Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Penis Envy

Two pupils who drew a giant penis on a school lawn using weed killer two years ago can still admire their work from satellite photos now posted on the internet.

Despite the school re-seeding the area, the penis has turned up on satellite image search engines because a photo was taken before the new grass could conceal the appendage.

The unnamed pair of year 11 pupils from Bellemoor school for boys in Southampton, burned the 6 metre phallus into the grass as an end of term joke.

Staff, parents and pupils who log on can now see the image in all its glory.

A spokeswoman for the school said: "It was just one of those high school jinks. This was an act of vandalism that took place during the summer of 2005. Southampton city council re-seeded the area and the grass was re-grown by the beginning of the new school term."

Perhaps a monument needs to be erected to their ingenuity.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Silver Balls And Mirrors

George Bush has gone green! He now recognises that there are issues to be tackled and action to be taken to counter-act the effects of climate change.

The demand appears in a recent US memo to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It describes "modifying solar radiance" as "important insurance" against the threat of climate change. A more accurate description might be important insurance against the need to cut emissions.

The idea is to either put large solar reflectors out into space or clouds of reflective small particles into the upper atmosphere. The technology for the first idea is, at least, 50 years into the future, and the second idea would have the side effect of killing off the ozone layer for good.

Other ideas include spraying sea-water into the air (ensuring that any country downwind is likely to suffer crop failure and drought). Another idea would be to inject sulphate particles into the atmosphere with the likelihood of disrupted rainfall patterns. All these fixes appear more expensive than cutting the amount of energy we consume. None reduces the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which threatens to acidify the oceans, with grave consequences for the food chain.

The demand that money and research be diverted into these quixotic solutions is another indication that Bush's avowed conversion to the cause of cutting emissions is illusory. He is simply drumming up new business for his chums. In his State Of The Union, he called for raising the government's mandatory target for alternative transport fuels fivefold. This is wonderful news for the grain barons of the red states, who will grow the maize and rapeseed that will be turned into biofuel. It's a catastrophe for everyone else. With only 5% of Europe and the US's requirement for fuel comeing from biofuels, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation reports that using land and crops to feed cars has, already, raised world food prices, with serious consequences for the poor. Biofuels fall into the same category as atmospheric smoke and mirrors - a means of avoiding difficult decisions.

However, credit (no matter how small) where it is due. At least president Bush has publicly acknowledged the problem unlike Wag TV in the UK who are completeing a 90 minute 'documentary' for Channel Four entitles "The Great Global Warming Swindle". Its basic thesis is summed up in a statement from the company that man-made climate change is "...a lie ... the biggest scam of modern times. The truth is that global warming is a multibillion-dollar worldwide industry: created by fanatically anti-industrial environmentalists; supported by scientists peddling scare stories to chase funding; and propped up by complicit politicians and the media ... The fact is that CO2 has no proven link to global temperatures ... solar activity is far more likely to be the culprit."

The director, Martin Durkin, had previously made a 'documentary' series for Channel Four in 1999, in which he peddled very similar arguments and therories. When the series was concluded, Channel Four was forced to make one of its more humiliating public apologies for the way scientists had been mis-represented in the series.

But with Bush's defection, the band of quacks making these claims is diminishing fast. Now the oil and coal companies that support such people have changed their target. Instead of trying to persuade us that man-made global warming is a myth, they are seeking to divert us into doing everything except the one thing that has to happen: reducing our consumption of fuel. It is another species of denial.

George Bush's purpose - to insulate these companies from the need to cut production - is unchanged. He has simply found a new way of framing the argument.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Happy New Year

Repaired Pipe, originally uploaded by markhsal.

A good start to the year - a blocked drain!

The blockage is now clear - finally, but the potential for more is still high as the drains have developed faulty joints (a bit like me), so we are waiting for our insurance company to agree to further repairs to add a lining to the pipe.

In the meantime, we have this hole on our front drive.

For the past week, we have been living with the sort of stuff that generally comes out of Blair and Bush's mouth! Not nice.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Well, That Went Down Well!

When asked about President Bush's plan to send even more American troops to be killed in the Iraqi civil war, Tony Blair said it "made sense"!

What an ever-present comfort our glorious Prime Minister has been to Bush! What a wazzock!

In a poll yesterday for the Washington Post and ABC, 61% opposed the plan, while just 36% backed it. In another poll by Associated Press and Ipsos, 70% of Americans said they were against sending more troops.

Interestingly and more significantly for the Middle East, there is now some real confusion and concern over Bush's intentions with the apparent threat to escalate the conflict to include Syria and Iran. Mr Bush, in his speech, warned that the US would "seek out and destroy networks" of insurgents moving into Iraq or based in these neighbouring countries. While US commanders insisted yesterday that this did not signal an intention to go into Iran or Syria, Ms Rice confirmed that all options were open.

Meanwhile, increased bi-partisanship in congress is increasingly making Bush appear more and more isolated. What a pity those Republicans had had the courage to denounce the White House idiot before now.

Barack Obama, the senator from Illinois and a long-term opponent of the war said: "We are not going to babysit a civil war."Even Hillary Clinton, the other Democrat frontrunner, who has been careful so far not to be too critical of the war, said Mr Bush "will continue to take us down the wrong road - only faster". Now there's someone who has been steadfast on her principles!

In my experience, military engagements only have a chance of succeeding if there is, at least, the perception of unanimity in the action and goal, but a fringe plan such as this stands very little chance with the present level of opposition.

Mr Bush, think (if that is at all possible) again, and this time listen to people who don't have a vested interest in perpetual war, but who offer seasoned and experienced advice such as those who made up the Iraq Study group and in particular, listen to those who have had direct experience of war.

Mr Blair - just shut up and leave. You are now becoming a major embarrassment to the UK.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Unhappy Birthday

Today, the Guantánamo detention centre will be five years old.

If You Are In A Hole....


President Bush has announced that 20,000 plus troops are to be sent to Iraq in an attempt to put down the insurgency and militias that have caused so many problems since the American led and British supported invasion.

The speech was a cleverly contrived show of humility for 'mistakes' in the past in an attempt to bring Americans on side again and committed to an engagement that will be longer, deeper and more costly in both dollars and people. This "new way forward" is designed to re-take the neighbourhoods from the gangs and militias, and then remain in those neighbourhoods to ensure the insurgents don't return. This will be done by joint operations alongside the fledgling Iraqi army and police.

Sounds good. Sounds reasonable. Who could argue with that scenario?

But this strategy is heavily dependent on the willingness and ability of the Iraqi government and armed forces to confront and disarm insurgents and militias. They will have to take on the militia of Moqtada Sadr - the largest, most powerful and the most murderous of the Shia groups, and one which controls much of eastern Baghdad, and with sectarian interests a prominent preoccupation in Iraq, how willingly will the predominantly Shia recruited security forces take on the predominantly Shia militias. I predict that it is going to get bloody!

Moreover, these troops are going to be fighting one of the worst forms of military action, - urban, house to house fighting. Dirty street fighting in some of Baghdad's poorest neighbourhoods, places where America's enormous technological advantage over its adversaries is severely lessened.

The neighbourhood bases for the soldiers are going to be very vulnerable to attack, and logistics re-supply hazardous.

Finally, there will be the problems of distraction. If it gets too hot for the insurgents in Baghdad, then they will up sticks and go somewhere else in Iraq. It will also be an opportunity for Iran to up the anti, knowing that America is now just about fully committed militarily. Nowhere was there any reference to the recommendations from the Iraq Study Group.

I am not impressed by the way he worded that bit of the speech where he said that the responsibility for past mistakes lie with him. The impression left is that it was not the policy that was wrong, but the implementation.

The mess is now so bad that what really needs to happen is for Bush to vacate the White House ASAP and someone with a bit of intelligence take over and can see a true way forward. What Bush fails to recognise is that more of the same that has caused this mess is not going to solve it. On the contary, things are going to get worse. People are going to die or be seriously injured because America is, unfortunately, in the hands of a President that can't take reasonable advice, and works off the basis of his own conviction - or should I say, - wishful thinking.

Monday, January 08, 2007

FOAD - American Government

The American government's path to totalitarianism and World domination continues apace. Not only does America feel it has the right to inspect my credit card transactions and any email I send, it has now decided that Britain is such a hotbed of global terrorism, that if I was stupid enough to want to visit this soviet clone I would have to agree to have all my fingerprints taken rather than the 2 presently demanded.

Why those of us who still live in the free world would want to visit America I don't know, but I'm sure there will be a lot less now. Shami Chakrabarti, head of rights group Liberty, said: "This must be the 'Keystone Cops' school of border control. Accumulating the fingerprints of millions of innocent passengers will not deter suicide bombers."

The right-wing mantra that "If you do nothing wrong, then you have nothing to fear," is a nonsense in this case, because the implication of a false match can be so serious. Goodbye Las Vegas, hello Guantanemo Bay! Knowing how far the American government has gone to destroy civil liberties in America, this development has to be seen as part of that sinister trend.

There are also fears that innocent holidaymakers could be wrongly arrested. Simon Davies, of Privacy International, which campaigns against intrusive surveillance, said: "This maniacal proposal will turn thousands of law-abiding travelers into terror suspects.
"The technology will be far less reliable - anyone could be the victim of a false match. Be warned. A San Francisco Bay family holiday may easily become a nightmare."

A recent report by the civil liberties group Statewatch highlighted a Japanese study that tested 15 biometric systems and found 11 of them failed to detect 'false' fingerprints were being used in the form of a latex strip covering a person's fingers.

Although it is now probably too late, and certainly the idiot Blair isn't going to do anything about it, I resent that such a country as America that view civil liberties, freedom and justice with such low regard has any information about me in their database.

I'm sorry America, but the government you 'elected' is now so far beyond the pail, that I wish it would FOAD!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Ashes to Ashes

"In affectionate remembrance of English cricket which died at The Oval, 29th August, 1882. Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances, RIP. NB The body will be cremated and the Ashes taken to Australia."

Australia's first victory on English soil over the full strength of England, on August 29, 1882, inspired a young London journalist, Reginald Shirley Brooks, to write this mock 'obituary'.

It appeared in the Sporting Times.

It was long believed that the real Ashes, a small urn thought to contain the ashes of a bail used in the third match, were presented to Bligh by a group of Melbourne women. In 1998, Lord Darnley's 82-year-old daughter-in-law said they were the remains of her mother-in-law's veil, not a bail. Other evidence suggests a ball. The certain origin of the Ashes, therefore, is the subject of some dispute.

After Lord Darnley's death in 1927, the urn was given to MCC by Lord Darnley's Australianborn widow, Florence. It can be seen in the cricket museum at Lord's, together with a red and gold velvet bag, made specially for it, and the scorecard of the 1882 match.

The text on the urn is as follows:-

When Ivo goes back with the urn, the urn;
Studds, Steel, Read and Tylecote return, return;
The welkin will ring loud,
The great crowd will feel proud,
Seeing Barlow and Bates with the urn, the urn;
And the rest coming home with the urn.

Of course, I'm talking about cricket, and inparticular the bi-annual round of Test matches between England and Australia. These series of matches have come to be called the Ashes series, and are generally a hard fought battle between the twofor theries forthe honour of winning or retaining the Ashes.

Eighteen months ago, England gloriously regained the Ashes by narrowly beating Australia in the series, - the first time England had won the ashes since 1987 when the team, led by Mike Gatting and including players like Chris Broad and Ian Botham at the top of their form, returned the Ashes from Australian soil. England won the series 2:1.

Since then, and up to the summer of 2005, it has been perpetual England gloom where apart from 1997, when England actually won a couple of tests (though Australia still won the series) Australia have comprehensively beaten us. Then came 2005, and a tough and gritty encounter leading to a 2:1 series winning result and the Ashes were safely back in safe hands.

Safe, that is, until the present series which has resulted in the first whitewash since 1921!

England had lost the First Test in Brisbane looking totally unprepared and hardly putting up a fight, but the series was lost in 1 hour of torture in the Second Test in Adelaide. Up until the last day, it had been a great match, nip & tuck all the way with England slightly the better. Then, in the space of 1 hour, with a respectable draw very much on the cards, England contrived to lose 7 wickets for just 27 runs! The Geneva Conventions should have been evoked! This was cruel and unusual punishment beyond human imagination.

The test was lost, and with it, the series.

Confidence was shattered for England, and of course, confidence was unassailed for Australia - they had pulled the brands out of the fire. They were unconquerable, and everyone knew it.

What now for 2009? I don't know and I'm too depressed about it to think that far ahead, but think about it we must, and moreover plan for it leaving no detail overlooked. Never again will England be so humiliated!

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Spotting a man dressed and acting about 20 years below his apparent age got me thinking about the choices we make, and inparticular the choice to leave behind the past and move forward to the future.

Since the swinging sixties, successive generations have convinced themselves that they can postpone growing up and moving on. That, if they defiantly strike enough infantile poses, fall for the latest preposterous fad, or express opinions the rest of us have dumped long ago, they will avoid ever having another birthday. US psychiatrists call these people "adultescents"; at their best, they are Peter Stringfellow. The irony is that the very things most of us loved about youth - lack of responsibility, the illusion of freedom - are the very things that the adultescent ultimately deprives himself of.

Those who do allow themselves to make that change discover that they are more likely to become masters of their own destiny. Once you stop hanging onto your past like a drowning man to a piece of driftwood, you suddenly discover you have a future. You also discover that, rather than having fewer choices, you actually have a multitude of possibilities. Perhaps the single most interesting choice you face is what parts of your past to leave behind and what to take with you.

There are rules. It's perfectly respectable for a 40-year-old lawyer to pogo around in his room to Never Mind The Bollocks. It's a lot harder for the same man to swagger around slapping high-fives with every young person he passes. The first looks like fun. The second looks like a way of life that's no sort of life at all.

Like the Katharine Hamnett T-shirts that used to say, "Choose Life," make the choices that give you even more choices - that make life more fun, more challenging, and, above all, one a hell of a lot easier to live.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Bill Kristol - Prophet Extraordinaire!

On March 17, 2003, on the eve of our invasion of Iraq, Bill Kristol wrote the following:

"We are tempted to comment, in these last days before the war, on the U.N., and the French, and the Democrats. But the war itself will clarify who was right and who was wrong about weapons of mass destruction. It will reveal the aspirations of the people of Iraq, and expose the truth about Saddam's regime. It will produce whatever effects it will produce on neighboring countries and on the broader war on terror. We would note now that even the threat of war against Saddam seems to be encouraging stirrings toward political reform in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and a measure of co-operation in the war against al Qaeda from other governments in the region. It turns out it really is better to be respected and feared than to be thought to share, with exquisite sensitivity, other people's pain. History and reality are about to weigh in, and we are inclined simply to let them render their verdicts."

A few more samples of the sort of intellectual analysis from Bill Kristol are as follows:

April 4, 2003:

"There's been a certain amount of pop sociology in America ... that the Shia can't get along with the Sunni and the Shia in Iraq just want to establish some kind of Islamic fundamentalist regime. There's almost no evidence of that at all. Iraq's always been very secular."

April 28, 2003:

"The United States committed itself to defeating terror around the world. We committed ourselves to reshaping the Middle East, so the region would no longer be a hotbed of terrorism, extremism, anti-Americanism, and weapons of mass destruction. The first two battles of this new era are now over. The battles of Afghanistan and Iraq have been won decisively and honorably. But these are only two battles. We are only at the end of the beginning in the war on terror and terrorist states."

March 22, 2004:

"[T]here are hopeful signs that Iraqis of differing religious, ethnic, and political persuasions can work together. This is a far cry from the predictions made before the war by many, both here and in Europe, that a liberated Iraq would fracture into feuding clans and unleash a bloodbath. The perpetually sour American media focus on the tensions between Shiites and Kurds that delayed the signing by three whole days. But the difficult negotiations leading up to the signing, and the continuing debates over the terms of a final constitution, have in fact demonstrated something remarkable in Iraq: a willingness on the part of the diverse ethnic and religious groups to disagree--peacefully--and then to compromise. This willingness is the product of what appears to be a broad Iraqi consensus favoring the idea of pluralism."

March 7, 2005:

"Just four weeks after the Iraqi election of January 30, 2005, it seems increasingly likely that that date will turn out to have been a genuine turning point. The fall of the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989, ended an era. September 11, 2001, ended an interregnum. In the new era in which we now live, 1/30/05 could be a key moment--perhaps the key moment so far--in vindicating the Bush Doctrine as the right response to 9/11. And now there is the prospect of further and accelerating progress."

November 30, 2005 (column titled "Pelosi's Disastrous Miscalculation"):

"All this made me think the 2006 elections could result in a Speaker Pelosi. I now think that unlikely. Pelosi's endorsement today of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq makes the House Democrats the party of defeat, the party of surrender. Bush's strong speech today means the GOP is likely to be--if Republican Congressmen just keep their nerve--the party of victory. Now it is possible that the situation in Iraq will worsen over the next year. If that happens, Bush and the GOP are in deep trouble. They would have been if Pelosi had said nothing. But it is much more likely that the situation in Iraq will stay more or less the same, or improve. In either case, Republicans will benefit from being the party of victory."

December 26, 2005 (column titled "Happy Days!"):

"If American and Iraqi troops continue to provide basic security, and if Iraq's different sects and political groups now begin to engage in serious, peaceful bargaining, then we may just have witnessed the beginning of Iraq's future."

It now turns out that this formidable and accurate analyst is to become a "star" columnist for Time magazine. Clearly, in right-wing America, the more you are wrong, the higher you climb.

Quotes are captured from Unclaimed Territory and Crooks & Liars.