30 January 2010

Quote of the day

Roger Federer (here):
“He’s in his second grand-slam final now and I think the first one’s always a bit tougher than the second one,” he said. “Now that he didn’t win the first one, I think it doesn’t help for the second one around. Plus he’s playing, you know, me, who’s won many grand-slams and has been able to win here three times, so I know what it takes and how to do it, which is definitely an advantage.
“I don’t feel the pressure’s really on me having to do it again because I did it before. I think he really needs it more than I do, so the pressure’s bigger on him. We’ll see how he’s going to handle it. It’s not going to be easy for him, that’s for sure."

There was a time when Mr Federer did not need to indulge in these kinds of mind-games. Intimations of his own mortality, perhaps? We''ll see tomorrow morning ...

Lessons of the family dinner table

As any parent will tell you, great care is needed when issuing an ultimatum. If failure to finish your brussels sprouts is threatened to bring on an absence of dessert, then there is no point in the parent subsequently giving in and the child being allowed to indulge in jelly and custard. It may indeed bring about a modicum of family peace at the dinner table, but in the longer term it will be ruinous. For what will make the child eat his or her sprouts the next time they are served? Far better to have avoided issuing the ultimatum in the first place.

So it is in Northern Ireland. Despite having failed to finish their sprouts, the DUP and Sinn Fein are now tucking in to the jelly and custard. Meanwhile the anxious parents/prime ministers look like indecisive idiots. And how do they twist Northern Irish arms the next time?

29 January 2010

Quote of the day

It quite put me off my breakfast. Rab McNeil (here):
Annabel Goldie – psephological siren, democratic diva, suburban goddess – also raised her game this week, leaping lithely forward onto the pitch in her gymslip, and clubbing Eck on the heid with her hockey stick to get an answer about PE in schools. She accused the Nats of reneging on a promise to give every pupil two hours a week of such pointless torture.

A diamond in the dross (in any sense you care to construe it).

The road to hell

If I had shares in ITV, I would sell them - pdq.

They would have done better to offer the network as a plaything to Simon Cowell; they would end up in the same place, but might have had some fun along the way.

Let's all get into the gutter

It is generally accepted that the corruption of public life is one of the more serious problems of Afghanistan. In these circumstances, does it make sense for the Western allies to devote $140 million to bribing the Taliban to desist from insurgency?

Or are financial inducements only reprehensible when put into effect without the explicit approval of the Milibands and Clintons of this world?

26 January 2010

Pedantry again

This is from the BBC website (although the same mistake is made by just about all the newspapers):
The UK economy has come out of recession, after figures showed it had grown by a weaker-than-expected 0.1% in the last three months of 2009.

To the extent that the figures show anything, it is that GDP in the fourth quarter of 2009 was 0.1% higher than in quarter 3 of that year. To suggest that GDP grew by that percentage between 1 October 2009 and 31 December 2009 is nonsensical. So why do it?

A man is known by the company he keeps

Some men will do anything, however squalid or demeaning, to grub for money. Shame does not enter the equation. As for nobility of spirit, forget it. Even George W maintains a greater dignity.

I might hope that he gets slaughtered at Chilcot later this week but I fear it will not happen. But he will not be forgiven.

23 January 2010


"Substantial" becomes "severe"; what was a "strong possibility" now becomes "highly likely". And it happens almost a month after the failure of the underpants bomber. But "Alan Johnson, the home secretary, said there was no intelligence to suggest an attack was imminent".

Is anyone any the wiser?

21 January 2010


Newly elected Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts:

Footballer Scott Brown of Celtic FC:
Or have I got them mixed up?

20 January 2010

The man who was never there

It is a fact of bureaucratic life: in every organisation, somewhere near the top, is a blithering incompetent. Somehow, he (for it is invariably a he) never gets found out; he blithely sails on, spreading confusion and despondency in his wake. When the unmentionable hits the fan, he is never there and never to blame. He cannot manage his way out of a paper bag but the big bosses seem oblivious. His underlings tear their hair out, the work does not get done properly; but the incompetent floats through life, unaware, unthinking and unpenalised.

Treneman in The Times writes:
Geoff Hoon is the man who was never there. He is like Macavity but not as much fun, for there is little of mystery, or indeed cattiness, about the man who was Defence Secretary for six years. Six years! Can it be? Can you be that important and yet be so very unimportant for six long years?
When I say that he wasn’t there, I mean it. He was asked if he was at a crucial meeting at Chequers just before Tony Blair met President Bush in Crawford, Texas, in April 2002. “Actually I wasn’t,” he noted, “and I haven’t been able to establish
precisely why.”

As our American cousins say, go figure.

It depends on what side you're on

You mortgage borrowers may not welcome an increase in interest rates. but we savers would not necessarily be displeased.

And there are many more of us than of you (some say seven times more). Nor, just because we have savings, are we well-off; some of us rely heavily on the interest earned in order to pay the bills.

If only there were a way to keep everybody happy ...

It's all just sweeties

Is my curlywurly in danger? Maybe, maybe not.

Do the investment bankers and the hedge funds care about my curlywurly? Certainly not.

And Gordon Brown?

Gordon Brown said yesterday: "We are determined that the levels of investment that take place in Cadbury in the United Kingdom are maintained and we are determined that, at a time when people are worried about their jobs, that jobs in Cadbury can be secure."
But not determined enough to actually do anything about it.

18 January 2010


You may watch the first part of The Legacy of Lawrence of Arabia here. The programme is interesting in itself, particularly with regard to the parallels it draws between Lawrence's experiences in the Great War and the modern-day wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The programme is presented by Rory Stewart, polymath, walker across the Middle East, Harvard professor, former soldier and former diplomat, a man who is about to become the Tory MP for Penrith and the Border. It's almost enough to make me vote Conservative.

Crying wolf

No doubt they mean well. But the medical profession appears to take itself excessively seriously, becoming increasingly aggressive in its approach to those things which it considers are harmful.

This morning the baddies are:
(i) trans fats (Don't ask; you don't want to know.)
(ii) chardonnay (I'm a pinot grigio man myself, but I'm certainly not switching to the recommended riesling; although, if pushed, a nice Alsatian sylvaner would be OK.)
(iii) butter (Are you really attracted by the thought of putting a low fat spread on your toast?)

Do the quacks really know better? And what's next on the prohibition list?

In any case, if you take their advice, you won't live a lot longer - it will just feel like it.

16 January 2010

Quote of the day

From Gordon Brown, aka the man with the tin ear, writing in The Guardian (here):
"Our values demand a genuine meritocracy for all British people ..."

Of course, the original definition of a meritocracy (see Michael Young) was of a political system whereby certain groups in society maintained strict control over access to the means (notably education) by which merit might be secured, thus enabling the creation of a self-perpetuating elite and condemning the masses to be forever second-class citizens. But I don't suppose that this is what Mr Brown means by the term; at least, I don't think so ...

I do sometimes wish that Labour politicians were more conscious of political history, particularly Labour political history. If they were, they might be more careful in their use of language.

15 January 2010

Music of the week

OK, so I'm an old romantic ,,,

Yes he can!

Pleasing that at least one politician is sticking it to them. The Independent reports:
Barack Obama channelled popular anger against Wall Street bonuses yesterday as he announced a $117bn (£72bn) tax on the finance industry.
The levy will hit about 50 institutions and be spread out over at least the next 10 years, with bigger and riskier institutions forced to pay the most, something that the President said would help to change behaviour and prevent a repeat of the credit crisis.
"My commitment is to recover every single dime the American people are owed," Mr Obama declared. "And my determination to achieve this goal is only heightened when I see reports of massive profits and obscene bonuses at the very firms who owe their continued existence to the American people."

Compare and contrast Chancellor Darling's half-hearted attempts to recover a measly £500 million.


It almost sounds like an invasion. The Indepemdemt reports:
As the vast scale of the rescue effort needed became clearer, Washington announced it was sending 2,200 marines and up to 3,500 troops to the island, as well as a first $100m of aid.
The aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson was dispatched along with several other US Navy and coastguard vessels to join the rescue teams already searching for survivors of Haiti's worst earthquake in two centuries.

On the other hand, given its political history in recent years, would Haiti necessarily be worse off as a US "protectorate"?

12 January 2010

How the banks drive potential investors away

I recently applied to open an online savings account with the Alliance & Leicester. Alas, even before knowing how much I was prepared to invest, they asked for certified (by a solicitor, accountant, etc) copies of documents proving my identity (passport, driving licence, etc) and my address (driving licence, utility bill, etc). Original documents are not good enough; they need certified copies.

Who is doing whom a favour here? And who needs the hassle? And, no, I will not be proceeding with my application.

11 January 2010


Does anyone know why the African Nations Championship appears to be broadcast solely on Eurosport? It's not as if the BBC and ITV, with their multiplicity of channels, had anything better to show; and, if Eurosport is showing it, it cannot have been expensive. Sky Sports is equally blank.

A few more games like that of yesterday evening which ended up at 4 goals apiece between Angola and Mali and the regular broadcasters may regret it.

It's getting better

08 January 2010

Media froth

Shock, horror! Top Tory policy wonk revealed as human being.

(At least insofar as conservatives can be human beings ...)

Meanwhile Mr Cameron gets the airbrush treatment. It's only natural, after all?

07 January 2010

06 January 2010

A grumpy old curmudgeon writes ...

I like my porridge as much as the next man (even if it is the so-easy microwaveable variety) but there is something unseemly in permitting Scottish rugby players to appear on the packets.

Even if it means free supplies for the players and lots of dosh for the SRU.

Source: here

Quote of the day

Simon Carr in The Independent (here):
Alan Johnson turned up with a statement on aviation security following the Johnny Bomb Pants thing at Detroit. They have snapped into action again, as events demand. They're putting in a whole lot more airport scanners, which all share one interesting deficiency. They are incapable of detecting the sort of explosives that are hidden in Y-fronts.

Still, it will considerably inconvenience passengers, thus discouraging air travel and therefore contributing to saving the planet from all these emissions. (Although the current cold snap appears to be having the same effect without artificial assistance.)

02 January 2010

Time and tide, old bean

The Times wonders how we should name the new decade.

Of course, some of us consider that 2010 properly belongs to the decade that began in 2001, while the new decade will not begin unti next year (2011). But widespread innumeracy appears to have gripped the nation.

I blame that Tony Blair and his ridiculous Dome celebration the last time round.