Saturday, May 31, 2008

Wasps v. Leicester

Yay, we're off to watch the rugby cup final at Twickenham, with mates, and to salute the retirement of the legend Lawrence Dallaglio. And Phil Vickery is fit! Result!

I am very excited. It should be a thumping game. I hope Wasps win, or J will be gutted.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Friday Failed Ferrets

You have to watch this


Time to talk to Al Qa'ida?

Vikram Dodd in today's Guardian has an interview with a senior police officer, Sir Hugh Orde, head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, who is tipped to be the next Chief Commissioner. Orde said the experiences of his force tackling the IRA had convinced him that policing alone - detecting plots and arresting people - would not defeat al-Qaida inspired terrorism.

Orde said: "If you look at some of the biggest risks my people have taken it is talking to people who historically they would not have dreamed of talking to. Were we going to actually police our way out of the Troubles? No. Are we actually going to police our way out of the current threat? No."

He added: "It means thinking the unthinkable."

Before everyone flips their lids and starts howling about appeasement and standing strong in the face of terror, and leaving aside the fact that the set-up of the paramilitary Irish mainland-based IRA was and is very different to the Al Qa'ida global franchise, there are solid strategic reasons for talking to your enemy.

Louise Richardson, in her excellent book What Terrorists Want, explains clearly the three things that terrorist groups seek : Revenge, Renown and Reaction. 'There is no greater affront to terrorists than being ignored', she adds.

For a terrorist to be created, you need a disaffected individual, a supportive group and a legitimising ideology. And to deter, contain and prevent terrorism, it stands to reason that you need to know your enemy. Know who your would-be terrorists are, how many of them there are, where they are, what they believe, why they believe it and what support they have in their beliefs and to facilitate their plans.

How can you find this out? Well, you can read books, hold seminars and meetings, set up think tanks, but there is no substitute for actually talking to the people involved and finding out for yourself - whether by recruiting double agents, intelligence penetration and interception, or in secret meetings. Spycraft, intelligence and diplomacy have always been key tools of war, as Sun Tzu pointed out in The Art of War.

The snag is, Al Qaida is not a disciplined, well-funded well-organised group with clear leadership. If it ever was such a thing, it is not now, not since the US and coalition forces disrupted its base in Afghanistan after 9/11. After this set-back, and the capture of many of its active planners and leaders, it morphed and reformed and is now best described as a very loosely affiliated network of people and groups spread across the world who have in common a shared ideology which is anti-Western, anti-democratic, sees violence against civilian and military targets as justifiable in terms of achieving its objectives, which tend to be local, often vague and even personal, and in some cases, hopelessly idealistic and unachievable. A Caliphate is but a dream of a golden age; it never existed and will not come into being now. Other objectives are more measurable and even achievable.

In Spain for example, the Madrid bombings were ''successful'' in that they caused a victory for the party who supported withdrawal from Iraq. In London, the bombers cited UK foreign policy and the Iraq and Afghan wars as justification for bombing those who elected the government who went to war. They also wanted to raise awareness of causes that inflamed and angered many UK Muslims.

As the current 7/7 conspirators trial is indicating, the London bombers spent time in Pakistan and Afghanistan, learning from and talking to their heroes, battle-hardened jihadis/mujahideen before deciding to bring the fight back to the capital of their own country.

Who led the 7/7 bombers? Ostensibly Mohammed Siddique Khan, but he himself took inspiration, and probably clear instruction in bomb-making, anti-surveillance techniques and tactics from others who were based in the mountains of Pakistan.

Are the mujahideen of the distant mountains likely to sit down and discuss their aims and objectives with a British police officer? Not likely. But by talking to those who call themselves jihadi leaders or sympathisers in this country, and hearing what they have to say, it is possible to find out much about the aims, objectives, numbers and levels of support for what they say they stand for. This is extremely valuable information.

It s often assumed that the desire of terrorist groups like Al Qa'ida is to kill as many innocent people as possible. Actually, this is a tactic, not an objective. It's important not to mistake the effects of their actions for their aims and objectives.

Bin Laden himself has laid out many times his objectives. They are

  1. End U.S. support of Israel
  2. Force American troops out of the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia
  3. End the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan and (subsequently) Iraq
  4. End U.S. support of other countries' anti-Muslim policies
  5. End U.S. pressure on Arab oil companies to keep prices low
  6. End U.S. support for "illegitimate" (i.e. moderate) Arab governments, like Pakistan
Since 9/11 and the subsequent disruption of his base-camps there, he has managed to further his appeal by issuing proclamations appearing to be backing a series of issues to garner local support in different countries and communities. This shows an adept use of communications and an understanding that his movement can change to being a franchise with a life of its own, even if he is captured or killed or dies of kidney failure. Al Qa'ida is, these days, whatever you want it to be, and that's true if you are a member of a cell that cites Al Qa'ida as an inspiration or a politician making a speech.

If you sit down with those who consider themselves to be Al Qa'ida sympathisers and bother to discover what it is they say they want, you can then do several things: you can choose to demonstrate to them that you are inflexible on their issues and that their tactics therefore doomed to failure, which is a psychological and strategic blow to them, you can demonstrate to the communities who might support them what their objectives are and see if they truly have community support for them, you can indicate that you are reasonable and willing to listen rather than being driven by reactionary vengeful ''crusading attacks against Muslims'' and you can gather information about your enemy and assess his chances of success. You may find that some of his grievances, if not his methods, are legitimate

You also grab back some of the moral high ground. And listening to grievances often takes out some of their poison. It shows that everyone has a voice, and that jaw jaw is better than war, war, as Churchill pointed out.

Being willing to listen is a sign of strength, not weaknesses. Even the Olympian immortal gods, we're told, frequently heard supplication from humans; they did not feel it demeaned them to listen. Angry rhetoric and swingeing attacks on liberties are seen as unfair by those who think they are already victimised and ignored - and such actions have consequences in terms of further radicalisation and hardening of attitudes. So I agree with Sir Hugh; let those who claim to speak for the angry and dispossessed, the bombed and the maimed and the suffering downtrodden Muslims of Britain and the world (which is what Al Qa'ida and affiliated groups claim they do) step up to the plate and make their case.

And we will see with what right and by whose mandate and authority they speak, and what support they really have, what future they plan and how they intend to achieve it, and we will see how attractive to people it really is, and whether it has any real chance of success and support.

We already know of course, and there is a reason why democracy is disliked by hardline fringe revolutionary movements: they know they would never get enough people to vote for them.

Let's hear what those who consider bombing us have to say, in all its paranoid, disjointed, angry, incoherent, idealistic entirety. Then we might have less reason to feel afraid. Though we'd not sell as many newspapers, and politicians would not be able to grandstand as much and pass as many laws.

UPDATE: Just about to go and discuss this on the World Service 6-7pm


Thursday, May 29, 2008

To be fair to Kitchens Direct

To be fair to Kitchens Direct, the kitchen is now installed and it is very lovely. The doors and cupboards are proper wood, not chipboard, the plinth fits properly, I have a new double oven and there is much more space for my pots and pans. I still need to paint it and tile it and put a floor down but it is much better than before. I only wish that the experience of ordering it, waiting for it, and having it installed had been less fraught.

Ellee is now looking for advice on kitchens so if you have any words of wisdom please pop over and let her know your thoughts.


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

What a madcap, conspiracy-tastic, CGI-bloated, story-free, utterly silly film. The characterisation is minimal, the plot confusedly bonkers, the SFX impressive, the action relentless, the nostalgia clunking, and the franchise threadbare. But it was nice to see Indy do his thing again and survive unscathed. It will make millions. And today, it was just what I needed.
3 out of 5 stars.


Sunday, May 25, 2008

A worrying development

Miff, whose appalling lack of predatory instinct has led to widespread internet shame, as a result of the shocking mouse saga, was discovered today looking excited in the aquarium cupboard.

Sniff, sniff, sniff, went Miff, tail-a-quiver. I went to investigate, and found, after clearing out a pile of plastic bags to be recycled, a small heap of dessicated mouse poo.

Mice are incontinent, one of the reasons you should never be sentimental about sharing your food-preparation area with them. Fresh mouse droppings look like miniature grains of shiny black rice, and are usually accompanied by the pungent smell of mouse wee, which has an acrid aroma that once smelled, is never forgotten. Today's find was crumbling and pale brown in colour, with no smell at all. So I assumed it was old, and a relic of the defiant super-vermin that plagued this house earlier. After the Kitchens Direct endless saga, my living space has been gutted and cleared and I am still clearing up the plaster dust. There are very few places left now for a mouse to hide. Maybe this is a blast from the past; the final calling card of the legendary now-deceased super-rodent. Or perhaps, more worryingly, it is a descendant of his, returned to plague us once more and unleash havoc on our household, so recently restored to relative calm and tranquility.

I brushed, wiped, disinfected and bleached, and removed the plastic bags. I wondered whether I should reset the traps, or whether Fate had presented the indolent Miff with an opportunity to redeem herself. After all, last week she had presented me with a chewed spider that she had caught in the garden, and perhaps this was a sign that she was keen to prove herself as a hunter?

It is more likely though that, coward that she is, she was merely show-boating at the smell of old mouse, much as she used to do when the last mouse - the ex-mouse- was safely tucked away in his hole in the wall leading into the neighbour's sitting room. When the mouse actually appeared and helped himself from her bowl, regular readers will remember, she ran away and hid. Like the big pathetic coward that she is.

It will take more than chewing up the odd arachnid to redeem her shattered reputation.

Stand by to find out whether this is redemption, rehabilitation, or re-run.

There is much to be said for confronting your demons, but it is whether you stand and fight 'til the end, or run away when face to face with your enemy that is the mark of a warrior. Or a mouser.
Or a big soft pussy.


Finding meaning in work

Came across this on the BBC site and it struck a chord so thought I'd share.

Indeed no jobs that involve managing or leading are crafts, which is one of the things that makes it so particularly hard for managers to find meaning in what they do.

In fact managing is one of the most thankless jobs in the world. What managers are mainly trying to do is to get other people to do things that they don't want to. To work harder, for a start. Their other primary function is to carry the can, and to get blamed for all sorts of things that probably aren't their fault. Not only are they creating little meaning for themselves, they get blamed for destroying meaning for people below them.

I see my friends exhausted by internal meetings and office politics and I worry about them. So many people who loved their jobs in their late twenties have ended up managers in their thirties - then found that they can't do the things they are good at because they are stuck in the office going over spreadsheets and taking the punches from senior management, who are taking the punches from shareholders. Although the money is better all of the joy and most of the satisfaction is gone.

Meaning and purpose. After food, shelter and companionship, it's the most important thing. And sometimes you have to let go to see it.

Which is well scary.

Graffitti snails and tank-cakes

Have you ever wondered how to graffiti a snail?
How to bake a cake that is a tank with a moving turret?
Make a bicycle window box?
Turn a Pringles tube into a portable golf hole?
Make Elf ears in 5 minutes?
What about making a pneumatic Pirate cannon?
Or de-shelling a raw egg without using your hands?

Well, now you can find out ( hat tip, urban).

It has been chucking it down all morning so I have been amusing myself on the internet whilst J plays GTA4. Now it has finally stopped raining, I might go to the festival in Victoria Park. Or work out how to use the new oven, which J has switched on only for a strange chemical smell to appear. I can't remember when I last cooked something in a functioning kitchen. I hope the Kitchens Direct fitter reappears at some stage since now the dishwasher doesn't work and there are still planks of wood everywhere. Still, the hob works so we had boiled eggs.

I hope you are also having an amusing bank holiday weekend. I will write something serious and political soon - I've still got the Sunday papers to plough through - but right now I'm just enjoying the relief of reading some truly daft stuff on the internet; some of the stuff I've seen has been so bonkers and had me laughing so hard that J put down the controls at one point and rushed in to see if I was choking. Reading reviews of last night's Eurovision contest reminded me all over again of how good last night was: my sister and two mates came over and we all scored so high on the Eurovision game that we ended up drinking a lot of white wine very fast indeed - then a bottle of champagne - which is why both J and I are having an extremely quiet day today.


Saturday, May 24, 2008


Time to play the game again....( originally featured in 2006 on this blog and also in the Guardian)

This year's refreshed categories...score 1 ONLY if they appear during a song performance. Multiple appearance of characteristic still only counts as one, scoring during songs only, not links. Easiest way to play is to write on bits of paper and pull out of a hat.
  1. Fake tan
  2. Glitter
  3. Wet-look hair
  4. Stripping off
  5. High kicks
  6. Gypsy Violin
  7. House/disco drum beats
  8. Inadvertent flashing
  9. V.P.L
  10. Sudden tempo change i.e. from ballad to heavy rock
  11. Leg warmers
  12. Fancy dress i.e. pirates, monsters etc.
  13. Peasant/Folk drumming live on stage
  14. Musicians singing along
  15. Dry ice
  16. Overt homosexual undercurrent/gender-bending
  17. Wind machine
  18. Violence
  19. Flag waving (audience doesn't count)
  20. Over-use of crotch
  21. Random person in national costume on stage
  22. Children/animals on stage
  23. Use of elderly person
  24. Fireworks
  25. Rapping
  26. Mid-song costume changes
  27. Kilts/school uniform
  28. Ballet
  29. Cloaks
  30. Mullets WITH white suits
Good luck!

UPDATE: The Sunday Times picks through the politics and the sequins


Paradise Gardens

This looks great, if you're in London and fancy a day out.

See Victoria Park magically transformed into a modern day pleasure garden for a weekend packed full of events and entertainment in the heart of the East End!

Bank Holiday Weekend
Sat 24 and Sun 25 May 2008
1pm - 10.30pm

View & Download Programme
Text Only Version
Text Only E-flyer

Victoria Park will once again explode into life, for a free festival weekend, boasting world class circus premieres and off the wall street theatre from No Fit State Circus and Laika/Time Circus, an open air music stage featuring Omar, Alabama 3 Acoustic and Unplugged and Ska Cubano plus the best in urban dance performance from Hackney’s Avant Garde Dance. The Tea Dance Tent features dance from the lindy hop and tango to rock and roll, whilst The Victoria Village Fete showcases local artisans and traders as well as a creative play area for children. Other attractions include the historic burlesque splendour of Carters Steam Fair, quirky side shows and installations including the delightful and eccentric Bar of Ideas, as well as delicious food from around the world, craft markets, licensed bars at pub prices and much, much more.

In the Victorian era, parks were pleasure gardens where the most thrilling activities of the day were on offer for families to enjoy. For Paradise Gardens we update this idea for the 21st Century, offering a dizzying array of artforms, stages and activities for audiences of all ages to enjoy.

As East London prepares to welcome the world in 2012, Paradise Gardens Festival, working together with our partners and stakeholders, aims to showcase all that’s best about our great city. We plan to invest in local artists and professional arts organisations, stage world class events for East London’s communities and visitors alike, and attract artists from all over the world to the East End.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Useless 'terrorists'

I must say that I am less than impressed by the recent round of reported 'terrorism' attempts; so far we have had one extremist set himself on fire and die, one extremist get punched to the floor by an irate Glasweigian and arrested, primed cars that failed to explode whilst being towed across London and now some utter idiot sets off a device that blows up in his face.

Less Al Qaeda and more Al Qaeystone. Pffffff. Not exactly worth throwing away our freedoms for, eh?

Some good news

I have just spoken to my uncle on the bedside phone! He is just out of theatre. They don't know what it is, but they know it is not a blood clot or a swollen artery in the brain, or a tumour, or a stroke, as first thought. It is a great relief to hear his voice after surgery and have a good chat and to tell him my news. He is very happy to hear about how many people have been wishing him well. He'll probably have to have another operation, to explore more, but at least, for now, he's flat on his back, getting excellent care, and somewhat reassured to know that he is not in immediate danger, though he still can't use his eye and is in a lot of pain. Third nerve palsy. Cause unknown.That's all we know so far. I'm going to visit him tomorrow morning, he needs to rest today and Dad is going this afternoon. Thank you for the messages wishing him a return to good health which are very much appreciated and have been passed on.

The other good news.

A while ago I wrote about my publishers, The Friday Project, going into liquidation. The deal with the liquidator is now completed, and I am pleased to confirm that my book, Out of the Tunnel has been taken over by Harper Collins and will now be sold and published by them.

Whilst stock moves over to the new distributors it might be hard to get hold of for a few weeks, but that should iron out soon and it's still in bookshops because I saw a copy the other day. I'm pleased, and I will get my royalties after all. So the small charity I support will get some money as I promised and it will help pay for the new kitchen. Which is almost completed, so I can start to put the house back together and bring order out of chaos. At the moment the pans are in the garden, the glasses in the kitchen, the dried goods in the study and everywhere is a total mess, covered in plaster dust and it is driving me mad.

I hope you get some time to chill over the Bank Holiday weekend - I'm going to drop into the Cambridge Beer Festival after visiting my uncle as a mate is managing one of the bars.



My uncle is having a operation today; he has been moved to a specialist hospital, Addenbrookes, in Cambridge. I'm hoping to be able to visit him later today or tomorrow. We're all hoping it will find out what is wrong with him and that it will be treatable. He, and my family, were very pleased to hear some good news that I was able to share with them yesterday; I will blog later about it and share the news once I have checked the legal position.

Monday, May 19, 2008

My uncle is not very well. He was taken to A&E yesterday morning. He was kept in overnight. All we know is that it is some kind of aneurysm. He has had blurred vision, blinding headaches.
We do know it is not a stroke. We are waiting for more tests, to see how bad it is. It is too horrifically reminiscent of his sister, my mum, last summer, when we held the tiller and tried to stay afloat before it all smashed into the rocks.
update: He passed a comfortable night. But it looks like he will have to have some kind of operation. I know Dad's friends in Norfolk read this and will be remembering my uncle and father in their prayers. More when I can.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sock-puppets always make me laugh

Sock-puppets. I love them, they always make me laugh. Whether they are the online version, or the more traditional kind.
So I was chuffed no end when I found this great video by the Polyphonic Spree of a fantastic Nirvana tune today. It works on so many levels, and I had to share it immediately.

I'm so happy. Cause today I found my friends.
They're in my head...

And now I'm off to the pub.
Have a great weekend.


Kitchens Direct update

The fitter worked all day yesterday and the cupboards arrived. I still have no floor, sink, oven, wall tiles but I have a work-surface and some cupboards without doors. And a kettle and a toaster.

Miff is enjoying climbing on all the boxes. The fish are less impressed, they are walled in and can only see out of one side of their tank.

J is off on a stag do all day and will probably fall through the door at 3am. So it seems like a great excuse to take myself out for the day: gym, swim, movie, sushi and then down the pub with my friends in the evening.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More on the Kitchens Direct Saga

Things did not get off to a flying start with Kitchens Direct back in March. Yesterday was meant to be the longed-for day when the kitchen was finally delivered, ready for installation today and tomorrow.

So I waited in all day, having removed everything from the cupboards and stacked it all in various places all over our small flat. Every room has boxes of pots and pans and spices and oils and pasta and pulses and crockery in it. I can't open my built-in wardrobe door now because of all the boxes so to get my clothes I have to climb in through J's door and stand in the wardrobe and rummage in the dark. Miff followed me and then got trapped and cried to get out.

The new kitchen was meant to be delivered at 9am yesterday. By 11am I had phoned twice and been told various stories. An 'eighteen foot lorry' had 'been and gone' because it had 'not been able to park'. No lorry had been anywhere near my flat, and there was seventy feet of parking space outside my front door. I rang again and was told the lorry was in North-West London, the driver was just delivering something to another customer and would definitely be there by one. I sat in the sitting room, working and looking out of the window. A van delivered wine to my neighbour. The postman came round. A man went past on a skateboard. Two women with prams. The local eccentric who has a walking stick decorated with silk flowers smiled and waved at me through the window. I waved and smiled back. I rang again and was told that the lorry had been, rung the door bell and gone away again. It was 1.30pm.

'No it hasn't.' I described the morning's proceedings and gave my address. They said perhaps there were two customers with the same name in London.

Eventually, after seven calls from me, they admitted that the lorry had not been booked or given our order to deliver and this was a mistake, and it would come tomorrow instead.

'The fitter is coming to install the kitchen tomorrow. Allegedly, ' I reminded them.

They said that they were sorry and the lorry would definitely come at 7am. 'It's on the system now'. An hour later a cheerful person called to see whether the kitchen had been delivered and whether anyone had contacted me, and was crestfallen when I said it hadn't and after numerous calls and various tales being told to me, I had managed to get them to promise delivery the next morning. They said they were sorry.

Today, the kitchen lorry arrived at 7am, to general rejoicing, having driven down from Manchester, and delivered 41 boxes and flat-packed objects, which I signed for, and the driver relieved me of over £3000. I looked at the boxes filling half the sitting room and crossed my fingers.

The fitter arrived at 8.45am and removed the kitchen; everything including the kitchen sink, uninstalled the washing machine, stacked the old kitchen in pieces outside on the street, promising it would be removed tomorrow. Then he counted what had been delivered, and said that all the bloody top cupboards hadn't been delivered and it was too late to order them for delivery tomorrow.

Then he said he was leaving. It was 12.15pm.

'What? I thought you were going to install the new kitchen? And work all day? I'm not in on Monday or Tuesday so the idea was it would be done by the weekend' ( it's only a small kitchen).
'No, I have some other work to do'.
'Will you be here tomorrow?'
'After I have been to the dentist'
'And Saturday?'
'Not sure. I might have other work to do'
And off he swanned, leaving me with a pile of boxes and a fridge and a kettle.

I called Kitchens Direct and politely explained that things were less than ideal. So far Kitchens Direct had had over £4000 off me and now I had a pile of boxes and no kitchen. The girl at the other end suggested I wrote a letter.
I suggested they could pull their finger out and deliver the missing cupboards tomorrow. To her credit, she said she would try.

Then a passing man rang the doorbell and asked if I knew that there were a pile of unopened brand new boxes with some nice pear wood in them outside on the street. Could he have them?I said I thought they might be my missing cupboards so he helped me bring them in out of the rain.
'It's a good job that I am an honest person' he chortled. I agreed that it was very kind of him.

I rang the fitter. Were these my missing cupboards? No, they were 'extra stuff' that he was 'dumping'. He congratulated me on getting the missing cupboards delivered tomorrow instead of Monday. 'You must have scared them'.
'Yeah, I'm good like that.'

I put the boxes of pear wood back outside again. And went off to buy myself lunch in a local restaurant. I think I may become a good customer over the next few days. Or possibly, weeks.

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Dope: a dangerous gateway to hard politics?

Random links: Home Secretary Jacqui Smith challenged on the radio about her dope-smoking. Should she go down? (Hat-tip: urban 75)

Also: rude place names

Boris twigged...

'Boris has merely come up with a cross between Trunk Idol and Twig Brother.'
Diamond Geezer, pesky fisker

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tim and Peter given awards for 7/7 bravery

Tim Coulson, and Peter Zimonjic have both been honoured with awards for their bravery on 7 July when they went to the aid of seriously injured and dying passengers.

They were amongst a group of men who were not travelling on the bombed train, but another train, that was passing the other way and which was also affected by the blast. They smashed their way in to help those left alive and shocked and injured in the terrible aftermath of the bomb set off by Mohammed Siddique Khan just outside Edgware Rd station, which killed six people and injured many more.

Tim's teaching career was cut short by PTSD which he developed after he went to help the bombed train's passengers. What he did that day cost him a great deal. He, Peter, Ben, and all the other people who helped on that day deserve to be publicly, gratefully thanked.

Almost every warm-blooded creatures' reaction when caught up in danger or disaster is to freeze, or to flee, or to fight. It is a survival response, which is why it is so hard to predict how anyone will react to peril - ancient instinct takes over, time slows, time speeds up, nothing is real, everything is different. We might be in the twenty-first century, but our reactions were hard-wired hundreds of thousands of years ago.

To take a deep breath, make yourself over-ride your animal fear and to deliberately choose to go towards the danger and horror to help - when your gut is telling you to protect yourself, to move away, or to call 999 and hope someone else will run into the darkness to help the strangers on the train - is extraordinary. Extraordinarily brave, and extraordinarily human. And I am so pleased that this has been recognised.

Also, whilst we're on the subject of bravery and humanity, find out more about 7/7 survivor and peace ambassador Gill Hick's WalkTalk here.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Hendo: Can we trust the media?

Hendo has a good review of a book that I'm looking forward to reading: Can you trust the media? by Adrian Monck and Mike Hanley.

All very timely, in the light of various recent blogger experiences.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Comments, commuters?

The genius Matthew Norman on Bill and Hill

Today only a bullet, silver or otherwise, can save her. That or video footage, from the director of Max Mosley: The Movie, of Obama being led around a Chicago dungeon on a dog collar by a PVC catsuit-clad Abu Hamza while being fed the entrails of white babies by the Rev Jeremiah Wright and shrilly insisting that 9/11 was the work of Mossad.

Assassination or epochal scandal apart, she has lost and even Bill knows it. Standing behind her on the dais, his face a shade of crimson to make Alex Ferguson on Claret Night look like Lilith Crane after a talc factory explosion, he could barely dredge up the wounded boxer's defiant grin when she lurched briefly into valedictory mode, and pledged to support the Democratic candidate to the full.


I ended up shouting at the television again. I so want Obama to win that it almost makes me want to cry and throw things when I see Hillary manically grinning and Bill standing next to her like a glazed ham in the butcher's window with a punch-drunk face drawn on it. But I like Matthew's description better.

Matthew won the Press Awards Columnist of the Year 2008 and it couldn't have been awarded to a nicer, more generous, wickedly funny man.

Open democracy: A language sea-change?

'According to documents recently published by the National Counter-Terrorism Center, a US agency responsible for coordinating the government response to terrorism, officials are now being asked to stop using terminology that could "unintentionally legitimate terrorism," and reorient their vocabulary away from language that might frame radicals in a sympathetic light. This entails ceasing to describe radical cells as either Islamic or Muslim, and also rejecting the term "Islamist," which experts argue is confusing to the general public. Instead of using words such as jihad or mujahedin, which "have positive connotations for Muslims," the report recommends replacing these terms with "'death cult,' ‘cult-like,' ‘sectarian cult,' and ‘violent cultists'" as more accurate indicators of "the ideology and methodology of al-Qaida and other terrorist groups."

Grounding the report in an awareness of the wider connotations of these terms for Muslims, experts advised that officials must be more "careful and judicious" in "navigating the rocks and shoals of terminology to avoid unnecessarily alienating a large segment of the Muslim community." To this end, the main focus of this initiative is to divorce al-Qaida and other radical cells from control of their own language, or in other words, to distance them from language steeped heavily in historical and religious import, which US officials claim has the effect of legitimating their goals.

toD analysis: While the effort to jettison sweeping terms like "Islamic" or "jihad" in official discourse is definitely one of the more enlightened suggestions made by a government agency recently, what is most striking about this project is its attitude towards its stated target audience, the international Muslim community. In choosing to eliminate words that bear religious and cultural significance to Muslims, the report is clearly attempting to distinguish between extremist groups and the Islamic community at large, an effort that has largely been ignored until now. However, by recasting radical groups in the Manichean framework that is at work now, the report ultimately remains faithful to the same Cold War logic of "us-versus-them" that permits alienation to ferment in the first place. In order to truly attend to the question of the alienation of Muslim communities, the US government must address this issue, and disrupt the cyclical thinking that has structured foreign policy.'
article by
Jessica Loudis


When a Woman is Fed Up with the Mail

Following on from Zoe's Guardian piece about newspapers nicking the work of bloggers, and Jonny B's problems with the Mail on Sunday, we now have blogger Natalie/ NML's story of defamation and misrepresentation by the Daily Mail.

UPDATE: 13 May - The Mail have removed the defamatory article from their website - strike one!

Over to NML...

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Daily Mail Newspaper Tells Everyone that I Blog for "E-Venge"

On April 30th just after 3.30pm, I snatched up my phone and bit the bullet. I called up the journalist that had 'interviewed' me (I say this loosely) and expressed my upset at her not actually stating that she was interviewing me and my concern that I would be included in a feature about revenge, which is not what I, or this blog are about. I told her quite shrilly (I was stressed for fecks sake) that I did NOT want to open the paper and see something like "Blogger gets revenge on ex with her blog!" or some other pathetic headline.

I went onto the Daily Mails supposed section for women yesterday and actually nearly threw up in shock!

"Don't get mad, get E-VENGE!"

It's even worse in the paper where just in case the Daily Mail hadn't quite put the full boot into misrepresenting me and featuring me in article full of TWENTY SIX inaccuracies about me, they added a sub header of "It's the new mantra for women using the internet to take revenge on cheating men".

Really, I don't think I have EVER been so angry!


NML is quite naturally, hurt and furious and she is complaining to the Press Complaints Commission, because she has been portrayed, quite falsely, as some kind of cyber-bunny boiler when she is in fact a successful, professional woman with a partner and an adorable baby.

Of course I have written to the Press Complaints Commission, the editor and yada, yada, yada, but the fact remains that their papers become someones loo roll the next day but that pile of shite that is their article is up online telling anyone and everyone that I am an e-venger. It's pretty disgusting and what's most appauling is that they have reduced four years of this blog, two and a half years of Baggage Reclaim, a year of Bambino Goodies, and various other blogs plus my an act of revenge....against someone who didn't even mean enough for me to even fully dedicate the one blog post about his cheating. I even said "The revelation last night doesn't hurt, but it does anger me, but even that has passed." and then in true me fashion, I rambled on about my period....

Oh and I know for a fact that they stopped publishing comments on the story yesterday as I was contacted by several people who said that they had commented to set the record straight. So not only do they want to put up 26 inaccuracies about me, but for some reason, they don't want anyone to know about it...

NML is asking bloggers to spread the word.
Which I am more than happy to do. Go NML! Go word-spreading bloggers!
Update: This is a good post
Update: So is this

Thursday, May 08, 2008

12 May: Anti-terror law demo

National Coalition Against Anti-Terror Powers

DEMONSTRATE against the

Counter-Terrorism Bill

12 May 2008

5-7pm at 10 Downing Street

(Whitehall, tube: Westminster)

No to Punishment without Trial!
No to Secret Inquests!

Join the struggle against injustice! All welcome!

Speakers include

Mark Thomas, comedian/writer

Gareth Peirce, Human Rights Lawyer

Sabina Frediani, Liberty Campaigns Co-ordinator

Liz Davies, Chair, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers

Bruce Kent, Progressing Prisoners, Maintaining Innocence

Lindsey German, Convenor Stop the War Coalition

Arzu Pesmen, Chair Kurdish Federation UK

Mahan Abedin, Director of Research Centre for the Study of Terrorism (CFSOT), Asim Qureshi, CagePrisoners

Quilliam launch now online

Just in....

Dear Friend,

If you missed our highly successful launch last month, you may wish to visit

Our policy document can also be downloaded at the same page.

Please feel free to circulate this to your friends and contacts.

Warmest regards,

Quilliam Foundation

My speech is on video and can be seen here

Monday, May 05, 2008

Fight for your writes

Cracking - and very useful article by Zoe on an issue that affects more and more bloggers ( and journalists). See also Jonny B's Private Secret Diary and the debate in the comments.

Britblog round up Boris Special

Photo thanks to Newsbiscuit.

Britblog round up Boris Special can be found here, and has some corkers, especially Diamond Geezer's imagined first edition of the Londoner newsletter.

Also brilliant: 18 years of Godwin's Law, by Godwin himself

Long weekend

I have been very spoiled this long weekend. On Saturday we went to our friends' new flat and had barbecued fish and giant shrimp on their balcony overlooking the Thames in East London. A railway line runs past the converted warehouse, and we heard barks and cries as we ate; looking out of the window we saw a family of foxes playing by the railway line, dark red cubs somersaulting and tumbling in the long wet grass. Everything has gone green and lush, it's verdant late spring at last, at long last.

Down by the river I saw the creamy foaming sprays of Queen Anne's Lace flowering, wild garlic, bluebells, blossom petals dropping from laden branches and floating downstream. As we admired the view, bats swooped past our heads as the sky turned indigo. I stood luxuriating in good company and good cheer, muscles aching after combat class. The evenings are finally warm enough to sit outside without a coat. And I'm sleeping properly again. It makes such a difference.

On Sunday our friend Russell arrived at our flat with a leg of lamb, a handful of herbs and a bag of vegetables and proceeded to cook us delicious Sunday lunch with mininum fuss ''because I love you both and you are my friends''. Afterwards J's best man rolled up with more wine, and has just left after sleeping on the sofa. I've just found that Poons has done a wonderful review of my book, which made get a bit weepy but in a good way.

Tonight J's Mum and stepdad are taking us out for dinner, and then to the theatre to celebrate J's birthday and our wedding anniversary. Dad has just told me that he is going to California, to visit my sister who is working there on a contract. Flying into the sun, to the place mythologised when he was a young man in the sixties.

These are good days, days to be treasured, all the sweeter because there were times that I forgot to trust that they would come.

I hope you are having a good bank holiday weekend. What are you up to?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Nick Cohen on Nick Kollerstrom

Nick Cohen's column in this Sunday's Observer is inspired by the Koller-storm.
It's getting increasingly difficult to disentangle what Nick Cohen is saying these days. But today's column needs to be understood against the background of Cohen's support for the Iraq war, and his visceral hatred for 'clerical facists' - by which he means 'Islamists' - followers of an extremist 'politico-religious' ideology. From here he sideways-leaps into left/liberal/media bashing and writes darkly of 'the fringe going mainstream'. He accuses 'commissioning editors [of] being intellectually crippled by a thoughtless version of multiculturalism that can't take account of the differences between liberals and reactionaries, secularists and fanatics, within communities.' Then he says

'If a bomb were to explode outside University College today, mainstream voices would fill the airwaves and say that responsibility for the carnage lay with the British, American or Israeli governments. Their arguments would be passionate and convincing, but I don't need to tell you every one of them would avoid mentioning the Islamist ideology that motivated Hasib Hussain and men like him.'

This is just daft. What 'mainstream' voices would say such a thing? In the media or in academia or anywhere else? It is perfectly reasonable to utterly condemn the murderous actions of the bombers and at the same time understand that London was targeted in 2005 by young British terrorists who said they acted because of UK foreign policy, which is amongst things cited by 'Islamist' extremists as 'proof' that there is a Western 'war on Islam'. A war they say they are called to fight a 'defensive jihad' against, engaging in 'counter attacks' using 'martyrdom operations' as a 'legitimate' tactic. The justifications given by these terrorists for their actions are both simplistic and torturous. And wrong. Nowhere in the Qur'an (or in academia, the media, on the Left or in the anti-war movement, for that matter) are murder-suicide/attacks on innocents condoned; they are condemned for the wickedness they are.

Being against the war or criticising UK foreign policy ( or being a Muslim) doesn't mean you are in sympathy with the bombers or their ideology. (Like anyone should even need to point his out, jeez.) However, Cohen's ongoing denial about Iraq war blow-back and subsequent acts of terrorism is of course an attempt to defend his own increasingly isolated pro-war position. To do so by taking sideswipes at academia, the media and the liberal-left by insinuating they are fellow-travellers in antisemitic/terrorism-exonerating conspiraloony land is pretty feeble.

UPDATE: More commentary from Aaranovich Watch

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Links of the day

Blood and Treasure on Gordon Brown
Shroedinger's Pig has an open letter to Labour.
(via Bloggerheads)
Dr Crippen diagnoses Boris Johnson

An old HIGNFY featuring Boris 'richly comic' Johnson.

Boris Johnson: London has a Celebrity Buffoon as a Mayor

Image by BBDO
Charlie Brooker foretold it with HA HA BORIS !!!1LEGERND!!!1
Unity liveblogged it
Justin calls it the dawn of the dickhead

The thing is, Charlie was right. Loads and loads of people - enough to fill dozens of O2 stadiums - voted for LOL BORIS OFF TEH TV!!!

But this isn't Big Brother. This isn't Have I Got News for You. This is London. This is a world city, entering a recession, with crime and terrorism and housing and transport problems and the Olympics to worry about.

Boris has some good things going for him. He's very clever ( the Boris The Buffoon is just that, an act). I admire his passion for classics. He was in Taking Liberties, objecting to the extradition of the Natwest 3 and ID cards. He looks like he would be congenial company if you were stuck in a lift with him. He is a amusing guest or host on quiz-shows. He might be much more, but, kept on a tight leash by his Conservative handlers, the tee-total tight-mouthed ''serious'' Boris of the campaign was unconvincing: muzzled and monitored and managed, this was not so much a ''new'' Boris as the absence of the old one whose eccentricities, gaffes and gags made him a primetime celebrity.

But the post of London Mayor does not exist merely to add to the gaiety of the nation.
I woke up feeling spooked and pessimistic about what is happening politically at the moment, and what the future might hold.

Did hundreds of thousands of people really turn out for a man whom they considered a tousle-haired joke? If so, how vapid, decadent, and bibble-headed we have become that we will vote merely because the outcome may briefly amuse us. It's the same mentality as registering your religion as '' Jedi'' on the census. A bit of a giggle. A jape to recount to your buddies in the bar. Funny for a good ten minutes, arf. Flat-out embarrassing to recall ten months later.

The joke was never on Mr Johnson; it was always on us.

(No, I didn't vote for him. But I say 'us', because it was a democratic vote and that's who my city elected and we'll just have to live with it. I hope he does better than I imagine)


Friday, May 02, 2008

For some reason....

...the thought that Boris might be Mayor of London by midnight made me think of this.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Links of the day