Reading (In)Comprehension

Melanie Phillips is distressed at the Prime Minister’s failure to give the speech that Melanie Phillips would have given to the Labour Party conference earlier today. He has, therefore, “muffed it”, “bottled out”, and “made precisely the leap of logic which has given such impetus to the anti-war zealots”, and so on and so forth.

OK, moving along…

Then, she finds another part of the speech over which to become exercised…

And remember when to be in favour of gay rights was to be a loony leftie, race relations was political correctness, and Red Ken frightened people even as brave as your own leadership? Now the parties compete for the gay vote, unite against the BNP and Ken has led and won the debate on congestion charging and community policing. So many things that used to divide our country bitterly, now unite it in healthy consensus…

Think for a moment about what this passage indicates to you.Then follow this link and find out what it indicates to Melanie Phillips about Mr Blair.

Then goggle a bit, giggle a bit, and after that go and pour yourself a large drink.

Widmerpool Award?

I mentioned yesterday that right-wing hack Stephen Pollard was going to win next year’s Widmerpool Award, which celebrates, among other things, pomposity, self-importance and lack of self-awareness. But now Crooked Timber’s Chris Bertram emails me to suggest that there may be physical as well temperamental affinities between Anthony Powell’s immortal creation Kenneth Widmerpool and Pollard.

Well, are there? You decide.

The pics on the left are images of Kenneth Widmerpool at different stages of the life-cycle, taken from the Channel Four adaptation of A Dance to the Music of Time (and lifted from the excellent website). The pics on the right are images of Stephen Pollard, lifted from here, here and here.

I’ve cropped and resized these images to carve out irrelevant detail, and presented them here in low resolution to save on bandwidth, but I haven’t otherwise buggered around with the photos, the originals of which you can find by clicking on each of them.

In other news, Pollard fessed up to pulling numbers out of his arse, and insists that all he ever meant to do with his ridiculous claim that the EU kills a person every 13 seconds was encourage other people to produce a more credible estimate. Ho hum.

Crap Towns

So here’s another list of crap towns:

4-Glasgow and Edinburgh

What to make of this? I’m surprised to see Glasgow so high, which has always seemed to me to be a fine place, and I’ve always enjoyed visiting Nottingham, wihch I do about once a year, and which has very nice new trams these days. I dare say Edinburgh makes the list because the city pisses off significant groups of the kind of people who vote in this kind of poll rather than because it’s an all-things-considered crap town.The others are something of an unknown quantity to me, though I’ve heard bad things about Sunderland. (Can it be true, as has been alleged to me, that this city of 300,000 people doesn’t have a cinema? That seems very weird.) And I’m not sure that Clapham really counts as a town in its own right, though I’m happy to be corrected.

There He Goes Again

Stephen Pollard, a dead cert for next year’s Widmerpool award, has taken to quoting himself as an authority in his latest piece in the Times, referring to “a recent paper by the Centre for the New Europe”, without revealing his co-authorship of said paper:

“A recent paper by the Centre for the New Europe calculated that one person dies every 13 seconds somewhere in the world – mainly in Africa – because of the EU’s protectionism…”

That’s comic enough, but it also gives me an excuse to link back to a post of a bit over a year ago, in which I read that wretched paper and pointed out just how stupidly stupid this claim really was.

Everything’s Up To Date in Kansas City*

I’ve just finished, and just enjoyed Thomas Frank’s new book, What’s the Matter with Kansas?, curiously though rather pointlessly retitled What’s the Matter with America? for its UK edition. (I read the US edition, bought cheap at the APSA.) Anyway, as I say, it’s a fine, fine book, but what I was most struck by was footnote 14 on p.283:

Beer contianing less than 3.2 percent alcohol is one of the constant reminders of the Prohibition years in Kansas. Prohibition began in Kansas by constitutional amendment in 1881, but in 1937 the state legislature declared beer with less than 3.2 percent alcohol to be a “cereal malt beverage”, not an “intoxicating liquor”, and hence legal. Proper liquor was not permitted in Kansas until 1948, and even then it could only be dispensed from liquor stores and, later, private clubs. What few taverns you found in Kansas when I was in college sold only the three-two stuff.In the seventies, Attorney General Vern Miller went to outrageous lengths to reming the world that prohibition was still largely in effect in Kansas, once even raiding an Amtrak train for serving liquor as it traveled through the state. Airlines, too, were required to stop serving drinks when in Kansas airspace…

The note ends by inviting you to “read up on the fascinating, perplexing history of Kansas liquor law” here [pdf] (though I’ve posted the correct URL here, rather than the incorrect one listed in the book).

* Yes, yes, I know Kansas City’s in Missouri. Don’t panic.

The Wheels Come Off

New Zealand 39 – 35 Great Britain. Great Britain and the United States were the two unbeaten teams in the competition going into the semi-finals — where both lost, the British going down to New Zealand and the Americans losing to the Canadians 24-20.

The medal matches take place later today: GB vs US for the bronze, followed by NZ vs Canada to decide the gold medal. Possibly on TV this evening. I’m not really sure.