Saturday, December 31, 2005

UK government torture deception update

A good round-up from Tim Ireland, and more on that Enron memo from Murray himself and Lenin which are worth a look.

The Associated Press has now picked up on the story, and via its newswires this is cropping up in USA Today, ABC, The Guardian, The LA Times and CBS. Oh, and surprisingly The Mirror seems to have got the most accurate headline: "EX-AMBASSADOR: STRAW KNEW WE USED INFO FROM TORTURERS".

The Mirror also notes:

"In October 2004 Mr Straw denied Mr Murray's allegations.

"He told MPs Britain would 'never use torture in order to obtain information' and added: 'Nor would we instigate others to commit torture for that purpose.' But in a 2003 memo, Foreign Office legal advisor Sir Michael Wood tells the ambassador it is only unlawful if such information is used in court cases."
So, please note that the anonymous Foreign Office spokesman mentioned in the Press Association report is explicitly contradicting Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's earlier pronouncements on the UK's use of torture when he/she puts forth the new government line:
"while Britain condemns the use of torture, it would be 'irresponsible' for the intelligence services to reject out of hand information which might protect British citizens from a terror attack."
There may be an argument for using information obtained by torture in such circumstances, though it is not a particularly convincing one, but that is not the point. The point is the government has been caught in a lie about its use of immorally and illegally-obtained information - and they're digging themselves deeper into a hole with it with every passing day. Keep at 'em...

Friday, December 30, 2005

More Uzbekistan documents from Craig Murray

(A good summary at The Register for those who came in late, or see earlier...)

A little bit of Uzbek-US relations. Speaks for itself, really (click for big):

Rumsfeld likes the torturous Uzbek regime and all (and again).

Always easier to look the other way when you're mates with them, eh? Maybe that's where Saddam went wrong - he should have given us some dodgy info about Iran's nuclear programme, then we could have left him to murder his people in peace, just as we do with Karimov...

More new info at Blairwatch. Oh, and The Times has picked up on this story and all... Nice work, blogger types!

Thursday, December 29, 2005

More on the British government and Uzbekistan torture

Following Lenin's lead, more in-depth posts about the latest attempts to mislead the public over the extent of Britain's interest in torture are cropping up at Bloggerheads and former Ambassador Craig Murray's own blog.

Murray was sacked for trying to get this information to the general public. He even stood against Jack Straw in the General Election to try and gain publicity for the (apparent) fact that Blair and co are quite happy to allow dodgy dictatorships to mutilate and murder as a proxy for Britain. The general public have so far shown precisely fuck all interest in the matter, and now the Foreign Office are trying to censor Murray's memoirs to lessen the proof he can show and thusly make him out to be a misguided nutter that the public are entirely justified in ignoring.

Tell you what, though, it may be more comfortable to ignore claims that our government is happy to obtain information extracted through torture - but if they continue to deny it despite growing evidence to the contrary, if they try to suppress evidence which suggests that our elected politicians knew about this and were happy to allow it to continue, then none of the fuckers should be in office. If these claims that they knew all about it from the start are true, the moral bankruptcy of our overlords is such that we cannot risk trusting them over anything ever again.

You thought reneging on the tuition fees manifesto promise was bad? How'd you like to have your wife and kids violently fucked before your eyes by a group of grinning prison guards while more of them electrocute you and shove glass bottles up your already bleeding arse?

Don't ignore it. Make it your New Year's resolution to get these bastards held to account.

Friday morning update: The Independent has picked up on the story, as have scores of US bloggers - notably the mighty Kos - and "Craig Murray" is, as I type, the 6th most popular search term on Technorati. Good work everyone. Looks like this could gain some notice - as long as the fuss can be kept up into next week when everyone starts paying attention to news again...

Best places for continuing updates look to be Blairwatch and Chris Floyd's related stories feeds.

Christmas was acceptable

Five days with no news, plenty of beer, wine, whisky, champagne, port, armagnac and cognac, obscene amounts of top-notch food and even some snow. Hurrah.

I return to discover that I made it to number 8 in Blogpulse's top blogposts of 2005 run-down - with only 52 people having to die and a whole bunch of others getting mentally and physically scarred for life to get me there. Makes me so proud...

It's also worth noting that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is being arsey in an attempt to stifle knowledge of the government's complicity in torture. Keep an eye on former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, whose memoirs are at the centre of this latest dispute, for more.

You may also like to check out Mark Mardell's review of the EU year - he seems to be predicting another year of debate about the future direction of the entire EU project. Which is sort of what I was predicting twelve months ago for 2005 and it never really happened in anything like a constructive manner, so forgive me if I remain fairly certain that the entire continent's going to approach the new year and its perennial problems in its traditional ostrich-like pose, firmly refusing to confront the manifold dilemmas that recent events and long-term trends have conspired to produce.

In other words, 2006 looks to be about to kick off with a load of the same old stuff. Still, might prompt a few more longer, more considered postings at some point, I suppose...

Friday, December 23, 2005

Have you been naughty or nice?

Not that it matters - these days under new measures put through the elf-packed workshops of the north pole, if Santa suspects you of having even thought of being naughty it's no pressies for you. And he's probably been tapping your phone and monitoring your internet usage as well. Just be grateful he hasn't shot you repeatedly in the head yet. What a cunt.

(Check out my mad 2 minute photoshopping 5k177z...)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Tube workers in bunch of slack bastard cunts non shocker! That's the New Year fucked then. Cheers, you selfish, overpaid slackers.

Update: London Underground bastards - forgot about that, but it remains perfectly true.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Via DK, looks like an off-the-cuff comment I made at his place about Blair's EU budget deal is quoted in The Guardian today. Don't know if/when I'll et around to jotting down more considered thoughts on the whole thing, so if you care what I think, follow that link.

Call me a fascist by all means, but I'd say if a killer has "incomplete moral development of mental functioning" (a description that could be applied to most, if not all murderers, surely?), they should be locked up for the protection of society as a whole, not given the option of early release because them being a nutter means "their responsibility was diminished". Yes, that's right - I'm advocating the incarceration of sociopaths, psychopaths, and basically anyone who's a bit mental and violent.

Oh, and while we're on the subject of legal reforms, I'd also advocate the elimination of all age restrictions currently in place when it comes to sentencing - utterly illiberal not to have everyone equal under the law, after all. If you're old enough to commit a crime, you're old enough to be convicted for it. It might also act as a bit of a deterrant to those little brats who reckon they can get away with anything just because they've yet to reach legal maturity.

And now I'll try and stop sounding so much like a Daily Mail editorial for a bit.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Read this post and go to gaol

To blow up a passenger airliner you will need the following:

1) A large canister full of petrol
2) A match

Alternatively, just go for 3) A bomb of some description.

The difficult bit is smuggling the bastards onboard and positioning them somewhere where they can do maximum damage. But let's not concern ourselves with that. The very fact that you know HOW to blow up a plane means you can be sent to prison for six years.

Please note: this judgement comes from the self-same Northern Ireland which has seen the release of dozens of proven and convicted terrorist murderers over the last few years.

(And now let the outraged "you're missing the point" attacks commence in the comments...)

Europe is led by celebrity-obsessed tits

Jacques Chirac misusing the office of the presidency? Surely not!

"while [director Ron] Howard and [producer Brian] Grazer were in Paris auditioning actresses for [The Da Vinci Code]'s female lead, they got a call from the office of French President Jacques Chirac inviting them to swing by and say bonjour. 'We thought it was going to be a five-minute thing,' says Grazer. But Chirac asked them to sit down and get comfortable. Coffee was poured. They ended up staying close to an hour. Chirac insisted that his guests alert him if their request to film at the Louvre hit any snags. Not only that, he offered some... pointers. He suggested they cast his daughter's best friend—an actress of some acclaim—in the role of Sophie Neveu, the elegant young cryptographer at the heart of the book's mystery. And he wondered aloud, half seriously, if they could sweeten the paycheck for actor Jean Reno"
Shame Brando's dead, really - I could just picture him playing Chirac in full-on Don Corleone mode - "I do you a favour, you do me a favour" etc. Still, it puts Tony Blair's visiting of former drug addict, alcoholic, statutory rapist and home-made porn film producer Rob Lowe in the the wake of the July bombings in perspective - they're all at it, ignoring matters of state to suck up to celebrities. Still, Sam Seabourn's slightly more impressive than Richie Cunningham in my books - and The Da Vinci Code's going to be a pile of shite so, erm, well done Tony, I suppose...

In other news, keep your eye on the European Parliament today - MEPs may yet scupper Blair's budget deal. On which more, perhaps, later.

Monday, December 19, 2005

One man dead after public body rules his killer not to be a threat? Inquiry ordered by Charles Clarke.

Over fifty dead after public body rules their killers not to be a threat? Inquiry ruled out by Charles Clarke.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

It's nearly 3am, I've just finished writing 4,000 words worth of film reviews (and a fair few cans of Stella) in one sitting, and I've worked out the perfect alliterative description of any government statement ever, so have to get it down before I forget:

Bavardaginous Blairite bedizened battologinous bunkum

(Please note, substituting "boondoggle" for "bunkum" makes this the perfect alliterative description of any government policy ever. I rule.)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

You are cordially invited to a public carol service in Parliament Square at 6pm on Wednesday the 21st of December 2005.

This inclusive service will contain both Christian and secular verse, and is expected to last no more than an hour.

Candles and song sheets will be made available, with donations going to Medical Aid for Iraqi Children.

Please note that if you attend this carol service, it will classify as a spontaneous demonstration (of faith, hope, joy and/or religious tolerance) and there is a possibility that you will be cautioned or arrested under Section 132 of the Serious and Organised Crimes and Police Act 2005.

Click here for more information.

Metropolitan Police terrorism questionnaire

Can't remember how I found this poll asking for views on how the Met should respond in the wake of July's terrorist attacks, but it closes on Monday, so not much time to get your views across - hence another - this time lengthy - break from not blogging (I'm not doing very well, am I? No wonder I haven't stopped smoking yet...)

This should technically just be for Londoners, as I am, although nowhere does it seem to say this. I'll leave it up to you provincials/non-Brits to decide for yourselves whether you should take part as well. Main questions in bold, my answers under.

Note to people who may want to flame me for not wanting to kill people in response to people wanting to kill people: I don't care.

A. The terrorist threat?
Question 1

Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, The Dimbleby Lecture 2005, BBC, 16 November 2005:

‘The citizens of Britain now have to articulate what kind of police service they want [including its counter-terrorist capability]… You all now – we all now – need to make some decisions’.
Have you got enough information to make such decisions about what kind of police service you want to tackle terrorism?

Yes - Not one that infringes on civil liberties, and not one that shoots innocent Brazilians in the head. One, in fact, that does everything it can to take any terrorist suspects alive, then question them without resorting to torture and without locking them up without trial.

Question 2

Charles Kennedy MP, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, 15 July 2005:
‘The speed and efficiency with which this [7 July bombings] was so calmly and professionally handled by the Metropolitan Police and the security services, the transport and emergency personnel, can give us all confidence’.
If London came under terrorist attack again, would you be confident in the police emergency response?

Yes - But not their ability to prevent it, please note. Because it's impossible to prevent terrorism - you can only lessen its impact and effectiveness.

B. How reasonable is lethal force?
Question 3

Baroness Scotland QC, Home Office Minister of State, House of Lords, 3 November 2005:
‘Police operations involving the use of firearms will be intended, in appropriate circumstances, to bring an end to an imminent threat to life or of serious injury… Tactics will be aimed at ensuring this is done quickly, and with certainty. Where a firearm is discharged, death may result but that isn’t the objective’.
Do you support the national police policy to shoot to kill suspected suicide bombers?

No - But only because it's blatantly obvious that our armed police units do not have anwhere near enough training adequately to make a decision as to when lethal force is necessary. Not to mention that if we're up against suicide bombers, with such a policy in place they're likely to use devices that will detonate if their carrier is killed, making any such summary execution bloody dangerous. Sometimes it may be necessary; most of the time it isn't.

Question 4

Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, The Dimbleby Lecture 2005, BBC, 16 November 2005:
‘You want us largely unarmed and that jewel remains. The British Isles retain the only largely unarmed police services in the world except for New Zealand… 90% of the Met remains unarmed - I want to keep it that way. I imagine you do too…’
Would you feel safer with more armed police on the streets?

No - Armed police are not reassuring in the slightest - in fact quite the opposite - and are also likely to encourage criminals/terrorists to carry guns more frequently than they currently do, potentially leading to more unnecessary loss of life.

C. Divided we stand?
Question 5

Brian Paddick, Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, Press Conference, 7 July 2005:
‘Terrorism and Islam do not go together’.
Tarique Ghaffur, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, Financial Times, 10 August 2005:
‘Muslim communities were unable to identify the tipping point between right and wrong, where hate becomes a criminal offence’.
Do the police understand the communities they serve?

Although those two quotes show sensitivity, neither of the two people quoted are representative of the average Met Police officer on the street, both being from from minority groups which are sorely under-represented on the force. Although there are certainly far more understanding and tolerant officers now than ever before, old prejudices remain - both in terms of the police's attitude and that of the general public. No one thinks Dixon of Dock Green any more - we all think The Sweeny at best and The Shield at worst.

Question 6

Sir Ian Blair, Commissioner, Metropolitan Police Service, MPA Full Authority Meeting, 30 June 2005:
‘Diversity is not just a moral value, it is an operational requirement’.
Do you want to know whom the police stop-and-search under the Terrorism Act, and where?

No - To release such information freely could jeopardise counter-terrorism operations.

Question 7

1 in every 9 people in London is Muslim. The Metropolitan Police Service has over 30,000 officers. 300 of these officers are Muslim.

If the police try to recruit officers from diverse communities, could those communities do more to help?

Yes - But it needs to start with the police - even though they're in an impossible position at the moment. Until the perception of the police as a whole starts to change, it is unlikely that many people from minority backgrounds are going to be too keen to sign up. Co-ordination with minority groups would obviously be an important part of this, but even though I've mostly got a great amount of respect for the police, it's easy to see how they could be seen as the typical wife-beater asking his spouse "trust me - I've changed, honest..."

D. Liberty versus security?
Question 8

David Cracknell, Sunday Times, 31 July 2005:
‘A YouGov poll in the aftermath of the July 7th bombings found that seven out of ten people believed it was sometimes necessary to restrict civil liberties in order to combat terrorism’.
Do you?

No - Restrict civil liberties, the terrorists have won. Never surrender. Simple.

E. Scaremongers and sensationalists?
Question 9

Daily Express, front page headline, 27 July 2005:
‘Bombers are all spongeing asylum seekers’.
Has the media fuelled community tensions?

Yes - Blatantly.

Question 10

The Guardian, headline, 8 July 2005:
‘Religion has no part in this’.
The Sun, front page headline, 30 July 2005:
‘Got the bastards’.
On balance, has the media coverage of this summer’s events been accurate?

No - Then again, neither the government nor the police have been accurate either - the media hasn't had much to work with...

Well, that didn't last long. But this (ta, Paul) is simply too good not to link to: Anatole Kaletsky on Britain's EU rebate:
"the rebate, far from being the glorious triumph claimed by Margaret Thatcher, was always a pyrrhic victory that has done untold damage to Britain’s national interest and has cost the country far more in economic damage than Europe will ever repay."
Well-written, well-argued stuff from an interesting perspective. The sort of thing I used to do and should be doing still. Bugger. (And now back to the break from blogging... Honest...)

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

If you haven't got anything worth saying, etc...

It has got to that stage of the year
Where tedium's sunk in, I fear.
When I read in the papers
Of politicos' capers
I think "sod it, I fancy a beer".

So I slag off our our crap government
(Although it does not pay the rent).
It's getting quite boring -
Some readers are snoring -
But still, they can go and get bent.

But it's true I have not much to say
On the hottest of topics today
So I've resorted to poem
(Though my verse is not flowin'
In an especially brilliant way).

Yet to write of non-ordinary rendition
In the hope of some Blairite contrition
I cannot be arsed,
Though these people are parsed
And flown off without their permission.

When it comes to world tarriff reform
I am likewise made quickly forlorn
Political economy
Is too far beyond me
I wish it had never been born.

So why write of globilisation
When I know more about this nation?
With its cricket and pubs
And hooded-top thugs
That rob us with so much elation?

But even there, with the old NHS
On my interest it fails to impress:
The doctors and nurses
Are muttering curses
That the government still fails to address

And as for the city of Brussells
Where I first flexed my blog-writing muscles,
It's all dull as hell -
And confusing as well -
And prompts too many comment-box tussles.

So what should I write about, then,
When I raise my (metaphorical) pen?
For now I don't know,
So I'll take it more slow,
And I'll see you again as and when.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Hey - I've got a great idea! Why don't we compile everyone's most important details on one vast central database and issue them one single form of ID in card format that allows them to demonstrate who they are for pretty much every important transaction they'll ever undertake? Nothing could possibly go wrong!
"Up to 13,000 Job Centre staff may have had personal details stolen by criminals making fraudulent claims for tax credits..."
HOw have these details been stolen? Well, they were on a central database, and it rather looks like someone with access to it flogged the whole bloody thing to some dodgy types.

But, of course, the national database backing up the ID cards scheme could never ever ever (cross my heart and hope to die) be compromised in a similar way. Oh no.

Cross-border corporations, eh? Looks like Gordon Brown's going to have to revise his figures again now that Marks & Spencer have got a favourable ruling allowing them to offset losses in other EU countries against UK profits:
"These cases are just the tip of the iceberg... There is an increasing trend for national tax legislation to be challenged in the European court and each case could prove costly to the UK exchequer"
The upshot? Tax rises all round, most likely, though some are predicting this could be the start of some form of EU-wide tax harmonisation, one of those long-lurking monsters under the European bed. Tax, eh? It's great! (Speaking of which, anyone want to become my accountant? I can offer to pay you precisely no money, thanks to being utterly broke.)

Update: Jerome a Paris points out another possibility:
"What this could mean is that companies will be authorised to centralise their profits in an affiliate in European country with the lowest tax rates, and pay taxes only there, by creating losses (fairly easy with smart transfer pricing when you have subsidiaries all over the place) in high tax jurisdictions and profit in others."
So then, how do I go about setting up subsidiaries to myself in countries with low taxes?

OK, this Pope can stay. He's stating the bleeding obvious and it should be entirely unnecessary ("Man of God in 'hurting people is bad' shocker!" etc.), but sadly it looks like every reminder that, erm, torture and stuff may not be a good thing seems necessary these days. So go Pope Benny!

Grow up

Monday, December 12, 2005

Oliver Kamm being involved in the drafting of a tedious, over-long rant about Noam Chomsky? Surely not... Aaronovitch being involved is also not a surprise. Francis Wheen, however, I thought had more sense.

Note to everyone involved - Chomsky is merely a very tedious public speaker (if comptetent philologist) with an inexplicably obsessive fanbase, most of whom have misunderstood or inadvertently twisted most of his few interesting points. His political ideas are usually ill-thought-out at best - which is why they are often thought-provoking, because they leave so much unanswered in their wordy simplicity.

He is also a masterly self-publicist, as this little exercise proves - and to top it all appears to be a hypnotist, as brain-washing can surely be the only explanation (bar some kind of unrequited lust) for this continued relentless boredom of some people's never-ending insistence on "correcting" supposed misconceptions about the opinions of a man of whom the vast majority of the population have never heard.

Athens Explosion

They don't know much as of yet other than it looks like no one was hurt and not to leap to any conclusions. A newspaper received a bomb warning 30 minutes before the blast, plus today was to see the start of a seties of transport strikes. Doesn't sound like the usual lot.

Add to that the fact it was at 6am local time (hardly a casualty maximisation strategy), that there was another attack on a ministerial building just six months ago, and that members of the Greek 17 November terrorist/revolutionary group have just begun a fresh trial and this looks like it could well be domestic terrorism - in fact, that seems by far the most likely.

Anyway, some Greek blogs in English that may be able to provide a bit more info:

This is not my country
Sovereignty of SeaWitch

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sixty years ago today, Germany declared war on the United States. To mark the occasion, check out the Carnival of German American Relations - lots of interesting stuff.

Alternatively, check out Britblog Roundup 43, over at DK's place. (Although amongst his 10,000 words per hour blogging output it's very easy to miss it - prolific or obsessive compulsive I have yet to decide with that one...)

Odd. When Richard Pryor's obituary first appeared on the BBC news site yesterday, it mentioned "$40 million (£23 million, 34 million euros)". Today the euros have gone.

Anyway... *wanders off to watch Brewster's Millions, Superman III and See No Evil, Hear No Evil again several times in homage*

Operation Firedump

Earlier this week, the US Department of the Treasury's order to freeze the assets of a variety of Viktor Bout companies was extended to the entire world by the UN Security Council's sanctions committee. All assets belonging to the persons and organisations named in this list are now subject to confiscation anywhere in the world.

The list is, certainly, a little out of date. Several of the operating companies listed have ceased activity, and there is no mention of Phoenix Aviation, Jet Line International, or Aerocom among others. (The delay between the US Treasury's action and this action is apparently due to the time it took the Office of Foreign Assets Control to pass on documents to the UN, that and Russian objections to the inclusion of Viktor's brother, Sergei, founder of Air Bas and CET Aviation.) However, a non-trivial number of aircraft continue to fly in the name of firms named by the UN.

This leaves two lines of action: one, to identify the newer firms, and two, to make the UN blacklist a reality. It's time to find these aircraft and demand their seizure. All bloggers are invited to mirror this and help land them on the fire dump, which is where most of these planes will end up given their age and general condition.

The list is currently as follows, correct as of today:

UN-76497, Ilyushin 76-D. Serial number 43402039. This is probably the aircraft referred to in the UN list with MoldTransavia, and is now with GST Aero, repeatedly referred to in UNSC Expert Panel reports. It was also involved in the events detailed here. The most recent photo is here.


EL-AHO, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 183006205.

EL-ASC, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 3340909.
EL-ASJ, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 402112 (doubtful)
EL-AHT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 6004 (doubtful)
EL-ALC, Antonov 26A. Serial number 87307104.
EL-ALT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 17311805.

No recent photos available.


UN-42428, Yakovlev 42D. Serial number 45204223046. Recent photo here.
(Leased to Sudan Airways, believed operating to Iraq)
UN-75002, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 185008603. Recent photo here.
UN-75003, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 184006903. Recent photo here.
UN-75004, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 186009202. Not very recent photo
UN-75005, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 187010204. Recent photo here.
UN-26582, Antonov 26B. Serial number 47313504. No photo since 2002.
(Leased to Ariana Afghan Airlines)


3C-KKO, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 1901706 (No photos available)


C5-GNM, Ilyushin 62M. Serial number 3036142. Recent photo here.


3C-QRF, BAC-111. Serial number 61. Not very recent photo here.
(Operated for SAGT, owned Jetline International)


UN-B7201, Boeing 727. Serial number 22045. Recent photo here.
UN-B2707, Boeing 727F. Serial number 21861. No photos yet.
UN-B****, Boeing 727. Serial number 22046. Recent photo here.
Notes: Most of the Santa Cruz aircraft are probably beyond finding, but even negative information is worth having. Air Bas has largely been closed down at least as aircraft registration is concerned - 3C-KKO is the last known active aircraft in their name. 727 no. 22046 was last seen undergoing considerable engineering work and may not look much like its photo.

What you can do: 1). Mirror this post. 2) If and when a plane is located, tell the world. 3) Demand its confiscation - try the civil aviation authority of the country in question. Post what you said, and the contact for the person you said it to. 4) Encourage others to do so.

Operation Firedump at The Yorkshire Ranter (your first port of call for Victor Bout information)
Operation Firedump at Kathryn Cramer
Operation Firedump at Bloggerheads
Operation Firedump at Tim Worstall
Operation Firedump at Flogging the Simian

Friday, December 09, 2005

The latest Labour email propaganda missive

Just hit the inbox. From Jo Brand (remember her?). It begins thusly:


I'm Jo, a Labour supporter and you may have seen me on telly. Have you noticed the big news this week?

David Cameron (Dave to his friends), an old Etonian distantly related to the Queen, has been elected leader of the Conservative Party."
Would this be an email from the same Labour party whose own leader went to the Scottish public school Fettes? The same Labour party whose leader's old housemaster is David Cameron's old headmaster?

And would this be the same Jo Brand who went to the (now closed) fee-paying girls' school Beresford House in Sussex?

And, more importantly, would where any of these people went to school actually matter for shit?

Or would this merely be yet another attempt to use the tired tactic of stirring up class antagonisms and resentments in a desperate, hypocritical attempt to hang on to power?

The new blogs roundup is here - and includes a number I'd spotted but then lost/forgotten, which is always nice. Go have a looksee - bound to be some gooduns in there.

Apropos that Sainsbury/Woolworth caving in to pressure from morons thing, a nice example from across the pond of how big companies can (and should) respond to cultural intolerance from fringe pressure groups. Yay for Kraft - their food may taste of plastic, but good for them for not acting like pathetic cowards or quisling appeasers.

Update: Missed this - a good overview of the affair courtesy of the BBC's man in blogland.

People in glass houses etc...

Rejoice! There's a new Bribery consultation paper:

"The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Fiona Mactaggart): I am pleased to announce the publication today of the Government's consultation paper on reform of the laws of bribery.

Although the crime of bribery remains relatively rare in the UK, it is vital that we, through our actions and principles, remain vigilant and promote high standards of propriety at home and abroad."
Just as well we're so good at avoiding corruption, bribery and fraud in the UK, eh? No wonder these new laws are focussed on "bribery of foreign public officials" - nothing like that would ever happen with our own public officials, would it?

Oh, and it may be worth noting that these new (proposed) laws are now eight years late...

(Links courtesy of Labour Watch's Labour Sleaze page - which I didn't even get halfway through in compiling that little lot...)

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Austin Mitchell's letter to Ruth Kelly is back again. Can't tell if there have been any changes, or quite why it was taken down after a day or so, but it's full of good stuff attacking the Education White Paper (you know, the one the Tories are going to support to demonstrate that their new leader is so utterly different to Blair...) - have a read in case it goes again.

Note to The Guardian: There is a difference between things one writes in a News of the World column and what one does when shadow foreign secretary. One involves populist attempts to appeal to that kind of lowest common denominator that isn't interested or knowledgable about politics; the other involves convincing the general, swing-voter public that, from a position of knowledge, you share their attitude to international relations.

Oh... Shit... That should read "I HOPE there's a difference..." What ARE the Tories up to?

What's the likelihood of Blair following Schröder's example once he finally buggers off out of our lives and just heads down the pub? (Oh, and in other German news, apparently they've still got an opposition over there after all - something new every day, etc.)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Oh, forgot - A Fistful of Euros has opened the nominations in its second European Weblog Awards - and is a deserving nominee in the Weblog Awards' Best European Blog category. Get over there and suggest/ vote away and stuff.

Still horrendously busy, so read European Democracy's top-notch critique of the CAP, which explains all the many problems, few benefits, and possible solutions rather better than I could. A really rather good introduction/overview of the single biggest problem facing the EU.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Good grief, it really is all change now that Cameron's been named Tory leader. According to the Guardian, there's now "speculation that William Hague will make a return to frontline politics and a job as foreign secretary".

I wonder what Jack Straw has to say about that?

Now, everybody - I'd like you to be nice to the new boy...(via):
"The BBC is about to start a trial series of blogs, each of which will be built using the kind of software employed by millions of weblogs around the world. This is the first of that trial. There are more details about how it works here."

Monday, December 05, 2005

Following Mr McKeating's puerile observation, I'm afraid I just had to go and take it too far...

Update: Oh, and they've sorted the voting on that Weblog Awards thing if you want to be nice. Ta etc.

Polly Toynbee: moronic arse (part 5,687)

A quickie, because I've found a spare five minutes and keep forgetting how much of a fucking idiot Polly Toynbee is. Wait - CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia are, like, a Christian allegory? REALLY? Well there's something that no one's ever spotted in the 50 years since the books first started appearing. A fucking revelation, Polly, you twat.

Does that stop them from being damn good stories (well, apart from A Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle, obviously)? Of course not.

For the record, I despise all forms of religion, and find most religious types self-satisfied bores. But none are as bad as Toynbee, with her blatant attempts to rile the buggers while - seemingly - advising all true Guardian-reading liberal lefties to avoid what's sure to be one of the films of the month out of an anti-Christian bigotry which would, were it directed against Muslims or Jews, be the subject of yet another 2,000-word rant from the deranged hag hack of Farringdon, labelling anyone who even momentarily THOUGHT such abject rubbish only one step away from shoving people into gas chambers.

And so we enter into the age-old, tedious sixth-former anti-religion bullshit:

"Of all the elements of Christianity, the most repugnant is the notion of the Christ who took our sins upon himself and sacrificed his body in agony to save our souls. Did we ask him to?"

I would ago into a point-by-point demolition of the tired old "Tolkien and Lewis were racist and classist etc. etc." bollocks that poorly-read idiots who quickly trawl the internet for research always trot out as well (I've written a book on the fucking thing after all), but Toybee simply isn't worth the time or effort of anything more than violent insults.

Note to any Christians (Christian Voice, I'm looking at you) who have the misfortune of reading this particularly ill-thought-out, deliberately baiting piece of mindless, critically-deficient dross: ignore her and she'll go away. There's another article on Sure Start waiting for her just round the corner, and she'll have forgotten all about this by tea-time.

Note to the Guardian: if you want an actually intelligent, considered analysis of the relationship between the Narnia books, the new film, the Disney corporation, Christianity and the power the American religious right wield over Hollywood from someone who actually knows what the fuck they're talking about, my email's above.

Light blogging rather likely this week. Insanely busy. Sorry, etc. Will ramble on as usual as and when I find a moment.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Vote for me!

Looks like I've made the shortlist for "Best UK Blog" in the 2005 Weblog Awards. Hurrah. Damn tough field though - I'm up against the likes of Samuel Pepys, Londonist, and a wide range of the usual, far more popular suspects (as well as a few friendly faces), so I hold out little hope - my daily readership's less than a tenth of a lot of that lot's...

Still, if you fancy voting for me, click on the thingie below, and I'll whack something in the sidebar tomorrow, most likely. Apparently you can vote once every 24 hours, so vote early and vote often, etc. Ta and stuff.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Following his amusing piss-take a few days back, blogging Grimsby MP Austin Mitchell has returned with an evidently long-considered, demolition of Labour's Education White Paper. The palpable exasperation of this old Labourite is almost painful. Can't say I agree with him on everything, but he makes his points very well indeed:
"these principles, while sounding good, in fact drain the under-privileged schools of money (which goes to the expanding ones), good children (who'll gravitate or be sent by parents and the New Advisers to the schools with teaching ability and numbers). Empowerment of the pushy hurts the humble, the inarticulate, the indifferent and the poor...

"Any understanding of human or even professional nature tells us that whatever promises are made of "no selection", "serving all" and a "full spread of ability", the key to success for schools will be results. That means getting more of the better kids to drive the league tables. Surely you've researched this and its effects on draining the less successful schools? So let's hear it for the people. Our people."
Go read. Good man, that Mitchell - a rarity in the Commons.

A rebate quickie/roundup

Busy again today, so light/nonexistent blogging, I'm afraid. But I really ought to provide some info on the latest rebate spat.

As the rebate's based on regional spending, it fluctuates from year to year. It's currently worth about €5bn a year, but is expected to rise to €7bn. On those projections, Blair's current offer could see the amount Britain receives back drop by €1.5bn a year - in fact, still a net rise of €0.5bn, so not really that much of a concession. All he's really doing is refusing the offer of even MORE returned cash (which could be worth about €9bn to €10.5bn in the 2007-13 budget period if he took it up).

In other words, Blair's in a lose-lose situation again. UK critics will be able to accuse him of surrendering to the French, and giving away the one thing which keeps EU-sceptics moderately OK with the whole British contributions to the EU thing. Critics on the continent, meanwhile - doubtless led by France - will be able to point out that he's only giving up money on paper, not in reality, and that the rebate will continue to rise.

NOTE: All figures above taken from EU - other estimates vary.

Some other views and more info:

The Financial Times reckons (and they know more about this kind of thing than me) that

"the move could mean that Britain has to make an additional net contribution to the EU budget of between £6bn and £7bn over the EU budget period from 2007 to 2013...

"British officials have long acknowledged that, without the concession over funding for eastern Europe, there can be no hope of achieving an EU budget deal.

"This is because failure to adjust the mechanism by which the rebate is calculated would leave Britain’s net contribution to the EU budget at 0.23 per cent of gross national income, while France’s contribution would stand at 0.4 per cent."
The Guardian:
"The best [Blair] can now hope for in Brussels next month is agreement to a review of subsidies in 2008...

"Downing Street knows it has to give ground because the enlargement of the EU means that the rebate will dramatically increase if no changes are made."
The Times:"In a move to get a December deal, however, Jack Straw will accept on Monday that if the rebate is retained virtually intact the budget system will become gradually too favourable to Britain and by the end of the next budget period, 2013, this country will be the second-smallest net contributor after Cyprus."

Prof Péter Balázs (in The Telegraph) - "the blame is on Britain and I am sorry for that, because the CAP is a much bigger problem than the British rebate"

Le Monde: "The initial British plans caused a flurry of negative reactions in the new Member States, which were - until now - allies of Great Britain because of its more liberal, Atlanticist positions."

Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt, quoted in Le Figaro: "We are worried by the outline of the British project: it is far too tight a corset for the future of Europe"

Another quote from the same article from "an Eastern European Diplomat": "By lowering the budget in this way, the British buy the silence of the rich countries and turn to blackmail with the poorest countries... They are using divide and rule as in the good old days of colonialism: it is very shocking."

Finally, I unusually find myself agreeing almost entirely with soon to be ex-Tory leader Michael Howard, quoted by the BBC:
"We are not going to get fundamental reform of the EU budget in the last days that remain of the British presidency.

"We should have been talking about what we want the EU to do, about what the EU is for, and once you have decided what it should do and what it is for, then what it should cost and how you pay for its costs follow naturally from that decision.

"We never had the slightest attempt from the British government to take part in that debate or lead that debate and that's why we are in the mess that we are."

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Busy as hell, so go read Mark Mardell's Europe diary, which features the intriguing information that he's been filming a programme for BBC4 called "My Euro Blog" - although from his description it would appear blogging plays no part in it whatsoever...

Oh, and you may also like to have a look at MatGB taking on a few objections to the EU of Devil's Kitchen's. Haven't had time to read either post fully yet, but should be an interesting debate starting up there.

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