Blithering Idiots

The proud motto of northern Europe’s crack rapid-reaction force is ad omnia paratus. Prepared for everything, everywhere. But the heraldic lion above the Latin tag now sends a less plucky message – he has just been digitally emasculated and, though technically still a lion rampant, he does not seem to be ready for anything, anywhere.

The change was implemented after a group of women Swedish soldiers protested that they could not identify with such an ostentatiously male lion on their army crest. A complaint of sex discrimination was then lodged with the European Court of Justice.

“We were forced to cut the lion’s willy off with the aid of a computer,” Christian Braunstein, from the Tradition Commission of the Swedish Army, said.

Now the Nordic Battlegroup, a force of 2,400 soldiers, is looking deeply embarrassed. For sceptics who already consider the Nordic Battlegroup to be something of an oxymoron – it is led by the Swedes, who were last in battle in 1809 – the operation on the lion is not an auspicious omen.

“A castrated lion – the perfect symbol for European defence policy,” an American military blogger sneered.

They seem not to have noted that said lion still has a mane.

Silly, Silly Idea

What are these people thinking of?

A plan to end the BBC’s sole claim on the £3.2 billion licence fee and parcel it out to other broadcasters is being considered by David Cameron, The Times has learnt.

I\’m told that this is the sytem here in Portugal. You don\’t buy a licence, there\’s a tax on your electricity bill. That tax is then apportionedto hte various broadcasters based upon a mixture of audience size and lobbying ability.

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said that in future the BBC might not be the sole recipient of the licence fee. “That’s one option because we want to make sure we aren’t exclusively dependent on the BBC for high-quality television. We want choice for consumers, and the BBC is not the only silo of good-quality television.”

Good lord, and this man is in the Tory party? "High-quality" something can only be provided by handouts from the taxation system? That would be why Eaton Square is such a slum as compared to Tower Hamlets then?

There\’s actually a very strong argument that rather than subsidizing the BBC (or any other broadcasters) we should be taxing them. They use a scarce resource, spectrum, and they don\’t pay for it (the ITV channels do, in a minor way). They should be forced to pay for it, in the same way that the 3G telecoms companies were.

Something of a problem though given that we don\’t in fact have an economically literate political party in the UK.

Those Computer Discs

This fairly boggles the mind:

Junior civil servants dealing with the records of 25 million child benefit claimants were not given the official instructions on how to share the data with the rest of Whitehall, the Guardian has learned.

A manual which laid down strict rules on how Revenue & Customs should safeguard the information was not widely distributed because it was thought to contain too much sensitive information to be handed out to 90,000 civil servants. Instead, only a few senior civil servants had access.

The data itself is widely available: the information on how you should treat the data is secret?

What can you do with that sort of logic except giggle?

The Booze Crisis

I like this:

The connection, such as it is, between the Friday night alcopopper, the man with a lunchtime thirst, and the knuckling-down-for-the-long-haul alcoholic is to do with the hard-to-define relationship between habit and dependency.

This is a relationship that, it seems to me, is only minimally – if at all – the product of licensing laws, or the price of alcohol, or television advertisements. At one end of it is culture and, at the other, it is about chemistry.

Policing these lies a little outside the remit of the state, and a long way outside its competence.


He of the idea that allowing the citizenry into the ivory towers of the journalistic profession (look, it\’s a trade, alright?) is a very bad idea indeed.

Supporters of "citizen journalism" argue it provides independent, accurate, reliable information that the traditional media don\’t provide. While it has its place, the reality is it really isn\’t journalism at all, and it opens up information flow to the strong probability of fraud and abuse. The news industry should find some way to monitor and regulate this new trend.

Mmmmmm, and what does this ex-journo now associate professor think should happen?

Journalism schools such as mine at the University of Georgia should create mini-courses to certify citizen journalists in proper ethics and procedures, much as volunteer teachers, paramedics and sheriff\’s auxiliaries are trained and certified.

Why, there should be more work and income for ex-journos now working as associate professors. Remarkable that, isn\’t it?

And what might be the sort of thing that would be taught in such courses?

There are commonly accepted ethical principals — two source confirmation of controversial information or the balanced reporting of both sides of a story, for example, but adhering to the principals is voluntary.

Clearly not the use of language: you mean principles you self-serving, rent-seeking Stalinist fuckwit. Adhering to the principals is fixing your lips firmly upon the editor\’s fundament which might indeed be a useful career move but it\’s not normally regarded as part of ethical principles.


Clive Crook on Oil

Once nearly everyone is convinced that the rise in prices has some real economic foundation after all, and not before, the whole thing goes pop. The pattern repeats over and over. A parallel suggests itself. When even the people who were worried about $40 oil have stopped worrying about $100 oil, it may be time to panic.

OK, accept the logic there. But the implication of it might be a little different. Instead of it meaning that $100 oil will in fact be a problem, doesn\’t it mean that, given that everyone does now say that there are real economic foundations to the high price of oil, that said price is about to collapse?

We are, after all, rumoured to be about to enter a global recession…..

Sauce for Goose and Gander

The great chocolate teacake tax case. The latest round rests upon this:

But because this clause was applied differently to traders owing the Treasury money than to people owed money – contrary to EU rules on equal treatment – it could not be invoked in the case of M&S.

Now that, I submit, is an interesting little law. If we fuck up in payments to the taxman then we can be punished: it would appear that if the taxman now fucks up, they should be punished.

Maria McCaffery

Sigh, spotted this insane idea again in a piece about wind farms.

And 20 years of wind projects would give Britain a tremendous opportunity for more jobs, manufacturing and investment.

This is a cost, not a benefit, of such schemes.

We lose all of the other things that such manufacturing capacity, such investment and such labour could have been making for us if we weren\’t making windmills.

It is possible that it is still a good idea to be making windmills of course, possible that it\’s a bad idea, but when we try to make up our minds about it we need to put the costs on the right side of the balance. Jobs and investments are costs, not benefits.

Polly on Civil Liberties

The poor dear. She gets very confused here, very confused.

But the Porter view turns the state into public enemy number one. That is the traditional rightwing view, but many on the left are buying into this creed of individualism against the collective. The left can\’t resist also being victims: oh, to be arrested for a cause! Labour has played into their hands with cavalier curtailments of civil liberties for illusory political gains. But the left should beware the old rightwing wolf dressed in civil liberties sheep\’s clothing that pursues individual freedoms for the powerful at the expense of collective freedoms for all.

This is the same mindset that sees taxes as an infringement of liberty and an Englishmen\’s property as his inalienable untaxed castle to hand down, untaxed, to his children. It is the mindset in which the right to choose "personalised" services trumps everyone else\’s fair chance for best schools and hospitals. Liberty and equality will always rub along together awkwardly. But social democrats should guard against the individualistic my-rights culture of our times that simply ignores the rights of those whose needs are most urgent, in favour of often relatively frivolous paranoia about an overmighty state.

The positive rights which she argues for, well, OK, let\’s argue for or against such positive rights. But there is no conflict here between having or not those positive rights and the having or not of the negative rights. They\’re entirely different questions. My right to silence on questioning, to a jury trial, to the presumption of innocence, what have these to do with the treatment of asylum seekers, or the method of delivery of state services? Nothing, nothhng at all, and to claim that either concentration upon one reduces the efforts on the other, or that advance on one balances degradation on the other is nonsense.

But the phrase that really chokes going down is "frivolous paranoia about an overmighty state."

The one thing the 20 th century really ought to have taught us is that paranoia about an overmighty state simply isn\’t frivolous. It should be the default position for us all.

Sir Liam Donaldson

He doesn\’t quite get it, does he?

Hospitals should be fined if patients get bad care that extends their stay or if they catch an infection, the Government chief medical officer has said.

You can see the thought process at work here. For profit companies would indeed be incentivised by such actions.

Sir Liam said the system of fines worked well in America, where private health care companies operate,

Indeed. The problem is, as some have noted, that we don\’t have such for profit healtth care here:

but critics said introducing it in the UK was \’absurd\’ as the taxpayer would end up paying the fine anyway.

In fact, one young shaver made the point very well:

Matthew Sinclair, Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers\’ Alliance, said: "Whether the Primary Care Trust or the hospital pays the cost of treating someone who has fallen victim to poor medical standards the taxpayer will still foot the final bill.

"This proposal might make sense in an insurance-based healthcare system which leaves provision to private companies, as seen in the most successful Continental countries, but not in the NHS as it currently stands.

"Without that separation between funding and provision we will never get proper incentives for reliable, safe and effective medical care. We would be in the absurd position of robbing Peter to pay Peter."

Is it possible to buy shares in the future of certain youngsters, to partake in the benefits of their obvious future success*?


* To be, at 22, and not yet a year out of university, the go to guy for a national newspaper on bureaucratic stupidity rather marks one out as one to watch.


Almost 13 million adults are risking their health by drinking too much because of a failure to appreciate both the increasing strength of alcoholic drinks and the trend for larger measures, Government statisticians have revealed.

No, not the fact they\’re now  saying that as wine has got stronger astonishing, now we need to define a large glass as three units, but this:

Men are advised to drink no more than 21 units per week and women only 14.

Just a few weeks ago it was revelaed that there is no medical basis for that advice at all. It was simply made up out of thin air. In fact, in order to have the same health risks as a teetotaller, men need to be consuming 60 units a week.

Now I don\’t mind information campagns about public health, but I would rather like them to be accurate. Consumption of alcohol follows (as with so many other things), in its health effects, a curve. A U shaped one. And the bottom of the U is well beyond what we\’re being told are the safe drinking limits.

So stop lying already, eh?

Mike Huckabee

Now that it looks like Mike Huckabee might actually get somewhere in this election cycle, my favourite Baptist joke.

Why don\’t Southern Baptists like sex?

They\’re afraid it could lead to dancing.

Boom boom, I know, I didn\’t say it was a good one, just my favourite one.