Thanks, Gordon! Now I'm even less likely ever to be able to afford my own place! Cheers!
*Nosemonkey wanders off to ponder a future full of unstable and over-priced rental accommodation and slow starvation in old age due to inability to afford a proper private pension - assuming, of course, that terrorists, MRSA or the Metropolitan Police don't kill him first*
A Labour minister only acting after something's appeared in the press? Surely not! Charles Clarke (slightly paraphrased):
"The article which appeared in today’s Sun newspaper about something about which before now I couldn't care less has highlighted a number of important issues, most notably that this has now got media attention and so I need to look as if I give a shit and am doing something, or else our ratings will drop even further than they did yesterday after our goons were caught on camera manhandling a pensioner.
"I have today asked my department to look at the details of this particular case and some of the broader issues that it raises - most notably how our PR department didn't pick up on this sooner and thus save us from having to scrabble around like morons while we desperately try and cover our arses."
Europhobia's new look preview excitement! - initial template courtesy of the lovely Chris, of qwghlm fame, with a few fiddles by me - so any HTML/CSS cock-ups are entirely my fault.
It's still a work in progress (need to twig how to re-do these "Europhobit" things, get trackback up and running again, make sure that comments work properly, plus probably re-install the fancy drop-down menu things I've got, re-think the blogroll and archives and whack up a few other bits and bobs once I've integrated it to this URL etc. etc.), but what do you reckon so far? Any problems in specific browsers/operating systems (as I've only been able to check it in Safari on Mac OSX since fiddling this morning)? Any design issues? Anything else missing?
Suggestions/comments much appreciated - I'm hoping to have this up and running over here next week.
Following Uzbekistan blog day at the start of the month (my contribution here), trying to raise awareness of the decidedly unpleasant regime of Islam Karimov and calling for sanctions, someone has decided at last to act - and that someone is, as I had hoped, the EU.
The proposed sanctions won't do much, being easily avoided - they appear simply to be "an embargo on exports ... of arms, military and other equipment that might be used for internal repression", but there is also to be another formal condemnation of the "excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Uzbek security forces" (unlike the Met police, eh? Well, Britain did train the Uzbeks as well...)
There's also some mention of cutting aid programmes and imposing Robert Mugabe-style visa limitations on members of Karimov's regime. Even the people proposing them know that these are all largely symbolic actions - but at least they are actions and not merely words, which is all we've seen from our highly principled, anti-dictator leaders to date.
Even if all these particular sanctions mean is that Karimov will just buy all his arms from Russia instead and carry on with his show trials to excuse his massacres as before, it's still a step in the right direction. There will doubtless be more on this over at the weblog of former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, later, as well as at the always top-notch Registan, Publius Pundit and Disillusioned Kid.
To make up for sweariness (which oddly prevents me, thanks to my office's new web filters, from commenting on my own post in reply to the surprisingly classist anonymous Labour supporter who accused me of being a "chavista"), some genuinely good news - a truly superb Presidential candidate for 2008, one of single purpose, straight-talking, and who you can trust not to break any of his election promises. (via I forget, I'm afraid...)
Bunch of fucking Labour cunting cunts
Arrest Detain an 82 year old under the Terrorism Act for shouting "nonsense" at someone talking nonsense?
I'm not sure I can express my views on this without swearing profusely, so I'm, glad other people already have. (Legal explanation, anger and surprisingly calm disgust in turn.)
For Christ's sake, the guy's been a member of the party for 60 years - that amount of loyalty surely deserves a little respect? Or doesn't it work both ways?
Had I ever been a member of the Labour party, and had I not had the bollocks to quit already over their shameless shift to the authoritarian centre right, surely witnessing their thugs assault a pensioner would be the clincher? But then again, if you're still a member of the party you've either got to have an insane amount of hope, faith and patience or simply not care about all the deaths and fuck-ups Blair's caused. If the former, you're deluded if you think your voice is ever going to be heard, as yesterday's events prove; if the latter, you're an abject cunt.
Party membership is never something I can approve of at the best of times - summons up all sorts of images of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, none of which are pleasant, which is why I have never and will never join any party - but Labour party membership today I cannot even slightly understand, and especially the continued membership of old Labour supporters.
Why? How can you approve of what they're doing? How can you still think that this is the party you used to know? How can you still cling to the hope that they might, possibly, someday swing back towards the political ground they once occupied? How can you justify continuing to give them your money to enable them to pay hulking security guards to assault octogenarians?
I simply do not get it. I can't come up with a single logical argument for it, nor any take on current Labour policy which could in any way be described as left-wing. Can anyone justify Labour party membership any more? Can anybody justify the Labour party?
Update: Heckler returns to hero's welcome, while meanwhile,
"The Labour Representation Committee claimed there had been intimidation of delegates, allegations of corruption of the democratic process and 'blatant gerrymandering' of the conference agenda.
"It alleged that emergency resolutions to the conference had been excluded for 'spurious' reasons, that delegates received text messages from party officials telling them which way to vote and that speeches had been 'planted' by party officials.
"Labour MP John McDonnell, chairman of the committee, said: 'Enough is enough - we cannot put up with this treatment any longer.
"'We need a thorough independent investigation into the whole New Labour culture of intimidation, suppression of dissent and the gerrymandering of conference.'"
And this from an MP hardly known for his rebellious nature
- until, that is, the most recent splurge of stupid legislation on gambling, terrorism, freedom of speech, ID, immigration, public private partnerships, judicial reform, etc. etc. etc.
BBC Europe Editor Mark Mardell launches his weekly Europe roundup - coming to you every Thursday as from today. A bit short (both in length and on insight), but a moderately entertaining brief overview which could, in conjunction with Auntie's daily European Press Review prove fairly useful.
German elections: Yesterday's coalition talks between Schöder's Social Democrats and Merkel's Christian Union apparently went well, even if there's still no obvious end in sight and no decision as yet over who will end up Chancellor. The closest British comparison - from what I can make out - would probably be if in 1974, rather than going to the polls again Labour and the Tories decided to team up, with Heath and Wilson trying to agree between them who would end up Prime Minister. All very odd, in ther words.
And if Schröder and Merkel can't come to an agreement? According to Der Spiegel, keep your eye on Edmund Stoiber, currently Governor of Bavaria and head of the Christian Social Union, Merkel's major coalition partner. But if they're honest, it's still the case that no one knows what the hell's going on.
(Sorry, my subbing skills seem to have gone out the window today - a truly terrible title...)
Voting has been postponed on extending Turkey's association agreement with the EU to the ten new member states, although the European Parliament has voted that accession negotiations can start on October 3rd as planned. Just one more bit of confusion with the whole Turkish thing which has been knocking around for years - and yet another excuse for wildly differing interpretations of what the hell's going on.
So, is Europe's attitude to Turkey hypocritical, as one letter in the Guardian has it today? Is the Armenian Genocide question just an excuse, disguising latent racism and Islamophobia, as the Guardian's second correspondant would seem to have it? Is it fair to bring up something from 1915, when the Turkish Republic was only founded in 1923, or should the focus be on current concerns, like alleged stifling of human rights and ongoing accusations of torture? (Not that Britain has any right to complain about torture these days, thanks to our delightful Home Secretary's love of sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and the extraction of fingernails with pliers... This may be why our support of Turkish membership threatens to cause so many problems with our European partners.)
As Turkey starts dropping hints it may give up on EU entry, sparking fears of a shift towards a more Islamic polity, there's a good, if fairly lengthy, look at Turkey's relationship with Europe over at the New York Times which helps point out some of the complexities, while the Economist has a superb intro to the problems of Turkish membership which may be worth a look first:
"Turkey first applied to join what was then the EEC in 1959. The two sides signed an association agreement in 1963 (implicitly accepting that Turkey could be a candidate); a customs union in 1995; and the EU officially accepted Turkey as a candidate for entry in 1999. Turkey has, in short, been asking to join Europe for so long that its application is starting to look old and moth-eaten—so much so that some diplomats and politicians seem to have forgotten the strategic reasons for entertaining it...
"Yet rejecting Turkey's bid for membership would do little to solve the difficulties its application raises. The budget needs to be reformed whether Turkey is in or out. Europe's economies must create more jobs whether or not Turkish workers get free movement of labour (which they probably won't). Popular dissatisfaction with the EU exists regardless of Turkish membership. A majority of Europeans say they are undecided about Turkey, rather than actively hostile."
Count me among the undecided. No matter what the outcome, there could be serious problems. Full EU membership, we get the introduction of a vast country with a vast, largely impoverished population, who would have full rights to live and work anywhere in the EU, and borders on some of the most unstable and dangerous nations in the world. The proposed "privileged partnership" and we risk fostering resentment and feelings that Europe is patronising our semi-European neighbour, which could help revive nationalist and/or radical Islamist political groups within the country, destabilising the one (relatively) sane and stable Islamic country we've got on our side. End all talk of membership, and the likelihood of a shift towards radical Islamist politics is even more likely, with all the concurrent increase in security risks that would threaten.
Is there a way out? Who knows? All I do know is that this seems a very odd area for Labour to suddenly rediscover the concept of "principle"...
A plea for help
This blog is fucked. Its template is crammed full of shit. It doesn't work consistently across all browsers for no apparent reason, and it has now got to the stage where I am utterly pissed off with it. As of today it also appears to be refusing to show new posts in Safari, meaning I can't actually see what I've written this morning without entering the URL for the post manually. Which is hardly helpful.
I understand nothing of HTML or CSS beyond how to put in links and pictures, so am incapable of sorting it out.
So, who wants to help me redesign this bugger? I pretty much know what I want (basically the same with some tweaks and not fucked would be a good place to start) but have no idea how to achieve it. I'm also going to throw this open to suggestions - is there anything you, dear readers, would like to see done? Anything you want got rid of? Let me know.
I can offer little in the way of payment because I'm pretty much completely broke (vast amounts of entirely necessary yet extortionate expenditure recently, involving jewellery, hotels and intercontinental flights). You would, however, gain my eternal gratitude. And possibly a pint or two.
If you're pondering what question to ask dear Tony tonight, Manic has a good un, or check old Justin's analysis of yesterday's speech for inspiration - or the Curious Hamster's, for that matter.
Fancy having the secret service smash down your door and shoot you repeatedly in the head?
Then why not call Tony Blair a fuckbollocking cuntknocker and threaten him with physical violence on the supposedly "live" web chat he's apparently doing tonight?
Please note, should you submit your question for pre-approval (hardly "live", is it, Tony?) you will be inundated with Labour party spam for the rest of your days, and the buggers will also have a record of your IP address and the like, making it very easy to track you down should you, say, take this opportunity to inform Blair that you'd like to see his stupid fucking grin splattered over the walls and ceiling after a suicide-bomb induced explosive rectal prolapse.
This is the kind of sanitised crap you'll get out of these supposed questions from members of the public. (And by the way, I hope Eddie Izzard feels the piles of cash I hope they bunged him were worth it - the cunt's just lost any respect I ever had for him).
The only good thing? This:
Tony Blair: "I am the Prime Minister... It doesn't inspire confidence, I know"
EU lifts British beef ban.
Hang on, it was still banned? You learn something new every day...
More proof, as if any were needed, that Charles Clarke is a fucking tool:
"The Prime Minister was elected earlier this year in a very strong election result. He said he would go before the end of this Parliament - that means by May 2010 - and he will go towards the end of the Parliament.So, you know, just spring a new, untested leader on the public right before a general election, giving them no chance to formulate their own policies, appoint their own people to the positions they want, or to allow the public a chance to get used to them? Genius.
"I would urge him myself to stay right up towards the end of the Parliament"
(Although actually, considering the Tories are still likely to be fucked by 2009/10 and the voting system won't have been reformed, Labour could put a donkey in a leotard up for PM and still get in with a majority - maybe Clarke's got a point after all...)
Update: More guff on this at the Guardian - vaguely interesting, actually, which makes a change from the usual Blair vs. Brown stuff that gets churned out whenever any paper's got space to fill...
Update 2: For fuck's sake - won't somebody rid me of this troublesome Home Secretary? It would appear that he's now proposing to execute every single teenager in the country - that's the only way I can envisage that he'll be able to "eliminate disrespect and antisocial behaviour". What a twat.
Got something to get off your chest? Why not take advantage of our new little wotsit at The Sharpener? Whether you're a blogger or not, rant away about something or other, and we'll whack it up for all to see - assuming it's decent and stuff, that is. Email Jarndyce or me, if you like, offering your services, and we'll get back to you wih details and stuff when we've got them. Just looking for volunteers at the moment to guage interest levels.
MEPs to save us?
Today the buggers are voting on those stupid data retention proposals Blair and co have come up with (For background: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, or via EUpolitix.com or DataRetentionIsNoSolution.com).
As this interview with Jean-Marie Cavada, the chair of the EP's Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, should make clear, it's rather unlikely these stupid and invasive measures are going to be passed by the European Parliament:
"The State does not need to know everything. It is essential to respect the principle of proportionality. It is not the State that controls citizens but citizens who control the State. We must avoid introducing measures which may turn out to be a system of mass surveillance."
The Committee has formally recommended that Parliament reject the proposal, submitted jointly by Britain, France, Ireland and Sweden. Which, if they do, won't really achieve a great deal, but will at least hold them up a bit...Update:
Via John in the comments - hurrah!
Fucking FINALLY. Template sorted after hours of fiddling around with HT-pissing-ML so this blog's now readable again in Internet sodding Explorer.
Lessons learned? A single misplaced triangular bracket can bugger up the entire sodding thing. Oh, and I hate computers.
Other lessons learned? Everyone should use Firefox, if only to make my life easier.
Headline of the day: "Sarkozy pushes for six nation EU 'hardcore'". He he he! It's funny because "hardcore" is a term most commonly used to describe the more explicit kinds of pornography, and this therefore sounds like Sarkozy is trying to organise some kind of perverse international orgy, or something.
Jokes are always better when explained at length, I find.
Can someone explain Switzerland to me?
The country works via a complex federal structure based on various different bodies elected in various different ways - from fairly straight PR through to the indirectly-elected Federal Supreme Court. The majority of powers remain devolved to a local level and the people can get directly involved via innumerable referenda, making it one of the most actively participated in democracies in the world. It could almost make a nice microcosmic model of how the EU could reform itself to gain accountability...
They've signed up to the Schengen and Dublin agreements for passport-free travel throughout the EU, they've been gradually bringing their economic policies in line with those of the EU, and now they've voted to allow workers from the 10 newest EU member states to live and work freely in their country.
They're also a member of the European Free Trade Association, gaining a few handy trade deals in the process, but bizarrely not of the European Economic Area - so unlike Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein don't gain the advantage of unfettered access to the Common Market, instead having to rely on a series of bilateral agreements with the EU. And despite signing innumerable deals with Brussels, they still haven't made a great deal of progess towards signing up to the EU itself, even though that's technically been a government aim for years.
The entire country seems a mass of contradictions, and I simply can't work it out. Yes, obviously at the most simplistic level there's a resistance to EU membership from the people. But why are they supportive of some parts of integration, yet not interested in actually having some say in the future direction of the EU by joining up properly?
If the EU goes apeshit mental (well, more so than it has so far), Switzerland could easily end up pretty much screwed. Yet all they seem to be doing at the moment is making a few concessions and signing a few agreements - some obviously beneficial, others less so (the country's got a 3.4% unemployment rate - not much, admittedly, but if that's the case why admit more workers from the new EU states to compete for jobs when you don't have to and you have citizens of your own looking for work?) Why join EFTA and not the EEA, only to then negotiate bilateral agreements with the EU which pretty much amount to EEA membership without the formalities?
Is Switzerland being really bloody cunning, wrangling as much of the good stuff out of the EU without any of the crap, or is it just utterly schizophrenic? That's what a lovely Swiss email correspondant of mine reckons (disclosure - someone who was working for the yes campaign in the run-up to this referendum):
"56% yes might not seem like much, but believe you me, it's actually a helluva result... As you can imagine, the no-campaign was quite ugly. Together with the 55% yes to the Schengen/Dublin treaties in June, the security-paranoid-world-war-II-nostalgic Swizerland seems to be opening up. (With help of quite a chunk of dough from the yes-campaign, granted.) Even the remote East cantons (something halfway between the Midwest and the wild wide west... but east) voted yes...
"though they participated actively in the yes-campaign, the pro-europeans are now stuck in a difficult situation. If you thought that winning such a referendum would mean a new step towards the EU, think again. The so-called "bilateral way" seems to be cast in stone for a new decade and the crusade for joining the EU is entering a new path through the wilderness. The debate is now concentrating on withdrawing some dusty request sent in 1992 for opening membership negotiations...
"All the best from schizophrenic (but sunny) Switzerland"
So, again - anyone care to explain? Is there any logic here, or shall I just whack this in the file marked "the people don't know what they want" for when I set up my global dictatorship?(Sorry, did I say "global dictatorship"? I meant "global super happy fun time" - just easing some of the pressure off by removing the hassle of you having to bother voting every few years, that's all...)
Lords to decide on allowing evidence extracted by torture. i.e. Lords to consider whether the following (heavily sanitised) exchange makes for reliable evidence:
A: "Are you planning acts of terrorism?"
B: "No - I'm Brazillian, and trying to get to work!"
A: "Are you planning acts of terrorism?"
B: "No, I told you..."
A: "Are you planning acts of terrorism?"
A: "Are you planning acts of terrorism?"
... continues for two weeks...
A: "Are you planning acts of terrorism?"
B: "Aaaargh! Yes, yes! Just stop hitting me, you nasty purple and yellow rhino thing - and for Christ's sake allow me to sleep, my brain's gone wonky."
No link yet, but European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx is expected today to slag off Blair and co's stupid data retention proposals as they "will have a direct impact on the protection of privacy, as laid down in Article Eight of the European Convention of Human Rights and developed by case law of the European Court of Human Rights." Again, no link yet, but an advance statement from Hustinx has said that
"It is crucial that the directive respects the fundamental rights. A legislative measure that would weaken the protection is not only unacceptable, but also illegal."Hurrah for Hustinx! (And not just for his amusing name...) - There's a job description here (.pdf) and an interview with him here which shows he's a sensible chap. In other words, expect the Blair machine to go into full-on character-assassination mode over the next few days.
Britblog roundup 32 is up.
In other news, I've finally got around to updating this site's archives. Very exciting, I know. I've also had another fiddle with the template, as you've probably noticed from the re-sized logo and stuff. Better? Worse? I'm not sure yet - can't tell if it's too cramped. Let me know what you think - I'm pondering a major overhaul again sometime soon, but that all depends on time, inclination and working out the tech stuff - this do in the meantime?