Nov 2008

Something for the weekend

From 1986. But frankly, political music doesn’t get much better than this (though the YouTube video’s sound is about a half-second out of sync with the images which is annoying).

The The | Heartland

5 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Audio, Video

Nov 2008

Tories living in Stalinist Britain

Damian Green is a tory MP in Britain. This means he’s almost certainly an enemy of social justice. In fact, his voting record places him firmly on the right of his already right-wing party. The best you can say about him is that he isn’t part of the tory religious tendency (on issues like abortion or embryology). Other than that though… he’s in favour of torturing dogs, does not support equal rights for homosexuals and counts Ian Paisley high among his political friends. Not a nice man.

So from a strictly personal point of view, the fact that he’s just been the subject of a little bit of police harrassment doesn’t upset me all that much. In fact, if people like Damian Green got harrassed a bit more by the police, then maybe they wouldn’t be so damn quick to champion the harrassment of others (his opposition to drug-law reform and stance on asylum seekers being just two examples of that championing).

So how did this harrassment manifest itself in Mr. Green’s case? Well it turns out he was suspected of releasing classified government documents into the public domain (“leaking” as it’s known). As a result he was arrested, questioned and then released without charge.

That the tory party is describing this as “Stalinesque” is the final proof (if proof be need be) that they’ve completely lost the plot. Certainly the tories aren’t above a wee bit of historical revisionism. We all know that. But are they really saying that one of the primary characteristics of Stalin’s regime was that political opponents were questioned for a few hours prior to being released? It’s 20 years since I read a biography of Stalin, but my memory isn’t that bad, surely!

Don’t get me wrong, clearly what’s happened here is a little heavy-handed and demonstrates the craven hypocrisy of the Brown administration. When it suits the Labour party they are more than willing to leak stuff to the media. In fact, they’ve got such a consistent track-record of leaking stuff that it hardly raises an eyebrow any more. It’s got to the point where the Labour government leaking information is almost considered “official channels”. That the police aren’t banging on the doors of cabinet ministers and hauling them off for questioning on a regular basis demonstrates that there’s a double-standard at work. And when a government starts to employ the police to enforce its double-standards then they really need to be replaced.

But the last people that should be replacing them are a bunch of dangerous fools who are willing to cry “Stalin” when one of their own gets questioned for a few hours and then released, but who stay silent at — and indeed support — the systematic harrassment of others.

I don’t recall the Tory outcry when police kicked down a door in Forest Gate and shot an unarmed suspect. I don’t recall the tories accusing the police of ‘Stalinesque’ tactics that day. In fact, just to demonstrate how divorced these fools are from reality, how utterly self-serving in their outlook, a Tory spokesman has described Green’s arrest as “unprecedented in its heavy-handedness”.

Unprecedented? Really? What complete tossers those tories truly are.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Nov 2008

A question

Would it be possible for a person, or group of people, to take legal action against their government for failure to protect them — and future generations — against a threat they acknowledge in their own publications is a serious one, but about which they are taking no practical action?

5 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Nov 2008

Thesis update

Just a quickie, this, but I’d like to share a bit of good news with you, dear reader.

From what I can gather, the decision on whether or not to “pass” my thesis is taken by three people. There’s the course supervisor, a second internal examiner and an external examiner. Leastways, I think that’s how it works.

Anyways, I’ve just got word from the internal examiner that he considers my thesis “excellent”. Other phrases used include, “well written”, “well researched” and “actually original”. He also wrote that, “it is publishable and would encourage you to think about that”. While he is careful to make it very clear that his is just one opinion and is not enough on its own to guarantee a pass, he suspects that it will “pass with flying colours”.

I’m not counting any unhatched chickens though. The external examiner could well have a significant difference of opinion, and the very fact that my thesis is being described as “original” might not work in my favour in that respect. Nonetheless, given that I happen to know the internal examiner (though I didn’t know he was the examiner up until now) and have a great deal of respect for his opinion, I’m feeling pretty darn good tonight.

5 comments  |  Posted in: Announcements

Nov 2008

Something for the weekend

From 1997. Sound quality on the video could be better I guess, but it’s still a cracking track.

David Byrne | Dance on Vaseline

3 comments  |  Posted in: Media » Audio, Video

Nov 2008

Bombs in the Arctic?

I believe this to be complete nonsense. Please understand that.

Repeat: this is almost certainly complete nonsense.

However, I’ve been asked by someone to help publicise it and she’s a close friend who has climbed out on some precarious limbs for me in the past. I told her, though, that I intended to preface it with a massive disclaimer. So again… please take this with a bucket-load of salt.

Anyways, my friend received information from someone she knows (we’re deep into FOAF territory here) claiming that, over the course of two days last week, the US government detonated no less than nine nuclear bombs (each with a yield of approximately 5 megatons) on the floor of the Arctic Ocean. The purposes of these explosions was to punch a whole in the sea bed in order to access a massive deep-level oil field. The dates and co-ordinates she asked me to publish are as follows…

17 Nov 2008 12:55:23 (79.66N -116.86W)

17 Nov 2008 13:16:51 (79.70N -115.78W)

17 Nov 2008 13:40:11 (79.70N -115.36W)

17 Nov 2008 17:17:05 (79.70N -115.78W)

18 Nov 2008 03:59:49 (79.61N -114.76W)

18 Nov 2008 04:10:35 (79.76N -115.70W)

18 Nov 2008 04:52:51 (79.74N -115.32W)

18 Nov 2008 05:37:27 (79.75N -115.33W)

18 Nov 2008 07:05:12 (79.78N -114.69W)

Now, I know a fair amount about petrogeology and this story simply does not scan for me. Perhaps there were explosions but for a different reason? I don’t care to speculate, merely to pass on the information as requested.

UPDATE: I’ve just seen this posted to an energy resources mailing list I subscribe to. The first response began with the line: “This of course is nonsense.” Indeed. I shall be mercilessly taking the piss out of A about this.

2 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

Nov 2008


Eon is a German-based (edited from “UK-based”… thanks to John B in the comments) energy company that powers a large slice of the British electricity grid. They employ a variety of technologies to achieve this but appear to have settled upon coal as the fuel of the future (ironic, really, as the continued widespread use of coal is a great way to help destroy the future). A massive investment is about to be made in building the first new coal-fired power station in Britain for decades, at Kingsnorth in Kent. This must be strenuously opposed.

Eon naturally spend quite a bit of money on public relations and have employed people to convince us (though mostly to convince the politicians) that so long as you preface the word “coal” with the word “clean” it is rendered benign. It makes me wonder whether bioterrorists could escape prosecution by insisting in court that they’d filled the envelopes with “Clean Anthrax”.

– Do you deny sending packages filled with anthrax to politicians?
– No your honour, we do not deny this, however we’d like to point out that we used Clean Anthrax.
– But did the politicians not die?
– They did, your honour, but you must understand that our anthrax was “Antidote Ready”.
– Antidote Ready? Please explain this…
– Well, we sent the anthrax secure in the knowledge that at some unspecified future date we would be able to develop an antidote…

Not that I wish to claim that Eon are bioterrorists. Even I admit that describing CO2 emissions as a biological agent would be stretching things a little.

“Eco-terrorists” would be a better phrase I think. Though that appears to be already in use, to describe those who seek to oppose the destruction of the environment by maniacs like Eon.

For more about Eon and about why each mention of Eon is linked to NoNewCoal.org.uk, check out this post over on Merrick’s blog.

Update: It might also be worth pointing out that Eon is sometimes written E.On or occasionally E-On. Just so you know.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion

Nov 2008

Coming soon: House for sale in Golders Green

As you may have read elsewhere (given how long I’ve been away from this place, chances are you’ve already read about most of the stuff I’ll be covering over the next couple of weeks), the complete membership list for the British National Party (BNP) has been leaked and published online (there’s some question about the legality of linking directly to the list, but I’m fairly certain I’m allowed to point out that it’s been published on Wikileaks, and is therefore one cat unlikely to be rebagged any time soon).

The list includes full names and addresses as well as telephone numbers, email addresses and — for many members — all manner of other additional information (age, profession, hobbies, etc.) as well as the occasional comment added, presumably, by the database administrator. My personal favourite of these comments is “No ‘promotional material’ requested. Concerned about his job”.

Oh dear.

Like most people who’ve seen the document, I immediately searched the text for various postcodes. With over 13,000 names on the list there’s a fair chance, after all, that I’ve had a BNP member or two as a neighbour in the past. In fact, during my time in England I had no less than nine addresses (as well as a brief period of no-fixed-abode) and it seems was never more than a mile away from a hardcore racist. Even when I lived in a small village in Hampshire.

Two geographical oddities stood out though. Firstly, I was bemused to notice that there are two members who live in Ireland. I presume they are ex-patriot Brits rather than Irish citizens who’ve decided to join the ultra-right British nationalists. Ex-pats, eh? There’s another word for them, isn’t there? Now, if I could only remember it… ah, that’s right: immigrants!

I don’t know; they come over here, steal our jobs……

I noticed the other geographical oddity when I checked to see if there were any BNP members in London NW11. I lived there for two years. Lovely place. Better known as Golders Green. And it turns out there is one. Only one, I grant you, but even so.

For those who aren’t aware, Golders Green is the heart of the London Jewish community. Something tells me there’ll be the tinkling of broken glass on Ravenscroft Avenue sometime soon.

Yeah it’s funny, but there’s more to it than that

I’m not going to deny the fact that I’m finding this whole debacle very amusing. When a far-right organisation with openly racist policies screws up in such a spectacular fashion it’s hard not to laugh. And it does appear to have been a case of shooting themselves in the foot. It was a disaffected member who published the list, not some shadowy left-wing conspiracy. However, neither can I deny that I’m somewhat ambivalent about the whole thing.

On a general note, it demonstrates the dangers of centralised databases. How long will we have to wait, I wonder, until the first disaffected employee of the UK’s National Identity Register skips town with a copy of the biometric details of everyone in the country? I don’t know how much that kind of data would be worth to, for example, a Moscow crime syndicate but I suspect it’d be enough to make it worthwhile for our hypothetical disgruntled IT contractor.

And before anyone says, “oh but that couldn’t happen ‘cos the Identity Register will be far more secure” let me point out that only a fricking idiot believes that they can create a 100% secure database. Especially one that has to be accessed by a whole range of different services on an almost continuous basis. In fact, for a bunch of reasons, I’d put money on the National Identity Register being fundamentally less secure than the British National Party membership database.

That, however, is far from the extent of my unease regarding the publication of this data.

Firstly, it’s a safe bet that some of the people on that list are not BNP supporting racists. I notice, for instance, that there are several “family memberships” that include the names of quite a few under-16s. I wouldn’t like to be held accountable today for the views I held when I was 14 (they weren’t racist views, incidentally, just silly and painfully misguided). Beyond that, we have no way of knowing that a given “family membership” wasn’t purchased by one overzealous family-member on behalf of their horrified kids.

On top of that, I’d like to relate a minor event from my own youth. I once decided — with a friend — to sign up for and “infiltrate with the aim of discrediting” the scientologists. Needless to say, it was a ridiculous idea (scientologists do such a good job at discrediting themselves it’s hard to know what we could have achieved even if we’d succeeded) and it never went very far. Nonetheless, it would not surprise me to discover that my name, along with an out-of-date address, can be found somewhere in the dianetics archives.

Of the 13,500 names on the BNP membership list, there’s probably no more than one or two silly leftist youngsters who thought they could do some damage by signing up and attacking the organisation from within. All the same, just by looking at a list of names and addresses it’s impossible to tell who that one or two might be. Please bear that in mind before passing judgment.

Another issue… this time from a Ken MacLeod novel rather than my own youth, but still very relevant. In one of his early books (might even be The Star Fraction, his glorious first novel) one of the characters regularly messes with the head of an old rival by signing him up to various organisations and mailing-lists that he finds objectionable. Again, maybe no one on the BNP list falls into that category, but it would be a mistake to automatically assume every single name on it belongs to a hardcore racist.

Clearly the vast majority do. But there will be the handful of fifth-columnists, investigative journalists, agents of political rivals and so forth.

On top of all that there’s also the (much more likely) possibility of mistaken identity. We’ve all heard the stories about the pediatrician whose house was attacked by braindead anti-paedophile vigilantes. Memo to braying mobs: make sure you have the right Mr. Jones in Lincoln won’t you? ‘Cos the other one is a retired solicitor who worked for the Refugee Council and he’s got a heart condition.

Bunch of tossers

All that said, there’s no doubt that the 13,500 names on the list almost certainly include 13,300 racist scumbags. And while I have no problem with anyone who seeks to ridicule them for those views, I’m very uncomfortable with the idea that it should go any further than “ridicule” (at least as long as they are merely “views” and not “activities”). Nonetheless, those who hold sensitive jobs (police and teachers primarily) should be investigated, and if they’re not part of the 200 decent people who I’ve generously assumed are on the list, then they should be fired. The British National Party is a legal political party and I hope it goes without saying that I’m not a fan of the concept “thoughtcrime”. If you want to hold those views, then you are entitled to do so and shouldn’t be punished for it.

However, if you self-define as a racist activist dedicated to driving immigrants out of a country, then you must accept that there are certain jobs that aren’t appropriate for you. “Police officer” is one of those jobs. Full stop. And I’d argue that “school teacher” falls into that category too.

When all’s said and done though, and despite the seriousness with which we should all take the far right, my primary reaction to all this is still one of mirth. It’s hard not to relish the spectacle of the BNP giving itself a good kicking. And to add an hilarious dash of irony to the proceedings, Justin at Chicken Yoghurt points out that

The crowning jewel of the story is that the BNP, who only this month called the Human Rights Act ‘surely one of the most pernicious pieces of legislation ever passed by the mother of Parliaments,’ and reiterated its promise to repeal it when the party – don’t laugh – becomes a ‘British Nationalist government’, have now asked the police to investigate breaches of the Human Rights Act.

It appears that the stalwart members of the Master Race are eager to wrap themselves in the European flag when it suits. As is their right of course. After all, they’re only human.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion