Thursday 28 April 2011

World War 3 - coming our way soon, apparently

As seen at, an Azeri news source.

Eldar Ibrahimov, an Azeri politician interviewed by

What consequences may resumption of the Karabakh conflict have?

Renewed fighting in Karabakh could push the world into the World War III. If hostilities are resumed, CSTO (1) will defend Armenia while Turkey, supported by NATO, will defend Azerbaijan.  Either way, peace is the only way to solvethe problem. In turn, this way passes only through the withdrawal of Armenia's forces from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan.

Ri-ight.  This is the same NATO that struggles to get its collective act together over Libya, which is going to wade into a war with Russia because Turkey is chummy with Azerbaijan?  

1 - CSTO, of which I had not heard previously, is a collective defence organisation comprising most of what was the USSR.  See if you can guess which similar organisation inspired its flag:


...and speaking on behalf of the opposition...

I went to the National Army Museum yesterday, thinking that its exhibition on the Afghan Wars would be worth seeing - as indeed it was.  The circled entry on the contents page of the museum guide gave me a chuckle:

I look forward to seeing the Society of Friends giving army recruiters a stand at their next shindig.

Tuesday 26 April 2011

Those French types and their voting preferences

Yet another survey on voting intentions for next year's Presidential election, with some amusing distortions by age and gender:

So, ladies - could you resist the electoral appeal of this fellow?:

It is the one, the only Nicolas Hulot - a sort of French David Attenborough / late period John Craven - running as a Green candidate.  His distinctly municipal haircut must be the reason for 9% of French women supporting him where only 3% of the chaps do.

Marine Le Pen attracts 25% of male support to 17% female support.  Check google images to see her appeal or otherwise.  Overall, French women skew far more left than the men.  Elsewhere, a bravo to the sensible 50+ cohort - 2% of them opt for Trot postman Besancenot, whereas 4% of the overall population do.  All of these figure are based on Dominique Strauss-Kahn being the PS's candidate.

Rather more seriously, MLP would beat Sarko to the second round whoever is the Socialist party candidate.  Don't say I didn't warn you, because I did some time back.

It's not all beer and skittles heading the Commonwealth

Behold the Commonwealth Secretary General, Kamalesh Sharma, who has been to Lesotho:

Maybe the story goes something like this?:

Now how I came to get this hat, 'tis very strange and funny
Grandfather died and left to me his property and money
And when the will it was read out, they told me straight and flat
If I would have his money, I must always wear his hat

"Where did you get that hat? Where did you get that tile?
Isn't it a nobby one, and just the proper style?
I should like to have one Just the same as that!"
Where'er I go, they shout "Hello! Where did you get that hat?"

Tuesday 19 April 2011

A brief 1911 Hansard trawl, with Mormons, royal souvenirs and a gratuitous Hamlet refernce.

Always bearing in mind that the next president of the US might be a Mormon, this:

"Mr. HOUSTON asked the Home Secretary whether he has any official information showing that the German Government has expelled Mormon missionaries from any portion of German territory; and whether he is prepared to introduce legislation to expel and exclude Mormon missionaries from this country?

Mr. CHURCHILL  I have no official information on the point, but inquiries are being made through the Foreign Office. I am unable at present to make any statement as regards the second part of the question".

What is Mr Houston so scared of?

Mr. HOUSTON Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that it is public knowledge that the German Government did, six years ago, peremptorily expel Mormon missionaries from Germany on the grounds of their faith being against the interests of public morality; and is he aware that as late as last year the twelve apostles of Mormonism who went to Germany for purposes of propaganda were peremptorily expelled?

Mr. CHURCHILL  I have not yet made the inquiries which are necessary. I do not think there is any difference of opinion between us as to the character of this propaganda.

Not one of his nobler sentiments, I think.  I am all for a marketplace of ideas, including those of faith, and I have found that saying 'no thank you' to doorstop evangelists is quite effective.

Meanwhile, pit ponies:

"Mr. CHARLES BATHURST asked whether it is permissible, under the existing regulations of the Home Department for pit ponies to foe worked for two shifts of eight or nine hours out of the twenty-four; and, if not, what steps are taken to prevent this being done?

Mr. CHURCHILL There is no provision in the existing law as to the length of the shift for which animals may be worked; but it is the duty of the inspectors of mines to examine into the care and treatment of the animals used in a mine, and to report any cases of cruelty or neglect.

Hmm, doesn't sound too much fun being a pit pony.  It would be remiss of me not to throw in the 1984 urban legend from the miners' strike:  one town saw the young Tories collect for working miners, the young Socialists for striking miners and the young Social Democrats for pit ponies. 

What with another Saxe-Coburg-Gotha event approaching, this might be a soon to be repeated outrage:

"Captain BARING asked the President of the Board of Trade whether his attention had been drawn to the sale of Coronation buttons as British, though made in the State of New Jersey, United States of America; what inquiry had been made into the matter; and whether, in view of the provisions of the Merchandise Marks Act, he proposes to take any action in the matter?

Mr. BUXTON The allegation has been brought to my notice, but my informant stated at the same time that the sellers were believed to be acting in ignorance. If the hon. Member is in a position to furnish evidence that any firm are knowingly selling as British goods which were actually made in the United States, I shall be happy to consider it with a view to possible action
Telling a hawk from a handsaw is one thing, but what of a ham from an oboe?

Mr. FIELD asked the President of the Local Government Board whether consignments of Chinese frozen pork have been landed at Douglas, Isle of Man, with the object of being transformed into bacon and ham; and whether he can state if carcases have been smuggled into Ireland under the guise of musical instruments?
Mr. BURNS  The answer to the first part of the question is in the affirmative. I have no knowledge of such proceedings as are suggested in the latter part of the question.

Why bother baking a bigger cake when you can cut it with a sharper knife?

Or something very much like that.  The various trade union websites are a regular source of material, and Unite, and in particular its Scottish wing, has come up with something quite notable:

"Scotland's biggest union kick-starts push for prosperity".

Has Unite seen the light and decided to campaign against restrictive practices and closed shops and to agitate for PPPs and the like?

Let's find out.

"Unite the union will today (Monday 18 April) launch an economic paper at the STUC Annual Congress which aims to kick-start the push for prosperity in Scotland by calling for the establishment of sector forums...Unite believes a new Scottish government has an opportunity to take the lead in the establishment of sector forums throughout the economy which would help to combat inequality and assist in improving workers’ purchasing power.

Hmm, does not sound much like an effort to boost the Scottish economy to me, but rather to institutionalise the power of unions.

Among the reasons Unite touts for sector forums is this spine-chiller:

"Sector forums would allow Scotland to address some of the structural problems of the economy, by bringing together those who know best, to deal with concerns about productivity, competitiveness, learning and skills, and adjustment to change".  (My emphasis).
I think that by that it means union reps, polytechnic lecturers and superannuated Glaswegian pols.  Rather than venture capitalists, say.

Maybe they can start picking winners too - we all now good these folk are at that sort of thing.

Monday 18 April 2011

A discovery it would be selfish not to share....

Over at EU HQ, there is a page with this piece of text:

"If you want to know more, please read our fact sheet "Managing the agriculture budget wisely" [pdf available in deenfrit]. This fact sheet provides an overview of the systems for the management and checking of agricultural expenditure, both at national and EU level, and describes the roles and responsibilities of the different actors".
(The boxed language links above are clickable)

'Managing the agriculture budget wisely', eh?  Sounds interesting and ripe for mockery, no?

However, it turns out to be along the lines of those books of blank pages with titles like 'All that men know about women', 'The wit of Gordon Brown' etc, as clicking on the English pdf takes you precisely nowhere.   However, and here the plot thickens considerably, clicking on 'de', 'fr' or 'it' takes one to an explanation in one of those languages.  Could it be that I've stumbled upon the biggest plot of the lot, or is it just that there some lousy html use going on?

Thursday 14 April 2011

The 1861 Hansard trawl, featuring guano and the demon drink

What about this for a section heading?:


Quite direct, that.  Anyway, to the point:

MR. VINCENT SCULLY said, he would beg to ask the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Whether his attention has been directed to the committals for drunkenness to local Bridewells in Ireland, under the Act of 6 and 7 Will. IV, c. 38, s. 12, and to the inconvenience of transmitting persons convicted under that Act from distant districts to the common gaol of the county, and whether Government intends to provide any remedy for such inconvenience?

MR. CARDWELL said, that his attention had beon directed to the committals for drunkenness to local Bridewells in Ireland under the Act stated by the hon. Member. He (Mr. Card well) was aware that there was an inconvenience felt of committing persons convicted under that Act from distant districts to the common gaol of the county, and it was the intention of the Government to provide a remedy for that inconvenience.

I imagine that Cardwell intended to remedy 'that inconvenience' by having more bridewells built, rather than leaving drinkers be.

Vincent 'the drinkers friend' Scully was the MP for Cork, and Edward 'not the drinkers friend' Cardwell was the MP for Oxford.  But for the predilection of that electorate, William Makepeace Thackeray would have been the MP and denied Cardwell this particular pulpit, apparently.

A particular undelightful piece of bigotry here:

MR. DENMAN said, he wished to he allowed to make an explanation in regard to a matter which was somewhat of a personal nature. On Monday last he presented a Petition from the Union of Tiverton against the appointment of Roman Catholic Chaplains and Schoolmasters in Union Workhouses. That Petition was presented in the ordinary way, but it so happened, owing no doubt, to some error, that in the Votes of the Proceedings next day that Petition was entered as one in favour of the free exercise of their religion in Workhouses by Roman Catholics. That was exactly the contrary of the prayer of the Petition, which was against the appointment of Roman Catholic Chaplains to Workhouses, and so it appeared in the newspapers.
I think he might have benefited from attending a diversity worshop.... 

Sticking with the past as a foreign country, the, ahem, Lunacy Regulation Bill:

THE MARQUESS OF WESTMEATH thought that some provision ought to be introduced in the Bill to enable some protection to be thrown round persons who, though not of sound mind, were not in such a dangerous state as to render it necessary to treat them as ordinary lunatics. He referred to the recent case of Lord Kingston, who, he said, had been more or less in the present state for the last twenty years. His mania took the form of giving away large sums as alms in indiscriminate charity, whereby he had destroyed his whole fortune.
Elsewhere, parliamentarians talking about what they know best, although normally it is the output of bulls rather than sea birds:

 MR. GREGORY said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Whether any Resolution was passed by the Peruvian Congress abolishing the monopoly of consignment of Guano, and offering to sell it free on board at 30 dollars per ton; and if so, why that Resolution was not carried out? He would also beg to ask whether the noble Lord has received any copy of the new American Tariff; and if so, whether he will lay it on the Table of the House?

LORD JOHN RUSSELL  said, he had received a copy of the American Tariff, but it was not quite in such a shape as to be presented to Parliament. With respect to the question relating to Peruvian Guano all the explanation he could give was that the question was raised in the Peruvian Congress, but he was not aware of any decision being arrived at respecting it.

Tuesday 12 April 2011

Bone-idle Belgians and hard-working Mexicans

The OECD has been investigating hours worked (paid and unpaid - so including household matters) by country, and Belgian daily Le Soir is rather pleased to report that Belgians work the least - 427 minutes a day, or about 7 hours and seven minutes a day.  We rack up 7 hours 53 minutes, but given that shopping is counted as work, and knowing how much some of us like that.....

Anyway, a chart of those countries mentioned in the article:

Monday 11 April 2011

Survey o' the day - belief in the supernatural by political affiliation

For once a survey that addresses what I would have thought were the wilder shores of belief  is US based rather than French.  Should I ever find myself, A - rich beyond the dreams of avarice and B - out of loved ones to scatter largesse on, I am going to start commissioning similarly entertaining polls in these parts.  Anyway, onwards:

26% of Americans believe there is spiritual energy in trees etc.  Yes, really.  Must make trips to the hardware store etc a little trying, and driving past telegraph poles positively gut-wrenching.  I think 'Avatar' has a lot to answer for. 

24% (and 22% of self-defined Christians) believe in re-incarnation.  As I have noted before, 'while believers in previous lives always seem to think they were Queens (hello Shirley McLaine), Emperors, mighty warriors etc, someone does have to man the plague pits, clean the latrines, die of leprosy in infancy'.

Where it gets distinctly odd is when worshippers are asked if they go anywhere else other than their usual place of worship:

However, significant numbers within all three Protestant traditions report sometimes attending Catholic Mass; this includes nearly one-in-five black Protestants (19%), 13% of white evangelicals and 14% of mainline Protestants. Fewer say they attend Jewish synagogues or Muslim mosques.
Roughly one-in-five Catholics say they attend services of at least one faith other than Catholicism, with most of these (18% of Catholics overall and 16% of white Catholics) saying they attend Protestant services. About one-in-twenty Catholics report attending services at Jewish synagogues (5%) and 1% say they attend Muslim mosques.

This could suggest that very broad ecumenism is catching on, but I think it more likely that folk are thinking 'oh yes, we did go to that wedding of the Goldsteins / O'Reillys / Olafsens a few years back ' (delete as appropriate).  Another possibility is that there is some very serious hedging of bets going on.

16% believe in the evil eye, curses etc.  I suppose that would serve to explain the continued existence of certain forms of popular entertainment.

In the best tradition of these things, the fun really starts when political persuasion is factored in, and to my distinct pleasure, Republicans are the most sceptical in the three way split twixt Reps, Dems and independents.  Shame that Greens are not included - I imagine the figure for tree worship would have been quite entertaining.  Anyway, the split for reincarnation is 17 R/30 D/ 26 I.  Belief in yoga as something other than just keep fit sees this division - 15 R / 31 D /26 I.  Somehow I cannot, or rather will not, visualise Newt Gingrich in a leotard.  Apologies to anyone now in need of brain bleach.

Meanwhile, 21% of Republicans 'have felt in touch with someone who has died', with 36% of Dems thinking likewise.

More later, although unlikely given pressure of work.

Friday 8 April 2011

EU enthusiasm in an unexpected place - Gibraltar

EURid (crazy name, crazy guys...) has been kind enough to publish stats for registrations to date of the .eu top level domain by country / territory, and Germany emerges a clear leader based on raw volume - 1,041,614 so far.  Bottom of the heap is French Guiana at 59, although it is possible that there are other special cases where no registrations have been made - St Pierre & Miquelon for example.  We've managed just shy of a third of a million.

Anyway, so far so not very interesting.  I have had a go at charting .eu registrations relative to population, and it is Gibraltar which emerges as by far the most enthusiastic, with 3,370 registrations for a population of 31,000.  This, I would imagine is down to UK entities with a Gib presence preferring .eu to .gi, thinking it less likely to scare the horses.  Of the EU 27, Cyprus leads from Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

(click chart for legible version).

At the other end of the scale, of the sovereign states it is the Spanish, Portuguese and the Romanians who have the lowest level of registrations per capita.  However, it is France's Dom-Toms - the recipients of quite phenomenal levels of EU largesse - that are the least enthused.  Still more hopeless stattos can find figures for net donors and recipients per capita here.

Who gets to carry the RPG?

It matters not whether it is urban combat, desert, jungle or whatever, in every army of irregulars there is always one chap with one of these living out his Rambo fantasies while all around his brothers in arms  brandish AKs, bullet belts or, if all else fails, shake water bottles.  Check the Libyan coverage today, you'll see.   Anyway, one does not have to delve too deeply into the works of Freud to ponder why waving around an RPG-7 is a popular pastime in certain quarters.  So, let us say that RPG waver is the big boss, head honcho, king snake or whatever - he faces two major problems:

They are quite heavy - 7KG, with each grenade anywhere between 2.5kg and 4.5kg  An AK weighs 4.3kg, sans clip.  Humping one of those around all day in the hope of a photo opportunity a lightly armoured or soft-skinned target shows some degree of commitment to one's craft.  If a peon carries it for you, how do you ensure that it is safely in your grip when the cameraman appears an enemy technical hoves into view? 

Also while everyone else is lighting up the sky with the world's finest 7.62×39mm, you have to conserve ammo, or else face the prospect of ritual humiliation if when the cameraman appears an enemy technical hoves into view all you can do is point the thing in the hope it works on one's foe in the manner of Aborigine bone pointing.

Should it ever come to facing off against the folk on the other side of the River, I'm opting for a machine gun.

Thursday 7 April 2011

The less than brilliant maintenance of the TUC's website

Screenshot taken today:

Yup, they are illustrating their tax credit calculator with a call to donate to Tucaid.  If you click it takes you to the calculator.  Given that the text at the bottom declares 'Tax credit changes from 6 April could leave families thousands of pounds out of pocket', readers are unlikely to think that now is the time to start funding Tunisian Union of Mineworkers or somesuch......

Wednesday 6 April 2011

We have ways of making you walk. Or at least of making you take the train.

Found at EuTube:

As some wag points out in the comments, "This video gives us a fascinating insight into the mentality that drives the European Commission, implying that policy papers will help to bring about a better world by some kind of magical transformation".

Further excavation shows what manner of schemes are being cooked up:

By 2050, key goals will include:

  • No more conventionally-fuelled cars in cities.
  • 40% use of sustainable low carbon fuels in aviation; at least 40% cut in shipping emissions.
  • A 50% shift of medium distance intercity passenger and freight journeys from road to rail and waterborne transport.
  • All of which will contribute to a 60% cut in transport emissions by the middle of the century.

If I make it to 2050 I'll be a fair vintage, and thus will be especially well placed to be spectacularly grumpy about all this

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Bashir Al-Assad's loyal old friends

From the KCNA:

Pyongyang, April 4 (KCNA) -- A friendly meeting with staff members of the Syrian embassy here took place at the DPRK-Syria Friendship Kim Jong Suk Pyongyang Silk Mill on Monday to mark the 65th anniversary of the independence of Syria....They talked to each other about the need to boost the ties between the two countries".

Well, the functionaries of the hereditary leaders of thugocracies do have to stick together, don't they?

Anecdote o' the day

Found in John Julius Norwich's 'More Christmas Crackers', and worthy of recycling:

"Edward Marsh records in his book of reminiscences, 'A Number of People', a remark of Bertrand Russell's 'when in a disquisition on the capacity of mankind for misery he said he had never been so unhappy that he would not have been cheered, in an appreciable measure, by the sudden offer of a chocolate cream'".  

My preference would be certain types of fruit or bar snack, but the point stands.

Friday 1 April 2011

Why EU foreign policy and 'Baroness' Ashton are laughable - a small object lesson

Exhibit A:

And Exhibit B:

And yes, I appreciate that Ashton does not write, let alone proofread this stuff.  These two items appear next to each other on the press room index page.

Making mock of the 'Dear Leader'.

And in a (conceptually) good cause - making money:

Further details on the ad are here at the Korea Herald. Rather amusingly the advert was produced in Israel.