Sunday, February 28, 2010
All too often, Europe gets lost in diplomatic protocol. The issues up for discussion between US and EU leaders can become secondary. Most seem primarily concerned with who gets to shake Obama's hand first or who will sit next to him during the meal. Such questions are debated for weeks among protocol-obsessed bureaucrats in Brussels.
At the Madrid summit, the unassuming Belgian Herman van Rompuy, who has been president of the European Council since December, was insistent that he be the first to greet Obama.
But advisers to Zapatero, the Spanish host, refused. After all, the Spanish prime minister also currently holds the position of "president of the European Council." The EU, as it happens, is still holding on to its tradition of bestowing a rotating "presidency" on a different EU member state every six months. And that suited Spain well. Gustavo de Aristegui, the spokesman for foreign affairs in Spain's opposition Popular Party, quipped that Zapatero was seeking to portray himself as the "center of the universe."
A compromise was eventually found. Zapatero would get to say the first "hi," Rompuy would then be able to sit to the right of Obama at dinner. But soon enough, other EU top brass voiced complaints. The seat planned for Rompuy was actually a privilege reserved for European Commission President Manuel José Barroso, who is in third place on the current scale of most important people in Brussels.
SAfter all that Obama decided to cancel his appearance, which was probably the right thing to do.
If the purpose is to encourage tourism and the main downside is that they may attack livestock, then perhaps the carnivores should be released into areas where there are already a lot of tourists and very little livestock. Somewhere like Hyde Park perhaps or maybe Buckingham Palace where the bears can avenge their brothers and sisters who have been turned into headwear.
Ecologists who wrote the report, which is still in draft form, claim that large carnivores such as wolves, brown bears and the Eurasian lynx can all have beneficial impacts on the environment and act as a huge draw for tourism.
But the report warns that as a result such large species would be difficult to sustain in relatively small areas of land and can pose a threat to livestock unless carefully managed.
Friday, February 26, 2010
That is kind of the point though, when the BBC fills up every available niche it is inevitable that commercial providers will be wary of competing directly against such a vast organisation in much the same way that saplings don't grow under a rainforest's canopy.
Digital radio presented a dilemma for the BBC, people had to be encouraged to take it up to free the FM and MW frequencies and commercial groups couldn't really afford to establish digital stations until enough people had digital radios. Which put the BBC in a bind, they had to drive the changeover to digital by establishing digital only stations that people would want to listen to however this inevitably meant occupying potential market niches that might be attractive to commercial stations at a later point.
There is no reason why a foreign head of state should favour us over other countries of course (except for being allies of the US), but his seeming indifference to this country ought to make some of the Obama worshippers over here pause for thought. There is nothing more cringe inducing than seeing a political man crush going unreciprocated.
Thursday, February 25, 2010
It also shows how bad this government is at diplomacy, during the Falkland's War the British position was backed unanimously by the Commonwealth and no Latin American nation unambiguously supported Argentina. Today we have a 180 degree flip.
The incident also demonstrates how self destructive Argentina's obsession is, if oil is discovered in the territorial waters of the Falklands, Argentina could benefit enormously from being the location of all the refineries and other facilities but they prefer to nurse a grievance over their pretty weak claim. Working with the Falklanders might even diminish their justified hostility towards the Argentinians, perhaps making future generations willing to consider the sovereignty issues.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
It also demonstrates that Hispanics is a bit of a phony category (not as bad as "Asian Pacific Islanders") in that different Hispanic groups Mexicans, Cubans, Puerto Ricans & Domincans have very little in common.
In fact "immigrants" as a whole shouldn't really be considered as one amophous group. As my post of last year on the different imprisonment rates for different nationalities in England & Wales demonstrated some immigrant groups have higher rates than the domestic population and some have lower rates. There isn't a generic immigrant crime rate.
Update: I've just heard from a source* who works in Downing Street that Gordon Brown was heard screaming in his office "Fluctuations! Fluctuations!", but when Alastair Darling rushed in with a plan to stabilise sterling he found out that Brown was actually on the phone to the Taiwanese government complaining about this animation.
* Imaginary sources are equally valid.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Now Gordon Brown is never again going to be able to pose as a dull but effective policy wonk given the mess that he's made of the economy and the Labour Party so what they should do is take the revelations of his temper tantrums and use them to their advantage.
The new slogan should "You Wouldn't Like Me When I Am Angry", put it on a giant poster of Brown glowering menacingly and they'll turn what seems to be a weakness into a slightly cool quirk.
They could then play up the theme during the election with Brown going into rages at random voters during meet and greet sessions culminating in the mother of all tantrums during the televised debate when he can rip his shirt off and throw a mobile phone into David Cameron's face during a discussion on education reform.
I'd vote for him if he did that.
Saturday, February 20, 2010
- It's quite impressive that in the Winter Games the men's double luge is only the 2nd gayest event (after the men's figure skating of course):
- The baggy outfits the snow boarders wear are ridiculous. They've essentially fossilised what was a cool look back when snowboarding took off in the early 1990s and they look incredibly dated. Nothing dates as badly as cutting edge fashion. It's similar to the way clerical vestaments basically preserve what was the fashionable look of the late Roman era.
- The action for the Vancouver Games takes place in "Whistler" which is about one hundred miles from Vancouver. Were Ryanair involved in the bid somehow?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Thankfully the local farmers were more helpful and did a good job of towing stranded cars and lorries. They presumably don't get paid for it and they could have been inside watching Emmerdale but no they came out to start getting the road moving.
Sure they probably kept back a few motorists to use in a Wicker Man style human sacrifice however that is but a small price to pay.
Tory optimism that they are on course to win more seats in Scotland than the SNP in this year’s General Election was strengthened yesterday by a new opinion poll which showed them neck-and-neck with the Nationalists.
The poll for The Scottish Sun put both parties at 21 per cent support — far behind Labour on 37 per cent but well ahead of the Liberal Democrats on 15 per cent.
I'd pretty much assumed that the Conservatives were dead in Scotland with both Labour and the SNP miles ahead. Labour are indeed miles ahead but the SNP are in trouble. It suggests that the anti-incumbency vote is being directed against the Scottish executive rather than the British government.
So the only way out is forward: to make the euro work, Europe needs to move much further toward political union, so that European nations start to function more like American states.
But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. What we’ll probably see over the next few years is a painful process of muddling through: bailouts accompanied by demands for savage austerity, all against a background of very high unemployment, perpetuated by the grinding deflation I already mentioned.
A monetary union requires a political union in order to work, particularly when national economies operate so differently as say Spain and Germany.
Therefore the claim put forward by most British europhiles that it is a purely an economic matter is nonsense. Keeping Britain out of the Euro looks more and more like a very wise decision.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Don't get me wrong I thought that the article Jan Moir wrote after the death of Stephen Gately was distasteful in its timing and illogical in its reasoning ( a gay man died, so did a previous gay man therefore being gay kills!) but the reaction was simply hysterical.
I was tempted to do a "Jan Moir vindicated" post after Alexander MacQueen's death last week, not because I believe that but the idea of attracting a Twitter hate mob is tempting.
Parents underestimate the influence their own drinking habits have on their children's attitude to alcohol, government research suggests.
A Department for Children, Families and Schools study suggests children from heavy-drinking households are more likely to use alcohol themselves.
Wouldn't a study also find that children from tall families are more likely to be tall themselves? Perhaps children copy their parents growing habits. Quickly googling 'Alcohol' 'environmental' & 'genetic' brings up studies like this which conclude:
genetic factors played a major role in the development of alcoholism among males, with similar influence for alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence. ....... in this population-based sample, environmental factors shared by family members appear to have had little influence on the development of alcoholism in males.
I don't doubt that the influence of parents matters, but it is also beyond question that someone's susceptibility to alcohol is influenced by genetics. In other words you'd expect someone's drinking habits to resemble that of their parents.
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
Saturday, February 13, 2010
This is a reason to be sceptical about the efficiency of profiling in counter terrorism, sure most terrorists fit a certain demographic profile but not all do and if the focus on those that fit the profile is too strong it can easily result in everybody else getting a pass.
Thursday, February 11, 2010
If he was treated in a manner that is illegal then it is wrong, but to make out that he was "in the wrong place at the wrong time", is absurd. There might be a plausible explanation for why an Ethiopian national was in Pakistan mingling with known jihadists but none seems to have been forthcoming.
It should be possible to argue that Guantanamo inmates have been treated unfairly without jumping to the conclusion that everyone who has spent time there is a cross between Nelson Mandela and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
The BBC is to counter claims that it is biased towards the South with a series of programmes about pies and rugby league.Not to mention a new 16 part series on ferrets.
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
Monday, February 08, 2010
Saturday, February 06, 2010
Jailing him for two years, Judge Heather Lloyd told him he was guilty of 'a gross violation of the trust placed in you as an employee and friend'.
'The victims would never have dreamed that trust would have been abused in such a revolting fashion,' she added.
First of all how could they not have dreamed that he would do something like this? LOOK AT HIM!!!! Of course he's a pervert! Secondly 2 years does seem quite harsh considering that violent offenders routinely receive lower sentences.
Science Fiction writer David Brin has exposed the dark values of Tolkien’s world by coaxing us to imagine the point of view of the evil wizard Sauron and his troops. "Sauron’s army was the one that included every species and race on Middle Earth, including all the despised colours of humanity, and all the lower classes," he explains. "Might they have imagined they were the good guys, with a justifiable greivance worth fighting for, rebelling against an ancient, rigid, pyramid-shaped, feudal hierarchy toppled by invader-alien elves and their Numenorian-colonialist human lackeys? Sauron, champion of the Middle Earthling!"Really, I give up!
Also today is a good day for guest posts as Joseph Harker writes about racism over at Mark Wadsworth's blog.
The Lies You've Been Told About Mordor.
The shadow looming over Middle Earth – the shadow of Sauron– furrows his big, non corporeal brow, pats my knee, and tells me about the night he knew he was going to die. “I will never forget – in the early hours, I said goodbye to my ringwraiths. I kissed them goodbye and blessed them.” He knew in his gut he was not going to survive that long, bloody day in the third age, when he and his allies finally decided to stage a revolution against the hated Elvish order. However he survived and since that day he has felt blessed.
Now the Middle Earth armies are once again beating the drums of war against Sauron and his people. They say he is a tyrant but tell that to Gogdush, a 14 year old Orc whose life has been transformed Sauron’s social housing policies. He sobs as he shares his recollection of life before Sauron over dinner- “Before Sauron we were marginalised and kept from enjoying our share of the resources of Middle Earth, we weren’t even able to get food”. He hands me some of the casserole he heats on a small stove whose warm glow is easily outshone by the radiance of my self righteousness, I chew into the tender yet hard to identify meat, by the look of the small yet furry primate foot it isn’t anything I’ve tasted before. “It’s a native delicacy, which we weren’t allowed to touch before Sauron”, Gogdush tells me.
Yet Middle Earth leaders frequently describe Sauron as being a source of pure evil intent on dominating the world. “This is nonsense” Sauron says angrily, "just because we are using our natural resources to construct giant towers that overshadow the entire planet and to raise Orcish armies that doesn’t mean that we are the bad guys”. He’s right of course, the tower building programme is actually one of Sauron’s great success programmes, the towers are capable of sustaining more people than the sprawling individualistic burrows that dominate the Shire, and have a much lower environmental impact.
The second lie told about Sauron’s Mordor is that it is a place of misery and joylessness. In fact it has a flourishing arts and crafts scene, even Sauron himself likes to make jewellery! However I’m here to ask probing questions, such as his record on gay rights:
“Orcs are soulless and sexless creatures who are not borne of the fruit of love but raised asexually from the barren earth of Mordor, since they are neither male nor female homosexuality is a conceptual impossibility, very much like Independent journalists in that sense.”
Quite, it goes without saying that neither Rohan or the Shire have achieved such perfect gender balance yet. But what about Mordor’s labour laws, under which many citizens have to work up to 60 hours a week?
“Look we are a developing country, some of our labour laws need improving and who is likely to accomplish that, me or a Gandalfian puppet?”
Indeed and it is true that labour relations have greatly improved since Sauron returned from his 3000 year exile.
No Mordor is not perfect, yes the relationship between Sauron and Saruman- who was of course backed by the West until he switched sides, is troubling but as I sit in the middle of an Orc camp surrounded by hideous inhuman creatures, I ask myself who are we to condemn these people and the leaders striving to improve their situation?
Friday, February 05, 2010
One cannot even begin to imagine the despair, frustration and fear that was Martin Pistorius's life for more than a decade. After contracting meningitis at the age of 12, he found himself locked inside his body and spent 14 years with no form of communication and completely unable to control his body.
His parents were told that their only option was to allow him to die and that he had the brain function of a three-month-old baby. That, however, was not the case. While the illness had wreaked havoc on Martin's body, his mind remained largely intact. Day after day he lay motionless on a bed, or strapped to a chair, all the while desperate to communicate but unable to do so.
That today Martin could be working as a website developer, be about to embark on a BSc in computer science and be married to a beautiful blonde is something he, and everyone who knew him, once would have imagined impossible.
It looks to me that when laws were drawn up regarding whether to allow people to die, we severely overstated just how much we knew about what happens to those in a vegetitive state. If someone wanted to euthunise me I'd much prefer it to be with a morphine overdose or a hammer to the head than through starvation.
Thursday, February 04, 2010
They are irredeemably adolescent. The issues that motivate them over and over again are "get out of my room Mom!" ones: alcohol, gambling and smoking.He is certainly correct about the disproportionate focus on libertine issues and not so much on the most important issues. The 'hedonism' issues are a lot easier to deal with than the big stuff, so simply telling the government to piss off is the solution.
Where are the libertarian writers on education? God knows we need some, given the ludicrous centralisation that has taken place over the last 20 years. What would a libertarian health system look like? Can you have a libertarian foreign policy? Or libertarian social services?
Major public services can be shifted in a more libertarian direction but realistically any reform has to be made up of incremental reforms rather than a sweeping revolution. This is messy and doesn't really give an opportunity for grandstanding. Sure you can declare that the NHS should be abolished overnight but as there is no chance of it happening it is a waste of time.
* I'm sort of between libertarian and conservative.
Wednesday, February 03, 2010
In case anyone's forgotten who Sion Simon is, and if I can't forget then neither should you, here is a reminder:
Birmingham deserves someone with more gravitas but Benny from Crossroads has yet to throw his wooly hat into the ring.
Tuesday, February 02, 2010
Monday, February 01, 2010
“On the field John Terry is a fantastic player and a good England captain,’’ said the Sports Minister, Gerry Sutcliffe, “but to be the captain of England you have got to have wider responsibilities for the country. If these allegations are proven it does call into question his role as England captain.He seems to demand higher standards in the man leading a football team than in the man leading the country. He also appears to be unaware that FIFA explicitly ban governments from interfering in the affairs of member FAs, which is important if we are bidding for the 2018 World Cup.
Although John Terry probably does have to step down, because his affair was with the partner of a team mate, so I'd imagine he commands rather less trust & respect among his remaining team mates now.
I did try to sit through the Blair show. An unfortunate combination of Asiatic high emotion and feminine fragility made me feeble.Via.
* Assuming her Asiatic emotions overwhelmed he feminine fragility of course.