25 May 2011
Lady Gaga likes older men.
The 'Judas' singer - who recently split from boyfriend Luc Carl - says she would be quite happy to date a man who is over 60 because she thinks they'd have a lot in common.
Aye, well don't look at me. With all those crazy outfits, I'd be dead affronted taking her to the pub. And I doubt if she knows how to make mince'n'tatties.
23 May 2011
A Scottish newspaper became the first mainstream British publication to identify the Premier League footballer who is attempting to prevent discussion on Twitter about his affair with the former Big Brother star Imogen Thomas. Meanwhile it was reported that a High Court judge had referred an unidentified journalist to the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve, to consider a criminal prosecution for breaching a privacy injunction with a tweet about another footballer.
22 May 2011
New research from the University of the Bleeding Obvious reveals that women prefer tall men, apparently because they are more effective at hitting people. In fact, now that we have evolved from the apes, women think a little more clearly.
In this age of quasi-emancipation, women can earn our own wages, wire our own plugs and fight our own battles, and there are very few things for which we need men. Men are necessary, though, for reaching things off high shelves and having pockets.
Only until we get shorter wardrobes and frocks with pockets will these continue to be important evolutionary advantages.
Well, it made me smile ...
Brigadier Max Marriner, the commander of British forces in Iraq, said: "The UK armed forces can look back with pride at what they have achieved – security has fundamentally improved and as a consequence the social and economic development of the south has changed for the better, as too have people's lives."
Liam Fox, the Secretary of State for Defence, told Parliament last week: "Thanks to the sacrifice, commitment, and professionalism of thousands of British servicemen and women, southern Iraq is an area transformed."
The Independent has a slightly different perception:
Today, 2,985 days after the first British soldiers entered Iraq, the last contingent leaves. Since 20 March 2003, at least 100,000 Iraqis – shamefully, we can only calculate their number – and 4,769 American and coalition troops have been killed, including 179 British; 32,000 coalition troops have been wounded; violent deaths in Iraq are still running at an average of more than 300 a month; 2 million people have left Iraq, of whom 100,000 have returned, according to the Brookings Institute; coalition forces have used 250,000 bullets for every insurgent killed; the American taxpayer has spent $900bn (£500bn) in total, at the rate of $300m a day; the British taxpayer has spent a total of £8.4bn (£2.8m a day).
Draw your own conclusions.
21 May 2011
20 May 2011
18 May 2011
On the DVD front, the highlight has undoubtedly been the first two series of Spiral (Les Engrenages). To those who allege that I have a thing about Capitaine Laure, I admit it. It’s in French of course (not a problem to sophisticates comme moi). But utterly splendid, and I look forward to series 3, recently on the BBC, which I mostly missed (cos it was late at night and over here I don’t have access to the i-player).
I also enjoyed The American. Despite the name and the fact that it starred George Clooney, it struck me as a very European film. The Kids are all right was less successful - a bit too Hollywood for me. But the 9th series of Spooks was melodramatic hokum at its best (or worst) and none the worse for that. RED and The Girl who kicked the Hornet’s Nest were also good fun.
As for the printed word, for once I did not have to cart volumes out with me. Did I tell you that I bought a Kindle? And a terrific invention it is. I have been enjoying numerous volumes, particularly Andrea Camilleri’s Sicilian detective mysteries. Now ploughing through Zola’s Therese Raquin, a book I have loved since I was a student. And I finished off Len Deighton’s Game, Set and Match trilogy.
So there you go. If I have been wasting my time, then too bad. But I don’t think so.
Since the collapse of socialism as a transformative project, middle class progressives have looked to constitutional reform for their agenda. But the public isn't obliged to share that enthusiasm, as it demonstrated in the AV vote. Do we really need another tier of elected politicians? It's not as if the talent pool of volunteers is bursting.
What we do need is more effective accountability of the non 15-year variety, but it is the unelected who need to be held more to account, the quangocrats and officials, the corporate remuneration committees which rob shareholders and pension funds, not least the media barons. MPs try on select committees, albeit with limited success.
If someone can devise a model whereby an elected senate, full of worldly and experienced types with nothing to lose, not mere well-meaning novices, can put the fear of God or the law into that crowd, they'd get my attention.
Until then, I think it's a matter of: "Not now, Nick, we're busy."
He is therefore prepared to tolerate the continued presence in the Lords of 92 hereditary peers and the continued ability of party leaders to appoint their cronies. And The Guardian is supposed to be a progressive newspaper ...
16 May 2011
The head of Britain's military forces wants to widen the range of targets for Nato aircraft in Libya in an attempt to break the stalemate on the ground.
General Sir David Richards is said to believe Muammar Gaddafi may manage to cling to power unless attacks are carried out against the infrastructure propping up his regime.
In the words of the song, when will they ever learn?
15 May 2011
You know how the SNP is dead keen on the devolution of corporation tax. They could then use reduced rates of tax to attract companies to invest in Scotland. Splendid idea if it works.
But. But. Let us suppose that the corporation tax rate was duly devolved and appropriately reduced. How would we decide to which companies the reduced rate would apply? Simple you say: those companies registered with companies house in Scotland would qualify. Well ok but a lot of companies operating in Scotland do not happen to have their registered office in Scotland and are not therefore registered in Scotland. And some of the companies registered in Scotland do lots of business in the rest of the UK and even abroad.
Should these companies benefit from the Scottish concession? Maybe, provided they can identify how much of their pre-tax profit is attributable to business conducted in Scotland. Oh, and provided HM Customs and Revenue are prepared to trust them on the allocation.
If you are the boss of Tesco or the RBS, can you readily identify the amount of profit coming from Scotland? Not without considerable effort, I suggest.
I’m not suggesting that the devolution of corporate taxation should not happen. But it would be nice to know how the details will be resolved.
Well, speaking as one effete arsehole [an Englishman] to the servile miserable pathetic trash [the Scots] – good on you. You've played an outstanding game, politically and economically. But I think the game might be coming to a close – and partly out of the hubris of that very Scottish egoism. Because, if independence comes and the subsidies finally dry up, I suspect they might find that the English had been more useful to them then they imagined (something the historic grassroots opposition to independence in Scotland clearly recognises). But, for me, I have had enough of them. Much as I have liked pretty much every Scot I have ever met (I find them nice, clever, cultured, polite, lovely people), I'm quite happy for them to bugger off, get their hands out of our exchequer, their placemen out of our governments, and their sense of perpetual grievance out of the Union.
Not the first; and it won't be the last ...
Taggart became known for its bizarre plots and gruesome murders (my favourite was "Nest of Vipers" in which deadly snakes were the murder weapon) but all of them had some grounding in reality. Maybe the venomous spider at the Burns Supper was a bit cheesy, but it was great fun, and Taggart was always about fun.
I remember being in Prague, watching Taggart dubbed in Polish on the hotel telly. At its best, Taggart was one of STV's finest achievements. But now? Probably best to draw a veil over it.
12 May 2011
It seems to me utterly inappropriate that a middle class department store should deploy Bob as a taster for their patrons. Accordingly, this middle-aged hippie has sold his shares in M & S (and unfortunately made a profit).
When I was 20 years old, I didn't have to face these moral conundrums. All very difficult.
Back to Spain tomorrow morning. They don't play Bob over there.
09 May 2011
Which brings us neatly to the second big question, of how much of the UK's national debt Scotland ought to take on. And, within that, how much of the debt related to rescuing the semi-nationalised Scottish-based Royal Bank of Scotland and, arguably the Scottish bit of the Lloyds/TSB/Halifax/Bank of Scotland combine. Either way, the debt-to-GDP ratio of an independent Scotland might prove so large as to sink it financially before it was even born; 100 per cent of GDP is well within the bounds, being about 10 per cent of the UK's projected £1tr debt and Scottish GDP at about £100bn.
Scotland's non-existent track record in managing public finances might also leave markets to impose an immediate "risk premium", meaning even higher borrowing costs, lower investment and lower consumption levels immediately. Apart from Edinburgh New Town, where there would be rush for handsome townhouses to serve as embassies and high commissions, property would be swiftly devalued. Short term, independence would be tough, until Scotland demonstrated its strengths.
Aye, weel. I'm not so sure it would be as simple as that. To suggest that Scotland should take on 10% of the UK's national debt, because our GDP is 10% of the UK's, ignores the matched question of which assets we should inherit. Look at it another way: has public sector investment in Scotland amounted to anything near 10% of public sector investment in the UK? Think of the rail network, think of motorways, think of the numbers of hospitals, schools. Some counting needing to be done, I suggest. And then there is the bloated defence establishment: our share of defence debt should perhaps reflect the number of submarines, eurofighters, aircraft carriers, tanks and equipment which we would be expected to take on. Oh and by the way, we probably won't need any of those palatial embassies in which UK diplomats like to reside.
I will leave the banks for another post; but bear in mind that these are multinational in nature, doing a lot more business south of the border rather than north of it.
Interesting times, eh?
07 May 2011
"I will campaign to keep the United Kingdom together with every fibre that I have."
Now why would he say that? If he really wishes Scotland to remain a part of the UK, why not simply let the many pro-union Scots get on with it? But no, he would prefer to provide an example of a metropolitan Tory target, seeking to dictate the future for a distant land, for the SNP to shoot at.
And does he really care? After all, he may be passing up an opportunity for the Tories to dominate the English landscape for the foreseeable future. And, provided there was an equitable distribution of the assets and liabilities (admittedly a big proviso), why would he object to Scotland going its own way if that is what we decided to do?
06 May 2011
The consequences? Well, first of all, Mr Salmond can do pretty much whatever he wants. Backed by the massed ranks of the SNP, he can ram through parliament whatever policy or budget decisions he chooses. The only checks on his powers will be those written into the Scotland Act; and he is likely to challenge those pdq in the context of the current Scotland Bill.
And don’t imagine that the so-called SNP fundamentalists can influence him. Salmond, with Sturgeon and Swinney as his principal lieutenants, has just won a stunning victory of unimaginable (and unimagined) proportions. Within the SNP ranks, he is unassailable.
What of Labour? The Gray Man has already announced that he will stand down. Shorn of its more illustrious dinosaurs, is the party leadership a shoo-in for Jackie Baillie? It doesn’t really matter; indeed, for the next five years, the Labour Party doesn’t really matter. Mocked as losers, doomed to impotence, it looks a long hard climb to the sunlit uplands.
As for the Tories, they should stick with nurse for fear of something worse. Bella may never lead them to the promised land but they might have done a lot worse under anyone else. Besides she is becoming a national treasure.
The LibDems? Oblivion awaits …
0814 From John Curtice, the psephologist's psephologist (he crunches the election numbers). Here is the latest prediction for the final outcome. The latest Scotland prediction is now: SNP 68, Labour 38, Conservatives 13, Lib Dems 6, Scottish Greens three, Others one.
Surprisingly comfortable overall majority.
05 May 2011
(Editor: he's a banker, a greedy fat-cat with the morals of a Gordon Gekko; do you really think he'll put his hand in his pocket?)
David Whitton (5/4)
Andy Kerr (6/4)
Jackie Baillie (5/1)
John Park (12/1)
04 May 2011
Meanwhile, the sun is out, after a week of somewhat indeterminate weather. So it's back to the shorts and the vest. Of course, I hide in whatever shade is available. Cos I don't go brown; just a kinda red and orange, and then it fades.
But when the sun is out, the girls look prettier, the beer tastes better and I can dream - utterly fruitlessly - of a Labour recovery over the next 12 hours ...
03 May 2011
02 May 2011
Had Gaddafi, rather than his son, died at the weekend, and the regime had then collapsed, how many of us would have wept? If it was assassination, rather than targeted "command and control", so what?I have a lot of sympathy for this argument. But what if taking out (to use a euphemism) Gaddafi were to save lives? Or to put it another way, what if mealy-mouthed adherence to the rule of international law would lead to the deaths of Libyan (or Syrian) rebels (or freedom fighters, if you prefer)? I genuinely don't know the answer; and I don't envy those who have to struggle with the problem.
The overwhelming answer must be just two words: international law. The law may sometimes be an ass, and particularly when we are dealing with bloody and complex global issues, riven with hypocrisy and double standards. But it is all we have. The UN may be an infuriatingly slow, compromising and mealy-mouthed confederation of tyrannies, democracies and kleptocracies. It's all we have. Cast it aside, cast aside international law, and there is nothing but might is right, arms, oil and profits.
Nor am I sure that the assassination of Osama bin Laden is an occasion for rejoicing. Maybe he deserved it, but is such an action a legitimate tool of statecraft? Yes, al-quaida has no qualms about murdering people but are we not supposed to be better?
All very difficult.