Sunday, November 30, 2008

Green: Like being arrested for allowing a duck to fart in public on a Sunday

The initial report on the Damian Green arrest on the Telegraph website (see clip below from Google news) stated he had "been arrested under the Official Secrets Act". I based my post yesterday on that report.
I have since noticed that the Telegraph have changed their report to take out the reference to the Official Secrets Act. Indeed, Andrew Rawnsley today says:

Mr Green was not detained under the Official Secrets Act. The authorities resorted to a catch-all law about 'procuring misconduct in public office', a piece of blunderbuss legislation which dates back to the 18th century.

(This is like being arrested for allowing a duck to fart in public on a Sunday under a 14th century piece of legislation.)

In that case, I am going to turn on a sixpence, do a 180 degree U turn, and say that I take back everything I said in my post yesterday and whole-heartedly condemn the ludicrous and outrageous arrest of Damian Green.

I am going to leave my post from yesterday intact, with a note of correction, as a monument to my stupidity in believing the Telegraph in the first place.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Humbug and hysteria over Damian Green arrest

UPDATE 30th November: This is a load of cobblers due to being based on an incorrect, subsequently corrected, report on the Telegraph website. See an explanation and correction here.

Oh, so it's not OK for the police to investigate a potential breach of the Official Secrets Act allegedly involving Damian Green, but it was OK for the Tories to lock up Sarah Tisdall, try to lock up Clive Ponting and pursue Spycatcher author Peter Wright across the world in his dotage, was it?


And I don't remember David Cameron raising any objection to Ruth Turner being arrested at dawn over the Cash for Honours investigation.

I applaud the dropping of party political norms evidenced by Nick Clegg's Telegraph article today. I agree with his general thrust.

But the police have the task of upholding the law, in this case one which had its public interest defence removed in 1989 under a Tory government.

The fact that no Labour politician was apparently told about this before it happened is surely a sensible way of firewalling them from the action, as they should be, is it not?

If the law is wrong, it should be changed. In the case of the Official Secrets Act, a public interest defence should be allowed. But we cannot complain if the police are legally seeking to uphold the law. That's their job. People are not forced to work in the Home Office. They know they will have to sign the Official Secrets Act if they do.

Without knowing the full details of the police investigation it is almost impossible to make an objective comment. If it turns out that Inspector Knacker has over-stepped the mark on this occasion, I'll be among the first to call for appropriate disciplinary action.

Hat-tip: Alex Wilcock.

Heroes at the end of the phone

It's tempting to think of people working at the end of the phone as doing a simple task. The traditional lady sitting in front a telephone exchange is perhaps indelible in our minds. But it is worth thinking of the awesome job done by some people at the end of a phone.
I helped with some fund raising activities a few years back for the Friends of the Samaritans. As a result I got to know a little about how the Samaritans do their excellent work. They really have an awesome role. Often they are sat around with nothing to do, but the sword of Damocles hangs over them. The next phone ring could be a life or death situation. But their role is strictly "passive". They don't advise or cajole or even phone the emergency services (unless freely asked to do so by the person on the phone). Imagine that. It takes an admirable brand of courage to be prepared to put yourself in that situation.
Those responding to 999 calls also have a certain degree of courage to be able to calmly deal with life or death situations while being geographically divorced from the action. This week I have read a number of verbatim accounts of calls to the emergency services. The Guardian's Weekend has a number of accounts which all had reasonably happy endings. I recommend reading them. One involves a gentleman who cut his arm off (by accident) and whose neighbour had to call 999, respond to medical advice and then go and find his neighbour's arm in his garden. You some of the calls related by Weekend here.
On a more sobering note, the Newbury Weekly News this week carries an account (also here on the Times website) of the 999 call made by Julia Pemberton as her son was shot to death by her estranged husband, as she unsuccessfully hid in a cupboard and as her husband found her and shot her.
The circumstances of the death of Julia Pemberton and her son Will are perfectly outrageous. It is a scandal that we, as a society, could not prevent their deaths after Alan Pemberton the husband had actually said several times that he intended to kill them, including in writing, months before he finally did.
Indeed, the recent Domestic Homicide Review report on the deaths made clear many failures in the police response over months, including guidelines which led to delays in the handling of the final 999 call.
However, imagine the person on the police end of that 999 call. To go into work day after day knowing that you could be talking to someone and then listening to them being tragically murdered, takes a special kind of strength.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

David Cameron has just alienated 5 million people

That is, public sector workers who will greet with alarm his announcement that "We have got to end the apartheid" in pensions, by ending their final salary scheme:

We are getting into a situation now where pretty much everyone in the private sector has gone to defined contributions and the final salary schemes are closed. In the public sector you have still got a lot of people on final salary schemes including members of parliament.
MPs are going to have to lead by example. We have got to close the MP’s final salary scheme because we have got to be able to turn around to the rest of the public sector and say that over time it does makes sense to move towards defined contribution.
There is an issue of fairness between the private sector and the public sector but there is also an issue of economic efficiency. We do not want to make it so hard for people to move from the public sector to the private sector or from the private sector to the public sector.
My vision over time is to move increasingly towards defined contribution rather than final salary schemes.
This is something (sic) where the government has been remarkably feeble partly because they are in hock to the public sector unions.

Hat-tip to the Westminster blog, which comments on this here and here.

Woollies: Nemesis in its own genesis

On Tuesday night on the BBC Six O'Clock news I was expecting the usual manic Robert Peston reactive commentary about Woolworths and MFI going into administration.

Albeit that I was in the bath and could only hear him, he seemed remarkably calm and reserved, choosing his words very carefully.

Although I couldn't see to check, it sounded as though the rolling eyes and usual OTT behaviour were refreshingly absent.

I can only feel great sadness that MFI and Woolworths have gone into administration. That is mixed with enormous sympathy for the staff facing great uncertainty.

I suppose that deep inside me there is a hard-hearted devil who takes the attitude that Woolworths has been on its last legs for years (its founding American counterpart business lost its name and transmogrified into a sports goods chain over ten years ago). A business that started in this country as the "3d and 6d" shop was being undercut at the lower end by the Pound shop and the 99p shop (its nemesis was its own genesis); and at the other end by supermarkets.

But, frankly, on this occasion my over-riding emotion is sympathy for the managers and staff, and prayers that some decent enterprise can be salvaged from what is a huge business and a major landmark in the British high street.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I am a woman

So says "Gender Analyzer". I regard this high praise for my writing style.

There is one slight snag, however.

If you vote to say whether or not they have got the gender right, you see that only 53% say yes - they got it right, against 47% saying they got it wrong. That means that whatever software they are using is only 6% better than tossing a coin.

The rubbish spoken about "squeeze the rich"

Spare a thought for John Humprhys. On Today, he has to play devil's advocate. He has to earn his salt. It's not his fault that he ends up sounding like a whining school boy who's had his sweets taken away from him. It's not his fault he ends up making Alastair Darling sound reasonable.

This morning he asked Darling "exactly" when growth would restart. What a damned stupid question. Who does Humprhys think the Chancellor is? God?

At several points, as Humprhys bemoaned the economic situation, I was willing Darling to reply "Well John, s*** happens, doesn't it?" It would have been the honest answer.

This stuff about returning to old Labour is just utter, hysterical nonsense. Even the Daily Mail demonstrates that, while attempting to make the opposite point:

Denis Healey, the Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, increased the higher rate of tax on incomes of £20,000 and above to 83 per cent in 1975. Those earning more than £8,000 a year paid 60 per cent.
On top of that, there was a special 15 per cent surcharge for 'unearned income'. So anyone living on a pension or savings was taxed at up to 98p in the pound.

Against that, 45% for those earning over £12,500 per month or about seven times the national average, is hardly "squeezing the rich"! (Especially when the VAT cut of 2.5 points, such as is, will be more likely to benefit those with plenty of money, rather than average earners)

Come off it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Ah, glorious, glorious competence. How we've missed you."

The news of Timothy Geithner's nomination as US Treasury Secretary was greeted thus. By who? Well, if it had been a headline from Daily Kos or Huffpo one might not give it a second thought.

But it was from no less an august source than The Economist.

Minnesota senate seat is a doddle for Al Franken....regressively speaking

For some reason, the Minnesota Senatorial recount is giving rise to extraordinary outbreaks of political anorakking.

First, we have the ongoing detailed discussion of actual contested ballot paper examples on the Minnesota Public radio site.

Now, Nate Silver on FiveThirtyEight has, remarkably, gone to great lengths to present a regression analysis on the recounting so far and the potential outcome. Here's a sample that gives you some idea of the level of the analysis:

Now, we can attempt to solve this equation at the statewide level. When we plug in a t of .499956 -- Franken was picked on just slightly very less than half of the ballots during the initial count -- we get a value for franken_net of .837. That is, Franken will gain a net of .837 votes for every 10,000 cast.

And the conclusion? Al Franken, the Democrat, will be an absolute shoo-in and win by a resoundingly clear margin of 27 votes out of 2,885,555 cast.

That's a margin of 0.00094%.

......a doddle.

Blink and you miss the share rise: The BBC's hysterical news coverage continues

We got pulverised with pulsating red "FINANCIAL CRISIS" graphs with shares going vertically downwards on the BBC News for weeks.

Now shares go up by 10% in one day and do we get a green graph with the arrow going upwards? (Sample helpfully provided below)

Do we heck as like.

It gets mentioned in one sentence by Robert Peston.

FTSE up 9.84%. Dow Jones IA up by 11% in 2 days. But, those poor people sitting round who worried about those pulsating red downward graphs hardly get told about it.

A month ago journalists were telling us all about the London inter bank offer rate (LIBR). Now it hardly gets a look in. That's because it has dramatically fallen for three month borrowing (see graph below from so it's no longer news. Instead we get hysteria about the chancellor's borrowing.

So let's briefly recap. First of all we're told it's a bank lending crisis. But that's got better. So then it was a share crisis but now they've gone up - albeit for one day - and it doesn't get a look in. Because now they've decided it's a government borrowing crisis....or a government taxing rich journalists in two years time crisis....

It's all a great reason to listen to Terry Wogan instead of Today and watch Emmerdale instead of the News.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Political anoraks - gorge yourselves

Huffpo provides another set of samples of actual ballots cast in the Minnesota Senatorial election, which are now being pored over by legions of lawyers. They are getting nuttier and nuttier. My particular favourite is this one:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Just the tonic

Her nibs arranged one of her little treats for me last night and got me a ticket to see Ed Byrne (below on You Tube) at Newbury Corn Exchange. Things have recently been rather hectic at work, coinciding with less than usually obsessive blogging, so this treat was very much welcomed.

Ed Byrne says what I would say if I was sufficiently articulate and could be arsed.

I feel I share a very similar inner spirit with him. I have seen him live three times and I am hooked on the man. He has a vulnerable exuberance which is quite mesmerising.

Last night's show was made all the more fascinating by the presence a very strange heckler. She was sitting in the row in front of me. During the support act, Ben Hurley, an effortlessly masterly comedian from New Zealand, she made some very strange interventions. She told him off for making a joke about sex with sheep. "That puts paid to the second half of my act", quipped Hurley. Even more staggeringly, when Hurley made a few observations about the "up front" nature of the American charcter she called out "Don't be rude".

"Dont be rude". At a late night comedy performance? "Don't be rude".


Friday, November 21, 2008

Laugh or cry?

Former Telegraph owner Conrad Black is pinning his hopes on clemency from U.S. President George W. Bush as a last-ditch effort to get out of jail early, and he wants his former publishing company to foot the legal bill.

Sarah Palin interviewed while turkeys are killed behind her

I didn't think I would be blogging about Sarah Palain for a loooooong time. But, my goodness me, this video is so utterly bizarre that I just had to put it up.

As part of her Thanksgiving Day preparation duties, Palin went along to a turkey farm to pardon, yes pardon, a turkey (it's a yank thing).

So far, so Alaskan humdrum. But then she is button-holed for a three minute interview by a local TV station. She stands giving the interview, coffee-to-go in hand, while the farmer continues to slaughter turkeys in the background - on camera. She carries on, oblivious to the spectacle, all smiley and "awshucks" as usual. How utterly bizarre. And how strange to pardon a turkey and then give international coverage to two its colleagues being killed!

One for "It'll be alright on the night".

PS The second one really struggles....

I didn't think I would be blogging about Sarah Palain for a loooooong time. But, my goodness me, this video is just utterly bizarre that I just had to

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Drowning in anoraksia

Some of the last pieces of the November 4th US election are falling into place. Felonious Republican Ted Stevens has conceded the Alaska senate race to Democrat Mark Begich. Missouri has finally declared for John McCain by just over three thousand votes out of 2.5 million - a major achievement for Obama - leaving Obama with more than twice as many Electoral College Votes as McCain in the final count.

And the Minnesota Senate race is entering the recount phase, which could last a month. A learned professor says that satirical comedian Al Franken stands a good chance of winning here. This is based on the highly academic theorem that "We just know that, in this case, Democrats tend to [screw up their ballots] more often [than Republicans]."

You can drown in political anoraksia here. Minnesota's laws are quite liberal on voting. They say, broadly, that as long as the intent can be seen on the ballot, the vote counts. So the recount is going to go on for ages with lots of broad interpretation and many lawyers getting in on the act. The website linked shows 11 countested ballots from the actual recount. You can vote on what you think should have happened with the vote. Once you have voted you can see how everyone else has voted.

Once Minnesota is swabbed up, that would just leave Georgia with their run-off and a few House seats still being counted/recounted/litigated.

Booked up

This is fantastic scheme run by a literacy charity. They give every Year seven child a free book after giving them information on a choice of a dozen books.

Revealing Brian

We're learning a lot about Brian Paddick during our annual extended jungle fix.

Tonight we learnt that he loves Blue and has two of their videos on his iPod. He was chatting to two of the gals about Simon Webbe and we heard him express admiration product of the man's workouts.

We've also seen a decent side to Brian. He was seething about Robert Kilroy-Silk (or "Silksie", as Joe Swash calls him incessantly) yesterday when Kilroy was in a different camp. Today, Brian has accepted that he misjudged the man and has made up with him.

Oh, and we've just learnt that, although Brian has not personally been in a hostage negotiation situation, he knows about hostage negotiations. A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse....

"Im a Celebrity.." this year is an oasis of high culture.

The highlight so far has been several renditions of Joe Swash's song:

Ollie, Ollie, Ollie
Tits on the trolley
Balls in the biscuit tin
Sitting on the grass
Finger up your a***
Playing with your ding-a-ling-a-ling

BREAKING NEWS: David Van Day is a complete and utter prat. Timmy Mallett is a good egg.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

BNP membership list

I have had a look at a few maps and so forth regarding the BNP membership list. Indeed the entire list is available and I've had a look at it. I don't think it is right that the list has already led to two people either losing their jobs (a deejay) or being brought into discipline (a policeman).

It's a legal political party. If members of it are in jobs like policing or teaching then they should have sufficiently thought their membership in the context of their job and not be ashamed of the fact of their membership becoming public.

Once again, this episode reveals the extremely unpleasant internal atmosphere in the BNP. The list was leaked by a former member and the leader, Nick "Red Nose" Griffin is accusing them of "treachery". That's the typical melodramatic language of the BNP.

The list even has phone numbers and email addresses on it. Someone must have really had it in for the BNP to release it. Yes, I've looked up people in my town.

You want the link? Well, I'm not going to give it to you. But you could try googling "BNPmemberslist" with no spaces.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The LibDems: WRONG on opt-out organ donation

The report from the Organ Donation Taskforce on the potential impact of an opt-out system for organ donation in the UK is available in pdf format here.

I have opposed opt-out organ donation since some barking mad judge suggested it. The whole idea is totally illiberal and smacks of an authoritarian state "owning" our bodies. I was surprised that the Liberal Democrats supported the idea. Norman Lamb confirmed the party's support for the scheme yesterday.

Of course, we need to increase our rate of organ donation registration. I have been a registered donor for many years and we wanted our son to be a donor when he died.

But an opt-out scheme is just morally wrong.

The Taskforce have given better reasons than my emotional ones for rejecting the scheme:

On balance, the Taskforce feels that moving to an opt out system at this time may deliver real benefits but carries a significant risk of making the current situation worse.
Nevertheless, some clear messages emerged from our findings about priority action for improving consent rates for donation, the most striking of which was the need to address the extremely low awareness of the odr. if a person’s name is on this register, 90% of families consent to donation, compared with a general consent rate of about 60%. There is a clear need to publicise the register and to make the process of registering easier and more widely understood.
Other areas for development include the following:
many people have fears or misgivings about organ donation based on misconceptions or ‘myths’ that need to be dispelled.
We need to encourage people to talk about organ donation with their families and friends, as recommended in the draft nhs constitution.

What most of this boils down to is this: When did you last see a TV advert encouraging organ donor registration? I have never seen one. There are loads for blood donation but none for organ donation. We obviously need better advertising and encouragement of inter-family discussion of the subject.

Introducing a Stalin-style opt-out scheme is just not on. The proposal is very similar to the ID scheme. I tend to apply my "drop out" test to this sort of thing. If someone decides to drop out of society they will never have the opportunity to opt-out of a organ donation scheme and if their family are not immediately available at their death their organs could be used under a opt-out scheme, but it could be that the deceased and their family had/have deeply held objections to the procedure.

You can register for organ donation here.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Going for £1 million

Well done to the Antiques Roadshow for discovering its first £1 million item. And how very fitting that, as the show came from Gateshead, the item was the model of Anthony Gormley's "Angel of the North", one of the most breathtaking features of the British built landscape.

The intriguing mystery of the precise colour description of the 3rd Liverpool shirt

Match of the Day this week had an ineffably rivetting 20 minute passage. West Bromich 0 Chelsea 3 followed by Stoke 0 Man U 5.

Real edge of the seat stuff.


Mind you, Alan Hansen is always good value. Here's what he said in connection with dear old West Brom: "Philosophy and principles are fine, but try another one: SURVIVAL"

Speaking of football, as I rarely do...I was watching Liverpool play some team recently in their third kit.

I think there must have been something wrong with the screen I was watching it on. The shirts looked blue. When I mentioned this to a Liverpool supporter I know, a passionate retort of "IT'S GREEN" followed (bearing in mind local sensitivities and Everton being blue and all). Anyway, isn't green reserved for the goalies?

However, I have now been able to find a photo of said shirt (below). Would you call it "green"?!

In fact, a quick comparison to the Wikipedia colour spectrum (see below), indicates that, while the shirt is definitely not "green" it is probably dark "teal" or a dark shade of "pine green". Any thoughts from anyone?

Bill Ayers speaks

If anything, it's a bit of an anti-climax.

Change you can email

As noted yesterday, Barack Obama will be the first US President to have his weekly address shoved on You Tube. Indeed, he'll be the first President to have his regular broadcast available in pictures rather than just in audio via network radio, as it has been before.

Votemaster notes that Obama will also be the first President to have a computer on his desk. He has asked for a notebook computer in the Oval Office.

Sadly, he'll have to eschew his beloved Blackberry due to some footling Presidential Records Act or somesuch.

Government sells out taxpayers

Well done again to Vince Cable. The government just don't get it, do they? They've given billions to the banks and aren't even going to have directors on the boards of the banks they part-own.

As Cable says, it is "outrageous".

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Going equipped for "art"

The award for laugh of the week has to go to Michael Stone who claimed that his "attack at the Stormount parliament in November 2006 was merely a work of performance art, and that the axe, three knives, garrotte, imitation handgun and homemade bombs found on him were artistic props".

As he left the court to be taken to jail, Stone shouted "Make art, not war".

Impressive start

"The Office of the President-Elect" has its own website at Impressive.

Barack Obama is oging to make his weekly Presidential address, traditionally broadcast only on radio, available as a video on YouTube. He's issued an address as President-elect this week - click below.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Treble baked Alaskas all round!

It turns out that Ted Stevens is probably not going to be re-elected to the US Senate.

He's a convicted felon, but Alaskans, such as they are, voted for him in sufficient numbers on November 4th to require careful counting of absentee ballots, questionable ballots etc.

However, the counting is looking good for his opponent, the Democrat, who is Mayor of Anchorage - Mark Begich.

Why is this piece of arcane Alaskanalia important?

Well, in the scheme of things it probably isn't, but it beats worrying about the UK recession or "GRIDLOCK!!!!" in Newbury.

But, there is a scintilla of importance to the Stevens news.

It means that the annoying person who is Sarah Palin won't be catapulted to the US national stage via the Senate (if Stevens were to be elected, the Senate would kick him out, there would be a special (by) election and Palin would win it.). As she is, as Governor of Alaska she is about eight hours behind the news cycle and doesn't get a look in.

Indeed, just to put the knife in further, Palin was on Larry King yesterday (below) and seemed to take a Stevens' victory as a fait accompli. More fool her. (Mind you, looking at her on LK, I did wonder whether perhaps my "no never" answer to the LibDem Voice election night question "Sarah Palin - would you?" was perhaps somewhat hasty. When I was fully in control of my loins..........)

Going all doggy

We were never doggy people. We have two cats. But after five years, we have finally caved in to Junior's pleadings and bought a puppy. He's called Charlie and he's a Bichon Frise. He really is the most wonderful addition to our family. He just gives and gives.

So I am now fully doggy.

As a side comment, I haven't been "in the market" for twenty four years now, but if anyone is looking for ways to "pull", then get a little puppy. You get oodles of awed, delighted glances as you go about your way with him or her.

The jewel of free speech

Full marks with a cherry on top to Peter Black AM, who has organised a poetry reading at the Welsh Assembly for Patrick Jones.

I don't blame Waterstones for cancelling a poetry reading at the last minute when they realised that they would be inundated by protesters from "Christian Voice". They probably didn't have sufficient security in place to cope with that eventuality.

To give Waterstones credit, they are still selling the new Patrick Jones' poetry collection, so there is no question of censorship there.

As for "Christian Voice" I really think they are on the wrong track. There is nothing in the gospels where Jesus says anything other than that followers should "turn the other cheek" when faced with what they perceive to be insults. All Christian Voice's protesting does is draw attention to the TV programme or poetry they seek to condemn.

I'm reminded of the furore over the "Life of Brian". In fact, there was nothing blasphemous in the film and the writhings of Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark simply served to turn the film into a hit.

As a Christian myself, I would say to these Christian Voice wallahs: "Chill out". By getting worked up, you'll only end up shooting yourself in the foot. Our faith should be strong enough to stand on itself without us getting all bitter and twisted.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Gloating is bad form

So, I won't tell anyone if you don't.

It is remarkable to see the Tory getting itself tied up in knots over the economy. Iain Martin writes a most entertaining article in the Torygraph suggesting that little Georgie Osbourne should be moved to a role more in line with his skills. Like looking after the Shadow Cabinet tuck shop.

The Martin article is full of quotable sentences from beginning to end. So choosing one is like shooting fish in a barrel. But here goes with some of my favourite lines:

"There has been," says a loyal Tory MP, "a strange reversal of fortune, in which Gordon Brown focuses on the macro, big picture on the economy and David, the master of theatre, is bogged down with micro initiatives and over-complicated measures of the kind Brown usually specialises in." Osborne as shadow chancellor is blamed for this, because he is most identified with the judgment calls that brought his party here. Then it was Osborne's bad luck that, just as such concerns were stirring, he chose to board a Russian yacht when he would have done far better to remain on dry land.

However, Martin is wrong in this analysis:

One of the Conservative Party's roles is supposed to be that it exists for moments in history such as these, when Leftists who have spent all the money unwisely have decided that the answer is even more of what put the country in a hole in the first place. If it is doing its job properly, the Tory party says: this has to stop and here is a better way which will restore prosperity.

The whole point is that Brown is flourishing because traditionally socialist solutions, rubbished by the Tories for decades, are proving to be the ones needed now: state intervention and regulation, to name but two.

The Tory party has spent over 100 years opposing state intervention and regulation. Now those two actions prove to be about the only thing which is giving the British and world economies any hope of salvation.

Let's face it, the Tories are on the wrong side of history at the moment. Brown, that old Scots socilaista, is on the right side of history - and that's the reason for his smile and the Cameron/Osbourne discomfiture.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

This recession really is terrible isn't it?

News from this "little town of Newbury" (see Liberator's song book).

Vodafone's first-half profit before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization rose 10 percent to £7.2 billion, while sales grew 17 percent to £19.9 billion.

Oh dear. We'll be having to tear up copies of Robert Maclennan's speech to the 1992 LibDem conference to warm our hearth this winter!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama Irish song band to play at Washington inauguration party

Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys sing "There's no one as Irish as Barack O'Bama".

It really is a fantastic song and I have a perverse wish for it to the Christmas Number One!!!

You can buy it here for just £3.26 plus £2.44 p&p. The lyrics are here.

Hardy Drew and the Nancy Boys have been invited by the Irish American Democrats to fly over to Washington DC to play at a Presidential inauguration party on 19th of January 2009.

George Bush's "shake 'n' squirt" habit

Taegan Goddard offers a timely quote from Barack Obama's book "Audacity of Hope" relating Obama's first meeting with George W Bush.

What tickles me is that when Bush shakes hands with someone he immediately uses a "squirt" of hand sanitizer so that he doesn't catch anything from that person.

Endearing, eh?

The inside of the White House doesn't have the luminous quality that you might expect from television or film; it seems well kept but worn, a big old house that one imagines might be a bit drafty on cold winter nights.

On a chilly January afternoon in 2005, the day before my swearing-in as a senator, I was invited there with other new members of Congress. At 1600 hours on the dot, President Bush was announced and walked to the podium, looking vigorous and fit, with that jaunty, determined walk that suggests he's on a schedule and wants to keep detours to a minimum.

For 10 or so minutes he spoke to the room, making a few jokes, calling for the country to come together, before inviting us for refreshments and a picture with him and the First Lady... "Obama!" he said, shaking my hand. "Come here and meet Laura. Laura, you remember Obama. We saw him on TV during election night. Beautiful family. And that wife of yours - that's one impressive lady.""We both got better than we deserve, Mr. President," I said, shaking the First Lady's hand and hoping that I'd wiped any crumbs off my face.The president turned to an aide nearby, who squirted a big dollop of hand sanitizer in the president's hand."Want some?" the president asked. "Good stuff. Keeps you from getting colds." Not wanting to seem unhygienic, I took a squirt.

"Come over here for a second," he said, leading me off to one side of the room."You know," he said quietly, "I hope you don't mind me giving you a piece of advice.""Not at all, Mr. President." He nodded. "You've got a bright future," he said. "Very bright. But I've been in this town a while and, let me tell you, it can be tough. When you get a lot of attention like you've been getting, people start gunnin' for ya. And it won't necessarily just be coming from my side, you understand. From yours, too. Everybody'll be waiting for you to slip. Know what I mean? So watch yourself.""Thanks for the advice, Mr. President.""All right. I gotta get going.

You know, me and you got something in common.""What's that?" "We both had to debate Alan Keyes. That guy's a piece of work, isn't he?"I laughed, and as we walked to the door I told him a few stories from the campaign.It wasn't until he had left the room that I realized I had briefly put my arm over his shoulder as we talked -- an unconscious habit of mine, but one that I suspected might have made many of my friends, not to mention the Secret Service agents in the room, more than a little uneasy.

Boris' bill

I think the bill for £400,000 for Ian Blair's pay off should go directly to Boris.

Given the Lond Mayor's £200,000 per year weekend job writing drivel for the Telegraph, he could pay this off in two years.

Don't panic! (#997)

Despite all the ridiculously doom-ladened reports, the FTSE is still 32% higher than it was in 2003.

Despite all the shenaninghans in the banking sector recently, HSBC have just said that their earnings for the last 3 months are better than those for the same 3 months last year and they are predicting 2008 pre-tax profits of $22 billion!

Yes, count them:


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Party posts

Many congratulations to all those elected to the various LibDem party committees.

In particular well done Linda Jack for being re-elected to the Federal Policy Committee.

Well done David Rendel for being top of the poll for the Federal Executive and Gerald Vernon-Jackson for being second.

Marr's twaddle on Obama

Andrew Marr suggested this morning that the US/UK relationship under Barack Obama would not be "special" because Obama has "no links" to the UK like other US Presidents.

What utter and complete twaddle!

Obama's half sister, Auma, works for Wokingham Borough Council.

His father and a big chunk of his family come from Kenya, which was, until 1963, British.

Obama wins Nebraska (NE-02)

It's not often a Democrat presidential candidate can say they won a electoral college vote in Nebraska. The state is deep red. Bill Clinton famously left it until the very end of his eight year Presidential tenure before he visited it.

Maine and Nebraska are the only two US states that apportion their electoral college votes dependent on the proportion of votes cast for the candidates in each congressional district. A novel and refreshing idea! Perhaps some of the other states could follow suit?

The count in Nebraska's second congressional district has now finished and Obama won. So he gets one Nebraskan electoral college vote.

Remembering my uncle

Once again at this time of the year, my thoughts turn in particular to remembering my uncle, Alan Walter. He was just 18 when his ship, SS Tregarthen, was torpedoed on 6th June 1941. He was killed along with all other "hands".

The ship was in convoy OB329 which consisted of 41 ships and left Liverpool Saturday 31st May 1941, the convoy dispersed Thursday 5th June and the "Tregarthen" was sunk Friday 6th June by U-48 (the most successful U-boat of WWII). The "Tregarthen" was on a voyage from Cardiff to Kingston, Jamaica carrying a cargo of 7800 tonnes of coal and was sunk in approximately 3 minutes after being hit by a double spread of torpedoes both of which hit the ship towards the aft end.

The death of my uncle devastated his family, particularly his mother - my grandmother. Indeed, my father has said that he thinks she was still grieving badly for her son when she died some 25 years later.

My father was called up and served in the Royal Navy. My other uncle, Bill, served in the Fleet Air Arm. My grandfather served in the First World War in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, including a period in Gallipolli, one of the most bloody disasters of that war. My other grandfather served in the merchant navy in both world wars.

I never forget, with enormous humility, the sacrifice my uncle made for future generations such as myself. I never forget that I have never been "called up" like my father, uncles and grandfathers. I never forget that my ability to speak freely, including writing this blog, is a result of the sacrifice of my uncle and the service of my uncles and grandfathers, and the sacrifice and service of the rest of their generations.

Basically, I am damn lucky and 11am on Remembrance Sunday is the main time, but not the only time, of the year that I remember that.

Whenever I down a pint a beer, whenever I post a blog posting, whenever I walk in the park. It's my uncle Alan and his generation who made it possible.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I've just been to see Oliver Stone's W. on the big screen.

I can't say that I would wholeheartedly recommend going out in the autumn cold to see the film.

As entertainment, it was fairly mirthless stuff. I enjoyed the early years of Bush in his fratboy days and his Texan days. But the joy of the film ended, quite rightly, as the Iraq invasion went sour and, really, one was left with a sense of the pointlessness of it all. In that sense the film was an accurate portrayal of the pointless failure of the Bush administration. But one couldn't help thinking that the subject didn't lend itself to a satisfying movie. Because the subject was a pointless failure, the film left you with an empty numb feeling at the end.

Laura Bush came out the film as a bit of a heroine. And Colin Powell came out of it well. Richard Dreyfuss brilliantly played a dark and menacing Dick Cheney.

Josh Brolin, as Bush, was very good, if a little too good looking.

This film certainly gives you a bit of an understanding of why Bush rose to be President. But it all seemed a bit "clippy" for my liking. The whole film is a mix of flashbacks and flash forwards. So you start the film in the present and then go back to 1966. Then you go to 2005 and then to 1972. So the older bits get younger and the newer bits get older until they almost meet in the middle. It gets very confusing. Sometimes you have to concentrate hard to work out whether you are in the past or the "present".


1. The meeting which decided the Iraq invasion. Colin Powell put some very sensible points but was derided and then Cheney won the day by arguing that the States had to invade to save their oil supplies.

2. The press conference when Bush was asked what he thought was his biggest mistake. Stone really does play out Bush's answer, or non answer, for all it's worth - it is a very effective moment.

You are left with the impression that as soon as the Iraq venture failed, Bush's presidency was a waste of time. Now that Obama has been elected, this film seems a bit surreal. As David Letterman recently quipped:

Barack Obama is our new president. I think I speak for everybody when I say, 'Anybody mind if he starts a little early?'

Grinless Salmond

I can't help feeling some pleasure at the Labour by-election win at Glenrothes. I didn't think I'd ever write anything like that. But, firstly, there are very few delights in life comparable to seeing Alex Salmond with the smug grin wiped off his face. Secondly, I believe that Gordon Brown deserves some credit for a relatively skilled handling of the economic crisis (note the word "relatively"). The Tories would have done no better, or even worse, in handling the crisis, particularly given that the current need for regulation and nationalisation is not exactly home turf for the Tories.

Cogratulations to Ros

Many congratulations to Ros Scott on being elected President of the Liberal Democrats. Hers is a very well deserved win. It is very reassuring to have a real grass roots person at the helm of the party in the President's role.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

North Carolina adds extra distinction to Obama victory

Obama's historic victory is made a tad more extraordinary with the news that AP has declared him the winner in North Carolina. An October comment from Andrew in North Carolina on this blog, underlines the scale of this achievement:

...from here in Durham, NC is a run-away lead for Obama - I have seen literally nothing from McCain.I got out into the state a bit last month (if you ever get the chance, do come to North Carolina. The Smoky Mountains, the Outer Banks - really beautiful areas) but still didn't see much about McCain past a few garden signs. Didn't even see many McCain bumper stickers at the NC mountain state fair, and that included hog racing, mounted cowboy shooting and the world's largest horse, so you would expect the visitors to vote a certain way!But still, along with the comments on the article you linked to, I have trouble believing that a state that still seems so rootin', tootin' American and has many 'dry' counties is going to go democrat.

Obama: The world's front pages

Here is an absolutely mega "wall" of all the Obama front pages across the entire world's press today.

It really is stunning.

Thanks to Geoff Menegay via Votemaster

I grabbed four papers this morning and they will be deposited securely at the bottom of my jumper drawer.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Sarah Smith on Channel Four news just said that European leaders are expecting a "more nuanced" approach to foreign relations from Obama.


Isn't that a word used by "cheese eating surrender monkeys"?

Potential saving grace...

Oh, good Lord.

When I started blogging, I had no idea where I was going.

But where blogging seems to have taken me is concentrating on Alaska, x thousand miles away, rather than obsessing about the pavements, roads and pooper scoopers within yards of my home.

And, indeed, Alaska rears its remarkable head again.

Sarah Palin could become a US Senator!

Pass the sick bag, Alice.

But help is at hand. Ted Toobs' margin is currently 6,000.

But there are 60,000 absentee ballots still to be counted.

So succour is at hand!


McCain's cock-ups

It's great fun to ruminate on all the ways McCain "cocked up" his campaign. But, of course, he did very well and it is almost impossible to think of any member of the Republican party, save perhaps Colin Powell, who could have done better.

Anyway, let's have a bit of fun.

The first thing that occurs is that the McCain campaign didn't stick to one message.

They didn't stick to two messages.

Final totting-up is still going on but at the current count it is reckoned that the number of messages McCain's campaign, had, over the last six months, was:


In one day alone, 15 messages were counted. McCain went round the houses with umpteen negative stories and then, in the last few hours, finally returned to "fight, fight, fight, and fight again" not being particularly specific about what it was he was fighting for, except for John Sidney McCain III.

And then there was the state strategy. Even when Obama was into a double digit lead in Iowa, a few weeks before election day, McCain insisted on visiting Des Moines, Iowa and, excruciatingly, giving the editorial board of the Des Moines Register "what for". A complete waste of time.

And even in the last few days he insisted on returning to New Hampshire! Obama won it by nine points.

Mind you, I suppose McCain didn't have many options.

McCain's campaign was characterised by impulsive behaviour. The return to Washington to stay silent at a meeting, and the choice of the monumentally, pathetically ill equipped Sarah Palin, were clear indicators that the man was simply not suited, temperamentally, to be President.

I have waxed lyrically about it before and will no doubt dine out on this in future. If only McCain had chosen Kay Bailey Hutchison as his running mate he might not have gone down to such an ignominious electoral college defeat.

Anyway, one fascinating aspect of the campaign is McCain's "balls out" strategy in Pennsylvania. In the last few weeks, he threw everything at the Keystone state.

Taegan Goddard's Political Wire (at which altar many genuflections from moi) teases us with the fascinating thought that Obama's campaign "tricked" McCain's campaign into throwing everything at PA:

A Political Wire reader suggests Sen. Barack Obama's campaign tricked Sen. John McCain into competing in Pennsylvania.
1. Obama's campaign learns McCain has just
$37 million entering October.2. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell says he's "nervous" that McCain is gaining ground.3. Obama's team "leaks" an internal poll proving Rendell's anxiety.4. McCain pulls back in other states to "flood" Pennsylvania with resources.In the end, Obama won Pennsylvania by double digits. As First Read notes, "Lost in Obama's impressive 11-point win in Pennsylvania is that McCain's Western PA strategy worked. The problem? There weren't enough votes out there."

And if I might throw in an extraneous personal thought, one thing which McCain's campaign has proven is that the stupid, idiotic theory that negative Rove/Atwater negative campaigning always wins has, at long last, had a stake driven through its heart.

So, what now for the Republican party? Well there are plenty of answers now for the GOP. But, sure as hell, one of them is NOT Sarah Palin. However, I will suspect we will have great fun, because I suspect that many Republicans will be convinced, for a long period, that she is the answer.

McCain: Palin more trouble than a pitbull

From the Guardian:

So now we know what John McCain really thinks of his running mate Sarah Palin – and that's not just because of the awkward body language between them during his concession speech in Phoenix, Arizona.
An exasperated McCain has been telling friends in recent weeks that Palin is even more trouble than a pitbull.
In one joke doing the rounds, the Republican presidential candidate has been asking friends: what is the difference between Sarah Palin and a pitbull? The friendly canine eventually lets go, is the McCain punchline.

Palin's swanky clothes - the lid comes off

Standby for some entertainment. I love this woman.

In their special election edition, Newsweek reports that Gov. Sarah Palin's "shopping spree at high-end department stores was more extensive than previously reported. While publicly supporting Palin, McCain's top advisers privately fumed at what they regarded as her outrageous profligacy." "One senior aide said that Nicolle Wallace had told Palin to buy three suits for the convention and hire a stylist. But instead, the vice presidential nominee began buying for herself and her family -- clothes and accessories from top stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. According to two knowledgeable sources, a vast majority of the clothes were bought by a wealthy donor, who was shocked when he got the bill.""Palin also used low-level staffers to buy some of the clothes on their credit cards. The McCain campaign found out last week when the aides sought reimbursement. One aide estimated that she spent 'tens of thousands' more than the reported $150,000, and that $20,000 to $40,000 went to buy clothes for her husband. Some articles of clothing have apparently been lost. An angry aide ... said the truth will eventually come out when the Republican Party audits its books."

Hat-tip: Political Wire

US press articulate historic change

Two quotes from the US press emphasise the awesome, historic nature of Obama's victory:

Los Angeles Times:
Barack Obama, the son of a father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas, was elected the nation's 44th president Tuesday, breaking the ultimate racial barrier to become the first African American to claim the country's highest office. A nation founded by slave owners and seared by civil war and generations of racial strife delivered a smashing electoral college victory to the 47-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, who forged a broad, multiracial, multiethnic coalition. His victory was a leap in the march toward equality: When Obama was born, people with his skin color could not even vote in parts of America, and many were killed for trying.

USA Today:
America's election of an African American as president wasn't the only breakthrough Tuesday night. By defeating John McCain in such reliably Republican states as Colorado and Virginia -- capital of the Confederacy and a state that hasn't backed a Democrat for president in four decades -- Barack Obama reshaped the electoral map that has defined American politics for a generation.

Joy and rapture

The Huffster, or Huffpo, has posted some great celebatory pictures from around the US here.

I have rather cheekily taken the liberty of temporarily borrowing a small indicative and low resolution photo from the show as a temporary adornment to my masthead to recognise the awesome and historic nature of President-elect Obama's victory last night.

OH NO!!! It could be Senator Palin!

Oh dear. Oh dear. It's not all sunshine this morning. Ted Stevens is leading by just under 5,000 votes in the Alaskan Senate race, with 96% of the votes counted.

If Stevens is elected he will almost certainly be ejected from the Senate in January because of his ethics conviction.

This means there will have to be a special election. That will almost certainly be Begich (Democrat) versus Sarah Palin (Republican). (No wonder she didn't want to say who she voted for).

Palin would probably win.

So it would be Senator Palin for four years with a nice run-up for her to the 2012 Republican nomination battle.

Oh well. At least she's been vetted now - i.e. by the national election process.

Song for Obama

This morning, I'd like to declare myself more chuffed than a really chuffed thing. More chuffed than a chough, in fact.

It's been a long road since I saw Obama on Panorama and instantly decided to throw my lot in with him and also place a bet for him to be the Democrat nominee. (That reminds me, Stan James owes me some dosh as of today!)

What I saw there on Panorama, in January 2007, in the space of a few minutes' interview, was a man, above all, of great nobility. I would compare it to the first time I saw Mandela speak when he emerged from jail. In Obama, I saw a natural leader, a man of calm, thoughtfulness and sincerity. I was bowled over by the man and have been ever since.

Through the campaign, I was impressed by Obama's ability to promptly fight back under attack, while having very high quality judgment. His grass roots campaign has been awesome.

But what has impressed me most about Obama, is his calm under fire. In that third debate, McCain threw everything at Obama. The kitchen sink was one of the first things to be thrown in Obama's direction. The rest of the bathroom furniture followed (to borrow a Biden phrase) - plus rawplugs and plaster board for good measure.

And what did Obama do? He just smiled and calmly dealt with the points without retaliating. His calm was utterly awesome.

Now that is what I call a man of style and depth. That is real quality. That is the sort of man you want on the phone to Putin in a crisis. Obama has put the cool in cool.

Even though the polls looked good, you never know whether there is going to be a last minute sweep the other way.

I take my hat off to the American people.

Ohio! God bless you!

Florida! God bless you!

Virginia! God bless you! Virginia! I can hardly believe they voted for Obama!

Indiana! Crikey! Obama even won Indiana and looks good in North Carolina! (And it was knife edge even in Missouri!)

God bless America!

My gob is well and truly smacked.

I would like to pay tribute to Barack Obama the only way I know how - By immodestly and unsubtly showing off my knowledge of music trivia and offering the song below for the great man who is to be the 44th President of the Great (once again) USA! "Indiana wants me". Fantastic record by R Dean Taylor. It was issued on the Tamla Motown label.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


12:40 I am oscillating between catching a bit of shut-eye, losing the will to live and spasms of excitement. In 2.5 hours of watching CNN I have just seen the first real data on CNN. Indiana is tight - 51 for McCain against 48% of Obama with 21% of the votes counted BUT the county split shows that the Democrat areas such as Gary haven't started counting yet. So, Obama is doing really well in normally red republican areas.

01:00 Further encouraging Indiana county updates from

Obama's hanging tough, and Lake County (Gary) has yet to report, Marion County (Indianapolis) is 2% in, and St. Joseph's County (South Bend) is only 33% in.
These are the Dem strongholds in the state.
UPDATE: St. Joseph's now 62% in, Marion 8% in.
Overall, 51-48 McCain.
It still looks terrific for Obama.
Update 2: Monroe County (Bloomington) also hasn't reported

01:07 The Viginia county picture is showing Obama ahead of where Kerry was in 04 in red Repubican areas, while Democrat counties are not in yet.

01:08 Florida county picture - Obama is doing much better than Kerry did in mid swing counties of the state.

01:24 Encouraging news from North Carolina from Kos:

Obama Doing Much Better Among N. Carolina Whites Than Kerry
by Jed L
Tue Nov 04, 2008 at 05:14:33 PM PST
In 2004, John Kerry won 27% of white voters in North Carolina.
In 2008, Barack Obama is winning 37%.

01:29 About three networks - CBS, MSNBC, Fox - have now called Pennsylvania for Obama. That's siginificant. And even CNN have declared New Hampshire for Obama.

01:32 Mark Warner has had a "blow out" in Virginia - which bodes well for Obama

01:40 Even CNN now calls Pennsylvania for Obama - that's a big deal!

01: 48: Kos says Virginia is still hopeful:
Yeah, Obama is down 100,000 votes in Virginia, but there have been hardly any votes reported from the very large and very solid blue NoVa counties -- Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax. Just wait -- it took Webb a while to lock that race down in 2006, largely because NoVa came in slower. Everything is cool -- Virginia is still very much in play.

Dave Gergen on CNN says Florida county votes - especially Orlando - are looking very good for Obama

02:00 Fox have called New Mexico for Obama apparently- that's siginificant.

02:10 Exit polls in Colorado +15 for Obama!

2:25 Incredible news! ABC and Fox call Ohio for Obama. CNN is about to follow suit. OBAMA HAS WON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

2:30 CNN confirms Ohio for Obama. CBS, Fox and MSNBC have already done so. It's over. Kerry states + Ohio = 272 for Obama.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Melanie Phillips: An American view

There is probably no extravagant verbiage which hasn't been visited on Melanie Phillips by cumulative LibDem blogs over the last few years.

However, on today's Daily Kos pundit round-up there is a little American perspective on the great Mail columnist:

Melanie Phillips: The Brit wingnuts could teach our wingnuts a thing or two about wingnuttery. Example:

"Insofar as the American public has managed to obtain some of this suppressed information [about tightening polls], it has been delivered by the Western Resistance comprising internet journalists, Fox News and talk radio. The British press, however, have taken their cue entirely from the fifth-columnist liberal US media."

In the same round-up, I like this quote from veteran pollster Charlie Cook:

John McCain probably can't win without divine intervention.

Melanie Phillips: An American view

There is probably no extravagant verbiage which hasn't been visited on Melanie Phillips by cumulative LibDem blogs over the last few years.

McCain's chances of winning are worse than 1 in 256

I've been dusting off my little spreadsheet, looking at how the land lies for Tuesday's US Presidential election.

What is extraordinary, when you reflect back on the tasks which Kerry and Gore had in 04 and 00 respectively, is that Obama doesn't have to seize Ohio or Florida to win - although they would help.

If he wins all the states that Kerry won in 04 plus Iowa, New Mexico and Colorado, then he is over the 270 mark and home to tea.

To win the Kerry states, the one potentially vulnerable state is Pennsylvania where McCain has been tightening Obama's lead in the last week. However, gives the average of the 10 most recent polls there (from 30th October) as giving Obama 52% and a 9 point lead.

Obama has led all year in Iowa and New Mexico and is currently 13 and 8 points ahead respectively in those states.

Obama is 7 points ahead in Colorado.

If any one of those states goes Pete Tong, then Obama has strong prospects in Florida, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina and Indiana. Or he has a shot at Montana and North Dakota.

So Obama has quite a bit of room for manoevre.

McCain has to win, without fail, in Florida, Ohio, Virgina, Colorado, North Carolina, Indiana, North Dakota and Montana.

As Votemaster puts it:

If we assume that all eight of these states are 50-50, then McCain has to flip a coin and get heads eight times in a row. The chances of this are 1 in 256. But it is worse than that since a number of these states, especially Colorado, look a lot worse for McCain than 50-50.

Or to put it another way: There is going to have to be one hell of a "Bradley effect" for McCain to win!

The Washington Post confirms all this today:

Barack Obama and the Democrats hold a commanding position two days before Tuesday's election, with the senator from Illinois leading in states whose electoral votes total nearly 300 and with his party counting on significantly expanded majorities in the House and Senate.

John McCain is running in one of the worst environments ever for a Republican presidential nominee. The senator from Arizona has not been in front in any of the 159 national polls conducted over the past six weeks. His slender hopes for winning the White House now depend on picking up a major Democratic stronghold or fighting off Obama's raids on most of the five states President Bush won four years ago that now lean toward the Democrat. He also must hold onto six other states that Bush won in 2004 but are considered too close to call.

Were the pranksters pranked?

I have listened very carefully to this prank call (below).

I am convinced that it is the pranksters themselves who were pranked. It is obviously not Sarah Palin on the line. The voice is far too girlish - there's too many little giggles and "aw shucks" remarks. In particular the "We love you" is far too over the top.

I am convinced that it is Tina Fey impersonating Sarah Palin on the recording. The "maybe in eight years" remark is just like Tina Fey.

And obviously, the real Sarah Palin would have smelt a rat with the "Sarkozy" reference to hunting by helicoper, rather than saying: "We should go hunting together". And obviously Sarah Palin would have realised that "Sarkozy's" reference to "my Special American adviser Janny 'Alliday" indicated a phoney.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Surfing over the top of a major telecommunications link

Here's some photos I took last week in Widemouth Bay and Bude, Cornwall. This first one (below) shows a telecommunicatons cable inspection ship offshore at Widemouth Bay with surfers in the foreground. This was on last Sunday, 26th October. The ship just stayed offshore in the same place all afternoon, buffetted by the roughish sea. I pity the people who were inside it.

Here's a rather grainy zoomed shot of it showing more detail. Am I turning into an anorak? Of course not - I've been one for years.

Here's a short video showing the ship, the surfers and the choppy conditions.
Many people visit Widemouth Bay to surf, swim and sunbathe. Not many realise that, running under their feet, there is a major transatlantic cable. The only evidence normally is the sign below. I remember seeing the huge cable laying ship actually installing the cable back in the sixties.
While I am at it, here's a shot of Widemouth beach look down towards Crackington Haven and Trevose Head:

Here's one of a rainbow out at sea on Monday 27th October:

And, just for good measure, here's the Bude Light:

Americans! I beg you! Please spare the world from this TOTAL DINGBAT!

This is just utterly and completely pathetic. Just when I thought nothing more could come out about Sarah Palin which would further insult the intelligence of the American people.....

In a conservative radio interview that aired in Washington, D.C. Friday morning, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin said she fears her First Amendment rights may be threatened by "attacks" from reporters who suggest she is engaging in a negative campaign against Barack Obama.
Palin told WMAL-AM that her criticism of Obama's associations, like those with 1960s radical Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, should not be considered negative attacks. Rather, for reporters or columnists to suggest that it is going negative may constitute an attack that threatens a candidate's free speech rights under the Constitution, Palin said.
"If [the media] convince enough voters that that is negative campaigning, for me to call Barack Obama out on his associations," Palin told host Chris Plante, "then I don't know what the future of our country would be in terms of First Amendment rights and our ability to ask questions without fear of attacks by the mainstream media."

The audio of the interview segment is here on under the title "So stupid it hurts".

The First Amendment says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

kos says:

Oh Sarah, don't you know the First Amendment merely limits the ability of Congress to make laws abridging freedom of speech? Of course not! She doesn't even know what a vice-president's job is!

Glen Greenwald on the Salon, destroys Palin's statement very powerfully:

The First Amendment is actually not that complicated. It can be read from start to finish in about 10 seconds. It bars the Government from abridging free speech rights. It doesn't have anything to do with whether you're free to say things without being criticized, or whether you can comment on blogs without being edited, or whether people can bar you from their private planes because they don't like what you've said.
If anything, Palin has this exactly backwards, since one thing that the First Amendment does actually guarantee is a free press. Thus, when the press criticizes a political candidate and a Governor such as Palin, that is a classic example of First Amendment rights being exercised, not abridged.
This isn't only about profound ignorance regarding our basic liberties, though it is obviously that. Palin here is also giving voice to the
standard right-wing grievance instinct: that it's inherently unfair when they're criticized. And now, apparently, it's even unconstitutional.
According to Palin, what the Founders intended with the First Amendment was that political candidates for the most powerful offices in the country and Governors of states would be free to say whatever they want without being criticized in the newspapers. In the Palin worldview, the First Amendment was meant to ensure that powerful political officials such as herself would not be "attacked" in the papers. Is it even possible to imagine more breathtaking ignorance from someone holding high office and running for even higher office?

Could Sarah Palin follow in Ronald Reagan's footsteps?

The video clip below is fascinating. It is Sarah Palin in 1988 when she was 24 years old and starting as a sportscaster on a local television channel called KTUU-TV in Anchorage, Alaska. It includes news of "Dillingham's Beaver round-up". Don't laugh. Another sportscaster went on to become US President. His name was Ronald Reagan. Geoffrey Nunberg discusses accents here, and includes a reference to how Palin's accent has changed since she read the sports news.

Below that is a video of Palin (or Heath as she then was) in 1984 and the swimsuit section of a beauty pageant.