Archive for August, 2005

How To Save Britain – Condensed Into 30 Words

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Well, is she? Who is she, anyway?

Make Britain Great Again

Remember these ten maxims:

  1. coppers are great
  2. british is best
  3. kids are shit
  4. go on, grass
  5. screw human rights
  6. bother your neighbours
  7. “tackle” things somehow †
  8. coppers still great
  9. talk on buses
  10. vote and stuff

There will be a test later.

† I couldn’t really work out what this one was about. Sorry.

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Last year’s news

Last week I removed several political blogs from my RSS reader, mostly those that were posting an awful lot of American domestic political news that I didn’t really care about. Yeah, I can understand it’s important to you guys, but really, for the rest of us the details don’t actually matter much. Who asked which Supreme Court candidate what on which channel when isn’t that significant to me; I like to think I pay a suitable amount of attention to US politics for an educated outsider, and I still have some interest in a few areas that got my attention while I was over there (e.g. Senator Rick Santorum) but internal Washington wranglings aren’t any more meaningful in themselves than internal Westminster wranglings and I don’t live in the place any more.

This explains how I missed the fact that there seemed to be reference recently to stuff about murder, rape and torture in Abu Ghraib (e.g. Daily Kos here, here) which is filtering through to other parts of the internet. I saw a reference to children being raped at the prison yesterday on a board and thought “hold on a second – this isn’t new” because of course it isn’t new, it was first reported a year ago when pictures first came out that there were an awful lot more that remained unreleased which contained even worse. Senators and some journalists saw them and were uniformly disgusted.

“The American public needs to understand we’re talking about rape and murder here. We’re not just talking about giving people a humiliating experience,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told reporters after Rumsfeld testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We’re talking about rape and murder — and some very serious charges.”

Seymour Hersh went into slightly more detail:

“The women were passing messages out saying please come and kill me because of whatís happened. And basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children, in cases that have been (video) recorded, the boys were sodomized, with the cameras rolling, and the worst above all of them is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking. That your government has, and theyíre in total terror itís going to come out. Itís impossible to say to yourself, how did we get there, who are we, who are these people that sent us there.” (ACLU keynote speech July 2004)

For the record, what is new is that, after having been instructed by a judge to turn over the photos and videos based on a suit by the ACLU, and agreed to do so, the Pentagon are now saying “no, actually we won’t, for classified reasons which only the judge can see, but they’re very good, honest“. I doubt this will end here.

What is making me slap my forehead is the surprise that this seems to generate in people now – not reawakened disgust, or surprise that the Pentagon aren’t releasing anything, but as if these are shock revelations. This wasn’t even hidden stuff, there was no investigation necessary, it was all over the frickin’ news. Rumsfeld was saying “there are really bad things here that we can’t release”.

Once I’ve finished slapping myself, though, it all seems so well carried-out. The photos that they couldn’t avoid people seeing were spun as the limit of what happened there, and certain of them – the most sexually lurid – were concentrated on both by the media and by the right-wing pundits. Jokes about gay Iraqis and frat boy pranks were made and the leftish response was outraged, but all of it ignored the fact that even in the photos we did see there was, you know, a guy who’d been beaten to death. Lyndie England and her thumb became iconic. It became all about whether piling people naked on top of each other was over the top or not. The extra evidence was forgotten, until now at least, though I bet it’s not going to appear too much in the mainstream, because Abu Ghraib was last year and we’ve had the trials and the bad apples have been punished, all six of them.

This, for the millionth time, is what happens when you let the people you’re opposing set the agenda.

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cold thing = rubbish

This virus affair really is shit, and if that sounds like a rather obvious thing to say it’s because I so rarely get colds or viruses or anything like that, so they always take me by surprise. I get maybe one proper cough-up-lumps one year, at best, and even minor ones were less frequent in the States due to the lower air pollution.

The area I lived in was rated “high” on average but anything less than “lethal” is better than a lot of London. I would come back to the city on holiday and find that the inside of my nose, accustomed to filtering much lower levels of airborne particulates, was now lined with black crap. This isn’t the case after a few months which leads one to suspect that the black crap is now going straight into the lungs; obviously a great improvement.

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I have to say that where I am now has very low traffic and is pretty clear air-wise, but this has not always been the case. I think the worst place was the flat in Seven Sisters just on the corner of Broad Lane and the High Road, where I used to walk to Tottenham Hale station along Broad Lane, a pleasantly-named road that is poisonous snarling gridlock not only in rush hour but throughout the day. This environment combined with a couple of minor colds ended up with me being prescribed both blue and brown inhalers by a steroid-pushing GP, which I took for a while but eventually realised I did not need because I was not, in fact, asthmatic. I have to say that the salbutamol would be great at the moment though.

As I think I’ve mentioned before my respiratory system developed just off the South Circular and into some sort of organic Dyson (the vacuum cleaner, not the sphere, geek) the efficiency of which I’ve been trying to compromise with cigarettes for a decade, with some success. Seven Sisters challenged it but nothing has managed to actually defeat it yet. Most threats are seen off with the liberal application of red wine and the few occasions where it doesn’t work can be waited out in a temporary sanitarium of tissues, paracetamol and Radio 4. So I’m not overly concerned long term. It would be nice, though, not to end up rupturing oneself at 4am coughing for half an hour until one feels as if one has been beaten about the chest with a lead pipe. Just saying.

P.S. I am so getting one of these mice, though I will be ignoring the appalling name.

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Not bothered about Apple shock

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At the moment I am laid up with some sort of virus that encourages (a) mucus and (b) apathy, so I’m only going up to 2 on the Apple + Trusted Computing thing, as seen on Slashdot etc. It’s not like nobody else will write about it anyway – for instance, here’s Cody Doctorow in BoingBoing talking about open formats and concluding that he’s off (probably):

So that means that if Apple carries on down this path, I’m going to exercise my market power and switch away, and, for the first time since 1979, I won’t use an Apple product as my main computer. I may even have my tattoo removed.

My data is my life, and I won’t keep it in a strongbox that someone else has the keys for.

And we must all listen to what Cory says, because he’s an internet celebrity, albeit one who really did have a Mac tattooed on his arm.

One reason I’m not more concerned at this stage is that I can’t actually be sure of what this all means in practice. Is it Apple selling out to the (other) pigopolists? Or is it just them stopping OS X running on non-Apple machines, like they always said, and use of TC isn’t going to extend generally past a certain part of the OS? Hell, I don’t know. I think Trusted Computing is an exceptionally bad thing for all sorts of reasons and won’t be supporting any product incorporating it, but, to be honest, I’ve got a good year or two before I have to start worrying. And right now I’m more concerned that my head is going to either fall off or get entirely bunged up and pop from the pressure.

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Insert some pun on “Fahd”

Not that he’s been terribly active recently anyway – so the event isn’t going to make a lot of difference politically and thus I’m just bitching about the media again – but King Fahd is dead, and the most critical comment the BBC can bring itself to post is this:

In the near term, King Fahd’s death may ostensibly cement the status quo. Crown Prince Abdullah has been the de facto king since 1995; King Fahd’s death will thus change little. In the long term, however, it remains to be seen whether the Saudi people will continue to tolerate the repressive regime as it stands today.
Rene C Moya, Los Angeles, USA

The rest of the comments are things like:

A major loss for the world and for Saudi/Muslim people around the world. May God rest his soul in peace.
Adel Nizami, Los Angeles, CA

God Bless King Fahd and his family. I wonder what will his death mean to international relations with the Bush administration and the Western world.
Christina, Newark, NJ, USA

King Fahd was a great visionary who served his people. I have lived in the kingdom for more than 15 years and king Fahd has done his utmost to serve his people and the kingdom is prosperous under his rule.
Sudeep C Thomas, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Wonderful chap, yes, responsible for Saudi Arabia’s astoundingly free and fair society, and of course the house of Saud is viewed by Muslims and others around the world as a shining example of government and not a bunch of decadent corrupt autocratic gangsters at all. At least the actual BBC obituary is a little more balanced, or at least more neutral and descriptive.

In 2004, Ken Livingstone said:

“I just long for the day I wake up and find that the Saudi royal family are swinging from lampposts and they’ve got a proper government that represents the people of Saudi Arabia.” (Guardian)

I wonder what he’ll say now. (There’s another great Red Ken quote in that piece: “Every year the international financial system kills more people than world war two. But at least Hitler was mad.”)

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