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.