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A little light data mining of the 'Gurkha vote'.

Thursday, April 30, 2009
The BBC has a list of the 28 Labour rebels, care of the LibDems' reckoning. A fuller version is at The Public Whip. Comparing this to the Brown vote refuseniks of May 2007 gives the following who appear on both lists:

Diane Abbott (1)
Harry Cohen (2)
Jeremy Corbyn (1)
Mark Fisher (1)
Neil Gerrard (2)
Kate Hoey (1)
Kelvin Hopkins (1)
Peter Kilfoyle (1)
Linda Riordan (1)
Alan Simpson (1)
Robert Wareing (technically de-whipped, so N/A)
Mike Wood (1)

Further digging at Theyworkforyou gives the numbers in parentheses, with 1 indicating that he or she 'quite often rebels', 2 'sometimes rebels'. So, essentially a list of the usual suspects.

However, it is the list of abstainers (obtained by comparing this with this) that is the more intriguing. Given that Prescott, Hoon, Miliband Major and Miliband Minor are down as not having voted, it is safe to assume that they were elsewhere rather than that they decided to make a hesitant step towards the light.

Here they are, with the more interesting ones highlighted:

John Austin
John Battle
Hilary Benn
Karen Buck
Richard Burden
Colin Burgon
Stephen Byers
Richard Caborn
Ronnie Campbell
Martin Caton
Ian Cawsey
Michael Clapham
Katy Clark
Charles Clarke
Frank Cook
Jon Cruddas
Claire Curtis-Thomas
Jim Dobbin
Bill Etherington
Paul Farrelly
Frank Field
Paul Flynn
Mike Gapes
Roger Godsiff
Mike Hall
Patrick Hall
Fabian Hamilton
Sylvia Heal
Doug Henderson
David Heyes
Meg Hillier
Jim Hood
Geoff Hoon
Lindsay Hoyle
Eric Illsley
Sian James
Lynne Jones
Martyn Jones
Ashok Kumar
Ivan Lewis
Martin Linton
Denis MacShane
Khalid Mahmood
Judy Mallaber
John Mann
Rob Marris
Bob Marshall Andrews
Christine McCafferty
John McDonell
Anne McGuire
Michael Meacher
Alan Meale
David Miliband
Ed Miliband
Austin Mitchell
Anne Moffat
Julie Morgan
Kali Mountford
Eddie O'Hara
Sandra Osborne
Greg Pope
Bridget Prentice
John Prescott
Bill Rammell
Jamie Reed
John Reid
Linda Riordan
John Robertson
Martin Salter
Clare Short
Alan Simpson
Marsha Singh
Andrew Smith
Anne Snelgrove
Gavin Strang
Gisela Stuart
Gerry Sutcliffe
David Taylor
Paddy Tipping
Paul Truswell
Neil Turner
Rudi Vis
Betty William
Mike Wood
Shaun Woodward
Anthony Wright

I might dig further to isolate MPs with a high proportion of constituents with links to the sub-continent.

At comment maker Tim the Mage's suggestion, here are the votes from MPs with high numbers of constituents of Indian extraction:

Leicester East - Vaz (rebel)
Leicester West - Hewitt (loyalist)
Ealing Southall - Sharma (loyalist)
Ealing North - Pound (rebel)
Ealing, Acton - Slaughter (loyalist)
Harrow West - Thomas (loyalist)
Harrow East - McNulty (loyalist)
Feltham & Heston - Keen (loyalist)
Brentford & Isleworth - Keen (loyalist)
Hendon - Dismore (loyalist)
Finchley & GG - Vis (d/n vote)
Ilford South - Gapes (d/n vote)
Loughborough - Reed (loyalist)
Brent North - Gardiner (loyalist)
Birmingham Perry Barr - Mahmood (d/n vote)
Bradford North - Rooney (loyalist)
Bradford South - Sutcliffe (loyalist)

Can't say I am really up to scratch on where the UK's Indians live, beyond NW/W London and Leicestershire, so any additional seat names would be helpful.

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Prepare for toe-curling

The EU is trying to get down with the kids, and the results are cringe-inducing:

"Did you know that the European elections are almost here? Did you even know that there were European elections?

Join The Shout and you’ll be part of something much bigger; thousands of European voices coming together as one, to express ourselves loud and clear.

Think about it. Europe is an amazing place to be a part of. You can travel anywhere you want, study in whichever country you fancy and work wherever you choose - how cool is that? Surely that's something we should all be shouting about…You can also vote in our online polls, get the skinny on what the elections are all about and check out what some of Europe’s top recording artists have to say about being part of the coolest community - Europe".

And they have some musicians making insightful comments, including American Lenny Kravitz and Australians The Veronicas. Neither of who stray much beyond a few dull bromides of no relevance to the EU, let alone the elections:

And not forgetting Basildon's very own Depeche Mode, which I would include but the embed code duplicates that for The Veronicas.

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Guess who is missing its escudos, pesatas and so on?

Yet more from Eurobarometer, and yet more gratuitous use of graphics:

"Tell me whether you totally agree, tend to agree, tend to disagree or totally disagree with the following statement: (OUR COUNTRY) would have been better protected in the face of the current financial and economic crisis if we had kept the (FORMER NATIONAL CURRENCY).

The Spanish, Cypriots and Portuguese seem to be missing their old currencies, while the much vaunted supposed love of the Germans for the Mark and the Italians for the Lira appears to have been overplayed. Special mark of disgrace for the high number of Italian and Irish 'don't knows'.

And prospective Euro adopters, asked a rejigged version of that question:

Tell me whether you totally agree, tend to agree, tend to disagree or totally disagree with the following statement: (OUR COUNTRY) would have been better protected in the face of the current financial and economic crisis if we had adopted the European single currency, the euro
Thus the Bulgars are the least Euro-enthused and the Magyars the most. As to us, we favour keeping the pound by a factor of 2:1.

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Another way of looking at the downturn

Eurobarometer has been polling the European polis on what it reckons to the slump, and I have charted the figures for those judging the consequences 'very important' for the world economy and for themselves:Our Scandinavian and Dutch friends distinguish themselves by being less than concerned for themselves, but being quite seriously concerned for the global economy. The closest match of concern levels is for Romania and Latvia, while the Irish, Greeks and Magyars are the most alarmed for the world overall.

Meanwhile, I am extemely irked that I cannot find voting figures for yesterday on the Gurkha issue.

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One of history's greatest villains makes a comeback.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009
From London Student, via Labourstart.org:

"SOAS support staff are likely to strike after trade union activist Joseph Stalin lost an appeal against his sacking. Unison, the trade union for administrative staff at the college, is balloting its members for strike action over the dismissal. It says that Stalin’s role in the justice for cleaners campaign, seeking to raise cleaners wages to the London Living Wage standard, marked him as a target for school management".

A rather better use of his time than smashing the kulaks, I would think. Turns out that his full name is Joseph Stalin Bermudez. I suspect that his parents were not Christian Democrats, and that he may not be related to Enrique Bermúdez, a Contra commander.

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Hurrah for the youth of America

In comparative terms, as 18-29 year olds are the demographic most likely to see free trade agreements as a 'good thing', at a still somewhat lukewarm 62% to 19%. 50-64 year olds go the other way at 32% / 47%, while I worry about the 30% of the 65+ cohort that cannot muster the intellectual challenge of having an opinion.

Elsewhere, black folk are more supportive than white folk at 47% to 42% and an alarming 34% of college graduates are, it would appear, in the grip of the mercantilist fallacy as they deem free trade a bad thing.

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Anecdote o' the day

The Goodwin bashing season has re-opened, led by Lords O'Neill and Myners:

"Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that the notes that are issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland and bear the signature of Sir Fred Goodwin are worth £20 or £5, as they say, and that any of us who find ourselves in Scotland with such notes will be able to use them to the full extent of their value?

Lord Myners: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for the question. Sir Fred Goodwin is no longer signing banknotes—they are now signed, in the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland, by Mr Stephen Hester. As an aside, I have been advised that in the Royal Bank of Scotland’s headquarters in Gogarburn, Sir Fred Goodwin employed somebody whose sole job was to ensure that banknotes dispensed from the automatic telling machines in that building bore his signature and his signature alone.

I will be regaling all and sundry with that one, on the basis that if Goodwin did not suffer Ozymandias syndrome to quite such a degree, it is still a terrifically amusing falsehood.

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Of wine, mobile phones, the bagatelle of £600m and the renaissance of Parliamentary wit.

What's £600 million between friends?

Mr. Djanogly: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what estimate he has made of the annual cost to businesses of the increase in the annual statutory holiday entitlement from 24 to 28 days.

Mr. McFadden ....The extension was implemented in two phases to help small and medium businesses. The second phase extended the right from 24 to 28 days holiday a year. The cost to business of this second phase was estimated at between £1.8 and 2.4 billion.

I would not wish to trust to the BERR's calculations if I was splitting a bar bill with it.

Is this such a big problem?

Steve Webb: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform if he will have discussions with representatives of the mobile phone industry to discourage the use in the manufacture of mobile phone batteries of minerals which may have come from conflict zones; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. McFadden [holding answer 27 March 2009]: I have no current plans to meet representatives of the mobile phone industry to discuss this issue.

Elsewhere the question of the FCO's wine cellar came up again, although unlike in December someone with some pull noted it as it made the papers.

Anyway, then:

"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".

And now:

"The most recent available valuation of the Government Hospitality wine cellar places the current value of the stock at approximately £792,000.

The cellar contains approximately 39,500 bottles, of which fewer than 500 are spirits or liqueurs. Small quantities of beer are bought on an ad hoc basis; it does not form part of the cellar stock".

Bit of an upsurge in bottles of spirits and liqueurs by the look of it, unless Merron is seeking to create uncertainty.

And making full use of parliamentary privilege in a debate on MPs privacy, we have Disraeli and Churchill re-born in the persons of John Bercow and Julian Lewis:

John Bercow: He’s a nutter.

Dr. Lewis: Well, it’s not just that he’s a nutter.

Classy, eh?

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A little bit of alarmism about the Swine Flu outbreak

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Filled with my customary joie de vivre, I was ranting earlier about quite how far down the vaccination pecking order middle aged men will come, and while I have not been able to lay hands on the UK's gold list, I have found the American one, and I do not doubt that the UK's plans will be similar, bar I imagine, that the Forces will get the, cough, dirty end of the stick as per usual. Always bearing in mind that there are, if memory serves, only about 30 odd million doses available.

So, in descending order of how much lives are worth preserving:

The A-list

Homeland & National Security
  • Deployed and mission critical personnel
Health Care & Community Support Services
  • Public health personnel
  • Inpatient health care providers
  • Outpatient and home health care providers
  • Health care providers in long-term care facilities
Critical infrastructure
  • Emergency Medical Services personnel
  • Law enforcement personnel
  • Fire services personnel
  • Manufacturers of pandemic vaccine, antiviral drugs, and other key pandemic response materials
  • Key government leaders (And you can bet your bottom dollar that 'key' will be defined ever so widely)
General population
  • Pregnant women
  • Infants and toddlers, 6 – 35 months old

Probably fairly reasonable, if truth be told.

The B-list

Homeland & National Security
  • Essential support and sustainment personnel
  • Intelligence services
  • Border protection personnel
  • National Guard personnel (who are not already included in Level A)
  • Other domestic national security personnel
Health Care & Community Support Services
  • Community support services and emergency management personnel
Critical infrastructure
  • Energy sector personnel (electricity and natural gas)
  • Communications personnel (telephony and IT)
  • Water sector personnel (potable and waste water)
  • Government personnel (surprise, surprise)
General population
  • Household contacts of infants under 6 months old
  • Children 3 – 18 years old with high-risk medical conditions
  • Children 3 – 18 years old without high-risk medical conditions

The C-list

Homeland & National Security
  • Remaining active duty military and essential support personnel
Health Care & Community Support Services
  • Other important health care personnel
Critical infrastructure
  • Transportation sector personnel
  • Food and agriculture sector personnel
  • Banking and finance sector personnel
  • Pharmaceutical sector personnel
  • Chemical sector personnel
  • Oil sector personnel
  • Postal and shipping sector personnel
  • Other important government personnel
General population

  • High risk persons 19 – 64 years old
  • Persons 65 years and older

The D-list
  • Healthy adults, 19 – 64 years old, not included in other categories

Feeeling re-assured?

Today's dose of the Pyongyang Follies

From the KCNA:

"Pyongyang, April 27 (KCNA) -- General Secretary Kim Jong Il gave field guidance to different fields in Wonsan City".

Wonder what he suggested?

And as if the poor people of Venezuela had not suffered enough

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il's work "Abuses of Socialism Are Intolerable" was brought out in pamphlet by the Canta Clara Publishing House of Venezuela on Apr. 15".


Terminator IV?

From Swedish daily, The Local:

"A Swedish company has been fined 25,000 kronor ($3,000) after a malfunctioning robot attacked and almost killed one of its workers at a factory north of Stockholm. Public prosecutor Leif Johansson mulled pressing charges against the firm but eventually opted to settle for a fine. "I've never heard of a robot attacking somebody like this," he told news agency TT". The incident took place in June 2007 at a factory in Bålsta, north of Stockholm, when the industrial worker was trying to carry out maintenance on a defective machine generally used to lift heavy rocks. Thinking he had cut off the power supply, the man approached the robot with no sense of trepidation. But the robot suddenly came to life and grabbed a tight hold of the victim's head. The man succeeded in defending himself but not before suffering serious injuries".

Its them or us, folks.

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Parliamentary odd and ends

From Hansard:

Madeleine Moon: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will make an assessment of the merits of prohibiting the consumption of alcohol on the rail network.

Paul Clark: Train companies can already prohibit alcohol on trains using their powers under the railway byelaws. This in turn prevents alcohol being consumed on trains. The byelaws also permit train companies and the police to remove disorderly passengers from trains and stations as well as prosecute for antisocial behaviour.

The idea of being stuck on a long distance train without the possibility of a consoling G&T is horrifying...

Elsewhere, this:

Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the hon. Member for North Devon, representing the House of Commons Commission what the average temperature in (a) Norman Shaw North, (b) Norman Shaw South, (c) Portcullis House and (d) those parts of the Palace of Westminster for which the House of Commons Commission is responsible was in each of the last 12 months.

Nick Harvey: The Commission is unable to provide these figures as the building management system, controlling heating, power, lighting and ventilation on the Parliamentary Estate, retains temperature records for only three days.

Erm, what purpose is served by collecting results for three days? Anyone?

Soames wants to know the following:

Mr. Soames: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what the net international migration by non-British citizens was in respect of (a) England, (b) Scotland, (c) Wales and (d) Northern Ireland in each year since 1991.

And this is what it looks like:

And some more fun with stats:

Mr. Maude: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster what proportion of jobs created have been in the public sector in each year since 1997.

Kevin Brennan [....] Statistics on jobs in the public sector are not available. However we can provide the change in the number of employees (the closest available measure) for both the public and private sectors alongside total employment since 1997. These figures will therefore exclude any vacancies.

Which looks like this:

Bears an uncanny resemblance to the flag of the Ukrainian SSR:

The variation year on year is pretty limited, with public sector ranging from 19.1% to 20.3%. It is more than a little alarming that growth in the public sector has been so consistent

Good-ish news, if true.

Monday, April 27, 2009
From The Hindustan Times:

"Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari said on Monday that the whereabouts of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remained a mystery and there was a suspicion that he could be dead....Bin Laden, if he is still alive, turned 52 on March 10, but he is known to suffer from ill-health".

Time for some Belloc:

Here, richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician’s corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintances sneered and slanged,
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.


An early contender for man of the year.

Meet Anton Chumachenko, a United Russia (Putin's lot) candidate for a council seat in Sankt-Peterburg, and a mere boy at 23:

"A first-time candidate for office... Chumachenko won a seat on a local legislative council in St. Petersburg last month. Three weeks later, he publicly renounced his own victory, expressing disgust that votes had been falsified in his favor. "I don't need this kind of victory!" the recent college graduate wrote in an open letter to residents. "I don't want to begin my political career with a cynical mockery of rights, laws and morality."

More details at the Washington Post, but that extract should serve as a rebuke to the many electoral fraudsters in these parts.

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A very brief DPRK update

"General Secretary Kim Jong Il enjoyed a performance given by the State Merited Chorus on April 25 on the occasion of the 77th founding anniversary of the KPA".

Which is nice. I do wonder whether it was a situationist prankster who cooked up the programme:

"Put on the stage were male choruses "Song Devoted to Marshal Kim Il Sung" and "Song of the Korean People's Army", male solo and male chorus "Where Are You, Dear General", female solo and male chorus "Nobody Knows"...."


A Monday Morning Miscellany

Firstly, the Dept of Work and Pensions has come up with a choice for the nation's hard drug users - being under the influence or getting a job. It is not really a choice, as 'The Welfare Reform Bill, currently before Parliament, includes provisions to pilot a new mandatory employment-support programme for problem drug users'. Reasonable enough, I suppose, as I am not mad keen on facilitating the habits of the nation's users. Here, lurking in the footnotes is the interesting bit - 'Evidence suggests that over three-quarters of the around 400,000 heroin and crack cocaine users in Britain are claiming welfare benefits'. Quite how loosely 'welfare benefits' are defined is not known, but I suppose credit is due to the 100,000 who combine the needle / pipe with at least relative economic success.

The TUC reckons that the worst recession since the 1930s is insufficient to keep it occupied and is fretting about climate change: "but few have considered what such a dramatic change in the UK's weather will mean for their staff and the jobs that they do"...The report's researchers asked both private and public sector organisations what they were doing to adapt to climate change. Many said they were beginning to think about what climate change meant for future business planning, markets, products and services...Of the 134 organisations interviewed, only one had given serious attention to how their staff might be affected".

Given that even the most melodramatic of the climate change Jeremiahs are not predicting the 10 plagues of Egypt within the next few years, it shows that business has a degree of common sense in that it is not measuring up key (nor, indeed, non-key workers) for NBC suits. What the TUC thinks is coming down the pike is something like this: "The report says that some people working in factories or on the transport network already have to work in hot and poorly ventilated conditions, while those who work outside run the risk of increased health risk caused by direct sunlight and searing summer heat. Employers will need to provide their staff with improved work clothing, headwear and sun creams, and uniforms will need to be adapted so that staff can work comfortably as our summers warm". Barber reckons that this will come to pass by the middle of the century, so let us say 30 years time, which does seem like ample time to sort out the air con and lay in with a few hats rather than take all the dire prognostications to heart and act now.

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And to think that I thought the British TV licensing system was iniquitous

Sunday, April 26, 2009
Looks like we have got nothing on the Finns:

"Financing of YLE [BBC equivalent] operations would come from a new “media fee”, which would replace the licence fee that owners of television sets are required to pay. The new fee would be introduced in 2011, and would be paid by all households. Also liable for the fee would be companies with an annual turnover of more than EUR 400,000.

The proposed fee would differ from the television fee in that all households would be required to pay it regardless of whether or not they own a television, radio, or computer. About 97 per cent of Finns use at least some YLE services on a weekly basis. Plans are for the fee to be EUR 175 (£158)".

Don't be surprised if the BBC's last grab at the brass ring is something along those lines.

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The long awaited (?) DPRK update

Friday, April 24, 2009
There have been plenty of floral baskets, denunciations left, right and centre etc, but that is all rather par for the course. See multiple past DPRK-watch posts

However, this gem deserves a narrower audience:

"Products of the Yonggwang Furniture Joint Venture Company of the DPRK are popular at home and abroad".

OK, with you so far.

"Diverse styles of such household goods as conference tables, wall cabinets, beds, sofas and TV tables and kitchen utensils including wooden cupboards, sink frames and dining tables are quite presentable. They are not only handy but also very durable under natural conditions".

Ideal for house meetings I suppose, although lack of durability under unnatural conditions is a worry.

"A rich selection of chairs made of oak and black walnut trees look peculiar in patterns and color and superb in quality, while retaining natural beauty".

Maybe they could block book some commercial airtime and crowd out Harveys, DFS, Dreams and all the rest of them.

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Prepare for some head shaking

Evo Morales, President of Bolivia, fresh from his remarkably brief publicity stunt hunger strike, would look to be adopting a sort of secular Jainism:

"As the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed [22 April (#1)] International Mother Earth Day, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma applauded the Members of the world body who had “taken a historic stand for Mother Earth” by acknowledging humanity’s common interest in the protection of the planet and its environment.

[Several cubic yards of hot air excised]

Some 60 years after activists had fought so hard to win acknowledgement of human rights worldwide, including social, economic, political and cultural rights, Mother Earth was now having her rights recognized, he continued. Indeed, animals and plants -- all living creatures and beings -- had rights that deserved to be respected and protected. Those that had supported the text in the Assembly would be heralded for their historic action, he said, expressing the hope that, as the twentieth century had been called “the century of human rights”, this new era would be known as the “century of the rights of Mother Earth”. Continuing, President Morales said that, by proclaiming the International Day, United Nations Member States now had the opportunity to begin laying out a Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. Such a Charter must enshrine the right to life for all living things; right to regeneration of the planet’s biocapacity; right to a clean life -- for Mother Earth to live free of contamination and pollution; and the right to harmony and balance among and between all things....He urged listening to the voices of indigenous people, who, despite all odds, had sustained their profound links with nature. He urged support for the world’s small farmers and food producers, who, with sustainable farming methods, could provide us with healthy food, while not being driven into poverty by unfair trade policies and the actions of rapacious agro-industries. “Our decision today marks one more symbolic step in changing the dominant mindset that has brought us so close to self-destruction,” he said.

Doubtless Morales will be closing down the Bolivian oil and gas industries, inter alia, and I do wonder how he squares the right to life of all living things with the plant deaths that do seem to be an unavoidable part of the process of non-fruit plant cultivation. I imagine that even if he can square that particular circle, there is then the problem of pesticides, inter alia. And to think that this guff, or at least the mother earth bit is 'supported by over 50 Member States'. Sigh.

#1 - IMED shares the date with both Administrative Professionals and jelly beans, which is nice.

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The Lords talk Formula One

Something cheering in these dark and terrible times:

Sport: British Formula 1 Grand Prix
Question for Short Debate

"Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I declare an interest as unpaid honorary president of the Motorsport Industry Association. I always try to approach this subject in a totally non-political and non-partisan way. I very much look forward to the response of the noble Lord, the Captain of the Yeomen of the Guard. It is comforting to see sitting alongside him the noble Lord, Lord Drayson. On behalf of the whole House, I wish him the very best of luck in the upcoming 24-hour race at Le Mans....I urge the Government to give a clear, positive statement of support for the British Grand Prix at Donington and to use all their influence to bring together resources from the regions, central and local government and the respective tourist boards to ensure that Britain hosts for years to come the world’s most prestigious motorsport competition. Such a confident statement will influence bankers, investors and overseas companies to confirm their investment plans to support the British Grand Prix and so bring welcome employment and job security to many in the regions and the wider Motorsport Valley business community.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I put my name down on the list to add to the bipartisan approach of the noble Lord, Lord Astor. We have not compared notes, although many of my points will reinforce what he said. I also want to reiterate our best wishes to my noble friend Lord Drayson. I have only done Le Mans once as a tourist—an anorak.

So, a good natured and intelligent debate. I have excised the facts and figures that appear in the exchanges, but they are quite significat.

However, here comes the stand out contribution:

Lord Selsdon: My Lords, I had just stood up when a ghost passed over my grave. I am not quite sure why, but I am going to say something slightly different from what I had planned to say, because the noble Lord, Lord Rooker, has done that. Motor racing and motor sport are part of British culture. We are embedded in them, as was your Lordships’ House historically.

I go back perhaps 60 years to when I was minding my own business in the second form of my prep school. The noble Lord, Lord Geddes, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Howe, and the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Bramall, were at the same school. The French master, Major Hunter, who had just got back from the war, had lost part of his skull and had a metal plate—we always remember that—suddenly got up and said, “Vous avez gagné le Mans”; “You’ve won le Mans”. I was not quite sure what he was talking about. He showed me Le Monde, and there was a Ferrari with the name “Lord Selsdon”. I was not sure that my father was a Lord at that time; I had hardly met him. About five days later—we had asked him to come to the parents’ match at cricket—I looked around and saw out of the window a red sports car with “22” on it. We were so interested in the car that we did not notice the man who had driven it. He came up and introduced himself; he was my father. As he had been a fast bowler at Winchester, he said that he would open the bowling. He bowled an aerial wide, which was pretty distressing for me. I had been a wicket-keeper, and the parents had not brought one, so I was keeping against my own father. He then bowled another wide, said he had trouble with his knee, and was taken off. My friends remembered that moment and years later one, whose name I had probably better not mention, told me it was the defining moment of his life"

There's plenty more of note in the debate and it is an extremely anecdote-rich environment, but reckoned this might whet the appetite. Can't say I am hugely interested in F1 these days, but was an obsessive from 1979 to 1990 or so.

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Just how 'fit for purpose' is the RAF?

Hansard has some rather alarming figures:

Dr. Fox: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many Royal Air Force aircraft of each type are (a) in service, (b) in the forward air fleet and (c) fit for purpose

Quentin Davies - ....In service” has been taken to mean the effective fleet, which covers all aircraft barring those which are redundant, declared as surplus or awaiting disposal.

The number of aircraft in the forward fleet comprises aircraft which are serviceable and those which are short term unserviceable. Short term unserviceable aircraft are undergoing minor works, forward maintenance or any other unforeseen rectification work that can arise on a day-to-day basis. Serviceable aircraft available to the front-line commands for operational and training purposes are termed fit for purpose.

The turncoat Davies gives a figure of 790 RAF aircraft, including helicopters, trainers and so on, and a some stabbing at the calculator gives 427 as fit for service, or 54%. If tbe Typhoon and the Tornado F3 are taken as being the air superiority division, and our first line of defence against incoming bombers from the enemy du jour, just 49 of 122, or 40% are 'fit for purpose'.

Let's hope we don't have a falling out with the French anytime soon, as even supposing they are as bad at keeping the fighters flightworthy as we are, some back of the envelope calculations suggest that they would be able to put up 80 or so Mirage and Rafale air defence / multirole aircraft. And that excludes strike and reconaissance versions.


A question that could have been better expressed..

Thursday, April 23, 2009
From Lords Hansard:

Lord Roberts of Llandudno 'To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they enforce the removal of gay men and women to Iraq'.


Lord West picked up the refugee status implied by Roberts, fortunately.


A public health announcement for young Londoners

Sarah Teather, a Londoner, and believed to still be date-less, has asked the following: "How many people were diagnosed with a sexually-transmitted infection in each London health trust area in each of the last five years".

The figures she got in return were fairly limited, bar for Chlamydia which has figures at primary care trust level for 15/24 year olds. I have assumed that PCT areas are much the same as council areas, so on that basis, steer clear of suitors from Lewisham, Southwark, Lambeth and Greenwich. Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham would appear to the safest, and Ms Teather's home turf of Brent makes a middling showing. It could be that folk from boroughs on the right side of the Thames are more likely to take tests whereas as those out west are not. Croydon is in the top quarter, but it is not my problem as I do not fraternise with those young enough to be my offspring.

Anyway, the figures:

Elsewhere, a French survey has conclusive proof that sex makes liars of more people than politics and angling put together. Especially page 19. As I try to keep this place PG, I will merely note that for one particular practice (which sounds a bit like an Irish airline) the percentage of men who say that they have performed it is little short of double the percentage of women who say that they have received it.

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A cut out 'n' keep guide to the uselessness (or otherwise) of MEPs

Some helpful French types have created a site called Parloram.eu which allows simple querying of attandance and activity figures by party affiliation and nationality. It is in French, but anyone who can master these words - inverse, meilleurs, présence and activité will be able to data mine to his or her heart's content. Doffing of the fedora to Libération for bringing it to my attention.

So, based on combined presence and activity, bottom of the class for the UK is Chris Huhne. Much though it pains me to admit it, this is not really fair as the Huhnster stood down a year into the Parliament, so 'The moving finger writes; and having writ, moves on' to point at John Whittaker. Who he? A UKIP member for NW England, and its party chairman. Next worst is Godfrey Bloom, another UKIP-er, then Roger Knapman (UKIP), Trevor Colman (UKIP) and Graham Booth (Go on, guess. Yes he is). Lowest ranked non-UKIPistas are David Sumberg and Caroline Jackson, both Tories. The lowest ranked 20 breaks down thus:

UKIP - 10
Cons - 7
Lab - 1
LD - 2

At the other end of the scale, and clearly an apple-polisher, is this Parliament's greatest UK presentee - Sarah Ludford, a London Lib Dem, followed by Charles Tannock (Tory), Diana Wallis (LD), Lucas (Green) and Newton Dunn (LD).

Overall leader is Marie Panayotopoulos-Cassiotou, a Swede Greek EPP member. Bottom of the class is Umberto Bossi. One might note that attandance and activity is not necessarily going to be for the better, but having some figures to play around with is a start until such time as the EU manages anything approaching a decent standard of transparency.

As a footnote, there seem to be a lot of Green MEPS who are redheads. Cause? Effect? Grey seems to be the flavour of the month, hair-wise, for the EPP.

The site has since been pulled. Your friend and mine, the peerless Mr Eugenides has the details.

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A modest proposal

I am not hugely impressed by the car scrappage scheme, noting that none of the ten highest sellers are built in these parts, and thus most of the bounty will end up in Wolfsburg, Saarlouis, Zaragoza etc. And I do not have a car. Presumably Ford and Vauxhall build the odd component in these parts, but even so.

Anyway, some weeks back, a commentator in Der Spiegel suggested that for all the good it would do, there might as well by an amnesty for coffee machines. Now I have Bialetti moka pot, which is in solid working order, quick and produces as decent a cup as one can hope for without spending silly money, so I am not trading that in.

So, your suggestions, serious or deeply flippant, for product amnesties which would either rev up the economy (lack of free lunch notwithstanding) or add to the gaiety of the nation, please.

Copies of Labour Party manifestoes? Copies of 'Things can only get better'? The Dome?

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An idea of promise

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
This, from the petitions site:

"the concept is simple if the turn out is lower than 50% in any constituancy (sic) then no one is returned and the seat in the commons remains empty. We the people will then have an ongoing measure of how representative the house of commons really is and "none of the above" will be accurately represented".

Can't say I thought it was a great idea until a cursory look at turnout figures in 2005 suggest that Labour would lose at least 24 seats (including the Speaker). Shame about Frank Field, but we would be shot of Blears and Lammy, inter alia.

If anyone can lay hands on a list of seats by turnout from 2005 and pass them onto me, they would win my undying gratitude.

Update - Courtesy of helpful reader Formertory, I now have an updated figure of 37 MPs who all gained election on less than a 50% turnout. All bar Staffordshire South (qv) are Labour MPs. Forgetting about subsequent by-elections and the like, the 2005 election would have produced a House like so:

Labour - 320
Conservative - 197
LD - 62
The rest - 30

So, with a 609 seat House, Labour would have a majority of 15. I think that there would have been a number of successful rebellions...

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Good grief

French censors have got rather carried away this week in the ongoing war against a certain 'custome lothsome to the eye, hatefull to the Nose, harmefull to the braine, dangerous to the Lungs, and in the blacke stinking fume thereof, neerest resembling the horrible Stigian smoke of the pit that is bottomelesse'.

Yes, smoking,

Here we see Audrey 'Amelie' Tautou on a poster for 'Coco Avant Chanel':

This has given the Paris Metro's authorities a fit of the vapours, and the poster has been banned. Shame, as the image is not unattractive.

It would seem that our Gallic chums have been making a habit of this, as this indignity has been inflicted on the sublimely talented Jacques Tati:

Well, who knows how many people would take up pipe smoking if they saw Tati with a pipe instead of a windmill? By the way, make haste to see 'Les Vacances de M.Hulot' and 'Jour de fête' either anew or for the first time, as they are both quite marvelous.

Mind you, we had some similar nonsense with Isambard Kingdom Brunel a while back, and doubtless Churchill will be depicted with a sugar-free lollipop ere long.

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The return of the Hohenzollerns?

Admittedly not the wing that ruled Prussia, but rather the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringens, which lucked out and was gifted the crown of Romania back in 1866, trading up from a speck of SE Germany for a fairly sizeable piece of Danubian real estate.

Anyway, Radu Duda, Prince of Hohenzollern-Veringen has declared for the Romanian presidency. One might note that he was born a commoner and prior to marrying well was an art therapist. Father in law, 'King' Michael is 87, and had no male heirs, hence the Regele Românilor giving the chap a title.

The current president, Traian Băsescu, is a social democrat, who has the distinction of winning a referendum on whether his iumpeachment should stand.


Begging the question

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
This, from the Daily Star (Beirut):

It would make a change, wouldn't it? Presumably '95, XP and Vista had consumer irritation as key objectives.

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One in ten of the population of England has its DNA held by the police.

Technically, 9.6% or 4,906,467, compared to a population for England of 51M. Shocked? I am dumbfounded.

As Lord West of Spithead was good enough to break down the figures by policing region, I have compared those to county populations and graphed them. The highlight is the DNA-happy Northumbria police which holds DNA samples for 13% of the population. Note that Newcastle is policed by that constabulary. At the other end of the scale are Gloucestershire and Surrey at 6%. Note that constabularies do not always map neatly onto historic county boundaries, with the Thames Valley covering Bucks, Berks and Oxford.

I ran out of enthusiasm before tackling Wales (Scottish data is not given), but 302,341 DNA samples are held for a population of 3,004,600, or 10% of the population.

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Some Parliamentary odds and ends

Firstly, 59 year old Graham Stringer has found something to get upset about:

Graham Stringer: To ask the Minister for Women and Equality what assessment she has made of (a) levels of public support for and (b) potential harmful consequences of the marketing of (i) products and (ii) holidays directly to specific age groups.

And came the response from Maria Eagle - excising the verbiage: "only a small number of respondents felt that the marketing of products and holidays to specific age groups was discriminatory and very few felt that such marketing was harmful".

Perhaps Stringer has the hump as he is missing out on the 18-30 products, or because he is not in line for packages aimed at geriatrics?

I strive to avoid my compatriots when abroad, whatever age they might be, but each to their own. Many years ago a family holiday in the Dordogne saw a visit to the Martell distillery, and out of maybe 20 people, one was a boy from my school (with family, natch). While he was, and maybe still is, a nerd, I still felt extremely uncomfortable.

Back at the plot, the Department of Work and Pensions gives its staff a Christmas bonus. In the light of the comments from further up the governmental food chain, doubtless there will not be one this year. It is a tenner, by the way.

Sticking with Work and Pensions, website hits are unveiled here. Jobcentre hits slumped in December and surged in January, somewhat unsurprisingly. What I reckon more noteworthy are the stats for the CSA:

One might think that couples attempt a ceasefire over Christmas and then resume hostilities with renewed enthusiasm in January.

Sticking with the battle of the sexes, the daughter of Dennis MacShane is clearly a chip off the old block:

"Is the Minister aware of Newcastle’s “Sinners” bar, which is one of these horrible places? Young Newcastle university students went there recently and saw a notice saying “Whoever shows her”—the word begins with t and ends in s—“to bar staff gets a free shot! Girls only!” Will the Minister congratulate Newcastle university students who launched a boycott and a demonstration outside that wretched establishment? One of them, a young lady, said: “it promotes the degradation of women and binge drinking and I think it’s demoralising.” Will the Minister encourage other university students to take on that feminist message? I declare an interest: that young lady was my daughter".

Non-entity and Essexphobe David Taylor thinks he is a wit - "Next week we mark the 30th anniversary of black Thursday, when Mrs. Thatcher came to power. In the period— [Interruption.]". I will raise a glass or two next Thursday.

Now try to read this without sniggering:

Dr. Phyllis Starkey : "What progress has been made in developing his proposal for a UK city of culture.... I am anxious that the criteria—whatever they are—do not discriminate against newer cities such as my own, Milton Keynes".

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A new challenge for the readership

Monday, April 20, 2009
The fine people at b3ta linked to this high quality post this week - wilfully distorted one line film plot summaries.

Here are a few examples to make the hyperlink clicking tempting:

  • Billy Elliot: Union worker turns back on strikers for personal gain.
  • Deliverance: Tourists experience local hospitality.
  • E.T.: Out-of-control pet causes mayhem, sadness.
  • O Brother where are thou?: Southern musicians encounter massive flooding and government incompetence.
  • Rosemary's baby: An unplanned pregnancy leads to complications.
  • Star Wars: Religious extremist terrorists destroy government installation, killing thousands.

Those are not a million miles away from the one liners in The Sunday Times TV section: Beverly Hill Cop - a cop goes to LA to find the killers of his best friend.

Anyway, if anyone can be dragged back here after the click, give it a go. Novels could be entertaining too.

Anyway, a few of mine:

No Country for Old Men - a trailer park dweller discovers crime does not pay

Flags of our Fathers - Soldiers deceive the public

High Noon - A Quaker's religious convictions prove insincere.

The Godfather - An Italian American family struggles to adapt to life in New York.

James Bond - (all of 'em) - Low ranking naval officer suffers from satyriasis

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At last, a use for Twitter

Beyond declaring what you had for breakfast or, in my case, transmitting triple-distilled phials of the ambrosia of wisdom. (/sarcasm)

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, let me introduce the tweeting cat flap:

"Each cat has a small RFID tag on the collar. When a cat is in the close proximity of the door, a small RFID reader reads the tag and if the cat is authorized, a servo will unlock the cat door. The RFID reader and the servo controller are connected to an old laptop. The software on the laptop is written in Delphi and for each "cat door event" is sending a Twitter message and a picture to twitter.com"

And here it is:

The two mogs have some 1,182 followers here. As a geek-wannabe - I can do some basic things with hardware but never got further than 10 - Print 'I am cool', 20 - Goto 10 with programing - I am deeply impressed by this marvelous display of technology for technology's sake.

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Who was that masked man?

Saw this characature in The Irish Times, and wondered if any readers recognised the Wexford-based blogger it depicts:


The art of abstention

From EUPravda:

"Members of the EP Women's Rights Committee are proposing that maternity leave be extended to 20 weeks. They also say a new EU directive on these matters should require 100% of salary to be paid for six weeks after birth, at least 85% of salary for the rest of the leave period and the introduction of paternity leave. The text adopted by the committee at first reading on Thursday will be put to a vote by the full Parliament in May".

My first thought was that those conditions were rather more generous than they are in these parts - then again, I have not been responsible for any pregnancies recently - but it turns out that they are not, and thus yet another good story of EU shenanigans has been ruined by a bit of fact checking.

However, note this: "Procedure: Co-decision, first reading -- Committee vote: 18 for, 6 against, 5 abstentions".

One in six of the Women's Rights Committee cannot make their minds up about one of the most salient of women's issues? Alas the open democracy that is the EU never gives details of voting, so there is no scope for pointing the finger.

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Voisins, everbody needs good voisins

Sunday, April 19, 2009
Apart from, perhaps, the Bretons and the people of Champagne-Ardennes for whom 9% have relations with neighbours which are 'non-existent', whereas for Alsatians said relations are friendly for 58% of them. Insert joke about 'walkies' here.

For any readers intent on buying property Outre Manche, the way to win over neighbours in Brittany, Limousin, Midi-Pyrénées, Pays de la Loire and Lorraine is to be 'discreet' (40%+), while in Nord Pas De Calais, Haute Normandie, the Auvergne and Ile de France you will need to be 'polite'.

On the other hand, if you want to hack people off, make noise after 10 or on Sundays in Ile de France (36%), curtain twitch in Limousin (35%) and fail to say hello in Brittany (38%). It would appear that there is a plague of badly trained mutts in Champagne Ardenne, as 38% of its denizens most dislike neighbours with aggressive, noisy or dirty pets.

Being a Turk probably would not be very popular in the West, as another poll shows that 50% of Westerners (Brittany, PdlL, Poitou-Charentes and Normandy, I imagine) are against the Turks joining the EU.

Elsewhere, the polls suggest that the Socialists will lose ground in the Euro elections, but the new wave Trots look likely to wins seats, so a mixed bag.

However, maybe that is all a bit previous, as former PM Dominique de Villepin would seem to think that Sarko should tighten security around the Bastille, as he reckons there is 'a revolutionary risk' at the moment. Not that he's an attention whore with more than a touch of Ted Heath Syndrome. His solution would appear to be one of throwing money at the rioting classes.

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Great typos of our time

Saturday, April 18, 2009
A leaflet delivered in a London constituency (NOT Croydon....), picked up earlier today:

Identifying details obscured to protect the guilty...


The Good Mugging Guide to France

Friday, April 17, 2009
Le Figaro has the figures for various offences, département by département:

And it is the DOM/TOMs, gay Paree and the South East leading for assaults / robbery with violence, sexual violence etc.

Seine St Denis leads for per capita assaults, with Cantal (Auvergne) the safest. Mind you, finding anyone to jump there would be a struggle, it being a bit lacking in population.

SSD also leads for robbery with violence, with Cantal, Creuse (Limousin) and Lozère (Languedoc Rousillon) the safest. The Territoire de Belfort has the odium of the highest per capita levels of sexual violence with Lot (Midi-Pyrénées) and Landes (Aquitaine) the safest.

Those places that most concern me, Côtes-d'Armor and the Hérault show a mixed picture, with the former in the safest 20 or so, and the Hérault the 20th most dangerous.

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Sarkozy misses an opportunity

Sarkozy has been caught running his mouth about some of his international counterparts (short term link from El Pais):

Zapatero: “Perhaps he’s not very intelligent”.

Obama: "Very bright and charismatic” but “without a stance” on many issues.

Merkel: "Had no option but to assume the same position as me” when she saw the state of
her banks and auto industry.

And Brown?

Nothing. Not a mumbling word. While Sarkozy doubtless deemed Brown unworthy of comment, it would have been amusing to have seen Brown skewered one way or another.

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The World's most thrilling museum exhibit?

The Rosetta Stone? Pah. Magna Carta? Pah. Moon rock? Pah. Etc etc.

Stockholm's Tekniska Museet has this:

Yup, it is a rack server, as viewable in any number of corporate IT departments. OK, there is a tale behind it in that it was used by file sharing operation Pirate Bay, and was seized by the Swedish plod last year. Doubtless the queues to press one's nose to the glass stretch round the block.

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Fancy a night on the town with Bill Clinton?

Thursday, April 16, 2009
The most fun you could have with or without sending your clothes to the dry cleaners afterwards, I imagine. Probably not a good idea for a woman though.

Anyway, always supposing one could get around American electoral donations law, the prospect is out there:

"Continuing to prove she's savvy as well as smart, Hillary Clinton is using the American Idol finale as a draw to help pay off her debts from her presidential campaign. Anyone who makes an online contribution will be entered into a contest to win two tickets to the show's last episode in Los Angeles.

Not an Idol fanatic? You can also enter to win a day with President Clinton and a fun-filled weekend in New York. The price tag on these two potential prizes is actually dirt cheap! The lowest contribution is only five dollars".

I cannot find a reference to having wheeled out this anecdote before, and even if I have, it bears repeating:

Back in '96 when Bob Dole was running for the Big One, his spin boys and gals put it about that Bill's diet should be a cause for concern, and Carville (?) replied, "Who do you want ordering the pizza? Let's face it, Dole's strictly a boiled chicken kinda guy". From memory, and I cannot lay hands on the reference. Found a variant here, but there's no boiled chicken reference.

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British MPs hopelessly outclassed by Belgian counterparts

A tale from Le Figaro, involving some naughty Belgian MPs (four Socialists, two Centrists and a Liberal - and their spouses) and their 11 day American 'fact-finding mission':

The facts that they sought were on 'the impact of the financial crisis on three American states', and they did this by, inter alia, taking a flight over the Grand Canyon, cycling over the Golden Gate Bridge and wine tasting in the Napa Valley.

The Plain People of Belgium are not best pleased with these Walloon (rather than national) MPs, and greeted them with a guard of dishonour at the airport.

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Those open-minded Democrats.

A mildly interesting set of research findings from Pew on the 2008 Presidential election campaing, revolving around news sources and so forth, with this the stand out:

"Percentage who usually seek out political information online from sites that share their point of view".

All online political users - 33%
Democrats - 44%
Republicans - 35%
Independent - 22%

Well, of course, it is we on the Right who have closed minds, eh?

The other jaw dropper is that apparently 4% of voters 'shared their experiences at the polls by commenting on someone's website or blog', and two per cent blogged themselves. Crikey.

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Gunboat diplomacy

Juxtaposition o' the day:

I am at least as keen as the next man on there being a draining of the swamp - so to speak - around the western edges of the Indian Ocean, but perhaps La Marine Nationale is missing out on duties closer to home... There is a base at Cherbourg, not that far down the coast from Boulogne.

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Headline o' the day revisited

Wednesday, April 15, 2009
I have one to top the earlier 'Socialists against smaller government'.

Their take on the funky chicken, the mashed potato or, come to that, Viennese waltzes is unknown.

As with so many headlines, it flatters only to deceive. The story refers to this: "Two out of three–or about 66 percent–of voting-age Filipinos are against Charter change if the amendments would allow President Gloria Arroyo to stay in office beyond 2010, according to a new nationwide survey".

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Factlet o' the day

From China Daily:

"The Hurun wealth report said Wednesday that more than 825,000 people in China's mainland are multimillionaires, 51,000 of whom have more than 100 million yuan".

Putting this in context, that is greater than the population of Cyprus (801,600) or that of Luxembourg and Iceland combined (812,200), or all but 44 of Europe's largest cities. Leeds is the nearest in the UK, at 727,000.

As to the 51,000, that's more than the Faroes, and just 6000 shy of the population of Greenland.

Fascinating, huh? You can thank me later once you have impressed your mates, partners, colleagues etc....

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Petition o' the day, or how to miss the point by light years

Here goes:

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Remove Copyright from any technology that could aid green energy production after 10 years."

I think the petitioner means 'patent' rather than 'copyright', but never mind. Onwards:

"Copyright laws prevent companies producing energy saving products that could benefit the United Kingdom. I ask the government to change the law and allow the removal of copyright from any energy saving product or new technology that could be strongly shown to aid energy saving after ten years from the first day of the production of it's patent, therefore allowing faster development to take place in this sector".

Ri-ight. I suspect that the petitioner has not worked out that folk register patents as they do not work for some nebulous public good, but rather because they seek to have their efforts protected and, with any luck, rewarded. As such, the petitioner would see the exact reverse of what he seeks coming to pass, as all innovation in this area would come to a complete standstill.

Hey and indeed ho. I believe a certain Scottish economist noted "Every individual...generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention".

Sticking with matters of patents and intellectual property, a mate and fellow blogger who likes to keep his professional life private passed this one onto me:

"Thought you might be (vaguely) amused by a letter I had today from the Pyonyang Patent Agency. They had written to us unprompted to offer us help with a client's case (a trade mark rather than a patent, as it happens). I thought it surprisingly enterprising. The Cubans have never offered us such help..... The client makes coffee machines for motorway service stations, I can't imagine NK is one of their main markets!"

See, its not all rockets, nuclear weapons and printing the speeches of KJI that keep the helots of the DPRK busy.

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Great surveys of our time - The French and rosé

Yes, really.

Asked how they felt - not about whether they would be caught dead drinking the stuff, even if the cooking sherry, Galliano, retsina etc had run out - about producing it by mixing white and red rather than a brief maceration of the pulp and skin of red grapes, they answered 'Non, écrasez l'infâme' with quite some vigour - 87% were against, and 91% of the over 35s. This possibility has been raised by their friends and ours in Brussels, by the way.

As ever, there is a wealth of highly entertaining demographic detail to pick over too, with the retired the most anti - 94% and the unemployed and other economically inactive the most likely to shrug - 23% thinking it a good idea. There's no substantial gap between men and women. Northerners were the least vexed at 75%, while the good people of Normandy and the Centre are heading for the barricades at 92%. The people of Anjou, those most likely to feel the impact, are captured under Brittany, PdlL and Poitou Charentes and oppose it 90% to 10%. No 'don't knows' there, which is heartening.

Fans of Arlette Laguiller's Lutte Ouvrière (the old school trots) are the keenest at 25%, while Communists are the least enthused at 9%. Perhaps this could be a shibboleth when faced with assessing the precise politics of any members of the French extreme left one might encounter.

Getting away from matters of principle and onto enlightened self-interest the people of Rhones Alpes and, hilariously, the Auvergne (The French equivalent of the Scots for the stereotype of tight-fistedness) would be the most prepared to hasten to their wine merchant or supermarket if mutant rosé was cheaper at 17%. Their next door neighbours to the South in PACA and the Languedoc are the least likely to be swayed at 11%. Lutte Ouvrière and FN voters show themselves to have no exalted sentiments, with 29% and 24% swayable by price. Not Communists though, as only 7% can be bought.

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Headline o' the day

From Serb daily Blic:

Well knock me down with the integumentary appendage of a columbiforme...

(The detail actually concerns a reduction in the number of ministries, but never mind)

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Your chance to blight a town, or maybe a county, you do not like.

Admittedly the list of blightables is not as long as one might like, and lacks a number of places that may well by twinned with the Land God Gave to Cain, but there is some scope for mischief:

A list of eleven sites that could be potential hosts to new nuclear power stations in the UK is published today. Members of the public now have a month to comment on the proposed sites before the nuclear planning consultation later this year.

And the places are Bradwell, Braystones, Dungeness, Hartlepool, Heysham, Hinkley Point, Kirksanton, Oldbury, Sellafield, Sizewell and Wylfa Peninsula, thus giving the chance for haters of the English - North, South, East or West - or of the Welsh the potential to nominate the butt of 'glow in the dark' jokes for years to come.

All facetiousness to one side, I am pro-nuclear energy, and it is a recurrent paradox that while no-one wants a nuclear power plant on their doorstep, they do become markedly more popular once they are employing the locals.

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Keeping a sense of proportion, Scottish style.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The WWF - the one associated with furry creatures rather than blokes in lycra - is probably regarded by most of us as a fairly vanilla organisation that gets on with being nice to pandas and the like. However, sticking to one's knitting is rarely in vogue for long when it comes to NGOs, as that does not get one's face in the papers or create a stir over 'ishoos'. So, over to The Scotsman for this piece of arrant nonsense:

"Homeowners who do not to take action to improve the energy efficiency of their properties should be treated as criminals, one of the country's most influential environmentalists said last night. Dr Richard Dixon, director of WWF Scotland, believes tough measures are needed to force people to cut their use of fossil fuels and thinks governments should consider making it a crime for members of the public not to take measures such as installing cavity wall installation...Dr Dixon said: "I think it should be a crime to be wasting energy. It's clearly a moral crime against the climate, and I think we should be having a discussion about whether it should become an actual crime...Dr Dixon...suggested the penalty for not having the likes of cavity wall insulation should be to have the work forcibly carried out, and then for the home owner to be landed with the bill".

What next, the stocks for people who leave the hall light on?

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Quango to nation - don't be moronic

Monday, April 13, 2009
From the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, historically my favourite, or perhaps least loathed quango:

"Coastguards are warning people to stay away from cliff edges after two similar incidents have resulted in the deaths of two men... "Please do not stray away from cliff paths and do not go near the edges of cliffs. Often, despite appearances, they can be unstable and crumbly, as well as being slippery when wet. "Wherever you are in the country, please enjoy the coastline this bank holiday, but stay away from cliff edges".

Sympathies to the relatives of the deceased, but honestly....


Your chance to vote in the South African election

Well, virtually at least, as the Mail & Guardian has one of those 'who should I vote for?' quizzes.

As is so often the case with these things, many of the questions are focused on very specific local concerns rather than broad principles that might apply in these parts, and much of the time one has to make a decision based on pretty vague statements.

My result was 'FPP: a minority party focused on protecting the interests of the Afrikaner'. That sounded a little alarming, but probably came from my lack of relish for black empowerment programmes, rather than disclosing a hankering to hang out with Eugène Terre'Blanche.

Anyway, it has an English language website, and there is material in its programme that could be termed Classic Liberal:

We appeal to Afrikaners and everyone who identifies themselves with us, to stand up against
  • The ANC’s centralisation of power;
  • Marginalisation of Afrikaners and other minorities;
  • Unreasonable affirmative action and discrimination;
  • Crime, immorality and corruption; and
  • The undermining of property rights.

My next best match was the Democratic Alliance - the official opposition to the ANC - led by the tougher than nails and B/S free zone that is Helen Zille, and for which party I would probably vote for if I was out on the Rand. Azapo was a particularly bad match, which is heartening

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France's rather confused Roman Catholics

Yet another impertinent, if strangely compelling, survey from the other side of the channel, this time concerning the afterlife and so forth:

First, all respondents:

In your opinion, what happens after death?

'The resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting' (so to speak) - 10%
'Reincarnation' - 7%
'Something, but I cannot define it' 33%
'Nothing' - 43%
'Don't know' - 7%

Pretty poor for the First Daughter of the Church, but where it gets really weird is with what people would like to happen, and the figures for those choices are 14%, 20%, 26%, 32% and 8%. I would have answered D to the first, but given a choice of one of those things coming to pass, I would definitely choose A. After all, Heaven must be a better option than the dice of the Gods offering some form of re-incarnation, as while believers in previous lives always seem to think they were Queens (hello Shirley McLaine), Emperors, mighty warriors etc, someone does have to man the plague pits, clean the latrines, die of leprosy in infancy etc.

Moving swiftly on, some 6% of practicing Catholics believe in reincarnation, as do 1% of regular worshippers. Further, 8% of regular worshippers think there is a big fat rien after death and 5% don't know. I think a quiet word from the priest is called for.

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