Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Religious Hatred

So, there is to be a vote on the Religious Hatred Bill today, but what is this going to give us? As far as I can see it is going to give us nothing that cannot be covered by existing legislation; that is apart from criminalising certain words! Yet again the little freedom of speech that we have/had is being eroded, this time in the name of curbing religious hatred. Now, please don’t get me wrong here, I am not advocating the proliferation or promulgation of religious hatred, not by any stretch of the imagination; however I am a bit puzzled by what this really means in everyday life. This legislation will mean that the individual is not allowed to incite religious hatred, a very laudable idea; but I see a flaw here, are the police in Glasgow going to have to arrest all of the fans coming out of a Celtic v Rangers derby because of songs and chants voiced on the terraces of such matches? I see this bill as being rather ill thought out, the government says that there are safeguards built in, but if we are talking religious hatred then the songs and chants at a Rangers/Celtic match are tantamount to the incitement of religious hatred and therefore fall foul of the bill. And this is just one example where I see difficulties with this criminalisation of language; and I think that it is only the thin end of a very thick wedge. It is simply another knee-jerk reaction by an inept, incompetent and morally bankrupt government; a reaction that is ill conceived, ill thought out and, in my opinion, totally unnecessary.

Monday, January 30, 2006

A man with a tough job

Reijo Kemppinen declares that he is not on "Mission: Impossible". [You know, it's so rare that people bother with the colon in the middle, said the pedant...]. The new head of the European Commission's Office in London gave an interesting interview to Euractiv, refuting the argument that there is something special about the treatment of European affairs in the UK Press:

"The people and the press in the UK have been led to believe that they are somehow uniquely eurosceptic. I am not sure whether the British tabloid press treat the EU any different than it treats Tony Blair and his ministers. British media are highly commercialised and politicised, that's what it is. It is useless to try to question that."

The feeding frenzy over the Liberal Democrat leadership probably supports that point. However, if you want an idea about the "new" approach to the relationship between the European Commission and the Member States, read about it in full here. It certainly led me to reflect upon the differences between the various parts of the UK. I recently moved Scotland, and there is less of an ingrained public culture of instinctive euroscepticism here. But is Kemppinen really going to be able to get through to ordinary people in the UK. Will he be any more successful than the spectacularly unsuccessful "Sound of Europe" conference in Salzburg last week (Thanks to Jon Worth for nobly blogging it when others would probably have wandered off to see the cultural sites of Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace, and the like, rather than listen to yet another wordy worthy speech).

On a Lighter Note

Nothing really to say about


It speaks for itself!

Children, Heroin and Other Drugs

I think it appalling that we have a situation where primary school children are being targeted by drug pushers, and there is evidence that this is the case. But what do we do about it? Well, I think that the answer is quite simple - and this is where the disagreement will start - and that is to legalise the whole range of drugs. Yes, I know the arguments against, but I happen to think that the arguments for legalisation are much stronger and make a hell of a lot more sense. Does it not make sense to have such things out in the open where it is possible to have control over them, rather than the situation extant now where we don't know who is doing what, or who is selling what to who. If we know who is selling and who to surely that gives us the means to control addiction, and to reduce the number of drug related deaths; also if we know what is being sold we have quality control, meaning that every batch will be the same; this also removes the rogue batches of rubbish sold by unscrupulous pushers in their quest for money. This in turn would reduce the burden on the health service which has to deal with drug related problems on a daily basis which costs each and every one of us, both in monetary terms and in terms of clogging up the system.

I have kept this as short and simple as possible, making a simple statement and giving a couple of my reasons for making it; there are many other reasons I could give for forwarding this argument but I need it think them through and will come back to them in due course.

Edited 8:10pm

Want to know more:-

The case for legalisation

Stumbling in the Dark

Alan Duncan

Legalise drugs.co.uk


Dr Susan Blackmore

MEP's call for the legalisation of drugs

Why Drugs should be legalised (pdf)

Although some of these call for the legalisation of recreational drugs only, I go much further and argue for the complete legalisation of all drugs; some of the points made on one or two of the websites I do not agree with, but most of the points made are quite valid and make a very good case to support my argument.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

CBB - Again!

OK, so we have a winner Chantelle! Ironic really that the only non celebrity ends up being the winner. However it does make one wonder about the great British public when they vote for someone who is as obviously empty headed and vacuous as Chantelle, someone whose grasp of the English language is not exactly outstanding, to say the least. Ah well, she has had her "fifteen minutes of fame" hopefully she will now disappear back into the realms of non-entitydom...

The most amazing thing is that Micheal Barrymore was in second place, and although not the most pleasant of people I think it well deserved, as he was, and still is, a superb entertainer, and a very talented one at that. Personally I would have loved to see Barrymore and Pete Burns going head to head for the winning position, two brilliant entertainers slogging it out might have made for a laugh... Pete is no fool, a very shrewd, observant and clever bloke; I actually would have loved him to be first out at one point, but the more one saw of him tbhe more his quality shone through.

The moral of CBB: well, I suppose that it proves that you don't have to be a celebrity to be a celebrity!

Friday, January 27, 2006

BondBlokes Hero of the Week

I have decided to choose someone each week, famous or otherwise, who I think has done something outstanding, brave etc. etc..

And before my fellow contributors start shouting let me refer them to this!

Right, back to the hero of the week, for playing the game superbly this week's hero is:-

I might even follow this at some point with an Idiot of the Week; for those who disagree with me, well, it is "BondBlokes Hero of the Week" and if they don't like it then they are free to choose their own hero of the week!


So, George W. wants to bring democracy to the world; I wonder how he feels after finding that Hamas have won control in Palestine. Obviously this is not the sort of democracy that he would have been thinking about; he would prefer the sort of democracy that kowtows to Americam pressure. Oh, I almost forgot, this election took place somewhere else, he was not able to get in there and choose which people were enfranchised and which were disenfranchised; all those Palestinians getting the vote, and voting for change without him being able to have any control... The Americans, and others, see Hamas as a terrorist organisation, but how do we define terrorism? I agree that Hamas, and other such organisations use terror tactics in pursuit of their aims; but what about Israel? Here we have a duly, democratically elected government which sponsors, in the name of self protection, what can be no more, or less, than terrorism, that is if we are agreed that using terror tactics equals terrorism, and yet the Americans, and others, are perfectly prepared to support Israel in everything it does. Oh yes, there are the odd UN resolutions which, like the Americans, the Israelis choose to completely ignore. So my message to W is "wake up and smell the coffee, you have been dealing with terrorists for as long as you have been dealing with Israel!"

Update: 3:30pm.

Anyone who doubts this should take a read of some of the stuff on this blog.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

A Whale of a Tale

There are some people in this world who if thrown into a midden would still come out smelling of roses, and this is just such a case. I always believed that the term was the luck of the Irish, but it seems that this now has to be changed to the luck of the Australians; no I agree it doesn't seem to have the same ring about it. I mean you go off on a fishing trip and wind up something like £165,000 richer, now that is either one lucky fishing trip or a yarn as big as the one that got away...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Ultimate Defence

Oddly Enough News Article Reuters.co.uk

This has to be a story of the ultimate defence of an offspring! I know from having worked on a farm that that the maternal instinct is very strong in animals, and that the paternal instinct to defend offspring is almost non existent. It would be a very foolish person indeed who decided to argue with a cow that is hell bent on defending her calf. However, I do think that this is taking the defence of an offspring to the extreme, especially as the child was in the wrong anyway. Although I suppose that it does bring a whole new meaning to the phrase "aiming a kick".

Monday, January 23, 2006

Quick blogs, 2 of 2

The funniest thing about the endeavours of the Council of the European Union to make itself more transparent, is that when the Agriculture and Fisheries Council (yes, I mean that) decided in December to adopt a rather opaque set of conclusions on this, ostensibly opening up more meetings to the public, they did so behind closed doors. And what is more, the Ministers "decided" without debate, the agreement itself having been previously thrashed out between high level civil servants and diplomats. In other words, even if the TV cameras had been there, we couldn't have known what were the reasons for the decision (and any arguments against it), precisely because the Ministers didn't exchange these reasons amongst themselves. Now that to my mind is the type of thing which makes people cynical about the European Union.

I've written about this at greater length here.


Leith is where the more discerning Edinburgh folk live and for good reason, it has everything that one could possibly want within walking, at most cycling, distance; good eateries, good butchers, great fishmongers, you name it Leith has it. On top of that, and from my personal perspective the best thing, I have lost count of the decent watering holes within walking (or staggering) distance of the front door. Leith was, and to some extent still is, the port area of Edinburgh, and is, reportedly, the redlight area of the city, although I have yet to come across any ladies of negotiable affection, so I think that things may have changed a bit in recent times. The Shore (see pic) area is just stunning and is where most of the better eateries and watering holes are to be found, one in particular (which has a resturant attached) "The Shore" has a live jazz trio on Tuesdays and Saturdays and can be highly recommended for the music and the food, the choice of beer is a little less inspiring but they serve a decent pint nonetheless, and there is always bottled beer. Posted by Picasa

The Menaces on the Public Highway

I apologise to those who may have read this before - I had my blog hosted on another site which gave me a lot of problems so I changed to Blogspot - but I think it is worth

These characters are usually referred to as "boy racers"; however, I have observed that this epithet is something of a misnomer, as invariably they are neither boys, nor racers and can be either male or female ranging in age from eighteen to eighty; and are usually driving people unfriendly vehicles, i.e. 4x4's or those bloody monstrosities that are sold as keeping the little wifey and kids safe from other drivers. This driver, once most common on the motorways, now appears to have migrated onto the highways and byways of this green and pleasant land. The impatient driver cannot bear to be behind slower moving traffic, although there may be a good reason why it is moving slowly, and has to drive at the optimal distance, usually eighteen inches, from the rear of the car in front to try and intimidate the driver into speeding up; this driver also does not like to see a space in a line of traffic without trying to fill it, regardless of why the driver in front has given themselves room to manoeuvre. Not only does this driver overtake to fill a space in a line of traffic when they can proceed no further, but does so regardless of the risk to other drivers.

Then we have the other type of impatient driver; the driver who leaves it until the last possible second before embarking upon their journey. This driver habitually overtakes at great speed, more often than not at the most inauspicious place again unmindful of the danger caused to other road users. Without fail this driver disappears into the distance in a cloud of spray hoping to get to their destination - usually to work - on time. The net result of this maniacal rush into oblivion is that the said maniac catches up with a queue of slower moving traffic a few miles down the road and is consequently caught up by the very drivers whom they had previously overtaken at warp speed, thus failing to achieve the required result of their manoeuvre, that of getting where they are going more quickly. Almost everyone tolerates the impatient driver, and makes room when they see them looming at very near the speed of light in the rear-view mirror, that is except for other impatient drivers. We are all guilty of allowing this type of driver to get away with their appalling antics without a word said; but what happens if we perchance overtake the impatient driver? It is at this point that those good and careful drivers become the subject of numerous forms of abuse, from the visual kind - the one or two finger salute - to the usual string of verbal invective which apparently makes up the vocabulary of this poor, down trodden, souls who were - according to them - doing nothing more than minding their own business. One does, at times, feel like requesting that these drivers travel in perpetually abating circumferences preceding an evaporation up the orifice from whence flows the effluvium created by their automobile's engine; however, this would have no more effect than to drag one down to their monosyllabic level.

Quick blogs, 1 of 2

Wouldn't it be interesting if France had a woman President? Perhaps the smart money should go on them following the lead of Chile and Germany in electing the socialist Segolene Royal to succeed Jacques Chirac. Or perhaps it's just too much to hope for that the French parti socialiste will overcome its internal divisions and bickering to settle upon one candidate that all can unite around, so that we could end up with a rerun of the farce of last time. In the run-off the French voters were left with the choice between the man with an untarnished reputation for dodginess and the fascist. Oh what a choice!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Reminiscence of a Christmas Break

I was looking through my photographs and trying to get some organisation into them when I came across so that were taken just after Christmas when BondWoman and I took a short break to spend some time with some friends from Leeds. We spent three days in the most wonderful spot on the west coast of Scotland. We stayed at a place called Lunga near Craobh Haven:-

As you can see from the sunset the weather was absolutely fabulous, sunny and very still, nearly the whole time the water was so flat that it was acting exactly like a mirror. The drawback of such good weather was that it was very cold to the point of there being ice in the marina, and this being salt water. However it is much easier to wrap up against the cold than it is against the rain etc. At night this area is just so dark that it is almost possible to count the stars in the Milky Way! It is a great place to go and get away from it all, especally as the mobile phone signal is so patchy that it is very easy to be completely out of touch; it is also very democratically priced. I am sure that this subject will also make appearances here again before too long...

 Posted by Picasa

Auto Downloads

OK, I have not had a serious rant for a while, so I feel that it is about time! I have this afternoon been browsing through a whole load of blogs looking for something interesting - well, it is Sunday after all... What I have noticed is how many blogs open with a download window popping open; now this is very irritating, especially if you don't want to download a file and simply read the content! Surely if the people who construct such blogs want people to read their content it makes sense not to irritate people immedaitely so that they simply navigate away from the blog without reading it. Now I do not mind downloading files, but I like to have the choice of whether or not to do so; when I am confronted with a fait accompli (not given a choice) then I simply kill the download immediately and go somewhere else. It is quite simple to put a link in the relevant post offering the option of downloading, rather than presenting people with the bloggers own choice, which is download this file now. To all of the bloggers who do this I have one thing to say, "You have lost at least one reader!"

My Argument for Nuclear Power

The situation that we are in at present seems to me to be untenable; we are closing down nuclear and coal fired power stations at a rate that is going to mean that we are no longer self sufficient in power. This means that we will wind up buying gas, particularly, from unstable regimes like Russia, who has recently turned off the taps to its neighbour, or the countries like Algeria, Nigeria (who are at present busy kicking Shell out) etc. So what are we doing about it, well this government is looking at renewables, so they want us to be dependant on wind (this is ok in Westminster where there is so much hot air) all very well whilst there is wind blowing; and solar is all very well when there is sun; the problem here is that neither of these technologies are well developed, and have been under discussion for thirty odd years, which sort of tells me that if they had anything to offer us they would have been fully developed and in place by now. One thing that strikes me as quite odd is that this government doesn’t recognise Hydro as a renewable source of power, weird in the extreme… In conclusion I see that the only means of generating electricity without greenhouse gasses has to be nuclear, yes this has problems of its own, but surely it is better than being left at the mercy of unstable regimes who could possibly use our dependency on their beneficence against us.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Queue Jumper

This person is mainly to be found in the supermarket, but can equally be found wherever there is a queue. The queue jumper is invariably an elderly lady belonging to the tweeds, twin-set and pearls, jolly hockey-sticks brigade who thinks that age brings certain privileges with it. Although, to be fair, I have come across young - male and female - queue jumpers, but in far lesser numbers than the former species. Most of these elderly ladies, despite being obviously well educated, become quite rude in the scrabble to get to the head of the queue, I sometimes wonder if even a bare-knuckle boxer would stand a chance against them, as they are a ferocious breed.

Most people are under the misapprehension that the average supermarket trolley has a mind of its own; this is not true. The average supermarket trolley which gives one such a clout on the ankle is usually being driven by one of these demons - showing the same skills as the impatient driver - in search of the latest bargain, and hell bent on getting out of the supermarket before anyone else. This breed does not care if it leaves one lying in a pool of blood just as long as it gets to the head of the queue. The most annoying thing about this person is that once they get to the head of the queue they suddenly lose all of the sense of urgency which was previously being displayed. These tyrants keep one waiting whilst fumbling about, in capacious purses, looking for odd bits of loose change to pay for their purchase; and then, having paid for their purchase, proceed to pull out a wad of money off coupons about which they are not sure if they are still valid.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Some Help From the Little People Required

ICC - Ireland aim high at ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup

I have seen it all now Ireland playing cricket, that most sedate gentlmanly game; one can only hope that the players do not get confused and think that it is a hurling stick that they are holding. Anyone who has watched
hurling will know exactly what I mean; a bunch of men tearing around a field chasing a little ball beating the hell out of one another with big sticks, I think that about sums it up as a description of hurling.

But joking aside I had heard that Ireland had a cricket team, but thought that it was one of those 'urban myths' that crop up from time to time. Ah, well, given the "luck of the Irish" they will probably do well, and I for one wish them all the luck they can muster, they are probably going to need it in Sri Lanka, especially if they draw Sri Lanka.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Nice Place - Shame About the Developer

I have removed the rant that was supposed to be here under protest, mainly because I have a rotten cold and can't be bothered to argue right now!

However this is positively the last time that this will happen as I fully intend to maintain editorial control over my own scribbings, and if need be those of the other contributors!

Thought provoking reads on Europe/the EU

Am on the road which gives me the opportunity sometimes to catch on the reading. Or at least reading about reading. Which leads me to John Lloyd's thoughtprovoking review of Old Europe, New Europe, Core Europe, a volume edited by Daniel Levy, Max Pensky and John Torpey for Verso (1995). Lloyd is very critical of the highly normative drift of most of the arguments in Old...New...Core, especially those which build directly upon the infamous Habermas/Derrida contribution to FAZ and Liberation in 2003, heralding a new 'European' movement and togetherness grounded in the 15 February protests against the impending invasion of Iraq. His demolition of those who treat national sovereignties today as illusory is particularly effective and worth reading, and a cautionary reminder that the problem of national European sovereignties in previous centuries which underpins a lot of what triggered the European Union is in itself enough to sustain a post-Cold War twenty-five member EU which now exists on a continental scale. Less successful are Lloyd's attempts to contrast the normative endeavours of most of Old...New...Core's contributors with the work of the Policy Network which did a lot of work with the UK Presidency on its much heralded review of the European Social Model. Not least this is because the attempt to derive 'generally applicable lessons' from the Nordic Experience seems widely disputed in the blogosphere. See here and here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Scottish Play

I have spent most of today immersed in Macbeth; I have watched the Roman Polanski film version of this bloody play, which by the way is a brilliant way to learn the story; I have spent three hours in class this afternoon analysing the first four acts; and I have just got rid of the resulting headache. Am I any wiser for this experience? Well, in some ways yes, however I still have this blind spot when it comes to Shakespeare and fail to see the relevance of his scribblings.

I have to admit that Macbeth is a romping good tale, well written, and pacy; boy is it pacy by the end of the first act we know that Duncan is going to get it. In the second act Macbeth has reservations about murdering Duncan, but within thirty lines Lady M has cajoled, by basically saying "you can't love me" and "what sort of man are you a coward", him into the dastardly act; methinks Lady M would would have been a good part for Lucrezia Borgia!

So who is to blame for all of this the witches for implanting the idea, Lady M with her naked ambition, or was it Macbeth's idea all along? Whatever, the deed is done followed by a lot of soul searching. Once the murder is discovered Macbeth loses no time in getting rid of potentail witnesses, Duncans servants; I suppose once you have committed one murder the next comes pretty easily.

Next Macbeth turns his attention to Banquo, a friend, having suspicions about whether he will remain friendly; paranoia setting in now. However this is a botched job and Banquo's son escapes. So comes the banquet with Macbeth all upbeat about things, that is until he sees Banquo's ghost which rattles his cage somewhat, the full on paranoia is gripping by now. Lady M steps in to protect her investment and brings the banquet to an end before it has even begun.

Macbeth goes off in search of the witches again learning far more than is good for him; but can these old hags be trusted? After which Macbeth turns his eye to Fife and Macduff's family ordering them wiped out. Now there was a logic to the previous murders, but this is pure and simple revenge, no logic in it at all!

More to come...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Child Protection System in Chaos

It is eighteen months now since Sir Michael Bichard made his recommendations for a change in the vetting procedure for potential teachers; his recommendation was that the existing seven lists be replaced with a single database which could be used for the process of vetting and barring people from working with children or other vulnerable people. However, it now seems that the earliest that these recommendations will be implemented is 2008, some three and a half years later...

Given the state of technology today it should not be beyond the wit of man to have created a register which provides much more transparency; a register which can distinguish between a known and convicted paedophiles, others who have been convicted of violent/sexual crimes who might be a threat to children and the vulnerable and someone who has been put on it for indecent exposure when drunk and other such people who pose no threat at all. In fact children and the vulnerable are more at risk in their own homes from members of their own families than they are from strangers, and there are any amount of such cases to support this.

So who makes the final decision? Well, at present this onerous task is in the hands of government, and we all know what a mess things get into in governmental hands! Having said that there needs to be more transparency in the register, I also think that far more transparency is needed in the decision making process; such decisions should not be left to the whims of government ministers; they should be undertaken by an independent panel of experts. At the end of the day we have to work with what we have, no matter how inefficient that system might be; but that does not mean that it cannot be changed and made more efficient and user friendly. It is purely due to government meddling, running back to the Thatcher era, that the system we have for child protection is in the chaotic state that it is; nothing has ever been carefully thought through, it has all be built upon a series of knee jerk reactions which have resulted in continuous tinkering without any analysis to ensure a competent working system.

I have been taking some flack for my comments a couple of days ago calling for Ruth Kelly's resignation; however, I stand firm in this opinion, she could have explained at the outset, admitting who had been responsible for the decision, but no, she decided, in her infinite wisdom, to prevaricate and add even more chaos to that in which the Child Protection System finds itself. Therefore, I reiterate what I have stated previously; as the person who is ultimately responsible and she should resign.

Renegotiating the green belt

For many, or at least those residing within it, the Green Belt has become the byword for environmental protection against the encroachment of the undesirable and otherwise uncontrollable urban sprawl. These fearless and unpaid guardians of our rural environment are an unlikely crew – increasingly comprised of those fortunate to have inherited or earned the small fortune needed to acquire one of the limited number of des-res’s located in the green and leafy hamlets and suburbs scattered around the outskirts of our larger cities. They are steadfast in their defence against any and all proposals to build on this inviolable green belt. Of course this is not what the architects of Scotland’s green belt strategy had in mind – for them it was a city-region planning device (along with, say, new town development) for managing the relationships between settlements, including (though not exclusively) protecting the recreational value of land. But, unlike in England, the green belt in Scotland was not “…to prevent urban sprawl by keeping land permanently open.” Notwithstanding this, today in Scotland the green belt too has become sacrosanct – largely due to the unwillingness of local authorities to assert the legitimate expectations of many to decent and affordable housing over the self-interest of a rich, privileged and highly articulate minority.

But is this good enough? Why should this group impose a major negative tax on those for whom non-urban dwelling is simply not an option? And the green belt does constitute a regressive tax. Those who actually pay for the green belt are those living in the high density, low-quality housing estates that are a disgraceful feature of all Scotland’s major urban areas – areas denuded of public housing and alarmingly short of low-cost housing from the private sector. Edinburgh is ringed with such developments – places of planning blight and multiple deprivation and which are a tragic indictment of the Thatcher experiment. Public provision of housing is at an all time low, and while there are brown-field sites ripe for development in all British cities, and Edinburgh is no exception, the high costs of reclaiming this land requires that houses built there have to be sold for high prices. In Edinburgh the seafront developments in Leith and the Quatermile project in the city centre are cases in point.

Why not expand the city in a controlled and planned way? Why not absorb some of the green belt and put it to better use – use where the real rate of return to the city-region will be higher than under the current green belt prohibition? It isn’t only that such a strategy would enhance the quality of life of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. Look also at the negative returns from much agricultural land. It produces food for which there is no demand at absurdly high prices, and contributes significantly to local river and loch pollution through intensive cropping practices. Of course we need constraints on urban sprawl. But these have to be sensible and sensitive to all, including those with a legitimate right to decent housing. Like it or not, the well-to-do middle classes simply must be forced to stop burdening the rest of us with the excessive costs arising from their own idyllic and entirely selfish existence. It is time to re-negotiate the green belt, and time for local authorities to use their planning laws responsibly.

The Police may be slow but...

Oddly Enough News Article Reuters.co.uk

I think that this just goes to show that the Police, even the American variety, get there eventually; it might take 37 years but the stolen property is eventually found even if the original criminal is not. I think that our "boys/girls in blue" do a great job on the whole; I know that there are a lot of people out there who mistrust them, but I think that in general if you have done nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about. Yes, there are times when they get it badly wrong, and this is what is mostly highlighted in the scaremongering tabloid press; what if for a change the good bits, the times when they get it right and save lives etc. were highlighted, maybe then our perception of the police force might change a little. To be honest they have a tough enough job as it is without constantly having the tabloids on their back, and I have to say that I for one would not do the job, or face the sort of things that these dedicated people have to face day after day.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Eat my Shorts BondWoman!

You are a

Social Liberal
(93% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(10% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on OkCupid Free Online Dating
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

I took the politics test!

You are a

Social Liberal
(68% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(21% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

The fate of all those Polish Plumbers

I had already decided to do this post earlier today, even before I had benefited from the services of a Polish plumber, who arrived (to do a simple job) within 15 minutes of being called, and appears to have solved a small but annoying problem in our plumbing. But how ironic that we should have so benefited and BondBloke and I are accordingly grateful to the UK Government for its sensible decision to allow the free movement of so-called A-8 workers, who can come to the UK freely and take up work (although they are supposed to join the Workers' Registration Scheme and pay £70, but in practice we know that only a minority actually do so). A-8 is euro-jargon for the eight central and eastern European countries which joined the EU in May 2004. Only the UK, Ireland and Sweden opted not to impose continued tight controls on labour immigration after enlargement, and in practice by far the largest numbers have migrated to the UK and Ireland - more than were expected to come, although it is impossible to tell just how many, but it would appear not so many as to have a discernible impact on UK or Irish unemployment figures. Unfortunately the Workers' Registration Scheme has had the effect of reinforcing to A-8 workers, even in the UK, that they are second class European citizens, and it may in the future have a discernible effect upon the size of the black and grey economies in the UK, because the charge of £70 tends to encourage casualisation of employment relationships in an unfortunate way. However, an even better way of reinforcing to A-8 workers that they are second class citizens is to exclude them completely from the benefit of EU free movement rules, which was the option chosen by the other twelve 'old' Member States.

The Commission is supposed to be producing a report in February recommending what action should be taken (although one doubts that Member States will take much notice of the Commission here, but will just take their 0wn decisions instead), but a recent report suggests that even the Commissioners themselves, supposed guardians of the European collective interest, cannot easily reach a decision amongst themselves.

According to EUObserver, "The Austrian commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner is leading the camp against a strong recommendation to lift the ban, according to Austrian and Polish media."

Silly me thinking that Commissioners forswore all national allegiance when they took office, for it emerges later in the article that "Austria, which currently holds the presidency of the EU, has reiterated it will maintain the restrictions, with its ambassador to the EU Gregor Woschnagg explaining on Friday (13 January) that Vienna lies within commuting distance of Slovakia and the Czech republic. " Funny that the Austrian Commissioner should agree with this, and funnier still yet that she should wish it to be known in the Austrian Press that she agrees . What with there being an election due in November 2006...

Be that as it may, the fear of destabilising labour markets where, as is reported, Slovakian wage rates are at the level of 20% of Austrian ones is clearly real. On the other hand, three points occur:

- first, all these restrictions are supposed to be removed in full by 2011, not far away and not long enough for wage rates to equalise; clearly a transitional strategy is needed given the fear of the big bang of removing labour mobility restrictions in Mitteleuropa;

- second, the Member States should give some thought to the trade deflecting effects of their long term denial of free movement; not only are they inviting Polish, Slovakian, Lithuanian and other workers into the informal labour market, but they are also inviting other strategies of avoidance. After all, a Slovakian resident and working in Ireland could perfectly easily acquire Irish citizenship after five years, or have an Irish born child after just three (with the latter effectively giving the rest of the family free movement rights throughout the EU);

- finally, the policy seems fundamentally assymetrical; if Slovakians can commute to Vienna, then so can Viennese who find themselves pushed out of their home city by high rents or house purchase prices. OK, so they would have to live (if not work) in a Slovakian speaking environment, but they would enjoy much lower prices and cost of living. This could have a negative impact upon Slovakians if they find themselves in turn priced out of living in their own country by Austrians enjoying cross-border mobility which they do not enjoy. After all, the British have proved adept at taking advantage of lower property prices in France and Spain to establish what could be described as colonies, without making in some cases the slightest attempt to integrate or to consider what negative impacts they might have on the local economy.

Kelly and Sex Scandal

Ruth Kelly has to go, the whole thing is now just getting too silly for words; at first she refuses to say who made the decision saying that she was the misister responsible, then she says that she will not resign. Well these statements are contradictory, either she is the minister in charge of the department or she is not; now we all know that she is, so the ultimate responsibility rests firmly on her shoulders, i.e. the buck stops with her; result = she should be the one to resign as she is the one who ultimately cocked up!

If we think about what happend to bring this sad state of affairs about we find that the answer is because we have a situation - two seperate lists, the sex offenders register and list 99 - primarily designed so that the left hand can never know what the right hand is doing. This is just crazy, we do not need two lists, a person is either a sex offender or they are not so one list should be sufficient for this purpose; that is always providing the means to ensure that people are not put onto the register for the wrong reasons; personally I do not trust such mechanisms. There are also serious issues to be addressed here, for example, the issue of people who are only cautioned and whether or not they are a problem, a caution suggests not. There again there are people who will accept a caution for a variety of reasons, so maybe the suggestion that they are not a problem is slightly off centre already. Clearly this thing has to be thoroughly thought through, however I do not trust this government to think it through, given past examples of knee jerk reactions to situations; this should be undertaken by a completely independent body over which the government has absolutely no control.

Edited in response to comment...

What is a sex offender?

I suppose that I should have done this in the first place as somebody was bound to ask; well this is the best definition I could find; the source = Gillespie AA, 'Paedophiles and the Crime and Disorder Bill', [1998]. I hope that satisfies the requested criteria.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Blunkett: an ass or just plain stupid

I read this earlier which I found quite fascinating and it brought thoughts of Blunkett flooding back. One has to ask the question is this man a complete and utter ass, or is he just plainly and simply stupid?

Now I cannot believe the latter (that he is stupid) because if that were the case he probably would not have achieved the political status that he did (although being a Blair crony it might just have been possible). He does seem to have stumbled from disaster to disaster, the first, that I am aware of, being to confuse great sex with love (personally I have never confused love with sex, great or otherwise); I can just imagine his dog lying in the corner cringing and thinking "No dad, keep your trousers on, if you do this it is going to cost you big time!". Then there was all of the hoo hah over the nanny thing etc. etc.; it just makes one wonder if this man can ever learn from the mistakes that he makes. For my money he doesn't seem to, which leaves me even more confused about him than ever; which all leads me to the conclusion that he is about as stupid as some reasonably intelligent people can be.

CBB Again:

I know I have been here before; but just looking through the news today was a very depressing experience, seeing all of these sad people attacking George Galloway for being himself in the Big Brother house. These range from a failed contestant to those politicians (Hilary Armstrong) seeking to make political capital out of it by visiting his constituency and trying to stir up the voters. One does have to ask if this tells us that the New Labourites are running scared because George can, in his words, "walk the walk", something that they have failed miserably to do themselves. I have said before that I am not a Galloway fan, but the more people attack him for entering into the spirit of things the more I am inclined to back him to the hilt; but then I have always supported the underdog in any fight. Also one has to ask, what if the situation had been reversed and that Rula had been acting as the cat, would the headlines have read something like "Rula Gives George a Blow Job"?

"Choice" at the National Gallery

BondBloke and I had a high culture Sunday morning today at the National Galleries of Scotland. We visited both the unique (and soon to close) exhibition Choice (which documents the acquisition activities of the Galleries) and the regular Edinburgh tradition of Turner in January. This shows the 38 exquisite watercolours which constitute the National Galleries of Scotland share of the overall Vaughan Bequest, and the National Galleries of Scotland continue the tradition of only showing these in January (but every January). It was great for us to be able to see these for the first time since moving up to Scotland (I suppose theoretically we were here last January, but we were too busy humping boxes to think about cultural matters).

Both exhibitions were greatly appreciated, but in rather different ways. The Choice exhibition is quite substantial, and ranges across 800 years of art-production or more. The Turners offer a small but beautifully formed insight into one man's creativity. I'd be hard pressed to say which I enjoyed more. They definitely spoke to different parts of the brain, and both should be seen.

And both were free. Three cheers for the policy which ensures that access to the core collections of the public galleries continues to be free.

Celebrity Big Brother (again)

I feel I should first apologise for perpertrating yet more CBB commentary, after such heavyweight contributions as this one by Kathryn Flett in the Observer on BB as a virus and Oliver James' dissection of the mental states of both viewers and viewed in the Independent. However, it does seem to me that Germaine Greer is being just a touch hypocritical in choosing (one assumes against pecuniary recompense) to appear on Big Brother's Big Mouth to comment on the inadequacies of the current housemates. This comes after her attempted demolition job on the entire format (and particularly the unhealthy state of the house) after her peremptory departure last year. Greer's entry on Wikipedia (scroll down to "Recent Events in her life" makes a telling comment which, if correct, rather undermines her capacity to comment upon the publicity-seeking antics of others:

"She walked out of the show after five days inside the "Big Brother house", citing the psychological cruelty and bullying of the show's producers, the dirt of the house, and the publicity-seeking behavior of her fellow contestants. It was widely expected that she would do exactly such a thing as a means of reviving her career to a new generation indifferent to her and her politics."

I'll refrain, even so, from comment on whether or not Greer should now be effectively approving of the continuation of the Big Brother format by appearing on Endemol's programmes (and whether she is humiliating herself further by doing so - she appeared yesterday with captions which read various "feminist icon" and "couldn't hack it", and concentrate on the content of her commentary instead. Greer's main contribution during her appearance on Saturday's BBBM was to compare George Galloway with Saddam Hussein with an argument something along the following lines (I paraphrase, of course):

"Some people in Iraq liked life under SH, and regret his passing. That was because they were being controlled. GG is seeking to control and bully the other housemates by taking control and organising people. It's the basically the same phenomenon."

Forgive me, but I would have thought that most of the people who approved of Iraq under SH did so because they had power to bully too (and indeed do much worse than that). There are those who doubtless regret the passing of the "order" that SH's regime gave to their lives, and who regret the arrival of the chaos associated with the invasion, the war and the insurgency. They may of course also regret the resurgence of religious politics in postwar Iraq. But these are completely different types of view about the past and the present regimes, and effectively conflating the two makes such a facile comparison with GG's conduct on CBB, which he has shown a remarkable propensity to "play the game".

I guess the thing that bothers the political establishment in the UK over the GG and CBB affair is that since he has survived eviction by public vote once, he may now survive until the very final vote, thus extending the period of embarassment associated with his regular appearance on TV screens (and very compelling TV it all is too!).

Saturday, January 14, 2006

From firebrand to pussycat: Galloway's TV transformation

Guardian Unlimited The Guardian From firebrand to pussycat: Galloway's TV transformation

It seems that a lot of people are cringing at George Galloway's performance as a cat; personally I thought that it was very funny, well it made me laugh. I also think it shows that, when he puts his mind to it, George can enter into the spirit of things. I have never been a great Galloway fan, but I have to admit that since seeing him in the Big Brother house I have somewhat warmed to him as he is showing a much more human side to his nature, and possibly it will give him a little more "street cred". The only thing that surprises me about the whole incident is, that given the nature of the tabloid press, there have not been more pussy jokes, or oblique references to cunnilingus (although I suppose tabloid journalists would probably have never heard the word) flying around.

Brokeback Mountain

Went to see Brokeback Mountain last night, even though I had reservations about going to see it; in my experience films that get the sort of hype that this has had are usually not worth watching. I have to admit that it is a good story from a good writer, but that is about as far as it goes really. The film is distinctly mediocre, and leaves one feeling that there is something missing, and at two hours fourteen minutes I think that it is about forty five minutes too long; ninety minutes would have been more than enough for the content of the film. The acting, well the best thing that could be said is that it was below average with one struggling to understand what was being said at times, with the best actors being the animals! Best thing about the film - the stunning scenery of the mountain itself. I definitely think that this is a case where the directors name is what has sold the film, but what people seem to forget is that even a good director can produce a donkey from time to time, and this is certainly a donkey, plodding and stubbornly refusing to go anywhere.

On a completely differen note; RESULT! Jodie has gone...

Friday, January 13, 2006

Intellectual Content Soars

As of today, I am joining BondBloke on this blog. However, please note that I do not bear any responsibility for his rantings and ravings, and I often frankly disagree with him, especially as regards his more repressive and, dare one say it, regressive views. After due deliberation it was felt that the expression "BondWoman" as my title was probably better than "Bondgirl", "BondBurd" or something similar. Doubtless the reason for the "Bond" reference will emerge in the fullness of time, but it has nothing to do with the film character of that ilk...

I haven't really got the hang of this blogging business yet, so here are some links to blogs which I think are good, which I look at regularly, and which may yet inspire me to more substantive contributions. However, I promise that my contributions will be intellectually heavyweight.

Crooked Timber - universally said to be "eggheads", e.g. by the folks on Fistful of Euros. Other euro interesting blogs include Europhobia and Jon Worth. I like Normblog, mainly because he's the friend of a friend, not because I share his views on the Iraq war, and Arthur's Seat for a Scottish perspective. Harking back to my origins, The Yorkshire Ranter also seems quite congenial. Anyway, that will give you some information about the sorts of things I am interested in.

Remote Art and Craft

At the end of last August J and I went off on a little camping trip to Orkney; yes, I know we are just a touch mad, but it was a great trip despite the high winds, the rain and the brilliant sunshine... The return journey was made via the north west tip of Scotland and we stayed in a B&B in Durness; by this time we had had four nights under canvas and were ready for a more comfortable bed. Whilst there we had planned to go across on the ferry and take a trip to Cape Wrath; however for a variety of reasons which we never really go to the bottom of (the ferryman blamed the weather, but I think that here were too few people that day) it never happened. So insead we took a walk on the cliffs from Balnakeil whilst we waited for the Craft Village there to come alive, all very beautiful indeed. Eventually the Craft Village awoke from its slumbers and we could have a good poke around; there are some very odd people there (and I do mean odd); there are two quite memorable characters, one who was very proud of the fact that he was able to grow grapes so far north and who insisted that we have a tour of his living space and see his grapes (for those who might be thinking along other lines I mean grapes as in the fruit used to make wine), and a strange person making some beautiful works which impressed us, who when asked if she would still be here next year (as we are thinking about going back to purchase some pieces) responded "well maybe I will maybe I won't". But there was one ceramic artist showing there, and this is getting to the point finally, Lotte Glob whose work is out of this world, absolutely amazing; it is so unusual and different that it stands alone head and shoulders above anything I have previously seen. I would recommend a visit to the Craft Village for anyone who is interested in art with the caveat that there are some pretty whacky people there.