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Friday, 4 April 2014

Bent Minister keeps job shock

Maria Miller is not especially talented, unless you include an ability to obfuscate her way out of trouble, and there are few in the world of Culture who clamour in her support. Arts and Culture would certainly benefit from a Minister with vision, talent and a belief in the brief, but, well, they have Maria. And will continue to have her, at least until the election, because she's a Woman and there's nowhere else to put her where her limited abilities won't cause damage. Plus her civil servants can get on with implementing Leveson without having a minister who cares what the issues are.

She should be in prison of course. But won't be. And she only has to pay back £5k of the £45k she stole from us. Her mealy-mouthed thirty second 'apology' to the House yesterday has rightly ensured the she has now migrated from being considered merely a bit thick and useless to being loathed by the public she fleeced. 

Perhaps they like their MPs bent in Basingstoke, but I wouldn't bank on Maria's place at the trough after 2015.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Cheap Whites set to establish fag branding?

Both HMRC and the TMA have documented a significant rise in the past few years of seizures of bulk quantities of smuggled cigarettes manufactured specifically for the illegal tobacco market - known in the business as 'Cheap Whites'. The proportion of established brands manufactured by BAT, Gallagher and Imperial Tobacco in near non-EU nations, which used to form the bulk of smuggling seizures, are now in a substantial minority. Smugglers have also stopped trying to counterfeit established brands - they can replicate the packs, but not the cigarettes, and it's the characteristics of the smokes that sells.

So prevalent have some lines of Cheap Whites become in parts of the UK where the majority of cigarette sales are now non-dutied through boot sales and under-counter trades that they are establishing brand loyalties; people like cigarette characteristics they are used to, in terms of taste, strength, throat-feel, acridity and so on, and when they find an illegal brand that mimics, say, Superkings will stick with it. 

Which offers the intriguing possibility that with the government's moves to introduce plain packaging for the legitimate TMA members already feeling the pinch, it's unlikely the Cheap Whites will follow step; if anything, they will surely tend to improve their pack image.

Here are some Cheap Whites seized by HMRC; I quite like the 'Raquels' myself; nice font, and an appeal to the over-50s who still can't forget their first sight of that leather bikini ...

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Desperate Clegg goes down in flames

I don't think even the MSM can call this one any differently; Clegg was on the back foot the whole while, yapping at Farage in a panicky high pitched whine and intent on repeating a few select personal insults; 'fantasy', 'living in the past' and suchlike. Farage in contrast was a model of restraint, level-voiced, calm and playing the ball rather than the man. Clegg came across as a poor loser; untruthful, devious and spiteful. 

The poll is showing 68% to 27% - a lot worse for Clegg's Federasts than last week. Farage scored several well aimed, well articulated hits that clearly resonated with the audience. Clegg failed to make any convincing counter arguments, and his attacks on Farage appeared pitiful.


Drinking straws to be banned by Welsh government

Drinking straws greater than 3mm in diameter, such as those used by fast-food outlets, are to be banned in Wales next year because the Welsh government claim they act as a 'gateway' to cigarette smoking. "The action of placing a cylinder between the lips and intaking an external substance becomes ingrained in the very young, and makes it much more likely for them to smoke cigarettes" said the Welsh health minister. He quoted research by the University of Aberystwyth's Glenys Kinnock Health Enhancement Faculty, a fake charity funded by the Welsh government, that 94% of Welsh smokers aged 18 - 24 had previously used drinking straws when drinking soft drinks.

The Welsh government had decided against banning breast-feeding in Wales for the same reasons, and instead will introduce a voluntary scheme for Welsh mothers to feed only pre-expressed breast milk, and will provide interest-free loans for breast pumps and fridges. 

('Wales to ban e-cigarettes in public for gateway effect' on R4 'Today' programme this morning)

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Ukraine - EU, NATO losing the Narrative

There is something unusual happening over Ukraine. Never have I seen European governments, NATO, the US and UN, with all the big national and international media, so rapidly and so concertedly attempt to establish the narrative on Ukraine. And never have I seen an alternative narrative take hold of the public imagination so firmly and so widely. 

Der Spiegel, too, is astonished - but imagines that the phenomenon is confined to Germany 
Those expressing understanding for Russia's move are clearly dominating the Internet forums and talk shows. One former German chancellor, Helmut Schmidt, even declared that the situation in Ukraine is dangerous "because the West has gotten so terribly worked up about it." The question of whether Putin's actions were legitimate didn't even seem to interest him. "I find it entirely understandable," he said. Another former chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, admitted that he himself hadn't always respected international law.
A rainbow alliance of the young, elder German Statesmen, the right, the left, greens and independents are all repeating the same message - establishing a narrative that is if not diametrically opposite to that of their government, substantially tangential to it. 

As we have pointed out, the phenomenon is not confined to Germany. Across Europe a popular majority are saying the same - to the puzzlement and confusion of their political classes. 'Is Germany a nation of Russian Apologists?' asks Der Spiegel, and elsewhere the political class have taken to insulting those with the temerity to reject the official narrative. 

As I asked in an earlier post, are Europe's people becoming wiser than their governments?

Monday, 31 March 2014

In praise of ... Eels

For donkey's years Suffolk foodies have made a Saturday morning trip to the smoking shed at Butley Oysterage - black as night, glistening with tar and carbon, a bit wonky and rough looking as though built out of driftwood. For me, a smoked eel is the height of delight, a wrinkled dark walking-stick of a thing that yields dense, succulent hot-smoked flesh as unctuous as a hot-corn dodger slathered with sap. 

Wild eels were once caught in huge numbers, but in recent years became so scarce they were placed on the endangered list. Most eel smokeries now use farmed Eels, a creature as inferior as farmed Salmon. Hopes are high, however, that assisted re-stocking of our fresh-water living grounds may reverse the decline - as the Indie reports. These tiny glass-eels will adapt physically for the change from sea to fresh water and spend up to twenty years growing to maturity, before returning to the remote Sargasso sea (after another biological change to adapt back to sea-water) to breed. An eel kept in a pond can live to a prodigious age; Athenaeus, writing in the time of Marcus Aurelius, knew tamed eels "wearing silver and gold ear-rings, receiving food from those who offered it, bits of entrails from sacrificial victims, and pieces of green cheese."(uhm, Eels don't have ears). 

Better than hot-smoked wild Eel - and miles, miles better than wild smoked Salmon - is of course cold-smoked wild Eel; a pale translucent tawny, sliced thinly like smoked Salmon; a few slices with endive and a lemon wedge, or with soft scrambled egg on toast is sheer foodie bliss. Unless you catch and smoke an eel yourself, you are unlikely ever to experience this. For those of you in London, the farmed variety is available at Leadenhall Market - but still at a price.

Anguilla anguilla is one fish well worth saving; so if you catch one, and don't intend to eat it, let it go, and wish it God Speed on its 4,000 mile journey to make more eels.

Sunday, 30 March 2014

Did we all miss this?

It was so bloody obvious I'm kicking myself for not spotting it - and for it taking Janet Daley in the Telegraph to point it out. I'm referring to
"... the grotesquely embarrassing fault line that appeared in the brief lapse of time between the ending of the Farage-Clegg debate – during which a vast army of esteemed press commentators declared Nick Clegg the winner – and the release of the YouGov poll, showing that a large majority of the ordinary public believed Nigel Farage had won. Most alarmingly, there was a remarkable media consensus: it was not just wishful-thinking Europhiles who thought Clegg had walked it."
 Daley reminds us that Oborne's political class includes all the mainstream media, all the lobby industry and all the SPADS, dags and coprophiles that feed from the politics business. LBC set up a 'Twitter Worm' to monitor 'tweets' for or against each of the participants - seemingly oblivious to the reality that ordinary voting folk are as likely to tweet about a political debate as they are to offer a critical insight into Heidegger's Sein und Zeit in 140 characters. The station also had a 'click to like' tool intended to provide a second-by-second picture of audience reaction to the ongoing debate; the fact that this didn't work until the final ten minutes of the debate (showing Farage miles ahead when it eventually did) deprived political commentators at the time of any indication that their view differed so radically from that of the audience. 

Daley makes the point well. UKIP shouldn't protest at Clegg using civil servants to coach him on facts and figures for the next round - Clegg should be encouraged to be as made-up, groomed, coached, rehearsed and practised as possible - the slicker he is, the less he is liked. Farage in contrast need not try to hard; his preparation could be limited to a swig from the hip-flask, a quick fag by the bin-store before broadcast and an attempt to peek at Ferrari's notes.