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Gossip. Of sorts.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Apparently, the together splendid Dan Hannan was told in no uncertain terms that he could not address a Bruges Group fringe event as Nigel Farage was also on the platform. So he did not.

Prospective posts

I have copious notes on speeches at the Friends of Israel bash, a climate change sceptics bun fight, an interview with David Davis and something else for which the detail eludes me. Any of those appeal?

Freedom and the internet - panel discussion

Fringe event of the day - probably - yesterday, a panel discussion featuring Guido, Nadine Dorries, Dizzy Thinks and Devil's Kitchen. An individual known not to be a fan of three of those people nor of the chairman of the discussion disappointed many by not turning up to heckle....

As with any of these write ups I do, unless I use quotes I am giving the overall gist of what was said rather than there being any pretence that is verbatim.

Qn to ND - is yours a real blog given that you don't accept comments? Why don't you take comments?

ND - As a full-time MP, I wanted to find a way to speak to my constituents, and -so to speak - take them to Westminster. That was the entire reason, and I think of my blog as more of an online diary

ND then went on to outline the less than friendly comments she was receiving at one point, threats to her and family culminating in receiving an 'I am watching you' text on her phone will alone in a post midnight station car park. She suggested that she might allow comments after the abortion furore has died down.

DK noted that it is very much a case of 'her blog, her choice', but felt that as a minimum some form of contact should be possible. ND commented that there is an e-mail address on the site. DK reads all his comments and allows all of them through, including spam as they can be funny, plus one of his readers might want to buy a printer.

GF was asked whether he modded comments, and said that he is 'very liberal with the deletion button', removing the gratuitously gynaecological, racist rants and BNP comments. To much amusement he said that Polly Toynbee and Suzanne Moore are under the impression he writes his own comments.

Qn - will Derek Draper's attempt to rebut blog claims etc work?

DT - 'Draper's thing is b*llocks'. The panel in general was sceptical about the prospects for the rebuttal unit. DT argued that it was fine to delete troll comments, and noted that there had been a major upsurge in anonymous comments of late
DK - Overtly party political blogs tend to the dull, and the more popular blogs lean one way but are not too nakedly partisan. Generally.

Asked opinions on the Conservative party at one point de-linking from blogs, ND defended it on the grounds of party nervousness. DK noted that if the serious parties were to engage more it would show a more human side, and noted that the David Davis affair illustrated the same point. Guido noted there were no votes in it,while ND suggested that bloggers over-estimate their importance, given the small readership for virtually all of thenm.

More later, if anyone is interested.

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You heard it here first

Monday, September 29, 2008
Apart from the other 100 people in the room. Nadine Dorries is going to stop blogging. She said earlier that if she meets a nameless other blogger - /present in Brum today/, as I breeze shot with him - 'he will father no children, I tell you'.

Anyway, an update on the thoughts of ND, Dizzy, DK and Guido as voiced at a conference fringe event later. Probably.

Quote o' the day - so far

Brooks Newmark addressing the DC Tories on choices for American friends in November - 'listening to a Barack Obama speech is a bit like aromathrapy - it feels good, but it doesn't have any substance'.

What are /they/ doing here dept.

Sunday, September 28, 2008
Spotted and confirmed, Alex 'Recess Monkey' Hilton. Mind you Iain Dale was in enemy territory last week.

Rather more disturbing, a probable sighting of one time (In both senses) Jackie Ballard.

Further, a little light bluetoothing has shown up someone called 'Rambo'. Blimey.

Birmingham Day One

Hapilly bunkered in a coffee shop deep in the heart of the Green Zone, so blogging can re-commence.

Firstly, this - rather pitifully - is my first vistit to England's second city, presuming that a brief visit to friends in Solihull some years back doesn't really count, and neither does admiring Fort Dunlop from the motorway.

Anyway, that a train from Euston to Birmingham New Street takes 135 minutes is pretty poor. Presumably there are faster trains at other times of the day, but that is no real advance in speed in the thick end of a hundred years. Figure to be confirmed at some point.

The conference venue is a good deal more modern - if not offering free wi-fi - than the Blackpool Winter Gardens, but does lack the character of the former. Also, unlike Blackpool the conference centre and conference hotel form a single green zone, so those who fancy it and have the money can stay within a sort of enclosed resort,Club Mediterranee-style. Club Conservateur, maybe? I don't think they let you pay with beads. Similarly, the venue lacks a central focus for milling and plotting, leaving you with the dread feeling that something more interesting must be happening just around the corner. This being PT's patch, it has proved well-nigh impossible to amble for more than five minutes without him spotting one of his local confederates.

Not much chance to hear much by way of speakers as yet, although I do feel for the poor fellow at a fringe event (event name witheld out of sense of basic propriety) whose rather long winded question to the panel seemed to spark a run on the doors.

Anyway, gossip and the like:

Nameless PPC - "Anyone who wants to be an MEP should be taken outside and shot".

The YBF bash yesterday - outside the Green Zone - was marked by an outbreak of thefts from jackets and so forth. Not, I hasten to add, by YBFers

More later.



Off to Brum for a few days. Judging from last year, there should be plenty of drinking and scheming. Wi-fi / 3G modem permitting, I will be blogging variously on speeches, gossip, war stories and whatever else arises.

Any other bloggers, adoring fans (/sarcasm) etc fancying a pint or two, e-mail me.

TUC to world - unions should be above the law

Saturday, September 27, 2008
Yes, that's what they are saying, via the European Trade Union Confederation, of which it is part:

"The ETUC therefore calls on Europe to fight for workers' rights, for fair and decent wages, for stable jobs and for strong collective bargaining practice, independent of and not subordinated to law courts and judges".

That is just one part of a frankly extraordinary document to which it has put its mark, 'The London Declaration: a call for fairness and tough action'.

Its laundry list of demands in the face of current market turmoil (which is all down to the markets, not interference by government, natch) includes the following:

"injections of public money into financial institutions that carry with them public influence and control so causing a fundamental change in behaviour"

Or in other words back door pseudo-nationalisation of banks, pension funds, insurance companies and old Uncle Tom Cobbleigh and all.

"much tighter control of financial institutions' ability to leverage their operations, by strengthening the ratios of solid assets to liabilities"

Thus choking of the ability of said FI's to invest, create wealth etc etc. Sounds like a return to a seventies style socialist siege economy to me.

"an international, certainly European, level of effective regulation. This is necessitated by the scale of global financial capitalism which now transcends most individual nations. A European Ratings Agency is necessary"

And how do they intend to force the Swiss into this? If this is pan-EU, the gnomes of Zurich will be the biggest European beneficiaries, although our sensible EU shunning friends in more northerly climes might also be well placed to kickstart serious financial services industries.

"government action to ensure that funds are available for investment in the real economy, helping develop green jobs and technologies and sustainable development"

From the wonderful people who brought us Concorde, British Leyland, the Channel Tunnel and all sorts of other destroyers of capital. I'm sure that Brown and his homunculi would be just as good at picking winners as his fellow socialists in the past. I've always loved the phrase 'the real economy' impying as it does that banking and the like are not as dignified and horny-handed a way to make a living as digging coal. Not that that is very green, is it?

"help provided for workers affected, for householders threatened by eviction, for pensioners threatened with poverty in old age, for entrepreneurs seeking investment capital. (Yes, they did say that. Chutzpah doesn't come close) It is not fair that the main beneficiaries might be those who caused the mess".

So everybody wins, nobody loses. That is so going to happen.

a European-level response to the slowdown that is unfolding in the real economy to prevent the financial turmoil intensifying further as well as to avoid a return to the 'beggar-my-neighbour' approach of competitive wage moderation and reductions in social protection which harm workers and their families;

Thought they didn't believe in zero sum games. Anyway, who's afraid of hyper inflation?

"urgent return of public policy attention to the major issues of income and wage inequalities. It is inequality and poor wage income for ordinary workers that are driving households into ever more debt through risky financial market techniques".

And not people being responsible for their own actions?

Good job they are crying in the wilderness. I hope.

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Caveat o' the year

Friday, September 26, 2008
From our friends at EUPravda:

"Community legislation on batteries applies to all batteries (exception: batteries used in equipment connected with the protection of Member States' essential security interest and batteries in equipment designed to be sent to space)".

That is the first line of its page on batteries, which we will be compelled to recycle under pain of having to watch Europarl.TV for the rest of our lives while straitjacketed in solitary. Probably.

"To ensure that a high proportion of spent batteries and accumulators are recycled, Member States must take whatever measures are needed (including economic instruments) to promote and maximise separate waste collections and prevent batteries and accumulators being thrown away as unsorted municipal refuse. They have to make arrangements enabling end-users to discard spent batteries and accumulators at collection points in their vicinity and have them taken back at no charge by the producers. Collection rates of at least 25% and 45% have to be reached by 26 September 2012 and 26 September 2016 respectively".

I imagine some creative accounting will be undertaken vis a vis the latter ,but oh they will be piling (1) on the pressure:

"End-users are to be informed in various ways:

  • through campaigns covering, among other things, the potential effects on the environment and human health of the substances used in batteries and accumulators, and the collection and recycling arrangements at the end-users' disposal;
  • being directly informed by distributors that they can discard waste batteries and accumulators at sales points;
  • visible, legible and indelible markings on batteries, accumulators and battery packs with the following information: the symbol of the crossed-out wheeled bin (in Annex II to the Directive); the capacity of the accumulator or the portable battery; the chemical symbols Hg, Cd and Pb if the batteries, accumulators or button cells contain over 0.0005% mercury, over 0.002% cadmium or over 0.004% lead. If the battery, accumulator or battery pack are too small, this information appears on the packaging".

I tell you, the living are already envying the dead.

(1) To this day, French adverts for 'piles' still make me snigger like a small child.

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Keeping sense of proportion, Chicago style

From the Chicago Tribune, 18/8. Sorry, no link for reasons to dull to go into.

Hillary Clinton supporter Kathryn Oberly:

"So on June 4, after the last primary vote had been counted and I could no longer delude myself into thinking Hillary could still win the nomination, I just wasn't ready to jump on Barack Obama's bandwagon. It was too soon. I needed time to grieve.

And grieve I did, for an entire month".

Maybe one should not intrude on private grief, but that has cheered me up no end.


Don't these people do their homework?

The local rag has a tale of yet another exciting high-rise development for these parts:

"The tall tower will contain 25,000 square metres of grade A office space and 360 apartments. Residents of all the apartments will have access to balconies or to two winter gardens".

All very blah blah.

But here's the 'why don't I just stick to pounding nails into the floor with my forehead' bit:

"Dubbed Odalisk by its architect, Piers Gough".

For anyone unfamiliar with the word, it is an alternative spelling of odalisque - 'a female slave in a harem'. Definition from the closest dictionary to hand, but confirmed here and here.

And there was I thinking that architects are, of necessity, renaissance men and women of culture and learning.

Why not call it the Brass Tower and be done with it?

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Obama in a word

I am indebted to Pew Research for the following, wherein registered US voters were asked to choose one word from a list to best describe the candidates for the big one. And so voila:

So, they think the senior senator from Arizona is old. Given an awful lot of voters are old, that is not so bad. 'Bush' is arguably more toxic.

And Obama's 'inexperienced'. Yup, not a huge surprise. Lurking deeper in the data are 'Socialist'. 'Liar' and 'scary'. McCain actually outscores Obama for liar, at seven to six.

Moving on to the would be Veeps:

Looking good for Biden, although note the small showing for 'idiot'. Maybe that is Americanese for 'Kinnock plagiarist'.

Nice showing for 'Interesting' for Mrs Palin, nul points for those who responded 'female' or 'hot'. Odd that 'black' isn't shown for Obama - reticence by voters, or was it not on the list? Earlier data has 'muslim' showing.

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"we laugh because it's funny and we laugh because it's true"

Found at the Joy of Tech via BBSpot:


French Socialist Énarque 'gets it right' shocker

Thursday, September 25, 2008
This being Pascal Lamy, head of the WTO:

"They are all stressing that lessons from the Great Depression have been learned, and that the many policy mistakes that were associated with it will be avoided. But one of the important lessons of the Great Depression, which we must not forget, is that “protectionism” and economic isolationism do not work. They are policies of the past, which should have no place in our future.


Some of these topics, if successfully addressed, can already go a long way towards addressing problems such as the food price crisis and climate change. The reduction of agricultural tariffs and subsidies would allow agricultural production to shift more towards the developing world; enabling supply to better adjust to demand; easing the structural causes of the food crisis. Similarly, trade opening in environmental goods and services, in particular in climate-friendly technology, can make vital pollution prevention and reduction equipment more accessible to countries in need; thereby easing the climate crisis.

Less of the climate change alarmism please, but otherwise right on the money.

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Bosses against contracts of employment

Or they do things differently in [...] part 57:

"Medef will demand the end of golden parachutes". MEDEF is the Gallic CBI, to all intents and purposes.

What the French get up to is their business, although I doubt the PDG in the boulevard will be very keen on the idea. Some of the things Mme Parisot does not like include indemnities for early termination of contracts and the exercise of stock options after termination.

Adjusting my cynical hat to a suitably rakish angle what will actually come to pass if this scheme comes to fruition is that head honchos of French companies will demand ever larger payments before they will sign on the line and / or be very small c conservative in their corporate strategy.

However, in the greatest outbreak of hubris since Brown decided to lecture American hedge fund managers, "Laurence Parisot indicated that in the months to come she will call a meeting of her G8 employers' counterparts in order “to convince them” of her proposals".

A mad world, my masters.

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Got a mobile? Then it is 'an important vote of confidence of mobile consumers in the health of Europe's mobile sector'

That particular piece of arrant nonsense comes from my absolute favourite Euro Commissar, Viviane Reding.

And there was I hoping I could sign a contract with NTT DoCoMo or Verizon.

Still, the next time I eat something I will be conscious that I am giving 'an important vote of confidence...[to] the health of Europe's food sector'.

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The council 76 times larger than North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire is England's largest county, at a pretty hefty 3,340 square miles. However, that is just an administrative dot compared to what might be coming to the upper reaches of Greenland if some administrative reforms go through, as North-Greenland Council would be 76 times larger at 254,827 square miles.

Put another way, NGC would be almost three times the size of the UK. Turning up in person to complain about bin collection or collecting a clamped car could be a bit of a pain.

Sticking with local government, I have just received a letter about the council tax, addressed - as God is my witness - to a town called 'Croyon'.

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Brown - the view from Madrid

From El Pais:

"But once the storm clouds clear in the City, and the economic parameters begin to improve, the Labour Party is going to have to face the drama of not only accepting the fact that Brown is on the way out, but also that the New Labour movement that brought Blair to power in 1997 after 18 years of Tory rule is now hollow and disoriented, and appears to have no other aim in sight than to tear itself apart".

Sounds about right. Not sure about this though:

"The next British general elections are to be held, at the latest, in March 2010, though it is now taken more or less for granted that the date will be brought forward to the spring or summer of next year, and that by that time there will be a new Labour leader".

Betfair has odds of 42 for this year, 9/2 for next year, and 1/2 for 2010.

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Common sense takes the day off

Or, as I have remarked before, continues its round the world cruise in a first class cabin, pausing only to harass room service, rather than going back to work.

Anyway, way back lost in the mists of time I noted the following:

"In possibly the silliest proposal by any government in living memory, the Dutch Health Ministry is proposing to ban smoking in the nation's infamous cannabis 'coffee' shops"....One Dutch MP noted that this "would be the same as banning alcohol in pubs".

And yea, it has come to pass. Ish.

"On Monday the owner of a coffee-shop of Amsterdam was caught smoking a joint mixed with tobacco in his bar. This detail did not escape a patrolling police officer, who fined him - not for the spliff itself, still tolerated [under Dutch law], but because of the tobacco, outlawed since July 1. There would not have been a fine if the contravener had rolled a pure grass or hashish joint".

There's little point in re-hashing the pro / con arguments again, but would those who value their lungs etc rather breathe in ambient tobacco smoke, or ambient dope smoke?

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Five famous Belgians Chinese

China Daily has a survey on American knowledge of China (in the broad rather than post '49) sense, and the results are a little dispiriting. I cannot access the source data, so am making do with CD's filleting of the findings.

"The most famous Chinese people are Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, Mao Zedong, Confucius, Jet Li, Yao Ming, Buddha, Lucy Liu, Genghis Khan and Chow Yun-fat, the survey found".

Of those, four are martial artists and five are dead. I would take issue with terming Ghenghis Khan Chinese, although he was of China and the Buddha was about as Chinese as Maurice Chevalier was English. The lovely Ms Liu is ethnically Chinese but born in a part of the Middle Kingdom called Queens. Yao Ming - who I had to look up - is 'a pituitary case who stuffs a ball through a hoop'. It would be easy enough to mock Middle America's ignorance, but I can't say that my top of mind recall is that much better - I can name some politicians living or dead, a few tycoons and a writer or two.

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Daily air traffic worldwide, rendered graphically

Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This is really rather good:

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If you holiday in France, don't send rude postcards

Or you could end up risking a €175,000 fine and three years in la Grande Maison for 'disturbing public order and endangering the mental well-being of children through pornography ', like 'erotic post art' exponent Philippe Pissier (real name).

Rather than the out of context phalli of classical statuary etc so beloved of stag holidayers in Greece and so forth, PP thought it would be a terrific idea to send pictures of a woman wearing clothes pegs on her nipples from an exhibition in Germany (And they call S&M le vice anglais....) to sundry recipients in France. I do wonder whether he included the boilerplate text of 'lovely weather, wish you were here' or something more waggish like 'look at the girl I met!!' and if he wrote to his Ma. One of them ended on the desk of a deeply unamused minor legal functionary in Cahors who has opted to throw the book at him.

Note the detail added in the comments by an anonymous poster. It casts this apparently amusing tale - for all bar M Pissier - in a rather different light.

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Purnell's next move?

What with class war and messing around with business being les plats du jour for the goverment at the moment, maybe Purnell will be taking tips from his Indian counterpart:

"[ Labour Minister Oscar] Fernandes had said "simmering discontent" among workers might be the reason behind the killing of Italy-based company Graziano CEO L K Chaudhury at his Greater Noida office. (as noted a day or so back)

He had also said there were disparities in the wages of permanent employees and contract workers and felt that workers should not be pushed so hard that they resort to whatever has happened in Noida".

He's since apologised and claimed he was 'misunderstood'. Yeah, right.

C'mon James, it will play well with the activists, and you've already lost the C-Suite vote.

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And to think our defence ministers are a shower ...

"Dutch defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop says he is "very happy" he found a legal way to dodge his military service in the 1970s because he has difficulties in coping with authority". Source

It is pretty poor that no-one (to my knowledge) in the higher echelons of the current government has done military service, let alone active service - and no Secretary of State here has served with the colours since Tom King, and none with real moral authority since Gurkha rifles officer John Nott - but that Dutch fellow takes not merely the biscuit, but the packet, the shelf it was on and for all I know the factory where the things are churned out.

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Every day seems like murder here

Beware and take care when in the Hungarian city of Nyíregyháza, which is quite an extraordinarily dangerous place to be, judging from the urban audit murders etc per 1000 population per year:

That's 71.77 per year, per 1000 population. Makes '70s Beirut look like Virginia Water, doesn't it? The highest figure showing for a non-Magyar city is Athens at 0.43.

Obviously something has gone very wrong with underlying data, but it was too good a finding to pass up. More from Urban Audit if I can locate some credible data.

There's a drink in it for anyone who knows - without googling - where I got my headline from.

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More on that speech

Tuesday, September 23, 2008
A little light number-crunching of the text:

'you know' - 9
'Fair / fairness / unfair etc' - 41
'Britain /British' - 36
'United Kingdom' - 1
'England' - 2 (inc Bank of England), Scotland, Wales, NI - 1 apiece
'Change/d' - 24
'Labour '- 21, of which 'new Labour' - 3
'I / me' - 82 / 12
'You / we' - 26 /106
'People' - 55
'Conservative/s' - 13
Liberal / SNP etc - aero
'Europe' - 4
'World' - 19
'Global' - 10
United States - zero
International - zero

So, in order to spare anyone the need to read the gottverdommern thing, here is the ringtone sized version of his speech: 'You know, Labour has changed the British people to make Britain fairer'.

My favourite bit of the transcript is this:

"They want us to believe that, like us, they now care about public services. But when Mr Cameron actually talks to his party about their spending plans he says the difference between Labour and Tory levels of public investment will be ÃÆâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€ â€Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’†âââہ¡¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¾¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’Æ’¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¡¬ âââ€Ã…¡¬ÃƒÆ’Æ’¢ÃƒÆ’¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¡¬Ãƒâ€¦¾¢¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€ â€Ã¢Ã¢â‚¬Å¾¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’†âââہ¡¬ÃƒÆ’¢Ãƒ¢Ã¢â€š¬Ã…¾¢¢ÃƒÆ’ƒÆ’Æâ€â„¢ÃƒÆ’ƒâ€ ââ‚

22 more lines of that....

Apparently, the dying words of an unfortunate Rwandan child were ten lines of the same.

More later, including running it through the bullfighter, if that turns up anything amusing.

Here goes:

Click for improved legibility.

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A brief observation on Brown's speech

"A man who has never been within the tropics does not know what a thunderstorm means; a man who has never looked on Niagara has but a faint idea of a cataract; and he who has not [listened to a Brown speech] may be said not to know what it is to lie".

With acknowledgments to Thomas Macauley.


Head scratcher o' the day

Imagine you are the head honcho of a country with significant oil reserves off shore, and you want to protect them, what with there being so much deep water oil wildcatting these days. Your military can already project force on a regional basis, what with having an aircraft carrier (1) and all.

So, what is the solution to this conundrum? Ask the French to help out with developing *a* nuclear submarine. What would one use said nuclear sub for - torpedoing oil rigs?

The country in question is Brazil, and for all that Lula is somewhat of the left he is a reasonably sensible and pragmatic character and unlikely to wish to destabilise the region.

I remain to be convinced that the Brazilians have not been taken in by the most almighty sucker bet by crafty French arms salesmen etc. I hope there is a cooling off period.

(1) Our French chums sold them that too.

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The 70s revival starts here

No, not platform boots, interminable drum solos and Roger Dean artwork, but this:

"Ahead of Gordon Brown's speech to the Labour Party Conference, Derek Simpson the joint leader of Unite, is calling on the Prime Minister to throw off the shackles of new Labour and reveal the real Labour".

The economy in a mess? Check
Rampant inflation? Check
A PM who does not know his humerus from his coccyx? Check
Rising unemployment? Check
Trade unionists attempting a shake down? Check
Baling out failed companies with our money? Check

Power cuts and the three day week - not quite yet.

Labour is quite real enough already, thank you.

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One-time Communist trade unionist speaks on capitalism

Monday, September 22, 2008
This being Deek Simpson of Unite. And he doesn't like it much:

"If you can’t regulated (sic) the bonus culture then tax it out of existence"

Righty-ho. The Masters of the Universe who make most of their scratch from bonuses rather than a salary will really take that one lying down. Two things will happen - firstly there will be a re-jigging of emoluments, and then capital, talent and an awful of taxable funds will be outta here in next to no time.

Now I expect the politics of emerald green envy from Simpson, but it gets sillier:

"Unite called for jobs to be protected in the Northern Rock crisis, sadly they were not and around 2,000 staff paid the price. In return for suspending the competition rules Lloyds TSB should be required by our government to develop a new business plan that includes the retention of current levels of staff".

Northern Rock is not even worth discussing as the bale out was based on little more logic than protecting MPs in the North East and the client vote in those parts. As to Lloyds-TSB-HBOS or whatever it ends up calling itself (1) (Lloyds is quite snappy), 'business plan that includes the retention of current levels of staff' will see the deal called off or else for LTH to be crippled and thus a target itself.

(1) It is getting as bad as 1980's ad agencies. My favourite being the unfortunate telephonists who had to trill 'Good morning, WCRS Matthews Marcantonio Della Femina Bell'

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A word of warning to the management of Lloyds-TSB

Watch out for disgruntled Scots and Tykes when wrapping up the HBOS takeover:

"The [Gradiano] Chief Executive Officer ...was on Monday beaten to death by a group of dismissed employees inside office premises after a meeting called to resolve dispute between them and the management failed". Source

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Grim news

I am indebted to reader Geoff for telling me about trouble in store for his home patch of Gibraltar and our other 'colonies' including the Falklands territories and the Caymans:

"He is one of the last people Gibraltar – less still the Falklands – would have hoped to have seen nominated. Jorge Argüello, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the United Nations, is the new chairman of the Fourth Committee, the Special Political and Decolonization Committee. He is set to be addressed in a fortnight’s time by both Chief Minister Peter Caruana and Opposition Leader Joe Bossano".

Further detail at the Gibraltar Chronicle, also picked up by Mercopress, the South Atlantic News Agency.

Before looking further at Arguello and Argentina's role as less than honest would be honest broker, note how the UN introduces its page on decolonization:

"...more than 80 nations whose peoples were formerly under colonial rule have joined the United Nations as sovereign independent states since 1945".

Note emphasis on people, not on land.

The 'decolonization' committe 21 vice presidents, inclusing those bastions of stability, Everest leve high moral ground, liberal democracy, human and property rights Afghanistan, the 'People's Republic' of China, Myanmar, and Egypt. We are on the committee too, along with our Uncle Sam, presumably to play the role of Aunt Sallies while picking up the tab for this.

New head honcho Argüello has a biography at the UN, salient points noted below:

"Mr. Argüello was appointed as his country’s Permanent Representative in June 2007. Prior to that, he was a National Congressman from 2003, during which time he served as President of the Foreign Relations Committee and President of the Parliamentary Observatory of the Malvinas Question. He was also Vice-President of the Permanent Commission on International Peace and Security with the Inter-Parliamentary Union".

It seems less than likely that Argüello is going to put much emphasis on the will of the peoples of Gibraltar or the Falklands, as both have emphatically rejected any change in sovereignty status. While the current administration would doubtless love to sell Gib and Port Stanley down the river, they will find it difficult to do so with a spotlight on them, so perhaps we will be looking at irritation, wasted time and anxiety for those involved, but don't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, I will re-quote Rupert Davies of Sierra Leone, "Rupert Davies ( Sierra Leone) said it was in the spirit of General Assembly resolution 637 -- which reaffirmed its recognition of self-determination as a prerequisite for the realization of all fundamental human rights -- that his delegation had repeatedly maintained that the rights of the islanders who had lived on the Territory for 175 years should be paramount in any negotiated settlement. Subjecting people to alien domination constituted a violation of their right to freely determine their political status and pursue development. There was no dispute that the people were the holders of the right to self-determination".

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Martine Aubry

Saturday, September 20, 2008
Not as well known in these parts as perhaps she should be, but as Delors 2.0 (his daughter) she could well end up making trouble for more than the unfortunate French people.

Anyway, IFOP has made her the star of its poll on who's up, who's down etc among the French political class, and the findings are quite telling:

#1 reason for having a good opinion of her - among French socialists - is that 'she is faithful to the values of the left' - 40%, followed by 25% who still think that the job destruction scheme that was the idiotic, no, evil 35 hour maximum working week is a good idea. The rest rate her for he mayoral role in Lille (20%) and for her being well placed to take the PS back to power (14%).

Meanwhile on the other side of the fence, among UMP voters 67% have a bad opinion of her for the same malignant 35 hours scheme, 16% for being too authoritarian and 14% for being too left wing. Mind you, only one per cent think she's made a hash of Lille, which is odd as surely more than 1 in 100 UMP voters must be groaning under her kitten heel.

As to the man of the moment, 72% of Gauls have a positive opinion of Paris mayor Delanoë, followed by 70% who like Bernard Kouchner, the lefty quack who serve as Sarko's foreign minister. Nice piece of grande tente politics there Nicolas, Further highlights, 66% rate that old villain Chirac, 61% Trot postie Besancenot (I despair of them sometimes), 58% Trot bank clerk Laguiller and 51% professional protester José Bové. That only 54% rate Elisabeth Guigou might have something to do with her looks having fallen off a cliff and then bgone for a bounce along the beach followed by a prolonged pounding by the Atlantic. So as not to be any more ungallant, I won't add pics but rather invite those interested to compare and contrast this with this.

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A national humiliation

Not for us - for once - but for Spain:

"A delegation of police and government officials from the Spanish North African enclave of Melilla were forced to seek refuge in a hairdressing salon on the Moroccan side of the border on Thursday after they were attacked by a group of people angry at a recent increase in border checks".


I wonder if they were asked where they were going for their holidays.

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">"About as charismatic as a tin of baked beans"

A rather nice turn of phrase from Libération. Describing the man who is leading our own, dear Labour party to what may well be annihilation.

Here is the original: "à peu près aussi charismatique qu’une boîte de baked beans". The rest of the item on Brown ahead of conference is nothing especially new, but amusing quand même.


More gratuitous vintage car stuff

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lots more of the same here.

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L'exception française

Once again I am grateful for the hyperactive polling of Gauls undertaken by French newspapers and so on, in this case Le Figaro for quizzing them on 'the financial crisis'.

Asked if the current difficulties for banks etc will lead to a grave economic crisis, the pollees see trouble for their Uncle Sam - 94% and the EU overall - 82%, but a little else for France itself - 80%. Maybe someone ought to tell them about globalisation, which does include French overseas investment...

Curiously, the extreme left is the least convinced that the Americans are in trouble (88%) to the next lowest of 92% for Bayrou voters. I would have thought that they would all be jumping up and down hailing the final crisis of capitalism and Marx's historical materialism being 'right'. Certainly our own dear SWP seems quite upbeat in its usual way - google them, I 'm not linking on principal. Le Pen's lot are the most given to pessimism about France (95%), but then they are all for a siege economy anyway.

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Has she considered a name change?

Step forward Spiegel Middle East correspondent Ulrike Putz.

I do not suppose Yiddish speakers would find it easy keeping a straight face if she seeks an interview.

For those not versed in the language of Sholem Aleichem, inter alia, a definition of 'putz' can be found here.


Remind you of anyone?

"The [...] plan to remove [...] from office is carefully crafted to ensure that his departure will not lead to an early election.

Insiders in the party are saying that although it is now imperative for [...] to get rid of [...], it must be done in a way that will not force the party to go the polls prematurely, as this will throw its planning into disarray". Source

Parentheses one and three actually refer to the ANC, and two and four to Thabo Mbeki...

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Of sorts. You have been warned:

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"There is nothing so remote as the recent past"

Thursday, September 18, 2008
A promotional video for a maker of horrific sweaters for ladies.

As found at Radar.

"London's Quality Daily"

Especially its subbing:

"Boundary changes mean Jackson must contest the new constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn at the next election. Her slip-up will delight Fiona Millar (pictured, left), Alastair Campbell's partner, who has her eye on the seat. But Jackson is determined to see her off... whatever it takes. early parole. He may be particularly eager to get out of jail earlier especially as his wife Barbara Amiel is rumoured to be in poor health".

Not sure GJ is actually in the slammer at the mo'....

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Further crimes against humanity

The model of vehicular loveliness below is a 1947 Chevrolet:
Nice, isn't it?

Anyway, it is here because of this story in Libération, concerning coke smugglers who secreted some 28 kilos of the stuff about a car - probably not the particular example shown, but the story is not illustrated. The French plod, being suspicious, shredded the car in order to retrieve the white mosquito. The finger I am pointing is at the smugglers, not the plod, by the way.

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Editing? What's that?

EuroparlTV, as trailed earlier in the week has launched. And here is its opening fanfare. Do not adjust your set, as it were, it really is this cheap and this shambolic. For those who lack the patience or the stomach, the first few minutes are taken up with inaudible chatter and studio clunking in the background behind a test card, before finally it stumbles into life at 4:34 ( a hashed up hommage to John Cage, mebbe?]. I am too young to recall the launch of BBC2, but C4 and C5 managed to make rather more of a splash when they first aired. Further, the video's length is claimed to be less than a minute. There then follows shots of people milling around in the studio, complete with shots of poor souls in various folk costumes, including Lapps. Lots of men in suits too. At 5.57 a groomed eurowoman from central casting appears and spends about 30 seconds welcoming all and sundry, and takes 2:10 puffing the venture before some Eurocrat appears. He sounds as though he has laryngitis or else is doing a Don Vito Corleone impersonation. If so, I hope he won the bet. He does not make us an offer we can't refuse, alas. It turns out that this shambles has been three years in the making...

Anyway, at 10:41 my willingness to sit through any more of it has run out, and 'live' blogging it does not seem a great use of my time, frankly. So, fast forward time.. A ginger woman appears and is simultaneously translated into what sounds like a Slavic language for a couple of minutes, before then being dubbed by an English chap with a northern accent. Blondie then interviews an Irish journalist for no particular reason before Pottering himself appears at 26 minutes in. He is dubbed by a bored sounding woman. We are finally put out of our misery at about 41:40.

If this was not an archived piece, I might be prepared to accept that timings had gone awry etc etc, but there was ample scope to cut out the first six minutes while absolutely nothing is happening, but no.

Despite 'embed code' appearing as a link beneath the video, it does not provide anything beyond a bit of java script which does not do a damned thing. Here it is, click away. ....

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2010 - Year Zero for the Labour Left, or a new dawn?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Having myself suggested that a post 2010 Labour rump would be dominated by the Left, I have taken as my starting point the current opinion polls which suggest a Labour strength of 165 come The Reckoning. Much could change between now and then, but I am prepared to stick my neck out and aver that the Labour party will not make any net gains in May 2010.

And how to measure who rates as being indisputably of the Left? Membership of the Campaign Group is a rather fine indicator. There are 24 of them, and a further nine ex members in Parliament who sold out / grew up / needed the money. If those current member MPs with majorities of less than 5000 are scythed down, that cuts it to 20. Looking good for the hard left, but there's a caveat - the remainder will have an average age of just under 63, with four over 70. The nearest thing to a young turk is Katy Clark, a mere child at 41 compared to the Methuselahs of the Left, and with a majority of 11,296 presumably among the least anxious tribunes of the Peoples' Party.

Clearly there are rather more than 24 lefties in the PLP, so the next step was to root around in Hansard for serial rebels, and I have used the 2003 Iraq and 2007 Trident votes as my proxies. Clearly these are fairly blunt instruments for sheep / goat optimum arrangement, as Kate Hoey, inter alia, figures in the list. However, it seems reasonable to think that there were members of the payroll vote who decided that the spoils of office and chances of preferment were more important than doing a Luther and taking a stand.

So, the combined figure for rebels in either vote comes to 124, or around a third of the PLP. Among those are Derek Wyatt, majority 79, who can be expected to lose unless the best placed rival candidate is caught in flagrante in a BDSM tryst with an underage poodle. The Blue candidate looks to be of impeccable character, however. A south easterly zephyr would take out a further six of those Labour MPs with majorities of less than four figures.

Upping the ante to MPs with majorities of less than 5000 cuts down 39 MPs. However, Baxter is showing Labour MPs with majorities a good deal higher ripe for the chop. Supposing a uniform swing etc etc, and no new Sparticists scraping home, I make it around 50 'out' rebels out of 175 Labour MPs come the reckoning. However, Ms Clark remains the youngest of the group, with only another four under 50, and nine will be septuagenarians come 2010.

There are caveats surrounding MPs who have announced they are stepping down or are currently whipless, so any additional information is welcome. Also the marshalling and mining of the data took ages, so linkage or failing that a comment or two might convince me that this was a better use of my time than actually getting on with work.

PS - On a Portillo swing (16,996), there would be just four lefties left, with an average age of 71

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Go tell it the marines...

As has been noted elsewhere, Putin and Co hve been cosying up to the Venezuelan thugocracy, in particular by sending a couple of TU-160 Blackjack bombers yonder.

Cue gratuitous aeroplane picture:Separated at birth from the B1 Lancer, maybe?

Enough of the Avpr0n, "According to [Lt. Col. Vladimir] Drik, the bombers are carrying dummy missiles without warheads and their primary mission is to practice patrol sorties in a tropical climate". Source

After all the Voyenno-vozdushnye sily Rossii has much reason to mooch around in the tropics with its fleet of 16 Blackjacks, nuclear capable after all.

And I thought the Boundary Commission moved slowly...

As every man, woman, child, dog and stick insect knows, the boundary commission is not very good at keeping up with population change at constituency level, and the average Labour seat has rather fewer people than Tory ones, but that is a tale for another day. Anyway, at least they make changes from time to time.

However, the French commissariat has decided that maybe, just maybe, it should have a look at French constituencies, for the first time since 1986. In that time the population has risen by nine million, or around 16%.

Le Figaro has some of the details, noting which departements have seen the greatest population falls and rises, although the government itself is being very cagey about practical seat redistribution. Among those departments etc where people are moving out are Paris, Nord, Pas-de-Calais, Marne, Somme and Seine-maritime. Cross referencing those with a map of the 2007 second round results, Nord, Pas de Calais, Somme and Seine-maritime are comparative nests of Socialists.

As to the winners - Hérault (hi Mum), Haute-Garonne, Gironde, Gard, Vaucluse, Var, the two Savoys, Isère, Ain, Seine-et-Marne, Val-d'Oise - Haute Garonne, Gironde and Isère swing leftwards, owing to the impact of Toulouse, Bordeaux and Grenoble.

So, looking good for Sarko and the UMP next time round.

Libe has just put up a map, for those who like that sort of thing.

(I am fiddling around with some figures and aim to do a psephological post later on the prospects for the Labour hard and soft left if the next election is truly Year Zero)

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Preaching to the choir

Tuesday, September 16, 2008
A tough audience awaits Barbara Follett tomorrow, as she hosts the first "informative (sic) regional event about the new Equality Bill...in Newcastle to update key stakeholders"

And what does the bill entail?: "[it] will streamline and strengthen discrimination legislation, including banning age discrimination in goods and services".

Maybe Geordie / Mackem / Smoggie business people might be the most suitable people to invite?

Erm, no:

"Stakeholders attending include local councillors from the north east region, equality and diversity organisations, Age Concern, fire and rescue services, university representatives and care services".

See what I mean about a tough audience? The payroll vote and Labour's amen corner, in the main.


Random factlets o' the day

C/O of the French national data crunchers at INSEE:

Greece has the most top heavy capital in the EU, accounting for 29% of the Greek population.

Lisbon, Vienna and Dublin all house more than a quarter of their respective nations' populations, whereas neither Warsaw nor Berlin account for more than 1 in 20 Poles or Germans. The Great Wen contains 14.25% of Britons and La Ville-lumière 16.23% of Gauls.

Fascinating, huh?

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"I fight on, I fight to win"

Apparently Lady Thatcher suffered the horror of lunch with Brown at the weekend, but Brown's homunculi do not want to tell us what they discussed.

I am hoping that Lady T reprised her comments from Novermber 1990 - in the headline - as advice.

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News to me....

From Hansard:

"Mr. Carmichael: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will bring forward proposals to ban the sale of produce from illegal Israeli settlements in the UK".

Crikey. I'll be on the look out for the foundation stone laying for New Yamit, if it happens in these parts.

Mr Carmichael looks to be one of those 'anti-Zionists', which is not especially Liberal of him. He does, however, have an awesome collection of chins, which he allows to cascade down to his collar.

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A miracle cure for insomnia

Monday, September 15, 2008
"On 17 September 2008, the European Parliament will launch on the Internet its own webTV channel: Europarltv. From that moment, anyone in the world with Internet access will be able to watch a regularly changing set of programmes based around the life of the Parliament". EUPravda. (It isn't live yet, and tells you you have 'invalid credentials' if you attempt to access it)

And there's more:

"Who controls the channel?

The channel is governed by an Editorial Charter that lays down the principles on which the channel is based. It underlines, in particular, that

- "the channel shall be governed by the principles of public service to meet informational and educational purposes"; and

- "the channel shall ensure that the plurality of opinion in the European Parliament is reflected, with due respect to the relative strengths of the political groups, in accordance with a neutral, non-partisan editorial policy".

So, presumably, fascists, greens and the rest of the extreme left will get a platform... We will wait in vain, doubtless, for much information on the EU's accounts, inter alia.

What will be on the channel?

Europarltv is not a single channel but rather is split into four channels, each directed to a different audience:

  • Your Parliament, aimed at those with a particular interest in politics at the EU level: informed citizens, industry groups, social partners, lobbyists, academics as well as those working in the EU institutions.
  • Your Voice, conceived for the general public and providing the possibility of featuring user-generated content. C'mon UKIP, I dare you.
  • Young Europe, aimed particularly at school-aged children, high users of the Internet and the European electorate of the future. That is a cruel and unusual punishment. Are heavy interent users presumed to have the mentality of small children, do you suppose, or is this just a lousy sentence construction?
  • Parliament Live provides continuous coverage of live events in the Parliament, notably debates in the plenary sessions, with a link to the audiovisual archives of previous sessions, as well as in the coming months, the activities of the committees.

How much will it cost?

The annual budget foreseen for the channel is € 9 million. The largest part is devoted to programme production and translation, with smaller amounts foreseen for hosting and developing the website and for marketing the channel.

Not that outrageous a figure, ATC.

As a footnote, am I alone in missing 18 Doughty St?

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Now *that's* a manifesto

"Indians Jews who have migrated to Israel over the years are for the first time attempting to try their luck at the hustings. They have launched a political party -Shivtei Israel (Yachad), in this southern Israeli city to contest the forthcoming municipal elections. They aim to win votes by focusing on issues related to the community, including a demand for a proper cricket ground for its youngsters". Source

Israel dropped into the European third division after losing to Croatia last year, so perhaps those Indians who have made aliyah will be doing their bit to raise the standard of the game.

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Crimes against humanity

I am not keen on the death penalty, but this gave me pause:

"A German teenager will stand trial on Monday for causing €100,000 in damage after he flooded a Düsseldorf arena with beer....The now 15-year-old allegedly broke into the LTU Arena with a friend and opened three taps in the VIP seating area in October 2006, when he was just 13-years-old".

Appalling. Mind you, they must have been enormous barrels...

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Sensible folk, Norwegians

"In a recent poll, 51 percent answered that they were against giving state guarantees of between NOK 15 and 20 billion (USD 4 – 5 billion) to bring the Winter Olympics to the Arctic town". Source

The latest science-fiction estimate of the costs of the London 'Dome in running shoes' is around £10bn.

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A thousand years ago, or the anti-Brown putsch

Sunday, September 14, 2008
In May last year I rooted around to see who did and who did not nominate Brown. And here it is.

So, who of the motley would-be regicides have the right to say 'I told you so' (the sweetest four words in the language...)?:

Charles Clarke
Frank Field
Ian Gibson
Siobhain McDonagh - to my immense surprise
John McDonnell
Gordon Prentice
Graham Stringer

The seven (And no, they do not deserve to have 'magnificent' or 'samurai' appended) are in open revolt, and props to Guido for his working list.

Others who did not take part in the North Korean leadership election for Brown and are reckoned restive are the following:

Diane Abbott
Jeremy Corbyn
Ann Cryer
Michael Meacher

That leaves some 29 of them eligible for the living of Bray.....


"....to forgive divine"

Saturday, September 13, 2008
"Armenia’s Culture Minister, Hasmik Bogosyan, wants to collaborate with its Turkish counterpart...Bogosyan said her biggest dream was to organize a festival celebrating Turkey in Armenia". Source

That there has been a thawing of Turko-Armenian relations of late is undoubtedly a good thing for all concerned, but I don't think there is much of a prospect of a Goethe festival in Jerusalem any time soon, is there?

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Fact o' the day

From El Pais:

"Another friend, who is an architect, later told me that from 1980 until now, more buildings have gone up than from prehistory to 1980".



Another great idea from 'Unite'

Friday, September 12, 2008
(That's the T&G / MSF/ AEEU, rather than a misrendering of the comparative good guys in the Angolan civil war).

"Unite calls for early warnings for employees as another airline goes bust".

And there's more: "Airlines that are struggling in the present climate are treating their workforce and the trade unions representing them with contempt...It is appalling that employees have been left to hear of their fate through the media. Given the difficulties that aviation workers are facing today to hide the plight of the business from its employees is a disgrace".

Righty-ho, and the smart ones will get straight on to their brokers and dump their holdings, or more likely tip off the press - net result is exactly the same.

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A modest proposal

"China is secretly buying US$300 million (HK$2.34 billion) of Costa Rican government bonds as part of an agreement by the central American country to cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan in favour of Beijing". Source

Odious, and frankly a rather poor show, but I suppose the Costa Ricans can be bought. Further Taiwan and PR China shenanigans noted previously can be found here.

Anyway, Costa Rica has a population of 4,195,914, (although it is listed as 1,234,567 on the CR wiki page. Good job I smelt a rat, eh readers?) Dear old Blighty musters around 61 million souls, sooo on a multiplier of 14.5, perhaps the PRC and Taiwan could be manouevered into a bidding war starting at about 4.4 billion dollars, or say $73 per head. Not quite an end to all our credit crunch woes, more a pub lunch for two, but if the sum is upweighted based on relative GDPs, it looks as though we are cooking, as the multiplier is then 106, so the bribe climbs to $31,701,000,000, or circa $520 per head.

How about it?

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Tel père, telle fille

That old Poujadiste (1) of the French Front National, Jean-Marie Le Pen has decided to jack it all in to spend more time with his boots or whatever, and so the question turns to the succession, and those lovely gens at IFOP have polled FN sympathisers to see who they want as the next chef, and at number one, with a bullet, is Marine, daddy's little girl.

She gets 76% of support, while Bruno 'the details of the Shoah are so confusing' Gollnisch manages a lamentable 14%. Carl Lang, of whom I have only just heard musters 7%. He seems a bit keen on Belarus but is otherwise quite remarkably uninteresting. He is, after all, an MEP. Marine is more popular with female FN fans - 90% (whatever became of kinder, kucher, kirche?), with Gollnisch polling best among the over 65s.

(1) Terrible puns dept: 'How do you topple a French government? Pou-jade... I got that from a New Statesman competition. I think.


Watching paint dry - the big budget sequel

Live and direct from Greenland, the Ilulissat ice cap webcam. I wish I could embed it, but alas I do not believe it can be done, so click here to see the ice cap melting, or maybe even growing...

Or so they claim: "A new webcam set up in Ilulissat will allow the world to watch as global warming eats away at Greenland's ice cap.

The webcam is set up near the Ice Fjord, a Unesco World Heritage Site. The Ilulissat Glacier, which empties into the fjord, is the world's most active glacier. The glacier moves along at a pace of 22 metres per day and dumps a constant flow of ice into the fjord".

Way back lost in the mists of time, I studied A level geography, and what a fine subject it is too, especially when it involves glaciation. And when glaciers are happily glaciating away and exit to the sea, chunks fall off - these are called icebergs - with this having zip to do with global warming, and an awful lot to do with gravity.


The British - Europe's leading sceptics

Thursday, September 11, 2008
At least when it comes to global warming / climate change / whatever they are calling it this week.

A Eurobarometer poll has some 14% of Britons viewing the above as not serious, whereas 96% of Cypriots and 95% of Greeks think it a 'very' serious problem. Presumably their broadcasters screen an even higher number of alarmist documentaries.

More later, maybe.

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Conspiracy corner

Worldpublicopinion.org has been asking who carried out the 9/11 atrocity, and an absolutely appalling 43% of my fellow countrymen do not say Al Qaeda / Islamofascists etc etc.

Five per cent finger the US government, one per cent the Israelis, 12% 'other' ("Those who simply characterized the perpetrators as "Arabs," "Saudis," or "Egyptians" were included in the "Other" category"). 26% could not muster an opinion.

Still, it could be worse. 23% of Germans blame their Uncle Sam, as do 15% of Russians, Ukrainians and Italians.

And that is before we get onto the Middle East....

31% of Jordanians blame Israel, with only 11% blaming AQ. 36% of Turks blame the US, as do 27% of Palestinians.

Two cheers for Kenya and Nigeria, both bettering 70% for the right answer.

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Fun with Lego

This is good:

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France's Pope-loving Trots

Asked about the role of Catholicism in French society, 10% of those self-identifying as of the extreme left wanted a greater role for the church.

Further 49% of the same rabble think that the Church can play a positive role in family and education matters. At 65% the Greens are only marginally less enthusiastic than Sarko's mob at 68%.

How many battalions does Benedict XVI have, eh?

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Fact o' the day

Not that I am entirely convinced that I should accept it as a fact:

"Every year more people kill themselves than are killed in all wars, all terrorist attacks and all homicides".

This is care of Brian Mishara, President of the International Association for Suicide Prevention, quoted at a UN press conference.

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Nonsense on stilts..

Wednesday, September 10, 2008
with clown shoes, a Jimmy bonnet and a revolving bow tie.

No, I am not exaggerating:

"The President of Eurogroup - the informal Eurozone forum - Jean Claude Juncker, on Wednesday recommended a Europe-wide minimum wage".

He thinks it would be important for the 'social aspect' of the Euro zone (As Eurocrats tend to do, he jumps around between 'Europe', the EU and the Eurozone) and also for 'its economic aspect'.

I don't think I need to spell out the lunacy of treating even the Eurozone economies of being of a similar health / strength (Luxembourg - $104,000 GDP per capita and Malta - $18,000 ) let alone a wider EU that includes Bulgaria ($5186) and Romania ($7697).

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Would you entrust a quango with your tastebuds?

No, nor would I. One of the many, many things that our Swedish chums do differently is having a state monopoly in alcohol off sales, in the form of Systembolaget. And they put tasting notes on wine bottles. Yes, really.

A google image search shows some SBs to look rather like a Post Office fitted out by Ikea, so no cutesy displays involving half barrels and the like.

Anyway, the Swedish papers are agog at a leak that suggests that the noses at SB are not all they could be:

"What, for example, does Systembolaget really mean with the pithy couplet "discreet and earthy", or the fruity phrase "a taste of mature apples"?

"Run in the opposite direction because this is a really [expletive deleted] wine," a source at the chain told trade union newspaper Dagens Arbete".


Meanwhile, the EU, that bastion of free trade in goods and services, does not have a problem with the Swedes having to put up with this monopoly.

Also, SB attempts to justify its existence here. In English.

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More's the pity

Le Figaro notes "The number two in the North Korean regime affirmed that Kim Jong-Il is not suffering any health problems".

I trust Kim the Elder will suffer a slow and painful death. Starting soon.


And this week's brass neck award goes to....

Harriet Harman. And come to that, the brass torso, arms, legs, head etc. Although I suspect she has feet of clay.

And for why?

Because of what she will say to the TUC later today, apparently:

""We have made great progress on tackling inequality but we know that inequality doesn't just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class. To advance equality through our public policy, we need clarity of evidence and focus on the gaps in society and how they have changed over the last 10 years".

Is this the Harriet Harman, the Pauline and niece of the seventh Earl of Longford?

Yes it is.

Is this the Harriet Harman who sent her progeny to London Oratory and St Olave's Grammar, both a long way from the Harman / Dromey abode?

Yes it is.

I think she's a class traitor....

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Yet more action figures

Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Introducing a plastic Tony Blair (missing him?), or 'Talking British ally' as they call him at the retailer:

Either he has a shockingly prominent mullet, or he casts a long shadow. And he is flying the Union Flag upside down.

Other delights include the newly unveiled Sarah Palin 'action hero' figure:

Not very dignified, to clothe her thus, frankly.

Mind you, that is as nothing compared to this exercise in ickiness:

And under villains, Chirac and Schroeder share gallery space with sundry Husseins and Kim Jong Il:

Anyone who missed out on the best selling Librarian Action Figure of all time can find it here.


Anthem for stoned youth

I have discovered where the EU has been hiding its Eurobarometer reports, so stand by for a blizzard of analyses / facetious comments.

Firstly, 'Young people and drugs'.

Bulgarian youth are one of a - pathological liars, hopeless addicts or remarkably restrained, as 46% of 15-24 year old Bulgars reckon it easy to obtain smack. Only 7% of Finns think likewise. 52% of Spaniards think that they would have little trouble picking up Bolivia's leading export, whereas jonesing Finns would carry on jonesing bar 9% of them. 56% of Bulgars are confident of their ability to acquire ecstacy and 82% of Spaniards can acquire cannabis without trying too hard. Mind you, so do 72% of youthful Britons.

At thre other end of the scale, 22% of Cypriots would struggle to buy a pack of fags, and 17% to buy booze, apparently. I do wonder if the Cypriot interviewees were having some fun with the pollsters, as 25% would ask the Plod for advice about narcotics.

As a footnote, the report lumps in our Hibernian friends with us as 'Anglo-Saxons'. On page 29. Erm....

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Doctor Feelgood

At least he or she is if a doctor in the French North West, by which I suppose is meant Brittany, Normandy, Pays de la Loire etc. 69% of them are 'optimistic', compared to 33% of Gauls overall. If having recourse to un medecin for sunstroke or whatever while on holiday, steer clear of Parisian quacks, as just 53% of them think things are just peachy.

Whether this is because the Bretons keep their doctors busy or suffer in silence is not disclosed. Still, to paraphrase Plato, a healthy society would have need of neither doctors nor lawyers....

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Those wacky Czechs

Are going to hold the next presidency of the EU, and I am sure we are quite thrilled by that. Anyway, this is their promo clip:

The Czech Republic's slogan, 'Europe to Osladime' seems to be open to a range of possible translations, but 'we will sweeten Europe' is the one they prefer.

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A little light reading of the tea leaves

Monday, September 08, 2008
Which way will The Sun lean in 2010?

Note this, the News Group-owned New York Post "enthusiastically urges the election of Sen. John S. McCain as the 44th president of the United States".

At the risk of cutting myself off at the knees, the Post also supported Bush in 2000 and 2004, but I cannot find any clues as to where it stood on Bush the Elder / Clinton and Dole / Clinton.

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Yet another reason to damn the Olympics

Or perhaps this should be filed under feeble excuses:

"Hong Kong's democratic forces were facing electoral disaster early this morning after voters shunned the polls - and the democrats - in large numbers....Turnout stood at just 45 percent - or 1.52 million - of all those eligible to vote in the geographical constituencies by the time the polls closed at 10.30pm.

[City University political scientist James Sung Lap-kung] said "
enthusiasm for the election had been dulled by the heavy media coverage of the Olympic Games".

Bread and circuses......

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Vladimir Putin nicked for shoplifting in Italy

From ANSA:

"Italian police thought they were being hoodwinked this week when they caught a Russian shoplifter who said he was Vladimir Putin.

After checking out his passport it turned out that he was indeed the Russian leader's namesake. The 30-year-old was nabbed with an accomplice who helped him lift outfits in several high-end shops in the Adriatic resort city of Riccione".

I forsee a long stint in the salt mines once he is back in the Rodina.

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What are we worrying about this week?

French pollster IFOP has surveyed not just the French, but our lot, the Spanish, Italians, Germans etc on 'the most important issues facing the country'. Furthermore, the detail is broken down to statistical regions and basic demographics.

Partly because the questions fit the norms of French polling - 'purchasing power', 'your country's place in the world' rather than our own, or Belgian cliches, there is a fair degree of variation country to country.

Number one concern across the seven countries polled is 'purchasing power', with this leading in Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands. The Spanish are fretting about employment, the Germans social protection, and for us, the issue that dare not speak its name, at 37% - immigration. The only other issue to reach double figures is the French equivalent of law and order, at 22%.

Within the UK, immigration tips in at 50% for the over 50s, 43% in the South East and 51% in the West Midlands. London and Scotland are the only regions where immigration does not lead, with law and order emerging on top. The Scots are the least concerned in Europe at 16%, with only London and Wales of the UK regions falling below 30%. Wallonia has the greatest degree of fear and loathing at 56%. Other salient points: the East of England gives the highest priority to the environment (17%) and Wales the least (4%). Spending power exercises the Scots at 12% but not Yorkshire-folk at 2%. Insert quips about regional stereotypes here. The Scots and the Welsh say none of the above at 15% and 18% respectively.