Not Saussure

June 3, 2007

EU considers banning smoking in the open air

Filed under: EU — notsaussure @ 4:58 pm

Blimey! OK, it’s only a proposal ‘signalling a first move,’ which presumably means they hadn’t got anything better to do with their time than dream this up to consider it at length before rejecting it, and even ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) think it’s unnecessary, but really...

If European officials get their way, the beleaguered smoker’s last refuge – a useful source of office gossip, though decidedly chilly in winter – will be swept away under the expansion of smoking ‘exclusion zones’.The EU is now considering a proposal signalling the first move to limit smokers’ right to puff away outdoors. It states that, as well as a ban on lighting up in all workplaces and public buildings across Europe: ‘Restrictions could also be extended to outdoor areas around entrances to buildings and possibly to other outdoor public places where people sit or stand in immediate proximity to each other, such as open air stadiums and entertainment venues, bus shelters, train platforms etc.’

I wonder if whoever in the Commission who came up with this is, in fact, a closet Euro-sceptic who wants to make the organisation as unpopular as possible.

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February 26, 2007

EU plans for low-energy light-bulbs

Filed under: environment, EU, Law, press — notsaussure @ 5:35 pm

I see from Ellee Seymour that

Germany’s environment minister Sigmar Gabriel wants normal light bulbs to be banned in the EU and energy saving lights used instead. Studies show that carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by 25 million tonnes a year if both households and the services sector exchanged traditional light bulbs for energy saving lights.

I’ve never used the things myself since I’m under the impression they’re very expensive — at least in terms of the initial outlay, though I accept they may well save you money over their lifetime — and don’t actually do a particularly good job of providing illumination (cue joke about why they’d appeal to the EU). My impression of these things seems to be confirmed by the comments to Ellee’s article, which probably explains why various governments want to force us to buy something we’re all clearly too foolish to realise is a superior product.

My initial reaction is that I’d give more sympathetic consideration to any environmental proposals coming from the EU if they were to calculate, and justify, the carbon footprint caused by shifting the European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg once a month because the French insist on it. It certainly costs a good deal in other respects; according to Wikipedia,

Moving various files and equipment between the two cities takes 10 large trucks and the costs for two locations are estimated at €200 million a year. A force of 30 people load the trucks for the 400 km journey between the two locations. Around 5,000 people attached to the Parliament, such as parliamentarians, advisors, clerks and journalists, also move between Brussels and Strasbourg. Most of the parliamentarians are against using Strasbourg and various initiatives have been taken over the years to have Brussels as the sole location. The latest of these initiatives was a EU-wide online petition, oneseat.eu. The petition was not accepted.

I mean, if they expect me to inconvenience myself for the sake of the planet, they might show willing by doing something seems eminently sensible and that most EU parliamentarians want, though the French — particularly the Strasbourg restaurateurs, bar-owners and prostitutes, one imagines — are, for obvious reasons, opposed.

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December 19, 2006

Chatham House verdict on Blair as international statesman — not wholly encouraging

Filed under: Chatham House, EU, Foreigners, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 9:58 pm

Heard Margaret Beckett on the radio — you know, the Foreign Secretary, that one — this morning, being ever so irritated about what she refused to call a ‘report, but preferred to characterise as ‘a series of remarks.. observations… not of the kind one tends to assume or expect of Chatham House’ from Professor Victor Bulmer-Thomas, the outgoing Director of that institution, on the subject of ‘Blair’s Foreign Policy and its Possible Successor(s)’. Bit rich coming from someone who’s open to criticism as not being quite up to scratch herself, but there you go.

Update:  Morningstar’s Cynical Chatter From The Underworld reminds us that Mrs Beckett made the remarkable claim during the interview of the notorious 45 minute claim that

“That was a statement that was made once and it was thought to be of such little relevance — and perhaps people began quickly to say, ‘I’m not sure about that’ — that it was never used once in all the debates in the House of Commons.”

Says Morningstar,

Tell that to Dr. David Kelly who died because of that statement, but you can’t tell him now can you, because he is dead, thanks to your government not just failing to look after him, no, you threw him to the fucking dogs.

(more…)

November 8, 2006

World War II German Advertising

Filed under: EU, Foreigners, Uncategorized — notsaussure @ 2:12 pm

While looking for something else, I came across this interesting collection of German advertising for the home front from World War 2. It’s part of the German Propaganda Archive at Calvin College. This contains a large collection of materials (in translation) from both Nazi Germany and the old East Germany.

The adverts here were in a special issue of Illustrirte Zeitung Leipzig, a leading German weekly of the time. This was the 1944 issue on Der europäische Mensch.There are some household names there, of course;

German children: Europe’s future inventors!

While courageous men are fighting on the battlefields for the victory that will crown a happy and united Europe, the German home front is already working today on plans to benefit the freed peoples. The German youth is preparing for the great tasks of reconstruction and peace. They tinker and build models, engaging in guided and creative learning. Whether it is in shop class at school, evenings at home, or while participating in the youth organizations, UHU is everywhere. A special glue developed by the German firm Kunststoff-Chemie, it is in demand as a dependable product.

and, rather surprisingly, given the date (presumably Ford Europe was nationalised by the Reich)

Ford.

On the roads of Europe, German Ford trucks testify to the work of German industry. The agile, reliable, and easy to maintain Ford truck will be a welcome help in solving the major tasks that await our continent after the war.

And, to confirm all our worst fears, here’s a brandy company’s inspirational hope for the future (and they, at least, saw their hopes realised):

Everything should go well for all!

Yes, things should be even better! Everyone should be able to work without worrying. All should be able to afford to travel, to fill their homes with beautiful things, and to fulfill their heart’s desires, both large and small.

That is what Germany wants! For itself and for all the countries in Europe of good will. Together, we will work to secure and raise the standard of living!

That is what Germany is fighting for. And only a German victory will realize the goal of a European economic community.

Dujardin: For years Germany’s largest brandy distillery


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October 26, 2006

Summary justice in Walford

Filed under: civil liberties, EU — notsaussure @ 7:13 pm

Justin, at Chicken Yoghurt, is justifiably concerned about the Government’s latest on-the-spot fine binge for people who break byelaws and for furrininers, particularly Bulgarian and Rumanian ones

With summary justice being the lubricant of this Government’s sweaty authoritarian fantasies, we shouldn’t really be surprised by this. It comes in the same week that John Reid has announced that, after their countries’ accession to the EU in January, Bulgarians and Romanians could face an – altogether now – on the spot fine if found to be working illegally in the UK.

As critics have pointed out, nobody at the Home Office has thought through what will happen if these people can’t or won’t pay. Expecting John Reid, the Tories or the right-wing press to consider the humanitarian implications of making already poor people poorer is, needless to say, a bridge too far.

I don’t think it’s going to work, though; as Bystander JP explains over at The Magistrate’s Blog (formerly known as The Law West of Ealing Broadway), these are going to be well-nigh impossible to enforce:

Of course the fines won’t really be on the spot, that is just a catchy phrase to please the tabloids. In reality the fines will be all but impossible to enforce – imposing them on a group who are by definition unregulated and amorphous will be like trying to catch water in a sieve.

In a previous post on Fixed Penalty Notices — as one of the judiciary who clearly doesn’t get it, he’s got this quaint old idea that it’s up to courts to determine guilt or innocence and to impose penalties, but he would say that, wouldn’t he — he recently noted that

I was chatting to one of our office staff the other day when the subject of fixed penalty tickets came up. As I expected he told me that the payment rate was poor, which is not surprising in a city like London where something like a quarter of the population move house each year. What did amuse me was the news that more than fifty tickets issued in one sector of London were given to people who gave their address as Walford.

(Note for non-UK readers: Walford is a fictional borough created for a popular TV soap).

I’m interested in what’s going to happen if some bloody-minded Bulgarian or Rumanian decides to challenge one of these fixed penalty notices, though.   Remember, the offence is going to have to be working without a work permit as an employee rather than as an independent contractor.   Remember, too, that the defendant enjoys the presumption of innocence.   He has to prove nothing; it’s for the prosecution to prove, in this case, that he was working as an employee.  That’s not going to be particularly easy if all the chap tells whoever’s supposed to be issuing these notices, ‘I am a self-employed contractor; now bugger off and stop pestering me.’   The official can expect no help from the employer, since he faces a fine, too, if it’s proved he was employing the chap illegally.     The chap turns up in court, and simply asks the prosecution to prove their case that he was a paid employee rather than a contractor — what are they supposed to do?

I’m sure it is doable, but it’s going to be hellishly complicated.


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October 24, 2006

Reality, this is the Home Secretary; Home Secretary, this is Realty…

Filed under: civil liberties, EU, hubris, nemesis, UK — notsaussure @ 5:32 pm

… You two really ought to try to get to know each other better.

The home secretary, John Reid, today announced restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants’ right to work in Britain after their countries join the EU in January.

Let’s see what they comprise.

Mr Reid announced a package of transitional control orders [Christ Almighty!  Though I don’t think they’re what he usually means by the term] which will be reviewed in 12 months.

The toughest new restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians focus on lower-skilled workers, who would initially be able to work only in the food processing and agricultural sectors, Mr Reid said.

A quota of 19,750 places a year has been put in place for these sectors in the new measures announced by the home secretary, in a written statement to parliament.

There will also be a new Migration Advisory Council which will analyse the UK labour market – and the policies on migrant workers in other EU countries – and give guidance on whether more unskilled workers from Bulgaria or Romania are needed, and if they could benefit other economic sectors.

Mr Reid said firms outside the food processing and agriculture sectors would have to "convince the government there is a genuine labour shortage, and such schemes would be limited by quota".

And then, after this welter of control orders, quotas and a new quango to administer them to warm the cockles of Dr Reid’s heart back when he was a member of the Communist Party, reality intervenes:

There will be no special restrictions on self-employed workers, paving the way for Bulgarians and Romanians – so-called A2 nationals – to compete with the UK’s growing army of Polish plumbers.
Mr Reid said: "The terms of the accession treaty do not allow us to place restrictions on EU nationals’ rights to come here to set up a business. So the self-employed will continue to be able to work here – and in all other EU countries – if they can prove when challenged that they are genuine, and not in fact employees posing as contractors."

Which is what people have been telling him all along, and no amount of fantasies about challenging people — Your papers, pliz —  to prove they’re ‘not in fact employees’  will alter it.  News to me that you have to prove you’re not something; the burden of proof is normally the other way round, but maybe I just don’t get it;  according to the report,  ‘Mr Reid said A2 nationals working illegally would face on-the-spot fines’ (why does that not surprise me?) and it’ll certainly be interesting to see what happens the first time one of these folks decides to contest the fine and, as is anyone’s right, puts the prosecution to proof in the matter.    

Dr Reid is also threatening employers; ‘"Employing illegal workers undercuts legitimate business and leads to exploitation. It will not be tolerated," Mr Reid said‘  — so why encourage the practice by making it difficult to hire workers legitimately?   People will come here looking for work; there’s no way of stopping them. 

All you can do is encourage their exploitation by criminalising this; and I really don’t see the sense of making it a criminal offence for an employer  to pay someone a mutually agreeable wage, at or above the legal minimum, from which he’ll deduct the appropriate tax and national insurance contributions and give them to the Treasury, and for respecting all relevant legislation concerning health and safety, maximum working hours and so forth.


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October 23, 2006

Reality begins to catch up with Dr Reid; Damien Green still giving it a good run for its money, though.

Filed under: EU, hubris, nemesis, Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 7:15 pm

It’s gratifying to learn that reality has finally caught up with some Labour ministers;

John Reid’s plans for controls on immigrants from new EU countries have been privately dismissed by government colleagues as “cosmetic posturing”.

The Home Secretary will this week unveil proposals to control immigration from Romania and Bulgaria when they join the European Union in January.

Mr Reid is expected to abandon the so-called “open door” policy which has allowed an estimated 600,000 people from Poland and other Eastern European EU states to work freely in the UK. […]

But with freedom of movement guaranteed now across the EU, there are fears that Mr Reid will drive many immigrants from the two new countries into working in the UK on the black market.

Equally, there are concerns that law-abiding immigrants will be dissuaded from coming while criminal elements would be undeterred.

The Open Europe think tank has already warned of a “worst of all worlds” in which genuine migrants stay away “while criminals and those who come with no intention of working would still be let in”.

One minister dismissed Mr Reid’s initiative as “cosmetic posturing”.

Tim Worstall rightly says, ‘Told you so,’ and it’s a theme I’ve mentioned now and again, too.

However, it’s a tad dispiriting to see his opposite number miss the point so spectacularly; the report continues

Damian Green, the Conservative shadow home affairs spokesman, urged Mr Reid to “stop dithering” and give Britain the same immigration controls as the other main EU countries to ensure that “we only take in the people who will benefit our economy”.

Dr Reid’s problem, you twerp, is precisely that there’s no legal way for any EU country to enforce such controls, and if you try to introduce them they just get ignored, giving you what the Open Europe group call ‘the worst of all worlds’. David Rennie, The Daily Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent, described back in August what actually happens in countries like Belgium, where he’s based, that attempt to introduce such cosmetic controls:

Belgium did indeed erect strict barriers to Polish plumbers, Latvian labourers and the rest. And here’s the thing, I think, as I pedal through the streets of my neighbourhood, Saint-Gilles – all those robust, stern-sounding controls made not the blindest bit of difference.

You see, my home district is home to thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Polish workers, most of them illegal. They do not hide themselves. Every other car in my street has Polish plates. One street away is permanently lined with large white panel vans, used as rough and ready mobile homes by day labourers from Bialystok, or plumbers from Poznan, who visit for a week at a time.

Why should they hide themselves? They are EU citizens and, as such, they have every right to be here. If they are caught working illegally, they may be fined, and can even – in theory – be ordered home to Poland. But after a day or so to lick their wounds, they are free to come straight back to Belgium – and there is next to nothing the Belgian authorities can do to stop them.

He concluded his discussion thus,

Faced with an avalanche of headlines about immigration, British politicians may yet ignore the risks, and choose to follow the Belgian model anyway. It’s their right, but I would urge a trip to Belgium first, to see that work permit restrictions on EU citizens simply do not work. If they do not believe me, they can come to my house, and meet the Polish workers camping outside.

Maybe we could club together and buy Damien Green a ticket on Eurostar so he can take up David Rennie’s offer.


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October 4, 2006

But we don’t do that sort of thing here. We’re British.

Filed under: Abortion, Blogroll, civil liberties, EU, Foreigners, UK, usa — notsaussure @ 1:58 pm

Via Chicken Yoghurt, a discussion by Donald, of The Jarndyce Blog, a piece in The Sharpener called Talk amongst yourselves, we couldn’t possibly comment about why abortion’s a non-issue in British politics.

One word absolutely not on the lips of political hacks, not even Tory political hacks, is… Abortion. Not this week, not any week. It’s impolite conversation inside the beltway.

But a post here last year (picked apart here) attracted over 250 comments. Just publishing the word is pure Google-juice. Everyone in the real world has an opinion, so why does nobody in political Britain want to discuss abortion in public? It can’t be that 186,274 (2001 data; pdf) annual terminations don’t warrant justification or inquiry.

Donald’s got various explanations, but I prefer mine. It’s partly, to my mind, that we have the horrible example of America before us; I’m willing to bet good money that an inordinate number of the 250 comments came from the USA, even allowing for the fact most comments to a British blog will have come from Anglophone countries rather than the rest of the world. We’ve seen what happens when people start politicising abortion and we don’t want that sort of thing here, thank you very much.

Donald says,

You could play the God card; but there’s no debating with faith, and polite society considers the faithful ever so slightly simple.

but I don’t think it’s that. I’d hesitate to call, for example, my late wife’s mother ‘simple’ because of her at times ferociously devout Catholicism, and I wouldn’t advise anyone else so to do; one of the few times, however, I’ve seen her really angry was back in the general election of 2001 when, it may be recalled, the ProLife Alliance wanted to show pictures of aborted foetuses as part of its election broadcasts. Kit’s attitude was that, much as she disapproves of abortion, she accepted that other people don’t necessarily share her religious views and no one’s got any business, as far as she’s concerned, trying to force what are ultimately religious views on someone else, particularly when they’re trying to make what must always be a very difficult decision.

And, as she said, she was going to vote Conservative come what may, and in the unlikely event that the Labour candidate in her constituency said he wanted to ban abortion, that wouldn’t make any difference to her vote. Even if she’d lived in neighbouring Hull North, she wouldn’t have voted for Kevin McNamara, despite the fact he was a family friend and my wife’s godfather. And, I take it, far more people voted my wife’s ‘uncle Kevin’ despite, rather than because of, his views on abortion and gay marriage.

That, I think, is a pretty common attitude here, as opposed to the States. We tend, possibly incoherently, to regard some matters as being people’s private rather than public business. The way I see it is that once a girlfriend of mine found she was pregnant (health note: condoms and baby-oil are a potentially disastrous combination — trust me on this); obviously I had a view on whether she should have an abortion or not, but both us knew it was, ultimately, her decision and, ultimately, I could do was love and support her as best I could, whatever she decided.

That’s not political, for heaven’s sake — it’s decent, gentlemanly behaviour, at least as far as I’m concerned. There’s no way on God’s earth I’d have tried either to force her to have an abortion against her will or to use the law to stop her from so doing, because I’m not a complete shit. And if I, who had more right to a say in the matter than did most people, wouldn’t try to impose my views on her, then I’m buggered if I’d have let anyone else stick their nose into what was really her and my business.

I once discussed this, in general terms, with a wise old American judge. We were talking about why Americans are so litigious and religious as compared with most other folks, and why they get so worked up about what’re now called ‘culture wars’.

His theory, which quite impressed me, was that America is a national of comparatively recent immigrants. Consequently, people arrived there knowing how things were done back home — and possibly they’d left because they didn’t like that at all — but with no real way of knowing how things were done in their new country. And neither did anyone else, since they were in — if not just arrived on — pretty much the same boat. It’s all very well for folks to talk about how they did things back in England, but what’s that to folks who’ve come, or whose parents came, from Ireland or Poland or Italy or Germany or Mexico or wherever?

Consequently, reckoned the judge, people naturally turned both to their religious groups, as a way of meeting like-minded people — who spoke their language, for one thing — who’d already established themselves in the new country for guidance on how things were done in the US and, if necessary, to the courts and laws for mediation. In old countries, he said, people know — because they’ve been born and brought up there — what’s the done thing (or the somewhat different things that comme il faut, if you happen to have been born and brought up in France) even if they don’t like it and have common ground from which to start negotiating and arguing.

In America you never had that and kept on having to try to start from scratch, frequently mediated by politicians who, of course, needed to keep particular local groups happy in order to further their political and personal ambitions. Consequently people were, and are, frequently at loggerheads over both first principles and the boundaries of debate that are taken for granted in most other places.


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September 27, 2006

EU rule on Mumbai Mix? You could make it up, apparently.

Filed under: EU, Foreigners, press, Spin — notsaussure @ 12:25 pm

This story, which I came across via the blog of the EU vice-president Margot Wallström , which I came across, in turn, because Tim Worstall was having some justified fun at her expense (all these links — I think it’s called intertextuality in literary theoory) isn’t new, but it was new to me, and I’m blogging it partly so I know where to find it again. Anyway, it concerns a story in The Sun about how

NUTTY EU officials want to rename Bombay mix MUMBAI mix — to make the snack politically correct.

They say the Indian city of Bombay has been called Mumbai since 1995 so the old name could offend because it dates back to colonial rule.

A source said: “The EU is considering revising the labelling of Bombay mix because Mumbai has been in the news a lot recently and people in Europe now realise that Mumbai is the new name for Bombay.”

and they managed to get a quote from

Shadow Europe Minister Graham Brady [who] condemned the move.

He said: “It is exactly the kind of ludicrous regulation that gives Brussels such a bad name and gets in the way of successful business.” (more…)

September 26, 2006

Eurosceptics horrified as Brussels bureaucrats get rid of regulations

Filed under: EU — notsaussure @ 6:28 pm

Twenty-five sets of national regulations and two EU directives on packaging scrapped to leave the quantities in which goods are sold up to — gulp — market forces. The BASTARDS! How DARE they? The Sharpener

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