Thursday, February 28, 2008

The West Wing and Obama

A lot of bloggers have been pointing out that the similarities between Barack Obama and Matthew Santos, and how the story looks so familiar (brokered convention, Republican candidate mistrusted by his own base, up against a party insider in the primaries etc). A number of reports even comment on how the "Obama candidate" won.

Just a piece of advice to whoever Obama might chose as his potential running mate - make sure you're in good health. Sadly, John Spencer, who played Leo McGarry who Matt Santos chose as his running mater, died while filming the final season of the West Wing - just before he would have been due to start filming the climax of the election campaign. West Wing executive producer Lawrence O'Donnell has suggested the original plan was for the Republican to win it, but the death of John Spencer forced a rewrite.

Though am I being too nasty in suggesting that maybe that could be the best reason for picking Hillary?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Beer and water

They are at it again. This morning I caught an interview with some idiot on the Today programme on the subject of binge drinking and young people - I think said idiot was Kevin Barron MP, but I'm not 100% sure. Said idiot was however advocating increasing the taxes on booze and complaining that water in the supermarkets is more expensive than lager.

I call the guy an idiot for a number of reasons:
  1. It is simply idiotic to suggest that the reason kids are getting drunk is because water is more expensive, which is what is being implied by this comparison.
  2. It is also untrue. The last time I bought Sainsbury's basic water, both still and sparkling 1.5 litre bottles cost 18p. The Sainsbury's basic lager was 22p for what (I think) was a 0.5 litre can. So in fact it would appear that you can by buy three times as much water for 4p less.
  3. Why should I pay more taxes on something because the government is incapable of enforcing its own legislation.
I am getting fed up of the lie - for that's what it is, a lie - that supermarkets are charging more for water than for beer, and that being used as a justification for increasing taxes. Politicans should maybe go and do some research before repeating it (after all, it should take a reasonably bright young researcher on 22k a year about five minutes in Sainsburys to realise it's not true).

Of course expensive waters like Perrier cost more than cheap lager, but expensive beer may cost more than cheap wine.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Manchester United and programmes....

I don't think I've explicitly stated this before, but I have the good fortune to have season tickets for Manchester United (*).

Yesterday therefore I had the great fortune to attend the Manchester Derby, which for those of you who have been living in a cave with no connections to football news, was also of course the 50th anniversary of the Munich disaster. Credit must go to the fans and supporters of both sides, who paid a proper and respectful tribute - particularly moving was the chorus of "Frank Swift - there's only one Frank Swift" from the away end, which was met with huge applause from the Stretford End.

Infuriatingly, despite queuing for 15 minutes, I was unable to get a programme. I was so annoyed at the fact that they are now appearing on Ebay at starting prices of up to £20 - with one seller claiming he had bought 36 of the things - I wrote an irritated email to the Manchester United membership services - politely suggesting that in future they should ration the programmes on big occassions, or stick to selling them inside the ticket gates to stop people without tickets buying large quantities of programmes.

To my surprise, despite sending the mail at 4:30 this afternoon, I got two replies sent after seven pm. The first one seemed to be a bit of a thank you for your mail response, the second one however was much better (and stronger):

Secondly I would like to apologise and also
express my disgust that people have been buying multiple programmes and
are now selling these programmes on eBay. Here at Man United we are
completely shocked at those doing this and are making money from such a
terrible disaster.

That's pretty much my reaction. We have two beautiful scarves from the match, which I am going to treasure.

I was however keen enough to get a copy of the program on the day that I held my nose and placed a reasonable bid for a copy of the programme on Ebay (four pounds, as opposed to a normal price of three). I have however just received this email:

Please be aware that the following auction-style listing:

230221962474 - Man United v Man City. Munich Remembered programme

has been removed by eBay for breaching of one or more of our policies. Any offers or bids placed on this are now null and void. We advise you not to finalise this transaction with the seller. As stated in the eBay User Agreement, neither seller nor buyer should engage in transactions that breach the law or eBay policy.
Looks like there might even be pressure on Ebay to drop the listings - a quick search shows that a lot of the listings that were there earlier have now been dropped - most of the Munich related programmes relate to programmes printed in the 1950s.

more nonsense

Anne Cryer MP is quoted in todays Telegraph:

The issue of birth-defects and cousin marriage was first raised in parliament two years ago by Ann Cryer, the Labour MP for Keighley in West Yorkshire. She said marriage between cousins was a "to do with a medieval culture where you keep wealth within the family".

She said: "If you go into a paediatric ward in Bradford or Keighley you will find more than half of the kids there are from the Asian community. Since Asians only represent 20-30 per cent of the population, you can see that they are over-represented."

I hope, I just hope, that she's been misquoted by the Telegraph.

Otherwise, she's a moron. The second paragraph has nothing to do with the first.

Birth rates are not connected to whether or not there is a "close" genetic relationship between the parents. We already know that the birth rates amongst Pakistani born mothers is much, much higher than that of the population at large. So it's not surprising that in an area which is 30% asian, that over 50% of the children born are Asian.

It has nothing - repeat nothing - to do with whether or not the parents are cousins or not. It has everything to do with the wider cultural values that are held by that community. To prove otherwise, you'd have to show that Pakistani couples who are related have a significantly higher birth rate than those who don't. Odds are they don't.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Abolishing PMQs?

From, an entry suggesting that Gordon Brown might try to abolish PMQs:

Another Wednesday and another PMQs for Gordon Brown to have to endure. He clearly doesn’t like them and being open every seven days to the fierce blasts that Cameron is able to master cannot be very pleasant.

You mean at a time when the government is (mis)handling Northern Rock, talking about reforming the education system and has just lost a minister over inability to apply their own rules on campaign funding, the opposition scrutiny is intense and question? I'm shocked, shocked I tell you to discover that the parliamentary system is working as it should be. If you can't stand the heat, maybe you should reconsider whether or not you should even be in the kitchen.

Ever since a piece appeared in the Indy a couple of weeks ago about Brown’s views of the weekly ritual I’ve been pondering over whether we are being softened up for a proposal to change the structure.

You mean the fact that Labour can't spin this one is embarrassing, so they are just hoping to make it go away.

    Maybe they could find a way of blaming Cameron for the need for change because of the way the Tory leader handles the event
That appalling man - he has this odd idea that Prime Minister's Questions is about, well, asking the Prime Minister questions. Perhaps they should remember this is a democracy, not a dictatorship where you can sweep awkward questions under the carpet. Clearly Cameron forgets his place, that it is not his role to question the way those who have been raised to high office conduct their affairs.

The Indy suggested Gordon Brown is telling friends that the public is being increasingly repelled by the event and that the Commons exchanges are now of little use in discussing the issues of the day.

Indeed. It's damn difficult to discuss the issues of the day at PMQs when the PM tries to turn it into Leader of the Opposition questions.

For example, Sky reported that yesterday the Prime Minister was asked a straight question three times by David Cameron (about the PM's views on A Levels). The PM three times ignored the question, and asked Cameron a question. The exchange with Nick Clegg was even more bizarre - Clegg (correctly) raised concerns about the way this country is turning into a surveillence state, only for the PM to start raising questions about the LibDem policy on CCTV.

A lot has been made out of the Prime Minister's father being a minister in the Church of Scotland - perhaps, when it comes to looking at the reasons why the public might be put off by Prime Minister's questions, he should look up and reflect on Matthew 7:3.

Clearly there would have to be something in it place but, no doubt, something could be devised that sounded fair and reasonable but took away the Opposition Leader’s six questions.

It wouldn't matter if the entire half hour was Opposition Leader's questions, the chances of the Prime Minister actually answering a question are slightly slimmer than that of Iain Dale attending a Champions League semi final using his West Ham season ticket.