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'Liberal' Democrats - doncha just love 'em?

Friday, October 31, 2008
A press release from Caroline Pidgeon, London Assembly Member (via the top up vote, natch), hot off the wire:

"Caroline Pidgeon...is calling on all major retailers to re-consider their “buy one, get one free” offers on fireworks. Caroline says: “I think it’s really irresponsible of these large, high street names to be selling fireworks in this way. Of course there’s legislation in place to hopefully stop children buying them but marketing them like this and selling them so cheaply is surely asking for trouble.”

Left it a bit late, hasn't she? I also wonder why she is only concerned by large / major retailers. Doubtless selling at half-price would be A-OK.....

I look forward to her slamming BOGOF drink, food etc merchants too.

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The most dishonourable way to make a living possible?

Among the many things that would make the world a better place, the early demise of Kim Jong-Il would appear fairly high on my list.

Anyway, a French brain surgeon who has had dealings with Pyongyang in the past is rumoured to be en route for those parts, although he denies it.

Should the neurosurgeon have Kim under the knife, I hope he suffers from uncontrollable shakes.

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The major democracy where more than one in eight want a Trot as President

Is, as regulars might have guessed, France.

Opinion Way, for Le Monde, has found that "If the French had voted in mid-September in the first round of a Presidential election, 13% would have voted for the revolutionary postman [Olivier Besancenot of the LCR]. Notwithstanding whoever was the Socialist party candidate".

Put in context, he received 4% in 2007, and PCF Tankie George Marchais scored 15% in 1981. The latter led to members of the PCF in government. Note also that Le Pen only needed 17% to make it into the second round in 2002. Note further that Paddick attracted less than 10% of first preference votes in the London Mayoral election, the nearest equivalent to a French election where one can vote heart first, head second.

As to why left voters (as opposed to the overall population...) like him, 86% think him f'riendly', 83% both 'down to earth' and 'brave' and 77% honest. And for a large majority (no figures in the item, and I cannot access the raw data) of these lefties, he 'expresses himself in simple language' (roll in your graves, French Intellos), is 'interesting' and 'persuasive'.

Lest I be accused of conjuring a bogeyman from a cuddly leftie, this is how the LCR introduces its programme:

"Barbarism threatens the future of the human race. Social strife, civil wars and genocides are increasing. It is a true crisis of civilisation that we are seeing. Capitalism is seeking a second wind on the backs of the oppressed and exploited. Anti-capitalist demonstrations, saying no to the tyranny of money and the free market are all expressed in the heartfelt cries of 'the world is not for sale!', 'Another world is possible'".

And so on - all clear-cut Fourth International Trotskyism. FWIW, the SWP in these parts does not adhere to the Fourth International, because of a difference of interpretation of the Soviet Union, not that its programme is hugely different from the LCR's.

Anyway, if he wins lots of votes in 2012, do not say you were not warned.

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Another broadcasting scandal strangled before birth

From Ha'aretz:

"The production company Endemol, producer of the "Celebrity Big Brother" TV reality show, asked Holocaust-denier David Irving to be a contestant on the show, the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported Thursday.

Endemol, whose producers said their offer to Irving was not seriously considered, met with him for 90 minutes, but it was decided not to have him on the show".

Hmm, a 90 minute meeting and they weren't serious.


"....to forgive divine" Pt II

Thursday, October 30, 2008
In a fairly extraordinary development, Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian reckons "There are no substantial obstacles to the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations".

Unexpectedly, Turkey was an early recogniser of free Armenia in '91, but it all went sour in '93 over the Artsakh war. Apparently Turkey still thinks it shocking that Armenia would like an admission of the Turkish genocides against it, with this something of a problem for Yerevan, and a huge one for the diaspora. My sympathies lie with Armenia on these issues, but a full diplomatic and trading relationship with Turkey would be good for all concerned.

I suspect this is not the Edward Nalbandian that shows up on a wiki search - a lyrical inspiration to Frank Zappa, apparently.

(Pt I here).

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Sócrates for Prime Minister

Note the accent on the 'O'. And Fernando Teixeira dos Santos for Chancellor.

And why am I seeking some transfers from the Portuguese government?:

"..latest figures, not only from the Government, but also from the [IMF] suggest that the country’s economy will grow, at least in the coming 12 months, allowing analysts to hope that this will perhaps give Portugal enough of a window to avoid negative growth in its economy in the foreseeable future". More here

And they do not appear to be trying to nationalise / hamstring / wreck Portugal's financial services sector either.

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French men - aren't they shallow?

Yet another French survey, this time for FHM on the opinions of French men on sundry famous (many of who are not on Wiki anglais, so none too famous in these parts) French women. I like to think I am reasonably plugged in on these things, but only about a third of the 75 names registered. Any one ever heard of Diam's (sic) or Jenifer (sic)? Mind you, even the best known one for those polled - Mimie Mathy, who appears to be a dwarf comic actress - only scored 97% name recognition. She is equalled by France's Eric Morley, Geneviève de Fontenay. She backed Royal in 2007 but outdoes her for name recognition by one percentage point. Snigger.

I will spare everyone the actresses /models / whatevers and just deal with politicians and the like:

First, my friend and yours, Ségolène Royal:

  • Least honest - 1
  • Coldest - 2
  • Cruellest - 3
  • Most powerful - 3
  • Biggest spender - 4
  • Most intelligent - 4

(Brief pause while I hold my head in my hands and rock gently)

Sego was rated the world's sixth sexiest woman in an FHM France readers' poll in 2006, by the way.

Christine Lagarde (France's Alistair Darling)

  • Meanest - 2
  • Least honest - 3
  • Most serious - 3
  • Coldest - 5
  • Cruellest - 5
  • Most intelligent - 6 (this lady has a Masters, used to chair Baker & Mackenzie and folk think she is dimmer than Ségo? Saints preserve us)

Rachida Dati (France's Jack Straw)

  • Cruellest - 1
  • Coldest - 1
  • Least honest - 2
  • Biggest spender - 2
  • Best dressed - 4
  • Most chic - 4 (Let them hate so long as they put me in Paris Match?)
Elsewhere, former newsreader Christine Ockrent is rated France's most intelligent woman, kidnap victim Ingrid Betancourt the most courageous, the dwarf actress is the most honest and Carla Bruni the best dressed and most chic. The winner for the most sought mobile number and as a companion on a desert island (nice euphemisms, eh?) is Clara Morgane, a retired porn star.

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The 70s revival - German branch

Nationalisation, or rather strategic stakes, are all the rage on the other side of the Rhine, judging by a poll for Stern, summarised in English here. These are popular to stop Arabs sovereign wealth funds buying into e.on, Deutsche Bank etc. Anyway, 77% of Germans are fearfully protective of their energy companies, 64% of banks, insurers, 60% of airlines, transport firms, the post office etc.

This, however, is the really weird bit:

(click for heightened visibility)

As one might expect, the left parties - Die Linken (dark red), the Socialists (red) and the Greens (guess...) - are keenest on 'strategic stakes' overall, but the Christian Democrats (black) are the most enthusiastic about putting an arm around Siemens and the rest of the electrical / electronic industry, and the Free Democrats (yellow) are keener on wading into Commercial Property than the far left. The Greens fancy buying into the car industry, presumably to close it down.

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Guilt isn't just for the pale and male - now it is for all of us

Say hello to Roy Dennis, director of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife, as quoted in The Scotsman, because 'a beast approaches, patient and confident, savouring the meal to come'

"The professional ornithologist and wildlife consultant told The Scotsman: "I don't think everything we do should be for the benefit of humans. We have a moral responsibility. We killed [the lynx] off, so we should bring it back."

However, he added that he fears it is such a "sociopolitical" issue that it will take 20 years of debate before anything can happen, because there is a "disproportionate amount of control" on conservation action.


"He also told the audience at the conference that he wants 30 per cent of Scotland set aside for wildlife, in order to preserve the natural world".

Gosh, haven't we all been bad? As I say when dealing with stray insects, 'tough, we're top of the food chain'.

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Would Kinnock quit Labour if a Miliband led it?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Apologies for the somewhat misleading headline, but who would bother reading this if I headlined it 'Old French Socialist doesn't think much of one his successors'?

Michel Rocard, one time French PM ('88-91) and not altogether bad egg despite being a Socialist does not think much of Ségolène Royal (you and me both, pal)and is near as damn it threatening to leave the party if she is elected its leader, commenting thus when asked if he would leave if she took the laurels :

"Next year I will mark my 60th year in the party. I put up with all of it: the Algerian war, the treachery of Guy Mollet (1), the lunacy of the first nationalisations of the 80s which only just failed to bring the economy to its knees. One has put up with a lot".

He is perhaps too gallant to note that he was de facto sacked by the loathsome Mitterand only to be replaced by the staggeringly incompetent Édith Cresson, a woman often alleged to have been Le Sphinx's mistress.

(1) - Mollet suggested merging the UK and France, but I don't think it is that that has piqued Rocard. He is, I suppose, the nearest thing the French Socialists have to Ramsay MacDonald as a hate figure.

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The 70s revival continues

Anyone else remember the 'Social Contract'? Folk under 40 can skip this question

Here is how the '74 Labour party manifesto outlined it: "At the heart of this manifesto and our programme to save the nation lies the Social Contract between the Labour Government and the trade unions, an idea derided by our enemies, but certain to become widely accepted by those who genuinely believe in government by consent - that is, in the democratic process itself as opposed to the authoritarian and bureaucratic system of wage control imposed by the Heath Government and removed by Labour".

It was not a huge success.

So much for the brief excusion down Rue de Mémoire. Some bright spark at MSF cough Amicus, double cough, Unite The Union has hit on it as a grand term for something it has cooked up:

"Unite the union will today (Tuesday 28th October) launch a ‘Social Contract’ for the financial services industry. The principles which set out how the finance sector now needs to be reformed will be launched at a meeting of hundreds of senior workplace representatives from Unite and MPs in the House of Commons".

And what do they want, apart from featherbedding they richly deserve as knights of commerce?


"The Unite Social Contract states:

1. Recognition of Unite as a key stakeholder in the future of the financial services industry. (B/S speak for undue power and influence)

2. To ensure the employment security of employees in the finance sector. (Jobs for life at the expense of the tax payer)

3. To protect and improve the terms and conditions of employees, including pension arrangements. (Guess who's paying... Does not apply to their class enemies, natch)

4. End the remuneration packages of senior executives which reward short-termism and irresponsible risk taking. (As opposed to responsible risk taking, obviously. Isn't hindsight just dandy? Nice bit of class warfare there)

5. Overhaul of the regulatory structures of the financial services sector to include trade union involvement in order to enhance the accountability of finance institutions. (What about including banking professionals in trade union structures, or is this new syndicalism a one way street?)

So, nothing very self-denying there, but note the high quality footnote:

"Finance workers will protest to demand changes to the structure of the finance services sector. With a life size ‘Social Contract' and wearing t-shirts stating: "STOP BANKERS GREED".

I do believe we have an irregular verb:

I yearn for social justice, you fancy a pay-rise, he is greedy

Improvements to that off the cuff effort are welcome

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Is Brown stressed?

Greg Hands seems to think so, and I certainly hope he is right:

"Mr. Hands: To ask the Prime Minister what arrangements his Office has in place to assist officials to overcome the effects of stress experienced in the workplace.
The Prime Minister: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary Cabinet Office".

And this is what the Adonis of West Bromwich East had to say:

"Mr. Watson: The Cabinet Office is committed to the well-being of its employees and has a number of procedures in place including a framework, based on the Health and Safety Executive’s management standards available to all employees".

Which is nice, isn't it?

The HSE has a list of bromides available here, which boil down thusly:

"The Management Standards cover six key areas of work design that, if not properly managed, are associated with poor health and well-being, lower productivity and increased sickness absence. In other words, the six Management Standards cover the primary sources of stress at work. These are:Demand, control, support, relationships, role and change".

Lacking the energy to go through the HSE's pile of guff line by line, instead let us hie ourselves to 'advice for individuals':

"It is important to take action at a personal level and to review your lifestyle to see if you can identify any contributing factors. A simple checklist might include:
  • eating on the run, or in a disorganised manner - Turning up in a lounge suit to a white tie bash sounds disorganised.
  • smoking, or drinking excessively - I'll pass on that one
  • rushing, hurrying, being available to everyone - Rushing and hurrying sounds like GB, although availability, especially to interviewers, does not.
  • doing several jobs at once - Hell yeah. And all of them badly....
  • missing breaks, taking work home with you - Check
  • having no time for exercise and relaxation - Check

Rather annoyingly, the HSE does not have any direct advice along the lines of 'go on holiday, change jobs, take up TM'. Shame.

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What in 'tarnation....

Doubtless everyone has heard the tales of people picking up radio stations on their false teeth. It would appear that some folk are now getting wi-fi reception on their gnashers:

"Mike Penning: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent estimate he has made of the number of NHS dental practices in England that make use of the internet in providing care".

Fortunately enough, "Ann Keen: This information is not held centrally".

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Misleading headline o' the day

Tuesday, October 28, 2008
"Smith attacked over 42-day speech". Source

I'm not surprised, frankly. People attending probably had other things planned, and even Castro only rants for about 3-4 hours at a go.

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The Youth of Today speak.....

Or rather have been polled in the thrill-a-minute Tellus 3 survey for Ofsted. Doubtless the headline figures will feature in the press etc tomorrow, but the Prince of Darkness is, as ever, lurking in the minutiae.

Firstly Ofsted's own admissions:

"The survey was carried out in Spring 2008. A sample of schools was selected within each local authority, representing the different types of schools in each area. The schools were then provided with guidance detailing how to select pupils to take part in the survey".

Knowing a teacher or two, and knowing the Potemkin villages that get set up to hoodwink Ofsted inspectors when they call, one does not have to be an industrial-grade cynic to imagine that the pupils selected are unlikely to have been each establishment's villains. So, make that one pinch of salt.

As for the second pinch of salt, what about this?: "Did you have help filling in this form such as from a teacher, teaching assistant or learning mentor?"

Yes, I had help with just some of it -11%
Yes, I had help with all or most of it - 3%

And the third pinch - some 18% answered yes or maybe to 'do you have a learning difficulty?'

Anyone who is, or was a child (so that's all of us...) will be well aware that those 14%, if not already scared off by having been selected in the first place, would be unlikely to tell the truth, the whole truth etc about some of the more intrusive questions, like this:

Have you ever smoked a cigarette?

No - 75%

And this is from 10-15 year olds. I do not believe the figure.

Have you ever taken drugs?

86% - No. And 4% took The Fifth

89% claim not to have smoked cannabis in the past 4 weeks, but hats off to the bombed 1% who can't remember or don't know.

Away from the 'difficult' questions, 4% claim not to have done any sport / exercise (1/2 hour sessions) in the last week. So much for PE lessons.... Mind you, 23% have taken the injunction to eat more fruit to heart and claim to eat their five a day. Given that potatoes and multiple portions of the same fruit / vegetable do not count (apparently), I doubt this too.

Meanwhile, they are an anxious bunch, with 92% having something to worry about, with 'exams' (57%) and 'my future' (49%) keeping them awake at night. Six per cent reckon they are bullied most days, which if true is pretty bad.

As to what they think of school, 8% enjoy it all the time, which given there will be a high likelihood of cross-country running, assembly etc in the average week is a bit of a credulity-stretcher. 33% claim to try their best all the time, and 23% reckon to learn a lot at school all the time. Ho hum.

Asked 'Which of these things would do the most to make your area a better place for you to live?', 4% reckon it is fine just as it is, but 45% think things would be improved by having better shops. A further 48% want it to be cleaner / have less litter, and my personal favourite is the 27% wishing for 'Fewer young people hanging around'.

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Trevor Philips' job preservation scheme....

From the Standard: "White workers should benefit from "positive discrimination" to help them fend off competition from better-skilled immigrants, equalities chief Trevor Phillips urged today".

Heaven forfend that Philips might conclude that his work was done and that EHRC should be wound up. This way he can be in charge of adjusting the impact of each swing of the see saw....


The TUC in 'can't count' shocker

"The TUC analysis - produced to coincide with Workwise UK's Commute Smart week this week - of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) shows a fall of one per cent from 2006, from 21.9 per cent (5,517,000 people) to 20.9 per cent (5,311,000 people) of employees undertaking commuter journeys of longer than one hour". Source

Erm, no, it is not a fall of one per cent, it is a fall of one percentage point, which equates to a fall of just over 4.5%.

Pedantry aside, the TUC subscribes to a position equivalent to the crowing cock thinking it causes the sun to rise, or the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy:

"The drop in commute times follows a campaign to promote smarter working by the WorkWise UK coalition, which includes the TUC, the CBI, Transport for London and other leading organisations".

I'm sure we were all well aware of this coalition.... There would appear to be a great many other variables to consider before one could show cause and effect.

They also do a great line in muddling up references to commutes to work and total commutes - "The number of people spending more than one hour per day commuting to work", "and on top of this we still have to commute an average of 54 minutes per day".

As to the data, I find it astonishing that even we London types only see 40.5% commuting for more than hour each way and 24.6% as the figure for the South East. A bit of playing around with the national rail journey planner makes it pretty clear that getting from the outer 'burbs to say Bank or Holborn in under an hour is going to be a struggle.

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The new Bond film - as seen by the Russian Communists

Monday, October 27, 2008
They don't seem to approve:

"A Russian communist group has attacked the newest Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, for her "moral and intellectual betrayal" in starring in a film about the "enemy of the Soviet people."..."In the name of all communists we appeal to you, Olga Kurylenko, wanton daughter of unclean Ukraine and deserter of the Slavic world. The Soviet Union educated you, cared for you, and brought you up for free, but no one suspected that you would commit this act of intellectual and moral betrayal," the St. Petersburg-based KPLO group's statement read, going on to call James Bond "the killer of hundreds of Soviet people and their allies."


By my reckoning, the not uncomely Ms Kurylenko would have been 12 at the time Ukraine broke from the USSR. Maybe she should point her accusers in the direction of Robert Conquest's 'The Harvest of Sorrow', his book on the holodomor.

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Would they call Derby 'rural' too?

"The world famous French chef, Raymond Blanc" has been given an honorary OBE, which is nice.

As I have noted before, describing someone as famous is a bit silly, as either the reader knows who the person is in which case 'famous' is redundant or the reader does not and etc etc.

Even I can't work up any degree of outrage about that this time, but it is a big F for Fail for the DCMS when it comes to geography:

"Raymond Blanc was born in Besancon, rural France". Besançon (no knowledge of cedillas at the DCMS?) is only an urban area of some 220,000 souls and the capital of Franche-Comté, and about the size of Derby city. I have been to both, and Besançon is prettier.

I was sure that I'd read something about Raymond being ready to quit these parts (help me out here Mr R), but cannot lay hands on a reference

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They do things differently in...


"Hundreds of people, including youth, demonstrated outside Thailand's Stock Exchange of Thailand on Monday to protest plans by Beer Chang company to list its shares on the market".

The protesters would seem to be temperance fanatics rather than Liverpool fans: "Many of the protesters were antialcohol activists and members of Buddhist organisations. Some carried banners reading, ``Stop encouraging drinking, oppose the listing of Thai Bev on the SET.'' Others showed pictures of victims of drunken driving.".

I do not recall our home grown rechabites acting up when SAB listed in these parts.

Anyway, I don't know about my readers, but nothing gives me a thirst quite like a share listing.

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The death of Socialism, Israeli division

In news to gladden the heart, the Israeli Labor party is likely to secure all of 11 Knesset seats out of 120 at the next election. Its high-water mark was 63 in '68.

Were those conditions to apply in these parts, Brown would be commanding some 59 MPs, making it a little weaker than the Lib Dems are at present.

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It's 'Community Day' time. Again.

In the best Groundhog Day tradition, the TUC has taken a day off from arguing for seizing the commanding heights of the economy and worrying about deaths in custody (yes, really) to banging the drum for another bank holiday, as noted before here and here.

This time there is a 'business case' for it, although given it was written in August I may have missed it last time round. Timing, it would seem, is everything:

"Meanwhile, the Treasury’s roundup of independent economic forecasts suggests that the 2.5 per cent Gross Domestic Product growth that we enjoyed in 2007 will fall to 1.6 per cent in 2008 and 1.4 per cent in 2009 before bouncing back up to 2.3 per cent in 2010".

Hindsight is always 20-20, of course, but there is more, much more to mock:

"Employers with poor holiday entitlements are also see (sic) likely to see some improvement in their workers’ attendance. For time-poor employees in particular, the introduction of a new public holiday is likely to lead to a small increase in health and a slight drop in absenteeism. More recent academic work suggests that every extra day of holiday may decrease absence by 0.05 days per person. personnel benefits would help to offset the costs to businesses that do not gain directly from the increase in trade".

Yup, that's 1/20th of a day's fewer sickies that might offset the day off. Brilliant.

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Being a Democrat makes you miserable

Sunday, October 26, 2008
Or at least more so than being a Republican, and this has held true since at least 1972, according to some findings by Pew Global. Alternatively, the miserable flock to the donkey party.

And here are the figures:

And the 'very happy' from '72:

Note that Dems do not even perk up when one of their lot is in power, with the Clinton years driving them to valium, the bottle or whatever.

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'Sarkozy, you are in the process of getting closer to socialism. Welcome to the club'

Saturday, October 25, 2008
Mot my words, but those of Hugo Chavez.

If Sarko does not administer a stout rebuff to the Venezuelan thug I will be 'disappointed'.

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The loneliness of the French free-marketeer

Friday, October 24, 2008
La Croix, the French equivalent of The Tablet or the Catholic Herald, has polled the French on the credit crunch and so forth, and c/o TNS-Sofres, the results are in:

'Regarding the market economy, what do you think?

It is the best possible system and should be kept - *5*%
It is the least bad and should be improved - 61%
It is a very bad system and should be changed - 29%
D/K - 5%

Which of the following would be a good or bad idea?

To further regulate and control the banks, investments funds, pension funds?

Good idea - 92% bad idea - 6%

Set a ceiling on bank director remuneration and block golden parachutes in the case of poor results?

Good idea - 89% bad idea - 8%

Urge companies to focus less on short term profitability and more on long-term results?

Good idea - 89% bad idea - 8%

Crack down on tax havens?

Good idea - 86%, bad idea 11%

Nationalise banks and the finance industry?

Good idea - 45%, bad idea - 48%

Group all the banks in each country into one public service bank?

Good idea - 31%, bad idea - 64%

I wonder which country's nationals would be howling loudest about the collapse of the economy and a tanking in the value of pensions if some of those measures came to pass, eh? Meanwhile, the works of France's very own Frédéric Bastiat are in print. The Candlemaker's petition is here, in English. A good, short read.

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Objects of 'public curiosity'

One of our people at the UN had the following to say yesterday:

"She said it should be kept in mind that journalists were civilians, and must be protected as such, but journalists should also respect the human dignity of those captured in armed conflict by not making them the object of “public curiosity”.

Hmm, so filming bedraggled POWs with hands on heads is all out, isn it?

(The bod concerned, Jessica Gladstone, shares a name with a Canadian kickboxer with the nom de guerre of 'Thumper'. I am not making this up.)


Parliamentary question o' the day

From Hansard:

Mr. Carswell: To ask the Prime Minister how much champagne was ordered by the Prime Minister’s Office for consumption at events at (a) 10 Downing Street and (b) Chequers in each of the last six months.

The Prime Minister: The information requested is not held.

See, he can answer a question with something other than with Tristan Tzara-style cut up of his stock phrases like of 'tough decisions', 'getting on with the job', 'people of Britain', 'fairness', 'change' and 'you know'.

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Tristan & Isolde, Romeo & Juliet and now - Mandelson & the BERR

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Well, maybe it isn't reciprocated:

"And it is to strengthening that partnership in the cause of building a new modern industrial and regional policy that I wish to dedicate my energies in my return to the Department I love".

He does know how to sweet talk his true love, doesn't he, the silver-tongued charmer?

The BERR is what the Board of Trade is called this week, by the way.

As a footnote to end all footnotes, I was again searching youtube in the vain hope that someone had posted Mandelson's 'I will survive' Hartlepool speech, and this came up as the first hit:

Meanwhile, this youtuber appears to have stumbled upon the real reason for Brown hiring Mandelson:


Thinking. Why bother?

"[Trade and Development Minister] Gareth Thomas (background - secondary school teacher) is backing the new 'Be an Ethical Pest' campaign created by the Ethical Trading Initiative"

And there's more:
"This is not just about trade; it's about trade that works for local people. The public are entitled to know how ethical different shopping chains are - which ones are committed to getting their suppliers to pay a living wage, how transparent they are about their supply chains and which can be trusted never to source goods made with child labour."

Questions to ask when out shopping from the ETI's Ethical Pest campaign;

* Do you know which country this product comes from?

* What are you doing to protect the rights of workers who are making your products?

* Do you know how much the workers making your products are paid?"

Fortunately, those fine people at Mises.org have a handy cut out 'n' keep rebuttal:

"If you're criticizing a "sweatshop," make sure you have a good reason for it--i.e., criticize a sweatshop if it is actually enslaving people, committing fraud, or something like that and not because it pays "low wages" or offers lousy working conditions. Most of us in the developed world would recoil in horror at the idea of working in a "sweatshop" for pitifully low wages and in relatively unsafe working conditions. That is because we have better options. Many people around the world, however, are not so fortunate, and their working conditions have roused the indignation and anger of many around the world. These sweatshops are better than poor workers' next-best options, which is always a job that offers either lower wages or worse working conditions. In the case of some laid-off child workers in Bangladesh, the next best alternative was prostitution or starvation. Economists Benjamin Powell and David Skarbek have studied sweatshop wages and conditions around the world and have found that sweatshops usually offer higher wages and better working conditions than average for the countries in which they operate. The road out of poverty can be long and arduous, and closing off opportunities for the very poor only makes that road more difficult to travel".

Note also that by insisting on 'Western' pay and conditions for developing world economies, one is undermining the competitive advantage those economies have. So protectionism under a false flag...

I could have sworn I had written about 'Fair Trade' products before, but if so cannot lay hands on the reference. So, briefly, anyone buying overpriced 'ethical' coffee etc is at best only doing a very short term favour to the growers etc, as the inability of folk to make a living from growing coffee or whatever is a clear pricing signal that they should find another way to make a living. As and when demand for the product abates - and do not doubt that it will when tastes change or purse strings are tightened -growers etc will be out of work with precious little warning and therefore limited opportunities for immediate re-skilling. One might also ask why it is that areas of agriculture bring out the sentimentalist rather more than dock work, estate agency, fax bureaux etc etc.

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Won't Noam Chomsky be dancing a jig....

Because his books are banned by the Korean Defence ministry:

"the military has faced increasing public backlash for banning over 20 books for having the potential to undermine military morale and discipline...A total of 23 books, including recent publications by world renowned scholars such as U.S. author and linguist Noam Chomsky and Prof. Chang Ha-joon (1) of Britain's Cambridge University were on the list of books banned by the ministry. They were categorized as either pro-North Korea, anti-government and anti-U.S., or anti-capitalism".

Further detail suggests that they are banned as 'they can hinder soldiers’ concentration'.

There is a lawsuit going on in opposition to this at the moment, but the fact of the ban is more amusing. Which will be counter-productive, obviously.

A bit more digging shows that Chomsky has indeed been transported to ecstacy: "My books were also banned in the Soviet Union, pre-Gorbachev, even technical work on linguistics. I regarded that as an honor, and the same is true when books of mine are banned by others who take Stalin as their guide".

(1) Chang's interests are listed at his Cambridge University page as 'Role of the state in economic change; industrial policy and technology policy; privatisation and regulation; theories of institutions and morality; the East Asian economies; corporate governance'. Nothing about long walks in the country and good food though. Apparently he is of a school of thought that holds that 'economics cannot be separated from the political and social system within which it is embedded'.

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Wheat production exceeds all norms

In the best Stalinist manner, DEFRA informs us that there has been 'A Record British wheat harvest' and further that "Results show a record wheat harvest of 17.5 million tonnes, an increase of 32 per cent on 2007, mainly caused by a record yield of 8.4 tonnes per hectare, combined with a 13 per cent increase in wheat area to 2.1 million hectares. Excellent planting conditions in autumn 2007, as well as strong cereal prices and the reduction to 0 per cent set-aside, contributed to the high wheat area planted".

Much like the crowing cock who thought he caused the sun to rise, that horny-handed daughter of toil farming minister Jane Kennedy (background - social work and union activism) seems to want to claim the credit. Erm, why?

I would be looking forward to the production figures from Massey Ferguson, but for the fact they do not manufacture in these parts any more.


A new high tide for extreme stupidity?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
From Ha'aretz:

"Senior Tehran officials are recommending a preemptive strike against Israel to prevent an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear reactors, a senior Islamic Republic official told foreign diplomats two weeks ago in London.

The official, Dr. Seyed G. Safavi, said recent threats by Israeli authorities strengthened this position, but that as of yet, a preemptive strike has not been integrated into Iranian policy".

While Iran has an air force, it could expect to be annihilated if it got into Israeli airspace, and Iranian ballistic missiles are of uncertain quality and reliability.

Always supposing that Iran overcame those small local difficulties and succeeded in making a mess of Dimona and / or Israeli airbases, that still leaves the nuclear-equipped Israeli navy....

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God is not mocked.

I am indebted to the Chicago Tribune for making me aware of 'The Green Bible', "which hit shelves this month, prints God's word on partly recycled paper in soy-based ink. It indexes all mentions of animals, land and water. It also highlights, in green ink, all verses of the New Revised Standard Version that speak to stewardship of the planet".

Sounds more than a tad sacrilegious to me, in that any colour coding ought to be reserved for the word of God. Leastways, that's what I am used to.

Anyway, some indication of how fast and loose the publishers have been is evident from this quote on its site:

You shall not pollute the land in which you live…you shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.” Numbers 35:33-34

All sounds right up the street, or perhaps footpath or bridleway, of every enthusiastic tree hugger, doesn't it?

However, over at the KJV, this is the full verse in context:

[30] Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
[31] Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
[32] And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
[33] So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
[34] Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.

Not exactly an order to avoid fly-tipping, is it?

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Where your money goes - Dutch division

From Radio Netherlands:

"...a controversial Socialist Party policy has been introduced by the council in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands. People on low incomes in the Groningen area will now be eligible to receive flatscreen televisions paid for by the council.

The councillors apparently believe that everyone, including minimum earners, should be able to buy flatscreen TVs. They decided grants available to the poor to replace television sets should rise from the present 170 euros to no less than 450 euros".

I make that just over £350, and a nameless online retailer in these parts will sell a famous name 32" LCD for that.

If someone else is paying, I'm having filet mignon.

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Goodbye Norway, hello Republikken Hålogaland

There is talk of secession by Norway's three most northerly counties plus Svalbard and Jan Mayen from Norway, as mapped below:

Not sure if they are after Bouvet Island, but then again no-one lives there.

The secessionists are co-ordinating via Facebook, and thus far has 6,793 members. (Log in required to see the details). There are three Hålogaland facebook groups, and none of the free translations engines have got me any closer to working out what the two smaller groups are up to.

And for why?: "It's clear that folks along the coast of this country believe that enough's enough," one of the party initiators, Håkon Winther, told iTromso.no".

And why is enough enough? Because they are "disappointed and angry that Tromsø lost support for its bid to host an expensive Winter Olympics in 2018". Yes, really.

A bit of rooting around suggests that a northern successor state would have a population in the region of 465,0000 (or 1.36 Boroughs of Croydon) and would lack any North Sea oil. The rest of Norway - Southway? - would have a population of 4.3 m, and lots of oil....

Anyway, considered opinion has it that this is not going to happen: "They can survive as a party for a long time, but they won't experience secession".

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Sssshhh - no-on tell the BBC. It will get ideas...

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Couldn't happen here. Could it?

"[Dutch] Public broadcaster VARA will shortly launch a debate website intended to encourage 'progressive' views. According to Francisco van Jole, who will coordinate the site. The debate on the Internet is dominated by "right-wing loudmouths."

"There will be progressive opinions on the site," declares Van Jole, without saying how he will achieve this. He does not wish to speak of censorship, but of "editorial policy" that "will have a preventive effect on the right-wing loudmouths," he said in Trouw newspaper. Van Jole declined to say how much of VARA's government subsidy is going to the site".

On the new debating site, "all views are welcome, but not people who screw everything up," Van Jole went on. "Society's debate is now being deliberately killed off with verbal violence by people who are not at all interested in progressive ideas. Sites like Geenstijl.nl have cultivated the open sewer."

A bit of sniffing around discloses that geenstijl.nl looks to be popular, witty and sound. No wonder Van Jole hates it.

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Getting it right the wrong way

From Sarko, speaking to the EU 'parliament' while arguing for a Eurozone 'economic government':

"What has happened is a betrayal of the values of capitalism, it does not bring into question the market economy".

Couldn't agree more, although what I view as the betrayal and what he considers the betrayal may well differ...

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It could be worse for our bankers. Much worse.

They could face the idiocy being mouthed by German politicians:

"Oskar Lafontaine, the head of the hard-line-socialist Left party, is backing the controversial call by the party's presidential candidate Peter Sodann to jail German bankers like Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann"


Lafontaine said that he found it “refreshing when a former 'Tatort' (1) commissioner is so upset by seeing money gambled away that he judges it to be a criminal offence” and that he “would not only consider Mr. Ackermann to have taken part in this gambling, but also many others as well.

While Lafontaine is now in bed with the former East German communists, he was the SPD's - the party of Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt - candidate for the Chancellorship not so very long ago.

(1) 'Tatort' is a German police series that has been running since 1970, in which the dim bulb that is Sodann has had a role. Any readers better informed on German television who can tell me whethe this makes Sodann a Morse, a Taggart, a Frost or heaven forfend, Dixon of Dock Green, please tell me.

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Headline o' the day

From Hansard:

Offensive Weapons: Young People

How very true....

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Lightning strikes not once but twice

From Hansard:

"Mr. Gerald Howarth: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence whether combat simulation studies have been carried out to analyse the capabilities of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter against those of other aircraft, including the Sukhoi SU 27/35 series.

Mr. Quentin Davies: The UK has undertaken combat simulations with a variety of aircraft but due to the high classification of these simulations, I am withholding the details of this information as its disclosure would, or would be likely to, prejudice the capability, effectiveness or security of the armed forces.

I'd certainly hope they were not benchmarking it against Mig 15s, and lo and behold, our Uncle Sam has been doing some tests: The USAF has conducted an analysis of the F-35's air-to-air performance against all 4th generation fighter aircraft currently available in the international market, and has found the F-35 to be at least 400% more effective. Maj. Gen. Charles R. Davis, the F-35 program executive officer has stated that the F-35, "enjoys a significant Combat Loss Exchange Ratio advantage over the current and future air-to-air threats, to include Sukhois".

Then again, I wouldn't expect to discover anything useful from quizzing Davies.

Nice, isn't it?:

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Memo to Brown and Darling

Monday, October 20, 2008
Hie yourselves to Douglas, as the good people of the Isle of Man are hosting a financial training programme for governments:

"A five-year training programme for 100 government officials from small states which will focus on financial management and negotiating skills has been announced.

The programme is expected to strengthen the financial sector and negotiating ability of small states, to foster a well-governed and regulated environment conducive to the effective use of public funds and private sector investment.

The programme will include training on sound regulatory practices, financial legislation, the role of the courts, tax policy, public sector reform, and improving the performance of government agencies in the financial sector".

The course only takes two weeks and is residential, and promises to teach you much. Really, we can spare you - and doubtless an awful lot less damage would be turn to the economy in your absence.

NB - I know the IoM has got caught up in the Iceland banking collapse, but they have made rather less of a hash of it all than the dynamic duo.

As a footnote, the economic adviser to the Commonwealth Secretariat rejoices in the glorious name of Constance Vigilance. I am not making this up.

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"Manners are the hypocrisy of a nation"

I cannot say that I greatly regret the demise of Jörg Haider, but Austrian politicians have been falling over themselves to appeal to his voters to praise rather than bury him:

"He was a remarkable person" and one should "pay tribute to him," was how Social Democratic Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer....Haider had had "an excellent feeling for what needs to be changed" in Austrian politics".

Heinz Fischer, the Social Democratic president, said Haider's death was a "human tragedy," and that he had been a "politician with great talents."

The ex-head of the Austrian Green Party, Alexander Van der Bellen, said Haider had been "an exceptional politician, highly qualified to inspire people and win [them] over."

The conservative People's Party vice chancellor Wilhelm Molterer said Haider hadn't minced his words, and therefore "deserves great respect."

The Social Democratic president of the Austrian parliament, Barbara Prammer, recognized the great political and life achievements of Haider, who helped shaped Austria's political landscape over the decades".

All quotes from the Jerusalem Post, bar the headline which is from Balzac.

What all of the above reminds me of is this antique sketch from Not the Nine O'Clock News, circa 1980 (good job I have total recall), fortunately preserved on Youtube.


Who knew PR came so cheap?

The DWP has been using sundry PR agencies over the last 36 months, and a question in Parliament has wheedled out the costs:

£1,639. Now that would not cover the cost of a smallish canape reception among the people in the biz that I know, so well done DWP for keeping costs down. An no, there is no footnote anywhere to the effect of 'thousands', but I cannot say I believe the figures as presented....


Starting WWII two years early....

Sunday, October 19, 2008
In quite the oddest tale dredged up from any national archive in a long time, I have discovered that "According to the newspaper El Pais, the Spanish government was considering declaring war on Germany in 1937". Source . Odder still, it also refers to 'plans...for a possible invasion'.

it was the de jure government of Spain, the Republicans, rather than Franco's lot that wanted to unleash the dogs of war on Hitler's Germany and a bit of rooting around suggests that the navy and the air force were, initially at least, loyal to the Republic. Consequently the government would have had the ability to project force of sorts, although the rather sizeable problem of France would have prevented any march across the German frontier. I have not been able to discover what manner of warships the Republic had at its command, but they had fairly bleeding edge bombers in the Tupolev SB-2.

The idea was spiked becuase 'it transpired that they could not rely on support from Russia. Madrid was also unsure of the extent they could depend on help from European democracies like Great Britain or France'.

Lots more here for anyone who has anything better than my 'bar Spanish'.

Being unable to resist the temptation to speculate wildly, I imagine a war that started two years earlier would have led to Soviet domination of the entire continent.

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How to avoid Guardian readers - a public service announcement

Having been tipped off by Croatian news agency HINA, I have discovered how best to avoid Guardian readers if on one's travels:

Rather amusingly, Switzerland is their favourite European country. Must be all those banks and the oh so 'progressive' politics of the silent strong box. Sweden and Croatia follow.

Nearer to home, they are plaguing Auld Reekie and Newcastle, and - with achingly predictability - Oxford and Brighton.

Further afield, beware of New Zealand, Peru, Cambodia and Japan, apparently.

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Doesn't Brazil have any friends?

Saturday, October 18, 2008
The results of long-awaited vote on non-permanent members of the Security Council are in, and pretty humiliating they are for Madagascar and Brazil:

"In Group A, Iran got 32 votes, Japan got 158 votes, Uganda 181, and Madagascar 2 votes. For the Latin American and Caribbean States, Mexico got 185 votes and Brazil 1 vote. And for the Western European there were two seats, as you know, Austria got 133, Iceland 87 and Turkey 151. And there was no need to go to a second ballot because they got two thirds of the majority".

OK, we all know that an awful lot of log-rolling goes on, but one would have thought that Brazil could have counted on the other Portugese speaking nations to have its back. I wonder where Madagascar's charm offensive has been paying off....


Festina lente, or a master class in proofing

Friday, October 17, 2008
Professional, eh?

The error is repeated in the rant comment by one time CPB member Derek Simpson.

(Not that I ever make typos, natch)

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It's a good job McCain doesn't have to campaign in Paris

An odd lot our Gallic chums. They voted 53/47 for Sarkozy in 2007, suggesting that right wingery (of sorts) is not altogether dead there, but asked who they want as PoTUS, they divide 68% Obama and *5*% for McCain, not much more than half the 9% for 'neither'. 18% didn't know, poor creatures. Twenty per cent reckon McCain would be a good president to the 72% who reckon Obama would be.

Surely they are not still smarting from these two wisecracks, are they?:

We now have a pro-American president of France, by the way, which shows that if you live long enough anything can happen

They remind me of an aging movie actress in the 1940s who is still trying to dine out on her looks but doesn’t have the face for it”. (As found at Miquelon.org - 'Monitoring Anti-French Activity Since 2003')

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OECD slams UK

Remember the disgraceful consclusion to the Al Yamamah affair? In brief, an investigation was spiked because 'our friends the Saudis' threatened to take their business elsewhere, the AG deciding the investigation was 'not in the public interest'.

Brown and co may well have forgotten it, but fortunately the OECD has had its eye on it and has strong words:

"The Working Group is disappointed and seriously concerned with the unsatisfactory implementation of the Convention by the UK. The continued failure of the UK to address deficiencies in its laws on bribery of foreign public officials and on corporate liability for foreign bribery has hindered investigations. The Working Group reiterates its previous 2003, 2005 and 2007 recommendations that the UK enact new foreign bribery legislation at the earliest possible date. The Group also strongly regrets the uncertainty about the UK‘s commitment to establish an effective corporate liability regime in accordance with the Convention, as recommended in 2005, and urges the UK to adopt appropriate legislation as a matter of high priority".


"The Working Group stresses that failing to enact effective and comprehensive legislation undermines the credibility of the UK legal framework and potentially triggers the need for increased due diligence over UK companies by their commercial partners or Multilateral Development Banks".

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Yesterday in Parliament....

Faced with all that happening at the moment, there are number of things that our parliamentarians might be concerning themselves with. The economy perhaps? Law and order? Our various wars?

However, our man in Wellingborough has his mind on something else:

"Mr. Bone: To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills if he will hold discussions with university authorities on the provision of toilet facilities in universities.

Mr. Lammy: We have no plans for any specific discussions with university authorities on this subject. Universities are independent and autonomous bodies and how they choose to designate their facilities is a matter for them".

Now I could make a facetious comment or two about the mute testimony that walls, pavements , waste bins, phone boxes etc give to the ingenuity of inconvenienced students, but what on earth possessed him to ask the question? I am bewildered. Meanwhile, let it be noted that Lammy has said something sensible. For once.

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Quote o' the day

Thursday, October 16, 2008
There is a 'Millionaire Fair' kicking off in Munich today, a sort of 'how to spend it' expo, with an entrance fee of €39 (an affordable £31).

The event and an anti-event hosted by the Münchner Sozialforum sound utterly tedious:

"Just a few meters away from the entrance to the venue on Thursday, Oct. 16, demonstrators will be auctioning off cheap labour, singing anti-capitalist songs and staging sketches lampooning the bank bailout. Inside, visitors will be admiring private jets, high-end cars, lavish jewelry and haute couture".

Here's the 7" radio play version of why the Sozialforum is not best pleased:

"Riches are the cause of poverty".

That is a direct quote from the MSF's spokesbod.

Anyone care to start?

(The 12" club remix - c/o der Süddeutschen Zeitung - is available here, in German)

As a footnote, they are so anti-capitalist that the umbrella organisation - World Social Forum - failed dismally to renew the wsf2007.org domain, which having been acquired by others now looks like this.

(Snigger. Although it looks quite social now..).

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Friends in high places

"Legendary basketball player Vlade Divac has been appointed advisor to [Serbian] Home Minister and also Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Dacic".

And for why?: "[A] Team with Dacic and Divac is not a surprise. As ‘Blic’ learns, they have been friends since 2000 when Divac and another basketball player Predrag Danilovic at Dacic’s initiative were appointed top officials of ‘Partizan’ basketball team".

(Blic's translations tend to sound a bit mechanical, but that is the original)

A bit of sniffing around suggests that Divac is not much more than 'a pituitary case who sticks a ball through a hoop'. His reaction to his somewhat complex attempts to make a mark on Serbian business being rebuffed saw him say this: "All of this is ugly and I'm very upset... I realized that there's no place for me in Serbia and my friends can meet me in Madrid from now on... In Serbia, some different rules are in effect, and I can't conceive them".

Well, perhaps he is no less suited to this role than some of the homunculi advising the One Eyed King and his retinue.


Giving Liverpudlians back their good name, or a thousand years ago....

Way back lost in the mists of time, I blogged this:

"Joan 'I used to run CND you know' Ruddock has been chewing over the fly-tipping league table, and "The results, covering 354 English authorities, show an increase in incidents over the past year, however, nearly half of all cases reported came from Liverpool City Council".

This year's thrill a minute fly-tipping results are in (oh be still my beating heart), and they note "Flytip incidents appeared 50 per cent higher last year due to a reporting anomaly by Liverpool City Council. This has now been corrected".

C'mon Joan, don sackcloth and ashes and apologise to the good people of Merseyside, Canossa style.

A preliminary root around in the data does not show any particular stand outs by town or authority, but note this as a textbook example of how to lie with statistics:

(Apologies for lack of clarity - it is a scan of a PDF print)

A chart with a non-abbreviated scale looks like this:

They could not have wanted to convey the impression of a drop of around two-thirds rather than 1.2%, could they?

As a footnote, the Pravda Central link is this - http://defraweb/environment/localenv/flytipping/flycapture-data.htm

Which does not work. Defra.gov.uk does however. Defraweb.com, which is where Firefox takes you if you trim the directory tree, is owned by an Italian site registry. Really professional, Defra.

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The joys of contextual advertising

This delight shows up if you mouse hover over 'weapons of mass destruction' in an item on the deeply odious head of the UN General Assembly in today's Jerusalem Post:

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Quiz time - can anyone make sense of Brendan Barber?

Brendan (head honcho of the TUC) Barber thinks that public sector pensions are just dandy, and that we in the rest of the economy should be jubiliating about the good fortune of our friends, neighbours etc on the teat of general taxation (short version).

This, however, is the stand out bit:

"Decent public sector pensions do compensate for relatively lower pay (1) at the top end of the salary scale, but the opposite is true among low paid workers where the public sector provides pensions that the private sector generally does not".

What does that mean? Answers on a postcard in the comments please.

(1) - The Guardian's appointments page suggests otherwise....

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A French hissy fit of epic proportions

Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Last night France played Tunisia at football in a friendly. France won.

However, those naughty beurs opted to boo La Marseillaise, and the French authorities are not all happy about it. That they might have a fit of pique is understandable, but instead they have opted for the Wrath of God:

"If our national anthem is booed during a match, all friendly games with the country concerned wil be suspended for an indefinite period". And that's from the Minister of Sport, Roselyne Bachelot.

Her CV does not suggest she is particularly athletic, but she is 62 and also the minister of youth affairs (hauling out the pressure hoses?) and health. She looks almost as artificially orange as Peter Hain though.

She also wants the French Football federation to 'intensify public information campaigns and sporting education', while her colleague Michèle Alliot-Marie wants the prefect of Seine St Denis to tell the procurer of Bobigny '“that insults to the national anthem constitute an offence”. I'm sure he or she will be delighted with that reminder.

Guys - or rather gals - booing anthems, teams etc is all part of the rough and tumble of the game, especially in France, and none of this action is going to persuade youth of Mahgrebi origin to join in the anthem with gusto, or even keep schtumm for five minutes.

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A bit of a quandary for the British extreme left

What to do when your favourite Islamofascists employ 'scab labour'?

"The Hamas government announced Tuesday that it will not permit thousands of striking teachers to return to their jobs, further heightening tensions with its political rivals in the West Bank....Despite the strike, Hamas kept schools running and hired some 2,200 new teachers and administrators".

Compare and contrast that with a piece from a nameless weekly Trot paper, quoted by Indymedia.ie, and linked form there for hygiene reasons:

"The stunning military victory by the Palestinian Hamas movement over the rival Fatah organisation in the Gaza Strip last week was a strike against imperialism in the Middle East.

The US and its allies have described the Islamist group Hamas’s driving out of Fatah from Gaza as a “military coup” aimed at creating a “mini Taliban state”.

It is nothing of the sort. Hamas is the democratically elected Palestinian government. Its victory last week stopped an attempted military takeover sponsored by the US and its Israeli and Egyptian allies".

Let's see them wriggle out of that one.


Political insults - Italian style

In a hugely cheering development, an Italian court has ruled that 'The language of political polemic can take on more pungent and incisive tones than those commonly used in private life''.

More particularly, 'rimbambito' (senile, gaga etc. A word that I will be field testing at the first opportunity. C) is parliamentary, or in this case, municipal language.

That the word got hurled by a small town mayor in a debate on the Kosovo war. Nothing like sticking to one's knitting, is there?

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Thirty three missing warheads?

From Hansard:

Mr. Hancock: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence pursuant to the answer of 29 September 2008...on Trident missiles, how many Trident warheads are either operationally available or undergoing maintenance.

Mr. Hutton: The UK has fewer than 160 operationally available Trident warheads. I am withholding further information as its release would, or would be likely to, prejudice national security.

If that is meant to be re-assuring, I am not re-assured, as the working number should be in the region of 192:

"Each submarine [there are four] carries 16 Trident D-5 missiles, which can each carry up to twelve warheads. However, the UK government announced in 1998 that each submarine would carry only 48 warheads".

I do not think it likely that there are warheads marooned in lost property or lapping the Circle Line, but Hutton's answer is an odd one, as I would expect the working figure to be in the region of 144, as one submarine is always being maintained while two are tooling around in harbour etc, leaving one to engage in a bit of silient running and generally keeping an eye on the bad guys du jour. So if 144 gives the game away, and 192 would not be credible, why 'less than 160'?

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France's would be happy shoppers

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Ifop has polled the French on the prospects for Sunday shop opening, and in what was doubtless a staggering waste of time, I have mapped the geographical findings:
Black is the Paris region - >70% wanting Sunday opening
Charcoal grey - Languedoc, Provences Alpes Cote d'Azur,Champagne, Picardie, Bourgogne >60%
Mid-grey - Normandy, Nord-Pas de Calais, Centre >50%
Light grey - Aquitaine, Limousin, Midi-Pyrenees, Auvergne, Rhone-Alpes >40%
White - Brittany, Pays de Loire, Poitou Charentes, Franche Comte, Elsass Lothringen Alsace Lorraine <40%

There is a fairly poor correlation with 2007 voting, where the Socialists fared best in the north west, south west and west centre. I cannot lay hands on a map of church attendance, which is annoying.

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A den of thieves

When not busy stealing the public's money, the denizens of the Palace of Westminster make off with their colleagues' property:

Mr. Sanders: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission how many articles have been reported stolen from the Palace of Westminster in the last 12 months; and what those items were.

Nick Harvey: From the latest statistical information collected, there were nine reported thefts from the Palace of Westminster in the last 12 months. Detailed information is given as follows:

One computer laptop; One digital camera; One set of golf clubs; One pair of candlesticks; and
five amounts of cash, all under £100.

If only that was the totality of rake I have to suffer annually....

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Here come the land grabs

Two veritable relics of the 1940s (1) have just spotted that something big has happened over the last few weeks:

The UN -

"Meanwhile, the ad hoc manner in which Governments have had to respond to the management of this crisis is reflective of serious lacunae in the current world financial system. To ensure continued stability and protect the economic gains of both developed and developing countries, we need to consider deep and systemic reforms based on an inclusive multilateralism for a global financial system that can better meet the challenges of the twenty-first century".

And the Commonwealth -

"Mr Sharma further stressed the overarching need for a response that is truly global. “Some people are already comparing the situation facing the world now with that of 1929. We must learn the lessons of that time and recommit ourselves to work collectively to tackle this crisis for the benefit of world, constraining its worst effects. Decisive multilateralism is more important than ever...bring about the reform of international financial institutions. These, he said, must shape global responses to crisis, and be representative of the entire global community, promising equal voice and equal benefit for all their members".

Can't see it happening, frankly, and a world order that affords micro states in the Caribbean and the Pacific the same clout as the US and China is a recipe for disaster.

The EU, a relic from the 50s, has been merrily land grabbing - on this one - for days.

(1) I'm dating the Commonwealth to the London Declaration, that is post Indian independence.

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A very brief observation on the Lords' vote on 42 days

To adapt Gerald Ford:

"Our long national nightmare is over. Our Constitution works; our great nation is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule".

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Teaching one's grandmother to suck eggs

Monday, October 13, 2008
In a truly astonishing research finding, the EU Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks has discovered that cranking up the volume on a 'personal music player' is bad for one's hearing. That they have duplicated research elsewhere does not merit much mockery but this does:

What consumers can do? (sic)

"Personal music player users can already take certain very practical precautions...they can lower the volume manually".

I am *not* making this up.

I look forward to other insights from Brussels.

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