Dear, Dear Maddy

What would we do without her?

Secondly, the coverage shows how quickly the west reverts to racism. Why is the word "tribal" only used to refer to Africa? Why don\’t we talk of Belgian tribes or Middle Eastern tribes? No, only in Africa is inter-ethnic violence cast as "ancient", immutable tribalism, associated in the European mindset with barbarism and irrationality.

She then goes on to give an accurate descsription of the way in which the violence in Kenya has been caused and the way in which it is playing out. For example:

This is the region where Kikuyu, the biggest ethnic group who have done the best since independence, acquired land in the 60s dispossessing the Kalenjin – a grievance that has festered unresolved ever since.

Err, tribalism.

Except for this bit of course:

What we are seeing in Kenya – and in other unstable developing countries – is how human beings behave when faced with the kind of chronic insecurity that globalisation is incubating the world over.

Had to get that bit in, didn\’t she? Quite amazing to think that it\’s globalisation, that is, that you no longer have to depend solely upon local resources, which is driving battles over local resources like land.

Quite

The satirist Chris Morris is planning, we learnt at the weekend, to make a new programme sending up Islamic terrorists in the manner of Dad\’s Army. "Terrorism isn\’t about religion," the proposal for the programme says. "It\’s about berks." Amen to that. It\’s about time it was said, and said loud and clear.

Worked for Oswald Mosely:

But years before, in 1938, Wodehouse showed us what he really thought when, in The Code of the Woosters, he gave us Sir Roderick Spode, leader of the Black Shorts, an unambiguous skit on Sir Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists.

When Bertie Wooster acts, as ever, the turning worm, he says what Wodehouse thinks about Nazism, fascism and all such forms of extremism, and also what the British themselves naturally think about such subjects and such people. “The trouble with you, Spode, is that just because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of half-wits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you’re someone. You hear them shouting ‘Heil, Spode!’ and you imagine it’s the voice of the people. That is where you make your bloomer. What the voice of the people is saying is: ‘Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?’ ”

Spode is comic, Mosley was comic to the British,

It\’s not that they don\’t like it up \’em, it\’s that they can\’t take people laughing at them.

The Hereditary Principle

Tony Benn loves to use the analogy of the Hereditary Lords as being like getting on a jet plane where the pilot has been chosen because his father was a pilot. He means that it is so absurd that of course you wouldn\’t do things that way.

Ed Gardner, who has now turned 20, is believed to be Britain\’s youngest commercial pilot.

He got a job at Titan Airways the day after he received his licence and within days was crewing with his father, Bob, 55, a captain.

Mr Gardner, from Stebbing, near Great Dunmow, Essex, said: "I started flying at 14 – that is the youngest you have to be to learn.

"I flew solo at 16 and got my private pilot\’s licence on my 17th birthday.

Quite.

Selina Scott Speaks Out!

In a thinly-veiled swipe against some younger women presenters, Miss Scott told The Daily Telegraph that the BBC and other news operations were more interested in "presentation over substance".

"So often you see people coming through the system without a strong journalistic background, who haven\’t covered a wide range of stories," she said.

"Women are taken on because they are intelligent and good-looking but not because of the experience they\’ve had in breaking or covering stories."

Highly snigger worthy. Hands up everyone who thinks that Selina Scott would have been employed as a newsreader if she had looked like Margaret Beckett?

A Third of Food Thrown Away!

Err, hellooo?

A staggering £8billion-worth of food is thrown away in Britain every year – a third of everything we buy, according to campaigners.

And most of the 6.7 million tons of food we discard from our homes each year – enough to fill Wembley Stadium eight times – could have been eaten, according the Government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap). And the startling figures refer only to waste from households – when waste from businesses is included the numbers will be considerably higher.

For every three bags of shopping brought home, one ends up in a landfill. Experts said too much food was being thrown away because consumers let it go off in the fridge or cupboard, or portions are too big and leftovers are simply binned.

Didn\’t we go through all of this a few weeks ago? Included in that "one third" is potato peelings, cabbage stalks and tea bags? So that this figure is, at the very best, extremely misleading?

As well as the cost, the wasted food is a major contributor to the production of greenhouse gases. Most of the food thrown away ends up in landfill, where it produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

And that methane is, by law (2004 Landfill Act) collected and used to generate energy: it supplies 30% of Britain\’s renewable energy. Not to note that is extremely misleading….to the point of (almost) being a lie.

Wrap is something of a problem as an organisation anyway. They\’ve produced a report which is really rather good. They measured the emissions saved by the recycling that we already do. They were really rather open and honest about it all: recycling aluminium cans is a great idea, saves money and emissions. Turning green glass into roads increases emissions. However, far too many people use this report to argue that further recycling will save further emissions: this might be true, certainly, but it also might not be. The report certainly doesn\’t prove it. Whether reycling something is a good idea or not (on financial, or emissions grounds) depends upon what it is, what is the current disposal method and how you\’re actually going to recycle it. Unfortunately all too many are infected with the idea that if some recycling is a good idea (which it is) then all recycling must be, which simply isn\’t true.

Think of it this way: my ingestion of 2,000-3,000 caloriues a day keeps me fit and healthy (I do quite a bit of exercise so that higher number is OK). This does not mean that my ingestion of 4,000-6,000 calories a day would also keep me fit and healthy.

So with recycling: more is not necessarily better. And Wrap seem to have morphed from an organisation writing a decent report about which types are a good idea to one which says that all are.

 

 

More Sir Ed

Sir Edmund – God bless the man – came from a simpler, earlier age. His subsequent mission to the Antarctic with Vivien Fuchs, incidentally, provided The Times with its most inadvertently entertaining headline ever, for which we might also remember him: “Hillary Fuchs off to the Pole”.

MPs\’ Pay

MEMBERS of parliament could lose the right to vote themselves pay increases under plans to link their salaries directly to the earnings of judges and other senior public sector staff.

Gordon Brown, the prime minister, is understood to be “sympathetic” to proposals that would ensure the pay of MPs is in step with that of judges or senior doctors, most of whom earn at least £100,000 a year.

Hmm. Let us think about this for a little bit, shall we? A judge will have had to go through a number of qualifying stages. First to become a lawyer. Then to actually become a good one (no, they don\’t promote the dunderheads). A working career of 20-30 years perhaps, being monitored all the while. Then there will be, at some point along the way, trainee judgeships: things like a part-time Recorder (something Cherie Booth has done, as an example). Finally, our lawyer, who has done this part-time judging so that people can evaluate ability to do the job, might get appointed. And, at least usually, take a pay cut when becoming a judge.

Doctors? To become a senior doctor (or a GP), you first need to get top end results at A level to even get into medical school. Then there\’s the first degree and some further years of training. 7 in total I think it is. Plus some further years of on the job training to get to the point where one is indeed making that fabled £100k. Something like a decade all told: less time than a judge, certainly, but then one is not taking a pay cut when reaching that peak.

And to become an MP? Well, let\’s be honest about this, shall we? For most of the UK constituencies are in fact one party states. Aberystwyth (or however you spell the damn place) or Islwyn will elect a donkey as long as it wears a red rosette. Hull East is coming up for selection and everyone knows that the Labour Party nominee will become the MP. Similarly, if Boris wins the Mayorality and leaves Henley, no one thinks that anything other than the Tory Party hustings will determine who the next MP is. Thus for most (many?) MPs, certainly those who actually expect to make a career of it in a safe seat, becoming an MP is about greasing up to the small number of people who determine who the nominee is for a certain party in a certain seat.

And the argument is that this skill should be equally rewarded as the other two?

I think not.

NIMBYs Come in Many Flavours

Leading the campaign is Fred Lambton, grandson of Lord Lambton, the former Tory cabinet minister who lived out his life in Tuscany after resigning from the Heath government over a call-girl scandal.

Others include models Rose Hanbury and Zita Lloyd; Joseph Getty, grandson of billionaire Sir Paul Getty; George Frost, son of Sir David Frost; Rollo Weeks, an actor; Arthur Jeffes, a polar explorer; Marissa Montgomery, founder of the Pussy Glamore lingerie range; and members of such society families as the Guinnesses and the Heskeths.

The Save Siena group claims there are already enough airports within driving distance of the city to serve its 55,000 population. The streets are crowded each summer for the Palio, a medieval horse race around the Piazza del Campo, a square which has been declared a world heritage site by Unesco.

Lambton, 22, heir to the Earldom of Durham and stepson of Jools Holland, the musician and television presenter, said: “I spent a lot of time out there when my grandfather was alive and I have seen what the airport would do.

Macrobiotic

Whole Earth released the findings of a poll which found that two-thirds of respondents were baffled by the terms \’sustainable\’ and \’genetically modified\’ and almost half thought that \’macrobiotic\’ meant a type of bacteria – I won\’t sneer because I had to look it up too.

Hmm, I just vaguley assumed that it was some hippy dippy nonsense and that I didn\’t need to know any more than that.

Followers of the macrobiotic approach believe that food and food quality powerfully affect health, wellbeing, and happiness. The macrobiotic approach suggests choosing food that is less processed and more natural, and employing more traditional methods of cooking for family, friends, and oneself. One goal of the macrobiotic philosophy and practice is to become sensitive to the true effects of foods on health and wellbeing. In this way, one goes beyond rules and regulations concerning diet to choosing foods that sustains one\’s health. Dietary guidelines help one to develop sensitivity and an intuitive sense for what sustains one\’s health and wellbeing in diet as well as in relationships and activities. Macrobiotics emphasizes locally grown whole grain cereals, pulses (legumes), vegetables, seaweed, fermented soy products and fruit, combined into meals according to the principle of balance (known as yin and yang). Dietary recommendations include whole grains, such as brown rice, and other whole grain products, such as buckwheat pasta (soba); a variety of cooked and raw vegetables; beans and bean products, such as tofu, tempeh and miso;; mild natural seasonings; fish; nuts and seeds; mild (non-stimulating) beverages, such as bancha twig tea; and fruit. Nightshade vegetables, including tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplant; also spinach, beets and avocados are forbidden (or used sparingly) in macrobiotic cooking, as they are considered extremely yin[3]. Some macrobiotic practitioners also discourage the use of nightshades due to the alkaloid solanine, thought to affect calcium balance.

Having looked it up it is indeed hippy dippy nonsense. So much for first impressions then.

Craig Murray

I\’m not quite sure what this is going to do for his reputation as a crusading campaigner:

"Before I met Craig, I didn\’t really know about how men like to be spanked for sexual pleasure," she says. "They don\’t do this in Uzbekistan. Craig didn\’t want it in the play but I told him, \’It is my life story. It is about my culture.\’ I felt it was important it was kept in."

Perhaps nothing: we Brits are unshocked by le vice Anglais I think?

Breaking a Law That Doesn\’t Exist

An extraordinary thing happened one week last September. Gunther Verheugen, a vice-president of the European Commission, announced that Brussels had abandoned its policy of forcing Britain to go exclusively metric.

The British, he said, could use non-metric weights and measures as long as they wished. Indeed he went further. The belief that it was a criminal offence under an EU directive to sell in non-metric measures, he said, was an invention of the "tabloid press", which had "repeatedly and erroneously printed stories" of "people having to buy their food from markets in kilograms rather than pounds".

Mr Verheugen\’s announcement won front-page headlines in the national press. Yet, only a day later, trading standards officials made a mockery of his statement by seizing two sets of "illegal" imperial scales from a stall run by the sister of Colin Hunt, one of the five original Metric Martyrs, in London\’s Ridley Road market. This event was totally ignored – except by this column.

Just before Christmas the stallholder, Janet Devers, a 63-year-old pensioner, received a 67-page document from Hackney Council charging her with 13 criminal offences, including use of her old imperial scales. Yet only a month earlier, in a letter to the British Weights and Measures Association, one of Mr Verheugen\’s senior officials had stated that "use of pre-2000 weighing instruments in imperial-only units" remained entirely legal under EU law, since "the directive does not prohibit the use of such instruments".

Mrs Devers was told the council\’s costs, for the time of the officials who seized her scales (£68 an hour each, equivalent to £141,000 a year) were already £2,000. Fees for Hackney\’s lawyers will bring the total much higher – apart from any fines to which she might be liable (up to £5,000 each), for offences which Mr Verheugen insists do not exist.

However, that does rather depend upon our taking the word of a European politician as to what the law is in England. I\’m not wholly convinced that I\’d want to base a defense upon that. It rather depends what Parliament actually passed into law, not what it was supposed to.

Fascinating Stuff

The researchers, at Sheffield University, discovered that singers taking the pill benefited from a more stable and controllable vocal range.

They claim the hormones help reduce the changes to the vocal chords and ligaments that control them.

Dr Filipa Lã, who carried out the study at Sheffield\’s music department, said: "Singers tend to have a more erratic voice around premenstrual and menstrual phases of the cycle. They have less vocal control, and suffer vocal fatigue and also hoarseness."

The British soprano Lesley Garrett said: "When I was taking the pill I found it reduces a lot of the symptoms that accompanied my period.

"Now I am taking hormone replacement therapy and I think this is now helping female singers extend their careers beyond the menopause."

 

Typically Statist Solution

I\’m not sure that, in public policy terms, this is actually a bad idea:

The proposals would mean consent for organ donation after death would be automatically presumed, unless individuals had opted out of the national register or family members objected.

However, it does grate. The most transplanted organ is the kidney and there\’s a much better solution there, a regulated market.

But then what did we actualy expect of Brown? Your body belongs to the State (unless you object) or a market based solution to the same problem? Betrays a certain mindset.

$ 8 Glasses

I was paid to promote this elsewhere…..I\’m not being paid to do so here.

I\’ve come across a company offering prescription glasses for $8 a pair. Less than the cost of a packet of fags. Here.

Amazing or what?

Cornish Coffee

The main one being it has taken so much work to turn the cherries picked at Eden just before Christmas into cups of coffee. "I\’ve put hours into it," said Stephenson. "If I was charging by the number of man hours I\’ve put it into it, I would have to charge £20 a cup."

That\’s why we\’ve got trade and the division of labour, Bubba.

Simon Heffer On Drugs

I do wonder what he\’s been taking.

I make no apology either for being so uncharitable towards the drugs culture, or for hectoring a government that refuses to deal seriously with it. It causes, on a conservative estimate, 70 per cent of the crime in our country. Mugging, burglary, prostitution and most other forms of vice are linked to it. It provokes violence and murder. Poverty, misery and broken families are its result. So, too, as this report shows, are numerous health problems, notably mental illness. The drain this puts on our public resources, whether in the NHS or the social security bill, runs into billions of pounds that could be spent on useful causes – education, care of the elderly, or more police and better hospitals. That toll of money and human misery is what our rulers choose to pay for the drugs menace in this country: or, rather, they choose to have us pay it.

The evil that drug dealers do cannot be adequately punished under our present law; I would take a leaf out of China\’s book, and have them taken out and shot in the back of the head. That isn\’t going to happen. But using the laws we do have more effectively, applying them with zero tolerance, and making junkies pay – literally – for the damage they do to society would be a start. I fear, though, that it is already too late.

Everything he\’s desscribing there is a result of the illegality of drugs, not the existence of drugs themselves. And yet he insists that drugs should not be legalised (or decriminalised) and that we should have a zero tolerance approach: that is, make the problems of illegality worse. As the late great Uncle Milton said:

You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are a scourge that is devastating our society. You are not mistaken in believing that drugs are tearing asunder our social fabric, ruining the lives of many young people, and imposing heavy costs on some of the most disadvantaged among us. You are not mistaken in believing that the majority of the public share your concerns. In short, you are not mistaken in the end you seek to achieve.

Your mistake is failing to recognize that the very measures you favor are a major source of the evils you deplore. Of course the problem is demand, but it is not only demand, it is demand that must operate through repressed and illegal channels. Illegality creates obscene profits that finance the murderous tactics of the drug lords; illegality leads to the corruption of law enforcement officials; illegality monopolizes the efforts of honest law forces so that they are starved for resources to fight the simpler crimes of robbery, theft and assault.

Drugs are a tragedy for addicts. But criminalizing their use converts that tragedy into a disaster for society, for users and non-users alike. Our experience with the prohibition of drugs is a replay of our experience with the prohibition of alcoholic beverages.