30 April 2012

The Olympics - worth the bother?

It might have been better to let them go to Paris.  The Guardian reports:
Military snipers are to be deployed in helicopters during the London Olympics and if required will shoot pilots of low-flying aircraft that might be involved in terrorist attacks, it emerged on Monday.
A team of seven snipers is being given "comprehensive on-the-ground and in-the-air training" as part of the all encompassing security operation being undertaken by the police and the army.
General Sir Nick Parker, who is in charge of co-ordinating the armed forces during the 2012 Games, described the role of the snipers as he revealed the six sites where anti-aircraft missiles may be based as part of the security operation.  The four that are in open spaces – at Blackheath, Lea Valley reservoir, Shooters Hill and Epping Forest – will be home to a battery of Rapier surface-to-air missiles, which are the UK's primary air defence weapon.
Smaller high-velocity missiles (HVMs) will be put on the top of residential buildings in Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
Add in the expected hassles at the airport, and the difficulties in transport to the sites, as well as the absence of any "legacy", and you wonder if it will all be worthwhile.

Hail the mighty Malaga

Los chicos done good!  The malaguenos thrashed Valencia 1-0.  Here is the goal:


[Ed - too much football]

Insight

In preparation for tonight's big match (the one in Manchester), here is an extract from the best preview I have read.  It is from the Secret Footballer in Saturday's Guardian:
It could come down to following the ball rather than the man when Ag├╝ero and Silva play a one‑two around the box, or remembering that Valencia always has a touch inside before he goes outside (like Giggs used to), or not forgetting that the midfield very often pass Rooney on when he enters the penalty area only for him to score a header between two giant centre-halves who think he is being tracked.
Maybe it will be the moment Kompany dives in when he should stand up on the edge of the area or perhaps it will come down to remembering that Rafael goes walkabout with the ball and leaves gaping holes down the right flank when he is dispossessed in the middle of the pitch. It may be "roughing up" De Gea at the right moment or winding up Balotelli when he has just missed a chance. Staying alert to all these opportunities when they present themselves could be the difference between winning and losing at the Etihad Stadium.
Enjoy the match!

 

He's a highland dancer

More than we needed to know about Jeremy Hunt.  The Guardian reports:

"Not a lot of people know this, but Jeremy is a fantastic dancer," Michael Gove told BBC Radio 4 on Sunday."In particular, he is a superb Latin American dancer and his lambada is something amazing."

Just like the rest of us then.

29 April 2012

Quote of the day

From Andrew Rawnsley, in The Observer (here):
The charge sheet is this. The government is led by a clique of toffs who have neither respect for their colleagues, nor empathy with the average voter. Their born-to-rule mentality means they have a greatly over-inflated view of their own capabilities, which deafens their ears to the advice and warnings of others who might actually know better. They are nothing like as good at governing as they think they are. And this, the charge sheet concludes, is now inflicting serious harm on both the country and the Conservatives' future electoral prospects.
I confess that I have always thought Rawnsley to be a bit of a posh boy himself, but he does have a talent for getting to the heart of the matter.

27 April 2012

It will end in tears

I've been watching the Leveson hearings on the internet.  Fascinating.

Initially, I felt a little sorry for this poor old 81 year-old Murdoch facing a hotshot QC.  But then, gradually, the artful pauses, the evasions, the half-truths, the gratuitous insults dispelled that feeling.  Meanwhile, the QC - with an admirable absence of flash - slowly teased out the wicked truth.

If you have twenty minutes to spare, you can dip into it here.

I look forward to Mr Jay getting his teeth into Mr Hunt and Mr Cameron.

 

26 April 2012

Conversation of the week

The Guardian is having fun:

Rupert Murdoch: You remember how I used to say that the best job you could do for me, you no-brained moron, was to put everyone to sleep by talking unintelligible management-speak in your absurd mid-Atlantic robotic accent … 
James Murdoch: I did get that helicopter view … 
Rupert M: Well, since you've cocked everything up so badly, I want you to tell Leveson the truth after all. 
James M: What? That I really did chat with Cameron about the BSkyB takeover over Christmas lunch? 
Cameron: It wasn't over dinner. It was over a glass of champagne. 
Rupert M: Revenge is sweet. That one was for Rebekah … 
James M: And Jeremy Hunt couldn't have been more helpful, trying to smooth the deal through … 
Jim Naughtie: I always said he was a cupid stunt. 
Rupert M: … and that one was for BSkyB and the News of the Screws. 
Jeremy Hunt: There's no need for a knee-jerk reaction. 
John Terry: I wish you'd said that earlier. 
May: Look on the bright side. Everyone's forgotten about Abu Qatada.


 

  

Staying up late

Over here in Spain, the Champions' League football matches start at 8.45 pm.  This causes me some difficulty as by ten o'clock I am desperately attracted to the land of nod.  Not infrequently, I fall asleep shortly after the half-time break.  (I know, I know, it's probably something to do with advancing senility.)

It was therefore with some pleasure that I managed to last the course during this week's matches, despite the extra time played last night and notwithstanding the fact that my viewing on the internet the previous evening (Barca-Chelsea) was accompanied by a first half commentary in German and a second half commentary in Russian.  Both matches seemed to me to be of the quality to be expected in the semi-finals of such a prestigious competition.  So, even allowing for Mr Guardiola's ill-fitting (too short) grey v-neck sweater and the regrettable habit of modern footballers to fall over and roll around at the drop of a hat, I am left with the satisfactory conclusion that it is still a beautiful game.

Roll on the final!

25 April 2012

Music of the week

Winter is coming

As the bible tells us (John 15:13), "greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends".
Then we have the Minister who lays down the life of his special adviser, in order to protect his back.  I doubt if Jeremy will get a reward in heaven. 


  

Recession blues


Here we go again.  The technical details of whether or not we are in recession matter less than the fact the economy is at best stagnating.  That nice man, Mr Balls, said it would end like this.


 

Quote of the day

From the beleaguered Jeremy Hunt (here):
"Let me be clear: my number one priority was to give the public confidence in the integrity of process. I asked for advice from independent regulators – which I didn't have to do – and after careful consideration I followed that advice to the letter. I would like to resolve this issue as soon as possible which is why I have today written to Lord Justice Leveson asking if my appearance can be brought forward. I am very confident that when I present my evidence the public will see that I conducted this process with absolute objectivity and scrupulous fairness."
Unbelievable.  Does he understand the meaning of  "absolute objectivity and scrupulous fairness"?

24 April 2012

Selling our soul?

So the ownership of Edinburgh Airport has passed from BAA (owned by Ferrovial of Spain) to Global Infrastructure Partners, an investment fund founded by Credit Suisse (of Zurich) and General Electric (of the USA).

Does this matter?  Will it affect the airport passenger?  Probably not.  But I can't help feeling that a piece of public infrastructure such as an airport should not be passed around the hands of anonymous multinational financiers as if it were a bar of chocolate.  Maybe I'm just old-fashioned ...

 

23 April 2012

Lookalike

That George Galloway gets everywhere.  Here he is, starring in The Bridge, the new Saturday night Scando-noir on BBC4:



21 April 2012

It's a matter of geometry

Probably not safe for work.


George and the IMF


Here is a transcript from the intercept of a transatlantic phone call:
"But Dave, I didn't want to give Christine that £10 billion.  It's just that, when she looks at you, you feel that you're back in the nursery with nanny and she's insisting that you eat your vegetables.  I may be Chancellor of the Exchequer but she knows how to intimidate me.  A flash of those eyes and my bowels turn to water.  And when she adopts that imperious tone, I want to humiliate myself.  I'm not normally a masochist but imagining Christine with a whip really turns me on.  Could we invite her to Chequers for a weekend?  Soon, please ..."

I liked it too

The Independent has a rave review of Ms Beard's tv programme on the Romans:

It was, of course, charming, this gentle journey through ancient history, where the smiles were as bright as the sun in the sky. The plump professor in the patterned jumper, who marched Mary Beard round ancient Rome's immigrant quarter, Trastevere, looked so quaint you wanted to stick him in a museum. The young baker who watched her pound the dough looked so surprised by her thumping, and grinning, and arm waving, you felt he needed a hug.
But it was much, much more than charming. To see a woman who doesn't just know everything there is to know about her subject, because she's a proper scholar, who has studied it for years, but who can actually bring it alive to people who know nothing about it, isn't just charming. And to see a woman who's definitely over 40, and isn't wearing fancy clothes, or very high heels, or even make-up, and who seems to think it's OK to go on telly and not look like a dolly bird, isn't just refreshing. It makes you think about the kind of diet you're usually fed.

My only criticism would be that, like so many, she can't talk without waving her hands about.  But, hey, you can't have everything and what we got was superb.  You can still catch it on the i-player.

You couldn't make it up!

Hardly credible.  The Guardian reports:
Barclays is planning to hold a "citizenship day" next month, even as it prepares for a stormy annual meeting next week about the pay and tax of chief executive Bob Diamond.The event is to be held on 23 May and will be used by Diamond to outline the bank's approach to "citizenship", which he set as one of his four priorities when he took the helm in January 2011.
This from the bank that had to shut down its "highly abusive" tax avoidance schemes.  And the less said about its bonus schemes the better.  Then there are all those Barclays subsidiaries based in the Caymans ...

19 April 2012

Oh woe, thrice woe!

Yeah well, the euro is now trading at over 1.22 to the £:


So may be I should transfer some money into my Spanish bank account?  But the euro might weaken further?  And do I trust Spanish banks?

Decisions, decisions ...

17 April 2012

Tax avoidance

Sometimes, it seems that all the big companies are at it.  Look at this extract from The Independent:
The Cayman Islands is one of the few places in the world where there are more registered businesses than people. The islands have long been considered a tax haven, with no direct corporate taxes levied on businesses. There is also no personal-income tax, no sales tax, no capital-gains tax, and no wealth tax. No minimum wage exists on the islands.
The British firms with the highest number of companies registered in the Cayman Islands – according to analysis of Companies House files by ActionAid in October 2011 – are:
174 Barclays
37 RBS Group
30 HSBC 
24 Lloyds Banking Group 
20 International Power 
17 Standard Chartered 
15 Prudential 
14 Tesco 
10 BP 
10 Man Group
And successive British governments have tolerated this situation.

13 April 2012

It's not rocket science

The thing is, nobody has any sympathy these days.  The North Korean rocket proves a failure and people just gloat, here and here, for example.  It does not seem to occur to anyone that somewhere there is an aeronautics engineer about to get his jotters (or worse).

I appreciate that you can shovel blame on to the North Korean government, spending millions on rockets when the people go hungry.  But is that significantly more reprehensible than our own government cutting welfare while proposing to spend billions on the great white elephant that is the replacement for Trident (not to mention those aircraft carriers without any aircraft)?

In the immortal words of Mr Kenny Dalglish, "mebbes aye, mebbes naw".  And Mr Dalglish knows a thing or two about spending a fortune on duds.

12 April 2012

Not everything he does is wrong

Most things certainly, but on this occasion maybe he should stick to his guns?

George Osborne may soften the blow to charities of his plan to cap tax relief on donations amid a growing backlash from philanthropists, Cabinet ministers and senior Tory MPs.
The Chancellor is under mounting pressure over his decision in last month's Budget announcement to bring in an annual cap of tax-free giving of £50,000, or 25 per cent of an individual's income, from April next year.
It cannot be right that financial support for charities, either in terms of the choice of charity or the amounts provided, should be determined by a few rich philanthropists, while the poor sodding taxpayer has to make up the difference in lost income to the Inland Revenue.  And if those philanthropists are so dependent on favourable tax treatment to keep on giving, then perhaps they are not as motivated by altruism as everyone appears to think they are.

10 April 2012

Music of the week

So Slasher Osborne is "shocked".  I do wish that he would stop retreading Kylie's hits.  Not only is she more decorative but she'd probably make a better chancellor.

Merchant of death

Our Prime Minister, the arms salesman:
David Cameron has mounted a strong defence of his decision to travel to Japan with some of Britain's leading weapons manufacturers as Downing Street seeks to exploit a multibillion-pound market after a liberalising of Tokyo's procurement rules.
As he flew to Japan overnight, the prime minister said he was "up front" about the "perfectly responsible and respectable" decision to travel with executives from six defence contractors, including BAE Systems and AgustaWestland.
Don't you feel proud?

08 April 2012

How not to cook an omelette

From The Telegraph (here):

3 large eggs leaves from 1 sprig tarragon, chopped ½ tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped ½ tbsp chives, finely chopped 15g (½oz) unsalted butter 60g (2oz) goat's cheese without rind, crumbled into small pieces
Preheat the grill – it often takes domestic grills quite a while to get to a good temperature.Separate the eggs. Put the yolks into a bowl and beat with some salt and pepper. Mix in the herbs.Put the whites into a scrupulously clean bowl and beat until they form soft peaks. Using a large metal spoon, fold the whites into the yolk mixture.Put the butter into a non-stick pan measuring 18-20cm (7-8in) across and melt until foaming. Add the egg mixture to the pan and shake to level it out. Cook over a medium heat for one to one and a half minutes – you need to be able to see that the omelette has set underneath – then slide a palette knife under the omelette to loosen it. Scatter the goat's cheese over the top and put the pan under the hot grill. It should be about 10cm (4in) from the heat. Let it cook there for a minute or so until the cheese and the top are just going golden, then take it out and, using the palette knife, lift one edge of the omelette to fold over the other half and slide on to a warm plate. Serve immediately.

Unbelievable.  It's an omelette, for God's sake.  Whisk the eggs together, fry and, when it's nearly set, add the cheese.

Posturing

This has all the hallmarks of a public relations gimmick, something for which this government is becoming known.  The Telegraph reports:
Mr Cameron is to summon leading figures in the music video and social media world to Downing Street for a summit next month and threaten tough new laws if more is not done to protect children.
Campaigners say there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of sexual content and explicit language in music videos which can be accessed by very young children on computers and mobile phones.
I would not deny that there is a real problem which should have been addressed long ago, but a Downing Street summit is no substitute for serious analysis with the industry and the legal authorities with a view to effective action.

06 April 2012

Lotus-eating

I recognise that I've been somewhat remiss this week with regard to posting.

But I'm a busy chap.  There was football on the internet from Monday to Wednesday night, than rugby and the golf last night, as well as the cricket every morning.  And I am falling behind on Montalbano, with two episodes outstanding.  And so far I've only been able to watch the first four hours the first series of  Game of Thrones.

Alas, I have also been neglecting my kindle.

Perhaps if I took a briefer siesta?  In any event, I will try to post more in future.

Quote of the day

From The Independent (here):
Save The Children already reports parents having to choose between heating their homes and feeding their kids. Some are even skipping meals to make sure that their sons and daughters are fed. It was reported this week that schools are shrinking meal portions, leaving children's stomachs emptier still. We live in the seventh richest country on earth; the average fortunes of the wealthiest 1,000 shot up by a fifth last year – and we can supposedly no longer afford to feed our children properly.
With the IFS projecting that the number of children living in poverty will reach 3.1 million by 2013, the lives of some will get lonelier. More will feel that their families cannot afford to let them invite their friends round for dinner. Other shared social activities – like going to the cinema, or going on a school trip – will become financially out of reach. Youth services – often the first to face the chop when local authorities slash budgets – face drastic cuts, leaving the street corner the only place left for many to hang out.
From birth to early adulthood, the squeeze will intensify. A cut of more than a fifth in grants to Sure Start has resulted in the closure of 124 centres, meaning more and more under-fives will miss out. And, at the other end, youth unemployment is hurtling towards 25 per cent. The Government talks of not saddling the nation's children with debt – and yet that is precisely what they are inflicting on a generation with the trebling of tuition fees. The future for many of our young will be colder, hungrier, lonelier, duller, less secure, more indebted and, overall, poorer.
Disgrace.