We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

When offering your employees a pay rise violates their human rights

Of all the crimes against humanity that one can imagine, it may seem hard (or perhaps all to easy) for the visitors to this parish to imagine that, if you are an employer, offering your employees a pay rise can be regarded as legally actionable under principles of Human Rights law, and give rise to a claim for compensation. But such is the law in the United Kingdom, in defined circumstances. Those circumstances being where an employer’s principal or only motive for making an offer (regardless of it being accepted) is to get 2 or more employees to forego their rights to collective bargaining.

The situation was recently highlighted in a case involving a UK branch of a German engineering company, Kostal UK Ltd.

The employer had a ‘recognition agreement’ for a group of its workers with Unite (the UK’s largest Trade Union). This agreement is described as ‘binding in honour only’, and under it, the employer agreed to negotiate terms of employment for those covered by the agreement with the Union, rather than with the employees directly. it was not, by itself, legally enforceable. However, despite this ‘agreement’ being unenforceable as such, the Union’s ‘right’ to negotiate on behalf of its members is protected by a specific piece of legislation which prevents employers from making offers of different (including better) terms to two or more of its employees if they are (or are proposing to be) covered by a (non-binding) collective agreement between the employer and a Trade Union, if the employer’s motive is to go over the heads of the Union to reach an agreement with the employees represented by the Union.

Under this law, it is, of course, for the employer to prove what its motive was for making any offers to its employees in these circumstances, and if the motive (or main motive) is benign, there is no liability. And the risk? An award of £3,907 per employee for every offer that is made. In the Kostal case, it came out at around £422,000 per some reports, as the employer made two offers to around 57 employees. For some bizarre reason, apparently to do with its German parent company, its first offer, made in December, included a Christmas bonus, but its second offer, made in January did not, so two offers were made and two lots of compensation (at the time £3,800 per offer) was due, twice penalising what was essentially a single course of conduct.

Why is this ‘law’ in force, you may ask. The answer is that it is to protect the Human Rights of the workers, as, if an employer gets fed up dealing with a Union on pay negotiations, and tries to bypass it, so that the terms of employment of two or more employees covered by a collective agreement are no longer decided in line with that agreement, this is, according to the European Court of Human Rights, a violation of the right of freedom of association.

As the judgment in this case puts it:

…under Article 11 of the Convention, which provides:
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
2. No restrictions shall be placed on the exercise of these rights other than such as are prescribed by law and are necessary to a democratic society in the interests of national security or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others…”

The judgment goes on to explain the ‘reasoning’ of the European Court of Human Rights (the Strasbourg Court):

“In other words, the Strasbourg Court held that states have positive obligations to secure effective enjoyment of Article 11 rights; and if direct offers outside the collective bargaining process can be made and would lead to less favourable treatment of workers who do not accept, that acts as a disincentive to the exercise of Article 11 rights and allows employers to undermine or frustrate a trade union’s ability to strive for protection of its members.

So, lest an employer find a Union is asking for Mars and it can only offer the Moon, and it offers the Moon to Alphie and Bill, Charlie’s right to claim Mars is protected by making the employer pay compensation to Alphie and Bill for having the temerity of trying to cut them a deal, or even if the deal for Alphie and Bill is Venus plus Mars. And, lest you ask, if Alphie and Bill accept the offer, it is still enforceable against the employer.

Having met someone who went through the gates of Belsen at its liberation, it is hard not to think that Human Rights law is a sick mockery of the dead.

I am not saying that this judgment is outwith legal principles, it is starkly in keeping with them as they stand. With this as ‘law’, the UK has a long journey back to a Common Law that can be deduced from reason.

Mongolia, the EU’s blacklisted tax haven

It has been quite a grim century for Mongolia, many decades under the Soviet yoke after the ‘Mad Baron’ von Ungern-Sternberg managed to take over in the chaos after WW1, and write his own grim chapter, and still its capital is called ‘Red Hero’, but despite that name, Mongolia has got itself into the EU’s bad books, not by human rights abuses, but by a lack of them as a tax haven.

To determine whether a country is a “non-cooperative jurisdiction” the EU index measures the transparency of its tax regime, tax rates and whether the tax system encourages multinationals to unfairly shift profits to low tax regimes to avoid higher duties in other states. In particular these include tax systems that offer incentives such as 0% corporate tax to foreign companies.

The scoundrels, the shame of it, not taxing someone!

EU members have been left to decide what action to take against the offenders. Ministers ruled out imposing a withholding tax on transactions to tax havens as well as other financial sanctions.

OK, how about undercutting or matching them for starters? That would, actually, hurt them.

For some reason, the ‘charity’ Oxfam thinks it is entitled to chip in.

The UK-based charity Oxfam last week published its own list of 35 countries that it said should be blacklisted.

Are Oxfam’s shops taxed (or business-rated) in the same way as their commercial neighbours? Can they explain how sanctions (so useful against South Africa under Apartheid) improve the lot of the poor? Since sanctions harm, the corollary is that free trade doesn’t, and yet… But I digress.

Let’s hope that Mongolia shows the same defiance before its accusers as the Baron von Ungern-Sternberg did when facing a People’s Court, from ‘Setting the East Ablaze’ by Peter Hopkirk.

‘Showing no signs of fear at the fate awaiting him, the baron challenged the right of a ‘people’s court’ to try him. He told his Bolshevik accusers: ‘For a thousand years Ungerns have given other people orders. We have never taken orders from anyone. I refuse to accept the authority of the working class’.

Then they shot him.

The full blacklist is:

The 17 blacklisted territories are:
American Samoa, Bahrain, Barbados, Grenada, Guam, South Korea, Macau, The Marshall Islands,Mongolia, Namibia, Palau, Panama, Saint Lucia, Samoa, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates.

and conceding the point that taxes create poverty:

The EU made exceptions for countries faced with natural disasters such as hurricanes, and put the process temporarily on hold.

US Navy: Penis in sky drawn by jet trail was ‘unacceptable’

A display of ‘airmanship‘, the sort, but not the pattern, that was needed in Operation Taxable on D-Day, appears to have fallen on ‘stony ground’ as it were, it looks like a pilot will be having a hard time.

US Navy officials have said it was “absolutely unacceptable” that one of their pilots used a jet’s contrail to draw a penis in the sky.

What else could, or should, he have used? Wider reaction is mixed:

Ramone Duran told the Seattle Times newspaper: “After it made the circles at the bottom, I knew what it was and started laughing.”
But one householder told KREM 2 she was upset about having to explain to her children…

However, the good news is that the Brylcreem Boys beat the Yanks to it:

In August this year, an RAF fighter pilot drew a 35-mile penis on radars monitoring skies over Lincolnshire, England.

Just wondering if they did that in the Cold War, and what the Soviet spy trawlers reported back.

Photo credits: ‘jon’, and, of course, the Secretary of the United States Navy.

Berwick and Carlisle off-licences, just rejoice at that news!

Scotland has become the land of the minimum alcohol price. Gushingly the BBC says that Scotland will become the first country in the World to have a minimum alcohol price (if you don’t count prohibition as an ‘infinite’ price). The UK’s Supreme Court has ruled that the proposal does not violate EU law (when pretty much anything else might).

And of course, it is for the good health of the wretched, like Gorbachev’s war on vodka.

When he took over the Soviet government in 1985, Gorbachev unleashed a massive campaign to promote soft drinks and fruit juices — instead of vodka.

His government also hiked the price of vodka and severely limited its sale. In typical Soviet style, he also proposed truly heavy-handed, excessive regulations to combat the shift from vodka to other forms of alcohol.

For instance, in the south of Russia, 100-year-old vineyards were systematically eradicated. The result was predictable enough. There were huge lines in vodka stores, of course. And in those lines, arguments and fights broke out incessantly.

Prior to Gorbachev’s anti-vodka campaign, the drink was often consumed by a “troika.” Consuming vodka in groups of three made sense because a bottle cost three rubles. In this way, each person contributed one ruble — and in turn, each had one glass.

But now, instead of just boozing up with each other, people actually shared their misery about life in larger groups. These people realized that in their miserable, detoxed circumstances, waiting in line had never been harder. And it had never been more politically explosive.

However, this measure is backed by remarkably precise science:

27. The University of Sheffield study went on to model the effect of a 50 pence per unit of alcohol minimum price on drinkers in poverty and not in poverty. It concluded that annual consumption by harmful drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of 681 units (as compared with nearly 181 units for such drinkers not in poverty), while consumption by hazardous drinkers in poverty would experience a fall of just under 88 units (as compared with a fall of only 30 units for such drinkers not in poverty). There would be 2,036 fewer deaths and 38,859 fewer hospitalisations during the first 20 years of the policy, after which when the policy had achieved its full impact, there would be an estimated 121 fewer deaths and 2,042 fewer hospital admissions each year.

The good news is that this is not a tax, the extra cost goes to the retailer, not the government (or, worse still, the UK government) although presumably they will get a cut from the VAT imposed on the ‘value-added’ of the extra paid, but don’t get me started on that.

The ultimate justification, and the reason why it was all being litigated, was that the minimum pricing was one way to skin the cat without having a general tax increase, whilst balancing the government’s health policy against the right to trade freely.

As to the general advantages and values of minimum pricing for health in relation to the benefits of free EU trade and competition, the Scottish Parliament and Government have as a matter of general policy decided to put very great weight on combatting alcohol-related mortality and hospitalisation and other forms of alcohol-related harm. That was a judgment which it was for them to make, and their right to make it militates strongly against intrusive review by a domestic court. That minimum pricing will involve a market distortion, including of EU trade and competition, is accepted. However, I find it impossible, even if it is appropriate to undertake the exercise at all in this context, to conclude that this can or should be regarded as outweighing the health benefits which are intended by minimum pricing.

More good news is that the laws are ‘experimental’ (Where have we heard that before?), so will expire after 6 years… Don’t hold your breath waiting for non-renewal.

So are good times ahead for alcohol retailers in the English Border towns, as the poor, harried Scots seek to trade with free England?

On the plus side, it is at least not a tax. But what unintended consequences might flow?

Edits: My thanks to Longrider for reminding us of the (late, unlamented) Danish fat tax, butter late than never.

I note that Part VI of the Act of Union with England 1707 states:

That all parts of the United Kingdom for ever from and after the Union shall have the same Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks and be under the same Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and lyable to the same Customs and Duties on Import and Export And that the Allowances Encouragements and Drawbacks Prohibitions Restrictions and Regulations of Trade and the Customs and Duties on Import and Export settled in England when the Union commences shall from and after the Union take place throughout the whole United Kingdom . . .

And the English Act of Union 1706 has the same wording.

The Death of Stalin

Not late news, but a film review. The Death of Stalin opened recently across the UK. It is an excellent black comedy, 5 stars. The film opens with a musical performance for Radio Moscow, Stalin likes it, and asks for the recording. There is none, so, in true Soviet style, the recording is ‘faked’ by the terrified producer, who resorts to desperate measures. The backdrop to this is nightly NKVD raids, roaming through apartment blocks with the citizenry knowing what to expect, Beria adds his own touches to the minutiae of the raids. We see Stalin’s inner circle, all desperately keeping track of what they have said, and striving to please their master.

Then Stalin collapses, with a little sub-plot device thrown in. Beria is the first to find him, and gets his head start on the race for power. The others in the Praesidium arrive, and the plotting begins. Efforts to get a doctor for Stalin are complicated by the consequences of the Doctors’ Plot, with the NKVD rounding up whoever they can find instead. But it becomes clear that Stalin is in a terminal condition and he then dies.

It should be noted that the film is by the writers of The Thick of It, something, not having a TV, I have never seen, but it has the flavour of a much coarser version of an Ealing Comedy. Beria’s raping and torturing is a major theme, and anyone who sits through the first 15 minutes should by then be under no illusion about the nature of the Soviet Union and socialism. Another excellent aspect of the film is the use of various accents, Stalin is a cockney (perhaps he should have been Welsh, an outsider, emphasising his Georgian origins). Zhukov a bluff Lancastrian (or Northerner), Malenkov and Khrushchev have American accents.

Malenkov, who behaves more like a Principal at a minor East Coast University, seems blissfully unaware that his revolutionary colleagues are actually real murderers. He is nominally in charge of the country and the plotting begins. Beria wishes to start a liberalisation for his own reasons, Khrushchev is put in charge of transport and is lumbered with the funeral arrangements, much to his disgust. Stalin’s son, Vasili, appears on the scene, coming over as a spoilt lunatic. He plans to make a speech at his father’s funeral, which is reluctantly agreed to. Svetlana, Stalin’s daughter, frets over her future. Khrushchev and Beria both promise to protect her. Molotov, played by Michael Palin, is still the Old Bolshevik, totally loyal to the Party, and still regarding his beloved wife as a traitor after Beria gets her released from prison. Eventually, he comes round to support the others against Beria, who has done a Robespierre and shown his hand against his rivals. An excellent Marshal Zhukov plays a decisive role in the final confrontation with Beria, after the competing plans for the funeral arrangements lead to an embarrassing massacre by the NKVD. At the final trial, numerous allegations of sexual abuse are made, a curious echo for our times.

It is hard not to laugh throughout the film, and yet the relentless nature of the evil of the Soviet State is laid bare for all to see, with torture and terror common. It is fairly accurate to what we know of those events, and whilst one might wonder why if the NKVD is so powerful Beria did not simply arrest everyone, it does not and need not show the full picture of the what checks there were on his power, such as the Peoples’ Control, and the Party/NKVD/Army balance. The film credits also acknowledge the tax shelter of the Belgian Federal government.

Every one who voted Democrat, Labour, Green or SNP should watch this film, for a bit of nostalgia and to dream of the future. Everyone who did not support any of them should watch it and be grateful that they are not in total control, for now.

“Only in Spain is a man’s mistress uglier than his wife.”

So goes an old Portuguese saying, I was told. With the violence of the Spanish State towards the organisation of a referendum on independence for Catalonia, declared to be against the Spanish Constitution, which refers to the indissoluble unity of the Spanish nation, as well as adding in lots of social justice evil, the ugliness of the Spanish State is quite clear.

My first reaction to the Spanish State’s conduct was that this was the best way of going about winning a battle and losing a war. The Spanish Prime Minister, Rajoy, is of the Popular Party, often described as heirs to Franco, but they are more simply the ‘not-socialist, not-communist’ Spanish party. Rajoy seems to have the attitude and beard of a Communist in power. Quite why the powers-that-be did not simply say that the Referendum was void, not properly conducted, biased in favour of independence and having the sampling error that any unofficial poll would have, with mostly only those dedicated to taking part doing do, and hacked by the Russians, is a mystery. It could have ignored it and got along with surcharging the officials involved for wasting public money, but bear in mind that after Franco’s death, the officials responsible for scrutinising increases in public spending were sacked.

The only part of Spain that has, so I understand, actually ever voted, on a limited franchise, to be in Spain is Ceuta. Ceuta was Portuguese from 1415 and after King Sebastian‘s insane expedition into Morocco left the Portuguese throne vacant and Spain annexed Portugal until 1640, when the Portuguese rose for their independence. At this point Catalonia also rose, but was defeated. Ceuta opted to join Spain. So here we are 377 years later, with a dodgy referendum against a dodgy central government. Given yesterday’s events, I wonder how many minds have changed thinking that the mistress of independence is more attractive than the bullying bride Spain?

The Prime Minister has poorer housekeeping skills than a badger

This may seem a rather strange proposition, but in terms of ‘housekeeping’, there are various aspects to running a ‘household’, and I am comparing the financial discipline and general acumen of the First Lord of the Treasury (aka Mrs May) making the analogy to running the national ‘house’ to the practical but non-monetary skills of a badger, or rather, some badgers local to me.

The other day I found a badgers’ latrine on my morning walk, it was rather obvious, a ‘not-quite steaming’ pile and I immediately thought of the Prime Minister. I was struck by how careful the badger is to look after his household (or rather, his sett) and not to dump in it, instead using a carefully-dug latrine. This one was unusual in that it was very close to the roadside and highly visible.

Whereas it seems that the Prime Minister is quite happy to dump on the country a €20,000,000,000 bill for the privilege of leaving the EU and letting the UK run a trade deficit with them, and also dump a load of regulations on the UK. If you are going to make a payment, at the bloody least make it in Sterling, so the Bank of England can QE the money out of thin air (if this has to be done at all, which it doesn’t) and they can spend their nice pounds rather than HMG buy Euros. The good folk at Lawyers for Britain have debunked the case for any payment to be made for leaving. How about telling the EU that if your income falls, you cut costs, so that there are fewer than 10,000 in the EU earning more than the UK’s Prime Minister (which ought not to be an ‘office of profit’ under the Crown anyway).

The plan to graft into UK law all EU Regulations has at least the attraction of providing certainty, but why not plan a bonfire ‘On Day 1‘ to quote the Donald (yeah, it still hasn’t happened).

So if I have to choose between the two?

or

Having had to negotiate with a badger at 3 am one winter morning to get him to leave my garden, in my pyjamas and armed with only a garden fork for self-defence (this is England), I can testify that they do not give up a position easily, but my bluff worked.

To be fair to Mrs May, the badger seems to know instinctively not to foul its home, however, this is a skill that some of our politicians have yet to learn, and they are so very busy doing the opposite, it may take some time for them to lose their habits, but why?

Photo credits: Per Wikipedia, The Rt. Hon. T May MP, per Controller of HMSOOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Badgerhero.

Bondi – beyond the Pale! And ‘Judenrein’?

In the deep Australian winter, comes a chilling judgment from the New South Wales Land and Environment Court, a plan to build a synagogue is refused by a planning authority, partly on the ground that it presents an unacceptable risk to neighbours, due to the threat of terrorist attack.

In New South Wales, the Local Authority objected to the proposed development with a ‘Contention 3’, which was tested in proceedings before the Land and Environment Court.

Site Suitability
3. The proposed development should be refused as the site is not suitable for
the proposed synagogue use as the Preliminary Threat and Risk Analysis relied on by the Applicant raises concerns as to the safety and security of future users of the Synagogue, nearby residents, motorists and pedestrians in Wellington Street and the physical measures proposed to deal with the identified threats will have an unacceptable impact on the streetscape and adjoining properties.

And the Court found against the Friends of Refugees from Eastern Europe, who wished to build a synagogue:

Who bears the onus of proof?

Having found that Contention 3 identifies a potential unacceptable risk of threat and there is a factual basis for the contention, the onus to address the contention rests with the applicant.
Is the evidence of Mr Rothchild sufficient to address Contention 3?

For reasons set out in the previous paragraphs I do not accept that Mr Rothchild has provided sufficient evidence to address Contention 3.

So, as we can’t keep you safe, you can’t build on your own land. I have long wondered how long it would take Lefties to use planning law to well, enforce a policy of ‘Separate Development‘, that well-known Lefty plan from elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere, now swept away.

It is a judgment that presumes that the State cannot uphold the law (and in that it may be right!). It also has an indirect consequence of pointing to something like the ‘Pale of Settlement‘ of Tsarist Russia, where the law determined where Jews may or may not live, but here, live freely. To be fair to those Tsars, others apart from Jews had restrictions on their movements and residence, but that is not to excuse them. And to be fair to the Court, they are not targeting Jews, just simply upholding the law, following precedence perhaps, or even orders. The same could happen to Christians next, all you need to do is terrorise them, it seems.

In my understanding, ‘beyond the Pale‘ derived from English settlement in Ireland going out beyond the protection of the law. Ironically, here the law says that under it, you are beyond its protection, at least if you are an observant Jew, or near to one.

I have some modest, tongue-in-cheek suggestions for these unsafe Antipodeans:

1. Re-submit the application but ask to build a mosque, church or temple.

2. Offer to become Crypto-Jews, like those of Belmonte in Portugal, who finally felt safe and ‘came out’ in 1917 (rather poor timing given looming events in Germany, but thankfully they remained safe) having hidden their faith for centuries.

3. Build a proper Ghetto like Venice, and with a few canals you might have a tourist attraction, and wait for Napoleon to liberate you.

Advance Australia Fair.

Footnote (edit): This council is in the Federal constituency of Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull.

Edit: 10th August 2017 H/T to Confused Old Misfit below: The Daily Mail reports that the Council have now agreed to the Synagogue being built. I wonder why?

“…I find it rather regrettable that Lady Hale’s judgment makes so many references to defecation.”

said Lord Walker, a UK Supreme Court Justice in one, rather unfortunate case. However, we had better get used to Lady Hale’s judgments as she has now been nominated as the next President of the Supreme Court, a promotion from her position as Deputy President, and her influence on UK law will grow.

Why anyone should be concerned that a former academic lawyer with her track record should be in charge of a court that does not sit en banc is that she may well control the lists and influence which judges sit on particular cases, thereby having scope to shape the law.

She has long been a supporter of greater diversity in the judiciary.

“It may be a genuine occupational qualification to choose a black Othello or a female Desdemona, but could it be thought a genuine occupational qualification to bring a minority perspective to the business of judging in the higher courts?

“So do we need to revive the argument for some special provision, akin to that in Northern Ireland, to enable the appointing commissions to take racial or gender balance into account when making their appointments? Would that really be such a bad thing? I think not.”

But some might prefer to have judges who judge the case before them on the basis of applying the law, rather than their own perspective, if one hoped for the rule of law to be seen to be maintained.

Lady Hale has however, speaking privately, cast doubt on her own judgment in one case, a meagre consolation for the losing party.

The trouble with the UK’s Supreme Court is that it is really the result of a Lefty wet dream about judicial activism, finally in 2005 (wef 2009) destroying a long tradition (before then vandalised in the 1870s) of the UK’s final court* being a committee of the House of Lords. (* Not for Scots Criminal Law, which remains under the Scottish Court of Session).

The UK’s Supreme Court has been described by one of its justices as a political court, being politicised by its inevitable involvement in devolution issues and interpretation of Human Rights and EU law (as was, to be fair, the House of Lords before it).

I have a modest proposal, that the Supreme Court be abolished, saving taxpayers money and removing an avenue for more legal fees to be charged in pursuit of a result, thereby removing work and money from the legal profession and reducing litigation risk. There is a simple alternative, that should a party find that litigation results in an injustice, or a nonsense whereby different UK courts have different precedents to follow, that party could petition Parliament to change the law, even in respect of that particular case, as happened in the Burmah Oil case. This approach would have the advantage of getting our Parliamentarians to see the consequences of the laws that they pass (or do not pass) and also take up time that could be spent passing more unhelpful legislation.

To those who say that our politicians should not be our judges, I say ‘Better than our judges being our politicians.

A trip to Venice

Last month, the Sage of Kettering and I went to Venice for a few days, marking decades of friendship. The visit to the Most Serene Republic, home to distrust of government that lasted for over 1,000 years, fell during the Biennale ‘Festival’, when modern art invades Venice, which for all its ghastly, sinister absurdity, at least allows the occasional foray into fine, otherwise closed buildings, in which the modernists squat like bats dripping rabies with their urine, and I thought that I would share some pictures from our trip.

The gardens of the Armenian Institute, in Dorsoduro, open for the Biennale. Venice was long a refuge for the Armenian diaspora, and there is an Armenian monastery island.

Within the Armenian gardens, Tibet had an exhibition, tactfully reclaiming a Buddhist sun symbol from the last power to occupy Venice before the resumption of Italian rule.

A trip to San Giorgio Maggiore, opposite St Mark’s Square, gave us a full taste of the modern ‘Artist’. Behind the fine façade…

…lurked the artist.

And of his work, as the Sage pointed out, with one opera, you could not tell if it had been vandalised or not.

And of course, there was the use of contrast.

Uplifted by this, we needed a snack and prosecco (archive pic) at a bar in Dorsoduro just off the Giudecca canal, opposite a Squero (boat yard) where gondolas are made, still following a sumptuary law; any colour you like, so long as it’s black.

And just over the Guidecca Canal from the bar, the Redentore (Redeemer) Plague church, testament to a lack of understanding of pathogenesis, and Andrea Palladio’s eye for style.

A visit to the Doge’s Palace and the grim dungeon, but luxurious by the standards of Stalin’s prisons. This would have had a mere 5 people, and some cells had a capacity of 2.

And the Guardia di Finanza boats lurked, ready to levy for the heavy hand of Rome, taxes, and woe betide any retailer who does not proffer a receipt for each and every purchase, one of the most irritating aspects of modern Italy.

The Biennale spread its wings far and wide, such as this ‘car’ in Campo San Stefano. How many Cubans would wish to try their chances in such a vehicle?

A definite highlight was a trip into the lagoon to see Torcello, the first inhabited island in the lagoon, where the Veneti built a cathedral, starting in 639 AD under the Exarchate of Ravenna. Torcello is an astonishingly peaceful contrast to the bustle of central Venice, a few houses, some restaurants and the Cathedral, and the main sound in June was birdsong.

The Sage found himself the Bishop’s Throne to sit on, outside the cathedral.

A gecko on the cathedral wall, note the building materials. Much stone from old buildings has been recycled.

The view from Torcello Campanile

A fisherman on the lagoon, off Torcello.

A welcome reminder of how they got to be civilised.

Back in St Mark’s Square, the statue of the Tetrarchs, on the wall of St Mark’s Basilica, was virtually unremarked. A useful tip if you do visit the Basilica is that you can (a) queue outside for up to 45 minutes and get in for free or (b) pay 2 Euros and get a time slot when you get into the procession through the basilica straight away, a rare implicit recognition of the benefit of pricing.

And within the Doge’s Palace, a column with contrasting faces.

On the day-to-day side, the logistics of Venice never cease to delight; a mobile bookshop.

And the secret of how Venice sustained itself in the saline lagoon, the wells dug below the lagoon into the fresh water aquifers underneath (now capped and sealed).

A typical scene in Cannaregio district, near the Ghetto, where we had a nice meal in a Jewish restaurant, whose ‘meat sauce’ was not at all like Bolognese 🙂 There was a grim reminder of present-day realities as there is a permanent Army post in the Ghetto now.

And of course, outside the Ghetto, there was seafood.

And the locals were friendly.

Another highlight was the Basilica of Saints John and Paul, virtually empty of tourists on a Monday afternoon, despite having 25 Doges entomned inside, and a fine equestrian statue outside…

…and the finest little church on Earth? Santa Maria dei Miracoli in Castello district, tucked away from the crowds.

Yet another Plague Church, the Salute.

There is lots of graffiti in Venice, this one says ‘The Left is the problem’. Not sure who Yago is, but I hope he is free.

And the first aerial bombardment in warfare was of Venice by the Austrians, using a balloon, on 12th July 1849. The Church of Tolentin was bombarded by Austrian cannons on 6th August 1849, and they have put the cannonball in the front of the church, facing, as it happens, the Austrian Consulate.

“But if Pavlov had been given the task of introducing communism, he’d have quickly proved, by experimenting on dogs, that this way of life isn’t suitable for a living soul!’

So spake a brave and wise Czech man to a Soviet Army Zampolit (Political Officer) in an angry exchange after the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, per the wonderful, semi-biographical novel The Liberators by Soviet defector Viktor Suvorov. (BTW did the young (or old) Mr Corbyn ever condemn that particular Soviet invasion?).

But I digress. It turns out that scientists have now (perhaps inadvertently) tested a sort of socialism (we all know that the paradise of communism was always just around the corner under socialism) on dogs, and it turns out that they don’t like it.

Dogs have their own innate sense of fairness and did not learn this from humans as previously believed, a new study has concluded.

You might wonder what tree they were barking up, so let’s have a look:

In tests, wolves and dogs would both refuse to take part if they received no reward for pressing a buzzer while a partner animal got one for doing so. The same was true if they received a lower quality prize.

It was thought that dogs had learned the importance of equality – seen as a sophisticated trait found in humans and some primates – during the domestication process, but the study found the wolves displayed a greater reluctance to take part once they realised what was going on.

See how the piece smuggles in an unscientific value judgment?

So dogs don’t like being ripped off? Who does? I once met a falconer who told me that an eagle he knew remembered a ‘breach of contract’ when the owner’s son didn’t give him his due piece of meat, contrary to established custom and practice. He told me that when the son came back from University, the eagle still showed him great hostility, which lasted for years afterwards.

So it appears that dogs don’t like doing the work and others getting the rewards. The dogs are quite lucky, as they haven’t been slaughtered for opposing socialism, or just not being ‘in’, unlike 100,000,000 humans.

Some of the findings might appear to corroborate old folk tales…

the dogs in the study had been “highly socialised with humans in their first weeks of life” but did not have a pet-owner relationship.

“Nevertheless, they were still more eager to please the human experimenter than were the wolves,” the researchers wrote.

But is this science? Where, I ask myself, are the controls? I had a thought, why not use as a ‘control’ not just a wolf, but a dog raised in North Korea, where it will have only known socialism. But then again, I understand that they have already eaten the dogs there, during a famine caused by socialism…

Equality denied boarding at Aeroflot?

News reaches us from Russia, that, despite 70 years of Leninism and now an assault by the Cultural Marxists, notions of equality do not appear to be taking off at Aeroflot, reportedly with a fleet of newish aircraft, now Russia most powerful ‘brand’ (surely ‘Kalashnikov’, but I digress).

Russia’s flagship carrier Aeroflot is fighting a legal battle with several of its female flight attendants who say it favours slim and attractive cabin crew.

One case has been thrown out of court. The concept of someone actually needing to be up to the job appears to have survived in Russia.

The company argues that every extra kilogram of weight forces Aeroflot to spend more on fuel.
Its application form for would-be flight attendants requires details of height, weight and clothing size.
Staff have to meet a minimum height requirement because they need to store hand luggage in the overhead lockers, Aeroflot says.

The fuel penalty was quoted as every extra kilogram of weight costing an extra 800 roubles (£11; $14) annually on fuel, but Aeroflot has other points.

‘…a survey carried out for Aeroflot showed that passengers preferred attractive flight attendants and agreed that an airline had a right to stipulate weight limits and clothes sizes for its staff.

Perish the thought that the fat and the short are not wanted, it’s all down to job-need.

In one case, the complaint is stark.

Ms Ierusalimskaya, aged 45, wants Aeroflot to pay her 1m roubles (£14,000; $17,750) in compensation, Russia’s Kommersant news reports. Her clothes size is 52 (XL, under the international system).
She said the airline had transferred her to domestic flights, cutting her income. She complained that Aeroflot’s rules required stewardesses to be at least 160cm (5ft 3ins) tall and have a clothes size no larger than 48 (L; 16 in UK; 42 in Germany; 14 in US).

Aeroflot’s point of view:

“A heavy physical build makes it harder for a flight attendant to move around the cabin and provide a smooth service for the passenger,” an Aeroflot official told the court.

Quite, you can’t have stewardesses so wide that they would need to be punted down the aisle with a trolley, that’s just not safe.

But a Russian Trade Unionist, helpfully called Boris, is on the warpath.

Boris Kravchenko called Ms Ierusalimskaya’s case “an unprecedented case of sex discrimination”. He is a member of President Vladimir Putin’s Council for Human Rights, and chairs the Russian Labour Confederation.
“The trade unions in this sector have teeth,” he said, warning of possible strike action “if such discriminatory behaviour persists”. He was speaking to Russia’s RBC news website.

Boris is keeping rather quiet about what happened to women with Beria it seems.

Now does this resistance to PC blandishments augur well for Russia, in that it might have a cultural meta-context where, if other silly and evil notions of statism and/or banditry can be got rid of, it might lay the basis of a free and prosperous commonwealth? And are we in the West closer to that goal?