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Dignity in politics. How she is not exhibited.

Monday, March 31, 2008
Nursultan Nazarbayev, the not especially awful (by Central Asian standards) leader of Kazakhstan has decided that he is just the man to carry the Olympic torch when it reaches Almaty.

At 67 he is neither in the first flush of youth nor in need of round the clock medical attention, but NN has opted not to overdo it: "Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev will run a 250m stretch of the torch relay".

Perhaps 'run' is too strong a word. Saunter, perhaps?

I would not fancy the chances of any Tibetans disruption, as "Kazakhstan has spent $2.5 million for the preparations around the torch relay...Almaty has also invested in security, having as many as 5,000-armed policemen to watch over the the relay run". Shame.

(I am deeply peeved to have discovered that I had got my Jimmy Carter anecdotes mixed up, and the killer rabbit did not attack him while he was jogging, otherwise I was going to offer that up as a terrible warning to Nazarbayev).

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'North' / 'South' fun and games on the other side of the channel

Anyone with even the most limited knowledge of English football will know that to supporters of London teams, all teams north of Watford are dirty northern, ahem, blighters. Likewise, Cockney is applied to teams a long way from the East End, including Portsmouth.

So much for the context. A cup match in France saw a banner aimed at the supporters of Lens noting 'Pédophiles, chômeurs, consanguins: bienvenue chez les Cht'is', which could be rendered, roughly, as 'Pedophiles, dole scum and inbreds - welcome to the North'. Nice, huh? The banner wavers supported Paris St Germain, hence my placing south in inverted commas in the title.

Here's a photo of the offending banner, borrowed from Le Figaro:

Le Fig's news pages reckoned it 30 metres long, the Lens club chief 25 metres and Libé 20 odd metres. Still, who cares about accuracy?

The Lensois are incensed by the whole affair, and want it dealt with as though it was racially motivated. The mayor even wants the game replayed. Yes, really. Best not mention the opinion the rest of France has of Paris.......

(Upon reflection, inbreds is a better translation than incest lovers)

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Cause, effect and the Metropolitan Police

Here is the headline and opening paragraph of a press release at the Met's website:

"Easter operation stops club and bar shootings 28.03.08

The Met police have once again successfully tackled shootings in and around the capital's licensed premises, with the second rollout of a special anti-gun initiative, named Operation Argon".

That no-one got shot in a London bar over Easter is undoubtedly a good thing, but the detail would seem to suggest that the London's Finest have fallen for the post hoc ergo post propter hoc fallacy:

"Over the period of the operation, officers carried out 48 armed vehicle stops resulting in 15 arrests, for a range of offences including burglary, possession of with intent to supply of class A drugs, immigration and driving offences. A total of 83 clubs were contacted regarding their promotions during this operation and over 200 venues were risk assessed by Clubs and Vice".

Note, nothing about handguns, rifles, shotguns, AK-47s, or come to that, Nimitz-class aircraft carriers being intercepted.

I do wonder whether we can expect every non-crime to be hailed as a triumph for the Plod.

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Hillary in Sarajevo - new footage

Friday, March 28, 2008

All very impressive, but apparently she would be prepared to exit NAFTA if 'reforms' she seeks are not accepted.

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Joanna Lumley running for the London Assembly

Thursday, March 27, 2008
Chaps of a certain age will visualise La Lumley with that shocking 70s haircut that she sported in 'The New Avengers' (the last British series to be networked in the States, apparently) , others will think of her as in that dire comedy with the one of French & Saunders not married to Lenny Henry. Doubtless there are other options, but there she is in the list for the English Democrats, at #9.

It would appear that there are two Lumleys, and this one looks to be quite youthful, so I would think that either her parents refused to have a television or had a sadistic streak. Unless she changed it herself, of course.

I think it is fair to say she will not get elected this time.

Elsewhere, note 'Chris Forster Former local authority auditor and accountant, now working as a psychic and psychic event organiser'. One would think that the tea leaves, auras or whatever would tell him he is wasting his time. Maybe they already have. It would be selfish not to haul out (again) the tale of Kelvin Mackenzie's letter sacking The Sun's astrologer - "As you will already know..."

More later, if more comedy is detected, and a tip of the hat to Justin for sending me the link and letting me have first crack at mocking it. No names, but he tells me that one candidate lost a job for accessing kiddie pr0n at work and another has a similar taste for forbidden fruit.

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When politicians go bad

Like this character in Nevada:

Think, maybe, she has her eye on prospective political advantage or, perchance, a lawsuit?

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What our Gallic chums are saying about Sarko à Londres

Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Or at least comment posters at Le Figaro's website, the commentary in the main dailies being far too dull to bear analysis.

Sarkozy - Europe needs the British (Anglais in the original)

To which the first comment maker, rejoicing in the rather flat soubriquet of tiglou75 notes 'That might be the opinion of Mr Sarkozy, but not of those French who know their history'.

Perhaps Tiglou has in mind the comment attributed to De Gaulle when vetoing British membership of the Common Market (remember that?), 'They wrecked the last serious attempt at European unity and I will not allow them to do it again'. Oddly enough, the reckoning is that he meant the Napoleonic system, rather than the Hitlerian one. (Quote is from memory and I have not linked it categorically to CDG as I cannot lay hands on the reference. Confirmation or debunking welcome).

'Analyste' cannot stay on topic and has it in for his Tonton Sam: 'Even in "weighing equally", I fear you were not serious, and I thus propose that the French should take their midday and evening meals in fast-food joints to show solidarity with these unfortunate people". Earlier s/he notes - 'It is not in their interests to turn their backs on the US, and all the while profiting from European funding largely in their favour'. (I am *not* making this up - 'Allons, il n'est pas dans leur intérêt de se mettre à dos les US....tout en profitant des aides européennes largement en leur faveur'). A strange sort of analysis, eh?

'Dom55' seems a sensible type - 'Nicolas would be better off going for a pint, it would be more fun than No. 10 or Buckingham Palace'.


Arnie sacks Clint

"The governor has said that he decided not to reappoint [Clint Eastwood], who [was] first named to the Park and Recreation Commission in 2001 by then-Gov. Gray Davis and reappointed by Schwarzenegger in 2004. He said [his] terms had expired and he wanted to give others a chance to serve". Source

Still, as the actor (not the former film star...) put it, "The parks is a voluntary job, and it's just a job you do, when they need you. It was fun. . . . They make changes, and that's their prerogative. It's not like I need a day job".

Rather unnervingly, Clint Eastwood will be 78 this year, and the Governator 61.

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Spot the difference...

Pictured here are those two peas from the same pod, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin. At least Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, thinks they are: "When I was heading into a meeting with Mr. Medvedev in the Kremlin and at the same time watched [Putin] on television, I was at a loss over who's who," Mubarak said. "In this respect, there's little difference between you two". (The different ties are the giveaway - Medvedev is sporting a burgundy number).

I have long thought that Mubarak looks like a minor thug from The Godfather trilogy, not that that is particularly relevant, but I do wonder whether his faculties are failing that he cannot tell those two apart, and whether he might get Ehud Olmert mixed up with whichever flapjaw is making excuses for Hamas this week, or McCain with whoever gets the nod for the Dems.

Anyway, an antique joke:

The Arab military top brass are discussing their repeated failure to defeat Israel, and are pondering on where they have gone wrong. They decide the Mig 21s were good enough, as were the T72s, and there were no obvious problems with the supply lines or chain of command . But one bright spark suggests it might have been the Russian military manuals: "Retreat into your own territory and wait for the winter snows".


Sucking eggs - a handy guide from the Mayor of London

Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Our old friend Felicia Nicolette 'Nicky' Gavron and Joan 'Unilateral nuclear disarmament' Ruddock have got together to launch "a report which addresses how homes in the South East of England can be adapted to the impacts of climate change". So anyone outside those areas best not read it. (Rather amusingly Ruddock is Minister for Waste, although I do not doubt her colleagues could challenge that title based on their achievements).

Anyway, "The three regions addressed in the report have a housing stock of more than nine million homes with 21 million people living in these homes. Of these properties, the majority were planned and designed for climatic conditions prevalent at the time of build. These climatic conditions have altered and the projections of changing climate in the coming decades suggest that the climate will continue to change, while adversely affecting these homes". More here.

I do not have the energy to go into the ins and outs of the logic of scientific discovery, 'proving' hypotheses and the like, but one does have to marvel at the idea that it can be averred that climate change has occurred when London and Roseland's weather over the last 50 years is well within prior norms. The really cute bit about the press release is the bet hedging - no references to global warming - so it could mean getting triple glazing for the forthcoming ice age, or it could mean installing air conditioning (although The Man does not approve of that) to deal with the delightful Mediterranean climate that, judging from the weekend's snow, is clearly upon us.

Anyway, enough of this skirmishing, onwards to see what can be done to protect Croydonian Towers from the ravages of climate change.

And the possibilities for mockery are better, far better than I could possibly have imagined. It really is 'hug oneself in delight and burst into song' levels of idiotic.

Yes, really:

"Homes need to be protected against the heat levels experienced in the summers of 2003 and 2006. There are many options, from simply opening windows to installing shutters or awnings". It also definitively answers that hitherto perennial mystery, 'Where does the heat come from?'. I am not making this up, although I am beginning to wish that I was. And the answer: 'Heat from the sun soaks into the walls and roof of your home during the day, warming them'. And there was I thinking it was down to malignant sprites breathing hot air through the letter box.

There is nothing else quite on a par with that, but it suggests insurance as a useful precaution against flooding, and - apparently - 'Many measures to improve water efficiency are inexpensive, attractive, effective and will save you money'. It suggests limiting one's shower to 4 minutes, which is a bit raw on anyone with long hair.

More later, perhaps.

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Oh dear....

Admittedly my Bulgarian is a bit rusty, but...

Turns out there is, or rather was, a noted Ken Lee - a Chinese Australian businessman who co-founded the Oz equivalent of Dixons.

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At last - the phaser debuts

Or more correctly, the PHaSR, this being "The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHaSR)...a rifle-sized laser weapon system that uses two non-lethal laser wavelengths to deter, prevent, or mitigate an adversary’s effectiveness".

It is not exactly pocketable:

I think the original has the edge for portability:

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Vox populi.....

Alarming findings from the other side of the Pond:

"Eighty-one percent say when making "an important decision" government leaders "should pay attention to public opinion polls because this will help them get a sense of the public's views".

That the rabble 'running' the show in these parts is a bit keen on focus groups is a matter of record, but - as far as I know - event-related policy is not defined by whichever part of the public squawks the loudest.


Light relief

Thursday, March 20, 2008
The wit of Ronald the Great:

With thanks to Justin for IM-ing me the link.

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The gift of seeing ourselves as others see us

Is what the British Council has just supplied:

On the upside, our Hibernian neighbours judge us open - 39%, as do 38% of Poles (perhaps they were thinking of our borders...), and 56% of Americans think us reliable, which is nice. Only 9% of Gauls think this of us. Remind us not to save your ungrateful hides the next time Germany invades...

Elsewhere, the Irish and the Americans think us sensible at 47% and 43%, but only 9% of the French. Then again they rave about Benny Hill and Mr Bean, don't they? 44% of Spaniards judge us bold / daring. We would appear to be in the throes of a bout of self-loathing, as we fail to top the table for any of the positives.

On the downside, a third of my co-nationals judge us aggressive, as do a third of Turks. The Turks do not seem very keen on Albion - 35% think we are snobbish and 49% think us manipulative, and 24% - quelle horreur - vulgar. The Spaniards are not keen either. All countries polled, bar France, saw 32% or more thinking us snobbish. The figure for France was 5%, which is curious, to say the least.

More later, but 52% of Americans think the French snobbish. The rest have not got as far as Paris yet....

Given that this seems to have brought forth a small outburst of patriotism in the comments, 'The English' by Flanders and Swann might appeal too. In order to avoid offending the other nations sharing these islands with us, I will skip straight to verse five:

And crossing the channel one cannot say much
For the French or the Spanish, the Danish or Dutch
The Germans are German, the Russians are red
And the Greeks and Italians eat garlic in bed

The English are noble, the English are nice
And worth any other at double the price

And all the world over each nation's the same
They've simply no notion of playing the game
They argue with umpires, they cheer when they've won
And they practice before hand which spoils all the fun

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Vanity, thy name is Kinnock.

Perusing a British Council report on transatlantic relations (1) I happened upon this drawing of Kinnock, who happens to head the BC these days:
Nice of the artist to lose Kinnock's glasses and shave off around 20 years, was it not? Even Betty Saxe Coburg Gotha Battenberg has dropped the pretence that bank notes should carry an image of her looking circa 25. Mind you, ID-ing Her Maj from a first class stamp would not be easy....

(1) Of which more later. Probably


Headline o' the day

From the Moscow Times:

"5 Suspected Skinheads Held in Raids"

So, are The Plod going to get out a tape measure to check hair length, or examining medical records for alopecia prior to confirming their suspicions?

(Turns out the arrested had their collars felt for something other than hair length)

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Blair's legislation - 'meaningless' says Straw

Wednesday, March 19, 2008
The Ministry of Justice (excuse the hollow laugh) is rather pleased with itself, judging from this press release referring to "A major clean-up of meaningless and defunct laws from the statute book is due to be launched in the House of Lords today. All or part of 328 Acts of Parliament masquerading as live laws are to be removed under the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill".

The emphasis in the release is on East India Company issues, turnpikes and the like, so yes, a cute diary-type story, and duly picked up by the BBC, complete with a visual plug for 'Black Adder'.

And here is the act itself, listing repeals, in part and in whole, and Blair legislation impacted includes:

  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998
  • Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001
  • Licensing Act 2003

Back on the comic stuff, note that the Unlawful Drilling Act 1819 is only repealed for Great Britain, not Ulster.


Fact o' the day, or the sheep will inherit the Earth

There are 27 million sheep - that's the woolly quadruped type given to baa-ing - in the United Kingdom. Spain is not far behind, apparently.

Further digging throws up some less recent, if neverthless interesting figures:

"In 2003 the world sheep population was estimated at 1.03 billion head. Based on numbers, the leading sheep countries, in descending order, were China (173,899,000), Australia (100,100,000), India (62,500,000), Iran (54,000,000), Sudan (48,000,000), New Zealand (39,928,000), United Kingdom (35,253,000), South Africa (25,316,000), Turkey (25,201,000), and Pakistan (24,900,000). The United States had 6,135,000 sheep, less than 1 percent of the world total". Source

So, Oz, Sudan and - obviously - New Zealand have sheep majorities.

(The sheep pictured are enjoying the Swedish island of Gotland. The friend who sent me the postcard has written on the back, 'Gotland has long been a holiday paradise for [nationality deleted] tourists'.)

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Shameful. Just shameful.

WorldPublicOpinion.org has polled the population of these parts, the US, France, India, South Korea and Indonesia on the opening stages of the genocidal campaign of the Chinese government against the Tibetan people, and less than two thirds of Britons manage to sign up to this, extraordinarily mild, statement:

"Critics of China say that it should allow Tibet to have autonomy, to preserve its traditional culture and to allow the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet".

In contrast, 19% go along with this, "China says that Tibet has long been part of China, that Tibet has benefited from modernization, and that the Dalai Lama should not be allowed to return because he aims to split Tibet from China". And the mouth-breathing remainder (18%) have no opinion.

Meanwhile, top marks to South Korea, with 84% supporting the first statement, and shame on the 63% of Indians who either support the 'People's Republic' or have no opinion. I imagine that the Koreans are well aware of how Beijing used to regard Korea as being its own private plaything too.

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Makes a change from dealing with the Apprentice Boys

Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Mr. Dodds: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland whether a meeting has taken place between the organiser of the 2007 Belfast Pride parade and the full Parades Commission; and if he will make a statement.

Paul Goggins: I can confirm that a meeting took place between the parade organiser and the full Parades Commission on 30 January 2008.

I bet the Parades Commission did not expect that one.


One thousand very confused Greenlanders

Monday, March 17, 2008
In order to register a political party in Greenland, one need the signatures of 1,000 voters. Quite a hurdle, given that the entire population of the island is 60,000 (My home borough musters a little less than six times that). Note that UKIP was fourth in 2005, with 600,000 votes, and would have had problems getting registered on a Greenlandic 1/60th of the population basis, as would the various nationalists and the parties of the extreme left.

Anyway, Nikoline Ziemer has succeeded in that endeavour and has set up the Sorlaat Partiiat in order to contest local elections next month. She says her party is 'libertarian-socialist'....

Yeah. Right.

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The Artsakh update

Azerbaijan has persuaded the UN to pass a resolution "reaffirm[ing] Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, expressing support for that country’s internationally recognized borders and demanding the immediate withdrawal of all Armenian forces from all occupied territories there".

Given recent events in Serbia / Kosovo, it is intriguing to note that some countries are quite happy to dismember Serbia in pursuit of self-determination for Albanians but will not extend the same principle to the Armenians of Artsakh. So, here are the states which have recognised Kosova but have also signed the Azeri motion:

Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, all credit to the unlikely list of refuseniks: Angola, Armenia, France, India, Russian Federation, United States, Vanuatu. Our man in NY abstained.

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What a way to make a living.

Lord Bell, or Tim to his mates, takes the Conservative whip in the Lords, but does seem prepared to offer succour to conservatism's ideological foes: he is advising the deeply odious Lukashenko, president of Belarus on public relations.

Just to make Bell's job just that little bit harder, Lukashenko is an election-rigging dictator, an anti-semite, a fan of Hitler and all in all one of the world's premier abusers of human rights.

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Bulgaria: too much culture or too little?

Friday, March 14, 2008
I pose the question, as the remarkably obscure (at least in these parts) Council of South East European Council Ministers has been meeting in Zagreb today(1), and it groups "ministers and senior officials of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia, Greece, Macedonia, Romania, Serbia and Turkey".

Getting all that lot together in one room is quite an achievement, but there are two culture ministers not there - those of Kosovo and Bulgaria. In the case of Kosovo, one could imagine the government has more pressing priorities, but why no Bulgaria? Bulgaria does have a culture minister, and in contrast to the generally dreadful people who gain that office in this country, would seem to have some experience at the sharp end, Stefan Danailov being a distinguished actor. I will 'fess up to not having seen 'The Taste of Almonds', 'The Queen of Tarnavo' or even 'Three Marias and an Ivan'. His official website is hosted at geocities, which certainly smacks of economy.

Or then again, maybe Hina is not red hot on fact checking.

(1) - Link is not direct and will not last more than a day or so. That's just the way Hina.hr runs its website.

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Loving one's 'job' just a little too much

From ANSA:

"A pregnant Croatian burglar fell from a balcony in northern Italy on Thursday and gave birth. Police said the woman, 26, lost her footing as she was trying to clamber into an apartment and fell from a height of 12 feet. Rushed to hospital, she was treated for bruises and soon after gave birth to a boy".

She should still get nicked, shouldn't she?

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Introducing London's least likely troopie groupie

Brace yourselves:

"Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, today announced that he will establish an annual Veterans Day event in London. The first event will take place in Trafalgar Square on Friday 27 June 2008...My aim is that on Veterans' Day every year London pays tribute to all our veterans, the sacrifices they have made and our gratitude to those who have served our country in the Forces or in the Merchant Navy and Fishing Fleets".

Is this the same Ken Livingstone who used to consort with people who thought killing British soldiers on active service was just fine? Yes, I believe it is.

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62% of Britons are morons. FACT

Asked 'Have you ever heard or read about the EU's Common Agriculture and rural development policy, the 'CAP', or not?', only 38% said yes.

The moron count is up three percentage points on the year, by the way. Our Gallic chums have progressed from 64 to 65% awareness, while Maltese awareness is down from 17 to 14%.

More from the Eurobarometer agriculture survey later.

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Petition o' the day

Thursday, March 13, 2008
"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Name many more ships after British and French admirals who haven't yet had any ships named after them".

No, I am not making this up.

Erm, I do not think that our jolly jack tars would like that very much, always supposing the French did not scream ruine bleue as soon as the champagne (or light ale, maybe) bottle hit the side. Or if the petitioner thinks that he has also got Sarkozy's ear as well as Broon's, perhaps someone should have a quiet word.

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Ed Milliband - Little Lebowski Urban Achiever

"And proud we are of him"

Miliband jr has been crowned a Little Lebowski Urban Achiever WEF Young Global Leader, which is nice. Somehow I doubt he will be making much of this on his CV, although perhaps this will speed his entry into the next meeting of the Bilderberg Group / Trilateral Commission / Bohemian Grove / Elders of Zion etc etc.

Zac Goldsmith and Elisabeth Murdoch are newly anointed WEFYGLs too, but I would rather mock Miliband because he's a socialist.

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Memo to the Tory whips office

Chaps, did you note this yesterday?:

Bob Spink: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) what proportion of people who committed suicide in Essex were (a) male and (b) female in each of the last five years.

Figures are up by the way. All very sad.


Petition o' the day, or slumming it with Asda

A petition has appeared at Attention Whore Central supposedly emanating from the CEO of Asda, one Andy Bond. Technically he terms himself 'CEO of Asda of Asda', a title not known to Burke's or the Almanach de Gotha, I believe.

Anyway, the publicity stunt petition is to reduce VAT on fruit juice and the like. Is Asda, and ultimately, Walmart so useless at lobbying that they have to fall back on this sort of nonsenses, or is this, as I suspect, just some idiocy that Bond - if it is he - can brag about in the Asda Gazette or whatever the staff newsletter is called?

Meanwhile, the petition has already racked up quite a few signatures, with the internal comms team perhaps having e-mailed head office that not signing would not be a career move.

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And why is this an issue?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The outgoing Mayor has decided 'that there should be no short haul air travel except in exceptional circumstances for Greater London Authority group work trips'. This is a glorified council we are talking about, so why in tarnation should they even be going outside the M25 (metaphorically speaking)?

I am prepared to take a train when it is as quick and as cheap, overall, as flying, but I will be damned if I will get a train that costs a whole lot more, takes four times as long (helloo London-Edinburgh). Similarly, always supposing there is fig leaf of an excuse for a jaunt to Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Strassburg or wherever (if these come in under the six hour bar), our merry junketeers will then be needing to stay overnight if they are going to get anything like a full day's work done, so 'the hairshirt for the environment' spin is just a load.

Meanwhile Jenny Jones, a Green and something of a Livingstone fan (she appears in lots of his press releases) thinks that "the biggest breakthrough will come when we get big businesses in London to adopt the same attitude to unnecessary flying". And what has La Jones done prior to sneaking into the London Assembly via the top up list? Was she a corporate lawyer, maybe, or the CIO of a FTSE 100 company? Maybe she ran a small import / export business? Nope, she was "an archaeologist in the Middle East, apparently "specialising in analysing ancient bird droppings". A worthy endeavour no doubt, but hardly one where one might say that time is money...

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Bad ideas from unexpected places

I am NOT making this up:

"Italy is to spearhead an international campaign to win UNESCO recognition for the Mediterranean diet, Italian Agriculture Minister Paolo De Castro announced on Tuesday. The minister told delegates that Italy [would ask UNESCO] to add the diet to its World Heritage List".

The Italians are getting together with three other countries that really ought to be above this nonsense - Spain, Greece and Morocco. Meanwhile, if France and other countries with Med coastlines were asked to join in and turned the idea down flat, bravo.

It turns out that this is an extension of existing UNESCO nonsense, as "It has opened its register to include ''intangible heritage'', such as endangered languages or vanishing traditions. The Mediterranean diet is aiming for inclusion in this new category, which is so far home to music, dance and oral traditions from around the world".

Sooo, are Italians likely to stop cooking with olive oil or to shun pomodori any time soon? I doubt it, so what in the name of all the gods I cannot believe in is the point of this idiotic exercise?

A bit of rooting around has found a list of what UNESCO reckons to be 'Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity', and doubtless every Belgian would immediately have thought of Processional Giants and Dragons, Italians of Opera dei Pupi, and Czechs of Slovácko Verbuňk or Recruit Dances. Incest and folk dancing, eh?

Should we ever lose the ability to value our culture without first needing the Good Housekeeping UNESCO Seal of Approval, I foresee Morris dancing as a racing cert for inclusion.

Never mind the quality, feel the width

Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The wonderful people who brought you 'the meeja is biased against Muslims' report (which just so happened to take as its 'average' week one where the report on the 7/7 bombers was released) have come up with an 'audit' that proves that London is bigger and better, culturally speaking, than gay Paree, Noo Yawk, Tokyo and Shanghai.

I have been reading through it with increasing irritation, and may yet do a full blown demolition of it, but even the most cursory skim shows the fatal flaw in its method - it does not compare like with like. So, for example, the report writers are agog that the Great Wen has more art galleries than Paris at 92 to 59. If an 'auditor' reckoned that something of the size and grandeur of the Louvre could be compared with some odd back street gallery in Hoxton - as these people seem to regard as legitimate - he or she would have the ICA cutting them off at the knees.

And the nonsense goes on. And on. Numbers of major theatres, for example. No indication as to size, and forget that London's theatres seem to show little beyond 'musicals' concocted from the songs of defunct pop groups. Mama Mia and the Comédie-Française are not exactly on all fours with each other, are they? Forget also that the outer borough's theatres would be DOA without the annual injection of cash from the panto season. And 'number of music performances' per year, which groups Wembley stadium with the pub at the end of my road.

Still, Bonnie Greer says it is 'totally forensic', so that's all right....

Note that I have lived in London or its immediate orbit my entire life, and work in the media (after a fashion) and am quite fond of the place, but could do without this nonsense on day-glo orange stilts masquerading as hard fact.

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A Tale of Two Countries

Lords Hansard:

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission made to its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland concerning the ban on United Kingdom citizens purchasing property in parts of that country unless they have a major qualification in Irish; and what representations the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission made to its counterpart in the Republic of Ireland concerning the ban on United Kingdom citizens obtaining employment in that country unless they speak Irish.

And the reply:

Lord Rooker: As the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission remains independent of government, the noble Lord may wish to write to the commission directly on this matter.

Meanwhile, in Commons Hansard:

Mike Gapes: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what recent discussions his Department has had with the Irish Government on establishing a dedicated Irish television channel for Irish people living in the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement.

Andy Burnham: My right hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (James Purnell) met with Eamon Ryan TD, the Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, on 22 January 2008, to discuss a number of issues. The subject of establishing a dedicated Irish television channel for broadcast in the UK was raised, but no firm decisions have been made.

Ever get the feeling the rest of the planet struggles to keep a straight face when dealing with this government?

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Be warned

Jeff Ennis (Barnsley, East and Mexborough) (Lab): Does the Secretary of State agree that the British Federation of Brass Bands, which is based in Barnsley...will play a vital role in making a success of the Cultural Olympiad?

Andy Burnham: On brass bands, I am absolutely confident that the rich heritage that my hon. Friend describes...will play a very important part in our Olympic celebrations. Source

I wonder what Fanfare for the Common Man rendered by the Grimethorpe Colliery Band or somesuch would sound like?

Judging from this rendition by the Noo Yawk Phil, possibly quite good.

For those of us of a certain vintage, that piece of music will always be associated with ELP showing off in an empty stadium, so by presumed popular request:

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Good sense from unexpected quarters

Bringing the blood-soaked history of The God That Failed to a nation's attention strikes me as a worthy endeavour. Not that it is happening here, naturally, but rather on the other side of the Baltic (and the Skaggerak / Kattegatt chicane) in Sweden.

More from The Local:

"Sweden's Living History Forum on Monday launched a new project designed to highlight crimes against humanity committed by communist regimes around the world. The project will explore the actions of the Soviet Union, China, and Cambodia. The Forum, which was created by the government and launched in 2003, has dedicated its activities to educating people about the Holocaust for the last four years".

As the Black Book of Communism (a best seller in France, if not here) notes, "Communist regimes are responsible for a greater number of deaths than any other political ideal or movement, including Nazism. The statistics of victims includes executions, intentional destruction of population by starvation, and deaths resulting from deportations, physical confinement, or through forced labor. It does not include "excess deaths" due to higher mortality or lower birth rates than expected of the population".

So I have never thought it was big, clever, ironic or mordantly witty to sport t-shirts with Che Guevara or a hammer & sickle on it, any more than I would wear an Adolf Hitler European tour t-shirt. I have read a lot of Solzhenitsyn, Robert Conquest and others, and the death ships of the Okhotsk Sea, the digging of the Belomor Canal and Pol Pot's Tuol Sleng should be as well known as Auschwitz.

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Shop till you drop on Friday - the EU Commissariat demands it

Yes they do, as Friday 15th is European Consumer Day.

I have been a tad misleading, as what the Commissariat has more in mind for the day is that we should be reading up on the consumer credit act and sundry other documents. I do not doubt that Euroman and Eurowoman will be digging out magnifying glasses to better read the small print.

And the really dedicated, should they find themselves in Brussels, should make haste to Galeries de la Reine, where there is an exhibition of sundry public information campaigns so that '"real-life" shoppers can enjoy and learn from the messages that the campaigns convey".

As points of interest, it is also International Day Against Police Brutality, the anniversary of Columbus returning from his first voyage (so stock up on tobacco, potatoes and the like, maybe?) and, obviously, the Ides.

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Petition o' the day

And it is, as ever, a corker:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to ensure local councils do not put up signs aimed at misleading the public".

Absolutely. The rubric then goes on about naturism somewhere or other, so why the petitioner did not focus on the right to be sky clad, rather than on his council's signs, I know not.

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The courage of one's convictions

Monday, March 10, 2008
Nosing around the Standard's pages on the London assembly elections, it would appear that the London Greens are going to be in a terrible pickle come the 2nd of May, as Sian Berry, its candidate for the mayoralty is also on its London-wide top up list - in fourth. Given that they had three top up members between 2000 and 2004, four greens in the assembly - horrifying though that prospect is - is not quite within the realms of science fiction. Maybe they will just meditate until the problem goes away.

Similarly, the People's Party also seems to lack confidence in the electability of its slate, in that its top up list is the same as its list of seat candidates. Given that Felicia Nicolette Gavron is NOT going to win Barnet & Camden if the Socialists could not last time round, this seems a wise, if somewhat gutless precaution. I wonder why she has tired of Enfield & Haringey, her old stomping ground

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Unexpected legal rulings of our time

In a Jarndyce v Jarndyce of a legal process, 17 years after charges were filed, Imelda Marcos, the envy of women everywhere for her awesome collection of shoes, has been cleared of graft.

Yes, she has: "Passing the court's ruling Judge Silvino Pampino said there was insufficient evidence to convict the former first lady of 32 counts of illegal money transfers abroad during Ferdinand Marcos' 20-year rule. "This court cannot in all conscience convict the accused on the basis of mere hearsay and on the basis of documents which were not authenticated and proved in the proper manner."

I will assume that Pampino is the Lord Coke of Filipino jurisprudence, rather than having had his arm twisted.

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Great surveys of our time

The nation of malades imaginaire on the other side of the Channel has been polled on the ailments they most fear and holding the top slot is the Big C (72%), although its margin over Alzheimer's has fallen from 37 to 18 percentage points. Also coming up on the rails are cardio-vascular diseases and brain injuries. The Big Disease with the Little Name slips from petrifying 35% of Gauls to 27%. Multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's round off the leader board, while an impressive 3% have 'no opinion'.

No showing for either crise de foie or jambes lourdes, two ailments known only to the French.

Oddly enough, the survey was conducted for a magazine called Pèlerin (pilgrim), so I suppose it is rum that 'anything that could not be cured by taking the waters at Lourdes' was not an option.

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A germane comment from Ms Greer

"I can't see that Hillary would appeal to feminists because, why is she there? She is there because she is Bill's wife, and it's a bit useless to pretend, 'Oh, it's because of her wonderful job as a senator', and all that," she said. I just don't think it's true. When she had a big job in government, she blew it."

"I don't like Hillary because she's so bossy and cold and manipulative and stuff".

Amen sister. More here.

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The trouble with point scoring

Wading through an extraordinarily predictable debate on women in Parliament, I came across this:

"Lynda Waltho (Stourbridge) (Lab): I am impressed with the right hon. Lady’s words, but will she expand on the figures? How many of those selected women will be candidates in winnable Tory seats? How many of them will be normal working-class women who do not have Ashcroft money or are millionaires in their own right?".

And what is there to be said of the extraordinarily undistinguished MP for Stourbridge, and almost certain one term MP (majority of 407.) before obscurity proffers a hand? Interesting too that she seems to think society divides women into horny-handed daughters of toil and self made millionaires.

Anyway, doubtless numerous teachers and wonks will be pleased / miffed that she considers such lines of work to be authentically proletarian, those having been her previous lines of work. And what does the UK Polling Report have to say about Stourbridge:

Stourbridge is a suburban dormitory area on the edge of the West Midlands conurbation - while the seat is mainly urban, it borders onto open countryside just over the border in South Staffordshire. Largely white, lower middle-class, owner-occupied former council houses and large scale new-build private estates, especially in Amblecote".

So I can only presume that Waltho will bigging up her prole 'credentials' when touring the large scale new-build private estates etc and stirring up class war at every available opportunity.

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London council tax payers - the insurer of last resort

Friday, March 07, 2008
Or so it would seem:

"The Mayor of London Ken Livingstone today announced that the London Development Agency has set aside £250,000 to help stall holders affected by the recent fire at Camden Market".

I doubt if many other businesses would succeed in shaking down the tax base when they lacked the sense to insure their stock, fixtures etc.

While on matters Mayoral, yesterday I attended a rather entertaining lunch hosted by Boris Johnson and Linton Crosby, with much of the London-based blue blogosphere in attendance - Dizzy, James Cleverly, Iain Dale, 'Wat Tyler', Shane Greer, Sam Coates and Ellee (yes, I know Cambridge isn't a London borough) inter alia.

I may yet do a full write up, but for now two highlights:

Linton Crosby offers a hand and says, 'hello, I'm Linton', to which I reply 'It is an honour to meet you', to which he replied 'nah that's bullshit mate', and I replied, 'no, you are a hero to right thinking people the world over'. OK, written down that sounds sickeningly sycophantic, but why shouldn't the good guys have their egos stroked from time to time?

Secondly, sources close to our mayoral candidate tell me that not all of the signatories of the hilariously ill-timed and ill-judged lovies and lefties for Livingstone letter to the Guardian were aware in advance of publication, and some are a little peeved. This suggests to me that someone has a list of likely suspects for condemning whatever is upsetting the Left this week - Iraq, fox hunting, global warming, sightings of working class British people in Chiantishire - and this letter was cranked out in the expectation that if they did not like any of the above, then they would just be bound to love the dicatator-loving, anti-semite / homophobic cleric excusing Mayor of London.

Further, the Imams for Livingstone letter would also appear to have been bylined in the same manner, and at least one 'signatory' is considering legal action.

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What is wrong with this country?

Thursday, March 06, 2008
That it is reckoned necessary to add signs to public transport asking folk to offer their seats to pregnant women? I am not making this up - the signs go up on the tube from the 10th.

"London Underground research has found that a third of pregnant women travelling on the Tube are never offered a seat, and that expectant mothers can wait for an average of five stops to be offered a seat".

Remarkably poor, I am sure we will all agree, but it might be helpful to know whether this was all pregnant women, or those 'visible'. In order to deal with the 'visibility' issue, 'thousands of ['baby on board'] badges [were] given away to expectant mums so that other passengers could identify pregnant women'. I cannot think of any women I know who would even consider sporting such a toe-curlingly twee badge.

In the meantime, I foresee much trouble stemming from would-be gallants offering seats to the non-pregnant thinking that they were with child.

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Memo to Livingstone

Avoid future difficulties of the current sort by following the example of Seoul brother number one:

"Seoul City officials found to have taken bribes, regardless of the amount, will be suspended under the city government's stricter anti-corruption measures. Seoul City said it will press criminal charges against officials who grant illegal or improper favors in exchange for kickbacks, and will also impose stricter punishments on both givers and takers....

Public officials are not allowed to receive meals, communication services or transportation services valued over 30,000 won (£16), according to their code of ethics. Treats worth less than 30,000 won can also get city officials suspended if they had been requested or accepted in exchange for illegal or improper favors".

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Coming your way on the Fifth of November - the banger that does not bang

If the thoroughly obscure MP for Wolverhampton SW has his way: "Introducing a 10-minute rule motion in the Commons...The legal limit is currently 120 decibels...but Marris said this should be reduced to 95 decibels "in the interests of improving the lives of us all - both humans and pets".

The decibel system is logarithmic, so the proposed cut is rather more dramatic than it sounds.

Rob Marris, for it is he, is a good deal less interesting than his former employment as a lumberjack would suggest. Still, he has pledged to drink (not just to buy) a hot 'fairtrade' drink every day, so that will teach him.


Something to make the arts lobby sick with jealousy

Wednesday, March 05, 2008
How many times have Turner Prize winners and the like declared that they want to shock the public? A fair few times, I would think, and it would also seem to be the ambition of just about every graduate of RADA, the Slade etc etc . No one ever seems to have 'adding to the gaiety of the nation' on their wish list, but less of that later.

Anyway, if this headline - 'Street theatre scares children, shocks nation' - don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansaw, or rather Erzurum.

In a late bid for beacon council status, the Mayor of Aşkale, Erzurum province ordered municipal workers to 'dress up as Armenians acting out hanging an imam and murdering a family before being killed themselves by high school students playing the Turkish militia'. The 'educational' playlet was to commemorate the 90th anniversary of what the Mayor considers the liberation of the area, and "They repeat the event every year, he said, so children will always remember what happened. 'Keeping these sentiments alive will give us an honorable future'".

In fairness to the Turks, the main national newspapers are appalled and outraged. Which is a start, although acknowledging the Armenian genocide, or even asking questions as to why there are no Armenians in Erzerum province these days would be better still.

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Scratch a social democrat...

....and find a popular front enthusiast and a promise breaker.

Andrea Ypsilanti (she has Greek forebears, I believe), head of the Hesse SPD, has reneged on a pre-election promise not to co-operate with the extreme left Die Linke: "It could happen that I cannot stick to an election promise," she said. "Believe me, this is not easy for me." Source. The respectable parties in Germany have previously had a cordon sanitaire to exclude Die Linke, a combination of unrepentant Communists and sundry other flat earthers.

What she could do is co-operate with the eminently respectable, if rather less insurrectionist CDU, which would deliver 84 out of 110 seats in the Hesse assembly.

Minor footnote - when the CDU get together with the Free Democrats and the, bleurgh, Greens, it is termed a 'Jamaika-Koalition', as like Kingston's equivalent of Ol' Glory it has yellow, black and green. Fascinating, eh? By the same token, I suppose a Tory / Lib Dem coalition could be a Swedish coalition. As well as an abomination in the sight of the Lord, naturally.

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Clare Short will be pleased

The one thing that people who care not one jot about politics know about Clare Short is that she does not like photographs of underclad women in tabloid newspapers. Or at least she did not, as she has not had much to say about the subject since '86.

Anyway, the Danish equivalent of our own dear super soaraway Sun, Ekstra Bladet, is ditching page three, or in its case page nine, girls. So far, so not very interesting, but in a development that is howlingly funny, "Starting Wednesday, the paper's page 9 will instead be dedicated to women's issues featuring advice, comments and letters".

Anyone would think that the likes of Toynbee, Campbell (B), Bunting et al (or Nordic equivalents) had stormed the building, tarred & feathered the management and instigated a new editorial line, but apparently not: "Although the new page 9 will be dedicated to women's issues, there are as yet no women on Ekstra Bladet's management staff".

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"Modest doubt is called the beacon of the wise”

I do not suppose many people are aware of the Beacon scheme run by the Department for Communities and Local Government. Anyway, they are for councils showing a light in the darkness, and they have even had a bunfight to celebrate it last night.

Knowing what the Labour party's initiatives are like, it seemed likely, nay certain, that there would be plenty to mock in the list of winners. And I was right.

Of the 44 winners, six won plaudits for 'tackling climate change'. Yes, really. Step forward City of London, Eastleigh Borough Council, London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, Middlesbrough Council, Woking Borough Council and Worcestershire County Council. I cannot really be bothered to get into an argument about climate change, but I would have thought that all of these authorities would have better things to do with tax payers money. Perhaps a few years ago it would have been called energy efficiency, since I do not suppose that the schemes involved much more than hectoring staff to turn off office lights.

Reducing health inequalities was popular too - six winners. One might note that the Procrustean option would be popular....

South Gloucestershire Council and Leicester City Council won plaudits for 'Improving the outcomes for Children in Car' (sic). At least that is how it shows up in Firefox.

My own dear borough was a winner too - 'Local Strategic Partnerships and Local Area Agreements'. Explanations on a postcard please.


Give a dog a name.....

Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Our Teutonic friends can be a bunch of bed wetters sometimes. A German engineering company called Ixion took umbrage at a group of syndicalists calling it 'capitalist'. Erm, isn't that the entire point of being in business? It also, a touch more reasonably, had issues with being called 'extortionist'. In a further rather worrying development, Ixion judged that being called 'capitalist' would have 'a negative impact on its reputation among creditors'. Saints preserve us - those creditors could not possibly, whisper it low, be capitalists themselves?

Short form details of the litigation in English here, and in full form in German here, in which a Hamburg court reacted to a postponement in the lawsuit by noting that it would not deem the words defamatory.

Having done a little light googling, the German engineers might have done better than choosing a name shared with a character from Greek myth, "reckoned the first man guilty of kin-slaying in Greek mythology". Via some typically divine shenanigans, he ended up the father of the first centaurs.

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Is the world going to Hell in a handcart, or is it just that Ban Ki-Moon needs a thesaurus?

Certain stock phrases will always popular with politicians, and perusing the UN press room for the umpteenth time I was struck by how Ban Ki-moon goes in for being 'deeply concerned'. So, in pursuit of adding to the sum total of human knowledge, I have searched the UN site for three phrases, and charted them for the last decade:

(click for improved legibility)

The 'deeply concerned' tally for 2008 is a fairly encouraging five, and would suggest a year end total of 30 - the lowest this decade, but with 'deeply worried' at one, 12 would be quadruple the 2002 high. Alarming.....

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"The World's Largest Outdoor Steroid Abuse Fest" - The 'benefits' just keep on coming

Might an abbreviation to 'WLOSAF' be in order?

Anyway, the following is headlined at the Mayor's Evening Standard 'rebuttal' unit press office:

"London to benefit from nearly a hundred 2012 Games training camps".

Even the headline sounds more than a tad threatening - it might mean the Kazakh fencing squad pitching tents in Hyde Park or somesuch - but the reality is not so amusing, and by no stretch of the imagination a 'benefit' for Londoners:

"Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has welcomed the news that 96 sports centres and facilities across the capital have been selected to appear in a national guide listing training venues for athletes in the run up to the 2012 Games...Out of the 96 training venues selected in London, two thirds are from non-host boroughs, spreading the benefits of staging the 2012 Games across the city. Out of the 36 Olympic sporting disciplines, London is providing training facilities for 28 of them, which include a mixture of major and specialist centres including universities and schools, community facilities, and sport specific clubs".

So, the 'benefit' for Londoners will be that access to the local swimming pool, football pitch, gym etc etc will be curtailed because said Kazakh fencing squad, Ecuadorean volleyball players and for all I know the Vanuatu underwater tiddlywinks team have first call on the facilities.

Croydon, is part of the rather unpleasantly named South East London Cluster, and appears to have got off comparatively lightly in that only a judo club is up for a takeover. That sundry combat sports are being offered training facilities in the grimmer east London boroughs suggests a joke that is too obvious to be worth cracking.

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Exacerbating the West Lothian question

Monday, March 03, 2008
Would appear to be Lib Dem policy:

"Clegg, who is the first English Lib Dem leader to address the Scottish conference in nine years (1), said he wanted to double the number of Scottish MPs at Westminster within two elections".

Well, he didn't say LD MPs, did he? So that means 118 of them.....

(1) - Erm, because the previous two have been Caledonians?

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"I can't believe it's not Macedonia" pt III

Time for an update:

"It is thought that the negotiations could drag on through the weekend with the two sides appearing to be poles apart. Nimetz has proposed five composite names to replace the acronym FYROM. The name favored by Athens – as it gives a geographical determination and clearly distinguishes FYROM from the Greek region of Macedonia – is the Republic of Upper Macedonia. Another of Nimetz’s proposals – New Republic of Macedonia – would be subject to debate if it were modified to Republic of New Macedonia, sources in Athens have said".

Funny how the two varieties of Congolese can put up with the Democratic Republic and the Republic abutting that mighty river and that there are £4.20's worth of varieties of Guinea.

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Finlandisation nouveau

A little unfairly, the act of bending the knee to a powerful neighbour is strongly associated with the Finns, despite that nation's willingness to stand up to the Red Wheel in 1939.

So much for the history lesson. The Christian Democrat head of government of a western democracy, fearing that his country's citizens and economic interests might be in peril, lays the prospective blame not at the door of the rioters, assassins, boycotters and so forth, but on someone who remains at home and is exercising a right for which his co-nationals have been prepared to lay down their lives.

The quisling in question is Jan Peter Balkende of the Netherlands: "If Dutch companies, citizens and interests abroad are hurt following MP Geert Wilders' film on the Koran, there is only one person responsible, according to Prime Minister Balkenende. "At this moment, a great responsibility is resting on Mr. Wilders". Source

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Out of the mouths of babes and Latin American thugs

Our old friend Chavez:

"Colombia is [the] Israel of Latin America". Well, it is a liberal democracy with a market economy...

I suppose Venezuela would have to be the Iran of the continent - ever intent on mischief and destabilising its neighbours.

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