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.

Curious opinion poll o' the day. Yes, it's French.

Now that the Visigoths appear to have been sent back to their caves, time for some light relief, and where better to turn than to a bizarre French opinion poll, which I am *not*, repeat, *not* making up:

'The French and their sexual fantasies', conducted by Harris for Marianne, a current affairs etc magazine.

Yes, really.  Here's the link to the data.  In keeping with basic decorum and this being a family blog and all, there's nothing that should bring bring too much of a blush to a maidenly cheek or otherwise be not safe for work.

The initial question asks whether folk think about other people while engaged in 'l'amour' with a significant other, and the findings are not that thrilling.  Where it gets interesting is when the data is examined by political allegiance.  Right wingers are the ones with minds most prone to wander - 6% 'fessed up to 'often', compared to zero among the extreme left.  Whether that is down to questions of loyalty,  fulfillment, imagination or the reverse is left unexplored.  The highest figure for 'never' is for Gaull ist - 53% and the lowest for Greens (not included in extreme left, oddly enough) - 39%.

Offered a list of celebs, George Clooney (F - 33%) and Sophie Marceau (M- 30%) top the list.  Clint Eastwood does octogenarians proud, as 9% of ladies opted for him.  And Brad Pitt outscores Kate Moss among chaps.  There is a heavy skew towards Clooney for the extreme left and for Sophie Marceau for the right.  Clooney is a liberal, surprise surprise, while Marceau has refused to share a TV studio with Jean-Marie Le Pen.  How she feels about the Laffer curve, climate change and school vouchers is as yet unknown.

Entertaining though this is, the survey then moves onto French politicians, which is where the fun really starts.  For chaps, top of the table at 25% is Rama Yade.  Here she is:

She served in Sarko's government and was ambassador to UNESCO.  Current whereabouts are unknown.

Second most popular (10%) is Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, minister for the environment etc:

Ségolène Royal limps home in third at 5%.

For the ladies, it is Dominique de Villepin, albeit at a rather feeble 4%:

As for Sarko himself, he scores one per cent among the ladies, less than Ms Yade.  Mind you, Francois Hollande and Martine Aubrey scored zero for both genders.  Dominique Strauss Kahn rates 1% among female respondents and I will add nothing more to that finding.

The political skew sees little to separate right from left when it comes to Rama Yade, but there is evidence of party loyalty with other figures - 7% of Frontistes 'like' Marine Le Pen, compared to 1% overall, and Aubry and Hollande do register some support among the left.  Greens prefer Royal, relative to the norm. 

Wednesday 10 August 2011

The apparent growth in the popularity of baseball.....

As found at Amazon.  Although not a lot is happening, sales-wise, with baseballs or baseball gloves.  Curious, huh?   Pickaxe handles, which are more traditional are a quarter of the price.  And seem to be bought by people who also buy mattock heads.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Number crunching martial law

Let us say that this does come to pass, and frankly I doubt that it will (rain dampens things no end - you'll see), here are the numbers to work with:

Total regular, territorial and reserve strength of the army comes to a rounded 265,000.  From this one must subtract the 10,000 ish in Afghanistan.  Figures for deployments other than in Northern Ireland are somewhat inexact, so let's say that there are 250,000 soldiers available.  To this can be added 8,400 Marines.   Trying to tease out figures from the RAF and the Royal Navy is just too difficult, so I will not be attempting it.

The Met's numbers come to 37,484 - sworn officers plus specials.  Obviously it is not worth including PCSOs. 

Greater London has a population of 7.7 million.  That GL and the Met area are not coterminous does not help, so I will pretend that they are one and the same.  That 7.7m equates to a rounded 13% of the population.  So, assuming that Shropshire, Cumbria and the Shetlands etc are as entitled to protection as London, London should get 13% of the available manpower - a rounded 33,500.

That combined Police/Armed forces figure comes to a rounded 71,000 - a rather thin red line of one citizen in uniform per every 108 civilians.  Clearly the looting classes are largely comprised of a particular age demographic - let's say 15-30, and are overwhelmingly male.   That population comes to a shade under 800,000.  Which changes the ratio to 1 to 11.

Now if the populace, and in particular shopkeepers, were as well armed and as supported by the law as they are in, say, Texas, this would never have gone so far, would it? 

Monday 8 August 2011

What the Three Musketeers did next

Aramis went into the scent / beauty business and Porthos became the butt of lots of bad French jokes (1) but Athos?:

He moved to Peru to grow asparagus. 

Incidentally, while they are termed musketeers, I've never seen any of them armed with anything more lethal than a sword. 

(1).  Portuguese folk are sometimes called Portos over yonder.  Google blague portugais for some less than brilliantly sophisticated humour.