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Well they can't gull us....

Friday, November 30, 2007
The full June Eurobarometer is out, and while I will be doing something extensive with it in the fullness of time , this is just too good not to do now:

"For each of the following institutions, please tell me whether you tend to trust it or not to trust it:

The EU

And Perfidious Albion is the most distrusting, by far, with only 36% tending to trust it. The Belgians come top at 73%.

The European Commission

Last. 29%

The European Parliament

Last. 33%

The ECB

Last. 30%

Council of the EU.

Last. 23%

Television

Fifth from bottom. 51%

The Press

Last. 18%

The internet (cough..)

Second last - 32%. Spammers and scammers should switch from English to Czech - 62% of them are just crying out to be fleeced.

The national government

20th 34%. Least trusting of the EU 15.

Parliament

17th. 41%. Least trusting of the EU 15.

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Brace yourselves, here comes mobGAS ©®

The rather alarming mobGAS ©® of which the EuroCommissars are clearly very proud,

"
is a new mobile phone application available in 21 European languages that allows users to see how their daily choices impact on climate change... information about everyday activities – cooking, transport, lighting, electronic appliances etc. - is put into the application, and calculations made of individual emissions. A user diary of daily, weekly and yearly emissions can be registered on a secure website, allowing a comparison with national and world averages. The application also includes an animation reflecting the user's contribution to the Kyoto Protocol target".

I wonder how many people NOT on the EU's payroll will manage to update every day for a year... (there are two users showing on the site at the mo' - Kam_comp and Bali_2007. Kam has been responsible for 35kg and Bali 90. Shocking....)

I for one would prefer an application that showed how much the EU was costing me, with daily updates.

Hoping to find which lucky language groups are spared this, I tried a little light googling, and mobgas.com is also mobile telephony connected - "get the latest gas prices in your area right from your cell phone. Receive SMS alerts when lower prices are available".

The EU's download link is here. And it does not, that I can see, list the download languages .

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Some number crunching for Jack Straw

"And it's not just a matter of profound irritation but profound anger to everybody involved in the Labour Party, 99.9 per cent recurring, who are completely straight and upstanding". Source

Right-o, let's run the numbers. Apparently, Labour party membership stands at around 177,000.

So, 99.9% gives 177 crooked and prone members.
99.99% gives 18 crooked
and prone members.
99.999% gives a mere - and less than credible, given this week's events - 1.8 crooked
and prone members.

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"In the beginning was the Word"

And the Word was put on sale in French supermarkets for €1.50 (£1.07 ish), and there was a wailing and gnashing of teeth. Doubtless all UK readers of my vintage will have been given a Gideon's New Testament when at school.


I am not able to believe, but it would strike me that Christians, especially Protestants, would regard the easy availability of the Louis Segond translation of 1921 as being a good thing. Perhaps even a very good thing, and very much God's work. Segond was a Swiss divine and a Calvinist, and it is his brothers in Christ at the Société Biblique de Genève who are responsible for this. The translation is freely available on the internet. The fuller verse referenced in my headline is rendered thus therein: "Au commencement était la Parole, et la Parole était avec Dieu, et la Parole était Dieu." Note also, "où il y aura des pleurs et des grincements de dents".

So, the hoo-hah:
Nicolas-Jean Sed of publisher Cerf accuses the SBG of being fundamentalists, and of destabilising the market. His company sells bibles for €13-18... Elsewhere, the French Protestant Alliance biblique française reckons "To sell the Bible at €1,50 is to underestimate the professional work behind the translation. And to sell it in the supermarkets "is to make Bible a commodity". And it is putting out a bible for €3 next January....

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The European of the Year Awards

Will anyone make it this far, having read that headline? I'll assume I am not talking to myself.

European Voice, an organ of the Economist Group, has been dishing out awards for Europeans of the year, at what was doubtless 'a glittering gala occasion', with throngs of eurofans cheering their favourite commissars to the echo. Perhaps the reason why our media has kept it so quiet is because a recording of the event will be the centrepiece of the Saturday night schedule on BBC1 or ITV1. If so, I will be rooted to the couch.

Among the Britons nominated were David Miliband as Diplomat of the Year: "UK foreign minister – for taking a firm line on Russia, challenging it to bring the Litvinenko case to justice". Yes, the lack of contenders was such that Millipede was in the frame. The winners were not peacemakers or anything that big, but rather Waldner & Steinmeier for the Bulgarian medics in Libya affair, even though it was Mr & Mrs Sarko who actually did the deal. Hey ho...

Elsewhere, the Bearded Attention Whore that is Branson was Businessman of the Year, "
for taking the lead on reducing airline emissions, announcing plans for annual carbon cuts on Virgin flights and setting up Virgin Fuels for developing renewable energy sources". As with all Virgin initiatives, 'check against delivery...'

European is used pretty loosely, as Schwarzenegger was campaigner of the year, and Clara 'Stock Exchange' Furse was nominated for business leader of the year
.

The entrants for
Statesman/stateswoman of the year were pretty feeble too, with achievements including 'for taking a firm, measured attitude towards Russia' and 'for setting France on a path to reform'. All rather thin, isn't it?

However, the ne plus ultra has to be the award for Commissar of the Year, and yes, it is Viviane Reding
for her ill-thought out roaming tariffs move. Mentioning this to Dizzy, and having warned him to brace himself, he MSN'd thus: "/me smashes head into keyboard".

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The shortage of sensible domain names is beginning to bite...

Thursday, November 29, 2007
The World Economic Forum "has announced 39 visionary companies selected as Technology Pioneers 2008", which is nice.

However, note some of the names:

Garlik.com, 23andme.com, anecova.com, raindancetechnologies.com, resverlogix.com, fluxxion.com, ls9.com, imaginatik.com, kayak.com, polarrose.com and my 'favourite', qliktech.com.

Yup, they are all real.

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A new front in the war on Brown opening up?

As though the weinidog does not have enough on his plate, now he has irate Paul O'Grady / 'Lily Savage' fans to contend with.

First the dull bit:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Honour the Television Presenter Paul O Grady in the New Year Honours List"

So far so very run of the mill and the typical of petitions to Number 10. But, the full text starts with WITHOUT PREDJUDICE (sic).

Those with a legal background will get the significance, fully paid up members of humanity might not now that "Using 'without prejudice' in a dispute means what you say can't be used against you if the dispute turns into court proceedings, but only if you use it properly. Commonly, you use ‘without prejudice’ if you are making an offer to settle a dispute that you don’t want used against you in court as an admission, or as evidence of what you are prepared to pay as compensation, if the other side refuses your offer". Source

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the litigation.


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Blairism lives

Or, perhaps, is undead, and only in France, where Jean-Marie Bockel has formed the Blairist Gauche Moderne (Modern Left). I will resist the temptation to comment on a party name that makes one a hostage to fortune, still less on the modernity or otherwise of the Left.

In a manifesto that verges on plagiarism, Bockel's party "supports the demand for pragmatic policies, attentive to results, that works and answer social demands".

In the grand old tradition of French political parties generally being projections of one man's ego, Bockel is not exactly fighting of deputies with a stick, but is claiming 680 members. A former Fabius spokeswoman seems to have seen the light, which is a bit like the Vicar of Bray like conversions of certain MPs in these parts.

Much, much more at Libé, for those interested.

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An 'all-inclusive digital society'

It is that woman Reding up to her tricks. Again. She is not at all happy that some folk are just not interested in the internet:

"Only 10% of people aged over 64 are Internet users while the average in Europe is 47%. Without further intervention, the gap will only be halved in 2015 instead of 2010. The latest assessments conducted for the Commission show that accessibility of websites, communication terminals, TV sets and other ICT remains problematic, with lower-educated, economically inactive and elderly people at the greatest risk of being left behind".

This, bear in mind is a technology that only went mainstream - in this country at least - about 10 years ago, so the take up is pretty impressive. Note also that the EU-27 includes pretty underdeveloped places like Bulgaria. As a case in point, the first radio stations opened just after WW1, and Tonga would not appear to have got one until 1960.

Perhaps the most spectacularly stupid element of EU policy on matters digital is the wish to make broadband available for *all*. Methinks they have no understanding of the technology at all, and Dizzy's post on the EU's desire for overnight ISP switching makes that abundantly clear.

Anyway, that villainous 90% of late / non-adopters? Are they to be chivvied into going to the library to log on, or maybe have ISP subscriptions deducted from their bank accounts in order to compel them to have access? (even if they choose not to use it?). From family experience (hello Mum) I know that folk falling into that demographic will get internet access if they consider it worth having, but it ill-behoves the Commissar to insist that people /should/ have it.

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It's those Jews again...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007
When they are not having meetings of the Elders of Zion and so forth, they are busy getting placemen elected, if an Algerian minister is to be believed:

El Khabar: "This means that a relations of parity between Algiers and Paris are not possible?"

Mohamed Cherif Abbés: "....You know the origins of the French president and those who brought him to power. Did you know that the Israeli authorities had put into circulation a stamp with the face of Nicolas Sarkozy on it, during the full election campaign?....This was the result of a movement which reflects the opinion of the true architects of the election of Sarkozy to the presidency, the Jewish lobby, which has the monopoly of industry in France".

Fact checking follows shortly...

Israeli stamps issued in 2006/2007 can be found here. Unless Sarko was a model for the stamps honouring sport, fashion, the Israeli prison service etc, I can't see him anywhere.... I will be looking at leading French companies shortly. Here's a list of noted French Jewish industrialists, business people etc. One might note that 'the Jewish conspiracy' rather messed up with the Socialist candidates, given that faced with possibles in DSK, Fabius and Lang they instead chose a shiksa.

Meanwhile, those nice Libyans appear to have funded an attempted blowing up of the Israeli and Egyptian embassies in Oslo in 1979.




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Give a dog a bad name

Or perhaps an unsuitable one. The EU has released the eagerly awaited updated list of air carriers banned from Fortress Europa, and in short form, do not hope to fly to "Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Swaziland or the Democratic Republic of Congo [the bigger of the two Congos. C] (with the exception of one)" with a carrier under the regulatory jurisdiction of those countries.

Anyway, the names of some of the miscreants. (Usual caveat - I am NOT making these up):

Congo

Bravo Air Congo - Or then again, maybe not?

Cargo Bull Aviation - Do they have cattle class?

Free Airlines - Even if it is, I'm not flying.

Mango Airlines - (Haven't come up with anything for this yet...)

Safe Air Company - Yeah. Right.

Thom's Airways - Sounds like a powerhouse in aviation....

Equatorial Guinea

Cronos Airlines - I wonder if they have designs on Neptune....

Indonesia

Mandala Airlines - Will take you round and round in circles?

Kyrgyz Republic

Dames - Nothing like one, apparently. So as for the plural....

Golden Rule Airlines - Fly as you would be flown by?

Sierra Leone

Air Rum, Ltd - I expect the booze cart is a bit lacking in variety.

Destiny Air Services, Ltd - For that all important rendezvous....

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The Gettysburg Address in PowerPoint....

Found here.




Thought for the day...

I imagine I am not alone in being thankful that this rabble has not taken up the Lib Dem's bright idea of nationalising Northern Rock.

Jeff Randall's masterpiece of invective in today's Telegraph spells it out beautifully....

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'An independent review'

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
That's what we have just had in relation to greyhound racing, which somehow comes under the aegis of Defra.

And who chaired this 'independent review'?

Lord Donoughue.

Might this be the same Lord Donoughue who 'In 1974...became senior policy adviser to the Prime Minister, and held this office until 1979'. And the Lord Donoughue who takes the Labour whip? And the Lord Donoughue who was 'Parliamentary Secretary (Farming and Food Industry), Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (5 May 1997 to 28 Jul 1999)'?

Yes, it is. The very same.

And Jeff Rooker and Gerry Sutcliffe variously 'hope that the industry will make a positive and swift response' and 'welcome the report'. Which is nice.

Toynbee fact checker....

"Instead [Brown] boasted of Labour's deep cuts in corporation tax, which now at 28% is among the lowest in the west". Source

OK, let's take The West as being a synonym for the OECD. Fair?

"...at the turn of the millennium the British rate of 30% was 3.6 percentage points below the OECD average. Yet by 2005 it was 1.4 points higher. In 2000 there were only seven OECD members with a corporate tax rate lower than 30%; there are now 14". (This is from The Business in January 2007, quoted on the personal site of the author)

"Comparing Britain’s tax policy with that of the most forward-thinking European nations has become almost embarrassing. The Irish (with their 12.5% corporation tax) and the Eastern Europeans – in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovakia corporation tax is respectively 24%, 16%, and 19% – remain ahead of the pack. The rest of Europe is starting to follow their lead, as tax competition works its magic and forces even social-democratic governments to adapt to reality; some of the developments on the continent have been truly remarkable, albeit barely noticed by the British chattering classes. The Austrians cut corporation tax from 34% to 25% in 2005. A week ago, corporation tax in Holland was cut to 25.5%. Denmark has reduced its tax rate from 34% to 28%. In Finland it is now only 26%, compared to 29% in 2004. Between 1999 and 2004, the Portuguese reduced their rate from 37.4% to 27.5%. Corporation tax is also lower in Greece and Luxembourg than in Britain. Even in those European countries where corporation tax remains higher than in Britain, the direction is clearly down. In Belgium company tax has fallen from 40.2% to 34%; the Germans slashed theirs from 52% to 38.9% in 2001 and could introduce additional reductions next year. Last year, the French cut their own corporation rate from 41.7% to 34.4%; even more depressingly from Britain’s perspective, President Chirac has just pledged that France will reduce corporation tax to 20% in five years with the long-term goal of getting it down to 10%".

"....among the lowest in the west". Yeah, right.


"To quote Stefan Bach of the German Institute of Economic Development, “Even if a nexus between tax cuts and economic growth is not clear in theory and difficult to prove empirically, the international experience shows: countries that have lowered their corporate income tax had a positive economic development.”
KPMG corporate tax survey 2006

Which survey also shows an average corporate tax rate, across 88 countries, of 27.1% as of 1/1/2006.

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The greatest seer since Cassandra

Would appear to be Michel Platini:

"Look at rugby; there are always teams who will win and you can guess the last four every time. The best teams always win".

After all, everyone knew that the last four of the Rugby World Cup would include the Pumas, did they not? I expect he took the bookmakers to la teinturerie....

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Going that extra mile

The striking American screenwriters will be delighted to hear that the TUC is doing its bit in support:

"TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber and Deputy General Secretary Frances O'Grady will join members of the Writers Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) in a demonstration on the steps of Congress House at 12noon".

And the address of the TUC? Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS.

If the cameras do not turn up, I think Brendan and Frances will look very, very silly. How does one demonstrate when the object of one's demonstration is not there to be demonstrated against?

Not sure I can afford to take the time off, but if anyone else is free to record the proceedings....

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Three thousand years of biological warfare

Or more. An Italian researcher reckons that the Hittites were engaging in biological warfare as back as 1325BC:

"''The Hittites were the first people to wage bioterrorism,'' [Siro Trevisanato] claims in the Journal of Medical Hypotheses. Trevisanato spent years poring over ancient accounts of Hittite conquests in the 14th century BC. He came to the conclusion that the warrior people used Tularemia, an animal-borne infection that is fatal to humans, to aid their campaigns of expansion. In 1325 BC, for example, the Hittites sacked the Phoenician city of Symra, on the borders of modern-day Lebanon and Syria. ''It is then that we first hear of the so-called Hittite Plague. It appears in several documents. It is no accident, in my view, that it coincides with the first documented appearance of Tularemia''.

Tularemia does sound remarkably unpleasant: "The disease has a very rapid onset, with headache, fatigue, dizziness, muscle pains, loss of appetite and nausea. Face and eyes redden and become inflamed. Inflammation spreads to the lymph nodes, which enlarge and may suppurate (mimicking bubonic plague). Lymph node involvement is accompanied by a high fever. Death may result".

It has been claimed that the Russians used the same biowarfare technique to lift the siege of Stalingrad.

Meanwhile, I do pity the poor Hittite shepherd in charge of the sheep driving.



A new definition for serendipity

Monday, November 26, 2007
Serendipity:

'the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for'.

'Exchanging notes with another blogger and discovering that the Welsh for Prime Minister is 'Prif Weinidog'. Yes, really. (Please, Welsh speakers, do not spoil it by confirming that it is not pronounced Whiny Dog')

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The fine art of waterfowl alignment...

Or getting one's ducks in a row /before/ announcing that one is jumping ship.

Sajjad Karim has resigned the Lib Dem whip in Brussels and is now taking the Conservative whip over yonder, which the BBC rates as a less important story on the politics page than Branson's latest publicity stunt.

Now the details as to why he has done this are available elsewhere, and I do not really approve of jumping ship without standing for election, so instead I will focus on Karim's less than pruned website:

He's anti renewing Trident.

Thinks the Tories are homophobes: ""Their apathy in the face of rising homophobia should come as no surprise. The Conservative camp is today rife with contradiction. Cameron attempts to paint a glossy image of a gay-friendly party in the UK while desperately trying to get into bed at European level with Poland's homophobic 'Law and Justice' party."

Climate change; "Toughen up the EU emissions trading scheme by auctioning permits. The Conservatives cannot admit the EU is key to tackling climate change, while Labour is in the back pocket of the CBI".

More greenery: "The biggest threat to mankind deserves the biggest campaign that the Liberal Democrats have ever mounted, which I why I jumped at the chance to help Ming Campbell and Chris Huhne launch the "Green Tax Switch" at conference last month. The environment has long been the major area of policy where the Liberal Democrats have had a sustained lead in the polls over both Labour and the Conservatives. Despite the "greening" of David Cameron, that position has not changed. The public have seen through his stunts and the trust of the Liberal Democrats on green issues has only increased. The latest ICM issues poll in April put the Liberal Democrats higher than ever at 29%; with the Tories and Labour merely trading places in the green hierarchy".

And when you click on 'join the party', it takes you to one symbolised by a bird, not a tree...

However, hugely to his credit, he has put pressure on the commission over Gilad Shalit and others: "Over a year has passed since the abductions of three Israeli soldiers. Cpl. Gilad Shalit, now 22 years of age and Eldad Regev, 28 years of age, were allegedly captured in June 2006, and Ehud Goldwasser, 32 years of age, was captured in July 2006. Has the Commission made any attempts or assisted in any capacity in securing the release of these soldiers? How is the Commission using the European Union position as part of the Quartet to exert influence on Hamas and Hezbollah, as the groups who allegedly abducted the soldiers, to immediately and unconditionally release and ensure the safety of the Israeli soldiers above?"


Dizzy had some similar fun with Quentin Davies....

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From the wonderful people who define the carrot as a fruit...

....come the swine that are cattle.

While googling for a reference to carrots being defined as fruit for the purposes of EU jam regulations, I found that Tim Worstall had done all the leg work years ago (for which thanks).

Anyway, the first pork processing plant in Turkey - death threats notwithstanding - is set to commence operations. Not very interesting in itself, but for this:

"Pork has important potential and is unused wealth in Turkey, said [Gencay] Tunç (founder of the plant). In 2006, the government amended the regulation on foodstuffs to comply with European Union laws. Pigs are included within the category of cattle stockbreeding".

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Logic check for Señor Zapatero

From El País: "In a speech before 7,000 Socialist Party members in Madrid, Zapatero accused the opposition Popular Party of doing nothing but “obstructing” progress over the last three and a half years, during which time the Socialists have lacked an absolute majority in Congress".

Doubtless Zapatero felt that Socialist opposition to the PP when it was in power was not 'obstruction', but rather a principled stand. However, it gets sillier:

"I ask for a larger majority in order to recover social and political coexistence in Spain… because this country has great ideological pluralism and growing diversity".

Erm, run that one by me again José - it is bad for the opposition to disagree with you, and you want a larger majority so that they cannot obstruct you, but meanwhile political co-existence and ideological pluralism are just fabulous.....

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Problematic, scratchcards

Sunday, November 25, 2007
Hot on the heels of the British punters who found negative numbers a tad confusing, now trouble in Turkey:

"The Finance Ministry announced Friday that scratchies issued by the lottery agency that featured a map of Turkey, with buyers scratching off the eastern part of the map to see if they have won anything, will no longer be sold in order to put an end to the criticism. In recent days reports appeared in some newspapers that criticized the fact that buyers had to scratch off the eastern part of the map, with some claiming that the scratchies carried an implicit separatist message....It said the criticisms voiced in the media had spurred Finance Minister Kemal Unakıtan to order an inquiry and the ministry had decided to withdraw the scratchies that featured the map to end any misunderstanding".

Just say no to the National Lottery.....




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Absolutely pitiful.

Friday, November 23, 2007
How did the US of A celebrate the Bicentennial? Extensively: "The Bicentennial of the United States of America went on for months and is remembered by people of the time as a major cultural event". I remember it reasonably well, although I was all of nine at the time.

How did the French celebrate the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille? Extensively: "1989 :France celebrates 200th anniversary of French Revolution, notably with a monumental show on the Champs-Elysées in Paris, directed by French designer Jean-Paul Goude. President François Mitterrand hosts world leaders".

And how has the 300th anniversary of the foundation of the United Kingdom been marked? (With thanks to Tony Sharp for pointing out it is the 300th, not the 200th anniversary as I had originally written. Memo to self - festina lente)

Tony Baldry: To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans the Government have for celebrating the Act of Union of 1707.

David Cairns: The Government have supported a number of commemorative events to celebrate the Act of Union of 1707, including:

  • a commemorative two-pound coin;
  • an historical exhibition, “Making the Act of Union 1707”, in the Royal Gallery, House of Lords, which then transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
  • a treaty of union debating competition organised by the English-Speaking Union;
  • an arts outreach project on the theme “Tales of the United Kingdom” organised by The Prince of Wales's Arts & Kids Foundation;
  • a plaque commemorating the Act of Union 1707 in St. Stephen's Hall in the Palace of Westminster; and
  • the naming of a mainline train, “Treaty of Union”.




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Looks like the EU doesn't believe in 'trickle down'

Or, indeed, getting basic facts straight. The 'borough of Bethnal Green?'



And while bashing the 'anglo-saxon' model - which does not 'redistribute wealth' the way euro commissars would like, it prays in aid Richard Layard, a Labour Lord, and one David Vardy, a Canadian academic.

And ends "GDP is a good way of measuring production but there's an increasing consensus that new tools are needed for calculating progress, well being and our ecological footprint on the planet...take into account social, environmental and economic progress...more and more people are coming to the conclusion that it's not just the quantity of growth that's important, but also its quality".

Not exactly a bloodless piece of civil servant-ese, is it? What is social progress? Who defines it? As I was suggesting the other day, I think whatever the new formula cooked up is called, it is really about finding a way that will make the EU look better than other OECD economies.

And I'll leave the last word to Hume: "If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion".

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A level of sleaze to which even our own dear Labour party would not descend?

From the (South African) Mail & Guardian:

"One of South Africa’s largest state contracts yet has been awarded to a consortium that includes the African National Congress’s (ANC) own funding company. One of South Africa’s largest state contracts yet has been awarded to a consortium that includes the African National Congress’s (ANC) own funding company...About 60% of the contract will be performed by the local subsidiary, Hitachi Power Africa, which is 25% owned by the ANC company, Chancellor House Holdings...ANC secretary general Kgalema Motlanthe confirmed in a later interview with the Financial Mail’s Carol Paton that the company was an “ANC vehicle” whose sole purpose was to fund the ruling party".

Friends in high places?

Thursday, November 22, 2007
"Commissioner Sir Ian Blair has won a vote of confidence by members of the Metropolitan Police Authority...Fifteen members of the MPA supported Sir Ian, seven voted against him and there was one abstention". Source

There are 23 members of the MPA, broken down to Chairman, deputy chairmen/women, Assembly members, 'independent' members and magistrate members. Alas there is no information as to who voted which way, but given that both Livingstone and the government support Blair, it seems a tad unlikely that Labour members would vote for his head.

So:

The Chairman - Len Duvall - Chair of the Greater London Labour Party

The Deputies

Reshard Auladin (magistrate)
Cindy Butts - 'Independent'. But she has applied for at least one Labour party candidacy.

Assembly members -

Tony Arbour (C)
Jennette Arnold (L)
Richard Barnes (C)
Dee Doocey (LD)
Nicky Gavron (L)
Damian Hockney (One London)
Elizabeth Howlett (C)
Jenny Jones (Green...)
Bob Neill (C)
Joanne McCartney (L)
Graham Tope (LD)

The 'Independent' members

Faith Boardman - Long-time taker of the State's shilling.

Toby Harris - "Toby Harris was appointed by the Home Secretary as his nominee on the Metropolitan Police Authority in July 2004. He was an elected member of the London Assembly, representing Brent and Harrow, and the Leader of the Labour Group on the GLA from 2000 to 2004". (And, incidentally, nearly decapitated by my good friend David in council elections some years back).

Kirsten Hearn - google away. I'm not saying a mumbling word.

Peter Herbert - I am pretty sure he has applied for Labour seats too, but the law of defamation being what is, I will caveat that I cannot find the evidence. Further digging came up with this: "Candidates [for the Labour party in Brent South] are believed to include Society of Black Lawyers chairman Peter Herbert"

Karim Murji - Not a lot that can be discovered about him beyond his MPA biography

John Roberts - Ditto


At the risk of being naive, I will give the magistrates the benefit of the doubt and assume that they are all political eunuchs.

So, all in all, is anyone surprised by the way the vote turned out?

As a footnote, having got part way through this I turned up links to Yorkshire Ranter, who has been investigating this issue too.



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"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

Livingstone today:

"Let me make myself absolutely clear - I am firmly opposed to this expansion of Heathrow Airport as it runs contrary to all the growing evidence we now have on the impact of aviation on climate change"

And yesterday, on his Indian junket:

"The Mayor opened the new office as part of his official week-long visit to India entitled “London-India: Partners in Globalisation”, to promote London as a destination for business, tourism, studying and creative industries and to strengthen relationships between London and India".

Perhaps the Indian business people, tourists, students etc will arrive by mule train.

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So /that's/ why the Croats won yesterday

"MOSCOW, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - A LUKoil vice-president announced on Thursday that he would keep his promise to give Mercedes cars to Croatian players after the Balkan side beat England 3-2 at Wembley". Source

Or possibly not:

"However, Ivica Olic, formerly of CSKA, and the scorer of Croatia's second goal, rejected suggestions that this or any other undisclosed financial incentives offered by Russian businessmen contributed to the team's performance".

Good job he specified 'car' as otherwise the Croats might be in line for a van. It remains to be seen whether they will be getting keys to A-Class Mercs, or something further up the automotive food chain.

(Jeremy - consider this my response to being tagged....).

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'Tessa Jowell says something interesting' shocker

And its right there in Hansard:

Mr. Stewart Jackson: To ask the Minister for the Olympics what support is available for (a) Peterborough City Council and (b) other local authorities in Cambridgeshire to develop their strategies and policies in relation to the hosting of the London 2012 Olympics.

Tessa Jowell: The Local Government Association is supporting local authorities across the UK in the lead up to the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games. In addition the Nations and Regions Group, chaired by Charles Alien, coordinates legacy benefits planning across the UK, including in the East of England.

Explains a lot, does it not?

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Have I missed something?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007
From The Standard:

"Speaker Michael Martin is battling the Prime Minister over plans to scrap the post's £1.25million pension package. Currently, the Speaker is automatically entitled to a gold-plated pension of half their £137,579 salary - about £69,000 a year. The pension, which is paid regardless of how long the Speaker has served, is on top of the retirement pot they have accumulated as an MP".

Nice work if you can get it....

"Friends of Mr Martin point out that former Speakers are unable to sell their memoirs after they leave office - unlike outgoing prime ministers".

Soo, here is what previous speakers have done:

Betty Boothroyd: The Autobiography. Publisher: Century (4 Oct 2001). ISBN-10: 0712679480

Bernard Wetherill: "Lord Weatherill...decided not to write his memoirs, but his papers lodged at the University of Kent in Canterbury reveal the behind-the-scenes rows as he tried to defend MP's rights in the Commons". Source

George Thomas: Lord Tonypandy (1985). George Thomas, Mr.Speaker: The Memoirs of Viscount Tonypandy Century. ISBN 0-71260-706-4.

Selwyn Lloyd: Mr. Speaker, Sir (1976) Cape ISBN 0224013181

Horace Maybray King: An unpublished biography/autobiography of Maybray-King ("A Boy Called Horace") is in the Parliamentary Archives.

And that takes us back to 1965 and I lack the energy to dig further.

Challenge to the readership

That ministers, let alone Prime Ministers, do not resign these days, but rather hang on for grim death, no matter how hot the smoking gun, is a rather dispiriting fact of life. So, I was mulling on quite what it would make to shame a minister into falling on his or her sword, and then realised that there was probably nothing, and found I could concoct an excuse / 'reason' etc for whatever they had done.

Some opening suggestions:

Minister is caught confounding himself with an under-age and syphilitic llama, and appears on the front page of the News of the World

"My government has long believed that ministers are entitled to a private life, and it behoves us to celebrate alternative lifestyles"

Minister flogs full red dispatch box on ebay.

"My administration is committed to open government".

Minister lies to Parliament

"By attacking the Minister, the opposition are playing into the hands of the terrorists, and [insert D Notice] National Security issues....".

Over to you.

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Great lawsuits of our time

In which the head of the House of Savoy, and pretender to the throne of Italy, AKA Vittorio Emanuele Alberto Carlo Teodoro Umberto Bonifacio Amedeo Damiano Bernardino Gennaro Maria di Savoia (try fitting that in the average name box on a government form) and his son (who, rather feebly only has four middle names) are taking on the Repubblica Italiana, because, yes, you guessed it - they think their human rights have been violated.

As background, he lost his crown and was exiled after the war, following a referendum, and "They argue that by banning male members of the Savoy family from entering Italian territory, the constitution ran counter to the European Convention on human rights". They were allowed back in 2002, and it what might be seen as pushing their luck just a tad, they want €260 million in compensation, although they say any win would go to charity. The Venice in Peril Fund, maybe? Note that the Convention was only signed into law in 1950, so they have also taken a while to come up with this wheeze.

Should they win, the scope for litigation by others is quite substantial. Perhaps the heirs of Cromwell would like to try it on too.

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Shameless lawyer of the, erm, day

Meet Thorkild Høyer, defence lawyer for seven Danish T-shirt sellers. The waggish t-shirt sellers thought it would be a really good idea to print up t-shirts with FARC and PFLP (of which more later) logos and so on, and then to send some of the profits on to said terrorist groups. More here. The article does not describe how the Danes got funds to FARC & the PFLP - I do not suppose they have websites with PayPal donation links, although stranger things have been known.

Anyway, onward: "The defendants have argued that the groups are resistance movements comparable with Denmark's own Nazi resistance groups during the Second World War". And Høyer: "'The PFLP and FARC are neither angels nor demons, but they need to be understood in context. Civilians, women and children all died during allied bombings during the Second World War. But does that mean the Allies' fight against Nazism was terrorism?".

Do you suppose he tells his mother he plays a piano in a whorehouse rather than admit to his day job?

First, the PFLP, which does have a website - the name and the suffix .ps - but it has exceeded its bandwidth: historically it favoured hijacking of aeroplanes, but nowadays prefers to employ homicide bombers. The organisation is Marxist Leninist, and on US and EU terrorist lists. It does make rather better use of graphic arts and iconography than most terrorist groups, not that aesthetic refinement makes them any less vicious.

And FARC: "FARC has financed itself through kidnapping ransoms, extortion, drug trafficking which includes but it is not limited to coca plant harvesting, protection of their crops, processing of coca leaves to manufacture cocaine, and drug trade protection. Businesses operating in rural areas, including agricultural, oil, and mining interests, were required to pay "vaccines" (monthly payments) which "protected" them from subsequent attacks and kidnappings"....The FARC-EP has employed vehicle bombings, gas cylinder bombs, killings, landmines, kidnapping, extortion, hijacking, as well as guerrilla and conventional military action against Colombian political, military, and economic targets, to attack those it considers a threat to its movement....A February 2005 report from the United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights mentioned that, during 2004, "FARC-EP continued to commit grave breaches [of human rights] such as murders of protected persons, torture and hostage-taking, which affected many civilians, including women, returnees, boys and girls, and ethnic groups".

So, *nice* people, and furthermore not exactly in need of the money: "Over time, fewer recruits joined the organization for ideological reasons, but rather as a means to escape poverty and unemployment. "FARC's narcotics-related income for 1995 reportedly totaled $647 million."[cite this quote] Although the FARC rarely provides a regular cash pay to the majority of its members, per capita income for Colombian guerrilla fighters has at times been calculated to reach at least 40 times the national average". (Wiki notes lack of citation here)


And the Danish Resistance, what did it get up to? Mainly spying and sabotage, from what I can discover, with the odd killing of an informant. More on Holger Dansk and the Bourgeois Partisans (yes, really) here.


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Great Parliamentary exchanges of our time....

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Departmental Mobile Phone Bills

Mr. Hoban (our man in Fareham): To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the cost to the public purse was of the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration's mobile telephone bill for the last month for which figures are available. [164776]

Mr. Byrne: The cost to the public purse of the Minister of State for Borders and Immigration's mobile telephone bill for the last month for which figures are available was £4.


One does have to wonder if that was the whole story, so perhaps further probing will disclose whether Byrne has been acquiring novelty ring tones.

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Oh for God's sake.....

Doubtless readers are aware of the Spanish government's decision to rip open the old wounds of the Franco era, but now a further front is being opened up:

"The Association for the Recovery of Historical Memory (ARMH) has launched a campaign calling on the top language authority in Spain to change its definition of Francoism. The rights group said the description in the dictionary published by the Real Academia Española is weak and does not convey the full nature of the regime. The ARMH said that the current definition of Francoism as a movement “with a totalitarian tendency” is to say that power was concentrated in a few hands while ignoring the 40-year violation of human rights, including the killing of 60.000 people, the exile of 500,000 and the imprisonment of another 400,000".

I am not interested in defending Franco or going over the rights and wrongs of the period of the civil war and his rule, but what manner of idiotic world are the ARMH living in that they want to politicise dictionary entries?

Those with more than bar Spanish can play around with the Real Academia Española's online dictionary here. Andthe ARMH's site here, but note that the translation facility it offers does not work...

Doubtless I could add much to my OED definition of Stalinism, "The policies followed by Stalin in the government of the USSR, esp. centralization, totalitarianism and the pursuit of socialism". However, that is factual and does not get into value judgements.

Or indeed, the Real Academia Española definition of Comunismo:

"Doctrina formulada por Karl Marx y Friedrich Engels, teóricos socialistas alemanes del siglo XIX, y desarrollada y realizada por Lenin, revolucionario ruso de principio del siglo XX, y sus continuadores, que interpreta la historia como lucha de clases regida por el materialismo histórico o dialéctico, que conducirá, tras la dictadura del proletariado, a una sociedad sin clases ni propiedad privada de los medios de producción, de la que haya desaparecido el Estado".

Or Leninismo: "Doctrina de Lenin, quien, basándose en el marxismo, promovió y condujo la Revolución soviética".

My Spanish is not exactly extensive, but without resorting to babelfish I can tell that the first is referring to dialectical materialism, class struggle and the withering away of the state. Not much about the gulag, is there? As for Nazi, it gives this: "Perteneciente o relativo al nacionalsocialismo"




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Goalposts on wheels....

I like to think I am only county, rather than national or international standard when it comes to cynicism, but I think I may be about to graduate. Alternatively, I spend far more time than is healthy scanning the headlines at the EU press room.

Anyway, faced with this, Questions and Answers on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) , I suspected that foul play was afoot, and indeed it is.

So, "What is GDP? GDP is the gross domestic product of a country. It measures the total final market value of all goods and services produced within a country during a given period. GDP is the most frequently used indicator of market activity and is most often measured on an annual or quarterly basis to gauge the growth of a country's economic activity between one period and another. GDP is also a measure of total consumer, investment and government spending plus the value of exports minus imports".

Reasonable enough, yes?

But here come (some of) the caveats, the weasellings, the evasions, the non-sequiturs (typos are in the original):

"But the way GDP takes into account social and environmental issues in measuring economic growth is questionable. GDP does not factor in a number of elements important in determining the well-being of people. For example, it overlooks the value of certain non-market goods and services such as natural resources and unpaid activities and leisure... Average income provides no indication about the distribution of income between citizen. And it focuses on short-term economic activities rather than longer-term sustainable development aspects such as the growth of natural, economic and human capital".

Note how the essentially clear-cut and measurable is at risk of being muddied with the intangible or abstract. Let us say I was a Frenchman living alone and barred from working overtime, and found it hard to make ends meet. How 'wonderful' would all that leisure time be to me then?

'Distribution between citizen (sic)' - Now what could this possibly imply? Could it possibly be that a more even distribution would be more in keeping with 'social justice', and therefore a good thing? I think that is exactly what the writer of this Q&A thinks.

"Citizens are as a general rule better off if they are richer. However, the quality of life or well-being also depends on the type of goods consumed, the amount of leisure time available, the relationship with families and friends, and the health of the surrounding environment. Today a greater number of people feel their well-being is undermined by too much pressure of work, unemployment, family break-ups, pollution and climate change."

Me, I'd accept a 500% pay increase in return for a bit more acid rain.


And what is the EU going to do?

"The European Union is committed in taking leadership in the move to integrate non-economic factors into policy-making beyond those currently used by mainstream economic indicators. A preliminary version of an integrated environmental economic accounting system is due to be operational by 2010. The special importance of this system is that it would include stock taking of natural resources and human and social capital rather than just the use of these resources. The system would also focus on the role of eco-systems in providing welfare."

And for why?: "GDP does not measure wealth. It measures consumption and investments in a given year, not how rich people are, or how much wealth society has through the accumulation of buildings, machinery, consumer goods, schools, universities, road and rail networks, and art. There are very few statistics on material wealth and even fewer on natural, environmental, social and cultural wealth. Material wealth too often overshadows the pursuit of non-material wealth. Access to improved data on non-material and non-economic wealth would help citizens and policy-makers better balance the various aspects of well-being. This is what sustainable development is all about".

That is my favourite bit I think. A value is going to be placed on the Haywain, the Fighting Temeraire, the Cairngorms and for all I know the view from my office window (I'd rate that as worth maybe 10 pence a day), the graveyard of old PC bits lurking in the cupboard and my pile of yellowing copies of Private Eye.

And why are they going to all this effort? Because fiddling around with figures allows various countries in the EU to outdo the OECD average for things as nebulous as 'Ecological footprint /person (hectares)', 'Healthy life indicator' and 'Happy life'. Just an oh so minor point to note, the OECD includes the US, Canada, Japan, Korea and our Antipodean kin, not that the EU data tsars think that there in any way comparing themselves to them....

As to 'happy life', Denmark is the place to be at 62.7 years. The UK is 'rated' 55.2, and given some fairly grim years in the past, I must be entitled to a good few decades yet.

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Light Relief

Monday, November 19, 2007


Or the Muppet Show version:


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Are they by any chance related?

Lib Dems call for nationalisation of Northern Rock.

Newcastle City Council - Lib Dem controlled.

Alistair Darling thinks "
The Government has a clear duty to protect the public interest and we will do that".

Newcastle upon Tyne - 4 seats, all Labour.

Tyne and Wear - a further 9 Labour MPs.

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"I'm glad you asked me that Patrick"

"[Patrick] Mercer says that there are two approaches to take on Gordon Brown. “You can either say he is the biggest shyster in modern political history and will do anything for self and political party advantage, or you can say he is the prime minister of this country who is trying to do the best possible job he can do." Source

Not really worth setting up a poll, is it?

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Hain: Work is good for you. TUC: Work is a killer

Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain said:

"We know that many people want to work - work is good for you and your long-term well-being".

Meanwhile, Brendan Barber of the TUC reckons: "Nobody knows exactly how many people die prematurely every year as a result of work, but is certainly well over 20,000 a year - and every single one of these deaths was avoidable".

Barber quotes the HSE's figure of 241 deaths at work last year, and one has to marvel at his act of prestidigitation that boosts it to at least 80 times that....

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And how long did it take them to work that out?

MI5 and Special Branch might learn something from how the Danish spooks go about things:

"The latest update from [Politiets Efterretningstjeneste], the domestic intelligence agency, about the risk of terrorism in Denmark finds that an attack could take place on Danish soil 'without warning'".

Well knock me down with the proverbial.

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One up from the 'General Noriega' approach

When the US captured Manuel Noriega during the invasion of Panama in 1989, they famously employed psy ops by playing music at him until he could take it no longer.

The authorities in Georgia (Caucasus, not the Deep South) have been employing a related tactic, apparently, playing "special panic-inducing acoustic systems to disperse an opposition rally in central Tbilisi on November 7...the system is produced by a U.S. company. The operation principle is based on a strong acoustic impulse exceeding by almost a thousand times the acoustic threshold for humans. "When it is used, the system causes a severe ear ache, and a feeling of unexplainable and uncontrolled fear and panic. The sound is so strong that people cannot physically get away or hide from it. In the estimate of some experts, the use of such systems can cause psychic disorders"...."the system does not fall under any international conventions as it was developed after their adoption".

Sounds remarkably unpleasant, and insert bad joke about 'Georgia on my Mind' here.

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What our people at the UN are up to.

Voting with Saudi Arabia, Iran and Sudan and against the US, Canada, Australia and Israel on the question of use natural resources in Judea Samaria.

Can't say that came as a huge surprise, but guess which was the only country that voted against this: "The Committee also had before it a draft on unilateral measures as a means of political and economic coercion against developing countries (document A/C.2/62/L.8), by which the Assembly would urge the international community to adopt urgent and effective measures to eliminate unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries that were not authorized by relevant United Nations organs or were inconsistent with the principles of international law set forth in the United Nations Charter". Or unilateral sanctions. The US voted against, whereas the UK abstained.


It would appear that we do not engage in independent foreign policy at the UN, but rather go along with whatever the EU's line is:

"The representative of Portugal, speaking on behalf of the European Union, said she had abstained because unilateral economic measures should respect the principles of international law, including the international contractual obligations of the State applying them and the rules of the World Trade Organization, where applicable. Such measures were admissible in certain circumstances in order to fight terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or to uphold respect for human rights, democracy, the rule of law and good governance. The European Union was committed to the use of sanctions as part of an integrated, comprehensive policy approach that should include political dialogue, incentives, conditionality and, as a last resort, coercive measures in line with the United Nations Charter".

Or in other words, sanctions are useful and we will use them when we feel like it but we will not vote on the measure. Pitiful.

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Keep ALL of your receipts, FOREVER

Friday, November 16, 2007
And keep photocopies in a bank deposit box and e-mail scans to a webmail account too.

Otherwise, the State might decide it is going to take away your property.

And why this alarmist approach? Because of this:

"ARA secures order to recover assets of acquitted Essex (1) drug dealer".

And further, "The Assets Recovery Agency has secured a civil recovery order in the High Court in London against Fabian Jackson of Moray Road, Hackney ((1)which as an E8 postcode has not been part of God's Own County since 1899, but never let the facts stand in the way of the Government defaming Essex, eh?) , to recover in the region of £628,000 worth of assets. In its case against Mr Jackson, aged 31, the Agency alleged that his assets were obtained through unlawful conduct, namely drug dealing, money laundering and mortgage fraud that had resulted in a significant portfolio of assets. Mr Jackson has previous convictions for possessing Class A and B drugs with intent to supply and has not been in receipt of any apparent legitimate income from any employment since leaving school at 16".

.....

"
Mr Jackson was acquitted following a criminal trial. The Met police referred the case to the Agency which obtained an Interim Receiver's Order in October 2003. The Agency then launched its claim for civil recovery in December 2004. However, Mr Jackson refuted (given what follows, not exactly the mot juste. C) the Agency's claims, asserting that his assets were gained through legitimate business ranging from trading on Internet auction site, EBay, to clothing and shoe sales and property letting. Following a lengthy hearing in the High Court, Mr Justice King rejected Mr Jackson's claims, concluding that Mr Jackson's legitimate business trading was "wholly lacking in credibility."

Presumably Mr Justice King was correct in finding Jackson's claims "wholly lacking in credibility", but the raw fact is that Jackson having been acquitted in a criminal court has then had the full panoply of the law pursue him on a second basis. The principle of double jeopardy exists as a defence in many jurisdiction and is a constitutional right in some, and while that is in connection with repeated criminal trials, the effect of the Met having two bites of the cherry amounts to the man being punished through forfeiture of goods having been acquitted in a criminal trial. It is a long time since I studied law, but certain principle of legal philosophy and the like have stuck with me, and to my mind the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 - under which Jackson was pursued - is a jurisprudential abomination.

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The 'People's Republic' about to scrap May Day

Is the 'People's Republic' of China. I have simplified a little, as May Day appears to remain a public holiday, but it is set to lose its status as part of a Golden Week, these being periods where "Three days paid holiday are given, and the surrounding weekends are re-arranged so that workers in Chinese companies always have seven continuous days of holiday".

Following a less than full poll of the Chinese populace - 1.3 million out of 1,321,851,888, or 0.1% of them, "88 percent supported increasing the number of official holidays from 10 to 11; and 62 percent agreed to including the three traditional holidays - Tomb-Sweeping Day (1), Dragon-Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival - in public holidays" and doing away with the May Day week.


Anyway, a fine example, so perhaps we can scrap May Day and let the Chicago 'Haymarket Martyrs' of 1866 rest in peace. Trafalgar Day works for me.



(1) - Also known as the rather more appealing '
Clear Brightness Festival'.

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Clash of the Titans

Israel vs Croatia at cricket. Yes, really. My money's on Israel, as it "is currently ranked as the 12th-best non-Test team in Europe by the ICC. Croatia is ranked 17th".

The winner will join France, Germany, Jersey, Guernsey and Gibraltar as qualifiers from European Division Two. Note that there are two further European divisions.

However, the Israeli government has not been treating the game with the respect it deserves:

"
The Croatian ambassador will attend the game, but there will be no official Israeli representation.

"The [Israeli] sports authorities have shown such disdain to cricket in the past two years that we didn't even invite them," [Israel Cricket Association president Stanley] Perlman said. "They don't understand the first thing about cricket, they have no respect for the game, and we don't need them for anything." Nevertheless, he added, flags will be flown and anthems sung".

Anyway, time for a quote (no, not that one from Mugabe): "Say that cricket has nothing to do with politics and you say that cricket has nothing to do with life". John Arlott.

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They do things differently in....Thailand

Thursday, November 15, 2007
Faced with the issue of electoral fraud, the leaders of some six Thai political parties - including what look to be the two main ones - "in the presence of Election Commission officials, took an oath at Bangkok's Temple of the Emerald Buddha not to commit electoral fraud...."EC officials also vowed before the Emerald Buddha that they would organise the election in a fair manner".

It looks as though virtue for its own sake is not enough, as "They read the vow that if they conformed to their oath, they would live a peaceful life, otherwise they would meet with downfall".

Perhaps our process would benefit from something similar, given that in March it was reported "Britain could be the first western democracy to face monitoring over vote-rigging and electoral fraud, Guardian Unlimited has learned.A European human rights watchdog is considering plans to scrutinise the UK's council and regional government elections this May following concerns over vote tampering and postal ballots". Source


Further digging makes it appear that Thailand has the world's dullest name for a political party - the Neutral Democratic Party. The Thai - 'Matchima' - sounds rather better.

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Memo to Kevin Rudd of the ALP

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

"There are some policy places even Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd won't go. One is whether his deputy owns a skirt. This "vital" election issue was raised by Bob, a farmer and talkback caller who preceded Mr Rudd in a long interview on the John Laws program on Southern Cross radio today. Bob, a professed Liberal voter, said Julia Gillard was a communist, claiming he read that in the rural newspaper The Land, and queried whether she actually owned a skirt".

....

But Mr Rudd politely declined when it was suggested he would ask Ms Gillard whether she did in fact own a skirt.

"There are certain questions which blokes don't sort of ask. I kind of draw the line at those sort of things," he said. "What I have learned from my own wife and my own daughter, there are certain things you just don't get into and ladies' fashion is one of them." "I think it is called the better part of courage".

Sensible chap. However, here is the evidence that Gillard has owned, or perhaps borrowed, at least one skirt:




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A long way to go for politicking

Pity Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian PM, who is off to Antarctica in January. Aftenpost reckons he "will become the first Norwegian Prime Minister to visit Antarctica".

I would be fairly surprised if many other pols have made the trip, although it would appear that New Zealand's leaders take jollies to the Antarctic from time to time. In line with usual practice, I am prepared to stump up a large contribution to buying a one way ticket for 'our' Prime Minister.

Stoltenberg is off to the amusingly named Troll research station, which is well within the Circle, unlike King George Island on the Antarctic Peninsula which Ban Ki Moon went to at the weekend. That is at 62 S, and while remarkably cold, is about as far away from the Pole as the Faeroe Islands from the North Pole. So Stoltenberg is clearly quite hardcore, although I think it rather poor that he is not visiting Bouvet Island, a small part of the South Atlantic that is forever Norway, or would be but for being uninhabited. In a somewhat rare occurrence, we claimed the Island for over 100 years, at one point under the name Liverpool Island, but waived our claims in 1929 and let our Norwegian friends have it, which is nice. Having consulted a slew of 19th and early 20th century maps, it appears never to have rated being coloured pink as part of the Empire.

As I noted a while back, the claim that Hitler holed up in Antarctica after the war appears to have been debunked, so I imagine that Stoltenberg can claim to be the first Northern Hemisphere head of government to go to the Antarctic.

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A thousand years ago....

Well, actually eleven months back I considered the proposals for airport-style security checks at rail stations.

Here are some highlights:

"Quite apart from the civil liberties issue, there are immense practical problems in terms of making this an operational reality. If there are security checks at the main stations, the self-detonating community will take it upon themselves to use other stations. If every station in the country is to have scanners, that will mean expenditure running into astronomical figures, plus a minimum of two goons manning each booth. Probably more."

....

"Back to our self-detonaters etc, will they be screened at the entrance, or at the ticket barriers? If the former, there will need to be an awful lot of pavement freed up, and if the latter, why bother boarding a train to cause carnage if you can set off your bomb in a station concourse jammed with irritated travellers. As it stands, I hate to think what a well placed nail bomb could achieve on the concourse of any main railway station at rush hour before this proposal actually goes anywhere".

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Site maintenance announcement of the year

Wednesday, November 14, 2007
To be found, for the time being, at the Adam Smith Institute:

"An invisible hand is currently updating the site".

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A nation of shoplifters

Highlights of the Global Retail Theft Barometer have been put online, and surprise, surprise the UK has the highest level of 'retail shrinkage' in Europe, at an estimated $7.6 billion. This equates to 1.34% of total retail sales, and the figures are up, admittedly marginally, from last year. So much for falling crime.

In more general terms, "The most-stolen items of retail merchandise within the 32 countries included branded and expensive products: cosmetics and skincare, alcohol, womenswear/ladies' apparel, perfume and fine fragrances, and designerwear. Other highly stolen lines included razor blades, DVDs/CDs, video games and video consoles, small electric items, and fashion accessories".

I can remember when you could still pick up packs of razor blades, rather than pieces of card, and take them to the till....


Globally, being a shopkeeper in India cannot be much fun, with 'leakage' - includes staff theft, vendor theft etc - at 2.9% of sales, although this is down from last year. As one would hope, the Swiss are among the least bad at 0.96%, although that is up 4.3% on the year. Iceland's figures dropped 6.4%, so maybe Reykjavik's Finest collared a few of the worst offenders.

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What are they so worried about?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007
The thugs in Peking have got a little tetchy about arms sales by the US to Taiwan:

"China on Tuesday urged the United States to immediately cancel arms sale programs, stop arms sales and military links with Taiwan....China firmly opposes to arms sales by the US government to Taiwan, and had already raised strong objection and solemn representations to the United States, said Liu, noting that this has been a consistent and clear stance of China....Regardless of China's solemn stance and firm opposition, the United States took wrong actions in a row to sell the the P-3C anti submarine warfare aircraft, the Patriot II antimissile equipment upgrade systems and other advanced weapons, Liu said.Such wrongdoing severely violated the US government's commitments made to China in the joint communique signed between the two countries on August 17, 1982, rudely interfered in China's internal affairs, endangered Chinese national security and peaceful unification, also disturbed the improvement and development of China-US relations, Liu stressed".

So, in other words they are not best pleased. I would have thought that the 'People's Republic' would be all in favour of the Taiwanese 'wasting' their money, as I do not think that they are going to be storming the beaches of the mainland any time soon.

Here are some comparisons of military strength:

Standing army manpower

Taiwan - 300, 000
'PR'C - 2,250,000

Fit for military service

Taiwan - 3,870,000
'PR'C - 281,240,272 men (word used advisedly)

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