29 January 2011

O! say does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Realpolitik on Egypt:

Either the regime will suppress the unrest, possibly by ever more brutal means, as happened in Iran in 2009; or the uprising will spiral out of control and the regime will implode, with unpredictable consequences, as in Tunisia. In this latter scenario, one outcome could be a military takeover in the name of national salvation. It has happened before in Egypt, in 1952, when the Free Officers Movement forced King Farouk to abdicate. If it happened again, the US might be expected to endorse it.

That's because, in the final analysis, the US needs a friendly government in Cairo more than it needs a democratic one. Whether the issue is Israel-Palestine, Hamas and Gaza, Lebanon, Iran, security for Gulf oil supplies, Sudan, or the spread of Islamist fundamentalist ideas, Washington wants Egypt, the Arab world's most populous and influential country, in its corner. That's the political and geostrategic bottom line. In this sense, Egypt's demonstrators are not just fighting the regime. They are fighting Washington, too.

28 January 2011

Stupid politics

I have always been a city boy. Never felt comfortable in the rural environment. As Connolly described it, all that salad. As far as I'm concerned, Monsieur Rousseau can keep his pastoral greenery.

But even I can see that flogging off England's woodlands is unlikely to appeal to the coalition's supporters, either Conservative or LibDem. The idea of opening up the verdant countryside to the rapacious maw of the private sector is - rightly - anathema to the middle class voter. They may not visit the woods very often, but they like to think they might. And what would happen to the little birdies who make their little nests in the trees? Those government ministers - they're trampling over bourgeois dreams.

And what for? A measly £250 million? An ideology which says that the public sector should not be in charge of forests? Do they remember the Sheriff of Nottingham?

Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Cri de coeur

I'm a wee bit worried. Here I am, desperate to move up the celebrity ladder, but nobody seems to want to hack my phone. I mean, you're a nobody unless the News of the Screws is putting the bite on. Z-list celebrities are coming out of the woodwork, claiming that so-called journos want to listen in to their digital inanities. As for me, nothing, nada, zip ... Does nobody want to know about my illicit affairs or my doubtful financial wheeler-dealings?

Editor: Maybe it's because you don't have a mobile phone?

Oh bugger ...

27 January 2011

Quotes of the day


"This multi-million pound prosecution will separate me from my wife and child and that will be heartbreaking. But I will continue to fight a system that protects the real criminals – the rich and powerful."


"Tommy has dedicated his life to helping others. The real reason why he's been imprisoned today is because he has fought injustice and inequality with every beat of his heart. But it won't be long before Tommy is back stronger and continuing the fight."

Source: here

Somehow the bombastic pronouncements seem less and less convincing while more and more pitiable ...

Is the ship sinking?

Yeah, yeah, add your own joke about the rats at No 11 Downing Street. The Independent reports:

A rat-catcher has been called into Downing Street to deal with rodents that so far have been captured on television cameras, but not by any traps at No 10.

... yesterday a man in a khaki jacket and a wide-brimmed hat appeared with what for the rats was a particularly ominous Waitrose carrier bag, containing traps and poison.
Note that carrier bag. It is apparently a middle class ratcatcher. Whatever next?

26 January 2011

The weather shrank the economy

As The Guardian puts it, "George Osborne is in an economic hole – and still digging hard".

Never mind. After all, we're all in this together. (Unless you're a banker, or a toff ...)

25 January 2011

A modern morality tale

Brainless? Yeah. Sexist? Absolutely. Clap Messrs Gray and Keys in irons and throw away the key. Never again should they be allowed to propagate their chauvinist rubbish on Sky Sports, that paragon of the politically incorrect.

And yet, and yet. The offensive remarks were not intended to be broadcast; indeed they were not broadcast. So arguably, the miscreants were indulging themselves in the kind of ill-conceived banter to be heard in pubs and homes throughout the land. Nobody would have been any the wiser had someone not decided to make a song and dance about it by releasing the tapes. Mr Gray and Mr Keys are not politically sophisticated - they are merely football commentators whose opinions no doubt reflect those of the vast majority of their audience.

Perhaps the best answer came from the female assistant referee who - unquestionably and as replays proved - demonstrated that she fully understood the offside law by choosing not to flag for the Torres goal.

21 January 2011

Quote of the day

Not sure what this is all about but, if it's in The Guardian, it must be of some significance:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, silence the dog with a juicy bone, something something, something to do with a muffled drum or something: the dream, if Lost in Showbiz may venture to quote the late John Lennon, is over. Unbelievable as it seemed, here it was, in black and white. KATIE: I HAD TO DUMP ALEX. The front page of the Sun, alas folded in Lost in Showbiz's local newsagent in such a way as to omit the final word of the headline, leading to a brief glimmer of hope that the marriage wasn't over yet, that the latest was merely that the Zeppelin-breasted lovely had suffered a pronounced case of "runny bum". But there was no hope. Oh, Alex "The Reidinator" Reid. Oh, Jordan. The fairytale of our age, forged in the secret domain of Eros that is the office of the Outside Organisation publicity company, is dead.
So there you go.

20 January 2011

All change

Dear Diary

All very difficult. Alan's decision to resign left me in a quandary. The only two candidates to replace him were Ed or Yvette. Nobody else has the balls (ha bloody ha!) to go up against Osborne. And I admit that either Ed or Yvette will really put the boot in, to a much greater extent than Alan would ever have.

So there we go. Ed has at last got the job he wanted. Osborne says he's not worried but I'd be bloody terrified. And why do I feel surrounded? I can bend Ed and Yvette to my will (I think). I will resist with all my resistance any attempt to portray my shadow cabinet as a Balls cabinet. They won't be running the show (I think).

I will continue to be a dynamic leader of the Labour Party. I just need to consult Ed to see if he's happy with what I propose ...

Music of the week

There are some songs where introductions are superfluous. Immerse yourselves:

Vanity, vanity

OK, so he made use of a little hair-dye. Is that any reason for The Telegraph to draw attention to the fact? We all have our minor foibles and, if big Dave wants to pretend to be younger than he is, then who's to complain?

18 January 2011

For typography nuts only

Are you a one spacer or a two spacer? After a full stop, do you insert one space or two spaces?

Me, I'm a two spacer. Because I learned to type on a manual typewriter, where each letter (when typed) occupied the same amount of horizontal space, regardless of the amount of white space to which this gave rise. Accordingly, typists in the 1950s and earlier were trained to use two space mode for ease of reading. (On the other hand, printers - that is the people who printed books rather than the machines - were able to adjust the amount of space occupied by a letter and one space at the end of a sentence was more than sufficient.)

Apparently, some people get quite upset about us damned two spacers. But I'm too old to change now ...

17 January 2011

A modest little flower

Gorgeous George: self esteem was never a problem. The Herald reports:

Asked how he would adapt to a Parliament he has described as a town council, Mr Galloway said: “It would be a good thing if someone with some kind of profile in the world is in the Scottish Parliament.

“I don’t want to sound conceited about it but I think I will bring a touch of class to the Scottish Parliament in the sense of a wider perspective, a wider experience and an ability to argue and paint a picture of what could be, which most people in the Scottish Parliament cannot.”

Fair enough, but the worry is that he would get bored and frustrated, sitting on the back benches at Holyrood, and so disappear in search of pastures new.

Aw diddums

I once had to give evidence to a committee of the Scottish Parliament. I expected to be grilled and I was duly put through the wringer. Goes with the territory, you might say.

But, apparently, academics expect a more gentle treatment. The Scotsman reports:
Two academics grilled about their views on fiscal autonomy by Holyrood's Scotland Bill committee have demanded an inquiry led by Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson into what they said was an "impolite and discourteous" cross-examination from MSPs.

The academics say that other experts could be deterred from giving evidence to Holyrood committees after they were invited to speak about the Scotland Bill but were instead "ambushed" by MSPs and questioned over a report into the economic benefits of full fiscal autonomy.

Their concerns have prompted senior MSPs to call for a review of the system amid claims of "politicisation" of key committees and of witnesses at hearing being "intimidated" and facing "hostile" questioning.
It is a sad day for Scotland's academic community when they get upset about hostile or political questions. What did they expect? A cosy chat?

12 January 2011


So you don't forget:

Bob Diamond, Barclays £8.5m (likely total for 2010)

Stephen Hester, RBS £3.2m (but could reach £9m)

Eric Daniels, Lloyds £3.5m (but could hit £6.7m)

Stuart Gulliver, HSBC £10m

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Who employed Mr 'Kennedy', the undercover provocateur who infiltrated the green movement? Sir Simon Jenkins has the skinny:
It is significant that Kennedy did not work for any police force. He worked for a murky organisation called the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (NPOIU). With a budget of £5m this operates as a branch of the National Domestic Extremism Unit (NDEU) which, in turn, works alongside the National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (NETCU). Ask where this stands, and you will be told it reports to the Association of Chief Police Officers' Terrorism and Allied Matters Committee, codenamed Acpo(TAM).

Only those who have tarried in the foggy corridors of the Home Office, the Ministry of Justice and the Metropolitan police can have any notion of the Orwellian extravagance of these places. Agencies, units and groups cruise shark-like round the feet of terrified Home Office ministers. Their staffs, expenses, overtime and accommodation are crammed into London's Scotland Yard and Tintagel House. If challenged, they incant their motto: "We keep you safe."

It is only occasionally that we catch a glimpse of the extraordinary infrastructure of the security state; but, when the occasion arises, it must be immensely satisfying to the conspiracy theorists among us. And, as ever, and despite being lavished with resources, these secret and unaccountable organs of the state seem curiously incompetent.

11 January 2011

More pedantry

Oh dear. That a Minister of the Crown (Mr Damian Green, if you must know) should put out a statement like this:
"This Government is absolutely committed to ensuring asylum cases are concluded faster, at lower cost, and that we continue to improve the quality of our decision making."
As my old primary school teacher would have told him, "faster" is not an adverb. And thus do senior politicians display the verbal dexterity of football commentators (who sometimes appear to be utterly averse to - or perhaps simply bewildered by - the adverbial form).

10 January 2011

Music of the week

Some rock'n'roll:

Another broken promise

The Government's coalition agreement promised:
"robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector"
The actuality:

Barclays is expected to pay around £2.5bn globally in bonuses, down only slightly from last year's £2.7bn pay-out, with Royal Bank of Scotland set to spend £1bn, against £1.3bn last year.

Lloyds, without a sizeable investment bank, is likely to repeat last year's £200m payment. HSBC discloses less than the other banks, but it spent £3bn on pay for investment bankers last year, with as much as half made up by bonuses. A similar payout is likely this year. Bankers have also enjoyed rises in basic pay of 20 per cent or more.

Source: here

Are we impressed?

How many times do I have to say that new retail developments do not create jobs - they merely move them around, usually at the expense of smaller shops. Accordingly, I suggest that you take this announcement (on the BBC website) with a pinch of salt:

David Cameron is due to meet the bosses of some of the UK's biggest firms on Monday to discuss their plans to create thousands of new jobs.


Supermarket chain Morrisons says it will create 6,000 new jobs in 2011, with Tesco promising 9,000 and Sainsbury's 6,500. Asda has pledged to create 15,000 retail apprenticeships.

John Lewis and Microsoft have promised 4,000 new jobs each and gas company Centrica, 2,600.

The point is that new shops do not stimulate more shopping. Buying your baked beans from a new Tesco simply means that you won't buy them elsewhere. But the overall volume of baked beans sales in the UK economy is unlikely to change significantly.

09 January 2011

Football and ciggies

I don't know if you can still buy them but this is what a packet of Embassy cigarettes looked like:

Compare and contrast one of Manchester City's away strips:

Now we know why they play like a bunch of mobile fag packets ...