Quotulatiousness

February 1, 2018

QotD: In Britain, crime does pay

Filed under: Britain, Law, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Here it is instructive to look at the statistics for house burglary in England and Wales. 750-800,000 such burglaries were known to the police in 2006; the police found the burglars in about 66,000 cases. (The figures for the number of burglaries are underestimated, while those for the numbers of burglaries solved are overestimated, both for technical reasons not necessary to go into, and that we can for the sake of argument ignore.) In that year, just over 6000 burglars received prison sentences. In other words, even if caught, a burglar in England and Wales is not likely to go to prison; but he is even less likely to be caught in the first place. In this sense, then, criminals do indeed have nothing to lose, and possibly much to gain by criminality.

Theodore Dalrymple, “It’s a riot”, New English Review, 2012-04.

January 25, 2018

Looking deeper than just England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

H/T to @GarethSoye for posting this one (originally from Brilliant Maps):

[Click to see full-sized image]

June 23, 2017

British and Irish Iron Age hill forts and settlements mapped in new online atlas

Filed under: Britain, History, Science — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the Guardian, Steven Morris talks about a new online resource for archaeological information on over 4,000 Iron Age sites:

Maiden Castle in Dorset. View of the west gate and ramparts (English Heritage)

Some soar out of the landscape and have impressed tourists and inspired historians and artists for centuries, while others are tiny gems, tucked away on mountain or moor and are rarely visited.

For the first time, a detailed online atlas has drawn together the locations and particulars of the UK and Ireland’s hill forts and come to the conclusion that there are more than 4,000 of them, mostly dating from the iron age.

The project has been long and not without challenges. Scores of researchers – experts and volunteer hill fort hunters – have spent five years pinpointing the sites and collating information on them.

[…]

Sites such as Maiden Castle, which stretches for 900 metres along a saddle-backed hilltop in Dorset, are obvious. But some that have made the cut are little more than a couple of roundhouses with a ditch and bank. Certain hill forts in Northumbria are tiny and probably would not have got into the atlas if they were in Wessex, where the sites tend to be grander.

Many hill forts will be familiar, such as the one on Little Solsbury Hill, which overlooks Bath. But there are others, such as a chain of forts in the Clwydian Range in north-east Wales, that are not so well known. Many are in lovely, remote locations but there are also urban ones surrounded by roads and housing.

The online atlas and database will be accessible on smartphones and tablets and can be used while visiting a hill fort.

H/T to Jessica Brisbane for the link.

July 23, 2016

QotD: Separatism and the EU

Filed under: Europe, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

All the current nationalist parties of small nations in Europe — the Scots, the Welsh, the Basque, the Catalans, the Flemish — strongly support membership in the European Union, which is dedicated to, and even predicated upon, the extinction of national sovereignty. One would have thought that these parties wanted, at a minimum, national sovereignty. The contradiction is so glaring that it requires an explanation.

The human mind is not a perfect calculating machine, and no doubt all of us sometimes contradict ourselves. Perfect consistency tends to be disconcerting — but so does glaring inconsistency. It’s possible that the nationalist parties’ leaders don’t perceive the contradiction, being so blinded by ideology that they are simply unaware of it. But another possible explanation exists: by leading their nominally independent countries, they forever will be able to feed at the great trough of Brussels and distribute its largesse in true clientelistic fashion. The nationalist leaders certainly lead their people, but by the nose.

[…]

Oddly enough, I have not seen the contradiction between current nationalism and support for remaining in the European Union referred to in the press, though I don’t read every paper in every language. This is surely one of the first times in history, however, that the expression, “Out of the frying pan into the fire,” has become not a warning, but the desired destination of substantial proportions of whole populations.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Nationalist Contradictions in Europe: Why do breakaway political parties want to remain in the European Union?”, City Journal, 2016-06-27.

May 27, 2015

The dis-United Kingdom

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Mark Steyn on the result of the British general election:

It would be churlish to deny oneself the pleasure of hooting at the politico-media establishment, but, when that’s done, this is a deeply unhealthy electoral result. The Conservatives won because Labour got wiped out in Scotland and the Liberals got wiped out in England. But the reality is that, for a supposedly United Kingdom, the country no longer has any national political party. England and Scotland have taken on the characteristics of Northern Ireland — hermetically sealed polities full of weird, unlovely regional parties (“SNP”, “Conservative”, “Labour”) that have no meaning once you cross the border, and whose internal disputes are of no relevance to the other three-quarters of the kingdom: Nobody outside Ulster cares about “official” Unionists vs the more red-blooded Democratic Unionists. And so it goes with the Scots Nats and Labour in Scotland: nationalist socialists vs unionist socialists; Likewise, with the Tories and UKIP in England: transnationalist conservatives vs nationalist conservatives.

Wales is the exception that proves the rule, where UKIP outpolled Plaid Cymru, albeit with no seats to show for it. The Scottish National Party got 4.7 per cent of the UK vote, and 56 seats. UKIP had nearly thrice as many voters — 12.6 per cent — but only one seat. That discrepancy is because there is no longer any such thing as “the UK vote”. I far prefer the Westminster first-past-the-post system to European “proportional representation”, but it only works if you have genuinely national parties. If the system decays into four groups of regional parties, the House of Commons will look less and less like a genuine national parliament, and more and more like some surly conditional arrangement — Scottish Kurds, Tory Shia and seething Labour Sunni triangles.

The composition of the new house would strike any mid-20th century Briton as freakish and unsettling. It’s a bit like Canada in the Nineties — where Reform couldn’t break out of the west, the Bloc Québécois dominated Quebec, the rump Tories clung on in the Atlantic provinces, and Ontario and a few seats hither and yon gave the Liberals their majority. The difference is that the Bloquistes are pretend separatists; the Scottish National Party are not.

And that’s before you take into account the competing nationalist dynamics of the Anglo-Scottish victors: secession from the UK north of the border and detachment from the EU south. Cameron is a wily operator and one notices he uses the words “United Kingdom” far more than his predecessors. But saying will not make it so.

April 20, 2015

QotD: Mezcal and other “downmarket” drinks

Filed under: Asia, Humour, Japan, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I think the nastiest drink I’ve ever drunk in my life was some stuff called mezcal in a Mexican market town. It’s made, I find, from the same aloe-like plant that gives us tequila, of which mezcal is a kind of downmarket version, if you can imagine such a thing. When I bought my bottle at the grocer’s it had a small packet tied to the neck. Inside was what looked like a shrimp in talcum powder. “What’s that?” I asked my American friend. “That’s the worm,” he said, “the best part. You can try it without.” I tried it without. My head filled with a taste of garage or repair shop — hot rubber and plastic, burnt oil and a whiff of hydrochloric-acid vapour from the charging engine. When I sold Mack the rest of the bottle he emptied in the pounded-up worm, recapped, shook, and poured himself a tumbler of greyish liquid with little pink shreds in it. Give me Tizer any day.

I haven’t yet sampled Ruou Tiet De, a North Vietnamese mixture of rice alcohol and goat’s blood, or Central Asian koumis, fermented from mare’s and camel’s milk. Sake, a sweetish rice beer from Japan, goes well with Japanese food, so if you happen to like eating raw fish and seaweed this is obviously your tipple. You drink it warm. I may say that when I heated some on the stove recently to check that it was as horrible as I remembered, it took all the deposit off the lining of the saucepan.

You needn’t go as far afield as that to find a drink offensive to any person of culture and discrimination, especially if mixes are on the agenda. In South Wales you’re likely to find them throwing down Guinness with Lucozade and Ribena, or Mackeson and orange squash — not in the more refined areas, true. In Scotland they put fizzy lemonade in their whisky. Yes, in respectable places in the Highlands there are quart bottles of the stuff on the bar alongside the Malvern water and the siphon. The objection is not that it’s vulgar, but that, of course, it kills the Scotch and tastes frightful.

Kingsley Amis, Everyday Drinking: The Distilled Kingsley Amis, 2008.

April 4, 2015

Measured for Transport, 1962

Filed under: Britain, Railways, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 23 Dec 2013

Archive film, moving a new power station transformer by rail to Blaenau Ffestiniog Wales.

H/T to Roger Henry for the link.

September 3, 2014

A full agenda at this weekend’s NATO summit

Filed under: Britain, Cancon, Europe, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:58

In the Guardian, Patrick Wintour says that the upcoming NATO summit is a sign that with all the tension around the world, this is the most relevant the organization has been in decades:

The last time the UK hosted a Nato summit was in 1990, when Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, the cold war was coming to an end, and the alliance was questioning its relevance in a multipolar world where soft power might count more than hard power. The old chestnut about Nato’s purpose voiced by the first Nato secretary general, Lord Ismay — “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in” — looked hopelessly anachronistic. Russia famously had become a country with which the west felt it could do business.

A quarter of a century later, Putin’s actions, and the ever more grisly new threats posed by Islamic militants, has given Nato a new lease of life. Indeed, Nato is now so relevant that David Cameron’s chief task as host to this week’s summit in Wales has been to ensure that the agenda does not burst at the seams. Discussions will range across the Russian advance in Ukraine and expansionist threat to the Baltics, the Nato withdrawal from Afghanistan next year, the possibility of wider alliance air strikes in northern Iraq against Islamic State (Isis), the need for Nato to produce a viable rapid reaction force in Europe as well as respond to the threats of hybrid warfare and terrorism.

Cameron has ensured that the crisis posed by Isis — made even more pertinent by the latest beheading and the threat to a British citizen — will be discussed both at a working dinner on Thursday evening, and then again on Friday as the 28 members discuss asymmetric warfare, and how to respond to threat of terrorism.

Diplomatic efforts in advance of the summit may help the Canadian government save a bit of face, too:

A face-saving compromise may be on the way for reluctant allies, including Canada, who are unwilling to boost defence spending to meet the NATO standard.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper says the final statement at the Wales Summit later this week will describe the long-standing expectation that members nations spend at least two per cent of their gross domestic product on defence as an “aspirational target.”

That seems enough to satisfy the Harper government, which has balked at pressure from both the United States and Britain to substantially boost the military’s budget slashed in the drive towards next year’s balanced budget and anticipated election.

Jason MacDonald, the prime minister’s director of communications, said late Tuesday that the government is willing to spend more “on measures that meet actual operational needs, in response to global issues.”

He says Canada is not prepared to meet “an arbitrary target.”

The language not only puts out an embarrassing political fire, given the prime minister’s harsh condemnation of Russia, but it may also be enough to placate the Americans.

Canada has taken a tough rhetorical line toward the Soviets Russians lately, but Stephen Harper’s government has reduced military spending to such a degree that he risks being seen as “All hat and no cattle” as the Texan saying has it.

February 23, 2014

Winter storms uncover a “Welsh Atlantis”

Filed under: Britain, Environment, History — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:54

A story in the Express about waves from recent storms having uncovered a previously unknown ancient forest on the shores of Cardigan Bay:

Gales stripped the sand from a beach at Borth in Ceredigion, West Wales, revealing the remains of a 6,000-year-old forest.

A picture of the same spot taken before the storms shows a strip of pristine sand.

The ancient oaks and pines date back to the Bronze Age.

They were discovered by Deanna Groom and Ross Cook from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

Miss Groom, a maritime archeologist said: “The site around Borth is one where if there’s a bad storm and it gets battered, you know there’s a good chance something will be uncovered as the peat gets washed away.

“It’s regularly monitored and that’s why we went to have a look there again now to see if anything new had emerged.”

The ancient remains are said by some to be the origins of the legend of Cantre’r Gwaelod, a mythical kingdom now submerged under the waters of Cardigan Bay.

It has been described as a “Welsh Atlantis” and has featured in folklore, literature and song.

H/T to Elizabeth for the link.

Update: Elizabeth also sent a link that shows that ancient oak stumps aren’t the only things being uncovered by the waves:

The latest hazard caused by this winter’s devastating storms and floods has been revealed by police — unexploded bombs.

The storms that have ravaged and reshaped parts of the British coastline have led to the discovery of wartime shells long-buried on beaches.

There are also fears that flooding along the Thames will erode riverbanks, leading to the discovery of bombs dropped on the area by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.

Police say that high tides and huge waves have either exposed devices or brought them closer to the surface.

Further storms and flooding are expected today as a new front moves in from the Atlantic. The Met Office has issued three severe rain warnings and gusts of wind are expected to reach 70mph.

The Environment Agency also still has 48 severe flood warnings issued across the UK following what the Met Office has described as the wettest winter on record.

Now walkers are being urged not to touch unidentified metal objects but to alert police to their finds instead.

In South West England and West Wales, which bore the brunt of the storms, six devices have been handled by bomb disposal units in six weeks.

The Navy’s Southern Diving Group said it had received a 20 per cent increase in reports of unexploded bombs since January.

A 100lb Mk XIX Second World War British anti-submarine mine was found by surfers at Watwick Bay, Haverfordwest, while a rare First World War German mine surfaced on a beach near the popular Cornish resort of Newquay.

August 18, 2013

QotD: The unluckiest regiment in the British army

Filed under: Britain, History, Military, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

The history of the 24th Regiment (later the South Wales Borderers) is certainly one of the most interesting stories of any regiment in the British army. Throughout its long history, going back to 1689, it had been an exceptionally courageous regiment and also exceptionally unlucky. In 1694 it had taken part in the ill-fated descent on Brest. In the War of Jenkins’s Ear and the attack on Cartagena it lost more than half its number from disease in the West Indies. In 1756 it was forced to surrender to the French at Minorca. The entire regiment was captured in the American War. Forty-six per cent of the second battalion were casualties at the Battle of Talavera in the Peninsula War — more than any other British regiment engaged. In 1810 about 400 men, nearly half the regiment, were captured by the French while on troopships from South Africa bound for India.

Perhaps it is as well to outline here the story of this gallant but ill-starred regiment after the Battle of Chilianwala. The catastrophe which overtook it in the Zulu War will be described later. In World War I it was in the disastrous Gallipoli campaign, and on 3 December 1917 the second battalion marched out of the lines in France with only two officers, the doctor and seventy-three men. In World War II a battalion was captured by the Germans near Tobruk and, naturally, it was part of the unfortunate expedition to Norway in 1940 — even the ship carrying them struck a rock and sank.

Byron Farwell, Queen Victoria’s Little Wars, 1972

June 3, 2013

“I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter”

Filed under: Britain, Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:46

A Welsh shopkeeper gets a visit from two police officers after a slogan on a T-shirt gets someone upset:

A Newport shopkeeper has been forced by police to remove a T-shirt from his shop window because they felt it “could be seen to be inciting racial hatred.”

Matthew Taylor, 35, the owner of Taylor’s clothes store on Emlyn Walk in the city, printed up and displayed the T-shirt with the slogan: “Obey our laws, respect our beliefs or get out of our country” after Drummer Lee Rigby, 25, was killed in near Woolwich barracks in London last week.

But following a complaint from a member of the public, police came to his store and threatened to arrest him unless he removed the Tshirt from sight.

Mr Taylor said: “I had a visit from two CSOs (community support officers) because it has been reported by someone who felt it was offensive.

What was rather more depressing is how some elected officials view free speech:

Chairman of the Welsh affairs select committee, David Davies MP said: “I think the police are well aware of that (the current heightened tensions between communities) and I can see their point of view.

It’s a very sensitive time.

“But I can see this guy’s point of view and the statement he is making. You should not be in this country if you are not prepared to obey the laws.

I think the vast majority of people in this country of all races would agree with that.

So I don’t think it is a racist matter at but I can see the police’s point of view.”

Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”

So, under this concept, you’re free to say anything you want, unless someone is offended and then the police have to get involved. I think someone misunderstands what “free” really means.

August 19, 2012

UK girls did better than the boys in annual examinations

Filed under: Britain, Bureaucracy, Education — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:39

Tim Worstall explains how it was engineered and why it’s not the wonderful accomplishment that some have been exulting about:

As a general rule one of the things that we know about education is that girls do better under a system of continuous assessment and boys under a system of competitive examination. This is of course not necessarily true of any one individual: but it is on average across any particular age cohort of children. If you want the girls to do better than the boys then skew the testing system to course work. Want the boys to appear to do better then bugger the homework and see what they can regurgitate in two three hour periods in the summertime.

That we really do know that this is true comes from the way that a few years back the system of examinations in England and Wales was deliberately changed to reflect this very point. GCSEs, A Levels, are now more based upon coursework than they used to be. The actual exams themselves now have less importance in the system than they used to. The stated objective of this change was to lessen the skew in favour of boys that a purely examination based system entailed.

So it is possible to exult about the girls outdoing the boys these days if that’s what you want to do. For it would be an example of a government policy, a very rare one indeed, actually achieving the goal originally set out. The educationalists wished to reduce the achievement gap between boys and girls. They did so.

July 5, 2012

British army reduces and consolidates 17 units

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:47

As reported earlier, the British army will be losing several battalions of infantry in the consolidation effort to reduce the army’s total manpower by 20,000:

The four infantry battalions to disappear are the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, the 2nd Battalion the Yorkshire Regiment (Green Howards), the 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion the Royal Welsh.

A fifth infantry battalion, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders), will become a single company to carry out public duties in Scotland.

The Armoured Corps will be reduced by two units with the mergers of the Queen’s Royal Lancers and the 9th/12th Royal Lancers and the 1st and 2nd Tank Regiments.

The Royal Artillery, the Royal Engineers, the Army Air Corps, the Royal Logistic Corps, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and the Royal Military Police will also be affected.

[. . .]

Details of the other changes are:

  • The Royal Artillery will be reduced from 13 to 12 units with the withdrawal of the 39th Regiment Royal Artillery
  • The Royal Engineers will be reduced from 14 to 11 units with the withdrawal of 24 and 28 Engineer Regiments and 67 Works Group
  • The Army Air Corps will reduce from five to four units as 1 Regiment AAC merges with 9 Regiment AAC
  • The Royal Logistic Corps will be reduced from 15 to 12 units with 1 and 2 Logistic Support Regiments withdrawn from the Order of Battle and 23 Pioneer Regiment disbanded
  • The Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will be reduced to seven units with the withdrawal of 101 Force Support Battalion
  • 5 Regiment Royal Military Police will be removed

Update: As you’d expect, the changes are not being welcomed by current or former soldiers.

The reforms have caused anger and frustration within senior ranks. Earlier this week, a leaked letter to General Wall from one senior officer in the Royal Fusiliers showed the anger brewing over the scale of the proposed cuts.

Brigadier David Paterson, the honorary Colonel of the Regiment of Fusiliers, said the decision to axe one of its battalions would not “best serve” the armed forces and “cannot be presented as the best or most sensible military option”.

He added: “I, as Colonel, have the duty to tell my men why it is their battalion, which at the time of the announcement will be the best manned battalion in the army, with recruits waiting in the wings, was chosen by CGS. I will then also have to explain to my Fusiliers in a fully manned battalion why they are likely to be posted to battalions that cannot recruit. This will not be an easy sell.”

July 1, 2011

Duleep Allirajah: “The Most Pointless Sporting Argument Ever”

Filed under: Britain, Soccer — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:32

He’s quite right: this has to be the nadir of international sporting debates:

Where do you stand on the controversial issue of a Great Britain football team? Disgusted that the British Olympic Association is threatening the independence and proud traditions of the home football nations? Angered that the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish associations are trying to thwart the Olympic dreams of their young players? Or, like me, do you want to be woken up when The Most Pointless Sporting Argument Ever is over?

If you’re wondering why the proposal for a unified British football team has caused such controversy, let me explain. There has never been a single UK football association. Instead, all four countries — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — have their own football associations. Each country is recognised by FIFA as a separate entity even though they are not sovereign nations. It’s one of the residual privileges enjoyed by the nation that invented the game. Although the Brits have minimal influence within FIFA, as the 2018 World Cup bid and the farcical presidential election demonstrated, all four UK nations are represented on the eight-member International Football Association Board (IFAB), which is the sport’s law-making body. The home nations also retain the right to appoint a FIFA vice-president. Although the English FA is keen on fielding a British team in the 2012 Games, the other national associations fear that their independence and FIFA privileges will be jeopardised as a result.

The debate took a farcical twist this week when the British Olympic Association (BOA) announced that an ‘historic agreement’ had been reached with all the home nations to field a Great Britain team at the Olympics. However, no sooner had the BOA made its announcement than the Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland football associations angrily denied that any agreement had been reached. Oops!

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