Wednesday, March 29, 2006

From Our Own Correspondent

Your well-informed and even better connected Pedant-General receives news from the Antipodes.

Following cyclone Larry, the swell has made its way round to Sydney and proceeds to have a devasting impact, sartorially speaking at least:

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

What is an Adult?

Bystander comments, sensibly as always, on this depressing case.

He sums up:
"The punishment freaks will be calling for her to be treated like an adult. But she is in law and in fact a child, and that is how we must deal with her."
Whilst this is true, I suspect it is not the whole truth. Consider what will happen to this girl on her 18th birthday: she will still be entirely unequipped with the necessary moral reasoning capability to determine right from wrong. I submit that this is what differentiates an adult from a child.

To paraphrase Bystander:
In law she is an adult, but in fact is still a child. How then should we deal with her?

Monday, March 27, 2006

House Rules

As the material for these humble pages originates in Scotland, I must ask all Patrons to respect tolerate the latest addition to the House Rules.

I think that, given that this blog is - without doubt - a public institution, it clearly falls within the scope of this new legislation, so please extinguish cigarettes whilst reading. Mr Connell has, curiously, failed to inform me as to your rights, should you be reading this outdoors on your snazzy 3G mobile or somesuch.

As for this piece of abject lunacy at our expense, words fail me. Who is going to pay for these "gold awards"? Precisely how much more than exactly jack-sh*t will they be worth?

All I can say (that bit about words failing me was, perhaps, wide of the mark) is that your sweet-smelling Pedant-General, whose fingertips bear nary a stain, would merit only a silver award. For this I blame Mr Seat: He brought an extremely nice box of cigars to help usher in the New Year. As one might expect from a man as well travelled and even better read, he also brought with them a little anecdote.

He recounted that he had attended a very nice dinner with the departing US Ambassador to HMG, who had previously been someone rather important at the CIA, where a guest remarked on the fine quality of the Cuban cigars then making their way round the table. Cheekily, perhaps impertinently even, the guest enquired whether there was anything we ought to know about the US trade embargo against Cuba. The ambassador took an expansive puff, exhaled and declared to the room:
The first thing I taught my men was: "Gentlemen. Burn your enemy's crops"

Religous Revolutionaries

... But not of the type you might - with your customary dubious generalisations - think.

Vicki Woods is bidden to her local church hall to talk about "Everyday Politics". She discovers something interesting going on in "Middle England":
What amazed me most was the political knowledge. They think about politics every damn day as well, and they aren't bored but desperate.

RTWT. The last line is quite something. Blimey indeed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Why we need the Lords - Reason 3,472: The Begum Case

They are very obviously, very sensible.

On the Appeal Court judging against the school, not because of the uniform policy, but because of the decision-making process that gave rise to the policy:
Para 30: ... The school's action cannot properly be condemned as disproportionate, with an acknowledgement that on reconsideration the same action could very well be maintained and properly so.
i.e. It is what you do that matters, not how you decide to do it...

The whole of Para 34 is good stuff too:
On the agreed facts, the school was in my opinion fully justified in acting as it did. It had taken immense pains to devise a uniform policy which respected Muslim beliefs but did so in an inclusive, unthreatening and uncompetitive way. The rules laid down were as far from being mindless as uniform rules could ever be. The school had enjoyed a period of harmony and success to which the uniform policy was thought to contribute. On further enquiry it still appeared that the rules were acceptable to mainstream Muslim opinion. It was feared that acceding to the respondent's request would or might have significant adverse repercussions. It would in my opinion be irresponsible of any court, lacking the experience, background and detailed knowledge of the head teacher, staff and governors, to overrule their judgment on a matter as sensitive as this. The power of decision has been given to them for the compelling reason that they are best placed to exercise it, and I see no reason to disturb their decision.
Tim Worstall will like that: devolve decisions to the lowest level possible.

The Noble and Learned Lords did not seem to think that Ms Begum (or her brother) had acted in entirely good faith:
Shabina's discovery that her religion did not allow her to wear the uniform she had been wearing for the past two years created a problem for her. Her family had chosen that school for her with knowledge of its uniform requirements. She could have sought the help of the school and the local education authority in solving the problem. They would no doubt have advised her that if she was firm in her belief, she should change schools. That might not have been entirely convenient for her, particularly when her sister was remaining at Denbigh High, but people sometimes have to suffer some inconvenience for their beliefs. Instead, she and her brother decided that it was the school's problem. They sought a confrontation and claimed that she had a right to attend the school of her own choosing in the clothes she chose to wear.
Lord Scott doesn't like the original approach either:
Para 80: The quite unnecessarily confrontational character of the arrival at the school on 3 September 2002 of Shabina and the two men is evident. Shabina was a girl of 13, some two weeks short of her fourteenth birthday.
The confrontational nature of the peremptory manner in which the jilbab issue was raised with the school, a manner which is very unlikely to have been chosen by Shabina, not yet 14 years of age, set the tone for how the issue then developed.
And in Para 83:
In my opinion, therefore, the direction to Shabina to attend school wearing the proper school uniform can only be attacked as an unlawful direction under domestic law if the school uniform rules that she was being required to obey were themselves so unreasonable as to be unlawful, or if the decision to insist upon Shabina observing the school uniform rules was similarly unreasonable. I regard both contentions as being virtually unarguable.
This is useful:
The cases demonstrate the principle that a rule of a particular public institution that requires, or prohibits, certain behaviour on the part of those who avail themselves of its services does not constitute an infringement of the right of an individual to manifest his or her religion merely because the rule in question does not conform to the religious beliefs of that individual. And in particular this is so where the individual has a choice whether or not to avail himself or herself of the services of that institution, and where other public institutions offering similar services, and whose rules do not include the objectionable rule in question, are available.
Baroness Hale waffles a little bit, but delivers a cracker:
If a woman freely chooses to adopt a way of life for herself, it is not for others, including other women who have chosen differently, to criticise or prevent her. Judge Tulkens, in Sahin v Turkey, at p 46, draws the analogy with freedom of speech. The European Court of Human Rights has never accepted that interference with the right of freedom of expression is justified by the fact that the ideas expressed may offend someone.

To the chaps from HuT backing this nonsense, that particular quote must really sting.

The Noble Baroness continues:
Likewise, the sight of a woman in full purdah may offend some people, and especially those western feminists who believe that it is a symbol of her oppression, but that could not be a good reason for prohibiting her from wearing it.
Quite so, but that is not what the school was arguing. It was arguing that other pupils objected to the jilbab because it would make it harder for them to stand up for themselves in the face of pressure from extremists:
A mandatory policy that rejects veiling in state educational institutions may provide a crucial opportunity for girls to choose the feminist freedom of state education over the patriarchal dominance of their families. Also, for the families, such a policy may send a clear message that the benefits of state education are tied to the obligation to respect women's and girls' rights to equality and freedom
this was a specific concern at the school in question:
This is demonstrated by the fact that girls have subsequently expressed their concern that if the jilbab were to be allowed they would face pressure to adopt it even though they do not wish to do so.

Not to worry though: ever the news manager, TB has ensured that the BBC will have other things to do tonight than to poke fun at the wrong-headedness of his wife...

Monday, March 20, 2006

Peerages, Party Funding and Perfidy

One of the side effects of blogging is that one becomes ever vigilant for signs of news management.

So, notwithstanding my undoubtedly stout yeomanliness, you could have knocked me down with a feather when old two jags himself fights off accusations of monumental corruption on the part of his dear leader by suggesting that this charade clearly demonstrates the need for state funding of political parties.

I shall leave aside the free marketeer's objection (that this will insulate the incumbent big 3 or so from the undeniable signals of market forces: unappetising policies, no grassroots supporters, no money) and consider for a moment some of the unsavoury thoughts...

The meme of state funding crops up once in a while and is knocked down fairly sharply as we all know that, in much the same way that
"democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time",
political parties are a very real restriction on the democratic ideal, but are at least partially necessary to make the whole thing manageable. Oddly enough, I would suggest that blogging and the internet in general are undermining the conditions that made political parties necessary - lack of easy access to information, difficulty of getting one's voice heard - in much the same way - and for much the same reasons - that participation in the party political scene is declining.

Equally, TB knows that he's on the way out and that, given his (semi-demi-hemi) desertions of the cause of the international proletariat on the one hand and his positively Stalinist disregard for both the ancient liberties and institutions of this once great country, he is going to be shafted by the unions (on the one hand) and the sentient part of the electorate (on the other).

I think that some of the top bods at ZaNu-Labour have put two and three together and made forty-seven: they need to get state funding if the party is to survive. The question then becomes how to secure state funding.

And if one is as self-serving and venal as the current Prime Minister, that is child's play: just make sure that the current voluntary donation scheme appears as corrupt as possible...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Delete or Forward?

James at "What's That Smell?" responded with great magnanimity to my little snipe in my last post. This is particularly notable since it was the likes of him at which the snipe was directed.

Anyway, he sets us a challenge. It is the least that I can do to rise to it. RTWT

Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Mutual Exclusivity of Project Management and Quality

Your hard-pressed and poorly remunerated Pedant-General can relate to this.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Another Weekend Competition

The snotty-nosed provincial oik has a simply epic weekend competition, providing a novel twist on the age-old six degrees of separation thing.

Even Mr Seat would have trouble beating the starter for 10 at S&M.

Go there. Enter if you dare.

RIP John Profumo

The confluence of some dreadful doggerel from DK this morning and this news item prompts your Public-Spirited Pedant-General to remind his audience of this rather natty verse:
Oh what have you done cried Christine,
You've wrecked the whole party machine!
To lie in the nude
may be terribly rude
But to lie in the House is obscene...
No wiggling about and attempting to (re-)define the word "is" in those days....

UPDATE (Sunday pm): ninme picks up on this story. We discover, from a man who would definitely know, that her take on the "spy" angle is, very uncharacteristically, wrong.

And her chum, the enigmatically named "RC2", gives me a mention, which is also nice.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

An Ode to English Rugby

Your culturally-aware and super-sensitive Pedant-General was sorely tempted to post this piece of rampant triumphalism, sent to him by his sister. To post it now, when even the post-match hangovers have long since cleared, seems really unnecessarily offensive to those poor English souls, suffering so miserably from discrimination at every turn.

But those cheeky DSTPFW chaps have raised a related topic so here goes:
Ye came up here tae paradise
Tae beat us at your game
A' wind and pash and full of shit
Yer aw the blinking same
Ye caw yersels the champions
The nations most elite
Scotland are the champions
Yuv just been phukin beat

A game that wis invented
Fur English gentlemen
No Highland Jocks wi tartan frocks
Well bliddy think again
A baw that's shapit like an egg
Its jist a stupit farse
A suppose it maks it easier
Tae ram right up yer erse

So get back hame an lick yer wounds
Yer a bunch o stupit fools
It's time fur ye tae cheat again
Tae change the phukin rools
Rugby, fitba, cricket tae
Yer jist a shower o chancers
Stick tae whit ye dae the best
Ye morris phukin dancers

Monday, March 06, 2006

Mrs Mill's Modern Manners

Your aloof and superior Pedant-General is reluctant to demean himself by commenting upon the ubiquitous grubbiness that is synonymous with life in the "Westminster bubble".

However, since DK is making such a fuss about Mrs Mills' appearance and since I couldn't resist this little image (with many thanks to the bright young things studying earnestly at Thornhill Lower School), here is my ha'p'orth:

There are broadly two views of the goings-on the Mills/Jowell household in the Sunday papers this weekend:
1) Jowell was in the process of being sold down the river by her husband and told him to sling his hook
2) Jowell sold her husband down the river to save her ministerial career.

To quote commenter John in Nosemonkey's thread on this topic, "The words 'not mutually exclusive' leap to mind".

Given that the Jowell finances seemed incredibly complicated - even by the standards of your average money-grubbing Tory sleaze merchant - it is quite possible that a "pattern had been set" and she rather blithely - and even more possibly naively - signed forms because she had been doing so for many years when she was not bound by the ministerial code and had long since lost track of her husband's dealings. After all, the one thing she did not have to worry about was where the money would come from to pay the mortgage installments each month.

Thus, it is more than likely that:
  • Jowell is rather worryingly naive;
  • She had no idea that the $600k was a bung from Berlusconi;
  • Her husband probably had a big dissemble in her general direction when the story first broke;
  • It subsequently transpired that he had indeed been lying to her and caused her and quite a number of others some considerable embarrassment;
  • She was, as a result, pretty thin on loyalty to him;
  • She saw no reason to jeopardise her job when she had done nothing wrong.
There are a few leaps of faith here, but nothing really ridiculous. If any of the following (non-exhaustive list of events) were subsequently come to light:
  • Jowell set up an introduction to Berlusconi for her husband;
  • Her husband took legal advice from any civil servant about how to conceal the bung and/or allow Jowell to stay within the letter of the ministerial code if not the spirit;
  • The Mills' repair on a regular basis to some secret lovenest and that the separation is just a sham to save face;
then we will all be well within our rights to ask for:
  • Jowell's head on a plate;
  • Mr Mills to be prosecuted for money laundering;
  • The money to be forfeit.
But even if they don't, one could ask quite what it is with Labour ministers - supposedly champions of the working classes - and their little blind spot for sums of the order of £350,000 .... Anyone else thinking of Mandelson?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Look Away Now - This is REALLY bad

This is so dreadful that I can resist posting it:
Q: What has eight legs, eight arms and eight eyes?

A: Eight pirates.
And I'm running a book on how long it will take ninme (inimitably) to pick this up.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Power Inquiry

A useful little "free-for-all" on the Exec Summary of the Power Inquiry Report here.
(Doffing of Peacock-Feathered Hat in the general direction of Nosemonkey)

I haven't had much of a chance to think about this in any great detail. In any case, Mr Seat is far cleverer, has more inclination and will tell us all what the important bits are in the minimum number of words needed so to do with clarity, precision, wit and elegance. (So need tor us mere mortals to worry about it)

Besides, none of my extensive powers are remotely accountable to anything so messy as democracy, so my interest in the topic would be academic at best.