Monday, August 22, 2011

If you've read my Midday EU Special of today, you'll know that the terms most associated by one commentator with Greece are cronyism, statism, nepotism, clientelism, corruption, closed shops and waste. But I don't suppose these are unique to that benighted country.

I see the national rail carrier, Renfe, has a re-designed web page. But it still doesn't list Redondela in the stations you can get to on the midday train from Madrid to Vigo. It does, though, have a new "Virtual Assistant' in Irene. I hope she's more useful than Nathan Norton of Symantec, a company I used to think did well in the customer service department. But is now dreadful, if my recent experience is anything to go on. By the way, Irene seems to have tics in both her eyes and her lips . . .

Bloody 'ell, googling my invented phrase "Atlantic Blanket" today, I discovered that not only is there an Atlantic Blanket Company but also that, in the west of Ireland, they have the "Atlantic blanket bog ecosystem". Life imitating Art yet again?

This time of year I can't get the Iranian news channel, PressTV. So I have to make do with their beyond-parody, surreal web page. For weeks I've been stumped as to why they go on and on about the insurrection in Bahrain but I've now seen an article that answers my question - Iran is behind this and, so, wants it to succeed. Unlike that in Syria, where the USA is "interfering in internal matters". Another thing Tehran isn't happy about is subversion coming from Azerbaijan and is threatening a military response - It's now clear what's happening in the minds of the Azerbaijani politicians. They should take seriously the warning of Iran's armed forces joint chief of staff,who has said that the Baku regime will face grave consequences should it keep up with its anti-Islamic policies including the continuation of ties with Israel. The inauspicious plans of Baku for creating discord and strife in Iran and striking Iran's territorial integrity will certainly be followed by a decisive and regrettable response by Iran. Such injured innocence. You couldn't make it up.

Talking of News channels, I watch them all from time to time and, in this way I get a British, American, French, Russian and even Chinese perspective on things. Watching Euro News, though, you can't and don't get a national perspective; you get that of a committee of bureaucrats. Unsurprisingly, it's the dullest channel by far. God knows who they think their audience is. I think German taxpayers should be told this is one of the many unjustifiable things they're paying for in the name of European 'solidarity'. The channel I prefer is France24 as it appears to be for intelligent adults. But this may be because, lacking funds and reporters around the world, it goes in for (cheap) studio discussions. This might also explain their (desperate?) requests that we become independent suppliers of pictures and reports for them to disseminate.

But talking of Iran - and observing global events - I've recalled that I've still got some gold Pahlavi coins from the last regime. Shall I cash them in or wait till gold reaches 3,000 dollars?

At the request of reader Candide - before he volunteered he was gay and confessed it was a joke - I set out on Saturday to get fotos of some of the many young under-dressed women I'd seen around town on Friday evening. But there were none to be seen. After a short while, I realised this was because it was only 2pm and so none of them would yet be out of bed. I did, though, get a few pictures of more mature women trying to show how young they still are. But I decided these wouldn't be of much interest to anyone. And plumped for my Persian apricot tree . . .

Finally . . . . I see that my old law-school friend, Lord Carlile of Berriew, has criticised the harsh sentences handed out to rioters and looters in the UK. But I am with Matthew Paris - I support the tough sentences while agreeing with the criticisms made of them. The 'serves them right' brigade are in many cases wrong, while the “harsh and disproportionate” brigade are in many cases right. But when disorder threatens to spread or entrench itself, a shock to the system is required. Public opinion needs to be startled by the severity of the sentences. This is a matter of public policy, not always individual justice. Disproportion can be a merit in punishment. It makes people notice. It convinces them you’re serious. . . .Commentators from the civil liberties end of the spectrum (my usual home) should ask themselves whether they are being selective in their judgment on these latest sentences. Could it be that it’s not so much that they think sentencing policy shouldn’t react to acute social crisis, but that they are out of sympathy with sharp punishment as the best response to this particular crisis? They have every right to that opinion; I too believe that once the danger is over we must look urgently at the social causes of these crimes. But disagreeing with a sentence should not be twisted into some kind of quasi-jurisprudential doctrine of sentencing policy — absolute consistency regardless of place, circumstance and time — as though the courts should be blind and deaf to the news. . . .So if I argue, as I do, that in riot cases the courts are right to respond to a strong national opinion that they should crack down hard this summer, why do I disagree with the “they ruddy well deserve everything they get” brigade? Because I don’t think that in every case “they” do; and because I think it’s unpleasantly vindictive to express any kind of glee when a young life has been wrecked and someone has gone down to a four-year jail term, as did the 22-year-old Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan this week, after writing “Let’s have a riot in Latchford” on Facebook; and because I honestly don’t think Sutcliffe-Keenan would have expected, as he was writing that, that four years in prison would be the court’s response.

Contrary opinions welcome.

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