30 November 2007

BBC iPlayer now available for Windows Vista

Thank you BBC, thank you. Now if only you could allow me to download programmes in Firefox, all would be good in the world.

That is all.

29 November 2007

I acted within law, says Harman

Harriet Harman has claimed that by accepting a donation from Janet Kidd (which really came from David Abrahams) in good faith, she has complied with the law, so it's worth remembering what the law actually is on donations. I quote from the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, section 54:

(1) A donation received by a registered party must not be accepted by the party if—

... (b) the party is (whether because the donation is given anonymously or by reason of any deception or concealment or otherwise) unable to ascertain the identity of that person.

Now Harriet Harman claims she did not know that the donation was on behalf of Mr Abrahams - so this could get her off the hook in any police investigation, or will the police and CPS argue that this section requires her to ask the most basic question to a donor, namely "where has this money come from?".

Realpolitik: We're All Gonna Mind the Gap.

The new Realpolitik podcast is now available here. In this week's show:

The show was recorded on Tuesday 27th November. Running Time: 58:30.

The Voice of the London Underground Back Up and Running

Unfortunately she's not been reinstated (full details here), but her website is now back up and running, so you can listen to those spoof announcements in full.

28 November 2007

No Shit Sherlock No. 985

The frequently infrequent No Shit Sherlock award makes a welcome return today. The lucky winner is Civitas, with their startling revelation that NHS care favours the middle class. I quote from the BBC News:

Mr Seddon [author of the Civitas report] said this was partly attributable to the fact that middle classes were more assertive, articulate and confident in dealing with health professionals.

It is believed Civitas's next report will focus on the frequency of bears shitting in the woods.

EXCLUSIVE: London LibDem Leadership Hustings Report and my Voting Intentions

The final leadership hustings of the race took place last night (27th November) in London and here is my exclusive report, jotted down throughout the night:

Arriving

Arriving early, all us poor unfortunate undecideds were accosted by the various members of the opposing campaign teams and told why we were wrong to not to have chosen sooner, with leaflets, stickers and even DVDs shoved under our noses and into our defenceless palms. Tell me, at what point did leadership hustings become for those who had already made their minds up, as there certainly seemed to be more supporters than fence-sitters present?


The Reserved Seating: In the Lib Dems, everyone is equal,
it's just some are more equal than others.

A clear way to tell who was voting for who was to look at the balloons - grass stain green for Huhne and vomit yellow for Clegg - although I'm not entirely sure there were two candidates, as the layout of their respective stickers made it look as though they were all supporting a chap called Chris Clegg.


See?

In the pre-speech melee:

The Speeches - Chris Huhne

Huhne kicked things off, praising Vince Cable's acting leadership of the party (and even seeming to dare out loud whether he shouldn't continue in the post), before launching into the obligatory attack on Labour and the Tories and how they are fighting over the same (conservative ground). He insisted he wasn't that kind of man, and wouldn't lead the kind of party that would do the same.

He went as far to accuse Labour of corruption over the cash for peerages affair and divulged that he has asked the police to investigate the latest donations row - it's tempting to say here that there doesn't need to be an investigation, the chief suspect has already admitted the illegality.

He wrapped up the Labour and Tory bashing by saying he wants to lead a "radical" party, rather than a third conservative party. He used that word, radical, a lot, and I'm not sure that will necessarily win us votes. Can you see people voting for a party that adopts the rhetoric of anarchists?


"And I will build an army 60,000 strong
and we will overthrow the capitalist pigs!"

Regarding Trident, he sees it as a way to make up for the shortfalls in the Army's spending which we've heard a bit about over the last week.

There was a bit about public service devolution, which I'm sure was very interesting, but I kind of glazed over during it.

When he moved on to civil liberties he sounded mildly patriotic in arguing that we shouldn't trade liberty for security - emphasising the British values inherent in the those civil liberties.

The environment is Huhne's obvious strong point, and he sounded his best during this part of the speech. He used the party's strong leadership on the environment during his tenure as environment spokesperson to argue that we would become as strong on the "bread and butter issues" if he were leader.

His final words:

"[Under my leadership] we will lead nothing less than a liberal revolution for the British people."

The Speeches - Nick Clegg

Clegg began by highlighting the inequalities in London - on housing, life-expectancy and life chances. But he wasn't all negative on the city, he also said it gave him "hope" through its multiculturalism, its dynamism and its economy. I liked the way he tuned his initial message to the London audience in a way I don't think Huhne did.


"I've got to be quick, Mum says
I need to be home for tea"

He broke his speech down in to five bite size chunks:

  1. Epidemic of powerlessness: He spoke on the giganticness of the state and private companies. He unfortunately co-opted Little Britain during this section ("computer says no" culture), but I did like the alliteration of "BT said talk to Talk-Talk, Talk-Talk said talk to BT" as much as he did. His theme here wasn't just that old chestnut of a government that hands power from Whitehall down to Town Hall, but also of a government that is on the side of the people all the time, not just on polling day.
  2. Social stagnation and segregation: He pointed to life chances being ruined by the current system of education. He called for a world class schools system for everyone (not just those who went to Westminster then), achieving this simply through injecting more cash (paid for how?) and he pledged to put education at the forefront of the party's policies going into the next election ("education, education, education" anyone?).
  3. Fear: Oooooo... I like that this was one of his themes. He argued that fear imprisoned us not just in our homes but also in our minds and that if we are really to be a party of social justice, we need to concentrate not just on civil liberties and human rights, but also apply our values to practical, everyday concerns of the poor (as it is those who have most to fear in modern day Britain).
  4. The Environment: He recognised that the environment isn't everyone's number one priority (hooray!), but he wants to motivate people to our cause, as well as making government and business do their fair share in combating climate change.
  5. Globalisation: Like public services devolution with Huhne, I kind of glazed over during this one - there was something about how it leads to apathy, which benefits populist reactionaries like the BNP.

Before I wrap this section up I should mention that unlike Huhne, Clegg spoke without notes. I don't know why, but this always impresses me.

His final words:

"We all want to live in a more liberal Britain."

The Questions

The notes here aren't as full, but I've picked out a couple of things which are of interest:

  • There seemed to be a strong anti-US sentiment from both candidates (and from the hall)... Or maybe just pro-Europeanism.
  • Positive Discrimination: This was the big shocker for me - Clegg endorsed positive discrimination if the Liberal Democrats don't recruit more ethnic minority candidates to elected positions. This is so wrong, I was honestly left openmouthed at the prospect. To replace one evil with another hardly does diversity any favours and will probably serve to alienate more people than it integrates. Thankfully, Huhne did not repeat this pledge.

Departures and Final Thoughts

I said to myself that the London leadership hustings would be the point when I would decide which candidate to vote, although I have to say I'm not particularly stark raving mad for either of them. They would both make excellent leaders, but this time I'm going for Clegg. He has impressed me throughout the campaign, he hasn't resorted to smearing his opponent (although he lost Brownie points for crying about it) and I think he is the one best place to articulate our values to those who previously haven't voted for us - Chris Huhne seems more interested in being "radical" and leading a "revolution", language I'm confident will alienate a lot of our potential supporters. The only thing that worries me about Clegg are his view on positive discrimination, but hey, the rate we're going through leaders at the moment, he won't be in charge come two elections time.

27 November 2007

The US President's Powers

Extract from a memo written in 2002, regarding the US government's use of torture in interrogations:

Yes, that's right America, you're not allowed to know what it is your President can and cannot do. Perfectly good reason I should imagine - if you found out you probably wouldn't vote for him. But still, thanks for playing.

And that last part of the paragraph is utter bollocks. Under the Geneva Conventions Prisoners of War can't be interrogated... oh wait, yes of course, the "enemy combatants" distinction. Sorry, my mistake for not factoring in a category that the rest of the world gave up on around 60 years ago. That reminds me, I'm thinking about terminating the heartbeats of a couple of people that pissed me off on the Tube the other day. I've decided to call it "Daisy", so it falls outside the legal provisions regarding murder. Anyone know if that will wash with the Law Lords?

The Voice of the London Underground

According to the BBC, Emma Clarke, the voice of the London Underground (the one that tells us to mind the gap and suchlike) has been sacked. By pure coincidence, she's recorded a series of spoof announcements. The full page is offline at the moment, but you can listen to a sample on the BBC website. I think they might feature on tonight's Realpolitik podcast.

Talking of London Underground, remember this.

26 November 2007

FFS It's Monday: Counter-terrorism

After 11th September 2001, the world suffered a collective failure of common and declared war on an abstract noun: "terrorism". The British Government joined in this intellectual insult and decided to do the terrorists job for them by introducing a range of counter-terrorism measures available from the "you couldn't make it up" shelf.

One of my personal favourites was detention on the grounds of being foreign. This one went down particularly well with the residents of Surrey, who had been asking for it for years. Unfortunately for Little Bookham, the Law Lords decided locking up people because you didn't like the colour of their skin was a bat-shit fucking loco move. The government took this advice on board, tied it to a chair, and beat it into a bloody, messy pulp until it resembled something new, called control orders.

Control orders are about as an effective weapon against terrorism as prayer and seem to rely on the government trusting that those under them won't break the terms of the order - except of course a truly hardened terrorist probably won't care too much about what he legally can and can't do and will fuck off quicker than you can say "jihad". To date, seven people under control orders have gone on the run, suggesting the other eleven either aren't terrorists, or are so dumb that we shouldn't worry about the threat they pose as any bomb they construct is likely to be made out of Mentos and Diet Coke.

The message the Government seems to be sending out is clear: if you are Muslim (or even slightly brown skinned) you're probably better off back where you came from - of course, if where you came from was Bradford, then you're screwed. Saying that, if you were living in Bradford, life was probably already pretty dire for you anyway.

The anti-terrorism laws are so obviously open to abuse and so the police tend to do silly things like carting off 82-year-old Holocaust survivors for daring to heckle Jack Straw and shooting Brazilians seven times... in the head... with bullets designed to kill with a single shot.

Another unfortunate of upshot of this crackdown on terrorism is that evolutionary throwbacks like John Reid are allowed into the Home Office to argue the case for locking someone up for 90 days without charge and say things like

"We may have to modify some of our freedoms in the short-term in order to prevent their misuse and abuse by those who oppose our fundamental values and would destroy our freedoms and values in the long-term."

Thankfully John Reid left the government right around the time Gorilla Kingdom opened at London Zoo.

All in all, the counter-terrorism laws in this country have been ineffective, serving only as a recruitment tool for extremism and objects of derision for everyone. It seems we've learned the sum equivalent of bugger all from the Troubles and are just repeating the same mistakes (thankfully without Gerry Adams banging on about how Sinn Fein is a "legitimate political party").

23 November 2007

22 November 2007

Chuck Norris Approved

Too cool for words:

That doesn't satisfy you? Then try this on for size:

Another Busy Day in the US Senate

Explanation:

"Senators have left town for the Thanksgiving holiday, but the Senate will technically stay in session — a move that keeps President Bush from making appointments while lawmakers are in recess [so called "recess appointments"].

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said he would schedule “pro forma” sessions during the two-week break, even though lawmakers will be absent and no business will be conducted.

The sessions are expected to last less than 30 seconds — the clerk will announce who the presiding officer is, and then that senator will gavel the session closed."

Hat-tip to the Daily Irrelevant.

Chris2Win

Well, just about...

... but I've almost nudged him off the top (the offending post is here).

Oh yes, and on the Duncan Borrowman monitor I'm (if you can't be bothered to scroll all the way down my sidebar) firmly undecided.

21 November 2007

Realpolitik: We’re All Gonna Get Defrauded!

The new Realpolitik podcast is now available here. In this week's show:

The show was recorded on Tuesday 20th November.

This is all your fault, Darling

The morning after the 3.30pm statement before, I'm still flabbergasted by this single paragraph:

"Two password protected discs containing a full copy of HMRC's entire data in relation to the payment of child benefit was sent to the NAO, by HMRC's internal post system operated by the courier TNT. The package was not recorded or registered. It appears the data has failed to reach the addressee in the NAO."


(from Political Betting)

But perhaps I should be more astonished that it took 10 days for the Chancellor to make a public statement about the fiasco, and three weeks for him to even be told. This is hardly conducive to identity and bank security is it? The public needed to be informed the moment this happened, so they could take the necessary steps to protect themselves.


(via Iain Dale, photo credit: JamieD)


A quick tip for HMRC staff who want to transfer data in the future - don't move the data physically off your computers, but send them over this marvellous technology the rest of us use every day. It's called the internet.

PS. Apologies to Blackadder for the post title.

20 November 2007

The Life of the Nation

A stirring passage by Lord Hoffman from the 2004 Belmarsh prisoners case, on the question of whether the life of the nation is threatened by terrorism:

"This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups of terrorists to kill and destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation. Whether we would survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt that we shall survive Al-Qaeda. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of their nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it. Terrorist violence, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."

19 November 2007

FFS It's Monday: Crybaby Clegg and a history of leaders

Continuing my run of pissing on the tent from the outside...

I feel I've been too harsh on old Huhne these past few days, so fuck it, let's give Clegg a well-deserved kicking too. The way I see it, if I attack them both, I'm bound to be in for job with whoever wins - I'm an equal opportunities bastard. It's also Monday, and I like to be mean on Mondays.

A long time ago there was Paddy. And he led the party for 11 years, had sex with his secretary, and could kill a man with his thumb... oh yes, and he took the Liberal Democrats to their best result since the Second World War. Then there was Charles Kennedy, who had one of those annoying "couldn't stand up straight nor stop giggling problems" (alcoholism), but who took us to even greater heights before being stabbed in the back by a Parliamentary Party tired of picking up his multi-million pound bar tab.

The elderly Ming Campbell hobbled on to the stage next, complete with colostomy bag, nurse and emergency resuscitation trolley. He lasted less than two years before having a Horlicks induced coma, and didn't get the chance to do anything much at all electorally speaking... except local elections.

And that brings us to the present day, with Chris Huhne in ill-fitting yellow shorts in the one corner, and Nick Clegg in tighter, but still yellow, shorts, possibly with a sock wedged down there for good measure, in the other corner.

The two contenders, or as I like to call them, egomaniacs, are essentially the same person - separated only by an age difference of 14 years - and, by their own admission, they broadly agree on policy... so they have to find ways of putting clear mustard-coloured water between them to give the electorate a choice - or at least to make it feel less like a game of "pin the tail on the donkey". Chris Huhne (or a member of his team) hit on idea of accusing his opponent of "flip-flopping" on certain issues, and so took a bunch of press-cuttings out of (or sometimes indeed, in) context and compiled them in a dossier called "Calamity Clegg". Dossiers in the UK don't have a fantastic history, and this one was no exception. When Huhne was confronted with it on the BBC Politics Show yesterday he first denied all knowledge of it, and then repeated the accusations verbatim. Cue lots of negative backlash and that, you would think, is that.

Except Nick Clegg has skin so thin Kate Moss is jealous and he's complained to his mummy - today taking the form of the party's Chief Whip, Paul Burstow. Of course this will prolong the story for a couple more days and presumably the thinking in the Clegg camp is that this can only be good for his campaign. But it isn't. It just makes him look weak - the type of person that will whine and moan over every slight against him, and when you're leader of a political party, you can't be that type of person as you'll just end up blubbing every morning over the papers... and then again in the afternoon when the Standard comes out. And probably at PMQs too when the Prime Minister turns some irrelevant factoid against you. So Nick Clegg, find a pair, man up or get out of politics.

Postscript*: James Graham has put up a summary of his interview with the crybaby this morning, and interesting reading it makes too, especially on how Clegg intends to take us out of our comfort zone.

* That's what "PS" means, and I'm so clever I've decided to type it out, letter by letter.

SeriousPolicy

Government propaganda more like. Hat-tip to Richard Holloway for showing me this laughably bad mini-game that fails to present how policy is made in government in a realistic way - for instance, where's the quiet word with the PM one hour after you make a gaffe on the Today Programme? Still, got to commend them for trying.

18 November 2007

Chris2Win by stomping on the still beating heart of Clegg whilst gouging out the eyes of our dearly departed leader, Ming

Thank you Norfolk Blogger, thank you:

Anyone else wondering why Chris Huhne had his banner photo taken in a stable? Maybe those are hooves he is standing on, who knows... Can you get flip-flops for horses?

Interrupting that wildly divergent line of thinking - the ambush on the BBC Politics Show this afternoon: worth a giggle wasn't it. Sorry I'm not taking it too seriously like some, but you've got to appreciate it for what it is - a massive cock up the stretched arsehole of his campaign. No doubt people will use this to claim we're a nasty bunch of people (hence the headline), but we're not really - when you lose as much as we do, you've got to have a cheery spirit. Oh yes, Huhne's apologised here.

17 November 2007

Huhne - A Great Communicator?

Continuing my run of pissing on the tent from the outside...

Remember when I discussed the leadership candidates' websites so very long ago (ok, last month) and I criticised just how green the site is. Well, he's continued it with his leaflets - hey, at least he is being consistent.

But that's not the reason I'm blogging, this is:

I've been staring at this for the past day, and I can't quite pin down exactly why, but this isn't the right way to phrase the message he is trying to get across. When he is claiming to be a "great communicator" (I agree) in the same sentence, this is worrying. I suggest this is the correct way to have put the message:

"Chris is a great communicator - for example, the way he got the Lib Dem message across so successfully as Environment Spokesperson [or 'Shadow Environment Secretary']"

But even this doesn't seem 100% satisfactory.

Issue not being discussed today: Huhne and Clegg's performance on Question Time. Only just watching it now.

15 November 2007

Ho Ho Ho

I feel like Bill O'Reilly when I say "The assault on Christmas has started early this year", but here goes, via The Australian Daily Telegraph:

Santas across Sydney are rebelling against attempts to ban their traditional greeting of "ho, ho, ho" in favour of "ha, ha, ha".

Recruitment firm Westaff - which supplies hundreds of Santas across the country - has told its trainees that the "ho ho ho" phrase could frighten children and could even be derogatory to women.

Two Santa hopefuls reportedly quit the course because of the hullabaloo of the ho, ho, ho.

One would-be Santa has told The Daily Telegraph he was taught not to use "ho, ho, ho" because it was too close to the American slang for prostitute. He also quit.

Hat-tip to Shane Greer for showing me this story.

Salami Slicing Freedom

Back in late 2005, and in the wake of the 7/7 bombings, the Government asked Parliament to extend the period certain types of criminal suspects* could be detained without trial to 90 days and lost. This was the first time Tony Blair was defeated in the House of Commons, but the House agreed to extend the limit to 28 days and the measure was eventually promulgated as a part of the Terrorism Act 2006.

In a move that could be described as cheeky at best, and downright manipulative at worst, the Government is now proposing that the limit be extended to 58 days. Because their detractors are attempting to defend a higher limit (and assuming the measure isn't roundly voted down) the Government will probably end up with a detention limit somewhere in the 40s.

As I've pointed out before, this will inevitably lead to another attempt to extend the limit in a couple of years. In all likelihood, they'll ask for a 60 or 70 day limit then, and end up with a limit somewhere in the 50s. So, my question is this - when do they stop attempting to increase the limit? When do they decide that we've reached the optimum detention limit for criminal suspects? The answer, I believe, is never. The Government is going to continue to attempt to stretch the internment period until Parliament puts their foot down - it is in the nature of the State to seek further powers, and it is in the interests of the people to resist those attempts, except when they are clearly in the public interest and subject to the necessary safeguards against abuse.

Should, therefore, Parliament put their foot down now? It's fairly obvious that they should, for a number of reasons:

  1. There have been no further "terrorist" attacks since the detention limit was raised to 28 days.
  2. By their own admission, the police have come up against the 28 day limit in just six cases. There are concerns over the extent to which the police are allowing suspects to "stew" for a few days after arrest before questioning them.
  3. Arguments that attacks are growing more complex seem to be founded on the basis that our ability to tackle them isn't advancing. This is patently not true, and assumes a level of sophistication can be found amongst criminal suspects that can't exist within the law-abiding.
  4. During the Northern Irish "troubles", the detention without charge limit under the Prevention of Terrorism Act was 7 days. The bombing campaign back then was more frequent and lead to a greater loss of life.

We can't allow our freedoms to be salami sliced like this - we have to stand up and say enough is enough when our freedoms have been eroded to such an extent that we're in danger of losing them altogether.

* Much of the press coverage has used the phrase "terror suspects", but let's call them "criminals", as that is all that they are. To me, the phrase "terror suspects" pre-judges one aspect of the argument and is a useless, simplistic catch-all with negative connotations.

14 November 2007

What It Takes to Convince Lord West

A single meeting with the Prime Minister, if this BBC report is to be believed:

During the Today programme interview at 0810 [still available here], former Admiral Lord West said he still needed "to be fully convinced that we absolutely need more than 28 days".

"I want to be totally convinced because I am not going to go and push for something that actually affects the liberty of the individual unless there is a real necessity for it."

But then at 0930, after a half-hour meeting with Mr Brown, the peer told the BBC he was "personally convinced" that the 28-day limit needed extending.

"I personally, absolutely believe that within the next two or three years we will require more than that for one of those complex plots," he said.

Gordon Brown is clearly very persuasive... At least we know he didn't offer Lord West a peerage. What other enticements does he have up his sleeve?

Update

Realpolitik: We're All Gonna Die!

The new Realpolitik podcast is now available here. In this week's show:

The show was recorded on Tuesday 13th November 2007.

13 November 2007

Court Censors Spanish Magazine

Via the BBC:

A court in Spain has convicted Manel Font de Vila, the editor of the popular satirical weekly magazine El Jueves, and cartoonist "Guillermo" of "damaging the prestige of the crown".

Both men received a hefty 3,600-euro (£2,539) fine.

Their offence was to have published a cartoon last July making ribald fun of the heir to the Spanish throne, and of the government's scheme to encourage women to have more babies by giving mothers a special payment for each new birth.

Obviously a shocking curtailment of press freedom, but thank god for the internet, as the cartoon lives on:

The prince is saying, "Do you realise that if you get pregnant, it will be the closest thing to work I've done in my life?"

Thankfully, no such action could take place here if someone ran a cartoon of Charles flogging Camilla - the defendants would surely have the reasonable excuse that the Crown in this country is already pretty damaged.

Cover-up at Tory-Run Council

From Iran and the US to something just a bit more local: Hertsmere Borough Council, situated in the delightful commuter belt county of Hertfordshire. As one might expect, the council is run by the Conservative Party (28 seats), with the Liberal Democrats as the main opposition (7 seats), and Labour (4 seats) not too far behind.

So, that gives the Tory party a 17-seat majority and boy, have they been (ab)using it. Last month, the Council's Chief Executive, Eden Lee, resigned for what he claims were "personal/family reasons and to allow him to take his career in a different direction".

Except, as every single councillor knows (and a few other people outside their select circle, including the Borehamwood Times), that's not the real reason he resigned, and they're refusing to reveal the truth - the Tory councillors because they don't want to be embarrassed and potentially lose their seats, the LibDem and Labour councillors because they have been threatened with legal action if they do (under the principle of confidentiality). The Council claims it cannot divulge any more information because to do so would be a breach of confidence and the matter is nonetheless a personal one covered by the necessary exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act. This is a lie - it is a public matter and the public have a right to know.

Eden Lee resigned because he was stealing public money. At some point during his tenure at the Council, he started to misappropriate funds from the Council, and the District Auditor is currently investigating where this money has gone.

It is absolutely abhorrent that the Tories are refusing the tell the public the truth - the spineless bastards are refusing even to tell us whether there is currently an investigation! In hiding behind the principle of confidentiality and claiming this is a wholly personal matter, they have shown a complete disregard for the public interest in an attempt to save their own skins.

12 November 2007

FFS It's Monday: Iran: Why America Needs the United Nations

The USA, and possibly this country, could be heading to war with Iran, for all the reasons we've head before in relation to another Middle East country – Weapons of Mass Destruction, links to terrorist atrocities and a dictator generally hell-bent on destroying Western civilisation.

Some people say that the US has real concerns about Iran and the stability of the world, but personally I believe Bush just wants to be able to roadtrip it straight from Kabul to Baghdad , via Tehran. He'll probably make a movie, full of tits, fart jokes and vomiting, that'll flop at the cinema, but sell really well on DVD, as thousands of horny teenagers rush to buy another teen movie they can masturbate over whilst pretending to study. And if you believe that you'll believe anything, in which case I'm the widow of a Nigerian General who needs your help transferring some money out ... I think I'm getting beside the point.

You see, politicians don't really understand what war is all about – namely that it's bloody, it's horrible and it's only necessary in extreme cases. Those we elect however, see their poll ratings go through the roof and they want a bit of that, so they all engage in a mass circle jerk over some tin pot dictator, throwing words like "Weapons of Mass Destruction" around and making nebulous claims about atrocities in far flung places that the tin pot dictator couldn't possibly have committed. What’s even worse in the case of Iran is that President Ahmed-showaddywaddy isn’t a dictator, but an elected politician in a theocratic system of government.

For the first few months of war, of course, all goes swimmingly - the media can't criticise, the opposition shut up and everybody generally "supports our troops" - and those who don't are peer-pressured into shutting the fuck up or demonised for undermining morale. Quite why the country completely loses its ability to critically analyse this absurd situation just because somewhere in the world its army is doing its job, is beyond me, but that’s the way life is and there's bugger all I can do about it.

At the end of the Second World War, the four winners (and France) set up the United Nations, with the aim of prohibiting war and other uses of armed force except in cases of self-defence or where the Security Council authorises it. The victors (and France) got a seat at the top table, and instituted a voting procedure called “screw everyone else” (the veto), in which they always got their own way, unless they decided not to show up for a vote. The United Nations system hasn’t worked fantastically, in fact for the first forty five years of its existence it was a giant bloody shambles, unable to do anything because the US and USSR kept facing each other off in a dick waving contest that the rest of the world barely cared two hoots about. But, as everyone knows, democracy was victorious and communism was shit (except for Tetris) and hopes were high in 1991 when the world bandied together under US command and kicked Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.

Things have pretty much returned to normal since then, however, meaning the US can’t rely on the Security Council to let it go round whatever country it wants, kick some arse, set fire to some buildings and then go home for tea. And they want to do that, because their under attack from “terrorists”, who want to rape their grandmas, take their freedoms and do a dump in their gardens. So, George Bush and his team of rabid monkeys set out a doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence in which they maintain

“the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction— and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.”

The only problem with this is the rest of the world said, “well, you can fuck right off”, and completely rejected the doctrine of pre-emptive action. So, when the US went to war with Iraq in 2003 it based its use of force not on the pre-emptive doctrine but on previous Security Council resolutions, arguing that the 1991 ceasefire was no longer operational as Iraq was in material breach of its commitments under it (see, I did discuss Kuwait for a reason). The problem that the US has with Iran is that there are no equivalent resolutions that they can use as they march into Tehran and open up their latest Starbucks and McDonalds chains. Meaning they would have to rely on the pre-emptive doctrine and they don’t want to do that for a very simple reason: the rest of the world can then use it whenever they perceive a future threat against their survival – Pakistan against India, China against Taiwan, Israel against the rest of the Middle East, the Middle East against Israel, Scotland against England, you get the idea. The whole thing would resemble something close to apocalypse, and then who would there be left to consume Hollywood movies and buy frankly suspect hamburgers.

Therefore, the USA, if it wants to take action (military or otherwise) against Iran, needs the United Nations and it needs to make a concerted effort to ensure that at the very least the permanent members are on its side. They should hopefully act as a bulwark against any hasty military action.

11 November 2007

iPhone Magic

Via The Daily Irrelevant:

10 November 2007

Earn Free Rice

Not for you, but for those who need it most, just by playing a simple (but addictive) vocabulary game. According to the BBC, enough rice has already been donated to feed 50,000 people, so appease your guilty Western conscience and give a little.

09 November 2007

Perfected: The Ann Coulter Song

Thank you so very very much Adam for pointing me towards this:

iPhone Commemoration Oration

Something I wrote and never finished whilst very bored at the beginning of the year when there was a lot of hype about Apple's (then just announced) iPhone. Posting now as the iPhone is being released in the UK tonight at 6:02pm (on the 02 network, natch), it's based on the Mac vs. PC cinema adverts we all know and loathe:

Mac: Hi, I'm Mac and I wanna tell you about the new iPhone, out summer '07. It can [list of what the iPhone can do].
PC: Whoa, whoa, whoa. Ok, I've had enough of all your "I can do this, you can't do that", so look at this (pulls out a phone). It's got [list everything phones can do - i.e. everything the iPhone can bar touch-screen]
Mac: Has it got a touch-screen?
PC: No... but how you gonna use it when you've got wanker's cramp?
Mac: What?
PC: Everyone knows Mac users are massive tossers.

Well, it made me laugh when I came across it yesterday.

Update

The BBC have done their own version of the Mac vs. PC ads for the iPhone: iPhone vs. Nokia N95.

08 November 2007

Israel's Government Wants it Both Way

From the BBC:

"A senior Israeli minister has called for the sacking of Mohamed ElBaradei, the head of the UN nuclear watchdog.

Deputy PM Shaul Mofaz said the Egyptian head of the International Atomic Energy Agency had endangered world peace by neglecting Iran's nuclear programme."

As the story notes, Israel is a member of the IAEA, but not the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty - this is for a very good reason: Israel is the only Middle East country to actually have nuclear weapons. Now, I'm actually not too worried about this - they're a stable democracy with real concerns about their future survival (although these concerns have become thankfully less valid as the years have passed). But they can't have it both ways and complain about other countries' alleged secret nuclear weapons programmes without first coming clean to the world about their own nuclear capabilities.

Or maybe I'm just ignoring Israel's substantive argument in favour of "whataboutism".

Just want to ask you a few security questions

Call from the Halifax today:

Call centre: I just want to ask you a few security questions, is that ok? What's your date of birth?

No, no that is not fucking ok. You called me. The onus is on you to prove who you are, not the other way around. If you're so confident that the number you have dialled is for me, you shouldn't be asking any questions - otherwise, don't call the fucking number. How moronic do you have to be to think it's acceptable to call someone demanding to know vital personal security details about them?

Selling the KKK

I'm worried that this range of Ku Klux Klan clothing isn't selling as well as they could, so I hope they don't mind that I've put together a bit of copy for them to try out in their next round of advertising:

Afraid you're not projecting the correct mix of hatred and racial purity to mark yourself out as a winner in the evolutionary race? Worried that you're neighbours and colleagues see you as a friend of the black man? Then buy yourself a piece of stylish KKK clothing. Kit out the whole family, from ages 3 months (for the baby racist) to 300 years (for the grandpa that can't count). Buy now and receive a free pitchfork.


For when you really want
to ramp up the Nazi symbolism.

Or all us right-on liberals could buy them in a fit of post-modern irony:

"Ooo, Stefan, look at this post-modern ironic T-shirt I bought yesterday from a Christian website. It's so taboo, but it's ok because I love black people. Word up, nigger."

07 November 2007

What Would It Take

Via (as ever) the Daily Irrelevant:


(click to enlarge)

Behind the Headlines

Darren Reynolds, writing on LibDemVoice:

"According to the Office of National Statistics, every day about 1,400 people die in the UK. Of these, about 440 are from heart disease, 370 are from cancer and 260 are from diseases of the brain or stroke. Beyond that, there is death and great suffering caused by a huge range of other illnesses.

Of the total number of deaths, precisely none are from terrorism this year. Not since 7th July 2005 have people suffered in this way. Then, whilst the 52 victims and their families were part of a great tragedy, the tragedy of 1,400 people dying daily in the UK from other causes is surely as great."

Read the full article here.

Fatal Hilarity

Bored whilst filling in a medical questionnaire:

Do you undertake any regular sport or exercise? If yes, what and how often: ... regular bouts of hilarity cause stomach muscles to seize up in pain.

Think I'm being flippant? Well, you're probably right, but check this out.

Realpolitik: The Queen's Speech

Now available over here, in this week’s Realpolitik:

The show was recorded on Tuesday 6th November 2007.

06 November 2007

Found It

Peter Brookes of The Times has found that elusive joke:

05 November 2007

Searching for that elusive joke

There's got to be some joke connecting the unveiling of Tutankhamun's face and the sacking of a Tory candidate after he endorsed Enoch Powell's views on immigration, so stick with me:

 
"We've decided to call him Enoch"
"The true face of Conservatism"
New Home Office Figures Suggest up to 1 million blackened corpses could flood our shores: Daily Mail.

Ok, that didn't seem to come to anything. I suppose it's just too easy to say that as the world sees one long forgotten face, it's reminded of another too.

Publicity and How to Get It

From Thought Leader, after this suppressed story caused foreign media outlets to erupt in fits of giggles that the English High Court could tell them what to do:

If you want to guarantee the identity of a high-profile individual being revealed, then please ensure you take the following steps:

    1. Obtain a gagging order in their country of origin.
    2. Warn the media and the internet community of dire consequences if they infringe it.
    3. Inundate the British media with tidbits concerning the scandal.

(Hat tip to Anonymous on Jonathan Calder's blog)

On This Day

The Vulcan makes a good point:

"On November 5th we remember that terrorism in the name of religion is not a new problem. We should also remember how this plot was foiled. It was not intercepted through the issue of ID cards. The police or army did not spot the plotters carrying huge barrels of gunpowder into a cellar. It was not prevented by a cordon of oak or iron - today’s concrete and steel - around the Palace of Westminster. The murderers were prevented from killing the Parliament and government of James I by intelligence picking up a family tip off."

04 November 2007

Realpolitik Podcast

Richard Holloway and I have recorded the first of what we hope will be the first of many podcasts on politics, the media, politics and the media and anything else that takes our fancy. We've pretentiously decided to call the series "realpolitik" and the first show, "The DL Show", can be listened to or downloaded here. We hope to release a new one every Tuesday (this week's is a one-off delay hopefully).

Update

Or you can listen to it right here:

A Self-Contradicting Sentence

From Mary Riddell, in today's Observer, slips up in what is an otherwise persuasively argued piece on the dangers of a war with Iran and the alternatives open to the world:

"Hundreds of thousands have died in Iraq in a war waged to wipe out non-existent WMDs. This time round, the intelligence is just as thin, but the Tehran weapon, unlike the phantom Baghdad bomb, is a real and dreadful prospect."

So, same amount of intelligence, but this time it's ok, because we know that the nuclear bomb is a real prospect here.

03 November 2007

A Comparison

Via the Daily Irrelevant:

Well-Fucking-Done

From the BBC, "President" Musharraf has thrown his toys out of the pram and resorted to bully-boy tactics:

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has declared emergency rule and suspended the country's constitution.

Troops have been deployed inside state-run TV and radio stations, while independent channels have gone off air.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who condemned the moves, has reportedly been sacked and is being confined to the Supreme Court with 10 other judges.

It comes as the court was due to rule on the legality of Gen Musharraf's re-election victory in October. The Court was to decide whether Gen Musharraf was eligible to run for election last month while remaining army chief.


Diddums
So in other words:

Musharraf: Mummy, mummy, the big boys said I can't play with them because I'm too mean.

Mummy: Well, you know what you should do then, don't you sweetkums?

Musharraf: Kill the big boys?


Intellectual analysis rating of this post: -4.

01 November 2007

More Rejected Jokes

Following on from last week's McCann based joke that never aired, here's some that didn't make it into tonight's Vox Politix:

Top Ten lies about Heather Mills

5. In an ironic twist of fate, touching her fake leg cures leprosy.
3. She kidnapped Madeleine McCann.
2. Whilst appearing on the US version of Strictly Come Dancing and during a particularly tricky allegro heel turn her fake leg flew off and fatally stabbed an audience member. [this one actually went out in altered form, but I prefer the longer version]
1. She was the De Menezes gunman.

I'm kind of glad at least one of them was rejected, as it allowed me to put this one in:

2. She carries a picture of an African AIDS orphan in her back pocket to remind her that she really is the most unfortunate person in the world.

Zero Punctuation

Zero Punctuation, a funny and fast weekly look at gaming:

Justice

At last... Just a shame the conviction was on health and safety grounds, rather than corporate manslaughter and appears not to have been for actually shooting Jean Charles de Menezes, but for failing to shoot him earlier. And a fine for the Met, which of course will be paid for by the taxpayer (I would say "by us", but then I'm a student). Pickled Politics makes a good point:

Lets fine the Met. What a great idea. Where does the money come from? The taxpayer. What happens if the Met is fined? It has less money to spend on policing. Does the Met care? No, because it knows that the taxpayer will always bail it out.