Sunday, April 30, 2006

Bits and bobs

It looks possible that two Cabinet Ministers might resign on the same day. When was the last time this happened? The PM might not be far behind, particularly with the opinion polls suggesting a meltdown might be close to.

I was thinking some more about Stephen Pollard (I've lost, I know). Perhaps it's because he is not taken seriously be either left or right, but he appears to have been given a rather easy ride over his astonishing claim in his "The Maida Vale Manifesto" that:

The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.

It is not entirely clear what he is trying to say. It would appear from this quote an accurate rendition is:

The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy. In the battle to save Western civilisation and freedom it is on the other side.

So a lot hinges on what he means by 'any recognisable form' and 'enemy'. The former one might assume means anyone who describes themselves as being on the 'left', but earlier in the piece he says there are good leftists, of which Tony Blair is one. 'Enemy' and on the 'other side' is language that you might expect to us to describe Al Qaeda. Indeed enemies on the other side of a battle to save your civilisation are usually arrested.

Maybe I am at risk of taking him too seriously. His Maida Vale Manifesto appears to have got about 7 signatories, 1/160th of the Euston Manifesto, and only 1/7mn of the adult population of this country. Think of London - if you drove through it and spoke to every person only one would have signed Pollard's manifesto.

But he is a senior columnist with our oldest daily newspaper, and I think it important that we know a) what does he mean by 'any recognisable form' if it doesn't include Tony Blair and b) what does he believe should be done about people he sees apparently working on Al Qaeda's side to destroy our civilisation. Does he think they should be arrested and jailed? If not, why not?

A final note - Pollard signed the Unite Against Terror statement, and quoted this excerpt "In the face of such an enemy, we believe it is vital that democratic political forces in all countries unite".

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Labour Party swapsies

So Charles Clarke is today revealed to be having an affair with Margaret Beckett. Oh, no sorry, my mistake he's not. But it's only a matter of time. Today it's Mo Mowlan's widower and Clare Short. This is becoming like the Spectator, but with generally uglier people*.

* Then again Rod Liddle or John Prescott? It's a tricky one...

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Blah blah stuff

Aside from the fact that no-one in the film is as interested in being in the film as Dan Cruikshank* thinks they should be, I am really enjoying his series on the old colour film taken by Claude Friese-Greene.

I (and girlfriend) won a pub quiz tonight. £22! Rather annoying though, as it is our first time, the second prize seemed to be better - a dinner for two. And the prize for coming last was four pints. So it really was 'All must have prizes' as Mad Mel would say. Talking of which...

...I think it was John Band who passed on the really annoying game which only has one rule - you lose it when you remember you are playing it. After I told two friends of mine, who added a competitive element - the first to remember they were playing lost each round - it almost drove them mad. Anyway I have refined the game, and unfortunately just lost it. The rule is simply if you remember Melanie Phillips** exists, you have lost the game. The aim is to see for how long you can go without doing so. Winning it thus is a double-whammy - you are winning, and you have forgotten of Mel's existence. For some reason BD's comment below just reminded me of her existence, and thus I have lost. But this is the first time for weeks.

Charles Clarke - if Ministerial Responsibilty has anything left in it, surely he will resign? Will it give David Blunkett the chance to beat Mandelson?

Update: Michael Howard and I are using the same words! "If our traditional principles of ministerial responsibility mean anything at all, he should no longer be in his job," he told the BBC.

* Wasn't he once the telecoms regulator?
** Or Pollard, same difference.

The curse of the blog

There I go praising Charles Clarke, and now I can't see any way in which he is going to avoid resignation.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Charles Clarke

The Home Secretary makes a speech which I imagine will be broadly supported by the Decent Left, and widely shouted down by everyone else. I like attacks on the Media, so I say good on him.

However this but puzzled me. He said:

whilst words like 'holocaust', 'gulag' and 'apartheid' are regularly used descriptively of our society in ways which must be truly offensive to those who experienced those realities.

What is he referring to? Gulag I assume he means Amnesty about Guantanamo. Apartheid is often used. But 'holocaust'? I'm sure he's right, but I can't think in what context. It's hard to search for as obviously you get references to the Holocaust, not a 'holocaust'. Trying [Holocaust Labour -nazi -jew] etc doesn't help much either. Probably some animal rights extremists, though I don't remember than in Britain.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Sunday Telegraph

I can't say I've noticed much improved since Patience Wheatcroft took over, though its not obvious things have got worse, which is a relief (except for its silly review of the week's news, which is unoriginal and pointless). One thing that has been kept however is the new masthead, which caused endless grief amongst readers bemoaning the disappearance of the Gothic font one, which one assumed had been there since the paper's founding in the 1960s. Apparently not so however, this is a photo of the 1966 Sunday Telegraph (the other thing to note is England win the world cup and incomes policy is the next day's headline - though the world cup does get a third of the front page)

Dave does it!

I'm pleased to see that Aaro managed to complete the marathon in the pretty impressive time of 4h 24 mins. Well done to him!

The things Daily Mail readers who are BNP supporters say

I take issue with the words "odious" and "poisonous" being used to describe the
BNP. This party wishes to rid Britain of those who have arrived over the last 50
years to destroy our national character...It wants to repatriate those who don't
belong here back to their lands of origin


Anne Passman,
Wembury, Devon

Does she have a point? Here's a picture of Wembury, Devon. Not obvious that it's overrun with non-white people trying to destroy our national character. Here's the Ofsted report for the local primary school - apparently there are 141 pupils, of which 139, 99%, are white. I suppose the two (black) children could be out to destroy it...

Friday, April 21, 2006

Tory MP calls for troop withdrawal from Iraq

Which Stopper is this? Michael Ancram. Lead signatory of the Henry 'Stopper' Jackson Society - er Scoop - er this is confusing. I said he was flaky...though wasn't it the case that even Scoop himself decided to abandon Vietnam when he thought it might help him win the election? Maybe this is their next big thing?

In his justification for the decision [to vote against the 1974 military appropiation bill], he stressed that no further aid could save a corrupt South Vietnamese regime that “lacked the determination, leadership and direction to fight”….[in April 1975] he accused the executive branch of misleading “a foreign government and the United States Congress about US commitments to South Vietnam in 1972-73

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Parachute jumps for charity

Matthew Sinclair, who annoyingly has got my old non-John Major template to work, has the amusing research that the average parachute jump for charity costs the NHS rather a lot of money.

The finding is in this paper. The casualty rate - 7% of charity jumpers require hospital admission - is eye-watering, and so in its own way is the average amount raised, of just £30. Taken together the cost to the NHS is 13.75 pounds for every pound raised.

We only have the abstract to go on so two questions seem to me immediately obvious - how did they get only £30 raised? Is that after paying costs? I sponsored David Aaronovitch, who I have never met and whose journalism I find exasperating, £20, to run a marathon. Surely your average parachute jumper could raise more?

Even if they could however it's unlikely they would raise enough to cover the cost of the NHS treatment (over £400 per person on average). So the other question is whether those NHS costs are an over-estimate, for example do they include fixed-costs? I have no reason to believe they are wrong, however.

My poor bike

I cycle to look at a house in North-West London. Lock the bike to a lamppost. Pop inside for no more than 5 mins. Come outside to find bike in bits, with brake cables broken, axles removed and obviously still attached to the lamppost as the huge d-lock was attached to the wheel and the lamppost and the frame. So what was the point of that?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oh the irony

Of course, Ms. Sarpong is inconsequential, so her delusional musings concerning the objectivity of her favourite newspapers are of infinitesimal interest on their own.

Scott Burgess, "The Daily Ablution"

Decency Update

In response to overwhelming requests and much good advice I have updated and revised the cut-out and keep guide to British Decency. I cannot claim it is 100% accurate - though I am not aware that Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson has set up any new fronts in the last 24 hours, it is of course likely that he has.

It has been pointed out to me that the position of the names within each circle does not reflect the relative importance of the individual Decents to each Decency campaign. This is true. I am working on a better measure of overall Decency - the Decency Index, which will address these issues. I might need some help in listing all the Decency projects - what others are there aside from these three, Democritya, TMFFE?

A pointless gesture

If Margaret Rhodes is correct, the Queen apparently plans to remain on the Throne until she dies. This strikes me as a Bad Idea. First, how can someone in their 90s and possibly 100s effectively rule a country? Second, if she does live to (let's say) 95, and there is no reason to believe she won't, then Prince Charles will be 73 when he becomes King, only a few years off death himself. This of course might be her game plan.

Stephen Pollard again

Britain's silliest blogger Stephen Pollard is still listed on Bloggers4Labour, despite his attack yesterday on the left, declaring it 'in any recognisable form' to be 'now the enemy'. Obviously it has only been one day, but the link really should be taken down.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Spies in Maine

At Waterloo before catching the Eurostar I bought Max Hasting's "Armageddon", about the last year of World War II, which is reasonably interesting. I was particularly amused by his account of the rather pointless continuing German intelligence operations after the war was clearly lost. Parachuting espionage officers behind the rapidly encroaching Soviet front in 1945 was quite common (almost all of whom were caught immediately apparently), but my favourite was that a U-boat dropped off two spies off the coast of Maine on New Year's Day 1945 to carry out reconaissance operations. I wonder what they did?

Stephen Pollard on the Left

The mainstream Left has demonstrated clearly which side of the battle to preserve Western civilisation and freedom it is on. The Left, in any recognisable form, is now the enemy.

Blimey. Apparently the Left is the enemy of Western Civilisation itself. What can be done? Is Pollard planning another demand for the US Marines to take action?

Do people take him seriously? Some people appear to do more than that - for example, from Oliver Kamm's "Normblog" profile*:

If you could choose anyone, from any walk of life, to be Prime Minister who would you choose? > It has to be Stephen Pollard.

Most people however probably don't. Pollard used to claim to be a Labour supporter, but I'm not sure what he claims to be now - an opinion-poll watcher, most likely.

* This was written in 2003, and/or might be a joke.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In the Sunday Teelgraph

George Trefgarne writes about the demutualization of Standard Life. I am a Standard Life policy-holder, and so am looking forward to the demutualization, but I suspect like most others it is really because I am told I will get £500 or so and If I don't think too hard I can't really see why it's not free money.

I find his argument rather overblown. He says that such companies investing in bonds not equities is a mistake because of the better long-run performance of the latter [I've changed the order of his words here, click on the original for exactly what he said):

This false doctrine has led to a giant mis-allocation of capital. It means the large Footsie stocks are still investor who does not believe in shares is a heretic who does not really believe in the rights of ownership or the principles of capitalism.

Or they think they aren't massively undervalued.

Onto Christopher Booker, who I am led to believe is representative of a large strand of Conservative thinking. This is what he has to say on David Cameron:

[His speech was] the most self-parodyingly condescending piece of litter ever produced by a political party....Last week it became more apparent than ever just what a catastrophic blunder the Tories made in picking David Cameron as their leader...seem to have confirmed their [here he means our] view that the party has been hijacked by a gang of spoiled children who appear to have no contact with the realities with which the rest of us live.

Of couse the party's poll showing is actually rather good at present, suggesting that perhaps it is Booker who has no contact with reality. However he also adds that a "Senior Tory" has said:

"The real problem," as one dismayed senior Tory put it recently, "is that it is going to take two more years before this disaster can be undone. Labour walks the next election, and then we're going to have to start all over again."

In cases like this it would be nice if Booker could say of what vintage the Senior Tory is, ie is it someone like Lord Tebbit? There is much more of this on the letters page.

Finally something we can all agree on. "Remove your muzzle, Charles, and speak your mind - the country needs to hear you", demand Clive Aslet. I suspect here he is using 'country' much like the word 'society' used to be used - to describe a small set of rich people.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Bye for now!

I'm off to Brussels for the weekend - it has cafes and bars, you know!

Arrest in honours probe

Cue lots of journalists searching stories to see which men aged 60 were involved...

Oh dear big night in the pub, I can't remember what happened...

...apparently dear you set up a campaign and a website.

What the difference between this and a campaign that seems to both pre- and post-date it, the Unite Against Terror one, is hard to tell. Basically it seems to be a relaunch of that campaign. Certainly the same people appear to be behind it, though remarkably I can't see Alan 'Not the Minister' Johnson's name on this one.

It's full of the same old stuff - a whinge about the lack of representation in the 'mainstream media' for these views, in a piece written by Nick Cohen, columnist in the Observer, the Evening Standard and the New Statesman, with the report signed by Francis Wheen, deputy-editor of Private Eye, columnist in the Guardian, John Lloyd, [Update: ex-editor of the FT Magazine, now contributing editor to the newspaper and director of journalism at the newly formed Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University - thanks OK] etc.

I particularly liked the attack on those:

who pay lip-service to this aim [of building a democratic Iraq], while devoting most of their energy to criticism of their political opponents at home

This of course is something the Decent Left would never do, as most of them couldn't even be bothered with the 'lip-service' bit. Let us remember their stirring words after the London atrocities of July 2005, when explicitly asked to 'Unite Against Terror'.

Nick Cohen decided instead of attacking the terrorists, or expressing common goals amongs all Britons, to attack his political opponents at home.

The Michael Moroonification of the majority of leftish opinion might not seem to matter greatly

Peter Tatchell decided to attack his political opponents at home too, in a piece that didn't condemn the terrorist attacks once*.

We are witnessing one of the greatest betrayals by the left since so-called left-wingers backed the Hitler-Stalin pact and opposed the war against Nazi fascism

Stephen Pollard decided to attack his political opponents at home, the 'enemy within'.

The Guardianista fellow-travellers of terror, who stress its supposed causes, are the useful idiots of the Islamofascists

Anyway we shall see whether this campaign has any more impact than the Unite Against The Left, The Henry 'Scoop' Jackson Society, the March for Free Expression etc etc had.

* I should point out here that Peter Tatchell is a small 'd' decent man, and has subsequently said he regretted his statement.

Update: Here it is, a handy cut-out and keep guide to British decency. If I have made any errors or missed out key figures please let me know.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

War crimes

The prosecution of this RAF chap, has stirred Oliver. However the following quote is not from him, but from The Herald, which I think is a Scottish newspaper:

A]s a serving officer, who has pledged to obey orders, it is not up to him to pick and choose where he works or to claim to be an authority on the legal case for war, regardless of his private misgivings

This seems to me to be correct. However I am slightly unsure why I believe this, and yet I don't believe that if my Boss was to tell me to do something I had private misgivings about, and indeed thought illegal, I was obliged to follow those orders. I suppose to clarify the point, surely if an Officer says to a private, 'shoot him', the law of the land still takes precedent. Is there a difference I am missing?

The Economist speaks of the "Slow Death of Old Europe"

...or at least its Central and Eastern Europe correspondent, Edward Lucas, does, in today's Daily Mail.

His thesis is that France, Italy and Germany are all going to die, and the place to look for the future is Britain (unless Gordon Brown ruins it) and Eastern Europe. For example:

"the astonishingly competitive economy left by the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major"

"the real clue to progress lies in the former captive nations of Eastern Europe such as Slovakia, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia and others...they have sucked in a stunning $163bn of foreign direct investment [since 1989]"

The first quote really only tells you about his political leanings. The idea that the British economy in 1990 was 'astonishingly competitive' is absurd, and even by 1997 the 'astonishingly' could only refer to relative to past performance. No neutral observer would agree. On the second point the performance of many of the E.European countries has been good, particularly recently, though I would suggest their joining or being given the green light to join the EU has played a more important role than people like Lucas allow. However the stunning $163bn of FDI since 1989 should be kept in perspective. If the trend for the first three-quarters of 2005 continued in the final quarter, France has received FDI of $165bn since 2002, which is not bad for a country on its last legs.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Power of the Blog

The NYRB looks at the power of the blog to shape political campaigns.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Cut & paste errors

Via James Hamilton I come across the allegations of plagiarism against TV psychologist and psychiatrist(one of only two in Britain, according to James) Raj Persaud. It's not in any doubt that Persaud used another person's work, however he claims it was a cut and paste error, and the sub-editors too out the speech marks. As such then it seems trivially easy to find out whether he is telling the truth - ask the sub-editors?

Sunday, April 09, 2006

"as if I were a black trying to purchase food in a Mississippi diner in 1955"

Yes, with a claim like that it could only be Carol Gould. After her terrible experiences in Edgware Road on Remembrance Day, now we have her attempt to get a drink in the Green Man pub.

For some reason that to this moment I still cannot fathom, the portly publican refused to give me the time of day and treated me as if I were a black trying to purchase food in a Mississippi diner in 1955...What would possess an Englishman whose establishment is there to serve the public to treat a well-dressed, cheerful and dignified middle-aged woman with such deplorable contempt? Did thousands of Americans die in two European wars to be treated like dirt when they are on these shores? Perhaps the pub landlord thought I looked Jewish. Perhaps he thought I looked like an American who would be demanding. I thought to myself, 'This is what it must have felt like being an African-American in the Deep South in the 1950s.'

So Carol Gould knows not only what it was like to be Jewish in 1930s Germany, but also what it was like to be black in 1950s America, all from her time in London.

Or maybe it was just the pub. From Beerintheevening reviews:
It is in a scummy part of Edgware Road (remember the BBC series about Paddington Green a couple of years ago?). The people at the bar last night were intimidating, shell-suited lager louts. The Guinness in there (it was St Patrick's Day) was vile. The teenage (i.e. under 18) girls and boys made it a thoroughly awful experience. Will not return. Not if you paid me. Crap beer, crap atmosphere, nervous looking landlord serving people who looked like they were on methadone. Rancid.

good atmosphere with friendly locals and good cheap food. the fish and chips was especially good value at 2.99. the only down side was a very unwelcoming landlord, though the bar staff more than made up for him.

or maybe it wasn't:
This is my local pub and my family have been drinking here for well over 30 years. Geoff the landlord is a great bloke but has a no nonsense attitude so if you cause trouble then he will remember your face! The bar staff are constantly changing and you can be guranteed the staff are always going to be funny and welcoming- the landlord wont have moody boring staff at this pub!

Thanks to CB for pointing it out.

ps After last year saying the Labour Party's arrest of Walter Wolfgang as reminding her of the Nazis, she now further burns her bridges with her previous Decent Left admirers even more by also accusing Nick Cohen and Francis Wheen of anti-Americanism.

In the Sunday Papers

Reasonably interesting if depressing stuff today. The Sunday Times claims Tory members are turning on David Cameron, particularly over his failure to capitalise on the Labour peerages-for-sale scandal. Naturally Matthew d'Acona in the Telegraph has no such fears. And over in the Independent, Cameron is promising no early release for prisoners, which may of course yet become a way of capitalising on the peers-for-sale scandal. The Times also claims that there is an expenses 'Black Hole' in Tony Blair's constituency dealings, and to do so illustrates (on the home page) it with a picture of Tony Blair looking a tad like Silvio Berlusconi.

The Observer has a leak of the first official report into the July 7th bombings, and it finds that there was no Al Qaeda '5th man' or apparently any link at all. The bombers were motivated by anger over the war in Iraq and a belief in immortality, though if they really wanted was to experience that on the Circle Line in rush-hour all they would have needed to do would be to sit on it normally like everyone else.

Seymour Hersh, says the Telegraph, claims the Bush Admnistration are going to launc a nuclear strike on Iran to prevent it getting nuclear weapons. A Senior Iraqi Official says Iraq is in civil war, says the Independent.

Finally a lot of the papers cover Wayne Rooney's alleged £700,000 'gambling debts'. For example here. The good news, for Colleen and Wayne, apparently, is that as gambling debts are not enforceable he might not have to pay it.

UPDATE: Tories claim there was an Al-Qaeda link!

Friday, April 07, 2006

CNN: "Study: Bush tax cuts making rich richer"

Well I'm glad that great unknown of the worldhas been cleared-up.

Update: New revelations, "Britain's binge drink more than other Europeans", with a quote from a certain Mr Band telling us that things are on the up.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

YouGov again

Only £1.60 to go! Three more surveys, then presumably I'll be stuck on £49.90 for the rest of my days.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Land of Corniches

Fodor's Guide to Britain and Ireland, 1960, p.254

Welsh Riviera

From Bangor to Rhyl, you might almost imagine yourself in the south of France, on the road between St.Raphael and Monte Carlo.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Denis Donaldson has been shot dead. So IRA, or British Government?

ps Watching the News, it apparently could also be the Irish Government, splinter groups, or basically anyone else. I think, given the total amazement on the part of Irish political pundits that he was Spy, you are best discounting any view other than that you read from such correspondents. So it's either the British, the Irish, or possibly Chavez.

Cameron on the UKIP

Apparently some of their members are 'fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists'. 'Closet'?

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Carbon Dioxide

There's a letter in today's Sunday Telegraph which puts forwards an argument also made by a columnist in the Daily Telegraph, namely:

Since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution the world's population has risen by about 5 billion (about 4 billion of which has been since 1950). Each person's exhalations are about 4 per cent CO2 (about 1 litre per minute on average) so that today people themselves contribute to the carbon in the atmosphere to the tune of around 1.84 billion tonnes per year (fossil fuels are said to contribute around 7 billion tonnes a year). In February this year world population passed 6.5 billion. Curbing population growth could serve to reduce global warming, if that is a real threat, as well as alleviate poverty.

As far as I am aware this just isn't how it works*, with the amount of carbon dixoide being expelled by human breathing the same as goes in from food, whcih comes from the atmosphere. This is technically true of fossil fuels as well, but the issue is the time-scale. Is that right? But what if no-one ate the plants? Would that mean lower atmospheric quantities of carbon dioxide over time?

* Except of course fewer humans would mean reduced emissions for other reasons.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Good grief

The people who accused me of an unfunny April fool's joke have come up won't believe it...a spoof Guardian site. And guess what they've done -- they called it the Grauniad! For readers abroad, that's a hilarious joke based on the Guardian's reputation (before 1988, admittedly) for typos! It's at least a more honest look, I suppose.

I can't carp too much though as my own April Fool's joke was going to be the least funny yet. Unfortunately the premise -- that the idea of Oliver Kamm launching a group blog with Noam Chomsky was patently absurd -- was rather overtaken by reality.