Monthly Archives: March 2009

The bottom of the barrel

Surely something of importance happened while he was away, thought Malcolm.

Indeed: there was —

  • an on-going spat between a couple of blog-artists;
  • a minor celeb cashed in her chips;
  • an MP’s house-husband viewed some dodgy porny stuff;

and, now

  • a very insignificant pseudo-journo got CS-gassed for losing it at a Tory reception.

It really puts things in proportion.

We now know that the “journo” was one Ian Thomas of Sugar Media.

Sugar Media has a bit of previous:

As Paul Waugh tells it, for today’s Evening Standard, Eric Pickles was so lavish with the liquor:

After the drinks, however, 40-year-old Thomas and his pals slipped away without escorts.  He then embarked on what is described by an excellent source as a “domestic” with one of his companions. The row was so heated – and took place so close to the Speaker’s Chair (near the Table Office I’m told), that it attracted the attention of a police officer. At some point one of those involved declared “I’m HIV positive”. As a result, one copper is expected to take an HIV test as a precaution.

Well, that moves us on a bit.

Sugar Media is the publisher of Positive Nation, which sub-titles itself:

The UK’s HIV and Sexual Health Magazine.

There, in issue 135, we find one Ian Thomas lauding Auricular Therapy [Huh?] as his rescue from the nicotine habit:

Darren in my office suggested I go and see his friend Tony Bruno at the Tanning Shop in Vauxhall where they have got this wonderful new machine called a R.I.S.E. (Reflection Instrument Scanning Electro-pulse).

Try making that up! But, enough already!

Well, not quite.

In February last year, Sugar Media had a self-induced brush with our learned friends. Thomas and Co (the Co being Thomas’s business partner, Isabel Appio — who came in from the Voice Group, but continues to exploit the “Black History” market) were trying to expropriate trademarks from a rival firm, Barb Wire, run by a Ms Barbara M Campbell. The Sugar Media trick was to take, for example, a title like International Women’s Month and issue a rival publication, The Official Guide to International Women’s Month, using similar script and logo. In this case, Sugar Media lost out and had to pay Ms Campbell’s expenses.

Lest we forget:

Ian Thomas is deemed worthy of having his throat irrigated at a reception by the Chairman of the Tory Party.

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Filed under Conservative family values, Tories.

Kentish Town psycho-pathology

300px-kentish_town_stn_buildingA graffito, in script, seen on the northbound bus stop, opposite Kentish Town station:

Jew’s are gepsy’s

That’s it, as spelled, and with the double greengrocer’s apostrophe.

Now try to decode the sub-texts.

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Filed under London, Racists

By yon burnside, gin ye maun Ken …

The Iain Dale interview with Ken Livingstone was generally unremarkable. Apart from Ken coming over as a very human soul, he didn’t give us much more than we already knew. Ken, the old trouper, knows just how much knicker to flash to keep the audience intrigued.

Two things did pop out:

  • Ken is unshakable in his conviction that he is Mister London; and will therefore stand again. If he fails to secure the Labour nomination (and it will need a very big character to elbow him aside), he has the unspoken option to do what he did in 2000 and go independent. Assuming that Labour put up more than a straw-man (and there may be quite a few of them unemployed by 2012), that will split the left-of-centre vote, which in turn may be Blasted Boris’s best chance.
  • And then there’s this:

KL: I am not in favour of any parental choice in education. You will go to your local school.

ID: That’s a pretty bald statement. You’ve got young kids…

KL: They go to the local school and they will go to the local secondary school.

ID: Even if it’s a terrible school and you know it’s a terrible school? Surely a parent’s duty is to get the best education possible for their kids?

KL: Tom’s in his first year at school. In his class there are only three kids who were born in this country, and one of them is called Mohammed. He’s doing fine because he has parents who read to him and he lives in a house full of books. A school can screw up kids if it’s got a bad head who has lost interest and loses control. The home environment is far more likely to screw up kids. The illusion of educational choice has been a disaster for most kids and most parents.

There’s the red rag to the Tory bull-shitters.

Once we overcome our conniptions that anyone can challenge the shibboleth of “choice”, there is a lot of sense in Linvinstone’s argument.

“Choice” is a by-product of economic surplus. For those trapped in the underclass, there can be no choice. In education, “choice” is bought either

  • in the private sector, where education is over-priced, over-hyped and under-performing, except for buying access to higher education; or
  • as an essential “feature” in house-purchase.

Malcolm now reflects on the angst of his neighbours, who sweat blood over the pecking-order of north London schools. In truth, as Ken rightly suggests, the “choice” is largely out of their hands: the determining factors are location, aptitude and — above all — the selection criteria applied by the individual schools. That all means that his Yorkshire grandchildren may not be able to access the secondary school the other side of their garden fence.

Malcolm compares that with his observation of the schooling “enjoyed” by his grandchildren in the great State of New Jersey. The progress from first school (collected by bus each morning and delivered to the next township) to elementary school (just around the corner) to high school (the other side of the railway line) is automatic. There is no alternative except private education.

The difference is that, in the New Jersey situation, pushy parents ensure that school standards are maintained and improved for the one-and-only school available to them and their children. And that benefits all in the school community.

In the north London context, the dynamic is different. Once enrolled in that “good” school the pressure is off. Provided the student has application and aptitude, he or she is now on the production line to the next stage. The main sweat is over. What is not to be admitted openly is that it is now in the interests of the parents and the students that other schools are seen to be inferior: thereby nobbling the competition at the next stage.

As an experiment (and it is one Malcolm has himself done), try asking a group of students, at almost any age, to propose a pecking-order of the local schools. Not only will they do it, they will achieve a general unanimity on the final ranking. Without exception, that ranking will match the school’s position in the local league-table.

What’s wrong with that?

Well, self-esteem and expectations for a start.

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Filed under education, human waste, Iain Dale, leftist politics., London, social class

VAT vas that you say? Huh?

The general Opposition view is that the December VAT reduction to 15% was a damp-squib.

The Tories say so. Even Saint Vince Cable has opined to that end.

Unfortunately, nobody convinced Ireland’s Finance Minister, Brian Lenihan.

There he was, last Friday, at a business lunch, “candidly” recognising his own errors.

Here’s Daniel McConnell with a block-buster for the Sindi:

Embattled Finance Minister Brian Lenihan has admitted that his decision to increase the VAT rate in last October’s budget was a “serious mistake” which has cost the state over €700m in lost trade to the North.

Let’s run that past the post in slow motion. Lenihan thinks a half-per-cent increase in VAT was a significant mistake.

That, and the Darling cut to 15%, made a differential of 6½% between the two jurisdictions.

The result was that:

At the lunch, Mr Lenihan also quoted figures he said he received from leading drinks company Diageo which showed that 49 per cent of all drinks consumed on the island of Ireland were purchased in the North because of lower prices.

Department of Finance sources have confirmed that a reduction in the tax on alcohol may be considered in next month’s Budget because of the huge number of shoppers from the Republic going north.

Half of the whole booze intake of the 26 Counties is sourced from the Six!

More evidence is in the empty shells of closed stores across the swathe of Leinster from the border to north Dublin, in the registration plates of cars from Galway and points south in the car-parks of the NI retail parks.

So, Diddy Dave and the Boy Gids need not try and sell that bit of snake oil in Newry and Derry. The great intellect of the Twickenham terpsicorian may not shine quite so brightly in Dungannon and Strabane.

Do the maths. €700 million of missing VAT amounts to three and a quarter billion euros of extra cross-Border trade. And it’s going in one direction. Allow for the extra tax on drink and petrol and the UK Exchequer trousered way over half a billion sterling of that.

A small bonus to the occupying Brits?

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Filed under economy, Ireland, Tories., Vince Cable

Trust “The Times” … to have Deen wrong.

Here’s Adam Sherwin doing the People column yesterday:crane06leiladeen

This is an intensely feminine struggle against the destruction of our eco-system, a problem created by patriarchy,” Leila Deen, the lady who gunged Lord Mandelson, argues on

[Don’t go looking for it on line. This particular item seems to have been lost on the way from the print-room.]

Oh no she doesn’t.

At first, when Malcolm came across Ms Deen on Labourlist, he assumed it was one of those “as told to” spoofs.

After all, Ms Deen trod the narrowest of lines between satire and banal self-revelation:

Here was a well-dressed, dare I say attractive, state school, middle class woman confronting the unelected OverLord Mandelson and questioning his right to take a political platform on climate change.

Compare that self-descripton with Ms Deen’s previous outing, involving an Edinburgh crane in 2005, as illustrated above.

What was really dislocating Malcolm’s antennae for irony (apart, of course, from his over-familiarity with Americans) lies in Ms Deen’s reference to “patriachy” as in:

Typically for a man far too used to the comforts of patriachy, as I approached him, Mandelson’s condescending smile conveyed his expectation of little more than a simpering compliment coming his way.

Well, a typo, perhaps. Clumsy; but it happens to all of us, even the fastidious, nay — pedantic, Malcolm.

Except, here it comes again:

This is an intensely feminine struggle, against the destruction of our eco-system, a problem created by patriachy. So I stand proud to have joined the ranks of many strong women who are on the frontline of getting it sorted. And if getting attention for that cause means having to discuss where I buy my shoes, or how I get my hair so poofy, so be it.

Why did Adam Sherwin correct Ms Deen’s solecism? Did the spell-check do it for him; and he missed the point?

Ms Deen’s linguistic gifts were honed to degree level: sadly, the degree was in international studies and politics at Leeds. She therefore tends to all the usual clichés:

  • “proactively undermined our climate commitments”,
  • ” Suddenly the action and the activist are gendered”,
  • “in the forefront of the climate change debate”.

Only “empowerment” seems to be missing from the full set.

Her punctuation lacks rigour, rarely rising above the all-purpose comma; and then she manages serially to split three infinitives:

it is women leading the charge to directly challenge its causes [i.e. of climatic change] , engage its perpetrators and take direct action to stop it happening.

Sorry, darlin’, you’re too late. It’s already happening.

But what really grates is the “poofy” usage. As the OED has it:

Characteristic of or designating a homosexual man; relating to or associated with homosexual men; effeminate.

Now, Ms Deen, justify that in this particular context. Homophobia on International Women’s Day! Tut! Tut.

And, oh dear, was that a Starbucks Venti cup, you, a brave defender of the eco-system, used?

Be still, my patri-achy, achy heart!

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Filed under equality, Gender, Times

Ethnic politics

Malcolm lives in the London Borough of Haringey, one of the population of some 217,000. His Ward is the most “white” of the Borough: 89% white and just 5% black. This, though, is not untypical of the west end of Haringey: Fortis Green Ward is 85/5; Highgate is 87/6; Crouch End is 85/6. These Wards are not typical of the Borough, which is 61/20, though no single Ward has a black population of more than 38% (against 48% white).

Even in those Wards were white voters are massively in the majority, black candidates get elected. One for whom Malcolm had some respect, even thought he was a Tory, was Blair Greaves.

Across the Borough, all Parties (just two at the present) and all races have been and are represented in the Council Chamber. British broadmindedness?

With that in mind, Malcolm found this on today’s New York Times Opinion Pages:

The Supreme Court narrowed the scope of the Voting Rights Act this week when it ruled that it does not require states to create so-called crossover districts. The regrettable 5-to-4 ruling overturns two of the act’s central goals: protecting minority voting rights and moving the nation toward a more colorblind future.

When North Carolina redrew its district lines in 2003, it created a district with a roughly 39 percent black voting-age population. In doing so, the line-drawers divided a county into two districts, something the state constitution prohibited. But the state argued that the Voting Rights Act required it to create the district, in which minorities would be a large part of the electorate though not a majority.

The county sued, arguing that the Voting Rights Act does not require the creation of districts in which minorities are less than 50 percent of the voting-age population. Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the opinion that controlled the outcome, stated that the act is concerned only with creating districts in which minorities are a majority.

Justice David Souter, in dissent, had the better argument. He noted that in practice crossover districts that are about 39 percent black have a reasonable chance of electing minorities, which makes the districts an effective method of increasing minority representation.

He also pointed out that if the act does not require the creation of crossover districts, it will encourage states instead to pack minorities into majority-minority districts. Discouraging the sort of districts in which blacks must join together with whites will polarize voting along racial lines.

That’s quite a complex piece of linguistic juggling, and Malcolm had to read it twice to get it straight. That could be because:

  • the Alzheimer’s is kicking in;


  • because the whole notion so alien to a mere Brit: Malcolm suspects if the Electoral Commission tried to do it here, there would be blood on the streets;


  • because it is inconceivable that the mainstream political parties in Britain would not want to balance their tickets.

Whatever the outcome of future elections, national or local, the respectable British Parties will seriously endeavour to represent, and be seen to represent the whole community.

One aspect of the American experience, though, is even more peculiar than this emphasis on race.

Why be so anxious to have racially-distinguished voting districts, when, for example, the position of women is so discounted?


A record number of women serve in the U.S. Congress. Currently, 13 women (10 Democrats and 3 Republicans) serve in the U.S. Senate, while 61 women (43 Democrats and 18 Republicans) hold seats in the House of Representatives. Four of the Senators and seven Representatives are serving their first terms in Congress.

Now, that’s 14% of the lower House, and 13% of the Senate.

In the USA, there are 5 million more women than men. The difference is even greater among those of voting age.

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Filed under Elections, Ethnicity, Gender

Fart tax?

When Malcolm, in truth just to play with WordPress, split Malcolm Redfellow Revivus into this Home Service and a Malcolm Redfellow’s World Service, he did not fully realise the rod he was making for his own back.

He had doubled his commentating commitments.

He also had invented the constant problem: where does “World” end and “Home” begin?

This one is definitely homely, and of the earth, earthy. Even if it is Irish in origin.

Tout change, mais c’est la même chose.

Modern male adolescents of a certain age find intense amusement in the loud dangerous-gases1anal parp. When Malcolm was of that age, the knack was “silent but deadly”, an innocent expression and the accusation “who smelt it, dealt it”.

For those many years when Malcolm taught at the rough end of the chalk-face, provided the moment was right, he would address the issue and gently suggest that the human produced less than a litre of fart-gas a day. By comparison, any cow could manage about eighteen. An elephant, loud and proud, could trumpet its eighty litres. The numbers may well be queried by specialists in the field; but they were usually good enough to make the point, and allow the class to continue in decency and application.

Now we’re Green!

So today comes a story from the Irish Times: it’s Jamie Smyth writing from Brussels. So, no comments about sprouts. And catch the full flavour before the rest of the reptiles sniff it out tomorrow:

THE GOVERNMENT may have to introduce a “cow tax” to help it meet new tough targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions laid out in the EU’s climate change strategy…

Under the EU’s climate strategy, which was agreed in December, Ireland must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, when compared to 2005 levels. But the memo warns it faces major challenges in meeting the target because agriculture accounts for 26 per cent of overall emissions and reductions in the sector are difficult to achieve.

The memo details the cost of offsetting methane produced by Irish livestock and the likely revenues produced by a levy. It proposes a levy set at €5 per tonne of CO2 emitted, which generate revenue worth €104 million for the Government. This implies a levy of €13 for each dairy cow, €7 for non diary cow, €1 for sheep, it says.

Apparently, somewhere in this strategy there is a phenomenon here identified as “carbon leakage”.

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Filed under human waste, Irish Times, Nuclear power