Wednesday, February 28, 2007

[conscience] what will it allow you to do

Andrew Walker wrote an excellent piece on Friday, April 14th, 2006 for BBC News and I'd like to present a severely abridged version of it now:

On 9 April 1945, only weeks before the end of the war in Europe, Dietrich Bonhoeffer was executed on the direct orders of Adolf Hitler, already hiding in his bunker. The liberators arrived just 11 days later.

His crime? He helped a group of Jews to escape from Nazi Germany to Switzerland but much worse, in Hitler's eyes, he was also implicated in the July 1944 plot to kill the Nazi leader.

Coming from a well-heeled family in Breslau, Poland, Bonhoeffer was ordained a pastor in 1931 and was controversial from the start, seeking to convert Jews to Christianity. On the coming to power of the Nazis in 1933, the Pretestant Church split and Bonhoeffer and Martin Niemöller created the Confessing Church.

Bonhoeffer gave a radio talk which focused on the difference between a leader ("Führer") and a mis-leader ("Verführer") and was was cut-off in mid-sentence. Clearly, he was now a marked man and the Confessing Church was outlawed in 1937 although he himself became an officer in military intelligence, the Abwehr.

He also became a courier and diplomat to the British government on behalf of the resistance and lived for a time at Ettal, a Benedictine monastery outside Munich, where he worked on his book, Ethics, from 1940 until his arrest in 1943. In Ethics, he wrestles with the essential problem: how can a Christian, essentially a pacifist, justify murder?

His argument can be summarised thus: The demand for responsible action is one that no Christian can ignore. Christians are, therefore, faced with a dilemma: when assaulted by evil, they must oppose it through direct action. They have no other option. Any failure to act is simply to condone evil.

Today Bonhoeffer is honoured at Westminster Abbey in London as one of ten 20th Century martyrs, including Martin Luther King Jr and the murdered Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero, whose statues now grace the West Front of the famous abbey.

The problem for Bonhoeffer's legacy is that his example is used by everyone from rabid feminists to animal action to justify violence. How do you see the man and his legacy?

[wednesday evening quiz] ten questions about the arts

Who is she?

1
In Botticelli's 'The Birth of Venus', what is Venus standing on?

2 With which other painter would you associate painter Françoise Gilot?

3 Emanuel Radinsky was born in Philadelphia in 1890 and died in Paris in 1976. He was a surrealist painter and photographer. By which name is he better known?

4 In the film "Summer Holiday" with Cliff Richards, where do they drive their bus to?

5 Which Bob Dylan song was written for the film 'Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid'?

6 Which film began with the following narration? "I never knew the old Vienna before the war, with its Strauss music, its glamour and easy charm... Constantinople suited me better."

7 Which of the performing Marx brothers never appeared in any of the films?

8 Who had a 1993 album called 'Diva'?

9 Who composed 'La Mer'?

10 Who holds a trumpet on the Sgt. Pepper album?

Answers here.

[strange day] something in the air perhaps

Very strange day which got better later. From the very first client this morning it was clear the day would be difficult - cold, bitter - a sort of madness creeping into the people's minds. sometimes they'd just cross the road without looking, brains sort of dull.

Visitors to this site were few and I had the feeling it was a similar situation over in Britain. It was a day of impulsive actions and interestingly, the secretary at the ministry had picked up on it and put it down to the magnetic atmosphere outide.

People were very direct, short with one another, if not rude, demanding that this be done, that be done. Then it seemed to ease an hour ago, which is London's 4 p.m. To hell with it, let's have a drink was the decision.

Now - it feels better. I suspect it will pick up later and we'll relax and enjoy the evening but I further suspect that might be the cognac talking.

[house issue] 20,000th unique just now

At 09:22, London time, someone from Lambeth became my 20,000th unique visitor. Leaving aside the fact that someone like Iain Dale gets seven times this number in a month, I'm still very happy to have passed this milestone.

[china coughs] the world catches cold

Chinese youth - quite a few, aren't there?

Are you in the least concerned about this or is it just some boring old financial biz, nothing to do with you and besides, you hardly understand it?

Stock markets around the world plummeted Tuesday in a wave of selling set off by a plunge in China that was reinforced by worries of weakening economies. The falling prices continued in early Asian trading today. Though Shanghai's benchmark index was the first market to tumble, it was not clear what set it off.

But once the selling began, it spread first to other Asian countries, then to Europe and the United States. "It was sort of one of those days where somebody snaps their fingers, and the market's hypnotic trance is over," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist of PNC Financial.

Does this worry you any? This power of China in the market economy, not to mention Stuart Hoffman's appalling grammar? I mean - what the hell's going on here? Would the former have happened twelve years ago?

[domestic mystery] where did those glasses go

Tell me if this has ever happened to you:

After reading as document, I took my reading glasses off and put them down near the computer, then went and did this and that in the other rooms. Came back to the computer to continue work and they weren't there.

Searched everywhere, in every room, even trying to retrace the steps taken to get to the various rooms. Nothing. Went to the little room to think it out. Came back and same again. Went over by the window and there they were, on top of some books.

Twenty years ago, I went to buy a fish tank and parked the car near the shop. The Honda hatchback had a large rear area and I put my wallet and credit card down in there, cleared space, picked up the wallet but not the credit card and headed for the shop. The hatch was closed.

Panic in the shop, back to the car, everything taken out, including the spare wheel. Nothing. Then I saw the card - sitting on the window tray area near the front passenger seat. On any other occasion I might have accepted that, except this time I knew absolutely I hadn't taken the wallet out, nor the card, until I'd gone to the hatch.

Have you had similar?

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

[garlic] efficacious or not

Monsters and Critics has reported that Stanford University researchers in California have determined eating garlic has little or no effect on lowering LDL, or 'bad' cholesterol, in humans.

One commenter then said:

Funny, I must be one of the exceptions to the proverbial rule ... or we need to investigate who funded the Stanford study. I read about natural cures for common diseases, but was skeptical. A friend told me that she was taking garlic pills for her high cholesterol, and she gave me a bottle. I began to take them, and my blood work showed normal readings. A month or two later, a client told me about Omega-3 fish oils. Today, my cholesterol is fine.

A decent diet, moderate exercise and a garlic and fish oil supplement works just fine. When was the last time a patented drug cured a disease? Answer? Never! Vaccines are typically a weakened form of the virus or bacteria. Penicillin is a naturally occurring mold. They cannot be patented. Garlic is a naturally occurring plant; therefore, it cannot be patented.

See a pattern here? There's no profit in a cure. There's no profit in something that you cannot put a patent on. Drug companies exist to make a profit for their stockholders. Period.

[investigation] conspiracy theory or research

There is a tendency to immediately label anyone who doesn't accept the consensus or the 'given out' view as a conspiracy theorist, aka kook or nutter. It trips so glibly off the tongue of those who have either not looked into a matter or else have an agenda.

Jan. 2, 1979: The U.S. House Select Committee on Assassinations supported the Warren panel’s conclusion that Oswald fired the shots that killed Kennedy. However, the committee stated that a second gunman had fired at the motorcade from the grassy knoll — a key factor in its final conclusion that the president “was probably assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.”

Jean Hill, Charles Brehm, William Newman, Mary Woodward, Maggie Brown, Jean Newman, Aurelia Lorenzo and John Chism all said they'd heard shots from the grassy knoll. Then there was James Tague who was hit by fragments when a bullet, which had logically come from the Dal-Tex building behind Kennedy, hit the path near Tague.

Now anyone who takes this admissable evidence and follows it to its logical conclusion - is that person a kook? To conclude that there were any number of people who wanted Kennedy out of the way is not even far-fetched in this instance.

But what about a far-fetched explanation? Such as the existence of Manchurian Candidates and Oswald as one of them, as well as Officer Tippett? They certainly existed at the time. Yes, that's a theory but based on three things - the likely scenario on the ground at the time of the assassination plus the established connections between the military and the psychological community. Plus the host of anomalies.

If you're willing to shelve your prejudices for the nonce and travel unfettered wherever the evidence leads you, if you're willing to consider all the evidence, no matter how inconvenient or unpalatable, unlike Sergeant Holcombe, that's hardly conspiracy theory. It's standard investigative technique.

[blogfocus tuesday] something old, something new

Some new blogs and some old this evening. And no, Guido is not in this one:

1 First off, Guano Forks explains why it's not always the better team which wins:

I remember watching Chelsea defeat Liverpool last year. On the day, Liverpool deserved to win. Yet Chelsea won through a sublime goal and Liverpool failed because they lacked even a competent striker. The parallel between politics and football is so evident. The best players, the better play, and the better tactics do not always bring success. The better campaign does not always lead to a win. I’m reminded of the last election when the Tories would have had the beating of the Labour Party if only they’d had a striker who could get the ball into an open goal.

2 Martine Martin writes of that ASBO in the picture with David Cameron:

Jobless, hooked on soft drugs, electronically tagged for burglary, no interest in the workings of the country... Sad. But he's just one of an army of kids failed at every level by the government, by the education system, by his community, and consequently by himself. I do wonder what David Cameron's family must think of this picture. If it was someone related to me, or a friend, I'd be very disturbed by it. How easily it could have been for real considering how many kids are getting shot in London, Nottingham and other cities in this country. Yet I doubt this boy would care even if he knew just how sick the timing of his little prank was. That's the worst part.

3 L'Ombre explains why biometrics are so illogical:

If a biometric is required to verify ones identity then the likelihood is that people and systems responsible for verifying ID will only check the biometric and not look closely at anything else. In other words if you can fake the biometric you are golden. This means that criminals have a large incentive to figure out ways to crack the biometric and since biometrics have so far proven relatively easy to crack, chances are that the crooks will find ways of doing this. So the biometric will merely be the excuse used by the government (or bank or ...) for why they let some fraudster walk off with your savings.

Nine more bloggers here.

[chippie for pm] join us on the bandwagon

Photo courtesy of Iain Dale

Magnificent launch by Iain of the Chippie campaign and I'm right behind it:

Click
HERE for Ann Treneman's hilarious sketch of my little chipmunk's campaign launch. Sadly I had to send my apologies... And there's further analysis HERE from Tim Worstall. here are some highlights ... I come to you straight from Hazel Blears’s launch for Labour’s deputy leadership and my ears are ringing. I don’t think it’s tinnitus. Indeed, I know it’s not. Instead it is a new condition called Hazelitis or, as it is destined to be known, Bleary Ear.

As I stated in Iain's comments section:

Go Chippie! Let's get her in there quick. We need someone of her high moral fibre and intellectual calibre. Not to mention her steadfast loyalty.

Now let's all get on board and get her elected! The very best bloggers are right behind her.

[gordon brown] bilderberger at n11 or not

So, Irwin Stelzer, in today's Guardian allegedly wants Ed Balls [apparently a 4 time Bilderberger himself] as Chancellor, saying:

When Brown moves to No 10, he will need his closest ally next door.

Why would Mr Stelzer come out with something like that? Could he possibly have any connection with Rupert Murdoch and is he perhaps a fellow of the Hudson Institute, on whose board sits Maree-Josee Kravis [alleged Bilderberger and suggested CFR illuminary] and did he have any connection with Rothschild as managing director?

Does Number 10 need an alleged CFR, Bilderberger and possible global illuminist pushing the suggested EU agenda at Number 11? And anyway, whatever's wrong with being one? Why would Tony Blair have so quickly denied any connection with what is, ostensibly, an above board organization, involved in no more than post neoclassical, endogenous growth theory?

Just asking, that's all. H/T: Martin Kelly.

[jesus] why the fixation, the negation and the vandalism

Just been over at Jon Swift's and noticed a comment on the Conservapedia post by Notsaussure:

In Christian discourse, the name Jesus almost always refers specifically to Jesus of Nazareth, believed by Christian followers to be God's dad, who came to earth as a human c 2 AD. However, God has recently revealed on His blog that Jesus is actually His nephew, not His son.

Why would a supposed non-Christian be concerned with expending energy on this matter? In a slightly different way, the Dome of the Rock, a shrine rather than a mosque, was built to proclaim the central tenets of Islam but around the walls is written, in large letters, amongst other things:

The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of G-d, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in G-d and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease! (it is) better for you! - G-d is only One G-d. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And G-d is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a servant unto G-d, nor will the favoured angels.

Interesting that the Messiah will not own himself the servant of G-d as I thought the idea was that we were all servants of the One G-d. Similar situation to this exhortation, it seems to me, is Oh Flower of Scotland and its fixation with Edward and the English. Seems to me that if you have an anthem, it needs to be something like:

Scotland, Scotland, über alles, über alles in der Welt, wenn es stets zu Schutz und Trutze brüderlich zusammenhält.

Not a trace of the "we hate England" fixation there. Just good old gung-ho lyrics for football matches and stuff the Bruderheist can chant at their abominations. Finally, Notsaussure again:

I'm delighted to note, though, that the page is protected - including this information - to protect it against repeated vandalism (or it was last night, anyway).

Would that it were so here, as well. Oh well, if this site goes down again, at least you'll know why.

Monday, February 26, 2007

[mini-meme] most popular posts of all time

Here's a mini-meme. Which two [2] posts have been your most viewed of all time? Seven poor souls I've tagged:

Shuggy, Devil's Kitchen, Daily Pund, Bel is thinking, The ThunderDragon, Jonathan Swift, Gates of Vienna.

[who said that] higham's half dozen

Which of the six below is in this photo? American friends can click on the photo. Don't you Brits dare.

This series began weeks ago but the problem turned out to be Thursdays. So I'll try it on Mondays now. The idea is to match the quote and the quoter. The rule is that the quote has to be from the last fortnight and not so minor that the average person wouldn't have read it.

So, here are today's half dozen:

1] "Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we'd be greeted as liberators. When [he] says it's a good thing, you know that you've probably got some big problems."

2] "She's … weathered many, many storms. ... If it wasn't for her, I most certainly wouldn't be here."

3] "I think he'd probably have a nervous breakdown. He's quite sensitive. He kept repeating himself like a parrot -- nothing happened, we weren't in the toilet."

4] "If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance they will retreat."

5] "I have no intention to run. I can't imagine in any circumstance to run for office again."

6] "There's a real problem of people on average incomes feeling there's a sort of super rich class right at the top. We've lost a sense of moral corporate responsibility here."

Candidates:

a] Former Qantas flight attendant Lisa Robertson
b] Peter Hain
c] Al Gore
d] Barack Obama
e] Dame Helen Mirren
f] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad


Answers here.

[state and private] good old fashioned stoush

In an astounding outburst, in case anyone else like me missed it, the econo-blogger supreme, Chris Dillow, whom I still count as a friend, posted this some days back:

Thirdly, it's not chippiness we feel towards public school kids, but contempt. I, and I hope Clive, are quite happy with the way our lives have turned out. We don't envy Etonians. Quite the opposite. It's pitiful that such people have had so much money spent on their education and yet have (with a few exceptions) turned into no-marks. Some, I've heard, are so imbecilic that they couldn't even get into Oxford.

To that, the following responses were made, among others:

"Wow - you've got it bad. That was pathetic." Posted by: Praguetory and "Wow, Praguetory, is there any reasonable and discursive blog anywhere that you will not sully with a nasty insult?" Posted by: Katherine

Then Devil's Kitchen weighed in:

The reason that I respect Chris is that he writes about what he knows, i.e. money and general economic theory, but in this case, I am afraid, he not only displays a woeful ignorance of public schools and their ethos but also a massive chip on his shoulder. In fact, the only thing that I can hope for is that he is writing with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

The fact is that when there are seven boys competing for each place, as there were when I attended Eton, one tends to find that the entry exams are quite tricky (and the more people there are going for a place, the higher the required mark). So, whilst I have known Etonians who are hardly worldly-wise, few of them are actually "imbecilic".

Chris, I don't blog about my school as I'm trying to maintain this nourishing obscurity thing but I don't see why I should apologize that my parents scrimped and saved to get me in and that I had quite an adequate education. I certainly don't feel imbecilic but that's for you to judge.

UPDATE:
Chris Dillow has replied and it's a pity the content of e-mails can't be posted. It was a good reply.

[qantas buy out] what's the role of government


Americans are set to buy out Qantas, Australia's national carrier and the second longest running national airline, after KLM. There's a hue and cry over this, downunder, as you'd imagine.

In a television interview, Mr Howard said the state could not dictate who bought and sold shares in private companies:

"We cannot have governments deciding which shares can be sold and which can't and, in the end, that is what some people are advocating," he said. "Once you go down that path, then I think you begin to alter in a quite major way that nature of the economy that we operate in."

So, what do you think, in principle? Actually, I suspect Howard's letting it be sold because of that hostess in the toilet, who's now possibly pregnant. Can't have a national carrier allowing that type of behaviour, can you?

[ferry disaster] yet again

You wouldn't credit it.

You read about the Indonesian ferry fire last Thursday and yesterday, fishermen and navy officers recovered the bodies of 22 people killed in the fire. Journalists and cameramen were everywhere.

Then, a few hours after the last body was recovered, the ship sank with 16 people still on board. A cameraman was killed, while another and two police officers were missing. Four people were seriously injured.

"It happened so quickly," Lt.-Col. Hendra Pakan told The Associated Press. "The ship almost completely disappeared into the sea."

Sunday, February 25, 2007

[blogfocus] it's ... er ... up

Admittedly I didn't e-mail anyone and admittedly it's become swamped in a flurry of other posts, but the latest Blogfocus IS up and can be found here.


Also, you may have missed these two:

1] Mr. Eugenides on St Andrew;
2] Tom Paine on Criminal Justice .

[fields of glory] croke park and murrayfield

Paul O'Connell

Yes, this may well be so - they had to wait 80 something years for the rematch, didn't they but I'm a little hazy on some of the other games. Could any of my 32 Scottish friends tell me what happened at Murrayfield? Promise I won't ask 17 times. I suppose Italy were shamed, were they?

[doug flutie] which move was it

After a pass by second-string quarterback Matt Cassel, Doug Flutie made a move which will be remembered forever. What was it?

# Throwing his last-second Hail Mary TD pass to Gerard Phelan;
# The only successful NFL drop kick in the last sixty years;
# The 74-yard Cutback.

Answer is here.

[culloden] welcome tae your gory bed


The story of the '15 and the '45 are well known. Not everyone knows who was to blame for what followed Culloden.

Culloden itself, while a huge tragedy, had one interesting aspect. Butcher Cumberland's method of diagonal bayonet thrusting, so that you killed the foe diagonally to your right instead of the one you were actually fighting, was supposedly learnt from the Blackwatch, the original Highland Regiment in the British Army. One who escaped, Donald Mackay, reported:

When we reached Culcabock we stopped, feeling faint with hunger. I had some oatcakes in my bag and we got a drink of milk from an old lady who was beside the road. "How did the day go? she asked. Badly for the Prince," we replied, and left in haste.

The Prince fled the battlefield and survived for five months in Scotland despite a £30,000 reward for his capture, then made his humiliating escape to France, disguised as a "lady's maid" to Flora Macdonald.

After the victory, Cumberland ordered his men to execute all the Jacobite wounded and prisoners, he rode into Inverness, his drawn sword still covered in blood, patrols were sent back to the battlefield to kill any survivors, executions were conducted on the basis of drawing lots on a ratio of about 1 in 20, the detachments of Irish soldiers from the French army were permitted to formally surrender, were treated well and eventually returned to France.

The clan system was destroyed, largely due to the Act of Proscription, banning the kilt and the tartan and then the real tragedies occurred.

The Glengarry [under Marjorie MacDonell], Strathglass [under Elizabeth Chisholm] and Duke of Sutherland clearances took place, with people evicted, homes burned and Cheviot sheep put in their place. Interestingly, the 2nd Duke of Sutherland later gave 80 000 pounds as a sort of apology for what had happened.

The thing which stuns me is how the Highland Chiefs themselves gave way to greed and sold out their own people. It's not excusing the English but the first two clearances were Scottish. It reminds me, in reverse, of Tony Blair, in the modern day, selling out his own people.

[apologizing] this time it's virginia

1805 portrait of one of the slavers. Is Virginia apologizing on his behalf?

The Virginia General Assembly voted yesterday to issue a statement of "profound regret" over the state's role in slavery. Missouri lawmakers are considering a similar resolution. The measure passed in Virginia 96-0 and had a unanimous vote in the Senate as well.

Which part of their history are they actually apologizing for?

1] In 1619 Virginia had no law of slavery and the arrivals became "servants." They went to work in tobacco fields alongside other servants who were white and had come from England. Conditions were equally hard for both groups, but servitude could end. On the other hand, the blacks were there under duress and the whites were not.

2] Between 1667 and 1672 the General assembly enacted legislation which increasingly defined a Virginian's status by skin color.

3] The slave trade lasted almost 200 years, until the importation of slaves was officially prohibited in 1808 by Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution.

How far are descendants of one group of legislators obliged to apologize and those of another group not obliged? What of the families of the slavers? To whom, precisely, are they apologizing? The ghosts of the poor slaves? What result will it achieve?

Is all this recent national apologizing a good thing? When will Britain finally apologize for William of Normandy who played a low trick by coming over before Harold was ready?

[parental war] children don't know where to turn

There are three sickening things about the news report on the Lebanese man who had his children stolen from him in a snatch and grab raid.

1] The gloating of the Canadian woman who did it [see photo];

2] The way the press beat it up, giving unreserved 100% supported for the abduction of the children, whilst at the same time running a parallel post on 'children need their dad'. The slanted language was appalling. They wrote: "He then hatched a plan to use Lebanese law to assert his rights…" but in her case, it was: "Melissa's ordeal began on July 15…"

3] The complete lack of concern for the needs and wishes of the children themselves, as is usually the case in divorce, euphemized as 'for the good of the children'.

Sorry but this incensed me. Now wait for the counter-attack.

[blogpower] the paine initiative

Exciting stuff from Tom Paine on Defending the Blog. Could this be the new direction for Blogpower?

[blogfocus sunday] a dozen pearls of wisdom

On no particular theme today, beyond pieces of particular interest, let's get started straight away.

1 La Femme Contraire, like many of us, throws up her hands in despair at the state of the country and what prospects face our children:

This story has distressed me for several reasons. It serves to remind me of why I have strong doubts about bringing children into this world for one thing. Living in a non child friendly country like Britain does not help. Like most people I can only speculate on the reasons for it. The individualism of the 1980s with it's economic restructuring went a long way towards breaking down community ties and led to a greater degree of social atomisation, for one thing.

2 In a similar vein, Morag reflects on young people and low self-esteem:

So if we now know that the one thing that kids who make bad decisions have in common is low self-esteem then it seems to make sense that what we really need to do to have a long term solution to the mess we are in is to do our best to ensure that all our young people have higher self-esteem than they do now. You can rest assured that young people with low self-esteem making bad decisions will grow up to be adults with low self-esteem making bad decisions. And at £100,000 per prisoner for construction of new prison places we should do this if for no other reason than fiscal responsibility.

3 Istanbultory writes of those who can't leave the kids alone:

On the matter of dealing with paedophiles, I am firmly of the view that the full application of Islamic law has much to commend it. No need for expensive treatment programmes, group discussion and individual psycho-therapy, or conditioning methods.Alas, the Scottish Executive takes a different view. Cathy Jamieson, the Scottish justice minister/former social worker/walking disaster, yesterday rejected a suggestion by a Scottish Parliament committee that aimed to give police additional powers to enter the home of a registered sex offender without a warrant where there are concerns about the safety of a child in the area.

Nine more bloggers here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

[high speed trains] best of luck on your journey

Last night's Lambrigg crash:

Morning light revealed the front two carriages of the train, which has a special tilting mechanism that enables it to reach speeds of 125 mph, had been hurled off the track and down a verge. Seven other carriages snaked along an embankment, with one twisted on to its side.

Long ago, I ran a post on high speed train crashes and commenter ScotsToryB answered me …

James, are you being ironic? Maglev is magnetic levitation i.e. the train is raised by magnetic force thus moving with least friction possible. If the power(to create the magnetic field) failed the train should roll to a stop. I am not an engineer but suspect a failure in the infrastructure.

Devil's Kitchen also put the overly fearful Higham straight …

James, as you can see from the picture, it isn't held on by magnetism; it is levitated and propelled by magnetism. Information
here.

Thank you kindly for patiently explaining that and I'm sure my fears are unfounded but one thing is for certain - I'll only ever take the slow train to York, Manchester or Edinburgh, thank you very much, if it's all the same to you.

[blogfocus sunday] just for this week

Laze and Jem, Blogfocus will be out on Sunday, hopefully around lunchtime. There are certain festivities late afternoon today, Saturday and I can't vouch for being compos mentis at the end of them. Therefore any late evening post should prove a trifle embarrassing. I might even propose marriage to one or two of you. Look out, for example, Tin Drummer and Tiberius.

[self-congratulation] a game every nation plays

Cecil Rhodes fatuously stated: "Ask any man what nationality he'd prefer to be and 99 out of 100 would say they'd prefer to be Englishmen."

John Updike said: "America is a vast conspiracy to make you happy." Bob Hawke spoke of what made Australia great. I'm sure the Canadians would have their own too.

Since time immemorial we've all been guilty of saccharin sweet, national self-congratulation. Where the problem arises is when you truly start believing your own rhetoric.

The German Schlieffen Plan in World War 1 relied on the effective deployment of resources, the French Plan XVII relied on the concept of 'elan', the idea that in one-on-one battle, a Frenchman will always prevail because of his greater spirit and fighting power. These people went to war in that frame of mind, blissfully ignoring 1812 and heading for 1939.

If the Americans are firm believers in 'good ole American know-how', then what of the Russians? Over here, self-congratulation is of the Python Yorkshireman syndrome - that we're tougher than anyone else. For example, this was sent to me by one of my Russian friends:

+20 Greeks put on sweaters (if they can find them).
+10 Americans shake, Russians are planting cucumbers.
+5 Italian cars don't start. Russians drive with lowered windows.
0 Water freezes in America, in Russia it thickens.
-5 French cars don't start.
-18 New York landlords turn on the heaters. Russians make their last seasonal picnic.
-35 Too cold to think. Japanese cars don't start.
-42 Transportation stops in Europe. Russians eat ice cream on the street.
-45 All Greeks are dead. Politicians really start doing something for the homeless.
-60 White bears start moving south. Hell freezes.
-114 Ethyl alcohol freezes. Russians are unhappy.
-273 Absolute zero, atomic movement stops. Russians wear boots.
-295 90% of the planet is dead. Russian soccer team becomes the world champion.

And the thing is, we really do picnic in the forest in minus 10. Gloves are donned around minus 8. The last time I wore a jumper was in minus 37. We end up with the flu, of course. The pharmacies do a roaring trade over here.

By the way, it's currently minus 16 outside. No more icecream for now.

Friday, February 23, 2007

[oscarmania] tim's little quiz

Laze and Gem, once you're done here, get yourselves over to Tim Almond's for a little quiz on the Oscars. How much do you know? In my case - not much.

[ghosts] and things that go bump in the night


On Dec. 19, 2003, a costumed figure stood in a doorway at Hampton Court Palace and this image was caught on closed circuit television and released by the Palace some days later.

“We’re baffled too — it’s not a joke, we haven’t manufactured it,” said Vikki Wood, a Hampton Court spokeswoman, when asked if the photo the palace released was a Christmas hoax. “We genuinely don’t know who it is or what it is.”

Wood said security guards had seen the figure in closed-circuit television footage after checking to see who kept leaving open one of the palace’s fire doors. In the still photograph, the figure of a man in a robe like garment is shown stepping from the shadowy doorway, one arm reaching out for the door handle.

“It was incredibly spooky because the face just didn’t look human,” said James Faukes, one of the palace security guards. “My first reaction was that someone was having a laugh, so I asked my colleagues to take a look. We spoke to our costumed guides, but they don’t own a costume like that worn by the figure. It is actually quite unnerving,” Faukes said.

A live vote was then taken by the BBC on what people thought it was, which received 38504 responses:

A prank being played on unsuspecting authorities. 29%
A publicity hoax ... and the authorities know it. 22%
A truly supernatural happening. 41%
None of the above. 8%

King Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour, died there giving birth to a son, and her ghost is said to walk through one of the cobbled courtyards carrying a candle.

Her son, Edward, had a nurse called Sibell Penn who was buried in the palace grounds in 1562. In 1829 her tomb was disturbed by building work, and around the same time an odd whirring noise began to be heard in the southwest wing of the palace. When workmen traced the strange sounds to a brick wall, they uncovered a small forgotten room containing an old spinning wheel, just like the one Penn used to use.

Henry’s fifth wife, Catherine Howard, condemned for adultery, was held at the palace under house arrest before her execution at the Tower of London. An 1897 book about the palace says she was reportedly seen, dressed in white and floating down one of the galleries uttering unearthly shrieks.

[This is another article from the pre-blogging days - can't be attributed, unfortunately. Probably BBC.]

Forward, not back - Mr. Eugenides guest blogs this evening

What do Scotland, Greece and Russia have in common? Mr. Eugenides explains:

On Calton Hill in Edinburgh, not too far from where I am writing this, sits the Parthenon. Well, a replica of the Parthenon – the “
National Monument”, constructed in the nineteenth century as a memorial to the dead of the Napoleonic War , but never finished due, so it is said, to lack of funds (say what you like about the Greeks, but at least we finished ours). It stands today, overlooking Princes Street, frequented by gawking tourists by day and moustachioed homosexuals by night, mute testimony to the ambition of a forgotten age, and known now as “Edinburgh’s folly”.

Nor are the links between Scotland and Greece limited to ersatz monuments and questionable sexual practices. We also
share a national saint; indeed, St Andrew divides his attentions between Greece, Scotland and mother Russia, from where James writes.

One hesitates to draw out such a flimsy thread too far, but it is worth noting that each of these three countries is, in its own different way, in thrall to a glorious past, and each is struggling to recapture some of that lost glory.

Read the rest here…

[birthday present] just a little house in the country


Introducing the new home I just bought for a birthday present to myself. You like it?

Updown Court in Windlesham, Surrey, has 58 acres of gardens and woodlands, five pools, 22 marble bathrooms and more than 50,000 square feet of living space, according to the list posted on Forbes.com, which did not say who the seller was. Oh, and a bowling alley, too.

Coming a close second is The Hala Ranch (welcome in Arabic), a 95-acre property in Aspen, Colorado, owned by Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, the former Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States - a job that must pay well as the asking price is $135 million. The 56,000-square-foot mansion has 15 bedrooms and 16 baths.

You doing anything speical next weekend?

[help please] between a rock and a hard place

Recently, I put out a distress call to the blogosphere because though New Blogger is tolerating my current template for the moment, they're poised to reject it, should I make any changes. I know this because I've been experimenting on another blog.

I dearly want to tweak the colours and make other adjustments but I daren't go into the template for fear of New Blogger. That's why I asked if anyone knew of a good three column template, acceptable to New Blogger.

Tim Almond, bless him, made a very sound suggestion but it involved leaving Blogger altogether, which I'm loathe to do, as it's the only free blog which allows flexibility on headers, html etc. Wordpress doesn't give you this freedom in its base version.

UPDATE: I've finally decided on one which I can tweak and am in the process of building it right now. If you'd like to see paint dry, it's here at Mister Badger. When it's near done, it will be transferred across.

[who's guilty] us psy-ops, iran or saudi

Nice article on the growing Saudi-Iran factor in the Middle-East:

Given the unprecedented instability across the Middle East - with opposing factions allied either to Iran or to the US - there is a real danger of misunderstandings spinning out of control.

An example of US psy-ops, according to the Ahmadinejadists is:

The Rafsanjani camp has lately started a widespread misinformation campaign against the Ahmadinejad government, accusing it of radicalism, unnecessary militancy, economic incompetence and disregard for the national interest.

In explaining the mindset of the current Iranian elite and their blaming of the U.S. for all Middle-Eastern ills:

From their perspective, the Islamic Republic ensured its long-term stability by facing much of the world with modest means and with iron will as its only real strategic asset (against an enemy that enjoyed the unqualified support of much of the Arab and Western worlds). They believe that the culture of sacrifice born out of eight years of war, and the unique nationalist-Islamic political heritage it has spawned, will ensure the survival of the Islamic Republic against all odds.

The Saudis have been pursuing a more pro-active foreign policy, brokering the Abbas-Hamas truce, for example but the Iranians tend to solely blame the Americans for the new Saudi stance:

If this is indeed the case, then the Iranians have badly miscalculated. All evidence suggests that the Saudis have decided on a more pro-active foreign policy largely because of Iran's growing role in the region. Far from neutralizing US intrigues, by engaging more closely with the Saudis the Iranians are in fact bolstering the position of their only serious regional rival.

It's an interesting read, touching, as it also does on the article in Jane's Intelligence Review last month by Michael Knights, implicating Iran at the deepest level in Basra and therefore leaving one to puzzle over the U.S. backpeddling on what is seemingly obvious.

[cutting edge] vital issue of the day

Far more important than cash for honours, more profound than Richard Rorty and as dramatic as the recent blogwar, you might be forgiven for feeling that trivialization such as this does dirt on a genuine tragedy such as this. Not a bit of it. Read the purple prose below and you'll agree, I'm sure, that this is where the real world's truly at:

Giorgio Armani took hemlines higher for his less formal Emporio Armani collection, while Gucci swept evening dresses right to the floor in jewelled black and Grecian column white. Armani, who kept dresses just above the knee for his main Giorgio Armani line on Monday, made them shorter and cheekier for Emporio Armani, but kept to the bubble skirt shape nipped in to the hem that he had used before.

He also kept feet firmly on the ground in flat pumps, after saying on Monday that you did not need high heels to be sexy. Models strolled down the catwalk in pairs, wearing complementary outfits so that chiffon stoles slung over shoulders were twinned, black spots on white and white spots on black. Charcoal grey with a fine horizontal chalk stripe was used in one outfit for a skirt, and parallel for a shirt.

For the breathtaking attempt to put socks on models, you'll need to read the full article. This news most definitely qualifies under the Cutting Edge label.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

[another year] the power of a kiss

Birthday celebration tomorrow, nothing else planned. Kisses today and chocolates. Minus 20 degrees and snow everywhere. Happy man.

[thought for the day] misogyny

Most abused word in the blogosphere: misogyny. There are very few people out there who hate women. Hating what feminism has done/is doing to society does not equal misogyny. Wendy [commenter on Vox Day's recent post]

Don't know about you but I have a real weakness for an intelligent woman with common sense as well.

[cutting edge] the issue all bloggers should catch up with

What with ID cards, the NHS, presidential elections, the EU criminal justice horror and so on, it's so easy to miss the REAL world issue just now:

Fifty large trees went missing from Reykjavík’s largest outdoor recreational area, Heidmörk, during the installation of a water pipeline. Police found the trees in Hafnarfjördur yesterday. They are currently investigating whether the contractor hired by Kópavogur City, which is responsible for the operations in Heidmörk, was planning to sell the trees. Fréttabladid reports.

Kristinn Wium Tómasson, supervisor of the water pipeline project on behalf of Kópavogur, denied those accusations: “We decided to try and save trees that were three metres and lower in cooperation with the head gardener of Kópavogur. They will be replanted after the operations are finished.

Tómasson explained that the company Klaedning ehf. had moved the trees from Heidmörk to the lot of the contractor company Gardafell ehf. at Kópavogur City’s request because then the trees would be more likely to survive. Kópavogur Mayor Gunnar I. Birgisson said he was surprised by the reaction to the operations in Heidmörk. “We will plant trees instead of these, so everything will be as it should,” he said.

Now I think you'll agree - this is an issue that has to be thrashed out.

[blairs id cards] the definitive answer

Disillusioned and Bored has written perhaps the definitive response to Tony Blair's reply to the ID card petition in Extent Of Blair's ID Card Intrusion Revealed . It's not my intention to rehash the issue here but simply to conclude with Guido's words:

The Downing Street e-petitions exercise tells us something fundamental about Tony Blair and his government. They are not listening, your opinion is irrelevant. They view the e-petitions project as a means by which they can put their case to opponents. Tony doesn't take note, a million signatures against road pricing merely means that they will have to explain it again and again until they get their way.

[lit quiz] part 2 - thursday

All of these describe or are spoken by famous female characters. Who are the females, what was the book and who was the author? [Score half each for the literary work and the author and one point for the character.]

6. 'She had the oddest sense of being invisible; unseen; unknown; there being no more marrying, no more having children now, but only this astonishing and rather solemn progress with the rest of them, up Bond Street.'

7. '. . . handsome, clever, and rich, with a comfortable home and a happy disposition, seemed to unite some of the best blessings of existence and had lived nearly twenty-one years with very little to distress or vex her.'

8. 'She speaks much of her father; says she hears There's a trick i' th' world, and hems, and beats her heart; Spurns enviously at straws; speaks things in doubt That carry but half sense.'

9. 'Being alone, and conscious two yards of loose earth was the sole barrier between us, I said to myself- "I'll have her in my arms again! If she be cold, I'll think it is this north wind that chills me; and if she be motionless, it is sleep." I got a spade from the toolhouse, and began to delve with all my might.'

10. 'Being of a sentimental nature rather than an artistic temperament, in search of emotions, not scenery.'

Clues

6. M D in M D by V W
7. E W in E by J A
8. O in H by W S
9. C L in W H by E B
10. E B in M B by G F

Answers are here. Part 1 is here.

[renault] how many suicides to make one car

A 38-year-old worker hanged himself in his home in the town of Saint-Cyr-l'Ecole west of Paris on Friday after leaving a note in which he complained of problems at work. French authorities are investigating working conditions at carmaker Renault following the suicide of three employees in four months at one of its plants near Paris. The workers who committed suicide worked at "The Beehive", where new car designs are developed.

Of course, it might have nothing to do with the working conditions. Why not go on strike, for example? Why not leave the job and go elsewhere? Was it bullying by sub-managers? Or was there more to it? Keep your eye on this space.

[iran] arab states ponder the juggernaut

The news: Delegates from Arab states are meeting at an arms fair in the United Arab Emirates, embarking on huge military spending in a bid to contain a perceived threat from Iran. Gulf leaders will use billions of dollars in oil revenue to buy the arms, with many of the deals to be finalised at the Idex arms fair which began in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. Saudi Arabia is thought to have ordered almost $50bn in military hardware, including fighter aircraft, cruise missiles, attack helicopters and more than 300 new tanks.

Interesting that Iran is seen as such a threat, which puts the Israel question in a different light. Apocalypse, yee-hah!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

[geography of a woman] don't believe it

Between the ages of 18 - 21 a woman is like Africa or Australia. She is half discovered, half wild and naturally beautiful, with vegetation around the fertile deltas.

Between the ages of 21 - 30 a woman is like America or Japan. Completely discovered, very well developed and open to trade, especially for those with cash or cars.

Between the ages of 30 - 35, she is like India or Spain. Very hot, relaxed and convinced of her own beauty.

Between the ages of 35 - 40 a woman is like France or Argentina. She may have been half destroyed during the war but can still be a warm and desirable place to visit.

Between the ages of 40 - 50 she is like Yugoslavia or Iraq. She lost the war and is haunted by past mistakes. Massive reconstruction is now necessary.

Between the ages of 50 - 60 she is like Russia or Canada. Very wide, quiet and the borders are practically unpatrolled but the frigid climate keeps people away.

Between the ages of 60 - 70 a woman is like England or Mongolia. With a glorious and all conquering past but alas, no future.

After 70, a woman is like Albania or Afghanistan. Everyone knows where it is but no one wants to go there.

[geography of a man] believe it, believe it

Between the ages of 12 - 80 a man is like North Korea or Britain - ruled by a dick.

[instructions] on how to tie your bandana

Hat tip: Welshcakes [actually, I'm lying through my teeth]

[lit quiz] part 1 - wednesday

All of these describe or are spoken by famous female characters. Who are the females, what was the book and who was the author? [Score half each for the literary work plus the author and one point for the character.]

1. 'For she was dead. There upon her little bed, she lay at rest. The solemn stillness was no marvel now. She was dead. No sleep so beautiful and calm, so free from trace of pain, so fair to look upon. She seemed a creature fresh from the hand of God, and waiting for the breath of life; not one who had lived and suffered death.'

2. 'I looked back at my cousin, who began to ask me questions in her low, thrilling voice. It was the kind of voice that the ear follows up and down, as if each speech is an arrangement of notes that will never be played again.'

3. 'There she weaves by night and day A magic web with colours gay. She has heard a whisper say, A curse is on her if she stay To look down to Camelot.'

4. "You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not live here with gentleman's children like us, and eat the same meals as we do, and wear clothes at our mamma's expense."'

5. 'She did not go to the wood that day or the next, nor the day following. She did not go as long as she felt, or imagined she felt, the man waiting for her, wanting her. But the fourth day she was terribly unsettled and uneasy.'

Clues

1. L N in T O C S by C D
2. D B in T G G by F S F
3. T L of S in T L of S by A L T
4. J E in J E by C B
5. C C in L C's L by D H L

Answers are here. Part 2 will be tomorrow evening.

Guest blogging the EU - by Tom Paine


"
I used to be a Eurobore. Tony Blair cured me by setting out, from 10 Downing Street, to destroy everything I had once feared would be destroyed from the Berlaymont. It's not that I love the EU now. I just fear it less than Labour.

Yesterday, however, I had a twinge of the old complaint, when I received a mailing from openeurope.org.uk as follows:-

On 8 February the EU Commission put forward proposals to punish “environmental crimes” with harmonised EU-wide criminal penalties, over which the power of national veto would not apply...

The proposed directive is the first result of a controversial European Court of Justice ruling in September 2005, which said for the first time that the European Community is able to set criminal penalties and offences, if it is necessary to achieve one of the “fundamental objectives of the treaties.” ...

According to the BBC, at his press conference EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini also raised the prospect that the European Arrest Warrant could be used to detain polluters and send them for trial in other member states. (9 February)

The Commission hopes that public support for punishing “environmental crimes” will be enough to convince member states’ governments to give up their principled opposition to the Commission being able to decide the substance of their criminal law. One EU official told the Independent, "I am 100 per cent confident that we will get the support of EU citizens, despite the worries of member states that want to hold on to individual sovereignty.

I have a problem with the concept of European Criminal Law. There is no reference to it in the founding treaties. Eleven out of (then) fifteen member states argued against it in the ECJ case mentioned above. The ECJ has effectively changed the nature of the EU, with no democratic mandate and (in my view) with very flimsy legal justification.

The British Government, despite originally opposing the idea, now plans to go along with it - at least when the Commission criminalises things that Labour might criminalise itself, had it the time. New Labour has criminalised more than 3000 activities since it came to power - an average of more than 1 new crime a day. I guess the Government feels it needs help to achieve its apparent goal of putting us all on the wrong side of the criminal law."

[criminal law] globalization continues

Perhaps you might skip through this post then, if you haven't already done so, you might read Tom Paine's post. Then head across to Mr Eugenides.

Weishaupt's criteria - May 1 [Walpurgis Festival], 1776 [also auspicious]:

1) Abolition of all ordered governments
2) Abolition of private property
3) Abolition of inheritance
4) Abolition of patriotism
5) Abolition of the family
6) Abolition of religion
7) Creation of a world government

Congressman McFadden, [1931] states:

When the Federal Reserve Act was passed, the people of these United States did not perceive that a world banking system was being set up here. A super-state controlled by international bankers and international industrialists acting together to enslave the world for their own pleasure.

John Foster Dulles, [October 28, 1939], proposes:

"that America lead the transition to a new order of less independent, semi-sovereign states bound together by a league or federal union."

Sir Harold Butler, in the CFR's "Foreign Affairs," [July 1948], states:

How far can the life of nations, which for centuries have thought of themselves as distinct and unique, be merged with the life of other nations? How far are they prepared to sacrifice a part of their sovereignty without which there can be no effective economic or political union?

John Foster Dulles, [April 12, 1952] , speaking before the American Bar Association in Louisville, Kentucky, says:

Treaty law can override the Constitution. Treaties can take powers away from Congress and give them to the President. They can take powers from the States and give them to the Federal Government or to some international body, and they can cut across the rights given to the people by their constitutional Bill of Rights.

And so on and so on and so on.

[anglicans & episcopalians] dear oh dear

Fine man, noble purpose, enormous gravitas but still - is all the paraphernalia necessary?

From U.S.A Today:

The worldwide Anglican Communion and its liberal U.S. branch, the Episcopal Church, continued [their endless dispute] Tuesday after bishops released a draft "covenant" and a "communique" intended as a roadmap to mending divisions over views of the Bible, homosexuality and other questions. But the covenant, which could take years to be refined and ratified, could be used to declare that a church is so far afield that it is no longer Anglican.

Another question, of course, is that of female clergy and in particular, bishops.

It comes down to what Christianity is:

1] Narrowly, which is how I view it, one can only use the Gospels, then the Old Testament insofar as Jesus referred to it. This gives a very humanitarian or altruistic view of the faith, with all its healing, charity and so on and doesn't actually mention homosexuals and women per se although the spirit of what was said makes comment on these;

2] Together with the Acts of the Apostles, the Paulian letters are a whole new ball game, bringing in strictures against homosexuals, women in their place and so on. This version has given Christianity its bad name, certainly in the modern era and yet the question remains of whether Paul directly spoke from G-d or whether he added a few little touches of his own, as some cursed infidels [peace not be upon them] suggest Mohammed also did.

3] Then we have the whole panoply of gobbledegook, as represented in the photograph, with its consubstantiation/transubstantiation and so on.

And what Anglicanism is:

1] Born in iniquity and conceived in sin, as nationalism, banking and the United States have also been accused of, the Church of England put a man at its head who had no claims to deification but many to expediency;

2] It became the Conservative Party at prayer. I have no problem with this in itself. I'm technically an Anglican.

Having said all this, the current dispute in the Church comes from deviating from the Word little by little, under the justification of 'modernization' and 'being relevant to our times'. There is ample scriptural evidence that the faith allows of no such thing and time has zero effect on what He asked people to do. In fact, it was stated quite clearly that mankind should 'build on the rock'.

The only problem with this is that rocks eventually erode but to take the analogy too far might be mischievous.

[new blogger] between a rock and a hard place

HELP!!!
Please?

First request: Does anyone either know of or could anyone send, to jameshigham[at]mail[dot]com, a three column New Blogger template which:

1] does not require css sheet fiddling or any sort of html construction at higher than moronic level;
2] is not Beta - this one has now superseded Beta [2006] and Beta templates aren't accepted any more;
3] is not an old Classic, widened to over 900px with an extra column tacked on but is the standard 790px width?

Second request: As if that isn't enough, does anyone have any idea how to put in:

1] "Blogging" blogrolls, such as my page and Blogpower uses;
2] codes in sidebars, such as for the quizzes people have been doing, [not in the post itself,] plus various other bits and pieces?

The issue:

1] Blogger tricked me into converting, by routing me to my site through New Blogger set-up, then informed me that ALL attached sites were also converted - no way back;
2] It's supporting my current template here under sufferance but the moment I change it [which I do frequently], I've lost my blog. I know this because I've copied my template and put it in an experimental New Blog [Mr. Badger] and it simply won't take it, with either widgets expanded or not;
3] There is only one site on the web, "Templatepanic", which supplies a usable three column in New Blogger. Gecko no longer do, Thurs, Freetemplates Inaini - they provide them but none of them work anymore in New Blogger. The one I found is the cursed Rounders with an extra column which is 995 wide [way off the screen] and though I've modified it, it's still not good.

Finally: It's a big ask, I know but I have to do something soon so please, please, kind people, if you have definitive knowledge to resolve this problem and can communicate it at technical nincompoop level, I'd appreciate it so, so much. Thank you.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

[blogfocus tuesday] part two of the boy bloggers

Moustaches maketh the man, as Poirot might say.

Maintaining my image of being one brick short of a load, my dozen bloggers today are one man short of a dozen. This is part two of the boy bloggers and the girls will reappear next Sunday, merged with the boys once more. Let's get down to it:

1 Colin Campbell's perspective is always fresh and not just because of the strange place he blogs from - not so far from the City of Churches. Hanging upside down like that downunder, is it any wonder he's occasionally apoplectic, this time illustrating that sheer mindlessness is a global phenomenon:

Shopping is bad enough as it is. The thought of having employees critiquing your selection would be unbearable. Will they get self defence training as angry consumers bash them over the head with a baked bean can. You couldn't make this up if you tried.

Just don't even think about it, Coles and Woolworths.

2 Mr. Eugenides is in the master-blogging category, rarely making either an incorrect or unsupported statement. His vocabulary embellishments may be a little rich for some tastes but the substance is unerring. This is the man to shoot the breeze with on a winter's evening, whilst getting maudlin pi--ed.

If Music Trading Online can undercut the big music companies, why the hell shouldn't they? The price of recorded music remains high - though it's probably declined in real terms over the past 20 years - but if someone can buy a Coldplay CD from Hong Kong [legally], import it, and sell it on for £7, why the f--k can't EMI?

Anyone who's ever walked into a big commercial record store to browse for music will be familiar with "rare" imported CDs - the ones with the stickers on which retail for up to twice the price of a band's regular albums. They're designed to make money out of fans and "completists" who need to have every recording their favoured artist has ever released - as with my collection of rare deleted Judy Garland albums*.

*This is a joke**.

** Higham wonders.

3 Tom Paine, as anyone who has any sense knows, is a top libertarian blogger with connections you'd never fit into a book. Quiet and yet deadly, he observes and then cuts right to the heart of the matter and does it with a neat turn of phrase what's more:

The City of London is a legacy centre of excellence in an otherwise mediocre nation. It competes on a global scale, attracting talent from all over the world. It is handicapped by the poor infrastructure of London, its high costs of living and the perception (not helped by London's mayor being a fan of Castro and a supporter of terrrorists) that it is a hostile political environment. It is a filthy, unpleasant and dangerous place to work.

Operating costs are high, not because of salaries and bonuses, but because of taxes, property costs and costs of compliance with (mostly unnecessary) laws. To run a big business in the City (as anywhere in Britain) you must employ many costly drones to interface with Government and regulators and to collect taxes for the Treasury.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Eight more boy bloggers here.