Friday, 26 April 2013

woman on top

there's a new production of Othello in London which is getting rave reviews, see here. This is the Shakespeare tragedy I do not know, but I understand it involves tales of illicit rumpy-pumpy. Perhaps better informed readers could advise? Anyway, this production is set on a military base.  Illicit rumpy-pumpy on a military base? Now what does that call to mind? A military base in Kosovo some years ago, perhaps. The heroine of that particular hour, Ms Claire "bury me in a Y-shaped coffin" Ward, perchance? Then Labour MP for Watford, booted out later by the electorate, Ms "flick me with a towel" Ward is now being favoured by sundry union barons and other grandees as candidate for the constituency of Sherwood, my spies tell me. Will they never learn? Sherwood, hm. Robin Hood had a lot of merry men. Will Ms Ward follow suit?

Thursday, 18 April 2013

well that was a bit unnecessary

even for Spineless John. Give me Spiny Norman any day.


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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

call him number one? I don't think so

Was had this to say as a comment on the previous post:

I don't know about "debts paid" but I did notice when going through the 2010 General Election expenses that Public Impact charged the local Labour Party a higher amount for producing an election tabloid than I was charged at commercial rates.

However, it is a fact that Mr Howarth used to inform Reading Labour Party that he was giving us a discount as a donation to party funds. So that was a lie.

Have a look here at the endorsements (gif) Mr Howarth has published. Now I know the electorate for this is Labour Party members, and he wants to be first on the list, but the individuals are hardly diverse, are they? A bunch of Reading councillors for the most part, and a Sheffield MP with very little brain. No citizen activists, of whom the South-East has many, no-one from an ethnic minority. Instead, there is the dog-whistle girl.
dog-whistle girl

 Word is that Mr Howarth and Mr Salter are no longer bessie mates, and this may be why the photograph of Salter is at least 20 years old. Oh and the Natalie O'Toole who offers an endorsement is Salter's wife. She was for a long time, may even still be, a director of Howarth's company, Public Impact.

But hilariously, the endorsement from Salter says "We need someone who knows how communicate". Quite, and that someone is clearly not the barely literate Mr Howarth.

Pity. It was all going so well. But if the Labour Party do put him first, and he gets elected, none of which is impossible if he lies loud and long enough, I'll try and offer the hand of friendship, which all newly elected members can benefit from. Perhaps we can show him round Strasbourg. There are plenty of good things to see here. OK John?

Monday, 15 April 2013

dodgy as ....

Mark Ferguson, writing on LabourList, has this to say about the selection of Labour candidates for next year's European elections. Do read it, you won't be disappointed. But anyway, he points out that the selection of candidates (who are then placed in order by party members) is hardly transparent, and that there is evidence that there is nepotism, conflict of interest and outright corruption in the process. Actually, I used most of those words, not him. But he does point out the existence of these murky factors. And this is the dodgy process that Mr Howarth (prop. Public Impact Ltd, remember "Your Better Off With Labour"?) has now become part of. So, what favours did he call in to get on the list? What debts were paid? Party members certainly don't know how to get on that list. You have to have other connections. Howarth it was whose commercial services were touted around Parliament by then Reading West MP Martin Salter, who had been a director of Howarth's company, and whose wife at the time still was. Parliamentary premises were booked, free of charge, and a commercial platform was provided, courtesy of the taxpayer. Mr Howarth, the architect of the one-way IDR when a councillor in Reading, who ran away from the electorate when that got controversial. Mr Howarth, sacked by a number of reputable companies as their PR agent for pissing off their clients. Mr Howarth, who as lead transport councillor in Reading ordered the council to stop lobbying for Crossrail, because that did not suit his purposes, as the then Reading East Labour MP (me) was campaigning for it rather successfully with ministers. Bloke who has aligned himself with a process which makes Tammany Hall look like a Quaker meeting. Yep, vote for him next year. You'll be voting for a candidate who manages to be spineless, conniving and dishonest all at once.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Iraqi heroism

in the struggle against the dark forces that sought to overthrow the people after 2003, and which offered not a better future but only death, has not been recognised enough, according to Paul Wolfowitz in this article. Highly recommended. Thanks Julie Anna for bringing it to my attention. Now I look forward to positive debate about the future for the region. Anyone? anyone? *sound of tumbleweed*

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

they wanna be elected!

The Labour Party has chosen its candidates for the European elections. Party members are to be given the opportunity to vote on the order in which they would like the names to appear on the list. This is, I believe, radical, and is not to be encouraged. We can't have ordinary party members getting ideas and expressing opinions, Ed - do buck your ideas up. Anyway,  here is the list of names for the South-East, as publicised by LabourList. As I said, we don't know yet in what order they will appear. But oh, what fun it's going to be. Spot anyone familiar?

South East
New candidates
Anneliese Dodds
Maggie Hughes
Karen Landles
Farah Nazeer
Emily Westley
Phil Bloomer
John Howarth
Del Singh
James Swindlehurst
James Watkins

Thursday, 4 April 2013

talking foreign and knowing the world

pic: Multilingua
it's no secret that I have always liked learning languages. However, I have rarely in my life been fluent in anything other than English. When I was nineteen I spent several months in western France as au pair, and came back fluent in French - but it didn't last, because after that I only ever spoke French on holidays, and then only in shops and restaurants. I studied Russian at university, and spent three months studying in the USSR when I was twenty - I came back fluent in Russian, which again did not last, although I subsequently worked as a translator from Russian, because there was no-one to speak it with. Later, in my late twenties, I was sent to Japan by my employers to learn the language, which I did. It took me two years, more or less full time, and - yes - I came back fluent in Japanese. The Japanese language is actually quite easy for an anglophone to learn to speak (unlike French), though it is the first circle of hell to learn to read and write. That was a bit better: I worked on and off as a freelance interpreter, and was able to talk to Japanese people, for several years afterwards, but that too fell away.  Later still, in my thirties, I was sent to Korea by the BBC to learn the language. I learned to read it, slowly (the Korean alphabet is a wonderful thing) but in the three months I had there I never became a fluent speaker. Korean is fairly hard to speak, although it is quite closely related to Japanese, because it contains sounds which do not exist in most European languages. Also, I was a bit older, and that slows the learning process somewhat. (Though remember that babies take a good two years to learn to speak their native language fluently, and they don't have much of anything else to do, so age is not the only factor in speed of learning). Even later, in the first years of this century, sig other and I did a lot of travelling around Europe as we pursued our plan to visit every one of its capitals.  I found that an approximation of bad Russian got me understood throughout the Balkans and south-east Europe, and that I could understand signs and menus and simple things people said to me. Now, I live in France, and it took me at least two years to acquire real fluency. I'm still taking classes, and still have a strong English accent, which I despise.

So I got to thinking, what are the world's main languages? What gets you the world? I did a bit of research, and I believe the languages are these: English, as lingua franca in many places and the main language in north America and Australasia, helpful in India and Pakistan and parts of Africa. Mandarin Chinese, as the language spoken by the most people in the world. Hindi, which gets you the subcontinent (Urdu is just like it only with Arabic words added, and yes I know that is controversial). Arabic, which gets you the Middle East and some bits of Africa. French, which gets you several countries in Europe and a whole chunk of west Africa as well as part of the Caribbean and the south Pacific, and is still important in north Africa too. Russian, which not only gets you Russia, but gives you a way in to the Slavic languages of east and south-east Europe and is still the language of business and the lingua franca in the whole of the former USSR, including the non-Slavic parts such as the Baltics. Spanish, which gets you Spain and south America. Portuguese, which gets you not only Portugal but Brazil and several important countries in Africa. And Turkish, which gets you not only Turkey but just about the whole of central Asia, whose languages are mostly Turkic. What does that leave? Well, south-east Asia - but English is very much a lingua franca there. To these I added German, as the language in Europe spoken by the most people, Latvian (a Germanic language) because I have lived in Latvia and intend to again, Polish, because Poland is a cool and happening place I want to visit more often, Alsatian, because it is spoken around where I live - I doubt I will ever speak it but I like to understand what people are saying around me - Greek, because I go often to Cyprus and hope to live there one day, and Japanese and Korean just to build on previous foundations. I found Eurotalk, a range of interactive language learning applications, absolutely excellent. And no, they're not paying me to say this. (But they're welcome to if they read this). I do one of their modules every day, or nearly, in a different language each day. It takes about ten minutes. This morning, on the tram, it was Polish. It's fun to do - I use the iPhone app - and gives you the confidence to start talking. I also found the other day when I heard the Pope on television speaking Spanish that I could understand him, without having tried to - then when he switched to Italian, which I have never tried to learn, I couldn't understand a word.

Well, it's a little hobby of mine, and it does no harm, hein? I started as a complete beginner in most of the above. The hardest to get into? Arabic, without a doubt. The easiest? Hard choice between Polish and Spanish.

Anyone think I should add any more? I wondered about Farsi.

Update: Swahili has been suggested. Spoken by 140 million people. It's going on the list.

Further update: I have been challenged to go for Finnish. aaargh. Never could resist a challenge.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

follow the money

Cahuzac with Swiss emblem and Hollande with first aid box (pic: Le Monde)
Jerome Cahuzac is a former Socialist deputy in the French National Assembly, a former Budget Minister, and mayor of somewhere or other, as they mostly are in France. He spent months denying that he had any secret bank accounts in which money destined for the administration of public services had been squirrelled away. Then the MediaPart website managed to obtain the information (sought by prosecutors since Cahuzac was sacked as budget minister in March) that in fact he did have a bank account in Switzerland, and that it contained some 600,000 euros. It seems that this money may have come from sources identified as public funds, the administration of which was in part Cahuzac's responsibility. Cahuzac fessed up yesterday (just after texting President Hollande to tell him that he was going to) once he knew the jig was up. You can find Cahuzac's statement on his blog here.  He's now been expelled from the party, and told that he is "expected" to resign from elected office. President Hollande is going to make a televised statement this afternoon.

It's all a very bad business. Governments have fallen because of such things. I do not expect this government to fall over this, but it's hardly been helpful. Hollande has had some very poor polling lately, before this latest business, and is going to have to find a way to pull back. The intervention in Mali did him some good (and I congratulate him for it) but not enough it seems.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

keep sport out of politics

Paulo di Canio (pic: BBC)
not much posting lately, as cry-baby bully-boy behaviour (TM Julie Burchill) locally does tend to have a chilling effect, despite best efforts. Be strong, girl. Anyway, this is the new Sunderland manager (Sunderland is a team I have a weakness for) Paulo di Canio, an Italian man who has made no secret of his support for fascist parties. Various Israel and other lobbyists have kicked off, yelling that he should be sacked, should never have been appointed in the first place, blah blah blah, polenta where's my Guardian? Oh hang on, the Guardianistas want the state of Israel destroyed and all Jews killed, so the coherence of that position is what exactly? Ah yes, this is not cosy Guardian land, but the world of football, where men are men and political sophistication is not required when managers' jobs are applied for. Anyway, di Canio's political views are what they are. There is no evidence that he has ever engaged in any illegal activity. It is also the case that there are political parties in almost all European countries which could be described as fascist. These are legally constituted parties. Supporting them is not illegal. Nor is it, nor should it ever be, a bar to employment in any field at all. I am not in fact sure that the British National Party in the UK, or the Front National in France, should really be described as fascist parties. They are both parties of the political left which hold racist views. I don't think that's quite the same thing. Whatever. Those of you who have kicked off on "my father fought the fascists in Italy", well, good for him. I'm glad he did. He fought them so that people could be employed when their political views are not those of the mainstream. Di Canio's political views, as reported, are not mine. They are probably not yours. But he is entitled to hold them, and to express them. He does not help his work as a football manager if he sounds off about them at the expense of the team, but that is another matter. Oh and Guardian readers, remember "We Are All Hezbollah Now"?