Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Norm's birthday game


Norm of that blog (people always refer to him that way, don't they? This is what comes of naming your blog after yourself, Norm. No one can call me "Oscar of that blog". That would be silly. Anyway, I digress) has come up with a birthday game which is also a sort of Six Degrees of Separation game, except there aren't six degrees as such. Rather than make you click to read the rules, here they are, with a verbatim example from Norm:
OK, people, it's light fare here for a day or two. I leave you with this pointless game I just devised:

1. Take a book from your shelves with more than 200 pages.
2. Find some real person's name on page 200.
3. Find out his or her date of birth.
4. Find someone else born on the same day.
5. State a connection between this person and yourself.
[Repeat any step you may need to, if your first attempt fails.]

Here is the inaugural episode of this game, as played by me:
1. Jonathan Glover, Humanity...
2. On page 200, I find the name of JFK.
3. Born May 29 1917.
4. Also born on May 29 (1958): Annette Bening.
5. I well fancy her.
Postscript: It occurs to me after the event that Annette Bening has a presidential connection, so that's another way you could play it.
Fair enough, Norm, I well fancy Annette too, but I believe someone got there first. Maybe in the next life, eh?

Anyway, let's have a go:

1. Vocabolario della lingua italiana... No, that's just showing off, pick a different one. Here we go, Alan Bullock, Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives (still haven't finished it, I've had it for years).
2. Page 200: Trotsky! Brilliant!
3. Born October 26, 1879 (cor, seems like yesterday).
4. Also born on October 26: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
5. Er, well, actually I well fancy her, as it happens (and I am about to start reading her autobiography, which I understand contains more uses of the first-person pronoun than any other autobiography, at least on a mentions-per-page basis). Must be another connection between me and Hill. Apparently, she did once say: "I believe that a worthwhile life is defined by a kind of spiritual journey and a sense of obligation." Which I kind of believe, too.

(Via Brownie.)


Would you like thighs with that?


Assuming this is true (which is a caveat I think I'm going to have to put next to every news report I cite), it tells us quite a lot about human nature.

It's true, in my experience, what the FBI agent says: "You and I can sit here and judge these people and say they were blooming idiots. But they aren't trained to use common sense. They are trained to say and think,'Can I help you?'"

Pity, of course, the victims of these hoaxes who have been mentally (if not literally) raped. Pity also the poor drones who work in almost any retail outlet, who are trained to respond to demands rather than to use their own initiative. In fact, pity any of us who are required to follow orders.

Sometimes I think a good chunk of human misery is caused by people's inability or unwillingness to assert themselves. It's not that people are spineless - but we all look for approval from others, and we quickly learn that approval is forthcoming when we aim to meet other people's demands. The logical extension of this, however, is that we can end up humiliating ourselves or denying our own needs solely for the purpose of pleasing others. And the horrible extension of that is that malevolent people can take cruel advantage of this fact.

Backbench Labour MPs, anyone?

(Incidentally, it's worth reading until the end of the long article to note McDonald's attitude to the hoaxes - blame the victims and point out that it had anticipated the problem by sending round a memo...)

Thanks to the folks at Pirates for the link to the story.


Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bleach is the best disinfectant - but sunlight will do


Speaking of the al-Jazeera 'plot', I am rather late to a party. Blairwatch has started a campaign, following on from Boris Johnson's pledge to publish the al-Jazeera memo in the Spectator. Blairwatch's wheeze is to get bloggers far and wide to publish the memo, should it ever see the sunlight of day. Well, count me in. Sod the bloody OSA (on this one occasion, anyway).

(Actually, looks like there might be two memos. I suspect a ruse to confuse...)


Kevin Pietersen and Charlotte Church naked!


No, this isn't some dream of Scaryduck's. It's my reaction to seeing that people have arrived here by searching on "Charlotte Church tart" and "Kevin Pietersen manhood".

I'm so sorry to disappoint. Believe me, if I had any pictures of Charlotte Church naked, I would most certainly post them here for all to enjoy, and not keep them tucked away in a locked shoebox in order to peruse them in quiet moments away from Mrs Wildebeest (can't say the same for Pietersen, I'm afraid, especially when he got caught behind for only 34 today).

I managed to work the word 'lesbian' into a post a short while back, so let's see what effect this one has. Oh, dear, there's got to be a better way of increasing traffic...

(Speaking of the Duck, he hates London. You should live here, mate. It's mad as porridge, and I love it.)

[FOOTNOTE: You'll have noticed in the same Scaryduck post that he reports on a meeting over the leaked memo about Bush's 'plans' to bomb al-Jazeera. Scaryduck's full report on the meeting is here. As he notes (quoting Kevin Maguire of the Mirror), if the report weren't true, the government wouldn't be trying to repress it using the Official Secrets Act (which I have signed myself, incidentally, at the start of a three-week casual stint at the Inland Revenue in 1991, so I'm probably going to get into a whole heap of trouble just for even mentioning it - great, now the only people who are going to be reading this blog are pervs and MI5... well, thank you all very much...]


Monday, November 28, 2005

The pink pussy strikes back


According to Recess Monkey, the Sunday Telegraph may have found some dirt on "Charlie" Cameron.

(Guido thinks he knows what it is. Don't get too excited, nothing's confirmed, and it's nothing we couldn't have guessed.)

Still, I'm rather enjoying this...


Another glimmer of fame


I am rather surprised to find that I have, for only the second time (and for the first time in my own right) made it into Worstall's BritBlog round-up, for my post about decaf(f) coffee.

Do go and sample the list (hosted this week by Philobiblon in Tim's absence), which also includes a number of women bloggers' response to the survey about rape which I shamefully ignored on this blog. Primary among these are Gendergeek's request for a percentage breakdown of the woman's responsibility for her own rape, Volsunga's analysis of how many forms of rape are not categorised as such, and Laurelin's horrific discovery of the attitudes of her male acquaintances.

(With the above in mind, perhaps I ought to make it clear at this point that when I said "fuck you, Lucy Mangan" I did not mean this literally - if it had been, say, Jonathan Freedland or Timothy Garton Ash making those comments I would have said "fuck you" to them, too. Though I can't imagine Garton Ash coming out with the same pathetic bile as Mangan - or, at least, he would have taken about fifteen more paragraphs to do it.)

From the same round-up, Creepy Lesbo's post about girl custard has to be read to be believed.

And a special mention for my caffeine-drinking pal, Gary, for his excellent post about George Best, which I would have nominated for the BBRR had I read it before this morning.

[PS: Speaking of fame, Jarndyce reckons it isn't all it's cracked up to be.]


Saturday, November 26, 2005

Alcoholic man, 59, dies in hospital


A 59-year-old man lay critically ill in hospital, his family around him.

In his life he was greatly admired for his many talents, but he was afflicted by alcoholism and a weakness for women, and an inability to control his spending. No one could understand how this wonderful man could be so self-destructive.

Luckily, my father pulled through and was not taken by death. Which is a good thing, because no strangers laid flowers outside the hospital for him, no interviews were conducted with ex-colleagues about how wonderful he was, and no fucking TV schedules were rearranged to accommodate glowing tributes to him.

How this man deserves all that is beyond me.

[EDIT: Jamie agrees.]


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Tim Ireland is a fucking genius


Here's why (requires Flash, and takes ages to download, but it's worth the wait). (Via Clive, as we are now, apparently, to call him.)

Do also read Tim's explanation of the inspiration for the cartoon, which includes some interesting and emetic detail of where the UK is getting intelligence information from. You'll never look at a bottle of Jacob's Creek in quite the same way again (and nor will you believe a damn thing anyone in our government tells you about intelligence gained from torture, but you should have reached that stage already).


Monday, November 21, 2005

Fuck you, Lucy Mangan, you self-indulgent moron


Bad journalism: a step-by-step guide

  1. Find a spurious scientific study, based on a small sample, which takes a substance believed to be good for you and 'proves' it's bad for you, such as decaffeinated coffee.

  2. Caricature people who prefer to consume said substance as "po-faced gimps", irrespective of the fact that they may not conform to this caricature, and may have perfectly good reasons for consuming the substance.

  3. Write an article about it all and publish it in the Guardian.

  4. Sit back, smug in the knowledge that you have achieved precisely nothing of value.

I'm not sure exactly what Lucy Mangan has against people who drink decaffeinated coffee. Perhaps some dreadful health fascist cornered her for four hours at a party and gave her a good lecture about the toxins she was putting into her body, and this is her method of payback. Or, far more likely, she has a problem with being reminded of her own inadequacy by the fact that she is consuming an awful lot of unhealthy things which she enjoys, while a number of other people ("self-indulgent morons", apparently) are taking care of what they eat and drink, on the grounds that they might live longer and feel healthier. How else to explain the irrational delight with which she's seized upon this study? How else to explain her irritation with people who actually don't like the shaking hands, increased heartbeat, anxiety, sleeplessness and cold sweat that accompany intake of caffeinated drinks (at least, in my case)?

There's one thing you can say for Lucy - she does a good line in bile:
The researchers (that's scientists funded by an agglomeration of proper public health bodies, all you decaf doilies who are trying to raise your papery hands in protest) described the findings, which were based on people drinking three to six cups a day, as "very surprising." But for those of us who are sick of being harangued by Quorn-filled, carb-less freaks intent on using their rapidly diminishing physical resources to suck the little remaining joy from the lives of anyone acquainted with them, the results were better described as "very delightful."

"Harangued" - that explains it. Trauma. She really was cornered by a health fascist. Poor Lucy! Imagine her world: she must be surrounded by nannying do-gooders, accosting her every time she raises a doughnut to her lips, admonishing her every time she opens a packet of fags, hissing with displeasure when she buys a bottle of Coke. Dear God! Surrounded by "freaks" all the time! No wonder she's upset.

In the real world, Lucy, the world I live in, no one tells you that you 'shouldn't' drink caffeinated drinks. No one makes a virtue out of drinking decaf(f) (I always spell it with two 'f's, but perhaps typing the extra 'f' is too much work for her). People who suffer side effects from caffeine but still love the taste of coffee have no recourse but to go for the 'adulterated' version (don't worry, Lucy, we suffer for our misfortune - Caffe Nero makes us pay 10p extra!). We don't expect everyone else to follow suit; there are more important health issues out there (eg the possible risks of artificial sweeteners, or the link between artificial colours and hyperactivity in children).

Still, Lucy has been traumatised, remember, so we shouldn't be too hasty to judge her for her shambolic attempt to label the increasing number of people who care about what they put into their bodies as "freaks". Let's be grateful that 'fun' products are still available to her - lard, cocaine, cigarettes, refined sugar, chips, boiled sweets. Perhaps we can take her out for a meal and mix the above up in a bucket like Mr Creosote. Washed down with a triple fully caffeinated chocolate latte (full-fat milk, of course).


Back blogging

Greetings, my public!

I've returned from Birmingham. My father did not die, although he remains debilitated by a stroke. He may live some time yet.

I'd like to thank those of you who sent messages of goodwill - it's really appreciated.

One advantage of my stay in hospital was that it gave me plenty of time to have a good read of the papers, and boy have I seen some things worth commenting on. Future posts will be fruitful, if I can only put the time together to write them.


Tuesday, November 15, 2005


I'll be offline for a while. My father is critically ill in hospital in Birmingham, and I have to go right now.

See you all at an unspecified date.


Kitty litter


NoseMonkey, Unity and Justin are rightly indignant about Kitty Ussher (where did that extra 's' come from?), MP for Burnley, whose idiotic remarks about the Labour rebels are breathtakingly arrogant:
I very much hope that we will never have another terrorist atrocity in Britain. But if we do, and if it happens because the police have not had sufficient time to accumulate enough evidence to charge the perpetrators, then the Tories, the Lib Dems and our own rebels will have blood on their hands.

Er, no, Kitty, the perpetrators will have blood on their hands, no one else (except the victims, as Rachel points out in NoseMonkey's comments).

(Unity helpfully points out that 'Kitty' is Victorian slang for 'lesbian', which means I can now justifiably use the word 'lesbian' in a post again, and increase my hit rate...)


Monday, November 14, 2005

Blair abolishes elections


I only realised this was a spoof when I read the words "Conservative Leader David Davis", which takes it well out of the field of plausibility. (Via The Moai.)


Not what I got off the train for...


Brilliant post by Rachel about the government's Terror Bill. Absolutely brilliant.

(Via Tim Worstall's BritBlog round-up.)


The Tories are pants


So, Davis wears briefs and Cameron wears boxers. What a surprise, that the older man should prefer older-fashioned underwear. Or is this Charlie's way of claiming he's got big balls?

Anyway, the golf ball has backed Charlie now, as has Liam "Not Gay, Honest, Ask My Wife" Fox. Oh, and Charlie has been named Politician of the Year.

The coronation approaches.

(Meanwhile, Political Betting reveals how that Populus poll put Davis ahead (via Guido). I said it was a conjuring trick.)


Saturday, November 12, 2005

Presumably one of the homes is where the cat lives


My local free rag, the Chiswick, reports an update of sorts on the issue of my soon-to-be MP, Ann Keen and her husband Alan (MP for the next-door constituency), specifically with reference to their housing situation.

The Keens own a house in Brentford, which is Ann's constituency. They also own a flat in Covent Garden. Fair enough so far - most MPs have to maintain accommodation in central London because their constituencies are too far away to get back to each evening after business at the Commons.

The trouble is, Brentford station is approximately nine miles from Westminster. The journey time is under fifty minutes. It's the same kind of journey many of their constituents have to make on a daily basis. The Keens somehow qualify for housing expenses to mitigate against having to make this arduous journey. Since 2001, they have (according to the Chiswick - article not online, for some reason) claimed £130,288 - probably not enough to buy the flat, but certainly enough to afford the rent. Ironically, the Keens have not broken any rules in claiming this allowance.

As I reported way back in May, Alan Keen promised to account for this indulgence. No explanation has been forthcoming, but Ann Keen was reported in the Chiswick as saying:
I welcome the publication of all MPs' expenses and the need for transparency in public life. This is why I fully supported the Labour government's legislation which allows these figures to be accessible to the public and I have at all times operated within the rules of Parliament.

Well, I'm glad that's cleared that up, then.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Something to remember today


Why I'm in two minds about wearing a poppy.


Habeas hypocrisia


Two Britons are arrested and held without charge for thirteen days in Iran, and everyone is horrified.

The British parliament votes to allow detention for twenty-eight days without charge, and people say it's too lenient.

Anyone else find this ironic?


Thursday, November 10, 2005

Et tu, Nick Raynsford?


We did it!!! All right, they did it:

Diane Abbott (Hackney North & Stoke Newington)
John Austin (Erith & Thamesmead)
Richard Burden (Birmingham Northfield)
Michael Clapham (Barnsley West & Penistone)
Katy Clark (Ayrshire North and Arran)
Harry Cohen (Leyton & Wanstead)
Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North)
Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central)
Ann Cryer (Keighley)
Frank Dobson (Holborn & St Pancras)
Gwyneth Dunwoody (Crewe & Nantwich)
Mark Fisher (Stoke-on-Trent Central)
Paul Flynn (Newport West)
Neil Gerrard (Walthamstow)
Dr Ian Gibson (Norwich North)
Roger Godsiff (Birmingham Sparkbrook & Small Heath)
John Grogan (Selby)
David Hamilton (Midlothian)
Doug Henderson (Newcastle upon Tyne North)
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall)
Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North)
Glenda Jackson (Hampstead & Highgate)
Siân James (Swansea East)
Dr Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak)
Sadiq Khan (Tooting)
Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool Walton)
Mark Lazarowicz (Edinburgh North & Leith)
Tony Lloyd (Manchester Central)
Andy Love (Edmonton)
Chris McCafferty (Calder Valley)
John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington)
Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway)
Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton)
Julie Morgan (Cardiff North)
George Mudie (Leeds East)
Chris Mullin (Sunderland South)
Gordon Prentice (Pendle)
Nick Raynsford (Greenwich & Woolwich)
Linda Riordan (Halifax)
Clare Short (Birmingham Ladywood)
Alan Simpson (Nottingham South)
Dennis Skinner (Bolsover)
Sir Peter Soulsby (Leicester South)
David Taylor (Leicestershire North West)
Emily Thornberry (Islington South & Finsbury)
Jon Trickett (Hemsworth)
Robert Wareing (Liverpool West Derby)
David Winnick (Walsall North)
Mike Wood (Batley & Spen)

Alas, my current MP, Andrew Slaughter and my (likely) next MP once I've moved house, Ann Keen, marched into the government lobby with their masters. Bleating.

Far too busy to blog properly in the next week or so, owing to imminent and almost unmanageable work deadline. Still, nice to have a smile on my face, especially with the bad news about Michael Vaughan's knee.


Wednesday, November 09, 2005

We're all Tories - all of us


Researching Populus's poll for the Times about the Tory leadership contest, I came across another recent poll conducted by the company for the same paper.

The poll places voters (the thousand or so interviewed) on a political spectrum, with 10 being extremely right-wing and 0 meaning extremely left-wing. Since voters are invited to define 'right-wing' and 'left-wing' for themselves, the poll has little objective value, but it does reveal some unpleasant trends about the people you and I pass in the street.

Basically, the average value on the spectrum is 5.35 - right of centre. In the last two years, it was 5.2 and 5.17. So we've all been getting more right-wing over the last couple of years.

Men (5.4) are more right-wing than women (5.31). Only the under-25s are in any way left-wing (4.92), which is perhaps not surprising.

What's perhaps more surprising is that the most left-wing social class is also the wealthiest: ABs come at 5.22 on the scale, while the middle-class C1s and C2s are at 5.34, while the working-class DEs are at 5.51.

Perhaps most amusing is that voters reckon the Labour Party is at 5.32, almost exactly where they themselves are (this is all voters, not just Labour voters - Labour voters actually believe the party is even more right-wing than that!). The Tories are positioned at 5.89 and the LibDems at 4.81.

So the victory of ZaNuLabour is complete - it has positioned itself exactly where the average voter believes himself to be. The Tories are still too right-wing (officially, anyway) and the LibDems have been overtaken and are now too left-wing for the average voter. The sad conclusion is that the moment Labour shows any sign of returning to its roots (ie swinging to the left) it will be deserted by the voters.

(Let's not forget the caution that needs to be attached to all polls of this sort: people will often give the pollster the answer that they think he or she wants to hear - consequently, people will nearly always gravitate to the centre of any spectrum presented before them. No one wants to be seen as a fascist or an anarchist, whatever his or her private views are. Even though I consider myself a '2' on their scale, I would be tempted to say '3' or even '4' to whoever was interviewing me, just to maintain an air of respectability. Only by observing people at home, at work, talking with their friends, family and colleagues, carrying out their daily tasks, interacting with people not known to them, can one gain any insight into their real opinions - and the very fact that they're being observed will always make them tone down their more extreme views and actions. Getting to the real truth is beyond the means of any market research, no matter how sophisticated.)


Smoke and mirrors hide Basher's desperation


Two days ago, I wrote off David "Basher" Davis's chances of becoming the next Tory leader. Now, a Populus poll for the Times (more on Populus in another post) puts Davis ahead by 13 percentage points over David "Charlie" Cameron. Crikey! Is the race to be Tory leader now wide open again?

Not quite. With my background in market research, I've learned not to trust opinion polls. Let's look at the sample first. It's a decent size: 1,512 - enough to draw inferential conclusions. But wait a minute - the poll is of Tory supporters, not Tory members. What's more, even among these people, Charlie is seen as the most likely candidate to win an election, unite the party and get in touch with ordinary voters.

What this boils down to is that Basher is the candidate most Tories would like to be leader, if electoral fortunes were not at stake. But Charlie is the one they know they have to have, just for to give them the opportunity to be back in power (I bet that in 1994 a lot of Labour members would rather have seen Prescott win the leadership than Blair, but backed Blair because they were so desperate for another victory. Think they're sorry now? I was one of them and, Jesus, am I sorry...).

Where did this poll come from? Was it Davis's camp, desperately trying to show the man's appeal, even with the aid of the sleight-of-hand technique of asking the voters, rather than the real voters (if you follow me)? Was it even Cameron's camp, trying to avoid the charge that this is just another Tory coronation? Or was it just something thought up by the Times, which has been subtly backing Basher all the way through?

In any case, a lot of Tory members - being the industrious, committed, efficient people that they are - will already have put their ballot papers in the post, with a big X next to Charlie's name. Even so, this poll adds some weight to the charge that his support is based largely on expediency rather than passion. Bet he's wishing he'd waited another couple of weeks before proposing the downgrading of ecstasy.

[POSTSCRIPT: Guido has some faintly interesting stuff about which Tory think-tanks are backing which candidate.]


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Just about the only person round here who talks sense...


I'm indebted to Talk Politics for alerting me to the presence of Scott Adams's Dilbert Blog.

I wasn't sure which part of my list (left) to add it to. I normally put humorous blogs under 'Barking, but Brilliant' (it's a bit unfair on Philip to call him 'barking', but he is indeed 'brilliant'), but that seemed a little out of place. 'Personal Wisdom' didn't quite hit the spot, either - that's for blogs whose authors like to ruminate their personal views on a wide variety of subjects, not just news and current affairs. So I've put him under 'Other places of interest', because he doesn't fit easily in any of the other categories.

What the hell - go and read.


Honeymoon over, marriage shaky, but no sign of divorce


This is the 200th post on this blog, and what better time than now to take one's own government on, head-on?

Prime Minister Tony Blair has been in office for eight and a half years now, two years longer than his predecessor, John Major, and approximately equal to the number of years Churchill held the position. That he is a smart politicial operator is not in question; equally, he has undeniable presence as a leader. Despite his lies, dissembling, manoeuvring, cheating, bullying and preaching, it is difficult to avoid being impressed when he speaks.

We've had several examples in the past few years of the press trying to find 'Labour's Poll Tax', the issue that will sink the party towards the seabed of electoral oblivion unless it changes: the council tax re-evaluation (now kicked safely into touch - except in Wales where they'll all vote Labour anyway), inheritance tax (unlikely to rear its head too far above the parapet, and again only of concern in London and South-East seats where property prices are still insane - but they won't vote Labour anyway), pensions (an unsexy subject for the public to get worked up about, and most voters aren't that close to retirement), ID cards (fingers crossed on that one, eh?). But it could be that the issue that damages Blair permanently is the one currently going through the House of Commons: the Terrorism Bill.

Let's remind ourselves where we are: the government wants to hold terrorism suspects for up to 90 days without charge, a massive increase on the current maximum of 14 days. The Parliamentary Labour Party considers anything over 28 days to be wildly excessive. The Tories are also backing 28 days as a maximum (though I suspect this has more to do with political expediency than with conviction - if they were in government right now, what do you think they would propose?) Blair is preparing for a showdown with his own backbenchers on this very subject. The promised compromise has been withdrawn.

Blair's been extremely clever here. He has the backing of the police, a point he continually refers to when justifying his stance (who's deciding Home Office policy, here, the police or the government? If we gave the police all the powers they wanted, our overcrowded prisons would be unable to cope with the influx). He has the backing of 72% of the public, according to a heavily loaded YouGov poll (PDF) (which leads up to the Big Question with statements such as: "The police want to extend this time to 90 days, because it can take up to three months to analyse material such as computer files in order to obtain the evidence needed to charge suspects"). He's presented a golden opportunity to the PLP: the Tories are against us, but the police and the Great British Public are with us - surely you wouldn't split the party over this? So, once again, Labour backbenchers will be asked to put their consciences aside (those who still have one) and vote this excessive legislation through.

And, if this doesn't work, some Tories (eg Widdecombe*) have indicated they will vote for 90 days, so Blair is likely to get his bill through even in the face of a strong rebellion**. Luckily we still have the Lords to come, and they will be a much tougher challenge. Expect the bill to be debated on a Friday afternoon...

As for the long term, it is very, very, very hard to imagine Blair resigning - so one assumes that the party will eventually have to 'do a Thatcher' on him, and throw him off the sinking ship. At present, even with his strong grip on the party weakening, it's difficult to imagine such a coup d'étât occurring. There's not much coming up that could mortally wound him - I'm still hoping ID cards will do it. The best way to lose public support is to hurt people's wallets, and that £90 for a passport could be just the ticket.

More likely, however, is that Brown will have to raise some headline-grabbing tax to fund the increasing black hole in public finances, and that he will be the one terminally injured in the process.

On and on and on...

[POSTSCRIPT: On the good news front, the Tribune Group has reformed.]

* She didn't.
** I was wrong - tee hee...


Monday, November 07, 2005

Could lesbians kill your daughters?


Must share this with you. Chris has come up with a Daily Mail headline generator.

There is also a David Blunkett policy maker (hmm, topicality may have passed that one by - can't it just be a New Labour policy maker?) and, "for no reason at all", Michael Howard sings The Smiths.

Go and enjoy.

(Via Devil's Kitchen, who got it from Bookdrunk, who got it from Meaders. And so the incestuous wheel of blogging turns...)

[POSTSCRIPT: I've just thought - this page should now be hit by anyone searching 'lesbians', tee hee... Not to mention anyone searching 'kill lesbians', which is rather more worrying...]


Remember what happened to the last "two Davids"?


It's comforting, in a way, to see that neither of the contenders for Tory leader really has a clue.

David Davis (so good, they named him twice) has stated that he wants to woo the 'wristband generation':
I want to win the wristband generation for the Conservative Party. This is the generation who wears the 'Make Poverty History' wristbands. They display their intolerance of racism with their white and black bands. The blue bands have raised money to highlight awareness of bullying. This generation wants a government that hates injustice as much as it does. I will deliver that government for them.

Leaving aside the irony of blue wristbands as a campaign against bullying (not to mention the unfortunate fact that these wristbands ended up encouraging bullying... oh, and of course the fact that Davis himself handed out blue wristbands at the Tory party conference as part of his campaign - prescient, perhaps?), it's almost touching how naive is his belief that the 'wristband generation' will want anything to do with the party that promotes globalisation. Or, rather, I should say the other party that promotes globalisation. Anyway, I'm not sure that "hating injustice" is confined to a single generation - if he meant "young people" why didn't he say "young people"? Hopping onto the tacky wristband craze bandwagon merely confirms his total lack of awareness of the constituency he says he's trying to attract. He could only have done a worse job by making his speech wearing baggy jeans, copious amounts of bling and an iPod. Still, I supose it doesn't matter, since he's going to lose anyway.

Speaking of iPods, what of the ultra-trendy candidate, the one who (let's be honest) is going to be the youngest leader of the Conservative Party since, er, William Hague? Well, in typical fashion he's clutched at the musical analogy, too: "If we play the same tunes, we end up with the same song, we'll end up with the same position in the charts - second," he said at the weekend. This has been Cameron's mantra: "We must change, we must change." (He has been coy about detail.) The more he repeats it, the more the poor, battered Tory Party member begins to believe it. Yes, we've got to get into power somehow, we're desperate, we'll try anything. The very first item in the menu on Cameron's campaign site is "The case for change". It doesn't say much that isn't obvious:
We persist in losing elections because our culture and attitudes are out of step with twenty-first century Britain. We need to change our policies, and our presentation – but most importantly we must transform our party. It must look, feel, think and behave like a completely new organisation.

So where do we start? We start with our values. We must ask ourselves why we are Conservatives, and then ask why so many of our fellow citizens think they are not – even though they share our values. And as we unflinchingly confront this painful question, we inevitably come to the conclusion that it’s time to recast our values according to the spirit of the age and the challenges of our times…

So, what does 'recasting our values' (there's consultant-speak if ever I heard it) mean? Clicking on the relevant link leads one to an impressive-looking page of pledges and ideas. But when you look at it closely, it's all waffle, an attempt to be all things to all men (and, presumably, women):

We must [support] marriage through the tax and benefits system. But in a more liberal and less deferential age, we must support all families.
The challenge is to deliver equal access to first-class public services without burdening today’s generations with higher taxes, or tomorrow’s generations with higher debt.
We believe in limited government. But rolling back the state must never mean the weak are left behind.
We believe in national sovereignty. But not in isolation and xenophobia.
We want oranges for all. Except for those people who prefer lemons, who must not be left out.

All right, I made the last one up (yes, only the last one). But doesn't this smack of the poor-quality psychotherapist who tells his patient: "you have to accept that you have to change." The patient replies, "OK, I accept that. How do I change?" The psychotherapist responds, "you have to think about things differently, and then do different things." The patient replies, "Er... yes, I got that. So I need to completely revolutionise my entire world, is that it?" The psychotherapist looks panicked: "Oh, no, no, not at all. You shouldn't do anything you're not comfortable with."

Cameron will win not because he has the best ideas. Certainly not because his "change or die" slogan conceals a genuinely radical agenda which will transform the fortunes of the party. He will win because his party is so sick of losing that they will turn to a leader with good presentational skills, whose campaign platform masks the fact that he has no practical ideas of substance. Sound familiar?

Anyway, the good news (actually, it's very bad news, but let's run with it for now) is that Gordon Brown would beat either of the two Davids in a General Election.

[EDIT: Guido usually has some good inside info from the two contenders' campaigns.]


Thursday, November 03, 2005

Basher Becky


This is hilarious. I do hope it turns out to be true.


Curvy Rebekah, 37, says: "My fella called me a hypocritical slag with no sense of ethical perspective. I mean, what the f---?"


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

If you want to know anything, don't ask a policeman


So, it's official: the police are stupid.

All right, that isn't exactly what the report says, but it does suggest that there are an awful lot of senior police officers who are educationally and intellectually inadequate for the job they have to do.

The surprising thing is that anyone's surprised. When people ask me why I don't trust the police, I point out that young, tabloid-reading men and women who scrape through their GCSEs are suddenly given a uniform and a position of huge authority over the likes of you and me. Basically the police are squaddies but without weapons and a slightly better sense of how to conduct themselves with decorum in the presence of ladies.

PC Copperfield hasn't yet put forth his opinion on this matter, but he would (quite correctly, of course) point out that the police have to do a difficult job, that they get extensive training and that there are good and bad coppers, just as there are good and bad librarians, doctors, farmers and prostitutes. He'd also perhaps point to the fact that there are graduates who join the police force.*

All fair enough, but the statistical chances that I'm going to be able to engage in any complex discussion with a police officer are still pretty low. I'm not talking about philosophy, here - I'm talking about whether a police officer can grasp the detail of any situation in which I've got to either account for my actions or explain what happened prior to his or her arrival on the scene. And, indeed, whether he or she will have the patience to listen.

Why does this matter? Because people with limited intellect find it difficult to absorb new information easily. They tend to react with suspicion to anything out of the ordinary. Even though I am white and respectable-looking, I stand out because I tend to articulate things in detail and avoid clichés and colloquialisms.** I'm not far outside the 'spectrum of normality', but the fact is that I am outside it. Spare a thought for those who are well outside it by virtue of, say, their skin colour - especially since we have people like this in the force (and don't tell me they've all been rooted out). And why all this matters... well, let's just say Section 44 and leave it at that, shall we?

[*Of course, being a graduate doesn't make you bright. 'Specially these days...]

[** i.e. I'm an arty, academic ponce.]