Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Pickles' party/CS gas incident - the full SP including the name of the alleged person

All human life is here - from Paul Waugh's Evening Standard blog. The Mail has a longer but less juicier article with a photo of the alleged individual.

When I first heard the news item about CS gas, I thought perhaps PC Plod had gone over the top (what's wrong with the good old fashioned truncheon?). On reading this I am not surprised the officer discharged said gas. The altercation was within hearing range of the Commons chamber (Kerry McCarthy MP said on Twitter: "Was in Chamber when Pickles' guest went on rampage. Much excitement, banging + shouting. Gillie Merron told us someone had set off CS gas."). If the Speaker's chair end of the chamber is anything like the other end, they have two officers with machine guns at the doors (when I once strayed towards the Commons' entrance thinking it was the way out, they were immediately on the balls of their feet, twitching their guns, asking "Sir?"). So on the face of it, it is not surprising that the officer acted so forthrightly.

With a large hat-tip to the tweeting James Graham.

Daniel Hannan on the "economic miracle" of....er.....Iceland

Given the confidence with which he gave Gordon Brown a dressing down in the European Parliament, you might think that Daniel Hannan MEP has a very sure footed judgment when it comes to economic matters, would you not?

Well here's a very interesting article he wrote in the Spectator in October 2004 singing the praises of those well known economic wizards.....er......the Icelanders:

In the ten years that I have been travelling to Iceland, I have watched an economic miracle unfold there. When I first visited the island, it had just joined the European Economic Area. Eurocrats expected that this would simply be a transitional phase on the way to full EU membership, but Icelanders saw it differently. As far as they were concerned, the EEA gave them all the benefits of the single market with few of the associated costs. Iceland is covered by the EU’s so-called four freedoms — free movement, that is, of goods, services, people and capital — but retains control over its own agriculture, fisheries, foreign policy, social affairs and non-EU trade. And, unlike full members, Iceland makes only a token contribution to the Brussels budget, amounting last year to 0.07 per cent of its GDP.

Today, Icelanders are absolutely rolling in it.

Not today though! As well as being virtually bankrupt, they are begging to be let into the EU on a fast track! It is very difficult to contain one's laughter given the Euro-sceptic flavour of Mr Hannan's tribute to Iceland.

With a hat-tip to a regular commenter, Rusty.

Jacqui Smith's husband's real crime

He watched Ocean's Thirteen twice. Surely once is enough for anyone?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Hell hath no fury....

Fair enough. Jacqui Smith is taking a fair amount of political "hit" for a £10 pay-for movie bill wrongly shoved in with her expenses claim.

But surely this cannot begin compare to the embarrassment of a husband who has effectively been discovered by his wife, in the full glare of the media, having what might delicately be called "a crafty J.Arthur" while her back was turned? (And the alleged titles of the alleged movies are even being bandied around).

I doubt he will hear the last of it.

This is an appropriate time for a jolly recitation, I think.....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

James Landale, fighting cancer himself, criticises those who closely followed the Jade Goody demise

For some strange reason I am quite a fan of a little programme called "News Watch" on BBC News 24. It goes out at 7.50am on Saturdays, which seems to fit into one of my prime attention span opportunities. It's presented by Raymond Snoddy, who acts like a little terrier in calling to account BBC executives on behalf of the viewing public.

This week, the programme majored on the coverage of the death of Jade Goody. I was interested to see that the piece included some quotes from James Landale, who is BBC News 24's chief political correspondent (See him below reporting from Westminster while drenched to the skin during a thunderstorm.) I didn't realise that he is fighting cancer (roughly the same type that Menzies Campbell survived).

After the programme I belatedly found this piece in the Mail, which James Landale wrote a few weeks ago:

I can no more criticise Jade for her choices than any other healthy person.

If she chooses to end her life exploiting her celebrity to provide for her two young boys' future and raise awareness of cancer, then so be it. Few can disagree with that.

But those who follow the Jade Goody coverage with such seemingly prurient interest should, I believe, examine their motives.

Yes, this is a powerful, compelling story of human tragedy - but how much are people drawn in also by the prospect of witnessing death?

How much are people succumbing to exactly the same appetites as those who once took their picnics to attend a public hanging?

Perhaps they are not quite modern-day tricoteuses sitting with their knitting before the guillotine, or day-trippers to the Coliseum watching the lions at work. Cancer rarely provides such a quick, violent death.

But perhaps some of those people obsessively following the Jade story - photo by photo, detail by detail - are betraying the same instincts as those who slow down on the motorway to stare at some poor wretch hanging out of their windscreens?

Counting one's food

As I have done for several years now, I am taking part in Christian Aid's "Count your blessings" for Lent. This involves reading and thinking about one factoid everyday, then calculating a donation based on the fact. I mention this only because today the factoid led me in an interesting direction.

After taking part in Basingstoke's weekly timed 5K "Park Run", we finally got round to doing something we'd wanted to do for a long time. We stopped off at Nelson's American Diner on the A339. I plumped for the "Big One" breakfast. I doubt I'll be eating until this evening after that. Suffice it to say that it was "the works" with all the trimmings. Marvellous.

With uncanny irony, I then came home and read today's"Count your blessings" factoid:

Saturday 28th March - A large UK supermarket stocks 30,000 different products, while many people in the world eat the same food every day. Give 20p for each different food you ate at your most recent meal.

I have just finished counting. It was ten....I think.

An explosion in a Pickles factory

Eric Pickles goes ballistic on Question Time. Clip here. Transcript below from The Telegraph's Three Line Whip. It is hilarious and Pickles certainly demonstrates the art of sanctimonious pomposity. He doesn't seem to realise how weak and pathetic his defence seems from the point of view of ordinary members of the public.

David Dimbleby began by asking Mr Pickles if he claims for a second home:

EP: "I do indeed have a two house system and an allowance. But if I could just make a brief contribution

DD; "How far away from Westminster are you?"

EP: "Thirty seven miles."[Boos from the audience]

EP: "And if I could just make this brief contribution to hang an MP week -"

DD: "Take your time! Take your time!"

EP: "OK, then let me explain why. And I have actually had experience of commuting that distance, when my wife was ill (she's fully recovered now) - but for a month I did it. And it was an extremely difficult experience and I'll explain why. Because the House of Commons works on clockwork: you have to be there, if you're on a committee, you have to be there precisely. Particularly for someone like me, I was a number two -"[Boos from the audience]

EP: "Let me explain, let me explain, please just let me explain for a moment. I had to be there -"DD: "Like a job, in other words?"[applause and laughter from audience]

EP: "Yes exactly like a job. If you're number two in the opposition, you're essentially running the committee. So I needed to be there at 930 to move those amendments. It doesn't matter if a Liberal Democrat isn't there, but it matters if I'm there -"

Ed Davey: "That's just cheap"

EP: "When I was doing this, I was leaving home at five thirty in the morning to guarantee that I was there and I wasn't getting back until twelve or one in the morning. Now you can do that once or twice, you can do that for a while. But you've got to understand, the House of Commons runs like clockwork."Caroline Lucas: "So does the rest of the world, Eric."

EP: "And I have never, ever claimed my full allowance. I have always claimed the amount -"[jeers from audience]

EP: "Well I mean, I publish them. I've always published them on my website. They've always been there for people to see. I have always been accountable. And I can tell you, I think the things are going to come out in a week's time. I think I've only claimed about sixty percent of the allowance, it might even be fifty five percent. But I'm a serious guy who will put in the hours. And I will work for those hours. But I can tell you this: it is no fun doing five thirty in the morning right the way through. You cannot be sat on a train thinking 'am I going to make it? Am I not going to make it?' That's why I do it."

Audience Member: "Do you think Fred Goodwin should give some of his pension back Eric?"

EP: "Yeah, I do."

Audience Member: "Right - that's because he's behaved immorally, unreasonably perhaps. But he's played within the rules! Don't you think that's a bit hypocritical?"

EP: "I had my flat - I bought my flat when we regularly sitting until two in the morning. I bought my flat when we did that. I bought that flat because it turned out -"

[Audience member: "sell it!"]EP: "OK well I'll sell it. Of course I could sell it. I am never going to be able to satisfy you folks, at all, because I am an MP and therefore guilty."

Daniel Hannan MEP has his little place in the sunshine

This berating of Gordon Brown in the European Parliament has "gone viral" and been watched by 1,400,000+ people on You Tube. I bet he was practising in front of his shaving mirror for days. I think he is a bit of a burke.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Noel's HQ leaves Sky One

Below is the speech which seems to have ended with Noel's HQ leaving Sky.

Noel Edmonds has reportedly pulled his Noel's HQ show from Sky TV over a disagreement about presenting the show live.
Sky bosses wanted Noel to start pre-recording the series following a live rant the 60-year-old presenter made on air last month, according to The Sun.
But Noel refused and is now taking the second series of the programme - which campaigns on issues hitting ordinary people - to another channel.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Doggedly loyal and moderate Tory MEP highlights the shattering stupidity of Cameron

It's not often that you actually see one of your local MEPs, especially ones who are not Liberal Democrats.

One of my previous MEPs, who I have actually seen in the flesh, is Caroline Jackson, who is currently an MEP for a neighbouring region.

She addressed a meeting, which I attended, of the Newbury United Nations Association in about 1992. For a Tory, she is not a bad egg. One of their more reasonable politicians, I believe.

It really is quite extraordinary that she is now on the brink of leaving the Tories over the mind-blowingly ludicrous decision taken by Cameron in first week's of leadership to leave the moderate EPP formation in the European Parliament. Her decision to make her thinking public shows how utterly stupid Cameron's decision is, and reveals the truth about the Tory party. No matter how much Cameron may pretend to be moderate, there is still stupid, burning Euro-hatred at its core.

Caroline Jackson has said, extraordinarily: "Pulling out of the EPP was ridiculous, is a serious mistake and I am minded to leave the party." She's been a Tory member since 1963 for goodness sake! It really takes talent on Cameron's part to wind up such a loyal moderate Tory politician for the absolutely pointless and virtually meaningless matter of which blinking group your MEPs sit with in the EP (especially as Cameron is driving his MEP's into a marginal group containing some rather extreme Poles.)

As a footnote, Caroline Jackson's hubby, Robert, was Tory MP for Wantage but defected to Labour just before he stood down as an MP.

Does anyone in the real world give a flying fart about this playground blogger bitching?

Anyone seeing this might come to a negatory conclusion on that one.

4 hours 35 minutes of summit will cost taxpayer £20 million

Sam Coates on Red Box puts Gordon Brown's London Summit into perspective:

Gordon's save the world summit next Thursday is going to be awfully short.

Leaders' breakfast 8.30am - 9.45am

Morning session including finance ministers and central bankers 9.50am- 1.25pm

Lunch 1.25pm - 2.30pm

Afternoon session including finance ministers and central bankers 2.30pm to 3.30pm

Closing press conferences, 3.30 onwards

So it's 4 hours and 35 minutes of formal talks plus time spent chatting over three meals (including Downing Street dinner the night before). And the British taxpayer gets not much change from £20 million quid for the pleasure. Bretton Woods, when international institutions were last re-made, lasted three weeks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The BBC need to find out what an index is

Oh dear me. The BBC need to find out what the difference between "an index" and "a change in an index" is.

Yesterday, their bulletins were routinely announcing that the Retail Price Index is at its "lowest ever".

Similarly, BBC Online stated:

But a sharp fall in mortgage repayments caused the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which includes housing costs, to fall to zero for the first time in 49 years.

Well, no actually. According to the Office for National Statistics, the Retail Prices Index is at 211.4. Far from zero.

What BBC Online should have stated is that "Retail Prices Index inflation" has fallen to zero for the first time in 49 years.

Similarly, those bulletins which hailed the "lowest Retail Prices Index ever" would have been more correct in saying that 'last month the Retail Prices Index was the lowest since the previous month'. What they meant to say, I think, is that 'the rate of change in the Retail Prices Index was the lowest ever'. But that is not so sexy is it?

The Office for National Statistics reported the situation correctly, as you would expect:

Retail Prices Index (RPI) inflation (my bolding) slowed to 0.0 per cent in February, down from 0.1 per cent in January

...RPI is the Retail Prices Index. The uses of the RPI and its derivatives include indexation of pensions, state benefits and index-linked gilts.

Inflation is the percentage change in the index compared with the same month one year previously.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

"Union Jack" "LibDem Councillor/Postmaster" "sacked" and "ousted" from party for "refusing to serve people who don't speak English"

That must break some sort of record for the number of inverted commas in a title...

Earlier this week, Richard Huzzey on LibDem Voice covered this story and there were some interesting comments posted against it:

The Daily Mail rarely devotes its columns to the praise of Liberal Democrat councillors. Deva Kumarasiri is an exception. The newspaper approvingly reports on a policy he has introduced in the Post Office he manages: Mr. Kumarasiri will not serve people who don’t speak English because, he believes, they ought to learn it, as he has since emigrating to Britain 17 years ago. The paper says,
If his customers can’t be bothered to learn English, he tells them, they must go away and learn it before he serves them.
His bold stand against non-integration has sent a shudder of political correctness down whatever spine the post office has these days, and infuriated some local do-gooders who accused him of inciting division among the community.

A cursory examination of the Sundays would lead the unsuspecting reader to conclude that Mr Kumarasiri has been "sacked" and "banned" from the LibDems for his stance.

However, if you carefully read through the story you will see that Mr Kumarasiri was not a member of the Liberal Democrats, because he failed to pay his membership subscription since it became due 18 months ago.

Tony Gillam, leader of Gedling Liberal Democrats, said Kumarasiri’s opinions meant he could no longer be a member of the party.
Cllr Gillam said: “Deva is not a Liberal Democrat councillor. The views expressed go well beyond what we can accommodate.”
He added that it had not been necessary to officially expel Kumarasiri as he had not paid any subscriptions for 18 months.

(Deva Kumarasiri is now forming his own party called "Britishness Forever". You can see that party website here. It's an absolute hoot.). Also, he has not been sacked from his job as a post office cashier. One report said that the owner of the shop which contains the post office where Mr Kumarasiri worked has asked for him to be removed. The same report said that the Post Office has obliged and Mr Kumarasiri will now work at another Post Office, the location of which is a closely guarded secret. One report suggested that Mr Kumarasiri's new Post Office is in a "more white" area. The BBC reports, slightly differently:

He claimed he was threatened and said Muslim leaders in the community started a petition against him, so he moved at his own request.

It turns out that the fellow "banned" five customers:

I didn’t impose a complete ban. I told people to learn some English or come back with an interpreter. They come back with the right attitude now. It is just common sense.
‘If these people are coming into our country they should practise our language and culture. As far as I am concerned, if you can’t be British you should go home.
‘This is our country – let’s work together to save it because the Government doesn’t have the backbone to solve the problem.’

There are some reasons to have some sympathy for Mr Kumarasiri. One report suggested that he only refused to serve people who refused to learn English, rather than simply not speaking it. Another report suggested that some in the local community were effectively using Mr Kumarasiri as a free translation service.

And if, day after day, you are having to take time over certain customers while a queue builds up, one can understand the frustration. It would seem that Mr K works in one of these places which has a single counter so there isn't the luxury of several cashiers to serve the customers while one cashier takes a bit longer than normal over one customer.

Of course, the implied, almost unthinking, assumption behind all this is that there are hordes of recent immigrants who have come to this country to "sponge" and who refuse to learn English. The truth is, as usual, more disparate. I can't claim to have day-to-day experience of a multi-lingual community. However, it struck me when I was canvassing in Southall that many people, especially those under 65 years old, spoke absolutely excellent English. Those who perhaps didn't have as high a standard of spoken English tended to be of an older generation. However, most of them did try very hard to speak English when I called at their door.

What drives me a bit potty about Mr Kumarasiri is that he has literally wrapped himself in the Union Jack. I kid you not. He reportedly flies the Union Jack outside his home. In the News of the World today he is pictured literally wrapped in a Union Jack. There's nothing wrong with that. I just always find it a bit "tacky" when people go overboard on British patriotism. However, we should no doubt be proud that Mr Kumarasiri has done this.

It appears that a point has been missed in all this. Besides the fact that, from my experience, you can go anywhere else in the world and be served in a post office despite not having command of the local language, surely the main word which sums up Britishness is "tolerance". Surely we should treat people with respect and tolerance and if they are struggling to learn our language we should try to understand them, if necessary with sign language or pointing. After all, most Post Office transactions are not vastly complex.

If Mr Kumarasiri is guilty of anything it is that he is a little jarring and over-bearing with the presentation of his views. I certainly don't think that he deserves summary "banning" from the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, I suspect that this has not properly happened, anyway. For this to be enacted, Mr K would have to apply to unlapse his membership by proffering a subscription fee to the party. The party would then have to consider that application and there would have to be appeal processes if needed. It doesn't all happen on the strength of one council leader saying something to a reporter.

I suspect that Deva Kumarasiri does not actually want to be in the Liberal Democrats, anyway. If he has been a "Liberal Democrat councillor" for 18 months and hasn't paid his LibDem party membership subscription then that says it all, doesn't it? And one can't really be surprised if he didn't feel compelled to pay his subscription recently. (And he must have been preparing the launch of his Britishness Forever party for a very long time, given the professional sheen of its website. It seems quite extraordinary that he has only become an independent councillor recently, given the huge preparation which forming your own party in such a way requires.) After all, he can't have found many other members of our party who wrap themselves in the Union Jack, literally, at the drop of the hat and fly it in their front garden and on their car, as he does. That is not to say that all members of the Liberal Democrats are, in my experience, very patriotic. It is just not the flag-waving type of patriotism.

This whole episode saddens me. Deva Kumarasiri seems a feisty fellow. I just think he is somewhat misguided.

P.S. Wouldn't be a good idea if Deva learnt how to write English properly, if he is going to lecture others on the language? Just take this from his website:

We need Members
In order to make archive our goals, we would like to have members who could support us in many ways.

My old English teacher would be turning in his grave. And this article on the website is priceless:

Hoist the Union Jack
Have you ever noticed that unlike few years back, it has been very difficult for us to find a Union Jack to purchase? This clearly signifies the attitude we have towards the Britishness which we should be shamed of being a British. Therefore, BRITISH FOREVER appeals from all those who admire our British values to have our Union flag flying in front of their houses or at business premises and be an example to our children. Without your support and encouragement our future generation will never be able to understand the significance of Britishness unless you start from your door step. Flying the Union Jack from today and show our true Britishness.

Can I exercise my centuries old traditional British right to free speech and say "Bollocks"? A simple Google search comes back bursting with Union Jack-wrapping opportunities.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Well I'll be doggone - Arnold Schwarzenegger goes all weak at the knees in the presence of Obama

Is he in love?

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was "mesmerized" after President Obama's town hall meeting in Los Angeles today, according to Politico.Said Schwarzenegger: "I've never seen that. Usually people are so guarded. The aides are always so guarded. They're so afraid that you will blow it or that you will make news that's unintended and all those things.""But I think he's so smart. He's so clear with his thinking and he's so well informed and has been dealing with policy in all this and is also very philosophic it's almost like. I think he's just like -- I think it's beautiful."

Harriet Harman goes for apology of the year

Harriet Harman writes a letter of apology to actor Michael Sheen after telling him she thinks he isn't as good looking as Tony Blair. The original dig and the reading of the letter are captured on this video of the Five Live Simon Mayo show.

I suppose we should applaud Harman for apologising so quickly and sweetly.

Marvellous Ford wins Thatcham South by-election for LibDems

Update: Actual result was:

Marvellous Ford - Liberal Democrat: 1053 votes
Conservative: 680 votes

Liberal Democrat majority: 373
LibDem hold
Cause: Resignation

Turnout 34% (better than last election)

Marvellous Ford has won the Thatcham Town Council by-election (Thatcham South ward) for the Liberal Democrats with a majority of 300 plus!

This is an absolutely storming result! Many congratulations to Marvellous on becoming a councillor. Well done to agent Chris Day and the team!

Rarely has an election result given me such joy as this one!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Why would someone stick a polling station just fifty yards from another polling station for one single by-election in one single ward, when there is ample room in either polling station to accommodate the other one...and this, by the way, for a town council election with an expected turnout of ...um....20% - tops? (It happened today in the Thatcham Town Council South by-election.)

Answers on a postcard or stuck-down envelope, please....

Update: Simon Dickson has produced an excellent aerial photo here, pointing out the position of the two polling stations.

Conservative lead IS modest in comparison to Labour's 1997 run-up lead

Well done to Mark Pack for shooting this particular fox:

Mike Smithson is usually bang on the money (literally, probably) on the subject of polling. But he said David Laws was wrong to say that the Conservatives lead now is "fairly modest" in comparison to that of Labour in the run-up to the 1997 election. With his usual extraordinarily tenacious anorak-work, Mark picks out the polling of ICM, which Mike Smithson commends:

David Laws’s comments are fully justified by the ICM figures.

Since last summer (i.e. August 2008-March 2009), the Conservative lead in the ICM polls has varied between 5% and 15%.

If you look back at August 1995-March 1996*, the Labour lead in the ICM polls varied between 14% and 22%. There is a small overlap between these two ranges, but overall the Labour lead in 1995/6 was much higher than the Conservative lead in 2008/9, averaging 18% for Labour compared to 12% for the Conservatives.

Moreover, due to the way their respective vote shares are distributed across the country, the Conservatives need a larger lead to have an overall majority than Labour - so in fact the relative position for them is even worse than the 18% vs 12% figure suggests.
Sorry Mike, but on this one I think you’ve got it wrong: the Conservative lead is consistently significantly lower than the comparable Labour lead was.

* This is the comparable period for a 2010 election. But the point also stands for a 2009 general election, for example if you take the period August 1996-March 1997 instead.

Monday, March 16, 2009

100 things more popular than Twitter

I like number 45 - Ross Perot!

From the Buisness Insider:

How big is the Twitter hype?
Google News tells us that in the hour before we published this post, there were 40,820 news stories published that used the company's name.
Last we heard from anybody official, micro-blogging service Twitter had about 6 million unique visitors per month.
That's pretty big for a a relatively new startup. But let's be serious: in the grand scheme of things, 6 million people isn't very many.

To illustrate this point, we decided to come up with a list of 100 things more popular than Twitter. We looked at variety of metrics -- circulation, ratings, units sold, tickets sold, unique visitors, etc -- so obviously, the list isn't scientific. It's directional. (And, you know, fun.)

See list here.

James Graham live tweeting from today's launch of Jury Team

I thought it was worth preserving this for posterity. Apart from anything else it kills the canard that Twitter is all about "having a cocoa"..."going to the toilet"....

Tweets of particular comedic value are bolded. See James Graham's Twitter page here. The Jury Team website is here.

At the launch where I plan to live tweet

Seem to be one of the youngest people here maybe 5 peeps under 35?

Just spotted Martin Bell and Richard Taylor MP

Now in the auditorium to start

Hmmm appear to be the only person tweeting this

Kicks off with video hosted by Paul Judge

Video thus far consists of a load of canards

Black person in the video No black people on stage

Paul Judge starts talking

Judge: internet has cut out the middleman - we will do the same with politics

Judge: bread and circuses

Apparently we didn't have any corruption before political parties - scrap the Great Reform Act! Bring back the rotten borough!

Graph showing UK cits have lowest trust in parliament in EU leaves out Italy

Lots of quotes and opinion polls But where is the empirical evidence?

I like the way they keep skipping over the Lib Dems

Oh God, he's only just finished 'why'? Four more to go

Their open primaries will apparently involve 100% of the population Really?

One Mobile One Vote I know people with three!

Lord Ramsbotham speaks He doesn't smile much

Spare me this guff independents only existing to serve the national interest

Martin Bell takes the podium

Richard Taylor claims there are a) lots of people here and b) young people Where?

This talk about the glory of being 'independent' is starting to sound like groupthink

Taylor seems to entirely misunderstand how Parliament works

I have to admit, the will be an intriguing experiment with a much simpler concept than YourParty

Mansfield's independent mayor wants fewer councillors = less accountability

Hates multi-member wards This guy ain't no democrat!

The theme coming through is that independents must never stand against each other

Miranda Banks announces her candidacy She is a 'performance psychologist' Hmmm

Thus far she has talked complete waffle

Keeps banging on 'having a charcoal' MLK's 'dream' was a bit more evocative

Mixing her metaphors How do you 'mould' a drawing?

A 'picture that is so alive you can smell it' What the f**k (my asterisks) is she on ? Is she drunk?

'Keep the stuff in our hearts and bring it out there' - then it won't be in your heart

Lyn Tofari looks like a better catch, candidate wise She hasn't swallowed a management training manual

Just asked two questions

Candidates will have no expenses limit for need for transparency for selection process

Very unsatisfactory answer regarding how voters can scrutinise candidates

Apparently everyone who is 'independent' can speak on behalf of the British people I might try it some time

conclusion: the concept is simple enough that it might just work for the Euros, but that's when the problems will start

And I'm REALLY suspicious of this guff speaking for 'the people' Groupthink at best, mid class fascism at worst Ein volk?

@willhowells WTF? How did that suddenly spring from my subconscious?!

@Documentally I WAS the livestream Or the closest thing to it

Glass half full

-The FTSE's up 2.69% today.

-Wall Street is seeing its fifth successive positive day with regards to the Dow. Barclays report a "strong start" to 2009.

-I was talking to some friends yesterday and they report that a couple of local handymen say they had a terrible January, particularly during the snowy period, but that things are picking up in February.

-I saw someone buying a newspaper yesterday.

-I have seen a few daffodils coming through.

Yes, of course, no one can call any of these "green shoots of recovery" (except perhaps the dafs) but they sure as heck beat the alternative of constantly having bad news shoved down our necks.

A sure sign that spring has arrived.....

Two frogs engaged in the time-honoured and happy state of amplexus in our garden pond yesterday. There is nothing that gives me a deeper sense of primeval wellbeing than observing activity in our pond. When I saw two newts in there last year I could hardly contain myself.
P.S. We did have quite a family debate about whether they are frogs or toads but came to the conclusion they are frogs because of the shape of the spawn they (or their relatives) laid last year.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A rant at Andreas Whittam-Smith

I have greedily grasped sufficient solar ray minutes today to now go through Andreas Whittam-Smith's article in the Independent. James Graham has written an excellent deconstruction of the myth of the independent here. I'll save the blushes of several councils I know which have been dominated by so called "independents" for many years. One at least has been a total nightmare for years with the police having to be called at regular intervals to stop fighting amongst councillors, for example. And I would point you in the direction of an excellent 1991 Channel Four documentary called "Cream teas and concrete" about North Cornwall District Council which led to the Lees report and a series of reforms. I am somewhat going down a rathole here but it is interesting to read what the then Secretary of State said about the report in Parliament:

North Cornwall has granted planning permission for sporadic developments in the open countryside, on an inconsistent basis, contrary to national planning guidance and the structure plan. Some councillors seem to have favoured certain applicants, often local people, because of their personal circumstances.

Not talking about North Cornwall in particular, but about independents running councils in general, you can get a "you scratch my back I'll scratch yours" unstated code in operation amongst councillors. You can also get people who are actually stalwart members of one party saying they are "independent". You can also get people, without any feeling of a need to keep to any corporate disciplinary code, going off the rails. You can also get fights amongst councillors.

In other words, "independents" on councils are actually just the same as party identified councillors. They are all human after all. So let's stop this utter and complete claptrap of pretending that if someone is "independent" they are suddenly Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela rolled into one. Robert Kilroy-Silk. He's an independent. George Galloway is effectively an independent in the House of Commons because (if it's like councils) you need two or more members to form a group. Ross Perot in the States. Clare Short. These are independents we know and don't necessarily love. They're not saints, but in most cases they think they are.

Anyway, back to dear old Andreas. The headline is cobblers to start with. "Andreas Whittam Smith: The revolution starts here – by text". Utter cobblers. If people wanted a revolution in the UK they would have had one years ago and they wouldn't need Andreas Whittam-Smith to tell them to use text messages. For goodness sake, they used text messages to bring down Estrada in the Phillipines in 2001. It's nothing new!

Then the strapline:

National politics is discredited.


The wrong people are in power.

Oh what, you mean people with a head and a body? Get some people in with four legs you mean? Actually if there were the right rules and a decent constitution in place, much of the things which have discredited the system would be cleared out. There are some bad apples in Parliament, I know, and in the ranks of people who might be lining up to enter it as "independents". But basically the rules stink. Just look at the House of Commons second homes allowance.

The whole system is broken.

Well actually bollocks. If the whole system was broken we'd have anarchy with bins and dead bodies in the street. We don't. But the system has some major flaws which need sorting out.

But through technology we can all fight back.

Cobblers. Utter, simplistic cobblers. Did they use text messaging to launch the French Revolution? You need the will to fight first. The tools come later. It almost seems that Andreas is accepting that there isn't much of a will amongst the people to fight, so he's going to make it easier for them by allowing them to send a few text messages from their armchairs to overthrow the ancien regime. He's mixing up the cart and the horse.

How can we clean up our discredited national politics and make the system fit for purpose? The only method that I can see would be to harness the power of the internet to elect a substantial bloc of independent members to Parliament at the next general election.

This really is the most over-simplistic cobblers I have ever read and it is stunning that a respected journalist should write such utter drivel. Andreas (sorry that's easier than quoting his surname all the time) is basically saying that a bunch of Galloways, Shorts and Kilroy-Silks cloned to the nth degree are going to come in and sort everything out. It's rubbish because it assumes that the current membership of Parliament, which is ever changing as the years pass, is made up of some funny visitors from another planet called "politicians". It isn't. It's made up of us. People. You don't change everything by just bringing in another load of us. But there will be a great shift of personnel in parliament next time. Of course. There'll be a lot more expensive suits knocking around. Great. But the important thing is to elect people who actually have some platform to reform parliament. Whether they are "independent" or not is neither here nor there. Oh and by the way, "the only method that I can see"... well open your eyes Andreas. I cannot believe that someone with such a knowledge of history as Whittam-Smith can say that the internet is the only way to start a "revolution". You just need two million people queuing up outside parliament! If they feel strongly enough, they don't need the blinking internet - which, incidentally, I doubt Whittam-Smith understands (but I am happy to assume that I am wrong there).

It is better to concentrate on improving the quality of the people who go into Parliament rather than on reforming the constitution.

Cobblers. Double cobblers and triple cobblers. Just mind blowingly, retch-makingly wrong, wrong, wrong. "The quality of people". Crikey. So then one lists a completely subjective load of things one thinks are wrong with the "current lot" and what one would like to see in the saints which are going to replace them. They are still human. What you actually need is a mandate to reform the constitution. Then the right behaviours follow. When the heck are we going to learn that in this country? We struggle around year after year without realizing that if we'd just adopted most of the ideas (but not all) of the US Founding Fathers 200 years ago we wouldn't be in this constant state of anguish over basics. For example, Second chamber? Why the self-torture over the years? The answer is fairly blinking obvious. All right, we don't want 100 millionaires in it, but the US Senate gives a relatively sound template.

Voters want their elected representatives to be honest (no more fiddling of expenses), effective (so that they debate the things that really matter such as the huge cost of rescuing the banks) and focused on the national interest (rather than, say, being obsessed with wrong-footing each other).

Yes, it's so easy isn't it? "No more fiddling expenses" Well then for goodness sake put in some rules that would do justice to a third rate business, instead of the current travesty!

The way to secure the election of independent members is to use digital technology flat out: websites, emails, mobile phones, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, blogs, e-newsletters, online advertising. Barack Obama made masterly use of the internet during his march to the White House.

Yes and he had $1 billion to do it, you utter and complete numpty! And he wasn't an "independent"!

Andreas lists a series of scandalous failures of government. I agree with him. He then goes on to say:

We can assume, therefore, that Parliament is incapable of reforming itself. We shall have get in there and do it ourselves. The means are to hand. A new Parliament must be elected before the end of 2010. I believe there are countless talented people outside the political parties who would put themselves up for election if they thought they stood a chance of winning. What should encourage them to make the attempt is that the coming of digital technology breaks the parties' stranglehold.

He beat me to it. "Have to get in and do it ourselves". Who actually elected the people who are there now? And, more importantly, who sat on their bums and didn't bother to vote? And why was that?

I believe there are countless talented people outside the political parties who would put themselves up for election if they thought they stood a chance of winning.

Oh yes. Me! Me! Me! I'm very talented. And if I don't have to bother to do anything silly like getting my thoughts into some sort of order and working my posterior off going round delivering leaflets and canvassing because I am going to be airlifted into power by some sort of Fairy God Mother with mobile phones and twitters coming out of her nether regions, then yes! Me! Me! Me! Pleasey please!

Not the least of the effects of the arrival of a substantial body of independent members into the House of Commons, if such could be achieved, would be a change in the nature of a political careers.... Nor should they think that they are making a permanent career switch. To do one or two terms in Parliament and then go back to one's former way of earning a living should become quite usual.

I think you'll find that the next election will do that job without any need for any engineering. I would have thought at least 200 Labour MPs will be going back to their "former way of earning a living".

The novelty of independent candidates and the full use of digital technology could persuade a lot of habitual non-voters to participate.

The thing is, independent candidates are not novel. We've had them for centuries to lesser or greater degrees.

Other than that it is quite a good article. (I enjoyed writing that last bit).

Andreas Whittam Smith goes ballistic

I'll read and possibly dissect this later. But from a quick scan this is an exceptional example of a journalist having their head rammed well and truly up their nether regions. I particularly liked this bit:

It is better to concentrate on improving the quality of the people who go into Parliament rather than on reforming the constitution.

And this, he suggests, will be done by using text messages.


It's all so simple isn't it?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mindblowingly good Jon Stewart rant about CNBC

The States' blogo/mediasphere is buzzing with reaction to Jon Stewart's monstering of CNBC last night (on Comedy Central's Daily Show). I have now watched the videos (below in three parts). I have watched CNBC a few times, but I am not familiar with a lot of the stuff they talk about here.

However, as a shining example of passionate journalism and sheer mind-blowingly dramatic TV, this is breathtaking. It particularly takes off in part three. Full marks to Jim Cramer (presenter of CNBC's "Mad Money") for sitting there and taking it like a man (although his voice rises, at one point, to almost a pitch which can only be detected by dogs).

The McGuiness watershed

With a holiday in Ireland coming up later this year, I have been taking quite an interest in the excellent Slugger O'Toole website. Here's a particularly good article by Mick Fealty, producer of the website, who I met last year at my first and last appearance on 18 Doughty Street.

I have visited Belfast a few times in the last couple of years. One thing which shines through is the remarkable interest in politics of people in Northern Ireland. You can see that from the Slugger website comments.

So, I am not daft enough to posit an opinion on the Northern Ireland situation, except to observe that Martin McGuiness's reaction to the recent shootings was quite extraordinary and represents something of a watershed.

Golly by gosh, Cameron at last comes up with a policy or twain

I found Cameron's Birmingham speech rather refreshing. He admits his party made mistakes, related to the economy, in government and opposition. And at long last he proposes a couple of concrete policies apart from the much repeated National Loan guarantee scheme.

-A 6 month VAT holiday (sounds expensive except that it's a "delay" in payments only)

-A one per cent cut in NI employers' contributions for the "smallest" firms

-A corporation tax cut by two pence for small companies

Also, he talks about more help for manufacturing, singling out the car industry as needing more help. Crikey. If that means much, which I doubt, that's quite a turnaround for the party which ended the government support culture for the car industry in the 1980s.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

US Republicans still searching for the bottom

The poor old US Republicans are still wondering when it will stop getting worse and start getting better for them.

Bless them. There have been a number of excruciating episodes for them recently.

One of their leading contenders for their next Presidential candidacy, Bobby Jindal, sort of self-combusted when he responded to Obama's non-state of the nation address (see below).

In terms of approval for their congress team, the Republicans have gone down to as low as 25% in the polls. Quite low really.

In a masterstroke, the Democratic high command identified right-wing shock jock Rush Limbaugh as a weak spot for the Republicans. So they have been talking him up as the de facto leader of the Republicans. Limbaugh, of course, is delighted to help them talk this up, as it helps the ratings for his radio show. Limbaugh and the Democrats are locked into a sort of pact of the devil. Polls show that Limbaugh is a massive turn off for voters.

The Republicans tried to do something right by electing African-American Michael Steele as their chairman. He has now started to hack away at the Republican base by making (in their eyes) "heretical" remarks about gays and abortion. You know, really controversial things like abortion is a choice and homosexuality isn't a choice. This has not gone down well in the red-neck areas of the Repuiblican party.

Doesn't Obama write funny?

Just thought I'd mention it. There's nothing wrong with the way he writes. But I just notice that he sort of signs his name in a sort of upside-down/backsy forth way.

Bush shoe-thrower gets three years in jail

Muntazer Al-Zaidi, the man who threw his shoes at George Bush in Iraq, has received a three year jail sentence. This is on top of a beating he apparently received at the time of the incident.

If there was any justice in the world, it would be George Bush who serves the jail sentence.

This was a democratic act which harmed no one. Even if the shoes had hit George Bush's head, I doubt whether he would have felt them (ha ha - "no sense no feeling"). I suppose I shouldn't judge Iraqi affairs with British eyes, but three years seems a ridiculously stiff sentence for a man who should be feted as a hero. I would have thought that he deserves a couple weeks - tops.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Farting forces council into recess

It all started as a very dry discussion on the Medina, Ohio "Community Development Block grant money". A couple of emissions and a lot of laughter later, the council had to go into recess, in a bid to stem the chaos.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Why "printing money" is a good thing

I read a Will Hutton Observer article once every ten years. The decade came round again today and I thoroughly welcome his incisive economics article entitled: Printing money is the right way out of this mess:

What we have needed is more measures to put a floor under the economy next year; for if confidence can return, the upward movement may be quite sudden.
Last week we got one such measure. The
Bank of England's announcement that it will buy £75bn of government securities over the next three months out of its own reserves, then spend another £75bn in the same way on a combination of government securities and commercial paper, was in many respects more important than the autumn's £15bn VAT cut. This is "quantitative easing": doling out Bank of England cash in vast quantities at negligible interest rates to boost lending and spending on an epic scale.

...Although everybody is rushing to say how unusual the approach is, in fact it is only a variant of the way Britain used to run the financial system until it fell into the hands of the market fundamentalists. We used to siphon quantities of cash out of bank balance sheets in booms, making them sterilised reserves at the Bank of England; and in downturns release the cash back. It is still how most banking systems in Asia are run, and when the European Central Bank was established- to derision in London - it retained the facility.

Obama's Turkey trip and why I am not a bookmaker....

Barack Obama is to visit Turkey to make a speech, as promised, in the capital of a Muslim country in his first 100 days. When I listed, in January, the odds of which country this would be, I didn't include Turkey. D'oh! And double D'oh! - considering the fact that I have actually been to Turkey and should have known to include it. Never mind!

Top 10 funniest news reporter bloopers

Here. My favourite is this one below. An absolute classic.

Chuck, watch out for that...So, Chuck Storm is here to discuss a robbery and he decided that to make the report more appealing, he wouldn't just stand in place like most reporters. No, our friend Chuck decided that he was going to walk and talk while staring directly at the camera instead of what was in front of him. Bad idea.

Superb conference running commentary

This really is mind-blowingly good. A running commentary on the LibDem conference, on the official LibDem website. It is ideal for all us people with lives which do not allow us to attend conferences regularly.

Well done LibDem website! Well done George Crozier and Rupert Dewey - who appear to be the people crouched over laptops tapping in the updates!

Fascinating comeback of California's Jerry Brown

Jerry Brown was Governor of California when he had hair. (His father was also the governor.) He ran for US President but failed because he went on about flushing toilets with less water. Now he doesn't have any hair, he is looking good for a possible comeback as Arnie's successor as Californian governor (he is currently Attorney General). Mind you, that depends on Dianne Fenstein not running or being beaten by Brown in the primaries.

Cable: Tories' responsibility for economic crisis

There's an interesting interview with Vince Cable here on the Guardian website. He says that the Tories have been caught completely flat-footed by the economic crisis and didn't expect it.

He says that many of the economic problems we have originate from the Thatcher years. For example, he argues, the demutualisation of the building societies started in the Thatcher years and that policy has been at the heart of the current crisis. He also says that the Tories have argued for years for the lifting of effective regulation of the banks - which has also been a cause of the crisis. So, Vince says, the Tories have "got their analysis utterly and completely wrong".

I am delighted to hear Vince say this, as it fits in with one of my favourite theories.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The proud black horse goes to the knacker's yard

That title won over from "Firing Blank?"

It would seem that the position of Victor Blank, Chairman of Lloyds Banking group, is somewhat fragile, after the government has taken a 75% share (effectively) in his bank. This after the Lloyds TSB part made a £807m profit last year, overshadowed by £11bn loss for HBOS, a few months after he decided to buy it.

Greed. That's what all this banking crisis boils down to, and certainly it's at the heart of the Lloyds disaster.

At the time of the HBOS takeover announcement, I imagined Lloyds directors salivating at the prospect of buying a long term competitor at a knock-down price, with competition rules waived. They must have been dreaming of it for years.

More fool them.

If you'd said five years ago, or even five months ago, that the government would end up owning 75% of Lloyds, Halifax and Bank of Scotland (plus all the other shares/nationalisation) I'd have thought you were completely mad.

But it has happened. That proud bank, Lloyds, which was founded in 1765 and which families have used for generations. That watchword for reliability and stability. That nexus of the proud and dynamic British financial system.

It has now had to be bailed out by the taxpayer to the tune of three quarters of its ownership.

It is unbelievable.

But I am delighted that the government has finally seen sense and this time will install active directors on the board of Lloyds Banking Group. Hallejujah! At last, sense has prevailed!

Friday, March 6, 2009

The work of the IPPR's Commission on National Security in the 21st Century

The Deputy Chair of the Institute for Public Policy Research's Commission on National Security in the 21st Century, Ian Kearns, has written a comment on LibDem Voice here (this was under the article by James Graham entitled "Opinion: Is Lord Ashdown IT industry's patsy?"), which I repeat below:

James, Paul, other contributors, I’d like to add a few points to the discussion you’ve all been having, from my perspective as the Deputy Chair of ippr’s Commission on National Security in the 21st Century. I know the issues raised are important,and what to try to clarify a few things.

First, whatever else you might feel there is ambiguity over, there can be no ambiguity over this statement inside the paper by David Omand:

‘The views in this paper are those of the author alone and are being published here in the hope of advancing public debate. They do not represent the views of the Commission panel or the views of any sponsoring organisation.’

It’s hard to know how we could be clearer about who’s views are being published here and it does seem unfair to assume that Paddy Ashdown necessarily agrees with it. I don’t agree with all of it myself and it would have been nice if this explicit delimitation of who’s views were being expressed had been acknowledged in the initial post by you James.

Second, the Commission itself, as a Commission, has only released one paper, its interim report, (Shared Destinies: Security in A Globalised World, available at
http://www.ippr.org/security) This interim report was signed off by the entire Commission panel, and it is therefore fair to assume that all members of the Commmission panel can be held accountable for what it says. We’d obviously be very pleased if people would read it!

Third, just to clarify, the report that stimulated this debate, by David Omand, was not published in the week leading up to the Convention on Liberty. It was published on the 9th February. The reason the report received media coverage in the week that it did is that Alan Travis of the Guardian read it in his own time, then published a piece based on it, on a timeline of his and the Guardian’s choosing. His piece was then read and picked up by other journalists, including Andrew Gilligan in the Evening Standard, who also drew the same inaccurate conclusion about when the report had been published and why.

Fourth, how the Commission is paid for has been made clear by Paddy and by Paul Walters (sic) above. Amnesty International come into the picture as sponsors of an upcoming speech on human rights, the details of which, in terms of speaker and timing, are just being ironed out.

All details will be on our web-site just as soon as arrangements are finalised.This speech forms part of a wider series of security lectures which run alongside and feed thinking into the Commission. Nick Clegg delivered a speech in this series on October 13th 2008 (again, see http://www.ippr.org/security).

Fifth, I would argue that there is a distinction to be made, (and it is an important one in an open society that needs more informed and civilised debate, not less) between questioning the integrity or naivety of individual commission members and engaging in a legitimate debate about whether this Commission is genuinely independent. Paddy has rightly set out the contractual position the ippr takes with funders in this regard but in the end, it seems to me that the only way to demonstrate independence of view is through what debates this Commission starts and what policies it recommends.

In this regard, and in addition to the piece by David Omand, I would just ask people to consider the following:

The recent demolition of torture practices as illegal and dumb, by Commission panel member Charles Guthrie in The Times;

Our ongoing efforts as a Commission to develop a final report that says something meaningful not just about counter-terrorism but also about what the United Kingdom should do to better promote human rights around the world and more effectively prevent the recurring tragedy of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity;

The call, in our interim report, for the global eradication of nuclear weapons, and the setting out of a series of steps to help get us there;

The call, in the same document, for the UK to fully meet its responsibiilty to prevent violent conflict in order to save thousands of innocent lives in some of the poorest countries on earth;

Our policy proposals on improving global readiness to meet the challenges posed by pandemic disease, and issues raised by 21st century advances in bio-technology which bring huge potential advances for humanity, but also new security concerns.

I’m not sure which, if any of these activities and proposals serve the interests of the IT industry. But I’d suggest these ideas, and the ideas we publish in our final report later this year are what you should judge us on. We’re all in favour of open debate, hope you’ll read our interim and final reports, and engage us in a lively debate about our final report when we publish. In the end, we’re trying to advance solutions to a range of pressing security challenges and to leave something better for the next generation. While we’re trying and in the interim, if anyone wants to know more about the work of the Commission, or has any great ideas about what we should be recommending, please just get in touch with us at the ippr.

Best Wishes

Well done Trinity School!

A very exciting night last night. Nine schools from across the South competed in the Rock Challenge at a packed Southampton Guildhall (quite a venue to perform at if you are just 11 years old!).

The Rock Challenge is an international idea, introduced into this country by Hampshire Police to try to shift kids' minds from drifting towards drugs and alcohol and towards more positive things. Each school devises and performs an eight minute dance tableaux.

All the dances last night were fantastic and lots of awards were given to all the teams. I'm delighted to say that Trinity School, Newbury came second overall for the evening. They performed a fantastic "World at War" sequence full of period 1940s costumes, Neville Chamberlain/Churchill clips, Glen Miller, Vera Lynn etc etc. Can you fit the story of the Second World War into 8 minutes? Well they managed it very well!! It was a mind-blowingly exciting production which also got the evening's awards for drama, choreography, lighting design and most popular production from amongst all the students performing.

So well done Trinity School - an absolutely brilliant performance!

Disturbing picture of the week

How dare they insult the dignity of one her Majesty's Secretaries of State?
...Disturbingly accurate aim as well.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Where's Hills?

You can use this interactive map to see where Hillary Clinton is at any given moment, and see where's she been. Given that she is US Secretary of State, this map is going to have a fair few zig-zags on it in months to come.

Welcome and very clear rejection of torture

I'm very late on this one, I know. But I have just read Lord Guthrie's Times article against torture. Coming from a military man, it is a extremely forecful and passionate rejection of torture in any form:

Torture is wrong. People are ends in themselves, never merely means. Absolute human rights represent a limit to utilitarian calculations and speculations on national interest. They are the Rubicon that no hypothetical consequences, even in dire “ticking bomb” scenarios, must force us across. Everyone, even the terrorist, is human. There are no untermenschen. To label the criminal subhuman is to exonerate him.

...Torture is self-defeating. We need to distinguish ourselves from our enemies. We must not, in the false name of moral equivalence, degrade ourselves to their level. Once we do, Pandora's Box is difficult even for presidents to shut. If an interrogator is told by his superior to extract information from a prisoner, he will not want to fail. Torture then becomes a temptation, or worse, a habit, from cages in Cuba to the outrages of Abu Ghraib. It is imperative that the clear message from the very top is that there is no circumstance in which it is to be sanctioned. Soldiers and security services must be properly trained in lawful interrogation techniques. This is no job for amateurs.

Tory PPC caught copying whole chunks of a leaflet from the Sun

And that candidate was a Rees-Mogg, educated at Eton. Not exactly someone you would expect to need to crib from Trevor Kavanagh.

He is the son of one of the finest journalists of the 20th century, a man with a decade of experience of his own in the City.
So when Jacob Rees-Mogg wrote to prospective voters in North East Somerset to wax lyrical about Gordon Brown's failings over the economy, they might have been forgiven for assuming he would know his stuff.
But eagle-eyed readers of the letter and article sent by the Tory candidate to slam the Prime Minister's handling of the economy spotted something familiar.
For in fact entire sections of Mr Rees-Mogg's diatribe were unceremoniously nicked from The Sun.
An article published by the newspaper's associate editor Trevor Kavanagh in December appears to have been cut and pasted into a letter signed by Mr Rees-Mogg, which was sent to prospective voters in January, and then put through doors from Radstock to Keynsham last month.
This week the would-be politician admitted he hadn't, in fact, written any of it, was embarrassed at being found out, and would even apologise to Trevor Kavanagh.

The sheer cheek of Woolas

This really does take the custard cream. Phil Woolas, probably the most political person in the history of mankind, accusing the National Office for Statistics of "playing politics" because they......er...........wait for it...........hold on to your hats.....gird your loins...........issued some statistics.

If I could think of a white thing in a traditional kitchen environment, I would have titled this "Pot calls [insert name of white thing in traditional kitchen environment] black" but thought better of it.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A relief: Max Clifford senses where to draw the line

Max Clifford has said he is ready to tell Jade Goody "enough is enough" and she should withdraw from the public eye if her condition continues to worsen.

This is welcome. I admire Goody's move in highlighting the realities of cancer.

But I was rather concerned that, at the rate we were going, we might be in for a Bernard Manning moment.

Is John McCain really this stupid?

John McCain tweets. He tweets about meeting this or that official, or being interviewed by KTVK 3TV News in Phoenix AZ etc etc

But what he is seemingly tweeting most about is his favourite subject: Earmarks. Just look at his recent earmark tweetings listed below (all taken from the Fiscal Stimulus bill, I imagine). The man's obsessed. He ran a substantial part of his Presidential campaign against earmarks and now he continues it day in, day out.

Just one small point, however. Let's just take one example which he ridicules - $900,000 for fish management. It is his Number Two Porkiest project for today. He comments: "How does one manage a fish?" As Indavisable says: "Is he really this stupid?" Perhaps McCain, from land-locked Arizona, doesn't know much about fish. But you don't need to know much about fish to know what "fish management" is - roughly. The grant is for Mobile, Alabama, which is a very significant water area:

The Mobile Delta consists of approximately 20,323 acres of water just north of Mobile Bay. Second only to the Mississippi River Delta in size, the Mobile Delta is an environmental showplace that is 30 miles long and 12 miles wide. It covers more than 200,000 acres of swamps, river bottomlands and marshes. Congress named the Mobile Delta a National Natural Landmark in 1974; fewer than 600 sites have received that honor. It is formed by the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee Rivers. The Mobile Delta is a complex network of tidally influenced rivers, creeks, bays, lakes, wetlands, and bayous.

John McCain just doesn't get it, does he? He seems to see all "earmarks" or "pork barrel projects" as evil wastes of taxpayers' money. But the money isn't wasted is it? In this case, the $900,000 will buy goods and services which will employ people who will then spend money to employ other people who will then spend....see Maynard Keynes' Accelerator effect.

The other thing, of course, is that if you live in Mobile, Alabama, you'll be delighted by this news. And the other earmarks which McCain tweets are sprayed all over the States, resulting in a lot of grateful communities which will get an economic shot in the arm. That's hardly evil is it?

#8. $118,750 for a building to house an aircraft display in Rantoul, IL from web

#9. $380,000 for a recreation and fairground area in Kotzebue, AK from web

10. $190,000 to build a Living Science Museum in New Orleans, LA from web

#1. $951,500 for the Oregon Solar Highway from web

#2. $900,000 for fish management - how does one manage a fish... from web

#3. $380,000 to revitalize downtown Aliceville, AL from web

4. $380,000 for lighthouses in Maine from web

#5. $819, 000 for catfish genetics research in Alabama from web

#6. $190,000 for the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, WY from web

#7. $400,000 for copper wire theft prevention efforts from web

#8. $47,500 to remodel and expand a playground in Ottawa, IL from web

#9. $209,000 to improve blueberry production and efficiency in GA from web

#10. $285,000 for the Discovery Center of Idaho in Boise, ID from web