Thursday, September 25, 2008

Circus fans face silent comedy after British ban on clowns' trumpets

British bureaucrats never stop their search for ways to disrupt the lives of others

The grand finale of Zippo's Circus fell strangely flat before its Birmingham audience. Three Spanish clowns, Nicol, Michael and Pappa, had been due to introduce themselves with a blast of trumpets. However, this had to be cut from the act. Also gone was the moment, midway through the routine, when Nicol sounds three notes on a tuba, which then explodes, the bell landing on another clown's head while Nicol blows a puff of smoke from his rear. And instead of the recorded flamenco track that usually accompanies their performance, there was silence.

These last-minute alterations were insisted upon by an official from the licensing department of Birmingham City Council. Half an hour before the show was due to start, the officer was insisting that the show could not go on if the clowns sounded their trumpets, or blew the exploding horn. It would need to be classified as a live music performance and the Big Top would require a licence.

Martin Burton, proprietor of Zippo's Circus, and a former clown himself, was not amused: "I'm a big fan of silent comedy, but this is ludicrous." Mr Burton had thought such issues had been settled in lengthy exchanges with the council's licensing department before the circus even came to town. "There was some discussion about whether skipping on a tight-rope was dancing," he told The Times yesterday. "Tight-rope walking is not regarded as regulated entertainment requiring a licence; dance is."

They also considered the trained horses, and a Jack Russell called Clopsky ("his master's wife is Russian"), that leaps over a gyrating German acrobat and perches on the acrobat's feet while he performs a handstand. Neither Clopsky nor the acrobats were thought to be performing regulated entertainment: it was neither dance nor professional sport. "Although the acrobats wouldn't like to hear me say this, they are not Olympic quality," Mr Burton said.

Finally, there were the clowns. Mr Burton thought he had persuaded the council that the music in their act was purely incidental. "It's just a quick blast of trumpets at the start," Mr Burton said. "Then three notes from the exploding tuba: pa-pa-pa-bang!" Nevertheless, long after the health and safety officials had left, satisfied that all was in order, an official for the licencing department remained. "Normally we would have stood our ground, but we had only half an hour," Mr Burton said. "I agreed to cut the music. It was ludicrous."

Jacqui Kennedy, director of regulatory services at Birmingham City Council, said: "Under the Licensing Act 2003, elements of the programme proposed by Zippo's would fall into the category of regulated entertainment and such events would require either a licence under the Act or a temporary event notice." The Act, in force since 2005, means that circuses could technically require a licence for every site they visit. "It's $2,000 a time and we are visiting 30 different places," Mr Burton said.

While some circuses have closed, Mr Burton has opted to negotiate with each council in turn. Birmingham has been the first to object. Malcolm Clay, secretary of the Association of Circus Proprietors, told The Times last night that an application would shortly be submitted to Whitehall for a change in the rules. "There is now an acceptance that something needs to be done for circuses," he said.


Female boss a pain for women workers, study says

There's nothing like female bitchiness. Women are experts at destroying other women. It's probably an evolutionary side-effect of competing for the alpha males. Feminists tell you how women support one-another and there is no doubt some of that. But they never mention the competitive side

WITH the glass ceiling, the wages and the childcare difficulties, the challenges women face in the workplace have been well-documented. Now there's a major, and somewhat unexpected, addition to the list - the female boss. University researchers say women who have to answer to a female supervisor feel more stressed than if their superior is male. They suffer from far more depression, insomnia, headaches and heartburn than if their boss is a man. But for male workers, the sex of their manager makes no difference.

The Canadian team, which studied 1800 workers in the US, believe it could be the Queen Bee syndrome, in which successful women do not like to be surrounded by competitors of the same sex. The University of Toronto scientists also suggested that many females did not like to be led by women because they saw leadership as a traditionally male role.

For the research, stress levels and the physical health of workers were compared in three situations: working for one male boss, for one female boss, and those working for one of each.

The study found that women who have a lone female supervisor suffer far more than those who have a male boss. They reported more psychological distress (such as trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing on work, depression and anxiety) and physical symptoms (like headaches, stomach pain or heartburn, neck and back pain, and tiredness).

But women who worked for a lone male supervisor had far fewer symptoms. Those who worked for one of each were somewhere in the middle.


Financial Crisis: Bankers and the City of London provided a roof over people's heads

by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London

Go on. Admit it. You don't feel altogether sorry for those bankers, do you? When you read about the collapsing pillars of the temples of mammon, you don't feel the tears beginning to prick the corner of your eyes. When you read that the masters and mistresses of the Universe are being expelled from their glass palaces, ferrying their possessions in cardboard boxes, you can't quite find it in you, somehow, to mourn. Oh no. On the contrary. You snuffle and truffle your way through the yards of newsprint, searching for fresh news of folding banks and speculating who will be next.

So Lehman Brothers has bitten the dust, and the gloomy reverberations are being heard in Porsche dealerships on both sides of the Atlantic. Merrill Lynch has been sold, and now the tide of destruction is lapping about the feet of Morgan Stanley and - can it be true? - Goldman Sachs!

Amid the anguish, amid the despair, I am afraid I detect in the coverage a tiny but audible batsqueak of glee, and sometimes it is more than a squeak. Every Lefty from Alex Salmond to Gordon Brown is queuing up to kick the "spivs and speculators", who are apparently the authors of their own destruction, as well as the destruction of immeasurable wealth across Britain and the world.

At the very moment last week when banking stocks were a sea of gore, and thousands of jobs were being lost, the Prime Minister thought fit to announce that the "City must clean up its act". In respectable conservative free-market newspapers you will find yammering columnists demanding new laws on usury, so that nothing of this kind can ever happen again.

As the banker-bashers survey the wreckage of Lehman Bros, the main complaint is that the carnage does not go far enough. Why, when ordinary people are suffering from plummeting house prices, are these ex-Lehman partners allowed to waltz off with multi-million pound bonuses?

Why, when they have so terminally stuffed the financial system that most people are finding it tough to get a mortgage, are these incompetent loan sharks still cruising the world in their yachts and Bugatti Veyrons? Yes, there are some pretty strong feelings out there: Schadenfreude at the bankers who have been punished, indignation at those who have not.

Which is why it is time for this column - ever alert to the noble but unpopular cause - to enter a note in defence of the banks, the City, and the general practice of lending money for profit.

Let us be clear: the banks have been greedy, sometimes hideously greedy. And they have collaborated in encouraging the greed and credulity of home-owners, on both sides of the Atlantic, who have taken on more debt than they can manage. The banks have made it worse by taking that bad debt, and chopping it up into funny parcels called derivatives, and selling these products to each other to make even more money; and then they have made things much, much worse by lying. They have been lying to each other about the extent to which they hold this toxic stuff, and so trust has broken down, and the banks have stopped dealing with each other, and no one can get any credit, and the short-selling hedge funds have begun to close in - quite reasonably - to sell the banks' shares and start the bloodbath.

Last week we seemed to be faced with a full-scale run on the banks, and governments in America and Britain had no choice but to act. The Labour Government has flouted competition rules to protect HBOS, and both governments have banned short selling. It is an incredible turn of events, and for a free marketeer it is quite dizzying. There can be no doubt that government has a duty to get involved, not least to protect innocent depositors. Someone needs to make sure there is no more sharp practice, and that someone is government.

How come Lehman was allowed at the last minute to whip an $16 billion cushion away from London, and transfer that cushion to New York? The result was that the defenestrated bankers of New York had a softer landing than Lehman folk in the City. It looks damn suspicious. We need an answer, and fast. But we should also remember that whenever government gets involved in the market - whenever they use taxpayers' money to defend the price of a share or a currency - they create a risk and they create an opportunity.

When Hank Paulson nationalised Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, he was issuing a feeding call to the sharks, as obvious as the boasts of Norman Lamont that he would fight to the death to protect the parity of sterling against the German mark. The hedge funds saw a one-way bet, then and now, and the paradox is that Paulson's initial actions may have made the banks more vulnerable, not less.

What will happen in January, when the rules on short-selling expire? And whatever else government does, we must remember that regulation introduced in response to one crisis almost always helps to create the next one. London's recent success as a financial centre - and our edge over New York - has been at least partly to do with the post-Enron Sarbanes-Oxley rules that fettered American markets.

Before you attack the bankers of London, remember that this is one of the few global industries in which we truly excel; the City contributes about 9 per cent of Britain's GDP - think of all the professions and trades that feast, directly or indirectly, on the nourishment provided: the lawyers, accountants, PR firms, architects, interior designers, builders, taxi drivers and just about everyone else.

And before you go whingeing to me about house prices boosted by City bonuses, I leave you with one final thought: whatever the disasters of the sub-prime sector, these products allowed millions of Americans to own their homes, and the vast majority are making their payments. They will enjoy the long-term benefits of home ownership, and that is thanks to the ingenuity and enterprise of people who lend money for profit.

Of course there are spivs and speculators out there. But before we get carried away with neo-socialist claptrap, we should remember the huge benefits brought to this country by bankers and the City of London


Conservative Australian politician hits out at child creation for homosexual families

DELIBERATELY creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, a Queensland federal Liberal backbencher says. "Children need a mum and a dad," Stuart Robert told Parliament. Mr Robert was speaking on a Bill that changes many Commonwealth laws to remove discrimination against same-sex couples and their children. The Opposition, while not opposing the measure, has moved an amendment calling on a Senate committee to ensure it doesn't devalue marriage or harm the rights of children.

Mr Robert said a study in Norway and Sweden, two of the first countries to introduce similar same-sex legal protections, had found gay male unions were 50 per cent more likely and lesbian unions 167 per cent more likely to separate in the first eight years. An Australian study showed children of heterosexual couples generally developed better.

Mr Robert said the Bill removed the assumption that a child was born from a union between a male and a female. "I believe that deliberately creating a child to be placed in a homosexual relationship is irresponsible, considering all the available evidence," he said.

Labor's Mark Dreyfus said the Bill was a significant human rights and pro-family measure. It amended 68 Commonwealth statutes to remove "unfair and pervasive" discrimination against gay couples and their children. "Our Commonwealth has treated gay and lesbian couples as second class citizens," Mr Dreyfus said.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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