The Snow In The Summer or So-So

08/23/2004 - 08/29/2004

Mon 23 Aug 2004


Apologies for the slightly unstable nature of this site over the past couple of days. I briefly installed Thingamablog v 1.0, expecting it to be an enhancement over the previous version. It's not; I was unable to get it to reliably publish to my FTP server, or even locally for manual upload; and the import function didn't import my request to write full RSS entries.

So it's back to the perfectly functional v, which still has terrible skips in the article numbering, and still republishes the entire site every Monday even though it doesn't need to. (The latter glitch, at least, is deemed to be a feature, not a bug - the program lazily assumes that the template includes a full archive list on every page, when it should be an option.) Thingamablog is better than nothing, but it's a long way from being perfect.

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posted 23 Aug 2004, 20.29 +0100

Imbecile watch

"He is a political imbecile bereft of even elementary morality as a human being and a bad guy. He has tried to topple the legitimate government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. He is a tyrant that puts Hitler into the shade, an idiot, an ignorant, a tyrant and a man-killer."

You've got to admire the amazing diplomacy of the North Koreans. They've snubbed the rebel leader of the PDRUP, and they've been so polite about it.

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posted 23 Aug 2004, 20.48 +0100


Tue 24 Aug 2004

Oneword in September

This is as much for my reference as anyone else's. The new books for September:

01st, 1600: Stormbreaker - Anthony Horowitz (14 episodes)
01st 2130 The Go-Between - L P Hartley (25)
01st 1500 Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch - John Bayley (8)
03rd 1530 Goodnight Mr Tom - Michelle Magorian (9)
05th 1930 Marrying The Mistress - Joanna Trollope (23)
05th 2030 A Touch Of Frost - R D Wingfield (8)
06th 2200 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (15)
07th 1830 Robinson Crusoe - Daniel Defoe (7)
07th 2100 Disordered Minds - Minette Walters (13)
09th 1500 Iris and the Friends - John Bayley (8)
09th 1730 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (36)
13th 1700 Right Ho, Jeeves - P G Wodehouse (19)
13th 2030 The Mermaids Singing - Val McDermid (7)
14th 1830 Tales From The Greek Legends - Edward Ferrie (7)
15th 1600 The Rinaldi Ring - Jenny Nimmo (13)
17th 1500 The Alan Clark Diaries (8)
17th 1900 A Midsummer Night's Dream (11)
20th 1530 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (8)
20th 2030 The March Hare Murders - Elizabeth Ferrars (13)
20th 2100 Grasshopper - Barbara Vine (14)
21st 1830 Pippi Longstocking - Astrid Lindgren (7)
21st 2200 Silas Marner - George Eliot (9)
22nd 1915 A Life Of Shakespeare - Hesketh Pearson (13)
25th 1500 The Last Diaries - Alan Clark (21)
26th 2130 Tulip Fever - Deborah Moggach (19)
28th 1530 The Little Princess - Frances Hodgson Burnett (7)
28th 1600 At The Crossing Places - Kevin Crossley-Holland (11)
28th 1830 Anne of Green Gables - L M Montgomery (7)
28th 1930 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
30th 2200 The Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens (7)

Oneword's schedule repeats in 8 hour blocks from 0000 local time.
1500 - Biography
1530 - Children's Classics
1600 - Adult Free Zone
1630 - Vintage Radio (Saturday - Cinemascope)
1700 - Comedy
1730 - Classics
1800 - Between The Lines (Thursday - Cinemascope; Friday - Dr Sin's Laughter Zone)
1830 - Children At Oneword
1900 - Feature Serial
1915 - Feature Serial
1930 - Bestsellers
2000 - Between The Lines
2030 - Crime
2100 - Crime
2130 - Bestsellers
2200 - Classics (1hr)

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posted 24 Aug 2004, 20.01 +0100

In the minority

From Arts and Letters: news that only 10% of people have a coherent political belief system. The rest just make it up as they go along, including 22% who choose their vote on the weather or the party's colours. Are elections completely arbitrary? Are they the will of the already powerful, filtered through the small elite that does know something about politics? Are they a stochastic system in which errors will tend to cancel each other out?

The article is couched in terms of the PDRUP's approximation of democracy, but perhaps has greater interest for the UK, where the Labour movement is quietly moving away from Tony Blair's power-at-all-costs position towards the social democracy championed by Gordon Brown. Because both aspects of policy are presented as "Labour policy", there's a fundamental dichotomy and tension within the party. When that tension ruptures through the surface, Labour will be fatally damaged, just as the Conservatives were in the early 90s.

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posted 24 Aug 2004, 20.45 +0100

You're off the show

Failed game show host Robert Kilroy-Shaft has said that he will stand in the UIP's "most promising" seat at the next general election. Some have suggested that whichever seat the perma-tanned git picks will instantly become the most promising, by virtue of his candidacy.

In a rare show of treating him as a serious politician, we reckon that he might do well to stand against Keith Vaz in Leicester East. Before being resigned in 2001 after being exposed as a crook and cheat, Mr Vaz was the minister for Europe. Mr Kilroy-Shaft is already an MEP in the area, and Labour loyalists in Leicester are already committed to fighting a hard battle to regain Leicester South from the Lib Dems.

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posted 24 Aug 2004, 21.24 +0100


Wed 25 Aug 2004

For CNN fans...

We understand and speculate that John Kerry will be giving an extended interview to Jon Stewart on The Daily Show Global Edition on September 4 and 5. Those of you who can't wait... psst.

That week-end, BBC Parliament will be showing the same bloody programmes they've aired all summer. If they can't air anything more than 28 hours of repeats, why can't we have a cultural exchange with other countries? Oh, we get one of those all next week, with coverage of the Republican Party convention. And remember, if the speeches of politicians break the UK programming code, OFCOM can and will slap them down.

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posted 25 Aug 2004, 20.24 +0100

Thatcher arrested in coup plot

Good news! She's gone! The wickedest witch there ever was, the enemy of us all here in Boz, is nicked!

No she's not, it's her son.

Mark, the son of former British prime minister Missis Margaret Thatcher, has been arrested in South Africa over a failed coup plot in Equatorial Guinea.

The plot came to light in March, when Simon Mann, an Old Etonian turned African mercenary, was detained in Zimbabwe, along with a plane full of mercenaries on their way to overthrow the Equatorial Guinea government. The plotters were hoping to exploit the country's massive oil reserves by installing their own leader, Severo Moto from exile in Spain.

Amongst nineteen people currently facing trial in Equatorial Guinea is South African arms dealer Nick du Toit, who told the court in South Africa today he met Mark Thatcher in the months before the plot was foiled.

The reason for the military interest is blatantly obvious. Equatorial Guinea, pumping 350,000 barrels of oil a day, has become Africa's third-largest oil producer since offshore development began in the mid-1990s. The country has accused Mark Thatcher, British and South African oil broker Eli Calil and other foreign financiers of funding the alleged coup attempt.

Police in South Africa raided Mark Thatcher's home in the upmarket suburb of Constantia shortly after 7am local time, armed with search warrants. He was wearing pyjamas when they arrived. Police spokesman Sipho Ngwema said: "We have evidence, credible evidence, and information that he was involved in the attempted coup. We refuse that South Africa be a springboard for coups in Africa and elsewhere."

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posted 25 Aug 2004, 20.38 +0100


Thu 26 Aug 2004

Explain this...

On Tuesday, two aeroplanes fell out of the sky over Russia. They had taken off from the same airport within an hour, were 480 miles apart, but vanished within three minutes. The Russian government's initial reaction was to blame Chechen terrorists, who said "Not us, guv, we only attack government institutions."

To-day came news that the flight recorder on neither plane was in a salvegable condition. This is most unusual - the recorders have been found, but were too badly damaged to recover data. Is there a conspiracy of silence?

Rule 2 of this site: where one suspects conspiracy, first rule out cock-up. And we can't rule out cock-up - the Federal Security Bureau's main line of inquiry involved "violation of the rules of operating civil aircraft", including the use of poor-quality fuel, breaches of fuelling regulations and pilot errors. Contaminated fuel? It's a simple explanation, and until something better comes along, Occam's Razor says that's the one.

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posted 26 Aug 2004, 16.36 +0100

Impeach now!

A group of Nationalist MPs have tabled articles of impeachment against the leader of the free world. Mister Tony Blair will face a debate when the Commons resumes next month, and - if the Commons believes there's enough evidence there - he will be judged by the Lords.

Chances of Mister Tony Blair being ejected from office by this process: as near to zero as makes no odds.

Chances of Mister Tony Blair being severely embarrassed by the continued exposure of his lies: very high indeed.

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posted 26 Aug 2004, 17.58 +0100


Fri 27 Aug 2004

Statistically insignificant

...but still noteworthy. The latest Economist / Youguv opinion poll suggests that 1% of those describing themselves as Republicans plan to vote for Ralph "Ralph!" Nader; the corresponding figure for Democrats is 0.5%.

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posted 27 Aug 2004, 20.30 +0100


Sat 28 Aug 2004

Co away

Scared by a few hundred protesters, Colin Powell has abandoned plans to visit Athens and attend the closing ceremony of the Olympics. Though the official statement from the Depatment of Not Being Able to Pronouncify Words Correctifically is that Powell can't attend because of "urgent responsibilities", there remains little doubt that this is yet another lie put out from a junta that doesn't know the meaning of truth.

About 2,000 demonstrators marched though Athens on Friday in the first protest during the Olympics, chanting slogans against PDRUP foreign policy in Iraq. Clashing with protesters, riot police carrying shields smashed windows, lit fires and beat up journalists. The police prevented protesters from ending their march at the PDRUP Junta Outpost as planned, instead facing off in front of the Greek Parliament building.

Protest organizer Yiannis Sifahakis said, "Powell is the man who peddled Bush's lies on Iraq. He is a murderer and we don't want him here."

Similar sentiments have been on display at the events themselves. Competitors and tourists in Athens have been on the receiving end of anti-American sentiment at the Olympic venues, though Greeks say the jeers and booing are more an expression of frustration with the PDRUP junta. There's been jeering at the basketball and volleyball, where the strongest cheers were reserved for the all-conquering Argentinian teams.

Thursday's 200 metres race was delayed while the 75,000 strong crowed booed and chanted "Kenteris" -- the name of the champion Greek sprinter who was prevented from competing in the race due to a still unresolved doping controversy. The three Americans who made a clean sweep of the race took a diplomatic stance. "I can understand that they were upset but I don't know why they have to react like this," said Shawn Crawford, the gold medal winner.

According to the two or three people who still listen to the blithering idiots on the telly, Steve Cram was his usual obsequious gittish self, and we see no reason for the BBC to renew his contract. We note that there was no jeering during the PDRUP's national dirge, Bye Bye Baby.

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posted 28 Aug 2004, 15.54 +0100

Git, meet git

According to to-day's Daily Tabloid, Conservative party leader Michael Howaerd has been declared persona non grata by the PDRUP's junta. Well, that's not strictly true, but they have said that the official, duly appointed, UK opposition leader cannot meet with the unofficial president, appointed outside all known rules.

Just before the Commons rose for the summer, Mr Howaerd told Tony Blair (Lie, Sedgefield-cum-salissima) that he had lied when putting the non-existant case for war in Iraq, and should resign. Now.

News travels quickly in these days of steam ships, and it's only six weeks later that the junta occupying Washington hears that someone is daring to criticise their unofficial leader. Confusing "Rev Blair" and "That drunkard who can't sign his own name", the junta falls back onto its laziest of lazy assumptions: if someone's not with them, they're against them, and react in the only way they know how. By ignoring them.

The Tab's report suggests that Republicans are backing Labour, confirming the suspicions of absolutely everybody who has a passing interest in cross-Atlantic politics. According to one Conservative source: "They see Tony Blair as a true ally against terror and the Tories as a bunch of wankers." Er, so?

At the risk of having my audience collapse with laughter, what happens if Michael Howaerd wins the next UK election by fair means, and Candidate X wins the next PDRUP election by fair means or foul. Will the self-proclaimed president really refuse to meet a genuinely elected politician? Does he have any idea how much of a complete twazzock he'll look? Equally, if the two great men do meet, does he have any idea how much of a complete twazzock he'll look? Either of them?

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posted 28 Aug 2004, 16.46 +0100


Sun 29 Aug 2004

I estimate...

...that approximately 74% of my readership will be interested in Chris Lightfoot's Estimation Quiz. Competitors are challenged to estimate various quantities.

If you've not tried it, and you want to have a go, go now, before I dissect his results.

I'll still be here when you get back.

[goes off to have a cup of coffee and a little sticky bun.]

Welcome back. By my best guess, I should have warned about 40% of you that the quiz is very British-centric, and warned 100% of you that it has its own unique scoring system. Don't read too much into your abject failure, for that was the whole point of the exercise.

Now, as promised, a quick discussion of the results. For my money, the most striking result was that 80% of respondents over-estimated the amount that claiming refugees receive from the British state; the majority of replies are out by a factor of two or more. Clearly the propaganda campaign waged by Desmond The Pornographer and his acolytes at the Daily Hell have poisoned the argument, and it requires an honest minister to set out the facts, rather than the myth. Guess what: David Plunkett is not that minister.

(This leap from statistics to Plunkett-bashing will, I estimate, have surprised approximately 0% of my readers.)

My worst answer was the weight of a jumbo jet, which I over-estimated by a factor of ten; best results were the height of the Umpire Provincial Tower and the membership of the UN.

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posted 29 Aug 2004, 11.35 +0100

So, who do you trust?

In the red corner, Greg Duk, former director-general of the BBC, who has come into the ring spoiling for a fight. In the blue corner, Tony Blair, whose ten year reign looks as impregnable as ever.

In his autobiography, Duk reveals that Blair wrote an unprecedented letter to him and Gavyn Davies, then BBC chairman, trying to force the corporation to change the tone of its coverage before the illegal war in Iraq. According to Duk, Blair reneged on a deal not to call for 'heads to roll' at the BBC; Ali Campbell, the former Number 10 director of communications, was forced out by Blair for being 'out of control'; and six still-serving BBC governors should resign over their part in the affair.

According to to-day's Obs, Campbell had become 'obsessed' with trying to 'beat' the BBC, was out of control, vindictive and eventually had to be removed by the Prime Minister. This is pretty much the same conclusion we've reached in the past, following Campbell's astonishing outbursts and grand tour of the broadcast media in the days after the Hutton whitewash.

Duk's book quotes a comment by Philip Gould, one of Blair's closest allies and advisers, that he told a Labour peer: 'Don't worry, we appointed the right judge.' He accuses Blair of allowing Number 10 to produce 'mountains of untruth' in two dossiers published by the government to justify going to war, and that Downing Street started using techniques similar to those of Nixon's White House to smear those seen as being against the interests of the government.

'The charge against Blair is damning,' Dyke says. 'He was either incompetent and took Britain to war on a misunderstanding, or he lied when he told the House of Commons that he didn't know what the 45-minute claim meant.

'We were all duped. History will not be on Blair's side, it will show that the whole saga is a great political scandal.'

Re-reading the blow-by-blow coverage of the Hutton inquiry, we still cannot believe that this mountain of evidence, clearly showing a cock-up by the BBC and a conspiracy by government, could have led to the conclusions Hutton spouted. Duk's suggestion that "This man was not on the same planet as the rest of us" is an understatement.

Duk says John Scarlett, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee who was promoted by Blair to head of MI6, had professed private doubts to a BBC journalist about the case for war. In particular, he was concerned by claims that Saddam could launch a chemical or biological weapons attack within 45 minutes of an order to do so.

'At the BBC, we knew he [Scarlett] was uncomfortable with the public case being made for the war because that is what he had told one journalist on a bench in the grounds of Ditchley Park, the exclusive Oxfordshire house used as a centre for high level discussions on international affairs. Scarlett told the journalist he was particularly worried about how the dossier had been interpreted in the press.'

Dyke says he was forced out after the governors failed to back him following Hutton. He argues that the six governors who voted for him to go, including the former chairman of the JIC, Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, should resign because they 'bowed to political pressure' and damaged the BBC's standing.

He also reveals that when the BBC did finally apologise after Dyke had quit, they first checked the statement with Number 10.

'I had no idea I would be fired by a board of governors behaving like frightened rabbits caught in car headlights,' Dyke says. 'The new BBC chairman, Michael Greede, needs better, more knowledgeable, governors to support him. There is no greater betrayal of BBC principles than to fold under political pressure, particularly from the government of the day.'

Blair's letter, revealed for the first time, to Davies and Dyke was sent on 19 March, 2003, a week before the war in Iraq started.

'It seems to me there has been a real breakdown of the separation of news and comment,' the Prime Minister wrote. 'I believe, and I am not alone in believing, that you have not got the balance right between support and dissent; between news and comment; between the voices of the Iraqi regime and the voices of Iraqi dissidents; or between the diplomatic support we have, and diplomatic opposition.'

Dyke says he sent back a robust response. 'My view was straightforward: if the government was going to try to bully the BBC, then I was going to fight back,' Dyke says in the book.

We've said all along that the Downing Street machine was acting as though it had something to hide, and subsequent evidence has confirmed that the Downing Street machine did have something to hide. The infamous 45 minute claim may not have been inserted into the September dossier on the direct orders of Ali Campbell, but it's abundently clear that he put pressure on the nominally-independent Scarlett, and the latter man broke. The Today report was inaccurate only in a minor detail, but has been used as a stick with which to beat proper journalists by a failed newspaper scribbler.

Tony Blair does not allow there to be a middle ground. You're either with us or against us, he claims. In that case, Tony, you're a bullying liar. You've been caught with that other bullying liar you've become friends with recently, and the best thing you can do is spend some time in the corner, thinking about what you've done. Then, when you're ready, apologise to us all.

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posted 29 Aug 2004, 12.29 +0100

Weather in week 35

Some very heavy showers indeed early in the week - almost an inch of rain fell in 20 minutes on Monday afternoon, and a further inch fell over the course of Tuesday. The second half of the week was somewhat more sunny, though still with the occasional shower. The edge has gone from the temperatures thanks to a keen north-westerly wind, with peaks of between 18 and 20 most days - Thursday's 21 was the hottest day, and brings the Degree Cooling Day total to 161.

Next week looks like being settled early, rain around Wednesday, giving way to more sunshine towards the end of the week. Temperatures will be a little up as the wind shifts back to the south west.

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posted 29 Aug 2004, 19.43 +0100


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