No, really, we love the French. Honest.

An officer in the U.S. Naval reserve was attending a conference of officers from the U.S. navy and the French navy. At a cocktail reception, he found himself in a small group that included personnel from both navies.

A French admiral started complaining that whereas Europeans learned many languages, Americans learned only English. He then asked: \’Why is it that we have to speak English at these conferences rather than speak French?\’ Without hesitating, an American admiral replied: \’Maybe it\’s because the Brits,

Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn\’t have to speak German.\’

In 1966, upon being told that Charles de Gaulle had taken France out of NATO and that all U.S. troops must be evacuated from French soil, President Lyndon Johnson told Secretary of State Dean Rusk: \’Ask him about the cemeteries, Dean!\’

So, at end of the meeting, Dean asked de Gaulle if his order to remove all U.S. troops from French soil also included the 60,000 plus soldiers buried in France from World War I and World War II. De Gaulle never answered.

Ms. Betancourt

Quite:

This is understandable. The FARC are a only bunch of illiterate peasant drug dealers who have been force-fed Marxist Boloxology. This is combined with the arrogance and egotism of knowing they have the power of life and death over people thanks to their drug bought AK-47’s. They are trained to take what they want without considering the suffering they cause, and treat the “people” they supposedly represent with a haughty distain.

……

How Irish

I know, I know, we shouldn\’t be making Irish jokes in these enlightened times. However:

Prawo Jazdy, presumed to be one of the hundreds of thousands of Poles lured to Ireland during its economic boom, was the Scarlet Pimpernel of motoring, leaving a trail of multiple identities and vehicles across the data base of the Republic’s Garda Siochana.

With not a single conviction by 2007 and more than fifty offences recorded, the police decided to take a closer look at Mr Jazdy, according to the Irish Times and Irish Independent.

The result was unexpected and embarrassing: in a letter that is now doing the rounds of Garda e-mail inboxes, a traffic division official wrote that it had come to his attention that officers inspecting Polish driving licences were recording Prawo Jazdy as the licence holder’s name. “Prawo Jazdy is actually Polish for \’driving licence\’ and not the first and surname on the licence,” he wrote.

Bwahahahaha!

Most amusing.

Davide Boni, a councillor in Milan for the Northern League, which also opposes the building of mosques in Italian cities, said that kebab shop owners were prepared to work long hours, which was unfair competition.

Sadly, that view, while amusing, isn\’t limited to odd Italian politicians. This is also fun:

There is confusion, however, over what is meant by ethnic. Mr Di Grazia said that French restaurants would be allowed. He was unsure, though, about Sicilian cuisine. It is influenced by Arab cooking.

It\’s one of the fixtures of Italian life that anyone from 20 or 30 miles south of wherever the thinker comes from is thought to be a little too Arab or African for the thinker\’s liking. A little like California in this manner: everyone agrees that Southern California is the preserve of nuts and flakes, it\’s just that "Southern" starts a few miles further south from wherever you are.

Vladimir Putin

This is fascinating. I\’ve no idea whether it is true but it\’s fascinating.

In Mrs Putina\’s account, Mr Putin\’s father was a Russian mechanic, Platon Privalov, who got her pregnant while married to another woman. She claims her son, nicknamed "Vova" was born on October 7, 1950, exactly two years before Mr Putin\’s official birth date.

In 1952, Mrs Putina married a Georgian soldier, Giorgi Osepahvili, and moved to Georgia with her son. In December 1960, under pressure from her husband to disown her child, she delivered "Vova" back to his grandparents in Russia. Mrs Putina believes that the St. Petersburg-based "parents" referred to in Mr Putin\’s biography adopted her son from his grandparents.

He was a) born in Georgia and b) illegitimate. The first part might not matter too much (give  that both parents were ethnic Russians) but there\’s still  a social thing against bastards in Russia.

The French Agriculture Minister speaks out!

Here.

It\’s the usual hogwash.

But Europe\’s focus must be on encouraging the development of local agriculture. Doing so is the only way to achieve greater global food security and reduce poverty. It will also make it possible to ensure that today\’s high prices for agricultural products are transformed into opportunity for poor farmers. This is vital because, according to the World Bank, growth in farming eliminates poverty twice as much as growth in any other economic sector. Indeed, agriculture remains the primary productive sector in the world\’s poorest countries, employing 65% of the working population and, on average, contributing more than 25% to GDP.

Twat. If agriculture is such an important part of poor country economies then the one thing we don\’t want to do is encourage localism. We want to encourage trade, so as to grow the value added in that important part of the economy.

Further liberalisation of farm trade will not ensure food security.

Cretin. Of course more trade will increase food security. By sourcing food from multiple sources, from different parts of the world, we\’ll be free of the effects of purely local phenomena like drought, floods and so on that destroy crops.

But, in a world where productivity differentials can be as great as one to 1,000, it would be unwise to rely on markets alone to enable the poorest countries to expand their economies.

Moron. It is precisely because there are such variations in productivity that we want to have trade. If, to use entirely made up numbers, one hour of human labour will produce 1 kg of rice in one place and 1 tonne of rice in another then of course we want to grow the rice in the latter place and trade it for whatever can be done with that 999 hours of net labour saved. That\’s what trade is for, it\’s the very definition of wealth creation to do such things.

Nor is it likely that much economic expansion will result from competition between multinational food distributors and producers in countries where famine still stalks the land.

Idiot. Food will be in greater supply and cheaper if the more productive producers and distributors get involved. Isn\’t that actually what we want?

Instead, bringing together outside expertise and local knowledge of the geography and environmental and economic constraints in order to spread risks and share the management of resources and projects is far more likely to help poor countries achieve food independence.

Flaphead. We don\’t want countries to achieve "food independence". Just as we don\’t want cities, towns, villages, families or individuals to do so. We want people to trade with each other for it is this division of labour and specialisation which makes us all so stinking rich. Even a Frog might have noticed the connection between not being crouched over a hoe in the fields and being wealthy.

It was such an approach that, in less than 20 years, helped postwar Europe achieve food sovereignty.

Twit. As above, we don\’t actually want food sovereignty, just as we don\’t want car sovereignty, wine sovereignty or iPod sovereignty.

Countries that have protected their agricultural development from the threats posed by international markets – such as India or Vietnam – have achieved substantial reductions in agricultural poverty.

Blatherer. Countries which have not so protected their agricultural development, like, say, Canada and Australia, have abolished agricultural poverty.

The time has also come to prioritise agriculture in order to ensure growth with a more human face. At the heart of the EU, France wants to play its part in a collective effort that is fast becoming a major issue for us all.

And that\’s a Frenchman talking to you. Give us your money so that we can pay off our tiresome peasantry.

No. Michel, please do just fuck off.

I want one of these

These houses being sold in Sicily for €1 each.

The election was seen by many as a stunt by a man desperate for the oxygen of publicity, but Mr Sgarbi is working overtime to prove them wrong. And his first brain wave – to offer ancient and derelict homes in the historic town centre for a token price of 1 euro – has put Salemi on the map all over the world.

"We have had more than 6,000 enquiries," Sgarbi told The Independent. They have come from Britain and the United States, from Canada and Australia, France, Germany, the Baltic states, Mexico Columbia. They have poured in from the worlds of fashion, style and music which know Sgarbi as one of the sharpest aesthetes in Italy: American Vogue\’s Anna Wintour and world music\’s Peter Gabriel have thrown in their one euro.

Now the one thing I can\’t find is where to make my application. Any ideas?

You Know It\’s a Dictatorship When

The move by Libya, an OPEC member, was intended to increase pressure on energy-importing Switzerland in a row over the July 15 arrest in Geneva of Hannibal Gaddafi, who together with his wife was charged with ill-treatment of two domestic employees.

Hannibal Gaddafi, who was freed on bail after two days in detention, has denied the charges.

Libyan officials said his arrest was an affront to national dignity. An influential political group close to Muammar Gaddafi called it a "horrible crime" and "unprecedented serious action".

Libya\’s state-owned Maritime Transport National Corporation, which numbers Hannibal among its senior officials, announced Libya had halted oil exports to Switzerland and all ships carrying Swiss-made goods were barred from unloading their cargoes at Libyan ports.

"If the Swiss authorities do not apologise in the next coming hours to the brother Leader (Muammar Gaddafi) and the Libyan people we will take more major steps," a statement said.

Alright, perhaps not a definition of a dictatorship, but certainly some confusion between the interests of the family oligarchy running the place and the place itself, yes?

Tsk

The searing heat of Andalucia and the Algarve is much over-rated.

Searing  heat? Depends how you\’ve organised yourself. If you\’re a few miles inland, a few hundred feet up, then you get the most delightful breezes on those summer afternoons.

Andalucia doesn\’t of course: but then that\’s also full of Spaniards so who would go there anyway?

London Violence Versus Paris Violence

No, I\’ve got no figures here at all, just a question:

For London has recently felt like a far more violent capital city than Paris. According to official figures from Inhes, nobody was stabbed to death this year in the French capital and its neighbouring suburbs, whereas in London 19 teenagers have died during knife and gun attacks since the beginning of the year. Significantly, according to this report from Inhes, more than 80% of acts of physical violence in France are committed without any weapon. However, their number has been increasing over the years: 164,359 acts of physical violence against people have been reported to the police in 2006, a 10.6% increase compared to 2005. At the same time, however, in Paris, there has been a decrease of 4.9% of these attacks, down to 33,400 (see details here).

Paris is a much smaller city, so the absolute numbers will of course be different. However, here\’s the question. How much of this difference can be explained by the fact that in London, the slums are actually in the city, while in Paris, they\’re all well beyond it, in the (hope I get these words right) the banlieus beyond the peripherique?

Today Really is Full of Surprises

Argentina\’s trick this time, under the presidential double act of Nestor and Cristina Kirchner, has been to purge the National Statistics Office and appoint a friend to manage inflation data.

The official Consumer Price Index (CPI) is 8.9pc. This is the benchmark used to set payments on inflation-linked bonds, now 40pc of the country\’s debt.

The true inflation rate is more than 25pc, according to union staff of the statistics office. They allege manipulation. St Luis province is issuing its own data, three times higher.

"Argentina is engineering a partial default on its domestic debt," said Professor Carmen Reinhart, from Maryland University.

Gosh, who would have thought it?

As one economist recently pointed out, perhaps the only thing worse than the effect of orthodox economic policies in Argentina is the effect of heterodox ones.

Snigger

A very Froggie way to do it.

Now country and western has become so big in France that the country\’s bureaucrats have decided to bring the craze under state control.

The French administration has moved to create an official country dancing diploma as part of a drive to regulate the fad. Authorised instructors who have been on publicly funded training courses will be put in charge of line dancing lessons and balls.

If it\’s happening it must be regulated. No one must do anything without the intervention of the State….and we\’re in the same legal and political structure as these bozos? Can we leave yet?

But the most delicious part is this:

“I think this corresponds to the individualism of our times,” Mr Chauveau said.

State regulation, licencing, publically funded training courses, reflect the individualism of our times?

Hell, line dancing, where all make the same moves in unison, reflects individualism?

Jebus.

So It\’s Not the French Then?

He sleeps in pyjamas, paints his walls yellow and over a year drinks 540 glasses of alcohol and has sex with his wife 117 times, as well as having erotic dreams 15 times a month.

She wears nighties to bed, likes baking, orchids and piling cuddly toys on the back of the sofa. She also has sex with her husband 117 times a year, consumes a total of 229 alcoholic beverages and dreams about sex five times a month.

For if it were they\’d have to include the numbers for sex with other people\’s husbands and wives, no?

You What?

Russia\’s minister of sport has promised an unprecedented police presence, a ban on public drinking and the absence of outdoor TV screens to keep order when more than 42,000 Chelsea and Manchester United supporters descend on Moscow for the Champions League final.

A ban on public drinking?

"Drinking in public areas is not allowed under Russian law but there are plenty of places where consumption can take place," said Alexey Sorokin, head of Russia\’s Champions League organising committee.

It\’s illegal? When you have kiosks selling draught beer on most streets?

Independence for Greenland

Why not?

But many Danes see Greenland as a millstone. It has big social problems: the poverty of fishing families whose waters have been taken over by foreign fleets, a high suicide rate and high levels of HIV and Aids.

A possibly apocryphal story, the Prime Minister of Greenland was asked, some decades ago, why the country had the world\’s higest rates of alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases and divorces.

His response was along the lines of, well, the nights are 6 months long, what the hell else should we be doing?