Saturday, September 25, 2004

Words fail me

I'm trying to think of a designation beyond 'swivel-eyed loon' for this piece of UKIP madness which makes Mark Steyn sound comparatively sane:
Mike Nattrass, the deputy leader of the UK Independence party, warned yesterday that Britain might have to fight its way out of Europe in the same way that Chechyna was fighting to free itself from Russia.

His remarks, on the eve of the Ukip annual conference in Bristol, come a fortnight after Chechen rebels stormed a school in Beslan and murdered more than 330 children and parents. They will raise questions about the politics and judgment of some of the senior figures in the party.

He told a debate sponsored by the non-partisan Institute of Citizenship attended by the Conservative MP David Heathcoat-Amory and Chris Bryant, the chair of the Labour Movement for Europe: "We are entering a federal trap. The constitution is a federal trap and once signed we cannot get out. In the same way that Chechnya is part of the Soviet Union, we are being dragged into the European Union.

"I hope we never have to fight our way out ... It will be like the Chechnya situation because the Russians won't let the Chechens out".

Ah, UKIP Conference this week. Full of lots of ranting about foreigners, plots against the leadership and the hang 'em and flog 'em crowd out in force, no doubt. Just like a Conservative Party Conference from the 90s with added permatans, really.

Outliers

There seems to be something about opinion polls for the News Of The World that gives them much different results to the others. Last year, they produce the poll that gave all the major parties 31%, earlier this year they had the Lib Dems at 28%, IIRC, and now there's a new one that puts Labour third with 28%, LD 29% and Conservatives 32% (which gives others 11%, by my reckoning). However, a poll for the Independent on Sunday does make slightly better reading for Labour, giving them 32% to the Tories' 30 and Lib Dems 27 (others at 11% again). I believe NOTW polls are usually done by MORI, but I'm not sure who does them for the IoS.

A quick (and probably inaccurate, given different polling methodologies) average of the two polls gives the Conservatives 31%, Labour 30% and Liberal Democrats 28%

(I've only got an Ananova link for these two polls right now - I'll update when I get links to any stories on the NOTW and IoS sites. Ananova are also a bit dodgy about static links, but you should find the story listed on the headlines page)

I've been pondering about why the NOTW polls constantly seem to be outliers, and I can see two immediate explantions. First, they could be using a different methodology to the other polls that in some way either discovers or encourages a higher level of support for the Liberal Democrats at the expense of (predominantly) Labour. However, they could (either by accident or design) also just be taking polls at times when the Lib Dem share of the vote is higher (as it would be now, straight after the party conference) and continually picking up the high points in Lib Dem support and the low ones in Labour support.

(Poll originally found via Labour Watch)

Update: Anthony provides some information in the comments (and analysis on his site) - the NOTW poll was by Populus, taken at a different time to their usual polls and the IoS poll was by a new company called Communicate Research. There's also a new MORI poll in the Observer (Con 33%, Lab 32%, LD 25%) which changes the official back-of-an-envelope rounded-up average to Con 32%, Lab 31%, LD 27%.

Movie quote inflation

You know that bit in Crocodile Dundee when the guy threatens him with a knife, he pulls out a machete. 'You call that a knife? Now that's a knife.'

Well, in case anyone reading ever plans to be threatened by a buzzsaw, then make sure you've got one of these handy and you can use a similar retort. (via Will)

Interestingly, following some of the links in the comments to the Finnish post, I find that the machine appears to be known as a 'Bander 288' owned by a company called RWE Power. There's lots of pictures of it here. It gets interesting when you read this post on Shot By Both Sides and discover that another RWE division - the scarily named RWE Nukem - is currently shipping BNFL's nuclear waste to Kyrgyzstan. I'm getting visions of a mad scientist with a secret base in Central Asia, building giant machines powered by nuclear waste just waiting for the right moment to unleash them upon the Earth.

Change for change's sake

Some of you may have noticed that the 'reading/listening/watching' section of my sidebar has disappeared. This is partly because I wanted to have a shorter sidebar, but mainly because I've not set up a separate reviews blog to try and cover all that sort of stuff. There's still not much there, but I thought I might as well publicise it now, just to stop you all from going through the experience of watching Paycheck.

Later, tiffin was served

There's something oddly Victorian-sounding about the headline on this PA News story:
Mr Paddick Defended the Policing of Last Week's Pro-Hunt Protest Outside Parliament, Which Turned Violent at Times.

Friday, September 24, 2004

But does he want his kids to follow suit?

Interesting snippet from this PR Week article about Fathers4Justice - apparently their candidate for the Hrtlepool by-election has changed his name by deed poll to 'Paul Watson Fathers4Justice'.

The article also says that F4J are intending to stage a whole year of high-profile stunts like Batman at Buckingham Palace and are planning something for the Labour Party Conference next week, so keep your eyes open for that.

Something funny happened on the way to Abu Ghraib

Bloggerheads' Tim Ireland is off on holiday (to an undisclosed location, it would seem) but leaves us with an animation about Abu Ghraib to pass the time. (Caution: Some people may find it overly flippant)

Name: Iain Duncan Smith Specialist Subject: The Bleeding Obvious

Various commentators seem to be taking a YouGov survey conducted by Iain Duncan Smith's Centre for Social Justice (I'd link but they don't seem to have a website, and there are several other CSJs who probably don't want to be confused with IDS) seriously, as though it makes some kind of point. Unfortunately, YouGov don't seem to have the poll results on their site, but let's look at Janet Daley's summation of the results:
People were asked what they would prefer to do if they had £200 to give to a good cause.

The two most popular choices were: give it directly to a person or family in need (31 per cent chose this), and, give it to a local charity or church working for needy people (another 31 per cent). Among the list of possible beneficiaries was "a local authority to spend on fighting poverty" and "central government to spend on fighting poverty". The local authority got one per cent support, and central government got none.

Yes, apparently when people are asked what they would do if they were given £200 for a good cause, they chose to give it to...a good cause. Yes, stunning news there, and I'm sure YouGov were happily laughing their way to the bank when asked to prove that. It's equivalent to asking people 'if you had a pound to buy chocolate?' collating their responses, and then using that as evidence that no one likes crisps.

The point, if you haven't guessed it yet, is that the question asked in the poll was pretty much pointless in trying to make any kind of statement about social justice. You see, people don't get mythical sums of £200 that they can only give to charity, they have money that they can spend on many things and giving it to good causes is just one of them. That people regard charities as more effective than governments isn't too surprising either. That, after all, is why governments give money to charities to carry out projects and why those people who give money to charity don't just add it on to their taxes at the end of the day. But to try and use that as supposed 'evidence' for charities taking over all Government welfare work is stretching the data beyond breaking point.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Real power

Via This Modern World, who cares about the news when you can find out what some guy with a website thinks?

In the name of the father, the son and the Holy Gemmill

Only a couple of days after he died and people are already looking for spiritual salvation through Cloughism. Well that's what my referrer logs tell me, anyway.

The effectiveness of power

Reading Peter's latest jeremiad against the 'permissive society' (and is there anyone else under 50 who uses that phrase seriously?) I'm struck by a theory that, while not stating it explicity, he seems to accept implicity: that Labour governments are more effective than Tory ones. After all, since 1970 we've had 22 years of Conservative government (even if only 50% of them were under the Blessed Margaret) compared to just 12 years of Labour government (5 of which were with a wafer-thin majority) and yet, while the staunch defenders of traditional values could do nothing to halt the spread of the evils of permissiveness, we're regularly told by Peter and others just how much damage only seven years of Labour government have done to the moral fabric of Britain.

One can only imagine how effective a Liberal Democrat government would be, given the predictions of the levels of doom that would be unleashed upon the country within hours of Charles Kennedy becoming Prime Minister.

Just some thoughts

How many of the people who'll criticise Charles Kennedy's speech for being dull would also have criticised him for daring to be flippant when someone British is in danger if he'd have delivered a more upbeat speech?

And of course, the horrible liberal bias of the BBC will be shown at the Conservative Party conference when one of the people invited to the studio to discuss the speech will be a Liberal Democrat PPC. Oh no, that was what happened today when Michael Gove was there to discuss Charles Kennedy's speech.

Anyway, away from all the spin, here's the full text of the speech.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

More cricket

Trying to find out if there's anyone who could bring up some form of justification for Inzamam deciding to bat first in today's Champions Trophy semi-final (because even he can't, judging by these post-game quotes) I took a quick look at rec.sport.cricket.

Turns out that no-one there can, though it could be because they're still discussing England's win yesterday and what that does or doesn't mean for next year's Ashes. But this thread pulled out a great line about Australian attitudes towards English cricket:
> Is it an article of
> faith amongst Australians that no English side can be any good?

No you silly John. It's in the preamble to the Constitution.

Permanence

There are some interesting developments going on within the UN as India, Brazil, Japan and Germany (the 'G4' nations)launch a joint bid for permanent seats on the security council for themselves, as well as permanent African seat. All four have been pressing for this sort of expansion over recent years but it's the first time I can recall any co-ordinated action on this level between nations who want to become permanent members.

It's interesting just how complex this issue is - just doing a quick Google News search on the topic brings up several hundred stories on the issue, each one seeming to highlight another potential problem or boost for the G4's aims, be it India's insistence that any new permanent members should have the same rights as the existing five (and that means having veto power, not the current five giving it up) or the remaining 'enemy state' clauses in the UN charter that may affect Japan and Germany.

Of course, just because this has been making headlines today it doesn't make any progress on this issue likely in the short term. After all, any potential changes would have to be discussed by several legions of diplomats first, all of whom are experts at kicking issues into the long grass until they go quiet. After all, they'll say, the current system's been around for almost sixty years, so why rush to change it? It'll also be interesting to see how strong the G4's commitment to each other is - would any one or two of them turn down a permanent place (with or without veto) is the others weren't getting one?

Of course, all this will come as mere confirmation for the cranks (who I think run this website) who constantly take out adverts in the papers to tell how they've decoded the Bible to give the timetable to the End Times, which begin when it's announced that the Security Council will be expanding the number of permanent members. I'm sure this announcement will have them either running for the hills or serenely preparing themselves for the Rapture. Perhaps even both at the same time.

That's one expensive nipple

CBS fined $550,000 for Janet Jackson's 'wardrobe malfunction'. Seeing as that's the maximum penalty for indecency, I suggest they consider getting their money's worth next time. Or that the FCC grow up and realise that the sight of a nipple is not going to bring about the end of civilisation as we know it.

Tough on the causes of populism

Yet again, I find myself agreeing with Harry, who seems to remember what the Labour Party used to stand for in some cases:
Look, I was one of those who thought "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" was a good slogan. Working class people are the main victims of crime and especially of violent crime.

But when your sole message in an election is about crime, when you have nothing else in the issues section of your website than smashing teen gangs etc and when you are attacking your opponents for considering a policy that probably most of your party's members would agree with (and bringing the memory of Jamie Bulger and the words of his mother into it) then you are going beyond a rejection of soft on crime and entering into the realms of a very unpleasant authoritarian populism.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Rejoice! Rejoice!

Some things happen only rarely. Some things are worth celebrating when they do. This is one of them - not only have England beaten Australia, they've done it comfortably and secured a place in the final of the Champions Trophy to boot.

Just a quick additional thought - does the fact that it's Revolution Day have any bearing on this result?

It's not true, but maybe it should be

Phoenix from the flames

Those of you who remember Lib Dem ex-blogger Gez Smith might like to know that he's moved up in the world a bit and is now writing a diary from the Lib Dem Conference for the BBC.

Reading my mind

The rather good By-elections Blog takes a well-aimed pop at one of lockheir rivals.
Hartlepool Labour party seem to have hi-jacked the Hartlepool by-election blog site Guacamoleville and have proceeded to post nothing but official Labour Party press releases, attacking the Liberal Democrat candidate.

A source close to the Labour campaign is reporting that this action was undertaken because of the problems the party are having with their own website, which seems to be off-line most of the time.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Blogging On Really Important Stuff

Boris Johnson - the official blog:
Tim tells me that the idea is that I fall out of bed every morning, blazing with inspiration, and thunder out 3000 words on the issue of the hour, so generating a pandemic internet controversy. I am not sure, frankly, that I will manage that.

One wonders, of course, what the reaction will be like from certain bloggers.

Late nights

The dates for this year's US Presidential and Vice-Presidential debates have been tentatively agreed: Presidential debates on September 30th, October 8th and October 13th and a Vice-Presidential debate on October 5th. However, all the debates don't start until 9pm US Eastern time, which is 2am here in Britain. Be ready for some late night blogging from people on those nights.

Now then, young man

Brian Clough has died. Over on Crooked Timber, Chris Bertram provides us with one of his greatest quotes (that I've got on a Philosophy Football shirt somewhere) and a link to a tribute site.

I can remember one of the more pleasant General Meetings we had at Swansea Union when I was a student, just after he'd been sacked by Nottingham Forest. By the end of the afternoon, it was officially Union policy that Clough should be reinstated at Forest and be appointed England manager, while we asked the NUS to call a national pro-Clough march. We did send a fax to NUS pointing this out, but they ignored it. Perhaps the SWP would have been better?

'Neither Venables nor Hoddle, but International Cloughism'. That's a slogan.

I heard Clough on Five Live about a year ago, discussing his all-time XI. I can't remember the composition of the side, save that it had Tom Finney in it, but there was another great Cloughism from that. Like most managers of his time he'd often be confronted by fans after the game insisting that striker X was rubbish and they could have scored all the chances he'd missed that day. 'If that's the case, young man.' Clough would say to them. 'I suggest you find a team to play for, as you could be making £90,000 a week.'

Swivel-eyed loon not-really-update

Jonathan Aitken has announced that he's "genuinely pondering" whether to stand as UKIP's candidate in Thanet South at the next election.

Exhaustive

All your questions will be answered at the official God FAQ. (via Blogdex)

Promoting democracy one pint at a time

Something for my American readers now: why not go Drinking Liberally?

Various cricketing thoughts

It's good news that Steve Harmison has said he won't tour Zimbabwe, but what's even more interesting is that, according to this Independent article, Andy Flintoff is about to announce he's following suit.

It's another positive mark for the 'Flintoff is the new Botham' argument. Despite all the references to Botham as being 'somewhat to the right of Genghis Khan' back in the 80s, he (along with David Gower) turned down all the attempts to get him to join the rebel tours of South Africa (despite being offered what amounted to a blank cheque) on the grounds that he'd 'never be able to look Viv (Richards) in the face again' if he went.

And on a more mundane point, why don't the PWC ratings have an overall ranking for players, combining Test and ODI rankings? You could do it the same way as all-rounder ratings are calculated now - multiplying someone's Test and ODI scores together, then dividing by 1000. If I had the vaguest idea as to how to code a program that'd do it, I'd calculate it myself, but I don't, so I'll just complain that no one else has.

It's war

Of the circulations, at least. Anyone else notice that the Independent has a full-page advert today announcing that next week they're launching 'Media Weekly' on Mondays, obviously to compete with Media Guardian? Should make for an interesting comparison, and an interesting sign of confidence on the part on the Indy. Might be time to start taking bets on when, rather than if, its sales pass the Guardian's.

In the dictionary under 'chavtastic'

Oh that Britney Spears is just so damn classy:
Various newspapers reported Britney and her new husband hit the town wearing themed tracksuits...

Celebrations followed at a club, with some female guests wearing pink towelling tracksuits bearing the legend "The Maids", while male guests wore white tracksuits with "Pimps" written on him.

And remember, it's letting gays get married that will damage the institution of marriage.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Stopped clocks

Maybe it's ignorance, but for what may be the first time I find myself asking the same questions as Stephen Pollard, though still waiting for an answer.

Why it pays to follow links

Just a quick bit of aimless surfing took me here from Dave's blogroll, and then helped me find this:
I saw on Newsround that some protesters were having a go at so-called ‘Police Brutality’. Whilst I live in a rural area, I have to say that this is just typical of the way some countryside dwellers are completely out of touch with the needs and traditions of the Metropolitan Police.

The Metropolitan Police have been hitting people on the heads with truncheons for hundreds of years. It is not just a sport – it is a whole way of life.

In fact, it has been shown that the only really efficient way of keeping the number of protesters down is by hitting them on the head with truncheons. Other ways – laying traps, shooting them etc – are far crueler and lead to unnecessary suffering..

We saw on the news protesters cheerfully being interviewed with blood pouring down their faces. Proof, indeed, that the experience is not particularly traumatic – indeed, there is no evidence at all that protesters feel any pain or fear when being hit on the head with a truncheon.

By stopping the police hitting protesters on the head with truncheons, the ‘do-gooders’ will be condemning a whole economy to ruin. Thousands of people depend on this activity for their livelihood – bandage-makers, paramedics – lawyers, etc.

And then following on from the comments there, what looks like an interesting blog by an EMT in the London Ambulance Service. But a perfunctory search doesn't find a Fire Service, Mountain Rescue or Coast Guard blog to make up the 999 set.

Flippancy

As the Home Office considers whether to ban BNP members from Civil Service jobs can I suggest an easy solution? A ban's not really necessary, just a statement that rudimentary levels of intelligence are necessary to work in the Civil Service, and thus anyone dumb enough to think joining the BNP is a good idea is clearly too thick to get over that bar.