Saturday, October 31, 2009

Mouse Update.

Okay I got one of these mousetraps and so the battle of wits between human and rodent begins. At the moment it's 1-0 to the mouse.

I added the bait (some Chocolate Buttons) and placed the trap behind the settee that I'd seen the mouse emerge from before. Unfortunately my dog likes choclate too and rather impressively he managed to squeeze in behind the settee pull out the trap and open it.

So I am now out of bait and in need of a dog free place to set the trap.

Dubious Associates Uncovered.

The intervention of the Chief Rabbi of Poland into the Michael Kaminsky on the Today programme appeared to have scuppered the Miliband/ Guardian/ New Statesman smear campaign.

However it now emerges that there is incontrovertable proof that Kaminsky has been associating with deeply unsavoury figures.

Quote Of The Day

The footballer Marlon King was recently jailed for attacking a woman, given that he has a track record of committing very similar attacks I wouldn't have thought that there was much debate over his guilt. However:

As the sentence was delivered , several of King's supporters stormed from court, swearing at the judge.

One screamed: 'This is a clear case of institutional racism.

'You should not be up there... Up the National Front. Heil Hitler.'

Friday, October 30, 2009

Drug Czar Czacked.

Not only is lying not a sackable offence with this government, telling the truth is.

I support legalisng most drugs, including cannabis, but I do accept that sometimes those in favour can be too complacent about the negative consequences. There are strong arguments against legalising or decriminalising drugs, see James Q Wilson's article here for instance:
The central problem with legalizing drugs is that it will increase drug consumption under almost any reasonable guess as to what the legalization (or more modestly, the decriminalization) regime would look like. The debate, I think, must be between those who admit this increase and then explain why they would find it tolerable and those who admit the increase and find it intolerable.
Now what happens? Here is where the only meaningful debate can exist. Do you think that there will be a decrease in drug crime? Maybe—if the crime committed by users seeking money to buy drugs and the dealers protecting their right to sell drugs falls by an amount greater than the increase in crime committed by addicted users who are no longer capable of holding a job. Not all coke or heroin addicts are incapacitated, but a significant fraction—perhaps one-fifth, perhaps more—are.
However any argument either for or against has to be rooted in the facts not in spin and propaganda. Ignoring reality is not a basis for making good policy.

This also applies to other controversial subjects. This week it emerged that the government had suppressed discussion of the relationship between crime and immigration when being honest about it would have avoided the dual dangers of complacency and hysteria.

The fact that fear mongers like Liam Donaldson remain in post and David Nutt is sacked speaks volumes.

One Face Per Person.

Kelly Brook reveals: Two-faced Ant and Dec wrecked my TV career
I don't claim to be fully up to date with light entertainment figures but I'm fairly sure that "Ant and Dec" are two separate individuals and therefore the number of faces that they would be expected to have is in fact two. One each.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of Mouse & Man.

Oh bugger.

I've got a mouse in my house.

It's a very cocky rodent and doesn't seem to mind scurrying righy past me when the lights are on. Oh well, I guess I'll have to buy one of those "catch them alive" mousetraps and release it near the home of someone I don't like.

What To Do With A Miliband?

Bearded europhile Timothy Garton Ash backs David Miliband to be the EU's new High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy aka the EU Foreign Minister on the grounds that Milipede has:
just delivered one of the most eloquent, forceful arguments for a European foreign policy I have read in a long time.
Meanwhile unbearded eurosceptic Irwin Stelzer backs David Miliband to be the EU's new High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy aka the EU Foreign Minister on the grounds that:
the force of the [Lisbon} treaty will depend on the quality of the key appointees, we should all be pleased if he does get the post.
Stelzer seems more convincing but wonder whether David Miliband's abilities would be better utilised leading the Labour Party after the next election.

Hidden Messages

Like Arnold Schwarzenegger, I did this once, spelling a message out using the first letter of each line. The major difference is that I was in school when I did it rather than the governors mansion of California. It was in a geography class presentation. Oddly enough I can't remember what the geography presentation but I remember the subliminal message - HE IS A GIMP- which was directed at the teacher.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Bad Art & Fanaticism.

Before he became a war criminal, the former Bosnia Serb leader Radovan Karadzic was a poet, in fact he even appeared on the BBC's arts programme Bookmark to discuss his poetry back in 1992 when they didn't do anything so vulgar as probe non-literary activities such as ethnic cleansing that philistines like me would have thought worth mentioning. It kind of puts last week's Question Time into perspective.

I don't speak Serbo-Croat but I'd be willing to guess that his poems were on a level with Saddam's novels and Hitler's paintings, which is to say crap. I don't say this out of simple prejudice or because I've internalised a kind of Halo Effect, in which I assume that someone dreadful couldn't possibly have redeeming qualities, but because of an observation made by Eric Hoffer more than 6 decades ago in The True Believer:
Marat, Robespierre, Lenin, Mussolini and Hitler are outstanding examples of fanatics arising from the ranks of noncreative men of words. Peter Viereck points out that most of the Nazi bigwigs had artistic and literary ambitions which they could not realize. Hitler tried painting and architecture; Goebbels, drama, the novel and poetry; Rosenberg, architecture and philosophy; von Shirach, poetry; Funk, music; Streicher, painting. "Almost all were failures, not only by the usual vulgar criterion of success but by their own artistic criteria." Their artistic and literary ambitions "were originally far deeper than political ambitions: and were integral parts of their personalities."

The creative man of words is ill at ease in the atmosphere of an active movement. He feels that its whirl and passion sap his creative energies. So long as he is conscious of the creative flow within him, he will not find fulfillment in leading millions and in winning victories.
In other words fanaticism is a refuge for failure. I know some genuinely talented people have fanatical views, in fact extremism is often almost de rigour, but they don't actually take in the movement itself, they write a few words in support or wear a Sandinista tee-shirt they don't become key players in the movements.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ism's Galore

I watched The Man With The Golden Gun at the weekend. Would it be possible to make a film that encompasses so many gratuitious 'isms nowadays? I mean there's sexism (Britt Ekland as the implausibly stupid blonde MI-6 agent Mary Goodnight who spends most of the film in a bikini), ethnic stereotyping ( Assorted East Asians ), more ethnic stereotyping (the Southern Sheriff) and of course heightism (the portrayal of midgets as comical yet sinister).

Roger Moore is doing penitence for his sins by having to appear in those godawful Post Office adverts.

Not Another F***ing BNP Post!

Last week Gary Younge blamed Jack Straw for the rise of the BNP, in this he probably got the right suspect for the wrong reason. Younge blames Jack Straw's statement that he asks Burqa wearing constituents to remove them when they come to see him. This is palpable nonsense as can easily be demonstrated by simply looking up when the BNP started winning council seats on a regular basis. They began to gain councillors in 2002 a good four years before Straw's comments about the Burqa. So unless his comments rippled backwards through time, perhaps with the help of the Large Hadron Collider, his remarks about the Burqa had little to do with the BNP.

In fact 2002 was even before the big surge in immigration following EU enlargement, although immigration had gone up to some extent after 1997, and the BNP's successes at that time occurred in areas not greatly affected by the recent increases in immigration levels.

Where Straw is to blame though is in the kind of attitudes he was propagating as Home Secretary from 1997 to 2001. Not simply his role in producing the infamous MacPherson Report, but his repeatedly reaffirmed belief that there is something inherently shameful about English culture. See for example:
  • Referring to the English "propensity to violence" and as being "potentially very aggressive, very violent"
  • Blaming football hooliganism on Englishness and claiming that England is particularly xenophobic, "There is a particular problem with some people's view of Englishness. There is a distorted, incomplete idea of what it is to be patriotic for those in England, which is different from that in Wales or Scotland or Ireland. We've had all the global baggage of the empire and a lot of jingoism here."
  • And when he bacame Foreign Secretary he immediately started blaming Britain for much of the world's conflicts.
In other words Jack Straw spent much of his time pouring scorn on the country and emphasising self loathing and he wonders why the White Working Class have deserted Labour. Most of them haven't gone to the BNP mind you, they have simply stayed at home on election day. Obviously I'm not saying that large numbers of voters were carefully listening to all of Jack Straw's speeches and finding them objectionable but if a government despises them then sooner or later that message will seep through and they won't like it.

* Most of Straw's expressions of contempt for England are rooted in baseless assertions. For example he blames football hooliganism of English nationalism, but the most violent fixture in the Football League is probably the Cardiff-Swansea match. And football violence is endemic in countries that have never had empires like Uruguay and various Eastern European states. Similarly the idea that the English are unusually xenophobic can be shown to be complete nonsense simply by looking through international comparisons such as the World Values Survey, we are considerably less hostile to foreigners than most countries. Jack Straw's beliefs are not shaped by evidence but are axioms he fitted into his political worldview as a student leader in the 1970s.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fake Charity Double Whammy?

From the Scotsman:
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, which has long campaigned on the issue, said there should be an extra hour of daylight all year round.

Brake, a UK road safety charity, said: "It is unacceptable so many families are torn apart by sudden, violent deaths and injuries on our roads. The government must take bold steps to stop these preventable casualties."
I'm not going to check their accounts, but I've never seen either of these outfits raising money so I'm guessing they are psuedo-charities.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Aids Denialism.

The Spectator's editor Fraser Nelson is flirting with HIV-Aids denialism which is unfortunate for two reasons. Firstly it means that Sunny Hundal is largely correct about something and secondly it gives credence to dangerous psuedo-science.

It is dangerous, several converts to Aids denialism have ended up dying because they refused treatment for their illness, denialism is understandably quite high among those infected with the HIV virus, as have the children of those who deny a causal link between HIV and Aids. When this crazy idea makes its way into public policy, as with Thabo Mbeki's South Africa, the results can be horrendous.

Furthermore in the case of the documentary Nelson is promoting, House of Numbers, there is enough information around to demonstrate the mendaciousness of the film.

It also instantly undermines anyone who has a serious point to make about Aids infection rates, for example those who point out that infection rates in Africa appear to have been wildly overstated.

A Plan Comes Together.

This is extraordinary if true:

Andrew Neather said the mass influx of migrant workers seen in recent years was not the result of a mistake or miscalculation, but rather a policy the party preferred not to reveal to its core voters.

He said the strategy was intended to fill gaps in the labour market and make the UK more multicultural at the same time as scoring political points against the Opposition.

Filling the gaps in the labour market is a legitimate reason for encouraging immigration, the other two are not. So multiculturalism wasn't simply a means to cope with large numbers of people from diverse background, it was an end in itself and large numbers of people from a diverse background were imported in order to allow multiculturalism to flourish. They weren't denouncing opponents of mass immigration in order to defend the new communities in Britain, they were bringing in new communities in order to be able to denounce their opponents.

So Labour not only deliberately encouraged mass immigration they simultaneous tried to ramp up racial tensions for political gain. I think we've managed to solve the great mystery as to how the BNP have managed to go from being a bunch of unpleasant weirdos who won a council seat every few years and then disappeared to being the most electorally successful racist movement Britain has had since at least the 1930s.

I think we've also discovered why Labour's core vote has been alienated-most studies of immigration show a small net economic benefit however the benefits are diffuse and the costs are concentrated among the poorest in society, in this case the working class voters who make up Labour's heartlands.

Update: I've just read Andrew Neather's original article, it isn't a mea culpa he is proud of all this! It sounds like a parody, but Neather is a real person so when he writes things like:

Their place certainly wouldn't be taken by unemployed BNP voters from Barking or Burnley - fascist au pair, anyone? Immigrants are everywhere and in all sorts of jobs, many of them skilled.

My family's east European former nannies, for example, are model migrants, going on to be a social worker and an accountant. They have integrated into London society.

But this wave of immigration has enriched us much more than that. A large part of London's attraction is its cosmopolitan nature.

It is so much more international now than, say, 15 years ago, and so much more heterogeneous than most of the provinces, that it's pretty much unimaginable for us to go back either to the past or the sticks.

He is being deadly serious.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Guess The Publication.

Without googling guess which publication this passage appears in:
I doubt there will be an American apology in my lifetime for the holocausts of Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. I count them as atrocities, and don't buy the convenient line that they saved tens of thousands of American lives.
It's not the Morning Star or the Socialist Worker.

Quote Of The Day

Knowledge is bad:

The Information Commissioner’s ruling on Friday to release statistics on late term abortions carried out because of disability has alarming implications.


It’s clear that the potential for this information to be misused to promote an anti-choice agenda and to restrict women’s reproductive freedom is strong.
-Dina Rickman at Liberal Conspiracy.

Who's The Daddy?

Over at ATW, David Vance points to his appearance on Northern Ireland's current affairs programme "Hearts & Minds" to debate the appearance of the BNP on Question Time, he and Guardian media columnist Roy Greenslade supported the BBC and a Paddy Meehan from a group called "Youth Against Racism" opposed the decision.

Is it me or does Paddy Meehan have an uncanny similarity in both looks and demeanor, not to mention politics, to the "Unite Against Fascism" leader Martin Smith, who was leading the mob trying to storm the BBC studio yesterday. Meehan is about 25 years younger than Smith. Could it possibly be that Martin Smith is the wild lothario of the self proclaimed anti-fascist movement and he has been spreading his seed far and wide for the last quarter of a century? Father and Son are pictured below:

Posties- A Warning.

On Wednesday afternoon I poster a letter and it really has to reach it's destination by midday Friday. If this doesn't happen, because of your strike on Thursday, then I am going to fill every letter box within a 25 mile radius with dog shit. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Did anyone don a brown shirt and start smashing up Jewish owned businesses after Nick Griffin's appearance on Question Time?

Personally I doubt that he won many converts but wasn't shown up either, the most interesting thing about it was the fact he is acknowledging that the BNP was a racist and antisemitic party in the past in order to defend the BNP of today. I don't how convincing voters will find that.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Very Boring Post On Election Methods.

I was for the introduction of US style primaries for British elections before I was against them. Actually I'm not wholly against them but think that they are overrated as a method of weakening the control of the political parties and encouraging voter engagement.

First of all our parties aren't going to completely open up, it's going to be a Henry Ford style choice- vote for any candidate you want as long as it is a Central Office approved drone. Secondly with low voter interest it would be quite easy to distort the process if a candidate has enough connections. Thirdly almost all of the benefits can and none of the downsides of primaries can be achieved in another way- by having a Single Transferable Vote system, as they have in Ireland, where you have multi member constituencies and ranked voting. This would create space for smaller parties to exist and offer a real choice, it would mean that you could still vote against a candidate even if you want to support their party and no one could say that their vote would be wasted.

Education Nooz.

Ostensibly this article is about a boy unfairly excluded from school. However the message is fairly clear but must remain as merely subtext because the family are the ones cooperating with the press. That message is "thank God that this bolshy chav family have been dealt with properly". The photographer has even persuaded them to pose in a manner to emphasise their thuggishness. Stand out quote:

Mr Walton said: 'The school sent a letter saying that I told Dan, "Kick the headteacher in the nuts if he kept you against your will".

'I think it's diabolical. My boy shouldn't be excluded for something I have said. I don't regret it.'

Meanwhile in other Daily Mail sourced news, read the heart rending tale of a boy whose life has been made a "misery" because of his name, Harry Potter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Denis Macshane Achieves Rare Double Beclowning.

It's hard to know which is the greater example of Denis Macshane's oafishness in the last 24 hours.

Is it accusing the Tories of supporting the massacres of Jews during WWII (no really) or is it disastrous performance on Newsnight where he tried to defend his claim that there were 25000 trafficked women in the UK (21 minutes in) and his subsequent article in the Guardian defending his fact free position (over 80 comments so far and every single one is critical of Macshane).

He really is horrible, sort of a Labour equivalent of David Mellor hated by his opponents and loathed by his own side.

Three Times Is A Pattern.

Is it me or is there a pattern here?:
  1. Government rebuked for using misleading figures to demonstrate the supposed gender pay gap.
  2. Government rebuked for using misleading figures to demonstrate low rape conviction rates.
  3. Government rebuked for using bogus figures to demonstrate the extent of sex trafficking.
In each case the government has politicised an issue and allowed a militant feminist grouping to issue bogus information. The false information is then used to create the impression of a crisis which can be used to attempt to push through laws which would be recognised as transparently unfair otherwise (compulsory 'equal pay' audits & lower standards of evidence in rape trials for example).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

US Supports UN Resolution Against Religious Defamation.

Since the Mo' Toons row the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIS) has been trying to pass all sorts of resolutions at the UN calling for action to prevent the "defamation of religion". Up until now the developed liberal democracies has been almost unanimous in rejecting such a proposal see the breakdown of the January 2008 vote for example.

Not any more though, this time around the USA, which is pretty much the birthplace of religious freedom, has decided to support the latest proposal. This is something being whipped up by Obama's hysterical opponents, this is something that has left Obama's secular supporters aghast.

Peace Off.

Strange reasoning by one of the Guardian's* many enthusiasts for Latin American Marxists, not the former KGB agent Richard Gott this time, but a Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman who argues that Obama could earn his Nobel prize if he does a number of things** including:
And Obama should rethink his approach to continental security (cancelling, for instance, Plan Colombia)
Plan Colombia is the US effort to fund train the Colombian security forces, ostensibly to fight the Drug War, but in reality to deal with all the security issues. I'm not a supporter of the War on Drugs, but I do support funding efforts to help democratic countries defeat terrorists. Anyhow since the launch of Plan Colombia (and the election of Alvaro Uribe as President) Colombia's murder rate has plummeted as peace has broken out throughout much of the country.

So in order to earn his Nobel, Obama should reverse a policy that has actually brought some degree of peace.

* I used to critique Guardian articles a lot because it is the country's most prominent left wing publication. Nowadays it is just because I read it more than other newspapers because their web presence is actually far better than any of their competitors.

** He also urges Obama to leagilise "the situation of millions of undocumented Latino workers, tearing down walls instead of erecting them." IMHO anyone using the euphemism "undocumented workers" is acknowledging that being honest and calling them "illegal immigrants" knows that their argument can't stand on its merits.

The UKIP Donation Ruling.

The treatment of UKIP by the Electoral Commission and the courts is so perverse and unlike the treatment of other parties that it is hard to believe that it isn't malicious. Even the BBC's Michael Crick, who I think it is fair to say is unlikely to be a UKIP sympathiser, finds the difference between how UKIP are being treated and how the Lib Dems were treated for a seemingly much more serious offence to be staggering.

The facts of UKIP's offence appears to be:
  1. A UK citizen and resident, Alan Brown, gave them money.
  2. They accepted his donation.
  3. It later emerged that the local authority had omitted him from the electoral register a few months prior to the donation.
  4. When he found out about his omission he re registered.
  5. This meant that the donation was made while he wasn't on the electoral register.
In the circumstances it might seem logical that UKIP would have to repay the donor (who would presumably give the money back to UKIP now he is on the register), however they have been ordered to pay the money to the Treasury, meaning that both UKIP and Alan Brown lose out even though neither of them have attempted at any time to circumvent the law.

Incidentally the amount of the donation is roughly the equivalent to the deposits required to stand in every seat in the UK at the next election.

Note I'm not a member of UKIP and won't be voting for them at the next election, but even so this is an absolutely scandalous decision and hopefully it will be overturned at some point if the Electoral Commission is to retain any integrity.

Will The World End In 2012?


(via Infidel 753)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hottest Heads Of State.

Hmmm, this ranking of 172 heads of government in order of attractiveness is truly the work of a great individual or someone with waaaay too much time on their hands. The fact that Bashir Assad of Syria isn't even in the bottom third despite looking like the result of intensive inbreeding over several generations (think Charles II of Spain) shows that the list is unimpressive.

Hard to argue with the number one pick though.

Via the Croydonian.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Identity Trumps Ideology In Politics.

Apologies in advance if this post is badly written and meandering, but that's because I'm trying to express an idea that is half formed in my head.

One of the things that has always struck me about Scottish and Welsh politics is that despite the respective nationalist parties being firmly on the left of the political spectrum and in the case of Plaid Cymru usually well to the left of Labour, they seem to pick up seats in the rural and suburban constituencies rather than in Labour's core inner city and post industrial heartlands. In other words voting is more tribal than ideological.

This can't simply be party loyalism because minor non-Nationalist parties have done well in Wales in the past, with the Communist party even picking up a couple of seats in the immediate post war era and rebel Labour candidate Peter Law defeating the official Labour choice back in 2005. It is as though voting choice reflects something beyond straightforward political positioning. I'm struggling to articulate precisely what I mean but it is as though the parties have a cultural heartland that no amount of positioning can allow them to transcend.

Maybe it's just the pecularities of Scotalnd & Wales. Karl Rove supposedly viewed the US electoral groups as a series of magnets which either repel or attract other groups, perhaps the Welsh speaking heartlands of Plaid repel the votes of English speaking former mining communities of South Wales. Maybe the sectarian legacy of urban Scotland means that working class protestants identify too strongly with the UK to be attracted to a Nationalist party and working class catholics don't fancy living in a country dominated by a Presbyterian majority.

However it looks to me as though there are always matters of identity that transcend ideology when it comes to political allegiance and therefore parties can only make a certain amount of headway by realigning their policies.

Coincidence? Yes Actually

Both Steve at Pub Philosopher and Dungeekin are back with a flurry of posts after a total or near total absence that began sometime in early July. It looks like a coincindence but is anyone wondering if they are in fact ...... the same person?

Because that would be pretty stupid, of course it's a coincidence.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Peter Hain: Oppose/Support Fascists.

I mentioned Peter Hain as a supporter of the No Platform policy towards the BNP. Hain writes:
There the BBC will be showcasing the BNP on a panel alongside the mainstream parties as an equally legitimate, respectable, democratic political party, when it is nothing of the kind.
Which is true, but Hain himself has appeared on these things for years and everyone still thinks he is a sleazy crook so why it will be different for the BNP I don't know.

Hain is only in favour of boycotting some fascist groups, with others he is an ethusiastic supporter. In March 1996 the Independent's John Rentoul and Alan Murdoch reported:

Meanwhile, Tony Blair hit out yesterday at Labour MPs who expressed open support for Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA. The Labour leader described backbencher John Austin-Walker's attendance at the conference as "wrong and foolish". And he dissociated himself from a greetings message from five Labour MPs, including Peter Hain, who is an Opposition whip in the Commons.

This was whilst the IRA were still active, in fact only the previous month they had bombed London Docklands killing two people. Now I'm thinking that if Nick Griffin had sent a cheery message of greeting to an organsiation that had murdered an Asian shopkeeper the previous month we would never hear the end of it (and rightly so) but for Peter Hain this is acceptable.

Giving Them Rope To Hang Themselves.

Man Widdecombe has a clip of a BNP interview on Radio 2 which demonstrates exactly why "no platforming" the BNP is a bad idea if you want to curtail their influence. They aren't evil geniuses who will convert people en masse to racism unless they are prevented from speaking, they aren't going to impress sceptical people with their honesty and plain speaking either. They are in fact evasive and blustering in a way in which spokesmen from normal minor parties aren't.

Which is why it is not the end of the world that Nick Griffin is going to appear on Question Time next week. If the programme goes ahead and isn't disrupted by protesters there aren't suddenly going to be hordes of brownshirts marching through Bradford. The other panellists which probe him on the BNPs views on race and Griffin will either have to answer it or avoid it, neither of which will show him in a good light.

The calls for boycotting or silencing the BNP carry the underlying assumption that the BNP are correct in their opinion that they represent a silent majority of the British people and it isn't a huge surprise that the most prominent supporters of the No Platform movement tend to be slippery figures like Denis Macshane and Peter Hain.

I Ho.

Are Disney within their rights to object to "Ho White & the Seven Dwarfs"?

The article talks about potential copyright and licencing issues, but as long as the beer company isn't using aspects of the story that Disney created I don't see what they are doing wrong. Snow White was a traditional folk tale that Walt Disney took and made a feature film based on, but surely that doesn't give them the rights to all future interpretations of a story that they did not create.

An Idea Whose Time Has Come.

If only we copied the Maldives' idea of holding cabinet meetings underwater.

Although without all the scuba gear.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Afghan Bribery

This supports the idea of using bribery to buy off the Taliban's foot soldiers:

A Taleban commander and two senior Afghan officials confirmed yesterday that Italian forces paid protection money to prevent attacks on their troops.

After furious denials in Rome of a Times report that the Italian authorities had paid the bribes, the Afghans gave further details of the practice. Mohammed Ishmayel, a Taleban commander, said that a deal was struck last year so that Italian forces in the Salobi area, east of Kabul, were not attacked by local insurgents.

The payment of protection money was revealed after the death of ten French soldiers in August 2008 at the hands of large Taleban force in Sarobi. French forces had taken over the district from Italian troops, but were unaware of secret Italian payments to local commanders to stop attacks on their forces and consequently misjudged local threat levels.

Note the attacks only happened after the bribes stopped being paid, it was the Italian failure to tell the French of the arrangement that caused the failure, not the bribery itself.

Not that the Italian method of paying off a local chief is ideal, it would be better to pay the individual gunmen because there is a very strong possibility in Afghanistan that the money won't reach the people who need buying off.

This also shows the dangers of being allies of Italy. In Mark Bowden's "Black Hawk Down" (which the film was based on), he refers to suspicions by the Americans that the Italian forces in the country were cooperating with the local warlords in exchange for a quiet life, even to the extent of tipping them off before US raids.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do You Want Fries With That?

This probably comes under the category of "things I kind of already knew but didn't wish to dwell upon", how a burger is made:
the hamburgers were made from a mix of slaughterhouse trimmings and a mash-like product derived from scraps that were ground together at a plant in Wisconsin. The ingredients came from slaughterhouses in Nebraska, Texas and Uruguay, and from a South Dakota company that processes fatty trimmings and treats them with ammonia to kill bacteria.
Uruguay, so at least the burgers are multicultural!
Those low-grade ingredients are cut from areas of the cow that are more likely to have had contact with feces, which carries E. coli, industry research shows.
Anyway just thought I'd put that up for the benefit of anyone who is going to read this before dinner.

Twitter Seance!

If I were Michael Jackson I would be getting extremely pissed off right now, not only is he going to be annoyed by scouse psychic Derek Acorah but he is also going to be summoned by a Twitter seance:
As eerie as it sounds, but yes, now fans of MJ may get in touch with The King of Pop over Halloween with the world’s first Twitter séance.

Top psychic Jayne Wallace will make an attempt to contact MJ on the day before Halloween, i.e. October 30.

She will also attempt to contact other celebrities like Jade Goody, Patrick Swayze and Farah Fawcett, who also died this year. Fans may hope to get answers from their celebrities through a psychic way.

No need to go to all that trouble "top psychic Jayne Wallace", because believe it or not I'm already communicating with them and they have a message for you but I can't quite make it all out, does "greedy bitch" mean anything? Is "grave robbing parasite" something you can help me understand Jayne? How about "stop exploiting gullible morons"?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wacko Jacko Backo With Aco.

This takes tastelessness to a whole new level:

Psychic Derek Acorah is to attempt to make contact with late pop star Michael Jackson as part of two specially-commissioned shows for Sky 1.

Michael Jackson: The Live Séance and Michael Jackson: The Search for His Spirit will be produced by Twofour. Both hour-long specials will be presented by June Sarpong.

Even if psychics weren't all either delusional or fraudulent it would be pretty bad, can you imagine enjoying the great eternal afterlife only to be bothered by an annoying purveyor of low quality television?

Anyway here is Acorah demostrating his awesome psychic powers:

Crime & Politics

The Guardian's editorial suggests that Labour should make a point of stressing that crime is down, with even the hard to fake murder rate down at a 20 year low.

There is a small problem with this approach though. The murder rate rose a fair bit between 1997 to 2000 and stayed at this new plateau and didn't fall sharply until the start of the recession, when it did indeed fall substantially. In other words in order to take the credit for the fall now then they have to take responsibility for the rise previously. Gordon Brown is not known for his enthusiasm to take responsibility.

Furthermore the drop in the murder rate seems to have begun with the recession, possibly because people are going out drinking less often and possibly because many immigrants (who are disproportionately young , male and from more violent countries) have left the country. and so claiming credit for it would be politically difficult- "We've made people too poor to go out" isn't an election winning theme.

Retroactive Standards.

Question: How many of those MPs who are complaining about the unfairness of being forced to pay back expenses after Sir Thomas Legg retroactively imposed standards also supported the Windfall Tax on energy companies in the 1990s?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Britain's Insane Libel Laws.

The gagging order issue at the behest of Carter-Ruck and their crooked* clients has rightly angered everyone. However blaming Carter-Ruck or any of the assorted gangsters, terrorists and sex offenders they represent for the situation misses the point. It is like blaming individual mosquitos for malaria whilst ignoring the swamp they breed in. In this case the swamp is the UK's grotesque libel laws that are so infamous that the US has passed a law preventing UK libel judgements being enforced over there.

Nick Cohen's article in Standpoint is probably a good place to start.

* I assume they are crooks because why else would they hire Carter-Ruck?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Porn Consumer Jacqui Smith Doesn't Need To Repay Money She Wrongly Claimed.

What am I missing here:
  • The former Home Secretary claimed that a room at her sister's house was her main residence and her home with her husband was her second home.
  • This meant she could claim second home allowance for her more expensive home and receive over £100 000 more than she would otherwise have done.
  • When the issue was raised she insisted that she spent more time at her sister's house so she was right to designate it as her primary residence.
  • However it turned out that the records of the police protection officers demonstrated that this was completely untrue.
Yet she not only doesn't get prosecuted like anyone else would, she even gets to keep the money she was never entitled to and therefore remains £100 000 richer than she would have been had she been honest.

I must be missing something because it would be preposterous to let someone keep money that they had no right to.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Quote Of The Day.

Peter Hitchens on standing ovations (David Cameron's in particular):
Standing ovations are almost always demonstrations of insincerity. No sane human being really thinks that a politician’s speech is so good they want to stand and simper, batting their palms together for several minutes, at the end.

Hooray For Bribery.

Afghans are known for changing sides back and forth during their long years of war — there is an old saying that “you can rent an Afghan but never buy one” — and battles have often been decided by defections rather than combat.

Paying Taliban foot-soldiers to switch sides could spare US lives and save money, say its advocates. A recent report by the Senate foreign relations committee estimated the Taliban fighting strength at 15,000, of whom only 5% are committed idealogues while 70% fight for money — the so-called $10-a-day Taliban. Doubling this to win them over would cost just $300,000 a day, compared with the $165m a day the United States is spending fighting the war.

This seems like a thoroughly good idea, bribery gets a bad reputation but in a war there is nothing wrong with it. The Colombian civil war is being won by the government partly because they are offering the FARC foot soldiers money to come in from the cold. If many of the Afghans are fighting for money then it is shameful that the USA and Europe are being outbid by a bunch of cave dwellers for whom the goat considered a form of high technology.

Update: In the comments Mark points to this, which is advocating a similar strategy but not calling it bribery.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Idiot Found On The Internet.

Tim Blair claims to have found the "stupidest person on the internet" and he seems to have a strong case in Damian Lataan. Sample quote:
Australia is one of the most racist nations in the Western hemisphere
This isn't actually the stupidest part I could have quoted, but it is the pithiest, as like many far left types he has a really turgid prose style "the notorious neocon propaganda organisation that specialises in blatant lies and anti-Palestinian propaganda." and so on.

However if someone stupider can be found feel free to nominate them.

Flogging A Dead Horse- Another Nobel Exclusive

Oslo 2010: Members of the Nobel Prize committee denied yesterday that their latest award was politically motivated. Following on from previous awards to Barack Obama, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter many critics are claiming that the 2010 award is designed to publicly snub former president George W. Bush.

However in Oslo yesterday Norwegian parliamentarians angrily denied this interpretation and said that the joint award to "Everyone on the planet except George W Bush" was made purely on its merits. The official citation referred to "not being a chimpy murdering Hitler" as a reason for the award was one of the least surprising prizes given for many years.

Worldwide recipients were mostly proud to have won an award- "This is something I can tell my grand kids about, it is the most amazing thing that has ever happened to me" cried 31 year old Bolivian traffic warden Manuel Ayala, whilst in Stuttgart 45 year old German accountant Karoline Schwarz was equally pleased saying that this was "a dream come true".

Other winners were more circumspect- "I'm proud to have my achievements acknowledged, but if everyone except Bush wins the prize doesn't it become devalued?" asked veteran Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum as he supervised the attachment of electrodes to the genitalia of a troublesome dissident.

There were signs yesterday of a growing number of refuseniks who had turned down their award and their share of the 10 million Krona prize, with both Laura Bush and one of the Bush twins expected to decline.

The prize is expected to be presented on November the 18th, a day the Norwegian Parliament has designated "We Hate George Bush" day.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Exclusive: Barack Obama Wins FHM's World's Sexiest Woman Poll.

US President Barack Obama has been awarded the 2009 FHM Sexiest Woman In The World Award.

The Magazine said he won it for "his extraordinary grace and beauty that unites peoples".

They highlighted Mr Obama's incredibly soft skin and long legs as reasons for the award.

Mr Obama's spokesman said the president was "humbled" to have been presented with the prize by previous winner Megan Fox, who dropped the heavy prize. "That would have hurt if it had landed on your toe" remarked the President, an observation for which Mr Obama was immediately awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

There were a record 205 nominations for this year's prize. Angelina Jolie and Cheryl Cole had been among the favourites before Obama surprised everyone to become only the second African American after Halle Berry and the first male winner ever.

However while Obama's coronation was widely applauded many remain uncomfortable with an African American becoming Sexiest Woman in the World, with former winners Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jennifer Lopez both condemning the decision, ostensibly on the grounds that he is a man.

Michelle Obama has said the award will probably be kept next to the Turner Prize trophy her husband won for the contents of his waste paper bin.

Hail Obama; Bringer Of Peace.

Even the most enthusiastic supporters of President Obama must find the decision to give him the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in office with no peace or disarmament agreements achieved to be somewhat absurd. Not to mention two wars that he inherited of which he is escalating one.

I realise the Peace Prize is highly political and past winners include Yasser Arafat but even so usually the more extraordinary awards could at least be explained even if you didn't agree with the explanation.

Three of the last 8 awards have now gone to high profile US politicians from the Democratic Party, and it looks as though the Nobel committee are obsessed by partisan US politics.

Update: Via Obsidian's World, I see that the deadline for nominations for the prize was in early February when Obama had been in office for less than two weeks.

Update 2: Could Obama win the 2010 Nobel Prize for Chemistry if I get him this for Christmas:

The French Really Are Different!

French 'boy sex' minister defiant
Okay but if he does resign who will be the new Boy Sex minister?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Good Idea, Bad Idea.

The new Conservative schools policy combines a very good idea with a very stupid one.
Michael Gove, the shadow schools secretary, has said that a Conservative Government would close down the worst-performing schools in England.
The good part is that he recognises that schools exist for the benefit of their pupils, there should be no sentimentality about the disappearance of schools that aren't very good.

The bad part is that he is taking it upon central government to decide which schools close down despite the enormous distance between a school and the Schools Secretary. Trying to micromanage services from Whitehall inevitably leads to government by target setting. It also runs in complete contrast to the proposals of David Cameron to devolve more power down to local government through elected mayors.

Cross Dressers? They Were Furious.

What happens when two drunk scumbags decide to attack a couple of drag queens on a Friday night in Swansea? This (the good stuff starts at around 1:10):

Full story here.

Update: Changed the post title.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Immigrant Crime Wave Stopped

Say what you like about the British police and prosecutors, but they really go that extra mile to make Britain seem like home for immigrants, particularly immigrants from East Germany like 71 year old Renate Bowling. I suppose she should be grateful that they didn't count her walking frame as an offensive weapon.


Will the number of "The Conservative's European allies are nazi homophobe babyeaters" articles that appear on the Guardian's website between now and the general election exceed the number of "Boris Johnson is in the Ku Klux Klan" pieces that appeared on the same website prior to the London mayoral election?

Update: There are two more today.

For The Attention Of Mr G. Brown.


In Japan a finance minister who has completely screwed things up can atone for his mistakes and the shame he has brought upon himself with one simple act. Just saying.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Brazilian Braziliance

Whilst I reading about Brazil at the weekend, one thing I discovered is that their great modernist architect Oscar Niemeyor is still alive at the age of 101. Great modernist architect might be an oxymoron to some, but his buildings don't luck hideously ugly in the way that La Corbusier's creations do, from a distance at least Brasilia looks quite attractive.

Also on a Brazilian theme here is my top 5 Brazilian films (although I have only seen around 15 so this isn't exhaustive by any means and the dominence of crime related works probably reflects my tastes as much as Brazilian cinema):

5- Bus 174- a documentary about an infamous seige where a criminal took a bus and held the passengers hostage for days. The incompetence of the police and the horrendous background of the hostage taker are explored in detail. The use of actual footage of the seige makes it partularly gut wrenching to watch. When I first saw it I thought it made too many excuses for the criminal which is somewhat ironic given the next movie on my list by the same director.

4- Elite Squad- A film about Rio De Janeiro's elite paramilitary police unit, who are more of an urban warfare unit than a police squad. It has been criticised for glorifying or excusing police violence, it doesn't though, it puts the violence into context though by looking at the mayhem of the slums and the indulgence towards criminals of the intelligensia. The boasts of the Elite Squad narrator about the professionalism of the unit are undercut by what is actually depicted which a lot of the hostile critics seemed to miss.

3- Carandiru- A film based on a real life prison riot which ended up with over 100 prisoners being killed. It picks some characters and tells their stories from before they went to prison up to the time of the riot.

2- Central Station- A cynical middle aged woman who writes letters for illiterates for a living is forced to take a ten year old boy she doesn't know to his relatives hundreds of miles away after his mother is killed. I don't know if this would seem scmaltzy if it were in English, but it avoids that beartrap and is a great character driven film.

1- City of God- IMHO the best film in the last ten years, it is set in the Rio slum of the title and follows the rise and fall of it's most psychotic gangster from a very scary child to an even scarier adult through the eyes of the narrator.

Execute Homosexuals- Say Labour's European Allies

The Liberal Conspiracy blog has been banging on about the Tories shocking links to eeeevil homophobic MEP's who are going to pass 'Section 28' style legislation in Lithuania. They seem to think that Baltic gay rights a real game changer in a British election, bless 'em.

Rather amusingly the Lib Dem's Foreign spokesman Ed Davey has also denounced the Tories for this, despite the fact that his own party's European allies are in the same governing coalition that is enacting the law.

Anyway how do Labour's European allies compare to the Tories on the whole gay thing, for example what is the opinion of their Russian allies in the Council of Europe, the Liberal Democratic party headed by Vladimir Zhirinovsky?:
Deputy Speaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky has called for the death penalty for homosexuals
I await the official Lib Con denouncement in 10...9....8....

Saturday, October 03, 2009

I Didn't Even Know Virgin Operated In China

Is it me or do the air hostesses in the Chinese version of that Virgin ad seem less welcoming than in the original?:

Via Mick Hartley.

Time For A Referenda Referendum.

Now that the Lisbon treaty has been approved by Irish voters it will probably be in force by the time of the next election. I was hoping that it would be best of three with a third referendum to decide who wins but apparently "yes means yes" but "no means try again".

A referendum after it is in force would be a de facto in or out vote and it is unlikely that David Cameron will want that because it will aggravate splits in the party and he would probably lose which would damage both him and Euroscepticism.

However doing nothing in response would make his current statements about "not letting it rest" look laughable, which will also annoy the party and make him look weak. So he needs to do something to satisfy Eurosceptics in the party and the country.

What I would do in his shoes would be to offer a referendum on the following question- "Should future European Union treaties require majority support in a referendum in order to be ratified?".

This would put the brakes on any deeper EU integration without the consent of the voters & force Labour and the Lib Dems into the position of arguing against democracy.

The Decline/Triumph Of The West.

Something I heard yesterday, in relation to Rio De Janeiro winning the 2016 Olympics, is that the World Bank predicts that by 2016 Brazil will be the 5th largest economy in the world, presumably over taking France, the UK and Italy.

It surprised me that it is being predicted to happen so soon but even if the prediction is delayed by a few years it will happen at some point. India will also overtake us at some point and maybe Mexico and Indonesia too by the end of the century.

In one sense this could be seen as the relative decline of the West but it is also the triumph of Western values that the emerging countries in the world are largely those which have embraced democracy and pluralism. Of the world's 30 largest economies only China, Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are not democratic and 3 of those are dependent on natural resources rather than human capital for their wealth. By way of comparison in a list of the countries with the largest populations 13 out of 30 are not stable democracies (some of them hold elections though).

The West is not going to be supplanted by banana republics and alliances between tinpot tyrants.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Flow Chart Of The Day

Click here if you need to see the image separately.

Via Reason

Miliband Balls It Up.

After Ed Balls pledged to deal with the BNP members becoming teachers David Miliband helpfully shows why it is a bad idea, beyond the simple civil liberties issue.

Even if a ban on members of racist and neo-nazi organisations like the BNP was desirable, who could trust the government to apply it honestly when people like David Miliband are sufficiently unscrupulous to smear any opponents as racists and neo-nazis?

Incidentally does Balls know how many BNP members are currently teaching and whether they have brought their racial attitudes into their job? It certainly doesn't seem to be a particularly pressing problem though I stand to be corrected.

Unenforceable Law Proposed For The Children.


Thursday, October 01, 2009

Brown Does Blue Peter

This is good, from Gerald Warner:

“Welcome to the Blue Peter studio, Prime Minister.”

“Thanks, Helen, it’s a pleasure to be here. I’ve always been a keen viewer – as a child I used to enjoy your Flowerpot Men, they reminded me of some of my colleagues (it says in Peter’s briefing note). Ha, ha.”

“Quite, Prime Minister. Can I ask you first of all if you watched our previous item on making tablet – ”

“Stop that! I tell you, I’m not on any tablets. This is character assassination by the BBC – I didn’t come here to be insulted!”

Quote Of The Day.

Movie mogul Harvey Weinstein who is currently circulating the Free Polanski petition, defends Hollywood against accusations of being amoral:
"Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion," Weinstein said. "We were the people who did the fundraising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe."