Saturday, August 07, 2004

In an infinite universe all things are possible...

Presented without comment:
The Doctor and Peri answer a telepathic cry for help from Tom Watson, a young man who works inoculating factory farm fish against disease. Tom claims that the fish are speaking to him telepathically, begging him to release them from imprisonment.

More here.

In case you wondering

Some of you may have noticed that I stopped doing the Formula 1 reviews a while ago. This was because of a number of factors, mainly that because of work, Euro 2004, cricket and Scafell Pike I was hardly seeing any of the races. It was also the realisation that when there's more uncertainty over which team Jenson Button will be driving for next season than there is over who'll win the next race, it's really not worth writing about.

Pre-emptive anti-Googling

Labour have selected a local councillor called Iain Wright as their candidate for the Hartlepool by-election. Google that name incorrectly and you'll soon be attributing all sorts of things to him...

Friday, August 06, 2004

Viewer recommendations

Well, as my old computer begins to circle round the hole that leads to its inevitable death (it's already passed through obsolescence through being over four years old) it's time to begin looking for a new one. So, if anyone has any recommendations of makes, dealers, websites etc to use or avoid, please feel free to share them with me. I'm not looking for anything vastly expensive or complex, just a good reliable laptop with a decent level of warranty cover in case things go wrong. Basically, having heard rave reviews of it from fellow SHWIers, I just want something that can run Europa Universalis without worries - yes, that's how old and slow my current PC is.

So, if anyone sees any good deals on a laptops with about 512Mb memory, 40Gb hard drive, and a DVD/CD-RW, let me know, and you'll have my thanks.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Never let the facts get in the way...

Think of the children! Think of the children!
Police involved in the Stefan Pakeerah murder case have revealed that the copy of Manhunt at the centre of a tabloid media frenzy last week was found in the possession of the victim, not the killer.

Newspapers and TV news channels gave significant coverage to the case last week, when the mother of the victim claimed that 17-year-old killer Warren LeBlanc had been "obsessed" with the ultra-violent Rockstar game.

However, according to a spokesperson for Leicestershire Constabulary, the police division which investigated the murder, the link is even more tenuous than was reported previously - with the game being found not in the room of the murderer, but of the victim.

"The video game was not found in Warren LeBlanc's room, it was found in Stefan Pakeerah's room," the spokesperson said today. "Leicestershire Constabulary stands by its response that police investigations did not uncover any connections to the video game, the motive for the incident was robbery."

(via Doctorvee)

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The joy of Googling

Note: I started drafting this post the other day, when it looked as though Patrick Diamond was going to be Labour's candidate in Hartlepool. However, he now isn't, but it seemed silly to let the several minutes of work behind it go to waste. Enjoy it as an insight into the life of a New Labour special adviser.

Just put a couple of words in, and it's amazing what you can find out about Labour by-election candidates.

First, he seems to believe that social democracy should be for good things and against bad things. He may be saying more beneath all the buzzwords in this article, but I doubt it. Still, it'd be a good source text for a game of New Labour buzzword bingo.

He seems to be an expert in writing policy documents in fluent New Labourese as this article attests. Again, anyone able to work out just what (if anything) he's actually suggesting, can leave their suggestions in the comments. I think, though, that we can tentatively define 'good things' as 'things that help us to win elections' and 'bad things' as 'things that helps us lose elections'.

He appears to have edited two books. Of course, a tragic printing error will mean 'edited' ends up appearing as 'authored' or 'written' on his election leaflets.

Still, he has experience of losing elections. He failed in an attempt to get elected to Lambeth Council (despite some problems over his eligibility) from Oval Ward in 2002 (see here - pdf file - for details) - suffering quite a heavy defeat to the Liberal Democrats and in 1998 he came a distant third behind Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Trumpington Ward in Cambridge. So, he's got experience of losing to both the other main parties, which will no doubt come in useful for him, though I'm sure he's telling himself it'll be third time lucky. I wonder if the members of Hartlepool Labour Party were informed of his previous electoral form, though?

Still, he did get himself elected as chair of Labour Students in the 90s which, as anyone who's encountered the Labour Students machine in action can tell you, involves absolutely no pressure being applied to delegates to choose the 'right' candidate.

Interestingly, the final paragraph of this Patrick Wintour article seems to indicate that Diamond had a key role in Mandelson's resignation as Northern Ireland Secretary:
Similarly, if last Saturday lunchtime his special adviser, Patrick Diamond, had been allowed to tell the truth to the Observer's political reporter, Gaby Hinsliff, about Mr Mandelson's personal call to Mr O'Brien, his political career might not be in ruins. There would have been acute questions about the phone call, but no evidence existed of undue pressure by Mr Mandelson. He would probably have survived - but no more.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

You are free, keep repeating 'we are free'

I wrote last week about the Government's proposals to protect 'decent people' from Bad People doing Bad Things. George Monbiot covers the same subject in today's Guardian, with some examples of how previous laws designed to stop Bad People have suffered from just a little bit of creeping from what they were originally promised to do:
When Caroline Flint, the Home Office minister, introduced these proposals to a grateful nation on Friday, she promised that "we are not talking about denying people the right to protest". We have every reason to disbelieve her. The same promise was made with the introduction of the 1986 Public Order Act, the 1992 Trade Union Act and the 1994 Criminal Justice Act, and immediately broken. When the 1997 Protection from Harassment Act was passed, the government swore that it would not be used against demonstrators: it was intended solely to protect people from stalkers. The first three people to be prosecuted under the act were all peaceful protesters. The government also assured us that it would not misuse the antisocial behaviour orders it introduced in 1998 to deal with nuisance neighbours. They, too, were immediately deployed against peaceful demonstrators. It is hard to think of a better tool for state repression: once an order has been served on a protester, he is banned from protesting until it lapses. The police now use it to neutralise the most effective activists. The government liked this new power so much that in 2003 it wrote it into law, with an Anti-Social Behaviour Act designed to restrict peaceful protest.

When some of us complained that the Terrorism Act 2000 was so loosely drafted that it could be deployed against almost anyone seeking political change, the government told us we were being hysterical. Since then, peaceful protesters all over Britain have been arrested as potential terrorists. At the Fairford air base, for example, the police used the act to terrorise the peace campaigners protesting against the Iraq war. The protesters were repeatedly stopped and searched: often one team of police would let someone go after a full body search, and another one would immediately seize her and repeat the whole procedure (this happened to one protester 11 times in one day). On March 22 last year, the police seized three coaches carrying people to a peaceful demonstration at Fairford, held them for two hours, confiscated their possessions, then sealed off the entire motorway network between Gloucestershire and London, and escorted them back to the capital. The police and the home secretary knew full well that these people were not terrorists. They also knew that the law allowed them to be treated as if they were.

It doesn't end here. The civil contingencies bill, which permits the government to suspend parliament and ban all rights to assembly whenever it decides that it is confronting an emergency, passed its second reading in the Lords last month. It could become law later this year.

But then who cares about your vanishing civil liberties when there's yobs, crackheads, junkies, terrorists and all sorts of Bad People who want to do Bad Things to you. Stay in your homes, citizens, remain calm, all is well, the government is your friend and wants to protect you from all those nasty things like thinking from yourself that could cause you to experience momentary confusions like believing our glorious leaders are potentially fallible. Look! Over there! Terrorists!

On and off and on again

Even if he's not going to be Labour's candidate for Hartlepool (and I still wouldn't rule it out at this stage - he is a former adviser to Mandelson, after all) Patrick Diamond already has the ability to change his mind six times before breakfast. The latest is:
London-based Patrick Diamond, tipped by many pundits as favourite to be Labour's man in the forthcoming contest, has ruled himself out of the running.
And another front-runner, experienced North-East Labour campaigner Paul Brannen, also ruled himself out of contention today, claiming people wanted a local candidate.
Speculation had been rife that Mr Diamond, a policy advisor to Number 10 Downing Street, and former special advisor to Peter Mandelson, would seek nomination to replace his old boss in Hartlepool.
But Mr Diamond said today: "There has been much speculation throughout the last week.
"I have made many good friends in the Hartlepool Labour Party who urged me to consider putting my name forward.
"However, I decided at the weekend that I would not seek selection on this occasion.'' Mr Diamond stood for election to Cambridge City Council in 1998 and lost.
(Note: he also stood for Lambeth Council - Oval Ward - in 2002 and lost then)

Via Guacamoleville

Hollywood names

I went to see the new version of The Stepford Wives last night - it's not bad, fills a couple of hours quite easily, but isn't going to win any awards - but one thing jarred on watching it. There's a character in it with the name 'Roger Bannister', which is the sort of thing you would expect someone somewhere within the studio to pick up on.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Supporting the candidate 100%

Despite rumours that he wasn't standing, it seems that Blair adviser (does that make him part of the 'London spin machine'?) Patrick Diamond is the favourite to be Labour's candidate for the Hartlepool by-election:
Patrick Diamond, political adviser to Tony Blair and friend of Peter Mandelson, is expected to be chosen this week to be Labour's candidate in what could be the longest and nastiest by-election of the year.

If he emerges as Hartlepool's new MP, it will be a sign that Mr Mandelson's legacy lives on, though he himself will have moved to Brussels to be a European Commissioner. Mr Diamond, 29, was employed by Mr Mandelson as his political adviser in the Northern Ireland Office. He now advises Mr Blair on education...

it was reported that Mr Diamond had also pulled out - but by the end of the week, members of the Hartlepool Labour Party were receiving phone calls from him asking for their support.

This has prompted complaints that somebody must have supplied Mr Diamond with a list of names and numbers of local party members - information that has not been made available to other would-be Labour candidates.

Of course, as befits a man at the front of the New Labour project with ties to Mandelson et al, he has many opponents within the Labour Party - there seems to be some bad blood between him and this MP for instance - but I'm sure all is well and they'll soon reveal themselves to be in total agreement with each other on everything. If Diamond's allowed to speak or even have his name mentioned at all, that is.


Do you think someone should explain to Peter Cuthbertson the idea that some items aren't bought seriously but as ironic gifts?

I tell you there are no Liberal Democrats in Hartlepool! None! We have destroyed them all!

Welcome to the world of Comical Tommy:
Earlier today, I saw liberaldem activists wandering around in Hartlepus forcing children and animals to eat drugs. It is true I tell you.

This is just typical of the depths that the liberaldems have sunk. The city is covered with their graffiti and they beat up old women. They're mothers are whores, and sons of whores.

The Labour have a simple policy on drug abusers - we will lock them away and throw away the key! They are worse than vermin - everyone can see that. It is common sense policies like that that make Tony Blair the conqueror that he is. All praise him!

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Polling update

New poll by MORI for the Independent on Sunday today - the main headlines are about Howard's performance, which is the worst he's had since becoming Tory leader. On voting intention for a General Election the figures were: Labour 32%, Conservative 31%, Lib Dems 24%, Others 13% - no up or down indications on the article and no breakdown of the 'others'. I'll leave detailed analysis to Anthony as he's due back to blogging this week but his swing calculator gives Labour 340 seats, Conservatives 202 and Liberal Democrats 72. Martin Baxter's site gives figures of Labour 346, Conservative 206, and Lib Dems 63.

We hates spammers, we do

Another spam attack during the night - it seems they take place at two week intervals. Anyway, this came from a number of IP addresses so they've all been banned. If I've messed up and accidentally banned someone real who wants to make a comment that's more than a link to some dodgy e-commerce site, then let me know and I'll unblock you ASAP.

Just one year to go

After my complaints about comic book movies last week, it seems only fair that I should point out one that so far seems to be getting it right: Batman Begins. The trailer seems to have the right atmosphere and this looks like it's just crawled out from the pages of The Dark Night Returns.

Summer 2005, eh? Oh well, better get used to waiting.

Update: If you've read Batman: Year One and then look at this page with a list of the cast and characters, see if you get that same tingle. Names like Sergeant Gordon, Commisioner Loeb and Detective Flass just leap off the page and promise all sorts of Milleresque goodness.