Saturday, October 04, 2003

1-0 to the Wanderers (repeat ad infinitum)

At last! A win before Christmas! The only way is up! (Mainly because we're still at the bottom)

Weapons of Mass Newspeak

In response to my post about Bush's latest dumber-than-a-box-of-rocks quote below, Chris Lightfoot has an interesting post about the use of the term 'weapons of mass destruction'.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Consistency?

Now we all know that Oliver Kamm seems to live for Liberal Democrat bashing. Whatever his motives for this are (my belief is that he suffered a very bad paper cut from a Focus leaflet one day and vowed revenge) it seems there's no issue he'll use to bash the party, even if it might reflect badly on his own Labour party as well.

Last wekk, he produced one of his splenetic rants based on the fact that two Liberal Democrat MPs (Alistair Carmichael and Richard Allan) spoke at a Cuba Solidarity Campaign fringe meeting. Richard defended his reasons for doing so in the comments there, so I'm not going to comment on that argument.

Instead, I'd like to ask what would Oliver's reaction be if the Cuba Solidarity Campaign had a meeting at the Labour Party Conference? What if a Labour MP and a Union General Secretary spoke at that event? Surely Oliver would condemn them, even if the MP happened to be a member of the Government? Surely, he'd have to condemn them and, using the logic he used last week, condemn the Party, indeed the government that they belonged to? Being the man of prionciple that he is, surely he'd write something, even just a brief update to the original post, or a mention in the comments, that this was the case.

Or, does the event described at the bottom of this page not count for some reason?
Labour Party Conference Public Meeting
Hands Off Cuba Public Meeting
Hermitage Hotel, Clifton Suite, Bornemouth
Tuesday 30th September
5.30pm

Tuesday 30th September 5.30pm
(or straight after end of conference)

Hermitage Hotel, Clifton Suite
Directly opposite International Centre, Exeter Road, Bournemouth

Guest Speakers:
· Angela Smith MP (Northern Ireland Minister)
· Billy Hayes (General Secretary, Communication Workers Union)
· Oscar de los Reyes (Cuban embassy)
· Ken Gill (Cuba Solidarity Campaign)
And remember, in Oliver's own words:
Something is seriously amiss when this type of event - which is not a humanitarian or pragmatic call for an easing of the trade embargo, but an expression of 'solidarity' with a totalitarian state - is found unexceptionable and unremarkable by a party that falsely claims the mantle of liberal politics. The place of consistent liberals is with the political dissidents, not at a drinks party in a four-star hotel celebrating the regime that locked them up.
But then, Labour never claimed to be a liberal party, so why should anyone expect any more?

Whovian

With all the Dr Who-related stuff being blogged about at the moment, here are a couple of web-based guides, people might find interesting. The Dr Who Reference Guide, which contains details of all the stories and A Brief History Of Time (Travel), which is a behind the scenes look at the making of the series over the years.

Quote of the day

"Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction."
- George W Bush (spotted by Atrios)

I must be hallucinating this and this then.

Update: For anyone doubting this, it can be found in the official Whitehouse transcript:
See, free nations are peaceful nations. Free nations don't attack each other. Free nations don't develop weapons of mass destruction. There will be a free and peaceful Iraq. What's taking place in Iraq is the evolution of a society, to be democratic in nation -- nature, a society in which the people are better off.

5 Ps

Via Matthew Turner (who also found the 'money quote' in it) a New York Review Of Books article by Wesley Clark entitled Iraq: What Went Wrong which lays out the case for how the US has mismanaged the post-war period in Iraq:
The second major criticism of the war plan—a profound flaw—concerned the endgame: it shortchanged postwar planning. Those who plan military operations for a war must take into account the aftermath. Four steps have to be considered: deployment; buildup; decisive combat; and postconflict operations. The destruction of enemy forces on the battlefield creates a necessary but not sufficient condition for victory. It is not just the defeat of the opposing army but success in the operations that follow that accomplishes the aims and intentions of the overall plan...
Victory requires backward planning, beginning with a definition of postwar success and then determining both the nature of the operations required and the necessary forces. Here the administration's focus and determination on winning the war in military terms undermined the prospects for success once the country was occupied...
The irony is that some members of Congress, having carped for years to the military about their engagement in nation-building, having complained about "mission-creep" and "burden-sharing," now had to support the American military as it coped with this mission virtually alone. It was (and remains) a mission far more difficult, dangerous, and open-ended than any undertaken previously...
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the successes and failures of both the war plan and military transformation were soon evident on the ground. In its "decisive operations" the military had performed superbly, but in the larger planning effort, and in the thinking about the true nature of modern war, the civilians had misunderstood what was needed. Perhaps it was all too easy to concentrate on the fighting, killing the enemy and destroying his forces. But every serious student of war recognizes that war is about attaining political objectives—that military force is just one among several means, including diplomacy, and that all must be mutually reinforcing...
He also mentions the Kosovo campaign, building on and linking in many of the points he made in his article An Army Of One?. There's also a sense that Clark, the General turned Presidential candidate, may have found the formula to successfully attack the Bush administration over its Iraq policies - something along the line of praising the soldiers while criticising the civilian leadership, while also pointing to his own resume to show how you can get it right.

Update: While I'm talking about Clark, here's an interesting interview with him by Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo.

Prescience

A couple of weeks ago, writing about the effects of Wesley Clark joining the Presidential race, I wrote:
Bob Graham: Clark probably damages the Graham campaign, which has barely got off the ground anyway, because he and Graham are both strong on national security issues and Graham supporters may see this as the opportunity to jump onto a ship that might actually sail. I wouldn't be surprised to see Graham withdraw before the primaries begin, and perhaps endorse Clark, on the basis that he'd be quite a strong candidate for Clark's running-mate if he wins the nomination.
And then I discover that Graham's expected to announce today that he's dropping out. (via Atrios)

The bookies never lose

Chris Brooke rained on the parade of my earlier post about the Rugby World Cup by pointing out that the bookies actually have the All Blacks as favourites, not England. As I was at work, I couldn't check to see if he was right, as bookies' sites are blocked there, so I've just done a quick look round to see if he's right and, while I was at it, a quick alternate polling watch to see what the current odds are for the next General Election.

William Hill have New Zealand at 5/4, England at 6/4, Australia at 5/1, France at 12/1 and South Africa at 25/1. To win most seats at the General Election they have Labour at 2/7, Conservatives at 5/2 and Liberal Democrats at 40/1

Ladbrokes offer New Zealand at 6/5, England at 6/4, Australia at 5/1, France at 10/1 and South Africa at 20/1. For the General Election, they offer Labour at 2/9, Conservatives at 3/1 and Liberal Democrats at 50/1. You can also get 500/1 on John Major and 25/1 on William Hague being the next leader of the Tories.

IG Sport offer spreads, rather than odds, but their World Cup market (60pts for winning, 40pts for runners up, 20 for losing semi-finalists, 10 for losing quarter finalists) do make England the favourite with a spread of 40-43 points, New Zealand are at 37-40, Australia at 27-30, France at 19-22 and South Africa at 12-15. Their General Election spreads rate Labour at 338-348 seats, the Tories at 212-222 seats, and the Liberal Democrats at 69-74 seats.

So, Chris was right - just - but all the bookies seem to rate England and the All Blacks as being quite far ahead of the rest of the field. The odds will obviously fluctuate over the course of the tournament, but I would suspect that there might be a large realignment after England's group game against South Africa. A win there means England are unlikely to meet the All Blacks until the final (unless they lose to Wales in their group) while a loss means the two are likely to meet in the quarter-finals. Given that they're hosting the tournament and will no doubt be looking for revenge over England and New Zealand for recent defeats, I'd have to say the odds on Australia aren't too bad.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

I always suspected him of something...

Dan's got a new career:
I'd just like to inform the world at large that I have Weapons of Mass Destruction. I've been developing them for a number of years, and although a detailed search has so far turned nothing up, I can tell you quite categorically that they exist. It's just that they're hidden. I shall expect a call shortly from a number of large western corporations trying to sell me the relevant components I need, which I shall pay for with the proceeds of the Oil for Food programme which will inevitably be proposed shortly.

Tough at the top

I was just checking out the fixtures for the Rugby World Cup (and luckily, it seems that it won't be too hard to catch England's matches) when a thought struck me. England are entering this tournament as the favourites (or, at least, joint favourites with the All Blacks) and the number 1 ranked team in the world and it's about the first time I can ever remember an English (or any British) team entering a major championship with an expectation of winning - at least in any major sport. In all the football World Cups and European Championships, Cricket World Cups and even Rugby World Cups I can remember we may have been hopeful of winning, but there's never been the same level of expectation as there is for this team. It should be interesting to see how they deal with it, and just what the national reaction would be if we do go on and break the national habit of a seeming lifetime and win the thing.

Chateau Headingley

Yes, now you can get a bottle of wine from Ian Botham and Bob Willis. While 'Bob Willis' and 'w(h)ine' go well together, surely Botham should be endorsing something he was actually assoiated with in his playing career?

The new Doctor?

Just been listening to the birth of a rumour on Five Live. Julian Worricker is interviewing Tom Baker about the new Doctor Who series and, in a rather mischievous way, Baker has said that he's been told that Eddie Izzard is going to the the new Doctor with Denise Van Outen as his assistant. Of course, he was very vague about who has told him this, but that won't stop the rumours sweeping round the world.

He did make a good case for why Izzard would be a good Doctor, though - part of the essence of the Doctor is that he is mysterious and always knows a lot more than he lets on and Baker feels that he can project the air of someone who does that as well as being someone who acts like he's travelled to a lot of places other people can't. The reason for Van Outen was a bit more mundane - 'she's got lovely legs'.

So, whether it turns out to be a rumour or if Eddie Izzard is actually cast, you heard it here first. Given that from what I understand, Russell Davies still hasn't written the script and there's only a vague transmission date of 'sometime in 2005' I'd be surprised if anyone's been cast yet, but you never know. Personally, I think Eddie Izzard would be a good choice, and it's interesting to note that the two previous Doctors who were best known for comedy before their casting (Jon Pertwee and Sylvester McCoy) portrayed two of the more serious incarnations of the Doctor.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Five shots

Some interesting facts about Derren Brown's Russian Roulette stunt in this Media Guardian article. I hadn't realised he was taking quite so big a risk - I was ssuming just one shot, rather than five which does increase the odds of him getting a live round a lot. It should be interesting to watch, anyway.

Most splendid

Thanks to Pogo for telling me of the wonderful Splendidiser which basically 'translates' any website into the style of speaking popularised by the 'bright young things' of the 20s. (It's a promotional tool for Stephen Fry's new film). I just have to share this with you, which is what happens when a certain website is splendidised:
MICHAEL MOORE WANTS to be taken seriously. Ghastly, let me tell you. Good God old chap, the frightfully divine hard left campaigner has received some splendid coverage for his films and books. Twaddle! I say, unfortunately, none of it came from those with the frightfully boring sense actually to check some of his claims and investigate if the impressions the old devil was bloody trying to create were accurate. Good heavens! I dare say, for serious reviewers, Roger & Me, Stupid White Men and Bowling For Columbine were malicious exercises in deliberate deception riddled with so many holes they could not seriously qualify as documentaries of any sort. Marvellous!
If you were amused by that then you may want to click here, here, here or even here.

A close one

Great drama at the top of the UK Bloggers Fantasy League right now with Jez's Deportivo La Yorkshire and The Moose's AFC Wibblington locked in a ridiculously close battle for the lead. After seven weeks, Jez has a lead of just 0.27 points - 409.44 to 409.17.

As for me, my Disposable Heroes have decided to emulate Colchester now, rather than Wolves, and after a poor start to the season have surged up into 5th place, eagerly pushing for a slot in the playoffs. So, where's my Manager Of The Month award?

Traditions

With the news that Stan Collymore is continuing a return to football, can I use this opportunity to start the first 'he's going to Wolves' rumour? When he was playing, every time there was transfer speculation about him (after his move to Liverpool, anyway) Wolves were one of the clubs linked to him mainly, it seems, because he was a Wolves fan as a kid, and we'd either be his 'dream move' or the club where he could 'sort his head out'.

A treasury of humour

Matthew Turner presents The Wit and Wisdom of Iain Duncan Smith.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Time for yourself

Philip Pullman, who used to be a teacher, has an interesting article on how constant testing of schoolkids is driving them away from the idea of reading just for fun:
My last point concerns reading. I recently read through the sections on reading in key stages 1 to 3 of the national literacy strategy, and I was very struck by something about the verbs. I wrote them all down. They included "reinforce", "predict", "check", "discuss", "identify", "categorise", "evaluate", "distinguish", "summarise", "infer", "analyse", "locate"... and so on: 71 different verbs, by my count, for the activities that come under the heading of "reading". And the word "enjoy" didn't appear once.

If we forget the true purpose of something, it becomes empty, a mere meaningless ritual. The purpose of what I do as a writer is to delight. I hope that the children who read me will do so because they enjoy it.

But this is what happens in schools now: a teacher wrote to me recently and complained that she'd been doing a book of mine called The Firework Maker's Daughter with her pupils, and she said she was finding the greatest difficulty preventing them from reading ahead to find out what was going to happen next. They had to stop, just when they got interested, and start predicting, or analysing, or evaluating, or something. They wanted to enjoy it, but she didn't feel she could let them.

BBC Filth Live

John Pienaar, reporting on the Labour Party Conference for Five Live: "And of course, John Prescott has given his wife a pearl necklace."

Facts? You can prove anything with facts!

Professor Justin Lewis of the Cardiff School of Journalism, on the results of a study into people's attitudes towards reporting of the war:
Despite the recent row about the BBC's coverage, the survey suggests that the BBC is still widely regarded as having been the most trusted source of information during the war. When asked "Which media outlet gave the best, most informed coverage?", 47% chose BBC news - far and away the most popular choice, with more than four times the support for ITV news (10%). This contradicts much of the conventional wisdom that the BBC did not have "a good war". For BBC news to be chosen by nearly half the population in a multimedia environment after all the recent bad publicity suggests that its reputation has remarkable depth and breadth.

Among the also-rans, Sky news does well, chosen by 12.5%. The tabloid press is read by 45% of the survey but chosen as the best source by only 6%. And the internet is chosen by a measly 0.2%.

Despite the criticism of the BBC, the government might be surprised to learn that the BBC is rated the best news source by both supporters and opponents of the war. Those who preferred Sky, on the other hand, are three times more likely to be war supporters than war sceptics.

If we are seeing partisanship common in the press creeping into broadcasting, the study suggests that this is coming not from the BBC, but from Rupert Murdoch's Sky. While Murdoch's Sun has a different audience (more male, less upscale), its readers also have a conspicuously pro-war profile. Mirror readers in the survey are mostly in the anti-war camp, and even the pro-war Mail has more anti-war than pro-war readers - yet Sun readers who still support the war outnumber opponents by more than two to one.

Indeed, only 30% of Sun readers - who have been informed by a sustained anti-BBC campaign - said they felt the BBC coverage was "impartial and objective", compared to an average of 45%, making them more anti-BBC than any other newspaper readers.

The Emperor's New Sitcom

The Radio Times Guide To TV Comedy has released its list of the best and worst 20 sitcoms ever produced. In a change from the usual format for these guides, they've named Sergeant Bilko as the number 1, which is an interesting choice, but explainable, as is most of the best list. Except for one programme, which I'll get back to in a minute, the top 20 probably all deserve to be there, and the order's pretty subjective. As for the worst 20, that's probably even more subjective than the best list, and a lot depends on someone having actually watched a bad show (and not blocked it from their memory afterwards) which only had an audience of about 3 people before it was dropped after two episodes. I think I can remember about three of them.

Anyway, back to the best 20 list, and the one that really shouldn't be in there. I'm not sure it should be in the worst 20, but it's definitely the most overrated sitcom of all time, and perhaps the biggest bunch of Emperor's New Clothes in TV history. What am I talking about? Seinfeld. I'm going to spell this out for you very slowly now - Seinfeld. Is. Not. Funny. At all. I could try and go into a detailed analysis of why, but that would involve actually watching an entire episode of it, which would probably sap my will to live. Jerry Seinfeld is just a hack comic ('hey, isn't airline food terrible!' and other great comic insights) who got lucky - very lucky - and for some reason the TV critics of the world decided that foisting him on us would be their own joke against a world that hates and fears them. Or something like that, anyway.

Maybe that's the explanation - sometime in the early 90s, Jerry Seinfeld got the rules of the International TV Critics Union changed to say that anyone who disses his programm would be instantly expelled and never allowed to review TV, or even work, again. Hence, they all had to write huge hymns of praise to the show on a regular basis, even though they recognised it was appalling dreck, the sort of tv programme that normally requires the participation of a minor ITV region to perpetrate. There was a simple reason why the BBC always used to show Seinfeld so damn late - because it wasn't funny, and they were only showing it all because the TV critics had sworn to destroy them if they didn't show it at all.

I'm quite sure that there'll be comments saying how wrong I am, how watching Jerry Seinfeld doing his Baddiel-esque 'comedic' ruminations is funny, but I don't care. You're wrong, you've been deluded by the magical powers of television into forgetting that Seinfeld is just a piece of shit. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm an atheist but the success of programmes like that do make me wonder about whether deals with the devil really exost. It'd explain a lot.

Monday, September 29, 2003

In the courts

One of the five men arrested for supposedly plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham is to sue the News Of The World for libel.
The youngest of the five men accused by the News of the World of plotting to kidnap Victoria Beckham today became the first of the group to begin legal proceedings against the newspaper.
David Price solicitors today wrote to the News International legal department claiming libel damages on behalf of 18-year-old Alin Turcu and giving the owner of the News of the World and the Sun 14 days to respond.

If the two sides fail to come to a settlement, the matter will go to the high court.

Mr Price said the kidnap article was "stage managed and nauseatingly self-congratulatory", adding Mr Turcu had been "devastated" by the experience and was "determined to clear his name".
Tim 'Bloggerheads' Ireland has been thinking:
I'm sick to death of staggering from one crisis to another with a feeling of complete powerlessness. I've also had it with our actions being hindered by the government or deliberately misrepresented by the media when we feel the need to protest.

Things are going too far across the board. As fun as it would be to line a few folks up against the wall, I'm inclined to think that a little friendly persuasion is in order to bring about an essential correction or two.

I think there's scope for - and a real need for - a passive resistance movement.

Worldwide, web-coordinated, and operating on multiple fronts with one simple, central idea:

It's. Just. Not. Good. Enough... and me and my mates plan to do something about it.

Just think... if there were one small thing you could do (without endangering your life or liberty) and simply doing it at the same time as a few thousand others would force any targeted government, corporation or organisation to make a significant change in position, would you do it?

Drop me an email today if you think you may wish to play along. I'd like to start with a few small wins and then take things up a notch as we move from success to success.

Oh, it has to be fun and interesting wherever possible, too. Hope that's OK.

A few practical assets that I'll need to bring it together are beyond my immediate technical/financial capacity. And I'd like to hear about what you think of the idea in general.

Been reading Bloggerheads for a while? Haven't sent an email yet? Today's one of those days when I could really do with your input. Get in touch.
Remember, though 'Despite all of this, Tim Ireland has no plans to run for office. He recently came to the conclusion that he could win an election without difficulty, but has neither the desire nor the patience to tackle the role itself.'

Die spambot die

I don't know if it'll work but there seems to be no harm in trying. This link is trying to stop spambots by catching them in a loop with millions of false email addresses, so the more people who link to it the better for catching spambots and doing just a little bit to take the fight back to the spammers. (via Burnt Toast)

Revision Thing

Via The Virtual Stoa comes A History Of The Iraq War, Told Entirely In Lies - All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers.

A reason for cable/digital/satellite...

The Thinker spent an evening watching the BBC's coverage of the 1970 General Election on BBC Parliament. It's things like that that make me think 'hmm, maybe I ought to get a digibox or whatever' as I'm sure it would be fascinating to have watched. You could probably get a few viewers for a kind of general 'News Gold' channel that rebroadcast old news broadcast and coverage. Not only would the minutiae of the coverage be interesting, what might be of some historical interest is to see how events were reported at the time and what people were thinking and saying right then, rather than with the benefit of hindsight.

Sunday, September 28, 2003

If you don't read the tabloids

The News Of The World has the results of an ICM poll this week. I can't find it on their website (which is pretty poor, generally) and I only took a quick look at the paper in the shop, but the results were: Labour 31%, Tories 31%, Liberal Democrats 31%. In another question, when asked who they thought was the most effective opposition party, 34% said the Tories and 50% said the Liberal Democrats.

A YouGov poll for the Telegraph gives a similar result: Tories 32%, Labour 31%, Liberal Democrats 30% So, if this is a blip in the polls, it's not just limited to ICM's.