UFOs, Faked Moon Landings, and Fiscal Policy
2 hours ago
The silence from Brussels is deafening. In Athens a Greek newspaper editor, Costas Vaxevanis, faces imprisonment for printing a list of prominent Greeks who have squirrelled away their fortunes in Swiss bank accounts to evade taxes. He could spend two years in prison if convicted. This assault on the freedom of the press exposes the deep fissures in Greek society – between a moneyed elite who ruthlessly game the system for their own ends, and the hoi-polloi who are bearing the brunt of austerity measures.The Greek press is rallying round but the EU is doing nothing.
A report by Palestinian Media Watch recently revealed that British taxpayers have been paying salaries to terrorists. It revealed that £3 million every month is paid by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in salaries to Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. The salaries come from the PA's general budget. That "general budget" is kindly provided by the U.K., among other EU countries.
Many British taxpayers, struggling to pay their family's way through a recession, might rightly wonder why their money is going to pay as much as £2,000 a month to people serving the longest sentences—those who have targeted Israeli buses and other civilian targets with suicide bombers, for instance. That is higher than the average wage in nearly all of Britain. You might be forgiven for wondering, if you were a struggling teaching assistant in the North of England, why failing to tick "suicide bomber" on your careers form should have left you so much worse off than a terrorist in the Middle East.This is not new, of course, and, despite denials or pleas of ignorance by Alan Duncan, Mitchell's successor it goes on. The lunacy of cutting defence spending and eviscerating our armed forces while paying out money to terrorists who are itching to attack us and our allies is self-evident.
European lawmakers snubbed the EU's leaders on Thursday when they voted down the leading candidate for a key European Central Bank post to protest a lack of women candidates for the job. Recognised on all sides as well qualified, Luxembourg Central Bank head Yves Mersch lost out after a series of sharp exchanges over the representation of women at the top level of European political and business institutions.Forty per cent. gentlemen?
Each man's death diminishes me, For I am involved in mankind. Therefore, send not to know For whom the bell tolls, It tolls for thee.That may be true but some men's deaths diminish us all. Such a man was Jacques Barzun, cultural historian, musicologist, many other things and, above all, one of the great historians of the detective story, whose death at the astonishing age of 104 has just been announced. But then he continued to write and publish into his nineties and continued to annoy and delight people in equal measure.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what plans they have for making the case for the United Kingdom's membership of the European Union.Rum. I thought we have been members of the European Union ever since it existed and were, indeed, signatories to the Maastricht Treaty, which set it up. What can the noble lord mean? If one reads the rest of the exchange it becomes clear that other peers, including the Minister found it hard to understand what on earth Lord Liddle was talking about though, obviously, his purpose was to demand to know why the government why HMG "clear leadership that our membership of the EU is vital to our economy and essential to our place in the world?"
On trade, the Council agreed an ambitious agenda to create 2 million jobs across Europe. This includes completing free trade deals with Canada and Singapore in the coming months, and starting negotiations with the US next year on a comprehensive transatlantic trade and investment agreement. And we made some progress on the launch of negotiations with Japan 'in the coming months'. This deal alone could increase EU GDP by €42 billion.2 million jobs, eh? Well, that should solve all our problems.
My Lords, one of the Council conclusions on which I hope the noble Lord can enlighten the House is headed,
"Developing a tax policy for growth".
Is this a tax policy for having higher taxes or lower taxes? Secondly, the same paragraph of the conclusions refers to, "enhanced cooperation to be launched on a Financial Transactions Tax". Was that supported by the British Government?Well, was it? Hard to tell from the answer:
My Lords, on the first point, we are not in favour of any new taxes emanating from the EU. Secondly, we have not supported a financial transactions tax. We know that certain elements within EU countries have got together and decided to impose a financial transactions tax. I believe that in the long term that will prove to be against their interests.After all, HMG supports the idea of a banking union, cheerfully pointing out that it will not affect Britain. So, it is reasonable to suppose that they assume that a financial transaction tax will not do so either. And the Porcine Air Force is about to take off.
the coalition is poised to introduce legislation to give prisoners the vote.
According to the Guardian, ministers are preparing to launch a draft bill to comply with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).According to the same article, government sources say that nothing will be done until the end of November, that is after the somewhat contentious election of police commissioners, predicted to have the lowest turn-out in history.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said Britain will continue to defy a European Court ruling saying prisoners must be given the right to vote.
"No one should be under any doubt - prisoners are not getting the vote under this government," he told MPs.
But he offered a further Commons debate to "help put the legal position".Is "no one should be under any doubt" the same as a cast-iron guarantee? Also, what is the point of another debate? To explain to MPs that they actually cannot decide such matters for the country, even though, for once they do have the country on their side?
The retailer has for years resisted using the colour-coded system on its products. The on-the-packet traffic light label grades food as red, amber or green depending on how nutritious it is, with red being the most unhealthy.
Instead, Tesco has since 2005 used a ‘guideline daily amounts’ (GDA) system which shows the percentage of salt, sugar and fat in a product but does not involve colours.
However the chain, which has annual sales of £47 billion in the UK, said that following new customer research it will now develop a “hybrid” labeling system incorporating traffic lights and GDA.
The move will bring it in line with rivals Sainsbury’s, Asda and Marks & Spencer who have used hybrid labeling for years.(Incidentally, why is the Telegraph using American spelling?)
"Well, you realise your position, you and your accomplice here. If I were to shout for help as we pass through the village -"
"My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably enlarge the too limited titles of our village inns by giving us The Dangling Prussian as a sign-post."In the same spirit though not in the same circumstances I suggest that we start renaming hostelries as The Three Presidents. It seems but fitting in the light of the news that the problem of who will collect that Peace Prize has been solved.
However, it remains unclear who will deliver the speech accepting the award, which normally involves just one speaker. And it is also unclear what will happen to the £740,000 prize money, although it is expected to go to charity.A charity, eh? I wonder which particular charity or, much more likely, NGO that will go to. One that has already been heavily funded to campaign for more EU regulation of something or other?
To ask Her Majesty's Government, in the light of the announcement of price rises by British Gas, what action they will take to protect consumers from rising energy costs.He got a disingenuous answer that gave notice of some more government spending on various projects and advertising thereof.
My Lords, protecting consumers from rising energy costs is a priority for this Government. Programmes such as the Carbon Emissions Reduction Target, Warm Front, Green Deal and the Energy Company Obligation make or will make homes more energy efficient. The Warm Home discount provides £1.1 billion of support until 2015 and helps around 2 million low-income and vulnerable households. The Government have also instigated the Big Energy Saving Week, to be held the week of 22 October, when there will be up to 400 events across the country providing direct advice on reducing energy bills.It was Lord Willoughby de Broke's question that interested me:
My Lords, would not the simple way to reduce consumers' electricity costs be to stop paying huge subsidies to wind farms? The cost of those subsidies falls directly on to the consumer, particularly, as the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, mentioned, those in fuel poverty.The answer was suitably vague (suitably for HMG, that is):
My Lords, this country needs a mix of different energy sources. Wind happens to be one of them and is carbon free. However, we recognise that we need to look at all sources and the subsidies we are providing to them, and we have taken it upon ourselves to reduce wind subsidies by 10 per cent.!0 per cent is better than nothing but 100 per cent would be even better.
The man who is supposed to have done the actual killing, Rustam Makhmudov, was not on trial as he is supposed to be hiding somewhere in Western Europe. Neither was anybody who was accused of organizing or commissioning the killing.
Makhmudov's two brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, were accused of involvement and found not guilty to their and their supporers' understandably delight. Others found not guilty were former police officer Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and former FSB officer Pavel Ryaguzov who had been up on an extortion charge related to the case.At the time it seemed unlikely that the case would ever be solved. It still seems a little unlikely but, as RFE/RL reports, five people have now been charged with murder and illegal arms dealing. The names seem oddly familiar:
The Russian Investigation Committee said in an October 16 statement that it "has completed the investigation against five defendants -- brothers Rustam, Ibragim, and Dzhabrail Makhmudov, and Sergei Khadzhikurbanov and Lom-Ali Gaitukayev."AP gives a few more details:
Russia's Investigative Committee said it has completed a probe of the suspected triggerman, Rustam Makhmudov, and four others. No date for the trial has been set.
Makhmudov's two brothers and a Moscow police officer have already stood trial, charged with helping stage the killing. But a court acquitted them in 2009. Russia's Supreme Court overruled the acquittal and sent the case back to investigators.
Authorities have since arrested Makmudov and his uncle, Lom-Ali Gaitukayev, who is accused of organizing the killing. The Moscow police officer who faced the initial trial, Sergei Khadzhikurbanov, is still in custody, while the two Makhmudov brothers, Dzhabrail and Ibragim, have been ordered to remain in Moscow pending a new trial.
The committee said it will still try to find out who ordered the murder and look for others who might have been involved.I wonder if they are serious about finding out who ordered the murder. If so, I wish them luck.
François Hollande has a bold new plan to tackle social injustice and inequality in France: ban homework. Introducing his proposals for education reform last week at the Sorbonne, the French president declared that work "must be done in the [school] facility rather than in the home if we want to support the children and re-establish equality."
Banning out-of-school assignments would put France on the cutting edge of pedagogical fashion, though it wouldn't be entirely unprecedented. An elementary school in Maryland recently replaced homework with a standing order for 30 minutes a day of after-school reading. A German high school is also test-running a new homework ban, after an earlier reform lengthened the school day and crowded out time for extra-curriculars such as sports or music.Actually, banning homework is far from cutting edge. That was tried in Britain, certainly for younger children for many years, the argument being exactly the one the French President is using: it is not fair as some children might get help from parents and some might not. The result, as we know, was that generations of children grew up with large sections of them being barely literate or numerate, let alone capable of learning anything more complicated than the three Rs.
Every aspiring beauty-pageant queen knows what to say when asked what she wants most: "World peace." World peace is at least nominally what we all want most. But evidently, we are not very good at making it. The modern peace movement is almost 200 years old; its origins can be traced to the period that followed the devastating wars of the Napoleonic era in Europe. In those two centuries, peace movements have had little discernible impact on world events, and what effect they have had has often been bad: the European peace and disarmament movement of the 1930s, for example, greatly facilitated Hitler's plans for a war of revenge. For all the good they have done, those well-intentioned souls who have sought to achieve world peace through the organization of committees, the signing of petitions, the holding of rallies, and the promotion of international treaties might just as well have stayed home...Curiously enough, the comments are quite sensible, too.
After the Swedish Academy announced on Thursday that prolific novelist Mo Yan had become the first Chinese citizen to be awarded the prestigious prize, Beijing was quick to celebrate it as a national triumph. In a letter to the China Writers' Association, to which Mo belongs, the Communist Party's propaganda chief Li Changchun wrote that the award "reflects the prosperity and progress of Chinese literature, as well as the increasing influence of China."
The historic news was also splashed across Chinese newspapers on Friday in a flurry of national pride -- unlike two years ago when imprisoned democratic activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Back then, Beijing spurned the accolade, calling it an affront to the award's tradition. In 2000, Beijing also disowned exiled writer and critic Gao Xingjian, now a French citizen, when he became the only other Chinese winner of the Nobel Prize for literature.What does this remind me of? Ah yes. In 1958 the great Russian poet and author of Dr Zhivago, not published in the Soviet Union, Boris Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Literature Prize. This signalled the start of a terrifying campaign of vilification against the man in his country. This included "spontaneous" demonstrations that demanded his exile (and it could have been much worse). Pasternak tried refusing the prize and even wrote a letter to Khrushchev explaining what he had done. It did not help. He was submitted to the ordeal of a "trial" by the Writers's Union. The prize remained his though he never collected it.
Apart from a history of general incompetence and sloth, including started but never finished studies in economics, Jagland was a "confidential KGB source" (or as Lenin would have called him, a useful idiot). Internally in KGB he went under the call name "Juri" and was a useful source for political information. According to reports he had also been used as a "channel for active measures", including the question of nuclear free zones in the Nordic countries. These contacts were brought to light by the Soviet defector Mikhail Butkov.
Jagland defended himself that he did not do anything but his normal duties, and though he never reported his contacts to the Norwegian security services, he did report to the people in charge of the Norwegian Labour party. (Hoops!) In the same program on Norwegian television that Butkov and Jagland were discussed, Jens Stoltenberg also was mentioned - another Labour party luminary. Those who follow Norwegian politics may recognise him as the present Norwegian PM.
Quote (my transl): "Jens Stoltenberg's contact with the KGB officer Boris Kirillov led to KGB in 1989 giving him the cover/file name "Steklov". A dossier on Stoltenberg was put together at the Centre in Moscow containing personal and political information. The dossier was of the form DOR (Delo operativnoj razrabotki). These kind of files were usually restricted to people in an advanced state of cultivation, or persons already counted as confidential sources.
Looks like Arne Treholt was not alone - he was just unlucky to get caught.I am grateful for that information and for being reminded that I should not write lazily.
It's a bit different, though, in Norway and internationally. In Norway, this decision is deemed to stir considerable controversy, precisely because the issue of EU membership is so controversial in Norway, and many critics here see this already as the politicians on the Nobel Committee trying to use their platform there to affect Norwegian domestic politics.In fact, Norway has voted twice to stay out of the EU but it is well known that Thorbjørn Jagland, the Chairman of the Peace Prize Committee and a man with an "interesting" political career, would like to see the question reopened and Norway vote the right way at last.
The Norwegian prize committee said the EU received the award for six decades of contributions “to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.
“The stabilizing part played by the European Union has helped to transform a once torn Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace,” Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said.
The EU rose from the ashes of World War II, born of the conviction that ever closer economic ties would make sure that century-old enemies never turned on each other again.Well, of course, as anyone who has looked at the history of this noxious institution knows, the EU did not rise from the ashes of anything. The EU came into existence in 1992 after the Maastricht Treaty, just about the time the war in former Yugoslavia was unfolding, with the EU and its egregious Ministers adding to the flames by encouraging the Communist apparatchik turned Serb nationalist Slobodan Milosevic to keep the federation together by whatever means possible.
But even aside from the lack of wisdom in sending someone to prison for telling jokes – however unpleasant – the messages our flailing society sends out seem to be getting increasingly deranged. Perhaps JP Dr Bill Hudson does not have a television. Every time I turn one on I find exactly the type of humour he finds so shocking. Try Jimmy Carr or Frankie Boyle. Almost to a man – only ever men – this nation’s comedians earn their followings by making the most tasteless and disgusting jokes they can get away with. Perhaps they should. Much of the best humour is about pushing peoples’ boundaries of taste. The most popular type of humour in Britain is currently based not on eliciting real laughter but rather a sort of shocked ‘I can’t believe he said that’ gasp. It is not everybody’s idea of comedy, but it is obviously the ideal for a lot of people, because they reward the comedians so lavishly that the comedians themselves often have to locate tax-avoidance schemes to keep themselves in the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed.Undoubtedly, many of those who cheered and clapped are avid watchers of Jimmy Carr and Frankie Boyle.
And yesterday a Dewsbury man who posted a Facebook message that said ''all soldiers should die and go to hell'' after six British soldiers were killed in Afghanistan was spared jail, receiving instead 240 hours of community service.Is it just because magistrates are different on that side of the Pennines or have we now a hierarchy of speech crimes?
There were cheers in court when the two-year jail term of Yekaterina Samutsevich, 30, was suspended.
Earlier the trio spoke defiantly at the appeal hearing, saying their protest song was political and not anti-Church.Not anti-Church, maybe, and not anti-religion, certainly but the protest was anti the Church hierarchy, which is far too close to the Putin regime. Historians of Russia and of the later part of the Soviet Union would argue that there is nothing unusual in that.
But what of the historians who have been peddling lies about the Soviet Union, denying the horrors of Communism and generally abusing freedom of speech? What of Professor Eric Hobsbawm CH, given that honour by Tony Blair?
Throughout his long and distinguished career Professor Hobsbawm belonged to the CPGB (as long as there was a CPGB to belong to) and refused to acknowledge the Joseph Stalin was not the nicest possible man around, who occasionally got a little bit angry but what can you expect when you have the welfare of the world at heart.
Even in recent books Professor Hobsbawm implicitly denied the extent of Stalin’s and Mao’s mass murders, and was all coy about the victims of collectivization imposed by every single Communist tyrant from Uncle Joe to Colonel Mengistu. Far from being disdained, let alone arrested and imprisoned, the good professor is highly feted (Companion of Honour, no less) and his books are required reading by all university students of history.
All this, despite the fact that every single thing the Austrian judge or the British one in the Irving libel case of 2000 said about that wretched man can be said about Professor Hobsbawm (and numerous other, less eminent historians) with a few adjustments: instead of Nazism, Communism; instead of the Holocaust, the purges and collectivization; instead of mass murder, mass murder.It is being said about Professor Hobsbawm that he has acknowledged that nasty things happened in the Soviet Union and other Communist countries but, holding aloft the torch of idealism, he maintained that it was all worth it for the glorious future that was incipient in the ideas that produced the violence.
Age of Extremes promotes general views that we have heard over and over again. The First World War was caused by capitalist rivalry, the slump by the free market, socialism in some form or another as the true salvation, fascism as counter-revolutionary and its unfortunate appearance as capitalism's last effort to defeat socialism and so on. It seems incredible that an historian should ignore or deny the essential similarities between fascism (especially Nazism) and Communism, but Hobsbawm manages it.How on earth can this be described as a good book? There is worse to come. The two great wars of the century, says Hobsbawm, resulted in revolutions, the First World War in the Russian one and the Second World War in the various revolutions that spread the ideas of the Russian one far and wide. Well, actually, only as far as the Soviet occupation went with its force, violence and deliberate destruction of all opposition. Could the Communists take-overs in those countries be really called revolutions by an historian with the slightest degree of honesty?
Professor Hobsbawm with a completely straight face could say, among other things, that it was not entirely comprehensible but very sad that agricultural failure and, indeed, famine happened wherever collectivization was practised. This meant, in his opinion, that one cannot really judge how effective, economically and socially, such a theoretically wonderful idea could be.Is this the judgement of a great historian or of an honourable thinker who looks at the evidence and draws the necessary conclusions? I think not.
He [Tibor Szamuely] himself, after almost starving in the siege of Leningrad, claimed also to have had the usual spell in a camp during the dictator's final lunacies.This is a deeply dishonest comment. First of all, my father was nowhere near Leningrad during the war and never claimed to have been. But the notion that he "claimed" to have had the "usual spell" in a camp is a highly distasteful and dishonest sneer not just at one man, who most certainly did have a spell, albeit a relatively short one, in a camp but at all the people who came out of the Soviet Union and other Communist countries with tales of horror. Then there is the phrase about "the dictator's final lunacies".