The Snow In The Summer or So-So

08/16/2004 - 08/22/2004

Mon 16 Aug 2004

Cricket desk

Sri Lanka wrapped up the two-match test series this weekend. The first test was a high-scoring draw, with neither side dominating the game sufficiently to claim a moral victory. This week's second test ended in an easy win for Sri Lanka, thanks to a South African batting collapse. Sri Lanka win the series 1:0, and move up to fifth on the world test rankings; South Africa have come down from second to sixth in the last few months.

England, meanwhile, has been teaching the West Indies a lesson. After the 3:0 win in the Carribbean this spring, and a fortunate 3:0 series over New Zealand, England has gone 3:0 up in the return match against the Windies. The Manchester test saw a good first innings from the visitors, taking a first innings lead of 45. Their second innings keeled over in barely half a day, setting England a victory target of 230-odd, which the hosts passed with an hour and seven wickets in hand. England will remain in second place on the test ladder, the Windies slip to eighth. During the match, Brian Lara notched up 10,000 runs in test cricket, and was promptly dismissed by Andy Flintoff. Them's the breaks.

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posted 16 Aug 2004, 20.11 +0100

Venuzuela Update

A brief history.

2002: Left-wing politician Hugo Chavez is the unexpected winner of Venezuela's presidential election. He instantly makes his mark on world affairs by telling X exactly where to get off.

2003: A coup attempt by right-wingers, supported by the CIA, fails. They don't like him because he's carrying out an effective wealth redistribution policy, taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Such policies are not welcome south of the St Lawrence.

2004: The fat-cat opposition takes inspiration from California, and forces a recall election on the people of Venuzela. If it succeeds, Sr Chavez will be out of office faster than one can rattle through the credentials of Arnold Schwarzenegger (Cdq: ARNIE)

Which brings us to to-day's results. According to the independent Electoral Council, the Yes votes: 3,576,517. The No votes: 4,991,483. The votes to come in: about 425,000. "It's so blatantly rigged, it makes Big Brother look like a fair competition," claims the opposition. Their results showed that the percentages were almost exactly reversed, with 60% saying "Yes, I'd like to carry on living," and 40% saying "No, go ahead, break my legs."

The threat of a coup by the extreme right-wingers who have been shown the door by their dis-satisfied public remains. So does the prospect of another dis-satisfied public showing their local extreme right-wingers the door, David.

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posted 16 Aug 2004, 20.24 +0100

What's this?

Praise for a Labour policy? Well, if the cap fits... To-day's Indytab reports

In an offensive on youth crime, a programme to prevent 125,000 children whose fathers are in prison from joining them in jail, is being planned by the Home Office. Hazel Blears, the Policing minister, says she is optimistic that "tracking" and "targeting" can help prevent children becoming criminals like their parents.

"About 125,000 kids have got a dad in prison. That's a huge risk factor. Something like 65 per cent of those kids will end up in prison themselves," she said. "We need to track the children who are most at risk. We can predict the risk factors that will lead a child into offending behaviour."

However, she is aware the plan, based on research showing children of criminals are far more likely to end up in jail than their peers, may lead to accusations they are being unfairly singled out. "I don't think it is stigmatising those children by targeting them," she said. "You can intervene at an early age and say 'your life can be different and we will help you and your parents make your life different.' Let's put the support in as early as we can."

Okay, it's not perfect, as it fits in with the Blairite narrative - promoting the fear of crime out of all proportion to its risks. On the other hand, it's a policy that involves spending money on the poorest sections of society, and that's clearly not Howaerdish territory. And it's the sort of policy that has a good chance of lessening the gap between rich and poor, and that is the reason behind much of the crime around at the moment. So, one cheer. We'd have given it two if it had come from anyone other than Plunkett's Pal.

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posted 16 Aug 2004, 20.45 +0100


Tue 17 Aug 2004

Got a problem? Call for Superprescott!

Last weekend, the deputy prime minister was taking a walk in Snowdonia, when his spider senses tingled. "Someone's in trouble." It was Graham Cook, an engineer whose canoe had capsized in turbulent water. Ever alert for the call to action, Prescott put himself in the path of the onrushing stream. Using his mammoth bulk, the politician dammed the stream, causing the flow of water to subside, and his bodyguard was able to swim out and rescue the canoeist.

Yesterday, the deputy prime minister was in Cornwall, when news broke of a flash flood just down the road. Ever alert for the call to action, Prescott put himself into the water, and carried over 200 people on a huge life-raft made out of nothing more than his bloated belly. Thanks to his swift intervention, the worst injury anyone suffered during thr flood was a broken finger. OK, there were lots and lots of ruined houses, and some cars floated out to see, but let's not be too picky.

So, if you see John Prescott around, do remember that trouble is following him around. Head for the hills!

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posted 17 Aug 2004, 20.34 +0100


Wed 18 Aug 2004


Two weeks ago, police staged some raids in Manchester, London, and Birmingham. These raids were ostensibly to pick up some terrorist suspects. As they were carried out in broad daylight, they must have known that at least one of the raids would be recorded and splashed over the media. Cynics would suggest that the exercise was inspired by a desire to be Seen To Do Something, no matter how useless.

To-day, eight of the original suspects had their day in court - the police had freed five without charge, and detained the remainder for the maximum two weeks before they have to be charged with %something%. The value of something is rather nebulous.

"Conspiracy to commit a public nuisance by using radioactive material, toxic gas, chemicals or explosives."

While we can see that (say) letting off a large nuclear bomb would be a tad inconvenient for anyone planning on living or visiting the region in the next 10,000 years or so, this is a rather large catch-all charge. This charge could also be used against a slightly anti-social teenager who plans to scare his elderly neighbour by letting off a firework.

But wait, there's more. They've also been charged with

"Possession of information of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism."

Now, what could be more useful to a potential terrorist than, say, the days when Parliament is sitting? Should we throw every MP in jail because the information they have could be useful to terrorists? (This is a rhetorical question. We all know the answer.)

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posted 18 Aug 2004, 20.24 +0100


Once again, the Olympics have been hijacked by crypto-fascist elements within their corrupt and lelitist society.

The crass spectacle has been further diminished by a foolish attempt to control how people link to the official webshite. As any fule kno, you can't control how people link to you.

The fascist organisation insists that webmasters:

a) Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent (What's a referent? Is it any relation to the vicar?)

b) Not associate the link with any image, esp. the ATHENS 2004 Emblem

c) Send a request letter to the Internet Department stating:
* Short description of site
* Reason for linking
* Unique URL containing the link (if no unique URL than just the main URL)
* Publishing period
* Contact point (e-mail address)

Once the request has been mailed, interested parties can proceed to include the link and will only receive a response if ATHENS 2004 does not accept the link. All requests should be sent to:

The Internet Department
Iolkou 8 and Filikis Eterias str.
GR-142 34 N. Ionia, Athens
e-mail: (All information submitted using this e-mail address is governed by the ATHENS 2004 Privacy Policy)

The above policy applies for links embedded in copy only and not to links using the official ATHENS 2004 Emblem.

And that's not to mention the half-empty stadia (oops, curiously missing from the crass spectacle's official webshite), nor the high farce of the equestrian judges completely bollocksing up their judging.

Nor is it to mention the anti-international manner in which the governing body has forced radio and television stations off the internet. All ABC stations have been forced off air by the IOC, lest listeners outside Australia hear a different view of the games. "It's to protect our commercial rights" claim the organisers. "Bollocks," say we, "it's to protect your grotesque commercialism and complete betrayal of the de Coubertain ideal.

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posted 18 Aug 2004, 21.05 +0100


Thu 19 Aug 2004

Thought for the day

If you read a news story containing the name David Blunkett, move swiftly along. As will he, as soon as the next 'outrage' requiring swift, decisive, pointless and ill-thought through knee-jerk reactions rolls by.

-- Punilux on metafilter.

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posted 19 Aug 2004, 19.30 +0100


Fri 20 Aug 2004

From the desk of pffffft

It's easy to whinge.

In a nutshell, the bus side of Mr Hajai-Iloniou's empire has moaned that the UK's largest bus operator National Express has cut its fares to match the new competitor's. (That's £1 from Hendon to Milton Keynes, and £120 for the return leg.) Easy Bus claims that NX's price cuts are unlawful, and subsidised by the group's other operations.

A correspondent on mhp-transport notes that Easy Bus is using 15-seater minibuses. In the early days of bus deregulation, many operators tried to run frequent services using small buses. They soon realised that the buses still cost a bomb to run, and the driver was just as cheap whether he was driving a 15-seater or a 100-person double decker. Economies of scale therefore led to most of the minibuses being relegated to rural backwaters that never filled, and replaced by double deckers.

It's interesting to note that Mr Hajani-Ilionescu's business plan is similar to that of a Mr Richard Branson, who has halved the length of his trains and doubled* their frequency. (Except on the outlying parts of the route, where they've been halved, or (in the case of backwaters like Poole, Weymouth, Slough, and Liverpool) completely removed.) Mr Branson will no doubt realise the error of his ways very soon indeed.

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posted 20 Aug 2004, 20.02 +0100

Er, wha?

1996: The Wired Style Guide (lurid red cover, black print on slime green pages, £12) says "Don't bother capitalising the i in internet - it's going to lose its novelty at some point, so there's no real advantage in keeping the i in capital. The same applied to web, net, and the hyphen in email.

1997: The Wired Style Guide has been remaindered for 99 new pence.

2004: Wired magazine makes a big song and dance about dropping the I from internet.

A few other choice cuts from the eight-year-old style guide...

meme - Contagious idea. Virus of the mind. Unit of cultural inheritance.

webster - a denizen of the world wide web.

Addicted to Noise, geekgirl, Salon, XYZZYnews, word - digital magazines.

world wide web - a graphics-intensive environment running on top of the internet.

gopher - An internet protocol named for the mascot of the University of Minnesota.

AltaVista - a leading search engine.

NCSA Mosaic - a leading WWW browser.

ouch, that hurts - reaction of anyone to reading black print on slime green pages for more than about ten seconds.

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posted 20 Aug 2004, 20.31 +0100


Sun 22 Aug 2004

Are you perfectly sure about this?

Ross Kemp
Lured by ITV from EastEnders in 1999 with the promise of a range of primetime dramas, but found it hard to shrug off his Ross Mitchell image and never found favour with critics

Ah, what do we expect, it's from A Demi Grauniad, so no sense there...

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posted 22 Aug 2004, 18.38 +0100

Better late than never

To-day's Sindie reports that the UK government is finally to involve itself in a gross miscarriage of justice in Ohio, only seventeen years after the original conviction.

Lawyers acting for foreign secretary John "Jack" Straw have submitted documents stating their concerns over the safety of the conviction of Kenny Richey, a Scot jailed for starting a house fire that killed a two-year-old girl.

Forty-year-old Richey was born in Edinburgh, the son of an American father and Scottish mother, but emigrated to the US in 1981. He was sentenced to death in 1986 after being found guilty of starting the blaze that killed Cynthia Collins, his former girlfriend's daughter.

The prosecution claimed Richey used petrol and paint thinner to set fire to the apartment below the child's bedroom window in an attempt to kill her mother, Hope Collins, and her new boyfriend. But experts have since cast doubt on the forensic tests used to conclude that the fire was deliberate. Some have said the blaze was more likely to have been caused by a discarded cigarette or even by the little girl herself, who had previously started two accidental fires.

Central to his appeal is the fact that Richey was convicted of aggravated felony, a crime that requires the prosecution to show there was specific intent to kill the victim. In his case, the prosecution accepted there was no specific intent to kill Cynthia Collins, but he was still convicted.

His solicitors, Lovells, said it hoped the Government's action would result in a positive outcome for its client. "It is excellent to see the Government being proactive in this way in a death penalty case. Everyone is pleased to see this effort and it gives real strength to the representations being made by our client so that it might just bring about a positive outcome."

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posted 22 Aug 2004, 18.39 +0100

Occupied New Amsterdam

The big battle of New Amsterdam is set to kick off next weekend. The Republican party, still thrashing around for a credible presidential candidate, settled on the city almost three years ago. Coming to town in 2004 would be the perfect gesture, they thought. Indeed, a perfect gesture it was, involving little more than one finger.

A quarter of a million people will demonstrate in Central Park next Sunday, even though the city authorities have asked them to keep off the grass. Curiously, the same argument was used by Tessa Jowell before the two million-strong Iraq demo in London in February 03. It was laughed out of court then, too.

The police in New Amsterdam have been taking all the precautions they can. They've invested in loud hailers capable of barking at 50 decibels, about the same loudness as a normal conversation. The city has employed meeters-and-greeters, who will stand outside the delegate's hotel, keep him awake at night, then give him false information about how to get places. "The conference hall? Sure, take the A-train to JFK, then show your pass to the nice lady at the AA desk. Yeah, it looks like an airport, but that's modern architecture for ya."

Anyway, viewers in the UK will be able to see full coverage on BBC Parliament from 14:30 on Monday 30 August. Here's the schedule of events (all times British.)

1430: Opening Ceremony: Pat Boone accompanies Lee Greenwood singing "I'm Proud to be an American"

1435: Vote on motion to go into Closed Session. (If motion fails, Justice Antonin Scalia will announce that all media must turn off audio and video recording devices.)

1500: Katherine Harris - "Are Elections Really Necessary?"

1515: Trent Lott - "Re-segregation in the 21st Century"

1530: Announcement: Lincoln Memorial Renamed for Ronald Reagan

1540: Phyllis Schlafly - "Why Birth Control Should Be Outlawed"

1600: Rush Limbaugh - "Just Say No To Drugs"

1615: Ann Coulter's Tribute to "Joe McCarthy, American Patriot"

1630: Singing of "God Bless America" and big screen projection of "Blue Angels" fly-over

1635: Lunch - steak with vegetable sides of ketchup and relish, yellow cake

1730: Oliver North - "Never Trade Arms with Terrorists"

1800: Reps. Doolittle and DeLay speak on the GOP congressional agenda.

1830: Group cheer -- Global-warming-schmobal warming!

1835: GOP's Tribute to Tokenism, featuring Colin Powell and Condi Rice

1900: Accounting for Beginners -- "Tax Cuts are Good for Deficit Reduction"

1930: Labor [sic] Secretary Elaine Chao speaks on "Economic Growth Through Job Exportation"

2000: Newt Gingrich speaks on "The Sanctity of Marriage"

2030: Unveiling of "The Guide to Imperialism" by the Heritage Foundation

2100: Announcement: Ronald Reagan to be added to Mt. Rushmore

2115: "Eradicate Poor People" Happy Hour (guided sight-seeing buses leaving for Harlem every 10 minutes)

2200: Dinner Break: Texas-Style Endangered Species Barbeque

0000: John Ashcroft leads ceremonial burning of the Bill of Rights

(Note to convention hall staff - make sure statue of Justice is fully clothed)

0015: George W. Bush video tribute "Higher than a Kite: Portrait of a Fighter Pilot"

0030: Vote on motion to put image of Ronald Reagan on one dollar bill

Keynote Speech by Dick Cheney (Exact time TBA, depending on his arrival from secret bunker).

0100: "Kiss Ass" session with Christian Coalition

0130: Workshop on government-corporate relations by Dick Cheney

0145: Log Cabin Republicans Encounter Session -- Coming to Terms with Your Self-Hatred

0200: Assault Rifle Raffle

0205: Short address from Candidate X.

(Adapted from a Henry W Farkas contribution to rec.humor.funny)

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posted 22 Aug 2004, 18.39 +0100

Weather in week 34

A week of wild, wet, and windy weather across the UK, but we managed to avoid the worst of the rain here in Birmingham. About 3mm of rain fell early last Monday, another 12mm between Monday evening and Tuesday morning, while the best part of an inch fell over Wednesday. After a sunny interlude on Thursday, the rain returned on Friday; this time with the winds coming from the north west for the first time this month. Saturday and Sunday were dry and mostly sunny, but with a distinct nip in the air, reminding us that autumn is looming. Daily highs were between 18 and 22, with eight degree cooling days bringing the summer total to 160. I'll let the index run until the end of October, but it looks like we'll finish beneath 200 degrees, slightly less than half of last year's total of 408. The run of days at 21 and above finally ended on Friday, after 24 days - those who have been doing this for a long time reckon it's the longest warm run since 1989 or 1983.

For the coming week, we're looking at showers and some longer spells of rain, though there's a decent chance of at least one good day. The winds will be from the west quadrant, and that should keep the temperatures down at sensible levels.

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posted 22 Aug 2004, 18.39 +0100


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