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Theft for art's sake.

Monday, December 31, 2007
In a thoroughly shameful development, the government has decided to legalise theft. It has decided to overthrow the basic foundation of the law on property, that being that title passes by consent. And for why? That an exhibition of art from the Russian Federation might be exhibited at the Royal Academy (links to be included when back at a PC). Title to some of the works is disputed, given that they were looted / expropriated / stolen by the RF's predecessor, the late and unlamented USSR. Without this upending of basic property rights, lawsuits by the legal title holders were likely to ensue. Doubtless many of the canvasses are of great merit, but that is nowhere near a good enough reason. The government, the Academy and all others involved in this despicable assault on property rights should be utterly ashamed of themselves.

Prime Minister Thatcher. Mark Thatcher

The rather curious elevation of a callow youth the lead the Pakistan People's Party has led me to ruminate on a few what might have beens:

Mark Thatcher, PM. Euan 'drunk in Leicester Square' Blair, PM, James 'married to a micro celeb none too fussy about keeping her clothes on' Major PM. Randolph 'professional drinker' Churchill, PM.

Further thoughts when they occur to me, with reader submissions most welcome.

Eight for 2008 continued

Sunday, December 30, 2007
(Mobile blogged, hence new post)
4 - Turkey to admit the Armenian genocides, and Armenia with Artsakh incorporated recognised by its neighbours and others. In the same spirit of reconciliation, Yerevan does not seek reparations.
5 - The Arabs finally pay heed to Golda Meir and start loving their children more than they hate Jewish ones, cease kassam and other attacks and get down to serious attempts to making peace.
6 - Independence for Tibet.
7 - UK, Australia and NZ join NAFTA.
8 - Restoration of the historic counties of the United Kingdom.

Eight for 2008

Saturday, December 29, 2007
It is meme time again, and His Grace the Archbishop Cranmer has invited me to have a crack at an eight part wish list. This will call for further mulling, but I will start with the big one:

1 - Gordon Brown to resign the prime ministership, and to apply to be the Steward and Bailiff of Her Majesty's Three Chiltern Hundreds of Stoke, Desborough and Burnham in the county of Buckingham (The Chiltern Hundreds). Further he will offer a lengthy apology to the nation and to the better man (yes, I did just write that) he plotted and connived against for years, refuse a pension, any offers for his memoirs and then disappear from public life. By way of making amends, he will then do something at least harmless and possibly useful, perhaps along the lines of starting a sheep farm on an uninhabited island somewhere in the Outer Hebrides, while - naturally - forswearing any agricultural subsidies.

2 - The cancellation of the 2012 Olympics

3 - The End of History, pt II, this time featuring the final triumph of liberal democracy, free markets and the rule of law in China, the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.

To be continued.

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Plausible deniability

Friday, December 28, 2007
This is a late contender for denial of the year:

"Pope Benedict XVI has no intention of ordering local bishops to bring in garrisons of exorcists to fight demonic possession,'' Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told reporters". I am NOT making this up.

And there's more - the statistic of the year: " Father Scarafoni warned that very few - perhaps one in ten - of the people said to be possessed by Satan actually were".

My name is contubernium for we are few, perhaps?

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"it's time to celebrate the role that appropriate regulation plays every day".

Apparently. Not my sentiment, but that of Brendan Barber of the TUC, in a New Year's message destined to set pulses racing, hearts pounding etc etc.

Perhaps I should race down to the town hall with a few confederates, and arrange for a couple of bureaucrats to be lifted up in their chairs and whirled around Croydon as if they were a newly wed Jewish couple (Think 'Fiddler on the Roof'). Or perhaps I could add the council, government etc etc to my rather short list of thank you letter recipients. I have spent a few seconds trying to re-work the lyrics to Kool & the Gang's 'Celebration', and judge that 'Ce-le-brate red tape, come on' works.

Other suggestions welcome.

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Making your words count, or petition o' the day

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Influence the Commonwealth Countries,EU and USA & the rest of the world". Source

Erm, yes....

The petitioner goes on to make a serious point about Uganda in the gloss to his petition, but he could have worded it better, I think.

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MP sticks finger in the air in 'Thatcher's Beirut' and declares government is on course

Thursday, December 27, 2007
Maria Eagle, Labour MP for Liverpool Garston, and all to likely the successor seat of Garston & Halewood has been doing some statistically valid polling in her highly representative seat:

"A lot of the travails that are supposedly besetting the Labour government are certainly not the things people raise with me when I am out and about in Liverpool. I haven't had a stream of angry people raising the sort of things you read in the papers". Source

I suspected that her constituency is not exactly middle England, and a bit of snooping around at the ever helpful UK Polling Report site, especially the comment thread, turned up the goods. Facts to note include the percentage of 16-74 year olds with no qualifications - 38%, graduates - 15.4%, no central heating and / or shared bathroom - 24.5%. Equivalent figures in my constituency, which is a marginal, are 25.3%, 21.9% and 8.4%. So, G&H is not exactly the garden of earthly delights, but it is the anecdotal evidence in reference to a particular estate that is more diverting:

"It was about 20 years ago but...Some of the blocks were completely abandoned, graffiti ridden with many flats boarded up and/or burnt out. Other flats were still occupied, with the obligatory washing lines on balconies. Stray dogs and feral children populated the streets. ...the North West region seems to provide the best material in England for those who enjoy the ‘pornography of poverty".

"Must have been a pretty frightening place for anyone to live, knowing that other flats around you were being gutted and vandalised".

"...at the end it earned the nickname “Thatcher's Beirut”.

So yes, Maria, assuming that Vox Liverpudlii, vox Dei will ensure you are swept to victory in 2010, but you might be a bit lonely on the opposition benches.

Say what you like about the Belgians - they can't make their trains run on time

Wednesday, December 26, 2007
No they cannot, it is getting worse, and Le Soir has the details:

"In November....86.3% of trains were on time or were less than 5 minutes late. And only 43% were on time". 2007's figures were the worst since 1998.


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What not to wear - Istanbul edition

A t-shirt with this on it:

The Turkish Daily News reports on the crackdown in those parts on drug-related t-shirts: "Several stores in the Beyoğlu and Kadıköy districts of Istanbul were raided, with police questioning storeowners whether they kept T-shirts that promoted drugs". Whether this is a law, or police discretion in operation is not entirely clear, nor yet whether sporting a shirt like so will give visiting tourists a chance to have the full Midnight Express experience.

I imagine that most folk wearing t-shirts like so do it mainly to annoy their parents etc, as a sage shopkeeper interviewed notes, "The ban is meaningless since people using or selling drugs never wear any kind of drug symbols in order to remain inconspicuous". Well, exactly.

Sartorial questions to one side, there is a very serious issue here as to the right or otherwise to campaign, one way or another for a change in the law. Would a plain t-shirt with the slogan 'Repeal [insert penal code reference] now', without a cannabis leaf, ecstasy pill etc bring down the wrath of The Man in the same way? And if so, what if the penal code reference was to something else, like - cough - Article 301, which prohibits 'insulting Turkishness', by way of pointing the finger over the Armenian genocides?

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It isn't just Dismal Gordon who thinks he's abolished the economic cycle...

Monday, December 24, 2007
"Russia will become the world's fifth largest economy by 2020, if its GDP continues to grow 6-7% per year, the Russian economics minister said on Monday.

"If we maintain GDP growth at 6-7% per year, we'll join the group of the world's five largest economies. We are setting ourselves this goal," Elvira Nabiullina said". Source.


Much though I wish the Rodina and its inhabitants every economic good fortune, it is not going to happen, lady.

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E unum, pluribus

Well, it could happen. The Lakota Sioux of North and South Dakota, in the form of unelected, if publicity-savvy Russell Means has told his Uncle Sam that he wants out. The story comes from Le Monde, so if my translation does not match what he said (presumably not in French...) then feel free to mock and jeer.

Flanked by La Paz's ambassador (that's going to make him popular) to Washington, he averred, "I want to stress that we do not represent the collaborators, the Vichy Indians, and the tribal governments put in place by the US to ensure our poverty and the theft of our lands and resources".

Always supposing Means can carry his nation with him, Pine Ridge - or Oglala Oyanke - could be seeking UN membership and the like. It is intent on issuing passports, driving licences and the like. Pine Ridge, site of Wounded Knee and home to Crazy Horse does not sound a fun place: "The population on Pine Ridge has among the shortest life expectancies of any group in the Western Hemisphere: approximately 47 years for males and in the low 50s for females. The infant mortality rate is five times the United States national average".

Pine Ridge is part of the pink territory at the bottom left of the map. It also has a rather attractive flag:


Means does seem to be suffering from an outbreak of 'it's my bat and I am taking it home', as he has previously sought the presidential nomination for the Libertarians, losing out to Ron Paul for the nod in 1988. Is this the pride of Lucifer, reckoning it 'Better to rule in Pine Ridge than serve in the US', maybe?

Given what happened the last time major attempt at secession, I do not fancy Mr Means chances.

(If anyone can render the headline in better Latin, I am open to suggestions, but I trust my version makes its antecedent clear)

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Making oneself a hostage to fortune

An object lesson from a petitioner at the No 10 site:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to take the Euro-sceptics on by embracing the core concepts of the European Union and the friendship of the peoples of Europe, and to publicly advocate a pro-European course".

And the gloss: "The debate on the European Union is dominated by Euro Sceptics with irrational and xenophobic beliefs. This is unreflective of public opinion and must be addressed".

Unreflective, eh? Not on the basis of published polling done at the EU's behest. And the amusing bit is that he's all alone in putting his name to this petition.

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Long memories, the Danes

Sunday, December 23, 2007
It looks as though the old saw that the Irish have over long memories and the British over short memories needs to be tweaked a bit, as at least one Danish MP is still smarting over the outcome of the 1658 Treaty of Roskilde.



This is not a representative of a neo-fascist group, but rather Sören Krarup of the mainstream right Danish People's Party. Krarup reckons that Denmark lacks its 'natural borders' (always an unnerving one, that) and that a large chunk of southern Sweden and Schleswick (an AJP Taylor-ism - he reckoned Slesvig too Danish, and Schleswig too German, but Schleswick suitably neutral and a resurrected Anglicising of the name) should by rights return to the doubtless benign rule of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg in the form of Queen Margrethe II.

A bit of rummaging shows that Krarup lacks ambition - in addition to Schleswick and Scane, the Danes also ruled Norway at the time, and continued to until 1814. Further afield, there should be panic in the streets of Accra lest the Danish cavalry is sent to reclaim the Danish Gold Coast as was (present day Ghana), likewise Tranquebar in India, Serampore in Bangladesh and the US Virgin Islands. Naturally, he could got go back much further and reclaim the Danelaw, which would only impact me indirectly here in my Croydon fastness.

Being just a little less parochial, maybe everything since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia should be up grabs. If nothing else, it would sort out Belgium's problems and return it to the loving embrace of Das Heilige Römische Reich Deutscher Nation (insert old joke about not 'holy', not 'Roman' etc) and the tender mercies of the Habsburgs, likewise Kosovo would be ruled from Istanbul, and Salmond would have his heart's desire by way of an independent Scotland. A 1648 Europe looked like this:


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Let's see the usual suspects denounce this

Saturday, December 22, 2007
From El Pais:

"The Algerian government is to build a 6,500-kilometer fence around its land border with six other African countries in a bid to prevent drug traffickers, sub-Saharan migrants and Al Qaeda terrorists from using the country as a major transit route".

Or is this different from the Israeli security structure? Meanwhile, as the map makes clear, this is by no means a minor undertaking




Given that the Great Wall is 6,400 km long, I do wonder whether the Algerians are trying a bit of one upmanship. As with the GWoC, it will not work.

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'Bøv'

A useful word I commend to all and sundry, it being a Danish neologism: "'bøv' (an amalgam of the Danish words for children and adult - børn og voksen - to depict someone who hasn't quite grown up)".

Better than kidult, eh?

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Spot the difference...


I managed, and I suspect my readers succeeded too. However, it has proved a trial for Transport for London, which in the face of the evidence, considers both to be Hackney carriages. Yes it does, and it has resorted to litigation against a company called Bugbugs - which operates pedicabs - in pursuit of the point.

"Bugbugs had sought to strike out, on the grounds of abuse of process, a claim made under CPR Part 8 by the respondent, Transport for London ("TfL"), for a declaration that a pedicab is a "hackney carriage" for the purposes of section 4 of the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 ("the 1869 Act"). The Master dismissed Bugbugs' application to strike out TfL's claim. He gave permission to appeal".


And the appeal failed. I am not going to go off on a 'the law is an ass' rant since that would be a - dull and b- not entirely justified as this and previous litigation revolve around whether a pedicab is a hackney carriage or a stage carriage. What is more noteworthy is that TfL is behaving like a classic monopolist and attempting to destroy a competitor by loading it with an unsupportable regulatory burden. Apparently the old bale of hay law has been repealed, but the added weight of insurance and so like will inevitably wreck the ability of pedicab riders (that would appear to be the technical term) to make a living. And meanwhile, how many accidents have been caused by the riders, public nuisances etc etc? Few I imagine.

The company itself appears to be achingly right on - "It is a not-for-profit organisation, limited by guarantee and run by a board of trustees. It was founded in 1998 and its aims include the provision of a sustainable emission-free integrated form of passenger transport and the creation of work and training opportunities for people from all backgrounds and nationalities". Doubtless regular users are Guardianistas to a wo/man, and occasional users tourists. I went for a ride in one in Edinburgh in the summer and it was rather fun.

So well done TfL. What a great day's work - an almighty spoke has been rammed into the wheel of both a harmless diversion for denizens of the metropolis and the ability of folk to make a living.

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An existential crisis for the Red Army

Friday, December 21, 2007
Or more correctly, the Sukhoputnyye Sily Rossii or Russian Ground Forces. As everyone is all to well aware, the Russians have been engaging in all sorts of shashka-rattling in and around the North and Norwegian Seas by way of bomber flights, naval manoeuvres and so on. Norway has been a particular target.

Presumably the Russians were not doing this for the view or because there was just so much avgas to burn up, but rather to impress upon NATO countries that the Bear was not to be trifled with.

However, "Early this month Russian Defense Chief Yuri Baluyevsky asked for a meeting with Norwegian counterpart Sverre Diesen to clarify Norway's opinion of their northern neighbor....Baluyevsky reportedly wanted to confirm that Russia was not viewed as a threat by Norway".

I do not suppose that the Red Wheel - as was - is likely to be rolling towards Trondheim any time soon, but there is something profoundly silly about a military that has been acting in an intimidating way then getting the jitters lest it has succeeded in being intimidating.

Meandering a bit, I would like to hear the Song of the Soviet Airmen, supposedly written by an American defector / sympathiser / useful idiot and inspired by Harvard gridiron football fight songs, so to speak. The refrain, from memory, goes like this:

"Higher and higher and higher
soars the Soviet star.
And every propeller is roaring
defend the USSR!"

While attempting to pin down the reference, I discovered that some public-spirited individual has a web page with the lyrics to sundry Socialist songs. Quite entertaining, some of them, especially 'Harry was a Bolshie':

"Harry was a Bolshie, one of Stalin's lads
Till he was foully murdered by counter revolutionary cads
Counter revolutionary, counter revolutionary cads
He was foully murdered by counter revolutionary cads"

Said Harry was Pollitt, one time GenSec of the CPGB, and according to Wiki died of a brain haemorrhage.

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Attention bloggers: blog better and read more blogs - the EU Infocom commissar demands it.

Oh yes she does:

"In a digital era, media literacy is crucial for achieving full and active citizenship," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "The ability to read and write – or traditional literacy – is no longer sufficient in this day and age. People need a greater awareness of how to express themselves effectively, and how to interpret what others are saying, especially on blogs, via search engines or in advertising. Everyone (old and young) needs to get to grips with the new digital world in which we live. For this, continuous information and education is more important than regulation."

Maybe all those degrees in media studies have a value after all.

Meanwhile, in a disturbing development my old sparring partner La Redding makes a comment I largely agree with, "I believe that especially with regard to advertising, promoting media literacy is a much more appropriate approach than advocating advertising bans, which I oppose". I am sure it will not happen again any time soon.

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">"Always give yourself credit for having more than personality"

Thursday, December 20, 2007
Great is the amusement chez Fawkes at the appointment of musician Brian Eno as an adviser to Nick Clegg, but no-one seems to have marked the possibility that Eno (IMVHO, a genius) might choose to employ the Oblique Strategies.

These are a set of 100 cards, "Each...contains a phrase or cryptic remark which can be used to break a deadlock or dilemma situation". And for why? "These cards evolved from our separate observations of the principles underlying what we are doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack (a set of possibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from a shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if it appropriateness is quite unclear. They are not final, as new ideas will present themselves, and others will become self-evident."

The headline quote, naturally, is an oblique strategem (#37), and was the first to come up when I randomised at the Oblique Strategy page.

Other possibilities include 'breathe more deeply', 'do we need holes?' and what must have been his campaign strategy: 'Do nothing for as long as possible'. However, I am holding out for this card: 'Look closely at the most embarrassing details & amplify them'.

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The Dutch - merchants of death

At least that is what a Dutch lobbying group seems to think of its compatriots, and has calculated that the Netherlands is the world's fifth largest arms exporter.

That struck me as highly unlikely, and the top five is patently absurd: "the Netherlands comes in fifth, just behind the United States, Russia, Germany and France, on this year's list of the largest weapons exporters". What, no UK? Even though our exports last year have been calculated at US$10 bn, compared to the rather feeble €1.03 bn our Dutch friends managed last year.

Lest anyone was head scratching trying to come up with the names of noted Dutch tanks, fifth generation fighter planes, mighty shipyards and the like, those sensible Dutch folk have been selling used equipment - F16s to Chile, corvettes to Indonesia and electronic to Venezuela. I would think that there could be the scope for an almighty face off between peaceniks and green types, as surely recycling is a good thing? Perhaps they could engage in the rather feeble 'sophistry' of leather jacket sporting vegetarians who claim that it is OK to buy second hand dead animals as no original market has been created....

I read somewhere that at one point the Dutch navy was captured by the Prussian cavalry - well, it was iced in - but cannot track down the reference.

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"Sit Fido! Roll over Fido! Salute the Fuhrer Fido!"

Suppose that you discovered that a brain-damaged pensioner had taught his dog how to perform a Nazi salute on cue. You might, like me, think this somewhat comic, and hardly worthy of intervention by the law.

That, however, is what happened in Germany, with the owner "charged with displaying symbols of a banned organization". I am *not* making this up..

The outcome of that particular brush with the law is not made clear in the item in Der Spiegel, although the owner has now been jailed for rather more conventional displays of his Nazi sympathies, the dog passed on to an animal shelter and renamed from Adolf (inevitably) to Adi.

I would think that the next owner would have to make a herculean degree of restraint not to test out the mutt's skills.

Maybe the man was an aficianado of Fat Freddy's cat:




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Offence taking for pleasure and profit

I imagine that most of us have a visual shorthand for a number of countries and cities - Eiffel Tower for Paris, the Parthenon for Athens, the Little Mermaid for Copenhagen etc etc. Sticking my neck out, I suspect that Moscow would trigger this image:

The above being St Basil's cathedral, and a splendid looking building it is too. Anyway, Coca-Cola has got itself in trouble with adherents to Orthodoxy for "a marketing campaign showing the cross and onion-shaped church domes on outdoor refrigerators", which said orthodox consider blasphemous. C-C is standing firm, but there may well be litigation.

I do wonder quite what manner of visual shorthand the hapless Atlanta fizz merchants are supposed to use to indicate 'Russia' and 'Russian'.

Meanwhile Nizhny Novgorod means either upper - or lower - new town, if memory serves

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What actually unites the US and the UK

Or at least the 'bilbliophiles' on either side of the Atlantic is interest in Madonna's magnum opus, 'Sex'. The long out of print book was quite the succès de scandale at some point in the early '90s, and booksellers made a point of sealing copies on sale. Apparently.

Anyway, bookfinder.com has published a list of the ten most sought out of print books both here and there, with it 4th in the UK and third in the US. Given that even the most cursory googling will bring up the goods, I do wonder how said bibliophiles could have got so far as having the skills to use online book searching without having realised that.

Meanwhile, the most sought book in the UK is a history of English forests and a novel about long distance running leads in the US.

Erm, not *quite*

Wednesday, December 19, 2007
A screengrab from the BBC site's newsticker:

I have attempted to re-size it and have failed, but it says - get this - "Gordon Brown says the option of privatising Northern Rock has not been ruled out".

Now with added visibility, C/O the Dizzmeister:


Which also makes the point that this was a subbing error by the BBC. Friedmanite sleepers at their web operation, perhaps?

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NRA more important than Barbra Streisand shocker...

Or so it would seem. Zogby polled the American public as to which endorsements would prove most influential for various constituencies (second amendment enthusiasts, show tune fans etc etc....) and came up with the following:

Endorsement Potential in Terms of Voters

Organization/ More Likely In Terms of Registered
Individual To Support Eligible Voters Voters*
Nat'l Rifle Assoc. 27 % 56 million 40 million
Bill Clinton 25 % 52 million 37 million
George W. Bush 23 % 48 million 34 million
AFL-CIO 16 % 33 million 24 million
Oprah Winfrey 9 % 19 million 13 million
Nat'l Council of LaRaza 5 % 10 million 7 million
Barbra Streisand 4 % 8 million 6 million

The National Council of LaRaza looks to be a Hispanic version of the NAACP.

More here, registration required.

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Dirty tricks, Taiwan style

The Kuomintang, traditionally the ruling party in Taiwan, but presently out of power, as the Democratic Progressive Party holds the reins, thinks the election might get dirty:

Feared tactics range from the pedestrian - "the DPP might attempt to attract votes with empty promises" (Erm, hello? This is a new technique?) and "[it might] harass KMT candidates with a barrage of never-ending telephone calls to their campaign headquarters" to the rather overblown - "The DPP could also assassinate Ma or Hsieh and then postpone the election".

After all, everybody loves an October (ahem, February) Surprise...

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Nothing new under the sun...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007
This is the CornerShot, an Israeli development that allows the Sayeret units of the IDF to shoot, erm, round corners:



There's a longer video, but with very annoying music, here.

Youtube commentators and the like are suitably impressed, but this is by no means a new thing. The Germans had something similar, if a little more basic during the war, with the krummer lauf:




Having 'fessed up the other week to having had far too much interest in matters military when a child, I suppose I ought to admit that I remembered the krummer lauf, if not its name, from a series on 'amazing weapons of WWII' or somesuch in a comic I used to read.... A little light googling later, and voilà.

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One for the EU enthusiasts to mull on

From the latest (preliminary) Eurobarometer, the findings stemming from November fieldwork:

"Taking everything into account, would you say that our country has on balance benefited from membership of the European Union?"

Guess which country is joint bottom of the table, along with Cyprus? Yes, the United Kingdom, at 37% - down six points in six months. Meanwhile, surprise, surprise, our neighbours on the other side of the Irish Sea are not intent on examining the dentition, tongue etc of the equine they have been given - 87% know a fine thing when they see it. I'd like to be hosed down with someone else's money too. Note also that those Britons deeming the EU a 'good thing' have retreated from 39 to 34%. And 22% of us trust the Commission, a figure broadly in line with those believing Elvis is alive, I imagine. There may even be a correlation....

Away from baiting the Commissariat, the figures on economic optimism are pretty stark - 15% think the economic situation will improve over the next 12 months, ditto 16% on employment prospects.

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The Year Zero approach to the Government's inability to preserve data....

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to remove all computers from government department thereby stopping information from being lost". Source.

He has a point. As I have been known to wail when faced with the Blue Screen of Death, 'Can't we go back to the abacus, please?'

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Has the TUC been brushing up on its Milton Friedman?

It looks a bit like it:

"Also today (Tuesday), the TUC and the unions are releasing 'Six million pay cuts', a new report rebutting all the Government's arguments on public sector pay, including the suggestion that public sector pay is driving inflation, or that holding back public sector pay will help reduce it".

In simple terms, "In the mid-twentieth century, two camps disagreed strongly on the main causes of inflation (at moderate rates): the "monetarists" argued that money supply dominated all other factors in determining inflation, while "Keynesians" argued that real demand was often more important than changes in the money supply". Source Note also that the Great Man commented "inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon".

Still, the conversion would not appear to be altogether Damascene: "Public servants do not understand why they are facing cuts in their pay (erm, they do, they are just not exactly gruntled about it). In the current financial year many are having below inflation rises phased, thus further reducing their value. Ministers should remember that they inherited a demoralised and under-resourced public sector from the previous government where below inflation pay had led to difficulties in recruitment and retention, and badly hit the quality of service to the public".

Let us be really, really generous and pretend that the average public servant commences toil at 16, and gets to retire at 65 after 49 years with nose to the metaphorical grindstone. So, let us call it 50 for a nice round figure, which presumably means that 20% of the staffing of schools 'n' hospitals (and all the other ones that lack the ability to pull at the heart strings) are supermoralised and over-resourced? One does wonder quite how traumatised by 'Fatcher' (as metaphor, not person) they must be that they are still in recovery 10 years on.

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EU to separate the sheep from the goats.

Oh yes it is, thusly:

"The EU Council of Ministers have today agreed on 31 December 2009 as the obligatory implementation date for the introduction of electronic identification (EID) of sheep and goats. The Regulation was adopted on 17 December 2003 and introduces, amongst other measures, a system of individual animal recording and electronic identification (EID) for sheep and goats, which will now be required from 31 December 2009".

The text is rather less dramatic than the KJV (Matt 25:31): "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left".

Coming up next, separation of wheat from the tares?

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Vodka War part one ends in stalemate

Monday, December 17, 2007
And I do not suppose most people knew that there had been one going on. Briefly, traditional vodka producing countries (all of which border the Baltic....) consider that vodka can only be made from grain, potatoes or erm sugar molasses, whereas producers in other parts of the world will distil just about anything that comes to hand and call it vodka.

It fell to an unfortunate German to cook up a compromise: ""The Schnellhardt Compromise (nearly as good as the Diet of Worms, the Humiliation of Canossa, the Defenestration of Prague etc. All of which sound a bit like Robert 'Bourne Repetition' Ludlum novels) adopted by the Committee on 30 January, says that if vodka is made of cereals, potatoes and molasses - without stating whether sugar cane or sugar beet is involved - the label can say "Vodka". If it is produced from other ingredients the label should say - "Vodka produced from…" The ingredient must appear prominently, in a print size only a third smaller than "vodka".

That appears to have been superseded, in that now the EU declares "
In future, vodka made from cereals or potatoes will be labelled simply as vodka. Vodka based on other raw materials will bear the indication "produced from" supplemented by the name of the raw material used" with no clarification on font size.

The Poles etc are not best pleased.

And why only 'part one'? As there appears scope for a transatlantic trade spat over this.

Adjusting my cynical hat a few degrees, this saw from the Sage of Kirkcaldy (the one with a really rather splendid institute named for him) came to mind "People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Because that is what our Baltic-bordering friends are up to.

However, removing the cynical hat and instead opting for the drinker's hat, I have more than a little sympathy, as I only ever drink vodka from the vodka producing countries.

Meanwhile, what with it being the season of good will etc, I will point out the vodka-enhancing properties of cheap water filters again.

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Does it do what it says on the tin?

The Union of Right Forces. What might that name suggest? It put me in mind of the Lebanese militia group, Lebanese Forces, and posing the question to Dizzy, he suggested 'some sort of fascist movement?'

I was aware it was a Russian political party, but I had not picked up on its ideological stance, and assumed it was somewhat unpleasant. That's where I was wrong. The URF are very much the good guys out to the east of the Pripet Marshes: "The Party is considered by most western media organs such as The Economist and the BBC to be one of Russia's only parties that support western-style capitalism, society-politically the party is more conservative. Its headquarters are located in Moscow. It is affiliated to the International Democrat Union". Source.

Is this a Russian thing, having names somewhat confusing to outsiders (and Russians, as the URF is mulling a name change), what with Zhirinovsky's neither liberal nor democratic Liberal Democrats? A little sniffing around discloses that the Russian Beer Lovers Party, is in fact, quite keen on the stuff. I rather miss Naš dom – Rossija, (Our House - Russia), although mainly for its name.

Most IDU-affiliated centre right parties go for 'National', 'Conservative', 'Democratic' or 'Republican' in their names, but I would suggest that our Azeri and Mozambican colleagues might be due new names - National Independence Party and
Mozambican National Resistance (or Renamo, as was). The Russian group is alone in having 'Right' in its name.

Elsewhere, Socialist International parties are big on using 'Socialist', 'Social Democratic' or 'Labour'. The prize for the most misleading name (to non Spanish speakers at least) is International Democratic Pole, not one man with an ego problem, but rather a Colombian party. Mind you, the Spanish Socialists sound like Trots: 'Spanish Socialist Workers' Party'. Drifting off to the extreme left, Green parties use 'Green', or 'Vert' or 'Verde' a lot.

I think that 'The Free Markets and Liberty Party' might be a more descriptive, if less than elegant name for the URF, so other suggestions are welcome.

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Quite the breakthrough by the French Socialists...

"The first secretary, François Hollande, wanted to be clear: the socialists 'recognise the market economy' is 'the most effective' at creating wealth". Source

Well bravo. That was not so hard, was it? What about a name change then? If Hollande can no longer bend the knee to the God that Failed, his 'socialism' is no more than welfarism.

(Thanks due to Superpedant for the e's).

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Has this woman disenfranchised 'half' her electorate for 33 years?

Friday, December 14, 2007
This is the redoubtable and widely admired Gwyneth Dunwoody:

She has been the Labour MP for Crewe and thereabouts since 1974, and is the Mother of the House, as it were. So why am I apparently picking on her? Because of this statement by one Ms (sic) Katy Clark yesterday:

"My right hon. and learned Friend will be well aware that considerable strides have been made on this side of the House in increasing the representation of women in this place. However, unfortunately, large parts of Britain have still never had a woman representing them directly in this place, in a devolved Assembly or at council level".

Following Ms Clark's logic, presumably those Crewe-ites with just one X chromosome have been under-represented for the last 33 years. As to Ms Clark, presumably she regards 2005 as Year Zero for the burghers of North Ayrshire and Arran, and considers that her predecessors in Brian Wilson, John Corrie and the great man that was Fitzroy Maclean would be unworthy to lick her sandals.

And what has she achieved? Well, she 'sometimes rebels', and has signed a lot of EDMs. Still, her seat is #10 on the SNP's target list, so come 2009/10 will doubtless have plenty of time to mull on sexism in Parliament if the SNP victor is male, and plenty of time to deem her life's work done if the victor female.

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'Reagan' - A fine name, but as a christian name?

Ronald the Great's surname was the 80th most popular name for girls born in the US last year, apparently (regn. required).

Four of the leading five - Sophia, Isabella, Emma, Madison (another highly rated President, but also the name of a number of towns) and Ava are more conventionally feminine sounding.

As to chaps, all the rage are Aiden, Ethan, Jacob, Jayden and Caden. Each to their own I suppose. Only the top ten names have been available, but in 2006 William (a fine name...) made #25.

Much as there is a total absence of Wongs called Suzie these days, Britney did not feature in 2006, and presumably not in 2007.

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">"Therfore bihoueth hire a ful long spoon that shal ete with a feend"

Thursday, December 13, 2007
One of the more readily understandable quotes from Chaucer, and apparently the first use in English of the devil sup spoon quote.

Showing off to one side, this came to mind reading about a Zimbabwean / German diplomatic spat:

"The government of Germany on Tuesday summoned Zimbabwe's envoy to Berlin, after a Zimbabwean government minister called Chancellor Angela Merkel a "Nazi"....According to Germany-based Zimbabwean journalist, Itayi Mushekwe, there are strong indications that Berlin may take diplomatic action on Zimbabwe. He said: "They regard pronouncements by Ndlovu as an unprovoked attack and we understand strong words were indeed exchanged when the authorities here met the Zimbabwean charge d'affaire. The general public also feels the same. They are well shocked that Mugabe reacted in the way he did towards a country that has been relatively more accommodative to him."

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What does the Labour party's shop tell us about Labour?

Having been shown a rather alarming faux silk scarf that a constituency Tory party has made available (names withheld to protect the guilty ), I decided it was time to see what the 'People's Party' is selling, apart from snake oil. Go to Labour org uk and then drill down, as I am not going to link directly.

Gifts are fairly run of the mill bar a DVD of Broon's speech to conference. Is there anyone alive who would think that the perfect night in would involve unplugging the 'phone, arranging mood lighting and sitting down to watch what even Broon's greatest fans would not say was that great a speech. Doubtless I am wrong, however.

It is when we get to clothing that it starts to get interesting..

Why is the campaigners coat only immediately available in large and extra large (if not John Prescott)? Do they not bother making up smalls and mediums, or has there been a run on them by people the same build as Blears?

What is more, you can have the coat and other items personalised. There is no clear limit on characters, and no boiler plate exclusion as to what one might have included. Options which sprang to mind were 'I am only wearing this because it is cold', and 'don't blame me, I didn't vote for this lot'. Furthermore there is no apparent requirement to be a Labour party member to buy this stuff. I think that there might be scope for a re-run of the Nike 'sweatshop' trainer personalisation shenanigans of 2001.

After further rumination, I think 'Labour for Johnson' or 'Vote Johnson' could be a winner.

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Drunk students for Zion

Losing the election seems to have fired up the Australian Right, as there has been an 'episode' at the Oz NUS conference beyond the usual student politician mainstays of drinking, procedural pedantry and disappearing into dark corners with people that they will then ignore the next day.

Anyway....

"A group of Liberal students has been kicked off the Monash University campus for "drunken, violent and disruptive behaviour" at the National Union of Students annual conference.Conference organiser Matt Rocks said one Liberal student had been taken away in a police van after a breath test in a university car park and that about a dozen others had been banned from the campus and conference. NUS president Michael Nguyen said the Liberals "acted like rabid radicals". "They drank some blue alcohol and came onto the conference floor, intoxicated with blue mouths. It looked really silly," Mr Nguyen said....The Australian understands that some Liberal members had been kicked out for chanting "2,4,6,8, Israel is a Jewish state".

Naturally I applaud the sentiment, if nor necessarily how they went about expressing it.

Additional tales of Conservative Future, FCS, Young Liberal excess etc are welcome, although someone who knows has told me that the FCS Loughborough 'riot' involved little more than a broken door handle.

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Finland to decide - NATO or Molotov cocktails?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007
They have themselves a bit of quandary:

"According to an assessment issued on Tuesday by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), Finland should join NATO only if it is ready to defend other member states of the alliance against an attack... According to the writers, in such a case, Finns should not expect other countries to come to their aid if Finland is attacked".

It is, indeed, a cold hard world out there.

I think it is fair to say that Finland's neighbours to the North and West do not have designs on the place, and "the Bear that walks like a Man" was intent on selling back some of the bits it seized in 1940, rather than eyeing Espoo, Tampere and Turku with malicious intent.

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When people take ownership of something, they look after it better....

An encouraging, if not wildly surprising piece of news from Niger, via Radio Netherlands:

"A fierce 40° Celsius desert wind races through the Sahel. The area around the village of KupKup in Niger is barren and dry...In Takieta, a small village not far from KupKup, children are grinding millet for the evening meal. Takieta is green and lush now but 25 years ago, nothing grew here. One of the villagers, Aboubacar, remembers that the wind was so fierce that you couldn't sit outside. The people of Takieta took charge of the situation and started planting trees. Trees are essential as they retain scarce water and provide shade....

Kees Vogt, who has been working in Niger for the last 14 years, says the increased fertility is due local people taking the initiative and it's not a result of climate change:

"The greener regions are areas where people are better organised, where they feel that they can plant things. They feel that it is worthwhile to invest in their village."

It is at 13°40'53.40"N, 8°31'50.52"E should anyone want to look at on google earth, but the resolution is pretty poor.



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Expelling Militant in reverse.

Readers of a certain age will recall that the expulsion of Militant Tendency members etc by Kinnock helped make the Labour party electable. The French, however, seem to think differently, and François Hollande (the former Mr Ségolène Royal) has come up with a really, really smart idea - a party linking the Socialists with the thousand and one variants of Tankies, Trots, Greens and other far left groupuscules that infest France.

The theory is that all of the Trot etc voters can be enticed into siding with this broad left party (Didn't they used to call these things Popular Fronts?) thereby giving it a guaranteed minimum 35% of the vote, roughly the combined vote of all the 'out' Left parties in the first round of the Presidential election this year.

There might, perhaps, be flaws in this theory. Firstly the two Trotskyite parties (LO and LCR) can only rarely agree on a joint slate, as they prefer ideological purity and lost deposits.

Secondly, the Gauche Caviar might be a little frightened off by the Socialists allying with full blown Fourth International Trotskyites.

Thirdly, given that if you put five lefties in a room you will get six opinions, what chance of an agreed manifesto?

Fourthly, what chance of this Popular Front persuading centrists like 2007 Bayrou voters that a hard left platform is just what La France Profonde needs, given that 35% is not going to sweep it to power?

That apart, I think it is a terrific idea, and I strongly recommend Brown reaches out to Respect, Continuity Respect, I Can't Believe It's Not Respect, the SWP, CPGB etc etc and Labour could then rule forever......

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"As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly"

Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Or the man who hasn't got it wrong once, twice, fifty times or even five hundred times:

"That this House puts on record that the hon. Member for Bolsover has voted in an estimated 11,000 divisions since June 1970; notes that although other hon. Members have served longer they have been nowhere near as diligent as the hon. Member in voting and that in the past there were fewer votes; therefore considers that the hon. Member for Bolsover deserves acknowledgement in the Guinness Book of Records as the hon. Member to have voted the most in Parliament and almost certainly any Parliament in the world; and warmly congratulates the hon. Member on his democratic achievement".

His recent voting record is here.

Thanks due to Hunter for offering me this nugget.

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One way of dealing with the queues at Ikea

"Ram-raiders staged a daring robbery in Madrid on Sunday, by driving through the window of a packed Ikea store and firing several shots into the air. The raid, which lasted only 75 seconds, saw the thieves make off with just €5,000". Source

Either that, or Spain has a provisional wing to some interior decorating company.

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Tessa Jowell 'out on the tiles'?

That is what the Minister for the North East thinks she was up to yesterday:

"My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics had hoped to attend the debate, but she is metaphorically “Over the hills and far away”—no doubt “Out on the tiles”—so that leaves me to say to my hon. Friend, “Your time is gonna come”. Through “Good times, bad times”, my hon. Friend has been a champion for Middlesbrough and for Cleveland".

The oh so waggish Nick Brown was responding to Middlesborough MP Ashok Kumar, who wants the Olympics to benefit the North East. Doubtless. Perhaps he could start by getting the Smoggies to stump up part of the cost of "The world's largest outdoor steroid abuse festival".

Brown may well have secured a freebie to see the Led Zeppelin reunion last night, hence the blizzard of Zep references above. Can't say that either Brown or Kumar strike me as Zep afficionados, but who knows?

However, he chose all the wrong song titles. From LZI he could have picked the rather more apt 'Dazed & Confused', 'Communication breakdown, from LZII 'What is and should never be', The Lemon Song' and 'Ramble on'. This is like hunting sheep with a 12-bore, isn't it? Getting a touch more edgy, there's 'Gallows Pole' on LZ3, 'The Wanton Song' on Physical Graffiti and the Blind Willie Johnson, Josh White etc derived 'Nobody's fault but mine' on Presence.

Meanwhile, back at the plot, was La Jowell ever reconciled with her husband, if so what would he think of the accusation?

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What would Jan Sobieski think?

Monday, December 10, 2007
Vienna is in the midst of a bit of a Satanic Verses episode, because of this statue:

It is, obviously enough, a female nude sporting a headscarf. Mind you, it could be a balaclava... So far, so not enormously interesting. However, it is entitled 'Turkish Delight', and the Turks are not happy. At all.

What has happened to it is not entirely clear, as one report refers to it having been removed, and another to it having been knocked over:

"A statue of a nude woman donning a headscarf that was on exhibit at the premises of the Technical University in Karlsplatz in Vienna, Austria was removed by unknown people following adverse reactions. Turkish Ambassador to Vienna Selim Yenel said the sculpture was not damaged but only removed from its place". It might be a flawed translation, but that suggests to me that Yenel knows what happened through direct involvement, which rather oversteps the mark both in terms of practical art criticism and muscular diplomacy.

Meanwhile another paper notes the following: "A statue of a nude woman wearing only a headscarf was knocked down from its place in the garden of the Technical University of Vienna in Karlsplatz yesterday".

The mystery thickens somewhat, and one has to ask whether anyone would have paid any attention if the statue had had another name.

Meanwhile, Johnny Turk does seem exceptionally prickly at the moment, as "Maps showing so-called "Kurdistan" as including certain cities and areas of Turkey have been removed from the Kurdish traffic police cars and other official vehicles in northern Iraq".


(Polish king Jan Sobieski saved Turkish-besieged Vienna in 1683, if anyone did not get the reference, and was viewed at the time as having just saved Western Civilisation).

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Earth round, water wet, Pope Catholic and Iran a dubious investment prospect

I am quite extraordinarily grateful to the Fraser Institute (registration required) for making the following findings public:

"Colorado and Thailand....Qatar, Romania, and the United Kingdom rounded out the top five jurisdictions with the best scores in the Global Petroleum Survey 2007's All Inclusive Composite Index that ranked jurisdictions with the lowest barriers to investment.

Petroleum experts rate Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Russia and Iran as having the greatest barriers to investment, with many respondents emphatically stating that the risk and uncertainty brought on by government policies in these countries convinced them to stay away".

Astonishing, eh?

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Give a yacht a bad name

If I had an ocean going yacht, I would *not* give it this name:

"At five minutes past eleven British time this morning, Falmouth Coastguard received a satellite phone call from the skipper of a 9.3 metre yacht called Spam, declaring a Mayday".

Pity the nation

From the sublime, alas to the ridiculous, or perhaps straight from the good to the ugly, without the usual intervening bad:

Yves Leterme, Flemish politician and possible Belgian PM, has decided to say something very, very foolish in an interview with two Flemish newspapers:

"Do you know what RTBF [Radio télévision belge de la communauté française] is also known as? Radio Milles Collines".

RMC was the voice of the Rwandan genocide: "Widely listened to by the general [Rwandan] population, it projected hate propaganda against Tutsis, moderate Hutus, Belgians, and the United Nations mission UNAMIR. It is widely regarded as having played a crucial role in creating the atmosphere of charged racial hostility that allowed the genocide to occur".

Not big, not clever.


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Man of the week

Step up, Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt:

"Sweden was named by Mugabe along with Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Speaking behind closed doors at the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, Mugabe said the four countries were "arrogant". Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said it was "a great honour to be admitted to a group that stands up for human rights and democracy." "The way I look at it, Mugabe named what is actually the guard of honour for human rights," Reinfeldt said".

He's right, isn't he?

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"Infidel Defilers. They shall all drown in lakes of blood".

Saturday, December 08, 2007
The Guardian notes that Oliver Stone is intent on making a documentary on Ahmedinejad, or as a friend insists on calling him, Ahmed Dinner Jazz.

"Ahmadinejad accepted the request earlier this year by the director to make a documentary about him. A bad move, according to one of Iran's most influential conservative newspapers, which has tried to convince him to reconsider. Keyhan, which has links to the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, pointed to Stone's 1991 movie, The Doors, to show that he is unsuited to film the Iranian president, whom the paper called "an intellectual and peacemaker".

"The Doors was in commemoration of one of America's perverted and half-mad singers; someone who urinated on the head of his fans during his concerts and enjoyed doing so," wrote the article's author, Elham Rajabpour".


I do not think that Keyhan has begun to investigate Stone's oeuvre, so as a public service, here is a list of Stone projects. I think that the Iranians have really missed a trick in not considering 'Conan the Barbarian', and I see Ahmedinejad as a shoo-in for the character of Thulsa Doom, Conan's would be nemesis, and the head of a snake cult - a quote from whom acts as my headline.

Alternatively, 'jad could be a prison chief a la 'Midnight Express', a goon a la 'Salvador', a triad leader in the fashion of 'Year of the Dragon', or Tony 'say hello to my leetle frien'' Montana in 'Scarface'. The most obvious parallel, however, would be Darius in 'Alexander'....


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Man takes train, secures newspaper headline

The man in question being Albert Arnold Gore Jr. Having flown from the US to Oslo, that he got the equivalent of the Gatwick Express from the airport to the city centre has the Norwegians agog, as VIPs (God I loathe that concept) normally get a car into town.

Not that this should be seen as a publicity stunt, of course.

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Clash of the Titans: The Syrian Arab Republic Vs Facebook

Friday, December 07, 2007
"Syrian authorities have blocked Facebook, the popular Internet hangout, over what seems to be fears of Israeli "infiltration" of Syrian social networks on the Net, according to residents and media reports....Lebanon's daily As-Safir reported that Facebook was blocked on Nov. 18. It said the authorities took the step because many Israelis have been entering Syria-based groups".

Righty-ho. The Syrian state is so robust, sure in its own identity etc etc that it is worried that Israeli Facebook users (many of whom are doubtless Arabs) will bring about the End of the House of Assad?

Is it the 'poking', the pirate/ninja/snowball etc nonsense, or the status updates that are most threatening, I wonder?

Meanwhile, Bashar Assad and his thuggish / murderous / thankfully dead father appears to have a number of fan clubs on Facebook. Nice....

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Imagine if David Cameron was less popular than Cliff Richard...

Well, ish.

Le Figaro is greatly amused by the ratings for the French terrestrial TV stations last night, with Ségolène Royal extended whinge interview attracting a 15.1% share or 3.19 million viewers. I think that most opposition leaders in these parts would be cracking open the cans of light ale if they could secure that much interest the thick end of five years away from an election.

And the really amusing bit - Johnny Hallyday scooped the pool with a 26% share for his appearance on the French equivalent of The Bill / Inspector Morse, Commissaire Moulin. Sego was also outgunned by a dubbed US drama, Prison Break, and some kind of Christmas thing.

Le Figaro also notes that ratings for her interview with PPdA on Tuesday collapsed by the first commercial break, but the lady's not for turning (off...) - she will be exercising digits on remotes on both Sunday and the 15th.

Meanwhile, polled French would prefer to see Socialists Strauss-Kahn (now head of the IMF) and the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë with important roles in the future - this being the boilerplate question in French polling. That 36% want an important role for Olivier 'Trot' Besancenot is frankly terrifying.

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Leftie of the week is....

Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti of the City of Toronto. He has had a bright idea: "call in the army to round up gun-toting gangsters and throw them in jail "indefinitely".

And the reaction:

"Skeptics, however, dismissed the councillor's idea as implausible. The military is not empowered to meddle in local police matters and alleged gangsters cannot be left to languish in prisons without due process.

"I don't think anybody particularly takes Councillor Mammoliti's call for the army seriously. I hope not," Mayor David Miller said".

....

Even former mayor Mel Lastman, the man who summoned the army for the 1999 snowstorm, rejected the idea.

"We're not an army state. What the hell is he talking about?" Mr. Lastman said in a phone interview from Florida. "[Calling in the army for the snowstorm] was about help in moving people, getting people out so they could eat, so they could get a bottle of milk, so they could get to the hospital ... this is insane what he's saying."

Does not sound like the usual response of the left to this sort of thing. Surely consumerism is to blame, and the street gangs just need a few more community centres and the like. The NDP, (the party he represented in the Ontario parliament), by the way, is affiliated to the Socialist International, although all Toronto councillors are technically independent. Sounds like he has form for doing and saying odd things.

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Very touchy, the German Left

Suppose you were creating German language Wikipedia articles on the Nazis. You might be mindful of German law on the use of Nazi symbolism and the like, but also be aware that there are clauses in that law allowing their use in the context of education and documentation.

Anyway, Katina Schubert of the Left Party - the successor in title to the DDR's ruling party, Die Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands, inter alia - thinks that an article on the Hitler Youth goes too far.

So, I went to investigate the page, expecting it to look like one of David Irving's daydreams, but no, there is one symbol - The HJ flag, which looks very much like the Austrian flag with a swastika superimposed in the middle. Armed with a German O level considerably older than I was when I sat it allowed me to work out that it is at issue for quality considerations, so I did some digging to see what earlier versions looked like. Here's one from November 2007 - symbol count, 1. And November 2006 - symbol count, 1. And so on. I cannot discover any versions that look like the decor for David Duke's bedroom, frankly.

Meanwhile, should one be interested in Frau Schubert's ideological heirs in the SED, there is the party emblem, some stamps, and an election leaflet.

Should Nazi regalia and the like be one's thing, there's plenty to be found at the English language Wiki site, or indeed go to Google.de, click on bilder and bash in 'Nazi fahne'. Not exactly difficult. '
Information wants to be free', doesn't it?

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Where your money goes....

Thursday, December 06, 2007
The Evening Standard Attack Unit Livingstone press office has come up with the following exciting announcement:

"Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone and Minister for Children, Young People and Families, Beverley Hughes MP, today announced a £79 million funding package for young Londoners and how this investment will benefit each of London’s 33 local authorities".

And they provide a breakdown by funds per council, so I have engaged in a little number crunching to give the average payout to borough by political control:

  • Labour - £3.5m
  • NOC - £2.7m
  • Cons - £1.7m
  • LD - £0.8m

I have excluded the City of London.

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Have the British finally got it?

I am beginning to think that maybe we have:

"I am now going to ask you about freer trade, that is to say making it easier to buy and sell products internationally by reducing tariffs and other barriers to trade. (PROMPT only if needed: ‘Barriers to trade’ include taxes on imports – called tariffs – and limits on imports). Which of the following two statements about freer trade comes closest to your view?"

"I am in favour of freer trade" - 84%
"I am not in favour of freer trade" - 13%

And guess which country is bottom of the class, and apparently still wedded to Colbertian Mercantilism? The French. In favour - 37%, against - 63%

And there's more:

Remove all remaining tariffs on goods traded between [The US and the EU]

UK pro - 70%, France pro - 50%, US pro - 48%

And less encouragingly:

Freer trade costs more (NATIONALITY) jobs than it creates

Only in Germany does a majority disagree. The split in the UK was 42% for and 43% anti. 59% of polled Gauls agreed....

Freer trade leads to lower prices and more product choices for consumers

The Poles, have been at the sharp end not so very long ago get it: 80%. As do 77% of Britons, and 62% of the French.

Freer trade makes the world more stable by putting people from different countries in contact with each other

Poland - 81%, UK - 75%, France - 55%. Shades of the Golden Arches and Dell theories of conflict prevention. The former is well known, the latter less so: "The Dell Theory stipulates: No two countries that are both part of a major global supply chain, like Dell’s, will ever fight a war against each other as long as they are both part of the same global supply chain".

Another oddity:

"Lowering trade barriers between [European Union: the European Union/US: the US] and Africa could address modern threats like unstable states and poverty". France and the UK - 78% pro. The Slovaks come last at 44%.

And the most depressing of the lot:

"The European Union and the U.S. government provide billions...in support for domestic agriculture. In your opinion, which of the following should be the top priority when providing domestic agriculture support?

I do not believe government should support agriculture (SPONTANEOUS): Poland, Slovakia, UK - 1%, US 2%.


There's a lot more available at the German Marshall Fund's site.

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The future belongs to London. And Plymouth Argyle.

From Hansard:

Helen Southworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport how many qualified football coaches are active in (a) boys and (b) girls football in each UK region. [170105]

Mr. Sutcliffe: We do not hold this information. However, I can confirm that DCMS and Sport England are currently funding nearly 250 football Community Sports Coach (CSC) posts, broken down by region as follows:

  • East 35
  • East Midlands 4
  • London 80
  • North East 7
  • North West 23
  • South East 19
  • South West 33
  • West Midlands 28
  • Yorkshire 9
Perhaps I spend too much time analysing data during the times I am actually working, but those figures struck me as less than proportionate to the populations of the English regions, and so they proved. London is the most over represented - 15% of the population but a third of the coaches. The West Midlands, East of England and the South West also get more than their fair shares, while the South East (fancy...), East Midlands, Yorkshire, the North West and the North East get - to descending degrees - the shaft.

Hence my headline, whereas it is not looking good for Brighton & Hove Albion, Reading and Southampton, for instance.

The previously obscure Helen Southworth (about whom I can discover nothing of interest at all) represents Warrington South, and so could have a good old moan about the fate of the North West and feel aggrieved that a range of clubs in her neck of the woods are not benefiting from better trained teenagers.

The respondent, Gerry Sutcliffe is almost equally as dull, and could pout and whinge about his home club of Bradford. However, he has given me the amusement of this quote: "In the 1980s we didn't take people with us. We had trendy Wendys and Nigels who enjoyed spouting left-wing politics which they had never lived, and who didn't want people in the party who didn't understand procedure". Bar Ms Alexander, the only Socialist I can find in Westminster/Edinburgh/Cardiff is Nigel Griffiths.

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Cultural dialogue begins at home?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007
"The European Year of Intercultural Dialogue (EYID) 2008 takes place throughout the European Union. Each participating country has defined how it implements the Year".

Thrilling, huh?

Meanwhile, guess which EU country is so good at intercultural dialogue that it cannot manage a national list of events, civic dinners, patronising approaches to ethnic minorities and the like, but rather has lists for the two main linguistic groups (the German speakers of die Ostkantone do not appear to be doing anything as yet...). And neither list gives the option to see the details in the other's language.

Yes, Belgium.

Meanwhile, the Belgians are still without a national government - 178 days and counting. We have been labouring under the Brownite cosh for 16 days fewer, and frankly I envy the Belgians.

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The perils of over-reliance on Wikipedia

The full story of this Beijing menu is to be found here.

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Don't you dare....

From today's Telegraph:

"The Government has drafted a nationalisation bill for Northern Rock to bring the stricken bank into public ownership as early as February should it fail to strike a deal with a private buyer. Downing Street has opened talks with the Conservatives over the nationalisation bill, hoping that with bi-partisan support it could be rushed through both houses of parliament in a single day".

I hope the talks ended with my lot telling Labour to get lost.

'Very religious' atheists and born agains believing in astrology

No surprise that these theologically confused folk are our friends on the other side of the Atlantic, although the survey I am referencing was found at Harris.fr.

God remains the number one concept for belief, at 82%, unchanged on 2005, while miracles, angels and Heaven have progressed between five and six percentage points on the period. Conversely, belief in the survival of the soul after death has eased a point to 69%.

Sieving the data down to Protestants, Catholics and Born Agains throws our some distinct oddities. 97% of Born Agains believe in God, so presumably the remainder do not or are unsure. 11% of Catholics cannot muster belief in Jesus as the son of God, 13% in the Resurrection, 21% in the survival of the soul or 28% in the virgin birth. However, 47% believe in ghosts and 36% in both UFOs and astrology - all significantly higher figures than for the other demographics. A shade under a quarter believe in re-incarnation, as do 15% of Protestants and 8% of Born Agains.

As to which texts they believe to be the word of God, there appears to be some confusion over the Old Testament and the Torah - there being a disconnect of 29% of Catholics, 46% of Protestants and 55% of Born Agains between those thinking that the former is and the latter is the Word....

11% of Atheists / Agnostics consider themselves 'very / somewhat religious' (I would have thought 'confused' would be more apt) , although the 1% of Born Agains considering themselves 'Not at all religious' is pretty odd too.

For public service purposes, here is the Nicene Creed, which failure to accept, to say the least, puts one outside the mainstream of Christian faith.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

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