29 December 2015

Water, water, everywhere ...

h/t - Helen/Jill

Quote of the day

From The Independent (here):
... let us roll back a few months to build-up to the 2015 general election. The political consensus was the exact opposite of the one that forms now in response to floods. The key test for the parties was how little they would spend if elected. Imagine if Ed Miliband had pledged to invest significantly more in flood defences as he sought to prove he was a responsible leader in the early months of this year. All hell would have broken loose, in a political rather than climate sense.
George Osborne would have popped up to declare that once again a Labour government planned to spend recklessly. Most newspapers would have screamed that Miliband was an irresponsible spender. Newsnight would have staged a debate between two pundits agreeing that the pledge on flood defences showed Labour had still not learned from past spending sins and would never win an election until it did. 

27 December 2015

Misuse of the honours system

From The Mail Online:

Arise, Dame Babs! Eastenders and Carry On star Barbara Windsor heads New Year honours list 

From The Sunday Times:

LYNTON CROSBY, David Cameron’s election guru, will receive a knighthood this week in an award that will provoke a fresh row over cronyism in the honours system.

Just as well that, once again, I turned it down ...

Music of the week

They didn't look like this in the 1960s - but, then again, neither do I :

23 December 2015

'Cos it's that time of year ...

A (not very Christmassy) cartoon for the young at heart:

Remember Afghanistan?

It has rather been blown off the headlines by Syria and Libya.  But all the familiar villains are in play: Taliban, Al-Quaeda, ISIS, a corrupt and incompetent local administration.  And US and British special forces are still involved.  The Guardian comments:
Obama’s decision in October to halt the withdrawal of the remaining 9,500 US troops showed he no longer believed his own rhetoric about the ability of the Afghan army and police to maintain security. Dismayingly, the elected government of the president, Ashraf Ghani, like that of Hamid Karzai before it, has proved incompetent, divided, and mired in corruption.
Now the US is stuck. It cannot leave entirely and it cannot escalate. Behind the bland White House press statements, it seems plain Obama has not the foggiest idea what to do next. 


21 December 2015

Santa comes to Madrid

The dismal science

Whither the economy?  The Guardian cannot make up its mind:
The optimistic way of looking at 2015 is to see it as the pivot between the long hangover that followed the Great Recession and a new era of strong growth marked by stricter control of financial markets, a new wave of inventions, and the move towards a cleaner, greener economy following the deal on climate change reached in Paris earlier this month.
The pessimistic way of looking at 2015 is to see it as a brief interlude between one crisis and the next, marked by the steady descent into deflation, populism and protectionism. Seen from this perspective, the underlying problems of the global economy – inequality, debt and financial market excess – have not gone away.
Is there a middle way?  Was 2015 simply another stage in the endless process of muddling through?


20 December 2015

By their own words shall you know them

Idiots?  The Sunday Times reports:
LIAM FOX declares today that Britain should leave the European Union, delivering a significant blow to David Cameron’s hopes of winning Tory backing for his renegotiation with Brussels.
Fox warned Cameron he would spark civil war and damage his premiership if the leadership treated Eurosceptics as “idiots” during the referendum campaign.
He writes: “Treating the views of others with respect will be key to our ability to govern effectively for the rest of the decade.
“Those who wish to remain in the EU are not ‘unpatriotic’ and those who wish to leave are not ‘idiots’.”
On the other hand, nor are they entirely sensible ...


Photo of the week - Cameron at the EU summit

He really should not walk around with his hands in his pockets.  As my mother told me when I was a lad, it is the sign of a scruff.  And if he tripped and fell over, he could do himself some serious damage ...


18 December 2015

Not really reassuring?

Let us not be petty about it.  I'm sure (yeah, honestly, I think) that Mr Ashley will conduct a thorough investigation, maybe?
Sports Direct is to launch a review of all agency staff terms and conditions, which it said would be overseen personally by its founder Mike Ashley.
The move follows a Guardian investigation, which revealed how temporary warehouse workers at Britain’s biggest sportswear chain are subjected to an extraordinary regime of searches and surveillance. Undercover reporters also came up with evidence that thousands of workers were receiving effective hourly rates of pay below the minimum wage.
The company said on Friday: “Sports Direct always seeks to improve and do things better, listens to criticism and acts where appropriate. With that in mind, as noted above, the board has agreed that Mike Ashley shall personally oversee a review of all agency worker terms and conditions to ensure the company does not just meet its legal obligations, but also provides a good environment for the entire workforce. We expect him to start that work in the New Year.”
I mean, he wouldn't put profit above the well-being of his workers, would he?


His jaiket has fallen off the shoogly peg

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you.  The Special One is no longer special ...


17 December 2015

Is she bovvered?

I don't suppose that the First Minister will be unduly upset.  The Times reports:
Donald Trump has rounded angrily on Nicola Sturgeon and “parochial” Scottish politics after losing the latest round in his bitter battle to prevent a wind farm being built beside his Aberdeenshire golf course.
Ms Sturgeon was denounced as “plain stupid” yesterday by the most senior aide to the Republican hopeful for the US presidency. She was accused of making a “rookie mistake” by stripping the tycoon of his membership of an official Scottish international business club.
Later, in a succession of interventions that deepened divisions between the property tycoon and ministers, the Scottish government was attacked as “foolish and small-minded” and Alex Salmond as “a has-been”.
As Mr Salmond will now attest, you cannot reason with a heidbanger like Trump ...

15 December 2015

Talk is cheap

From Nick Boles, business minister, (here) on the iniquitous Sports Direct:
In what appeared to be a pointed warning to Sports Direct and Ashley, Boles added: “I don’t care how famous an employer is. I don’t care how well connected they are. I don’t care, frankly, how much money they have made. They need to obey the law. If they don’t obey the law, we will find them and disqualify directors if necessary.”
Sounds good but what we need to see is HM Revenue and Customs taking action.


13 December 2015

Photo of the day

They could work for the BBC - it insists that its interviewers and commentators wave their hands about.


10 December 2015

Splitting legal hairs

Is the law an ass?  The BBC reports:
A legal action challenging the election of Lib Dem Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael has failed.
Four constituents raised the action under the Representation of the People Act 1983, claiming he misled voters over a leaked memo before the election.
Judges said Mr Carmichael had told a "blatant lie" in a TV interview about when he had become aware of the memo.
But they ruled it had not been proven beyond reasonable doubt that he had committed an "illegal practice".
In the ruling, Lady Paton said Mr Carmichael had told a "blatant lie" in the Channel 4 interview - but that section 106 of the Representation of the People Act did not apply to lies in general.
"It applies only to lies in relation to the personal character or conduct of a candidate made before or during an election for the purpose of affecting that candidate's return," she said.
Make sense of that, if you will ...


Daft as a brush

Will he?  Won't he?  He says not:
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has said he will never leave the 2016 race despite widespread criticism of his remarks about Muslims.
Mr Trump told the Washington Post he would not step aside, no matter what.
The White House had said Mr Trump was "disqualified" from running after he said the US should ban Muslims from entering the country.
His comments, in the wake of a deadly terror attack in California, drew global condemnation.
Expect him to withdraw as a candidate before Christmas.


08 December 2015

A war of attrition

All of the oil producers are bleeding:
Oil prices have slumped by 5% after the latest attempt by Saudi Arabia to kill off the threat from the US shale industry sent crude to its lowest level since the depths of the global recession almost seven years ago.
Signs of disarray in the Opec oil cartel prompted fears of a global glut of oil, wiping $2 off the price of a barrel of crude on Monday and leading to speculation that energy costs could continue tumbling over the coming weeks.
Saudi Arabia needs oil prices of $100 a barrel to balance its budget, but as the world’s biggest exporter of crude it is gambling that the low price will knock out the threat posed by so-called unconventional supplies, such as shale.
In a sign that US production could dip, Baker Hughes’ November data showed US rig count numbers down month-by-month by 31 to 760 rigs.
It's a race to the bottom.  Meanwhile, don't buy shares in oil companies but fill up your petrol tank ...


Quote of the day

From The Guardian (here):
Always check the small print. When the Environment Agency described the 2005 floods as “the worst in a lifetime”, the government would have done well to make sure just whose lifetime it was referring to: a human or a ferret. These things, like ferrets when they are alive, come back to bite you.
It was sod’s law that on the very day the prime minister had summoned the media to a school in Burton upon Trent to boast about how well his government was delivering on its responsibilities, he was forced into a reverse-ferret over flood defences. “We set out in the autumn statement a historic six-year funding deal with record sums going into flood defences,” he said gamely, as if the mere fact that he had planned to spend all this money should have been enough to stop the flood waters rising.
Yet again, Cameron fails to understand the difference between an announcement and an achievement.


Between a rock and a hard place

Despite years and years of commissions and reviews, the Prime Minister continues to dither over what to do about airport capacity in London and the South-East.  The BBC reports:
It looks like the major decision on whether to build a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick is going to be delayed for at least six months.
Senior sources very close to the process have told the BBC that there needs to be more "confidence building" about the environmental impact of a new runway at Heathrow, if the government backs it.
And that means yet another review.
And that expansion at Gatwick will not be ruled out.
One source told me that keeping both options on the table means that the airport operators can have their feet "held to the fire" over dealing with environmental concerns.
More likely that Cameron simply cannot make up his mind.  On the on hand, he would be seriously aggravating all those Tory voters, MPs and mayoral hopefuls living in the shadow of Heathrow (and going back on his promise that there would be no new Heathrow runway "no ifs or buts"), if he were to approve development at Heathrow.  On the other hand, to deny Heathrow a new runway would seriously offend the powerful business lobby and his Tory donor pals.

The path of least resistance?  Kick it into the long grass for another six months or so, at least until the London mayoral election is over.

06 December 2015

Music of the week

If you have a heart (and other organs) to donate (and if you live in Scotland), you may register here.


No end in sight

On and on and on.  No exit strategy.  They avoided any mention of this before the parliamentary debate.  The Sunday Times reports:
MICHAEL FALLON, the defence secretary, admitted this weekend that there was a risk of civilian casualties from the RAF’s bombing campaign in Syria, saying: “War is a messy business.”
As he announced an increase in missions with the RAF moving to round-the-clock bombing, Fallon also warned the public to be prepared for “setbacks” in a campaign that could last for years. This included the nightmare scenario of an ­aircraft being brought down over Isis-controlled territory.
His admission may alarm critics of the war. The government had previously hailed the accuracy of its precision Brimstone missiles and bombs and claimed there had not been a single reported civilian casualty from 15 months of airstrikes in Iraq.

03 December 2015

Weapons porn

The BBC indulges itself:
We watched the orange/blue glow from the engine afterburners of a pair of Tornados disappear into the night sky. Each aircraft was carrying three 500lb Paveway bombs.
Less than an hour later, they were followed by a second pair loaded with the same weapons.
The use of high precision Paveway bombs, rather than the Brimstone missile, suggests they were hitting static rather than moving targets.
We waited for the first pair of Tornados to return to base. They landed after just over three hours in the air. As they taxied on the runway, it was clear to see their bombs were missing.
I think that we would have heard - probably with lurid pictures- if they done anything either useful or destructive.


Pass the sickbag, Alice

01 December 2015

Those ten goals

Savour every one:


Quote of the day

The Guardian summarises the state of play after Monday's blood-letting in the Labour Party:
... for the time being, the civil war in the party cools down again – until the next eruption of hostilities. Thus is confirmed a strange rule of Labour chaos, familiar from periods of dysfunction under Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband: just when it looks as if things cannot possible carry on like this, they do.

30 November 2015

Getting a bit iffy?

Doubts are creeping in?  The Times reports:
The defence secretary has conceded that a 70,000-strong force in Syria that must keep the peace after the bombing campaign against Isis is imperfect.
Michael Fallon admitted that the force was “not a new model army, all perfectly drilled and organised”, amid growing questions about its scale and calibre from MPs on all sides of the Commons.
The 70,000 Syrian ground troops revealed by Mr Cameron last Thursday have become crucial for some MPs, amid efforts to shore up support before a vote on bombing Isis in Syria which could come on Wednesday.
There was scepticism from some Tory MPs over the figure. Andrew Percy, the Tory MP for Brigg & Goole, said it was the weakest part of the government’s case for war.
There were also military doubts. General Sir Richard Shirreff, the former Nato deputy supreme allied commander Europe, said the force would not be strong enough and would need western forces alongside it to recapture the terrorist group’s strongholds such as Raqqa.
“It’s not something you are going to achieve with 70,000 so-called Syrian moderates,” he told The Telegraph.

Scotland 10 - Macedonia 0

The girls done good.

In four Euro-qualifiers, they have scored an amazing 24 goals, conceding only one.

Blackmail, bribery or a bit of both?

Or just a squalid little arrangement of convenience?  The BBC reports:
Turkey and European leaders have struck a deal to try to control the flow of migrants to Europe.
Turkey will receive €3bn (£2.1bn) and political concessions in return for clamping down on its borders and keeping refugees in the country.
Talks on Turkey's accession to the European Union will also be revived.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said it was a "historic day" in Turkey's relations with the EU.
Under the deal, Turkish citizens may be able to travel without visas in Europe's Schengen zone, which allows free movement between many European countries, by October 2016.
Does anyone care what the migrants think?


29 November 2015

We have something in common

That must be why I am vaguely sympathetic.  The Sunday Times reports:
Jeremy Corbyn has officially declared himself proud to be dull. Although he seems to have quite a lot on at the moment, he is considering an offer of honorary membership from the Dull Men’s Club, where chaps can enjoy collecting traffic cones, admiring vintage vacuum cleaners, or — in Corbyn’s case — photographing drain covers.
In a letter to the club, he thanks them for a gift of the club’s latest book and adds: “I will enjoy reading it as soon as I get a moment. I don’t suppose there are too many of us, or am I wrong? Never was dull so exciting.”
Dull Men of the world unite!  We have nothing to lose but our cardigans ...


27 November 2015

Worth a look


Quote of the day

Why does Cameron want to go to war?
The French wanted us to help them out again just as we had done in the second world war, the Americans were already on board, so every day we didn’t do something was a day wasted. It needn’t be anything too scary; just a little light, postprandial recreational bombing. There would be no civilian casualties because our weapons – Steven Spielberg’s Raptorpod clunked its way into the chamber to take a bow – were so advanced they were primed to only take out dangerous jihadi.
There would be no need for British ground forces to get involved because he, Dave the Mighty Slayer, had discovered a standing army of 70,000 Free Syrian moderates who were just itching to form a democratic government. Best of all, Britain had the UN and God on its side. There again, Britain always seems to have God on its side when it goes to war.


26 November 2015

Nothing to do?

If you watch nothing else on telly this week, do tune in to Kind Hearts and Coronets, available on the BBC i-player here.

This is the trailer:

Smoke and mirrors

Hmm, very convenient, suspiciously so.  Peston explains:
So how has George Osborne pulled off the magical trick of maintaining spending on the police, imposing smaller than anticipated departmental spending cuts in general, and performing an expensive u-turn on tax-credit reductions, while remaining seemingly on course to turn this year's £74bn deficit into a £10bn surplus in 2020.
Well, it is because the government's forecaster, the Office for Budget Responsibility, has increased its prognosis of how much the Treasury will raise from existing taxes (not new ones) and reduced what it thinks the chancellor will shell out in interest on its massive debts.
In total the OBR thinks the national debt, the aggregate of the annual deficits, will be £23bn lower over the four years to 2020, and just because it is more optimistic about tax revenues and assorted costs.
Or to put it another way, George Osborne is today £23bn better off than he thought in July, and without doing anything at all.
Now you don't see it; now you do ...

The Guardian comments:
Only a churl would point out that this is a plan built on thin air. That this is Enron economics, in which being told that you’ll get more money is the cue to start spending it right away. It’s not even as if the chancellor had found £27bn down the back of the sofa. He had found it down the back of a hypothetical, future sofa.

25 November 2015

Quote of the day

The Governor of the Bank of England testifies to the Treasury Select Committee (here):
Carney could well be the first art installation to get the top job at the Bank of England. Ever since he took over more than two years ago he has managed to get almost every prediction wrong while doing as little as possible other than to say that, after careful reflection, he has concluded interest rates should stay exactly the same for another few months. Mogadon “Mañana” Mark is a miracle of economic and comic genius by always being right at the same time as always being wrong. A contradiction of creative nihilism.
Nothing fazes Mogadon “Mañana” Mark, for whom life is one long, unhurried green ski run just outside Calgary; not even the Conservative Steve Baker, enquiring why inflation was so much lower than he had anticipated.
“Therearepotentiallycontradictingtimehorizons,” Carney said, for a moment coming over all Captain Kirk. What you had to understand, man, was that the economy was, like, really heavy and operated on its own space-time continuum.

Stop bashing the NHS

The BBC suggests that medical consultants have a Monday to Friday attitude:
As the system is currently set up, consultant cover drops significantly at weekends. A recent Freedom of Information request by the Daily Telegraph found in general medicine it fell five-fold.
The result of this is that the consultants in work are stretched more thinly and junior doctors have to do more.
That means these vital tests and procedures sometimes cannot take place until Monday comes. The suspicion among experts is that this is one of the reasons why, as the study published by the British Medical Journal on Sunday suggests, patient care may be being hampered.
I can only go by my own experience with the NHS.  Earlier this year, I underwent an NHS hospital operation on a Friday; the consultant came to see me at 7am on the Saturday morning to explain how it went and then again at 9am on the Sunday morning to check on progress.  My second operation in September actually took place on a Sunday.

So no complaints from me about consultants.  Nor about the terrific nursing care I received on those weekends.


24 November 2015

Now £31,000,000,000 plus £10,000,000,000 contingencies

Military boys and their toys

The main features of the newly announced defence spending plans are as follows:

  • Two 5,000-strong "strike brigades" sourced from existing Army numbers and equipped to deploy across the globe
  • New F-35 jets and maritime patrol aircraft
  • A reduction in the number of new Type 26 anti-submarine warfare frigates being built, from 13 to eight
  • More than 20 new Protector drones, more than doubling the number of Reaper aircraft they replace

  • It is said that the new strike brigades will be created by 2025.  Why this process should take 10 years is not explained.  Imagine if, in early 1939, the Ministry of Defence had advised the government that they would not be in a position to resist Nazi Germany until 1949.

    Similarly, the F-35 jets for the new carriers will not be available until 2023, which means that the carriers will be sitting idle for years after they are commissioned in 2019 or 2020.

    Furthermore, given the perennial and chronic inability of MoD to meet deadlines, it may be optimistic to assume that these arrangements will actually be in place by 2025.

    And who knows what threats we will be facing in 2025?  None of the above is likely to provide direct prevention against terrorist attacks of the kind we have seen recently in Paris, in the Sinai or in Mali.


    23 November 2015

    Quote of the day

    The drums of war are beating their unholy tattoo.  But The Guardian holds back on jingoism:
    There are enough countries already launching airstrikes – to the point where they risk acting at cross-purposes and endangering each other. What special extra element can the RAF add, other than trying to demonstrate Britain’s military prowess (to the UK itself, but primarily perhaps to the Americans)?  
    Even if the forces of Isis are attacked even more intensively from the air, the military consensus appears to be that they cannot be defeated without ground troops. Will western forces, in the end, be able to resist the calls for such an escalation? And what would the longer-term effect be anyway? The appeal of Isis lies not only in its military power, but in religion and ideology. That appeal will not be countered by western arms; it is more likely to be bolstered.
    After more than two years, the central purpose of military intervention in Syria has still not been clarified. Everyone now insists they are fighting Isis, but the US, Jordan and others intervened at the start in support of those opposing President Assad. Turkey eventually joined in, and chose primarily to attack Kurdish PKK forces. Russia’s airstrikes have been intended to boost Assad as much as to push back Isis. Where will any UK airstrikes fit in? Whose war will we actually be fighting?

    22 November 2015

    The Neville Chamberlain de nos jours

    Hesitant?  Prevaricating? Dithering?  Leading from behind?  It is anything but firm leadership:
    After the Iraq conflict and British intervention in Afghanistan, it was never going to be easy. But slowly and surely, David Cameron appears to be building sufficient parliamentary support for what could be the biggest decision of his premiership: to take part in airstrikes against Islamic State targets inside Syria.
    There is, as yet, no date for a parliamentary vote, and Cameron insists he will only set one if and when he is sure he will win it. The PM remains cautious as he tiptoes along the road to war. He was badly burned in 2013 when he failed to gain parliamentary approval for airstrikes against Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, and wants no repeat of that.
    If Cameron wants to take the military option against ISIS in Syria, let him come out and say so, together with an honest statement of the added value which UK participation would deliver and of the objectives of any such action.

    21 November 2015

    Music of the week


    Winter is coming ...

    The Times reports:
    Britain is braced for up to four inches of snow this weekend as the country prepares for the coldest November temperatures in five years.
    An Arctic blast is forecast to drive temperatures lower than Siberia, with 70mph gales coming in from the North Pole. Some 2,000 gritters will be on call as snow, ice and high winds threaten to cause travel chaos, with the RAC expecting 7,000 breakdowns a day this weekend.
    Rail operators have prepared 34 “ghost” trains ready to clear the tracks, while snowploughs are on standby at airports in the north.
    Treacherous driving conditions and possible travel disruptions ​were also expected — and the snow could fall as far south as London, although it is not expected to settle.
    Yesterday snow had already begun to fall in Aberdeen, with the Met Office predicting “more than a dusting of snow” in the north of Scotland.
    Here in sunny Spain, today's temperature is expected to reach a balmy 21 degrees (he wrote smugly).


    A grumpy old man writes ...

    Better than a kick in the teeth, I suppose:
    The basic state pension is set for its biggest rise in real terms since 2001, the Treasury has said.
    Chancellor George Osborne will confirm the increase to £119.30 a week from April 2016 in next week's Spending Review.
    The 2.9% rise will be worth an extra £174.20 a year to someone on a full basic state pension.
    A triple-lock pledge on pensions - a government promise for the next five years - means the state pension rises each April to match the highest of inflation, earnings, or 2.5%.

    18 November 2015

    Ad blocking

    Do you use an ad.blocker?  I do.  CityAM reports:
    Increased use of consumers using ad-blocking software is posing a serious threat to brands and publishers and creative agencies.
    Self-playing videos and pop-up ads have given the medium a bad name among consumers, and one in five (20 per cent) of us uses the software – up about five percentage points from earlier in the year. This figure increases to 40 per cent among 18-24 year olds.
    YouGov research shows that people want to shut out adverts for two broad reasons. First, they find online ads “annoying” (80 per cent). Second, because they often make using the device harder and that ad-blocking reduces visual clutter and speeds up browsing.
    The advertising agencies have only themselves to blame - for going over the top with a plague of useless ads.

    I use AdBlock which is free (google it if you're interested) and it has made an enormous difference to my browsing.

    In memoriam

    17 November 2015

    War aims

    It is all very well declaring war on ISIS but what would victory look like?  Paul Mason in The Guardian sets out the difficulty:
    ... the biggest challenge comes if you imagine what victory would look like. Isis-held territory being reoccupied by armies that, this time, can withstand the suicide bombings, truck bombs and kidnappings that a defeated Isis would unleash. Mosques and madrassas across the region stripped of their jihadi preachers. A massive programme of economic development focused on human capital – education, healthcare and institution building – as well as physical reconstruction. Nonsectarian, democratic states in Iraq and Syria and an independent Kurdistan state spanning parts of both countries. To achieve this you would need to unleash surveillance, policing and military action on a scale that could only be acceptable to western electorates if carried out with a restraint and accountability not shown in Afghanistan and Iraq.
    The alternative is to disengage, contain Isis, deal with the refugees and try to ignore the beheading videos.
    Let us hope that the politicians and generals bear this in mind.

    Not very patriotic

    One might have expected the national football associations to be less communautaire.  The Guardian reports:
    German discount chain Lidl has been appointed official supermarket of the England football team.
    From Tuesday, the Neckarsulm-based grocer will be the official supplier of water, fish, fruit and vegetables for Roy Hodgson’s boys under a multimillion-pound three-year deal with the Football Association. It will also be official supplier of fish, fruit and vegetables for Scotland and Wales after signing similar deals with their equivalent footballing bodies.
    Do you suppose that the German FA would even have considered getting into bed with Sainsbury's or Tesco?


    15 November 2015

    Musique de la semaine


    Vive la France!

    I confess that, until now, I had never seen the point of Facebook; I was a "lurker", rarely if ever posting.

    But it was through Facebook that I was quickly able to ascertain that the branch of my family domiciled in Paris were safe and well.

    For which, much thanks.


    11 November 2015

    Utter nonsense

    For how long do we have to tolerate this kind of rubbish?
    Corbyn is expected to be sworn in as a member of the privy council on Wednesday, enabling him to receive confidential security briefings. He has confirmed that he intends to join the body, but has not said whether he will kneel on a footstool or kiss the Queen’s hand as part of the process.
    Labour declined to give more details about how Corbyn will conduct the swearing-in ceremony. His choices may never be made public, because meetings of the organisation take place in private.
    According to the Royal Encyclopaedia, the protocol is that: “The new privy counsellor or minister will extend his or her right hand, palm upwards, and, taking the Queen’s hand lightly, will kiss it with no more than a touch of the lips.”
    Is this a democracy, or what?

    08 November 2015

    Supermarket queuing

    How to choose the till that will get you out the door fastest?  The Sunday Times ponders:
    ... scientists have worked out an answer to perhaps the most crucial question of all: how do you choose the queue that will move fastest? Simple: choose the one with the most men in it.
    This is because women are more patient than men, who are more likely to just give up if the queue is moving too slowly.
    According to researchers at Surrey University: “Men were more likely to dislike waits than women and be less accepting of their inevitability.”
    But then again, it does not pay to overcomplicate it. When Dan Meyer of Desmos, a US-based online maths business, analysed the till receipts at his local supermarket he discovered that each person in line adds at least 41 seconds to your waiting time, regardless of how many items they have, because of the time taken to unload, pack and pay. His advice: just choose the line with the fewest people in it.
    My advice (which is both sexist and ageist)?  Avoid the queue populated by old women - it takes them so damn long to open their handbags, then find their purse, then count out the pennies ...


    06 November 2015

    It's that time of year again

    This year, next year, sometime, never ...

    Will he?  Won't he?  Does what he says mean anything?

    CityAM reports:

    Mark Carney’s Bank of England pushed sterling off a cliff yesterday by suggesting that interest rates could stay anchored to their historic low until 2017.
    Having said earlier in the year that a rate hike could come towards the end of 2015 or start of 2016, the Bank’s governor appears to be diverging from the position of US Federal Reserve boss Janet Yellen.
    The dollar jumped this week when Yellen and two of her Fed colleagues pointed to a “live possibility” of a US rate hike next month.
    Many analysts have expected the Bank to follow the Fed’s lead and tighten monetary policy sooner rather than later, but yesterday’s trio of publications – dubbed Super Thursday – was surprisingly dovish.
    “The path for Bank rate implied by market rates has fallen by around 40 basis points [since August], such that it only reaches 0.75 per cent in 2017 quarter two,” said the Bank’s inflation report.
    It will no doubt be an entirely different story in January.


    05 November 2015


    Don't know how you get 20,000 British holidaymakers back from Sharm el-Sheikh.  Even if flights were possible, you would need a large number of aeroplanes.  I suppose the alternative is buses to Cairo; but you would need an awful lot of buses ...


    Photos of the day

    Canadian dogs come off poorly after attacking porcupine:

    More here.  But it doesn't tell us what happened to the porcupine ...

    04 November 2015

    Do they know what they are doing?

    The Guardian reports:
    Theresa May is to propose a major extension of the surveillance state when she publishes legislation requiring internet companies to store details of every website visited by customers over the previous year.
    I reckon that I must visit over 100 websites each day (including separate visits to the same website).  But, for the sake of argument, let us posit that the average UK user visits only 25 sites.  If there are 20 million users in the UK (and bear in mind that it is not just the visits of you and me that will be recorded but also those of all of the large and small businesses), that means about 500 million visits per day for the UK users as a whole.  Multiply that by 365, and you get the annual grand total of UK website visits of over 180 billion (or 180,000,000,000).

    That amounts to an awful lot of data for the internet providers to store and organise in some kind of accessible format.  Even if the police or the security authorities were able to extract the date for one particular individual, they would still have to look through many thousands of website visits.

    Is this at all practical?


    03 November 2015

    How much food do you throw away?

    Far too much in my case.

    Splendidly entertaining programme from the BBC.  Despite being a bit of a posho, Shuggie manages to engage with real people without patronising them.

    You can catch the programme on the BBC i-player or on you-tube.

    02 November 2015

    "Old love, new love, every love but true love ..."

    So, tell us, Jerry, what attracted you to Rupert?


    Man of the people

    Nothing wrong with enjoying the nice things in life.  After all. it's open to anyone (provided they have a spare £2000 annually and are prepared to wait for a couple of years - unless you are the PM).  The Times reports:
    David Cameron has accepted free entry to one of London’s most exclusive private members’ clubs. which boasts that it is a “haven of exclusivity” and recently underwent a cull of its membership.
    The prime minister’s latest entry in the register of members’ interests reveals that he has accepted honorary membership of Mark’s Club in Charles Street, Mayfair.The club, which is open to women as well as men, describes itself as an elegant and traditional private members’ club, situated in a “beautiful townhouse”, and has recently undergone an extensive refit.
    Membership of Mark’s Club is believed to cost in the region of £2,000 a year, with a joining fee in the region of £1,000. There is a waiting list of two years. Zagat, the restaurant review guide, wrote: “Members sniff, ‘If you ask how much it costs, you can’t afford to eat here’.”

    A modern hero

    Mr Williams is a decent sort of a guy:
    It was an unexpected and almost absurdly touching end to six weeks of crunching top-level sport: the hulking, tattooed figure of New Zealand rugby star Sonny Bill Williams almost tenderly placing his brand-new World Cup winners’ medal around the neck of a dumbstruck teenage fan who had rashly run on the pitch to congratulate him.
    Williams said later he had been upset to see the slight teenager “smoked” by the security guard. “It was pretty sad,” he said. “He’s just a young fella obviously caught up in the moment.
    Asked about the medal gesture, he said: “Why not try and make a young fella’s night? Hopefully, he’ll remember it for a while. I know he will appreciate it, and when he gets older he will be telling kids. That is more special than it just hanging on a wall.”
    Williams said that had he seen one of his own younger relatives similarly bowled over, he “would have given the security guard a hiding”, an alarming thought for the unnamed steward, given the 6ft 3in Williams is a sufficiently skilled boxer to still be listed as one of the top 100 heavyweights in the world.

    A tap on the shoulder

    Sometimes the Aussies get it right:
    Australia will no longer appoint knights and dames under the honours system, PM Malcolm Turnbull has said.
    Mr Turnbull said the titles were "not appropriate" in modern Australia, and that Queen Elizabeth had accepted the cabinet's recommendation to drop them.
    Could the UK not do the same?  After all, hack politicians, ageing actors, political donors and superannuated civil service permanent secretaries are already sufficiently well-rewarded.


    31 October 2015

    Music of the week

    Quote of the day

    Methinks he protesteth too much:
    "It’s sad,” said Mourinho. “Look at Brendan Rodgers’ situation. He was the manager of the season [with Liverpool in 2013-14] and, suddenly, people were really happy and working hard until he was sacked. It’s strange. I don’t belong to that world. I’m too emotional and hate people losing their jobs but I’m not worried about that at all. Not at all. I don’t spend one second of my day thinking about it. I’m worried about the results, about winning against Liverpool, about qualifying for the next round of the Champions League, about recovering our position in the table, about getting Chelsea back to where we normally have to be. I’m not worried about my job, my future, about anything other than that. I’m not worried. I’m not worried. It looks like people want to put a lot of pressure on me in relation to that but they can’t. They can’t do it. They can’t do it.” By the end, the constant references to a lack of concern actually suggested something very different.