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.)

Scottish History

I\’m desperately sorry to have to tell you all this but this video (nicked from Iain Dale) is the biggest load of unhistorical codswallop imaginable.


The people who brushed off the Romans were no more Scots than Lenny Henry is Scottish.

They were the Picts, a group that faded out of history in the 11th and 12th centuries as the place became increasingly gaelic and the Scots arrived.

The Angry German

An occasional series in Esquire:

What\’s with all the friendliness? Everybody in America seems to want to make sweet love to all their colleagues while behind their backs they want to ram rusty screwdrivers down their throats. In my country, it\’s the other way around: Everyone at the workplace is unfriendly to each other, and then they are best friends over the weekends playing football. When I started working here, one of my first e-mails went to a senior database administrator. It said: "Database is down. Fix it." It landed me a first-row seat in the department head\’s office, getting a talking down about work culture. To this day, I don\’t see anything wrong. I didn\’t say, "You stupid fuck, you let the database go down while masturbating to Mexican donkey porn. Fix it." Now, I learned that the proper way to say this is: "I know you are really busy, but I cannot continue my work while the database is inaccessible. If you don\’t mind, could you look into the problem and let me know if there is a chance you can rectify it? Sorry to be a bother." No wonder shit doesn\’t get done in time when you have to write a freaking novel for each simple thing.

Anyone who has dealth with both Germans and Americans will see the truth of his statements. More articles here.

The Problem with International Organisations

This is one of the problems we have with teaming up with Johnny Foreigner in all of these international organisations:

South Africa’s police chief faces a warrant for his arrest as a bitter struggle at the top of the country’s ruling African National Congress threatens to plunge the country into chaos.

The warrant against Jackie Selebi, who is also head of Interpol, was issued last week, according to SABC, the state broadcaster. Mr Selebi has been accused of links to figures from South Africa’s underworld. Last night he told a local radio station that he had no knowledge of the warrant.

The reported move comes amid a fierce political battle that this week propelled the country’s chief prosecutor into murky circumstances. “There is a full-scale war going on now between the prosecutors and the Justice Ministry,” one political commentator said. President Mbeki has pledged to root out corruption but has been accused of soft-pedalling on allegations made against his own supporters. Mr Selebi would not have got his job without being one of the early Mbeki backers. In 2004 he was elected to the rotating post of Interpol President.

Mr Selebi, who has been criticised harshly for failing to reduce crime, himself became a target for investigation by the country’s FBI-style Scorpions unit after a business associate was arrested on suspicion of the murder in September 2005 of Bret Kebble, a flamboyant mining magnate who had close links to the ANC. It emerged that Mr Selebi had frequently played golf with the suspect, Glenn Agliotti, a well-known drug lord.

The problem being that we\’ve teamed up in an international organisation with Johnny Foreigner, who might have a rather different understanding of the words probity and legality than we do. For example, aren\’t you glad that Interpol, the people who deal with international police matters, warrants and so on, has as its President someone who is a regular golfing partner of a drug dealer?

Or that the European transport system is run by a convicted fraudster?