Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another Day, Another Dolt

Last night's Newsnight featured a debate between Malcolm Rifkind and a New Labour toady Mike Gapes on the war in Iraq (available online for 24 hours). It was an odd feeling to find myself entirely in agreement with a Conservative MP. It doesn't happen often (I'm only including the "often" in this sentence because of this one case). Rifkind fairly ripped into Gapes who was left floundering, even resorting to accusing Rifkind of being a Saddam sympathiser. I thought we'd heard the last of that old chestnut but it appears that we have not. It really is a rather stupid "argument" for all sorts of reasons. It's a classic strawman.
My question for Gapes would be this:
North Korea is currently governed by nasty authoritarian dictator Kim Jong Il. Do you:
a) Support an immediate, poorly planned, and poorly executed military invasion of North Korea.
b) Support the government of Kim Jong Il.
Come on Gapes, which is it? A or B? Supporter or incompetant aggressor? It must be one or the other. Come on, answer...
Or, and this is my advice, you could just grow a brain and stop spouting such nonsense.

Gapes also said something odd. He said that after the December elections, Iraq will have a fully sovereign government with a new constitution. He added no caveats and he did not mention the October referendum on the constitution. "This is what will happen" was basically what he said. It seems a rather strange position given that most independent observers have expressed serious doubts as to whether the constitution will survive the vote. Gapes appears to have no such doubts. Strange.

It's an unrelated matter (cough), but does anyone know how many independent observers will be monitoring the fairness of the forthcoming referendum?

Bush meets Godwin

President Bush made another speech on Iraq and the "war" on terror yesterday. The occassion was the 60th anniversary of VJ day. CBS News summarizes the thrust of the speech with Bush: Terror War Akin to WWII. The full text is available from the Whitehouse website. He said:
As we mark this anniversary, we are again a nation at war. Once again, war came to our shores with a surprise attack that killed thousands in cold blood. Once again, we face determined enemies who follow a ruthless ideology that despises everything America stands for. Once again, America and our allies are waging a global campaign with forces deployed on virtually every continent. And once again, we will not rest until victory is America's and our freedom is secure.
Godwins Law, I win. OK, Godwins is actually about Hitler but I think the point is still valid. World War Two was a brutal and violent war between two large groups of heavily militarised nations. The UK faced the serious possibiliy of a full scale military invasion. The US faced the possibility that it would become the only large democratic nation left in the world. Million died. The comparison Bush makes insults the memory of every person who fought and died to defend the free world against the mighty military power of the Japanese and the Nazis. It appears from his statement that Bush has little or no understanding of WWII. Except that he does (or at least his speechwriters do). A little further on in the speech he says:
The men and women who served in World War II belonged to a generation that kept its faith even when liberty's ultimate triumph was far from clear... More than half a dozen nations had large[r] armies than we did. In Asia and Europe, country after country had fallen before the disciplined armies of the militaristic regimes. These events led many to conclude that freedom had seen its day, and that the future belonged to the hard men in Berlin and Tokyo.
So, he does, at least in theory, understand that WWII was nothing like the "war" on terror. How many nations now have armies larger than the US? Answer: none. How many countries have fallen before the disciplined armies of the terrorists? Answer: none.* How many people now conclude that the future belongs to the hard men of Al Qaida? Answer: none.

Actually, that last answer isn't quite true, some people do seem to think this. I've got no idea why** as I've still to hear a single convincing argument to support the view that the extremists could "win" in this way. Also, the extremists themselves probably believe it, but that's neither here nor there really.

Anyway, the point is that Bush makes a claim which is, at best, willfully ignorant of history. At worst, and seemingly supported by his own admission that WWII was far more dangerous than the "war" on terror, it's deliberately manipulative US government propaganda. Either way, it's hardly what you'd call decent behaviour.

* OK, at a push you could argue Afghanistan.
** Not quite true either. Government propaganda can be a powerful force.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Are You Threatening Me?

Three years ago, the US government warned that Iraq was an imminent and serious threat to the security of the Middle East and the wider world. For many people this was not entirely unexpected, the history of US foreign policy is littered with such warnings. In 1961, for example, JFK attempted to construct a "coalition of the willing" to deal with the threat posed by Cuba, prompting the Mexican Ambassador to warn that "if we publicly declare that Cuba is a threat to our security, forty million Mexicans will die laughing" (cited by Noam Chomsky, Hegemony or Survival, Ch 4). To this day, US policy with regard to Cuba is hard for an outsider to understand.

US policy towards Nicaragua during the 1980's is another example, and this one really has it all.
If there is one situation which perfectly illustrates the phrase "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter", Reagan's attitude towards Nicagargua is it. Here's Noam Chomsky on that subject. I was going to lift a quote from that article but I'd recommend reading it all.

The US government supported the various insurgent groups known as the contras, who were seeking to over throw the leftist regime in the country. It was portrayed as a battle agaist the Soviet menace, part of the Cold War. In reality, the Sandinistas, while certainly no angels, were making a decent job of running the country, and weren't particulary interested in forming an alliance with the Soviets.

According to the Reagan administration, the Sandinistas posed a serious threat to the US national interest and had to be stopped at all costs. And so, the US govt. supplied weapons and training to the contras. After all, the contras were freedom fighters struggling to free the people from their evil oppressors. That's not quite the view taken by the State Department in 1982 though:
In 1982, under pressure from Congress, the U.S. State Department declared Contra activities terrorism. The Congressional intelligence committee confirmed reports of Contra atrocities such as rape, torture, summary executions, and indiscriminate killings.
That seems a reasonable assessment. The listed offences would surely qualify under any definition of terrorism which comes close to the mark. But the Reagan administration was unconvinced.
After the U.S. Congress prohibited federal funding of the Contras in 1983, the Reagan administration continued to back the Contras by covertly selling arms to Iran and channelling the proceeds to the Contras (The Iran-Contra affair.)
The Iran-Contra affair: the secret arrangement through which the US government sold weapons to an Islamic fundamentalist government in order to fund the activities of violent terrorists (according to Congress) or courageous freedom fighters (according to the administration). And the administration remained convinced that the contras were freedom fighters even after the elections in 1984 confirmed that the Sandinista government had a mandate from the people.

The result of all this was that the economy of Nicaragua was basically destroyed. It was destroyed by freedom fighters, freedom fighters who raped, tortured, and killed indiscriminately, but, and this is important, who operated with the support of the US government. The contras could not possible be terrorists in the eyes of the Reagan administration, however horrendous their crimes. The contras were on "our side". By definition, they were not terrorists.

BTW, while I was searching the interwebs I found a CIA Manual written for the contras. Click Permalink if you'd like to see what sort of advice the CIA handed out.

This is on the CNN website so I'm assuming it's been verified as authentic. I'll just pick out a few quotations.

CIA Manual: Psychological Operations in Guerilla Warfare

Honest Recruitment

Established citizens -- doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers, etc., -- will be recruited initially as "Social Crusaders" in typically "innocuous" movements in the area of operations. When their "involvement" with the clandestine organization is revealed to them, this supplies the psychological pressure to use them as "inside cadres" in groups to which they already belong or of which they can be members.
Lie then blackmail, very democratic.

Demonstrating Popular Support
Through a small group of guerrillas infiltrated within the masses this can be carried out; they will have the mission of agitating by giving the impression that there are many of them and that they have a large popular backing. Using the tactics of a force of 200-300 agitators, a demonstration can be created in which 10,000-20,000 persons take part.
"Agitate", (whatever that means) then lie. Nice.

What to do if you "accidentally" shoot someone
If, for example, it should be necessary for one of the advanced posts to have to fire on a citizen who was trying to leave the town or city in which the guerrillas are carrying out armed propaganda or political proselytism, the following is recommended:
Explain that if that citizen had managed to escape, he would have alerted the enemy that is near the town or city, and they would carry out acts of reprisal such as rapes, pillage, destruction, captures, etc., in this way terrorizing the inhabitants of the place for having given attention and hospitalities to the guerrillas of the town....
Attribute your crimes to your enemy. Clever. The CIA have quite a few more pieces of advise about what the contras should do if they "accidentally" shoot someone. It's almost as if they expected it to happen often.

Shoot Important People

It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets, such as court judges, mesta judges, police and State Security officials, CDS chiefs, etc.
Shoot non-combatants. Very sporting. To be fair, the CIA does warn that the contras should really only do this if they can be sure of installing a suitable puppet or insurgent sympathiser to replace the "neutralised" official. So that's alright then.

If you read the linked document, why not replace the word "guerilla" with the word "terrorist" as you read, just as a wee thought experiment. Hands up anyone who'd be surprised if this document isn't very, very similar to some of those infamous Al-Qaida training manuals we keep hearing about?
[Fade to flashback...]
Here you are Mr Fundamentalist, here's a handy manual to help you fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. Remember, you'll have to give it back once you've finished with it.... OK, thanks, well done, now give us the book back. What? What do you mean, you're not gonna? That's not fair...

It's Alright Jack

Jack Straw has responded to the leaked document which appeared in Sunday's Observer. The leaked document was a letter from a top civil servant in the Foreign Office warning that UK foreign policy, particularly with regard to Iraq, was fuelling Islamic extremism in the UK. Jack's not having it though.
"We were in any event a target, and so was the rest of the world, from this extremist terrorism before Iraq," he said.
It's a curious coincidence that Straw has such an affinity with the strawman. His "defence" of the government position is entirely meaningless.

Here's a wee example of what I mean.
Once upon a time. there was a man called Jack who lived in the UK. As such, and in common with every other citizen in the country, he had to face the possibilty that he would be run over by a motor vehicle. There was only a small risk that this would happen, but there was a risk.
Jack decided it would be a good idea to persuade people to lie down in the middle of busy roads. When it was pointed out to him that this is a highly dangerous practise, and that more people were likely to be killed beause of his actions, he responded:
They were in any event a target, and so was the rest of the world, from this motor vehicle accident threat before I started persuading people to lie down in the middle of busy roads.
How true.

And here's me trying to cut down on blog swearing. Do me a favour Jack, go play with the traffic.

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Perfect Tabloid Story

Here we are.

"For f***s sake, what the f*****g f**k is f*****g going on here, you f***ers? This f****ng country is going to the f****ng dogs. for f***s sake!" as one one redtop editor was heard to exclaim.*

It's not nearly as bad as it sounds. It is just an acceptance of something which will continue to happen whether the Daily Mail likes it or not. It's also a novel and original attempt to actually do something constructive about it. And it's certainly a far better idea that continually bemoaning the appalling state of the nation as compared to an entirely mythical "good old days" version of the same.

*Allegedly. OK, I made it up.

Join Us

Pressure had been mounting as European leaders struggle to come to terms with the EU clothes mountain. Experts warn that a severe shortage of clothing in EU countries is threatening to cause widespread unrest across the whole of the EU. I am, therefore, delighted to be able to announce the launch of a bold new strategy.

Wise words there from the pants squirrel messenger, I'm sure you'll agree. Who will join us? Less guns, more pants! Less guns, more pants...

Right, that should offend just about everyone I agree with. Satire can be a cruel mistress.

The Sweet Smell of Success

There was an extraordinary article in yesterday's Sunday Times. Given the Murdoch empire's cosy relationship with Blair, I'm inclined to think that the report is an official unofficially sanctioned leak of an official position, if you see what I mean. I was going to say it was accurate but something stopped me. It begins:
Tony Blair returns from holiday tomorrow in a position he could only have dreamt of in the aftermath of the general election. While Gordon Brown’s position has deteriorated with a series of Treasury U-turns and mistakes since polling day, Blair has rebounded.
After his majority was slashed by 100 seats, few insiders expected anything other than a disappointing start to the third term. Against the odds, however, he has enjoyed the most successful three months of his entire premiership.
Pardon me but WTF? "Against the odds, however, he has enjoyed the most successful three months of his entire premiership."?
It wasn't downright lies day yesterday, was it? I didn't get a memo or anything. No, it must be something else. I know, it's probaly a mix up over definitions. How do the writers, Anthony Seldon and Robert Winnett, define success exactly? Perhaps like this:

Success! Persuade some famous people to say that you've ended world poverty. No-one will notice that sweet F.A. has actually changed.
Success! The first suicide bombers become active in the UK, thus proving that the "war" on terror is necessary. Attempt to persuade people that the invasion of Iraq had no connection with the attacks, even though your advisers have been warning you of the dangers for months.
Success! More attempted terror attacks on your watch. Nothing to do with the unlawful invasion of a sovereign country though, so that's OK.
Success! Obscure the fact that the Metropolitan Police officers shot an innocent man in the head at point blank range, for as long as possible. When the truth finally leaks out, launch an investigation to determine who had the sheer stupidity to think that the public had a right to know the truth.
Success! Manage to avoid commenting on the final death throes of the coalition's exit strategy in Iraq. Instead, enjoy a relaxing holiday with the Peter Pan of Pop.

They do say success breeds success. Can you smell it? Can you?

BTW, the rest of the article is worth reading. It looks like the Safety Elephant's day's are numbered at the Home Office. Seems Blair needs someone tougher. I know who could do it, and I believe he recently lost his previous job so he's available. Nah, you're right, too liberal.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lazy Summer Sundays

I'm watching the cricket. The edge of my seat is becoming frayed.

For those not interested in cricket, there's another traditional Sunday activity to enjoy. It's
the Britblog roundup. I'll be checking it out after the cricket.

Another unbelievable game. You couldn't write the scripts, and other such cliches. Congratulations to England, on a job well done. Yopu've got to credit the Australians as well, they really don't want to lose this series. The last Test should be another belter of a game.

Also, having now checked, I can confirm that there's lots of good stuff in this week's roundup. No surprise there really. Make with the clickey.

In a Nutshell

I've been blogging a fair bit about the Iraqi constitution and the difficulties of finding a satisfactory agreement. The situation as it currently stands is an object lesson in all that is wrong with US and UK policy. The current policy of "staying the course" is only a useful if there is a clearly defined and achievable destination, and practical directions as to how to reach it. It gives me no satisfaction to say that US/UK policy has neither, as I've been predicting for three years or more. The constitution fiasco brings this into stark relief.

Here's another reminder of what President Bush said on Monday, August 11th.
As to the constitution, one of the meetings we had this morning was with Zal, our ambassador in Baghdad. And he gave us a briefing as to the progress on the constitution. We have made it clear that we believe that constitution can be and should be agreed upon by August 15th. And so I'm operating on the assumption that it will be agreed upon by August the 15th.
This assumption was wrong. It has taken 13 extra days to reach any sort of agreement and many Sunni's still do not support the constitution as presented to parliament. To be honest, the 13 extra days probably don't matter that much. What does matter is that the statement demonstrates a lack of understanding on the part of the Bush administration. Bush might well believe, and he'll almost certainly argue, that an agreement has now been reached, but that's a huge simplification of the situation.

Here's what I said on Sunday, August 14th (for pedants, it was actually early Monday morning).
I'm not sure that an agreement will be reached before the deadline, or rather, I'm not sure a useful agreement can be reached by then. It won't surprise me if we are presented with a successful conclusion to the negotiations on Monday. On closer examination this is likely to be an agreement stating that "we agree to continue to negotiate" or something similar.
OK, I wasn't entirely on the money, but the thrust was basically aimed in the right direction. In fact, it has been, if anything, even more difficult than I expected. It has taken two extra weeks to get round to presenting the fudge as a success.

So, who has a better understanding of the situation in Iraq? Is it:
A) The President of the United States of America, the most powerful nation on earth. A man who has access to all sorts of detailed and exclusive information, including the ability to hold meetings with the US ambassador to Iraq, and also has access to any number of highly paid advisers?
B) Just another blogger who gets his information from the media, and who takes an interest in such things in his spare time?

The point of this is not to hightlight how clever I am (I'd really rather have been wrong) but to show how Bush and his advisers continue to misunderstand the situation, even when the facts are there for all to see.

The current situation clearly demonstrates the fundamental flaw in the thinking behind the invasion of Iraq. The thing is that these problems were just as easily predicted before the invasion began. The Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds have a long and difficult history in the country they share. After the removal of Saddam, it was always going to be enormously difficult to find a consensus on how Iraq would be governed. The current difficulties, including the role of Islam, the degree of federalisation, access to oil revenues, and possible Kurdish autonomy, were entirely expected by those who understood the country.

The "coalition of the willing", on the other had, believed that they could make Iraq a bastion of democracy and tolerance in the Middle east. It was to be an example to the region, the teacher's pet of US policy. This was, at best, hopelessly optimistic. To my mind, it was grossly negligent.

And now, we've arrived at a point where it's difficult to see how the situation can be made better. The US policy is in tatters. Having spent a great deal of time encouraging the Shias and Kurds to include the Sunnis in the process, another u-turn will now urge them to ignore those who oppose the constitution. As I said in a previous post, the US will undoubtedly argue that to vote no to the constitution is to support terrorism. This is, again, an appalling simplification, but, as we've already seen time and again, that's not likely to unduly concern this Whitehouse.
They won't, for example, point out that voting against Article 2 is an entirely understandable position.
Article (2): 1st - Islam is the official religion of the state and is a basic source of legislation:
(a) No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.
In fact, those tinfoil hatters who fear the return of the caliphate should really be asking a few questions of the Bush administration. They are, after all, supporting the introduction of Islamic law in a country with a tradition of secularism. That won't happen though, the TFH's will be silent. Laura Bush won't be a vocal advocate for equal rights for women in Iraq (not anymore anyway). US troops will continue to die defending this Islamic constitution, a sad irony which should be understood by those who support the war.

It is, sadly, a mess. And the UK? Well, it seems that the UK government has been rewarded for it's loyalty to Bush by being ignored. Blair is quite happy with this state of affairs though, he prefers to talk about Iraq as little as possible. The fact remains that Blair supported a deeply flawed plan, and he has not had to take responsibility for that error.

Here's a final thought. If our government had opposed the invasion, it would almost certainly have happened anyway. About now, we'd have been in a position to offer to lead a multi-national force to replace the US occupation forces. The political difficulties would remain but the aggressors would be gone. This would probably have eased some of the tensions in Iraq. We could have been part of the solution. Instead, Blair's leadership has made us part of the problem.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wecome to the UK

The world's leading banana constitutional monarchy

Here are just some of the delights of our wonderful country.

Our Home Office is leading the way in the campaign to help foreign citizens return to their homelands. For some inexplicable reason, some of them seem rather reluctant (a member of the judiciary seems to understand, but they're all out of touch old duffers, aren't they?) . It's just as well then, that the Home Office is going to press ahead anyway and forcibly remove them. I'm sure they'll enjoy it when they get there.

Our Home Secretary has also taken a firm stance in the "war" on terror. New proposals have given the government the ability to deport anyone they think looks a bit funny. Due to the lack of sensitivity of evidence in such cases, it's just as well that the government is unwilling to produce such evidence in a court of law.

Our police forces are the envy of the world, having extensive powers of judicial execution. In order to fully investigate events surrounding this case, an independent inquiry has been announced. This inquiry will seek determine who was to blame for the leaking of documents which brought the truth to the attention of the public. This is a serious matter as such actions are in clear breach of government policy.

And everyone's favourite philanderer, Pensions Minister David Blunkett, has been busy ensuring the right to free speach is upheld. Remember him? He had previously resigned in disgrace. At the time, the Deputy Prime Minister said:
"There was an intervention, it was fast-tracked and he resigned. He has been found guilty of the offence, it has been found that he had intervened."
Fortunately for David, the government seems completely unconcerned by issues such as integrity, honesty, or innocence, and he was back in government in two shakes of a lambs tail.

The United Kingdom: the country where all your tinpot authoritarian dreams really can come true.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Exposing the Myth

I've been talking about evolution quite a bit recently. While I was researching (ie, skating the interweb) I found myself reading about the Ica Stones on a creationist website. These stones apparently show that man coexisted with dinosaurs and therefore prove that much of what we are told about the history of the earth is a lie. I try to approach every theory with an open mind so I investigated a little further. And what I found shocked me to the core: conclusive proof that men and dinosaurs coexisted. Withot further ado, let me present this amazing new evidence, exclusive to readers of BSSC.
The Proof
Everything we've been told by scientists is a lie. Not only did dinosaurs coexist with man, THEY STILL DO! I'm still shocked to the core. I'm in the process of attempting to re-evaluate my entire belief system. Evolution is wrong, who would have thought it?

And it's not only that, shocking though it is, because the photo exposes another fiction. We've been told that Blair is on holiday in Barbados. It is now clear that this is an attempt to cover up the fact that he has been eaten by a dinosaur. The Blair "holiday" is clearly designed to allow time for evil scientists to construct a Blair Simulant in order to keep us from the truth. "Blair's" recent "public engagement" on the island was obviously an ideal low exposure testing ground for the new simulant.

It sickens me to know that they think they can get away with this. We demand the government comes clean and admits these undeniable truths. We have a right to know!

New Thoughtcrimes Announced

The government is planning to legislate to introduce yet more limits on free speech. It seems that the rules governing advertising in the UK need to be toughened so the interests of official Olympic sponsors (mostly large transnational companies) can be properly protected. The Guardian explains.
According to the London Olympics bill now before parliament, [unofficial] advertisers will not be able to use the words "summer", "London", "gold", "silver" or "bronze" in conjunction with "games" or "2012".
How convenient. Three major failings of this government all rolled into one easy to digest story. It's almost like one of those silly analogies I make up from time to time.

Let's see.
Bending over backwards to please corperate interests? Tick.
Complete disregard for the right to free speech. Tick.
Unworkable, back of a cigarette packet, proposal? Tick.

Three cheers for democracy. Hip hip...

Anyway, I'm not normally one for advocating illegal activities but I may have to make an exception here. If I am still blogging in 2012, and I hope I still am, I fully intend to advertise my blog like this:
If you're sick to the teeth of the 2012 London Olympic Games, an event in no way associated with this blog, why not take a break with BSSC? There won't be any Gold, Silver, or Bronze medals*, but there might be a marginally interesting post or two. Click BSSC this summer, the perfect antidote to the 2012 Olympic media frenzy.

During the 2012 Olympics, please feel free to promote and link to my blog in this way if you wish to support my neferious illegal activities.

Thanks to Bertie for pointing out this article.

*They seem to have forgotten to include "medals in" their list, but that's by the way really.

I say

I'm in the middle of writing another post, but I've got the cricket on in the background. I'm not going to make any predictions as I didn't do too well last time out (at the beginning of the day five, I predicted England would win, thus demonstrating why I don't bet).

But Australia at 22-3 can't pass without comment, especially in response to England's 477. That last decison looked a bit suspect, but still. Sing along:

You're following on,
You're following on,
You're following,
Australia's following on.

(To be sung to the tune "football's coming home".)

That's not a prediction mind, that's just what I hope happens.

Evidence, what evidence?

I'm not really one for respecting the view that religious beliefs should not be challenged. It seems to me that people with strong religious beliefs should relish the chance to debate their faith. If their beliefs have value, they should be able to withstand inspection and discussion. Instead, we are encouraged not to question people's religious beliefs, it's simply not on old chap. I'm afraid I decline to be encouraged to desist. It isn't my intention to cause offence, but if you are offended by such things I recommend you just skip the rest of this post. If you've chosen to read on, you might like to consider my position that of the Devil's Advocate. Oh dear.

Anyway, I've decided not to poke any more fun at the Intelligent Design theory*. Instead, let's have a look at a much bigger target: cretinists (not sure you've spelled that correctly, Ed.).
Creationists already have the Truth; the earth was created roughly 6,000 years ago#. Evolutionists wish to construct their own truth; the earth formed slowly over billions of years. Both of these are subject to the same scientific method. When we observe the outpourings of data rendered from the science, we can see that the evidence greatly supports the idea of a young-earth (6,000 years old).

# These figures are found by adding up the genealogies found in scripture, and by Jesus' teachings of man's history.
That's incredible. Yes, it's true, our scientists are lying to us. It seems that all the evidence which demonstrates that the earth is billions of years old is a part of a conspiracy created by godless liberal scientists, possibly in league with ol' forkie tail himself, in order to deny us the love of our Lord.

This isn't a spoof website. These people genuinely do believe that the earth is about 6,000 years old. Sadly, they might well be beyond redemption, (if I may borrow a phrase).

The site does have one interesting little spoofy trick up it's sleeve though. There's a random testimony in the left column of the main page. At first glance it seems quite amusing. Look, they've got someone telling them how ridiculous they are, what a giggle. It looks reasonable enough until you click continue and try to read the comment in full. Not easy, is it? I don't know if it's a genuine comment, I'm sure some might think it's actually been written by the site owners, but it has clearly been selected/written with the intention of portraying the site's critics in the worst possible light. It's a clever trick. I bet a fair few bloggers have been suckered into supporting the short version of the comment, only to have the long version produced by the sites authors as proof of the bloggers astonishing lack of judgement. As I said, clever. Not really very Christian though, is it?

There's a serious side to this, of course. Many children are being brought up to believe this stuff, and I don't think that's at all a good thing. In the UK, the Vardy Foundation seems particulary keen on brainwashing the next generation with this nonsense. I wonder if they also teach Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?

*For the duration of this post only.

There's a quotation from Sophia Loren in today's P&J in which she explains the cause of her continued health and vitality.
A love of life, spaghetti, and the odd bath in virgin olive oil. Everything I have I owe to spaghetti.
Conclusive proof, I'm sure you'll agree, of the wonderous power of the FSM.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Only Terrorists Vote No

Talks are continuing on the new constitution for Iraq. It looks as if the Shia and Kurdish leaders are going to press ahead with a constitution which many Sunnis, and some Shias, find unacceptable. It's difficult to see how such a constitution would survive a referendum, or how it would calm the insurgent/terrorist violence. Unsurprisingly though, I did see (I think on Newsnight) that advertisements promoting a yes vote have already been produced. Hard to see how that's possible without knowing what the constitution is actually going to say. One assumes they adopted the position "Vote yes to, like, whatever!". I wonder who produced the advertisements?

Anyway, the BBC have supplied a PDF of the draft constitition. I've only skimmed through it so far, but already I've noticed one or two instances of US influence. Here's one:
Article (8): Iraq shall abide by the principles of good neighbourliness and by not intervening in the internal affairs of the other countries, and it shall seek to peacefully resolve conflicts and shall establish its relations on the basis of shared interests and similar treatment and shall respect its international obligations.
This is indeed a very sensible principle. Does anyone know if the US administration will be looking to attach a similar ammendment to their own constitution?

Another deadline has come and gone. Still no sign of an agreement.

Here's a reminder of what Bush said on August 11th.
As to the constitution, one of the meetings we had this morning was with Zal, our ambassador in Baghdad. And he gave us a briefing as to the progress on the constitution. We have made it clear that we believe that constitution can be and should be agreed upon by August 15th. And so I'm operating on the assumption that it will be agreed upon by August the 15th.
I know. It's just so hard to imagine this President basing his foreign policy decisions on an erroneous assumption. No denying it though, this is straight from the horses as mouth.

The Expert

A google alert directs my attention to another appearance from everyone's favourite rent-a-quote terrorism expert. A paper by the Centre for Defence Studies (at K.C.L.) claims that terrorists might target other cities in the UK, particularly those with large Mulsim populations.
The paper said there was a "very real fear that an attack may occur in an area with a large Muslim population, such as Bradford or Leeds, if only to drive a wedge within that community".
I can't really comment on the report because I haven't read it. That's OK though, because the Scotsman have asked a terrorism expert to provide a comment on the paper from a Scottish perspective. Step forward, David Capitanchik.
David Capitanchik, a terrorism expert based at Aberdeen University, said UK cities far from London could be at greatest risk of attack.
"I think would-be terrorists may well think that more provincial cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow will be less well protected than London and therefore would be an easier target," he said.
Well I never, did anyone expect him to say that? It's not hugely informative really. In fact, isn't it just another variation on the comment he makes every time he's asked about terrorism? Let's consult the records. No offence David, but I do believe it is. I also noticed that the Scotsman have said David is "based at Aberdeen University", which is, I have to say, a slightly more accurate representation of David's current employment status than is normally the case. I have to suggest it might still be considered a tiny bit misleading though. Here's his biography (courtesy of David's most recent employer, the Robert Gordon University).

An Attempt at a Straw Poll
Am I just being a pedant in expecting the media to accurately report the employment status of their "experts"? Do I have unrealistic expectations of the media here? It's not a rhetorical question, I know do have pedantistic tendancies (which I'm trying to break by using horribly mangled words like pedantistic). I'd really be interested to know what people think.

It occured to me that I hadn't ever got round to explaining the one event which really motivates posts like these. As is hopefully obvious, it's not just about having a cheap laugh at the media and their "experts". About a year ago, there was a letter in the Press and Journal complaining about our local police force. It was written by a lady who worked in a shop in a small commuter town about 15 miles north of Aberdeen. She had found an unattended bag in the shop and, fearing it was a bomb, had called the police several times asking them to respond. The local police, not surprisingly, had been unconcerned with her plight, asking if she'd had a look to see what was in the bag, telling her it was very unlikely to be a bomb, and so forth. The tone of her letter was indignant, outraged even. It could have been a bomb! It took three hours for a policeman to arrive. We could all have been blown to smithereens...

To be honest, the first time I read it I laughed. The idea that terrorists would attack such a place is so far fetched, and the tone of the letter was so angry, I found it impossible not to. But then I read it again. The thing is, this lady was quite sincere in her belief that terrorists might try to blow up her shop. She was genuinely very angry that the police had left her to deal with a potentially deadly situation. And this made me angry too. This lady has been deliberately frightened, partly by the governments' "Don't Forget to be Scared!!!" propaganda, and partly by the activities of much of the media, who can't get enough of the same. I'm afraid David is one of the people who have contributed to the completely unnecessary sense of fear and danger this lady experienced. His activities, in their own tiny way, create, yes, a kind of terror. So my second question for the straw poll is this: Do you think David sleeps soundly after sharing his "expertise" with the world?

That's a bit of a heavy ending. Sorry about that. This sort of thing really does hack me off.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Big Charles has been talking tough today. He's announced the list of unacceptable behaviours we've been expecting. These include:
  • Fomenting, justifying or glorifying terrorist violence
  • Seeking to provoke terrorist acts
  • Fomenting other serious criminal activity
  • Fostering hatred that might lead to inter-community violence
The first question which springs to mind is to ask just how terrorism is defined in these proposals? As regular readers will know, it's a surprisingly difficult task. As I understand it, the government just hasn't bothered.

This means that the plans will be dogged by grey areas of interpretation and politics. I wonder if the new rules only apply to Muslims? Any chance, for example, that this lunatic christian bigot will be denied the right to come to the UK? What about Sinn Fein? What about Ian Paisley? What about those who support the opposition to Mugabe in Zimbabwe (the opposition is relatively peaceful at the moment but this may not last). If a guerilla war breaks out in Zimbabwe, will we send them back too?

Can I have control orders imposed on the supporters of the invasion of Iraq? I, and many others, believe they are guilty of "fomenting other serious criminal activity". It's even possible to argue that, by calling for the invasion, they were "seeking to provoke terrorist acts". The provoking of terrorist acts has certainly been an indisputable result of the invasion.

I'm afraid these new plans are a sham, yet another poorly considered kneejerk reaction from this government. I don't have the energy at the moment for a detailed analysis of all the problems contained in the plans. I'm afraid I find it all rather dispiriting.

Talk Politics has a bit more, and expresses a similar despondancy.

Rights and Wrongs

Yesterday, a comment* got me thinking about the relationship between the United Nations and the United States. I try hard not to confuse the Bush administration with America or Americans generally, nearly half of all US voters wanted the other guy remember, but my understanding of the situation is that the comment is basically correct. The UN is not held in high regard by a large section of the US population.

But why? Well one of the reasons is undoubtedly the UN position on the invasion of Iraq. That the UN was unable to agree to support the invasion was damaging to the credibility of the UN in the eyes of sections of the US public. It's fair to say that this is well accepted by most people.

When I think about this though, I struggle to understand why this should be the case. Consider Colin Powell's presentation to the UN in Febuary 2003. There were two main points to the presentation: Saddam had WMD, and Saddam had links to terrorist organisation. It's worth reading it all as a reminder of what he said, but here's a snippet.
Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent. That is enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. Even the low end of 100 tons of agent would enable Saddam Hussein to cause mass casualties across more than 100 square miles of territory, an area nearly 5 times the size of Manhattan. Let me remind you that, of the 122 millimeter chemical warheads, that the U.N. inspectors found recently, this discovery could very well be, as has been noted, the tip of the submerged iceberg. The question before us, all my friends, is when will we see the rest of the submerged iceberg?
Saddam Hussein has chemical weapons.
Yes. We now know that Powell's "conservative estimate" was actually an overestimate to the tune of "between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent". And his second point, that Saddam had connections to terrorist organisations, is equally valueless. In 2005, two years after the invasion, the US administration has yet to produce a single piece of convincing evidence to substantiate this claim.

And the UN position? Well, the UN is really just the sum of the countries who are it's members. and many of those members were unconvinced by Powell's presentation. Many thought that the "evidence" presented by Powell was circumstantial at best, and they certainly did not think it was conclusive enough to authorize an invasion. "Give the inspectors more time" they said. They did not agree with the US assessment that Saddam was an imminent threat to the region and to the wider world. They also warned that a US led invasion of Iraq would most likely cause the country to adopt the shape of the pear.

Let's not beat about the bush here, the UN, through its member states, was right. It's not even a contentious issue. The two arguments put forward by Powell in support of his position were flawed. Saddam had no WMD, and he was not in league with terrorist organisations.** He was not an imminent threat to the region, never mind the wider world. Under US occupation, Iraq is, sadly, looking just as pear shape as was predicted. And there's no easy way out by shifting positions on this, as the Bush administration has done. The argument now used to justify the invasion, that it will bringing peace and democracy to Iraq, was not central to the case presented to the UN ( and it's looking a rather weak justification at the moment in any case).

It is strange then that the UN position lacks credibility in the US. With hindsight, the US administration's position was fatally flawed, while the favoured position at the UN, to give the inspectors more time, was emminently sensible. There were no WMD. There was no need for the invasion which has cost countless lives, and is likely to cause countless more***. Somehow this situation has been interpreted by many in the US as a failing of the United Nations. It is, to me, a curious state of affairs.

* Not that this is in any way an attack on that comment. It just got my thought processes flowing.
** I've yet to see a single convincing piece of evidence to show otherwise. I'm afraid I will expect suitable evidence to be produced if you want to disagree here.
*** The US military certainly doesn't count them.

A Curious Development

It's an odd world in which I find myself in agreement with a Daily Mail editorial (particularly with regard to Sir Ian). Via John B, who is equally surprised. How on earth did this happen? Strange days indeed.

In other news, scientists announced today that bears actually prefer to use fully plumbed indoor toilet facilities when answering a call of nature.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


Oscar Wildebeest has two fine links on the subject of "Intelligent" Design. Never, in the history of humanity, has a "theory" been so misappropriately monikered*. Anyway, I recommend you stop reading this assault on the English language and make your way to Oscar's in a calm and orderly fashion.

*According to my spell checker, monikered isn't a word. And neither is misappropriately. But am I bothered though? Ask me if I'm...

And now for some common sense, courtesy of Talk Politics.
if we're so worried than young people are turning their backs on their key democratic rights, such as the right to vote, then surely the answer must be to teach them those rights and their value while they're at school. I would have thought completely obvious.

Indeed. And there are lot's more sensible suggestions for improving children's education too.

Mission Accomplished

The extended deadline for agreement on a new Iraqi constitution has come and gone. This is, sadly, no great surprise. The parties have agreed to extend the deadline for a further three days but it's hard to see how this extra three days is going to produce the agreement which has, so far, been so elusive. I suspect the three days are mostly to discuss what they're going to do about the fact that no agreement seems possible.

The Independent highlights some of the problems which still have to be overcome. I have to again ask why no-one in the US or UK government's seems to have grasped that these problems would occur before we invaded Iraq. It's not rocket science. As I've said before, Bush Senior understood only too well what a mess invading Iraq could turn out to be.

Not so for Dubya though. Remember Mission Accomplished? When that happened, I took it as the final proof of something I'd been pretty sure about for quite some time: Bush Junior genuinely didn't have the slightest understanding of the extremely difficult and complex situation which would unfold in an Iraq under US and UK occupation. Powell's warnings concerning the "Pottery Barn Rule" were completely lost on the man.

Two years on, and with no sign of anything approaching stability developing in Iraq, can anyone seriously argue that I was wrong?

BTW, the Whitehouse assertion that the banner was the work of the navy is disgustingly disingenuous. He's the freakin President, for flump's sake. He's the Commander in Chief of US armed forces. What he says, unfortunately, goes. You think his aides would allow him to be photographed with that banner, as part of a stage managed public appearance no less, if they hadn't approved the message? Come on, really? No, I'm afraid that argument, like so much the Bush administration has said, stinks of the rectal produce of a bovine male animal.

I heard Bush say this on today's news:
This talk about Sunnis rising up, I mean the Sunnis have got to make a choice. Do they want to live in a society that's free, or do they want to live in violence?
In other words, why don't these horrible foreign fellows just do exactly what we want? He still seems to have no understanding of the difficulty of finding an agreement. Do his advisers just not tell him what's happening?

No, I'm afraid it looks as though the Sunni's are being lined up to play first sacrificial scapegoat in this deadly farce. The three main regional groups, with their uncomfortable accompanying histories, were always going to find it very difficult to reach agreement. I'd say it would be hard enough in a secure and stable environment, and that's a luxury Iraq does not offer at present.

The fact that Bush still doesn't appear to understand any of this is irrelevant, it's clear that it is the fault of the Sunni's. There have been absolutely no misjudgement's from good ol' George, no siree. He's not to blame for any of this. This is definitely, positively, definitively, 100% not George's fault in any way whatsoever.
Hey, there's that awful smell again...

Stop that, it's silly

A recent referral highlighted the fact that this humble blog has become the number one result for this search request.

My life would become meaningless if Hamster Flash was to be killed. Should these threats continue, I shall be forced to launch a "Save Hamster Flash" campaign.

There's no message under this post. It really is just plain old inconsequential nonsense.

Monday, August 22, 2005

The Bob's

The Israeli withdrawal from Gaza is almost complete (although it'll still be a month or so before the Palistinians are allowed access to the abandoned settlements). The Israel/Palistine situation is exceedingly complex with deep rooted problem going back many years. In fact, I'm considering trying to write a post on the potted history how we arrived at the point we're at. This is partly because I don't know quite as much about it as I'd like, and partly becasue I know quite a few people who really know almost nothing about the history of these problems. (Suggestions as to whether this might be useful are welcome.) Anyway, these issues are not easily summarized.

Instead, let's take a look at a fictional world in which I know two people called Bob. The Bob's used to live in a rather attractive tower block. It's a nice place, often descibed as prime real estate by those who take in interest in such things. The Bob's were happy there, although they did occassionally have a spot of bother with a group of people living nearby. There were often skirmishes of one sort or another. This trouble escalated dramatically when this other group began to assert that the tower block had been promised to them by God. It escalated futher when armed men, acting on behalf of this group, forced the Bob's to flee from their homes in fear of their lives. This group then occupied the tower block, asserting that it was their birthright.

Now both Bob's were, quite understandably, distraught to have been forcibly evicted from their homes in this way. They were certainly not just going to roll over and accept this state of affairs. They did react quite differently though.

Bob Bomb was so angry that he decided to organise an armed resistance movement to take back the tower block by force. Bob Bomb's group did not have access to same kind of the military capabilities of the occupiers, who were all the while busy fortifying their defences. Bob's bombers adopted increasingly violent and abhorent tactics in a bid to overcome this superiority, but it was futile. No matter how many people they killed, the occupiers of the tower block would always be the stronger force. Bob's group became increasingly frustrated, increasingly desperate, and increasingly indefensible. People started to say it was a terrorist organisation, and they were right.

Bob Law, on the other hand, sought a legal remedy for the injustice he had suffered. He went to court and eventually won an injunction stating that the occupation was illegal and that the occupiers should leave immediately. When he took this injunction to the police though, he met with an unexpected problem.
"I have this injunction. Can you help enforce it please?"
"Sorry sir, no can do, I'm afraid."
"What? Why on earth not"
"Well, if we did that, Bob's terrorists would win. We can't be having that now, can we sir?"
"But I've got no connection to Bob's bombers. I just want my flat back. The courts agree. Here, look at the documents."
"No thank you sir, I'm afraid they are irrelevant. We're fighting dangerous terrorists here sir."
"But, that has nothing to do with me. I just want this illegal occupation to end, the law to be upheld..."
"Sir, you seem to be very interested in promoting the goals of Bob's Bombers. What connection do you have with that group?"
"What? None at all. How dare you."
"None at all sir? According to our records, it seems that you previously lived in the same tower block as Mr Bomb, and you're both called Bob. That's just a coincidence is it, sir?"
"What? Of course I lived in the same block, what's that got to..."
"Sir, I am arresting you on suspicion of belonging to a terrorist organisation. You do not have to say anything... Take him away, PC Bob."
"This is an outrage. I demand that my legitimate demands are met in accordance with the law..."
"Heard it all before sunshine. Do you want to shut up? These stairs are notoriously treacherous you know. Wouldn't want you to lose your concentration and have a fall now, would we sir?"

This wasn't what Bob had been expecting at all.

Eventually, the occupiers did leave the tower block voluntarily, making much of their "gesture of peace" in the process. In response to this, Bob Law was pleased, although it did little to ease the sense of injustice he feels over the whole incident. Bob Bomb, now full of hate, simply said "I will not rest until every one of them is dead."

Just Keep Digging

Sir Ian Blair

Jamie spots Sir Ian accidentally revealing a great deal about his priorities. If this report is correct, Sir Ian is even less of a person than I had previously believed, and that's something I wouldn't have though possible this morning

Apparently, as George points out in a comment on Jamie's post, the week when 52 innocent people were killed in London in a series of coordinated suicide attacks was not the worst week of Sir Ian's professional life. No, Sir Ian is far more distressed by the fact that last week's leaks to ITV News have releaved him to be an incompetent, manipulative, vacuous excuse of a human being. In an ugly, twisted, unpleasant, and hugely cynical way, I can sort of see his point.

Tick Tock

The extended deadline for agreement on a new constitution for Iraq is fast approaching.
Officials are being forced to discuss a further delay, or even the dramatic option of dissolving parliament. Shia, Sunni and Kurdish teams have been unable to agree on key issues including federalism, oil and the role of Islam.
I'm afraid my thoughts from last week seem equally appropriate today. These are major problems. I hate to be a doomsayer but I cannot see how a satisfactory agreement can be reached. It could take months, years even, for a constitution to be agreed. Even if an agreement is reached, it's hard to see how it's going to stop the insurgents and terrorists. And worst of all, it might not happen at all. Just what is our exit strategy if no agreement is forthcoming? Let's be clear. If we leave Iraq in a worse state than when we invaded, the one remaining, already highly questionable justification for the invasion (to liberate the citizens of Iraq from a brutal dictator) will be completely worthless, just like an Iraqi WMD programme.

That our government had the sheer incompetance to get our country involved in this entirely predictable mess would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. Blair should be forced to listen to this noise 24 hours a day for a period no shorter than eternity. Not that there's anything "fine" about this mess though.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Musical Interlude

I've recently uploaded quite a few CDs to my hard drive and I've taken to listening to them through the wonder that is Itunes party shuffle. I now use Itune for all my PC music needs, and I'm liking it a lot. Apart from anything else, it doesn't crash every time I eject a CD, unlike my perfectly legitimate copy of WMP.
I've also installed an add on from which creates a profile of what I'm listening to, and displays it online. I think that's pretty cool.

Earlier today though, it appeared that party shuffle was trying to tell me something. May I present a screen grab for the record, m'lud? Remember that I heard number 6 on the list first and so on. Just what is my computer trying to imply here? I'm really not sure, and I don't really have time to think about it. I've "acquired" some cash and I'm meeting my dealer in half an hour...

Oh, lighten up, it's just a(n attempt at a) joke, although admittedly one which is quite possibly in very bad taste. Drugs are bad, m'kay. Party Shuffle really did randomly play the first 4 of these songs though. Consider yourself lucky I didn't launch into the "humans are just not properly equipped to comprehend coincidences" post I've got on the backburner.

Finally, in what can quite literally be described as a pop quiz, I wonder if anyone can identify the sample in Busta Rhymes catchy little ditty, "Gimme some more"? Inspired work there from big Busta.

All the trimmings

Tim Worstall has posted what is surely becoming the roast beef and yorkshire pudding of British Blogoland. It's the Britblog roundup. It appears that due to an administrative error, I'm in it again this week. Nice one. There are lot's of actually really very good posts as well though.

Calling All MPs

Michael Crick pointed out something on Newsnight (about 19 minutes in, should be online till Monday evening), and it's been nagging away at me ever since. It's about the people behind the Justice4Jean campaign. One of the spokesmen, Asad Rehman, is a paid political adviser to George Galloway, and a founding member of the Stop the War Coalition. Now, I'm not going to say anything unpleasant about Georgeous George, certainly not without a huge quantity of substantiating evidence anyway, but is it really wise for Mr Galloway's adviser to become involved in this campaign?

I'm not questioning Mr Rehman's motives. He says that his activities in relation to the Justice4Jean campaign are completely unrelated to his work for his employer. Before joining the good ship Galloway, he worked for 10 years as an Amnesty International activist, so it seems quite understandable that he'd want to help Jean Charles' family with this case. As such, I'm inclined to believe that his intentions are entirely honourable.

That's not what's been bugging me. It's just that the mere mention of Georgeous George tends to provoke certain automatic responses from sections of the media. The Stop the War coalition also suffers from this problem (although to a lesser extent). I'm not hugely enamoured with either at the moment myself. The result is that we end up with comment pieces like Don't exploit a tragedy, which distracts attention from the legitimate campaign to find out exactly what happened. It's not Mr Rehman's fault, (unless you think it is his fault because he chose to work for George, suit yourself) but it's definitely something he has to live with. Because of this, I'm not sure he's the right person to lead this campaign.

Wouldn't it be better to have an explicitly non-partisan campaign, perhaps led by a cross party group of MPs? Just what do our elected representatives think about this incident and the recently leaked documents anyway? I've basically no idea at the moment. OK, so they're on holiday, maybe I should give them a break. It's only the accidental execution of an innocent man by those sworn to protect us. Such trivialities are hardly likely to trouble our MPs at a time when there are holidays in the sun to be enjoyed.

I should mention that Charlie Safety Elephant has found time to poke his head above the parapet.
I'm very happy with the conduct not only of Sir Ian Blair but of the whole Metropolitan police in relation to this inquiry.
Charlie seems to be a tiny bit guilty of prejudging the results of an enquiry that won't be publishing its conclusions for another three to six months. (OK, I've done that too, to some extent anyway, but then I'm not the Home Secretary.) I wonder if he knows something we don't? Leaving that aside though, "happy"? He's "very happy"? That's surely the worst choice of phrase in the entire history of stupid political utterances. There's absolutely nothing here to make any decent person use the word happy. But then, it would appear that Charlie just isn't a decent...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

One Death out of 57

Sir Ian Blair

First, I again want to make clear that a full independent public enquiry must be held into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. Sir Ian is almost certainly not the only one who should be taking the blame for this event.

The Radio 4 interview with Sir Ian Blair has now been broadcast. It's available online if you missed it. Now, we all know that Sir Ian is a smooth operator. He's a man who chooses his words with great care. Consider:
The information I have available if that this shooting is directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation.
Sir Ian, 22 July, 2005
This was an entirely accurate statement, and yet it contains almost no useful information whatsoever. It seems that much of the media didn't notice this at the time. As such, I thought I'd listen to this new interview a couple of times just see if I could spot what he actually has and has not said. Here are my thoughts.

The Context
Sir Ian emphasises the context in which the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes occurred.
It is one death out of fifty seven.
This is, again, in it's own way, quite true, but again, it's not a particularly useful truth. This might be a more useful context for Sir Ian.
It is one death out of only one in which officers acting under my command shot an innocent man repeatedly in the head after he had been physically restrained.
He didn't say that though. Also, the other 56 deaths were the result of illegal activities. Is it a step in the right direction that Sir Ian acknowledges that this 57th death belongs in the same category? Sadly, I think not. His context is a mess. (In another sad irony, he later asserts that "We don't do spin".)

The Cover-up
When asked about the alleged cover-up, Sir Ian was defiant.
The thing that I would want to say is that of all the allegations made in the last couple of days, the matter I would most want to reject is the concept of a cover-up.
I'm pretty sure this reflects the fact that he knows he's got his position on this well covered, and that he's confident this accusation will never stick. He's probably right. I suspect it's not worth spending too much time pursing this.
He was rather evasive on the issue of why it took until Wednesday for the IPCC to gain access to the investigation.
I don't know anything about that.
I find it rather odd that we doesn't know anything about why this happened but there you are. I'd say that there almost certainly have been some deliberate delaying tactics employed along the way, more to muddy perception of what actually happened than as part of full blown cover-up.

The Suspicious Cirmumstances
There are a whole number of features around heavyweight coats and leaping over barriers which have never been said or confirmed by the Metropolitan Police Service...
Where did these lies come from then? Sir Ian attributes them to "eyewitness statement" quoted in the media. A suggestion that someone at the Met may have been the source of these rumours is met with outright denial.
That's not what we did.
It's strange then, that some of these details appear in the official pathology report into the killing. But Sir Ian has flatly denied that his officers werre involved in spreading these untruths. It's something of a dilemma. Pure speculation here, but I suggest this might be because Sir Ian has a very good idea as to who did spread these rumours, and that it wasn't the Met but someone from another organisation. This should be a key point for a public enquiry to examine, in my opinion.

Illegal Immigrant?
When asked if the Metropolitan police had been involved in the suggestion, published by the media, that Mr de Menezes was an illegal immigrant, Sir Ian says
I have absolutely no knowledge. There is no reason why we would know that.
That is quite definitely not an unequivocal denial. It also doesn't make much sense. If you're investigating the identity of a foreign national you've just shot in the head, it seems reasonable to assume that you might look into his immigration status. Or could no-one be arsed to check? It's not a major point, but it does add to the disgusting stink which surrounds this whole event.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. We need a full enquiry, looking at the actions of Sir Ian, his officers, the Home Office, and any other organisations or individuals involved in this killing. When was the shoot to kill policy introduced? Why was it not made public? Why were the police not monitoring the flat of the suspects, rather than the block of flats?* Why was it necessary to shoot to kill after Jean had been restrained by an officer? Where did the lies about his "suspicious behaviour" come from? This list of questions is long. Answers must be made available, both to Mr de Menezes family, and to the public as a whole.

BTW, Sir Ian, as I've said, stated categorically that the Met does not spin. You have to question the wisdom of spending much of the second part of the interview harping on about how policing has become increasingly political, and stressing of the importance of the police being able to present themselves, and their activities, well to the public. Idiot.

*Some sort of spy camera in the hallway overlooking the door of the flat in question, installed by a suitable "workman" perhaps, would have meant this killing would not have happened. I'm not normally a fan of such things, but in the case of suspected suicide bombers, I'd be quite happy to mke an exception.

Attention Please

Two things.

1. If you care at all about democracy in the UK, I urge you to read Have you no sense of decency? And the politicians wonder why we're all so cynical, why so many people just couldn't give a toss about voting. (Some of them even think it'd be a good idea to force us to vote.) Scumbags.

2. Here's a new flash video by Tim Ireland. 1st of September. Write it down. Tell your friends.

Friday, August 19, 2005


Yesterday, I received an email which seems to de doing the rounds at the moment. It's apparently a campaign to protest against high petrol prices by boycotting BP and Esso petrol stations. It's quite specific, petrol at 95p a litre, and urges you to send it on to 10 more people. It must be fairly whizzing around the interweb at the moment since even the Press and Journal saw fit to report on it today. They quote from the email extensively, before quoting a BP spokesman in the final paragraph.
"This sort of e-mail has been circulating on the internet for years and every so often it reappears."
Now I'm not normally inclined to leap to the defence of oil companies, but the P&J makes no comment on whether the BP spokesman is right. Well, the email says that Philip Hollsworth offered the idea, and if you google for Philip Hollsworth it becomes immediately obvious that BP are quite correct. Not just this sort of email either, but this exact email, with a few tiny alterations, has been going around for at least a year. And if you can be bothered, you can also find the same email in other countries too. Slightly different, but definitely the same email. It's just viral rubbish. The best thing you can do if you get this is delete it (and email whoever sent it to you and tell them they're a silly spammy pants).

Now that I've defended an oil company position though, I feel I have to make amends. Oscar received the same viral, (and identified it as such, unlike the poor old P&J) and he's got lots of genuine reasons why boycotting Esso and BP might actually be quite a good idea. You might want to add Shell to that list. After all, Shell's successful and longstanding extraction operation in Nigeria, one of the most corrupt countries in the world, doesn't exactly inspire confidence in their business practices.

I think there's also greater problem as far as oil goes. It's running out. In the capitalist free market system we all know and love, the price of a commodity increases as supply (or projected future supply) decreases, especially if demand is on the increase too.* These price rises reduce demand for the increasingly scarce resource and that's actually a good thing because it means the oil we do have is likely to last a bit longer than if the price remained constant. It's a perfectly rational result in economic terms and there's really nothing we can do about these price increases in our present economic system. I wonder how many of the people who support the principle suggested by the viral realise that they're calling for some sort of leftie price fixing nonsense?

Anyway, I am constantly amazed that so few people take the fact that oil is running out seriously. It's just common sense. It's a non-renewable resource. We are using it. It will run out. At the moment this is manifest in the peak oil problem. Jim Bliss is the man for further details on that, as he knows far more about it than I do. And it's all very well for people to say that "alternatives will be found" but, with prices soaring, isn't it about time they were instead saying "alternatives have been found".

When your grandchild grows up, they might discover a fantastic new use for oil, say to build a beam me up Scotty teleporter device (or indeed something slightly more plausible). Say it only needed a small amount of oil to construct and power each of the devices, but there just wasn't enough oil left to build them in useful quantities. How will you feel when your grandchild looks you in the eye and asks "Grandparent, did you really burn all the oil in those horribly inefficient internal combustion engines? Didn't you think we might like to have some too?"

*Yes, I know that that fuel is heavily taxed in the UK, but that's not what's causing the recent price increases.

We Want Mo

They say only the good die young. In this case, they've rarely been so right.

I'm not normally prone to participating in the media mass mourn-in phenomenon. It's becoming an increasingly unhealthy habit in this country. When I see people on TV shedding tears for dead celebrities or other public figure they've never met in their lives, I tend to have the urge to shout "Get a grip!" at the screen. Reaction to the death of Diana, for example, seemed wholly out of control, bordering on hysterical in many cases. My attitude is that respect (and even sadness) can appropriate, but a sense of perspective must be retained.

Anyway, I find that in the case of Mo, my attitude is slipping slightly. I'd never met Mo, and all my impressions of her came through the media, and yet I feel a real sense of loss on hearing this news. I think it's partly down to her eyes. I always got the feeling that you could really understand something about Mo through her eyes. There was an honestly, a deep humanity, and a sparkle of mischief in those eyes. It wasn't an act, a politician playing to the camera, it was Mo. The eyes don't lie (as they are also heard to say on occassion).

She was a remarkable woman, a genuine one off. I recommend that anyone who's just starting in politics should be required by law to spend a year studying the life of Mo Mowlam. It'd be impossible to replicate her unique spirit, but many valuable lessons could be learned about the attributes needed to participate honourably in political life: honesty, integrity, courage, and humour, and a lot more besides.

Mo lived a life anyone would be proud to have lived. Goodbye Mo, you shall be greatly missed.

I demand to have some booze

Last week there was a bit of bother over some changes to the licensing laws. These new laws don't actually apply in Scotland, (we've been getting p*ssed up at all hours for years) but that's not going to stop me sharing my thoughts on the subject. This might verge on half baked philosophy pie. Or it might just be sheer unadulterated waffle.

A little bit of background. I lived in the Netherlands for 4 years, from the age of 15 onwards, so I've experienced the fabled continental "cafe culture". In my experience it is most certainly not a myth. I made frequent trips back to Aberdeen to see my friends and family, and the difference in attitudes to alchohol was as good an example of culture shock as you'll ever find. In the Netherlands, I tended to be the most drunk individual in almost any social situation. In Aberdeen, I was considered an amateur. I moved back to Aberdeen permanently in 1990 where I continued to drink copiously in the traditional manner of my countrymen and women. I stopped enjoying it. About 2 years ago I basically stopped drinking altogether. Not religiously, mind. I will occassionaly have a beer, and did get rather drunk the Christmas before last. It's just that I find it very difficult to drink in moderation, and have developed a rather unfortunate ability to remember details of the previous night's bender which would often best be forgotten. It's not that I'm an alchoholic, and I never got into fights or caused any trouble. I just got very drunk and stupid almost every time I decided to have a few ales. As I write this, I don't think I've had an alcoholic drink for at least six months.

Before the waffle, it's always worth reminding ourselves that I am only able to blog, and you are only able to read this, because our lives are comfortable. I've said it before but it tends to be overlooked too often, including by me I have to say. What we have now, in 2005, in the developed world, is almost unheard of in the history of us. Very few people, ever, have lived the kind of pampered lives we now enjoy. So, I think we should all just dry our eyes and appreciate that once in a while. And now, back to the feature presentation.

When I came back from the Netherlands, I'd have said that the changes propsed by the government were a good thing. Now, I not so sure. The thing is, if you go in to Aberdeen town centre at chucking out time, (I was going to say at the weekend but really almost any evening would do), and you're sober, it won't take you long to spot that there is something dramatically wrong with our society. It is not pretty. And it's not a "minority" of troublemakers either. Although the licensing laws are different in Scotland, everything I've read suggests that this would apply equally well in almost any town or city in the UK. If you live in the UK, why not give it a go one night? Walk through the centre of your town stone cold sober just as all the pubs close. A word of advice though: you might want to take a big stick along (for use in self defence only). A small carrot is unlikely to be of any great use however.

So, what's causing all these people to drink themselves silly on such a freqent basis? It's a complex problem and not one I'm going to be able to answer in a blog post. The following is just one aspect of the problem, and perhaps not even the largest one. I do think it's part of the reason why binge drinking has become more of a problem in recent years. It's advertising. And I don't mean advertising for alcoholic drinks, although I do find the industry habit of doing this:
Drink! Drink! Drink!
pretty laughable. No, I mean all advertising, all TV advertising in particular. One of the oddities of advertising is that most people don't seem to think it affects them personally. Even the industry likes to play it down on occassion. Well, I'm going to admit that I am influenced by advertising. In fact, it took me a good many years to understand just how much I'd been influenced. Hands up who agrees. Consider that it's a multi-billion dollar industry, and consider that their customers are mostly very successfully businesses. They are not spending this money for fun. Advertising works. It gets inside our brains and has a good poke around.

And what messages do adverts plant inside our brains when we're not paying attention? They try to generate a need. In order to do this they encourage dissatisfaction, normally with whatever inferior product you currently own. This car is faster than your old rust bucket, this MP3 player is better than your crappy old Mini Disc, this supermarket is far better value than your pricey local shop, you smell like yesterdays scrambled eggs but this new aftershave will have women throwing themselves at you...
And so it goes on. There is always something new and improved, something you must have, something better than what you've got. Dissatisfaction guaranteed. It gets worse though. Adverts don't just create a need for the product, but for the accompanying lifestyle as well. This is perhaps an unintended consequence but it's there all the same.

In many cases, this need, for both product and lifestyle, cannot be fulfilled and that's the real problem. If we could all afford to go out and buy the products and the lifestyle (continually for ever), the dissatisfaction could be satisfied. As it is, many people end up instilled with a completely false sense that their lives are not complete, simply because they don't have the latest widgit or hoojeryflip. And in the short term of everyday life, drinking helps to fill that void. We'll never have the money to drive the car we really want*, or own the house we feel we deserve, so we might as well get completely hammered as often as possible.

That's a simplification, as I've already said, but I do believe there's more than a grain of truth there. We are presented with dissatisfaction, and dissatisfied we have become. What a surprise. I'm normally reasoanably liberal but in this case I believe that there's a strong case for greater regulation of the advertising industry. Not that it's ever likely to happen. This government is under the spell of big business in a way that even the Tories at their worst couldn't match. It's not something you're likely to hear many people in the media calling for either.
Coming soon: Our six part in-depth investigation into how advertisers, our customers, the people who pay our wages, are making us unhappy.
No, I can't see it. An ideal subject for the BBC actually, except that they'd be accused of a rabid left wing bias by just about every other media outlet, who all coincidentally have a vested interest in the status quo. And I do understand that advertising plays a key role in economic growth. That isn't really the point. At one time, having children working in coal mines was good for the economy. These days, I doubt many people think that was a good idea.

*I don't actually own a car btw. I do occassionaly drive H2O's car though.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Defending a Position

Here is today's Daily Express front page.

Just a Mistake

It's difficult to see how anyone could argue this if the leaks we have heard turn out to be true. I can't help feeling that they're still trying to defend the headline they printed the day after Jean Charles de Menezes was killed. I seem to remember that "one down, three to go" was the thrust of the accompanying article. I don't often read the Express so I'm not in a position to say whether they ever issued an apology for that headline and article. Today's paper certainly suggests that they're not overly sorry about the whole thing.

Perhaps Mr Desmond should have stuck to what he knows best.

Also, it seems that a number of people have felt the need to use the word liar in the last couple of days. Tim Worstall, for example, adds his voice to those who think Sir Ian's time is up.

Extremists on our Doorstep

Rafael at the Observer Blog has posted a summary of what we now know about the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. It's a short post with a lot to say.

There's a comment on that post, left by an anonymous "me", which I find rather troubling.
I don't understand you people! Many hundreds of thousands of people - Muslim and non - will need to be killed in order to exterminate the jihad. You leftists need to make a decision: Either the caliphate or systematic war against radical islam.
I've read other comments along the same lines. Sadly, this sort of thinking is becoming well established in certain quarters. This one is a particularly repulsive example though. Let's have a look at these three ghastly, and, let's face it, downright idiotic sentences.
I don't understand you people!
I suspect the author doesn't try to understand anything much. Let me explain. People are angry because our security forces have shot an innocent, already phyically restrained man in the head. Repeatedly. Without provocation. Without any sign of suspicious behaviour on the part of the victim. And then, just to add a further layer of horrendousness, the authorities allowed a completely fictitious account of the incident to remain in the public demain, even when they undoubtedly knew it was entirely inaccurate. (In a comment to an earlier post, Phil at Actually Existing points out another of the lies surrounding this event.) It's not hard to understand the "you people" in question. It's a lot harder to understand why anyone wouldn't feel outraged by this.
Many hundreds of thousands of people - Muslim and non - will need to be killed in order to exterminate the jihad.
I've not got much to say about this. This is on the extreme side of an already extreme position. Many hundreds of thousands of people? Will need to be killed?
Why exactly would anyone think that? I really have no idea. At the risk of constructing a straw man, the only thing I can think to suggest is the possibility that the author rather enjoys violent killings.
You leftists need to make a decision: Either the caliphate or systematic war against radical islam.
This is the point I seem to read more and more often and the one I really want to address. In the US, and increasingly in the UK too, there seems to be a growing fear of the re-establishment of the Caliphate. Again, I struggle to understand how anyone arrives at this view (although it's fair to say that the scaremongering of much of the media (and a section of the blogging community) probably has to take some of the blame).

Let's leave aside the fact that the US was never part of the original Caliphate. Can anyone explain just how the extremists are going to force a Caliphate upon the liberal democracies of Europe? What stages are going to be involved in the transformation from one to the other? There's no denying that there are extremists who would like a return of the Caliphate and I'm sure they're working hard, to the best of their twisted abilities, to bring this about. I'd compare it to my desire to drive an F1 car.* I'm desperate to make it happen but it's just not possible that I will succeed. You see, I'm 6 feet 4 inches tall, and I'm, er, big boned. It would be physically impossible for me to actually fit inside an F1 car (this is, of course, the only reason why I haven't had a long glorious career in F1). In much the same way, the Caliphate just will not fit into the world we now live in, no matter how much certain people might want it to.

Let's take the UK as an example. OK, it was never in the original Caliphate either, but it's where I live, and it's where the shooting occurred. At the last general election, there was no sign that the population was inclined to vote for the introduction of Sharia law. I'd say it's safe to rule out this happening in our lifetimes so we're not going to join the Caliphate through a democratic process anytime soon. Which leaves us with what? The UK government is going to surrender to the extremists?
"OK, we give up. There have been too many suicide bombings. The UK government has decided to surrender to the terrorists, extremists and fundamentalists so they can run the country as part of the new Muslim empire."
Now, our government's done some really stupid things in the "war" on terror, but we can be reasonably confident that they'll never do this. How else are we going to end up with this new dreadful global Caliphate we keep hearing about?

The simple answer is that we're not. The return of the Caliphate is the new bogeyman of certain sections of those on the right. It has something of the Cold War "domino theory" about it (apart from the fact that it's far less plausible). I'm sure it's similarly useful for fuelling increases in military spending though.

*Btw, I feel rather guilty about my love of F1 cars. It's a long story.

Our priorities is our faith

Did you know that the dear leader of the US of A is blogging his daily thoughts? (via poons)
Well I never.
It's good stuff. Perhaps too many big words to be utterly convincing.
Coincidentally, I happened to be looking through a book of Bushisms earlier today. My current favourite:
It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it.
No fooling that man.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Sir Ian Blair

The Terminator

The Terminator

Listen. And understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.

Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd

I am the law.

Some Light Relief

Can I do a joke about a screw-in bulb? No, perhaps that wouldn't be wise. There's just so much bad news going around at the moment though. Here are some "and finally" stories instead.

Lions prefer eco-friendly wee cars like the Smart car. I have a vision of two little old ladies (no idea if that's an accurate description of the ladies in question) tearing aroung the safari park in their wee car pursued by a pack of hungry lions. Faster Margaret, they're gaining...
Not sure why I find that so funny really. Gary Larson may have to take some of the blame.

I was looking through today's P&J to find a story about Strathclyde University's new course on texting (it's not online I'm afraid).
During the new class, which is aimed at adults and is already fully booked, instructors will spend two hours training the students how to write and send messages on their mobile phones.
Advanced students can then progress to picture messaging and emailing. GR8!
I'm reminded of instructions on a packet of American Airline nuts: Open packet. Eat nuts.

Anyway, while I was looking for that article I noticed a rather splendid headline on page 6 of the paper (it's not online either).
More cash on offer for alcohol and drug abuse
Hurray! How do I apply for funding?