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: