The Snow In The Summer or So-So

11/13/2006 - 11/19/2006

Mon 13 Nov 2006

Final Straw

John Straw, former foreign minister, has taken time off from writing this week's Queenie Speech to tell more lies about Iraq. He responds to questions sent in by readers of the Indytab, and I present a selection here without further comment. Questions and answers are complete and unedited; not all questions are included.

You congratulated and hugged Colin Powell, who addressed the UN Security Council in perhaps the most shameful and cynical attempt to argue the case for war against Iraq. Don't you feel ashamed?

No. We are supporting the Iraqi people as they seek to build democracy in Iraq. In their recent elections, millions of ordinary Iraqis defied the terrorists to vote for a democratic future. Supporting them in that aim is nothing to be ashamed about.

Why is the UK Parliament stalling on an inquiry into the Iraq war?

There have been three inquiries into the Iraq war, conducted by Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, by the Intelligence and Security Committee and by the Butler inquiry. The Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly also examined aspects of the war.

Many people, including myself, regard you and Blair as war criminals for invading Iraq. You no doubt think you are not, why not?

I'm sorry that you feel that way about me, but you are wrong. The Iraq war was not illegal.

On 7 December 2002, as required by Resolution 1441, Iraq provided the UN Security Council with a 12,000-page declaration of its past WMD and missile programmes. You condemned it as "12,000 pages of lies". Is that still your opinion?

Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant who deceived the international community time and again. Military action could and would have been avoided if he had co-operated fully with the UN.

Do you concede that the invasion of and occupation of Iraq is fuelling terrorism in the region far greater than al-Qa'ida ever could have?

No. The terrorism in Iraq is appalling. But it is important to remember that the terrorism is being carried out by people who are seeking to stop Iraq from having what a majority of its people want, democracy. This kind of terrorism did not begin after the Iraq war - it had been growing for many years before.

What was your honest reaction to being replaced by the robotic uber-Blairite Margaret Beckett?

Margaret is a good friend of mine and she is a very good Foreign Secretary.

You unleashed mayhem in Iraq. You unleashed racism in Britain. You even turned in your own son to the police. Why on earth do you think you are fit to be deputy leader of the Labour Party?

Your question contains an assumption wrapped in a series of inaccuracies. I have answered the first two points you make. You are absolutely wrong on both counts and I reject what you say. On the third, I have never talked publicly about my family.

What do you think was your biggest mistake as Foreign Secretary?

Good question. The only people who never make mistakes are those who never make decisions.

permanent link
posted 13 Nov 2006, 11.46 +0000

Politics
Power out

It is to be regretted that personal attacks have led ciannait to deleted their valid points regarding Six Apart's latest screw-up from last week-end. The proximate cause is an ad hominem attack from the well-named crankygirlie. In a late post, she says, If you'd like to tell me I don't know what I'm talking about, come right out and say it.

Fine. Either you don't know what you're talking about, or the Six Apart staff are misleading their customers about their technical competence. Or very possibly both. It should be noted that crankygirlie is hardly a neutral observer of the situation, as she is in a relationship with a Six Apart systems administrator. There is, however, a lot of evidence to suggest that Six Apart is allowing its customers and prospective customers to be misled, and that is where I shall marshall most of my argument.

Six Apart has, by CG's own admission, bought space in a data warehouse where per-rack UPS systems are not used. This speaks volumes to the company's rank amateurism. Blaming "the fire code" is no excuse at all; Six Apart was not forced at gunpoint to use this facility, and any company worth its salt would have thought about this fact when selecting from where to run its operations.

Six Apart handles tremendous amounts of data, this is true. This is also a complete red herring in relation to last week's outage. If the company wants to be treated as a major player in the market, then it needs to act like a major player. Not a bunch of people still operating out of someone's bedroom. Six Apart is shifting enough data to make any loss of service embarrassing. At the size Six Apart aspires to be, multiply redundant data centres (and that's centres plural) are expected, if not mandatory. That's not to say that the loss of one centre should have no effect on the service, some temporary degradation would be acceptable, but it should certainly not have a prolonged fatal effect.

That Six Apart was (effectively) offline for the best part of a day is bad. I suggest that paying customers would be prepared to let it slide if the company were learning from its errors. Indeed, some of us said after the January 2005 outage that we would prefer a more resilient systems architecture to any compensation. The offer was rebuffed, with the results we've since seen. To have apologists like Cranky Jessica sticking up for Six Apart's refusal to learn from its errors does rather stick in the craw; to find the company's apologists making ad hominem attacks is perhaps worse.

permanent link
posted 13 Nov 2006, 13.29 +0000

Six Apart Is Useless
Two Songs a Week 45 - It's A Bin

I'm old enough to have favourite records from 1989, and one of them has to be The Rattler, performed by Goodbye Mr. Mackenzie. The group formed in Bathgate in the mid-80s, and came to moderate national acclaim, as the fashion at that time was to look to the Forth-Clyde valley for all your musical needs. Slightly subverting fashion, their sound comes across as more Arctic Canadian than grime Canadian, reminiscent of the wide-open spaces of the Mackenzie river or the snowy wildernesses of Labrador. The band bubbled just under the national radar for a few years, securing a few minor hit singles and reasonable sales for their album - though not reasonable enough to prevent my local Woolies from flogging off dozens of copies at 99p a couple of years later.

The group was dropped in 1991, and members Martin Metcalfe, Fin Wilson, Derek Kelly, and Shirley Manson formed the contract-fulfilling Angelfish, who released an album in 1994. The group again bubbled just beneath the radar of popularity, picking up specialist play on Radio 1 and MTV. According to legend, producer Butch Vig saw one of Angelfish's videos, and invited their singer, Manson, to join his new band, Garbage.

The rest is history - Garbage rode on the coat-tails of Vig's association with Nirvana to get their lead single Queer heard, and then released the sublime Stupid girl into the UK's top five in spring 1996. The final single from the album, Milk, was primarily promoted in the UK in a very fetching dub remix, stripping out the guitars and floating Manson's vocals over a subdued bed. It's annoying that I don't have that mix, only the eponymous album.

The single became the group's third UK top ten hit of 1996, and continued in the dark, almost deliberately gothic, feel that the group had created. They rather lost that impetus for 1998's album Version 2.0, and drifted off towards art-pop for 2001's Beautiful Garbage and 2005's Bleed Like Me. The group went on hiatus during summer 2005, and a contract-concluding singles collection is on the schedule for spring 2007. This would be Manson's second release without a credit to Radioactive Records, who signed her for five albums in 1991.

And, yes, why did I not include a Garbage track on the MSCL-UST?

permanent link
posted 13 Nov 2006, 18.16 +0000

Two Songs a Week

Tue 14 Nov 2006

Clearing the decks

The B.B.C. has put forward the economics of taking advertisements. Allowing commercials on the ad-free international website would be worth around £48 million (€72 million) each year. This would come at the expense of the corporation's reputation for impartiality and for being a bulwark against the rampant commercialisation of other media. The final decision will be taken by the B.B.C. Trust in the new year.

Der Spiegel reports on the new European underclass, the uneducated.

Back in the early days of industrialization, the poor joined worker associations that often doubled as educational associations. The modern member of the underclass, by contrast, has completely shunned personal betterment. He likewise makes little effort to open the door to the future for his own children. Their language skills are as bad as their ability to concentrate.

On why Celebrities Children In Need has had its day. And not because it's more celeb than kiddie. Het Grauniad's radio reviewer, Elisabeth Mahoney, has also laid into the most unlistenable of all broadcasting, Terry Wogan's Flash The Cash week. Wogan offered a comedy put-down to a deliberately troublesome listener called Wendy. "I'm not surprised your name is Wendy," he said sternly. "Do you know that JM Barrie invented your name?" In case Wendy hadn't got the message, he blew a raspberry at her. Other than this, it was all trails for the auction with much overuse of the phrase "what a wonderful package".

How Audioscrobbler works (2)

Letting dogs lie is the order of the day in Ottawa, where Speaker Peter Milliken has been unable to rule on a question. Did foreign affairs minister Peter MacKay call the Liberal Belinda Stronach a dog? There's nothing in the official record to say he did, so the speaker's hands are tied. The speaker is calling on a 1991 ruling, when then-speaker John Fraser said that he couldn't possibly pass comment on whether a Conservative minister had said the Liberals in general, and Jean Chrétien in particular, were like chickens and clucking faster.

Passengers who want a windscreen wiper are asked to bring their own. And drivers in Coventry are told that they cannot get off a roundabout.

Bad news from Australia, where Marcus Trescothick is out already. Good news from politicians, who tell ministers to stop hiding behind the Human Rights Convention and tell the truth for once.

The New Amsterdam Revue of Pamphlets calls Barak Obama ambivalent. Mr. Obama is graced with one of the worst Scrabble names ever; the best we can play make from his name is BOMBARD, and that relies on the opponent leaving a D available. Hillary Clinton is worth A TRILLION, and connects with such eighteen-pointers as LABYRINTH, INFLATION, RANTINGLY, MILITANCY, COALITION, POLITICAL, RUINATION, VICTORIAN, and TOXICALLY.

permanent link
posted 14 Nov 2006, 19.38 +0000

News
Letters

Correspondence outstanding

* Six Apart, regarding disclosure of personally-identifiable data to advertisers. Four emails and web forms submitted since March 2006; no response to any.

* Margaret Beckett, regarding her dismissal of the Iraq death survey. Letter sent 14 October 2006; holding response received 31 October.

* Bloglines, regarding their retention of my copyright. Letter sent 31 October; response received 5 November; response sent 5 November; no acknowledgement.

Yuletide cards

Readers who wish to receive a Yuletide card should email with their name(s) and postal address. Offer closes 30 November, and is subject to the availability of card.

permanent link
posted 14 Nov 2006, 19.51 +0000

Introspective

Sun 19 Nov 2006

Charts in week 46

North Europe's Top Twenty

*20 20 FAF Larange - Pas de temps
 19 re Meat Loaf and Marion Raven
   - It's all coming back to me now
*18 NE Pestside - The rose
 17 15 Justin Numberwang - Hairyback
 16 10 Killers - When you were young
*15 NE Fedde le Grand - Put your hands up for Detroit
 14 12 Silbermond - Das beste
 13 re Snow Patrol - Chasing cars
 12  9 Cascada - Everytime we touch
 11  8 Fratellis - Chelsea digger
*10 re McFly - Stargirl
* 9 11 My Chemical Romance
   - Welcome to the black parade
  8  7 Bob Sinclar - Rock this party
  7  6 Pink - You and your hand
  6  4 Seizure Sisters - I don't feel like dancing
  5  3 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
  4  1 Muse - Starlight
* 3  5 Depeche Mode - Martyr
* 2  2 Razorlight - America
* 1 13 U2 / Green Dull - The saints are coming

Pestside need nothing more said about them. Fedde is big in the UK and in the Netherlands. Snow Patrol has taken off in France, a little bit behind the pace there. U2 and Green Dull's record is in the top five right across Scandinavia, and in the UK.

After a tight three-way race, the duet between Akon and Emma Nem held off the challenges of Justin Numberwang and Westside for the top spot. Take That return with a number 4 hit on downloads, and should notch up their eighth number one in nine releases (and twelfth in total) next week. Erstwhile Thatter Bert Bills can only land at number 8 with his most radio-friendly song in some time, and one has to suspect that the dumper's a-beckoning. Ditto for Clitring Aguilera, number 11 on full release. The combination of Martha Wainwright and Snow Patrol hits number 18.

Emma Bunton enters at 24 with this year's Children In Need Of Assistance single, a faithful cover of Petula Clarke's classic Downtown. It's not as good as the original, but nothing is. Little Man Tate have their second top 30 hit in a couple of months, Man I hate your band clocks in at 26. The Maccabees land at 40; we await the first orthodox jewish indie band...

Shy of to 40 come downloads from the Feeling, the Peppers, and Lemar. An old Charlatans B-side has been re-promoted for their singles album; it makes 56. Ver Dumper beckons for Captain, who can only make 62; for Boy Kill Boy (63), and Forward Russia (67).

On the albums list, it's almost entirely greatest hits compilations and faux-classical collections. Yog's Twenty five, a collection of his hits with Wham! and solo, is the new topper, knocking Jamiroquai to second place. The Sugababes' Overloaded - The Singles Collection (Apart From New Year) hits at 3. Council Estate Slappers and Paul Weller have hits at 4 and 8; Angelis and Katherine Jenkins (5 and 6) are joined by All Angels' eponymous album at 9; the Angelis album is not classical, the Angels' cover of a song Bert Bills bought down the pub in Dublin apparently is.

Tenacious D and Simon Webbe enter at 10 and 11, a fourth (count 'em!) Depeche Mode hits collection enters at 18, Andy Abraham (an X-Factor loser) enters at 19, Yusuf Islam at 20, and The Game Doctor at 21. They all beat the second week sales for McFly, whose chart career is looking remarkably like that of Iron Maiden.

The return of a much-missed late 90s act is surprisingly low down, at 37, for the comeback of Jarvis Cocker. At 40 comes the new All Saints album. Plus 44 - a British punkish group - makes it to 50, with David Cassidy's hits, and a re-release of the last Enya album a little lower. Keith Urban brings up the rear, at 73.

Here's the good stuff on the singles listing:

13 10 My Chemical Romance
  - Welcome to the black parade
14 11 Razorlight - America
16  8 Sugababes - Easy
26 NE Little Man Tate - Man I hate your band
27 19 McFly - Stargirl
29 17 Kasabian - Shoot the runner
30 31 Shakira - Hips don't lie
32 35 High School Musical OCR - Breaking free
37 34 Panic At The Disco
  - I write sins not tragedies
38 27 Meat Loaf and Marion Raven
  - It's all coming back to me now
39 42 Nelly Furtado - Promiscuous
40 NE Maccabees - First love
42 43 Killers - When you were young
46 46 Kooks - Ooh la
47 40 Little Chris - Checking it out
52 47 Magic Numbers - Take a chance
53 57 Pink - You and your hand
57 62 Goo Goo Dolls - Iris / Stay with you
59 NE Lemar - Someone should tell you **
61 63 Muse - Starlight
62 NE Captain - Frontline
63 NE Boy Kill Boy - Shoot me down
65 41 Depeche Mode - Martyr
68 39 Pigeon Detectives - I found out
69 re Pink - Who knew
74 71 Bedouin Soundclash
  - When the night feels my song

permanent link
posted 19 Nov 2006, 19.44 +0000

Entertainment
Weather in week 46

13 Mo wind                10/14, 1.0
14 Tu cloud, showers      10/12, 1.5
15 We showers pm          11/14, 2.5
16 Th showers, cold       10/10, 4.5
17 Fr showers              2/10, 7.5
18 Sa sun                  2/ 8
19 Su sun to cloud         0/ 9

25mm of the 62.5mm average for November. 14½ degree heating days, the winter's total now 55½, compared with 46½/808, and 62½/677½ in the past two winters

permanent link
posted 19 Nov 2006, 20.49 +0000

Weather

older writing... write to