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

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