Saturday, March 11, 2006

Charles Clarke is even more of an arsehole than I thought. I'd assumed he was just stupid, but was prepared to accept that he might just be ill-informed and come acress badly - turns out he's actually a deeply unpleasant man to boot...

Considering I don't believe in the death penalty, I have only one thing to say to the news that Slobodan Milosevic has just been found dead in his cell in The Hague: good.

Friday, March 10, 2006

How is it possible to hold so many contradictory ideas at one time?

Tony's flatmate Charlie "the Lord" Falconer must be either a genius or a moron - and I know which I'm putting my money on...

So to have an English Parliament would threaten the breakup of the United Kingdom, but having a Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly does not?

Falconer also acknowledges that "The argument for devolution was that the Scots and the Welsh felt policies could be imposed upon them for which there was little or no support in Scotland or Wales" - precisely the same arguments the proponents of an English Parliament use now, only with "England" in place of those two Celtic nations. Indeed, Scots votes have swung it for the government on a number of occasions now.

For the record, my preferred solution to the West Lothian Question has long been that now adopted by the Tories - an honour system, where Scottish MPs don't vote on issues that will not affect Scotland. Sadly, however, under this government the concept of "honour" seems to have been utterly lost under obfuscation, lies and spin. Ho-hum...

Still, at least Tony and Charlie are being consistent in their claims that they can't introduce two tiers of MPs.

Although that rather fails to answer the question "what are MSPs and Welsh AMs if not second-class MPs, exactly?"

Update: Apparently that wasn't Falconer's only bit of doublethink this morning. This is what I get for no longer being able to pick up Radio 4 on my alarm clock. Then again, missing The Today Programme is probably doing my heart a world of good - waking up every day to the levels of anger ministerial idiots provoke can't have been healthy...

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Hmmm... If you can be charged for "making a record of information likely to be useful to a terrorist" and "possessing information likely to be useful to a terrorist", doesn't that mean that Tony Blair should be arrested every time he notes down his plans in his diary? Shouldn't the policeman in charge of the rota at the Houses of Parliament be done? Hell - I used to work at the Commons. If I sketch down a quick map of the quickest routes from New Palace Yard to the store rooms under the Commons chamber, that'd be pretty useful to a potential Guy Fawkes, right? Can I expect a knock at the door from the Sweeny?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Apropos of nothing, I like this a lot. Sample:
"My ambitions are limited to sitting in the pub all day with a fat dog that drinks beer from an ashtray and leaves yellow stains behind when it gets up off the floor.

"Of course, by that time there won’t be any ashtrays in pubs. Curse you, Blair."
Go vote for Jamie Kenny and Blood & Treasure in the Best Writing category at the Koufax Awards. Go on.

Abolition of Parliament roundup - a must-read for anyone who cares about little things like democracy, the rule of law, and governmental accountability.

It was always fairly obvious that dark-skinned bearded types (especially those with hooks for hands) wouldn't find much sympathy when getting extradited to the US on terror charges. But since those bankers got done by the not even slightly reciprocal Extradition Treaty a few weeks back the pressure from middle England is mounting.
"Gareth Hardwick, a director of Staffordshire-based Grafton International, said: 'I am outraged at the predicament UK executives find themselves in as a result of the extradition agreement the UK has with the US but the US does not have with the UK.

"'It makes me fearful of any legislation connected with terrorism. The Government needs to act swiftly to protect those UK citizens already in the system.'"
Don't threaten the white middle classes with your terror laws, Tony - they don't like it up 'em, and are rather more inclined to vote than the usual targets...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A boring-sounding intra-EU migration and presentation post (that's actually moderately interesting, in places, but also a bit confused in others)

Interesting survey results that I'd missed via Brian J Phillips suggest that only 1.5% of EU citizens have migrated to another member state to live. Stuck me as rather low and, predictably, has been used by our Eurosceptic friends as yet more "proof" that no one wants or needs the EU.

I don't deny for a moment that cross-border mobility is likely to be fairly low - after all, people generally tend to continue living relatively close to where they grew up, bar the occasional shunt to a big city to find work, and the percentage of people in the EU with a strong enough grasp of a second language to enable them to work in another country is (I'd imagine) still well under 50% of the population even on the mainland.

But still, if the survey was of people from all 25 member states, the figures would be heavily skewed by the 10 new members - especially the ex-Communist ones. They've not even had two years to start migrating, after all... A breakdown showing the figures for individual countries would (I'd guess) show a much higher incidence of cross-border migration in the 15 older members.

A bit more digging brings up more figures (though despite ten minutes trawling the Commission's website, no sign of the survey itself...), and it soon becomes fairly clear that the movement figures are deliberately being presented as low - why else would they have asked so many detailed questions about why people AREN'T moving?

Yep - it's all intended as initial publicity for the European Year of Worker Mobility, the press release for which provides yet more statistics (from the same survey, it would seem). By showing that few people have yet taken up the opportunity to migrate across borders, it's easier to promote it as an innovative new approach to finding work. (Even if the Commission singularly failed to present the thing in this way, thus utterly buggering up the message...)

But after all that messing about with demographics, the thing that most struck me was utterly unrelated. What I'm intrigued by is why it took the Telegraph two weeks to report on this survey (it was published back on the 14th February, from what I can tell).

What the hell is wrong with the Commission's PR department? A big new initiative to show the potential benefits of EU membership to individuals and promote economic growth in the process, and bugger all press coverage.

If there's one thing the EU should have learned from last year, it's that it hasn't got its communication strategy sorted. It failed to sell the constitution, and failed to present a coherent message in the aftermath. It has begun to look increasingly uncertain and confused about its direction, which is hardly going to inspire confidence. But it is a prime opportunity to have a major re-think and overhaul of old strategies, as I argued the other day.

Presentation has always been the EU's biggest problem. The terminology is dull, the legislation boring, the initiatives frequently bland, and there is the constant danger of appearing a little too much like the less than pleasant prior continent-spanning organisations - be they Roman, Catholic, Napoleonic or Fascist - for comfort. But come on, they surely must be able to do a better job than that? Two measly articles that only appear online, not in print, for what should be a major campaign?

It's time for a re-vamp of the Commission's entire PR strategy - starting with the awful-looking Commission website (perhaps along the lines of the European Parliament's?). A more accessible (searchable would help) news service, a few RSS feeds, and a little bit of a human face beyond dear Margot's rather unfortunate attempts on her tedious blog would on their own help make the task of finding out just what it is that the most hated EU institution does just that little bit easier. That's all that's needed - for inaccessibility breeds distrust. If you can't find out what the Commission's up to, you're more likely to assume it's up to no good.

I mean, hell - I'm no PR expert, but I could come up with a better strategy for promoting the EU and Commission in five minutes. Accessibility is the key, and then just a little bit of self-awareness - another thing the EU as a whole has struggled with throughout its existence.

Yes, it's hard to make something as interminably dull as the European Union seem interesting and exciting - but the sheer blandness and lack of imagination of the presentation at the moment is like nothing more than adding tapioca to your rice pudding for flavour. You don't want more blandness - you need to spice it up with some jam. As with rice pudding, a large number of people will still find the end product revolting, but a good number will be able to stomach it rather better.

I'm very tempted to offer a bounty on Charles Clarke. If that big-eared, bestubbled waste of oxygen doesn't keel over and die soon, his fatuous, hypocritical bile is going to give me a hernia. It's him or me, and I'm not going down without a fight. He's a big lad, but I reckon I could take him. I mean, what the hell is this?
"I hope the Lords will recognise that this manifesto commitment, voted through by the elected chamber, should be respected"
Listen Charles, you asinine moron - the precise wording of the manifesto was
"rolling out initially on a voluntary basis as people renew their passports"
The opposition peers are actually helping you to stick to your sodding manifesto, you hideous waste of sperm. Now kindly crawl into a secluded corner and die (preferably taking Blair with you).

Monday, March 06, 2006

Jim Bliss is back. Was always worth a gander over at the now-defunct Where There Were No Doors, as well as his all too rare outings at The Sharpener. He's had a few months off, so time to encourage him to start writing more and stuff.

Remember that Make Poverty History nonsense?

Remember all that guff at Live8 and the G8 summit last summer - all the Geldof and chums self-congratulatory, self-promoting heartfelt appeals, all the Blairy-fairy rubbish about saving starving Africans?

Well, it's had precisely tit all impact - aid groups are predicting death tolls of upwards of 11 million over the coming months as vast swathes of central/eastern Africa head into the spring after two years without rainfall.

They have no food, no water, and no hope. They are already dying, and it hasn't even begun to get REALLY hot yet.

Time to help out, folks:

  • Red Cross Horn of Africa Bulletin
  • Christian Aid East Africa appeal
  • Oxfam Food Crisis appeal
  • Bugger bugger bugger bugger bugger. My passport ran out three weeks ago. Due to being an ill-organised bastard I forgot to send off the renewal forms. And today, biometric passports start to be introduced.

    You know what? Fuck that for a laugh. They're supposedly being brought in purely to "save us the trouble of having to get a visa when we go to America" - but I have precisely no desire ever to go to America, ta very much. And if I did have to go, I'd have no problem applying for a visa. So they're going to extract a load of information about me I don't want them to have on the off-chance I might decide to go to a place I have no wish to go. Brilliant. Nice one, intrusive government types.

    Update: The peers are on the case - but what's all this?
    "Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers are dropping their previous insistence that the scheme should not go ahead until the full costs of the project are revealed."
    Eh? You what now? Idiots.

    Sunday, March 05, 2006

    A 3rd anniversary random collection of things

    It's three years to the day since I started this place going, but I have precisely nothing profound or interesting to add to this post from August, celebrating a solid year of blogging. So have a random collection of vaguely interesting things instead:

    First up, have a gander at an interesting interview with Chris Patten on Europe, the EU and the world, and the Boston Globe on why Europe's economy may be doing better than many have assumed (both via the always excellent Political Theory Daily Review). Atlantic Rift on the Tories and the EU is also worth look - especially taken along with Patten's judgement that David Cameron "doesn't know very much" about the EU...

    Also well worth a shufty - as there's only a month to go before the elections there - is Cafe Babel's series of articles on Italy - in particular this one on Berlusconi's enduring electoral appeal:

    "It would be too simple to dismiss Berlusconi's voters as pitiable immature citizens without a sense of political responsibility"
    Much the same could be said for people who still vote for Blair... So If you haven't already, read the angry Rachel on the many reasons she's pissed off with Labour. (Our dear messrs McKeating and Hamster on the fact that we're being led by a man who reckons only his invisible friend can tell him what to do should also be on your reading list for today.) If you haven't yet, also check out Liberty Central - still finding its way, but showing promise.

    In any case, if you look at Belarus, we should count ourselves lucky we've only got Blair to cope with. Our man Worstall, meanwhile, highlights a prime example of ill-informed bullshit from a journalist/blogger seemingly claiming that Belarus is actually all honey and roses. Amusingly, immediately after telling us not to believe anyone who says that a dictatorship which routinely uses political violence is, erm... a dictatorship that routinely uses political violence, the chap posts bemoaning "the appalling arrogance of journalists who tell the families of murder victims not to feel angry" - methinks the irony may be lost on the chap... (How DO these people get work?) Update: There's more on Belarus dodginess at Publius Pundit, Radio Free Europe and plenty of info at br23 blog, which will shortly be joining the blogroll.

    Oh, and I've been tagged with a meme - but as it's all about music, which for no apparent reason I never really listen to, my answer to all the questions would be "no idea", so doubt it would make particularly interesting reading. Much like this post, really...

    In other news, is it just me, or is Blogger getting increasingly shit? Comment spam is escalating, crappy spam blogs are everywhere, and the server seems to be going offline every other day. Perhaps it's time to start pondering a move - anyone able to fill me in on the cheapest options?

    Update: This week's Britblog Roundup is up for more linky goodness...

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