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Having one's hopes dashed - an object lesson

Friday, June 27, 2008
Just for a fraction of a heartbeat it looked as though Hold the Front Page had quite a scoop. OK, the details looked iffy, but reading the headline something leapt out at me:

"Journalist Gordon Brown dies aged 71".

Ah well. My condolences to the family of the original Gordon Brown, who sounds as though he was a decent sort.

And with thought, I am shutting down until some time on Monday as I have a wedding in Spain to attend. Moderation is on, but I plan to authorise comments at least once a day.

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Reds and double yellows

The main event of 2008, more eagerly awaited than the State Opening of Parliament, the EastEnders Christmas special, the FA Cup etc is upon us - the annual unpaid parking fines by embassy hitlist. Here's the story from 2006.

Drumroll please.

And rising to the lead from seventh is Sudan, with £75,100 in unpaid fines. An outstanding advance from the measly £15,620 in 2006. Well, the law - moral, divine or black letter - has rarely stood in the way of the Desert Hawks.

The United Arab Emirates shows itself to lack the big match temperament, losing the lead and dropping to fifth. Its due fines have near halved from £42,950 to £24,670.

'Our friends the Saudis', the perennial nearly men (stress men) of parking fines move up to second from third, with an increase from £24 k to nearly £39 k. Well, it is a funny old game, but if the Riyadh lads up their work rate and commitment and give it 110% on the park (Lane...) next year they could be in for some silverware.

This year's dark horses are the Kazakhs, storming in from the steppes of ninth to a Champions league spot at third. Unpaid fines haver nearly tripled to £28,180.

The Chinese managed to grind out the results and sneaked fourth place, up from fifth.

Last year's semi-finalists, Germany could not keep up the pace needed to compete with the big boys and tumbled to a lowly 37th. Despite what the pundits say, no team is too good to go down.

Sneaking into a UEFA spot are the French, rising from ninth to fifth. Back of the net!

The International Maritime Organisation managed a highly creditable £2,010 in unpaid fines. Unpaid mooring fees have yet to be made public....

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They do things differently...

Thursday, June 26, 2008
...in Japan.

Passengers receiving tips from taxi drivers? Yup, "The government said Wednesday that 1,402 government employees accepted cash, beer and other favors from tax drivers while returning home on taxpayers' money and 151 of them have been punished".

Given that state paid for taxis only kick in at 12.30 AM, one might say that the Japanese take a rather harsher line than is taken in these parts. I also at something of loss to work out what the taxi drivers were hoping to achieve. Repeat business? String pulling?

I might tell the next cab I hail that I'm a civil servant and see what happens. Probably a lengthy rant.

(Ahem, edited to remove Freudian slips)

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Great explanations of our time

Her Maj's press secretary speaks:

State Visit to Slovenia and Slovakia

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will pay State Visits to: Slovenia, at the invitation of President Dr Danilo Tuerk; and Slovakia, at the invitation of President Ivan Gasparovic, during this Autumn.

Without the detail, a cynic might think that she had been invited somewhere beginning Slov... but could not remember which.

Meanwhile, I am in pain having discovered that whereas the tax rake as a percentage of GDP has risen 2.4 percentage points (35.0-37.4) under the Brown Terror (1996-date) , those lucky Slovaks have seen it fall ten points, from 39.4 to 29.3.

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Separated at birth?

and

The first picture is to be found at the UK EU Presidency 2005 website (I will explain what I was doing there shortly), and the second is Charles Laughton as Quasimodo in the 1939 'Hunchback of Notre Dame'. Another possible match to that picture of Brown is Ephialtes in Snyder's '300', but all the image matches make him look rather prettier than Brown.

It is not just Brown who has had a less than flattering photo employed at the site, consider these:

An out of focus almost mongoloid looking Blair:


John 'Hypnotoad' Hutton:


And Hillary 'what have I sat on?' Armstrong:


This site, note, was presumably designed to make the UK look great, rather than to hold up its leaders for ridicule. There are some other fairly grim photos, but I reckon I have shown the pick of the bunch.

Anyway, I was rooting around on the site in search of anything memorable having happened during the UK presidency, inspired by a survey commissioned by a French supermarket on attitudes to the forthcoming French presidency.

Asked 'Will the French Presidency have good, bad or no consequences?' 39% think it will be good for France, 18% bad, and a rather more worldly 24%, no consequences at all. Just under a fifth were too stupid to have an opinion.

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Brown - the view from Paris

From Le Figaro, reviewing PMQs:

"Each week the bags under his eyes look ever deeper and his skin more grey. His nervous tics betray the rage he tries to suppress in the face of the jabs from Conservative leader David Cameron. Whereas [Cameron] appears confident and relaxed, Gordon Brown answers stiffly and often stutters. His defence is limited to a tedious repetition of the achievements in eleven years of New Labour".

(Our French chums have one word - 'cernes' - for bags under the eyes. Very economical).

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The Britons thinking 42 days detention without trial is just way too liberal

They want torture. Four per cent of those polled want torture to be generally allowed. Yes, really. 16% like the idea of putting thumbscrews to 'terrorists' (and how will they know that they are, eh?), while the remainder are against torture full stop.

The UK's 82% opposition is equalled in Spain and France, but it falls to 53% in the Land of the Free. And I thought Americans actually read their constitution - the 8th Amendment, perhaps?

On the other side of the coin, majorities think torture of terrorists is just fine - Turkey (52%), Nigeria (54%), South Korea (51%) and India (59%). All of those countries are signatories to the UN Convention on Torture, although India has not ratified it. Iran, a non-party, is 43% anti, and 36% pro. So 21% of them are mouth breathers that have never heard of SAVAK.

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The UK's 500,000 winged rats

As revealed by a question in Parliament.

Julia Goldsworthy: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what estimates his Department and its predecessors have made of the size of the (a) seagull and (b) pigeon population in England in each year since 1997.

....

Joan Ruddock:

Feral pigeon population size was estimated at over 100,000 pairs in 1968-72 and 100,000-250,000 pairs in 1988-91. Data from the BBS have so far shown neither a significant increase nor decrease in the feral pigeon population since 1994.

Just half a million at the upper estimate? I find that pretty hard to believe. And about 500,000 too many, filthy creatures that they are.

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Petition o' the day

Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Am I missing something here?

"We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to give more Free help to persons with a learning disability at University".

And the detail:

"This is to help those struggling with finances and learning disabilities to further their education through university and to provide a cheaper easier way for those who have a learning difficulty to progress in a world in the ability to read and write are the two Most important factors in any career and life".

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Our next national anthem?

Even die-hard monarchists must (surely) concede that GSTQ is the most awful dirge, so a petition suggesting a new anthem sent me scurrying off to find the lyrics, melody etc. The suggested anthem is, ahem, 'The Red, White and Blue' by rockers Judas Priest.

Can't say that 70's hard rock (except early Zepp, AC/DC etc) is generally my thing, but I was not expecting the song in question to be even more of a dirge than GSTQ. Judge for yourselves:


Read Red, White & Blue lyrics


Can't say the lyrics are all that either:

"When I'm far away
And I can't get through
Wherever I roam
Keeps bringing me back to you
Holding on to hope
There's no need to fear
Wherever I roam
This piece of home
Keeps telling you that I'm near

etc etc.

Now if it had been Take on the World, at least that rocks out.

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Our man in Belgrade speaks

"Twenty EU members recognize Kosovo, seven do not and need not do it – at least not in the near future. So we cannot request from Serbia to do more than other members are ready to do". Source

Interesting, no?

Non-recognisers look to be Spain, Portugal, Malta, Cyprus, Greece, Slovakia and Romania.

Meanwhile, Liechtenstein refuses to recognise either the Czech Republic or Slovakia, because of the Beneš decrees which expropriated Liechtensteinian crown property.

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'Like a dog walking on his hinder legs'

Norwegian pols have been roundly criticised for speaking poor English:

"Some top Norwegian politicians speak such poor English that they risk losing influence as they stumble through prepared speeches or try to express themselves to foreigners, claims a professor at the University of Oslo. He thinks it's downright embarrassing. Bernt Hagtvedt, a professor of political science at the University of Oslo, is tired of listening to Norwegian politicians speak broken English when addressing foreign audiences".

My Norwegian stems almost entirely from A-level geography - fjord, saeter and so forth, although a friend at university passed on the unforgettable pinnsvin for hedgehog.

While it would be unrealistic for Norwegian politicians to expect much facility in Norwegian from guests beyond Scandinavia, compare this audio clip of Jens Stoltenberg speaking with any memory that one can dredge up of Prescott mangling our native tongue. Yes, Stoltenberg is a bit hesitant, but his meaning is perfectly clear. Likewise former PM Kare Willoch or Erik Solheim.

Anyway, Prescott:




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Funding elections in an unrecognised state.

Out of the Mad Max-style wreckage that is Somalia has emerged Somaliland - the bit we used to rule. Whereas the former Italian part is at Year Zero, Somaliland has managed to function as a democracy since breaking away from Mogadishu in 1991 and even has a stable currency.



While the EU and sundry others were quite happy to charge in and recognise the successor states to Yugoslavia, the unfortunate Somalis have, by and large, been left to rot. Continuing to recognise the transitional government in Mogadishu is not of an order of magnitude much more respectable than the recognition that the Khmer Rouge had.

Anyway, the UK still does not recognise Somaliland, but note this:

Alun Michael: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent assessment he has made of democratic developments in the Republic of Somaliland.

Dr. Howells: I visited Somaliland last week and was impressed with the work proceeding to ensure free and fair elections are held in early 2009. The postponement of Somaliland elections for a second time in April this year led to international donors suspending their funding of 75 per cent. of voter registration costs. But I am glad to say that a solution was agreed with the National Electoral Commission enabling funding to be reinstated once election preparations had been made. The authorities are making progress on this.


I do not think that Dr Howells would dare to visit Mogadishu, and Mogadishu would be entitled to wonder whether our giving money to Berbera is consistent with recognition of the territorial integrity of Somalia.

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Livingstone's friend the Tory MP.

Just as we are all enjoying the fact that the deposed Mayor can do nothing more than howl into the void, someone comes up with the, quote, '“Livingstone Mayoralty Memorial Newt Bill”. I am not, repeat not, making this up.

Herewith the details:

"Mr. Andrew Robathan (Blaby) (Con): I beg to move, that leave be given to bring in a Bill to permit the disturbance of bats and newts for specified purposes; and for connected purposes.
...

I am very fond of bats and newts and it still thrills me when I see them. As a child, I used to catch newts when doing what is now known as “pond dipping”. Like Ken Livingstone, I like newts and, on that basis, I would name this Bill the “Livingstone Mayoralty Memorial Newt Bill”.

Although there may be some amusement here, this is a very serious issue. What links great crested newts and bats is that they are both European protected species—EPS—and that gives strict protection under the European habitats directive".


Mockery to one side, Robathan makes a serious point about the absurd penalties for disturbing newts and the like, and I wish him joy in his endeavour.

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Why the Irish Republic voted no to Lisbon

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Straight from a Eurobarometer survey:

  • 22% - Because I do not know enough about the treaty and would not want to vote for something I am not familiar with
  • 12% - To protect Irish identity
  • 6% - To safeguard Irish neutrality in security and defence matters
  • 6% - I do not trust our politicians
  • 6% - We will lose our right to have an Irish Commissioner in every Commission
  • 6% - To protect our tax system
  • 5% - I am against a united Europe
  • 4% - To protest against the government's policies
  • 4% - To avoid that the EU speaks with one voice on global matters
  • 4% - Because large states decide on EU matters
Etc etc. 14% other, 3% don't know why they voted no.

And as for the yes camp:

  • 32% - It was in the best interest of Ireland
  • 19% - Ireland gets a lot of benefit from the EU
  • 9% - It keeps Ireland fully engaged in Europe
  • 9% - It will help the Irish economy
  • 5% - It gives the EU a more effective way of making decisions
  • 4% - It makes the EU more effective on the world stage

Etc etc. 11% other, 2% don't knows.

I think the results pretty well speak for themselves, but note that if the Irish have to vote again then reason #1 for voting no is a cast iron guarantee that the good people of the island will be bludgeoned with public 'information' campaigns, cut out 'n' keep guides in their newspapers, and for all I know, Manuel Barroso ringing people at random to harangue them. And if all future commissioners are cut from the same cloth as the outstandingly sound Charlie McCreevy, then the citizenry is right to fear losing the Irish commissioner.

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Great adverts of our time


When clicking through to a tale at Belgian daily Le Soir, Banca Monte Paschi Belgio caused a tree to grow out Bart de Wever's head, rather detracting from his message.

Given that Bart was accusing the newspaper in question of inciting hatred against the Flemish (like him...), one does wonder whether the ad placement was entirely accidental.

Those wishing to replicate the experiment will need to have a monitor resolution of 1280 x 768, Firefox or IE, and the patience to hit F5 a few times.

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A public service announcement for readers holidaying in France

Avoid St Denis in the département of Seine-Saint-Denis, or in lay terms north east Paris outside the Périphérique, as it has - by far - the highest level of violent crimes per thousand inhabitants, at 31.27 per 1000.

Other places with around double or more the national average (5.93) of violent crime levels are Nice, Marseilles, Nîmes (!), and a slew of places in the Paris banlieues. All the detail here.

However, the place to leave your door unlocked (ish...) is Marly Le Roi in Yvelines, at 1.45. Looks like a nice place too and is twinned with Marlow. The town, and not the detective nor the dead man in Deptford.

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Lech, how could you? Allegedly...

From Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: This Monday your book "The Security Service and Lech Walesa" comes out. It has already sparked an intense debate. In it, you and your co-author Piotr Gontarczyk claim that the hero of the Polish reform movement collaborated with the secret police in the 1970s. Do you have proof?

Cenckiewicz: We provide clear evidence in our book including registration cards, notations, notes from the secret police and reports from the so-called informant "Bolek." There's positive proof that Lech Walesa was registered with the secret police under that code name between 1970 and 1976.

Much more of this in the interview linked above.

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Petition o' the day, or Two Nations

Monday, June 23, 2008
Yet another well thought out proposal:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to award independence to the North of England

And there's detail. Well, geographical detail.

"For many centuries the North has suffered at the hands of a London centralised government. So it is petitioned that England, from the soutern (sic) borders of Lincolnshire, Rutland, Leicestershire, Staffordshire, West Midlands, Shropshire northwards to the current border with Scotland, and westward to the current border with Wales so that we would have better control of local affairs, that has for many years been neglected by the sucessive (sic) parliaments of the UK and England".

Here is the new frontier :


I remain a Unionist, so I will avoid making any Northernist etc comments, but readers might feel the urge to add something. Note that under this proposal we Southern types would control both sides of the Watford Gap.

A quick look at the state of the parties south of the Whippet Line suggests that the Yellow Peril would hold the balance of power, with 31 seats to our 111 and Labour's 85. And there's Respect too. Above the line, the Red Rabble would be in the driving seat, and how - 187 seats to 58 (1) for us, the LDs and the Kidderminster bloke combined.

(1) - Whoops, forget about Crewe & Nantwich.

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The return of the Holy Roman Empire?

Our lucky neighbours on the other side of the Channel / North Sea are about to see one of their high speed trains decorated with, gulp, 'the logo of European Year of Intercultural Dialogue 2008 (EYID)'. Pretty exciting, eh?

However, not really worth blogging about, except on a slow day.

However, compare and contrast this statement from Ján Figeľ (he does have that apostrophe, honest) :

"
Thalys trains link the capitals and cities of four EU member states"

with this map:


Paris - check. Brussels - check. Netherlands - Amsterdam - check.

And the fourth capital city? It does sat 'the capitals', not 'capitals' of 'four EU member states'. Aachen was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire (insert the old joke here) of the German Nation, but a reborn Heiliges Römisches Reich deutscher Nation would rather cancel out Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam...

The other possibilities are that Cologne is a free city again, that the Archbishop thereof has resumed his role as a prince elector or Figel' knows something about the breakup of Belgium that the rest of us do not.

Extra special pedantic point, The Hague is not a capital of the Netherlands, although it is the seat of government.


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Culture - how broadly should it be defined?

And here it is, from Hansard:

Mr. Hollobone: To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what assessment he has made of the future prospects for the bingo industry; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Sutcliffe: I hope to make a statement to the House on this and related matters shortly.


Crikey.

Meanwhile, I have unearthed another bee obsessive in Parliament:

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform what the UK's balance of trade in bees and bee products was in each year since 1997 in standard prices; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Thomas: The following table gives HMRC overseas trade statistics for the value of trade in honey and wax. Data for trade in live bees cannot be separated from trade in other animals.

Perhaps they have run out of stingers to inflict on DEFRA and are now droning on at what was the DTI. Lombard Street to a rotten orange it will be Health next - how many people were stung in Lymeswold East last year etc etc.

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'Unity is strength'

That is the Bolivian state motto, but a fat lot of good it seems to be doing President Evo Morales of the Movement Toward Socialism party (I'd love to be able to vote for a Movement Away From Socialism party) in that provinces making up around three quarters of the national territory have either declared autonomy after plebiscites or are on strike against the centre. More here.

Much of this has to do with ethnic conflict and Morales seeking to lavish the spoils of the more successful parts of the economy on his client voters in the west of the country. Depending upon how one looks at it, it is though the Shetlands or London sought autonomy from Westminster, as it were.

Wholly unconnected to this, but most amusingly, landlocked Bolivia has a naval flag.

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Trouble for the Revenue?

Good news - for once - from the EU.

This is what EU Consumer Commissioner Meglena Kuneva had to say the other day, while in these parts:

"It is particularly important for consumers to challenge the acceptability of business models based on geographical discrimination. In the world we live in, we are not obliged to shop in the supermarkets and stores of our postal code. We are not constrained to buy in our municipalities. We should also not be forced to shop within our national borders. Yet we cannot buy computers, train tickets or play-stations freely across the EU. We are forced to buy domestic. Let me be clear, there is no place in Europe's Single Market for artificial geographical restrictions which hold consumers back within national borders. I am in the process of carrying out a study on e-commerce, which I hope will start to launch the debate."

That, made law, would rather put the kibosh on our penal duty rates on tobacco and alcohol....

(NB - One does need the EU in order for cross border trade to flourish....)


Meanwhile, in another release quoting the redoubtable, and not uneasy on the eye, Ms Kuneva, she is shocked, shocked, that fewer consumers engage in cross-border e-commerce than domestic e-commerce. Erm, penal international postage, exchange rates (in some cases) and language problems?

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Apology of the year

Sunday, June 22, 2008
From the South China Morning Post:

"A sincere apology to Carlson Tong Ka-shing for the serious error in this column last week. Mr Tong recently stepped down as chairman of the listing committee of the Hong Kong stock exchange, having served on the committee for six years, the maximum term permitted under the listing rules. This is what was originally written. Unfortunately, during the editing process, it was misinterpreted and erroneously reported as "Carlson Tong Ka-shing who has been jailed for six years", which is completely false".

(snigger)

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Consequences? Who cares?

For your entertainment, here is a commercial for the Lancia Delta. Unlikely to air in these parts as Lancia abandoned the UK market some years ago as they could not overcome a reputation for producing rust buckets



Those eggheads at Lancia parent Fabbrica Italiana Automobili Torino need to brush up on their knowledge 0f world affairs and Cult Studs, methinks:

"Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne said he ''didn't know'' if the commercial had political overtones, but that he ''certainly liked it''. Source

My position on Tibet is a matter of record, so am happy enough for Lancia to align itself with Tibet, but a car manufacturer that builds in the 'People's Republic' of China really should have given the issue more than a nano-second's thought.

Too late now, as "Fiat on Friday apologised to China for a television commercial starring United States actor Richard Gere that it acknowledged ''could disturb the sensibility of the Chinese people''. Sensitive flowers, aren't they?

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Brown popular in Nigeria shocker

Saturday, June 21, 2008
Our ashtray on a motorbike of a prime minister has the confidence of the majority of both Americans and Nigerians, as a survey by WorldPublicopinion.org shows.

Those two nations see 59% having a lot / some confidence in Broon doing the right thing in world affairs, narrowly ahead of South Korea at 57%, China at 50% and - the shame of it - my fellow citizens at 48%.

Our neighbours are fairly unimpressed - 35% of the French rate him, as do 22% of Spaniards.

At the other end of the scale, the Jordanians show their usual good sense with 72% having little or no confidence, likewise 90% of 'Palestinians'.

Meanwhile, the Egyptians impress by having 99% able to decide one way or the other, whereas only 43% of Ukrainians can. I guess Broon's books are not big sellers in Kiev.

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Happy the land that has no news

To adapt Brecht.

Anyway, Finland would look to be the place to be in July, as this is what is showing at the site of Helsingin Sanomat, an English language site I have bookmarked:

"The International Edition will be offline for the whole of the month of July...Though there can be exceptions, July is not traditionally a very big month for "hard" news in Finland, either in politics or in business, as the country, too, is in recess, and is more or less "closed" for the duration".

Whereas we just have skateboarding ducks and so on
heading the news agenda.

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Headline o' the day

Friday, June 20, 2008
And it is a winner:

"There will be no Armageddon".

The denial of the End of Days comes from Yury Zaitsev writing for Russian news agency Novosti, although at the end it notes 'The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti'.

So, truly the apocalypse is, or is not, upon us.

(The item is actually about the launching of a Large Hadron Collider at CERN)

Just thought I'd add this, from those nice people at xkcd, who have a creative commons licence for their stuff:

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King Canute redux

From EUPravda:

"More EU action needed to prevent and react to natural disasters say MEPs".

Is there no limit to the EU's abilities?

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Spot the similarity...

From Hansard:

Mr. Steen: May I first compliment the Solicitor-General on her new pixie look?

The Solicitor-General: First, let me respond to the hon. Gentleman’s effusive personal compliment to me, which I take in very good heart. I am more frequently likened to a goblin than a pixie, but I am doing my best.

And who is the SG? It is Vera Baird, who looks like this:


And for those not up to snuff on mythical humanoids, the first relevant google image hits for a pixie and for a goblin:



Far be it for me to be gallant, but I think pixie is a closer match.

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Shame on Sarko

Thursday, June 19, 2008
Yup, he has come out for the 'keep voting until you get it 'right'' approach to EU affairs. I am well aware that Sarko is far from being a eurosceptic, but it is shameful nonetheless.

Funny how countries which get it 'right' first time are never offered a chance to reconsider. As ever, the EU is a government, not of laws, but of men.

Meanwhile, here is an AP photo from the EU parliament I am borrowing, found at Belgian daily Le Soir:


I believe the chap having technical difficulties is Dutch MEP Bastian Belder

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A national disgrace

I am shocked, shocked that Gerald Kaufman is having to go maybe 100 yards out of his way every day:

"Sir Gerald Kaufman: To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if she will discuss with Transport for London the absence of bus stops along the western side of Parliament Street near Whitehall and ask for this situation to be rectified.

Ms Rosie Winterton: The temporary absence of bus stops on the western side of Parliament street has been due to extensive street works associated with the Whitehall Streetscape Improvement project....Westminster city council has consulted Transport for London and London Buses at all stages of the project. Work on the western side of Parliament street is now almost complete and buses are once again stopping in the are".

How could TfL etc not have consulted the member for Manchester Gorton? It must be said he is getting on as bit now - 77 - so presumably has had a free bus pass for years.

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Parents of the year

A brace of Danes: "One couple thoroughly tested the limits of the approved name process, wanting to call their baby 'Rhododendron Bush'. Their application was rejected".

Presumably it was the Bush bit that did for their application.

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Hell freezes over

Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tony Blair (remember him?) has just been referred to as 'a statesman' in a Russian newspaper.

I am feeling quite nauseous.

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Westerns....

I have a terrible weakness for westerns, so on the off chance any readers also like them, here is the American Film Institute's newly unveiled top ten:

 WESTERN

1 THE SEARCHERS 1956
2 HIGH NOON 1952
3 SHANE 1953
4 UNFORGIVEN 1992
5 RED RIVER 1948
6 THE WILD BUNCH 1969
7 BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID 1969
8 McCABE & MRS. MILLER 1971
9 STAGECOACH 1939
10 CAT BALLOU 1965

No spaghetti westerns as films are supposed to be 'English-language film with significant creative and/or production elements from the United States'. And wot, no Sierra Madre or Magnificent Seven?

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Unite to London: "It's my ball and I'm taking it home"

Oh yes it is:

"Unite the Union is to cease financially supporting the Latin American stage at the Rise Festival after the Mayor’s Office has targeted its partner in the production, the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, as being a “political campaign group” and therefore unacceptable".

Good for Boris for sending Castro's groupies packing, eh?

And not only but also:

"Not only has the Mayor’s Office banned CSC from the festival site it has also altered the message of the Festival, changing it from anti-racist event to one that celebrates London diversity".

Quelle horreur....

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Reds under the bed?

At the Department of 'Justice':

Mr. Maude: To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many copies of the Morning Star (a) his Department and (b) each of its agencies procures on subscription each week; and at what cost.

Mr. Wills: The Ministry of Justice receives two copies of the Morning Star every day (Monday to Friday) at a cost of £6 per week.

If not at the Treasury:

Angela Eagle: The Treasury and each of its agencies do not subscribe to the Morning Star publication. (Nice grammar, Ange)


Or at No. 10: "...how many copies of the Morning Star (a) the Cabinet Office and (b) 10 Downing Street purchase each day".

Mr. Watson: None.

So, which of the DoJ squad are engaged in bet hedging, for when the revolution comes? Perm any two from Straw, Maria Eagle or the deeply obscure David Hanson, Michael Wills, 'Lord' Hunt or Bridget Prentice?

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I believe the conversation in Pendle is of little else...

Another bee obsessive in the House:

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what discussions he has had with his German counterpart on (a) the suspension of the registration of eight insecticidal seed treatment products manufactured by Bayer and (b) the collapse in bee populations in Baden-Wurttemberg.

And, *just fancy*.....

Jonathan Shaw: There have been no ministerial discussions on this issue. However officials in the UK Pesticides Safety Directorate are in close contact with relevant officials in Germany.

I'm on the verge of pitying Shaw for all the bee obsessives he has to deal with, it is enough to make one break out in hives. Still, he is a cast iron cert to lose his seat at the next election.

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And there was I thinking that Customs & Excise exists purely to farm taxes....

Tuesday, June 17, 2008
But how wrong I was in dismissing customs (1), douanes, zollbeamter (2) etc, judging from this comment by EU Taxation and Customs Commissar László Kovács:

"without efficient customs control at the EU's external borders, the Single Market would never have been possible".

Erm, no, László. The single market would have been possible without customs controls, just as it is possible for there to be a single market in London without goons in peaked caps stationed at the outer borough boundaries.



(1) I know it is HMRC these days, but my point is about border taxation, not general taxation, and 'customs exists' as a headline jarred. A lot.

(2). A somewhat odd German teacher at my alma mater insisted that the way to impress the ladies was to declare 'Ich bin ein zollbeamter'. The phrase stuck, although having tried the line on a few frauleinen, it has never been that effective.


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Research finding of the week

From the Chicago Tribune:

"Drivers of cars with bumper stickers, window decals, personalized license plates and other "territorial markers" not only get mad when someone cuts into their lane or is slow to respond to a traffic light, they also are far more likely than others to use their vehicles to express rage —by honking, tailgating and other aggressive behavior".

What's more, sticker content has no bearing on the level of aggression etc etc, so transferring the findings to these parts, one is as likely to get hooted at by Save the Whales / Baby on Board types as much as 'Don't follow me, follow Generic FC' sticker sporters.

I cannot think of any car sticker equivalent of those carried by American right wingers. Maybe we feel less of a need to display something we already know and nobody else cares about, or more likely there is the prospect of some freedom-loving Socialist key-ing the paint work.

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Failing marketing 101...

Shamlessly borrowed from West Ham fan site, Knees Up Mother Brown, a screengrab of how Stevenage Borough FC are plugging their new kit:

Go on, click through. I am not making this up.

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Token gesture of the week

Seeing this headline - Australian athletes will not attend Olympic ceremony - I was gearing up to praise our Antipodean kin and contrast their approach with the kowtowing by the rabble leading this country.

However, it is nothing to do with human rights, still less the occupation of Tibet but rather this:

"Australian Olympic officials have banned the country's athletes from marching at this summer's opening ceremony in Beijing because of concerns about air pollution in the Chinese capital". I am not making this up.

If Oz's athletes, synchronised swimmers and underwater tiddlywinks players have such delicate lungs, is it safe for them to even get off the plane?

Perhaps someone can come up with an inventive excuse for our athletes, underwater tiddlywinks players ete etc?

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The West Godthåb question....

Monday, June 16, 2008
Or West Nuuk, if you prefer, but I think Godthåb echoes Lothian better.

"Greenland's two parliamentary representatives in the Danish parliament...are among the MPs who have participated least in the governmental body's votes...'I'm only present at voting when it the subject is relevant to Greenland,' said Hemminsen. 'that's our agreement. But I've been at parliamentary debates quite a lot.' Johansen told KNR that the agreement with the government parties on voting means that some members of the coalition do not vote when Greenlandic interests are not present, and the Greenlandic MPs do not vote when a purely Danish issue is on the agenda". Source

Perhaps members from north of Hadrian's Wall could take note.....

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What about the warranties?

From Hansard:

"To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what percentage of (a) CRVT, (b) Saxon, (c) Warrior and (d) Challenger vehicles are (i) in service, (ii) fit for purpose and (iii) out of service"

CRVT stands for Combat Vehicle Reconnaissance (Tracked), and would seem to involve variants on what was the Scorpion design (chaps of my vintage will remember it well). Anyway, it looks to me as though any commander in charge of one of these things could do with RAC membership, or somesuch, as out of just shy of 1200, only 58% are 'Fit for purpose (currently available)', with this caveat worth noting, 'includes vehicles awaiting minor repairs and those currently in transit to operational theatres'.

The Heptarchs would be pleased that the Saxon is a tad more reliable - 97% are ready to roll. 74% of Warriors are likewise raring to go, as are 95% of Challengers.

It used to be said that much of the Soviet Union's tank force was out of commission due to thirsty soldiers having drunk the anti-freeze, so I do hope that the Naafi is keeping our squaddies lubricated.

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Bargain corner

Hansard has details of research 'on the effects of [the Department of Transport's] policies on different groups in society' and what a great use of our money it would appear to have
been.

Like this - 'Understanding travel aspirations, needs and behaviour of young adults'. A mere £110 thousand.

Somewhat curiously oldsters were cheaper, or not deemed as worth as much money at £100,819 - 'Understanding travel needs, behaviour and aspirations of people in later life'.

I suppose no-one came up with a euphemism for the middle aged, so my demographic has gone unresearched.

Or this - 'The role of the car'. A snip, no doubt, at £98,834

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The EUS, rather than HMS, Ark Royal?

Sunday, June 15, 2008
As in European Union Ship.

"This time, Sarkozy...told the Germans about his plans to propose the creation of a European naval unit during France's presidency of the Council of the European Union, which begins on July 1. Under Sarkozy's plan, the German Navy is supposed to contribute frigates and logistics units to an aircraft carrier battle group which will sail under a European flag. The aircraft carrier itself will, according to the plan, be supplied by the United Kingdom, however, as France's prestige aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, is frequently out of service for repairs". From Der Spiegel.

Ahem: "The Royal Navy of England hath ever been its greatest defence and ornament; its ancient and natural strength; the floating bulwark of the island". Blackstone's commentaries.

And while I am at it, some Nelson:

"There is no way of dealing with the Frenchman but to knock him down - to be civil to them is to be laughed at. Why they are enemies!" 11 Jan 1798 after surrender of Capua.

"Firstly you must always implicitly obey orders, without attempting to form any opinion of your own regarding their propriety. Secondly, you must consider every man your enemy who speaks ill of your king; and thirdly you must hate a Frenchman as you hate the devil".
- to a midshipman in 1793 aboard the Agamemnon.

"To obey orders is all perfection. To serve my King and destroy the French, I consider as the great order of all, from which little ones spring; and if one of these militate against it (for who can tell exactly at a distance), I go back and obey the great order and object, to down - down with the damned French villains! My blood boils at the name of a Frenchman! Down, down with the French! … is my constant prayer".


Any readers with a record with the Senior Service have carte blanche (sorry...) to blow a gasket or two in the comments.

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What they are up to in Brussels....

Saturday, June 14, 2008
I am pleased with what our friends in the Republic of Ireland have done, and there is not much else to add on that score.

However, given the usual 'some countries are more equal than others' shenanigans that generally ensues from the government not of laws, but of men, what about this for the lead story at the EU press room:


Not the last word in visibility, but feel free to click for a more viewable version.

Those prepared to take my word for it, note the headline:

"Europe's mental health in the spotlight". Yes. Really.

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John McCain wins Amman South

Friday, June 13, 2008
As in Amman, the capital of Jordan. Pew Global has asked the world's citizenry which candidate it has the greater confidence in, and McCain wins in Jordan. Obama would win everywhere else, with France and Tanzania the most enthused by the Illinois senator. That Obama would not have un flocon's chance in Hell of winning any elected office in France seems to have passed France by, but never mind....

In other findings, the French and the Japanese are the most likely to think granting the Olympics to Beijing a bad thing (55%) . Rather disgustingly, we Britons think it a good thing, by 50% to 38%. The mouth-breathing 12% presumably did not know what the question meant.

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A friend in need....

Let's hear it for the good people of Sierra Leone, and in particular their UN rep, Rupert Davies.

And for why? Because the Falkland Islands are being debated again, and in among the usual blizzard of nonsense came this statement:

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

Meanwhile, the self-determination issue is sidestepped by calling on this: 6. Any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

As an aside, what about this for a bizarre job title?: Jorge Enrique Taiana, Minister for Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of Argentina. Sounds like idolatry to me.

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Your cut out and keep guide to which papers are on the side of the angels

The Sun - "HAS David Davis gone stark raving mad? How else can we explain his silly act of self-styled martyrdom?...This was no noble cause. It was a shabby act of treachery. Mr Davis, a second-rate but ferociously ambitious politician, has not forgiven his rival for thrashing him in the Tory leadership race two years ago". So the hotline from No 10 to Nws Group still works.

The Mirror - "This brave gamble by a popular politician from a humble background will make him a hero to many and establish him as rival for the Tory crown". They must really hate / fear Cameron.

Express - No leader comment that I can find. Doubtless there are some micro celebrities in need of attention

Mail - No leader comment that I can find. Quentin Letts likes DD though.

Guardian - "He is right on ID cards, but only on the basis of an excessively sweeping mistrust of the state. The liberty he is concerned with is, almost exclusively, liberty from official interference. There is little place in this conception for freedom from destitution, for example, which only the state can provide". (C sticks his tongue into his lower lip and makes 'stupid' noises)

Independent - "we agree wholeheartedly with the trenchant opposition of the MP for Haltemprice and Howden to "the slow strangulation of fundamental British freedoms" that has taken place in recent years". Crikey.

Times - No leader comment. A dull item by Riddell I could not face.

Telegraph - Mixed, but finishes 'Mr Davis's resignation may have been reckless, misguided and highly disconcerting for the political establishment - but, driven by principle, it is none the less laudable for that'. If they had got it wrong I would be cancelling it today.

FT.com - "On the substance of these issues Mr Davis has right on his side. Pre-charge detention of up to 42 days remains unjustified: this was apparent all over again in Wednesday’s debate. Similarly, the case for curtailing personal freedoms to introduce ID cards has simply not been made. Too many civil liberties have already been taken away".

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That David Davis speech

Thursday, June 12, 2008
Absolutely magnificent. Brown, Smith and the rest of that rabble should die of shame.

A re-elected Davis would have a higher level of moral authority than any MP in living memory.

A new Kennedy theory?

From the one, the only Muammar Gadhafi:

"Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi said on Wednesday that U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's expressed support for Israel stems from his fear that the Mossad would assassinate him, just as it did President John F. Kennedy.

"We suspect he may fear being killed by Israeli agents and meet the same fate as Kennedy when he promised to look into Israel's nuclear program," Gadhafi said". Source.

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Remedial geography lessons for wee Dougie?

From Hansard (again):

"Mr. Ellwood: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development, what plans he has for the funding and operation of the Park for Women in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province in the next 12 months.

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The Government of Iraq has responsibility for the funding and operation of the Bolan Park in Lashkar Gah".

I would imagine that the Iraqi government has quite enough on its plate without worrying about gender-specific initiatives on the other side of the Hindu Kush, and therefore I think that wee Dougie has got his quagmires mixed up. So much for his degree in politics and modern history.

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People you would not invite to your party...

From Hansard:

Mr. Amess: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to what events held in Israel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of that State, (a) he, (b) Ministers in his Department and (c) officials have been invited; what invitations have been (i) accepted and (ii) declined; and if he will make a statement.

Dr. Howells:
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary [the boy Miliband] did not receive any invitations to go to Israel to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel.

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So much for 'prudence' and the 'golden rule'

Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Straight from EUPravda:

"The United Kingdom's budgetary position has deteriorated over the past year and is expected to rise above the 3% of GDP reference value in the financial year ending in March 2009. In line with the Treaty, the Commission has therefore initiated the excessive deficit procedure" said Joaquín Almunia, Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner.

...


The planned figure for 2008/09 provides
prima facie evidence of the existence of an excessive deficit in the UK.

...


Having examined the budgetary developments as well as the short- and medium-term economic prospects and policy action taken by the UK government,
the Commission concludes that the planned excess of the deficit over the reference value cannot be considered exceptional or temporary and suggests that the UK is not respecting the deficit criterion set in the Treaty.

Since 2002/03, the United Kingdom has not built a sufficient "safety margin" for fiscal policy to operate freely and supportively during normal economic downturns without significant risk of breaching the reference value. Fiscal policy was expansionary in 2007/08, in spite of robust growth, leading to a deficit estimated to have increased slightly from 2.6% of GDP in 2006/07 to 2.9% of GDP in 2007/08.

Whilst general government gross debt is projected to remain below the 60% of GDP reference value set in the EU Treaty, debt has been on a rising trend since 2001 to reach an estimated 43.8% of GDP last year.


Quite what the Commissariat is going to do apart from telling the Dour One to stand in the corner is unclear. Meanwhile I rue not knowing any Socialist and EU true believers, so I will be denied the simple pleasure of pointing and laughing.

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The government that makes ours look honest. And competent

Say hello to Timor Leste, or East Timor, as she is better known in these parts. While rooting around for detail on a tale of car sharing between ET's MPs, I found something far more arresting:


Yup, right there on the front page of timor-leste.gov.tl it is claiming to have a population of 900 million, which would make it a good third behind China and India, and around three times as populous as the US. Jakarta might be worried that Dili has designs on West Timor too. The CIA factbook reckons 1.1 million, but what's an error of a factor of 818 between friends?

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Out of the mouths of academics...

Professor M.L. Gupta of Punjab Engineering College, quoted at the Commonwealth Secretariat site:

"Most people are poor because they do not have money".

I bet his lectures and tutorials are popular.

I have a large collection of obvious lurking in a cupboard, and I am hoping the professor will come round and point it out for me.

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The hazards of public life

From the J Post:

"A female member of Knesset is claiming that she has been sexually harassed in dozens of lust letters that she has been receiving from an unknown sender for over a year...She requested to remain anonymous".

Not good, clearly. However, a little research shows that there are all of 17 women in the Knesset, so it is reasonable assumption that there is going to be an awful lot of speculation.... I will stick my neck out and hazard that 73 year old Sara Shalev is not the victim.

Enthusiastic followers of electoral data and the like might note that the Knesset lists dates of birth, with the youngest MK born in '77 and the oldest in '26.

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There goes the no claim bonus...

News from across the Atlantic of stationery cupboard pillaging and the like:

"Nearly one in five (19 percent) workers report they have taken office supplies for personal use in the past year...Of those who admit to having stolen office supplies, only 22 percent felt guilty or regretted the act, despite 74 percent of workers feeling it is wrong to do so". I would think that there can be precious few people in these parts who do not have the odd biro that they picked up at the ranch and 'forgot' to take back.

So far so fairly hum-drum , but here's the more arresting bit:

"eight percent of workers admit to having taken higher priced items such as laptops, PDAs or cell phones, an increase from three percent last year". If employers do not notice laptops walking out of the door, one might reckon that they almost deserve inflated insurance premiums.

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Even worse than losing an election

Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Pity Ségolène Royal: this time in 2006 she was rated the sixth sexiest woman in the entire world by the 'readers' of FHM's (Should be PLI, surely?) French edition.

Two years on and not only is she not in the Élysée, she fails to make the top 100, even when only the 50-60 age group is polled. To add insult to injury, there do not appear to be any left wing politicians in the list, but the lovely Mme Bruni-Sarkozy makes 15th, Rame Yade 25th and Rachida Dati 35th. I do not think that La Royal has fallen off a cliff, looks-wise, in 24 months but who am I to dispute the verdict of the people?

Anyway, more here.

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Figure of speech o' the week

Made by a Puerto Rican addressing the UN's Special Committee on Decolonisation:

"The Puerto Rican people could no longer tolerate that consideration of their self-determination be “parked in a corner of chimeras” by the General Assembly".

I was tempted to report on the debate, but if I say it was initiated by Cuba and Venezuela, readers will find joining the dots pretty straightforward.

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Don't believe it....

From Hansard:

Mr. Evans: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the value was of goods stolen from police stations in (a) North Yorkshire, (b) West Yorkshire, (c) South Yorkshire and (d) the East Riding of Yorkshire in each of the last three years. [208647]

Mr. McNulty [holding answer 5 June 2008]: The information requested is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.


What McNulty means is that Greenacre's Finest are far too embarrassed to admit to any such larceny.... Also, given that Evans is an MP for somewhere on the other side of the Pennines, might he have been seeking to make mock?

Not worth a new post, so I will add that I am appalled, disgusted, incandescent etc etc that the confectionery products known as biscuits are being referred to - in Hansard - by a linguistic fifth columnist as cookies. Yes they are. Philip Ian "Phil" Hope, for it is he, represents Corby in Northamptonshire in the United Kingdom, rather than somewhere nestling in the Appalachians. Grr. As they are soi disant 'fair trade' products, it can be assumed that they taste like militant cardboard, so he's welcome to them.

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It takes two to tango...

Compare the following:

The Indian Defence minister's thoughts: "Our (India) defence budget is just 1.99 per cent of the GDP, which is one of the lowest in the world. The ideal situation would be 3 per cent of GDP, which is the global average"

And from the other side of the Indus: "Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani told the National Assembly on Monday his government would freeze — and practically reduce — defence spendings in the next budget as a show of its desire for peace with neighbours, and voiced a belated hope of reciprocity from nuclear rival India, which hiked is defence budget three months ago".

Can't say I fancy Pakistan's chances, frankly.

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Being Canadian means always having to say you are sorry

Monday, June 09, 2008
Or so it would seem, judging from a survey:

"The Ipsos-Reid poll of 1,000 adults for Canwest News Service and Global Television says two in three Canadians agree that "it's about time that the government and Canadians come to terms with its past actions, and so issuing apologies for past transgressions and mistakes is appropriate".

Westerners, women and the young are the more apologetic.

I am with the 1/3 who judge the whole process ludicrous, as I do not accept any conception of collective guilt, still less collective guilt for historic matters.

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Quote o' the day

From Russian nationalist Alexander Belov, leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, or DPNI:

"Those who shout 'Heil Hitler' must be gradually isolated".

Shades of that quote from Saint Augustine.

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Is *nothing* sacred?

Friday, June 06, 2008
As anyone who has spent time in France will know, Parisian cars carry the mark of the beast - by way of the number 75 on their numberplates.

However, the simple pleasure of identifying (and hissing at?) Parigots when in La France Profonde is about to be taken away from the French people, and those sad individuals like myself who know far more departmental numbers than is even remotely healthy.

Anyway, this sort of thing is on its way, photo borrowed from AFP:

Meanwhile, France's MPs - a spectacularly supine breed in general - have risen en masse to damn this prospect, so a rather feeble compromise will allow regional identifiers to be added to the plate, if one likes that sort of thing.

I hope the Germans are not intent on messing with their plates - note that Volkswagens often have WÖB for Wölfsburg, Audis In for Ingolstadt etc. More prosaically, German plates starting with one letter - F, H, B, D - identify the larger cities.

I know, I should get out more, and once there ignore number plates.

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Non-musical chairs in Rome

Italian MPs, or rather some of them, are greatly vexed by the less than orthopaedic qualities of some of the seating in the Camera dei Deputati.

Alessandra Mussolini and her lot have been assigned seats in the back row, and she's agin it:

"The seats in the pigeon coop have been there since 1948. They can't be used - it's impossible to stay seated,'' she said, describing the chairs as ''hard as stools'' and complaining that it was difficult to follow what was going on in the rest of the room". One of her colleagues reckons "it's like the Gaza Strip". Presumably they will be firing rockets at Forza Italia then....

I imagine that the green and red benches are probably not conducive to good posture, and our MPs and peers must envy Italians this, "According to House rules, MPs can only vote from their assigned seats, which bear labels with their surnames". I have asked a fellow blogger with parliamentary connections to quiz a tame MP or two as to how the House's seating rates. Details to follow, with any luck.

And my luck has held:

"The Green benches are firm, not the most comfortable seats - equivalent to a Chesterfield sofa. I suppose the more rotund ones derrière, the longer one can sit without complaining".

Names of blogger and MP withheld to protect the innocent.

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Why so coy?

There's a mildly interesting item in The Times on political wives, mainly dedicated to sticking the boot into Carla Sarkozy and name dropping to Olympic standard.

Anyway, the writer notes " There are two types of politician’s wife. The first type marries her man before he becomes famous or powerful. She marries him before the grace-and-favour apartments in historical settings, before the banqueting dinners and state visits, before the helicopter on the lawn and the silent, waiting chauffeur.... Carla Bruni, I fear, is the other type of political wife. She hitched a ride on the bandwagon once it was well and truly rolling along".

So far so not very interesting at all, until the sign off:

"Sarah Vine is married to a Tory MP".

A little bit of digging reveals that La Vine is married to Michael Gove of Surrey Heath (whom God preserve) and that they would have married prior to Gove getting elected.

With that tease of a sign off, I cannot be the only one who will ask that question, so the subs should either have dropped that sign off or been a tad fuller.

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Yet another reason for wishing to be rid of the Olympics

From Hansard:

Sandra Gidley: To ask the Minister for the Olympics pursuant to the Answer of 22 April 2008, Official Report, column 1889W, on the Olympic Games 2012, what provision will be made to reduce any potential spread of sexually transmitted infections".

Dawn Primarolo: I have been asked to reply.

The national health service in London is currently working with both the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority to assess the sexual health needs up to, during and after the games. Lessons learned from previous games in host cities such as Sydney and Athens are also being considered as part of the planning process.


Lucky old Gidders in Romsey and Dim Prawn in Brizzle will be far away from the Typhoid Marys and Martins that are Ruritanian pentathletes and Absurdistani synchronised swimmers, but pity east London.....

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Nonsense on stilts. In clown boots and dayglo orange plus fours

Thursday, June 05, 2008
I have no reason to believe this is a joke:

"Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, has spoken out in favour of setting up an Asian-Pacific Union. The organisation should be based on the model of the European Union. Possible member states could be Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan and the United States. According to Prime Minister Rudd, the Asian-Pacific Union could be set up by 2020 and would mainly benefit security, and political and economic cooperation". Source

Now Rudd is a former management consultant, they being a breed that will borrow your watch and charge you for telling the time, and can be expected to come up with idiotic suggestions on a regular basis, but even so... I am no lover of the EU, but at least membership is restricted to liberal democracies with market economies.

So, always supposing Roddo has his way, presumably there will be an Asia-Pacific 'parliament' with seats allocated on the basis of population, as it as the EU (ish). At the last count China had a population of 1.3 bn, whereas setting aside Pacific Island microstates for now, New Zealand has a population of 4.2 m, meaning it would get one MAPP (so to speak) for every 309 that China did.

Then there would be the fun of dishing out Commissariats - how comfortable would the average Australian be about a Beijing appointee being the Justice, Freedom and Security Commissar, for instance?

Further parallels welcome.

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Social Democracy - not very butch

From Deutsche Welle:

"The party is particular weak among men. In the FORSA survey, the SPD polled only 17 percent among German men -- the same as the Left party and only half as well as the conservative CDU/CSU".

Unless there are an awful lot of beardie weirdies and neo-nazis on the loose, presumably the thick end of two thirds of German men are rooting for the CDU/CSU or the Free Democrats.

Elsewhere, the extent of the hole the German Left has blundered into becomes clear:

"Germany's Social Democrats. Their support has dropped to a historic nadir of 20 percent...the FORSA poll also put support for the Left party at 15 percent, its highest showing ever and 1 percent better than the previous week. That suggests the SPD is caught between a rock and a hard place. Left-leaning voters are deserting the party because it is not progressive enough, while moderate ones reject the very idea of a coalition with those on the far left".

So, with a bit of luck the reds and the greens will be out office for years. Shame Merkel can't call an election now and kill off the current coalition, as she is within an ace of a majority, if allied with the Free Democrats.

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The UN - doncha just love it?

Latest insanity from Turtle Bay:

"Cuba requested the revocation of the [World Union of Progressive Judaism]'s status following a Human Rights Council session in Geneva in January titled "Human Rights Violations Emanating from Israeli Military Incursions in the Occupied Territories," where, in protest at the session's exclusive focus on Israel, World Union representative David Littman tried to read passages from the Hamas charter calling for the destruction of Israel.

Littman was interrupted three times by the presiding officer on the grounds that Hamas's ideology was not the topic before the council. Before he took his seat, Littman told the presiding officer that "something is rotten in the state of this council."

This statement led to complaints largely from Muslim countries that the UN had been insulted by the Reform representative. The World Union was informed of the initiative at the NGO committee last Thursday, and given a week to prepare its response".

...

But the World Union's prospects are uncertain. Sudan chairs the committee, which also includes Pakistan, Cuba, Egypt, Angola and Qatar". Source

And what a selection of human-rights loving liberal democracies that little lot are. Quite what benefit the WUPJ gains from its participation in this mummery is moot.

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One for the illuminati only

Wednesday, June 04, 2008
From Pravda Central:

"The Chancellor of the Exchequer has today appointed Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to be Steward and Bailiff of the Manor of Northstead".

And that is it in its entirety. No decoding, no footnotes etc etc.

Now I know what that means, as will my regulars, but there are an awful lot of people out there who would not have a clue what all this Manor of Northstead business actually means, and I do not think it wholly unreasonable that what styles itself the Central Office of Information might be a little less opaque.

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