How very, very amusing about Dennis Hastert

The rough background is this.

So, high school wrestling coach, becomes Congressman, Speaker of the House, retires to be a lobbyist.

Someone who has, according to the court documents, known Haster all their lives comes along in 2010 (3 years after retirement from Congress) and asks for $3.5 million to, allegedly, keep quiet about something that had happened to both of them.

Hastert agrees and starts paying.

Hmm, well, no, we don’t know what. We can all assume all we like about a former high school wrestling coach agreeing to cough up but……

So, who is now indicted? The bloke coughing up the money. And not for whatever might have been done. Nor for coughing up. But for taking the money out of accounts in amounts of less than $10k at a time to dodge, allegedly, reporting requirements.

Ain’t American law just great?

There really is a male/female difference

What amuses here is the underlying message:

In a trilogy of rather brilliant short films, WaterAid imagines how different society would be if it were men who lost the endometrium of their wombs every month. An accompanying survey of 2,000 people found that 78% thought the world of sport would change if men had periods; a quarter thought white sportswear would be banned and that men would brag about their periods; 21% thought that bookmakers would factor menstrual cycles into their odds.

The films bring this alternate reality to vivid life. Around the office photocopier, men compare flows: the heavier the better. In WaterAid’s second film, football commentators talk blithely about a player being the most likely to score because he’s “on day two of his cycle” and “right in the optimum performance zone this month”. Wait, there’s an optimum performance zone? I’ve come to the end of my menstruating life without realising that, and I haven’t realised that because there is nothing blithe or casual in how we talk about periods.

So, OK, men and women are different then. So whither feminism now?

Equity feminism, different but equal is fine: but the sort that insists there’s no difference looks rather holed doesn’t it?

Donde esta La Polla

The British left must learn to speak a new language – Spanish

So says Owen Jones.

So I offer that title as a first language lesson for said British left. Admittedly, there’s a couple of ways one could interpret that, one using Polla to mean Polly Toynbee, which presumably isn’t what Owen is referring to as that would be the old British left, the one that must be left behind.

The other, more colloquial, meaning, well, more sui8table really as these people are willing to say or do prety much anything for power, aren’t they?

Rather sharp from Cameron

In a surprise move the Conservatives introduced a new law to reform the way union activists pay a “political levy” to Labour.

Under the Conservative plans, union members will have to opt-in to paying an annual amount to Labour, rather than opting out as at present.

If he goes on to get the Boundary Commission working properly then there’s a good chance of a third term….

Yep, still looking for a job

Tomorrow is Queen’s Speech day. No government that might have been elected would have presented the programme I would wish for. These would have been my priority bills:

To create an Office for Tax Responsibility


And marvel at the logic here:

Replacing the Lord’s with an elected Senate. This would begin the process of real change in the way we a are governed. This ought to have happened in the aftermath of the mp’s claims scandal.

Elected politicians are thieving scumso, err, let’s have more elected politicians!

Tim Lang really is a ghastly little fascist, isn’t he?

The announcement by Tesco that it will cut the sugar content of its own-label soft drinks by 5% a year was rightly national news. Here was the purveyor of nigh on a third of the nation’s food openly promising a cut that will be barely noticed over time by consumers but will have a positive health impact. This makes public the strategy we call in policy “choice editing”, changing what the public consumes without it being too troubled. If implemented, it heralds the reduction of two teaspoons of sugar per cola can within four years, not to be sniffed at when obesity is seemingly out of control and soft drinks are such a significant factor. This is progress certainly, but not the big change needed; For that, we need industry-wide and national re-orientation involving new policies, firm regulation and tough reformulation standards plus a major cultural change in the consuming public.

New, firm, tough, and by the way, you, the public, you’re not worthy of us and you’re going to have to change too.

The Tesco decision reminds the new government that food and health is hot politics. Government would be ill-advised to see this as the “leave it to Tesco et al” strategy working, which has for too long been the default UK food policy loved by Labour and Tories alike, bowing before market logic, and reducing health to a companies and consumer dynamic. But not even mighty Tesco can sort out obesity. That would require a re-engineering of the entire food system which works hard to over-produce food, and flood markets with ever-cheaper salty, fatty, sugary non-food foods. We’d also need to build exercise into daily living, and curtail out of town supermarkets which can only be reached by gas-guzzling obesity-inducing car culture.

The reordering of society to the wishes of a monomaniac: sure looks fascist to me. It’s most certainly authoritarian, isn’t it?

Those of us active in this policy area (and I declare an interest as one of the “angry professors” who launched the “enough is enough” Action on Sugar campaign in January 2014),

Aka, yes, I know I’m a cunt.

Cola companies have been pushing sugar-free colas as their escape route from blame for decades, but these substitute high calorie sugar for artificial sweeteners, retaining consumers’ acceptance of sweetness as normal.

Can’t even get that right. The sweetners substitute for the sugar. And note the underlying demand there: you, you human beings, you like sweet stuff! Don’t! Because I say so! And, of course, I get to tell you so!

Tastebuds haven’t changed. The nightmare for Tesco would be if consumers simply switch brands, go to other supermarkets or even demand “bring back our sugary cokes” – hence the slow “below the radar” proposed changes. The public health case is simple: what’s needed is a population-wide shift, the gradual reduction of all sugars for everybody, and a reversal of the gradual sweetening of the world’s diet experienced over recent decades. Sugar is put into a vast range of food and drinks today, as is salt. Hence these two ingredients being targeted by public health advocates. They symbolise the world’s uptake of ever more processed, factory-made, instant satisfaction non-food foods and snacks, and the rise of the “permanently eating” culture among those populations who have access and can afford such products.

This is a war on modernity, isn’t it? First time the population has had enough food to be able to eat whatever whenever and we’ve some idiot standing on the tracks of progress shouting “Stop!”.

For government, the big problem is that sugar is but one strand of a UK food policy which has been fraying for years. The last Labour government received its wake-up call during the 2007-08 banking and commodity crisis, when global raw food prices doubled in months, as did oil, on which the much vaunted success of 20th century food policy depends. Oil = fertilisers + agrichemicals + petrol = labour reduction = cheaper mass food.

We don’t make fertilisers from oil, fuckwit. And that food price rise was because of biodiesel and corn ethanol.

What colour footie bags are these people going to march in?

Define “Tax Break”

Landlords enjoyed a record £14bn in tax breaks in 2013, according to figures revealing the expansion of the UK’s buy-to-let market in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

So, how are we going to define tax break here?

Possibly by taxing someone on the profits their business made, not their turnover?

Property owners, who can claim tax deductions for a wide range of expenses when they rent out homes, claimed £6.3bn in tax relief against the cost of mortgage interest alone in the 2012-13 financial year. The scale of the tax breaks was revealed by HM Revenue & Customs after a freedom of information request.

Yes, yes, that is how we’re going to do it.


Eric Clapton bootlegs

So, err, shush….but does anyone know where this is?

Early 90s, Clapton did the Albert Hall stuff that became 24 nights the album. And there was a night of pop or two, the new albums, there were a few nights of orchestral stuff (I think?) and there were a few nights of purely the blues. And I remember (because I taped it) that the blues night was broadcast on Radio 1.

And the final song was Further on up the Road (I think?). And I still think of that final solo as the finest piece of guitar work I’ve ever heard. But I can’t find the bugger to check my ageing memory.

It must be out there, Radio !? Live broadcast? The blues night, the last song.


Ah, the ancient rights of the freeborn Englishman

Yet in austerity Britain, children have been chucked to the bottom of the pile. They have been robbed of their rightful benefits. And the support they could once draw upon – everything from Sure Start centres to youth clubs to mental-health workers – has been hacked back.

Yes, Sure Start. Announced in 1998 and it’s still not certain that it has any notable effects either way. But, you know, the current generation of children will be absolutely crippled by the lack of something that we’re not sure does very much and which no previous generation of children had anyway.


The worst that anyone can really say is that the current government is reversing the last government’s spending on these things. That may or may not be a good or a bad idea. But it’s not Armaggeddon.

There ain’t no poverty no more

Given all this, how is it that so many pundits and charities talk about widespread poverty in Britain?

It dates back to 1962 and the annual conference of the British Sociological Association. Two Left-wing academics, Peter Townsend and Brian Abel-Smith, developed a new way of defining “poverty” based on the income level at which people were entitled to a payment called “supplementary benefit”. One person at the conference reported “a mood of conspiratorial excitement” about the idea of redefining poverty. These are her words, not mine, and they do seem revealing. It is as if some people on the Left were longing to find a way in which poverty had not been “conquered” as Barbara Castle had said. They had found a way in which it would always be possible to use the huge emotional power of the word.

The flurry of excitement about redefining poverty concluded with it being defined as 60 per cent of median incomes with adjustment for family size.

Only inequality….

Corruption? In The Russian Space Industry? My Word, However Could Anyone…

Think that could be true.

Russian officials have launched an investigation into one of Russia’s most important spaceship builders amid a multi-million pound corruption scandal engulfing the country’s troubled space industry.

The arrest of Dmitry Dyakonov, the director of a firm that provides legal services to the company that builds Russia’s famous Proton and Angara space rockets, followed accusations of misappropriation and embezzlement across the industry that could run into billions of pounds.

My dealings with them were a long time ago and fairly minor but you could see the way the system was moving. Bits and pieces of work were outsourced specifically so as to create the opportunity for a margin to be built in. For a time we organised the import of the rad hard processors they needed for rockets. Lost that to people who were willing to pad for that margin….

So, I have something in common with Il Pappa then

Pope Francis has revealed that he has not watched television for 25 years – not even the matches played by his beloved Buenos Aires football team.

The South American pontiff said he last switched on a TV in 1990 in an interview on Monday with an Argentinian newspaper.

After that he simply decided that “it was not for me”, he told La Voz del Pueblo.

Perhaps not 1990 and I do make it a religious habit (sorry) to watch the international rugby. But other than that, about right….

Complete bollocks

Lovers of olive oil could face the prospect of supplies of their favourite cooking oil being rationed, experts have warned.

For poor harvests in Spain and Italy have fuelled warnings from olive oil industry experts of a massive shortfall in supplies reaching the market, the latest research shows.

1) The damn things grow wild all around here. Come and pick your own: every village has a mill to make the oil for you. A hell of a lot of work for not much gain mind you…..

2) The price will rise, not rationing be instituted.