Saturday, May 30, 2009
In the Korean Peninsula the North Korean state clearly views every American move as a possible precursor to an attack. The same is true of the South Korean, Japanese and Taiwanese Governments and their ally, the US. Given the history of the Korean War this is hardly surprising; a popular Socialist interim-Government was attacked by an American backed anti-Soviet force and much of the Peninsula was laid waste.
Given that the USA had begun reducing it's presence in Korea prior to the war and in the early stages they and the South Korean forces were nearly driven off the peninsula it seems hard to come to the conclusion that they attacked the North.
I'm not sure what evidence there is for believing that the NK regime was initially popular either.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
How many MPs are going to resign or stand down specifically because of the expenses story?
At the moment it looks as though the Conservative's are getting rid of the most MPs but that might just be because they have acted the most quickly. One Labour blogger suggests that the Cameron strategy is to throw obscure back benchers to the sharks in order to protect the front benchers, which seems to apply much more clearly of the behaviour of Gordon Brown who refuses even to criticise the likes of James Purnell, Alaistair Darling and other cabinet ministers (except for Hazel Blears but that was a revenge knifing for her criticism of him last month).
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
BNP leader Nick Griffin has bowed out of attending a Buckingham Palace garden party - saying he had "no wish to embarrass the Queen"Look just because Mr Barnbrook directed
Mr Griffin had been invited to the event by his colleague Richard Barnbrook who, as a London Assembly member, was nominated for two tickets by the Greater London Authority (GLA).
The white tiger is even rarer now I guess. I don't understand why they destroyed the animal though, it's a tiger- killing is what it does.
A rare white tiger has mauled to death a New Zealand zoo keeper as horrified tourists looked on, police said.
The zoo - home to some 40 rare lions and tigers - has been closed to visitors, and the tiger destroyed.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The Nobel prize-winning physicist appointed by President Obama as US Energy Secretary wants to change the colour of roofs, roads and pavements so they reflect more of the Sun’s light and heat to combat global warming, he said today.
Professor Steven Chu, speaking at the opening of the St James’s Palace Nobel Laureate Symposium, for which The Times is media partner, said this simple and “completely benign” approach to “geo-engineering” could have a vast impact at low cost.
It seems like such an obvious idea that I imagine that anyone who wasn't a Nobel winning physicist would feel a little bit embarrassed proposing it.
If it would actually works as effectively and at as little cost as Chu claims then I'm a little surprised that the idea hasn't featured more prominently in ideas for reducing global warming.Environmentalists appear to prefer solutions that are costly and would entail radical changes to how we live.
- North Korea is a very poor country.
- Nuclear programmes are extremely expensive.
- North Korea menaces its neighbours to extort concessions to alleviate their poverty without reforming their economic system.
- They aren't particularly bothered by international condemnation.
- The concessions that they believe they will receive must be greater than the cost of a nuclear programme.
- Therefore refusing to make any concessions or enter any negotiations with North Korea would hasten their collapse.
* I say 'we' but the UK doesn't matter that much in that part of the world, it is the USA, Japan, South Korea, China & Russia who matter.
Update: Of course I should bear in mind that there is a possibility that they are as insane as they appear, take this for example:
May 24, 2009: It has been revealed that Choe Sung Chol, who was in charge of North Korean relations with South Korea, was fired and executed last year. The new South Korean government has reversed a policy of giving North Korea lots of goodies with no strings attached. South Korea now wants North Korea to halt developing ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. North Korea takes this as a hostile act and an attempt to overthrow the communist police state in North Korea. Choe Sung Chol was apparently held personally responsible for the new South Korean government coming to power, and killed for this failure.
Imagine if we shot David Miliband everytime a foreign country adopted policies we opposed.
Monday, May 25, 2009
- Germany's Der Spiegel gives a round up of the reaction of German papers to the British expenses scandal! It's a bit embarrassing that they are talkng about it but they do make the point that the disillusionment with politics isn't a specifically British problem. Therefore the various suggestions for changing our constitution to a more continental style with PR and all that might be worthwhile they aren't the root cause of the dissatisfaction. (Link via Blognor Regis)
- I was going to comment about this article which berates Tony Blair for not treating Al Qaeada with the same respect that the crusaders showed to Salidin, but I'll just link to Mick Hartley's post instead.
- I was also going elaborate on previous comments about the BBC, but Minette Marrin's article says exactly what I was going to say.
- With all the Korean stuff, both the Nork Nuke & the suicide of the South Korean president who did so much to appease the North, this Korean focused blog is worth reading.
- Michael Burleigh's article on how the defeat of the Tamil Tigers disproves the maxim that you can't beat terrorism with force.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
'Within two weeks of the first published report of the first discovery of alleged satanic abuse in Britain, an organisation of satanists circulated chief constables, directors, of social services and the Home Office with reports that tried to undermine the credibility of the care workers involved in the case . And they have responded similarly to subsequent controversies.'Amazingly in some circles she is still considered to be a serious commentator on child abuse. Today she writes about the scandal of the systematic abuse by the catholic church in Ireland, Irish Republicanism is another of her causes so naturally a scandal in which the crucial factor appears to have been the entwined relationship between the Irish state and the Catholic church* has to reflect badly on Britain:
In Britain, by contrast, the child protection system has tottered from crisis to crisis. The UK story began with a child's terrible life and death, in conditions that echo the case of Baby P. Louis Blom-Cooper's inquiry into the 1984 death of Jasmine Beckford transformed children's services: the state took the side of children; social work became an enlightened, empathetic and empowered profession. British paediatricians made world-class discoveries about the hazardous lives of children whose bodies told stories, of intrusion and cruelty that had been, until then, literally unspeakable.
Child protection was then no longer a clerical function of the "cruelty man", it became a subtle child-centred project. But the system could not withstand the resistance of accused adults and their advocates, nor could it cope with the unsettling evidence of scale. While Ireland was taking testimony from survivors, Britain was disdaining them, blaming them for making up all sorts of nonsense.
Actually Britain blamed fanatics like Bea Campbell for promoting silly ideas and incompetent psychologists and social workers for subjecting young children to ludicrous interrogations where they were forced to confess to being abused. I won't comment on the part I bolded, but if anyone else wants to have their say, feel free.
She isn't explicit in the article about what she is referring to, so readers who are unaware of her history won't know that she is still implying that the satanic abuse claims she promoted are true.
* See the comments by Irish senator and journalist, Eoghan Harris, here:
“However, as one born and reared as a Roman Catholic, I ask is there something in the religion of my childhood that allowed this systemic abuse.”
At first glance. It would appear that there was. In Northern Ireland, institutional abuse of Protestant children was very rare, apart from the Kincora incident, and almost unknown in Roman Catholic institutions.
“There is not something inherently bad about Roman Catholicism but there is clearly something inherently bad about Roman Catholicism’s relationship with the Irish Republic.
“Under British rule, these abuses were not practised in Roman Catholic institutions and Protestants did not practise them. The responsibility belongs to the Republic as a whole.”
The Catholic Church in Ireland is a cross border body, so any differences between how it behaved north and south of the border have to be explained in terms of the political entities.
The former president of South Korea, Roh Moo-hyun, who had been under investigation for alleged corruption, has apparently committed suicide.
A spokesman said Mr Roh, 62, appeared to have jumped into a ravine while mountain climbing near his home and had left a brief suicide note.
I predict conspiracy theories will now emerge, but as I don't speak Korean I will not be able to say "I told you so".
Friday, May 22, 2009
This isn't about whether the fee is justified or whether the BBC should exist* but why it needs to receive yet more funds when their costs shouldn't be rising.
* I'd say there might be a justification for a few services that commercial competitors would never match (BBC Radio 3, 4 & the World Service) but most of it is superfluous.
Not completely against global trends though.
The affirmative action programme, launched in 1970, remains one of the most divisive aspects of Malaysia's multi-ethnic society.
It uniquely favours the Malay majority over the Chinese and Indian minorities.
Malays can buy homes at a discount and have privileged access to higher education and certain employment sectors, among other benefits.
In an interview for Singapore's Straits Times newspaper, Mr Najib said that ethnic quotas damaged his country's competitiveness and ran counter to global trends.
However he joins Douglas Hogg & Ben Chapman in announcing that he will stand down at the next election. When you consider the people who haven't announced their retirements but look doomed, Elliott Morley, Margaret Moran, David Chaytor etc, it looks to me that this might be the widest political scandal ever.
There have been more serious scandals but they've always involved a handful of miscreants whereas at this rate we could well see 10% of the current crop of MPs forced to stand down or discreditied to such an extent that 'anti-sleaze tickets can topple them with ease.
The full purge won't really get under way until after the Euro election when the broadcast media can take the gloves off and start raking over MPs' expenses.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
George Galloway (not technically Labour but of that tribal background):
For a certain class of Englishman every Catholic is a Mick and every working-class Scot is from the Gorbals.George Foulkes has made similar claims.
So allow me to clear something up for insular West of Scotland Labourites.
Almost no one outside of Glasgow, Belfast & Possibly Liverpool* could care less about the religious background of Michael Martin. If the Conservative Party can elect catholic leaders like Iain Duncan Smith and catholics like Ann Widdecombe are being touted for the speaker's chair then where exactly is this concentration of sectarian bias?
The criticism of Michael Martin has no more because he is Catholic than criticism of Gordon Brown is because he is Presbyterian.
* There isn't much current evidence for a sectarian divide in Liverpool as far as I know, but there did used to be, see the history of the Liverpool Protestant Party for example.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Of course the Jonah effect does mean that the World Cup bid is doomed. At the launch it appears that Brown was as on the button as ever:
Launched in Wembley Stadium's evocative Bobby Moore room, and with many of the former England captain's fellow 1966 World Cup winning squad present, the temptation to trot out the old cry of how this country gave football to the world and why this gives it a divine right to stage the tournament, more so as by 2018 it will more than 50 years since it was last held here, must have been very strong.
Thankfully the urge was resisted..Curiously, the only person not on message was Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who kept insisting football would be coming home.
Beheshti, unemployed, from Ilford, East London, was a former member of the radical group al-Muhajiroun who had burned himself on a demonstration in May 2005 when he set light to a picture of George Bush.
Calling himself Abu Jihad, he also took his 20-month old daughter, dressed in an "I love al-Qaida" hat, to the protests against the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in 2006.
On the subject of the Danish cartoons, my post about the origins of religious icons got me thinking about the logic of objecting to them. The reason for the Islamic prohibtion on images of Mohammed (and for the occasional bouts of Christian iconoclasm) is to avoid the worship of images in place of God. Seeing as the Danish cartoons were quite clearly not going to be utilised as objects of worship there isn't any internally coherent theological reason to issue death threats and burn the Danish flag to protest against the Mo-toons. Obviously Muslims will object to the insults of Mohammed, but even the cartoonists who avoided insulting him had to go into hiding.
The threats and violence unleashed in response to the cartoons would have been disgraceful even if the theological objections were coherent, because no one has the right to impose their religious strictures on non believers, but I don't think that the outrage even made sense on the terms of the outragees*.
* Is that a word? Probably not.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I never received any angry denials from them about this post, so I presume they must agree with me.
* I am referring to Robert Maxwell, who do you think I mean?
Having said that isn't the rush to kick him out a bit of a smokescreen?
Whilst he does formally oversee the Fees Office which approved all the claims, it isn't as if he created the system or could simply annouce great changes to the expenses process. The system existed pretty much in it's current form even under the sainted Lady Boothroyd and other competent Speakers. Those claims that were outside the rules, such as for mortgages that had already been paid, cannot be blamed on anyone but the MPs themselves.
Getting rid of a sitting Speaker runs the risk of politicising the role even further if his support is spread down paty lines. It also risks making him a scapegoat for the avarice of other MPs who can kill the expenses story by offering up high profile sacrifice.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Lib Dem- 15%
If Labour got as low as 17% it would be hard to see how Labour MPs could avoid having to get rid of Brown, but they would then have less than a year for a new leader to come in.
Of course it is somewhat ironic that UKIP look to be the likely beneficiaries of the hit the big parties have suffered over the expenses claims. I suppose from the point of view of the major parties it is better that UKIP pick up the Euro votes because they have almost no support in local and national elections so their success can't be turned into a Westminster breakthrough, unlike the BNP & the Greens.
Saturday, May 16, 2009
- If I were Icelandic my name would be Ross Thomasson.
- I don't think I've ever been to Wales.
- I've been a driver or passenger in four car crashes, two of them proper write off style bumps.
- I was waiting for a lift (as in an elavator) this week and 2 came at once, a woman and a screaming child went into one lift and I and another man went into the other. When I said that at least we weren't stuck with the screaming kid he informed me that it was his child. I cringed in silence.
- My dog is licking my feet as I write this.
- I used to fancy trying out sky diving but I think I may have developed a mild phobia about heights.
- If I'm honest most christmas presents I buy are generally items I subconsciously want for my self.
- I was once suspended from school, when I was 8. I consider it to be a great injustice.
Labour grandee** Sir Gerald Kaufman made an extraordinary claim on his expenses for an £8,865 television.
The former Environment Minister was also hauled before officials to discuss a separate claim of £28,834 for work on the kitchen and bathroom of his London flat.
What makes it all the more galling is that Kaufman is sanctimonious about denouncing greed, he even appeared on for the prosecution on a Channel 4 programme a few years ago called "The Trial Of Margaret Thatcher" in which he accused her of fostering a culture of greed. Perhaps she made him do it.
It wouldn't be so bad if he were a brilliant MP, but he is a man who has managed to be an MP for almost 40 years without once voting against the party whip, which means that either his conscience has always been 100% in line with party policy or he just doesn't care.
** Do Labour have Grandees? I suppose if you a £9000 TV then you're a grandee.
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Firstly I now realise with retrospect that claiming £240 000 for a second home in Barbados might not have been appropriate, however as an MP from outside London I do need a second home.
Much has also been made of my claiming £40 000 to stock my moat with otters, but if one has a castle in the country then it seems perfectly reasonable to ask for the House of Commons to pay for wildlife to adorn it. I do a very difficult job and have be on call 24 hours a day.
The press have completely misrepresented my claim for £8000 to have my mistress's breasts enlarged, MPs are entitled to a family life and maintaining a mistress enables me do that and therefore to serve my constituents better.
I do accept that asking for £4000 from the House of Commons expenses office in order to facilitate the purchase of uncut cocaine which I then resold for £23 000 might breach the spirit of the rules and in light of the public's reaction to these claims and perceptions of my integrity I shall endevour to repay some of the money before claiming for the repayments on expenses. The system is very confusing and believe me I am as angry as everyone else about this.
However I wish to point out that when I submitted the claims they were perfectly within the rules and I know this for a fact because I helped make those very rules several days beforehand.
If you look back to the Renaissance - one of the greatest ages the world has ever seen – we cannot attribute its impact on the world to a single date, or person, or breakthrough. Or the enlightenment - we cannot say with certainty when or by whom or how it was launched, merely that today’s Europe and today’s world couldn’t exist without it.
The Renaissance & Enlightenment are indeed integral to modern Europe's identity. The environment in which they occurred is the opposite of what the European Parliament stands for though. One of the most striking things about the lives of Renaissance and Enlightenment figures is how many of them had to flee their home countries and live part of their lives in exile.
This was only possible because of the political fragmentation of Europe, so people who might be persecuted in France could escape to the Dutch Republic or Venice, someone being persecuted in one German state could move to another. If there had been a 18th Century EU, with a European arrest warrant, the intellectual freedom of that era could not have existed.
The common characteristics of European civilisation only developed because there was no common European power. Concentration of power is a bad thing, even if some good comes out of it in the short term in the long run stagnation will set in. The examples of the Roman Empire and China serve to demonstrate this.
The Romans allowed their better Emperors to centralise a great deal of power, but the same powers that were exercised by Augustus or Marcus Aurelius could just as easily be used by a Nero or a Caligula. The same is true in Europe today- I can think of several positive things that the EU has accomplished, the promotion of free trade, encouraging Eastern Europe to reform, helping to face down Russia's attempt to rig the Ukrainian elections a few years ago and probably various other things- however the same centralisation of powers could just as easily be employed in the service of protectionism, isolationism & appeasement if political fashions change.
Therefore it is important that the European Union does not gain any more powers that lead to it being a European government and much of it's current powers to legislate on matters that should not be transnational (like working hours) should be revoked. Which is why scepticism is the right way to approach the EU.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
"I've taught, and I can still remember trying to interest children who had no interest whatsoever in English. They didn't want to be in the classroom. If I'm honest I didn't want them to be there either because they were disruptive to [other] children.However bad the problem is now, it is going to get worse in about 5 years, because the cohort starting secondary school this year are going to be forced to remain in education until they are 18, so Sixth Formers will be able to enjoy the disruption and distraction of half a class that doesn't want to be there. It will do wonders for the unemployment statistics though.
It was then pointed out to them that what he actually heard was Brighton fans chanting their club's nickname "Seagulls".
Sunday, May 10, 2009
Originally the Christian attitude towards religious images was that worshipping images creates by man was sacriligious. This posed a problem because in the areas where the masses had traditionally used statues and icons to express their devotion to their memory. Therefore sometime in the 6th century the church suddenly began discovering images of Jesus created by God himself, who was evidently some kind of Dark Age Banksy, and it wasn't sacriligious to worship images that weren't created by man.
Hence because the Church acknowledged these images 1500 years ago there is a theological precedent fot Jesus bagels today.
Please note that numbers do not measure quality. Also, representatives may do other things not currently covered by this site. (More about this)
- Has spoken in 132 debates in the last year — well above average amongst MPs.
- Has received answers to 114 written questions in the last year — above average amongst MPs.
- Is a member of 1 select committee (0 as chair).
- Replied within 2 or 3 weeks to a very high number of messages sent via WriteToThem.com during 2007, according to constituents.
- Has voted in 83% of votes in parliament with this affiliation — well above average amongst MPs. (From Public Whip)
- People have made 11 comments on this MP's speeches — above average amongst MPs.
- This MP's speeches, in Hansard, are readable by an average 18–19 year old, going by the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score.
- 131 people are tracking whenever this MP speaks — email me whenever Philip Hollobone speaks.
- Has used three-word alliterative phrases (e.g. "she sells seashells") 214 times in debates — above average amongst MPs. (Why is this here?)
This suggest to me that vast armies of staff are unnecessary for MPs to do their jobs well.
Update: Captain FF is compiling a list of MPs whose snouts aren't in the trough. It's dismayingly small at present.
Harriet Harmen a few months back:
"The prime minister has said that it is not acceptable and therefore it will not be accepted," she added.
"And it might be enforceable in a court of law, this contract, but it is not enforceable in the court of public opinion and that is where the government steps in."
The court of public opinion doesn't apply to MPs expenses, just in case you are wondering.
Thursday, May 07, 2009
The Kindle solution is to offer subscriptions to papers, but that restricts readers to one newspaper. Some newspapers have tried to charge for web articles before but usually the price has been ridiculously high- The Independent used to charge about £1 per article which was more than the whole dead tree publication. Who wants to pay that much?
A traditional newspaper costs 40p to £1.50 and contains dozens to hundreds of articles, so therefore the value of each article is usually pennies or fractions of pennies. Therefore if the newspapers want to start charging for articles in a way that doesn't cause a complete collapse in readership they need to create a system of micro charging, in which users can create an account put some money on it and then browse the web with each publication getting a very small fee per article read, although cumulatively the amount spent per user will be pretty similar to what is currently spent on physical newspapers. The technology exists to do this, google ads use a similar system where each ad clicks generates a few fractions of a cent, so it is feasible.
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
This being the case it really is a very good thing that the government has released it's list of 'Britain's least wanted', a bewilderingly diverse list that includes everyone from Islamists to US talk show hosts. The criteria for banning someone is so arbitary that it could easily be used to simply ban anyone the government of the day disapproves of.
They really couldn't have done more to create opposition to these powers they have acquired.
There is a strong case for banning people who advocate violence but beyond that what someone is likely to say is no reason for barring them from this country.
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
Monday, May 04, 2009
I'm going out on a limb here and guessing they haven't entirely thought through the number they made up.
So when white liberal* Michael Tomasky writes a laudatory article about how "brave" white liberals (narcissist anyone?) introduced affirmative action which then allowed women and minorities to rise up in society one has to question whether this is true.
In fact seeing as we are constantly told that the women in America aren't doing as well as those in Europe, where Affirmative Action doesn't occur on such a widespread basis, it is hard to reconcile the facts with the tribute he gives to his own courage.
The changes with respect to ethnic minorities aren't as easy to compare with other countries because the US ethnic issues are pretty much unique, but it is true that the racial gaps were closing more quickly in the three decades prior to AA than in the three subsequent decades.
Tomasky is writing about this because of a current case before the Supreme Court where white firefighters were denied promotion because of their race, firefighters are popular so rather than support this discrimination he proposes that class should become a factor in AA. Therefore affirmative action will cover blacks, women, Hispanics, working class whites.... already this includes more than 75% of the US population!
Sunday, May 03, 2009
Carol Anne Duffy has been appointed as the new Poet Laureate, but the real purpose of court poets throughout the ages has been as an official sycophant praising powers of the day & Duffy doesn't appear to be willing to do that.
Therefore I propose that either Polly Toynbee* or David Aaronovitch should replace Duffy immediately. They might not technically be poets but as I explained poetry is basically prose for the illiterate**, the real talent is churning out several hundred words of ecstatic approval for whatever New Labour do.
* Polly went off the reservation this week and attacked her Viking, Gordon Brown, but that was probably out of disappointment with being overlooked.
** I could also explain my theory that theatre is television for those without electricity & that painting is an inferior precursor of photography.
After that, it became a feeding frenzy as MSPs and councillors realised how easy it was to ban things. Soon there was a bill to ban fur farming. And only after the legislation was passed was it discovered that, er ... there were no fur farms in Scotland.* I didn't coin the term "Numptydrome" but I can't recall where I saw it so can't credit the creator.
Friday, May 01, 2009
I'm just wondering though, how does the position of the Gurkha's compare to that of other foreign soldiers who serve in the British Army, although not in different regiments? Commonwealth and Irish citizens are eligible to serve and according to Wikipedia there are 6000 soldiers from outside the UK currently serving in the army including 1900 Fijians, 600 Jamaicans and a similar number of Ghanaians. Are they eligible to reside in the UK once they've completed their service?
Update: In the comments Tim Worstall says that they are allowed to become residents after 4 years of service, which makes the treatment of the Gurkhas seem even stranger.
This is obviously untrue seeing as he is the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs as well as being the MP for Leeds Central.
Anyone who does think that being an MP is a full time job that cannot be supplemented by outside earnings really should start by demanding that the executive is separated from the legislature because the biggest employer of MPs is the government of the day. Being a minister is a more direct conflict of interest with being an MP than almost any other role.
I don't personally think that an MP's job is that hard to do if they restrict themselves to their core function of scrutinising legislation rather than acting as social workers to their contituents in order to get re-elected.
* Frank Skinner is one of the few comedians on the show who didn't make a fool of himself. Although I thought his remark that he had always been a Labour supporter because he thought that it was the party that Jesus would support was odd. Surely with the beard and the sandals Jesus would have been a Lib Dem.