I see from Benedict Brogan\’s blog that a new (ish) acronym is out there:

goat – Government Of All the Talents

Lord Malloch Brown (if he actually had any talent beyond self-puffery) is therefore to be described as a goat.

However, the colonial cousins have also adopted a caprician phrase to describe a certain political act.

Y\’know, I\’d like to make it clear that I\’m not alleging that Mickey Kaus actually blows goats.

My only criticism here is that Mickey\’s non-denial denial is lousy politics. If Mickey is blowing goats, his response won\’t do anything to quell the rumors. And if he isn\’t blowing goats, his refusal to categorically deny the rumors won\’t make the controversy go away.

Goatblowing: can we please make sure that the US and English usages do not meet? There\’s many things I\’d like to do to Lord M B but that really isn\’t one of them.


Err, Ms. Parsons?

Apologies but:

A world where you drop dead upon retirement because you forgot years ago how to relax.

As people, on average, live a dozen years into retirement when, only a generation or two ago, they lived 3 or 4, what are you talking about?

That Cuban Trade Embargo

Yes, of course I think that the US embargo on trade with Cuba is a disaster, an idiocy of monumental proportions. But, no, it doesn\’t explain the poverty of Cuba today, that rests on purely domestic issues, like their continuing adherence to insane economic policies. For, you see, Cuba can and does still trade with the rest of the world:

Thousands of Cuban bananas were washed up on two Dutch North Sea islands, after containers fell off a cargo ship in a storm. A 1km (half mile) stretch of beach on Terschelling island, 115km north of Amsterdam, was littered with bunches of the unripe fruit, which also washed up on neighbouring Ameland island. “I think everybody on the island has a bunch now,” said Gossen Buren, a shipping official at the Terschelling lighthouse.

Sorry, those telling us that it\’s the embargo that causes Cuban poverty, you\’ll have to wake up and smell the roses sometime.

Europe as She is Governed

Most important, isn\’t it?

Apple wine, the tangy drink famed for its thumping hangovers, is fuelling a crucial election campaign in Germany, pitting regional patriots against the bureaucrats of Brussels.

The European Commission wants to strip the wine label from bottles of the cider-like drink, known locally as Ebbelwoi, on the ground that it is not made from grapes. Yet Ebbelwoi has been drunk, and marketed as wine, since the 16th century in the state of Hesse.

It is part of the region’s historical identity and tourist trade. Tens of thousands of visitors to Frankfurt travel to the apple-wine cellars and taverns of nearby Sachsenhausen to sample the drink, which usually contains between 5 and 7 per cent alcohol. It is often drunk with sugary lemonade, hence the headaches and a reputation, especially among Asian tourists, for loosening the bowels.

“We cannot allow this history, this original Hessian product, to be robbed of its tradition by a change of name ordained from above,” Martin Heil, manager of a leading apple-wine cellar, said.

Under the Commission proposal, tabled in July, the EU definition of wine should conform to the rules of the International Wine Organisation. It should be made from grapes, not apples or other fruit.

Yes, the government of 450 million people must indeed spend its time regulating the labelling of a 400 year old drink. Just as it has passed a law insisting that, for the purposes of jam making, carrots are fruit. With a fine of up to £5,000 or 6 months in jail for breaching said law. Yes, it\’s a criminal law, not civil, to insist that carrots, when in compotes, are not fruit.

Can we leave yet?

Nick Clegg

Possibly because Nick Clegg is a Liberal Democrat and neither an alcoholic nor a sexual deviant, he may be considered by many to be dull.

Dull? Unusual for a Liberal Democrat perhaps.

The Liberal Conspiracy

Sunny gets into The Guardian to pump his new website, the Liberal Conspiracy. I\’ll admit, I\’d rather like to get paid £300 to advertise my blog too. But such petty jealousy aside, I\’m afraid that he\’s actually missed a great deal of what\’s in fact going on out here in Blogistan.

All this may so far have had little impact on the wider electorate, but it illustrates that the right is miles ahead in experimenting with the web to engage. And it is more than experimentation: the right is also marching together to shift the political agenda. Conservative bloggers constantly link to each other and promote editorials in publications such as the Spectator and the Telegraph. They are amplified by an online TV station – 18 Doughty Street – and fellow rightwing hacks; they disseminate online ads, videos and Tory views relentlessly. It is a formidable echo machine. And all this despite the enduring paranoia that the right is drowned out by a vast leftwing conspiracy on everything from abortion and climate change to immigration.

If you actually start to look around the political blogs you don\’t in fact see the Tories or the Conservatives predominating. Oh, certainly, places like Conservative Home are very popular, Guido and Iain are too….but then so are The Telegraph, The Mail, out there in meatspace media. As indeed, for the left liberals (ie, those so enamoured of State power that they\’re not actually liberals any more) the Guardian and the Independent (possibly the Mirror as well) are similar to many of the blogs.

If we\’re actually to look at the views which are more influential on blogs than they are in the meatspace media then it isn\’t Tory and it\’s not NuLab, nor left liberal. It\’s the two groups which really aren\’t represented in meatspace at all (or very little, if you prefer). The liberals and the out and out Statists, the socialist/communist wing. For it only makes sense to compare the influence of certain views on blogs to the representation of such views in the regular press.

And that\’s where his analysis fails I think. ConHome or Iain might be popular, but no more so than traditional outlets for such views. As with Sunny\’s. His concern over the propagation of Tory ideas is thus I think misplaced. The real threat from the net comes from those who attack his beliefs from directions the mainstream doesn\’t cover. The truly liberal (libertarian if you prefer) and the truly illiberal (or Socialist if you prefer).

And, of course, if we liberals were in fact allowed to comment upon his site then we\’d make mincemeat of his cosy assumptions. Which is why we\’re not allowed to do the drive by commenting that would embarass him and his mates.

Gott Again

Yes! The Glorious Soviet Revolution set off a wave of freedom around the world!

That, at least, is the view of the former KGB agent of influence, Richard Gott.

Maybe only now, after the Soviet Union and its attendant ideology has long disappeared into history, is it possible and permitted to express a certain nostalgia, and even enthusiasm, for the tumultuous period sparked off by the Russian revolution of 90 years ago. Such triumphalism has greeted the Soviet collapse in the western world, with its subsequent and interminable output of works of historical revisionism, that it is difficult to climb out from under the enveloping folds of invective that have sought to destroy the reputations of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin – the Three Who Made a Revolution (as in the title of the great book by Bertram Wolfe) – to recover some sense of the huge significance of an event that presaged the destruction of the world\’s greatest empires.

Yet, what was notionally an entirely Russian experience soon became an unstoppable force that rolled over half the world, a phenomenon not seen since the expansion of Islam in the 7th century. Millions of people in the then thriving empires of Holland, France, Portugal and Britain, in the informal empire of the United States in Latin America and the Philippines, and in the vast warlord-dominated regions of China, were transformed almost overnight into agents of their own destiny. From listless and oppressed peasants, with little hope of change or improvement, they became soldiers in a new revolutionary struggle that brought the collapse of their overlords within a matter of decades – perhaps the most notable historic advance in the 20th century.

The success of the Russian revolution of 1917 was the motor of influence and inspirational example that made all this possible.

Quite amazing. I suppose you\’d have to have a heart of stone to confront an old lefty like this with the point that far from breaking up the Tsarist Empire, the Soviets set about reconquering it all and expanding it. Freedom from colonial oppression? Tell that to the non-Russian nationalities who were steamrollered over in the 1919-1941 period.

You What?


More than one in five Germans would like to see the Berlin Wall rebuilt, a study published to coincide with the 18th anniversary of its fall shows.

The survey of more than a thousand Germans of different ages showed that the desire to see the wall return is as high among former citizens of communist East Germany (the GDR) as it is among those from the west.

Only 3% of people who originated from East Germany said they were very satisfied with the way that German democracy worked.

The poll by the Forsa institute showed that 73% of those from the east believed that socialism was a good idea in principle, but had been poorly implemented. Over 90% argued that they enjoyed better social protection during the GDR era.

A fair old argument against democracy, isn\’t it? That 73% actually believe that socialism is a good idea in principle?

£ 30 Billion More Pissed Away

Yes, they\’ve done it again. Wasted even more of your and my money.

Suburban Britain has been betrayed by the failure of a £30 billion urban regeneration scheme that was meant to improve inner cities, it has emerged.

Billions of pounds collected from taxpayers in the suburbs over the past decade has been used to pay for projects to improve life in poor areas of large cities. But a report shows that despite the money pumped into these schemes, they have failed to make any difference.

It\’s a fairly large chunk of change, isn\’t it? The response is as anyone would predict:

John Healey, the local government minister, said: "We totally reject these claims. The scale of positive change is clear. However, deep-rooted pockets of deprivation still exist which no one single approach can tackle. We will continue to improve the prosperity of these areas through the £2 billion announced last month through the comprehensive spending review."

Well, yes, of course you will John. It\’s not about actually doing anything effective, it\’s about being seen to be delivering money to your supporters in those inner cities. How are you going to continue to harvest their votes if you\’re not seen to be robbing Peter to pay Paul?

Incitement to Hatred

I\’m really not sure that I follow the logic here.

The right to crack jokes or be rude about homosexuals could fall victim to new government laws to stamp out "homophobic" behaviour, Rowan Atkinson, the Blackadder star warned yesterday.

"Witness the fact that the Government has invited two additional groups – the disabled and transsexuals – to \’make the case\’ for the proposed legislation to be extended to them.

"I am sure that they could make a very good case, as indeed could all those who can claim that they cannot help being the way they are. Men, for example, or women. Or people with big ears."

Atkinson added: "The devil, as always, will be in the detail but the casual ease which some people move from finding something offensive to wishing to declare it criminal – and are then able to find factions within government to aid their ambitions – is truly depressing."

OK, all of that I understand and indeed agree with. It is, as he says, depressing. The bit I don\’t understand is this:

Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, has told MPs that such fears are unfounded because he will shortly introduce an amendment to the Bill ensuring that cases can be pursued only when the offending words are specifically intended to pose a threat and are not merely humorous, mocking or abusive.

What\’s the point of that? As a lawyer, surely Straw knows (he\’s the bloody Lord Chancellor so we do hope he does know) that we already have a blanket law about incitement to violence. So why do we need a law about incitment of violence to gays, the disabled or the changelings? It\’s all already covered so why bother?


Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, killed seven fellow pupils and the headmistress at Jokela High School in Tuusula, 30 miles north of Finland’s capital Helsinki. He then turned the gun on himself, and died after being taken to hospital.


\’\’Bowling for Columbine\’\’ is riveting and scary, and its vision of a society racked by fear, riven by inequality and armed to the teeth is neither comforting nor easily wished away.

Gini for Finland, 26, for the US, 40.

Availability of guns about the same.

Might we need to take "riven by inequality" off our list of causes of school massacres?

Double Jeopardy

This will, I\’m sure, be used as an example of why ending the ban on double jeopardy was both necessary and a good thing.

Police have confirmed that they are investigating new forensic evidence in the murder of Stephen Lawrence, which could lead to the re-arrest of five original suspects in the case.

Investigators working on the case have discovered fibres from Mr Lawrence\’s clothes on those thought to have been worn by the suspects, according to the Daily Mail.

The independent experts working for Scotland Yard have now, using new forensic technology, established a case against the five main suspects and another sixth suspect.


They could now face a re-trial if the new evidence links them to the murder, because the "double jeopardy" law, which stated a person cannot be tried twice for the same crime, was repealed in 2005.

And it would be difficult to argue against such a case in this, er, case. Technology has moved on and thus more things can be discovered as possible evidence.

However, the general case in favour of double jeopardy still stands. It isn\’t to protect those who have "got off". It\’s to protect us against the State. It\’s to protect us against being prosecuted repeatedly for the same crime until the "right" result is achieved. As such, whatever the details of this case, I would want to return to the position that the prosecution has one attempt only at trying to convince a jury.

Ýes, it will mean some guilty go free. But then that\’s what the system is supposed to do, isn\’t it? 100 guilty men go free rather than one innocent be jailed?

Commerce Resources Corp

Just a quick note for any thinking about investing in a company called Commerce Resources Corp.

In the company\’s press release here they seem to have  made a small error.

Rare earth oxides, which are processed into powdered form, may range in price from US$3.00 per kg, for cerium oxide to US$15,000 per kg for scandium oxide.

That\’s an at least ten times over estimation of the price of scandium oxide. For bulk uses (ie, anything over about 100 kg a year) perhaps 30 times.

Not wildly important, I know, but perhaps Mr. Google will help bring this to the attention of anyone searching for information on the company.


Memo to Guardian Journalists

And other assorted economic illiterates:

Now Martin knows as well as any economist that dividing a stock (wealth) by a flow (GDP) is a no-no, and immediately classifies you as economically illiterate, along with those others who divide, say, stock-market valuations of multinational enterprises with country GDPs to say things like "these companies are bigger than whole economies…"


Just Say No!

Anyone Fancy a Cottage?

There\’s a couple of cottages down at the end of our road. A couple of kilometres outside Messines (walk in 10 minutes) which is itself a town of about 5,000. There village here is maybe 100 souls. Little pub etc.

The cottages aren\’t all that great. 10 and 25 metres from the main road.

1) A ruin, sound walls but needs new roof and complete redoing of plaster, windows, electrics etc. No garden, but small terrace at back (away from the road).

Price, so I was told in the pub last night, €9,000. At local costs, need perhaps another € 30,000 to turn into a finished 2 bed one recep.

2) A liveable 2 bed cottage. Small garden but this is detatched, across the lane. € 20,000. Would obviously be better if it got the full treatment as above.

No, I haven\’t left a zero out of those numbers.

I\’m pondering one or the other….but I\’m not quite sure what I would actually do with it once finished.

Or, how about people who want a little place in the Algarve and are willing to pay someone to oversee the whole process? Ride the builders, sort out the paperwork and so on? Anyone think there\’s a viable business there?