26 June 2006

Human Daisy Chaining

Via Adam Teladia, a pledge that:
"I will form part of a human chain around the Westminster no protest zone but only if 6,000 other people will join in".
If you want to sign up to this pledge, mounted in protest to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act, which bans the right of protest within a zone around the Westminster,
click here.

PS. Yes, I know what daisy chaining is.

25 June 2006

"C" You There

The Childs Hall Summer Ball was last Friday and the theme was "C" - there were cheerleaders, crayons and commandos.
I went as Dave Lewis - if you are unsure why this begins with the letter "C" see this post and this post (check out the comments too).

23 June 2006

Dear Friend, Part 2

Two new emails appeared in my inbox yesterday, both variations on the 419 scams I last discussed here.
The comments on my last entry on this revealed that, to my astonishment, people have fallen for these scams before, and they've even been litigated (as recently as 2005)!
This is probably the most innovative of the two I received:
54 Albert Embankments,
SE1 7SR, United Kingdom
[I checked, this address does exist... so good on the detail this one]

Email: basil_esq@yahoo.co.uk


I am Barrister Robert Basil. I have a client Mr.Mark, a foreigner who used to work with Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) in Nigeria [of course you are].

On the 2nd of August 2003, my client, his wife and their three children were involved in a car accident along Manchester Express Road. All occupants of the vehicle unfortunately lost their lives. Since then I have made several enquiries to your Embassy to locate any of my client's extended relatives, this has also proved unsuccessful.

After these several unsuccessful attempts, I decided to trace his relatives over the internet, to locate any member of his family but of no avail, hence I contacted you. I have contacted you to assist me in repatriating the money left behind by my client before they got confiscated or declared unserviceable by the Finance House where these huge deposits were lodged. Particularly, the Finance House where the deceased had an account valued at about US$12.4M has issued me a notice to provide the next-of-kin or have the account confiscated within the next ten official working days.

Since I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives for many months now, I seek your consent to present you as the next of kin to the deceased so that the proceeds of this account valued at US$12.4M can be paid to you and then you and I can share the money.

I have all necessary legal documents that can be used to back up any claim we may make, all I require is your honest co-operation to enable us see this transaction through. I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of the law.

Please, get in touch with me through this particular email:basil_esq@yahoo.co.uk@yahoo.co.uk [yes, the original email really did have two "@"s], immediately you acknowledge the good receipt of this message.

Anticipating your prompt response [anticipate away].


20 June 2006

The Free Market Issue

Madsen Pirie, president of the free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, writes today in The Times on the good that the free market can do, and indeed is doing, both here and in the developing world.

He could try smiling...
just a bit

I'm not going to disagree with him that a free market, overall, is a good thing. However, it's not the best at delivering certain services, such as say, water, at least not without heavy regulation. To make the point, on the same day and in the same paper, appeared an article about the legal implications of the free market liberalisation of the water industry and the on-going "drought":
"Thames Water has in recent days applied for a drought order to allow it to further restrict use of water (there is already a hosepipe ban) by its five million customers in London and parts of Kent and Surrey. Meanwhile, figures published by Ofwat last July showed that the company was losing 913 million litres of water a day through unrepaired leakages. That is enough to fill 365 Olympic swimming pools."
Now I'm not saying we wouldn't be in a similar situation if our water was delivered by a nationalised firm, but at least the nationalised company wouldn't be giving its shareholders £155m.
Surely there should be a regulation here that states the company cannot release dividends until it is delivering 95% of the water (or an appropriate figure) that leaves its source.

Thank you for Smoking Review

A couple of months ago I posted a link to the trailer for Thank you for Smoking and today I had the joy of seeing it, although only by chance did I discover it had been released here.

The film centres on Nick Naylor, a lobbyist for Big Tobacco and his fight to promote smoking to a hostile public. The tale is told with tongue firmly in-cheek and plenty of gimmicky devices used to push the story along (such as when Naylor's boss says "environmentalist" the word "pussy" appears on screen and the cartoon-ish introductions to the "MoD* squad" members).

That's a spokesperson for Big Tobacco
shaking the hands of a cancer sufferer

It's a big shame that the film hasn't received wider publicity, but go out and this film that has really slipped under the radar.

Also, don't go expecting any sugar coated ending, this film is deeply cynical.

* Merchants of Death

19 June 2006

Doctor Who

I admit, I watch Doctor Who and Saturday's episode was the worst one I've seen of the new lot, if only for this sequence:

18 June 2006

The Omen

The electorate size of Sedgefield, Tony Blair's constituency, is 66666.

15 June 2006

Intellectual Somersaults

The Daily Politics today:
Andrew Neil: Why do Scottish MPs vote on legislation which doesn't apply to their constituency?
Blairite Scottish Labout MP: Just because something doesn't apply to Scotland, doesn't mean it doesn't affect Scotland [and therefore they should vote on these matters]
Ah, I see clearly now, so next time the House of Commons votes on tutition fees for foreign students, we should invite representatives from all over the world to vote too, because after all, it will affect them.
Or maybe there should be a separate English Parliament?

See Also:
  • The Guardian on the West Lothian Question: They argue that "English votes for English laws" would lead to the break up of the Union, which is bull. See USA, Spain, et al. We can have a federal structure in this country, it would just involve a major shake-up in our legislature and executive.

I Can't Help Myself

I really couldn't stop myself from posting this picture.

14 June 2006

A Massive Turn Off

No, not yours truly in spandex*, but Prime Minister's Questions today in the House of Commons.

Every bloody week there's shouting, jeering and booing across the floor as MPs attempt to ask the PM what his favourite curry is/whether he'll give them a job, but this week it seemed much worse, especially when David Cameron was speaking.

It's the big red one in the middle
you're wanting

Do politicians seriously believe this engages the public in the political process, because if so I can let them in to a little secret the other 60 million of us share - we fucking hate it. It makes the Commons simply like a posh boys private club where bully tactics are the norm... actually, that does sound like the House of Commons.

If MPs and political parties are serious about increasing turnout, which I sometimes doubt, then they might think about behaving like grown-ups during PMQs, instead of alienating the rest of us by acting like children.

* That's coming on Monday.

13 June 2006

The 4Rs Commission

If you have any views on the state of our primary school education system, the LibDems 4RS Commission want to hear from you.

Apparently, the fourth "R" is "aRticulation" (or speaking skills). Personally, I've wondered why it is the 3Rs in the first place since only one of them begins with "R", hardly good writing... maybe I just need to get out more.

See Also:

12 June 2006

Store Frontage

Bath has one, and now so does Reading:

A Knob Shop!

11 June 2006

Al-Zarqawi: Who would have thought it

From BBC News:
"Al-Qaeda in Iraq will launch "major attacks" to avenge the death of leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a web statement thought to be from the group has said."
Now who would have thought that violence would lead to more violence. This is a genuinely unheard of... it's only happened in Israel/Palestine, Afghanistan and of course, in Iraq.

In other news, the Pentagon have released a picture of their new head of Iraqi operations:

09 June 2006

Al-Zarqawi: A case for arrest

I'm utterly appalled that a browse through LibDemBlogs.com and the LDYS forums has failed to come up with a single person challenging the US and Iraqi forces decision to kill the man, rather than bring him to trial.

If they knew where he was (which the deployment of two highly destructive bombs suggests they did), why did they not go in there and capture him. His subsequent trial, like the current trial of Saddam Hussein, would show that the US and Iraq is tough on terror, but that it combats it within the framework of the rule of law.

The picture of his dead face creeps me out

I know it's laughable that I'm expecting the US to act within the rule of law, but if you ask many people across the world what America stands for, one of the answers that might back to you will be "the rule of law". In the West, we expect due process and a fair trial. It might be obvious that someone is guilty, but this must still be proven in a court of law.

It is widely thought that one of the aims of the Al-Qaeda attacks is to fundamentally change the nature of our democracy and perhaps, with no condemnation forthcoming from the mainstream media of this unnecessarily violent end to a man's life, Al-Qaeda has now got its own way.

See Also:

When Will...

Will Howells has an interesting two-part blog on Sir Menzies Campbell's speech yesterday and his chat with Ming:

And also, thoughts on the speech by a right-winger.

PS. Saddam and Osama, the cartoon.

07 June 2006

Tips for Dealing with Journos

This post over at Resurgent Liberal could not be more true and is well worth a read if either you deal with journalists on a regular basis or are going to be.
And this point in particular is well worth remembering:
"Understand and work to the paper’s timings. Understand the cycle that the paper works to: when the main stories are decided, when the deadlines are, when the paper gets put to bed. Make sure that you get your stories to the editor in time. Once the basic shape of the paper has been decided (which can be a few days in advance of print deadlines), your story won’t get in unless it’s unusually strong."
From experience at the student newspaper I can tell you there is nothing worse than receiving an article at the last minute which - whilst worthy of space in the paper - cannot go in as most of the pages have been set.
The worst time this happened was in the run-up to last year's General Election when Tony Page, the Labour candidate, was only available for interview at 4pm in the afternoon on the day we went to print when we had a deadline of 7pm, despite us pestering him constantly to do it earlier (a feat the other two candidates managed). Because it was unclear whether the interview was even going to be done that day most of the page was set, leaving him a small space underneath on page 2. I doubt this was the cause of his defeat at the polls, but if he was treating all the newspapers like this, it wouldn't surprise me.

06 June 2006

United 93

I was apprehensive before seeing United 93, having heard the viewing experience was going to be uncomfortable due to the film's subject matter.
The film centres around the passengers on the only hijacked flight on 11th September 2001 that didn't make it to it's target, United 93, and their uprising against those that hijacked the plane.

I wanted to see this film, but wasn't looking forward to it. Well, my apprehensiveness was warranted. The film is indeed uncomfortable to sit through, largely due to level of realism - the whole film was made on handheld camera, the director has a background making documentaries and some sequences were improvised.
Despite knowing the ending, there is a strange sort of tension throughout the film and I felt myself willing the hijackers to not take over the plane and then for the passengers to succeed in their revolt.
This film certainly isn't intended to be a factual account of what happened on the doomed flight, but does feel like it's what might happened and because of that, you won't want to this absorbing film twice.

03 June 2006

Pic Spam from Wales

Went to Wales to campaign* for the Blaenau Gwent LibDems with David and his trusty SatNav system (TomTom), which actually believed we'd disappeared off the roads at one point.
The constituency is massive and I'm surprised anyone can campaign effectively in it**.
It's also a beautiful place, and thus pic spam shall follow after this conversation, overheard between two canvassing Tories who were in the same street as us (after someone had told me the Tories were determined to decrease turnout):
Tory 1: "No. 60 isn't voting"
Tory 2: "Excellent. Him or her?"
Tory 1: "Her"
Tory 2: "Fantastic"
And so commence the glorious pic spam!

* Read "leaflet"
** Apparently they rely heavily on telephone canvassing