30 November 2010

Hey, it's not warm ...

At least the penguins at Edinburgh Zoo are happy. Well some of them anyway. See them here.

27 November 2010

It's not getting better

Yeah, yeah, pull the other one. The Independent reports:

As rumours spread across financial markets that talks over a bail-out for Portugal had begun, Jose Manuel Barroso, the President of the European Commission, said: "It's absolutely, completely false – every reference for an aid plan for this country. It has neither been asked for and neither have we suggested it. It is absolutely false."

Mr Barroso's denials were welcomed in Lisbon, where Jose Socrates, the Portuguese Prime Minister, also felt obliged to intervene following fevered speculation. Mr Socrates, whose latest budget plans were approved by his Parliament yesterday, said: "The country does not need any help."

After Ireland, why would anyone believe a word?

Mr Socrates should have stuck to being a footballer ...

24 November 2010

Bald men and a comb

Mr Swinney has been a naughty boy. Allegedly, he failed to tell the parliament that the Scottish administration had refused to pay HMRC to maintain or upgrade the computer system which enables the plus or minus three pence variation of the income tax rate. Cue much huffing and puffing on the part of the opposition parties.

I find it hard to take seriously this storm in a teacup. Neither Labour nor the SNP has ever seriously proposed exercising the power to vary the rate and there is absolutely no sign that either would have proposed to do so following next year's election. (Which makes me wonder why Calman is being introduced, although that is a separate argument.)

So rap Mr S's knockles, tell him to behave more respectfully in future, and move on. There must be more important issues for the parliament to get excited about.

23 November 2010

Penny wise, pound foolish

Well that'll teach me a lesson. Buying shares is a mug's game, especially when they are RBS shares. The share price, heavily influenced by events in Ireland, has now declined to less than 40 pence:

But wipe that smug smile off your face. We are all shareholders in RBS and unless and until the share price returns to something like 50 pence we are all making a loss on our investment.

20 November 2010

Here's to you Mr Robinson (again)

I'm an educated sort of chap and I don't really understand why I take such pleasure from the fact that fifteen young ruffians (plus substitutes) purporting to belong to my country should have so thoroughly thrashed a parallel fifteen from South Afrika. But they are our ruffians and it was great. It may not have been sparkling aesthetic rugby but the effort by those forwards was immense. And, unashamedly, it warmed the cockles of my heart. My Saturday evening supper had an unanticipated savour.

The coach, Mr Robinson, has now led us (how quickly we faineants adhere to the victors) to four victories in the last five matches including Ireland away, The Argentine away (twice) and now over the world champions. Unbelievable. The Man is working miracles. Respect, Sir.

17 November 2010

Spooks again

The Guardian reports:

The work of Britain's security services will be permanently hidden from court hearings under plans designed to prevent a repeat of the million-pound payouts this week to Guantánamo Bay detainees.

A government green paper, which the justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, yesterday told MPs would be published next summer, will contain specific proposals designed to prevent the courts from releasing the kind of information that has emerged from recent Guantánamo cases in the English courts. "It will absolutely eliminate [the possibility of] the process happening again," a well-placed Whitehall official claimed last night.

I suppose that it would be naive to suggest that there is an easier way - whereby MI5 and MI6 behaved themselves properly by avoiding any danger of complicity in torture and abuse.

Quote of the day

Up-chuck material from The Telegraph (here):
But the monarchy is also about magic. It sets Britain apart. It reminds us that this is a very antique nation, with a history and an identity which goes back for thousands of years. Just as a royal funeral is a moment of collective national sadness and mourning, a royal wedding is a moment of overwhelming joy and renewal. We all share in it. When the marriage itself takes place on an as-yet-unspecified date next year, the nation will take to the streets, rejoicing.
Aye well maybe. But I wouldn't count on it ...

In the meantime, we can look forward to at least six more months of such mystical nonsense.

13 November 2010

Brave new world

Well what did you expect? You should have known that the Tories were utterly shameless when it came to getting into bed with big business. Public health is a distant second priority. The Guardian spells it out:
In an overhaul of public health, said by campaign groups to be the equivalent of handing smoking policy over to the tobacco industry, health secretary Andrew Lansley has set up five "responsibility deal" networks with business, co-chaired by ministers, to come up with policies. Some of these are expected to be used in the public health white paper due in the next month.
The groups are dominated by food and alcohol industry members, who have been invited to suggest measures to tackle public health crises. Working alongside them are public interest health and consumer groups including Which?, Cancer Research UK and the Faculty of Public Health. The alcohol responsibility deal network is chaired by the head of the lobby group the Wine and Spirit Trade Association. The food network to tackle diet and health problems includes processed food manufacturers, fast food companies, and Compass, the catering company famously pilloried by Jamie Oliver for its school menus of turkey twizzlers. The food deal's sub-group on calories is chaired by PepsiCo, owner of Walkers crisps.

You didnae ken? Well ye ken noo ...

11 November 2010

Compare and contrast

Grace under pressure:
Rangers manager Walter Smith was full of praise for Hibs and accepted culpability for the champions' lacklustre display, expressing his regret at not using more of his fringe players in recent weeks. "Tiredness is not an excuse," he said. "All credit to Hibs first and foremost.
You always look at yourself in these situations and maybe I have asked too much from too many players in the last four or five games. I should maybe have changed the team around a little bit."We had warnings in previous games, like the draw at home to Inverness. We had a lot of possession but the required edge was missing."It is obviously a disappointing night for us but take nothing away from Hibs. They were excellent, especially in the first half hour."

Absence of same:

... attention was diverted from their exploits by yet further refereeing controversy, with Craig Thomson under fire from Lennon after sending off Joe Ledley after 56 minutes for a two-footed tackle on Black. "It wasn't a foul never mind a sending off," stated Lennon. "It was a disgraceful decision."
The midfielder's exit was followed soon after by that of Lennon himself, sent to the stand by Thomson following remarks made to fourth official, Steven McLean, after Celtic were denied what they felt was a penalty when the ball struck Hearts substitute Ryan Stevenson's hand."It's a clear penalty, I can see that 45 yards away," said Lennon. "If the referee doesn't see it the standside linesman should see it. His arm was up and he's fisted the ball with his hand. Again here we are talking about referees after the game."

10 November 2010

Music of the week

I couldn't resist the verbal felicity that afforded the young lady a tattoo too.


I really, really do not want to read about:

1. Gordon Ramsay's tortuous relationships with his father in law, with his mother in law or with any other members of his extended family.

2. The tawdry comings and goings of Tommy Sheridan and his friends and acquaintances, if and when the court case resumes.

3. George Bush's memoir - could he not return to a relatively decent but well-merited obscurity?

4. Who will be on "I'm a celebrity ..." - The Guardian and the other broadsheets should be above that kind of thing.

09 November 2010

Time to go home

And so another holiday in paradise (albeit a somewhat down-market paradise) draws to a timely close. The days are growing colder and my shorts have perforce been replaced with long trousers. No longer do the bars put up the umbrellas against the sun and I have just about completed the viewing of the Chabrol DVD collection.

Entonces, when Saturday comes, it's back to sunny Edinburgh. No complaints from me - I can readily swap the Mahou for the Deuchars IPA, while the mince and tatties will taste all the sweeter in Stockeree. And if I have to cover up my magnificent physique with sweaters and fleeces, I don't suppose the ladies will be too upset ...

08 November 2010

Quote of the day

More Orwellian gobbledegook. David Cameron on his new ploy for making the centre more effective in order to weaken it? From here.
"The previous government tried to run public services from Whitehall. These plans are about running Whitehall effectively so public services are steered by the people who work in them, responding to the people who use them. It is not about controlling everything from the centre – but running the centre effectively so it does what the coalition agreement says: put more power in people's hands."

If you can fillet the bones out of such a semantic gallimaufry, you're a better man than I.

07 November 2010

Wielding the axe

Oh dear, the axe is whistling towards Scotland's senior bureaucrats. Scotland on Sunday reveals:
Scotland on Sunday can reveal that moves to cut the bill for the Scottish Government's elite corps of civil service managers by one-quarter are being proposed ahead of a crucial spending review to be unveiled by Swinney next week. The move will hit the 212 top mandarins at the Scottish Government HQ who are counted among the 4,000-strong elite group of civil servants across the UK. They include Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden, chief economic adviser Andrew Goudie and NHS Scotland chief executive Dr Kevin Woods. The group includes no fewer than 49 Scottish Government directors who, between them, had a pay bill of £4.8m this year, earning an average of £101-106,000 each.
While a 25 per cent cut in the senior civil service would only save a fraction of the total Swinney requires, ministers are understood to be of the view that the top echelons of the public sector have to be seen to be taking the hardest hit.

Well dry your tears. These guys will be retiring on a handsome pension; they may even be competing to secure early retirement.

I was never a member of what was known as the senior civil service; as a humble worker ant, my view of them is hardly free from prejudice. Some of them were good but far too many were like the lilies of the field - they toiled not, neither did they spin.

03 November 2010

Quote of the day

Blinded by ideology: Michael Gove, Secreetary of State for Education (here):
Michael Gove, the schools secretary, has denied that students would be discouraged from applying to university after the government allowed higher education institutions to charge up to £9,000 a year in tuition fees.
There was "no evidence" that the introduction of tuition fees in 2006 had put off poor students, he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme. "I believe that [higher fees] won't put off students. They will make a rational decision on the benefits that accrue to them [from going to university]."
The government has announced that universities could charge between £6,000 and £9,000 a year in fees. Those that charge more than £6,000 will have to show they are making more effort to encourage applications from the poorest students. Fees
are currently £3,290 a year.
Yeah sure. Prospective students will cheerfully sign up for debt of £18,000 (plus debts incurred by simply living). And that's a rational decision?

01 November 2010

A case for callming down?

A fluttering in the doo'cots. The Herald reports:
A ruthless al Qaeda bomber who recruited his own brother for a suicide attack was last night named as the prime suspect in the bomb plot that threatened to blow two planes out of the sky on Friday.
Saudi-born Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri was identified by US officials as it emerged that one of the two bombs posted from Yemen was missed by security and made it on to two separate passenger flights before it was eventually discovered in Dubai thanks to a tip-off.
The other, found at East Midlands Airport in England, could have brought down an aircraft, the UK Government said.

Well he may be ruthless, but he's not terribly effective. Neither bomb exploded. And his previous attempt - the so-called underpants bomb - was equally unsuccessful.

Incidentally, maybe I'm missing something but what exactly is the point of blowing up a freight aeroplane? A tragedy for the aircrew certainly, but it would hardly amount to an atrocity of Lockerbie proportions.