Saturday, February 08, 2003

Interesting item in Nick Assinder's column on BBC News Online about how MPs may have got confused during all the voting on House of Lords reform and accidentally voted against things they wanted to vote for. You could make a big deal out of this, but if it's possible for some MPs to have voted against when they meant to be voting in favour, then the opposite is equally likely which means there's a strong likelihood any confusion got cancelled out.

However, isn't it worrying that whether or not something becomes law in this country can be decided on whether someone walks down the rigth or wrong lobby during a vote? If we wever get a vote about going to war with Iraq, I certainly hope that one confused MP doesn't take a wrong turning and end up changing the fates of millions.

But, on a lighter note, I enjoyed this joke:

Question: "How many Tories does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: "Three. One to change the bulb and two to plot a leadership contest in the dark."
Pointless things you find on the web while wasting time on a night shift, number 1: A b3ta discussion about the secret codes shops, the tube etc use to warn staff of a fire or bomb threat. Get worried next time you're on the tube and you hear an announcement calling for Mr Sands...
Just been checking out some of the sites in my area that use GeoURL. It does seem like quite a techy thing at the moment - or, at least, most of the sites that are near here seem to be blogs and personal sites run by techy-type people. For instance, this site (which is 31 miles northwest of me) uses the phrase 'Tom has Trackback enabled so that MT picks up the ping URL without any prompting.' which is all well and good but just makes me go 'huh?'

Still, GeoURL has helped me find the Imaginary Movie Database, which is one of those ideas I wish I'd come up with.

Friday, February 07, 2003

Sometimes I wonder if Michael Jackson will ever start a cult. Since that documentary about him came out, I've kept hearing fans of his say 'oh, there's nothing wrong with him', 'he loves children' etc etc and it's not just a new phenomenon. I've noticed it several times over the years, that his fans seem to almost worship him and will accept anything he says as the absolute truth. For an example, see some of the quotes here. I'd look for more, but I really don't feel like wading through Michael Jackson fan sites this morning.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

I've just been watching the Newsnight interview with Tony Blair, which was interesting. There'll already be enough commentary about it on the web to make anything I have to say on the substance pretty irrelevant, but one thing did catch my eye. A couple of times, the camera went into extreme close up on Blair and he is starting to look very old - prominent grey patches and very deep lines on his face.

I could try and go into some kind of deep analysis on this to show that it means that such-and-such theory of mine is true, but I'm not a Daily Mail writer, and if there's one thing they do better than me it's uninformed speculation to give justification to your own beliefs and prejudices. I've just never noticed him looking so old before, and it surprised me.
Just added another new link to the side - click on the neighbours link and that (thanks to the wonders of GeoURL) will tell you of other websites in my area. Not an exhaustive database...according to it, the nearest website to me is ten miles away - but if this sort of referencing takes off I'll have been one of the people in on it from the start.

(Thanks to Dustbinman for originally finding this)
Demos is suggesting that children should be given the vote from birth. Interesting proposal, but I can't ever see it coming to pass - and while it does seem like a good idea, there are problems with it that becoming apparent if you think about it for a while. I can already see the court cases where politicall savvy 13 year olds sue their parents for using their vote incorrectly, and how would voting rights be determined in custody cases. Still, it might see lots of wannabe MPs volunteering to become foster or adoptive parents.

But, the suggestion might help kickstart some discussion about the connection of rights and age such as reducing the voting age from 18 to 16 (which I'm in favour of) and also allowing 16/18 year olds the right to stand for election. It might help create a generation of British Michael Moores - he started off by getting elected to his school board as an 18 year old.
I watched Prime Minister's Questions yesterday and there was a question about Osama Bin Laden at the very end:

Mr. Piara S. Khabra (Ealing, Southall): President Bush wanted Osama bin Laden dead or alive, but he is still at large. Will the Prime Minister tell the House about the latest information available on his whereabouts? Furthermore, can he confirm whether bin Laden and his al-Qaeda followers have already crossed the border into Pakistan? If so, what steps are being taken to pursue him over there?

The Prime Minister: I hesitate to make the obvious point that, if I knew his whereabouts, I would do something about it, but it is worth making just two points. The first is that we do not know whether he is harboured in Pakistan or not, but we are in touch with the Pakistani authorities, and we have undertakings from them about missions to search any territories that he may be in. The second point, which is very important, is that we have hugely weakened the infrastructure of al-Qaeda, but both President Bush and I said at the time that this is a battle that will go on for years. Those extremists are well dug in in virtually every country around the world. There is not a single major country at the moment that does not have terrorist cells operating. We have destroyed their centre of operations in Afghanistan, but it is important that we pursue them in every other part of the world until this battle is finished and won.

What I found interesting was there was no 'if he's still alive' - a tacit admission that OBL is still alive and at large?

Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Had a lot of visitors in the last 24 hours - that's the power of getting a mention on Bartcop, I guess. Which reminded me of an old piece I wrote for the site, called Eve of Destruction, which I managed to track down in the recesses of my PC today. Was quite interesting to read through it again, as it was a pre-September 11th piece (December 2000, actually), wondering about how Bush would get around to destroying the world. Bit of a rant, with some predictions that are way off, but it was fun taking a little trip back to my past.

Anyway, it's now in the writing section of the website, for all the world to laugh at.
A British intelligence report has found that there are no links between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. However, Jack Straw, who must be channelling God right now, looking at his delusions of omnipotence, says even though there is no evidence for a link, there must be one:

Mr Straw told the BBC's Today programme that he had "seen no evidence which directly links Iraq to al-Qaeda, but I would not be surprised if it exists".

I've seen no evidence that directly links Jack Straw to the ritual sacrifice of donkeys in the name of Satan, but I wouldn't be surprised if it exists. Hey, I could be a member of the Government! Who cares if you've got any evidence ('facts! you can prove anything with facts!') just say that you're 'sure it exists', or 'they're hiding the evidence' or 'you wouldn't be surprised if it exists'.

Of course, this is probably why they want to bomb Iraq. Then they can claim that there was conclusive evidence, but it was unfortunately destroyed during the bombing campaign. And anyone who could have corroborated its existence was also unfortunately killed during the bombing. But it was there, honest, trust us, we say it was there, so it must have been. Anyway, look at all this lovely oil and enjoy your fireworks show and military parade while we go and find the next boogeyman.

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Moved all the Bartcop Books files over to this server this afternoon - I've decided not to do any more of them, as I don't really have the time, but thought they ought to be here anyway as they are something I've created.

But, I've added a new 'reading' section to the links on this page - the five books I'm either reading or have read most recently. Should give people an idea of where my thoughts are coming from, and will also serve as a reminder to me to read them before I take them off! I've had Don Quixote for a couple of years, just never got around to reading it so putting it there ought to motivate me to read it. I have enough time on the train to and from work to read it.
Looks like House of Lords reform is dead in the water for a couple of years, at least. Oh well, guess we'll have to go on pretending to be a democracy for a while longer - after all, are we really a democracy when half of our Parliament is actually elected?

Here's my idea for an elected Lords, anyway. No chance of it ever coming to pass, but I thought I'd write it down for psterity.

Rather than elect it all at once, have the Lords elected like local councillors or the US Senate - replacing a portion of them every year or two years. This means that they're not as dependent on temporary electoral surges. My suggestion would be for 'Lords' to be elected to ten year terms, with one-fifth being elected every two years (probably in regional elections). Also, to ensure some degree of independence have it that 'Lords' can't stand for re-election after the end of their term. Or, at least not immediately - perhaps a four or six year wait before standing again. This means they don't have to cast their votes thinking of how it will affect their re-election.

Just my ideas.
Because I'm a Liberal Democrat, I occasionally get emails from Charles Kennedy. OK, so do thousands of other people, but I got one today with the following in, which I thought I'd share.

Everyone knows that the world would be safer without Saddam Hussein. But there is no contradiction between hatred of his leadership and the profound anxiety many people feel about the way in which the Americans - with Tony Blair's support - are proposing to launch an invasion of Iraq.

The Liberal Democrats believe that the case has not yet been made for military action. The evidence has not yet been clearly assembled. And public opinion here in Britain is profoundly opposed to unilateral action by American and British forces without a UN mandate and without clear evidence of the need for war.

We believe that it makes most sense at this juncture to pursue a proven and effective inspection programme as the best means of Iraqi containment, rather than to hurtle precipitately into full-scale military conflict in the name of 'regime change'. We want the weapons inspections to work. We want Hans Blix and his team to ensure that Saddam Hussein has no weapons of mass destruction. That is why we have remained the pro-United Nations party, rather than an all out anti-war party. Indeed, we set out the conditions under which we would support military action last Autumn at our Conference in Brighton.

The inspectors have asked for more time. The Security Council - including Britain - should give it to them.

Monday, February 03, 2003

I wasn't going to write anything about Columbia, but then I saw this by Ken Macleod in the latest Ansible:

`Husband, McCool, Anderson, Brown, Chawla, Clark, Ramon.
`Komarov, Grissom, White, Chaffee, Dobrovolsky, Volkov, Patsayev,
Resnick, Scobee, Smith, McNair, McAuliffe, Jarvis, Onizuka.
`These names will be written under other skies.'

Also, Ansible quoted an item from a recent Popbitch - isn't that a sign of the apocalypse being at hand?

Sunday, February 02, 2003

Despite being annoyed by that Aaronovitch article, it was on the same page as this excellent Andrew Rawnsley piece about Blair's anti-democratic tendencies. And Richard Ingrams makes some good points about the attempt to ban the anti-war demonstration.
This article in the Observer (Why The Left Is Wrong On Saddam by David Aaronovitch) is yet another attempt to spin the 'anti-war=pro-Saddam' line, and included the following line:

If, in a few weeks time, the Security Council agrees to wage war against Saddam, I shall support it.

You know, if they did, I'd support it. Unfortunately, they'll agree to wage war against Iraq, a country which includes about 20million people who are not Saddam. War won't be waged against Saddam, David, it'll be waged against the people of Iraq, just like last time.