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Is the Apocalypse upon us? A poll has the answers.

Saturday, November 29, 2008
Only our Gallic chums come up with such outlandish polls, and I am profoundly grateful to Pelerin magazine for asking the Plain People of France if they believe that the Apocalypse is coming, and if so, what are the heralds thereof. I am *not* making this up, it is RIGHT HERE. Go on, click on it, I'll still be here if you come back.

So, with no further ado, the results:

Some speak of the Apocalypse, that is the end of the world. It is said that on this subject that certain portents indicate this Apocalypse. In your opinion, among the following, which are signs of the Apocalypse?

Global warming / climate change - 55%
International terrorism - 22%
Famines - 18%
The rise of religious fundamentalism (those pesky Methodists again...) - 17%
The financial and economic crisis - 16%

And the best of the lot

Bird flu - 8%

28% did not have an opinion or suggested something else. Woe unto Pelerin for depriving me of further amusement.

Do you believe in the Apocalypse, that is, the end of the world:

Yes - 22%, No - 75%, Don't know - 3%

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It's that time of day again

Friday, November 28, 2008
No day's toil at the blogface is complete without a scan of DPRK-related oddities, so here goes - following a little prodding from Tiresias:

"Much effort is directed to research into developing remote-controlled hydro-meteorological observation facilities in the DPRK".

And it has paid off, and how:

"The Hydro-meteorological Gauge Institute under the Hydro-Meteorological Service has invented a remote-controlled water-level gauge which can measure the change of water level accurately".


The machinations of Uncle Sam are destined not to stymie such research, as "The U.S. imperialist bellicose forces are seriously mistaken if they think they can bring down the DPRK through a strategy for preemptive attack. Should the enemies infringe upon the inviolable sky, land and sea of the country even 0.001mm, the DPRK will mercilessly wipe out provocateurs with the might of Songun and thus remove the root cause of a war from this land".

Maybe not. The Korean People's Air force has 35 Mig 29s, but is otherwise reliant on some very clunky aircraft - Mig 21s etc. Note that the USAF is "pushing ahead with the moves to reinforce the ultra-modern air strike force". Including F-16's, which entered service 30 years ago, A-10's, which entered service 31 years ago and "two MH-53 copters". Apparently they were retired in September.

Should the Americans decide that current designations for its military units lack a certain je ne sais quoi, they could opt for "imperialist bellicose forces" or " imperialist aggression forces". Sounds rather more fun than the Third Fleet or Marine Forces Pacific.

Meanwhile, Kim Jong Il (born 1941) is officially one of the 'old folks' - "researchers carried out a survey among old folks above sixty and their families in nearly 60 dongs and ris of Pyongyang City, South Phyongan and South Hamgyong Provinces". I wonder if Kim was home when they knocked, clipboards in hand.

Anyway, KJI is not so doddery that he cannot still do the right thing: "General Secretary Kim Jong Il sent a wreath to the bier of winner of Kim Il Sung Prize and People's Artiste Song Tong Chun, composer of the State National Art Troupe, on Thursday, expressing deep condolences over his death".

De mortuis nil nisi bonum and so forth, but I do find myself wanting to interject 'everybody knows one' after Song Tung Chan.

Nominations for People's Artistes for these parts would be most welcome.

And from newly discovered source, Tongilkorea.net, "Recently in the United States, publications that take various ways to ridicule and criticize the society filled with contradiction and unjustness as their basic contents are going around. The prominent example is “100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World” authored by John Tirman, a univerisity (sic) professor". Source

The book was published over a year ago as a paperback, and can be had for a penny - used - via Amazon.

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Gordon Brown - more widely loathed than Mahmoud Ahmadeinejad

I am indebted to the Herald Tribune for polling the population of sundry nations on their opinions of sundry political and religious figures, and I have charted what my fellow Britons think:
As ever, click for legibility. Brown is second only to the outgoing President for prompting an unfavourable opinion - 55% to Bush's 71%. Lower percentages express an unfavourable opinion of Castro (47%), Ahmadinejad (40%), Hu Jintao (29%), Bashir Assad (23%) and Hugo Chavez (22%). And what will really sting, Mr Tony is more popular (37% to 33%) and less unpopular (51% to 55%)

I will admit to being a tad dishonest here, as a majority feel unable to express an opinion on four of the five Asian and American rogues.

Elsewhere, only the Dalai Lama sees a majority thinking well of him - 61% - followed by the Pope - 41% - and the original 'pretty straight kinda guy' - 37%.

Brown is more popular in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the US of A than he is here and the 49% of Italians who think well of him are welcome to him. Mind you, they all prefer Mr Tony, apart from the Spanish.

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Sinn Féin and DUP in common ground shocker

Who'd a thunk it?

From the Irish Times:

Peter Robinson:

Let’s be clear, this is swings and roundabouts. There have been many occasions where this has worked in the other direction, it worked in terms of fuel and aggregates when that very clearly damaged the prospects of businesses on our side of the border,” Mr Robinson added.

He said: “Some in the South have said it is unpatriotic to shop in Northern Ireland, but in the spirit of North-South co-operation, I am happy to offer a warm welcome to all of our visitors from the South.

And Martin McGuinness:

"We all know that human nature clearly tells us that over the course of many years people in the border areas and indeed people wider afield will travel almost anywhere to get a good bargain".

And why are they saying this? Because the Drogheda Chamber of Commerce, inter alia, doesn't like open borders:

"In an open letter to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan and Tánaiste Mary Coughlan yesterday, the chamber called on them to “act urgently” to assist the commercial and retail sectors in the State to “stem the flow of income and sales North to the jurisdiction of the UK government”.

These are not temporary 2.5% VAT style reductions, but rather more significant savings: "The National Consumer Agency has found a margin of up to 30 per cent in food prices on either side of the Border".

(Yes, I know food is zero VAT rated in these parts)

Meanwhile, as to the two pachyderms in the parlour, there is not much I can add to comment on the Mumbai atrocities and the Stasi raid on Damien Green. However, my ongoing reaction to broadcast news on the former is to hiss, 'Go on, say the 'M' word - I dare you, I double dare you'.

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Is France about to undo a 70 year wrong?

Under Pétain, France's historic regions were mucked about with for administrative convenience, resulting in the equivalent of Cardiff ceasing to be the chief city of its nation. Bretons, for it is they, can get quite irate about Nantes / Naoned and Loire Atlantique not being part of Brittany, but rather being part of a wholly artificial construction called Pays De La Loire concocted from parts of Brittany, Poitou, Anjou and Maine.

And here are the modern regions and historic ones:
Plenty of other wrongs there for the redressing too, like shoehorning Orléanais and Berry into 'Centre' - top marks for imaginative naming, people - and doing away with the Dauphiné.

Anyway, this is at issue as Sarko himself has raised the question while addressing a Mayoral bunfight:

"There are two Normandies. But does there need to be? In Alsace, some people think it could be arranged differently. Brittany is four splendid departments (1). But when I go to Nantes, they tell me this is the historic capital of Brittany.... Is it necessary - as I think - to encourage an experiment to merge a certain number of regions which wish to do so?"

Note that when the Babylon that was the German Democratic Republic fell, the newly re-united Germany did away with the 15 Bezirke and reconstituted the five Bismarckian lander (-ish - No Prussia), so if Kohl could do it, why can't Sarko? I have had a look at online editions of Ouest France and Le Télégramme de Brest and neither seems to have editorialised the issue, which is pretty poor.

Meanwhile, a Breton cleric of my acquaintance refuses to use the first republic departéments in his correspondence, preferring the pre-revolution bishoprics instead.

(1) He has form when it comes to annoying Bretons - 'Je me fous des Bretons' - so mindful of the next election he will always be going out of his way to butter them up.

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Hansard item o' the day

Thursday, November 27, 2008
From the Lords, where the debates, questions and so forth are generally of a higher quality than in the other place:

Palace of Westminster: Cold Monday Mornings

Yes, that's what it was headlined as.

"Baroness Thomas of Winchester asked the Chairman of Committees: Whether he will take steps to increase the temperature in the Palace of Westminster on Monday mornings during the winter months?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): The cold temperatures experienced in the Palace on Monday 25 November were caused by a failure to turn the heating back on after weekend maintenance work. This error is being investigated with a view to preventing any repeat. However, even without such errors the temperature in the Palace can be too low on Monday mornings during the winter months. Accordingly, Black Rod and I have asked the relevant personnel to ensure that the temperature in the House of Lords is raised and that it is maintained from 0830 on Mondays until 1700 on Fridays".

Neither lady appears to be in the first flush of youth, so sensitivity to the cold is not unduly surprising.

Meanwhile, ambulant smokers in the SW1 area are urged to make a beeline for 79 Whitehall (the DoH HQ) as "Smoking is not permitted in front entrances, in the area immediately adjacent to any entrance to a departmental building or near to areas where the department’s logo is displayed".

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Today's DPRK odds and ends

What's a revolutionary habit?

This, apparently: "giving a full play to the revolutionary habit of living in a cultural and emotional manner".

How very unlike our own dear bedsit Maoists.

Meanwhile, "Personages of various strata in south Korea held a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 19".

I'm planning on meeting personages of various strata at the pub later.

And one from a few days ago:

"The Japanese reactionary ruling quarters, obsessed by anti-DPRK hysteria, are now more vociferously asserting that "pressure upon north Korea should be increased" and "it is necessary to apply additional sanctions" against the DPRK.....The DPRK's reality goes to prove that Japan's sanctions can never work on the DPRK but are futile....The Korean people's resolution to take revenge upon Japan for its harsh sanctions against the DPRK and moves to stifle it is running high. The Japanese reactionaries would be well advised to lift the futile sanctions against the DPRK"

So if the sanctions are futile, why call for them to end, eh?


The Great British workplace. Again

The British Workplace Behaviour Survey 2008 has just been published by the EHRC, with this intended to inform the nation about the position of disabled /long term ill employees. Someone else can fillet that data, I am going to stick to the figures for non-disabled - for what a load of bedwetters they turn out to be - and what constitutes 'negative behaviour' in the reckoning of the EHRC is quite astonishing:

Having your opinions and views ignored - 29.8%. That low? In all the workplaces I have inhabited, I would think that the organisations concerned would have been well advised to ignore most of the employees. Plenty of the managers too, frankly.

Pressure from someone else to do work below your level of competence - 13.5%. Yeah, I needed 17 or so years of education to enable me to make the tea.

Someone continually checking up on you or your work when it is not necessary - 19.4%. What a great idea, letting staff decide what is or is not necessary checking.

And compare and contrast that with this, Being given an unmanageable workload or impossible deadlines. 31.1%. I envy the 68.9%, as I am sure do most of us. Where did they poll these people? Anyway, checking sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?
Gossip and rumours being spread about you or having allegations made against you - a derisory 12.1%. Sounds like the nation has some deeply tedious workplaces. Anyway, they are just jealous because I conquered my paranoia.

Being insulted or having offensive remarks made about you - 16.2% Is that all? Where are the Alex Fergusons of yesteryear?

Being treated in a disrespectful or rude way - 24.8%. Wanting respect doesn't mean you are going to get it....

People excluding you from their group - 8.7%. Maybe they are social lepers.

Hints or signals from others that you should quit your job - 8.1%. Given the staff turnover at most places, that is quite low, frankly.

Persistent criticism of your work or performance which is unfair 13.4%. And this is assessed by the criticised, not the critic?

Teasing, mocking, sarcasm or jokes which go too far - 13.2% Surprised it is that low. Maybe those delicate sensibilities lead to 'People excluding you from their group'.

Being shouted at or someone losing their temper with you. 25.9% Yup, that has happened to me on a few occasions, and mostly I deserved it. As did the people I cursed out.

Buried deep in the report is this brace of gems: working in the public sector increased negative behaviour by 57 per cent / working in the third sector increased negative behaviour by 118 per cent. Hilarity ensues.

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DPRK-isms o' the day

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
From the usual place:

"Japan and the south Korean puppets seek to gain something through the hasty start of a reckless war against the DPRK, vociferating about "close military alliance" with the U.S. and "the establishment of a cooperation system." This is, however, as foolish an act as jumping into fire with faggot on their backs". Source

Although not as foolish as having faggots strapped to one's front, presuming one jumps forward.

"The ulterior aim sought by the U.S. in its moves to convert Guam into a military fortress in the Pacific by the year 2014 is to reinforce the island as a giant military strategic stronghold and massively hurl aggressor armed forces there when necessary and thus ensure an unchallenged military edge of the U.S. forces in the Asian region". Source

I expect Uncle Sam's boys will arrive by 'plane. A pal of mine served with the USAF Firefighters on Guam, and it would seem to be a delightful posting. More sought after than Thule or Minot, ND, certainly.

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Parliamentary exchange o' the day

From Lords Hansard:

"Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government: Whether the Ministry of Defence has any contracts with Starbucks for the supply of materials or services.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Information held centrally by the Ministry of Defence indicates that MoD has no direct contracts with Starbucks for the supply of materials or services".

Now if it was the infamous superheated McDonalds coffee I could understand... There's probably a joke involving The Pequod to be had, but I lack the energy to concoct one.

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And the results are in...

Unnoticed by much of the world, Greenland has been voting on home rule, and those fine people at Sermitsiaq have published the results and I have taken the opportunity to map them....

White represents unincorporated areas, and shades of grey ascending gradations of 60%+, peaking at 92% (black) for Kangaatsiaq. The heaving metropolis of Nuuk, or Godthåb, (pop. 15,047) is one of the least enthusiastic at 63%.

But what of the red blob? That is the municipality of Ivittuut, where just 23% want self-rule. And for why? Perchance because it is home to 'the Danish naval headquarters of Greenland'. Nothing like knowing which side your bread is buttered, is there? Mind you, just 65 of the electorate of 119 could be bothered to make it the polling station.

Thule Air base is in the extreme North East (Qaanaaq) and is entirely self-contained without offering employment to the locals, by the look of things, so no red blob there. Note that the settlement of Moriusaq, all of 19 miles from Thule, saw 100% voting for home rule, although that was three people out of seven voting.

Other notable findings include the outbreak of spoilt ballots in Kujalleq, at 11 out of 94 and the three blanks (out of 56) in Narsaq. There was a 13% blank 'vote' in Nalunaq, but that looks to be the work of just one voter. One in the five voters in Upernaviarsuk spoilt his or her ballot.

While I derive an unnatural degree of entertainment from the availability of data at this degree of detail, I do wonder whether there might be scope for post-electoral recriminations if a vote is very tightly contested or a controversial party is voted for.

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'MP turns down junket' shocker

OK, maybe he cannot authorise his own expenses, but even so:

"Mr. Kilfoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make plans to visit Australia to discuss UK-Australia relations.

Bill Rammell: My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary does not currently have plans to visit Australia. He maintains a regular and productive dialogue with his Australian counterpart on a range of key bilateral and multilateral issues".

Maybe Miliband is happy with the weather here, or perhaps he is hoping he will still be in power come the next Ashes Tour in Oz.

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Something for bourgeois South Eastern Greens to note

Tuesday, November 25, 2008
In 2004 173,351 people in the South East of England voted for the Green Party in the form of Caroline Lucas. I was not one of them, surprisingly enough. She crept in via the D'Hondt list system, not FPP, naturally.

Rooting around among some of my lesser used bookmarks, I chanced upon the 'People Before Profit' charter, via the SWP's website. Google will bring up the references, there being some sites I refuse to link to.

This is it:

  1. Wage increases no lower than the rate of inflation as given by the Retail Price Index. No to the government’s 2 percent pay limit.
  2. Increase tax on big companies. Introduce a windfall tax on corporation superprofits, especially those of the oil companies.
  3. Repeal the Tory anti-union laws. Support the Trade Union Freedom Bill.
  4. Unsold houses and flats should be taken over by local councils to ease the housing crisis. No house repossessions. For an emergency programme of council house building.
  5. Stop the privatisation of public services. Free and equal health and education services available to all.
  6. End the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and use the money to expand public services. Stop the erosion of civil liberties.
  7. Abolish tax on fuel and energy for old people and the poor. Re-establish the link between wages and pensions.
  8. No to racism. No to the British National Party. No scapegoating of immigrants.
  9. Reintroduce grants and abolish tuition fees for students.
  10. Increase the minimum wage to £8.00 an hour.
Definitively hard left, is it not?

Ms Lucas likes it a lot:

"I fully support the Charter and am happy to lend it my support. However, I would also encourage you to seek to broaden its appeal by addressing the lack of any environmental perspective or reference to the causes of the current economic crisis and unemployment. To this end, I recommend that two additions be made to the Charter as follows:
● Fight rising unemployment with massive investment in energy saving and renewable
● End the free for all and regulate financial institutions".

That the Greens are not just a bunch of tree huggers but firmly on the hard left has been obvious for years, but I do wonder how many of those 173,351 voters realise their MP makes common ground with 4th International Trots. Note that the only other extreme left party to stand, Respect, reaped a grand total of 13,426 votes.

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News you might have missed

As ever, the running dog media in London has missed the real stories of the day:

"Speakers [in Laos] said that under the Songun leadership of Kim Jong Il the Korean people have achieved shining successes in all fields of politics, military affairs, economy and culture while steadily advancing along the road of socialism, decisively smashing the imperialists' anti-DPRK moves....they stressed that the DPRK football players beat the U.S. team to emerge the winner at the first FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup, a striking manifestation of the vitality of the Songun politics pursued by Kim Jong Il". Source

And what does the DPRK's failure to qualify for the last World Cup tell us? Maybe Japan and Iran were aided by their lack of Songun politics and non-adherence to Juche?

And there's more:

"Good politics helps produce a great number of persons of talent and a country will prosper only when it has many persons of this type...The persons of talent are the most important treasure of the country and the nation" - and here comes today's top DPRK-ism - "The WPK has trained persons of talent, fastening its belt to this end".

And another mysterious gift:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a gift by the government delegation of the Dominican Republic on a visit to the DPRK". Source

And rum doings in Seoul:

"What merits more serious attention is that the Lee Myung Bak group is busy cooking up various kinds of ultra-right conservative organizations in an effort to eliminate the progressive forces in south Korea".

A bit like brown windsor soup, maybe?

And not forgetting the greatest polymath since Jefferson:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il provided field guidance to the Rakwon Machine Complex and the Soap Shop of the Sinuiju Cosmetics Factory....Saying that all cosmetics including toilet soap, toothpaste, cream and lotion produced at the factory are very high in quality ranging from their composition to their packing, he noted that this is the fruition of the persevering and tireless efforts made by the workers of the factory in the spirit of devoted service to the people. He stressed the need to ensure the best quality of cosmetics to be supplied to the servicepersons and people and indicated the tasks to be fulfilled by the factory and ways to do so".

There may well be a bad pun for the having in that extract, but after wading through that lot I am barely maintaining the will to live.


Great misunderstandings of our time

From South African daily, The Mail & Guardian (sounds like the merger to end all mergers, doesn't it?) :

"African National Congress Youth League leader Julius Malema has apologised for creating the impression that he was inciting violence with his "kill for Zuma" statements, a spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday"...."If we did sound like we're inciting violence, we are very sorry," Malema said".

How could anyone possibly think that "Let us make it clear now: we are prepared to die for Zuma. Not only that, we are prepared to take up arms and kill for Zuma" might suggest that Malema was committed to anything other than liberal democracy?

A little digging suggests that Malema is routinely as delightful.


An end to Parisians?

In news to gladden the hearts of La France Profonde, the future of Paris is looking distinctly wobbly, as 'in 20 years, Parisians have lost 40% of their sperm count'.

Insert the off colour joke of your choice here.

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A Prime Minister with a plan

Not 'our' one, naturally:

"Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and Minister of Social Affairs and Employment Piet Hein Donner favour a proposal to introduce a flat rate tax in the Netherlands".

Nice one chaps. On the downside, the prospective rate is pretty eye-watering - *37%*.

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A brief observation on 'soaking the rich'

Monday, November 24, 2008
Take note of the descriptors the Glove Puppet uses, as if a new penal rate kicks in at £150,000, the PM earns is paid £187,000. Darling earns is paid £138,724.

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What the 30th Most Powerful Woman in the world thinks of VAT reductions

(And if that '30th Most' etc don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansaw)

Christine Lagarde, for it is she, the French Finance Minister is not convinced of the wisdom of Brown and his glove puppet:

"The great uncertainty when one cuts the rate of VAT is knowing who will benefit. If it serves only consumers, it would be a good measure, but if it also benefits the whole of the supply chain between prodicer and consumer, that re-inforces margins. I am not sure that that should be the absolute imperative at the moment".

Mme Lagarde, let it be noted, has serious experience at the top end of commerce, unlike most of our pols.

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What's the French for 'hanging chads'?

Most native conspiracy theorists have tired of banging on about the 2000 US Presidential election, so maybe they can switch their attentions to the shenanigans among their fellow travellers on the other side of the Channel.

Given that Sego lost by all of 42 votes to Martine Aubry, I suppose it was unrealistic to think that Madame Poitou Charente would accept defeat with anything other than her usual gracelessness and peevishness. Anyway, both camps have evidence of 'irregularities' in the voting so this one could run and run, generating huge amounts of amusement for the rest of us, and - with any luck - end up in a split in the PS. A statistically worthless self-selecting poll of the readership of right-leaning Le Figaro Online has 84% thinking a split possible, by the way.

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A terrible admission

Sunday, November 23, 2008
Erm, cough, I watched part of 'I'm a celebrity' etc the other day - shameful, I know, but a bit of brain in a jar entertainment has its place every once in a while. Anyway, something of note that does not seem to have been remarked upon elsewhere:

One of the contestants - Joe Swash - moaning about something or other said this,'It's a bit sheeny, isn't it?'. Or words to that effect, but he definitely used 'sheeny',as I reacted at the time. It is not the best known of unfortunate words, but this is what it means, definition taken from here:

sheeny (shiInI) Also sheny, sheney, sheeney, -ie. [Of obscure origin]

1. n. A derogatory word for a Jew.

2. n. A pawnbroker [derived from racial stereotype of definition 1]

3. adj. Deceitful, dubious, fraudulent (describing people).

I doubt that the contestant would have got away with the 'n' word or 'it's a bit Jewish' and given that the programme makers bleep some of the stronger swear words, I would think that the word got through because the editors did not know the word and could not be bothered to check.

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A brief observation on a prospective cut in the VAT rate

Brown and his glove puppet at No 11 cannot cut VAT to below 15% because of EU law, so let us say that they go all the way from 17.5% to 15% on Monday. What is likely to happen?

In the case of products with established price points, let's say DVDs, CDs etc and any number of things that end in .99 pence, is it realistic to think that a grand total of tuppence per pound is going to be knocked off either at the till or on price stickers?

Further, I would suggest that for people with discretionary income, if tuppence or thruppence per pound *is* knocked off, it is only for high value items that a theoretical 2.5% price cut becomes a saving that might serve as a substantial incentive to buy. After all, one would have to be dealing with purchases of more than one hundred pounds in order to save the price of a pint. Up the ante to a thousand pounds, and the saving would cover a fairly cheap indian takeaway for two.

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And there was I thinking it was just a game of football

Saturday, November 22, 2008
From the usual place:

"The DPRK girls football team, winner of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008, returned home on Friday....Sportspersons and working people presented the players with garlands and bouquets and congratulated them who encouraged the servicepersons and people in the DPRK waging an all-out charge for the building of a great prosperous powerful nation after glorifying the 60th anniversary of the DPRK as a grand festival of victors".


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Really rather good

Take a close look at this:

This novelty is care of some inventive folk who have published maps of Europe and the world with literal renderings of place names in the place of the more usual. More maps here and here.


An argument for doing jury service. Apart from civic duty

Friday, November 21, 2008
This from US gossip etc site Radar, reporting on 'Jury Appreciation Day' (I'm *not* making this up):

[newsreader Katie] Couric added that the line she likes best about jury duty was uttered by Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who said, "It's a great way to pick up guys."

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If only we'd known

Back, by popular demand, DPRK-watch:

"The 13th national exhibition of invented sports apparatuses and goods was held at the Badminton Gymnasium in Chongchun Street from Nov. 17 to 20. Presented to the exhibition were more than 1,150 pieces of sports apparatuses and goods of at least 170 kinds invented and manufactured by many units across the country including those in the sports field".

These are not just any old tennis rackets, these are M&S DPRK tennis rackets:

"Exhibits...showcased well the achievements made by officials and other working people in the production of sports apparatuses and goods in the revolutionary spirit of self-reliance and fortitude".


Another Eurotriumph

Way back lost in the mists of time - Auguest - I trailed the forthcoming launch of europeana: "The European Digital Library [which] will be a quick and easy way for people to access European books and art – whether in their home country or abroad".

It has gone live today, and the 'sorry we did not expect so much traffic' place holder has already fallen over to be replaced by a 503 error message. Really impressive.

Meanwhile, the French Socialiats have eliminated Hamon from the race for the chairmanship of their party, meaning that a woman has to win. An 'Anyone but Sego' front seems likely to ensure that Martine 'daughter of Jacques Delors' Aubry is likely to win. Aubry was responsible for the lunacy that is the 35 hour maximum working week, so expect a platform next time that includes schemes for extracting moonbeams from cucumbers.

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An insult for all parents from Unite

Thursday, November 20, 2008
Never knowingly under-melodramatic, Derek Simpson of MSF/AEEU, Amicus, cough, Unite, has this to say:

"The current generation of parents are Thatcher’s children. They had badly funded schools and a social services network bled dry by Tory cost cutting. Among this generation is an army of the poorly educated and economically deprived. All that stands between them and disaster is the support of social and health services".

He also says"If David Cameron were Prime Minister, the recession would last till doomsday".

I suspect he has even less understanding of the economic cycle than Brown, frankly.


And so the squawking begins

From the Los Angeles Times:

"Antiwar groups and other liberal activists are increasingly concerned at signs that Barack Obama's national security team will be dominated by appointees who favored the Iraq invasion and hold hawkish views on other important foreign policy issues.


Aside from Clinton and Gates, the roster of possible Cabinet secretaries has included Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), who both voted in 2002 for the resolution authorizing President Bush to invade Iraq, though Lugar has since said he regretted it.

"It's astonishing that not one of the 23 senators or 133 House members who voted against the war is in the mix," said Sam Husseini of the liberal group Institute for Public Accuracy".

You would need a heart of stone not to laugh.

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A thousand years ago....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008
....there used to be an organisation in these parts called the Economic League, which compiled names of leftists etc, the better to have them blacklisted from certain areas of employment. Feel free to google it. If memory serves, Ford was among the big names that made use of its list.

Where this is of more than a little interest is that it was denounced as McCarthyist and the Parliamentary Labour Party was instrumental in killing it off / compelling it to morph into something else.

I wonder if its enemies will feel moved to denounce what is likely to happen to Griffin's lot now. I am not holding my breath.

Meanwhile, a brief word from Henry Maine: "....we may say that the movement of the progressive societies has hitherto been a movement from Status to Contract".

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Enigmatic press release o' the day

Or today's gem from the DPRK:

"Pyongyang, November 18 (KCNA) -- General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with a gift by the head of the delegation of the Defence Ministry of Mongolia on a visit to the DPRK.
The gift was conveyed to Minister of the People's Armed Forces of the DPRK Kim Il Chol by State Secretary of the Defence Ministry of Mongolia Mikhlai Borbaatar who is leading the delegation today".

That's it. No detail. What does one give a man with a weakness for Mercs and the films of Liz Taylor that is authentically Mongolian? I imagine he would like to have a Mongolian Death Worm : "The creature is reported to be able to spray an acid-like substance that causes death instantly. It is also claimed that this creature has the ability to kill from a distance with some sort of super charged electrical charge". More likely is a case of kumis - fermented mare's milk. My only encounter with Mongolian liquids is millet vodka, which is unspeakably vile, but doubtless the ambrosia of the gods in comparison.

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Coming soon to a campus near you....

A development in Canada that I can see being taken up in these parts:

"Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., has hired six students whose jobs as "dialogue facilitators" will involve intervening in conversations among students in dining halls and common rooms to encourage discussion of such social justice issues as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability and social class".


"Like dons, who serve as student authorities in residence, the six facilitators will receive full room and board and a stipend for the full-year commitment, and will receive regular training".

Real world, I expect that the approach of the facilitators will have much the same effect on students as the bell of a leper.

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Today's gems from the 'DPR'K

Tuesday, November 18, 2008
This: "Troubles still lie in the way of the Koreans for achieving national unity and reunifying the country owing to the confrontation moves against reunification of the outside forces and flunkeyist treacherous forces following their lead".

Beats 'brigandish' by a nose, I think.

And this:

"Today the Korean people are vigorously turning out in the efforts for accomplishing the revolutionary cause of Juche, loudly singing revolutionary hymns including the song "Generalissimo Kim Il Sung Is with Us" created in response to the ardent desire and will to hold him in high esteem as the eternal leader of the revolution and the sun of Juche".

And from yesterday:

"The DPRK team surpassed its U.S. rival in the number of ball possession, corner kick and shooting of ball into the goal mouth throughout the finals. The DPRK team snubbed its U.S. rival 2-1, winning the first title of the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup New Zealand 2008".

The sports pages in these parts would be much enlivened by a tad more DPRK-speak, I think.


Before and After Science

Yet another eurobarometer survey with some utterly bizarre findings, this time focusing on 'young people' (15-25) and their attitudes to science etc.

The background as to what the youth of the various nations are interested in throws up some surprises. Britons along with Swedes are the least interested in sport - 51%, with Portos and Litvaks top at 81 and 80% respectively. 96% of Portos and Bulgars are just itching for domestic editions of Hello and Heat judging from their interest in 'culture' and 'entertainment'. Let's face it, they are not scanning their papers for reviews from La Scala, are they? Our youth are in the bottom half for interest in both economics (39%) and politics (42%), these being topped by Spaniards (56%) and Austrians (63%) respectively. Britons score poorly on interest in sundry scientific matters, although given the powerhouse that is Nokia, note that Finns are the least interested in ICT.

Anyway, on to those findings that make me want to find a corner, hold my head in my hands and rock gently:

27% of Luxembourgers disagree that 'Science brings more benefits than harm'. Doubtless they make little use of fridges and electric lights.

31% of Slovenes do not think that 'Science and technology make our lives healthier, easier and more comfortable'. They are probably shivering in the dark with the Luxembourgers.

65% of Gauls do not think that 'Science and technology will help eliminate poverty and hunger around the world'. Damn the internal combustion engine, and come to that the plough.

71% of Hellenes think that 'science is influenced too much by profit'. Show me the pharma company that develops drugs, at a loss, for fun....

Meanwhile, there does not seem to be much understanding of the logic of scientific discovery from the questioners - 'Scientific research should above all serve the development of knowledge'. Erm, it of necessity does. Scientists do not test theories and then curse the Gods because an experiment has 'failed'.

Anyway, back to my corner for some more rocking as 83% of Cypriots think 'Because of their knowledge, scientists have power that can make them dangerous'. Are there lots of Bond-type villains holed up in Nicosia? (Anyway, didn't they know that it was Scientist himself who managed to 'rid the world of the evil curse of the vampires'?)

To be continued.... Probably.

And indeed it is to be continued

Who's afraid of grey goo?

The Czechs - 38%, Britons - 33% etc. Danes and Litvaks are the most likely to think nanotech is a good thing. 41% of Maltese don't know.

Nuclear power?

The Czechs are the least worried, with 43% thinking 'at present there are more advantages than risks for society in scientific and technical innovations in the field of nuclear energy'. Only 12% of Greeks agree. Let's not tell them when fusion power is cracked, eh?

Given that our Czech friends have elected some fine people in their time, it is not altogether surprising that they are the least prone to GM food hysteria. The Hellenes (72%) and Romanians (72%) presumably wave crucifixes at cultivated roses.

(Pause while making a living gets in the way)

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Today's brass neck award...

Goes to Tessa Jowell. And here is why:

"Mr. Gibb: To ask the Minister for the Olympics how many Questions for written answer were tabled to her in each Session since she was appointed; and how many were (i) answered substantively and (ii) not answered on grounds of disproportionate cost"

A fairly reasonable question, no?

And the answer:

"The number of written questions tabled (and transferred) to me as Minister for the Olympics is as follows: 2006-7 - 82 2007-8 - 293".

So far so good.

Here comes the bit where I suspect that her c1-c7 vertabrae are rich in an alloy of zinc and copper:

"Information on how many written questions were answered substantively and not answered on grounds of disproportionate cost is not readily available and could be provided only at disproportionate cost".

Insert your preferred empahatic term for 'nonsense' here. TJ could set one of her underlings to search Hansard - always supposing she did not have the information in her own files and deliver an answer after maybe 10 minutes work by the minion.

Tem minutes is rather an over estimate. Here are the results of searching 'disproportionate cost' at Theyworkforyou.com.

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Next year's news now

Monday, November 17, 2008
A bit late in the day, I have chanced upon the thoughts of Russian astrologer Pavel Globa:

"The global crisis of 2010 will strike the entire system and will thus transform the world order. “The crisis will last for ten years and will end by 2020. The European Union will fall apart, and so will NATO. Several European Unions will be formed instead: the South-European, the North-European, and the like. Germany will be in the alliance with France, whereas Russia and Ukraine will join the alliance with Eastern Europe,” the astrologist said".

Here's his track record:

"Globa’s most famous predictions that came true: the rise of Putin and Medvedev, the collapse of the USSR, the 9/11 terrorists acts, the decline of Fidel Castro. The list of his most famous predictions that did not come true to life include: Castro’s death in 2000, the bombing of Iraq in 2007, an attempted assassination of President George W. Bush"

Texan sharpshooter fallacy, anyone?

No consideration of astrolgers is complete without the bi-annual wheeling out of the tale of Kelvin Mackenzie and his letter of dismissal to The Sun's astrologer: "As you will already know..."

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Where Sandhurst gets it wrong

Compared to how things are done in the 'Democratic People's Republic' of Korea:

"It is one of the important affairs for increasing the combat capability of the units to conduct dynamic cultural and art activities among servicepersons, [Kim Jong Il] said, setting forth tasks to be fulfilled by all units of the KPA including companies to intensify art activities".

Mind you, there was that video of sundry squaddies 'doing' Amarillo a while back.

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How to turn a recession into a depression

As the old joke goes, it is a recession when your neighbour loses his job, it is a depression when you lose your own, says he.

Anyway, the T&GM, Unite has a laundry list of demands for the Sterling Killer:

  1. Freezing repossessions on homes and creating 1 million new affordable homes
  2. The introduction of a fair tax regime to address the poverty gap, including closing tax loopholes and cuts for lower earners.
  3. Increasing public spending levels to create demand
  4. Supporting manufacturing through procurement and investment
  5. A price commission for energy and a windfall tax on profits
  6. Maintaining a commitment to full employment
  7. Restoring and defending collective rights for workers
  8. Advancing investment in public infrastructure
  9. Reducing interest rates to stimulate investment
  10. Introducing a new order and regulation into the finance sector
Where to begin in unpicking this lot?

Point one - this will result in folk not paying their debts, and lenders then being forced to make good losses elsewhere. This does not end the problem, it merely reshuffles it.

Two - What this really means is penal tax rates for higher earners. Cue an exodus offshore and bumper paydays for tax lawyers. Laffer curves anyone?

Three - Is there a connection between these two? It would take money out of the productive parts of the economy thus further deepening existing problems.

Four - Oh dear. One word - Concorde.

Five - E.on, EDF and the rest fold their tents and leave. A less competitive energy market results.

Six - Digging holes and filling them in perhaps?

Seven - Thus making the labour market still less competitive and driving investment overseas.

Eight - What is known as cathedrals in the desert syndrome

Nine - If there's anyone left to invest...

Ten - see eight

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Headline o' the day

It's a toss up between these two:

"Protest meeting against uranium" Source

And I'm sure uranium has now folded its tent and gone.

And this:

"People Called upon Not to Harbor Illusion about Imperialism" Source

No prizes for guessing where that came from.

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What kind of reputation does an ex Stasi employee have?

Sunday, November 16, 2008
One that involves injuncting the German language Wikipedia site, apparently. Anyway, Lutz Heilman, for it is he, an MP for the extreme left Left Party has sicced his lawyers on http://www.wikipedia.de/ (if not de.wikipedia.org....). Note that he is all of 42, so his Stasi career shows some enthusiasm, as that particular Babylon fell when he was all of 23. Having been elected via a party list system on PR, I cannot excoriate the voters of any particular town, but the people of the Länder of Brandenburg, Sachsen and Sachsen-Anhalt have a lot to answer for.

While our rather over-reaching defamation laws do not apply on the other side of the Rhine, it puts me in mind of Dering v Uris, wherein an Auschwitz doctor sued a novelist for his depiction of him. What emerged from the trial is that Dering had no reputation to protect and was awarded all of a penny in damges, and had to pay costs too.

Those in command of German can read the entry here, or in English here. It involves allegations of involvement in a porn business and not completing his degree.

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Hollywood makes a hash of it

Those fine people at the ADL have polled Americans on religious values, anti-semitism, the meeja and all sorts. My favourite finding is this:

"There is an organized campaign by Hollywood and the national media to weaken the influence of religious values in this country".

Agree - 43%

Intriguing how the US has a rather more church / shul going public than these parts. It does not say much for the ability of the LA-based conspiracy as opposed to the one operating out of Shepherd's Bush, 'Fleet St' etc.

Elsewhere, the most poweful lobbies are reckoned to be Saudi oil (25%) and the US Pharmaceutical Association (24%), with the NRA mustering 11%, the tobacco boys 8% and AIPAC a feeble 4%.


What did the British ever do for us?

Saturday, November 15, 2008
An extract from an article by an Indian writer in the Hindustan Times:

"The British Raj made us conscious of being Indian. We were Punjabis, Awadhis, Biharis, Bengalis, Oriyas Andhras, Tamils, Malayalis, Maharashtrians, Rajputs — also Hindu, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. We remained all these but also became Indians. All of us had one passport — Indian.

The British built us telegraph, connected our cities by roads, railways, laid networks of canals, dams to produce hydro-electricity. They started the process of industrialisation. They also introduced democratic institutions like municipalities, states and Central legislatures. During the British rule, there was more respect for the law. There were fewer riots, bandhs, and gheraos; blocking roads and rail traffic, burning buses and trains. Smashing of cars etc. was little heard of. There was less corruption. Rarely did English officers indulge in bribery. Now it is rare to find an honest, civil servant who can’t be bribed. Ask any Indian of my generation and he will confirm that life and property were safer in British times than in India today.


The British did not divide us to rule, as is often alleged by nationalist historians. Maulana Mohammed Ali was right in holding ‘We divide and they rule.” The British did not break up India when they left, they did their best to keep it together. It was our leaders who split it as they failed to get on with each other. The British left the country with good graces. They did not have to be pushed out as other European colonists like the French, Dutch & Portuguese. That is why many Indians have nostalgic memories of the Raj".

Interesting, no?


Friends in low places

A bit of rooting around in the archives of Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK has thrown out this:

"Congratulations to UK Prime Minister Pyongyang, June 30 [2007] (KCNA) -- Kim Yong Il, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, sent a congratulatory message to Gordon Brown upon his assumption of office as UK Prime Minister. He in the message wished the UK prime minister success in his responsible work".

Let us hope we do not get Juche inflicted on us.

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Look what Chavez has made out of the spare wheel

From Novosti:

"Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced plans to hold an alternative summit on the global financial crisis to counter the meeting of world leaders currently taking place in Washington....Chavez said that he would invite representatives from the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas trade bloc (ALBA) and members of the Petrocaribe oil initiative to attend the summit. The two groups include a large number of Latin American and Caribbean countries".

ALBA consists of Venezuela, Cuba (fancy...), Bolivia, Nicaragua, Honduras and some of the small islands of the Caribbean (as a footnote, 'you are from a small island' is a pseudo-insult thrown out by folk of Jamaican extraction). Petrocaribe is Chavez's vehicle for gaining diplomatic etc leverage from selling Venezuela's oil at non-market prices and includes Suriname, Guyana (1), Haiti, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belize, Guatemala and lots of small island states.

And what is he hoping to achieve, apart from getting his face in the papers?

"We will hold in Caracas a summit of small countries to adopt decisions on overcoming the financial crisis," national media reported Chavez as saying at a United Socialist Party of Venezuela meeting".

Doubtless the decisions will revolve around creating a LatAm/Caribbean socialist siege economy. It will end in fraudulent elections, crushing of dissent tears, you'll see.

(1) Given that Venezuela claims well nigh three-quarters of Guyana's national territory, I advise PM Sam Hinds to sup with a long spoon.

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The brilliance of Mr Brown

Friday, November 14, 2008
Here, borrowed from the FT, is a map of currency movements against sterling over the last 12 months:

Light green is a rise of less than 5%, dark green 5% +. Note that the US dollar is up 38%, the Euro 20% and the Japanese Yen 57%. The Swiss Franc is up 30% and the rouble 19%. By my reckoning, sterling has fallen against every other currency in the developed world. In addition to those visibly mapped, sterling is also down against the Shekel and the Singapore dollar, these also being currencies of IMF-defined advanced economies.

So much for his mastery of the economy.

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Nothing rouses the French to apathy quite like a Delors...

In this case Martine Aubry, daughter of the least popular Frenchman (in these parts at least) since Napoleon.

As noted previously, the French Socialists are deep in ferrets in the sack mode, and Le Figaro has been kind enough to poll the Plain People of France as to who they would vote for in a hypothetical Presidential Election with the same candidates as last time, plus options for Aubry and Delanoë as Socialist candidates.

La Royal is the PS's best option, in that she would reap 24% of the vote and then go head to head with Sarko in round two. A Sego candidacy sees the six candidates of the extreme left attract 18% of the vote, an Aubry gives them 23% and Delanoë 22%. Aubry would be knocked out by the Liberal Bayrou, while Bayrou would tie with Delanoë. The FN is a busted flush, but given how traumatised the PS was by failing to make it to round two in 2002, a second disaster might see it disintegrate. Yes please.

Anyway, Aubry pushes up the abstention / spoilt vote etc level to 26%, whereas the figure is stubbornly 25% for the other two. In another perhaps unexpected finding, Delanoe - an out gay man - seems to appeal to the Huntin' and Shootin' Party's voters, as he reduces its vote to zero, while Sego or Aubry candidatures see CPNT getting 1% of the vote. Maybe they are more misogynistic than homophobic....

In other findings, apparently 15% of the French have not been talking to friends etc about the election of Obama, and 33% have paid the credit crunch no mind. Also unexpected is that Left voters are more likely to have been talking about a round the world yacht race than the rest of their compatriots.


China's 'Milli Vanilli' law

From China Daily:

"Professional performers who cheat their audiences by lip-synching or pretending to play their instruments at "live" shows are likely to face stiff penalties from next year, an official from the Ministry of Culture said on Wednesday.
People who perform for profit should not cheat audiences with fake singing or pretending to play instruments, as has been the case in the past, she said.

Individuals or organizations caught doing so twice or more within a two-year period will have their business licenses revoked, she said".

That's most popular 'singers', and an awful lot of musicians in trouble then. Being a grumpy old man, I am great believer in the ability to play live being the acid test of a musician. Mind you, will the law cover the likes of sampling, pre-programmed keyboards, drum machines etc?

Here's the tale of Milli Vanilli, for those who were either too young or were not paying attention at the time.

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So much for Europe as a diplomatic powerhouse

The EU, for reasons best known to itself, reckons that the Russo-Georgian War (sounds really antique, put that way) needs to be investigated, and having looked at its own great and good has come up short, so the investigating diplomat is a Swiss. She is, naturally, called Heidi.

Aren't there enough spavined ex foreign ministers floating around the EU that the head hunters had to leave Fortress Europa? Or are they worried that the plenipotentiary might step on some unexploded ordnance or otherwise get caught in the perhaps not metaphorical crossfire?

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Misleading headline o' the day

Thursday, November 13, 2008
From The Times of India:

"Brown clouds making Asian cities 'dimmer': UN report"

That's one more thing to blame the wretched man for.

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Le credit crunch

Our Gallic chums are supposed to refer to 'Crise de liquidité', but there's plenty of franglais out there.

Anyway, I have found a survey covering what they will and will not economise on:

Sawbones, pharmacists, mountebanks and snake oil peddlers will be delighted that healthcare etc is the area of expenditure where the Plain People of France are least prepared (13%) to economise. Not an entirely foolish choice, and I will spare a digression on those ailments known only to French medicine, like jambes lourdes, or heavy legs.

Also fairly rational is the attitude to heating, with some 62% considering spending on it inviolate.

And what next might one think? Food? Holidays? Improving books?

Nope, personal care and beauty products. Given that this is a survey supposedly representing all Gauls, note that 49% give a big 'non' to cutting back on this. The average Frenchman is no more a moisturised / lip-glossed metrosexual than are his counterparts in this neck of the woods, and will probably take just the one bottle into the shower, wash his mitts from time to time and shave daily. Projecting from my own experience and thus exhibiting zero statistical validity, I would suspect that the man in the rue would switch to no-name shampoo, soap, razor blades and the like long before he'd economise on rather more important things like Gauloises and Côtes du Rhône. What this says to me is that - to all intents and purposes - French womanhood is putting its collective candy pink slingback down and refusing to cut back on either quality or quantity. A chacun son goût.

Further, and rather less amusing findings suggest that 46% will cut back on transport costs, 50% on Christmas presents and on hols, weekends etc, 52% on technology products (I suspect that the gender divide might be showing up here too...), 53% on food, 54% on fun and games, 55% on household, garden etc stuff and 63% on clothes.

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'Liberals' sharing a platform with an apologist for mass murder

Not very liberal is it? But that is what will be happening in January, under the aegis of Livingstone's new plaything, Progressive London.

It all sounds quite rainbow coalition initially:

"Speakers at the 24 January Progressive London conference at the Trades Union Congress include Jon Cruddas MP; Bonnie Greer; John Harris; Dawn Butler MP; Green Assembly members Jenny Jones AM and Darren Johnson AM; Labour Leader on the Assembly Len Duvall AM; Leader of the London Assembly Liberal Democrats Mike Tuffrey AM; Karen Buck MP; former Deputy Mayor of London Nicky Gavron AM; Professor Eric Hobsbawm; Professor Doreen Massey; Kate Hudson, Chair of CND; Claude Moraes MEP; Neal Lawson of Compass; trade unionists including Steve Hart of Unite, Regional Secretary of UNISON Linda Perks, and the General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union Billy Hayes".

That Socialists will happily make common ground with the extreme left does not come as a huge surprise. They used to call these things popular fronts. However, this is what Tuffrey has said about himself on the GLA LD website: 'In his personal life, Mike supports several community, civil liberties and environmental causes and lives in Clapham'. I would have credited Cruddas with a shred more decency too, for what that's worth.

For those not altogether au fait with Hobsbawm's oeuvre, here are some choice quotes about the decrepit historian:

From Johann Hari (yes, really): "He would gladly have spied for Stalin, he explained recently and without regret, if only he had been asked. In his autobiography, he explains that he "treats the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness. He is the David Irvine (sic) of the left. Why do so many decent people associate themselves with him? I can only conclude that we have not seriously thought about the victims of the tyranny he defends".

Olive Kamm in The Times: "According to the historian Robert Conquest, Hobsbawm was asked by Michael Ignatieff in a BBC interview in 1994: “What (your view) comes down to is saying that had the radiant tomorrow actually been created, the loss of 15, 20 million people might have been justified?” He replied: “Yes.”...Moving to more recent panegyric, Hobsbawm remarks in On History (1997): “Fragile as the communist systems turned out to be, only a limited, even nominal, use of armed coercion was necessary to maintain them from 1957 until 1989.

Kamm tailed his piece with this "Prospect’s “five intellectuals” are to be accorded dinner with a Cabinet minister and a newspaper editor, with the conversation recorded for the magazine. If Hobsbawm’s interlocutors have any gumption, they will refuse to sit with him".

He's right, isn't he?

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Matrimonial law, Italian-style

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
A precedent that probably will not apply in civil law in these parts, but intriguing nevertheless:

"An Italian man has had his marriage annulled [by a religious court in Salerno] for reason of having too intrusive a mother-in-law...

'The marriage only lasted four months but it was hellish. I thought the tales of awful mothers-in-law were made up, but I was forced to change my opinion. Following our separation I have even thought about seeking out a motherless woman as my next wife' he said".

Me? I'm not saying a *mumbling* word.

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A nation of cynics

Extracted from the Eurobarometer national findings are data on who or what we Britons trust or otherwise. Salient divergences are greater than EU average trust in the army and far less trust in the EU and the press. Quite why anyone, let alone half the population, trusts the UN (unless it is to waste money and be an utter shambles) is a mystery. I suppose the 28% who trust the Internet must be itching to give all their money to the next 419 fraudster to try it on. Equally odd is the - admittedly small - discrepancy between trust in radio and TV - do people think that BBC radio and TV, and commercial TV and commercial radio have wholly separate news gathering operations?

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Freedom's just another word....

Eurobarometer has released another one in its series of curious surveys, this time on 'European' values, whatever they are.

That the results are likely to be somewhat flawed can be seen from this question: "Which three of the following values, best represent the European Union?"

It does not offer bureaucracy, jobbery, fraud, waste etc, but rather more high-falutin' things like human rights, peace and democracy, all securing 36% + of responses.

As ever, the detail at national level is the most interesting, with Danes reckoning 'love' the most important thing for happiness, whereas those soulless Bulgars think it 'work' and 'money'. We opt for 'health'. Of the generally lower ranking issues, the Dutch are keenest on 'pleasure', Italians on 'tradition' and Austrians and Lithuanians on 'order'. Round of applause for the Swedes and Danes for ranking 'freedom' at 40%+, catcalls and a shower of tomatoes for the Maltese at 9%.

On the economic front, our Central and Eastern European friends seem to get it - asked '[is] free competition the best guarantee of economic prosperity', the Estonians are top of the class at 76%, with the other countries topping 70% all bordering the Baltic. Except Slovenia. Greece deserves five year plans and a siege economy, with only 45% pro. We manage a sub-average 58%.

Showing our traditional confusion, we also think 'the state intervenes too much in our lives (73%), admittedly behind Hungary (75%). The Finns think otherwise - 67% of them want Big Nanny telling them what to eat, what to do and what to think.

In a deeply depressing finding, 65% of those polled agree that 'we need more equality and justice (sic) even if this means less freedom for the individual'. 78% of Italians and Portuguese agree, as do a disgraceful 58% of our lot. Only in the Netherlands do a majority disagree - 52%/45%. Shame on the 13% of Irish folk who just don't know.

The Turks and Macedonians know rather better than the EU originators about being at the sharp end economically, with strong majorities thinking economic growth should be the priory even if it affects the environment. Only 17% of Finns agree. Flipping the question round, 90% + of Swedes and Danes would prioritise protecting the environment, even if it affects economic growth. Ho hum.

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News you might have missed

Tuesday, November 11, 2008
From Korean Central News Agency of the DPRK. Trust me, this is a good one. As ever, I am NOT making this up.

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il sent vehicles and equipment to the Chongjin Goat Farm.
He gave field guidance to the farm in May last and advanced highly important tasks to be fulfilled in managing and operating it.
Speakers said that the vehicles and equipment carry the warm love of Kim Jong Il, tender-hearted father who is taking pains to provide the people with much more various dairy products, and his trust and expectation that the employees of the farm would achieve greater success in the efforts to realize the intention of the Party.
They called upon all the employees of the farm to always cherish deep in mind Kim Jong Il's on-site instructions and his warm benevolence and bring about a great advance in goat breeding and output of dairy products, thus contributing to the improvement of the people's livelihood".

A bit of digging throws up this gem on Chongjin: "It also has a zoo, but [it] currently has no animals in it".

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"This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, this well thought-out and executed brand..."

John of Gaunt meets the unintentionally amusing Country Brand Index 2008, c/o Future Brand and Weber Shandwick, available here.

The rest of its short form description of this scepter'd isle runs thus:

"The UK is a well thought out and executed brand that effectively utilizes all of the natural and
cultural resources of the country.

Which is nice.

And France: “France has a strong local identity (wine, music, fashion, language,tradition and culture) and the ability to load its brand with emotion:beauty, quality of life, romance.”

And for the prosecution, Thomas Carlyle: "France was long a despotism tempered by epigrams".

And Canada: “Canada is an exceptional country and has all of the assets to be a great brand: natural and urban beauty, quality of life, diversity,culture, entertainment, gastronomy,
business infrastructure, stability and openness.”

To which I might rebut with a quote from Al Capone: "I don't even know which street Canada is on"

And so on to the findings, which one should perhaps discount the authority thereof, given this howler: "SCOTCH WHISKEY Any whiskey labeled as “Scotch” must be produced in Scotland".

Dear old Blighty rates 6th for history and for art and culture and ease of travel (crikey...), ninth for nightlife and for shopping. Ratings as conference destinations and so forth are too dull to be worth examining. Scotland the Brave rates as the fifth most popular place to live, with the UK overall 10th, down three points on the year. Quite why Scotland is treated separately while England is not is a mystery.

Winners elsewhere are NZ for 'authenticity', Egypt for 'history', Italy for 'art and culture' and Norway for 'safety'. I think it a little raw that the UK does not make it into the top ten for fine dining but Austria and the UAE do. NZ is reckoned to have the friendliest locals ahead of our Hibernian neighbours, Thailand and Canada. Scotland rates 6th, while the UK, France, and - astonishingly - Belgium do not feature.

More later, perhaps.

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