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Dubious poll finding o' the day

Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The Americans seem to be getting the hang of this daft opinion poll business, as the results (registration required) for the most and least desirable celebrity neighbours are in .

And Sarah Palin is the winner both overall and with men. Women would rather live next door to Oprah Winfrey, as would women 18-34. Men 18-34 prefer Michael Phelps, whoever that is.

Getting on to the infinitely more amuisng bit, least wanted neighbour is the dreadful Ms Spears, who attracts more opprobrium from women than men (fancy...), although she leads for both sexes and the 18-34 demographic. Rosie O'Donnell, a TV bod by the look of things is pretty unpopular too. Eliot Spitzer, the man who wrecked a career that looked to be taking him all the way, was the sixth least popular. I would imagine he would be a pretty good neighbour as he would spend most of his time hiding away. Hey ho.

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Misleading headline o' the day

Tuesday, December 30, 2008
From The Australian:

"Israelis consider ground offensive".

I suppose there's always the option of flight or taking to the water.

And at the other end of the continent (yes, there), I have spotted the reverse headline: "Love for soil".

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Something in the water in Manila?

They are a cheery bunch in the Philippines, judging from a survey by the splendidly named Social Weather Stations polling group - 92% will be going into 2009 in hope rather than fear. What's more, that is up a percentage point on 2007, and since polling began in 2000 the figure has never fallen lower than the 81% (2004).

In a rather distinct contrast, our German friends are filled with angst, or at least were last year as the 2009 results are not in yet. Half of them managed to be cheery when asked last year, while the high tide of weltschmerz was 69% in 2002. I think they are in with a shot at the title this time.

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"Socialist fairyland"

Monday, December 29, 2008
Yes, really:

"Pyongyang has been face-lifted and scenery of socialist fairyland has been unfolded in many places".

Including "Unhung Co-op farm". Shame I am too much of a pedant to permit myself a joke about those fortunate enough to go unhanged.


Taking recycling just a little too far.

Readers of a sensitive disposition might want to look away now.

From China Daily:

"A former Beverly Hills plastic surgeon is in trouble with the law because he fueled his car with human fat sucked from his patients. Craig Alan Bittner apparently created "lipo-diesel" from his patient's fat and used it to fuel his Ford SUV and his girlfriend's Lincoln Navigator.

California public health officials say that it is illegal because state law forbids the use of human medical waste to power vehicles (I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall when they cooked up that law). Bittner said he was trying to be environmentally friendly by using the "lipo-diesel."

He has a point, although icky does not come close.

Makes the pay off in 'Fight Club' look pretty mild, frankly.


Great Russians

Our Russian chums have been voting for the Greatest Russian, in much the same way as our compatriots did a year or so back, with Churchill - correctly, IMHO - winning.

While there has been talk of voting manipulation by both organisers and voters, the results are now in, and the winner is a fairly uncontroversial figure - unless one is a Teutonic Knight - Alexander Nevsky. Nevsky has the advantage of being the subject of one of the world's greatest films, it must be said, with a rather nifty Prokofiev score.

Pyotr Stolypin, the early 20th century Tsarist PM and reformer, who might be called the father of Russian democracy, not that said democracy got much further than the maternity ward at the time made second. I have a vagueish recollection of Stolypin from A level history, the first decade of 20th Century history not being a period I have read up on much of late. After that it goes awry, with a certain odious Georgian rated third, ahead of Pushkin. Peter the Great was fifth, and a certain odious Volgan fifth.

Others in the top twelve include Dostoyevsky, Catherine the Great, Alexander II, Ivan the Terrible, Mendelev and Suvorov. Tolstoy did not make the cut, nor did Tchaikovsky. I would have voted for Peter the Great for what that's worth.

(Sniffing around for further details revealed that this tale was all over the conventional news sites, but having put fingers to keyboard I opted to finish the post)


A little bit of Christmas cheer from France

Saturday, December 27, 2008
From Libération:

"The French Communist Party will rent out its historic offices. 120 Rue La Fayette is up for rent 'at the market price'".

Sounds like they are finally embracing eurocommunism / Chanel Socialism....

As a further note of amusement, one of the floors has already been rented out to a company specialising in cartoon strips and animation.

I bet the conversations on the stairs would be worth listening on..

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Kim Jong Il's Christmas presents

Friday, December 26, 2008
Looks like Santa decided that Kim had been 'nice', despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

From the Pakistan ambassador:

"a floral basket and a congratulatory letter".

Shanxi film studio:

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il was presented with Chinese film "The Tender of Feeling" by the Shanxi Film Studio, China".

But neither socks not handkerchiefs, apparently. However, he would have known this in advance, "thanks to the clairvoyance of the brilliant commander of Mt. Paektu".

Mind you, odd things are afoot:

"From early morning on the lunar New Year's Day people made a formal bow of respect to the aged and elders and called on their friends to exchange greetings and schoolchildren..." (sentence curtailed for comic effect)


Snappily-named organisation o' the day

Wednesday, December 24, 2008
You can guess where from:

"The Emergency Measure Committee for Frustrating the Crackdown upon Participants in Candlelight Actions, Moves for Scrapping the June 15 Joint Declaration and October 4 Declaration and the Plot to Fake up a Case for Suppressing the Solidarity for Implementing the South-North Joint Declaration of south Korea".

It has made a statement, although I imagine most folk would lose interest before getting half way through hearing / reading the name of the committee.

And Christmas would not be Christmas without a heart-warming statement from the DPRK:

“A grave situation is prevailing on the Korean Peninsula” due to the U.S. hostile policy and its frantic moves to wage a war of aggression against the DPRK, the official KCNA news agency quoted Kim Il Chol, minister of the People’s Armed Forces, as saying.

The “Korean-style preemptive attack” will be more powerful than nuclear weapons, reduce everything “treacherous and anti-reunification” to debris and build an independent reunified country on it, he said".

And a happy Christmas to you too, Kim Il Chol.


Biting the hand that feeds - and then chewing

Suppose you have a very generous benefactor. Would irritating it beyond measure be a career move? I would think not, so I offer up this tale from Haaretz:

"The extreme right-wing Our Land of Israel party has offered the top spot on its Knesset list to convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who is currently serving a life sentence in a United States Federal Prison for espionage".

Pollard's family do not supporty the move, and I would think it unlikely that any of the parties likely to win Knesset seats will go along with OLoI's idea.

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Lèse majesté, Spanish style

I am indebted to El País for this tale:

"A website, kingandwin.com, is giving punters the chance to bet on King Juan Carlos’ annual address to the nation. Will he say “pride” or “satisfaction” more often? How long will the speech
last? Will the Spanish flag be to the king’s left or right? Will he mention soccer’s Euro 2008?"

Doubtless less than enthusiastic royalists could play a similar game with Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Battenberg's address tomorrow.

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America's very liberal Roman Catholics

Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Or maybe they are just confused. Pew has had the impertinence to ask Americans of faith whether believers of other faiths are in with a shot at eternal life, and the results are in:

First up, atheists. Some 49% of white (1) Catholics think that atheism can lead to eternal life, whereas only 26% of white evangelicals agree. 46% of white non-evangelical Protestants concur.

Elsewhere, 65% of white Catholics think Hinduism can lead to eternal life, significantly more than the 62% for Islam. White evangelicals are none too keen on either Islam or Hinduism, but are marginally more sympathetic to the latter at 35% to 33%.

White Catholics are the most likely to think Judaism gives the keys to the kingdom at 77% to 62% for Black Protestants. Jews were not polled, but Catholics are more prepared to give Protestants hope than vice versa, at 83% to 73%.

(1) Categories given are white evangelicals, white non-evangelical, black protestant and white catholic. Don't ask me why, as I did not commission the poll.


Headline o' the day

C/O the KCNA:

"Showrooms Thick in National Odor"

And the detail:

"There are in Kwangbok and Yongung Streets of Pyongyang Tourism Souvenir Showrooms where one can see the creative wisdom and sentiments of the Korean nation....According to Jong Sin, manager of the showrooms, lots of foreigners have visited the showrooms this year and said as one that they were happy to visit the showrooms deep in the odor of the Korean nation".

And if that don't fetch 'em, I don't know Arkansaw.

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Curious poll finding o' the day

Another quarter, another eurobarometer survey. I might blog it more fully later, but there is one finding that deserves higher billing:

"Which of the following would you like European Union budget to be spent?"

(Long list of possibilities including health, transport and so on, with pollees allowed to nominate four options)

And lo, and indeed behold, three per cent of those polled nominated "Administrative and personnel costs, buildings".

I am NOT making this up, it is right there on page 74. When the country fiches are published I will name the guilty countries where admin is a popular option. And it is Lombard Street to a rotten orange that the Belgians are among the worst offenders.

Meanwhile, some 26% nominated admin as being the leading element in the EU's budget. A snoop around the EU's site sees it claiming that admin amounts to 6% of its budget, while 45% goes on what it calls 'sustainable growth'.

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Soundbite o' the day

Monday, December 22, 2008
Clearly the Peter Mandelson of the DPRK has been feeling inspired, as he came up with this snappy little number:

"Glorify this year of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the DPRK as a year of historical turn which will go down in the history of the country!"

Mind you, in the best U2 tradition, this is the country where the villages have no names:

"The first commuter students were no more than eight. A school train for them came into being and a new railway station was built in a nameless mountainous village at the foot of Pujon Pass, producing a legend of love

Elsewhere, Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Ill would appear to be still more prolific than Barbara Cartland (but we already new that):

Over 2,000 more works of President Kim Il Sung and General Secretary Kim Jong Il have been displayed at the Exhibition of Works on the Juche Idea for the past decade after it was opened to public on Dec. 21, Juche 87... Among them are...."Complete Collection of Kim Il Sung's Works" and the "Selected Works of Kim Jong Il" "The shopping lists of Kim Il Sung", "The notes to the milkman of Kim Il Sung" and "the sicknotes of Kim Jong Il" and collections of works "On the Revolutionary Traditions of Juche," "On the Juche Philosophy" and "On the Juche-oriented Literature and Art."

And luckily for them, "The exhibition has been visited by more than 2.3 million servicepersons and working people of different strata from over 26,000 organizations in the DPRK".


"Pak Hyon Suk and Hong Un Jong bagged gold medals respectively in the 63kg category of the weightlifting competition and in the vaulting horse contest of women's gymnastics at the 29th Olympic Games held in China....The laudable achievements made in the sports field this year are brilliant fruits borne by the firm will of athletes to demonstrate the dignity and stamina of Songun Korea to the whole world."

Whisper it low, but the Republic of Korea won 13 gold medals....


Business first, national security later.

Way back lost in the mists of time I watched 'Top Gun' at a cinema in Leicester Square in the first week of its run, and in a packed cinema I was one of two people (the other one was my mate) who guffawed at this (approximate) line: "Those Russian Migs have got Exocets". (1)

Anyway, life is semi-imitating art, by the look of things, as "Turkey plans to buy 32 used Mi-28 (Havoc) helicopters from Russia in a deal worth a total of $1 billion, a national Turkish daily reported on Monday".

While the Mi-28 is not exactly bleeding age these days, it is not a rotored donkey either, and I imagine that Russia selling current aircraft to a NATO country is a first.

(1) - Note for normal people - this was during the cold war, and even La France Perfide would be unlikely to sell weaponry to the Soviet Union.

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"Change has come to America". Really?

I am indebted to Pew Global for having the impertinence to ask American members of Congress about their religious affiliation, although our American friends do not tend to the shy and retiring when it comes to declaring their faith. And here are figures for 1961 to date:

There are plenty more bits of data I could play around with, but I will restrain myself. Two things of particular interest lurk in the findings, one being the woeful lack of declared non-believers / 'unaffiliated': 0.9% of Congress compared to 16.9% of the Great American public. If agnostics and so forth do not like the often religious prism through which American politics is filtered, they can only blame themselves for being unorganised.

Further, the faiths of the early settlers from these islands loom very large, compared to the public overall - 25.9 are Methodist / Presbyterian / Anglican-Episcopal, relative to 1.4 of the public. Doubtless William Penn would be a little disappointed that Quakers are under-represented. Most heavily over-represented are Jewish Americans - 8.4% of Congress versus 1.7% of Americans and most under-represented Baptists. at 12.4% to 17.2% of Americans.

This calls for an Emo Phillips joke:

"I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said "Stop! don't do it!" "Why shouldn't I?" he said. I said, "Well, there's so much to live for!" He said, "Like what?" I said, "Well...are you religious or atheist?" He said, "Religious." I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?" He said, "Christian." I said, "Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?" He said, "Baptist!" I said,"Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?" He said, "Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you original Baptist Church of God, or are you reformed Baptist Church of God?" He said,"Reformed Baptist Church of God!" I said, "Me too! Are you reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?" He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!" I said, "Die, heretic scum", and pushed him off.

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Just what has been going on in the Foreign Office's cellar?

Friday, December 19, 2008
I ask, because of this:

"Mr. Burstow: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many bottles of (a) blue chip list wines, (b) fine wines, (c) reception or drinking wines and (d) spirits and liqueurs were held in the Government wine cellar managed by his Department in each of the last five years; what the estimated value of each type of drink and of the Government wine cellar in total was in each year; how much was spent on (i) blue chip list wines, (ii) fine wines, (iii) reception or drinking wines and (iv) spirits and liqueurs for the Government wine cellar in each of those years; what the expenditure on the Government wine cellar was in each of those years; what proportion of the cellar stock is currently English wine; and what the policy is in respect of the procurement of English wines for the cellar.

And here are the answers:

"Government Hospitality defines the cellar stock as either "fine" or "beverage" wines. Over the last five years the cellar stock has amounted to between 36, 500 and 40, 000 bottles. From this total, approximately 2 000 bottles are "reception" or "beverage" wines, and approximately 35, 000 are "fine" wines. The stock of spirits and liqueurs is approximately 200 bottles. The overall value of the cellar stock is approximately £790,000".

A back of an envelope guess on my part values the plonk at a fiver a bottle, and the spirits at £20 a bottle, suggesting that the good stuff is valued at circa £22 a bottle. Ought to be eminently drinkable....

Anyway, the cellar upkeep figures paint an intriguing picture:

Being of a deeply cynical bent, I wonder if spendiong was down in 2004-5 as they knew an election was coming and they wanted to get on with the serious business of drinking the stuff and planned to leave little bar the Blue Nun for the next administration. Alternatively, Straw took the Pledge (after a fashion) in 2004, while Beckett and Miliband have been caning it for the last two years.

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Bizarre survey o' the day

Continuing in the grand tradition, the Plain People of France have been polled on which wild animal best symbolises the Pyrénées. Yes, really, the Direction Régionale de l'Environnement – Midi-Pyrénées reckoned it was worth ponying up to poll 1056 people on this topic of vital importance.

And because I just cannot get interested in gainful work this afternoon, I have charted the results for both the locals and Gauls overall:

The demographic breakdown throws up all sorts of oddities, including the extreme left favouring the marmot (5% vs 2% overall), Frontistes the wolf (14% vs 7% overall), Greens the chamois (6% vs 4% overall) and Modem voters the Pyrennean chamois (8% vs 3% overall). Parisians go for the eagle (7% vs 3% overall)

If it ends in a fight, my money's on the bear rather than the Pyrennean chamois.

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'DPRK in real news' shocker

Yes, really. A bit more exciting than the daily denunciations of Japan and South Korea, visits to factories and mysterious gifts from kow towing diplomats:

"Shortly ago, a person surnamed Ri was discovered and arrested while being active to carry out the terrorist mission given by a south Korean puppet intelligence-gathering organization to do harm to the safety of the top leader of the DPRK (maybe Ri was going to trip up KJI, or give him a chinese burn?). According to the disclosure, he crossed the border in violation of the law and order early this year. He was absorbed by an agent surnamed Hwang serving an intelligence organ of south Korea who had the mission to rally dishonest elements after finding his way into an area near the border of the DPRK".

And there's more:

"This case goes to prove that the south Korean puppets have gone the lengths of resorting to thrice-cursed methods to dare harm the headquarters of the DPRK, hell-bent on inciting confrontation with the DPRK. The weak are apt to employ such despicable terrorist method like a stray cat when they find themselves in an inferior position in the showdown with their rival in the political and military aspects....It is our duty and mission to ferret out and deal a merciless blow at anyone who dares give his eye-teeth for the headquarters of the Korean revolution no matter from where he makes such attempt".


"The Lee Myung Bak group are behaving coquettishly before their Japanese master, covering up the hideous crimes committed by Japan in the past and making their eyes at it, while making all desperate efforts to block national independence and reunification, do harm to their fellow countrymen and stifle them. That is why all the Koreans are now expressing irrepressible resentment at the group

In a rather alarming development, I had a dream about Kim Jong Il last night, in which he had a rabbit that was strong in Juche character. I think I need a break from this.


Dante's Inferno - the video game

I am NOT making this up:

"Rome, December 18 - Dante's Inferno, the first book of the Divine Comedy, is soon to be released as an action-adventure video game by the company better known for its FIFA Football and James Bond game series. The new game developed by America's Electronic Arts (EA) follows the structure of Dante's 14th-century masterpiece, turning his nine circles of hell - limbo, lust, gluttony, greed, anger, heresy, violence, fraud and treachery - into levels that players must travel through, killing demons as they go. 'It was the right moment to adapt this masterpiece of world literature for the universe of interactive gaming and to introduce Dante to a public who isn't very familiar with his work of art,'' the game's executive producer Jonathan Knight told French newspaper Liberation (Gah - and I missed it. C)

''The tormented universe of the Italian poet represents an ideal basis for a third-person action-adventure game''.

Tempting though it is to note
'lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate', instead I will go with 'Nessun maggior dolore Che ricordarsi del tempo felice Nella miseria' or 'There is no greater sorrow than to recall a happy time in the midst of misery' .

Meanwhile, I look forward to Il Gattapardo the video game, and Doom - le roman fleuve. In the spirit of crossing low with high culture, here is Pong - 'the haiku':

Bat strikes flying dot
which careens across the screen
one nil player one

Improvements by the readership upon that 30 second effort would be most welcome.

Truly the apocalypse is upon us.

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Really rather good

Thursday, December 18, 2008
Spotted at Le Monde, to which respect is due:

And while I'm at it, AC/DC in ascii art:

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The animaleidoscope

Don't blame me for the sub Tangerine Dream soundtrack:


The recession - solved

Or so our friends in the DPRK think:

"The international community is now busy with moves to find a way-out of the worldwide financial crunch that started with the financial crisis in the U.S. and weather it....The above-said facts indicate that it is very important to strengthen the independence of national economy and develop economy on the basis of a correct economic theory, and the random introduction of foreign capital may render the national economy bankrupt...

(Insert the joke about two economists with three opinions here)

A currency of a specified country should not be regarded as a main currency but a multilateral currency system should be established and put into force.

So they won't be asking to join the euro any time soon.

What is also important is to prevent national economy from going bankrupt being embroiled in the vortex of "globalization."...Another important lesson is that if a country opts for disorderly economic development based on a jungle law, without promoting economic progress based on a correct economic theory and science and technology, it may also suffer from another shocking economic crisis any time".

Sounds like Socialism in One Country, multiplied circa 192 fold.

Elsewhere, having tired - for now - of the 'jumping into a fire with faggots strapped to one's back' simile, the KCNA notes "Lee Myung Bak's keeping such warmonger as Ri Sang Hui in his regime is as foolish an act as pricking his own eyes".

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Thieving Socialists

Putting wealth redistribution into practice has caught on with members of the staff of the NZ Labour party:

"Labour leader Phil Goff is not happy with the activities of some of his party's younger staffers.

One person has been arrested and enquiries are continuing regarding several others, after they allegedly stole several boxes of wine from the press gallery's end of year Christmas party last night".

Wine boxes. Honestly.

Mind you, our own dear Prime Minister has counselled comparable action in the past: ""This book was edited by Gordon Brown when he was a student in the 1970s at Edinburgh University. It is entitled Alternative Edinburgh and was penned at the time when Brown was a socialist student leader - it is full of suggestions of how to live in Edinburgh for next to nothing!...my favourite one is how to turn up at a party without bringing a bottle with you - so what do you do... you bring a carrier bag of empty cans and put two half-bricks in the bottom of it to weight it down".

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A little something to induce intense nausea

Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Hard-boiled though I like to think I am, along with everyone else I have a weakness for 'It's a Wonderful Life'. Because it is really rather good.

Anyway, an American polling company has asked respondents to recast it with contemporary actors, and the American people have spoken (registration required):

George Bailey - George Clooney
Mary Bailey - Jennifer Aniston
Henry Potter (the villain) - Jack Nicholson
Clarence the Angel - Robin Williams

I trust this is an exercise in kite flying, although given that anything five years older or more is reckoned ripe for ripping off 're-imagining' by Hollywood, it could yet happen. I'd prefer a re-make of 'Santa Claus Conquers the Martians'.

Apparently the film only became everyone's favourite Christmas weepie after repeated showings on US cable channels, they having discovered that the studio had not renewed the copyright or somesuch, and therefore it could be aired on the cheap.

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Sale of the Century

To hell with mark downs on buckets, electricals and so forth, just look what you could be putting under the tree for some lucky individual this year, or make a present of to yourself:

"Russia has agreed to supply Lebanon with 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, Lebanese Defense Minister Elias Murr said on Tuesday during a visit to Moscow....Inside sources privy to the deal were quoted by the Rio Novosti agency as saying the warplanes "will be sold at a hefty discount."

Irritating soundtracks seem to be de rigueur for videos of military aviation, but I find muting is quite effective.


DPRK beration o' the day

Tuesday, December 16, 2008
This is good:

"So Jae Jin, a filth of the era and distress to the inter-Korean relations"

(he is the director of the Institute for Unification Studies in South Korea)

Meanwhile, the DPRK has launched a 3G telecom network, care of a deal with an Egyptian company. Doubtless Kim Jong Il wallpapers and Juche-related ringtones will be all the rage.


Unexpected poll finding o' the day

One for all you internet widows and widowers out there:

"According to the survey, conducted by Harris Interactive, nearly half of women (46 per cent) and 30 per cent of men would rather go without sex for a fortnight than give up internet access. For women aged 18-34 it was 49 per cent and for women aged 35-44 it was 52 per cent. Only 39 per cent of guys aged 18-34 would swap the bedroom for the broadband". The survey appears to refer only to our American friends, although that is not explicit.

Perhaps 'want to come up and see my T1 line?' is the pick up line of the future.

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What is it that Angela Eagle knows that we do not?

From Hansard:

"Mr. Hunt: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer (1) how much the Exchequer received in alcohol duties in each year since 1997, expressed in (a) cash terms and (b) 2008-09 prices; [240647]

(2) what percentage of total tax revenue was made up by alcohol taxes in each of the last five years; [240648]

(3) what percentage of total tax revenue he expects to be made up by alcohol taxes in each of the next three years. [240649]

To which La Eagle (L'aigle?) replied with a slew of figures, the salient ones being these:

"Forecast alcohol duty revenue as a percentage of forecast total revenue is estimated to be 1.9 per cent. in 2008-09, 2.1 per cent. in 2009-10 and 2.0 per cent. in 2010-11".

2.1% takes us back to figures last seen in 2004-5. Now it could be that the tanking of the econony means that revenues for just about every form of tax are going to fall, but since I am feeling paranoid, another option would be that we enthusiasts for grape and grain are going to be seeing duty increases that will have us crying into our beer. Another possibility is that the Treasury reckons we will be attempting to drown our sorrows, their long since having learnt to swim nothwithstanding.

Meanwhile, the rake on the Demon Drink amounted to £7,880 million in 2007-8, (£131 per head, ish) and based on FY 2008 spending, that covered all foreign military and economic aid (7.5), or little under half (16.2) the cost of 'protection' - Plod, courts, prisons and the fire brigade etc.

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The trouble with automatic formatting

Monday, December 15, 2008
In the course of work, I spotted this:

She's not that bad actually.

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Potato food shows, armed hooligans and 'a despicable guy'. Yup, 'tis the DPRK update.

Further DPRK-shenanigans, including the zoo - again, the doings of the Lee Myung Bak group, the ever appetising descriptions of food and so on and so forth:

Things are pretty bleeding edge, tech-wise at the zoo:

"The aquarium was also built in accordance with the ecological features of rare fishes, equipped with the advanced facilities including filter".

I wonder if they were given filter tips....

They love their spuds:

"The Changgwang Public Service Management Bureau held a potato food show where over 200 kinds of potato dishes including boiled rice made with potato and five grains, potato dish seasoned with soysauce and rice hash mixed with potato and vegetables were presented to delight the visitors".

Wot, no chips?

"And the Ministry of Commerce sponsors national food show and contest and the like with city, county and ri as a unit to discover local original dishes without exception and strives in every way to standardize and put the cooking method of the national food on a scientific basis".

And I thought our homegrown food writers etc were a plague on a par with leprosy.

Meanwhile, the DPRK's scribes have been using their tape measures:

"The warmongers of the south Korean puppet army are getting evermore frantic in the war exercises targeted against the DPRK these days, according to a military source.
They deployed units of tanks, 227mm multiple rocket launchers and 105mm artillery pieces in the area of Phaju City near the demilitarized zone in the wake of hurling hundreds of fully armed troops into the area of Ryonchon County on Dec. 10, thus fanning up war atmosphere.

It gets better:

"After occupying their combat positions in Phaju City and the area of Cholwon County of south Korean Kangwon Province on Dec. 10 and 11 many armed hooligans of the puppet army staged madcap exercises under the simulated conditions of an offensive operation against the DPRK, frantically firing more than 26,000 large-caliber machine gun and automatic rifle bullets".

Not that it will do the ROK any good, by the look of things:

"Lee's zealous involvement in the criminal moves of the Japanese reactionaries to harm and stifle Koreans bespeaks that he has become a despicable guy who is so hell-bent on acts of treachery that he is utterly indifferent to compatriots and the destiny of the nation...His plight is so wretched that he is unable to prolong his remaining days without clinging to the coattail of such political pigmy as Japan. Therefore, his treacherous remarks are nothing but a dirge heralding his ruin".

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Who's afraid of riots à la Grecque?

There have been minor outbreaks of copycat riots in parts of the continent, if not here, presumably because the rioting classes do not pay much heed to international news. Anyway, in a remarkably responsible fashion, one of the French regional dailies has been asking the Plain People of France whether riots are heading their way soon.

And the good people of Ifop have the results, and furthermore a series of demographic breakdowns.

The least likely to think that the French will have some événements are the young themselves - 64% of 18-24 year oldS think riots possible, compared to 77% of 50-64 year olds. And broadly speaking, the more educated the respondent, the less concerned he or she is about the possibility of riots.

Geographically, Parisians are the least alarmed at 67%, followed by South Easterners at 69%. The North East, which is the epicentre for that grand of French tradition of car burning, is the most concerned at 76%. French New Year's Day news reports, near as damn it, give league tables of the cities with the most cars immolated the evening before. Yes, really.

In terms of political allegiance, Bayrou's Modem party is the least worried, or the most complacent at 58%, followed by Sarko's UMP at 66%. The Communists and Trots manage 66 and 67% respectively. The latter must be appalled. Perhaps they should, in the best Brechtian tradition, seek to elect a new working class. The Socialists manage 79%, but far and away the most concerned are Frontistes at 89%.

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Oh to be in Denmark

Yet again there is nothing like a Dane, and there is not much rotten in the state of Denmark:

"The prime minister's Liberal Party has announced it is ready to lower income taxes for the country's highest earners. Previously, the Liberals had refused to budge...

Previously, the Liberals had refused to budge on the issue. But Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the finance minister, said a slowing economy made the tax breaks necessary.

The Conservative Party, the governing coalition's junior member, supports lower takes.


Rasmussen said creating more disposable income for the highest earners will help stimulate the stalled economy and is important for groups on the cusp of the higher tax level, such as nurses, firefighters and teachers".

Pretty good, eh? But here comes the astonishing bit:

"The plan to cut top level income tax has got recent support from both the Social Democrats and the Socialist People's Party". (Latter are a green / red group - a bit like an infected wound)

The only major refuseniks appear to be the Danish People's Party - sound on some things, less sound on others.

Laffer Curves, anyone?

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Kim Jong Il visits a chicken farm

Friday, December 12, 2008
In his latest adventure, the beige-clad Dear Leader has been to the Sariwon Chicken Farm and has given a pep talk:

"Noting that its employees have brought a new turn in breeding chickens through brisk technical innovation movement and in high revolutionary spirit of self-reliance, thus steadily boosting production, he gave appreciation of the efforts made by them devoting their wisdom and enthusiasm for the people. He said that the officials, workers and technicians of the farm should provide the people with more chickens and eggs by sincerely performing their duties as faithful servants of the people as required by the slogan "Serve the People!"

Doubtless the Bearded d'Uccles, Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns will respond by delivering double yolkers.

There is, however, more:

"After watching a bedroom, a mess hall, subsidiary food store, a kitchen and other supply service facilities of the boarding house, he expressed great satisfaction at the fact that the members of the youth work-team are keeping their workplace clean and leading their life in a revolutionary and optimistic manner by following the example of the People's Army".

Not sure I would be entirely comfortable about being watched while in bed by KIJ, frankly.

Meanwhile, the Central Zoo sounds rather more like Battersea Dogs Home:

"88 dogs of 24 species for admiration have been lived the zoo since January this year to please the visitors".

And in a long awaited development, the Workers' Party of Korea Publishing House and the Mansudae Art Studio have released next year's farming posters:

""Let us all turn out to push ahead with farming preparations for new year!" and "Let's apply much more manure of quality!" Vividly depicted in the posters are working people devoting themselves to making vast cooperative fields fertile, tractors carrying manure to fields and trucks running toward socialist countryside with farming materials on board.

I wish I was making this up, I really do.

Furthermore, the DPRK's bureaucrats would appear to have game:

"The 7th Basketball Tournament of Officials of National Institutions took place at the gymnasium of Kim Il Sung University. The tournament was held on league and knockout match basis by officials of ministries and national institutions. Winners in the men's event divided into four groups were teams of the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Extractive Industries, the Grand People's Study House and the Rakwon Guidance Bureau. The team of the Kyonghung Guidance Bureau came first in the women's event".

I'm sure I could do with both Rakwon and Kyonghung guidance.

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Paying for the CAP three times over

Firstly through taxation, then inflated food prices, and now this: A total of € 528.5 million of EU farm money unduly spent by Member States will be claimed back as a result of a decision adopted by the European Commission. The money returns to the Community budget because of inadequate control procedures or non-compliance with EU rules on agricultural expenditure. Member States are responsible for paying out and checking expenditure under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), and the Commission is required to ensure that Member States have made correct use of the funds. Source

I am not the world's leading fan of the CAP, but on the basis that if we have to have the EU it should be a government not of men but of laws, and therefore we should follow the rules. The CAP is administered by the Department of Photo Opportunities With Farm Animals, Pretty Landscapes and Embarrassed Ministers in Suits and Wellies, or whatever it is called this week, and our having got something back from this wretched scheme, it behoves DEFRA to do its job properly. Clearly they have not, and so presumably the farmers have been paid and now some €119m has to be extorted from the taxpayer to make good the shortfall.

That's just great, isn't it?

And here are the figures, with us third only to Greece and Italy for making an utter hash of the process. Note that some 12 of the EU 27 are not charted, presumably because German, Polish, Belgian etc bureaucrats do their jobs properly.

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Misleading headline o' the day

From Hansard:

Anti-depressants: Bexley

Not sure I would agree. There are worse places not a thousand miles from my front door, but I would not think that a trip to Bexley was a sovereign remedy for the blues.

Outraged Bexleyites can send their abusive e-mails to the usual place.

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The DPRK update

Thursday, December 11, 2008
In which it shows off its inferiority complex, we discover the unintentionally amusing name of the DPRK's yes man in Prague , it claims to have 'political freedom' and asks what did the 'Romans' ever do for them:

"The recent annual report of the U.S. Defense Department said “The rim of the great Asian Continent is already home to five nuclear powers: China, India, Pakistan, the DPRK and Russia”. It is the first time that the U.S. officially recognized the DPRK as a nuclear weapons state and announced it in its government report". Look at *me* Mum.

"Jaroslav Kafka, chairman of the Paektusan Czech-Korean Friendship Association and chairman of the Czech Group for the Study and Materialization of the Juche Idea, was elected chairman of the preparatory committee at the ceremony [to commemorate the Day of the Sun and February 16 in 2009]". [Insert joke about giant beetle here].

"All the members of the society enjoy an independent and creative life to their heart's content, fully guaranteed all the rights of a social being including political freedom and rights, the right to work and existence and the right to education and medical treatment". Words fail me.

"The Lee Myung Bak group of traitors is letting ultra-right conservative maniacs give "special lectures on modern history" before students of hundreds of high schools in Seoul. This is an unprecedented charade. In those lectures the conservative elements are talking such sheer nonsense as the south Korean economy in the modern times "began to take shape" in the period of the colonial rule of Japan and "Japan's colonization of Korea was helpful to her modernization and civilization."

Here are some extracts from the Wiki entry on Japanese colonial rule: "Korea during the late Joeson period was a largely an isolationist pre-industrial society, with most foreign trade prohibited and attempts at economic modernization stifled by an extremely conservative Court and landed aristocracy....During the early period of Japanese rule, the Japanese government created...a significant transportation infrastructure on the Korean peninsula. Port facilities, an extensive railway system, including a main truck railway from the southern port city of Pusan through the capital of Keijo and north to the Chinese border were developed". That the Japanese were not invited to subjugate Korea and were not there out of love for the Korean people is clear enough, but they did not descend upon Korea like the Mongol hordes upon Asia.


EU to farmers and consumers: you are all fools

Showing a lack of self-awareness that would embarrass the average plank of four by two, the EU Commission has had one of its bright ideas:

"Commission proposes ways to deliver cheaper and more competitive food prices in Europe"

I am *not* making this up.

I would start by scrapping the CAP and allowing complete free trade in food with the rest of the world, but fear not, the EU is not proposing anything quite as dramatic as that. Naturally. So capitalist acts between consenting adults will continue to be restricted.

What it has in mind is this:

"Promote the competitiveness of the food-supply chain to increase its resilience to world price shocks". Which means more interference form the Commissariat in pursuit of a non-market defined 'fair' price.

"Ensure a vigorous and coherent enforcement of competition at EU and national level through the European Competition Network and target those practices and restrictions that are particularly harmful". Because left to their own devices, food producers will not compete on price or quality, the way they did for aeons before the Treaty of Rome.

"Review potentially-restrictive regulations at national and/or EU level. Regulations that restrict market entry need to be scrutinised and removed where appropriate while keeping in mind their environmental and social goals. This will be done in the context of the retail market monitoring exercise and the transposition of the Services Directive. Regulations that restrict the ability to compete on prices should be examined at national level. Late payments by retailers or excessive fees demanded from producers for promotional offers should be reviewed. Regulations on shop opening hours could also be the subject of consultations at national level". Where to start? The caveat in bold makes it pretty clear what will happen....

"Consumers should be able to better compare prices. A permanent European monitoring of prices will be set up". Sounds good on the face of it, but consumers already know when they overpaying, and do so for reasons of convenience or whatever. As David Ogilvy once put it, "The consumer is not stupid, she is your wife". Feel free to update the quote to make it more contemporary. Heaven knows how many bureaucrats would be put on the payroll for this little venture.

"The Commission will examine with regulators of commodity markets how to discourage excessive volatility in the markets that benefits neither producers nor consumers". 'Excessive' volatility, eh? When prices soar, someone is making an extra buck euro, and when they fall, I for one am quite happy....


Curious survey o' the day

Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Or 'there is nothing like a Dane':

Post Danmark, obviously with time left over after delivering the post, has polled Danes on who they would like to get Christmas cards from, and in news that will hearten the Danish monarchy no end, the leader is Her Maj Queen Margrethe II, followed by the heir apparent and then his wife. Next up is the PM, Anders Fogh Rasmussen and then a Danish singer / comedian called Niels Hausgaard. Other nominations included politician Pia Kjærsgaard (10th) and Father Christmas (11th).

While regulars are well aware of my republican tendencies, the Danes have a track record of having rather smart crowned heads, with one of them, perhaps the forementioned Queen Margrethe II having translated Camus into Danish.

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The Great British public disgraces itself again

Consider the basic liberal rights - freedom of expression, freedom of religion and so forth. All bar a lunatic fringe would support them, yes? Nope:

The data charted above has been extracted from a report by WorldPublicOpinion.org, and while many other countries were polled on all or some of the issues, I have limited the chart to the UK, US, France and as a contrast Nigeria. In order to keep the chart a tolerable size I have curtailed the text of the questions.

The question charted in the first cluster is "Do you think there are some religions that people should not be allowed to practice in your country?". 33% of Britons think that.

Secondly, "people of any religion should be free to try to convert members of other religions to join theirs.” 57% of Britons disagree. I will concede that early morning visits from Jehovah's Witnesses can be a little irritating, but this is a rather bigger issue.

Thirdly, asked "How important is it for people to have the right to express any opinion, including criticisms of the government or religious leaders?", 3% of Britons did not judge it very or somewhat important.

Fourthly, questioned whether "Do you think the government should or should not have the right to prohibit certain political or religious views from being discussed?", 39% of my fellow citizens agree. The French fared rather better at a still appalling 27%, while the Americans were the least bad at 13%.

Fifthly, asked if "The government should have the right to ban peaceful demonstrations that it thinks would be politically destabilizing", 11% of Britons agree. Mind you, the state already does that, doesn't it?

(To be continued).

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EU in 'getting something right' shocker

Yes, really.

"The European Commission has ruled that 16 developing countries no longer have to pay import duties. The ruling mainly effects countries in Central and South America, as well as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Mongolia.

The measure will save these countries hundreds of millions of euros in duties and applies to thousands of products from tobacco to vegetables and fish".

I wade through any amount of guff at the EU newsroom but found this at Radio Netherlands, of all places. Searching the website has not disclosed the names of the other 13 countries. Anyone would think the EU was ashamed of this development. Anyway, more of this please, much more.

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Curious survey o' the day

Tuesday, December 09, 2008
On second thoughts, make that 'down right weird survey o' the day', as Zogby has been asking Americans the following:

"If you could only shop at one of the following department stores for the rest of your life, which would you choose?"

And having done so, has then matched sundry retail emporia with Obama / McCain tendencies. The results are pretty odd, in that Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus - nearest equivalent in these parts Harrods / Selfridges, I reckon - see a marked skew to the Dems at 59% and 67% to 40%/32% for the GOP. Admittedly, only two per cent apiece of those surveyed opted for those particular temples of commerce, with Wal-Mart (Asda) chosen as retail nirvana by 26%. Republicans enthused the most for Wal-Mart at 58% to 41% for Dems. Target (Tesco?) followed Wal-Mart with a 22% share of voice, and here the Dems were well ahead at 63% / 36%.

In between the mass market retailers and the high end ones sit Macy's, Costco (a cash and carry type operation), JC Penney, Sears and Kohls. Obama voters led for the first three and McCain for the rest. Any light shedding on what these places would equate to over here would be appreciated.

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Anything to avoid answering a question.

Hansard trawlers know well that the favourite excuse ministers offer for not answering questions is that of 'disproportionate cost'. Up until 3/12/8 it was £700, but in what must surely be an admission of rampant inflation rather than an attempt to limit parliamentary scrutiny, it has soared to £750, or by more than 7%.

So much for deflation, eh?


A useful DPRK neologism

Or so one might think, as Pyongyang has a Korean Council of Religionists, chaired by Jang Jae On. Given that the DPRK is de facto atheist, one doubts that JJO is possessed of 'excessive or affected religious zeal'. The next time interfaith dialogue is undertaken in these parts, I look forward to the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi describing themselves as religionists in this exciting new DPRK sense.

And what does JJO have to say for him or herself? "The death of Patriarch Alexei II is a great loss for the Russian Orthodox Church and people". And the immortality of the deceased is being prayed for.

Elsewhere, having presumably considered Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, the Emperor Menelik at Adwa and Mengistu Haile Mariam, the chair of the Addis Ababa Youth Association of Ethiopia reckons Kim Il Song to have been "[an] outstanding strategist and [the] greatest-ever commander".

Meanwhile, they have been packing them in at the Havana Ritzy due to its "week of Korean film show", including such edge of the seat offerings as 'The Flower Girl', 'Wolmi Island' and the star attraction, 'Order No. 027".

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Georgia on her mind

Monday, December 08, 2008
The Russian Academy of Scientists, kindly folk that they are, has polled the Rodina's citizenry as to which countries they sympathise with or otherwise. I have not been able to access the source data, but have done what I can with figures published in the English language site of Pravda.

It may well be the case that they have a soft spot for the Finns and detest Canadians beyond measure, but working with what I've got, I do feel that we are letting the side down by being less popular than the US. Doubtless the Belarusians and Kazakhs are popular because they are happy to leave the boat resolutely unrocked.

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Socially mixed neighbourhoods...

Every once in a while, someone will claim that areas benefit from a broad social mix. Maybe so, although now is the time for examining that proposition. The assumption by those claiming it is that the well-off leave areas because they are fearful snobs (in the debased sense) and want to be with their own, abandoning those lower on the economic food chain and failing to set a good example yadda yadda.

Anyway, a piece of research published by Pew Global upends this, to a degree at least:

It turns out that the US socio-economic group keenest on 'socio-economic diversity' are those on $100,000 plus and the least enthused are those on $30,000 or less. Evidently, what people do and what they say may well not be one and the same, and for all I know the comparatively wealthy are all for neighbourhood 'socio-economic diversity' because it makes hiring cleaners, pool boys and the like easier.

In other findings, Liberal Democrats are keenest on neighbourhood diversity in political opinion (65%) and Conservative Republicans the least (49%) while black folk are keener on ethnic diversity (83%) than Hispanics (69%) or Whites (60%)

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Uses and abuses of YouTube

No, it is not just for clips of people falling over and extracts from TV comedies, it is for the heavy hitters of big business to campaign against corruption. Apparently. Laudable, but...

Said head honchos also want your videos of ideas on how to fight corruption. I do not imagine that the response will be overwhelming.


The joys of hindsight

Saturday, December 06, 2008
Some kind soul commenting on a Toynbee article chez Guardian has pointed this out, and it would be selfish not to point readers towards it.

In it, Beatrix Campbell noted the following in March:

"Karen Matthews has acted appropriately throughout: she was waiting for Shannon at home; she contacted the police as soon as she had exhausted all the obvious locations. And yet, our eye is drawn to her poverty, numbers of partners, cans of lager going into her household. Everything about Ms Matthews' life has been up for scrutiny...No one thought Karen Matthews had abducted or killed her daughter - and yet she has been judged. Some commentators think they can say anything they like about this woman and even to her. She has spoken with reticent dignity, yet her class makes her available for blame. The McCanns are official suspects. And yet - unlike Karen Matthews - they are presumed innocent".

There's much more in the same vein, and plenty of venom directed at the commentariat and the beastly bourgeoisie.

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What have the Bajans done to deserve this?

Friday, December 05, 2008
(Or the DPRK update.....)

"President Kim Il Sung's famous work "For Carrying Forward and Accomplishing the Socialist Cause" was brought out in pamphlet in Barbados on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the foundation of the DPRK". Source

So famous that the various DPRK sites do not include it in their online libraries. Given that the Bridgetown Parliament only has Socialist and Social Democratic MPs, perhaps it is ripe for a bit of Juche, although Songun ('Military First') might be a bit of a struggle given that Bajan armed forces do not seem to extend beyond two battalions, out of a population of some 280,000.

The Western Hemisphere appears to be fertile ground, as "An inaugural ceremony for the Ecuadorian National Preparatory Committee for Commemorating the Day of the Sun and February 16 in 2009 was held in Quito on Nov. 26". (Is 16/2/9 that worth feting? Illumination would be welcome). At the ceremony Milton Burbano, chairman of the Ecuadorian Cultural Institute for the Study of the Juche Idea, was elected general coordinator of the preparatory committee and Daniel Alvarez Celi, chairman of the Ecuadorian Committee for Supporting Korea's Independent and Peaceful Reunification, chairman of the preparatory committee". Source

Doubtless the election was closely contested....

Perhaps there is something we in these parts could learn from the Koreans, as "History records write that besides the country of true gentlemen, Korea was called as true gentlemen's country, country of good manners, etc. in the east. Korea came to have such good name because her people are courteous, possess noble trait, treat guests with virtues and accord kind hospitality to them".

Greater levels of courtesy and so forth here would be most welcome.

Meanwhile, here is the Korean peninsula by night:

I believe the lights to the east shows the Korean squid fishing fleet, which is big on underwater illumination.


">"He sweats not to overthrow your Almain"

Or not as the case may be, as GfK have examined the drinking habits of sundry nations, and the UK's favourite drink turns out to be wine, not fizzy industrial lager the ale of old England:

Our enthusiasm for beer is exceeded by the Czechs and the Belgians (well, they do brew some fine stuff. Mine's a Duvel) and rather more unexpectedly by the Spanish, Swedes and the Russians, none of whom brew anything of great note - in my experience, at least.

Elsewhere, the Italians and Swiss are the keenest on wine, the French on forfified wine and the Russians and Greeks on spirits. Vodka, yes, Ouzo, no thank you. The Americans and Magyars opt disproportionately for alcopops / cocktails (rather unkind to conflate the two, in my reckoning).

The survey goes rather further, and notes the prevalence of rechabites in sundry nations - 50% of Italians claim never to drink. Still, more Barolo for the rest of us. Alas full data is not available for abstinence by nation or drinking frequency. Shame.

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A counterpart to the BNP shenanigans of the other week

From The Korea Herald (for once I am quoting from the South Korean press, although DPRK fans can expect more from there later):

"Conservative civic groups yesterday disclosed the names of some 5,000 members of a progressive teachers union in Seoul, in a bid to tame what they call biased education and leftist activism.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers' Union reacted angrily, suggesting it may take a legal action, as the move possibly violates privacy and libels its members..."KTU teachers' biased education and actions that are inappropriate for teachers are one of the reasons the education sector is so troubled," the People's Coalition Against Antinational Education said yesterday at a press conference".

Not wanting an affiliation in the public domain and being ashamed of it are not one and the same, are they?

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The return of the Jedi Knights

Much amusement was had with the last census when sundry merry pranksters opted to write in 'Jedi Knight' as religious affiliation. As and when the 2001 census and others are made public domain, I suspect that there will be an awful lot of folk who claimed to be brain surgeons too.

Anyway, as if the census was not already grossly intrusive, some parties wish to go a whole lot further:

"[The Equality and Human Rights Commission] is also calling on the ONS to include a question on sexual identity in the 2011 Census alongside other groups".

In the light of quite how insecure data held by the government is, and how the state will require data sharing at its whim, would you feel safe writing down your predilections?

I suspect that 'asexual' would be the safest response.


Prospects for a 'Riverdance' tour of the DPRK poor

Thursday, December 04, 2008
And for why?:

"The Korean dancing technique is the dance representation method peculiar to the nation, which was created in such a manner as to suit the people's constitution, aesthetic sense, ideological sentiment and living custom. Pliant and elegant is the dancing with movements of arms as the main, properly combined with leg movements".

Don't think the toiling masses would be impressed by the arms stapled to the sides moves of our Hibernian neighbours.

Elsewhere, "The Pyongyang Maternity Hospital has recently made sungnyung, a Koryo medicine, which helps toward the treatment of patients and promotion of the health of working people. (What about loafers and slackers?). The chief ingredient of this health drink is Koryo medicine and it proves effective against oxidation (erm, isn't that another word for rusting?), cancer, inflammation, etc. and good for increasing vigor and vitality and treating women's diseases". And what's more, "It is called sungnyung medicine as it is so prepared as to taste like sungnyung (scorched-rice tea), a favorite drink of the Koreans from olden times".

A little light googling has failed to shed any light on what Koryo could mean, other than a martial arts move and a Korean dynasty. The mystery, much like soup, thickens.

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The *real* split between Communists and Trots

has been revealed, in France at least, by a survey on holiday plans, dreams and the like c/o those nice people at IFOP.

35% of the Plain People of France fancy lounging around somewhere sunny, as do 36% of PCF enthusiasts but 43% of Trots (they are referred to as the extreme left, but I know from experience that this means Arlette Laguiller and Olivier Besancenot fans). The more amusing bit is the revelation that the Trots are fearful philistines and are significantly less interested in cultural tours - 15% vs 23% for the Plain People of France and 28% for Communists. Mind you, apparently no Front National voters fancy this at all.

Further, offered a range of long haul destinations, Communists disproportionately fancy Guadeloupe and Trots Rio. Communists have a major downer on Oz and New Zealand, whereas those deeply hypocritical Greens really fancy it - what about all those CO2 emissions, eh? Better still, neither Trots nor Tankies dream of a jaunt to China - 2% for the former, 0% for the latter against 3% for Gauls overall. Shame they did not offer the DPRK (of which more later).

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A lipogram for Brown

Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Poster Tiresias has been kind enough to craft a lipogram (a text work with certain constraints - in this case shunning the letter 'e') in honour of our dearly beloved PM for our entertainment.

I hail such skill and art:

"Following a famous colloquy with Tony Blair in a fancy trattoria in Islington, Brown had to wait long and grudgingly to fulfil his cosmic ambitions.

But now, according to official hagiography, broadcast by word of mouth (his), Gordon is a polymath and financial wizard who, on his own and without support, can fix an apocalyptic world banking crisis. All will garland him with honours! All will run in pursuit of his triumphal chariot!

In truth, Brown is a monocular moron who knows nothing about anything apart from municipal Scottish socialism; a pusillanimous procrastinator, known for his cowardly vanishing acts, as if mimicking Macavity; a shambling cyclops, arbitrarily knocking financial controls out of whack with random blows of his clunking fists; a small town idiot who draws insults and obloquy from all but a pitiful handful of sycophants and nancy boys, such as that goggling onanist, Balls.

A Stalinist to his digit-tips, Brown long ago brought about total liquidation of any rivals with half a brain, until nobody was around to appoint to any of the top jobs apart from Dipsy, Tinky Winky, La La and Po (alias Darling, Smith, Straw and that banana-brandishing buffoon, David Milliband).

Financial wizard? A schoolboy would look adroit by comparison!

Half our gold sold for a handful of rat droppings! In hock to PFI contractors, without inclusion in PSBR - pushing junk loans from fisc to contractor to bank to fisc again: washing out blood with blood.

Following withdrawal of ACT, which gross funds could claim back, all can now look forward only to a dismal and probably shrinking annuity, and to finishing our hungry days sitting out on a back porch in a rocking chair, watching worms crawling out of stony ground...

Damn you, Brown, you charlatan! May you finish up in jail or in a lunatic asylum, putting your clunking fists to work thumping flinty walls in dumb frustration, rattling rusty bars and proclaiming to smirking visitors how you carry on with your job and at last .. . gazing stupidly at your "moral compass" through a glass darkly as its arrow spins anarchically around in Stygian shadow...

(I thank you.)

Can a rival match this triumph? Mr D, T has thrown down an iron hand garb. Outdo, if you will, this glorious work.

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Hurrah for the US Constitution. Possibly

Wise fellows, the founding fathers:

"No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments [wages] whereof shall have been encreased (sic) during such time".

Our old friend Hilary was in the Senate when Condi Rice got a pay rise, so according to Judicial Watch, reported by Novosti, she is ineligible for the post, the possibility of a Saxbe Fix - whereby the salary would be reduced to the status quo ante - nothwithstanding


Classy MP o' the day

Say hello to the Labor (sic) MP for Dawson, Queensland, one James Bidgood:

"A federal Labor MP has been carpeted by the Prime Minister's office after he allegedly tried to sell pictures he had just taken of a man threatening to set fire to himself outside Parliament House. A photographer from News Ltd refused to pay....The MP, James Bidgood, realised quickly the implications of his actions, so instead offered the pictures so long as News Ltd donated money to a charity.News Ltd agreed to a donation". Source

Anyway, lest anyone think that our Strine friends are all born villians, this fellow hails from East London (UK, not RSA) and used to be a member of the Labour Party.

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Of Korean puppets, Northern and Southern

Much has been going on in the northern of the two successor states to the Hermit Kingdom in the last 24 hours, and here are the highlights:

"The DPRK team beat its Japanese rival 2-1 in the quarterfinals of the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup". And no comment about the triumph of the Juche ideal manifesting itself in this overcoming of the hated Japanese. Astonishing.

Elsewhere, all Juche and no play makes, cough, Kim a dull child, so the Pyongyang Puppet Show Troupe has updated its repertoire:

"The short piece "Musical Entertainment of Our Sub-Branch" is based on the theme of preparing a musical entertainment of a sub-branch of the Children's Union. After appreciating it, school children say in unison they came to know well that if they pool strength, they can do anything difficult".

Metadrama, eh? They'll be breaking the Fourth Wall next. Perhaps the Childen's Union can press for extra dollops of kimche and later bedtimes.

Showing the rich command of comic timing that is the hallmark of the KCNA, the next but one item is entitled "S. Korean Puppets' Wild Ambition to Invade DPRK Slammed".

Alas this is not a PPST production, but rather comment on "[a] bellicose scenario to realize at any cost their wild ambition to invade the north". But, "The puppets are, however, seriously mistaken".

Elsewhere, Seoul's "[national security law], cooked up under the pretext of "national security" on December 1, 1948, is the worst evil law ever in history and it has turned into the peerlessly fascist law through continued retrogressive revision over the last decades".

I could name a few other contenders.

The hackney carriage trade in Seoul would not seem to employ folk with a similar mindset to those in these parts if the KCNA is to believed, as "Earlier, the Confederation of Taxi Drivers' Unions and the Federation of Banking Workers Unions of south Korea separately held a meeting and a rally for the general advance of financial workers in denunciation of the moves of the Lee Myung Bak group of traitors".

And the KCNA's scribes seem to have run out of similes, as "The desperate efforts made by Japan to start a reckless war against the DPRK, crying out for "closer alliance" with the U.S. in a bid to get something are as foolish a bid as jumping into the fire with fagots on its back"


Belgians behaving badly

Imagine you are the Belgian Minister of Defence. Imagine further that while in a bar in NYC you are recognised and reckoned to be blotto, sing bawdy songs and try to serve yourself from the bar.

I would think that Belgian Defence Ministers can generally count on the belief that what happens outside Belgium stays outside Belgium. Furthermore, I imagine most BDF's would be thrilled to be recognised by anyone other than close family members, but not in this case, as Pieter De Crem, for it is he, was spotted behaving thus in a Belgian bar in NYC and was then denounced by a staff member on her blog. Here is the link for my many millions of readers with fluent Flemish.

And for this, she has now been sacked, following a word from one of De Crem's homunculi to the bar's owner.

Mijnheer De Crem has gone on to say that he is not at war with blogs, but thinks that they can be 'misused'.


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