Saturday, July 24, 2004

Strange tales of rock'n'roll, #384

Seeing Motley Crue on Channel 4's (rather poor) banned videos programme tonight reminded me of one of those weird stories from my youth as a heavy metal kid. Not about me, but something that was big news back in the late 80s - the supposed replacement of Motley Crue's bassist, Nikki Sixx, with a doppleganger for three years.

I can only remember sketchy details, and unfortunately there's not too much about it on the web (this interview and these pages give some information) but the basic story was that the original Sixx was injured in a car accident, so the band's management secretly replaced him, then dumped the replacement when he became too hard to control (he was a practicing satanist, if I remember correctly) and replaced him with the original.

it was never quite as good as the 'Paul is dead' urban legend but I suppose if you're going to claim you've replaced someone for a few years, it's best to make sure you've chosen a band whose members are well known for being so out of it they can barely remember where they are at the moment, let alone a few years ago. Which makes me wonder why no one's tried claiming that they're the real Keith Richards.

Onward to Hartlepool

If Kilroy-Silk does decide to stand for UKIP in Hartlepool, can I be the first to suggest that he has a chance of winning? After all, they've already elected a monkey there, so why not a matching orang(e)-utan?

However, the monkey took off the silly suit to reveal he was capable of being a sane and reasonable person. Sadly, the orangest man outside of a Tango ad or Bargain Hunt repeat doesn't seem likely to do the same.

Update: I have a feeling that this could be one of the more colourful (pun only partially intended) by-elections - The Guardian reports another possible candidate:
There is even a possible wild card candidate. From his sloop Rich Harvest, which has just made headlines as a "floating off-licence" moored 13 miles out to sea from Hartlepool, entrepreneur Phil Berriman said he too might stand, to pursue his own disillusioned battle against the government and HM Customs.

Given that it seems there'll be another two or three months before the election actually takes place - Mandelson hasn't officially resigned as an MP yet, and, IIRC, the by-election writ can't actually be moved until Parliament reconvenes in September anyway - there's plenty of time for all sorts of things to happen.

Another update:

Labour had planned another snap bye-election to be called today - but have bodged their calculations, meaning that it will now have to be called in September, giving opposition parties the chance to spend the summer enjoying the delights of campaigning on the Headland and on the prom at Seaton Carew.

However all is not lost, according to this report:

"Downing Street considered moving the writ during the summer recess, but discovered that, under parliamentary rules, it could only do so if Mr Mandelson was declared dead, mad, bankrupt or was appointed a peer. The prospect of creating Lord Mandelson of Hartlepool was judged a step too far, even for a rejuvenated Mr Blair."

From Labour Watch

The theme for tonight is musical comedy

Not so bad cover version

For the achingly small minority of you who read this and haven't already seen it elsewhere yet: William Shatner, Ben Folds and Joe Jackson perform Pulp's Common People

As the masters of rock say, there's a thin line between stupid and clever. This is probably it.

Friday, July 23, 2004

And even more swivelling...

As Robert Kilroy-Silk's maiden speech to the European Parliament is greeted by laughter from the Commission's new President his erstwhile colleague Ashley Mote starts talking to Jean-Marie Le Pen about joining his more-swivel-eyed-than-thou grouping in the Parliament:
However, the UKIP’s attempts to gain credibility and distance itself from the far Right was dealt a blow when an MEP whom the party suspended last week entered talks about joining forces with Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the French National Front.

Ashley Mote, who was disciplined for not revealing that he was awaiting trail for charges of housing benefit fraud, reduced the number of the UKIP MEPs from 12 to 11.

Mr Mote immediately started talks with M. Le Pen, who is also an MEP and is trying to form a sufficiently large group of far-Right MEPs to qualify for EU funding and staff. Mr Le Pen told The Times that he had 14 of the 18 MEPs needed to form an officially recognised political group. Claude Moraes, a Labour MEP and former Commissioner for Racial Equality, said: “This is a clear connection between UKIP and the far Right.”

I'm wondering if Anthony timed his wedding and honeymoon deliberately for now because of the time it would take to keep up with the sheer number of swivel eyed loon updates required right now.

Maybe he's just a lover, not a fighter

June 2001: 'I'm a fighter, not a quitter'
July 2004: Well, until a better job offer comes along, it seems.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

It's becoming a rarity...

...but I agree with Harry that there's something a bit dodgy about today's announcement that devolution polls in the North West and Yorkshire & The Humber are being postponed. We all know there's a problem with postal voting, so why not just run them as normal elections instead? After all, the all-postal ballots in June were meant to be a trial, weren't they?

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

New blog plug

I don't normally do this, but with the plethora of new blogs springing up out there (isn't it something like one every 5 seconds?) it seems like a good idea to occasionally plug a new blog so it doesn't get lost in the crowd, and because over the past year or so I've seen a few blogs start and then disappear soon after, seemingly because of a lack of attention.

So, please take some time to stop by and visit the Inquisitor at some point, a blog about 'sceptical liberatarianism and opera'. I haven't seen too much opera so far, but the sceptical libertarianism is definitely much more interesting than the 'public bad, private good' bleating that characterises most supposedly libertarian blogs.

He (I'm assuming it's a he of course, as the tendency seems to be in blogging) also has a very good post: 'I'm anti-war: advice for those who want to change my mind' which might make interesting reading for those who think shouting 'Stopper!' constitutes an argument.

Swivel, swivel, swivel

It must be a strange time to be a European Parliament correspondent for a British newspaper. After years of seeing your earnestly researched dispatches over the latest debates about fisheries policy end up as a single paragraph in the 'other foreign news' section, you can now get an entire page to yourself thanks to the swivel-eyed loons:
Nominated by UKIP for the Parliament's Women's Rights Committee, Godfrey Bloom, newly elected MEP for Yorkshire and Humberside, made a bizarre series of comments that seemed destined to dent his party's credibility as a serious political force.

Speaking on the fringes of a press conference Mr Bloom joked that women "don't clean behind the fridge enough'' adding: "I would represent Yorkshire women who always have dinner on the table when you come home.''

As the episode reached a surreal climax he turned to a television camera to declare: "The more rights you have [for women] it is actually a bar on their employment. No self-respecting small business man with a brain in the right place would ever employ a lady of child-bearing age. That isn't politically correct is it? But it is a fact of life; I know because I'm a businessman.''

I just love that 'I know because I'm a businessman' - it's so easy to then hear him saying I didn't get where I am today... after it.

Still, one must go easy on them...it seems they've got all confused by the pressure of having to make decisions and stuff like that:

On the eve of their first visit to Strasbourg, UKIP suffered a public relations disaster with the suspension of their MEP, Ashley Mote, who had campaigned to clean up sleaze in Brussels. Mr Mote neglected to mention to his colleagues that he faces charges in court over alleged housing benefit fraud.

Now down from 12 to 11 MEPs, UKIP took their seats among a group called Independence and Democracy whose members' views range from mild eurosceptism to UKIP's desire to leave the European Union.

The bloc of 33 MEPs includes the respected veteran Danish Eurosceptic, Jens-Peter Bonde but members are also drawn from Poland's ultra-right League of Families, several of whose members are on record with anti-Semitic or xenophobic comments. While hostile to Brussels the League also argues for the EU to stump up more cash for Poland's farmers.

Such inconsistencies are unlikely to trouble UKIP which yesterday moved into reverse gear on a number of its early pledges. Mr Kilroy-Silk left observers in confusion as to whether he and his 10 colleagues will play any significant role in the workings of the Parliament.

Gone was an early pledge to "wreck'' the Parliament and in its place came more measured rhetoric. He surprised many when he argued: "I respect that this is a directly elected European Parliament of 25 Nations'' and added that he did not want to "destroy or dismantle the Parliament''.

Although he does not initially intend to sit on a Parliamentary committee, that possibility has not been excluded and UKIP will take up seats on at least nine of them.

Meanwhile an early threat to boycott Strasbourg altogether appears to have disappeared. "I might attend every single plenary session'' he said prompting the joke that, if he continues to change his mind at this rate, UKIP may soon be advocating British membership of the European single currency.

Mr Kilroy-Silk's commitment to transparency appeared less than complete. When asked whether he will make public his declaration of members' financial interest he was non-committal. "If I feel I don't want to I won't,'' he said tartly.

I'm wondering whether it's worth having a sweepstake on which will implode in a fire of insults, arrogance, mud-sling, recriminations and political ineffectiveness first - UKIP or Respect? Place your bets!

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Polling update

With Anthony and Matt both away, here's a quick analysis of the latest Guardian/ICM opinion poll (full details here - pdf file) which gave the following result:

Labour 35% (+1)
Conservatives 30% (-1)
Liberal Democrats 25% (+3)
Others 10% (-3) - there is a subdivision of the 'others' revealing shares as UKIP 3%, Greens 3% and SNP/Plaid Cymru 3%

From memory and the back of an envelope, at a general election that result would be a 7% Lab to LD swing, 5% Con to LD swing and about a 2% Labour to Conservative swing.

Putting the figures into Martin Baxter's election predictor gives a predicted result for those figures of Conservative 161 (-5), Labour 375 (-37) and Liberal Democrats 80 (+28) for a Labour majority of 105. Anthony's swing calculator (Excel file) gives a slightly different result of Conservative 173 (+4), Labour 370 (-42) and Liberal Democrats 72 (+20) with Nationalists getting 11 seats leading to a Labour majority of 95.

The rest of the poll has some interesting data as well - 55% of people now think Blair lied over Iraq against 37% who thought he didn't and only 38% of people think the war was justifed, with 56% saying it wasn't.

There's also a sampling of polling information if Brown was Labour leader - 41% Labour, 30% Conservative, 22% Liberal Democrat, 8% others. That would give a labour majority of 155 according to Anthony, 169 according to Martin, both also showing a loss of Conservative seats and a slight gain for the Liberal Democrats.

Monday, July 19, 2004

RIP

For those of you who haven't heard the news already somewhere else, veteran Private Eye and Guardian journalist Paul Foot has died. See The Guardian or The Independent for more.

Just a mild betrayal of principles...

For the first time in almost a year and a half of blogging, I've had to use the 'Block IP' function on my comments to stop anyone commenting from 66.235.202.61 because it was being used by someone whose sole contribution to any debate was 'human growth hormone' with a specific link. Yep, it was a spammer. Bastard.

Anyway, in the slim possibility that any non-spammer wants to comment from that address, you won't be able to.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

News you can enjoy

The free market at work:
A California teenager hoping to buy and melt more than 75,000 unassembled guns from the maker of a .38-caliber pistol that paralyzed him a decade ago is now one step closer to his goal.

The federal judge in Jacksonville agreed Thursday to hold an auction for Bryco Arms' assets. Bids will start at $175,000, the same amount Brandon James Maxfield, a 17-year-old paralyzed since he was 7, offered in his attempt to buy the now-bankrupt company's assets.

Brandon was paralyzed from the neck down after being struck by a bullet accidentally fired by a baby sitter trying to unload the weapon.

The company's owner, Bruce Jennings, lives in the Spruce Creek Fly-In community in Volusia County and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after a California jury ordered Jennings and his company to pay Brandon $24 million for his injuries.

Reached at his Northern California home Friday, Brandon said he was excited about the judge's decision but would not call it a victory.

"You can call it a victory," Brandon said. "It's an extension. They extended our time to bid and raise a little bit more money."

Brandon and a nonprofit group established in his name, Brandon's Arms, recently raised $175,000 through Internet donations and offered to buy Bryco's 75,600 unassembled handguns and the equipment used to make them.

Brandon Maxfield's website can be found here.

Tragic Kingdom

Via Green Fairy comes this account of deaths, accidental and otherwise, at Disneyland. Reading it has a similar effect to watching an entire season's worth of Six Feet Under's 'corpse of the week' teasers.

A brief history of TV

Interesting profile of Stephen Hawking in The Scotsman, which is worth looking at just for the line:
For 30 years he has asserted that a black hole destroys everything in it, without leaving a trace of even the destructive process, rather like ITV’s Saturday night schedule.

You should probably read the rest as well, though it's not packed with too much in the way of new information.

Anything you can do, I can do several months later

First, Michael Howard follows Charles Kennedy's lead by announcing his party wouldn't support the Butler Inquiry, now he's saying that he wouldn't have voted for the war in Iraq if he knew then what he knew now.

I wonder how many votes there are in 20/20 hindsight?