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Fun with statistics

Thursday, January 31, 2008
Part of a staggeringly complacent statement from Vernon 'hokey' Coaker:

"Homicide remains thankfully rare: the number of homicides has fallen from 769 in 2005/06 to 757 in 2006/07 with the risk of being a victim of homicide one in 13.7 million".

First off, that fall is statistically insignificant, and hardly worth trumpeting as a fall. And secondly, where did he get that figure of 1 in 13.7m from? Let us say that the population is roughly 60m, because it is. I make 60m / 757 a 1 in 79000 chance. Still not ideal odds, admittedly, but rather better than those for Russian Roulette. Unless I have got something horribly wrong, Big Vern seems to think the UK's population is 10.3 billion, or roughly that of the world, and half again. No wonder it is murder getting a seat on the train.

(Meanwhile, Big Vern's website visitors are a dim lot - asked whether 'Cannabis be reclassified from a class C drug to a class B drug', an impressive 31% thought it was worth clicking 'not sure'....)

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Obscenity watch

In a changing world there are few things one can rely on beyond death and taxation - but kneejerk reactions from trade unionists are one of them. Noting a BBC headline about Shell's 2007 results and its record profit, I just *knew* that there would be some economic illiterate ready to denounce them as being 'obscene' .

So drum roll, and up to the plate steps Tony Woodley of the T&G Unite:

"Unite's joint general secretary Tony Woodley described the level of profits in the oil industry as, "quite frankly obscene". "Shell shareholders are doing very nicely whilst the rest of us, the stakeholders, are paying the price and struggling."

I cannot lay hands on figures for Shell's revenue this financial year, but in 2006 it pulled in $318.8 billion, of which $26.3 billion was profit. I make that about 8%..... I did rather better than that with a few things I flogged on ebay, so I hate to think how Woodley would describe me.

We've been here before, of course, with Tesco.

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Run Nader, run

"Veteran political activist and consumer champion Ralph Nader, blamed by the Democrats for costing them the tight 2000 elections, said Wednesday he was mulling a 2008 bid for the White House". Source.

Go for it Ralph. More at naderexplore80.org.

And with that, I'm off to bet the farm on McCain.

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The Horsemen of the French apocalypse - war, pestilence, strife and the euro

If there is one thing that gets out French friends agité, it is purchasing power, with pouvoir d'achat regularly rated their greatest source of anxiety. 58% of them were fretting about it this month. Although possibly not Jerome Kerviel....

Anyway, the Gauls have been asked to what they attribute the fall or stagnation in purchasing power over the last few years, and number one - with a bullet - is switching to the euro. 57% pointed the finger to it as their first choice, and 68% rated it a factor.

I am not keen on that politicised currency, but I do feel that this shows a lamentable lack of understanding by the French, with wage stagnation and price increases far less commonly cited as the reasons.

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Putting one's head back in the noose

Our Greenlandic friends had the foresight to leave the EC (as was) in 1985, but some folk just cannot see a motorway without wanting to play chicken:

"Kristian Jeremiassen, minister for Atassut, posed a §36 paragraph about what its stance on a possible application for membership in the EU is".

(I have not a clue what a §36 paragraph is).

Atassut is another contender for the oddest name for a political party, as it means 'Feeling of Community'. It is allied with the Danish liberals, who do not seem to be a bad lot.

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Secret fighting arts of the world.....

Suppose one was an MP, and one had the possibility to ask parliamentary questions. That would give ample scope for finding wrongs that needed to be righted, praising good deeds etc etc etc.

Willie Rennie, LD MP for Dunfermline (and the all important West Fife) seems to think he has hit the motherlode - the most shocking wrong, a crime that cries out to Heaven for vengeance - that the army discriminates against asthmatics. No, I am not making this up:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will review the medical criteria for acceptance into the armed forces of people with asthma; if he will take steps to ensure that people with asthma are not automatically rejected upon application to the armed forces".

Responding for the government, Derek Twigg notes, "It is essential that all recruits to the armed forces are operationally effective, and the medical tests that they undergo on recruitment are designed to ensure this".

Well yes. I do not doubt that the Taliban would not be unduly intimidated by being wheezed at by the Green Howards.

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Keeping a sense of proportion

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
'The New York chapter of The National Organization for Women accused Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of betraying women with his endorsement of Barack Obama..."Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal," NOW's New York State chapter said... "Senator Kennedy's endorsement of Hillary Clinton's opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard". Source

I can think of at least one woman who suffered a rather more serious betrayal, and was hit rather harder, by Ted Kennedy. Her name was Mary Jo Kopechne.

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How to win friends and influence people - the Gordon Brown way

This is how a tale is reported at number-10.gov.uk:

"Gordon Brown welcomed fellow European leaders to Downing Street this evening to discuss global economic reform.French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italy's premier Romano Prodi and EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso held talks".

And this is how it has been reported at Libération:

"The British PM Gordon Brown received the other European G8 leaders...[Sarkozy, Merkel, Prodi] and to calm the anger of the non-invited smaller members of the EU...Manuel Barroso. Several European leaders had taken this meeting of the big players badly...The Slovene Minister of Finances, Andrej Bajuk, of the country currently holding the EU Presidency, Tuesday called for the discussions to be held "within the framework of the institutions of the European Union" and decisions taken by 27".

That economic powerhouse Slovenia, eh? A country of less importance to the world economy (in nominal GDP terms) than Rhode Island, and a not much heavier hitter than South Dakota. Still, I do not suppose that the PM can anticipate much back scratching from Ljubljana in the near future.

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"A tasteless rewriting of history"

Tuesday, January 29, 2008
If I was choosing to be especially euphemistic, that's what I might call this too:

"The distribution in the Netherlands of a free postcard depicting Anne Frank wearing a Palestinian scarf will not be stopped, according to editor-in-chief Pascale Bosboom of Boomerang publishers". Source

Opinions seem to differ as to the precise cultural indicators thrown out by red headscarves (I am pretty sure I read Hamas the other day, but I cannot find the reference ...), but it certainly does not show loyalty to the 'moderates' in Gaza and Judea Samaria. Wiki suggests the PFLP and the rest of the alphabet soup end of PLO leftists, none of which are especially lovable. The EU and the US have designated the PFLP as a terrorist organisation.

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How many Lords does it take to change a lightbulb?

(Updated with exciting apparent possibility of plagiarism by Lord Rooker)

One to take it out of the socket, one to open the window, and one to drive to the tip, cough, local civic amenity site:

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to take action to inform all households and businesses in what way they should safely dispose of used fluorescent light bulbs and how they should deal with breakages, bearing in mind the toxic substances contained in those commodities.

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker (1))

However, it is sensible for householders to take reasonable precautions in cleaning up and disposing of a broken bulb, such as ventilating the room for 15 minutes. A broken bulb can be taken to a local civic amenity site. Local authorities are under an obligation to provide such sites for the disposal of household waste. Source

I for one, would love to know how many people will follow this advice, and also how tip workers would react. Presuming that only green / safety obsessives and the mentally unhinged (at the risk of a redundancy...) would go through with this pantomime, doubtless only public transport would be good enough for transporting this flask of anthrax equivalent, and driver, passengers et al would have to be alerted. I suspect hilarity would ensue.

(1) Rooker has form: "Rather than build a water grid, it would be much better to move the population and centres of Government and reconfigure the country more fairly".


An Anonymous commentator (who thinks I was being flippant - yes, very guilty) draws our attention to what the US EPA has to say on fluorescent tubes. Compare and contrast what it says with what Rooker says:

EPA: "CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of 5 milligrams – about the amount that would cover the tip of a ballpoint pen...No mercury is released when the bulbs are intact or in use".

Rooker: "
I would like to take this opportunity to reassure the House that while energy efficient bulbs do contain a small amount of mercury (enough to cover the tip of a ball point pen) it cannot escape from an intact bulb".

EPA: "The following steps can be performed by the general public: 1. Open a window and leave the room for 15 minutes or more"

Rooker: "
However, it is sensible for householders to take reasonable precautions in cleaning up and disposing of a broken bulb, such as ventilating the room for 15 minutes".

Has the Lord just had a Joe Biden moment? If so, why don't we just be done with him and direct Lord Stoddart to google?

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Walking the walk and talking the talk....

From Hansard: Anne Moffat (Labour, East Lothian) "To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport if he will bring forward legislative proposals to increase levels of transparency of salaries paid by professional football clubs".

Is that Anne 'expenses' Moffat?

Yes, it is:

'Has never voted on a transparent Parliament'.

'Voted very strongly against investigating the Iraq war'

Which, in itself, is not that surprising for lobby fodder. But here is the bit that puts Moffat in the same class for chutzpah as the child who killed his parents but as an orphan begged for clemency:

"Moffat...ran up the highest travel bill of any Westminster politician in 2003/04. ..a breakdown of her expenses has been published after a fierce two-year battle for disclosure. Anne Moffat's record bill was made up of thousands of pounds' worth of first-class rail and air fares, as well as trips to Malta and Portugal. Moffat, however, ran up the highest travel bill of any Westminster politician in 2003/04.The landmark decision to publish the claims may open the floodgates for a spate of other revelations about MPs' allowances. It follows a two-year fight by Green Party activist Michael Collie for publication of Moffat's travel bill. The Labour MP was criticised after billing the taxpayer for nearly £40,000 in travel costs between 2003 and 2004, the highest claim of that year, Her huge bill led to questions being asked about the nature of her claims and prompted Collie to request more details through the Freedom of information Act 2000 (FOI). The UK Parliament's decision to refuse publication of Moffat's claims was overturned by the Information Commissioner, whose judgment was backed earlier this year by the Information Tribunal".

Some people have no shame. Meanwhile, it would look as though her local top league football teams are Hibs and Hearts.

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Something the Government will *not* be bragging about

Miracle of miracles, Eurobarometer has a survey in data protection not far from hitting the presses. Thus far, only the preliminary pan-European results have been released.

See if it is possible to restrain a hollow laugh at this:

"Interestingly, more than 50% of respondents said they trusted medical services and doctors, insurance companies, banks and financial institutions, employers, police, social security, tax authorities and local authorities when handling data. On the other hand, less than 50% of respondents said they trusted market and opinion research companies, non-profit organisations, mail order companies, credit reference agencies, credit card agencies and travel companies".

More detail when it is published.

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Caption competition

Monday, January 28, 2008
Crying out for one, isn't it?

(The old man is Mikhail Gorbachev, by the way)

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An Olympic disaster on the horizon.

But this time it is the Chinese who have problems, rather than us - lots and lots (and lots) of unsold tickets:

"Only 450,000 tickets for this summer's Olympic Games have been successfully allocated, accounting for about a quarter of the tickets available for sale in the second phase, the Beijing Olympics Organizing Committee said on Sunday". Source

Clearly there will be no problem filling the stadium for the more appealing athletic events, but I will offer the usual odds that thousands of unfortunates will be bussed in to fill up arenas and the like for lesser events. Come 2012, if the wretched event has not been cancelled, expect an awful lot of complimentary tickets being dished out to school children.

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Plane spotting at public expense

From Lords Hansard:

Lord Jopling asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Drayson on 17 October 2007 (WA 52), on how many occasions since last October Royal Air Force aircraft have been launched to monitor Russian aircraft approaching United Kingdom airspace. [HL1436]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Between 1 October 2007 and 18 January 2008, RAF Quick Reaction Alert aircraft were scrambled on 11 days to identify Russian military aircraft.

If all the flyboys are doing is identifying, could this not be left to someone with a pair of binoculars? Back on planet reality, perhaps the Baroness (in actual fact the lantern-jawed Ann Taylor) could use less absurdly euphemistic language.

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NATO - "an aggressive imperialist bloc"?

Friday, January 25, 2008
That, apparently is what 51.9% of Ukrainians think. Not that they were asked a question pre-supposing the answer 'yes', I am sure.

I discovered this from a report at Novosti on a demo by all of 1,000 people in the streets of Kiev, opposing NATO membership. They chanted the snappy 'NATO is slavery for Slavs', inter alia.

The organisers look to be Communists and members of the imaginatively named 'Party of Regions'. The latter is more a party of region, singular, given that its support looks to be entirely in the eastern, Russified, part of Ukraine. Said party has a website available in Russian and English, if not in the nation's official language.

I am not entirely sure that the English language site has been written by folk with any great fluency in my language, but it does have a certain surreal poetry:

"We will not allow the thousand year common history with Russia was destroyed by some beekeeper. That’s why NATO membership consequences will be worsening the relations with Russia".

Perhaps one of those leading the demo will do a Solana, and end up leading it.

Meanwhile, some 731 miles from Kiev as the Mig-29 flies, the Macedonians seem oblivious to the prospect of helotry under NATO, as Nikola Gruevski, Macedonian PM (and a chap, by the way) is all for taking his country into the organisation, joining fellow Slavs both next door and those nestled in the Carpathians and further north.

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What else could one call this?:

"On 12th December 2007 the Mayor wrote to Westminster Council directing it to refuse planning permission for an application to develop Crown House in Aldwych, a predominately mixed use development with 7 residential units, as it included no contribution to affordable housing....the Mayor indicated his preparedness to cancel his direction if further negotiations between his planning officers and the developer resulted in an adequate contribution towards affordable housing. Following successful negotiations, the developer submitted revised proposals which included an contribution of £268,000 towards affordable housing elsewhere in Westminster".

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The future has been cancelled

"Large Majorities of Americans and Russians Oppose All Space Weapons" Source.

So what are we going to do when the aliens come, and not in peace? Presumably, the Pentagon will declare 'our weapons are useless'....


Obama's manifesto revealed

As recorded by the man himself for Letterman, and lifted from the Chicago Tribune:

10. To keep the budget balanced, I’ll rent the situation room for sweet sixteens.

9. I will double your tax money at the craps table.

8. Appoint Mitt Romney secretary of lookin’ good.

7. If you bring a gator to the White House, I’ll wrassle it.

6. I’ll put Regis on the nickel.
(I think this refers to Regis Philbin)

5. I’ll rename the tenth month of the year “Barack-tober.”

4. I won’t let Apple release the new and improved Ipod the day after you bought the previous model.

3. I’ll find money in the budget to buy Letterman a decent hairpiece.

2. Pronounce the word nuclear, nuclear.

1. Three words: Vice President Oprah.

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The 24th of January - an interesting date

Thursday, January 24, 2008
Hain Day is also the day Mandelson resigned in 2001. And, oddly enough, when Leon Brittan resigned in 1986, so maybe 2008 will see another ministerial scalp, on the basis of a closing of seven years in the gap between resignations.

And the day Caligula was assassinated.

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Margaret Beckett's curious sartorial choices?

From Hansard:

Mr. Hoban: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what products featuring departmental or Government branding were procured by (a) his Department and (b) its agencies in each of the last five years.

Jonathan Shaw, replying noted pens, travel wallets and travel toothbrush sets. Curious, if less curious than the 50 long-sleeved T-shirts.

I can just imagine that one would feel dangerously hip wearing a DEFRA T-shirt, and anyone who can supply a photograph of Mags sporting one will win my undying gratitude.


A pol in even hotter soup than Hain

Governor Antonio Leviste of Batanagas in the Philippines (On Luzon island, and not that far from Manila, and not to be confused with Bataan, of death march fame) is ruing his fortune at the moment:

"This is the saddest moment of my life. My life has suffered so much. My family, my daughter Toni has to cancel her international commitments in equestrian [sports]. Media has been so unkind to me. The Department of Justice has been unkind to me. I suffered the most". The report notes he 'appeared emotional'. Thank you Field Marshall Obvious....

It sounds like woe is him, does it not? And what has he done to be suffering this laundry list of horrors? He is on trial for shooting one of his aides, repeatedly, but in self-defence he claims. Apparently the victim, Rafael de las Alas, took umbrage that Leviste would not front some P1000000 (£12500) to support the aide's two mistresses. Some bosses are so lacking in compassion.

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Petition o' the day

And, as ever, it is a corker:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Restrict the size of umbrellas in central London".

And the gloss: "The unlimited size of umbrellas causes significant danger when walking the streets of many towns and cities. The crowd congession (sic) in central London makes the use of over-sized umbrellas unwelcome"

Has escalation from golf umbrellas ensured that folk now employ those 10' jobs used to protect pub goers from the elements, or has the petitioner been poked in the ear I wonder?

I like the implication that there would be some manner of border control for central London - perhaps coterminous with the congestion zone? - and the umbrella police would swoop should one cross from big umbrella territory to small umbrella territory. Would it be an offence to carry a large umbrella furled, or only unfurled? If the former, would it be confiscated permanently, or could it be left in a cloakroom, so to speak? How many people would be needed to police the checkpoints / cloak rooms, and what would they do when the weather is fine? So many questions unanswered......

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Alas poor Zagreb - the world's least loved city

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Or at least it is judging by a publicity stunt cooked up by the US copyright holders of Monopoly. Hasbro has come up with a list of 68 world cities which will be winnowed down to 20 by popular vote. Paris leads from London, NY, Rome and Sydney, while Agram (as it was under the Hapsburgs), Bratislava (Pressburg, Poszony...) , Bucharest and Ljubljana (Laibach) are joint last.

Vienna and Budapest fare a little better, otherwise one might think that there is a concerted campaign against Mitteleuropa.

There is scope for two write-in wild cards to qualify as Old Kent Road and Whitechapel, and Volendam and Cork are leading that list at the moment. I suspect that there is a campaign behind the former, as it has a population of all of 22,000.


The other race for the Presidency

Assuming we are not saved from Brown's pusillanimity by a referendum elsewhere, the EU constitution, cough, 'reform treaty' is pretty well upon us.

That Mr Tony fancies himself as EU Prez is well known, but a bit of rooting around has turned up some other candidates for that post, as well as those who fancy being foreign policy commissar the High Representative for Foreign Affairs. Blair has about as good a chance of getting the job as I have of being invited to the next Bilderberg meeting, and he is doubtless well aware of this too, but is using the speculation to leverage his earning capacity, I imagine. Sensible chap.

The Presidency first.

Jean-Claude Juncker, current Luxembourg PM. He has to be the favourite, as the Germans and the French will feel suitably unthreatened. Even his name smacks of euro compromise. He is about as interesting as his job suggests, and is a Christian Democrat.

Jose-Maria Aznar. Former Spanish PM. An Atlanticist, sound right winger and all round good huevo. If there is going to be a EuroPrez, he is the best realistic option.

Alexander Kwasniewski. Former Polish PM and social democrat, who would appear to have a bit of a thing for the demon drink. Mind you, he is an honorary Knight of the Bath, although that honour for visiting dignitaries seems to be about as common as being asked to sign the visitors' book at Buck House.

Bertie Ahern. Our next door neighbour to the west, but in the best euro tradition would appear to have not always been simon pure, if not in the league as that scoundrel Haughey.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen - Danish PM. An Atlanticist and sound on Islamofascism. Far from the worst option.

High Representative

Gawd, there are some dull dogs pursuing this one, and am grateful to Le Figaro for coming up with a list, as the British press does not seem to have mustered any interest in the topic. My mates at The Local have considered the issue too.

Michel Barnier - French agriculture minister (he's really going to be a radical free marketer, is he not?). Career politician who does not appear to have done anything interesting, ever. Has to be the odds on favourite.

Carl Bildt - Former Swedish PM, and the compromise candidate to end all compromise candidates.

Javier Solano - Spanish socialist, current incumbent and all round Vicar of Bray - he campaigned against NATO membership but then went on to lead it.

Emma Bonino - Far too interesting to get this job. She is of the Italian Radicali: "The Italian Radicals...are typically viewed as leftist by right-wing people, and rightist by left-wing people. Among other things, they are the only Italian party with a clear anti-clerical agenda...They are vocal supporters of human and civil rights, including abortion, gay marriage, euthanasia, artificial insemination, stem-cell research and legalization of soft drugs. This put at odds the party with the mainstream centre-right parties, while their strong support of libertarian policies, free market, liberalizations, privatizations, low taxes and privately-funded health care put it at odds with the centre-left". See what I mean?

Wolfgang Schussel - Former Austrian PM, Christian Democrat and outwardly harmless, but he plays the accordion.

Mikuláš Dzurinda - Former Slovak PM and a Christian Democrat. He has a rather natty 'tache, and if paired with Aznar, our American friends might think that the EU was run by the Village People. However, "The government of Mikuláš Dzurinda has been praised by the World Bank as the best market reformer in the world. Flat tax rate 19 per cent for income, corporates and value added tax led Steve Forbes to call Slovakia an "investors' paradise." Source. Come here Micky, we could do with your help.

Günter Verheugen - German Socialist, and Commissar for Industry. No thanks.


Just how many 'sick and disadvantaged' Monegasque children are there?

That question came to mind upon reading the list of applicants for consultative status for the UN's Economic and Social Council.

Note this: "Association “Les enfants de Frankie”, a national organization based in Monaco and founded in November 1997, which seeks to entertain and provide psychological, material and financial support to sick and disadvantaged children nationwide, working closely with social services, hospitals, children’s homes and more than 300 humanitarian organizations". It has a website, with creepy clowns and music, so click at your own risk.

A little light fact checking suggests that there are around 5000 Monegasque minors, so that would mean one humanitarian organisation for every 16 children, and in all honesty, I do not think that all 5000 are either dying of consumption or standing outside the casino with a begging bowl. Then again, maybe the relative poverty lobby is in power there, and it is doing its bit to support poor unfortunates with parents who are only millionaires rather than billionaires. I can just imagine the Christmas charity appeals.

Also signed up is the "Nigerian Army Officers’ Wives Association, a national organization headquartered in Abuja and founded in 1963, which exists to foster the bonds of friendship and promote cordial relations between all military families and their immediate communities throughout Nigeria". A laudable aim, no doubt, but what on earth has it got to do with the UN?

However, it was not a good day for London-based NGOs, as decisions were left pending on Spirituality for Kids - "an international organization based in London and established in May 2004 as a means to seek an end to suffering and chaos in the lives of children worldwide by giving them the tools of spirituality and resiliency" - and Kabbalah Centre, "a London-based international non-profit organization established in October 1998 and dedicated to removing all forms of chaos, pain and suffering in the world by inspiring people through universal principles of responsibility, tolerance and human dignity". I am not making this up, really I am not.

It would be remiss not to pause to point and jeer at the International Federation of Liberal Youth, which failed dismally to convince the UN to fast track it, even though it is "for liberal and student youth organizations to provide a forum for cooperation, exchange of resources and ideas, and intercultural learning between liberal youth organizations". The IFLY is associated with Liberal International, to which our own dear Lib Dems subscribe, but there appear to be no Britons on the IFLY's bureau (yes, that's what they call it) or on its house mag's board of editors. I think our more youthful LDs are missing a trick, as there must be truly fabulous opportunities for junketing with IFLY.

Stand by for a new ice age

Tuesday, January 22, 2008
Yup, it is the 1970s redux:

"Temperatures on Earth have stabilized in the past decade, and the planet should brace itself for a new Ice Age rather than global warming, a Russian scientist said in an interview with RIA Novosti Tuesday. "Russian and foreign research data confirm that global temperatures in 2007 were practically similar to those in 2006, and, in general, identical to 1998-2006 temperatures, which, basically, means that the Earth passed the peak of global warming in 1998-2005," said Khabibullo Abdusamatov, head of a space research lab at the Pulkovo observatory in St. Petersburg".

Good job a certain lobby started referring to climate change rather than global warming a while back, eh?

And there's more:

"By 2041, solar activity will reach its minimum according to a 200-year cycle, and a deep cooling period will hit the Earth approximately in 2055-2060. It will last for about 45-65 years, the scientist added. "By the mid-21st century the planet will face another Little Ice Age, similar to the Maunder Minimum, because the amount of solar radiation hitting the Earth has been constantly decreasing since the 1990s and will reach its minimum approximately in 2041," he said".

Should I still be around by 2041, when I would be a sprightly (?) 75, much will be the pleasure from moaning about the cold to anyone in earshot.

Meanwhile, here is a picture of a mammoth, that readers might prepare themselves:

And as Joy Division put it, " We'll live in holes and disused shafts, Hopes for little more".

Postscript time - The World Winter Cities Association for Mayors is sticking to the global warming hypothesis and in the Nuuk Declaration 2008, "acknowledge their responsibility to lead the world and co-operate by sharing knowledge and establishing initiatives in the struggle to limit global warming".

An odd group, the WWCAM. I do not think anyone would dispute that Nuuk, Anchorage and Magadan are quite remarkably cold, but what in tarnation is Kaunas doing being a member?

This is what it is like in Nuuk: "Nuuk has a moderate polar climate with a yearly average temperature of −1 °C (30 °F). 18 °C (64 °F) is exceeded on average only once per year, with 24.2 °C (76 °F) being the highest recorded temperature and −29.5 °C (−21 °F) being the lowest". Whereas it is a positively balmy 1°C/ 34 °F in Kaunas today. Given how he loves a junket, and how it snows here from time to time, why is Livingstone not at the bunfight, eh?

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Petition o' the day, or 'To infinity! And beyond!'

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Provide funding for UK manned space missions". Perhaps not the highest of priorities for the tax payer, but the petitioner has a rationale:

"To inspire a new generation into science the UK should eithier (sic) on its own or in co-operation fund manned space missions, with a goal to eventually land a British Astronaught (sic) on the Moon".

Just love the typo, meanwhile I can think of a few people I would like to send up while safety issues are being ironed out - Brown, Branson, Livingstone, Jamie Oliver, Cherie Blair....


Great footnotes of our time.

Monday, January 21, 2008
The EU has put out a boilerplate denunciation of Russia's British Council-related shenanigans, which is of limited interest in itself, but the footnote tells quite a story:

"The Candidate Country Croatia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the EFTA country Norway, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Georgia align themselves with this declaration".

The 'me too' lists are a common feature to EU communiques and so forth, but compare and contrast that with this 'me too' list on Darfur, put out on the 8th:

"The Candidate Countries Turkey, Croatia* and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia*, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and the EFTA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia align themselves with this declaration".

Serbia, Armenia, Macedonia, Moldova and perhaps Ukraine can be excused for knowing full well which side the bread is buttered, and one would expect Georgia, B&H and Albania to want to stick it to Mother Russia at each and every opportunity, but why are Iceland and Liechtenstein sitting this out? Did nobody bother to ask? As to Turkey and Azerbaijan, who knows?

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Erm, not quite

An extract from a report in The Times of India on Broon's Indian junket:

"Complimenting India on its test victory over Australia, Brown shed his normally grave countenance. "I congratulate India on a famous victory - beating an Australian side who have won their last 16 games and doing so away from home." England's long cricketing feud with Australia clearly fuelled Brown's enthusiasm for India's historic win.

I wish I could believe that the hack penned that with tongue firmly wedged in cheek, but I fear not. I have not seen the Australian press getting worked up about the comment.

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A cheery bunch, the Hellenes

Friday, January 18, 2008
More from that WEF survey.

Asked whether "the next generation will have more economic prosperity, less economic prosperity or the same as now?" Greece was the most pessimistic, with 72% reckoning their descendants would be worse off, and moreover when asked "Do you think the next generation will live in a safer or less safe world or will it be the same as now?", 83% opted for less safe.

Meanwhile, a people rather nearer the sharp end, the Iraqis were more optimistic on the latter question - 40% thinking things would look up, and 24% expecting continuity. Of the African countries polled, the Nigerians were pretty cheery, as were the Kenyans, although one suspects the fieldwork was not that recent.

And guess which country trusts its politicians the least? For once it is not the UK (where 3% of the population managed to stop drooling long enough to say they trust politicians), but rather the US and Panama, with a vote of confidence amounting to 1%. Canada was third at 2%. 24% of Belgians trusted pols (I am beginning to think that the Belgian pollees included an awful lot of drunks, prank-minded students and situationists), leading the world ahead of Pakistan at 21%. Unbelievable.

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How to lose friends...

In a typically well thought out move, Buck House has decided that it cannot be bothered to send any of the cast of the national soap opera to attend the funeral of the national hero of one of the nations Betty S-C-G reigns over.

And lo and behold, our Kiwi friends know an insult when they see one, and it is the front page of one of the NZ dailies:

"Buckingham Palace has decided not to send a member of the royal family to Sir Edmund Hillary's funeral in what will be seen as a snub to one of the country's greatest legends".

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"Rock stars, is there anything they don't know?"

I ask, because a WEF survey suggests that is what a rather alarming percentage of Germans, Belgians and southern Irish think.

Asked 'Which of the following types of people would you like to give more power to in your country?', 34% of our Belgian chums said musicians, as did 28% of Germans and 20% of southern Irish. I am not, as God is my witness, making this up. Follow the link, and there it is on page 45. We were polled too, and 2% of Britons agreed with that proposition.

So, which musicians might we expect to see in the next Belgian cabinet? 2 Unlimited, Technotronic, Front 242 and maybe Johnny Hallyday. I suppose Kraftwerk are a shoo-in for the German ministry of industry, and the Dubliners will be taking charge of urban planning in the Republic.

'Hello' culture seems to have seeped deep into the core of the Belgian, German and southern Irish souls, as it is not just musos they want in government, they want film stars and sports stars too - 26% of Belgians want sports men and women with more power, and 14 % of Germans want more power for film stars. I am at least as happy as the next man to see more of Nastassja Kinski, but.....

Away from that particular set of jaw droppers, intellectuals are disturbingly popular as candidate for greater power - 60% + in the three countries at issue, 24% in France (Ha - take that BHL) and over 50% in both Thailand and Taiwan. We manage a fairly sensible 13%, so that's hard cheese for Stephen Hawking, inter alia. The track record of intellos in power has not been an entirely happy one, shall we say, and I would recommend our neighbours read up on former professor Abimael Guzmán, or Presidente Gonzalo as he preferred, and the Sendero Luminoso...

There's more, much more, in the WEF survey, and I may well be returning to this.

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Amazing the impact a title or a uniform can have....

Thursday, January 17, 2008
""One hundred years ago, on October 16th, 1906, a German impostor named Wilhelm Voigt masqueraded as a Prussian military officer. He had purchased parts of used captain's uniforms from two different shops. In the Berlin district of Koepenick he went to the local army barracks, stopped four grenadiers and a sergeant on their way back to barracks and told them to come with him. Indoctrinated to obey officers without question, they followed. He dismissed the commanding sergeant to report to his superiors and later commandeered 6 more grenadiers from a shooting range. Then he took the soldiers to the Köpenick city hall and told them to cover all exits".". Source

This came to mind when skimming an article a piece of bilge penned by '
Clinical psychologist Oliver James' over at the BBC site. James thinks that ""selfish capitalism" (the kind of capitalism we have in Britain) is making us sick. Literally"....The citizens of selfish capitalist countries are twice as likely to suffer from a mental illness as the citizens of countries in mainland western Europe, which practise 'unselfish capitalism'".

The thesis scarcely deserves to be fisked, and moreover I lack the energy / inclination to do so. For now, I will highlight the
Post hoc ergo propter hoc and cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacies. However, note that 'Clinical psychologist Oliver James' is not some sort of academic medic ensconced in an ivory tower, but rather a highly political animal: "Whilst Jack Straw was Home Secretary he provided ‘blue skies thinking’ every six weeks at The Home Secretary’s Lunches. He currently performs the same role for the Tory party".

Should the latter be true, there is one very large Cuculus canorus in the nest, as James' own site has some links
- but only to the New Economics Foundation and to Compass Online, both very much of the hard left.

Virtue compelled, or clamping down on economic acts between consenting adults

Let us say that one is an Israeli, not religious, and one who fancies making a bit of cash by working an extra day per week. Try that, and there will be trouble:

"According to the Work and Rest Hours Law, no Israeli employee may work on the day of rest that his or her religion dictates, unless he or she works in a specially designated list of occupations or workplaces. For Jews, that day of rest is Shabbat; for non-Jews, it is either Friday, Saturday or Sunday".

As some individuals have just found out, "
In the event of a conviction, the court may impose a fine of up to NIS 12,900 (£1764) per worker, per day".

Now this is not a question of an employer coercing employees, but rather to all concerned agreeing to working a Saturday . One might add that compelling virtue on the part of shopkeepers but not shoppers is a little skewed.....

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Fried squirrel.....

A favourite of Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee, apparently.

The video is worth the click, and prepare to discover how one can cook the North American Tree Rat when lacking a conventional oven:

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Looks like Davos could be fun this year....

The WEF has published the Davos attendees list for 23-27 January, and there are rather a lot of Britons going to the bunfight - Broon, Benn, Milliband, Wee Dougie and Livingstone representing the Red Team, and Cameron and Osborne representing the Blue Team. Oh yes, and Tony Blair. Should be fun if they have to share a lift.

Meanwhile, the Americans are pretty well ignoring it - Bush is sending Daniel M.Price, you know, the Daniel M. Price, the Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs and Condi Rice, although, oddly, she is not in the list linked above. And Al 'oh, is there an envelope going to be opened? Might I watch?' Gore will be there too. While most of Uncle Sam's most implacable foes are sitting this one out - no Chavez representatives, no Cubans, no North Koreans - there are five Iranians, who presumably will pretend they have not seen Barak, Peres, Livni and the other Israelis.


Good news for poker players - you cannot lose

Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Or at least not in Finland, where a university professor of law and economics has come up with a thoroughly well thought-out proposal which the kaiser blade-sharp brains in government want to put into practice: "Ministry of Social Affairs and Health is planning to introduce an amendment to the law on gambling that would enable Internet gamblers to claim back their losses. The payer would be either the firm providing the online poker services, a credit card company, or the winning player in the game".

I'm going to offer Helsinki my plan for extracting moonbeams from cucumbers.

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Quote o' the day

From Lords Hansard: "Train operating companies are required to protect revenue under their contracts with the Department for Transport. This may include the installation of ticket barriers at stations".

I am sure that ATOC members moan and gripe about that clause on a regular basis.

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Strength through joy

Messing about with national constitutions seems to be all the rage at the moment, and following on from the French stopwatch nonsense, the Germans now face the prospect of "sport becom[ing] a constitutional objective".

It turns out that fads have been incorporated into the constitution, or basic law before, as it was with tree-hugging a few years back:

Art 20 (a) "Mindful also of its responsibility toward future generations, the state shall protect the natural bases of life by legislation and, in accordance with law and justice, by executive and judicial action, all within the framework of the constitutional order".

I feel sorry for those Germans who just want to sprawl on the couch and watch anything but fußball. Maybe they can be persuaded to take the World's Largest Outdoor (and Indoor) Steroid-Abuse Fest off out hands.

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Spot the difference....

Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Here is the Iraqi flag under Saddam:

And post-Saddam:

And what is now proposed:

As all can clearly see, "On the new flag, the text "Allah akbar"(God is great) changes from green to yellow, the Kurdish national colour. It is also printed in traditional Kufi script, replacing Saddam Hussein's handwriting. The stars no longer stand for the three aims of Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party, (Arabic) unity, freedom and socialism but for the cornerstones of the new Iraq, peace, tolerance and justice. The flag's colours now represent Islamic civilisation, rather than Arabic glory". Source.


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What do 'confidence, equality, progress and efficiency' smell of?

A question many of us have suffered sleepless nights over, no doubt. However, they smell of patchouli and rose petals, apparently.

And how does this information come to be in the public domain? Because 'the Catalan Socialist Party (PSC) on Monday unveiled Spain’s first politically inspired fragrance'. (Although there are plenty of smells that make me think of the Left....)

"The red-coloured air fresheners are supposed to be inspired by the values of the left. “Confidence, equality, progress and efficiency”. 'Efficiency', eh? Now that is a good one.

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Nonsense on stilts. With a Jimmy Bonnet, a red nose and Spock ears

Nos amis les Français are intent on outdoing the Swedes for silliness, and I do believe we have a winner for the day. However, the Ides of January has come, but it has not past....

And this piece of folly? Laurent 'Infected blood scandal' Fabius wants balance in television news / current affairs coverage written into the constitution. And how does he propose to do this? By the use of a stopwatch. Yes, really, and he has started a petition (maybe he should try his luck at No.10, it does not have a particularly onerous door policy) to that effect:

"The balance of our democracy is undermined by the fact of the the President of the Republic and his advisers' considerable speaking time in the media not being accounted for. This is why we require that a constitutional provision be adopted, which imposes compliance with a true rule of the three thirds for the television appearances: a third for the president of the Republic, his collaborators and the government, a third for the majority, and a third for the forces of opposition".

The French equivalent of Ofcom has already shot down similar proposals because 'the President...does not speak in the name of a party or a political group'. In the meantime, the current - and equally idiotic - rule will continue: thirds for government, majority, opposition.

During the Sego /Sarko debate of last year, I noted similar egg timer shenanigans: "Both of them are being subject to a digital egg timer so precise times speaking to the nation are equal. SR got a second for saying 'bon soir'. Yes really".

I suspect that Fabius has the raging hump because Sarko beat him to the Elysee (LF was third after Sego and DSK among the Socialists), and has a rather nice looking young lady on his arm, whereas Fabius appears to have remained a less than jolly bachelor since his divorce.

In his favour, I will grant that his response to a magazine's question, 'what would you like God to say to you, if he exists?' is really rather good:

"Welcome my son. Make yourself comfortable. You have done well. Now you can go and find your friends. And you will never be short of time for them".

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Nonsense on stilts

A Swedish government inquiry proposes that sexist advertising should be banned. No, I am not making this up.

Just a few problems spring to mind...

Sexist? As defined by who? Professional litigants / bores / offence takers, thus giving us complaints over the use of men in adverts for beard trimmers and women in adverts for sanpro? Yes, I have chosen extreme examples, but there are many, many products aimed at particular demographics, and they are advertised accordingly. Note that clothing / hair care / scent etc models are selected to appeal to women rather than men.

Advertising? Is it merely the rattling of a stick in a swill bucket, or should it be seen as commercial art? I would argue the latter, strongly.

Freedom of speech? Yes, it is a freedom of speech issue.

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How the EU is robbing us of choice while impoverishing the western Pacific

By refusing to allow nangai nuts into the EU. These are a delicacy that grow wild in Vanuatu in particular, but also in PNG and the Solomons.

A Vanuatuan spice exporter has a run down: "Indeed, the businessman believes the nuts, otherwise known as canarium indicum, is the most lucrative crop in Vanuatu...Spending over a quarter of his life on studying the nuts, figures fall off Wah's mouth easily. Fully exploited, the man believes the nuts can employ up to 100,000 people, that's just about half of Vanuatu's population!...prices hovering at around A$5000 a tonne".

Vanuatu is not a rich country - "The main problem we've got at the moment is with the price of around A$5000 a tonne, the farmers harvest, they crack the nuts, they load them in the plane, and when they get the money, they don't want to work again because it's one of the highest incomes they ever had. It's very difficult.”

The EU's reasons for blocking the export of nanagai nuts are not brilliantly clear:

"An additional assessment was carried out in accordance with Article 7 of the Regulation. The Scientific Committee for Food adopted an opinion on 8 March 2000, which stated that data necessary for the assessment of the safety of the product are lacking. Therefore the product should not be authorised".

Our own dear MAFF (as was) decided to copy the French: "The Committee considered the summary application and assessment report from the French Competent Authority. The Committee considered that the information available was insufficient in a number of areas to recommend approval. In particular more toxicological data was required along with data, on the potential allergenicity, given that other members of this nut family can give rise to contact dermatitis and allergic reactions".

Never mind that research has shown that "those with nut allergies can enjoy nangai" , or that the USA, Australia and Japan - inter alia - with their shockingly poor standards of food approval and the like allow the sale of these nuts.

Anyway, here is the Nangai nut in its natural habitat:

I am, of course, itching to try a nangai nut or two, and thus I damn the EU's Novel food regulations for preventing me from doing so, but more importantly for limiting the ability of Pacific islanders to make a half-way decent living.

Meanwhile, the Food Commissars have approved the following, "‘maize-germ oil high in unsaponifiable matter’, 'foods and food ingredients derived from genetically modified maize line MON 863', 'yellow fat spreads, milk based fruit drinks, yoghurt type products and cheese type products with added phytosterols/phytostanols' etc etc.

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Top 10 complaints of 2007

Monday, January 14, 2008
Consumer direct, the government's exciting dial a whinge service, has come up with the top 10 complained about matters of the year. I suppose it must be because the list has been edited for relevance and things that the service might reasonably hope to be able to address that it focuses on second hand cars, mobile phones and the like.

In no particular order, I would imagine the (male) top 10 would be more like this:

  • 'This lousy weather' - (Has to be #1, surely?)
  • 'This useless council'
  • 'This useless government'
  • 'All this junk mail'
  • 'The traffic / trains / rush hour'
  • 'The boss / underlings'
  • 'Son's / daughter's etc new girlfriend / boyfriend etc'
  • 'The next door neighbours'
  • 'The England football / rugby / cricket / underwater tiddlywinks team'
  • 'This smoking ban'.


A nation of liars

In much the same way that angling makes liars of otherwise honest folk, so - it would appear - do surveys on environmental etc behaviour commissioned by Defra.

Having waded through the release and the 'research' pondering on whether to offer a terrible warning as to how we could expect to be bullied by the state in the future, I decided that a lot of the 'research' failed the Croydonian 'come off it' test.

Judge for yourselves:

"64 per cent said that they never leave their TV on standby overnight. A similar proportion never “leave their mobile charger plugged in” and half never “leave lights on in rooms when not in them". The smallest proportion, 15 per cent, said that “never throw away food”.

And just 23% fess up to leaving the tap running while brushing their teeth.

More later, perhaps.

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Or petition o' the day:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Change the name of the "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland" to the "United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland", and to state in legislation that the largest island of the union should be called simply, "Britain".

Seeing this, in expected this to be someone from our very own self-hating left, but no, it is not even from someone with British nationality:

"The fact that you British (I hold Irish citizenship, and I am resident in the area of my country currently under the sovereignty of the Queen of England - it might as well be just England, can't the Scots see they are just living in "Scotshire", a county of England?) proclaim yourselves to be "Great" is something which I and many other people from around the world see as immature and arrogant".

The Queen of 'England'? Nope, of the United Kingdom. The petitioner also does not seem to understand that 'great' is not a synonym for 'marvellous' or 'excellent' or somesuch, but rather indicates size and separates it from Brittany. And do not get me started on a country that lais claim to another country's territory in its constitution up until 1998, and through implication continues to do so through its name.

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The things they say

Friday, January 11, 2008
Someone at TfL reacting to increasing crime / 'anti-social behaviour' on London buses:

"The vast majority of our passengers are unlikely to be the victim of crime on a London bus." Further details at the Standard's website. As is also noted, all of the most dangerous routes are North of the River, and involve the vile bendy buses.

So that's all right then. And the vast majority of my readers will not be killed, assaulted, robbed etc while at home, work or out and about this year.

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The way some people fill their time

Like recreating the climactic battle at the end of the Lord of the Rings in confectionery. Yes, really

Further details at the man's blog.


Brennt Paris?

Le Monde has a report that the Eiffel Tower is on the Islamofascist hit list, Portuguese air traffic controllers having picked up radio chatter to that effect.

One does not have to be a strict Freudian to mull on quite why tall buildings seem such a popular target.

Meanwhile, if Wikipedia is to be believed, the design for the Tower was offered to Barcelona first.

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Jenny Tonge's terrible admission

She is "the part-owner of a very dodgy allotment shed", as has been revealed by a rather splendid exchange in the Lords on the issue of allotments. Despite my thinking of allotments and sheds being a largely male vice, it was mainly the Baronesses (and a Countess) rather than the Lords ruminating on the issue.

And I have not, nor ever will, forgive Tonge for being an anti-semite. Her erstwhile leader did though.

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"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

Or so it might appear to the TUC.

Brendan Barber has discovered the following:

"Financial services have been the powerhouse of the British economy in recent years. But we can't afford to be complacent. The finance sector relies heavily on high-level skills and unless we can meet this demand we will lose our world-leader status".

Could these financial services skills possibly be pressed into service by the private equity sector? I think they probably could, and what does Brendan think of private equity?

He doesn't like it. And he made the following rather impertinent demands last year:

  • to tell us what they stand for and whether they accept any responsibilities to their workforce or the wider community
  • to open the industry to greater transparency and disclosure, particularly of the rewards paid to, and the tax paid by, top private equity executives
  • to establish whether private equity can establish long term sustainability and not just fuel a short term - high risk bubble waiting to burst.
I made hay with this at the time.

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Quiz time - name the Iowa caucus winners

Easy, eh?

Well, less than half of the Americans polled by Pew in the immediate aftermath of the vote could name both. Republicans were better able to name both than were Democrats at 59 to 44%. Awareness largely followed levels of political engagement, education and age.

The most amusing finding is that the success rate for those claiming to be following the campaign trail 'very closely' was 67%. Were I pollster, I would find it a struggle not to mock the other 33%. At length.

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Say it ain't so...

The Beast of Redmond is rumoured to be intent on buying Swiss peripherals company Logitech.

I have used Logitech mice, keyboards etc exclusively for the last 10 years or so, as they have been consistently excellent (no, I have not been paid to write this) , well designed and reasonably priced. My experience with MS has been rather less happy.

I'm with the comment maker at El Reg who deems this 'Easily the worst news of 2008 so far', although I would make it merely the worst business / tech news.


A thousand years ago...

Thursday, January 10, 2008
I asked "What is an area of competence for an elected mayor?" because of a Livingstone initiative: ""Under the headline '£70 billion - Nuclear Waste?' the Mayor invites Londoners to participate in the debate now taking place about energy policy. The posters will appear on tube stations across the capital from Friday".

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

So why the little meander along reminiscence boulevard? Because the Mayor is at it again:

"The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone today branded the Government’s decision to build new nuclear power stations as the mistake of a generation". More here, but anyone with a reasonably lively imagination will guess what he has to say.

I suppose I should admire the Mayor for having solved all of London's problems - otherwise, why would he take the time to ruminate on energy policy?

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Non-Europeans - prepare to be incensed

(Technical note - Europeans in the sense of nationals of the European Economic Area, which is EU plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein)

Because Hansard makes clear that the British passport checking authorities consider your time to be less important than that of Europeans, and make you wait 20 minutes longer to have your passport peered at by someone in a polyester suit:

"Border Control is currently monitoring queues at the Immigration Control at 10 airports across the UK (Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Stansted, Luton, Bristol, Cardiff and Newcastle) to benchmark performance. The ports in question are using a 45 minutes (non-EEA) and 25 minutes (EEA) queuing time as such a benchmark. This in turn informs staff deployment as well as informing considerations on further investment".

Way back lost in the mists of time, I used to work with a young Australian chap who regarded Blighty as very much the mother country, and considered having to queue in the 'foreign passport' line as a grave insult. I hate to think what he would think of this business.

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Shouldn't they be looking out of the windows, not at the walls?

From Hansard:

"The Meteorological Office...spent £279,092 on works of art for its new building in Exeter in 2003 and 2004".


Quote o' the day

Today's quotee is Pope Benedict XVI, and his topic is football:

'Benedict voiced the hope that [football] ''may increasingly be the vehicle of the values of honesty, solidarity and fraternity'''.

And to think that Italian (and indeed, our own) footballers have been accused of diving, acting up, feigning injury, insulting referees, linesmen, fans, managers etc etc.

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Just how much does Lord Hunt dislike his relatives?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008
This being 'Lord' Hunt of Kings Heath, or Philip (to his nearest and dearest, I presume) Hunt, who has been answering questions in the Lords about the death of Dr David Kelly.

Lord Berkely (the 18th thereof, if rather shamefully a Socialist) had been reading Norman Baker's book on Kelly, and asked "As my noble friend will know, the Hutton inquiry was not statutory, and no evidence was taken under oath, so is it not now necessary for the Government to set up a proper statutory inquiry to investigate fully the circumstances of the death of this senior government employee?"

To which Hunt replied, inter alia, "My Lords, I have read extracts from the report, which I would describe as a good Christmas read".



Fact o' the year

"Spam accounted for 95% of all email traffic in 2007". Source, registration required

Is that all?


Memo to Hillary

The last Democrat to win the New Hampshire primary and go on to take the White House was Jimmy Carter in 1976....

There's a virtual round of applause to anyone who can mentally picture '92 winner, Paul Tsongas.

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Headline o' the day

What about this for a muscular personnel strategy:

"Unite wins pay for shop steward sacked by TNT".

Makes a change from 'we are going to have to let you go', does it not?

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Reacting to Eyewatergate....

from RADAR

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Put not your faith in plinths

Tuesday, January 08, 2008
It would appear to be that time again - Livingstone and his chums choose which horror to inflict on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. And the usual suspects have well and truly been rounded up:

Tracey Emin's proposal has a group of meerkats:

And for why? "She has noticed that ‘whenever Britain is in crisis or, as a nation, is experiencing sadness and loss (for example, after Princess Diana’s funeral), the next programme on television is Meerkats United’. Emin proposes to place a sculpture of a small group of meerkats on the empty plinth as a symbol of unity and safety".

Harmless enough, if a little silly.

Antony Gormley thinks he has found some 8,760 Angels of the South:

"Antony Gormley proposes that the fourth plinth is occupied 24 hours a day by members of the public who have volunteered to stand on it for an hour at a time. Over a period of 12 months, 8,760 people would take part. ‘Through elevation onto the plinth and removal from common ground’, explains Gormley, ‘the subjective living body becomes both representation and representative, encouraging consideration of diversity, vulnerability and the individual in contemporary society’". My thoughts precisely.....

Other proposals include "five concave mirrors [which] cantilever off the plinth treating all its faces as supports. The plinth is thought of as an object which is dematerialised by the mirrors" and "a scale replica of Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, in a giant glass bottle. The ship’s magnificent sails will be produced in richly coloured and patterned textiles".

Sticking my neck out 1/16th of an inch, none of those will be selected. What will be selected is one of these two:

"‘It is not an artwork, but the remains of a vehicle that has been destroyed in an attack on civilians in Iraq’". Can you not imagine just how much that will épater les bourgeoises? Livingstone et al are probably in a state of ecstasy just thinking about it? Will the 'artist' have the wreck shipped from Baghdad or just haul it away from the nearest dump? And why a Scirocco, I wonder?

If not that, then this:

Faîtes L’Art, pas La Guerre

"This illuminated peace sign – powered by the sun and the wind – questions our ideas about history and monuments on the one hand, and art and war on the other. The work, which is a collaboration between renewable energy specialists, structuralengineers (sic) and an architect, seeks to rebrand Trafalgar Square as a beacon of our cultural future rather than a memorial to England’s military past". I think we have a winner, do we not?

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A green raspberry for the Raspberry Reich

Jutta Ditfurth, a former Green MP in Germany thinks Ulrike Meinhof had it tough:

"Ulrike Meinhof was a much more interesting, much more multi-faceted person than I used to think," Ditfurth told DW-RADIO. "She was a woman who would have had a huge amount of opportunities and prospects -- if only she'd had the good fortune to have grown up somewhere other than Germany." Source.

There can have been few better places to be alive and in early middle age at the time Meinhof decided to become a terrorist. Africa? South America? The Soviet Bloc? China? The Middle East? Indeed, the BRD was such an awful mother to Meinhof that it allowed her to take a brace of degrees and be a full time student for some years before editing a magazine of the extreme left (Konkret), that continues to be published. Frau Ditfurth is an alumna too....

More, much more, on the Baader-Meinhof gang / Red Army Faction here.

Footnote - I *know* that the Raspberry Reich, or more correctly, das Himbeere Reich, was a dismissive term used by the extreme left for the Federal Republic, but it has proved extraordinarily difficult to pin down a reference because every possible form of googling turns up details on a film of the same name that is 'A critique of terrorist chic from pop culture maverick Bruce LaBruce'. If anyone can confirm the reference, I will be profoundly grateful.

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Hypocrisy, Norwegian style

Some among my readers will recall Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Norwegian PM, Socialist, Bilderberger, grandstander, anti-smoking fanatic and general nuisance. She was last spotted graciously allowing herself to become the token white woman in the ridiculous 'Elders' project.

Anyway, she's been naughty. Very naughty. She has been living in France, while continuing to make use of Norway's socialised medical system while not paying income tax in either jurisdiction. And she has not been declaring income from a US speakers bureau or from fizz merchants Pepsico. GHB, let it be noted, used to head the World Health Organisation.

Having twigged that it is not possible, credibility-wise, to have one's cake, eat it and exhibit it at Olympia CakeEx, she is threatening promising to return to Norway. I feel sorry for our Norwegian friends.

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Catching up with Egypt.

Egypt, apparently, leads the world in its appreciation of "Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict", as it signed a UN convention on it in 1955. We are just getting around to doing the same.

Margaret Hodge has the rationale: "The Bill will help to ensure the security of the nation’s most important cultural property in the event of armed conflict and will send a signal to the international community that the UK takes seriously its obligations under international humanitarian law to respect and safeguard the cultural property of other nations".

I do not believe that Her Majesty's forces have gone out of their way to make the life of jobbing Assyriologists any harder than necessary, but here is a list of some of the warring nations that have signed up to this protocol:

Russian Federation (as the successor to the USSR), Egypt, Syria, Iran, Pakistan and Iraq.

I am however prepared to believe that both San Marino and Liechtenstein have observed their obligations under this convention.

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The country where the population is more enthused by elections than sport, TV etc

Monday, January 07, 2008
Is, contrary to what one might think, the United States.

According to Pew Research Centre's figures, 70% are looking forward to the October election, whereas an astonishingly high 34% are looking forward to the Oscars (there can't be that many people nominated for the more yawn-inducing awards, can there?), 52% to the Olympics and 49% to the Superbowl.

Not entirely surprisingly, Dems are more enthused (82%) than Republicans (66%). I do wonder about the 18% of self-described Democrats who are not looking forward to the event given the way the wind is blowing.

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