Saturday, January 31, 2009

Tories 4 Scargill.

Two decades after Margaret Thatcher defeated Arthur Scargill to end the miners strike and bring a semblance of reality to industrial relations we now have Conservative blogs supporting wildcat strikes.

It is unfortunate that these Italian workers have been brought over to the UK just as unemployment in the area they specialise in is rising, and the frustration of the British people who had hoped to get those jobs is understandable. Despite that sympathy, I have to say that if I were an employer one of the qualities in an employee I'd look for is "Does Not Go On Wildcat Strikes".

As this recession deepens, and the UK is particularly afflicted, an awful lot of British people will be grateful that they can look overseas to find work.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Hmmmm Bacon.

The Bacon Explosion- an ideal lunchtime snack.

Just Defect Already.

Does anyone really doubt that if it weren't for Labour's catastrophic poll rating that John Bercow wouldn't have jumped ship already?

If not have a look at his latest offering, which is titled:
Where is the Tory Harriet Harman?
Presumably in a pot in central office, being watered twice a day. It's a call for designated victim groups to be handed Conservative constituencies, regardless of whether they want it or not. Fine, but they should start with Buckingham. To highlight the problem of 'under representation he writes:
This is illustrated by the fact that in the 39 seats with a notional Conservative majority where the sitting member is retiring or boundary changes create a new Conservative seat, only 14 successors are women and 3 are from the ethnic minorities.
Huh? So 1 in 13 candidates in the most winnable seats is an ethnic minority, I'm sure he thinks that is shocking but the proportion of 'BMEs' in the population is only around 1 in 12 or 1 in 11. This is before you even make any adjustments for age.

Me Am Impressed.

I've just discovered that John Prescott has a blog. It's a better blog than 'Labour List' but I was wondering whether the former Deputy Prime Minister really takes time out of his croquet schedule to write the entries himself or does he delegate it to some Labour flunky? Then I read the first post on the page which begins:
Today me and my fellow MPs in the Council of Europe delegation had the chance
Yep he writes it himself.

Update: Julia in the comments earns the offical condemnation of Bulimics Anonymous for saying "he's probably just regurgitating someone else's text"

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Great Moments In Sociology.

On another blog I've been having a discussion about the gayness or otherwise of American Football with reference to this study that claims that one in three American Football players had had gay experiences. The sample used might be considered to be somewhat unrepresentitive but the sociologist in question doesn't think so:
He said the study was not biased by talking to sportsmen who were now cheerleaders
No of course not....

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

I haven't written much about the economy of late, because it seems to me that whilst some things can be said with confidence, no one fully understands what is going on and most punditry in the subject is worthless, including mine.

Still the news that the IMF have declared that in a shitty global economy Britain is the absolutely worst positioned country in the world to get through it is shocking.

Back in the late 1990s we had one of the healthiest economies in the developed world. So how have we* managed to screw it up so spectacularly?

Gordon Brown's massive accumulation of debt in order to increase public spending is one reason. This was done for political ends because a Chancellor who had to reform public services would struggle to win a Labour leadership contest. The house price bubble is another reason, this was also done for political purposes because when people feel that they are getting richer they are more content. A third reason must be due to the importance of our financial services industry, this isn't the government's fault as it has always been an important sector in the UK.

Any other reasons?

* I say 'we' not 'they' because the the public put the government in power.

Shameless Bilge.

Shameless Milne decides to apply his vast intellect and deep understanding of world affairs to Latin America. Joy.

I would have just commented at the Grauniad's site but as is traditional they are furiously censoring criticism of Milne but instead I'll do a partial fisking here.

On 9 October 1967, Che Guevara faced a shaking sergeant Mario Teran, ordered to murder him by the Bolivian president and CIA, and declared: "Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man." The climax of Stephen Soderbergh's two-part epic, Che, in real life this final act of heroic defiance marked the defeat of multiple attempts to spread the Cuban revolution to the rest of Latin America.
Actually his last words were "Don't shoot. I am Che Guevara. I am worth more to you alive than dead"

But 40 years later, the long-retired executioner, now a reviled old man
Reviled by whom? Certainly not the Bolivian peasants who were only too glad to help get rid of the T-Shirt salesman.
Teran was treated as part of a programme which has seen 1.4 million free eye operations carried out by Cuban doctors in 33 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa. It is an emblem both of the humanity of Fidel Castro and Guevara's legacy, but also of the transformation of Latin America which has made such extraordinary co-operation possible.
You know if I wanted to highlight the "humanity of Fidel Castro" I'd keep quiet about his involvement in Africa.
The seeds of this Latin American rebirth were sown half a century ago in Cuba. But it is also more directly rooted in the region's disastrous experience of neoliberalism, first implemented by the bloody Pinochet regime in the 1970s
The Pinochet regime was bloody, although considerably less so than Castro's regime. Secondly if 'neoliberalism' is so disastrous how come Chile is so much wealthier than the rest of Latin America now? Back in the 1950s Cuba was richer than Chile so if you want to compare their current status we can see which philosophy works best.
Cuba, famous for first world health and education standards - with better infant mortality rates than the US - in an economically blockaded developing country.
Cuba's literacy rates and infant mortality figures were always very good long before the arrival of Castro. In fact before Castro Cuba's infant mortality figures were the 12th best in the world compared to around 30th best today. Does Shameless want to guess as to who established Cuba's education system?
Less well known is the country's success in diversifying its economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union
That's a nice euphemism for promoting child sex tourism.

I must admit I'm a little bit surprised that Seamus Milne is such a avid fan of 'Che'. What on earth can he see to admire in an over privileged and somewhat dim radical who used the poor as an excuse for promoting his extremist ideas....

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What I've Seen Lately, Part 2.

Okay here's some more films:

Die Hard 4- Entertaining thriller, let down by silliness of the stunts. In the first Die Hard film, which remains a classic, Bruce Willis was a cop who happened to find himself in the midst of a siege and has to go beyond his limits to save the day. It was implausible but not to the extent that you couldn't suspend your disbelief. In the following three films he has become almost a super hero who can bring down criminal masterminds capable of taking over the entire United States and it's hard to see it as anything other than a series of explosions. 3/5

300- With several hundred greased up men wearing practically nothing this is the gayest film since Brokeback Mountain. Because the film was denounced for being anti-Persian and militaristic I really wanted to like it just to offend those sanctimonious prigs but I just couldn't. As with all the Frank Miller adaptions it is overly stylised and lacking in any subtlety whatsoever. None of the characters are anything other than one dimensional heroes or villains. 2/5

Perfume, The Story of a Murderer- Ridiculous beyond belief. Well acted and good at evoking the period though. It's just that having imbued the story with a degree of plausibility it then ends up with the most absurd finale possible. This might be my fault for not appreciating the sense of the absurd. 3/5

Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix- Competently executed but obviously trying to cram a long book into a movie. I can understand why, if the director tampered with a cash cow like the Harry Potter series and it failed he could sink not only that film but the entire series. See the fate of the movie version of the Dark Materials Trilogy for an example of how to wreck a lucrative franchise. 3/5

A Tale of 2 Sisters - Very confusing South Korean film, so by the time of the big Sixth Sense style reveal I simply didn't care. 2/5

American Gigalo- Stylish but vacuous fluff. Essentially a cheesy period piece but reasonably fun. 3/5

Transformers- As long as you remember that it's a Transformers movie about big robots hitting each other, then it is surprisingly enjoyable, especially for a Michael Bay film. Characterisation is perfunctory but Duh of course it is. Fun fact, the original Transformers movie, in the 1980s, was the last film that Orson Welles appeared in. 3/5

Two Moon Junction- Morally dubious film about a Southern belle due to marry her wealthy fiance. Then along comes a carnie and she has lots of sex with him before going back to get married to the rich guy, who is none the wiser. On the plus side there is plenty of entirely gratuitous nudity. 2/5

The Courage Of Their Convictions

Useful idiots, except without the useful part.

The Sack Race

A top doctor has admitted her part in hoodwinking a leading medical journal after inventing a medical condition called "cello scrotum".

Elaine Murphy - now Baroness Murphy - dreamt up the painful complaint in the 1970s, sending a report to the British Medical Journal.

Very good. There's an unfortunate turn of phrase though:

A spokesman for the BMJ said that, 34 years on, no-one faced the sack for failing to spot the implausible condition.

More Me.

On the subject of reviewing stuff, I've added a couple more book reviews to my Amazon page for the first time in a year, I'll probably add a few more book reviews at the weekend including:

What I've Seen Lately.

Here's a somewhat truncated list of movies I have seen lately complete with an arbitary rating system out of 5. I'll probably do a few follow up entries later in the week.

Natural City- Korean Blade Runner-esque sci fi movie. Frankly the plot was too confusing and the characters too wooden to get involved with. 2/5

The Prestige- One of two films released last year about late 19th century magicians. It starts of well with a tale about two rival magicians who are driven apart by the accidental death of someone they both loved in a stunt gone wrong. It's well acted but much too long. However the most annoying aspect of the film is the way it changes the rules halfway through. If you are going to create a fictional world in which magicians use their ingenuity to create astounding looking tricks don't decide halfway through that one of them has learnt some sort of science fiction ability. 3/5

The Lives of Others- A magnificent German film set in the former East Germany. It captures the grimness of the communist system as well as showing a tale of personal redemption by the Stasi officer. 5/5

Underworld Evolution- No discernible plot, just action sequences pasted together and close ups of Kate Becnkinsale's arse. 2/5

Bang Rajan- Despite the title it isn't an Indian porno about Rajan but is in fact a Thai war film. It tells of a village which resisted an invasion of Thailand by neighbouring Burma for months. I'm not sure when it's set but it is several centuries ago at least. It is spectacular and exciting, however it was very difficult to tell individual characters apart, because one Thai man in his 20s or 30s dressed in period costume with a period hairstyle looks much like another to my culturally insensitive eyes. Oh and the Thais don't do Hollywood endings. 4/5

Ringu- Unlike most horror films this is genuinely unnerving. The Japanese have a knack for horror movies. 4/5

She's The Man- Lightweight throwaway stuff. It's supposedly "based on Shakespeare" like Clueless was. In reality it's about a girl who pretends to be her brother so she can play football and there isn't a girls team at her school and all sorts of inevitable gender bending confusion ensues. It does exactly what it's supposed to do, it isn't meant to be Citizen Kane, so it would be silly to judge on that level. 3/5

Der Untergang- Also known as Downfall in English. Conveys the madness of Charlie Chaplin's last days quite convincingly. By portraying him as human and not simply a monster it risked making Hitler appear sympethetic but that was avoided, his callousness and disregard even for the lives of those whom he was supposed to lead is well depicted. It has of course inspired about 12000000 YouTube remixes. so the film makers must take the blame for that. 4/5

Man With A Plan.

I didn't blog much about the inaugeration but in fairness to Obama his speech outlining how he would fix the economy was pretty impressive:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Attack Of The Nazi Clones.

As everyone knows stories about Nazis sell newspapers and books. Since so much has already been published about them it's hard to find original takes on the subject. Unless of course the story is complete fiction. Take this for example which is currently one of the most popular stories on the Telegraph website:
Nazi angel of death Josef Mengele 'created twin town in Brazil'
Note the use of quotation marks to indicate "We know this is bollocks but we'll print it anyway". The article goes on to claim that after Josef Mengele escaped from Europe after the war he began conducting more twin experiments, this time in a Brazilian town. This seems like odd behaviour for a fugitive trying to keep a low profile.

Not only that but despite his known scientific output being totally worthless, in Brazil he was something of a genius and managed to permanently alter a whole town's genetic make up so that it was became especially prone to producing twins.

The only evidence to support the assertion that Dr Mengele was responsible for the town's twin boom is that there might have been a German vet or doctor in the town back in the early 1960s.

Racoon Surprisingly Unfriendly.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Official: Morph > Rumpole.

The results of the Morph versus Rumpole comparison are in:

Who is better, Morph or Rumpole?
Selection Votes
Rumpole of course, his legal brilliance and wit were employed to defend the rights of the underdog. 14%3
Morph, he's made of plasticine and is very bendy. 41%9
They are both as good as each other. 14%3
They are both rubbish. 32%7
22 votes total

I'm afraid Rumpole doesn't fare too well.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cash For Questions Double Standards.

How come a few Labour Lords get pilloried because they wanted cash for questions, yet Danny Boyle gets nominated for an Oscar for a film about a kid getting a ton of cash for a few questions?

There's one rule for Labour peers and another one for Indian slum dwellers.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Moral Cretinism.

The government is to be asked to pay £12,000 to the families of all those killed during the Troubles - including members of paramilitary groups.

This is like extending Holocaust victims compensation to the families of Auschwitz guards who died when they fell out of their turrets.

More on the same story at ATW, Mr Eugenides and Obnoxio.

Anglophobia Resurgent?

In this age of competitive victimhood we in Britain ought to make more fuss about Anglophobia, let us yearn to throw off the shackles of this repression! So I shall kick off the movement to jump on the oppression bandwagon.

In the 1920s and 30s there was a popular anti-British movement in the United States, there were even plans for war drawn up. This contemporary report from Time magazine highlights some aspects of the phenomena:

The eagles of journalism, they fly high. Last Sunday, William Randolph Hearst's birds took a vicious peck at Ginn & Co., publishers, Nicholas Murray Butler, Edward W. Bok and his prizewinning Charles H. Levermore, Andrew Carnegie, "prostituted college professors" and "international bankers." And while they pecked, they made the U. S. eagle scream.

Ginn & Co. is probably the largest and most famous of all text-book publishers. It publishes, among others, Muzzy's American History. Mr. Hearst's feature article charged that Ginn & Co. has joined with various peace foundations in a conspiracy backed by hundreds of millions of dollars to denationalize America, to spread British propaganda by false history-books, to prepare the way for Anglo- American Union.
The epicentre of the anglophobe outbreak was arguably Chicago where William Hale Thompson, mayor from 1015-1923 and 1927-1931, promised to take every pro-British book in the Chicago Public Library and burn them.

80 years on, there is a Chicago politician is in the White House. Thankfully there is no evidence that he follows in Thompson's footsteps. However there was speculation in the Guardian a couple of days ago that Barack Obama might be an anglophobe:

Then there's the X factor: is it possible Obama has personal reasons for keeping the British at bay? He is known to be no fan of the British empire. His father's family directly experienced British colonial rule in Kenya; and his paternal grandfather was reportedly imprisoned and tortured during the Mau Mau uprising.

I'd be inclined to dismiss this as space filling nonsense except now I see that a columnist in Mother Jones, a mainstream magazine of the US left, is proposing that the USA invade Britain's overseas territories:

The Obama administration could tell the Caymans—now fifth in the world in bank deposits—to repeal its bank secrecy laws or be invaded; since the island nation's total armed forces consists of about 300 police officers, it shouldn't be hard for technicians and auditors, accompanied by a few Marines, to fly in and seize all the records. Bermuda, which relies on the Royal Navy for its military, could be next, and so on. Long before we get to Switzerland and Luxembourg, their governments should have gotten the message.
This doesn't appear to be satirical.

(Via Reason's Hit & Run)

Persecution Fantasies.

Salma Yaqoob, who represents the George Galloway's Ego Respect Party on Birmingham City Council, has been squealing in the Guardian about that councils leadership trying to ban a rally about Gaza earlier this month:
With days to go, in the full knowledge that thousands of people would gather in the city centre, permission to march was withdrawn. In an astonishing series of events, the West Midlands Police were forced to invoke emergency powers to permit the demonstration.
If you substitute the word "astonishing" for the phrase "completely made up" this is true. It doesn't even make any sense, why would the police have "emergency powers" to force councils to permit demonstrations? What are these powers?

Communal parties like Respect wither and die if the flames of resentment flicker out so they have to constantly stoke a sense of Muslim alienation if they are to keep the electoral gains that they have made since 2005.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Drugs & Sport.

Out of interest, why are professional athletes tested for recreational, non performance enhancing, drugs in the first place? Let alone liable to serve lengthy bans if caught. It should be a disciplinary matter for their employers (particularly if it is a performance impairing drug) and it may be a legal matter (although I'm personally inclined to legalise drugs).

Sporting bodies have a responsibility to test for performance enhancing drugs in order to maintain the integrity of their competitions, anything else is none of their business.

Quote Of The Day.

About the inauguration:
On the plus side, this does mean the week after the death of Princess Di is no longer the stupidest moment in modern pop culture.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

That Will Teach Them.

The lenient sentences handed out to the gang rapists, who permanently disfigured their disabled victim with caustic soda, are disgraceful. Letting those responsible for such a crime out of prison after just 3 years brings the law into disrepute.

One of them did receive his just desserts though:

Bradley Daley Smith, 22, and Miguel Almeida, 22, both of Edmonton, north London, and Bruno Abrantes, 24, from Tottenham, were all acquitted of grievous bodily harm.

Charges against three others were dropped while Steven Bigby, 22, of Upper Edmonton, was stabbed to death in Oxford Street while he was on bail.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Top Ten Conspiracy Theories.

An interesting list of the top ten conspiracy theories from LiveScience. I'm not sure how they are ranked, based on the implausibility of the idea or upon how widely believed the conspiracy is. Anyway the top ten consists of:
  • Big Pharma- The belief that they are suppressing alternative remedies.
  • Satanic Cults- These almost always turn out to be bogus.
  • Protocols of the Elders of Zion- One of the most morally offensive and widely believed in the Middle East.
  • The Roswell Crash- I'm not sure about this one, obviously it wasn't an alien craft that crashed but it is possible that there was a genuine cover up of a military aircraft crash.
  • JFK- Should be higher than 6th as it is the Daddy of all conspiracy theories and thanks to Oliver Stone, widely believed.
  • Paul McCartney's "death"- Very silly but did anyone ever really believe it to begin with?
  • The Moon Landings- I've known intelligent people who genuinely believe the Apollo missions were hoaxes.
  • Subliminal Advertising- I'm ashamed to say that I used to believe that this was plausible, but only when I was around 13.
  • Princess Diana's "Murder"- I blame the Daily Express.
  • 9/11- Obvious really. As with the Princess Diana one, I knew that the event would spawn a conspiracy theory from the moment it happened. It will be interesting to see if this one dies down when Bush leaves the White House.
There's no place for Reptilian overlords, Holocaust denial or Masonic conspiracies in the list but it's a pretty handy guide none the less.

Conspiracies can be sinister, like holocaust denial, but I must admit to having a sneaking admiration for peddlars of twaddle involving Aliens and ancient civilisations like Eric Von Daniken (sp?) and Graham Hancock. It's the brazeness of it that impresses me.

The Politics Of Envy (& Deep Stupidity)

A lot of people are trashing Labour List, the new weblog set up by Derek Draper. The criticisms are largely justified, his uncanny ability to alienate those who should be natural supporters of the site is hilarious. Someone who thinks that there are only 20 people in the country who matter was perhaps not the ideal choice to spearhead Labour's blogging presence.

Let's not write it off completely though, because it has published the details of the most recent Fabian conference, in which Daily Mirror political editor Kevin Maguire shares his deep thoughts on how to revive the economy:

10:1 maximum wage, set against the workers getting the lowest wage in the company.

Dawn Butler likes the idea, Ken Livingstone complains that someone else has taken his job anyway!

One delegate asks how Maguire would stop people atomising into self employment to avoid the limits, while David Aaronovitch questions how Man City will be able to purchase the services of Kaka.

Maguire proposes an anti-self-employment hit squad, and claims that the ‘benefit all' effects of the policy would create incentives.

Would anyone put it past this government to implement that idea?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Morph Versus Rumpole.

Tony Hart and John Mortimer have both died in recent days. Their most famous creations were Morph and Rumpole respectively, but which is better, Morph or Rumpole. There's only one way to find out, fiiight..... er poll.

Who is better, Morph or Rumpole?
Rumpole of course, his legal brilliance and wit were employed to defend the rights of the underdog.
Morph, he's made of plasticine and is very bendy.
They are both as good as each other.
They are both rubbish. free polls

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Fifth Runaway Problem Solved

The police have recaptured the criminal who escaped last week. You know the one from the family with a habit of conducting escapes.

This whole episodes demonstrates several things:
  • The authorities are incapable of noticing patterns, like the fact that whenever a member of a certain family is locked up they make an escape attempt. Is this out of a fear of stereotyping or does no one cross reference information about suspects?
  • Criminals are stupid, given that the runaway's brother was recaptured after just a few days, the suspect had enough information to realise that he would almost certainly be caught and will now receive a sentence that is far in excess of the relatively short stretch that he was originally due to serve. He was recaptured near Sherwood Forest apparently, which seems like a bit of an obvious place for an outlaw.

Third Runway Problem Solved.

Two of the big stories this week have been the proposed third runway at Heathrow and the incredible emergency landing of a stricken jet on the Hudson river in New York.

We need more landing space for travellers to London but we don't want extra noise and pollution over West London, so why not simply have planes land in the North Sea? It's such a brilliant idea that I just can't see the downside. Ok taking off will be difficult.

Update: Umbomgo in the comments points out that Howard Hughes had this idea 60 years ago. If that isn't a good enough recommendation then I don't know what is.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Non Job Axed.

When Barack Obama won election to the senate back in 2004 one of the first things he did was secure a $1 million earmark for his wife's employers, who a few months later nearly trebled her salary overnight. It's the Chicago way- "Pay to play" I believe they call it.

She didn't actually do anything that enabled the hospital to treat patients more effectively, quite the opposite in fact, she was in a diversity make-work role that involved transferring money that could have been spent on medical care to political clients.

Obama defenders were insisting that it was a very valuable job and that she was being paid for the job she did. Yet amazingly now that the position, which was previously of such importance that it merited a $300000+ salary, is no longer filled by someone whose spouse can deliver the federal largesse, it turns out that the position is no longer needed. I'm shocked I tell you!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Can't Read Or Won't Read?

Labour MP Graham Stringer has caused a kerfuffle by claiming that dyslexia doesn't exist. The British Dyslexia Association (also known as the DBA*) is furious.

There may be some truth to the claim that some children are being diagnosed as such by schools which have simply failed to teach them or by parents who can't accept that their child is thick. That doesn't mean that that the condition doesn't exist though, the fact that some people do well on all verbal tests of intelligence and have siblings and peers that can all read perfectly well but be functionally illiterate themselves suggests that there is a condition that impairs reading.

This shouldn't be too surprising seeing as writing is something which was only invented a few thousand years ago and became widespread less that 200 years ago. In other words this kind of close scanning of symbols is not a skill we evolved with.

He claims that:

If dyslexia really existed then countries as diverse as Nicaragua and South Korea would not have been able to achieve literacy rates of nearly 100%.

There can be no rational reason why this ‘brain disorder’ is of epidemic proportions in Britain but does not appear in South Korea or Nicaragua

I don't believe the figure for Nicaragua and won't unless someone provides evidence besides which there wouldn't be anything particularly unusual about a disorder being more prevalent in one population than another.

(it is also pretty damning that according to Professor Julian Elliot there are 28 different definitions of dyslexia).

Is it? There are many definitions of species but we can all agree that there is a fundamental difference between a buffalo and a lettuce. There are many concepts that have different definitions- poverty, sex, intelligence, racism and species all spring to mind- that still reflect reality.

He also confuses illiteracy with dyslexia, many dyslexics can read even if they have more difficulty than others of similar intelligence in doing so. Undoubtedly there are some teaching methods that are more effective than others but that hardly invalidates the concept.

His postbag won't be bulging with angry letters but he is wrong none the less.

* Joke

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Before They Were Politicians.

Peter Oborne notes (via Iain Dale) that no member of the cabinet has ever worked in a wealth creating job, which reminds me of an old post of mine confirming this. What about the shadow cabinet then?

This is the current shadow cabinet including all those who attend shadow cabinet meetings:
David Cameron - Leader of the Opposition
George Osborne - Shadow Chancellor & General Election Campaign Coordinator
William Hague - Shadow Foreign Secretary
Dominic Grieve - Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Attorney General
Nick Herbert - Shadow Secretary of State for Justice
Theresa May - Shadow Leader of the House of Commons
Dr Liam Fox - Shadow Secretary of State for Defence
Andrew Lansley - Shadow Secretary of State for Health
Greg Clark - Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change
Peter Ainsworth - Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Michael Gove - Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families
David Willetts - Shadow Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills
Grant Shapps - Shadow Minister for Housing
Theresa Villiers - Shadow Secretary of State for Transport
Jeremy Hunt - Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport
Eric Pickles - Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government
Alan Duncan - Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform
Chris Grayling - Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Andrew Mitchell - Shadow Secretary of State for International Development
Cheryl Gillan - Shadow Secretary of State for Wales
David Mundell - Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland
Owen Paterson - Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland
Francis Maude - Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office
Philip Hammond - Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury
Patrick McLoughlin - Opposition Chief Whip
Lord Strathclyde -Leader of the Conservatives in the House of Lords
Caroline Spelman - Chairman of the Conservative Party

Lady Anelay - Opposition Chief Whip in the House of Lords -
David Lidington MP - Shadow Foreign Office Minister-
Adam Afriyie - Shadow Minister of State for Lifelong Learning, Further and Higher Education
Lady Warsi- Shadow Minister for Community Cohesion.
Lady Neville-Jones - Shadow Minister for Security
Oliver Letwin - Chairman of the Policy Review and Chairman of the Conservative Research Department

So 33 individuals. This is what they did before entering politics, some people will be included in more than one category. Overall their career backgrounds are far more diverse than Labour, but there are a ridiculous number of management consultants. Just 4 entrepreneurs though, only one of whom has anything to do with the party's business or economic policy:


Dominic Grieve (Barrister)
Theresa Villiers ( Barrister)
Lady Warsi (Solicitor)
Francis Maide (Solicitor)
David Mundell (Solicitor)

Private Sector Companies:

David Lidington (BP)
Caroline Spelman (Biotech company)
Philip Hammond (Medical Technology Company, eventually the Managing Director)
Owen Paterson (Joined Leather company and eventually became Managing Director)
David Mundell (BT)
George Osbourne (Selfridges)
Oliver Letwin (Banker)
David Willetts (Company Director)
Lord Strathclyde (Insurance Broker)

Management Consultants:

William Hague
Jeremy Hunt
Chris Grayling
Cheryl Gillan
Eric Pickles

Trade Groups, Think Tanks & Pressure Groups:

Nick Herbert (British Field Sports Alliance, Reform etc)
Caroline Spelman (International Confederation of European Beetgrowers & NFU)
Oliver Letwin (Various Think Tanks)
Theresa May (Association for Payment Clearing Services)


Grant Shapps (Founded printing company)
Adam Afriye (Founded IT company)
Alan Duncan (Oil Trading)
Caroline Spelman (Founded a consultancy)

Manual Work:

Patrick McLoughlin (Agricultural labourer then Coal Miner)

No Career Before Politics:

David Cameron (later did stint in media)
Peter Ainsworth (Later worked as banker)
Greg Clark


Michael Gove (journalist)
Chris Grayling

Public Sector:

Andrew Lansley (Civil Servant)
Lady Neville Jones (Diplomat, head of MI-5)
Baroness Anelye (Teacher and Magistrate)
Theresa May (Bank of England)
David Willetts (Civil Servant)

Derek Hatton Is Still Alive!

I would advise against getting worked up about the rantings of 80s throwback Derek "Deggsy" Hatton about Lady Thatcher:

He told the Cyprus Mail: "The worst thing that happened was Thatcher's mother didn't get an abortion," adding: "You can quote me on that word for word, in fact I would like that."

She swatted aside his fantasies of turning Liverpool into some kind of People's Republic so he is understandably bitter. Besides which it would seem churlish for a Thatcher supporter to be angered by the man who did so much to ensure that she remained in power, by making Labour about as appealing to prospective voters as the Gary Glitter School for Girls is to prospective parents.

The only reason for even mentioning the story is to have a look at what the great socialist revolutionary is now doing to fight capitalism:

Mr Hatton was expelled from the Labour Party by Neil Kinnock in 1986 for being part of the hard-left Militant Tendency. He is now a property developer in Cyprus.

Citizen Journalism.

There are many motivations to start a blog but few are as powerful as pure hatred. Take this blog devoted to the twattishness of American TV actor David Caruso (of CSI Miami and NYPD Blue fame). Granted he's an awful actor and comes across as a bit of a numpty but even so devoting two years and over 700 posts to highlighting it shows impressive dedication.

A Translation Service.

This is more than two decades old but remains a useful translation guide:

Compassion: The use of tax money to buy votes. Insensitivty: Objection to the use of tax money to buy votes.

Simplistic: An argument you disagree with but can't answer.

Rehabilitation: Magic words said before releasing criminals.

Innovation: Something new.

New innovation: Something new by someone who doesn't understand English.

Competency: Competence, as described by the incompetent.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Cultural Continuity.

It this day and age isn't it good to see that some communities are keeping old traditions thriving.

Chavs Abroad?

Who says Santa Claus is the only one trying to come down your chimney during the festive season? According to Greek mythology, a gaggle of goblin-like spirits are trying to slide into homes -- and instead of presents they are intent on leaving a trail of destruction.

Isn't it great that in Greece this is the stuff of legend, rather than page two of the local newspaper? The article doesn't say whether this myth is ancient or whether it began at about the same time as package holidays from Britain:
"The Kallikantzaroi cause mischief, they intimidate people, urinate in flowerbeds, spoil food, tip things over and break furniture," Tomkinson said. Opinions differ on what they look like, both because of active imaginations and Greece's once-isolated regions, separated by the Hellenic nation's many mountains and vast seas. As a result, some say the Kallikantzaroi resemble humans with dark complexions, ugly, very tall beings that sport iron clogs. Others say they're short and swarthy, with red eyes, cleft hooves, monkeys' arms, and hair-covered bodies.
How do the Greeks deal with these chavs?
Greek families are keen to ward off the gaggles of goblin louts. Some use the legendary precaution of a black-handled knife.
I prefer the legendary precaution of a large metal torch but whatever.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Everyone has seen the damaged wind turbine that might have been damaged by aliens (there are other theories like metal fatigue or falling ice but they don't fool me). The Sun's report on the subject closes with this line:

But a theory by Emily Bell, a local blogger for a small newspaper group, that the UFOs were fireworks from her dad’s 80th birthday party were branded ridiculous.
Guess the identity of the 'small newspaper group' ?

Funny If True.

This sounds as though it could be apocryphal, a story that's too good to fact check:

Residents and pirates in the Somali port of Haradhere told the Associated Press that the boat, which was carrying eight men, overturned in a storm after dozens of pirates left the Sirius Star following a two-month standoff in the Gulf of Aden.


Local sources said that the ransom payment held by the eight pirates on their get away boat had been lost at sea.

It would be particularly fitting if it were the weight of all the cash that caused the boat to capsize.

Really Pathetic Silver Linings.

I've heard that suicide rates drop when there's a war on so this isn't entirely surprising:

British scientists analysed the suicide rate in England and Wales after the September 11th attacks in America and again after the July 7th bombings in London.

After both attacks the number of suicides dropped by 40 per cent.

So in theory if the suicide rate declines by more than the number of victims does this mean that the terrorist attacks save lives? I guess this is why pure utilitarianism doesn't work as a moral theory.

Heroes Of The Credit Crunch

Cristiano Ronaldo for writing off his Ferrari, two days after he got it. How better to revive the car industry than to let the super rich replace their vehicles every two days?

In fairness it wasn't his fault, as he explained to the police the wall should have been further back.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Guns Don't Kill People.....

A convicted Colombian drug baron with links to two major smuggling cartels was shot dead in a Madrid hospital Thursday, officials said.

Leonidas Vargas, who was convicted of drug trafficking, was murdered in a hospital bed where he was being treated for lung disease, a police spokesman said.

Police and hospital officials said at least one person entered the 60-year-old's room at Doce de Octubre hospital and fired four shots.

'At least one person'. So they've ruled out the possibility that gun smuggled itself in and shot the man.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Great New Idea: Prosecute Good Parents.

If there were two restaurants, one which provided a very good service at a reasonable price and one which sold rotting food at exorbitant rates you would expect everyone to go to the first one, regardless of whether it was their nearest one. If that led to increased demand then the good restaurant could expand or they could use the additional money they had to take over the failing outlet.

If on the other hand we nationalised restaurants then we would start prosecuting the diners for preferring good service:

A council is threatening to prosecute parents who fraudulently try to enrol their children in its schools.

East Renfrewshire is demanding greater proof of identity after discovering at least 20 attempts by people from outside the area in the past year.

Schools are more important than restaurants but the attitude seems to be that if you want your child to learn how to read or write you should move to a more upmarket catchment area.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Sorting Out The Middle East.

I've got ten minutes to spare so I thought I'd solve the Middle East problem.

Thinking aloud about the Israel Palestine situation.

What some or all Israelis want:
  • Security within recognised borders.
  • To be able to maintain a homeland for jews the world over where they can be free of persecution.
  • Some also want to annex some territory within the West Bank & Gaza.
  • To have Jerusalem as their capital.
The first two of those wishes are perfectly reasonable the third one is not. Thankfully in recent years this has been recognised entirely with respect to Gaza and to some extent with the West Bank. Many of Israel's critics only pay lip service to recognising the first two requirements and in actual fact oppose any move Israel makes to protect its citizens (even simply building a wall) and by advocating a one state solution to the problem.

What some or all of the Palestinians want:
  • A viable nation state free from foreign control.
  • The opportunity for economic development.
  • To remove the settlements from the West Bank.
  • To return to properties that their families lost in the numerous Arab-Israeli wars.
  • For Jerusalem to be their capital.
  • To Expel the Jews from Israel.
  • To establish an Islamic state.
Before I continue I want to emphasise that I am not saying that all these positions are held by everyone on one side or the other. Some of the Palestinian positions cannot be considered as up for negotiation namely the last two. This means that Gaza should be ignored until they get rid of Hamas but there is a starting point for discussions with Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas, who isn't perfect but is a vast improvement of Yasser Arafat, on the West Bank.

Some of the wishes are entirely reasonable such as the first three.

In the long term what is up for negotiation therefore is the status of Jerusalem and the 'right of return'. Israel cannot accept a full right of return of the children and grandchildren of those who left 60 years ago, because the vast increase in the Palestinian population in the last 60 years would mean that Israel would cease to be a Jewish state and the recent history of Jews in Arab countries is not encouraging. However given that for most Palestinians there isn't any sentimental value to properties they have never seen so it is the value of the properties that matters. So carry out a survey of who owned what in 1948 and 1967 and offer their descendants twice the market value* of the properties in return for renouncing their claims.

Jerusalem is a trickier problem to solve because if it's importance to both communities. Partitioning the city isn't an appealing prospect to anyone, perhaps it could be made into a stand alone entity in which both sides share sovereignty like Spain and France do in Andorra.

* The best way of getting the money for this is from the USA. Lame duck presidents love sorting out the region, so the Israelis and Palestinians should make the arrangements themselves and then let the US president take the kudos for it.

Taliban Tally Bad.

I've been saying it for a while so I am glad that some in the media are now realising that either the Taliban were taught maths in Scotland or they are liars:
The Taliban has long exaggerated its military successes, but its figures for 2008 may be the militia's most startling claims yet.

The Taliban claims its forces last year killed 5,220 foreign troops, downed 31 aircraft, destroyed 2,818 NATO and Afghan vehicles and killed 7,552 Afghan soldiers and police.

Though third-party observers can rarely confirm casualty claims on the Afghan battlefield from the Taliban, the Afghan government, the U.S. or NATO, the Taliban's 2008 numbers would appear to be far from the truth.

NATO's member countries announce all troop deaths, providing names, ages and hometowns and how the soldiers were killed. According to an Associated Press tally of those announcements, 286 foreign military personnel died last year in Afghanistan, including 151 Americans and 51 Britons.

So given that it is known that the Taliban make stuff up it would be nice if the press adopted a more sceptical attitude when faced with reports about wedding parties being bombed and the only evidence to back up the story is the testimony of villagers in Taliban held territory.

Monday, January 05, 2009

"Much Lauded Public Toilet"

This is taking the piss surely:
The much-lauded public toilet in Sheep Street, Northampton, has won another national accolade for its pristine condition, just as it faces an uncertain future because of threats to close it from Northampton Borough Council.
The toilet – which has been given a four-star rating in the British Toilet Association's Loo of the Year competition for five years running – was handed the rating again in the 2008 awards in December, just as Northampton Borough Council revealed it may close all its public toilets to help plug a budget black hole of £7.2m.
The British Toilet Association sound's like a cover organisation for cottagers.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

State Power Is An End In Itself.

The New Deal is usually presented as having been a roaring success that saved America and the world fro the Great Depression. This is the opposite of reality so when liberals and leftists acknowledge that it was ineffective I don't want to be too harsh on them because this realisation is rare. Even so what sense can be made of someone who realises that FDR's statism was a failure but who supports it anyway on the grounds that:
FDR's achievements have always been as much political as economic. What the 32nd president did was to shift the 20th-century paradigm from neoliberal let-alone to state intervention. He convinced the American people that society as a whole, operating through the federal government, must and could protect itself against the impersonal and amoral vagaries of the market.
So untrammeled state power is an end in itself, not simply a means to security or prosperity.

Like Living In A Foreign Country.

The New York Times has an article about the failure of British football players in Italy* and they've included one of my favourite quotes of all time:
After scoring 139 goals for Liverpool from 1980 to 1987, Rush had seven goals in 29 games in his only season at Juventus. A Welshman, he did not help himself when he reportedly said about his time in Turin, “It’s like living in a foreign country.”
Rush was also reputed to have once asked a group of journalists why one of their number wasn't there.

"he died a few months ago" they told him.

"How?" he asked.

"The Big C", one of them replied.

"What, he couldn't swim?"

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Gaza Covered

Also from the Sun, their coverage of the Gaza crisis is unsurpassed.

Quote Of The Day.

The Sun's television columnist Ally Ross:

2008. Television’s Annus Crappus. It started with Ian Wright, of all people, accusing the BBC of dumbing down.

The BBC angrily denied the claim, naturally, then ended the year by proudly announcing Will Young would appear on the Question Time panel.

Update: I've just noticed from the same article:
CRINGE OF THE YEAR: Fiona Phillips to Kate & Gerry McCann: “There are light moments though — you’ve acquired this odd celebrity status.”

Friday, January 02, 2009


New Labour minister David Lammy recently appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, which is odd since he isn't a celebrity and demonstrated quite conclusively that he isn't a mastermind either.
But Lammy’s tour de force was his assertion that the monarch who succeeded Henry VIII was “Henry VII”. Lammy is Minister for Higher Education and Intellectual Property.
Yet he thinks that he is qualified to run our lives for us.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Quote Of The Day.

It is the 50th anniversary of Castro's seizing of power in Cuba, so naturally the Guardian is publishing lots of celebratory articles (mostly repeating the same lies and propaganda that the regime has been pumping out for 5 decades). In the comments to one such article a Guardianista addresses the inconvenient fact that Cubans are effectively imprsioned on the island:

Here's one aspect of this. Cubans have free education and medical care. The illiteracy rate is one of the lowest in the world. Also, many people have govt. related jobs.

Imagine if the States had the same thing. And then suddenly huge numbers of people who received this emigrated. How would the govt. react? Would they say so long? Would they make it hard to leave? Would they say, ungrateful ____. After all we did for you and THIS is how you thank us?

Happy New Year & The People Of 2008.

From a personal point of view 2009 can't be much worse than 2008 although I suppose from a public perspective 2008 wasn't bad. There was a rich assortment of characters to keep us all entertained, from John Darwin, the comic bungler with money troubles who came back from the dead after defrauding an insurance company of hundreds of thousands of pounds, to Gordon Brown, the comic bungler with money troubles who came back from the political dead after defrauding the country of trillions.

Anyway Happy New Year to everyone.