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Friday, 28 June 2013

You'd need a heart of stone ...

Beekeeping has traditionally been considered the preserve of harmless old buffers, retired clergy and the like - a gentle, peaceful occupation, tending the hives in veil and gloves, wielding the smoke-puffer with gentle care. So one can only speculate at the arguments, militancy, schism and heartbreak that has split the world of beekeeping in Austria; the Austrian government now recognises not one but two bodies authorised to licence the movement of hives to high Summer pastures; 

The Landesverband für Bienenzucht (National Association for Beekeeping) I'd guess is the older association, for the Landesverband für zukunfts- und erwerbsorientierte Imkerei (National Association for forward-looking and profit-making beekeeping) rather gives it away in the title. No doubt the ideological differences are passionately debated in the tavernen and schenken ...

Thursday, 27 June 2013

The Gloomy Trousers of Uncle Vanya

Terry Pratchett coined the phrase to describe a canon of literature so utterly negative that no redeeming virtue could be salvaged; such is the interview by Slovenian philosopher Renata Salecl in Der Spiegel.

All life is misery. There is no joy. We have too much freedom, and too great a choice. There is no happiness. There is no alternative. Capitalism is neurosis.

Yep; what we all need is a big, responsible State to make all those awkward consumer decisions for us; Can't choose between ten brands of washing machine? Let the State allocate you a place in the two-year queue for a single government brand instead. Don't shop - just receive a ration that the State decides for you. Don't think - the State will do all the thinking that's needed. 

It's a lesson I suppose that some people - clearly poor Renata included - are just pathologically incapable of benefiting from freedom. Of course, Communist nations used to keep tame philosophers on the payroll. These days the buggers have to earn a living. No wonder some of them aren't happy.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

UK's Stasi upsets Fritz and Michael Eavis

A glance at the following images will explain why the Germans are so miffed at GCHQ copying all the traffic that passes through the UK's big IP pipes;

Practically all of Europe's IP traffic either passes through the UK or through undersea cables close to our shores - and which the Navy have long practice at accessing to attach 'hoovering' kit. It's really no good William Hague telling the Germans that we're stealing their data for their own good - they had that from the Stasi for a number of years and are no longer inclined to give it credence.

What they do with it once they get it is also questionable; as the Guardian reports today (and as reported here yesterday), shady police units maintain secret police records on law-abiding individuals; 
"Another activist, Guy Taylor, 46, who campaigns against capitalism, discovered that he was spied on while attending Glastonbury festival – which is known to have been frequented by a number of police spies in recent decades. He and Catt are among the thousands of activists who have been categorised as domestic extremists on the unit's files. The Met previously used the term "subversives" to describe citizens with radical political views whom it was spying on."
Poor Fritz, whose every search for images of "bauernmädchen mit oven gloves" is now recorded at Cheltenham, isn't happy. And for once, this is a good thing. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

ACPO's poisonous convenience

I have no doubt that the appalling revelations about the 'Special Demonstrations Squad' have their origin in the mindset that made use of ACPO as an alternative to democratic policing. ACPO offered Home Secretaries and Chief Constables an easy and unaccountable way in which to do all sort of dodgy and questionable policing that wouldn't stand the scrutiny of democracy in the light of day; the National Public Order Intelligence Unit (which infiltrated environmental groups with agents provacateur) the Confidential Intelligence Unit (which created threats from innocent political activists) and the national Extremism Tactical Co-Ordination Unit (taken away from ACPO by the Met Commissioner from 2011) are all examples of the type of unregulated, uncontrolled semi-detached policing that the 'Special Demonstrations Squad' appears to have been. 

The one lesson in this is that the public can never, ever trust the police to govern themselves. At senior officer level they're profoundly corrupt, seduced by power and purblind from ambition. Not one single Chief Constable in the land can be trusted to run his own force without effective public and civilian oversight and governance. Let this lesson never be forgotten. 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Will cyclists face ban from London offices?

You may have noticed that the anti-smoking bigots have now moved onto the fantasy dangers of what they are terming 'third hand smoke' - meaning the smoke smell that adheres to the clothing of smokers. Smokers, they declare, are covered in nasty PMs and carcinogenic PAHs and BaPs and they should wear disposable plastic onesies every time they have a fag.

No one, ever, has died from second hand or third hand cigarette smoke. Meanwhile, 5,000 Londoners a year are actually dying prematurely from the effects of vehicle air pollution. This blog has pointed out before (HERE  HERE and HERE ) that London's roadsides actually expose one to many times the levels of harmful particulates, chemicals and benzene derivatives than being locked in a closed car with a chain-smoker. London's worst roads have eight times the concentration of harmful substances than a smoky car, according to Aberdeen University. 

Now a lobby group called Clean Air in London has squeezed a full set of London air quality data out of Boris and the real situation is worse than anyone imagined; the worst roads for PM 2.5s are actually as follows;

Now you have to feel sorry for cyclists - I mean those who commute to the office by bike. They're actually exposing themselves to the very worst levels of air pollution, far worse than making the same journey sealed inside a car with a smoker. And when they get to the office ... yep, they're covered in nasty PMs and carcinogenic PAHs and BaPs and all the things the third-hand-smoke faddists rant against. So will cyclists who don't shower and change clothes when they arrive at work be banned from the workplace along with smokers?