Friday, March 30, 2007

[country quiz] ten to tickle your talent

This country ...

1 … has the highest tea consumption per head in the world, a tourist attraction in the south is a stone high in a castle, the capital in the south translates as black pool and their arms seem paralysed when they dance.

2 ... falls into tropical and non-tropical zones, is fertile in the south east and south west, with rainforest up the north east coast and across the top and they don't much drink billy tea any more. They use a kettle and pot instead.

3 … likes to decorate the roofs of its houses in the capital in bright colours, has many sulphur springs, has a very old parliament, people usually work two jobs if they can get the work and they have just had a record catch of fish.

4 … has a mainly red and blue flag, was the only nation ever to form from a successful slave rebellion, lost its leader when he was supposedly kidnapped by the U.S., does not appear to have the tonton macoutes any more and many live in Florida.

5 … is not sovereign in itself, it was fought for by 'two bald men over a comb', is situated west of the Shag rocks, its first settlers came from St. Malo, was visited by the American sloop USS Lexington and the capital is twinned with Whitby.

6 … has 56 officially recognized ethnic groups, has a 4% Christian and 2% Islamic population, is hot on calligraphy, may have invented football around 1000 AD and even the elderly keep physically fit.

7 … called Aotearoa by much of the populace today, it was originally the name for the north island, the south being known as 'the waters of jade' in translation, it's a keen sailing nation, its sporting colour is black and it has no written constitution.

8 … lost its nationhood in reality in 1603, one of its main rivers was linked to the Seine, its summer temperatures can reach 38 degrees but not often and it invented the bagless vacuum cleaner.

9 … had a long history of free will, had a famous mathematician and poet, was told by the Germans that the Kaiser had converted to Islam and was a centre for the manufacture of scientific instruments well into the 19th century.

10 … is bounded by the river plate in the south west, is larger than Surinam, its political parties are the Colorado and the National, the natives often drink yerba mate and it's administratively divided into 19 'departments'.

Answers here.

[eu] next step in the backdoor agenda

This item has come from the Eurosceptics group but unfortunately, they have no way to link back to them. I've written to Euroserf about this but in the meantime, the whole article, with references, is here. This is the import of it:

German think tank, the Bertelsmann Foundation recently presented a draft paper to top politicians from twenty EU countries and the USA over the “strategic reorientation” of the EU in which it recommended, as a first step, that the national armed forces of all member states should be combined into a single EU army.

'Think tanks' can present papers all they like but will they be adopted by the legislatures? In the case of Germany - yes.

The German Chancellor has taken up this suggestion. Frau Merkel warned against refusing so-called integration. She said “The ideal of European unification is today again a matter of war and peace”.

Why? Why war? Against whom? Against America? Against the infidels in the Holy Land? Or against their own people?

Government circles have let it be known that the method of instituting the “Berlin Declaration” is “ of value in itself because we wish to use this method for progressing the second half of our presidency and the road map for the constitution, if member states can live with it and something useful comes out of it”.

The method referred to here is to ignore referenda results and bring in what you wanted anyway, without reference to either national assemblies or the European Parliament, to present it as a fair accompli.

The foundation funded by the German media group Bertelsmann is demanding further large steps. At the end of February it called together 45 high ranking participants from 21 countries to a “Strategy Group”.

The Bertelsmann Foundation publicised the event, claiming that “the hand-picked circle of participants (…) covered all the great geographical areas of today’s European Union, EU candidate states and the USA,” aimed at “the strategic reorientation” of the EU. (4)

According to the report, further development of the EU “is only possible on the basis of an altered treaty”. (5)

The EU constitution proposed in Berlin today is “simply the point of departure to enable the achievement of totally new goals”.

“Europe wishes to be acknowledged alongside the United States of America as the voice of the West,” it states in a “memorandum” upon which the debate was based.

“For this, considerably greater efforts are necessary on the world stage, from world trade through global environment up to civil and military crisis management”. (6)

Civil and military crisis management? What sort of crisis from the people themselves would necessitate 'crisis management'? How would they facilitate this?

As the next step, the members of the “Strategy Group” took into their consideration the merging of European national forces into a unified EU army. The German Federal Chancellor has now made this suggestion her own.

“In the EU itself we must move closer to a common European army,” demanded Angela Merkel in Berlin’s tabloid press last week. (7)

This drives the EU debate far beyond the EU constitution and limits the elbow room of those previously opposed to it. The same goes for another suggestion by the Bertelsmann foundation which was laid before the “Strategy Group”.

According to this proposal, the internal hierarchy of the EU should be more strongly formalised than proposed in the constitution. Increased powers of political decision should be conferred on those states which have adopted the euro currency.

“The euro group should have a special role in designing the future of the EU”. (8)

So, if you're not on the Euro, you're not on the inner - formally.

To increase pressure on the smaller EU members, the German government is portraying their EU plans as a method of avoiding descent into a new catastrophe – war.

That word again. Why speak of war when we are in an era of unprecedented peace in terms of national conflict within Europe?

The Federal Chancellor announced, “We should not take peace and democracy for granted. The ideal of European unification is still today a question of war and peace.” (9)

Why should we not take them for granted? Isn't that what the EU is for - to ensure this?

Similar threats already enabled the Federal Government to force through the Eastern expansion of the EU against massive resistance in the mid Nineties.

Then the present Minister of the Interior, Wolfgang Schaeuble, declared in a strategy paper that, “Germany might be required or compelled by its own security considerations to achieve the stabilisation of Eastern Europe alone and in the traditional manner”.

It never alters, does it? The Bruderheist then financed Hitler's rise from street thug to Chancellor and now, in yet another manifestation, the Bertelsmann Foundation is at it again.

This paper was published on 1st September 1994, the 45th anniversary of Germany’s attack on Poland. (10)

Interesting, don't you think? Of course, the main obstacle to their plans is France and Britain - France because she'd want to be the glorious leader of the Euromonolith [and she has more claim to this than the Axis] and Britain because she must be onboard to facilitate the process.

Unless, of course, Britain broke into little pieces. One way to ensure this would be to covertly assist Scotland to 'devolve', causing England to boot them out and they'd then take up the promises which were made by the EU.

Then England, the main difficulty, would be given an ultimatum on rejoining the EU. If she refused … well …

Thursday, March 29, 2007

[fresh fields] a thought for this sunny day

When the sun bursts out from behind the clouds and spring is in the air, WC Fields sums it up:

"Start every day off with a smile and get it over with."

[prostitution] does iceland have the answer

Prostitution has become legal in Iceland after a new provision in the Penal Code was accepted by parliament on March 17. It is both legal to solicit sex and to buy sexual services, but it is illegal for a third party to profit from prostitution. The government argues most people who solicit sex do so because they have no other choice or because they are forced into prostitution by others.

By making soliciting sex legal, the government believes individuals who have been forced into prostitution would rather come forward and lead police to those responsible. A new clause has been added to this paragraph making it illegal for a third party to organize sexual relations between others for money, even though he or she does not profit from it. With the new law provision it has also become illegal to advertise prostitution.

Maybe they're onto something here. What do you think? Personally, from the male point of view, I can't see the point of prostitution. Lots of good ladies around without running those risks.

[gerry adams] how can he live with himself

Gerry Adams, in Before the Dawn[1966], wrote:

"It might or might not be right to kill but sometimes it is necessary."

This post says much about Gerry Adams.

[boomers] the party continues but for how long

Croydonian asks "Just what's with the over 50s? They are into heroin, mysticism, atheism, questioning their sanity and schmaltz." Or so a poll of their favourite songs would seem to suggest. A list of songs follows .

The estimable Man from Croydon would appear to be a Generation X or no older than a latter day Boomer.

The Boomers are remembered for free love, Woodstock, Timothy Leary, the universality of jeans and T shirts, Vietnam, rebellion, letting their children run wild, Charlie Manson, helter skelter, hard rock, Twiggy and hippies. Musical innovation, as a cultural phenomenon, began with them - Floyd, the later Beatles, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the Doors, Eno and so on.

The drugs and craziness were certainly there - White Rabbit, Velvet Underground, Hendrix, Joplin et al, until the grand dream finally crashed. The last generation to do anything like them were in the 20s - Beiderbeck, Jelly-Roll Morton, Charleston, flapper girls, the Bright Young people and so on.

Both eras were born out of adversity - the aftermath of the Great War and the Korea/Vietnam experience, both started partying like there was no tomorrow, both rebelled against all constraint, all religiosity. Donald Ogden Stewart, in A Parody Outline of History, (New York: George H. Doran, 1921), touched on it in this dialogue:

MILES: I didn't see you at church last night, Mistress Priscilla.

PRISCILLA: Well I'll tell you, Miles. I started to go to church-- really felt awfully religious. But just as I was leaving I thought, "Priscilla, how about a drink-just one little drink?" You know Miles, church goes better when you're just a little boiled-- the lights and everything just kind of-- oh, it's glorious. Well last night, after I'd had a little liquor, the funniest thing happened. I felt awfully good, not like church at all-- so I thought I'd take a walk in the woods. And I came to a pool-- a wonderful honest-to-God pool-- with the moon shining right into the middle of it. So I just undressed and dove in and it was the most marvelous thing in the world. And then I danced on the bank in the grass and the moonlight-- oh, Lordy, Miles, you ought to have seen me.

F. Scott Fitzgerald, who was being parodied here, wrote an ode to the times: The Beautiful and Damned (1922). He believed the party would never end, it must not end; for it to end was admission of something darker:

The gaudy world of which Fitzgerald wrote-- the penthouses, the long week-end drunks, the young people who were always on the brink of madness, the vacuous conversation, the lush intoxication of easy money-- has in large measure been swept away. [New York Herald Tribune Obituary, 21 December 1940]

Fitzgerald and a generation somehow knew it couldn't be sustained:

"the sense that life is essentially a cheat and its conditions are those of defeat, and that the redeeming things are not 'happiness and pleasure' but the deeper satisfactions that come out of struggle."

The post-James Dean
Boomers were also rebels without a cause until the cause presented itself in the form of Vietnam and the generation finally had a cutting stone on which to hone its nihilistic disdain. Student unions were alive and vibrant, huge demonstrations and sit-ins abounded, free love was the ideal in the late 60s. The Weathermen bombed. People were stoned out of their brains, as they were in the 20s.

A reporter once asked Fitzgerald what he thought had become of the jazz-mad, gin-drinking generation he wrote of in "This Side of Paradise." His answer was:

"Some became brokers and threw themselves out of windows. Others became bankers and shot themselves. Still others became newspaper reporters. And a few became successful authors." [New York Herald Tribune, op.cit.]

There'd been a definite edge, a global sense of the power of youth, that anything was possible. It was a high, a buzz and they never wanted it to end.

Ditto with the Boomers, with one added proviso - most are still partying, even now, unto credit debt and second mortgages - parties, after all, require money to sustain; they have absolutely no idea when the party must stop, no concept of growing old gracefully, to hell with all other generations. There's one life to live and it's getting shorter and shorter with every passing year.

This is the real tragedy of the over 50s.

[bloggers say] thursday, march 29th [4]

Lord Nazh is considering which Republican to endorse - a difficult job, as the candidates are so poor. He thinks he has the answer:

Fred Thompson is a true American statesman and has the experience that matters. Fred is a real conservative. From tax cuts, to cleaning up government, to his vital role in the confirmation of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Fred Thompson has a record of fighting for conservative values.

Fred has the knowledge and expertise on the issues that matter most in today's world. Fred Thompson, like Ronald Reagan, has the ability to bring conservative principles to the Oval Office, communicate to Americans, and bring our Nation together.

Could do worse, I suppose. What do you think? Who else could take on the Lizard Queen and whip her?

[bloggers say] thursday, march 29th [3]

The Devil's Kitchen, quite naturally, was going to answer questions directed to the UKIP:

Dizzy Thinks that
the impending SNP thrashing of Nulabour would be a threat to UKIP. Dizzy speculates that, were the SNP to win, then they might very well hold, and win, a referendum on Scottish independence and this would, in turn, lead to the breakup of the UK.

...I suspect that both the Tories (in their present incarnation) and NuLabour would also renegotiate entry, but they might try to do so under different terms. This would be far harder and probably well-nigh impossible...

This is the point - that Thatcher negotiated a good deal for Britain but do you see any leader with the wherewithal to take on the EU monster and win concessions acceptable to Britain's new constituent parts?

[bloggers say] thursday, march 29th [2]

Mr. Eugenides is looking at the cost to the EU of climate change legislation:

The EU bloc must find €1.1 trillion from its coffers over the next 14 years, if it is to fulfil ambitious climate change goals, a new study has indicated.

Of course, "its coffers" is code for "our pockets".

One of the reasons I'm convinced of climate change, apart from it being bleedin' obvious and the scientific evidence, is the vehemence with which the evil pollies have latched onto it.

Far from this issue being effectively opposed, what the sceptics are really opposing is the pollies hijacking of the issue for their gain. One needs to look at the minds of the cynical elite. They're not going to back a losing argument. They're going to back one which stands up and makes them billions.

[bloggers say] thursday march 29th [1]

Justin Martyr, about whom Chris was probably not thinking when he wrote his post

Chris Dillow writes of incentives taking effect only in the long term and concludes:

"But that's all it is - a hunch. As Bryan says, it's hard to say for sure using formal empirical methods . And this raises a question. Why, when the full effects of policies are so uncertain, are so many people so dogmatic about their likely effects? Are introspection and common sense really sufficient to justify strong beliefs?"

To me, this really says it all and applies as equally to climate change and its sceptics, Christianity and its sceptics, everything and its sceptics.

One is then reduced to following indicators - trails, if you like, of cause and effect. To take snippets of evidence of something working or not, along with records that it has or has not. This is one of the key reasons I think the Christian explosion of the first three centuries AD was something more than a great idea, remembering, of course, that it was not initially spread by the sword.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

[mybloglog] why you should consider it

Let's face it - some of us have got ridiculously long blogrolls now. In my own case, I must use BlogRolling [without which I wouldn't survive] to deal with this but another scheme which also helps is MyBlogLog [both these are in the sidebars here].

The thing is, with the best will in the world, I try to get to the Blogpowerers first, followed by Regulars and then I rotate the rolls and tackle a whole roll at a time. That's the theory. In practice, when I come online, I can instantly see, in visual form, who's been in, it reminds me and I tend to click on the photo immediately, intending to return to my plan later.

Now if one clicks on, say, Guthrum, it brings up his site and sidebar and there's Toque, whom I've never visited and so on. You know how it is. Now if we were all doing this, it would be so much easier.

Where it breaks down is when someone who runs MyBlogLog himself, like Tom Paine, of The Last Ditch, comes in to view other blogs invisibly [don't know how he hides himself] and so one doesn't know if he's been in or not. Each to his own.

[wc fields] never give a sucker an even break - part 1

What to say about this film? Newsday says:

Younger audiences, conditioned to the present-day's affection for the slam-bang sight gag, may be impatient with the elaborate handiwork and polish applied to such bits by comedians of Fields' vintage. But if they sit still long enough, they may find something akin to poetry in these slow-cooking routines.

Slow-cooking, dated, with a star who's no Valentino - what's to love? For those who like their comedy exquisite - a lot. This film is truly surreal in a Pythonesque way, with the plot mirroring the behind the scenes situation, plays within plays, total lack of concern with either the laws of physics or continuity and the constant flow of wry observations, sometimes to the camera itself. Plus the roguishness of Fields, the master of timing.

Now you can get it on DVD, I think a new generation of discerning filmgoers is going to discover why this film is on so many people's Top 100 list.

From the Filmsite:

Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) is a tour de force of W.C. Fields' off-beat humor, double-takes, broad comedy and priceless lines and sketches. The screenplay by John T. Noville and Prescott Chaplin was based upon Fields' own original material (under the nom de plume Otis Criblecoblis).

The film is absurd, irrational, surrealistic, innovative and wacky, with no real plot - it was cut so severely that it appears to be an erratic hodge-podge, without cohesion or continuity. W. C. Fields' last starring role in a feature-length film, it consists mainly of a series of flashbacks (the script's action is read by a film producer played by Franklin Pangborn) and a number of disjointed, funny and bizarre scenes spoofing his own cinematic career, Hollywood and the filmmaking industry.

The film itself is covered here.

[blogfocus wednesday] some surprises this evening

Straight into it, in the middle of this very busy week and it's an early Blogfocus today [hideous day tomorrow for yours truly]:

1 Winfred Mann is new on our block and her post is so different to the ordinary blogpost it is arresting. Here she relates when she first saw G-d and I for one take this quite seriously:

It was about 5:30 AM, and it felt very cold. The early morning sky was tremendously dark hanging like an enormous blanket over the city; no stars were visible on this still windless early morning. I carefully made my way down the driveway onto the sidewalk noting the shadowy tree figures created by the single lamppost at the corner of the block. I began staring upward into the darkness thinking about how unusual everything appeared, almost black on black. The light from the lamppost, without which I’m sure I would have seen nothing, almost resembled a wayward moon disrupting the magnificent stillness of the moment. I intentionally avoided looking directly at the glaring sphere and focused on the stark black sky. It was beautiful.

2 Celia Green is another interesting character, a retired academic and she's writing about a subject I had a bit of a problem with in 1994:

When I say that I could never draw social security however hard up I was, because I had been left without any usable qualifications, I mean not merely hard up relative to the cost of remaining physically alive, but hard up relative to the cost of providing myself with the equivalent of a residential college (hotel) environment and the secretarial and other facilities that might have been provided by the sort of academic career which I should have been having, as well as a Professorial salary.

3 Paul Burgin, at Mars Hill, is extraordinary. Not only does he like Gordon, he says so in no uncertain terms. When he apologizes, he also does so in no unceratin terms:

Seems like I was totally wrong when I wrote this post, since this happened. I could say more, but it's kinda late and Iain Dale has (unusually) written something political where I agree with not just one part of the entry, but just about every single word he says!

Nine more bloggers here.

[fresh fields] new daily series for a few weeks

WC Fields polarized opinion - you either loved his comedy or hated it. My plan is to present one of his scripts, "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break", over a period of days and to run a daily quote by him.

Often quite surreal, he wasn't everyone's cup of tea and he's most definitely dated but rather than that detracting from the charm, it seems to enhance it and give it a 'period' flavour. Some of his witticisms even smacked of great wisdom.

He based his comedy on being a lush and a sponger and hating just about everyone - but particularly children and dogs. His attitude towards women was ambivalent - he could be a charmer but he was also quite impossible. I think he neatly fits into the 'curmudgeon corner' of the blogosphere and so to today's quote:

If at first you don't succeed, try, try, again. Then quit - no use being a damned fool about things.

[us] being alone versus loneliness

Isn't the blogosphere amazing? Despite the tat, the porn, the dire politicking, sometimes humanity breaks through and it's a reaffirmation of things good. I get a huge buzz when that happens, better than anything artificial.

Just found a blog by chance, Ruthie Zaftig, single mom, and it was her birthday. She posted on her day alone and concluded:

"Today, like most days, no one had occasion to speak to me. I've been at this school for a year and a half, and I still only know a handful of people. It never fails to amaze me how I can be surrounded by so many people and still feel so alone."

Ruthie, I have the opposite problem. I am speaking to hundreds each week and 50% are ladies your age [it's my work] and it's the same effect. I need to just get a break at the end, which is why I make it so difficult for anyone to reach me.

We have a triple system of doors and I've disconnected the domaphone and the bells to our place. I'm also protected by a 'grandmother army'. As I'm in the net, no one can get me by phone. I have no mobile. I'm alone but never lonely. It's all in the head, girl and you can be as alone or not as you choose.

There are people who want to know you but they're far flung. There is also the power of the blogosphere. Mine is a humble site but people do come to visit and if each one of them reading this were to visit you, and if some of our big guns like Ellee or Mr. E or Tea and Margaritas closer to home would also do that, it could get something moving.

And these are not people wanting something from you or letting you down or putting you down.
Hope you get some new friends out of this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

[mile high club] frinton goes bonkers

Tim Worstall started it with the news item concerning this radio station contest:

It basically concerns the English coastal town of Frinton, some 60 miles northeast of London, which is inviting winning couples for the next week to go to Atlanta, Georgia aboard a private plane equipped with champagne and a double bed. Tim is naturally apoplectic on missing out.

L'Ombre de l'Olivier has now taken it one step further:

Frinton is not normally a place where one discusses sex, and indeed given the average age of the inhabitants this is probably a good thing. Fortunately for the blood pressure of numerous retired gentlefolk, such as my dear parents, the
radio station's address is outside the gates - i.e. not within the proper upper class part of the town and thus presumably serves the more plebian surroundings such as Walton on the Naze. I shall be visiting the place this weekend so an on the spot blog exclusive about the rock concert is entirely possible.

This is indeed astounding news and though L'Ombre states quite clearly that "an on the spot blog exclusive about the rock concert is entirely possible," I don't believe a word of it. I think I know precisely why he's chosen to visit the olds on this particular weekend.

I'm also ashamed to say that I know something of this particular sport, flying Garuda at the time. And lastly, L'Ombre has also posted on the Segie and Sarko thing. It's a good read, close to the action.

Stay tuned.

[the political spectrum] any ideas

Have you ever had to explain the western political spectrum to a foreigner? I was found sadly wanting at this today. If you start with Left, Centre, Right, what exactly do they mean? Where do you put the BNP, the Communists, the Finance [monopolists] and other extremists?

Then the term Classic Liberal [e.g. Tim Worstall]. What does that mean? John Stuart Mill type free or Libertarian? And what is a Libertarian? Does that mean licentious, as in indiscriminate sex with anything that moves, with Stern Moralists at the other end or does it mean 'believing in Freedom of Association, Trade, Religion' and all that?

Where do you put the average small to medium businessmen? I already know where to put the big ones - behind bars. Where does a truly charitable Christian go? Or a 'regulate everyone and tax the hell out of them' PC devotee? I've devised a working model which might work:

Centrists: Believe in family, small business, free trade, value system etc.

State altruists: State regulates people's altruism e.g. there must be 50% women on all football teams.

What do you think?

[courageous faith] church rises in arabia

Work has begun on the construction of Qatar's first purpose-built church in the desert outside Doha. Although the country's native inhabitants are entirely Muslim - and are prohibited by law from converting to another faith - the new Catholic church will cater to the large number of Christian migrants who have come to the Arabia Gulf state in search of work.

It is costing about $15m and overseeing the work is Paul Hinder, the Catholic Church's Bishop of Arabia. A Christian in the heart of the Muslim world, his diocese is the entire Arabian peninsular, encompassing six countries.

He oversees churches in Qatar, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and even in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam where Christianity is practised behind closed doors. Speaking about the Christian communities in Saudi Arabia, he said: "It's not an open church. Privately the Christians may gather in their houses in a very discreet manner."

Hinder told Al Jazeera that often people are more active Christians during their one or two years labouring in the Arabian peninsular than they are when they are back home. The majority of the two million expatriate Christians who attend these services are Filipinos, Lebanese and Indians who have come to the Gulf for work.

Jesus would surely approve of the church but would he approve of the Church and its $15m price tag? Still, if the congregation is paying out of their own pockets, why not? It would be more than interesting to have a chat with Paul Hinder about things. Has he been on national television in Britain or America, does anyone know?

[just] a word which has no place at work

On the way to work

How are you at saying: "No?" I'm terrible at it and here's the story:

I have a lot of sympathy for John Prescott. Not possessing any particular talent one way or the other, he's the Minister for being a Minister and my level of usefulness is about the same at the DTI over here, Ian McCartney sometimes the target of my interest, sometimes not. It's fair to ask what the heck Higham actually does for his few shekels.

Regular readers will smile, given my last few, largely ignored posts on the bankers, that I also moonlight as a bank spokesman. It's true. I'm the voice [in English] of the 5th largest bank, although in recorded form they usually modify the noise emanating from my lips. I used to work for Mercedes. That's all the revelations for now.

The point of this post is that even though it's not necessary to have every hour of one's day paid for, still … seven of those hours, actually face to face, need to be earners. That's why I've come to greatly dislike the word 'just'…

… Like in the situation of a man I don't know from Adam who comes up to me with a sheaf of documents and asks me to 'just' have a 'quick look' through these. I usually say I'd be delighted to and then I just flick through them, see there's two and a half hours work in there and hand them back.

"No, no," he says, "Could you 'just' check them, see if they're all right. It won't take you long." That last bit always elicits a smile, telling me how long the work will take.

This necessitates a move to Stage 2. "Would you like me to look at them 'quickly' or do you need them done 'properly'? They constitute a bid, don't they?"

Naturally he sees he's up against it here and tries again. "No, no, just a page or two."

"I counted seven and a half, excluding the graphs."

"Well could you …?"

"Not a problem." I quote my going rate.

"No, no, 'just' a look."

"Yes, I've 'just' had a look," I smile as innocently as I can manage. "Would you like me to take the job on?"

He sums me up, scowls and hastens away.

I dislike the word 'just'.

Regulars are another matter and with them you have to give 110% and then some, 'just' to stay ahead of the pack.

So how do you say the word: "No?"

[segie and sarko again] the pendulum swings slightly her way

Segolene Royal, the French Socialist presidential candidate, gained two points on Nicolas Sarkozy as she said she wanted to "reconquer'' patriotic symbols from the "far right and the National Front.''

Saying that all citizens should know the national anthem and hang a French flag at home echoed themes emphasizing values she'd struck earlier in the campaign. Early proposals called for a return to compulsory military service for unruly teenagers and mandating education for parents of troubled youths.

Values such as order and parental authority "are as important as political issues,'' Roland Cayrol, director of Paris-based polling company CSA, said in interview. ``It was important for Segolene Royal to go back to those themes.''

I don't consider myself an expert like Croydonian, say, on the subject of the French Presidential race and yet I've been following it as you have. Seems to me that voters would like to have Segolene - she's pretty for a start and that goes a long way in France. People admire how she looks in a bikini at over 50.

If her policies weren't so loony and if she hadn't made such gaffs, she'd possibly be viable. Sarkozy is not liked. One of my clients is a French interpreter and she spends considerable time in the country. This was her feeling from speaking with French academics but on the other hand, there does not appear to be a viable alternative just now.

Sarkozy doesn't appear to have done anything terribly wrong lately. It seems to be his connection with the UMP and I wonder if Chirac's 'kiss of death' has cost him the two points. I wonder if Chirac knew this all along. I wonder a lot of things.

Stealing Sakozy's patriotic ground might turn out to be a good move.

[unpopular opinions] why not, if they're true

This post is about the Holcombe Syndrome.

Whether you re studying the early Eutychians who believed the Logos preceded the Trinity or the 4th century Collyridians, [AD, not CE, which is not historically accurate], who offered cakes to the Virgin Mary; whether you are fascinated by the Persian Koh i Nur or why Ben Jonson was called Horace by Dekker, the most important thing is to approach them with an open mind.

Sherlock Holmes has always been a hero of mine for his pragmatism and open mindedness, his refusal to follow the majority opinion and for his ability to clear the mind of all prejudices and judge by what he observed, in the light of what he had earlier observed.

Miss Marple was always a hero of mine for her ability to see what was likely to be the case, shorn of all popular reputation or clever manner. If a man was of a type which could do murder and there had been a murder, then there was a likelihood that it was him.

I've just been making myself obnoxious over at Tiberius' site by countering climate-scepticism and the notion that moderate Muslims do not hold strong views and that 12th century thinking does not have relevance today. This flies in the face of popular opinion amongst the thinking class of blogger, which I'm more than comfortable with, as it is not germane to the issue of its essential truth or no.

Surely one should always seek truth, wherever it might be found, however many toes it might step on socially but it does condemn one to the outer shadows, where there is a weeping and gnashing of teeth. What can one do?

Just as the aeroplane disappearing into thin air over the Bermuda Triangle may have an elderly scientist aboard who is claiming it is not happening because it's not scientifically possible, so the argument over climate change, which is happening for the following reasons:

1] measurable records of atmospheric and temperature changes over the last decade showing a much greater fluctuation than the norm;
2] vastly too many humans, cars, factories, cutting down of forests, atmospheric experimentation by the elite [e.g. HAARP and Woodpecker] and coal burning in China and elsewhere;
3] simple observation - it's not just temperature rises but a shift in the seasons and the poisonousness of the atmosphere we're now breathing, coupled with strange goings on in the earth with more frequency than hitherto.

One can get tied up in a debate over whether CO2 is the result of warming or whether it's a minor fluctuation over some decades, a mere blip on the charts or whether this scientist or that is to be believed or not or whether Exxon has paid scientists to come out with sceptical opinions - these come to nothing against observation and simple logic.

Ditto with the comment by one commenter on Imams, paraphrased: "I don't know which Muslims you've been dealing with, James; the ones I know are not like that." This might be so but it doesn't alter what was said from what had been observed, for either of us.

When things are said in the English language, some of us have receptors and can decode the sounds into lexical meaning. "The Jews have no right to be in Palestine" does not present semantic difficulties - it seems to indicate that others of the faith are being exhorted to accept this point of view.

These opinions are expressed. So what should I do? Tell me what to do. In order to remain accepted by the thinking blogosphere, should I pretend they've never been said?

I'm always terrified of falling for the Holcombe Syndrome, which dislikes a factual snippet which doesn't accord with its theory and simply ignores it. Terrified of blind prejudice. Of dismissing the veracity of something just because I don't like it.

This is where the pursuit of truth is pure science - it has regard neither for fashion, theory nor prejudice - it simply takes what exists and deals with it. Surely that's what we should be doing.

Monday, March 26, 2007

[blogging on blogging] a bit incestuous perhaps

There is something a bit 'in-house' about blogging on blogging, I know and yet Norm's post, via Cleanthes, makes some good points:

Has the blogging phenomenon passed its peak? According to this piece in the Sunday Times, maybe. It focuses on the number of blogs that go dormant - 'because their authors run out of things to say, have not got the time to write' etc. - but in any case it's an impression I've formed as well.

Some of the earlier enthusiasm of both bloggers and readers of blogs seems to have cooled; several debates that occupied the political blogosphere have been gone over so many ways there's less life in them now, even if they haven't fully run their course; the very abundance of online comment may well discourage potential participants by suggesting that their voices are lost in the crowd.

Cleanthes himself concludes:

To say any more is to commit the unforgiveable sin of “blogging about blogging”.

Personally, I feel it has neither died nor is dying and to this end, I've noticed Thersites and Daily Propaganda have returned, whilst the number of relatively new blogs turning up during the trawl for the Blogfocus is encouraging. Just hope we can get some of them into Blogpower.

If you look at Westminster Wisdom, for example, it seems very much alive and kicking, even if I am currently getting a kicking over there. But that is the joy of debate.

[lizard queen] raking in the cash

Hillary Clinton has raked in more than $US10 million in just over a week.

The previous fundraising record for the entire first three months of a campaign was set in 2004 by John Edwards, when he led all Democrats with $7.4 million. Ms Clinton topped that with just three events that raised $8.5 million by themselves, capped by a star-spangled soiree on Saturday for 660 at the home of Beverly Hills billionaire Ron Burkle. "It was a lot of work, but it was worth it," said Ms Clinton's California finance adviser Sim Farar.

All right, I'm sorry I ran those posts on the Finance. Forgive me - I take it all back. Now tell me how can I get a slice of the action? Please? There has to be someone out there willing to back me for office.

By the way, I think the numbers of guests [above] is out by 6.

[visitors] sobering indeed

Everyone says unique visitor stats don't matter at all. Maybe. Just had a squiz at today's and the jaw dropped. Too depressed to quote numbers but let's say it's 40% of the average.

Had a feeling the deathly silence on the Jeckyll Island post might augur badly and the way I've had trouble with Blogger in the last few days, loading and leaving comments on people's sites ... well, I half expected it.

Another possible reason is the awful grey weather [presuming you also have awful grey weather]. Another reason is maybe people's busy-ness. Another reason might be ...

Oh, I don't know.

[useless information] for your reading pleasure

Once you know this, what will you do with it?

The change at 0100 GMT was the last one to be signalled from Rugby, in Warwickshire, which has been the source of the time signal since 1927. From 31 March, the long-wave signal, used to keep the "pips" heard on BBC radio services accurate, will start to be broadcast from Anthorn, Cumbria. The contract to transmit the signal is switching from BT to VT Communications.

As for me, I'm going to search around for the URL, which inexplicably I lost.

[finance] snippets here and there

Just finished a post on bankers and their questionable behaviour and here's this story today:

Citigroup Inc., the nation's largest bank, is considering cutting about 15,000 jobs, or nearly 5 percent of its work force, as part of a restructuring plan being developed to improve its financial performance, according to a report in Monday's edition of The Wall Street Journal.

This was because last year expenses outstripped profits and so the first to be jettisoned are the human resources. That's as good a place as any to start the article:

# First off is an interesting snippet about Col. Edward M. House's father depositing his profits in gold from his civil war blockade-running with Baring banking house in London. The bank's the interesting thing here. Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr., Dope, Inc., The New Benjamin Franklin House Publishing Company, N.Y. 1978, writes this:

"Baring Brothers, the premier merchant bank of the opium trade from 1783 to the present day, also maintained close contact with the Boston families . . . The group’s leading banker became, at the close of the 19th century, the House of Morgan--which also took its cut in Eastern opium traffic . . . Morgan’s Far Eastern operations were the officially conducted British opium traffic . . . Morgan’s case deserves special scrutiny from American police and regulatory agencies, for the intimate associations of Morgan Guaranty Trust with the identified leadership of the British dope banks."

On the weakness of Woodrow Wilson

# George Creel, Washington correspondent, wrote in Harper’s Weekly, June 26, 1915:

"As far as the Democratic Party was concerned, Woodrow Wilson was without influence, save for the patronage he possessed. It was Bryan who whipped Congress into line on the tariff bill, on the Panama Canal tolls repeal, and on the currency bill."

Mr. Bryan later wrote:

"That is the one thing in my public career that I regret--my work to secure the enactment of the Federal Reserve Law."

# Wilson’s choice [for the Fed] was Thomas D. Jones, a trustee of Princeton and director of International Harvester and other corporations. The other members were Adolph C. Miller, economist from Rockefeller’s University of Chicago and Morgan’s Harvard University, and also serving as Assistant Secretary of the Interior; Charles S. Hamlin, who had served previously as an Assistant Secretary to the Treasury for eight years; F.A. Delano, a Roosevelt relative and railroad operator who took over a number of railroads for Kuhn, Loeb Company; W.P.G. Harding, President of the First National Bank of Atlanta; and Paul Warburg of Kuhn, Loeb Company.

The Senate Banking and Currency Committee scheduled hearings on the fitness of Thomas D. Jones to be a member of the Board of Governors. Wilson then wrote a letter to Senator Robert L. Owen, Chairman of that Committee. Despite the letter, dated June 18, 1914, Thomas D. Jones withdrew his name. Therefore none of the Fed directors was a Presidential appointee, although the Aldrich plan had the Fed ostensibly subject to presidential appointment.

Continued here, if you're game.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

[iran kidnappings] maybe the best way

Iran's detention of 15 Royal Navy personnel is "unjustified and wrong", Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. At first sight it looks lily-livered of Blair but in the end, it might be the best way with such a madman as the Iranian leader.

What's always amazed me, especially in such photos as the one above, is how easy it must be for the enemy either to blow such craft out of the water or to kidnap the personnel. If you're going to show the flag to that extent, surely a bit more backup might be in order.

[jeckyll island] one tuesday evening in november

Though the political sensitivities of the populace in the States differ in some ways from Europe, nevertheless, the values, interests, attitudes and behaviour of the participants in the 1910 doings in the U.S. were and still are equally applicable to Britain and Europe. The mindset is the same. To begin with Jefferson:

To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition. [Thomas Jefferson February 15, 1791, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. by H. E. Bergh, Vol. III, p. 145 ff.)

The following borrows heavily from Eustace Mullins, Mullins On The Federal Reserve, Kasper and Horton, New York, 1952, commissioned by Ezra Pound in 1948:

On the night of November 22, 1910, a group of newspaper reporters watched a delegation of the nation’s leading financiers leave Hoboken, New Jersey, in a sealed railway car, with blinds drawn, for an undisclosed destination.

They were led by Senator Nelson Aldrich, head of the National Monetary Commission, created by President Theodore Roosevelt after the tragic Panic of 1907 had resulted in a public outcry that the nation’s monetary system be stabilized. Aldrich had led the members of the Commission on a two-year tour of Europe but had not yet made a report on the results of this trip.

With him were his private secretary, Shelton; A. Piatt Andrew, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury, and Special Assistant of the National Monetary Commission; Frank Vanderlip, president of the National City Bank of New York, Henry P. Davison, senior partner of J.P. Morgan Company, and generally regarded as Morgan’s personal emissary; and Charles D. Norton, president of the Morgan-dominated First National Bank of New York.

Photo right: Nelson Aldrich

Joining the group just before the train left the station were Benjamin Strong, also known as a lieutenant of J.P. Morgan; and Paul Warburg, a recent immigrant from Germany who had joined the banking house of Kuhn, Loeb and Company, New York, as a partner earning five hundred thousand dollars a year.

Story continues here.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

[blogfocus saturday] some stalwarts, some new

A rose between two thorns or are they also roses?

Is this piece by Andrew Alison, arch-conservative, amazing or is it amazing? And who can gainsay Andrew on this?

I have never been a fan of John Prescott, but I must give credit, where credit is due. He used a PowerPoint presentation to tell us of his visit to our partner school in Sierra Leone and gave a good and witty speech. The pupils told us of their experiences visiting different countries; did an international rap song, as well as a Chinese dance. They were great, and Mr Prescott really praised them. So good on him for that.

2 If Nu-Labour think they've got away with something there, Bel puts paid to that with this piece on Broony:

Gordon Brown’s misery deepens. On Wednesday, he was prancing around with a sharp knife, pretending to be a taxcutter. The ploy backfired, and he ended up slitting his own throat instead. Almost everybody saw through his illusory tax cut, and by his own actions, he has now freed the timid Conservative Party to start talking about tax cuts. Today brings even worse news for him. A Yougov poll for the Daily Telegraph conducted after the Budget gives the Conservatives an eight-point lead.

3 Let it never be said that this blog doesn't run the views of the opposition, in this case, the NSS, brought to us bythe accommodating Matt Murrell:

For me, the only type of secularism worth supporting is that which is synonymous with freedom of religion - the idea that the government has no right to interfere with the freedom of religious organisations, except where those organisations interfere with the freedom of the individual. The NSS has done a lot of good in this direction, campaigning against compulsory worship in schools and against the EU declaring itself a Christian organisation.

Nine more bloggers here.

[saturday quiz] know your ants

Two famous ants. Now to the quiz:

1 Among the
Native American religions the Hopi mythology claims that the first animal was:
a] the ant
b] the woolly mammoth
c] Genghis Khan

2 The Japanese word ari is represented by an ideograph formed of the character for insect combined with the character signifying moral rectitude. It refers to:
a] the grasshopper
b] the ant
c] the greater spotted purwill

3 Muslims in general avoid killing a particular creature, due to it being mentioned in religious texts. Which creature?
a] Christians
b] the ant
c] the ant's nearest cousin

Boric acid and borax are excellent for killing off which creature?
a] Genghis Khan
b] Christians
c] the ant

5 Pavement, Pharaoh, Argentine and Carpenter are all names for which creature?
a] the pig
b] the lesser crested purwill
c] the ant

6 The
Santander people like to toast alive and eat which unfortunate denizen of nature?
a] Genghis Khan
b] the greater steppe yak
c] the ant

Charles Thomas Bingham noted that in parts of India, and throughout Burma and Siam, a paste of a green creature (Oecophylla smaragdina) is served as a condiment with curry. Which creature?
a] the sikh
b] the hindu
c] the ant

8 If you unscramble the "nat" and the "tan", you get which two words?
a] the ant
b] the horse latitudes
c] Genghis Khan

9 Which animal lives in a hot climate?
a] the polar bear
b] the yeti
c] the ant

10 Sol the King said, in Proverbs 6:6: "Go to ___ thou sluggard." [Fill in the gap]
a] the yeti
b] the ant
c] Genghis Khan

11 It has been estimated that brain of ___ may have the same processing power as a Macintosh II computer. [Fill in the gap]
a] Tony Blair
b] the ant
c] George Bush

12 The introduction of a writing system based on the Uighur script was NOT due to one of these? Which one?
a] Tem├╝jin
b] Genghis Khan
c] the ant

Answers to questions 1 to 12:

the ant

Further reading and confirmation of some of these answers here and here and here and here.
Bonus question for those kind enough to indulge me thus far:

Which Mongol leader of the early 1200s will be forever associated with the ant?
a] Tony Blair
b] the red crested purwill
c] Genghis Khan

[I know the answer but I'm not going to tell you.]

[bullying] confessions of a cad

Ian Ogilvy, the School Bully

The trouble with bullying is defining it. Some cases are as clear as day. Workplace bullying is well known, school bullying is rife, I've seen girls bullying girls something awful and head teachers can bully staff. Army bullying has been seen by most undertaking officer training, particularly for subaltern rank. Sometimes it's less clearcut and comes down to perceptions.

I once had someone try it on with me while I was working for HM Customs. This 'gentleman', who had just been promoted above me, decided to reorganize my work station which I had 'just so'. It had taken a year of negotiation with my supervising officer and the Inspector to get the standing orders rewritten and so I wasn't going to put up with that.

When I explained to the 'worthy gentleman' his error of judgement and the consequences of ever coming within two metres of my desk again, he went beserk and 'belittled me' with every swearword he could dream up, stood over me physically, [I'm not a tall man], then officially complained about my 'uncooperativeness'.

I compiled a dossier on him over the next fortnight - when he turned up to work, when he actually began work, which girls he was using HM's time chatting up and so on. It reached the Inspector's desk at the end of the month and naturally got no further but it did get 'my friend' off my back. Trouble was, I didn't let up and arranged 'little accidents' for him and when I'd get to work, I'd go over to 'supervise' his own station for him, making little comments on the state of his desk and so on. I was hauled over the coals for that.

So who was the bully?

I posit that there is blogosphere bullying too. Some big bloggers will only give the time of day to sites who link to them and then refuse to link back. Some august circles of blogfriends consistently won't quote you but will then run a post by one of them on that topic and immediately link. Some consider that the Blogpower issue and the Great Blogwars some weeks later were getting close to bullying.

While the bullying question is vexed, I've always liked Eleanor Roosevelt's comment and try to remember it as some sort of mantra:

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

Girls are not always sugar and spice.

Friday, March 23, 2007

[cool blogschemes] things stumbled into

I'm in eight schemes:

1] Blogpower - the most human one of all. Join us and other members will come round to your place, visit and comment. This is a real community, medium-tech, where everyone knows everyone else. It has no political view, no common thread except that sense of helping one another.

2] MyBlogLog - I really like this one and would love to see Blogpowerers in it too because many of our regular reads are there. Some may see it as rivalling Blogpower or at least preventing members from joining Blogpower. I can't comment on that but it's nice to see those faces appear and know that a human being is reading your site.

3] - I got into this through an American site and the idea is that if you link, this person automatically links back to you.

4] Right Links Banner Exchange - The brainchild of Euroserf, this links right wing and Eurosceptic bloggers to each other and was the first scheme I was in. Very useful for finding people of a similar political bent.

5] Eurosceptic Bloggers - Another of Euroserf's ideas, the name says it all. I need to spend a lot more time here but their latest is always e-mailed to me.

6] RSS - I don't understand it at all but I'm told that somehow I got into it. I suspect either Tom Paine or Thunderdragon put me in and thanks for that. I don't know what it's meant to do but it seems cool enough if the Dragon is in it.

7] - Not so much a scheme as a wonderful way of organizing one's blogroll, once you've entered all your links in a really easy to understand manner, you can change them round, add info, revise and do anything you want - it automatically appears in your sidebar.

8] Voluntary Code Free Zone - A scheme started by Disillusioned and Bored, to resist the attempt by the authorities to impose a code of practice on the blogosphere.

I've also now redone my Blogrolls, changed the format and the way I link, added 6 and deleted 1. After much soul searching, I felt the only fair way was to roll according to frequency of interaction but none of these lists are immutable. My cunning plan is to revise the lists every Sunday.

[friday quiz] are you a true scientist

With all the recent references in this blog to scientists, here's a chance to prove you are one. How many of these do you know?

1] How many noble gases are there?
2] Which planet has an orbital period of 687 days?
3] What is inflamed if you suffer from Nephritis?
4] Aquaculture is a term for what?
5] What kind of animal is a basilisk?
6] What is Borborygmus?
7] Evaporation is changing from a liquid to gas and gas to a liquid is called condensation. What is changing from a solid to a gas called?
8] If 8 bits make a byte, what do 4 bits constitute?
9] What did Einstein get the Nobel prize for?
10] Name anything that happened in Britain on September 3rd, 1752.

[debate] only undertaken from entrenched positions

When did I last lift someone's entire post [almost] and repost it? I must do so here because it says what I wanted to myself. It's by Chris Dillow:

What puzzles me about so many people is not what they believe, but the sheer vehemence with which they do so. I suspect there are at least four biases that cause such fanaticism.

1. Over-rating intellect and learning. Most politically active people are more intelligent or better educated than average. And a common error amongst intelligent educated people is to exaggerate the importance of intelligence and learning. They forget (or never knew) Hayek's insight, that knowledge is inherently dispersed, and unattainable by any single mind.

2. Ego involvement. Political views define who we are, so a challenge to them is a challenge to our identity.

3. Groupthink. For most of us, there's a huge correlation between our political opinions and those of our friends. Hardly anyone echoes Robert Nozicks' view: "I do not welcome the fact that most people I know and respect disagree with me" (quoted in this great book). This means we become over-confident in our opinions, bolstered by the fact that so many good people agree with us.

4. Incentives. One problem with vulgar democracy is that incentives favour cheap talk. If we overstate our case, government is more likely to listen to us than if we state our case to the extent warranted by the evidence. Hence the importance of "community leaders."

These biases - there may be others - mean that people with centrist views can be irrational too. They also mean we shouldn't expect political debate to be fruitful or even enlightening. Still, we can try, can't we?

I wonder how many of Chris's readers would nod at the sentiment but of course, know deep down that it didn't apply to them? For myself, I plead guilty. Also, in my situation, the debate over climate change has shown the above to have substance and not just from my side.

[canadian mounties] taken for a ride

This one was as interesting to me for the editor's disclaimer at the beginning as for the story itself. Edward Greenspon, Editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail, wrote a long foreword:

The article that follows is incomplete. That is not normally something we do. Usually we make our work as complete as possible. In this case, we are hobbled by legal restrictions. The story is about a man who became an RCMP informant and was eventually enrolled in the Witness Protection program in spite of ample warning that he was an unreliable liar.

This individual went on to commit a heinous crime. We can neither describe the details of the murder nor the current identity of the killer. The Globe and Mail publishes this story today in conjunction with The Ottawa Citizen, a highly unusual act in itself, and one which speaks to the importance the editors of the two newspapers place on this matter.

Greg McArthur and Gary Dimmock researched and wrote this story at The Citizen. Greg is now a reporter with The Globe and Mail. For legal reasons it was modified jointly with The Citizen after he left. Both Greg McArthur and The Citizen have been waging a legal battle to publish it for the past six months. A court ruling yesterday allowed us to tell this part of the story.

But this is more than just the story of an individual gone bad. It is an issue of public policy. But the blanket legal requirement of the Witness Protection Act against ever disclosing the identity of a person accepted into the program — no matter how awful his subsequent actions — inhibits our efforts to not just tell this story, but to examine the RCMP's role in this affair.

Isn't this as neat an indictment of behind the scenes manoeuverings to suppress the truth as you're ever likely to see? As for the story itself, here it is.

By the way, while we're still in Canada, it looks likely Steven Harper will finally get his majority and that will make Halls of Macadamia happy.