Sunday, February 28, 2010

Large Earthquake In Chile....

.... many dead.

What The EU Does.

In an earlier post I forgot to mention this from earlier this month which is probably the most pathetic thing that I've ever read:

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.

How To Attract/Kill Tourists.

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.

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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Smothering The Competition

I was listening to a discussion about the future of the BBC digital radio stations 6 Music & the Asian Network and one of the points that kept being made by the presenter and the callers was that the sort of thing 6 Music is doing is not available in the commercial sector.

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.

Ten Years For Photographing Police?

If new rather nebulous "anti terrorism" laws are introduced next month then possibly yes.

Update: Yes this is from last year.

He's Just Not That Into You.

Last January I wrote a not entirely serious post about whether Obama was a closet Anglophobe. When you look at what has happened since then- returning the bust of Winston Churchill, giving Gordon Brown those somewhat insulting presents, disavowing the "special relationship" and now refusing to back Britain's position in the Falklands- I think it's fair to say that he certainly is not an Anglophile.

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

The Falklands & Diplomatic Failure

The news that several Caribbean Commonwealth countries have backed Argentina's stance over the Falkland Islands is surprising, even if they desire regional unity it seems perverse given that the legitimacy of historic British territorial claims is the basis of their legal standing in any boundary disputes, Guyana and Belize in particular have their territory disputed by neighbours so should be aghast at the idea that British territorial claims have been superseded.

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

Crime & Immigration US Style

There is an interesting article on immigration and crime here, in a magazine not notably supportive of immigration, which pretty much debunks the notion that Mexican immigrants to the United States have significantly higher rates of crime than white Americans, despite Mexico's high levels of violence at the moment.

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.

International Man Of Mockery

When even the Taiwanese, who are no slouches when it comes to political fisticuffs, think Gordon Brown's violence is worthy of ridicule then it is safe to say that he is officially a global figure of fun.

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

Bad Santa.

I thought that awesomeness of a couple of thugs being floored by a cross dressing cage fighter could not be surpassed, but that was before 67 year old "Epic Beard Guy":

You Wouldn't Like Him When He's Angry.... Or When He's Not.

Given that Labour's new slogan "A Future Fair For All" hasn't really captured the public imagination, plus it appears to be yet another line they've stolen from the BNP (why must the future be 'fair' rather than dark or swarthy?), so they need a new slogan.

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

Thoughts On The Winter Olympics

  • 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

In Praise Of Farmers

Yes they may be subsidy hungry moaners but when you're stuck in a snowstorm as I was yesterday (a 15 min journey took 3.5 hours) you gain an appreciation of their work. On a rural back road where each hill was blocked with vehicles that couldn't get up I was a little bit annoyed to see the gritting truck drive past without actually spreading any grit.

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.

Blue Scotland?

This is a turn up:

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.

Alec Salmond has always struck me as a supremely gifted opposition politician but with no clear ideas of his own, so it doesn't surprise me that being in power has been bad for the nats under him.

Quote Of The Day

When not writing about US politics, where is too partisan to be insightful, Paul Krugman can be worth reading, as this article on the Euro demonstrates:
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


Isn't this cute?:

The breed of dog in the clip is of course the famed "Canis Treadwellus"

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Four Months!?

Why has it taken the CPS four months to decide that writing a newspaper column of which Steven Fry disapproves is not actually a crime yet? It took me 4 seconds.

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.

More Policy Based Evidence Making

Aren't these researchers missing something here:

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

Still Here

Sorry for there being no posts for three days, I was going to say something about something or other, but I've forgotten what the subject was. I feel very strongly about this sort of thing however and need to make the depth of my passion for the issue clear even if I am not sure what the issue is or whether I am for or against it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Not The Usual Suspects.

Nearly everyone who goes on a killing spree at an educational institution is a lone male in their teens or twenties. Except the latest massacre seems to have been performed by a married middle aged woman.

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

Sometimes Bad Things Just Happen To Bad People.

Given the recent trouble Amnesty have found themselves in over their championing of Guantanamo inmate Moazzam Begg, you'd think anyone with an iota of common sense would pause a moment before making Binyam Mohammed the next poster child for American brutality.

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.

Operation Cloth Cap

I'm not Northern but don't the BBC's plans to counter accusations of a Southern, anti-Northern bias seem to exacerbate the issue?:
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

Ali Dizaei: Exclusive Footage Of His Crime.

Many people have commented on the recent troubles of bent copper Ali Dizaei. What exactly happened on that night, where his victim reportedly approached Dizaei at a party and asked to be paid for designing his website may never be truly known. Unless someone was lucky enough to have acquired footage of the entire incident, some one like me:

Monday, February 08, 2010


A good proportion of the posts on the front page of this site actually consist of in jokes and running gags that don't make any sense to outside observers.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Knicker Nicker Sentenced.

Everyone's favourite underwear stealing mayor has been sentenced:

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.

Parody Singularity.

At the time I posted the Hari-Mordor piece, I hadn't read this 2004 Johann Hari article.

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.

Guest Post: Johann Hari Reports From Mordor.

Editors note: It's been a while since I had a guest post, neither Gordon Brown nor Liam Donaldson have agreed to come back here, so my standards may have slipped, I did try to fact check the report but was threatened with a libel writ if I implied that it may not be entirely accurate.

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

Locked In

This is another reminder of why starving people in a vegetative state to death is a horrendous act:

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

Adolescent Libertarians.

Jonathan Calder, in a post about libertarian* bloggers, makes a lot of good points:
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.
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?
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.

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.

Quote Of The Day.

Wise words:

Poppy noted most couples seek out divorce attorneys when marital problems become too great. "They don't set things in motion so people get all messed up with glue," he said.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Fine, I'll sign up and start prattling on about the most banal and tedious aspects of my life just like everybody else.

I'll probably have given it up by next week.

A Propah Mayah

Sion Simon has decided to put his talents to good use, by announcing his candidacy for a job that doesn't exist- the elected mayor of Birmingham. Actually existing jobs aren't as much of a strong point.

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

Death Cat Deja Vu.

I was going to joke about this story about the "death cat", then I realised that I'd made the joke a couple of years ago. I might as well recycle the joke rather than make a new one.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Don't They Have Anything Better To Do?

Are government ministers really such monumental control freaks that they believe they have the right to pick the England football team?

“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'm sure if anyone else wrote this then Yasmin Alibhai Brown would be calling for their head*:
I did try to sit through the Blair show. An unfortunate combination of Asiatic high emotion and feminine fragility made me feeble.

* Assuming her Asiatic emotions overwhelmed he feminine fragility of course.