Thursday, 22 December 2011

Pyongyang follies revisited - now it is getting /really/ silly.

This from the KCNA.  I am not, repeat not, making this up:

A natural wonder was also observed around the statue of the President standing on Tonghung Hill.At around 21:20 Tuesday a Manchurian crane was seen flying round the statue three times before alighting on a tree. The crane stayed there for quite a long while with its head drooped and flew in the direction of Pyongyang at around 22:00.Observing this, the director of the Management Office for the Hamhung Revolutionary Site, and others said in union that even the crane seemed to mourn the demise of Kim Jong Il born of Heaven after flying down there at dead of cold night, unable to forget him."
Here's a Manchurian Crane, possibly grief-stricken:

There are also tales of lake ice cracking, temperature drops and strong winds, obviously all related to the death of Kim Jong-Il.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Kim Jong-Il

I'll give the first word to Hiliare Belloc:

"Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician’s corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged".

In terms of what comes next, his son's taking up of the reins is by no means as clear cut as the media is making out at the moment.  At present, the KCNA English language service is not even reporting the death, let alone the succession   Whoever ends up being the face of DPRK will be utterly beholden to the military - as was Kim Jong-Il.  As such, expect more money to go the military, perhaps a few mortar rounds will get lobbed at the South and possibly something a little more spectacular.  However, I would rule out a full scale invasion of the South, for while the North has the numbers, its equipment is utterly outdated  - it has some 40 Mig 29s, with everything else much, much older.  Equally, the West would defend the South, but I doubt that Beijing has the stomach for a fight, and the DPRK does nothing that goes against Chinese vital interests.

However, whatever we think, Koreans have their own way of doing things, evidenced by this from 'The Dragon and the Foreign Devils':  "In 1866, nine French priests had their heads cut off by the Koreans.  The French Asiatic Squadron under Rear-Admiral Pierre Gustave Roze put a landing party ashore and proclaimed a blockade of...Seoul.  The Koreans refused to take any notice of them, let alone negotiate. The baffled French withdrew to China, having accomplished nothing".    

Friday, 11 November 2011

Pyongyang follies - the comeback

I spotted this at the KCNA today:

"Football Expert Expects DPRK's Good Results in Match with Japan"

"The DPRK and Japan, both belonging to Group C of the Asian regional third-stage preliminaries for the 2014 World Cup, will have a match in Pyongyang on November 15.
Prof. and Dr. Ri Tong Gyu, a football expert and researcher at the Institute of Physical Culture under the Academy of Sports Science, is of the view that the two teams will have a hot match"
. (No sniggering at the back)

"A total of 16 matches have been held between the DPRK and Japan, including a preliminary match for the Asian Football Championship held in June 1975, in which the former defeated the latter 1:0.
The two teams had three matches in Pyongyang. They drew 0:0 in two matches and the DPRK beat Japan 2:0 in the Asian regional preliminaries for World Cup held in June 1989".

Might there be something that the KCNA is not telling us?    

Yes, there sure is.

In the last game twixt Samurai Blue and Chollima, played in September this year, Japan won 1-0.  I have been able to find results going back to 2005 - any additions would be welcome - and these show three wins to Japan, one to the DPRK and one draw.

However, onwards to the Kumi Inlet, " the southern part of Ryongyon County, South Hwanghae Province".

"Near the inlet there are rich marine resources like sea cucumber, launce, gizzard shad, oyster, short neck clam and tangle".

I'm not much of an icthyologist, but it turns out that the gizzard shad is known to non-DPRK science.  Not sure about 'tangle' though.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Would you dig down the back of your sofa for £3.86 bn?

Tough call isn't it?

This, from the EUPravda, more specifically the European Court of auditors:

"The ECA concludes that the 2010 accounts present fairly the financial position of the European Union and the results of its operations and its cash flows for the year. However, the payments underlying these accounts were still affected by material error, with an estimated error rate of 3.7 % for the €122.2 billion of EU spending. The error rate is not an estimate of fraud but reflects the ECA’s estimation of the degree of non-compliance with the rules governing the spending, such as breaches of public procurement rules, ineligible or incorrect calculation of costs claimed to EU co-financed projects, or over-declaration of land by farmers. The control systems tested across the EU budget were still only partially effective in ensuring the regularity of payments". 

I make 3.7% of €122.2 €4.52 bn, or £3.86bn. Or not a million miles away from what we have budgeted for the prison service next year - £4.6 bn.  And more than we will be spending on foreign military aid, a surprisingly high £3.6 bn.

What - Me Worry?

(With apologies to Alfred E.Neuman)

I have just laid eyes on a eurobarometer survey about global warming, climate change, a new ice age or whatever they are calling it this week, which - in the main - is a dull as one would expect.  However, there are some broader questions involving what folk regard as the leading threats to humanity, and it is with this that I will attempt to make hay.

So, guess which country's population has the highest percentage considering international terrorism to be 'the single most serious problem facing the world as a whole'?

Well, Bulgaria - obviously.  Doubtless Al Qaeda, Continuity IRA, the Sendero Luminoso, Al Shabbab and the Red Army Faction are all planning on unpleasantness in Plovdiv even as we speak.  Alternatively, maybe the Bulgars think that little bit bigger than certain other countries - I'm talking about you, Hungary and Greece.  Adjusting my liberal hat, perhaps the Greeks have other things to worry about.  Anyway, the figure for Bulgaria is 53%,  21% for Greece and 19% for Hungary.  We are third behind the Czechs, at 46% and 47% respectively.  A paper published in 2003 has this to say 'The Republic of Bulgaria...has little experience with terrorist acts. During the past 20 years, only nine terrorism-related events have been recorded in Bulgaria, and no unconventional weapons have been use'.  Let us hope that the Bulgars, and the rest of us, stay safe.

Here's a chart of the findings:

(The first 'SL' above should be 'SK') 

Another possibility is 'the increasing global population', and what a miserable bunch of neo-Malthusians the Swedes turn out to be - 45% cited it.  The Dutch are not much better at 39%, and the 30% + club is entirely made up of Northern countries.  At the other end of the scale, the Bulgarians are fairly sanguine at 8%, likewise the Italians, while Malta (6%), Portugal and Poland (both 5%) are doing the Pope proud.  

Elsewhere, the Greeks are most worried (or were, the research dates to June) about the economy, and the Swedes the least, while the Swedes buy into global warming the most and the Portuguese the least.  We are the least worried about the spread of disease and the Czechs and the Slovaks the most.  Being of a cynical bent, I imagine that alarmist TV documentaries do rather a lot to skew these figures.  

Thursday, 3 November 2011

A 1911 Hansard trawl

In which,  as so often, a mirror is held up to our times.

Fighting and looting in Tripoli:

Mr. POINTER asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that, consequent upon the hasty departure of Maltese colonists from Tripoli, the property which they were compelled to leave behind was pillaged by Arabs and that the harvests of the Maltese have been reaped by natives.

His Majesty's Government have been informed that, on the withdrawal of the Turkish troops from Tripoli, the country people pillaged a number of shops and stores in that town. I have not yet been informed how far Maltese were affected, but will inquire. I am not aware that the harvests of the Maltese have been reaped by natives. No claims for compensation have yet been received; but if any are received they shall be considered on their merits.

I don't suppose the 'country people' found quite so many ornamental fly whisks, hats and other entertaining things in the Bey's dressing up box.

Unhappiness concerning pensions:

Mr. C. BATHURST Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that under this new Old Age Pensions Act a male pensioner, although he may have a large family, upon the death of his wife, loses not merely his wife's pension but his own pension as well? Does he think that fair?

Mr. McKINNON WOOD If he has the amount which is put in the Act as income I do not see any unfairness.

Does seem a bit rum, does it not?

Lying politicians:

Mr. KELLAWAY asked the Prime Minister if his attention has been called to the verdicts in the series of libel actions arising out of the last General Election; and whether, with a view to increasing public confidence in the administration of the law in such matters, the Government proposes to introduce legislation?

The PRIME MINISTER The Government are not prepared to introduce legislation on this subject.

Purts me in mind of the old Lyndon Johnson 'I want to make him deny it' story.  Detail here, but it includes a rude word and a reference to an illegal, not to say unhygienic, sexual practice.

A curious one:

Mr. BURGOYNE asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he is aware that the action which his predecessor felt compelled to take in connection with the abandoned boxing contest between Jack Johnson and Bombardier Wells has had the effect of causing ground landlords and lessees of many halls in London to refuse to allow legitimate boxing matches to be decided at their premises

Mr. McKENNA ....The law on the subject of boxing contests is well established. My predecessor was advised by the Law Officers that, if the object and intent of the combatants is to subdue each other by violent blows until one can endure it no longer, the contest is illegal; and that, on the other hand, a sparring match in which the object is to win by skill and not by the severity of the injuries inflicted is lawful.
And the clouds part to show the true sky:

Mr. W. THORNE Does the right hon. Gentleman think that if there was any possible chance of Wells beating Johnson there would have been any talk about the matter?

For those not up to speed on historic pugilism, Jack was the first black heavyweight boxing champion.

Temperance bores, again:

Sir HERBERT ROBERTS asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether his attention has been called to the continued increase in the consumption of intoxicating liquors throughout India
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Herbert Lewis)The Secretary of State does not accept the view, which is not substantiated by facts, that the consumption of intoxicating liquors is increasing throughout India.

Mine's an IPA, please.

Competitive music festivals

Mr. WORTHINGTON-EVANS asked the President of the Board of Education whether his attention has been called to the effect of the competitive musical festivals carried on by private enterprise in many parts of the country upon the standard of musical training in schools
Hmm, and there was I hoping that it might be something like the scene in one of the Wodehouse novels where an incompetent minstrel band has one of its members declaring, 'ha, ha I finished first'.

And so to the perfidiousness of the French:

Sir GEORGE WHITE asked if His Majesty's Government have taken, or will take, the opportunity presented by the readjustment of territorial boundaries within the area of Africa covered by the Act of Berlin to recall to the Governments concerned in that readjustment the stipulations of the Berlin Act with regard to freedom of trade between the natives and the outer world, which stipulations have not been adhered to by the French Government.

Sir E. GREY It would be undesirable to complicate the negotiations proceeding between other Powers by raising other questions than those now under discussion between them.

Brussels (so to speak) interfering in economic acts between consenting parties:

Mr. LOUGH asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he can now inform the House what was the precise claim put forward by Russia at the recent meeting of the Brussels Sugar Convention; what decision was arrived at; what action the British representatives took with regard to it; when he hopes to be able to lay Papers on the subject; and what is the earliest date at which it is possible for His Majesty's Government to withdraw from the Convention?

Sir E. GREY  The proposal submitted by Russia to the International Sugar Commission was that she should be permitted, during the period of 1st September, 1911, to 31st August, 1912, to export 400,000 tons of sugar in excess of the amount of 200,000 tons allowed to her under the Protocol of 19th December, 1907. The Commission decided to agree to the Russian proposal in principle, provided that a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at in regard to the conditions under which Russia would continue to be a party to the Convention.

I cannot help but think that the Brussels Sugar Convention sounds like a prog rock band.

The vexed issue of imports:

Mr. COOPER asked the President of the Board of Trade if he is aware that of all the motor cars of different makes and power offered for sale in this country only 37½ per cent. of cars are manufactured in the United Kingdom; and will he consider the advantages to British industry and British labour of imposing a substantial import duty on motor cars and accessories?

37 1/2%, eh?  If I've interpreted this correctly, 0.06% of the UK car market, as of the end of August, was made up of sales of cars by UK-owned manufacturers.  The share of UK produced cars woul be rather less anaemic.  

Sticking with economic nationalism, what about this:

Mr. BOLAND asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention has been called to the threatened boycott of Irish products, with the exception of linen from Ulster, on the passing of the Home Rule Bill; and whether he proposes to take any, and if so, what steps to safeguard the normal development of trade relations between Great Britain and Ireland?

Mr. ROBERTSON I do not think that this suggestion (of which I had not previously heard) need be seriously considered.

Mr. BOLAND Is the hon. Gentleman aware that publicity was given to this statement in a letter published in "The Times," on October 31st, and has he calculated the effect in increasing the cost of living in Great Britain if farming produce to the extent of £35,000,000 a year was kept away from England by purely political prejudice?
Very silly.

If not quite as petty as this:

Captain CRAIG asked the Postmaster-General whether he received a communication from the inhabitants of the parishes of Killany and Inniskeen, South Monaghan, through the medium of the rector, requesting an evening collection about 6.15 and the erection of a pillar box on the public road near the railway station; whether he is aware that such a pillar box at Essexford would convenience not only residents in the county Monaghan, but also those on the border in the county Louth; that the pillar was half built and the box about to be placed in position, when the postal authorities suddenly ordered the work to be stopped; can he state why their decision was reversed at the last moment; and will he give instructions to have the scheme completed that the residents may enjoy postal facilities to which they have been looking forward?

Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL The facts are as stated. The erection of the box was suspended because of local opposition to its substitution for an existing box near its site. The matter was fully explained to the rector by letter on the 16th August.

Good grief, a parliamentary question about a post box.

And wrapping up, where the past is a foreign country:

Mr. LEACH asked the President of the Board of Education if it is his intention to introduce legislation to prevent Nonconformists teachers being excluded, on religious grounds alone, from head teacherships in State-supported schools?

Mr. J. A. PEASE  I am aware of the difficulty at present existing, referred to in my hon. Friend's question. I regret I do not see my way at present to the introduction of legislation to remedy this particular grievance. The proper time to deal with it will be when the Government introduces legislation to deal with the other difficulties created by the Act of 1902.

Baptists today, Papists tomorrow and before you know it, Parsees, Israelites, Mussulmans and Hindoos.....

The most annoying napkin. Ever.

One of the unexpected pleasures of middle age is that one feels that one has carte blanche to carp, bemoan the collapse of civilisation and generally be a grumpy old man.  So, exhibit A, spotted at a nameless coffee shop chain that does a good line in free wi-fi, and come to that, coffee:

The use of 'less' where the correct word is 'fewer' never fails to grind my gears.  And then the trees as a finite resource error.  Those priggish e-mail footers declaring 'think of the environment before printing this e-mail' make me want to interface my head with the nearest flat surface, not that that would do any good.  At one point I had an e-mail footer along the lines of 'the trees used to make paper are a crop and are no more endangered than wheat, so feel free to print this if you fancy', although I doubt it won many hearts or minds. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Something the EU is really quite good at.

Stylised cartography:

I do not think that either Italy, Portugal or Turkey lend themselves to being rendered as spheres, but it works quite well for France and Poland, inter alia.  I rather like our subsidiary blob for Ulster, but do wonder why Iceland - less than half the size of the UK - is the size it is.  There's also something a bit dodgy about the colour allocations for the countries with - yawnola - three equal stripes.  A bit of rooting around has not turned up any amusing symbolic meanings for the colours in the flags of our nearest neighbours bar the RoI, which from memory is green for Celtic / Catholic Ireland, Orange for - oh go on, guess - and white for a desire for peace between the two.  There's an awful lot of orange on the Irish blob, so maybe the designer is a Unionist.

Here's another one from a few years back:

Monday, 31 October 2011

Helpful photo caption o' the day

Found at EuroPravda:

Good job they cleared that one up, eh?

And then this:

In this photo it looks to me as though the 'Baroness' is soliciting with the classic "ten pee for a cuppa tea,  guv" approach.  However, maybe I am being A - uncharitable and B - ungentlmanly.

English as she is spoke...

Readers might have heard of a classic of unintentional humour, 'English as she is Spoke' - a disastrous Portuguese - English dictionary from 1855.  Supposedly the writer had a Portuguese - French dictionary and a French - English dictionary, but no English per se.  More of the story can be found here, along with links to vanilla texts. The classic is 'Esperar horas e horas',  rendered as 'to craunch the marmoset'.  A google translation of the Portuguese give 'expect hours and hours', but the writer has half converted the French phrase, 'croquer le marmot' - an idiom for waiting around.

Anyway, all of this came to mind when looking at a hotel site the other day, which gave out these gems (all very, very sic):

"Zakia, our Head Chef initiated her journey in the midst of savours at a tender age surrounded by the soft odours in the kitchen of her mother and her grandmother, large cooks at the La Mamounia".

Coiled up in the deep club armchairs or pt your feet up on the majestic cushions laid on marrow, pleasing settees. 

"True echo with the thousand exhaled scents, grabbed with the liking of a dawdling in the varied succession of the universes landscapes".

"In the centre of the corridor hang enormous antique wrought iron lamps suspended by pompous silk strings".

"Lampions in finely engraved and studded border the alleys. The spectacle improvised by the fine north wind, plunges the house in a velvety atmosphere of unfathomed magic, where fairyhood becomes only protagonist of a roundly carried out scenario".


Monday, 24 October 2011

He said what?


Not convinced that is fighting talk? Try rolling it around in your mouth for a bit, and then spit it out at - depending on where you sit in the food chain - an underling or a superior.  Or for that greater frisson of danger, a passing Millwall fan.
And if that was not bad enough, a bottle of  cava with a bit of an attitude problem:

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Fancy being hectored by the EU?

Well, today is your lucky day.  Anyone who can make sense of it is welcome to contribute their thoughts.

I hate to think what versions in other languages might be like.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The trouble with Scottish independence... that it will make a right mess of rather a lot of flags.  My being a unionist is well documented, but rather than dwell on that, I present some aesthetic reasons for maintaining the union, based on my less than l33t skeelz at image manipulation:

So, the Union Flag, in all her glory.  Readers might have seen this before.

Something of a design classic, it is generally reckoned.  Josh Parsons, in his outstandingly entertaining flag ratings site gives it 70/100 and a B grade, reckoning it a little busy.  Do look at his site, but please come back.

What happens if we just remove the blue?


Not great, is it?

If the St Patrick's cross is widened and re-centred we get this:

If anything, even more ghastly.

When that is applied to our colonies overseas territories the horrors really begin:

The British Antarctic Territory

Not good.  Nor this, Bermuda:

This, by the way, works on the presumption that we English types get to keep those assets during the divorce.  If the Scots decided they wanted the Falklands while we got to keep the cat and the furniture, this might be the Falklands' new flag:

Ignoring my technical problems with shades of blue, that's quite nice, isn't it?

There are also problems for our Antipodean friends, which are easily imagined - should they update the Union flag, keep it as is, or add a St Andrews Cross?  Vexing problems indeed.

Another possibility is that we do what the Czechs did after the Velvet Divorce and keep the old flag, even though they agreed that they would not...  Yet another possibility is that some po faced Edinburgh leftie will campaign for a new flag on the grounds that one with a cross is insufficiently inclusive, does not represent 'the New Scotland', is a colonial relic etc etc, thus sparing us these difficulties.   

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Far too good not to share

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, I present the Libyan One Dinar note:

What was he thinking?

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

The 1961 Hansard trawl, featuring, inter alia, Denis Healey, the 'common market' and smoking

Another Hansard ramble, this time from October 1961.

What about this little nail bomb? (my emphases):

THE EARL OF MANSFIELD asked Her Majesty's Government:

If, when negotiating for entry into the Common Market, they will make it clear to the other countries concerned that such entry on the part of Great Britain will be possible only if we retain the right to withdraw from such an association at a later date, on due notice given, and under previously agreed conditions, should it be subsequently found that continued membership would be dangerous, or prejudicial, to our national prosperity or way of life.

THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS (THE MARQUESS OF LANSDOWNE) The Treaty of Rome contains no provisions for withdrawal or denunciation. Any proposal for the inclusion of such provisions would go beyond the adjustments to the Treaty provided for in Article 237. Under Article 236, proposals for amending the Treaty can be made by the Government of any member State or by the Commission and require unanimous approval. If Her Majesty's Government had come to the conclusion that British membership of the E.E.C. would be dangerous or prejudicial to our national prosperity or way of life, they would not have decided to apply to open negotiations with a view to acceding, on suitable terms, to the Treaty of Rome.

We wuz warned.....  Mungo David Malcolm Murray, 7th Earl of Mansfield and Mansfield (we heard you the first time...) did not live to see us accede to the Common Market, if my calculations are correct.

And so to older friends / partners etc:

THE EARL OF HARROWBY asked Her Majesty's Government:What Department has inherited the duties and propaganda of the pre-war Empire Marketing Board and whether modernised publicity, along the invaluable lines on which they worked, can be re-introduced to-day.

An Empire marketing board, eh?  Sounds like a pretty challenging job for even the most efficient of marketeers, but perhaps quite entertaining.  Maybe one would get a governorship rather than equity as a reward for a job well done.    As to the answer, that is far too dull to be worth quoting.

On a day, and in the junior chamber, this:

Mr. Strachey  (by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Aviation whether he is aware of the growing public concern over the recent accidents to aircraft belonging to private airlines, including the Dakota aircraft that crashed near Carlisle on 17th October; whether he will give the number of fatal accidents per million passenger miles flown for aircraft of the private airlines and the public Corporations respectively during 1960 and 1961 to date; and whether he will issue new and stricter safety regulations for all aircraft on charter flights.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Aviation (Mr. C. M. Woodhouse)  My right hon. Friend is indeed aware of the growing public concern over the recent accidents to aircraft belonging to private airlines and he shares it. He is today on a flight gaining background knowledge to assist him in considering the problems involved, and that is why I apologise for being here on his behalf.

I think he survived.

Some interesting comments from Denis Healey in a foreign affairs debate:

Mr. Denis Healey (Leeds, East) The second day of this debate on foreign affairs is, inevitably, overshadowed by the statement made at the Soviet Communist Party Congress yesterday by Chairman Khrushchev that the Soviet Government intend to explode a 50 megaton bomb in about a fortnight from now. All of us are by now used to the tedious bluster about Russia's atomic striking power in which Mr. Khrushchev so frequently indulges, and I do not think that there is any evidence that anyone in the West has so far been deflected from his course by this type of rocket rattling.
After all, for Germans and, I think, for anyone who cares for human freedom, the closing of the frontier between East and West Berlin on 13th August was one of the most monstrously inhuman acts carried out by any Government in the last fifteen years. There is no doubt that public opinion in Western Germany was stunned by this act and was equally stunned by the failure of the allied Governments to do anything about it....There is no doubt that a final solution of the European problem must depend on the reunification of Germany. History teaches us that we cannot build a stable peace on the division of a great nation against its will. Incidentally, no one knows this better than the Poles. Moreover, the possibility of German reunification will remain alive so long as West Berlin is free. But German reunification can come only by the consent of all concerned. It is now finally revealed that it cannot come by force or by the threat of force.
Away from the particular to the philosophical:

Against this background I deplore the tendency which seems to me to have been growing in leading Government spokesmen in the last few weeks to pose as crusaders for spiritual values in the struggle against the world's materialists. Frankly, I think this sort of posture striking comes no better from them than it did from Mr. Foster Dulles—especially when the temple of their religion is the bingo parlour and when their first beatitude is "You have never had it so good." [HON. MEMBERS: "Cheap."]

One has to hand it to the old bruiser, he has a way with words.  He's still with us, and now 94. A civilian friend who served him in a shop some years back said he was charming and unassuming.

And so to '[the] custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless' (in James I's reckoning):

Mr. Francis Noel-Baker (Swindon) I wish to attempt to draw the attention of the House to the advertising campaigns being conducted by tobacco manufacturers and, in particular, to their efforts to persuade young people and children to smoke cigarettes, on which they are at the present time spending large amounts of money....Of course, this whole matter has to be judged against the background of the horrifying risks to health which have shown to be involved in the heavy smoking of cigarettes. That risk, let me add, is precisely the same whether one is dealing with the smoking of the old-fashioned, conventional, plain cigarette, or with the cigarette with the filter tip or the mentholated cigarettes which in the last few years have been entering the consumer market.

Let's not get him started on low tar cigarettes....

What should one conclude from this:

A survey of a county borough near London showed that over one-quarter of grammar school boys and over one-third of secondary modern school boys were smokers by the time they were 15, and smoking over five cigarettes a week, and often more.

When I were a lad, I did not start in my teens - unlike many of my contemporaries - as I did not have school dinner money to re-appropriate for the habit, as I was a picky blighter who took a packed lunch to school instead.  My eating habits have improved since, and I've also smoked the odd tobacco product.

And here Noel-Baker gets tendentious:

Those in this business who ought to know take the view that very few smokers can tell the difference between brands of cigarettes if they are blindfolded. Therefore, advertising campaigns are concerned with factors other than the immediate physical characteristics of the cigarettes concerned.

I have not smoked cigarettes 'professionally' for years, but I could still differentiate French from American from 'British' cigarettes.

And so to the past being another country:
Indeed, I see no reason why tobacco advertising should not be taken off the commercial television screen altogether in the same way as the advertising of spirits has. 
Go to circa 5:26 for something a little bit wonderful:

Mind you, from what I've seen - admittedly with the volume off, as I'm in a coffee shop - it is all rather good.

Furthermore, while the Parliamentary Secretary is talking to the Chairman of I.T.V. he might speak to him about smoking by performers in non-commercial programmes. I do not watch the commercial screen very frequently, but I am told by those who do that in almost any type of programme, and particularly the so-called serious political discussions, some and often all of the participants are constantly puffing away at cigarettes and offering themselves a further supply.

Yeah, yeah and he didn't read any newspaper other than The Times.

Niall MacPherson proves prescient:
The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should try to eliminate this element of what is, after all, realism from the stage and television. How far are we to carry that? Are we to edit books and censor any suggestion that smoking may give satisfaction? Has the hon. Gentleman his eye on Sherlock Holmes' pipe? Is all smoking on streets and in public places to be forbidden? One has to regard this in due proportion.
And wise:
After all, advertising in a very real sense is the hallmark of a free society. It is playing a great part in raising the standard of living in this country. It will certainly have to play its part in our efforts to expand our export trade, and we ought to think very carefully before we subject any part of it to what may be an unnecessary restriction. We should, and we do, restrict advertisements presenting misleading claims for cures and for certain other goods and activities. There is legislation to deal with that.

A one question quiz

Guess what happened in late 2008 which  *might* have influenced partisan reponses:

Found here.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Safeguarding our parliamentarians from the menace of harmonicas, tennis balls and moth spray

Some public spirited individual has FOI'd items confiscated from public visitors to the Palace of Westminster by the boys and girls in blue, and I've 'borrowed' the story from the b3ta newsletter.   The full list is here,  but highlights for the first seven months of 2011 include:

  • Five (rather than seven) bells.
  • One cricket ball, but two cricket bats.
  • 13 darts - although not generally in the usual set of three.
  • 15 footballs - making it the most popular ball sport.
  • Nine harmonicas.  (Memory fails me as to which bluesman sported harps on a belt).
  • 10 lightbulbs.
  • Two sets of nailclippers.   
  • Five police helmets (child).
  • One rock -  no geologists on duty that day, obviously.
  • 11 cans of shaving foam - ALL in July.
  • Two tents, but just one sleeping bag.  Maybe it was a double.   

Friday, 23 September 2011

Brace yourselves for Monday

For it will be, get this, the 10th European Day of Languages.

The highlight would appear to be this:

"Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, will sign a joint declaration with Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, to re-affirm their commitment to multilingualism".

I think I might have to ask the long-suffering Mrs QG to wave the smelling salts somewhere near my nose.

Other details are far too dull to focus on, but there are some moderately interesting factlets in the footnotes to the press release.

EU translating / interpreting costs €1bn a year, or about 1% of the total budget.  Fairly alarming, frankly.

The least multilingual EU countries are Ireland (34%) and the UK (38%).  That comes as a surprise, given that our 'pupils are obliged to take Irish to Leaving Certificate level' .  (Source)  An Irishman of my acquaintance swore by the utility of the language for holding loud but private conversations while abroad.


The 1911 Hansard trawl, featuring the cost of living, cows, war and Brazil

The long recesses of today were also found in 1911, so I take my text from October.

First up,Working Classes (Cost of Living):

Mr. COOPER asked the Prime Minister if His Majesty' Government have any propoal to lay before the House for the purpose of securing to the working classes the means of meeting the increasing cost of living by a corresponding increase in wages?

The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Asquith) The important business which remains to be transacted in order to complete the work of the Session is, in our opinion, sufficient to occupy the whole time of the House during the Autumn Sittings. I cannot anticipate the programme of next year.

And how exactly, did Asquith's answer address the question?  Answers on a post card please.  Secondly, guess Cooper's party.  Nope, wrong.  He was the Tory member for Walsall, and two years off ascending to a baronetcy. 

Dairy obsessives:

Mr. C. BATHURST asked the President of the Local Government Board when he proposes to introduce his long-promised Milk and Dairies Bill.

The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. Burns) I am afraid the Government programme for the Autumn Session will not admit of the passing of a Milk and Dairies Bill this year.

Doubtless the angels wept.

Mr. C. BATHURST May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposes to introduce this measure in the early part of next Session?

Mr. BURNS  Sufficient unto the day is the goodness thereof.

Mr. WATT Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Bill will apply to Scotland?

Mr. BURNS No, Sir.

I'm not sure whether highland cattle, deeply stupid though they are - apparently - would have been happy or otherwise about this.

And so to international relations - Italy & Turkey

Mr. DAVID MASON   May I ask why His Majesty's Government has not offered its good offices to Italy and Turkey, with a view to the termination of hostilities?

The PRIME MINISTER His Majesty's Government do not consider that any public announcement on this subject will further the object indicated by the hon. Gentleman
And where was the dispute taking place?  What we now know as Libya, landgrabbed by Italy from the Ottoman Empire in the Italo-Turkish war of 1911-12.   This is quite an interesting war in that Ataturk made his debut on the world stage, and the first plane borne bomb was dropped.

The seemingly slow process of diplomatic correspondence:

Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received, through His Majesty's Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, the following letter:—
Brazilian Legation, London, 11th October, 1911.


I have the honour to bring to the knowledge of Your Excellency that the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies passed on 22nd June last a Motion congratulating the English People and the British Parliament on the Coronation of His Majesty King George V., expressing at the same time its good wishes for the happiness of His Majesty's Reign.

Baron do Rio Branco, Brazilian Minister for Foreign Affairs, desires me to place this congratulatory Motion before your Excellency with the request that it may be presented to the British Parliament.

Which was nice of them, and it would seem, appreciated:

Mr. SPEAKER I assume it is the pleasure of the House that I send a suitable reply to this communication. [General assent signified.]

Vox populi....

Gallup have been kind enough to e-mail me a new US opinion poll, so this calls for a quick and dirty on the findings:

'If the leaders of this nation followed the view of the public more closely, do you think the nation would be better off, or worse off than it is today?'

I was first accused of cynicism at the age of 11 (true story), so it would ill behove me to be too trusting of our rulers or - come to that - of Uncle Sam's rulers, but some 77% think that the US of A would be better off if they aped public opinion.  Note that 8% of Americans think Elvis might be alive, and 20% think Obama is a Muslim.    Republicans skew towards a greater belief in the public's good sense (81%) than Democrats (73%).  Higher levels of education correlate with lesser faith in public opinion - 28% of post grads think the US would be worse off if it followed public opinion, compared to 14% for those with just high school education.

Soo, how might POTUS and the whole Beltway establishment better connect with and follow public opinion?  By doing whatever is popular in this minute's opinion poll:

'If the leaders of this nation followed the view of the public opinion polls more closely, do you think the nation would be better off, or worse off than it is today?'

Doubtless Gallup would be happy to offer their services to the Federal government, at very reasonbale fees

Anyway, some 68%  think that would be a good thing, but mark that 73% thought so back in 1997.  The skew for better off is strongly weighted to the less educated and marginally so to Democrats.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

A little light psephological tea leaf reading

The Boundary Commission's initial skirmishing has thrown up lots of exciting possibilities for mapping and stat crunching, and I've made a start on some seats of interest in and around my barrio.

Brentford & Isleworth is my home seat, and it grates horribly that Chiswick is not incorporated in the name, as it bloomin' well should be.  Anyway, B&I is largely left alone in the current proposals, losing just one ward, Hounslow Heath.  HH is solidly Labour, with an average vote per Labour councillor in the 2010 elections of 2,417.  The next closest contender, the Conservatives, secured an average VPC of 1,264.   As such, sitting MP Mary Macleod (Con) will benefit from the change and a 2010 election on these boundaries would have given her a significantly large majority.

Hounslow Heath and two other Hounslow wards are slated to join with sundry Richmond wards to create a seat called Teddington & Hanworth.  And this is where it gets more interesting, and the number crunching more controversial.  In the three Hounslow wards the Lib Dems only fielded one candidate to the three for the Reds and the Blues, so in order to give a valid comparison I have hypothesised that anyone who would vote for one LD would vote for three.  What those LD enthusiasts did with their other two votes is a mystery between them and the ballot box. And the tallymen at Hounslow Town Hall or wherever.  However, the only workable assumption is to triple the LD vote in the Hounslow wards so as to allow a like with like comparison with the Richmond wards.

The LDs are a potent force south of the river, leading in six of those seven Richmond wards, while Labour is not that far off lost deposit territory.  Running the 2010 numbers across the 10 wards, I get a breakdown of 19% for Labour, 41% LD and 40% Conservative.  Should make for a few recounts next time round, but worth Vincenzo Cable's making a play for this seat rather than Richmond.   

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The 1911 Hansard trawl, featuring cheese, unsanitary locations and the post office.

Given that MPs took lengthy breaks then as now, this is not exactly 100 years back, but I trust I will be forgiven.  First up, the prisoners' dilemma, so to speak:

Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON  asked whether the Mahdist prisoners incarcerated at Wady Haifa after the Soudan War are still at that place, and how many remain; whether there is yet any prospect of their ever being released; whether Osman Digna is still among them; and, if so, whether the British authorities in Egypt will now allow an independent medical examination with a view to ascertaining his mental condition?

 Mr. McKINNON WOOD The only information which I have received in regard to the Mahdist prisoners at Wady Haifa subsequent to that which I gave to the hon. Member in reply to the question which he addressed to me on the 27th of April, 1909, is to the effect that these Dervish prisoners appear to be satisfied with their lot, and that they are well cared for, in excellent health, and give no trouble.

Well, always supposing they had room to whirl.  Now as every school boy knows, the mahdists were fought by Winston Churchill in one of the last cavalry charges by the British army, and that they didn't like it up em either.  As a young QG (circa 7), I saw 'Young Winston' at the Colwyn Bay Odeon with my mother and great grandmother  and was good enough to aver, amidst some on-screen drama that they should not worry as 'Winston doesn't die'.  And I was right, he didn't.  I don't think I've given away key plot points while in a cinema since.  Back at the plot, those Mahdists would have been in the Big House since 1898 at the latest.

Sticking with North Africa, a shocking revelation:
Mr. J. M. ROBERTSON asked whether the right hon Gentleman's attention has been called to the fact that the sanitary system of Cairo is still extremely imperfect.

Well fancy that.

Showing his customary obsession with stamps, Mr Touche:

Mr. TOUCHE asked the Postmaster General whether the General Post Office has received claims for refundment of charges in respect of unstamped envelopes or postal packets, on the ground that stamps were duly affixed but came off in transit owing to the inferior adhesive quality of the gum used by the new contractors; and whether such claims have been recognised and satisfied?

The POSTMASTER-GENERAL (Mr. Herbert Samuel) Such claims are complied with where they are well-founded.
Doubtless the Touchelets had been on diet of gruel and water because daddy had taken such a hit on postal charges. 

Ever been tempted to send milk by post?  Me neither, however....

Mr. O'SHAUGHNESSY asked the Postmaster-General if he received a memorial from the priests and people of Clouncagh, in the county of Limerick, setting out the need for a post office there, and pointing out that there is a large creamery in the locality which is greatly handicapped for want of it; that a much larger trade would be done with its customers in England if there were a post office near.
I might risk some mature cheese, I suppose.

And yet more postal shenanigans:

Mr. BARNES   asked whether the post office in the Glasgow Exhibition of 1901 was staffed by established male officers under the control of an overseer; and, if so, what special circumstances warrant the staffing of the post office in the present Glasgow Exhibition with unestablished labour under the control of a female supervisor?
Mr. HERBERT SAMUEL  The staff of the temporary branch office in the Glasgow Exhibition of 1901 was as. stated. For the reasons given on the. 1st instant to the hon. Member, in answer to a question on this subject, the arrangements made for the present exhibition are to be preferred.
A woman running a post office?  Whatever next.

A sadly missed decoration, the Imperial Service medal:

Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE asked whether hired men leaving the Royal dockyards after twenty-five years' service with good characters are eligible for the Imperial service medal; if not, what constitutes eligibility in the case of hired men; is there any period of service and any conditions entitling a hired man to receive the medal on vacating employment when reaching the age limit?

Mr. McKENNA Only members of the established Civil Service of the State are eligible for the medal. A man who is on the hired list at the time of his retirement cannot, therefore, be granted the medal, whatever his length of service.

Sir C. KINLOCH-COOKE  Would it not be possible to consider the matter with regard to the hired men?

Mr. McKENNA  The regulations are not made by the Admiralty.
I am indebted to Wikipedia for informing me thus:  "Normally a person must have served for 25 years to become eligible, but this might be shortened to 16 years for those serving in unsanitary locations".  I wonder if an FOI request might be in order....


Mr. RAMSAY MACDONALD   My question is whether the right hon. Gentleman has any information as to the state of Liverpool to-day, and whether he can in any way supplement the statement published this morning as to how and why rioting commenced yesterday, and whether, in view of the practically unanimous condemnation of the action of the police for having provoked the riot, he will have a special inquiry made, and accept evidence from others than members of the police force?

Mr. CHURCHILL  I think it would be convenient for me to give an answer to the question of which I have received private notice. Reports received this morning from Liverpool are to the effect that there is no improvement in the situation. The dockers have not returned to work, and the shipowners have declared a general lock-out from this afternoon. There is a good deal of rioting and disturbance, and though it proceeds mostly from the hooligan class, who began the riot last night, it is serious in character, and throughout the town attacks are being made on warehouses and factories, and even private houses. The police are being assailed in the performance of their ordinary duties.
Nothing new under the sun, is there?

The French disease:

 Sir H. KIMBER asked whether, under Section 13, Sub-section 4, of the National Insurance Bill an approved society will be allowed to refuse sickness benefit to insured persons suffering from tertiary syphilis which appears twenty or even forty years after infection, e.g., a gumma of cheek appearing after a lapse of forty years, and tabes or locomotor ataxy appearing after a lapse of twenty years?

Mr. LLOYD GEORGE Matters of this kind will be dealt with in the rules of the society, which will, of course, be framed by the society with the consent of its members and will have to be approved by the Insurance Commissioners.

And why were you so concerned, Sir Henry?  Anyway a relevant exchange and a graffito :

John Montagu, Earl of Sandwich: "Egad sir, I do not know whether you will die on the gallows or of the pox." 
John Wilkes: "That will depend, my Lord, on whether I embrace your principles or your mistress".

'Here did I lay my Celia down:  I got the pox and she got half a crown'.  From memory.  Not sure where it was inscribed.

Normal standards of decorum will now be restored.

It would seem that they knew their oats at the War Office:

Mr. STANIER asked the Undersecretary for War whether a large consignment of Russian oats is being loaded at St. Petersburg for the use of British Cavalry regiments in Great Britain; and, if so, has he taken into consideration the fact that foot-and-mouth disease is prevalent in Russia and the importation of oats is therefore a danger to the live stock of this country?

Colonel SEELY  Nothing is known in the War Office of any such consignment of oats.

See how I skipped a sitting duck of an innuendo possibility there?

Ministers everywhere wait for an opportunity like this one:

Colonel YATE asked whether steps have been taken to renovate the English inscription on the monument erected by the nation in the cemetery at Scutari in 1857 to the memory of the British officers and men who fell in the Crimea, which is reported to have become illegible?

And thwack:

Mr. DUDLEY WARD  The inscription on this monument was re-gilded in August last year
It looks to be in a good state of repair now too:

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Further signs of the Apocalypse

Or at least the collapse in educational or sub-editing standards:

Yes, Will Gompertz (or more likely his sub) cannot spell the name of one of the most famous people in history.  The film was a TV Movie called 'Jesus', released in 1999.

Taste and good sense detected in France

I have been peering at a poll of levels of interest among the French in the forthcoming rugby world cup, and it would appear that if you want to chew the matière grasse about it with someone, the best bet is a Gaullist or MoDem voting, AB man of 65+ living in the south west.  So, not a huge surprise, all things considered, and much the same demographic as in these parts.

Equally, Far-left North Eastern women in late middle age, employed in lower end clerical work will be unlikely to be able to tell you the score, should your car grind to a halt somewhere near Lille.

Meanwhile, 3% of the population think that France will win it.  An eeyore-ish 6% forsee ( hope for?) failing to clear the group stage.  They are fifth favourites behind NZ, Oz, South Africa and us.  

Headline o' the day

What about this, from Balkan Insight:

I have long taken a rather more nuanced view than the prevailing 'Serbia bad, all its neighbours good' orthodoxy, but come on.

A new name for the Scottish 'Tories'

Should Murdo Fraser succeed in the leadership election for the Scottish Conservatives and then break from what I still think as being Smith Square, his party is going to need a new name.  Given that nothing that I have seen mooted seems particularly exciting, I have been looking at templates elsewhere, inspired by seeing a list of Guinean political parties (don't ask).

Always supposing that Fraser wants to make common cause with his ideological brethren elsewhere, a list of members of the International Democrat Union (the Blue International, so to speak) is a good starting point.  Most of them go in for 'bah, me too, I'm a sheep' names like the National Party  - Honduras and New Zealand or Conservative Party (bit of a non-starter that one) - Canada, Colombia, Norway and Nicaragua.  However, things get a bit more interesting with Estonia's Union of Pro Patria and Res Publica and France's Union for a Popular Movement.

Moving beyond full members to associates and observers, how about Russia's Right Cause?  I think that could be a first round winner.  Other possibilities are Serbia's G17+ (I'm not making this up) or a Macedonian party name which the Scots party could render as Internal Scottish Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Scottish National Unity.  Or ISRO-DPSNU.

Given that this new party would hope to be a winner from Lerwick to Leith, perhaps it should borrow a name from a governing party? This allows these possibilities:

Cauri Forces for an Emerging Scotland (borrowed from Benin)
Citizens for European Development of Scotland (Bulgaria)
Patriotic Salvation Movement  (Chad)
Union for the Progress of Scotland (Guinea)
Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Scotland (Honkers)
Pillars of Truth (Kiribati)
Rally of the Scottish People (Togo)
Scottish European National Union (Zim)

Monday, 5 September 2011

Map-related japery for any classicists out there.

I am indebted to Belgian daily Le Soir for pointing out, a google maps overlay  of possible journeys for Romans, based on the Tabula Peutingeriana.  

We woad-coated Celts do not get much of a look in, with not much outside of Kent and Essex showing. 

 It extends to Parthia and Pontus though.

Anyway, give it a go - it is rather entertaining.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Unexpected survey finding o' the day

From Gallup:

"Thinking back to Dr Martin Luther King and his dream of racial equality, do you think that dream has now been realised in the United States, or not?" 

And the results: 

Yup, Black / African-Americans are more positive than whites.  Asians and Hispanics were not separated out, or maybe they were not asked. 

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Quote o' the day

I advise that this should not be read unless sitting down, or if the reader has a heart condition:

Viviane Reding, EU Commissar for Justice:

"The European Union is a beacon of inspiration and a source of encouragement to all nations struggling to come to terms with the sufferings of their past. It is an example for any reconciliation process founded on the respect for fundamental rights".

The talk on street corners in Juba and elsewhere in South Sudan is of little else.

She has a track record of saying and doing rather silly things, so this comes as no great surprise.  The rather broad statement was occasioned by today being 'Europe-wide Day of Remembrance of the victims of all totalitarian and authoritarian regimes', but then you all already knew that.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Number crunching crime on the District Line

The London Evening Standard has figures on crime by tube station, care of the Transport Police, here.  Tube stations which share an entrance with overground stations appear to have been excluded, so there is no data for, inter alia, Richmond, Wimbledon, Kensington Olympia and Upminster. 

The most crime ridden stations appear to be the tube interchanges with the mainline stations.  Well knock me down with an integumentary appendage....

Because I am a bit of stats nerd, I have been contextualising those crime figures to annual entries and exits at stations (2010) on the District Line (Well, I'm not going to do the whole network, the D-Line is the one I use most and it goes through a number of mainline stations).  And that makes things look rather different, with West Ham emerging as the most crime ridden station relative to use, with 43 crimes reported for its 3.39 m entries and exits, or a figure of 12.7 per million.  Note that this is not the home station for West Ham United, that being - as any fule kno - Upton Park.  Upton Park has a figure of 3.4.    At the other end of the scale is Barking at 2/13.72m, giving a figure of 0.145.  This makes West Ham some 87 times more dangerous.  

The top six most dangerous stations are all in East London - West Ham, Dagenham East (11.4 per million), Becontree (8.4), Upney (5.3), Plaistow (4.7) and Upminster Bridge (4.49).  The seventh is Notting Hill Gate (4.4).

There are two very serious mainline interchanges on the D-Line - Victoria and Paddington.  Those two have figures of 2.3 and 0.86 respectively.  This makes Victoria safer than Ravenscourt Park (2.38) but more dangerous than Mile End (2.19).  Paddington is only marginally less safe than Turnham Green (0.84), here in leafy and riot-free Chiswick.

Despite the tendency of some of the locals to loot and pillage, Ealing Broadway was a pretty safe place to enter or exit in 2010, with a figure of 0.48 per million, a figure bettered only by Barking and Aldgate East (0.22).  Cannon Street also fares creditably at 0.51, making it safer than Gunnersbury (0.76) and Stamford Brook (0.80).  The nation's Parliamentarians are safer at Westminster (1.5) than users of Barons Court (1.7) and Embankment (1.8), if in greater peril than travellers making use of South Ken (1.57) and Chiswick Park (1.55).

I had intended to map this information, but a full tube map would be too crowded, and a diagrammatic map of the D-Line has proven google resistant.  However, I have a plan which may yet see the light of day.

I will answer requests for figures for individual stations, should this have piqued anyone's interest.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Just what is it with the youth of Romania?

A pertinent question, I think, given that according to a Eurobarometer poll of Euro Yoof (15-24 year olds) on the subject of drugs and the like, some 15% would like to ban alcohol.  Yes, really.  (There's a whole lot of other interesting stuff in the survey, but time is tight.  I might return to this next week).  I can't say I've ever had any Romanian booze, so perhaps a reader with experience of it could point out whether this is a sane reaction to Wallachian riesling on the part of the Dacian Generation Y.

While the Romanians do the most to appal, the EU average for banning is 7%, with this topped in Belgium, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Cyprus, Sweden (surprise x2), France (yes, really), Lithuania, Spain and Italy (Good grief, Carlo Bruno).  Some 4% of British youth agree, while the Danes and Dutch are bottom at 3%.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Tehran has some fun at our expense

From the Tehran Times, in full - because it is worth it:

"TEHRAN - Two hundred and thirty-nine Iranian lawmakers issued a statement on Wednesday, condemning the violation of human rights in Britain. 

The lawmakers wrote that the unrest sweeping the United Kingdom is rooted in unemployment and economic crisis and the suppression of the protests indicates that the British government has no respect for the rights of minorities and its claims of human rights abuses in other countries are nothing more than lies. 

“Concerned international organizations and the United Nations human rights committee and the Security Council are expected to responsibly deal with the issue of the crackdown on the people in Britain and to fulfill their humanitarian and legal duties and condemn the repressive actions of the British police,” the statement said. 

The lawmakers also called on the British government to stop the mistreatment of protestors and release those arrested. 

In addition, they urged the United States and other Western countries to break their silence over the violence in Britain.

Note that there are 290 members of the Iranian Majlis, so maybe the other 51 could not stiffle their sniggering long enough to sign the motion.  Anyway, perhaps the bluff should be called and those convicted in the less than bloody assizes should be offered a choice of chokey or a one way ticket to Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Meanwhile, Iran would appear to have an  unemployment rate (best guess ) of 14.6% to our 7.7%, andt here's a round up of Iranian human rights issues here.    Totally off topic, but Persian food is divine.

That man Delors makes a comeback.

Despite a truckload of garlic being tipped in his general vicinity, he's back - after some 16 years.  That it was part of his being a loyal father is perhaps to his credit, as it is at the behest of Martine Aubry that he is sounding off:

"Open your eyes:  the Euro and Europe (1) are on the edge of a precipice"

(Be still my beating heart...)  

"And in order not to fall off , the choice appears simple to me - either Member States accept the closer economic cooperation that I have always demanded, or they transfer more powers to the Union".

More at Le Parisien here.  The original is behind a pay wall at two other websites.

Doubtless he is holed up in his equivalent of Colombey-les-Deux-Églises awaiting the call from a stricken EU for him to come to its aid.

(1) I think he means the European Union.  The Russian Federation, Norway, Serbia etc all seem happy to sit this one out.  

Coining it.

I do not suppose many normal people have heard of Niue, but it is a South Pacific island with a degree of sovereignty sheltering under the shield, as it were, of New Zealand.

I am sure that Niueans are generally good sorts, but they do seem to have a bit of a problem with taste.

Exhibit A, the flag of Niue:

I am quite a fan of the saffron hue in other contexts, but not on a flag with red, white and blue, thank you.

That ensign has been fluttering above Niue for more than 35 years, so it is hardly a new offence.

Exhibit B, the currency of Niue:

The coins above are legal tender in Niue.  Yes, really: "Each coin in the Star Wars set is struck from Silver Plated base metal. No more than 50,000 of each coin will be issued by the New Zealand Mint. The coins are legal tender of Niue".  I nearly entitled this 'Star Wars - a Niue Hope', but decided against it as it might have attracted the wrong type.

In common with novelty stamps, the authorities are not expecting anyone to actually use the things but rather are counting on Star Wars / numismatics 'enthusiasts' (1) to put them in a drawer or - if bolder in the face of mockery - to display them.

Where it gets even more amusing is the obverse:  "The obverse of the coin features The Raphael Maklouf effigy of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth II sovereign of the commonwealth of Niue".

Readers are in with a sporting chance of having a Raphael Maklouf lurking in a pocket / handbag.  It is the portrait of Mrs Battenberg Saxe Coburg Gotha where she only looks 30 years younger than her then current age, rather than the prior 50 or the current 20. 

A bit of digging reveals that Niueans find God in the following ways:

"Ekalesia Niue (Niuean Church - a Protestant church closely related to the London Missionary Society) 61.1%, Latter-Day Saints 8.8%, Roman Catholic 7.2%, Jehovah's Witnesses 2.4%, Seventh-Day Adventist 1.4%, other 8.4%, unspecified 8.7%, none 1.9% (2001 census)".

So, there could be some Jedi Knights lurking beneath the palm trees.

(1) I would use a stronger word, but I believe sci-fi fanboys react to criticism of their doings almost as strongy as dog lovers do, and I could do without the grief.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Are you one in 79,000?

Only I ask, because of this:

"Europe's citizens are showing an ever greater interest in Commission activities, over a growing number of policy areas. That's the conclusion of the latest annual report on public access to documents, which shows an 18% increase in the number of requests for documents in 2010".

Must be pretty big numbers by now, eh?

Or maybe not:

In total, the Commission received 6,361 requests for access to documents in 2010.

With an EU population of about 501 million, that's one request for every 79,000 odd people, so I'm not sure I would say that that demonstrated 'an ever greater interest in Commission activities'.

However, onwards:

"In certain limited circumstances defined by the legislation (Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001), the Commission can refuse to supply a document".

Fancy that.

And how often is that get out exercised?: "full access was granted in more than four out of five cases".

Hurrah for open government.

Friday, 12 August 2011

The DPRK's take on this week's 'events' in London and beyond

And what an utterly waterlogged squib it is too:

Protest over Killing of Man Turns to Violence in London

Pyongyang, August 11 (KCNA) -- A protest over fatal shooting of a man by local police turned into violence in London on August 6.

Protesters marched along the streets, demanding justice for Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old man shot dead by police. They strongly demanded an immediate punishment of the shooter.
And there was I thinking that they would pass it off as being a pro-juche demo. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

The 1961 Hansard trawl, featuring lots of law 'n' order and leaving presents for Sierra Leone and Cyprus.

Looking at the last sitting in August 1961, I saw that 'crimes of violence' and 'juvenile delinquency' were at issue, with the latter debate being opened by the MP for Tottenham....

As to the first topic, take it away, David James MP for Brighton Kemptown:

"There is no doubt at all that the fivefold increase in crimes of violence which have taken place since the war gives grave cause for apprehension to many defenceless people".

So, it would appear the rot set in before the end of the Chatterley ban and so forth.

A rather perceptive comment:

 "An American judge recently said in New York: The philosophy of responsibility has been replaced by the philosophy of excuse. Under this new concept all criminals, young and old, are sick people and far from seeing in their criminal actions anything for which the offenders are responsible, we are told to learn to recognise in criminality the existence of something for which society alone is responsible. He concluded At this juncture, when teenage crime is of such general concern, it would be fruitful for our civilisation to reaffirm a philosophy of responsibility and cut down the philosophy of excuse to proper size.
And his modest proposal:

"I am sorry as an English Member to run a hare on my own, but I am a West Highlander by birth and my home is on the Island of Mull. I should like to see the concept of the penal colony revived. I believe that we are far more inhumane than were our predecessors. It is true that in the last century we had Botany Bay to which we could send people, but I accept with considerable reluctance that it might be necessary occasionally to send a man to prison for forty-two years".

It is alleged that in the Western Isles of Scotland, in which I am particularly interested in this respect, we should not be able to recruit staff to look after prisoners. My answer as a Western Highlander is not that people want to leave that lovely part of the world, but that they have to do so because employment is not provided there. The islands of Eigg, Rum, Muck, Canna and Scalpa have an acreage of 49,100 acres and being surrounded by sea there would be no possibility to escape from them. The population there in 1821 was 1,620 but now it is only 130. It seems to me that, both in humanity and as part of a general exercise to make the West Islands more viable, this would be well worthy of further investigation.

A rather entertaining sidetrack:

Charles Fletcher-Cooke.....One of our difficulties is know how to distinguish that class of criminals who have been referred to as psychopaths. The definition in the Mental Health Act is as good as we can get, although it has been gravely criticised in some quarters as being too restrictive. It has been suggested that Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Lawrence of Arabia were psychopathic personalities. Lord Goddard, although in not so many words, recently said something to the effect that we are all psychopaths now.

Mr. Fletcher Joan of Arc was schizophrenic.

Mr. Fletcher-Cooke She may have shown signs of dementia praecox, but I do not wish to go into the diagnosis of Joan of Arc. The definition in its limited sense in the Act has, I think, commanded respect, but even within that limited definition there is the grave difficulty of identifying the individual psychopath.

 There went their chances of a distinction of the legion d'honneur..

And so to juvenile delinquency.

This is a surprise:

The Daily Mail has fought hard in the battle to end the imprisoning of children, which a year ago it so rightly described as a stepping stone to a rake's progress and a system which meant that children were bundled together with possibly hardened criminals, and a system which should he smashed. I thank the Daily Mail for its powerful support. The system has now been smashed and it has played a major part in achieving the victory.

Maybe, just to ring the changes, the left should mock the Mail for that rather than its pre-war enthusiasm for Hitler.

Frankly bizarre generalisation o' the day:

Mr. Brown.... I assure the House from my own experience that there is nothing wrong with British youth today; they are intelligent and of good physique, and they display qualities of courage and fortitude to a markedly high degree. 

Brown's story is interesting - he was elected as Labour, went indy, then took the blue whip in 1962.  He hanged himself in 1972, having since re-joined Labour. 

Back at the plot:

Mr. Crowder ...I would also like to empower probation officers to have the right to take anybody in their care round a prison. Let some of these youths see the inside of a prison for a couple of hours, for the first time in their lives, and it will have a great effect upon them.

Equally, we have a problem with juveniles on the roads. Many of these young men are earning £10, £12 or £15 a week. Very often some of their money is spent on alcohol.
And more from Crowder:

 But has the hon. Gentleman been to a juvenile court and seen how parents are treated? They are paraded in front of the magistrates with their children standing in front of them. Time and again I have seen magistrates literally tick off the parents in front of the children. Such a practice is rather like ticking off officers in front of men in the Army. It is wholly undesirable. The parents should sit apart from their children, because the inevitable result of the present practice is that the child feels that his parents are standing behind him and backing him up in the crime for which he has been brought before the court. I should like to see a marked change in the present practice.

Interesting, no?

And so to corporal punishment:

    I know that the Government are not so minded, but I cannot see why magistrates could not be empowered to impose corporal punishment in the form of the cane on juvenile delinquents. I say that for the simple reason that it hurts, and they do not like it. It is a deterrent, and it does not do very much harm if it is not applied too forcibly.

    § Mr. W. Griffiths (Manchester, Exchange)

    The hon. Gentleman is a friend of mine. How on earth can he say that? There is no evidence that flogging or hitting people is a deterrent and reduces crime.

    § Mr. Crowder

    I cannot today produce evidence to show that it makes any difference, but I do not think that anybody will disagree with me when I say they do not like it.

    § Mr. A. R. Wise (Rugby)

    There is some evidence. The most expensive system of education in the world is based on it.

    § Mr. Griffiths

    What a lot we have here.
But enough of law and order.

What does one give as a leaving gift to an ex part of the Empire?:

Mr. Gaitskell asked the Prime Minister what proposals will be made to this House for a gift from the House of Commons to the Parliament of Sierra Leone, to commemorate the achievement of that country's independence on 27th April, 1961.

The Prime Minister Her Majesty's Government propose that Mr. Speaker should, on behalf of this House, present a mace to the House of Representatives of Sierra Leone in commemoration of the attainment of independence by Sierra Leone and with our best wishes for the future prosperity of her Legislature and people.

History does not recall whether Milton Margai was offered  a chloice between a big metal stick and cold hard cash. 

More of the same:

    Mr. Skeet asked the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations whether it is the intention of the United Kingdom Government to make a gift to the Government of the Republic of Cyprus to commemorate the attainment by that country of her independence on 16th August, 1960.

   Mr. Sandys Yes. We propose making a presentation of a silver table centrepiece which could be used on formal State occasions.

History does not record etc etc.