Saturday, February 28, 2009

Reading lend dear old Nottingham a hand, bless them

For the first time in about twenty years (the last time was at Reading's old ground, Elm Park) I attended a football match today and enjoyed it. I am all for Reading helping Nottingham Forest to avoid relegation. ;-)

Here's a photo (below) I took from my seat of Kevin Doyle making an early challenge for a throw-in.

Reading looked promising in the first half but could not land the killer blow despite many chances.

As a result, they seemed to receive the morale equivalent of an injection of dopamine in the interval and came back out like losers. Forest smelt blood and scored a fantastic goal. You have to hand it to them. But then again, as Alan Hanson would say "Where was the defence?" The goal was not arty, crafty or fancy. No side angles or deflections here. It was what I would call an old-fashioned goal. The guy ran 25 yards dead centre down the pitch and booted the ball full square on the goal and it went straight into the back of the net. Wham. A "Roy of the Rovers" goal.

And then the bloke who runs the Reading supporters' North End singing machine got the hump and took his toys home, and that was it. Very depressing.

Steve Coppell is going to need all his great experience and skills to make the most of the last thirteen games. Otherwise old Sir John will be winding up an "amicable agreement" with him at the end of the season.

Paddy whups James Graham's ass

I should declare an interest: I work for a major global computer company. Mind you, I also disgree with all the surveillance state nonsense which Labour has been edging forward (especially the clerk of the local water works being able to read my email).

I was alerted via Twitter to Paddy (Lord) Ashdown's response to James Graham's LDV article "Is Lord Ashdown the IT industry's patsy?"

It is worth reading the article and the response.

To be fair to James, he was making some fair points. It all comes under the heading of free speech. But I think there is a little disease which effects bloggers, which I think James or perhaps, more accurately, whoever wrote the title of the piece, may have fallen foul of here. It's called "Sexytitlitis". You write quite a balanced article but after putting in all that effort you want someone to read it, so you give it a provocative title (see above).

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A different age

Mike Sarne with the late Wendy Richard from 1962 with "Come Outside", which got to Number One in the charts.

Pelosi wins Wolfgang the Seal clapping award for State of the Union backdrop performance

Meanwhile Joe Biden wins the "I'm going to look statesmanlike, but I still have to keep up with her, award"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Check your password

I'm a pale imitation of Dr Pack, I know. A friend of mine was recently the subject of a Nigerian scam. They guessed (or 'malwared') his Yahoo mail password, took over his account and sent out begging mails to all the contacts. The mail said he was stranded in know the rest - the text is below.

Fortunately, I sat next to my friend in hundreds of (quite expensive) English lessons some 35 years ago, and I knew he wouldn't commit such sloppy grammar, as was in the text, to a mail.

But my poor friend was reduced to texting his friends to ask for their email addresses to restart a new account.

Now Jack Straw, for it is he, has been the victim of much the same scam.

It's a good prompt to check that your password for any "Hotmail" accounts is unpredictable and relatively complex.

In need of assistance

How's work on your end? This has had to come in a hurry and it has left me in a devastating state. These people won't even allow people write in native dialects as they have configured the systems here to display messages in English only. I am in some terrible situation and I'm really going to need your urgent help. Yesterday, unannounced, I came to visit a new researchers' complex in Nigeria, Imperial College Nigeria, Gallery Section, (South Campus, Nigeria), Nigeria. Well we actually got robbed in the Hotel I booked in and they made away with my wallet (which included my cash, diaries and credit cards). My cellphones were not brought along since I did not get to roam them before coming over. The phone cables have been burnt including internet connection cables and the Hotel's database has been compromised as well. So all I can do now is pay cash and get out of here quickly. I do not want to make a scene of this which is why I did not call the office or my house, this is embarassing enough. Please I want you to lend me a sum of £1200pounds, just to clear my Hotel bills and get the next plane home. The Consulate only cleared me of my travelling documents and ticketing since I came in as a tourist and not on official purpose. Please be rest assured that I'd have your money reimbursed to you immediately I get home.Once again, I thank you so much for your imminent response and please as soon as you are done help me write out the MTCN number given to you by the Western Union official and the details you used in sending me the money. Please scan the receipt and attach it to the mail for me. Thank you so much as I would be waiting to hear from you.

Thank you in advance.


The Twitterer's anthem

Obvious really.

LibDems take control of Bristol City Council

After Labour dramatically quit at a budget meeting - all over an incinerator. The world of local councils, eh? This was all tweeted about as it happened by Councillor Jon Rogers - @Cllrjonrogers - last night.

Deep Tory hypocrisy as they back out of their commitment to Freedom of Information

Jo Swinson brilliantly tweeted the unfolding disgrace in parliament yesterday.

Quite frankly, we've come to expect the kind of outrageous stupidity of Labour over Freedom of information, as with Jack Straw's refusal to publish six year old cabinet minutes. It is ludicrous because the minutes, if Clare Short is to be believed, are more notable for the reporting a lack of debate, rather than the full debate which Straw disingenuously says he wants to ensure in future, and gives as a reason for refusing the minutes' release.

But it is the breathtaking hypocrisy of the Conservatives which is most notable on this matter. The moment they sniff power they ditch all their promises about freedom of information and effectively back out of their commitment to the Convention on Modern Liberty before the ink is dry on it.

Sympathy for David Cameron and family

I'd like to express my deep and sincere sympathy to David Cameron and his family on the death of their son Ivan, aged six. Monday was the anniversary of the death of our son, Toby, aged 16 months, a few years ago. So I have some inkling of the overwhelming pain and grief which the Cameron family will be feeling today and for years to come. My heart goes out to them.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

One-armed CBeebies' presenter exposes parents' prejudices

A rather disturbing story. Cerrie Burnell is a presenter on CBeebies. You can read about the furore surrounding her here in the Daily Mail.

Basically, nine complaints have been lodged with the BBC from parents who think their children may be upset by Ms Burnell, who has had a disability from birth. And, of course, as usual, coverage in the media has whipped the whole thing up so that there have been some pretty unedifying remarks about the presenter on various net message boards.

Lucy Mangan in the Guardian covers the issue very sensitively and sensibly:

Parents have complained that they cannot let their children watch her because the sight will "possibly cause sleep problems", that she is scaring toddlers, and that they are being forced to discuss the issue of disability with their offspring before they are ready.

Altogether, it makes you glad that the medieval witch-hunters weren't internet-enabled. The comments of course reveal nothing about the children's true feelings and everything about those of the adults involved. Young, CBeebies-age children do not have profound concerns about disability. I worked for several years, on and off, at a school for physically disabled children and it was never their able-bodied peers who were the problem when our paths crossed on school outings, but their parents, who kept them pinioned to their sides and made sure they turned their faces away.

I have to agree. I watched CBeebies with our child for about six years until a few years ago. I have always found that young children are extremely accepting of everyone they encounter. They don't even notice disabilities - not in a negative way anyway.

I congratulate Ms Burnell on her continuing role on CBeebies.

As for 'scaring children'. Have these parents not read any children's stories recently? Little Red Riding Hood is only the half of it.

Media foam over one University Challenge contestant

There seems to have been an almighty media storm over one of eight finalists on University Challenge last night. From a rough estimate, the person who scored the most solo points was actually the team captain of the Manchester University team, Yeo. Well done to him. There was a chap to his left who was also very good.

Out of the Corpus Christi team, the lady from Chicago (not the team captain Gail Trimble who some of the media are going mental about) seemed to score the most points on her own.

Gail Trimble did not score the most solo points. Most of her solo points were on her subject of Latin, plus she said a lot of the right answers but they were either as prompted by their team members or in agreement with them.

So I don't know what the fuss is about over this Trimble lady. If I had to pick one person who was the best at answering the questions of all the eight, I would go for Yeo from Manchester (although the cat got his tongue in the last few minutes).

But then he has an unfortunate handicap ;-)

He's a man.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Grayling's cobblers

Chris Grayling says:

If I'm home secretary, the police should expect to get much more freedom to do the job - but I want to make it absolutely clear to our police chiefs that I will expect them to deliver real improvements in return - and if they don't there'll be all hell to pay.

Wow! What's he going to do to those police chiefs? Shout:

I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in! at them....?

The Norfolk Blogger doesn't like "Tw*tter" at all, at all

The dear old Norfolk Blogger really has got a starling in his hard drive over Twitter.

His site now has a "Tw*tter" box in the sidebar with these updates:

I am using my computer (1 day ago)

I ate my tea and went to the toilet (3 days ago)

Are you really that sad that you honestly want to keep track of everything I do ? (About 38 years ago)

Nich has also done a posting entitled Twitter? Get a life!

When I suggested he would be using Twitter soon, Nich replied:

Paul, i won't be twittering for one very simple reason, I have a life ! All the reasons people have given for using it so far centre around the fact that they seem not to have a life an like knowing the laundry details and habits of people are really are unimportant.

...You know, I think he's coming round....

But perhaps, given the vehemence with which he has stated his antipathy to Twittering, we will have to resign ourselves to a Norfolk Blogger-less Twitterdom. Shame. I would have enjoyed adding him to my "follow" list.

In fact, just two weeks ago I was as critical of Twittering as Nich. I, also (I blithely assume), had not tried it and thought it was insane.

However, as soon as I tried it for a couple of days I was sold on it. It is a marvellous tool.

You only find out when you use the tool that it is not all about (although some tweets admittedly are about) making the cocoa, doing the laundry etc etc.

Most tweets are interesting little info snippets, particularly those from James Graham, the LDV crowd and LibDem blogging regulars. It's a great way of keeping updated with what's going on, when you want to be. It's been described as "micro-blogging" and that's a good description. Many people twitter when they used to blog. It's a sort of companion to blogging, in many ways.

By the way, each tweet from Stephen Fry is priceless. They should be kept in the British Library. You can't describe his twittering as inane.

I think Nich is missing the point. You don't actually have to, and not many people do, tweet about "everything (they) do". I would have thought the average tweetrate is about one a day, if that. Andy Murray does one once a week, usually when he's just had his massage (!).

Of course, Philip Schofield is the exception to the rule. His tweeting was so incessantly asinine that I removed him from my follow list in short order.

You don't have to, and I doubt many people do, read even 1% of the stuff which is tweeted. I wouldn't for example, link up my mobile phone so I get a text message-type bleep everytime one of the people I am following tweets. That really would drive me insane.

Twitter is also a good way of letting people know when you publish a Blog post. Indeed, many people use it only for this purpose.

By the way, you can follow all the (currently registered) LibDem tweeters here. And I will be pleased to "follow you, follow me" here.

Cowell "to be frozen"

I very much doubt this report, via Piers Morgan relaying a conversation at Number 10, is true. Say what you like about Simon Cowell but he cannot be enough of a pillock to want to waste time arranging to have himself cryogenically frozen after death, surely?

Northern Rock - a little corner turned?

I saw old Vincey-boy on BBC Breakfast this morning. He was welcoming the news of Northern Rock re-entering the mortgage lending game.

There was one piece of, what I think is, excellent news buried in a report in the Observer yesterday. I had to blink and clean my glasses and read it again twice:

Northern Rock has been able to repay more than £15bn of the £26bn in taxpayer loans it received when it was nationalised.

Blimey! It can't be doing all that badly then. And that's good news for taxpayers who were, understandably, worried that they would never see the money again.

It all shows that the nationalise/rehabilitate model for banks seems to work, as Saint Vince said it would.

Now let's see if RBS and HBoS/LloydsTSB can get back on the road to recovery. Both banks are working on plans to restructure. Both issue their 2008 figures this week, likely to be among the worst, if not the worst, in UK corporate history.

Let's hope they can now get all the toxic debt behind them and move on. But I remain of the view that both of those banks should be completely nationalised (along with all the rest, if I had my way).

A little personal postcript on RBS and HBoS/Lloyds TSB.

I made £12 on buying and selling HBoS shares in ten minutes on the day they announced merger talks with Lloyds TSB. This led me to being ribbed by colleagues for "short-selling".

Emboldened, I then bought £50 worth of RBS shares. I wouldn't sell them at a loss, so I am still a proud shareholder of RBS. I was thinking that I'd have to hold onto the shares for about 5-10 years before I could sell at a profit.

A Scottish colleague last week said that it was more likely that I'd have to leave the shares to my grandchildren for them to eventually see any benefit!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ancram, Conway and Flint all in second homes hot water

It's all kicking off on the "sleaze" front today. "Bearwood Corporate Services" donations to be formally investigated. Chris Grayling in expenses row.

And the News of the World unearths (or perhaps "recycles") a trio of second homes issues:

-Derek Conway's £85,000 claim for his "second home" which he had before he was re-elected to parliament in 2001 and which is just 14 miles from his other home.

-Michael Ancram is the 13th Marquess of Lothian and Earl of Ancram, has an inherited Wiltshire pile with no mortgage on it, plus his 3-times the national average wage plus expenses and allowances. And still he gets £50,000 on top of all that from the taxpayer for repairs to his inherited family home, including money for the removal of moss from a wall.

-Caroline Flint is accused of something I can't understand.

This drip-drip of revelations has been going on for years now. None of these characters will be found to have broken the rules because the rules are written on one piece of A4 with a .48 font. "Brief" in other words.

Once again, it is urgent that the whole second homes allowance is radically reformed. There are no other professions I can think of where you receive a second home allowance. Certainly not an allowance for repairs or furnishings. It would be far simpler to simply require MPs to pay for such things out of their salaries with, perhaps. a bog standard second homes pay-out for constituencies beyond a defined radius of Westminster.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Last pic 'n' mix sells for £14,500 on eBay

A couple of scintillae of good news for ex-Woolworths' employees:

The last bag of pic 'n' mix (really - it's been certified by Deloitte LLP) has been sold on ebay for £14,500 - which will go to the Retail Trust, which supports shopworkers who have lost their job.

And the Dorchester branch of Woolworths is to re-open as Wellworths, thanks to the enterprising spirit of the ex-manager and employees.

Tweeting President Stan

I have undergone a sort of transformation this week. It's almost been a kind of reverse-Damascene conversion. I have discovered Talk Sport. Or, that should be, talkSPORT ("the radio station for men who know how to put a shelf up") (Man-sized tissues provided to wipe off the testosterone spurting out of the speakers at you).

I have had to do a lot of driving this week. Something I hate. And, tired of listening to music, I tried talk radio. After exhausting my patience with Five Live, I noticed that I was getting tweeted a lot by Stan Collymore. Or, that should be, @stancollymore .

There is no end to Cannock Collymore's
tweeting, particularly in the morning. And it isn't just on the subject of football (bearing in mind that talkSPORT is the radio station where each phone caller is introduced with their name and the football team they support, even if the discussion is on gynaecology (which is almost never is)).

I got drawn into a classic debate this week about the monarchy.

Old Stan boy is a bit of a republican. His co-presenter Mike Parry is a demented monarchist. Chaos ensued. Suffice it to say, at one point Stan Collymore's wife twittered him to say "Calm down, Stan".

But it was a wondrously uninformed debate. For example, the final tussle was over how Berlusconi in Italy showed how you end up with terrible heads of state if you have a republic. No mention then, that't Italy's head of state.

And Mike Parry kept on saying that we'd end up with a "Franco" in charge of our country if we got rid of the monarchy. I countered this by twittering about Ireland and Robinson/Macleese being excellent head of state exemplars. Immediately after reading out my twitter, Collymore was challenged by Parry "OK then , name the President of Ireland". Sadly, poor old Stan didn't realise that I had helpfully provided him with the name, which he had read out just several seconds before. (Later I tweeted Stan the man to say I'd vote for him to be President) (All this tweeting was done in lay-bys or service areas I hasten to add).

Oh, and at one point Parry added the absolute clincher that the Royalists had the best fashion sense during the Civil War. However, Collymore riposted that he quite liked the Roundheads' get-up - especially those round helmets. It was all getting strangely male fashion-orientated for the normally very butch talkSPORT.

It was a blast. We don't get that quality of debate at LibDem conferences....

What happens when you don't pay your football team players....

They don't turn up for the match, you have to field a youth team and you lose 9-nil.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The case against elected Mayors

Colin Eldridge makes the case against elected Mayors here in the Liverpool Daily Post.

The Cruel Sea

I did a strange thing yesterday evening. For a long time I have wanted a .wav of Jack Hawkins shouting "Open Fire" in the war movie "The Cruel Sea" (for purely personal use, you understand - I also spent years trying to find a .wav of Terry-Thomas saying "You're an abosolute shower!").

My memory of the film, addled by several semi-conscious persuals of it on Sunday afternoon, is that Hawkins spends virtually the whole film shouting "Open Fire".

Recently Channel 4, bless them, re-screened "The Cruel Sea" during the afternoon. We duly recorded it and yesterday, during one of my "Home alone" sojourns, I watched it, audio recorder in hand.

You could have knocked me down with a feather. All the commands (but one) to fire guns and depth charges are actually spoken in quite measured English tones by the Number Two officer played by a remarkably young-looking Donald Sinden.

Jack Hawkins, I think (because even watching it this time I managed to doze off at one point) only actually shouts "Open Fire" once, when the Germans emerge from their stricken U Boat and the British crew are cheering.

The other thing which surprised me was that I hardly remembered any of the film. This, as I say, is probably explained by the fact that Sunday afternoon Ealing films were always looked upon, in my family's house, as a great opportunity to catch up on the "zeds".

It is actually a great film. Jack Hawkins is just unbelievably good in it. What an actor he was! Sadly, he lost his fantastic voice in the end, through cancer. One of the last things he was able to say properly was "You stupid bugger!", which he shouted at a cab driver who had nearly knocked him down on his way to the cancer hospital in London.

So I am now formally promoting "The Cruel Sea" to be my favourite Second World War film. That honour was previously a toss up between "Reach for the Sky" and "Battle of Britain" (mainly because I have always been a great Kenneth More fan) but I am from a sea-faring family, so "The Cruel Sea" is fitting.

I would also mention that the eponymous book on which the film "The Cruel Sea" was based is worth reading. It was written by Nicholas Monsarrat, who was an Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve Lieutenant Commander. If you want to get an idea of the hell which sailors went through during the war, read that book. It really does make one grateful to have lived without the necessity of fighting for one's country.

Thank Maggie!

Would it be naive or churlish to want to put some of the blame for the current economic crisis on Margaret Thatcher ?

I can remember when banking was boring. My bank manager was particularly boring. He sent me a very stroppy letter when I went overdrawn by £20 in 1978. He was quite incandescent with rage and demanded to know what I was going to do about it.

Then it all changed with the "Big Bang" and bank people became sexy and drove Porsches and drank champagne like fish.

Instead of sending me stroppy letters, the exact same bank in 2002 invited me in to encourage me to borrow more. I wasn't using my overdraft fully, they informed me with some concern.

And all of this can be traced back to the father of the Big Bang (and much else besides), Cecil Parkinson and its mother, Maggie T.

Bonuses? Any normal person would think that you would only get a bonus if your firm makes a profit. But of course, the Thatcherite Big Bang meant a culture whereby legally-binding contractual bonuses are to be paid even if your company makes the largest loss in UK corporate history.

For this utter madness, we should thank Maggie.

Bring on the helicopters!

Quantitative easing.

The Bank of England committee have voted unanimously for it.

Sounds like some dry technical term.

So let's translate it using the helpful services of economist Milton Friedman, who explained quantitative easing as randomly dropping money out of helicopters to try to kick start the economy.

"Helicopter money" in other words. And indeed, US Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke, after showing some enthusiasm for the idea, is known as "Helicopter Ben" (see cartoon).

My own view is that all banks should be nationalised and bring on the helicopters. "It's better to be roughly right than precisely wrong" (John Maynard Keynes)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Meet the new world, the same as the old world

What an absolute delight to learn that David Cameron is offering referendums on elected Mayors for cities and council tax changes!

Well done Cameron! What a superb new world we can look forward to when that glorious day arrives and DC sweeps into Downing Street!


What ever next?!

Will he be promising general elections at least every five years? And the possibility of changing your council on a stated timetable through elections?...and loads of other things which already exist?!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Big Beast Ken is actually Little Mouse Ken

Ken Clarke was on Today this morning talking about the banks crisis. The Big Beast has arrived. Not.

Repeatedly asked by the financially razor-sharp Evan Davis as to what he (Clarke) would do which is different to what Labour are doing, Ken was utterly, utterly p-a-t-h-e-t-i-c. He ummed and ahhed and then went back to criticising Labour and then Davis asked again what he would do and he said he needed to see the books and then Davis pressed him and Clarke said he would sit down with the Treasury officials and sort it out with them. The Davis pressed him again and he said he would have done some things a little more quickly than Labour.


This "Big Beast" has been brought back. He's meant to be stunning us all with his economic insight and acuity.

But all we get is the usual slagging off of Labour and the odd "I'd have to look at the books".

Big Beast? Big rowlocks.

At last, a LibDem frontbench speaker gives the Liberal case on Geert Wilders

Well done Jo Swinson. On Any Questions when asked if she agreed with Chris Huhne on the Geert Wilders issue said:

I disagree with his judgment on this issue.

Maaaaaaaarvellous! Jo Swinson then went on to give a passionate liberal view on the matter.

Surely, for the sake of human decency, this sort of thing should be banned, shouldn't it?

Just wondered...

Friday, February 13, 2009

Chris Huhne - hang your head in shame

In the week a UK national newspaper publishes, with very little fuss, a cartoon including the figure of a revered religious figure wearing high heels, an invited parliamentarian from a remarkably liberal country is turned back because he wanted to show a film (which was shown anyway) and meet UK Parliamentarians (whom he had met a couple of weeks ago in London anyway).

Has the world gone mad?

And to top it all, the Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesman, Chris Huhne (for it is he) supports the ban on the invited parliamentarian.

Hello? Have I slipped down a rabbit hole and arrived in Wonderland? Is that Chris Huhne I see wearing a top hat with price ticket still in it? Is that David Miliband dressed up as Alice?

Oh, and by the way, to add to this lunacy, said film has now been seen by millions because of all the publicity, compared to the 30 people who would have watched it with Mr Wilders in a quiet sanctum of the House of Lords, if he had been allowed in.

What a surprise! How long have we known that if something is banned, sales or viewings or listens to it soar exponentially? Ask Judge Dread. He made a career out of being banned by Radio 1 in the sixties and seventies. Ask Roy "Chubby" Brown also.

The thing which really, really sticks in my craw about this ban, and Huhne’s support of it, is that this Wilders fellow is now surrounded by an interesting mystical glow in the eyes of many who are open to such ideology. They prick up their ears and think "Oh – he’s got something interesting to say, otherwise they wouldn’t have banned him". And they go straight to his tawdry video.

It’s a crying shame that this mystical glow scenario has happened rather than having that idiot’s big balloon burst by the acuity of democratic debate.

Update: Keeping up with my tradition of shooting first and then asking questions afterwards, I have now watched the Wilders film, it's counterpart about the Bible and Chris Huhne's defence of the ban on Today. Where I think Chris Huhne has got this completely and disastrously wrong is when he says, crucially, that he thinks that the Wilders video incites violence. It absolutely does not incite violence. It shows a heck of a lot of people inciting violence themselves, but it does not incite violence against those people or Muslims or anyone else. It is perfectly ridiculous to say that it incites violence against Muslims.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Tweet saves Virginia

You couldn't make it up.

The Boris geyser emits the F word 'ten times" in minuted conversation

Hardly a day goes by without me thanking the Lord for Boris Johnson. He certainly fills in the twiddling bits on the mosaic of life!

Just when you think he's got all sensible and is concentrating on mundane things like snow types (right or wrong, huge or not) the good-natured gaffe geyser which is Boris explodes into a vast spurt of life enhancing activity.

The latest Boris emission is this one:

The Tory mayor is said to have used the F-word 10 times and accused Keith Vaz, the Labour chairman of the home affairs committee, of talking "bullshit" during a telephone call, according to the London Evening Standard.
Minutes of the conversation were produced and circulated to members of the committee, the
Standard reported. Johnson's aides said he had used the F-word no more than two or three times and was disappointed that a private conversation had been made public.

...Johnson wrote back to Vaz saying he had fully cooperated with the committee and regretted suggestions to the contrary. However, he is said to have been more forceful in his telephone conversation with Vaz, saying: "The key point that is not getting across: I didn't give any f***ing information to Cameron," according to the Standard.

Welcome Conservative Central Office person "acting alone"!

I occasionally label up the odd IP address I see perusing these endless and pointless burblings. has often visited my site and, as it had CCHQ written all over the IP record, I labelled it up "Conservative Party" a year or so ago.

Lo and behold, it now turns out that this IP address has become the nexus of the storm which is Titiangate.

But of course, when made Titian 4 years younger on Wikipedia (bizarrely making David Cameron four years out too young with his age at death, after he (Cameron) criticised Brown for years out the other way - yes, I know, I can feel the will to live slowly sapping from me as well) they were "acting alone" (rather like that poor researcher who used a Doris Day film title for Clegg during the leadership campaign - "Don't shoot me I'm only the researcher" should have been the title of that Elton John album).

So presumably the same IP personage has been "acting alone" when they have been regularly visiting my site, and, no doubt, countless others to monitor statements about the Conservative Party....?

So it's not part of their job role to monitor the web and do the odd bit of trolling (eg casting asperions on Mark Pack's bile gland) and cosmetic surgery for the party?

Of course, not. Perish the thought!

PS. If you are using a local authority computer to monitor my postings about a certain MP. Don't worry. I know your ISP but your secret is safe with me!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Last September 18th, the world came within 24 hours of total economic and political meltdown

Via Political Wire:

On C-Span, Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-PA) explained how the Federal Reserve told members of Congress about an electronic run on the banks "to the tune of $550 billion dollars" within "an hour or two" last fall.

According to Kanjorski, on September 18, 2008 the Fed tried to "stem the tide" by pumping money into the financial system but it didn't work and decided instead to announce an immediate increase in deposit insurance to $250,000 per account to stop the panic.

Said Kanjorski: "If they had not done that, their estimation is that by 2 p.m. that afternoon, $5.5 trillion would have been drawn out of the money market system of the U.S., would have collapsed the entire economy of the U.S., and within 24 hours the world economy would have collapsed. It would have been the end of our economic system and our political system as we know it."

A mere trifle then.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sex and underwear

That was what Anne Atkins was talking about on Thought for the Day this morning. (As well as being a shameless attempt on my part to get a quick hits' boost).

Recently, Anne Atkins hasn't wound me up much. The days when she ranted about gays and damned the whole population of Norfolk in one phrase, seem to have temporarily passed.

But quite frankly, I would like them to come back. If the alternative is that personage, Atkins, trying to be passionate/sexy reading out bits from Song of Songs, then I prefer her rants any day of the week. This morning's "thought" really threatened to drive me off the road with a severe tummy ache.

She even said that her favourite book is the "History of World Underwear". Ah!

If you want to listen today's (secular) Thought for the World, it's from Muriel Gray and is here.

Bankers with Beanos: But why? why? why?

An exquisite spectacle. Four senior bankers, wearing their best brown trousers with Beanos stuffed down the back, taking what was coming to them from the Treasury Select Committee.

Fulsome and humble apologies.

But explanation came there none. Why did RBS feel they had to takeover ABN Amro? Why did HBoS become too dependent on wholesale finance markets and lend too much? Why didn't they see fit to ensure that contracts stated that, if the company as a whole made a loss, no bonuses would be paid out? (It's standard practice for many other companies. D'oh!)

No, none of the bankers could actually utter the word: "Greed".

By the way, they are not "former bankers" as described. At least one, Andy Hornby, is reportedly receiving £60,000 a month as a consultant to HBoS. Presumably he is fairly actively engaged for that sort of money.

But it was a great public spectacle. A bit like the old fashioned stocks. At last we see the faces of these bankers and they get caned. Great.

And am I the only one thinking "Thank you Maggie Thatcher" (for it is she who set up the current departmental select committees in 1979). My goodness me, I'll have to erase that thought from my hard drive pronto!

Clegg and Cameron's nonsensical language about the VAT cut

Nick Clegg's spending package yesterday sounded very attractive. One point, however.

He's now repeating the sort of mantra about the VAT cut that Cameron has been chanting.

Clegg said that the VAT cut has wasted £12.5 Billion "which hasn't done anyone any good".

This is nonsense. If we accept Clegg's logic, then may I ask: Where has the £12.5 billion gone? Into a hole in the ground? Of course not, it has actually gone or is going, effectively, into people's pockets because goods are not as expensive by 2.5 points (over 117.5 points - which is about 2.1% by my maths) compared to their previous prices.

All right. So people may not have noticed the saving. That's a different matter. I have noticed the saving in several shopping trips I have made. But if you accept that people haven't noticed the change then one has to ask: What does that say about the state of profligacy of the nation, that they have been spending money hand over fist so much that they don't notice a 2.5% saving?

The truth is that, unless the government has spent £12.5billion on administrating the VAT cut, which it hasn't, then the cut has made a difference, but it is a difference which has been dispersed in very small portions over millions of purchases.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Facebook cause: Open up Thought for the Day to secular contributors

You can join the cause here. I'm the second member - Wow! It was started by Tim Maguire who is a Humanist Celebrant.

Video: Level crossing madness

It never ceases to amaze me that people would risk their lives to get to their destination a few seconds sooner. This video from Railtrack on BBC Online shows "near miss" level crossing incidents, including one in Camarthenshire. You can see from the last clip that a fellow gets so near to being run down by a fast train that one of his shoes is knocked off by it.

Jacqui Smith 'no better than a common thief' - Oborne

The Jacqui Smith "second home" farrago once again highlights the ludicrous mismanagement of MP's allowances (especially the second homes allowance), as did the revelations about the Wintertons some time ago.

But I do wonder whether our learned friends might be currently poring over this article by Peter Oborne which includes the words:

She is claiming tens of thousands of pounds to which she is not entitled. In doing so, the Home Secretary is surely behaving no better than a common thief.

Oborne then rather demolishes any defence he might have with this line:

It's all legal - after all it's MPs who make the laws - and approved by the Commons authorities.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thought for the Day

James Graham writes an interesting piece on Radio Four's Thought for the Day.

Faith thrives best in a challenging environment rather than behind parapets. It's "Thought for the Day", not "Religious Thought for the Day". I'd love to hear contributions from atheists, humanists, rationalists, pantheists, brightists (what on earth is "Brightism" anyway?) or, indeed, just plain thinkers, poets or writers with no over-riding theist/non-theist motivation. Witches and pagans would also be welcome. And if any of them are attacking or challenging religion, I'm delighted with that.

I sometimes wonder if the restriction of Thought for the Day to religious types derives from it being produced by the BBC's Religious department. But, mind you, that department is nowadays called "Religious and Ethics" so that should surely encourage them to extend the remit of Thought for the Day.

If I could find a Facebook group which is campaigning to extend the remit of Thought for the Day I would join it.

There is only one person who I, rather mischievously, would like banned from Thought for the Day.

Oh no. I can't write it. It's Sunday. You'll have to guess.

Lembit irony - after surviving James Graham, he was nearly killed by a pork pie

You can read the last installment of Lembit's soul-baring in the Mail here.

Lembit actually had a bad year last year, and it's no surprise he couldn't devote a lot of time and energy to his Presidential campaign:

After surviving the slings and arrows of the year, there would have been an awful irony in being killed by a humble pork pie.

We can all be relieved though, that Lembit has now found Katy, God and Harley. But not necessarily in that order.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

More on George Bush

From Guardian Weekend Letters 31 January:

"Which living person do you most despise?" is an interesting question again with the demise of George Bush. Mike Skinner's answer (Q&A, 24 January) - "Boris, the idiot mayor of London" - was not a bad start.Richard Stainton London SE24

And the same organ, Letters today:

George Bush doesn't get off the hook of being "the living person you most despise" just by being ex-president, you know (Letters, 31 January). Last I heard, he was very much alive. Richard CooperRugby, Warwickshire

Worry not. Our ship is coming in!

There's something deeply old fashioned about placing all our hopes in a couple of ships on their way from Germany and Spain. But then again, I suppose that's modern "Just in time" inventory management for you!

Meanwhile, Gloucestershire are putting table salt on their roads. Fish adn chips anyone?

George Bush offered job as "Texas Tom"

Dear me. You couldn't make it up. A chain of hardware stores in Texas, has offered George W Bush a job as a store greeter at its Dallas branch.

Friday, February 6, 2009

'Don't make me angry'

Iain Dale and Irfan Ahmed are worried or intrigued as to why Derek Draper is "following" them on Twitter. (As if "I've pranged the car in the snow. f*****y f***"/"Just making some cocoa" is going to hand the next election to Labour on a plate. - If Draper wants to read through the nonsense that is on all those Twitters, good luck to him).

They think they've got problems.

Arnold Schwarzenegger is following me. Now, that is worrying.

In the nick of time....

Crikey. West Berkshire Council seems to be living from hand to mouth with salt for the roads. They were down to just one load left at one point.

Thatcher - the fun just keeps on coming

Carol Thatcher made multiple references describing a French mixed-race tennis player as a "golliwog", "half-golliwog" and "golliwog Frog", sources say.
Thatcher, dropped from BBC1's The One Show after the programme said she refused to adequately apologise for her comments in the programme green room, made multiple remarks in front of 12 people, including presenter Adrian Chiles, comedian Jo Brand and a representative from the Comic Relief charity.
Today, The One Show insiders confirmed a story in the Times that reported that Thatcher had made variations on her comment several times in the green room.
"'Golliwog' wasn't the half of it, it is much worse than what has come out," a programme source told

Here's the clincher. Apparently, Carol Thatcher is working on an appearance on "Who do you think you are?"

Answer on a postcard please.

Boris shows us there's no business like snow business

Boris Johnson really is becoming quite a pastmaster at the language He's even at one point spoken to God or, at least, "the heavens", about the matter. Just a few days he said:

There's no doubt about it, this is the right kind of snow, it's just the wrong kind of quantities.
"My message to the heavens is: 'You've put on a fantastic display of snow power but that is probably quite enough'.

Yesterday Boris' considerable powers of language further extended the parameters of Snow discourse when he said on Twitter:

Have spent the afternoon with TfL making sure everything is prepared for the big dump tonight if it comes.

A few minutes later, sensing a potential looseness in his first missive, he added:

For all those of you feeling mischievous when I said dump I was referring to the snow...

Clarkson does the decent thing

Jeremy Clarkson has apologised for calling Gordon Brown "a one-eyed Scottish idiot". I think that's quite right. Well done Clarkson! It's OK calling Brown an "idiot" or accusing him of "lying". But dragging a disability into it is really not on.

In his apology, Clarkson said:

In the heat of the moment I made a remark about the Prime Minister's personal appearance for which, upon refection, I apologise.

The really low blow in Clarkson's tirade

I seem to be taking regular lattes at the Himmelgarten Cafe. Its author Costigan Quist (for it is he) made some salient points this morning about the furore over Jeremy Clarkson's remarks about Gordon Brown.

I agree with CQ that Clarkson is very much an entertainer. He's made a living out of exaggerated language, basically. Ruby Wax once corrected an interviewer who was implying that she, the real Ruby Wax, was just the same as the "Ruby Wax" we see on the screen in her colourful programmes. Ms Wax made it quite clear that Ruby Wax is a distinctly different character from "Ruby Wax".

I think its the same with Clarkson. He has to exagerrate his language and opinions to earn a crust. Jeremy Clarkson, I am sure, is not the same as "Jeremy Clarkson".

So we should take his latest comments with a pinch of salt. And, for goodness sake, he was in AUSTRALIA! The land of exaggerated colourful language.

But just one point. The press have gone off on one interviewing outraged Scots MPs because they have taken offence at Brown being described"Scottish". But the really low blow in Clarkson's tirade is that he called Brown "one-eyed".

Now that really is beyond the pale. If he has any decency he should apologise. The only person demeaned by such a comment is the speaker himself, one Jeremy Charles Robert Clarkson. Or should that be "Jeremy Clarkson"?

Is Phillip Schofield worth three times as much as Fern Britton?

Phillip Schofield will earn £45,000 for each appearance on the new series of ITV's Mr and Mrs.

But here's the rub. His co-presenter Fern Britton, only gets paid £15,000 a programme!

And here's the even bigger rub:

This has just been revealed and the spokesman said that Fern Britton wouldn't have been aware of this until now!

Methinks the frostiness outside will creep into the Green Room the next time the duo meet.

ITV say the difference is all a matter of contracts, exclusivity and cross-fertilisation with Dancing on Ice etc etc.

But can you really put a sheet of Izal between the "Boy next door" niceynice of Schofield and the "Cosy Aunt" appeal of Fern Britton?

Update: Apologies for getting the wrong programme first of all, and casting aspersions.

We've ground to a halt haven't we?

Question Time was most entertaining last night. Will Young - I thought he was very good and very refreshing. He could do with speeding up his speech though. He has a tendency shared by one of my relatives. He speaks, sometimes, with big gaps between his words, so you almost nod off while you're waiting for the next word.

Shami was at her most effective. She really is a whirligig of passion.

The part of Geoff Hoon was played by a lump of wood.

I was interested in the discussion about snow and the country "grinding to a halt". Nigel Farrell, for it was he, said that local authorities used to have comprehensive and elaborate plans to borrow tractors from farmers to combat the snow. But that has all gone now, he posited.

He's barking isn't he?

The only scintilla of insight which I can bring to the great "Should the schools have been closed for four days?" debate is this. I spoke to a very experienced headteacher on Tuesday and he said that he had only ever closed a school for one day up until last week but this week (as of Tuesday) he had increased that record by 400%, because he closed two schools for two days. (Indeed, now the record has been increased by 800%). He was not a happy bunny. It was obvious that such decisions are taken with a very heavy heart. But the decision appears to be based on a combination of two main factors:

1. Can (or indeed will) the kids and the teachers get to school, and return home, safely?

2. If the school is opened, if the fire alarm went off at 10am could the school be safely evacuated?

So, I'm with the headteachers here. They have a difficult job, but the safety of staff and pupils is paramount.

Full marks to those teachers, by the way, who on Wednesday (when many schools were open) gave their children homework to be done on Thursday if the school closed again.

One final point on this "Britain grinds to halt" nonsense. (Costigan Quist on Himmelgarten Cafe wrote an excellent post about the silly estimate in the FT that one day of disruption cost the country $1.2 Billion, by the way) One thing that appears to have been missed is that a large number of people can now work from home at the drop (or, indeed, the non-drop) of a wifi.

Christian nurse reinstated

The nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for an elderly patient has been re-instated. I am rather relieved by this. But I can't help but think that I have double standards. Why don't I want Carol Thatcher reinstated on the One Show?

Oh gawd...not all that again. Himmelgarten Cafe has a very thoughtful, hopefully, final word on that latter episode.

It's been an interesting week for moral dilemmas.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The return of Minder

I watched the first of the new series of Minder on Channel Five last night with some nervousness. I expected, perhaps, a cheap tacky copycat version of the good old Minder.

It turned out to be excellent.

In a way it was a bit weird. Everything was sort of the same as the old series. Arfur is Archie (Arfur's nephew). There's Winchester Club Dave's daughter. Archie's in a Roller instead of a Jag. But he still speaks that strange Arfur Daleyese ("This is no time for levitation!" was my favourite).

But it was thoroughly entertaining and well made. The actor who plays the minder chap is very good. Shane Ritchie plays Archie and isn't bad.

You can see the first episode here and it'll be back next Wednesday.

Through the murk

Hywel Morgan has posted an excellent deconstruction of David Miliband's statement on the Binyam Mohamed case on Liberal Democrat Voice. I thoroughly recommend reading it.

For me, I always smell something rotten in the state of Denmark when any debate starts to centre round the word "redacted" (see Lord Hutton enquiry).

Obama screwed up

It is refreshing to hear President Obama saying "I screwed up", in distinct contrast to the Bush 'caught in headlights' look which famously greeted the question "What has been your biggest mistake?"

Now the Christian bus campaign - so there!

After the Atheist bus campaign, three Christian groups are to sponsor adverts on buses with mottos such as:

There IS a God, BELIEVE. Don't worry and enjoy your life.

Dear me. This reminds me of the scene in I'm alright Jack (I think - it was certainly a Boulting brothers or Ealing film with Ian Carmichael in it) when, during an election campaign, one Labour and one Conservative loudspeaker van end up against each others' bumpers while their respective mike-men shout at each other through the loud hailers, saying things like "Get out of the way" - "No - you get out of the way - I was here first".

Fry tweats: "Stuck in lift. Arse, poo and widdle."

I often think of who I would least like to be in a lift with. That list is easy. Edwina Currie. Jeffrey Archer. Melanie Phillips.

I don't often think of who I would most like to be stuck in a lift with. But I think Stephen Fry would be high on anyone's list for that.

What a jolly laugh it would be.

And indeed it happened last night. Fry was stuck in a lift in Centre Point and twittered throughout his forty minute ordeal. He even posted a photo of him and his fellow stuckees.

Why we should be grateful to Jade Goody

Yes, I've made lots of jokes and remarks at Jade Goody's expense in the past. Oh how we laughed at Graham Norton taking the mickey out of her!

And yes, when she started her cancer treatment I did wonder if her main motive in making it public was to grab a bit of publicity.

But now, it seems her cancer has taken a turn for the worse. And, of course, one feels enormous sympathy for her and her young family. It is an awful, tragic situation.

But, sadly, it is one faced by many families around the country everyday. I have lost three friends from cancer in the last year - all of them in their forties with young families. And through some voluntary work I do, I hear of cases of parents of young children facing terminal cancer over and over again.

So is it helping anyone to have Jade's agony spread over the media? I think it is. I think she is doing us all a service and I salute her for it. The more the tragic effects of cancer are brought home to us, the more it becomes part of our lives, the better we will be prepared for it if it happens to us or our families or friends and, hopefully, the more we will dig into our pockets to help cancer research charities.

If nothing else, Jade, a lady in her twenties (for goodness sake!) provides us with a lesson that we can all do with reminding about everyday:

This day could be our last.

It's not a bad thought to have in your mind - it tends to put things in exactly the right perspective.

Thatcher remark "not said in a jokey way" - and she continues to work for the BBC

The Controller of BBC1, Jay Hunt appeared on Breakfast this morning to explain the Carol Thatcher episode. (You know when you are getting old when the Controllers of BBC1 look like teenagers).

She said she has interviewed all the dozen people who heard Thatcher's remark and they all say it was not said in a jokey way. Those dozen people include Adrian Chiles, Jo Brand and an exceutive from the Red Nose charity.

Hunt also rejected the idea that this was a "private" conversation because she said it was said in a public workplace area with all manner of staff and guests around.

She also said that she had talked to Thatcher and her agent all over the weekend to try to get her to fully apologise with no luck.

Hunt continued:

What I find sad about the entire situation is that we have given Carol ample opportunity to apologise for offence that was caused to key named individuals. She felt unable to do that and for that reason it is not appropriate for her to work on that particular show, but she will continue to work for the BBC and indeed is.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Carol Thatcher - an issue of free speech?

The Telegraph nows says that One Show insiders say that Carol Thatcher was referring to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga when she made her green room "Golliwog" remark - not Gael Monfils as was reported elsewhere earlier.

Thatcher's agent is now demanding an apology from the BBC. They (the Thatcher camp) just don't get it, do they?

Is this a matter of free speech (as mentioned at Himmelgarten Cafe)? Hardly. As far as I am concerned Thatcher can repeat her jibe wherever she likes as long as she stays within the law (she might have trouble with Equalities legislation). This is an issue of common decency. If you make a remark which clearly offends, you should apologise unreservedly and move on. It is also a matter for the BBC as an equal opportunities employer. They have a duty to uphold proper standards on behalf of current and future potential employees. I think they have made the right decision. How on earth could the BBC hold its head up as an equal opportunities employer if they don't act decisively on this sort of complaint from an employee?

But who will play John Sargeant?

Excellent! The Beeb have a drama of the Thatch's last days coming up on BBC 2 towards the end of February.

You can take part in a quiz about here, guessing which actor will play which part.

It's got a really distinguished cast of luvvies playing the main characters, including Lindsay Duncan playing the Thatch herself. Also on the cast list are Robert Hardy (as Wobbly chins Whitelaw), John Sessions (Geoffrey Howe) and James Fox (Charles Powell).

But what they don't say is what we all want to know. See title.

Should we believe Iain Dale's spin on Carol Thatcher?

He says she was talking about Andy Murray when she used the word "golliwog" in a conversation with One Show presenters.

So it wasn't Gael Monfils then?

I am trying to imagine that rough Midlander Adrian Chiles being offended by someone calling Andy Murray a "golliwog"...

....No I can't....

UPDATE 9:46: Iain has just added a note to his post saying that he is now "reliably informed" that the player in question was not Andy Murray. Ah! So all that anti-BBC/anti-"PC" stuff in the post and scores of comments under it should just be ignored then, should it?

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Should we have a whip round for LibDem Voice?

Boris' team of 10 writers

Did you know that Boris is actually a character dreamt up by a screen writer who is now played by an actor with words written by a team of ten writers?

It will all make sense if you listen to the last episode of Radio Four's Recorded for Training Purposes (available for another two or three days). At about 26 minutes there's a sketch written by Gavin Whenman! Hurrah!

Carol Thatcher's "outrageous" remark

I find it very difficult to understand how, in this day and age, Carol Thatcher would be stupid enough to refer to someone as a "golliwog".

How to win an election

I got use to receiving emails from David Plouffe last year. He was Obama's campaign director and I put myself on the campaign distribution list. It wasn't until I read this piece in Esquire that I realised what a key part of Obama's victory Plouffe was. He's an election managerial dynamo. The Esquire article is a must for anyone who wants to understand how Obama won. Take this little example of Plouffe's modus operandi:

It was Plouffe (rhymes with bluff) who gathered the president's unprecedented thirteen-million-name contact list, which has grown into a fulsome pulsing beast, and it is Plouffe who now owns it and keeps it under lock and key. Plouffe sent those thirteen million people an e-mail in mid-November and they replied, Yes, I still want to be involved, and yes, David Plouffe, I'll have house parties when you tell me to. Here is who I am socioeconomically and socially. I am boxers; my next-door neighbor is briefs. Now the president has instructed him to make that list a new lever of government.
No president has ever entered office with this much information. The closest thing to it, Begala says, were direct-mail lists like Ronald Reagan's back in 1980. But, he says, "it's a different thing than Reagan writing, 'Send me thirty-five bucks if you want to fight the Commies.' " This list is granular. And it is flexible and transferable to myriad media outlets — even those not yet invented. Begala believes it could potentially "revolutionize progressive politics." campaign manager of Obama for America in early 2007, Plouffe was charged with building an underdog campaign for president from virtually nothing — no money, one office, five staff members, and a few dreams from one's father. The main thing he knew was that there were no shortcuts. His focus was on 270, and every decision had to flow from there. You had to get the job done. He told Obama the same thing he told everyone who worked for him: You have to be all in. The president asked the manager, Are there shortcuts? And the manager said, No. You get to work, and you stay there.

...To get the numbers right, Plouffe broke down the country into sixteen separate campaigns — a different strategy for each battleground state — and gave each its own ground crew and press office. His desk back in Chicago was the control center. On the walls there were electoral maps in reds, blues, deeper blues. But the helm and the center was the desk, a wood-laminate piece, neat and lap-topped and bolted to the floor. Every morning he sat at that desk with a large to-do list that he parsed out to the to-doers. He watched the scroll of e-mails — he says it was like a volcano, exploding in bold at the top.

"We'd get the clips overnight, and I'd read them all. Hundreds of them. That's basically what it was like. Wake up, reach for your BlackBerry, the way guys used to reach for their packs of cigarettes." He read everything and got on a call, then another, and another and another. A rolling two-year conference call. He looks tired when he tells you.

Because he came from a place where hard workers could barely afford the twenty-five-dollar donations they pushed across the hay bale, he immediately acquired the reputation of budget miser. There was an Axelrodism that claimed that if you went to the bathroom, pulled out a paper towel, then went to pull out a second one, it would actually be a note that said, "See Plouffe."

To find the voters and build a swarm of volunteers to help, he hired twenty-seven-year-old Joe Rospars and the rest of the former Howard Dean Web guys — now Blue State Digital — and made the most confident investment that a political campaign has ever made in the Internet. He brought them up from the basements and into top-line meetings. He told them, We have to beat Clinton. She has the establishment support, she has this huge system of money-raisers, so we must create an alternative network.

Beside the gray walls and atop the gray pattern carpets, they enacted Plouffe's vision. These were futuristic people building small revolutions in a humdrum place. They took the now-comparatively primitive Web-roots platform that Dean — along with his manager, Joe Trippi, and Web guru, Nicco Mele — first unearthed in 2003 and extended it. There were more tools now. YouTube. Twitter. More potential inputs. They used them all and invented new ones.
Obama owned the Web because Plouffe believed in a few smart kids and let them go a little nuts. But the meticulous managerial thing, according to the Blue State Digital guys, is that Plouffe still held those nuts in the palm of his careful hand.

...You talk to anyone who heard of David Plouffe before Election Day, and mostly it was because they got a few hundred e-mails from him, and they liked to see it as a personal thing. On e-mail, he was chatty. Conversationally, he asked for money. The college kid who wired ten bucks of twelve-pack cash to Plouffe felt like he was saving the country with a few fast keystrokes and Dad's AmEx.

And yet Plouffe insists that to focus too much on the netroots is to overlook the pure fieldwork, which was essential to winning. "You can't be too reliant on just technology in politics . . . knocking and phone calls is still the bread and butter." He smiles. He likes the notion. It's how he started. "It'll be a long time before those new apps replace the old ones."

The old application was a line of staffers and volunteers stretching down the fluorescent hall of Obama headquarters, past the great and daily newspaper wall in communications and out across America — each eager college kid, grandmother, and housewife, standing in their campaign T-shirt waiting for a "love note from David Plouffe," in their words, so they might deploy their democratic energy. He drew the most passionate, thousands of them, into two- or three-day Camp Obama training sessions. Each team leader had his own job: You are responsible for finding twenty volunteers. You: fifty, a hundred, two hundred voters. Call them. Write the plan and then we're going to track you.

Teams would report back with stats and the field directors would chart the cumulative info and they would know whether their "supervolunteers" were hitting their targets. Plouffe, back at his desk, sat at the top of the pyramid, checking the checkers, glancing at the North Star on his wall, believing deeply in the prize, in the red, white, and blue of mostly blue.
"Do you realize that more than half those volunteers had never been involved in politics before?" David Plouffe is wide-eyed now, and leaning in. "More than half." He emphasizes the final word to let the incredulity settle. And then there is a moment — it's almost imperceptible, and you almost wish you hadn't noticed, because there is something agonizing about a private man showing public emotion. But it happens. His eyes tear up. The soft-spoken, indefatigable general is talking about his troops and his eyes glisten. Iowa, the grassroots effort, he says, rivaled election night. Then quickly he shakes the chaff from his hair and recomposes. Safely, he returns to his numbers.

This is the passion Plouffe rarely shows. But from top-floor, eventful offices, people will gush about it. The pep talks, for example. "They would, at the end, make you wanna go run off a cliff with the guy. He mixed a very hard edge with a sort of, I'm imagining Barack Obama on Capitol Hill as the next leader . . . a sort of inspirational rhetoric," says twenty-seven-year-old speechwriter Jon Favreau. It was a centaur blend, the gruff, focused mug of the football coach and the graceful neck and confident purr of the golden orator. The night they lost New Hampshire, Plouffe said to get everyone across the country on the phone. In his uneventful and sure voice, he promised that he'd never been more confident and proud of everyone, and he ended it by saying: "Let's go win this fucking thing."

As much as he likes to inspire, he loves to win. When Plouffe plays baseball, he is always the pitcher. Like Roger Clemens, he is turned on by the hectic pulse of unmanageable jurisdiction, the notion of controlling a field with runners on every base. The calm during the storm. But the calm is only on the outside. There is a deeper sense of competition and passion, and Plouffe takes it and he uses it, but he doesn't show it, not even after the win.

Obama saw this in the lead-up to the Iowa caucus. It's when he realized he could trust Plouffe fully, and in the muck: "Plouffe was getting calls and e-mails all across the country, the newspaper reports saying that the campaign was over, and he was able to just keep us on a steady course and instill calm, and it showed me the kind of leader he could be in difficult times. It's always easy to be a campaign manager when things are going well, but when things aren't, that's the real test. He was, in his quiet way, able to maintain focus and confidence."

"I'm a competitive person," Plouffe says, without pride but forcefully. His eyes and chin rise. "Elections are nothing about doing well. You win or lose, and I love to win, and it feels absolutely terrible when you lose. We built something from scratch," he continues, "and we beat Hillary Clinton and John McCain. That's like, uh, beating the L. A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics to win the championship." If he had lost, "I'd have felt like I let the country down."
To win the country, the manager took the risks. "We always seemed to be better when we were up in the high water," says Plouffe. "Whenever we got safe, we stagnated. We liked rolling the dice." This meant bleeding $25 million in North Carolina, $10 million in Indiana, $15 million in Virginia, just to keep McCain off balance. It meant convincing Obama to move his convention speech outdoors, though Obama worried it might rain. It meant convincing Obama to do a thirty-minute advertorial, even though Obama thought it was too risky so close to Election Day.

'Tories hire Vorderman to help people work out if First Plus loan was a good idea'

Given the culture of easy loans which appeared to have led us into our current economic mess, you would have thought that the Tory party would want to distance itself from someone associated with easy loans.

From the Daily Mash:

CAROL Vorderman is to head a Conservative Party taskforce to help people work out if debt consolidation loans are really such a good idea after all.

The Tories said the former Countdown star was ideally suited to the post as one of the country's leading experts in lots of big, confusing interest rates.

Vorderman said: "Let's say you have £20,000 in outstanding credit which, if you just stopped buying shit you don't need, you could pay off in around six years with interest payments of about £7,000.

"But if you rolled it all up into your mortgage and paid it off over 20 years you could continue to buy the shit you don't need and pay interest of just £14,000.

"£14,000 divided by £7,000 equals £2 which you then multiply by 10,000 to get the number you started with. Maths is so much easier than you think."

When youngsters carry news fast.....

News from school can sometimes take a long time to get to parents.

Letters from the headteacher can sometimes fester in school bags for days before attention is drawn to them. Such is the sluggishness of the transmission of news carried by teenagers and youngsters.

But one piece of news travels almost as fast as light. Within nano seconds, the airwaves and cables are alight with breathless phone calls, text messages, MSN messages etc etc.

Yes, you guessed it. The news that the school is closed again today.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The nurse who offered prayer

...Sounds like the title of an H.M.Bateman cartoon. (In this case, Melanie Phillips plays the role of the horrified waiter who was asked for a whisky and blackcurrant).

Caroline Petrie is a nurse who has been suspended after she offered to pray for a patient she had treated at her (the patient's) home.

I have prayed for many people but they have all asked me to pray for them or they do not know I am praying for them (perhaps that is against the Data Protection Act? ;-)). I am always very nervous about offering to pray for someone. I think I have done it once.

I wouldn't recommend that nurses offer to pray for people. (Most hospitals have a place of worship, normally multi-faith ones these days.) But still, it seems a trifle draconian to suspend a nurse for simply offering to pray for someone. The patient herself hasn't complained about it. But she mentioned it to another nurse, who reported the incident.

Although the circumstances were different, this reminded me of the British Airways employee who was banned from wearing (and then subsequently allowed to wear, due to a revamp of the firm's clothing rules) a crucifix around her neck outside of her clothing. The lady subsequently lost her tribunal case for discrimination. In that case, it seemed to me to be rather strange that anyone would insist on wearing a crucifix where everyone can see it. I understand that the lady launched the tribunal case mainly because she felt that Christianity was been dealt with differently from other faiths by British Airways. That's her prerogative and she lost. But I don't see that it was worth making a fuss about myself. I have never read or heard that it is a Christian article of faith that you should wear a crucifix where everyone can see it. Indeed, I remember reading something about:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.

...which gives us a bit of a clue.

Newbury in the snow

How well insulated is your roof?

Today's a good day to check - if you've had a snow fall. Just look at the roof. If there's loads of snow on it, it suggests a well insulated roof. If the snow has melted away, then it suggests poor insulation. Or am I talking rubbish?

Here's a photo of a couple of rooves on a pair of semi-detached houses, which I took today. The one on the left seems clearly better insulated. (Or maybe one householder has the central heating turned up higher than the other).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Thank you!

Liberal Burblings had 7,024 "absolute unique visitors" in January - 28% up on the same period last year.

Thank you very much indeed for continuing to read this blog, for commenting and for voting in the various polls.

69 comments were left on Matt Smith is the new Doctor Who, which is a record for this blog.

That Atheist bus campaign - the final word

From Private Eye's Roger Latham:

It's our time....not

I watched the final of the Eurovision selection last night.

"It's my time", repeated 2,983,274 times, is our song.

But have no fear, it was co-written by Andrew Lloyd-Webber.

I can feel one of my headaches coming on. The song reminds me of "My Way" which is a very powerful song, but deeply wrong-headed, in my view. It's a song for selfish bar stewards.

But I am genuinely proud to be British given the choice of Jade Ewen to sing the song for us. She is a knock-out performer and I find it difficult to think of someone more deserving of representing the country.

Jade acts as carer to her dad Trevor, who is blind, and mum Carol, who is partially blind and deaf. She worked hard to achieve a scholarship to stage school so she could follow her dreams whilst also helping to care for her two brothers.

We won't win, of course. We haven't got a bloc of supporting countries, sadly.

Bye-bye Lords Archer, Black and Ashcroft

Jack Straw is drawing up legislation that would retrospectively eject from the House of Lords peers who have been convicted or are non-doms.

We really are staggering into the 20th century inch by painful inch, aren't we?