trouble spots worldwide.

Suggestions for the orchestra's repertoire would be most welcome.

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I think he means Broon, Darling and the rest of that merry gang of Picts.

Somehow a rather comic petition has snuck past the generally humourless censors at Petitions HQ:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Grant Government Funding to Rebuild Hadrians Wall".

And the petitioner elaborates:

"This important monument has been allowed to fall into disrepair. The effects of the demise of this once great defence of the English realm can be witnessed by the prescence (sic) in parliament of so many of the peoples once resident to the north of the wall. It needs rebuilding and restoring to its former purpose of safeguarding the English from the further marauding invasions of those who should be excluded".

If it keeps Broon, Darling and the rest of the McMafia well away from these parts, I'm all for it. I imagine that Alec Salmond might favour the wall for keeping we English types out too.

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Radio Tirana redux

In a manner of speaking.

An Argentinian MP has come up with a really good idea for spending Argentinian tax payers' money: "a bill calling for the establishment of a bilingual broadcasting station targeted to service the Falkland Islands".

....

He added that it was essential to have “a 24 hours broadcasting service, both in English and Spanish geared to the Malvinas Islands from the studios of Radio Nacional in Rio Grande and with the purpose of spreading Argentine culture and news”.

I think it is fair to say that even the most insomniac inhabitants of the Islands of the Blessed (1) will be not be tuning in with much regularity.




(1). Here is the current crime round up: Between the 24th and 26th August there were two road traffic accidents, a report of the theft of heating fuel, and "a 999 call about a horse laying down in the vicinity of the Lady Elizabeth". I wonder how Her Ladyship felt about that?

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Mrs Guy Ritchie - "impur[e] and evil"



Or so says a nameless director at a Jerusalem Kabbala yeshivot. Madonna, for it is she, is visiting the Miracle on the Med, being something of a fan of things kabbalistic, and the Rabbinate is not best pleased, as the J Post notes:

"It is a known fact in Kabbala that impurity and evil are inherently attracted to sanctity...That's why people of Hollywood, a place of iniquity and lasciviousness, are naturally attracted to the holiness of Kabbala".

Other folk, bar the Ritchies, along for the ride are "Demi Moore and her husband, actor Ashton Kutcher, ex-talk show host Rosie O'Donnell and fashion designer Donna Karan".

I think she looks quite sedate in that picture, but never mind.

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Very sensitive, the Spanish

Sunday, September 16, 2007
Following on from the fun and games in July, in which a Spanish mag got itself in agua caliente over a cartoon showing Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbón y de Grecia and Princess Letizia getting, erm, friendly, a new front in protecting the dignity of the Borbóns has been opened up:

Over to El País for the details:

"High Court prosecutors opened an investigation Friday into a group of Catalan nationalists who burnt photos of the Royal Family on Thursday night...The public destruction of images of the king and Queen Sofía may constitute an act of “defamation against the highest representation of the state,” the chief High Court prosecutor...said yesterday. The crime carries a sentence of between six months and two years in prison".

For the love of God, get a grip people. This country's monarchy has survived Croydonian Situationist Jamie Reid putting a safety pin through the Queen's nose, The Sun photoshopping 'slitty eyes' on to the Duke on its front page, an over-familiar Paul Keating, Salman Rushdie being rude in that book, Cherie Blair refusing to curtsey etc etc. And that is before we consider the savagery of Gillray and Cruikshank to Her Maj's predecessors ...

Apart from anything else, what of the lèse majesté inherent in copies of El Pais, ABC, El Mundo et al being disposed of by way of pulping or burning? Or the incineration of euro bank notes?

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Democracy - such a difficult concept

At least it would seem to be to George Papandreou, (very much related) head of Pasok, and holder of degrees from Amherst and the LSE.

Anyway, the Hellenic demos vote today, and it look as though the good guys are going to win, and Pasok does not like that at all:

"No democrat, no progressive person, no Socialist, no leftist can surrender the fate of the country to the Right". (My emphasis)

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Sad news to anyone with a Geography 'O' level

Rather than a GCSE or whatever they are called this week.

Anyway, one of the mainstays of Geography O level, or at least the Cambridge Board's version seemed to be Norway - there was all the glaciation and so on, and hill side farming.

And this is the sad bit: Aftenposten notes that "that nearly 100 setre (the plural form for "seter") were shut down in just one year, from 2005 to 2006. More and more of the historic little mountain farms, which generally have been tied to larger farms at lower elevations, are no longer being used".

Doubtless the Norwegians concerned have found better ways to make money, so good for them, but a little part of my adolescence has just died.

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The gardener who takes credit for a tree growing

Friday, September 14, 2007
Or the doctor who refuses to give you an appointment and then takes the credit for an unattended wound healing up.

I've been struggling to find a parallel for a spectacularly silly comment from the head of the UN about the ozone layer - remember that?

"The battle to repair the ozone layer represents one of the great success stories of international cooperation".

Last time I looked, there was no team of plasterers floating around 10 miles up applying gypsum to the gaps.

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A spotless, if maybe somewhat weather beaten, leopard

Fancy one of these, free?


If so, and how many chaps could put hand to heart and say no, you are in luck, as those wonderful people at the Australian Defence Force have upwards of 90 Leopard 1 tanks to give away. All you have to do is write to the Leopard disposals manager, 256-310 St Kilda Rd, Southbank, VIC 3006, Australia by Friday, October 12. Apparently "priority [will be given] to local historical groups or military history buffs", and I think I qualify on the latter criterion. More on the tale here.

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Memo to News Group

The 'graph has a piece on the London freesheet circulation / readership war between London Lite (sic) and thelondonpaper (sic), and the News Group honchos are less than happy that while thelondonpaper has greater distribution, London Lite fares better on readership judging from the NRS's figures.

So far, so not very interesting. Anyway, one of the small consolations of suffering ordeal by public transport when I leave my Croydon fastness is the availability of abandoned newspapers to flick through while on the train. LL is far more often there for the reading than TLP, and I would guess that it is more often abandoned than the markedly inferior London Lite. Having had dealings with the NRS in a previous life, I know that readership figures are informed by the likes of magazines in waiting rooms, papers in cafes and so on and so forth.

Thus I suggest that News Group (the top brass of which doubtless fall upon my every word...) spins its way out of this one by noting that LL has more readers because people can skim it at greater speed and then abandon it on the way home as it really is not very good, whereas readers keep TLP and take it home to peruse at length and then offer up to their spouses. Whereas copies of London Lite go round and round the Circle Line or from Victoria and Brighton and back again picking up new readers on each leg.

Never mind the width, feel the quality...

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Mr Harriet Harman speaks...

Or Jack Dromey, as I believe he prefers to be known. He is deputy general secretary of the T&G Unite.

"It is plain wrong for private equity to claim they should get preferential tax treatment".

Preferential compared to what Jack? If I win big on the premium bonds I have hidden away somewhere, that would be tax free...

How can it be right that private equiteers boast of paying less tax than their cleaners and then expect us, the ordinary tax-paying public, to back their privileged position.

Erm, no. I think you will find that they do not collectively boast at all, and while some may have arranged their tax affairs in such a way that they pay a less confiscatory rate, I very much doubt that they pay less in total.

"It doesn't wash. Indeed, it only makes us more determined to press government for action to close the loopholes the private equiteers exploit".

As I have said before, it irritates me beyond measure when carefully drafted legislation is referred to as having a 'loophole'. Loopholes are no such thing - they are there deliberately.

"And for those who complain and say they'll leave the UK then the message should be don't slam the door on your way out."

And just what will Labour party donors Nigel Doughty, Ronald Cohen and Jon Aisbitt, inter alia, have to say about that?

To quote the great Lord Clyde, "No man in this country is under the smallest obligation, moral or other, so to arrange his legal relations to his business or his property as to enable the Inland Revenue to put the largest possible shovel into his stores".

Mind you, perhaps they should not worry about this spittle-flecked rant from Dromey, a man whose career has not been conspicuously successful - the abject failure of the Grunwick dispute which he was behind, and the trouncing he got from Woodley when he ran for the leadership of the T&G. Just as well his wife is doing quite well for herself, I suppose.

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Aren't green lefties wonderful?

From El Pais:

"A Spanish member of the European Parliament embezzled “tens of thousands of euros” in public money to pad his own pockets or those of his party, the European Union’s anti-fraud office has concluded following a 10-month investigation. David Hammerstein, a US born member of the Green Party who was elected MEP on the Socialist Party’s list in the last European parliamentary elections in 2004, allegedly artificially inflated the salaries of his aides in order to claim the maximum of €15,496 per month in public funding for staff wages. However, most the money, fraud investigators with the EU’s OLAF agency have concluded, was never seen by his staff".

His remarkably empty declaration of interests is available here.

How many pounds of mung beans, pairs of organic espadrilles etc etc will €15,496 a month buy?

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Livingstone - body fascist?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

These two fine figures of health, fitness and pulchritude - Len Duvall and Ken Livingstone - have set themselves up as arbiters of what is attractive and what is healthy:


And why are they straying somewhat beyond their respective remits of chairing the Metropolitan Police Authority / the Greater London Labour party, and hobnobbing with extremists being Mayor of London? Because London Fashion Week is nearly upon us.

Duvall thinks "young girls [are] starving themselves to death because of the lead being given by the fashion industry". Care to provide the figures, Len, or are you, as I strongly suspect, making it up as you go along? And not a hint of hyperbole either, I'm sure. Belief in free will is so terribly old fashioned, isn't it?

As to Livingstone, he goes that wee bit further and comments "I would be quite happy to ban under size models throughout the entire fashion world.“ A lot of the women on catwalks look disturbing. The idea that anything about this is attractive is just bizarre". And how do you look to them?

Yes, some models are thin. Then again there are plenty of people in the public eye who are not, and it ill-behoves anyone to make a judgement on what people should or should not find attractive, still less for a politician to attempt to wreck the ability of someone to maker a living based on their appearance. Insert the name of your preferred racial, cultural etc group in the place of 'under size' to get the full impact. Ideals of beauty vary greatly both across the ages and across cultures - I doubt that the average Samoan would find a Somali attractive, or vice versa. Given that the average Briton is bigger now than 20 years ago, I cannot help but think that the impact of 'size zero' models in shaping the popular consciousness has been less than enormous.

Always supposing that one's morphology is entirely in one hands, can we look forward to Duvall & Livingstone coming down like two tons of bricks on body builders, athletes, folk with orange tans, long hair, short hair, tattoos, piercings, thick ankles, split ends, acne or whatever else they consider "bizarre" for others to find attractive?

Cross-posted to Anyone But Ken.

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Memo to Brown - will you make your mind up


From 16/3/7:

Nothing matters more to any of us than our health and the health of our family and friends.

And today:

There is no issue that is more important than the safety and security of families in their own homes, on their own streets, in their own neighbourhoods and in their own communities.

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Wouldn't it be easier to have a group hug?

Headline from the Evening Standard's site:

"Madeleine judge gives police warrant to seize diary, laptop and Cuddle Cat".


I know, I know - I'm booked on the Black Diamond Express train to Hell.

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">"Grant me chastity and continence, but not quite yet"

Would a still living St Augustine be concerned that the 17th of September marks the start of Continence Awareness Week?

No, I'm not making this up.

Having done some rooting around, I note it will also be Tessa Jowell's birthday. Not that there is any connection, I'm sure.

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Procrustes gives his duvet a good shake

Or so a Fabians commissioned poll would appear to suggest.

"A massive 85 per cent of the public said that a better Britain would include a smaller gap between the rich and poor".

And presumably they do not care whether the 'poor' get stretched, or the 'rich' have their extremities lopped off.

Neither Yougov nor the Fabians (where's an irate Hannibal when you need one?) have published the text of the question or any great level of result detail, but I would be amazed if the question was phrased along the lines of 'do you want the state to take a lot more of your money and give it to other people?'

One might note that when the British daydream about places they would like to emigrate to, Belarus and North Korea, or come to that, the Nordic countries do not feature that far up the list. Whereas the US generally does.....

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