Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Bollocks


A wonderful example of an unaccountable bureaucracy at work. DVLA willingly sell the following number plate to a customer, Mr Clarke (apparently "it slipped through the net"):
BO11 LUX
Then they decided that because in their view it causes offence they will persecute the chap who purchased it from their own website:
They said it was causing offence and I had to remove it, and they are threatening to criminalise me. But they are a government agency and they put the plate on their own website for anyone to buy so it's 100 per cent legal.
'I would love to know what offence I am committing as they haven't told me. I have got the receipt for the plate, the registration document and the vehicle is fully taxed and insured so I'm at a loss to see what the problem is.
Cue the usual official threatening letters:
But within six weeks, he received a stern letter from the DVLA telling him the plate was 'causing offence' and ordering him to remove it from his vehicle.

The DVLA says it is an offence for it to still be displayed.
Perhaps DVLA don't appreciate that there is a legal precedent for use of this word - Mr Clarke should take them on.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Carry On Regardless


Despite that Icelandic polls show consistent opposition to EU membership...
"The vast majority of Icelanders are still opposed to joining the European Union according to a new opinion poll published today, March 17, in the business newspaper Viðskiptablaðið. 55.7 percent oppose EU membership while 30 percent favour the step. 14.2 percent are uncertain.

A recent poll by Capacent published on March 10 put the opposition to EU membership at 50.5 percent, the support at 31.4 percent and the uncertain at 18 percent.

The last poll before that was published by Capacent in July 2010 putting the opposition at 60 percent, the support at 26 percent and those uncertain at 14 percent.

Every poll published in Iceland since August 2009, made by different polling companies, has shown a large majority of Icelanders against joining the EU and only about 1/3 in favour."
...the process of membership continues by Iceland's politicians:
Iceland’s accession negotiations with the European Union officially began today with the first four chapters of the entry charter up for discussion.

According to an EU statement two of the four first negotiations have already drawn to a temporary conclusion.

You cannot carry on defying your own people. When will they wake up?

"Boundless Stupidity"

A rather damning indictment of the German government's role in the Euro crisis in today's Der Spiegel by leading German economist Stefan Homburg. He argues that Greece should default but because of Germany's 'boundless stupidity', she will continue to pay up. He begins by making this point about the proposed voluntary participation of the banks, which would not only lead to a default by the ratings agencies, but are illegal:
Banks cannot participate voluntarily. An executive board is committed to its company's welfare, and not the public interest. If it waives outstanding debts at the expense of its own company, this is a breach of trust and punishable by law.
So according Homburg the proposals are merely a big show to reassure German taxpayers:
SPIEGEL: So the voluntary participation of private creditors, which German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have agreed on, will achieve little or nothing?

Homburg: It was all just a big show which was mainly intended to calm the German public. Merkel wanted mandatory participation, Sarkozy wanted none at all. In effect, Sarkozy has prevailed.

Interestingly an agreement by French banks to rollover their debt has been put forward by the French this morning:
French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde said on Monday that the government had a first draft deal of an agreement with French banks to roll over holdings of their Greek debt.

"We've got a first draft. It's a first outline," she told journalists ahead of a news conference with President Nicolas Sarkozy
However, Homburg is so confident that the German will pay that he has invested in Greek bonds himself:

In recent days, I myself have invested a considerable sum in Greek bonds. They will mature in one year's time and, if all goes well, produce a 25 percent return on investment. I sleep very soundly at night because I believe in the boundless stupidity of the German government. They will pay up.

Since I involuntarily help finance the rescue packages through my taxes, I have no problem with also receiving a portion of the profits. Why should it only be banks and hedge funds that benefit?

But Homburg is in no doubt that Greece will eventually default, it's simply incapable of sorting out its finances, but the Germans (and indeed the rest of the EU including us) will continue to throw good money after bad in hope the that someone else will be blamed for the Euro collapse:

Many politicians have also come to the realization that the path that we are on ultimately leads to national defaults and currency reforms. This process is already irreversible, but nobody wants to say it out loud and go down in history as the one who triggered the explosion. So we leave the bankruptcy to subsequent German governments and, in the meantime, throw good money after bad. Sooner or later, this much is certain, the system will be blown apart by political and economic factors. And, unfortunately, there is a great danger that, when this happens, it is not only the euro that will fall apart, but also the entire EU.

Greece will be voting on its austerity budget tomorrow, which most analysts believe will pass the Parliamentary vote, albeit narrowly, meaning the Euro debacle will continue to limp along pathetically for some time yet - in the meantime billions of pounds of taxpayer's money will be wasted to shore up a few politician's egos. I think I could use a few stronger words than 'boundless stupidity' to sum up the current crisis.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Stupid

Nigel Farage and Shami Chakrabarti were on BBC's Andrew Marr this morning reviewing the papers. Naturally the subject of the EU was broached, over Milly Dowler and capital punishment, the Greek crisis and the Olympic ticket farce. This prompted Chakrabarti to comment (from memory, the transcript's not yet up):
"It's amazing how you manged to get the EU into every subject".
Now I wonder why that would be? You would hope that eventually Miss Chakrabarti might work out the answer for herself, but probably not.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Your Football Team Is 19-0 Down...

...there's only 2 minutes to go, you've had 4 men sent off (if 1 more is sent off then the game is officially abandoned due a minimum player rule breach), the referee has been bribed and Ali Dia is your best player, yet there's always hope that you may sneak a win:



hattip: Nosemonkey

Douglas Carswell U-Turns On EU Exit?

Witterings from Witney alerts me to this latest post from Douglas Carswell:

It's encouraging to see so many of the 2010 intake of Conservative MPs recognising the hopelessness of "throwing good money after bad" in the Eurozone bailouts with a letter to the Financial Times today. Many of them also voted to stop the bailouts in the division lobby.

They are surely right. Bravo.

Not only is Carswell agreeing with proposals that are anything but a radical reform of the EU despite his previous well known assertions, astonishingly Carswell then links to a ConHome page that contradicts his claim that 'many of them voted to stop the bailouts' - as I blogged here, only one of the fourteen signatories did. (or am I missing something?) *

Carswell then finishes his blog with this :

That makes it all the better to see Members of Parliament demanding a radical overhaul of our approach to Europe – and, let it be whispered softly, perhaps even some kind of meaningful democratic oversight over Britain’s EU deal making.

Ahh, the classic - democratic oversight rather than out. In other words 'in Europe not ruled by it'. A Judas goat indeed.

*Exactly 50% of those Tories who voted against the bailout were new intakes - 15 Tory MPs out of 30. Plus the number of new intake Tory MPs in 2010 was 148. So where has Mr Carswell got his 'many' from?

Timing

When Cameron recently decided to regurgitate the same Labour nonsense on being robust against burglars and siding with householders - i.e. sound tough but not actually do anything, I don't think he expected his 'promise' to be tested quite so quickly:
A suspected burglar has been stabbed to death while apparently trying to break into a house in Greater Manchester.
And guess who's been arrested:

The man, 26, is believed to have been carried away by other members of a balaclava-clad gang as they fled, before being dumped in the street.

The householder, his son and son's girlfriend have been arrested.

Greater Manchester Police said it was treating the death as murder.

No charges as yet, but I won't be surprised if...

Clueless

In an unintentionally hilarious piece on Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie comes over all excited by a letter signed by 14 Tory MPs to the Financial Times outlining what he calls 'mainstream Eurosceptisim. It's so bad I'm almost inclined to think the whole thing is a spoof, sadly not:
The fourteen, led by the former MEP Chris Heaton-Harris, are determined to set out what I'd describe as a 'Mainstream Euroscepticism'. They want to push the Coalition to be more ambitious for EU reform but they also reject what they see as the 'impossibilism' (again my phrase) of some of the backbench Eurosceptics

More useless Tory "in Europe not ruled by Europe" nonsense - a policy that has worked so well since 1973. But no, Tim is convinced:
In their letter (sent deliberately to the FT in order to underline its seriousness)
Apparently sending a so-called letter outlining 'eurosceptic' ideas to a well-known euroslime newspaper outlines its seriousness - Tim is easily pleased. So what are these revolutionary ideas:
  1. We must take the taxpayers’ side in resisting further bail-outs;
  2. Liberalisation of trade;
  3. The principle of subsidiarity;
  4. Wholesale reduction of the waste for which the European Commission is responsible;
  5. Above all we must start getting some value in return for the significant sums that UK taxpayers contribute to the EU’s budget.
Pointless tinkering around the edges with no appreciation of how or why none of this can ever be achieved. I think it's safe to say that Cameron could have written this list, which says it all and why Mr Montgomerie seems so pleased.

The Tory MPs who signed this vacuous nonsense are:
Chris Heaton-Harris
Stephen Phillips QC
Andrea Leadsom
Harriett Baldwin
Priti Patel
Dan Byles
Steve Baker
George Eustice
Charlie Elphicke
Stephen Barclay
James Wharton
Nadhim Zahawi
Dominic Raab
Jackie Doyle-Price.
They write that they are concerned:
"... that the solutions to the crisis proposed by eurozone countries amount to no more than “throwing good money after bad” and will further expose the British taxpayer to any future economic meltdown."
So guess how many of them voted against giving more money to the Eurozone when they had the chance in May? Just one - Steve Baker. Apparently the letter could have been signed by a hundred:
'The Fourteen' are listed below but one of the letter's signatories has just told me that (1) with more time and (2) without many of the new intake being limited by their PPS status the letter could easily have been signed by one hundred members of the new intake.
Presumably that hundred would come from same Tories who voted to squander more of our money on bailouts, or the same Tories who voted to agree with Lisbon Treaty.

Update: Witterings From Witney has his take here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Allied Irish Bank Defaulted On Monday

While all eyes have been on Greece it appears that AIB has quietly defaulted this week:
A new ruling by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, the trade body that oversees the credit default swaps market, ruled that a failure to pay credit event – a financial markets term for a default on a payment or breach of a bond covenant – had occurred at AIB.

The ruling means that bondholders will be able to recover some of their losses as a result of insuring against a default by the bank.
The Irish Independent reports that this was done with full knowledge of the European Central Bank who did nothing:

As a consequence yesterday, faced with a default by AIB, the ECB did nothing. Following Mr Noonan's threat to burn the senior bondholders, did the ECB cut off the Irish banks from the repo market? No it didn't. Did the market sell off Irish government bonds in the wake of Mr Noonan's musings? No it didn't. Why?

Because the market already knows that the Irish banks are bust. The market knows that they have become re-cycling vehicles for the Irish Government, which is simply upholding the ECB's will that an Irish bank doesn't declare itself bust, because that would look bad for the euro. So the ECB is now allowing the Irish banks to go bust by stealth rather than by diktat.

Which means there's more trouble ahead:
The Irish banks will now begin to default bit by bit and Irish depositors will wake up to this and react by doing what the ECB doesn't have the courage to do -- they might just continue to take their money out. Now that would be a real crisis.
hattip: Richard at EUReferendum

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Census Data Hacked?

Significant claims are being made at the moment that this year's census data has been accessed and will be leaked soon online. The claims have not yet been verified, and the UK's Office and National Statistics and Lockheed Martin are urgently checking whether the hacker group LulzSec has indeed got its hands on this year's data.

Not that it would be the first time that Lockheed Martin, lead contractor for the census, has suffered from a security failure.

Update: Metro has its doubts about the authenticity of the claims

Update 2: The hacker in questions appears to have denied the census story and that the 'mastermind' has been arrested. Not that it has stopped the Telegraph nor the Mail leading with both though.

Update 3: The hacking of the census has still yet to be verified - though there's been no official denial yet. But if the claims are not true it does demonstrate a couple of points - the incompetence of Governments regarding data security has led to a situation where such data loss is no longer regarded as an anomaly. For several hours yesterday, the claim was seen as part of a process that was an inevitability.

The second, that information posted anonymously on the internet - which could not be verified - was enough for UK newspapers to report it as headline news.

What sad times we live in.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Treasury Planning For Greece To Go Bust

The Telegraph reports:
Mark Hoban, a Treasury minister, admitted that “many scenarios were being considered”. He said it would “not be appropriate” to discuss the detail, but added he would be “guilty of not stepping up to the responsibilities of his office” if plans had not been made to cope with a default.
Jack Straw acknowledged during today's emergency debate that the Euro 'cannot last in its current form'



And Mr Farage's view



Greece's insolvent:



It's all over chaps.

Caption Competition (Euro Edition)

ECB President Jean-Claude Trichet and, the Boiling Frog's favourite EU Commissioner, Olli Rehn, wait for the start of a meeting of the European Stability Mechanism in Luxembourg today:

Do your worst, I'll even award a second hand John Major paperback autobiography for the comment that makes the Boiling Frog chuckle the most (seriously)

Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Euro Is Dead - Obituary

From Keep Talking Greece:
German weekly magazine DER SPIEGEL dedicates the front page of its Monday edition with a sophisticated funeral arrangement. The coffin is covered with the Greek flag, the picture of the deceased shows the relatives’ deep mourning through a black ribbon. The Title reads: “Sudden and Expected -Obituary for a common currency”
And "Greece rescue is waste of money":
Europe risks wasting more money for nothing if it keeps pumping billions into the ailing Greek economy, the head of Pimco, the world's largest bond fund, said in an interview published today.

'After a year, every indicator has unfortunately worsened, despite the incredible quantity of financial assistance,' Mohammed El-Erian told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper. 'All of this has terrible human consequences and it's associated with a transfer of liabilities from private creditors to European taxpayers. Why? Very little is being done to deal with the excess of public debt, and the conditions for higher growth are not being put in place,' he said.

'Further on, if this approach is kept up, more money will be wasted to save private creditors and the risk of a disorderly restructuring of the debt will be greater.
It seems also that the EU is currently struggling to agree to a Greek rescue package before the financial markets open tomorrow, with a press conference due this evening cancelled:

"There will be no agreement today," said Juncker on arriving for two days of crunch talks to release funds to keep Athens from default in the summer, while mulling the shape of a second bailout for Athens in just over a year.

"We have a meeting tonight, we have a meeting tomorrow, so probably we will not have a press conference tonight as the discussion will continue tomorrow morning," he said.

Or as Boris Johnson would say: "it's all over chaps"

Good Ol' Cameron

According to the Sunday Times, Cameron is going to give us our power back:

How jolly nice of him - not that he's mentioned it before - Oh no.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Greek Bank Run

Greece, has according to CNN, had a fully fledged bank run in the last 6 months, and now the Telegraph reports that UK banks are reducing their exposure to the very predictable Greek default - in effect abandoning the Euro:

Senior sources have revealed that leading banks, including Barclays and Standard Chartered, have radically reduced the amount of unsecured lending they are prepared to make available to eurozone banks, raising the prospect of a new credit crunch for the European banking system.

Standard Chartered is understood to have withdrawn tens of billions of pounds from the eurozone inter-bank lending market in recent months and cut its overall exposure by two-thirds in the past few weeks as it has become increasingly worried about the finances of other European banks.

Barclays has also cut its exposure in recent months as senior managers have become increasingly concerned about developments among banks with large exposures to the troubled European countries Greece, Ireland, Spain, Italy and Portugal.

And the Telegraph goes further in arguing that German must quit the Euro:
However there is another eurozone member that sticks out like a sore thumb. It has run its economy just as, if not even more, recklessly than the Mediterranean brothers, has single-handedly destabilised the euro area for the best part of a decade and is one of the biggest road-blocks to its ultimate recovery. That country is Germany.
All of this is entirely inevitable but no fear Cameron has more important issues on his mind.

Amateur

This man is a cynical twat of industrial proportions - seriously how out of touch is this:

[Cameron] added: It's high time runaway dads were stigmatised, and the full force of shame was heaped upon them.

"They should be looked at like drink drivers, people who are beyond the pale.

On Father's day, Cameron tries to ingratiate himself with the British public by comparing dad's who don't accept financial responsibility of their children to drink drivers who kill people. This is utterly crass - and as many of the comments point out what about fathers who are deprived of their very right to see their kids?

Heir to Blair? David "I'm not subtle" Cameron hasn't a clue. However, no surprise that the story appears in a so-called broadsheet newspaper which is really a pathetic apologist for Cameron's leadership.

Andrew Symeou Has Been Acquitted

Congratulations to Andrew Symeou, a victim of the European Arrest Warrant, who has now been acquitted. As Dan Hannan points out, why has the liberal elite remained largely quiet over this disgrace:
... many others saw the whole business as a Eurosceptic plot to discredit the European Arrest Warrant. Read, for example, some of the comments posted here by Guardian readers.

I hope those who were readier to condemn an innocent man than to examine their Euro-integrationist prejudices will ponder what it would be like to spend eleven months in one of the worst prisons in Europe, to let four irreplaceable years of your life slip by while your friends pass through university, to watch your parents exhaust their savings shuttling back and forth Greece, all without your case coming to trial. (The humanity and dignity of Andrew’s parents, Frank and Helen, was perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of the whole saga).

Concerns about a travesty of justice only take effect in certain conditions it seems, interestingly though Hannan, despite his criticism, is happy to remain a member of a party who wants to make things worse, while I'm a member of one that doesn't.

Philip Davies And The Disabled

I'm going to do something that I don't often do on this blog and that is to agree with a Tory MP (mostly). Conservative MP Philip Davies has caused uproar among charities, the press and the usual suspects over his reported comments that the disabled are second class citizens and that they should be paid lower than the minimum wage and be exploited.

Aside from the fact that most of the 'outrage' is deeply patronising - Mrs Boiling Frog who's wheelchair bound has a voice (a very loud one at times) and doesn't need others to be offended on her behalf - reading through Hansard reveals that Mr Davies never actually said any of things reported. In a debate about the downsides of the minimum wage, Mr Davies said this:
I went to visit a charity called Mind in Bradford a few years ago. One of the great scandals that the Labour party would like to sweep under the carpet is that in this country only about 16%—I stand to be corrected on the figure—of people with learning difficulties and learning disabilities have a job. The others are unemployed, but why is that? I spoke to people at Mind who were using the service offered by that charity, and they were completely up front with me about things. They described what would happen when someone with mental health problems went for a job and other people without these problems had also applied. They asked me, “Who would you take on?” They accepted that it was inevitable that the employer would take on the person who had no mental health problems, as all would have to be paid the same rate
So Mr Davies visits a charity in his constituency and then stands up in Parliament to put forward concerns of some of his constituents who happen to be disabled. Isn't that what he's supposed to do? He then argues:
The point is that if an employer is considering two candidates, one who has disabilities and one who does not, and if they have to pay them both the same rate, which is the employer more likely to take on? Whether that is right or wrong and whether my hon. Friend would or would not do that, that is to me the real world in which we operate. The people who are penalised are those with disabilities who are desperate to make a contribution to society and who want to get on the employment ladder, but find time and again that the door is closed in their face. If they could prove themselves earlier and reassure the employer who took them on that they would not cause a problem in the way the employer might fear—I am sure that there are a lot of myths out there and that many of these people would be just as productive as those without a disability—they might well move up the pay rates much more quickly. At the moment, they are not getting any opportunities at all.
And he's right. Whether it is unfair or not, it is impossible to deny that employment discrimination exists and the minimum wage laws make this discrimination even worse. And, as Davies argues, the problem is not exclusive to the disabled but other groups of people, such as young people, who are disproportionately excluded from employment by minimum wage laws.

Ironically those who dismiss the arguments against the minimum wage laws are doing the greatest disservice to the those who suffer the most. It's quite clear that Davies, by his comments, is trying to help get the most vulnerable back to work by trying to remove the barrier that condemns them to rely on the state for a lot less,

However, despite the compelling case for some flexibility in the minimum wage, to help give opportunities for some sections of society to get work, the toxic combination of 'Tory, disabled and minimum wage' has lead to emotional criticism, including by both sides of the house. Funnily enough, MPs don't have the same problem when it comes to breaking minimum wage laws and exploiting young workers for themselves.

Ludicrously Mr Davies has been warned that he can no longer represent his constituents in Parliament:
The MP was warned that he would be questioned over the remarks by the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
If such people are disgusted and outraged by Davies' measured arguments, perhaps they should accompany Mrs Boiling Frog on a Saturday around any major city or town in this country then they would really see and hear some truly offensive stuff.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Matt

From the Telegraph's Matt:



Thursday, 16 June 2011

Is Germany Resigned To A Greek Default?

The Greek crisis has intensified over the last 24 hours, the cost of insuring Greek debt against default has soared to record levels, however tucked away in this Reuters' report is something that proves rather intriguing:
Investors are increasingly unsure whether an agreement on a Greek bailout plan will be reached in the near term as the government's finances dry up. EU and banking sources told Reuters Germany wants the deadline for a second rescue package to be pushed back to September, highlighting the hurdles towards reaching a consensus.
Without aid, Greece runs out of money by the 18th July, so by September Greece would have already defaulted. Has Germany accepted the inevitable? Maybe it's just posturing, either way events are moving much faster than the EU can cope with

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Quote Of The Day

US stocks plummet as Greece revolts:
"The stock market doesn't like rioting--it never does and it never will," said Jeffrey Friedman, senior market strategist at Lind-Waldock.






Tuesday, 14 June 2011

More 'Red Lines'

According to the Telegraph:
The government is fighting off new powers for the EU to summon George Osborne, the Chancellor, in front of the European Parliament to justify and defend Britain's economic policy.
The Treasury Minster says:

"The government would not accept any proposal for the European Parliament to be able to summon ministers to appear before it," said a spokesman.

"We are clear that democratic accountability is very important, however this is why we have national parliamentary scrutiny procedures, which the European Parliament must not eclipse.

It might be a red line for Britain but it is also one for MEPs and a deal must be done quickly before a summit on 24 June. Something will have to give and negotiations are very delicate," said a Brussels diplomat.

Leaving aside that 'red lines' leak like a sieve, what's notable about this article is the 'pride' that we are all supposed to feel because Osborne is allegedly 'standing up' to Europe - apparently we are all supposed to be grateful.

How low we've fallen as a nation.

Left In The Dark

I have no wish to downplay the tragic plight of Madelaine McCann, and there's no doubt of the personal trauma of Madeline's parents, but this comment by Kate McCann irked:
"If your house is burgled you are automatically offered victim support with emotional, practical and legal assistance. If your child goes missing you may get nothing."
Automatically offered emotional, practical and legal assistance? No no no, not true. What happens when you get burgled (as someone who has experienced it many times) is the following response from an uninterested robot on the end of a phone:
"Here's your URN (Unique Reference Number) for insurance purposes, we're not interested, now sod off".
Victim support? Never heard of it. And don't get me started on the victims of disability abuse - the response from the 'robots' is exactly the same.

This is no personal reflection on Mrs McCann but to assume that burglary victims receive victim support help otherwise denied to mothers of missing children - who dominated the news for a not inconsiderable time - is misleading.

Monday, 13 June 2011

It's Jolly Expensive

Apologies for the slow blogging at the moment, my other life is getting in the way, but I'll be back soon. In meantime here's BBC Bargain Hunt's Tim Wonnacott view on the EU from the 27th May episode:
"most of us have no idea how the European Union works, all we know is that it is jolly expensive".

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Try The Off Button

It's a truth universally acknowledged that when there is a Tory government two things will happen; there will be more EU integration and the Tories will try to ban stuff. The latter is a drearily familiar pattern that has long been established but it becomes most prominent when a new culture or technology emerges such as films, home videos, computer games, Facebook and now the internet itself:
Prime Minister David Cameron has warned ISPs to be more robust with their plans to provide better tools to help parents censor sexualised content online, or else the government could step in with its own regulation measures.
Here we go again, and the Tory attitude is always if in doubt it requires more government regulation to the rescue! So unsurprisingly on the back of a report about the 'sexualisation of children' Cameron has backed measures such as:

  • make public space more family-friendly by “reducing the amount of on-street advertising containing sexualised imagery in locations where children are likely to see it.”

  • ensure children are protected when they watch television, are on the internet or use their mobile phones by “making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material” across all media.

  • stop the process where companies pay children to publicise and promote products in schools or on social networking sites by banning “the employment of children as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing.”
Using the classic Trojan horse of; "think of the children", Cameron wants to restrict advertising in public spaces including surely near and in pubs - my 'family friendly' local is now full of children; shock horror they might even see advertising that is inappropriate in the gent's toilets - and to regulate mobile phones, the internet and the television watershed even further. (Odd the last one because I've lost count of the number of programmes broadcast late at night recently, well past the watershed, still 'bleeping out' swear words or even being criticised for using them).

And of course government regulation means not only an assumption that the government knows best and that parents shouldn't take responsibility, but the establishment of yet another unaccountable quango. And inevitably what is initially devised to 'protect children' becomes an instrument for other things.

Take, for example, the film censorship body, the BBFC, which was given more powers under Tory legislation due to a moral panic about video nasties (although hilariously this was later found to be unenforceable due to an oversight regarding the EU).

Apparently independent, from the start it was under intense political pressure regarding censorship - one of the longest running restrictions in the UK for a film was for Battleship Potemkin, banned for political reasons until 1954 and Sergei Eisentein's classic was even given an X-rated certificate until as late as 1987.

The unaccountable BBFC became even more ludicrous as its unaccountable long-serving Director, James Fernman had carte blanche to censor films at will.

One notorious example is, after seeing the legendary nunchaku (chainsticks) scene from Bruce Lee's magnum opus Enter the Dragon, Mr Fernman attempted to replicate the scene, whilst watching the film, and knocked himself out in the process. On the basis of not being as talented as Mr Lee, he removed the scene completely (which was not reinstated for years). Mr Fernman's obsession with the nunchaku reached such ridiculous heights that he removed a scene in the 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film because a string of sausages swung by Michelangelo looked like a nunchaku.

Such considerations about accountability are 'minor' - as ever the cry to protect children means the attitude is always the same - it should be banned for all of us. This is typical Tory stuff, only now it's policy based on panic by mumsnet. So much for Cameron's 'Big Society' (my emphasis):
The big society is about changing the way our country is run. No more of a government treating everyone like children who are incapable of taking their own decisions. Instead, let's treat adults like adults and give them more responsibility over their lives. That's why, in reality, this is quite different from what politicians have offered in the past.
So what happened Cameron to treating parents like adults and make them take responsibility? They have huge amounts of control over what their kids read, wear and watch. Did a pre-teen ever go into a shop and buy a ‘future porn star’ T shirt without some kind of parental approval?

And as for mobile phones, the internet, and films; these can easily be regulated in the home - it's called the 'off' button.

Eddie Kidd

Congratulations to Eddie Kidd, paralysed former stuntman, for completing the London Marathon last night. What a fantastic achievement and somewhat of an antidote to so-called 'stories' of super-injunctions and follically-challenged footballers.

A great quote by his wife, who says:
“It’s put him through so much. He’s been exhausted and frustrated and made up his own swear words because he’s run out of the normal ones to use.”
I had the privilege of watching an Eddie Kidd show when I was younger, the stunt show I attended overran so much that my Dad got a bollocking by my Mum for bringing me home late on a school night.

Friday, 3 June 2011

If You Don't Like It, Move!

The following piece is not really important in the grand scheme of things, but the issue it relates to really does drive me nuts.

Every year there are many things which are predictable; Easter, Christmas, "A-Levels are easier" in August, and calls for "Greenwich Mean Time to be abolished" every October. I have another one to add to the list - on a local issue. After every Bank Holiday weekend without fail, my local free magazine, which is delivered once a month, is full of letters from whinging residents. Their complaint? That steam trains at the local railway museum has ruined their 'right' to sit in their garden because of the smoke and noise. And yesterday's free copy was no exception, here's one example:
Dear Ed,

Far be it for me to bring up old news, but again I've had a problem with the Didcot Railway Society. The...weekend we've just had was again marred by the smoke and fumes of one of the steam trains.... Several of my neighbours were stood outside their homes complaining about the fumes... the fumes were so awful that I felt the need to contact the Environmental Health Department, if only to seek reassurance that these fumes are not in anyway a risk to my health...some of my neighbours are elderly and some have young children.
Arrrghhh! I should point out that every letter of complaint so far has come from a resident of a house situated next to the railway lines and which was built less than 15 years ago - far far younger than the presence of the railway in Didcot. So a quick potted history.

Didcot was an inconsequential place until Mr Brunel's "Super Iron Snake" arrived in 1839 and transformed it into one of major significance - it became a junction on the Great Western Line to Bristol, London, Oxford and Southampton (the latter line closed due to Beeching) So much so it became an important part of military logistics - Vauxhall Barracks is still there. It's why it is known as a 'railway town' and why the local football team are nicknamed 'the railwaymen'. The railway links and the easy commuter route to London are the reason that the town is still popular (well it's not for any other reason I can assure you), indeed the demand for housing has been so great that it has lead to the current and controversial extensive house building programme. All of which easily demonstrates that the railway has been a proud and integral part of Didcot's history for 172 years.

And because of Didcot's history it has naturally been the location, for over 40 years, for the Didcot Railway centre, not only a celebration of the railway but in particular the Great Western Railway. Now, being Didcot's only tourist attraction unsurprisingly it doesn't keep this quiet. Directions signs are all over the nearest motorways and dual carriageways, the centre is heavily promoted in the local press and tourist offices and it even appeared in an episode of Inspector Morse. Not only that, the museum also advertises itself by means of a very prominent and very tall coal stage which has the words; "Didcot Railway Centre" emblazoned on one of the sides in large black letters. Surely that a relatively well-known railway museum has steam trains and that they make lots of smoke and noise cannot come as a surprise, can it?

So one would think that it is the responsibility of those buying a house (by far the most expensive purchase most of us make) to be aware of the heritage and the surroundings and take notice of the obligatory environmental survey at the very least. Apparently not to some residents.

I don't expect anyone to be the deduction genius that is Sherlock Holmes when buying a home, but seriously, how much more of a clue do some people want?

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

More importantly...

Coleen Rooney (her of I'm famous 'cos I'm married to a footballer variety) is one of the most read items on the Telegraph site - apparently the groundbreaking news is that she called someone else a 'dog' on twitter:

The comments say it all.

Greek Drachma Reappears

Interesting, the Greek drachma appeared on a list of currency exchange rates of the news agency Reuters at the beginning of May. The exchange rate details are however left blank

hattip: Muffled Vociferation

Blatter Wins!

The result was astonishingly close.