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?


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.


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?


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?

Sensible, But

More than 40,000 football fans travelling to Moscow to watch the all-English Champions League final this month will not need visas, it was announced last night.

Supporters will only need to provide a match ticket, passport and completed immigration card to enter the country under the temporary rules.

The decision, which had been expected for several days, followed protracted negotiations between Russian and British diplomats, Uefa officials, and envoys from the two clubs that have reached the final, Manchester United and Chelsea.

There had been concern that Russia would not cope with the surge in visa requests from British fans hoping to watch the May 21 final.

The ongoing diplomatic tension between the UK and Russia was understood to have undermined attempts to secure the "visa-free" deal. Russian officials were believed to be angry at visa restrictions imposed on their own nationals entering Britain, and the dispute had threatened to hamper negotiations.

The special visa exemptions will only apply between May 19 and 23. Anyone overstaying the 72-hour entry period will have to pay the fee for a regular visa when leaving the country, officials said.

It\’s the only way that the problem could possibly have been solved. However, I do rather doubt the ability of the Russian bureaucracy to get that information all the way down to each and every border officer.

A prediction: there will be thousands of said fans who find themselves facing the demand for the $100 exit fee whether they actually owe it or not.

That European Cup Final

Tim Newman pointed out that there\’s going to be something of a problem for those fans wanting to get visas to go see the match (sorry, can\’t find the link…oops, here.).

The simmering diplomatic row between Russia and the UK is threatening to prevent thousands of Chelsea and Manchester United fans travelling to Moscow for the first all-English Champions League final as negotiations over the visa requirements descended into acrimony yesterday.

Russia\’s embassy in London promised to process visa applications for the expected 50,000 fans "as quickly as possible", but also accused Britain of imposing an unjust visa regime on Russians travelling to the UK in response to the 2006 murder of Alexander Litvinenko.

Chelsea booked their place in the final last night after a 4-3 aggregate win over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. The London club\’s fans now join the struggle to find flights and hotels, with remaining flights to Moscow for the May 21 match costing more than £1,500, and only two hotels in the city known to have beds available.

While no final decision has been taken, it is understood that a plan to offer all fans travelling to the match visa exemptions is now off the table, although an exception may be made for those on official charter flights. Russia is also considering waiving the usual requirement if fans produce a letter of invitation and a hotel booking.

It is going to be the most glorious clusterfuck.

You simply will not be able to get a Russian bureaucracy to react or change its ways in the time available. Either they drop visa requirements altogether for the week or it will be absolute chaos.

Froggie Sex Machines

A startling revelation: the Frogs are trying to spice up their sex lives and in doing so they\’re buying up British designed sex toys.

One possible explanation is that the Brits (as George Mikes pointed out, the Continentals have sex lives, the British have hot water bottles) needed technological assistance and thus developed the technology to aid them. Necessity being the Mother of Invention and all that.

Another is that the Frogs have rather changed the nature of their relationships in recent years. Anecdotally at least, the normal method of dealing with a boring sex life there was to take another partner, wasn\’t it?

Or possibly both are true, the latter change meaning they are now taking advantage of the British Industrial Revolution and lead in technology.


To Sr. Berlusconi

Famously outspoken Italian opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi has claimed that right-wing politicians are more attractive than their left-wing rivals.

The centre-right\’s candidate in this weekend\’s national elections said the Left had "no taste" in women.

He said that when he looked around parliament, he found female politicians from the right were "more beautiful", the BBC reports.

"The left has no taste, even when it comes to women," he said.



(Yes, yes, I know, grossly unfair and sexist…just couldn\’t resist.)