Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One more year for Blair?

The excellent Polly Toynbee writes in today's Guardian that those close to Prime Minister Tony Blair say he intends to stay for one more year "absolutely top whack". Toynbee goes on to compare the satisfaction ratings of Margaret Thatcher at the time of her demise (48%) and Tony Blair's at this moment (23%).

Whatever one thinks of Blair there comes a time in any prime minister's tenure when the electorate simply gets fed up with them. In recent months, in seeking to pave the way for a fourth successive term, Blair has often mentioned other left wing governments which secured a similar legacy. He has looked at their policies and praised their initiatives. What he has consistently failed to mention is that none has continued into a fourth term with the same leader. As has been trumpeted over and over again in recent months, he would be best advised to go sooner rather than later.

It is difficult to imagine just how much Iraq occupies his mind. Despite his continual refusal to admit that the invasion was a misadventure or that he had not envisaged how utterly mired Britain and America would become, one cannot help but feel that it keeps him hanging on. Perhaps he believes his legacy truly will be tarnished if the instability in Iraq continues until after he has stepped down. Perhaps his belief in himself is such that he cannot countenance relinquishing control until peace is restored. Whatever the reason it seems he is doomed to fail. However, I for one hope, that when he does step down he does not leave both Iraq and the Labour Party in flames.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Britons hurt in Turkish blasts

The BBC is reporting that ten Britons have been injured in bomb attacks on the Turkish resort of Marmaris.

While there are no detailed reports of the events as yet, the Foreign Office has confirmed that the ten are in hospital with four in a serious condition.

Nasrallah expresses regret over kidnappings

Hezbollah commander, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, has stated that he would not have ordered the capture of the two Israeli soldiers had he known that Lebanon would be attacked as a result.

Nasrallah said on Lebanon's New TV channel, "We did not think, even one percent, that the capture would lead to a war at this time and of this magnitude," going on to say, "You ask me, if I had known on July 11 ... that the operation would lead to such a war, would I do it? I say no, absolutely not."

While some may criticise Nasrallah as naive or even disingenuous, his comments echo those of many in the West who felt the Israeli response was disproportionate to the threat it faced. It is now believed that the only way forward between Israel and Hezbollah will be a prisoner exchange.

In what many will see as a positive sign for some measure of agreement, Nasrallah went on to say that he did not expect a renewed conflict, even though many others are worried about the ceasefire lasting.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Don't Panic

This week's leader in the New Statesman gives a timely reminder of the government's need to avoid knee-jerk policy-making in these times of heightened security.

Read the exemplary account of why heightened security does not necessitate heightened attacks on our rights here.

Time Up for Olmert?

Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, came under increasing pressure today following the publication of a newspaper poll showing that a clear majority of Israelis want him to resign over his perceived mis-handling of the conflict with Hezbollah.

The Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper showed 63% want Olmert to quit and a further 74% want the defence minister, Amir Peretz, to follow. The conflict has failed to produce the release of the two Israeli soliders held captive by Hezbollah. The war has resulted in the deaths of around 1,100 in Lebanon and 157 Israelis, mostly military personnel. Hundreds of protesters congregated at the Mount Herzl military cemetery in Jerusalem to demonstrate against Olmert's failure to defeat Hezbollah.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cruise (Out of) Control

Oh dear. Tom Cruise's increasingly erratic behaviour has led to Paramount effectively telling the titchy star to 'do one'.

Sumner Redstone, Paramount's chairman, has said Cruise's bizarre behaviour has caused his company to lose millions in lost ticket sales. Cruise has recently criticised fellow Hollywood actor Brooke Shields for taking drugs to abate the effects of post-natal depression. And TC also lost his cool on American television arguing with the television host Matt Lauer for having the temerity to suggest that pharmaceuticals might sometimes help treat psychological disorders.

"You don't know the history of psychiatry! I do! ... There's no such thing as a chemical imbalance in the body!" barked the Top Gun star. This belief is, of course, one of the key doctrines of TC's favoured religion, Scientology.

Scientology was founded by the science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard. Hubbard held that Scientology seeks to belittle psychiatry, arguing instead that the root of human misery lies in the actions of an intergalactic ruler who arrived on earth 75 million years ago with a fleet of spaceships.

Tom! Tom! He's a science FICTION writer! Fiction! What? Nevermind.

A word on Estate Agents

I've been horrendously busy of late looking for a new flat (though, it may not now be necessary as it goes). Anyway I've failed to put any more on the blog this week so I've resorted to this frivolous post.

I have a problem with estate agents. Nothing interesting there you cry, most people hate the bastards. But in my part of London my hatred of estate agents is for a reason which is doubtless unique to my part of London. What irritates me more than their unctuous manner and spiel and their faux sympathy is that they all look and sound like Dermot O'Leary (is O'Leary or Leary? I can never remember).

They've got the 'number four' haircut and the non-descript, unpinpointable accent. They put their hand on their chin and furrow their brows in the way 'Dermo' so often does and nod as though they're agreeing with you when they clearly think you're a no-nothing imbecile. This also normally occurs when you point out that the flat advertised as having a double-sized bedroom is actually exactly that and you can't get anything else in. They then say, "Ah, but if you imagine the room empty, or you move the things around a bit it looks much better" while he emphasises the point by turning the light off. I hate them.

There's probably a farm- most likely in Kent- which grows these O'Leary-a-likes. They're not actually clones. They're more what you'd expect if Dermot was at the circus and got side-tracked by the 'Hall of Mirrors'. You'd have fat Dermots; tall, skinny Dermots; two-headed Dermots. And that's what I get every time I have to go and speak to one of the bastards.

If you've spotted any Dermot Leary (sic) type estate agents in your town, let me know. Together we can defeat them.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Business As Usual

I've been a bit busy this week and so I've let my initial blog fervour lapse. Incredibly this has led to two (yes, two) requests as to my whereabouts. However, I won't reveal who these people are for fear of inviting scorn and infernal machinations atop their feeble noggins.

I'm off to Paris early tomorrow morning but I'll attempt to up my output when I get back next week.

Bon voyage. A bientot.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Second guessing terrorists

Today's events have invited debate once more on the motives of the people who seek to perpetrate acts of extreme violence on Britain and America. Some right-wing blogs are quick to laud George W Bush's comments that these people are Islamic Fascists. And while it's difficult to disagree, it would be naive not to recognise that it is not religion alone which motivates terrorists groups.

It is often difficult to accept the comments of politicians who apparently seek to excuse Muslim extremists. Often MPs appear on television and attempt to appease fraught situations with words like, "these are not real Muslims" or "they do not act in the name of Islam". But why must we assume they are not? If a video suicide note is left by a bomber proclaiming he has acted in the name of Allah, then why should we seek to dress it up as something else?

Similarly, if the video diary left behind states, as Mohammed Sidique Khan's did, that his act was a response to British and American foreign policy, why would we assume that it is anything else which drives them? Professor Robert Pape, of the University of Chicago, speaking on Channel Four News this evening explained that many of the suicide bombings of the last 25 years cannot be easily explained away by reference to religious fervour.

We must be willing to see the whole picture. It is a mistake to assume that every terrorist is a wild-eyed primitive bereft of reason and without political convictions. Religious influence and privilege should beaten down wherever it lurks, but we cannot simply explain away attacks on Britain as a clash of civilisations by those who 'hate' freedom.

Off to get an update from Newsnight.

Terror from within?

Krishnan Guru-Murthy has said on Channel Four News just moments ago that one of those arrested today in connection with the plot is a Heathrow employee. The suspect was arrested in his work uniform and is said to have an access-all-areas work pass.

These details have yet to be confirmed by any official sources.

UK terror plot foiled

An alleged plot to murder thousands of transatlantic travellers has been prevented this morning.

The Metopolitan Police has said it believes that up to 20 people intended to explode bombs on up to nine planes bound for the United States from Britain. Police are now holding 21 people custody in stations around London. Home Secretary John Reid has so far refused to confirm the ethnicity of the suspects, but President George Bush displayed characteristic hubris when he announced that it was a "stark reminder" that the US was "at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom."

The plot is said to have centred on liquid explosives which were to be carried in drinks bottles. It is believed that nine planes may have been targeted with plans to attack in nine planes in three waves of three on different days.

It is also believed that police may have received new information in recent days which led them to carry out dawn raids on several properties this morning. The attacks may well have been carried out in the next fews. The Met says it is confident that "the main players have been accounted for".

More will become clear in the hours ahead and details of those in custody will follow. The Met now has 28 days in which to gather evidence against those suspected or release them without charge.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

An Appeal

I'd like to urge everyone who visits my blog to take a moment to assist me. You will see on the right under the political links a link to a website called "Stop the BNP". The aim of the website is self-explanatory.

If you follow the link you'll see the site's homepage has a section entitled "Shut down the Peddlars of Hate". This refers to a website called "Redwatch" which has published photographs and names and addresses of trade unionists and others who have campaigned against the BNP. For some of those featured on Redwatch it has led to them being savagely attacked.

The authors of the site have so far avoided prosecution or censure as the site is not actually hosted in the UK. If you, like me, find this abhorrent please visit the Stop the BNP website and sign and send the email asking Dr John Reid to intervene.

Cheers.

Tory Tree


The Conservative Party has recently been considering a change of logo to emphasise 'Dave's' modernising agenda. Yesterday one image emerged as something of a favourite among some party faithful. "What could it be?!", I hear you cry. A bike perhaps, Cameron's favoured mode of tranport (with the trailing Lexus just out of shot). Maybe a wind turbine like the one Dave is to have erected on his home? No, wrong, wrong, wrong it's neither of those two, it is in fact, well, a blurred green splodge (pictured).

Apparently it is a representation of a tree and clearly emphasises Dave's 'green credentials'. Nothing to do with DC being green, wooden, and rooted to the spot then.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

English Cricket


Monty Panesar in battle mode.

I haven't got the foggiest about cricket. Games, on the whole, seem to involve a great deal of not very much. However, since I moved to England a couple of years ago I have found my interest drawn to some extent. Last summer's Ashes series was captivating and we'll be put through it all again this November. But England's recent test against Pakistan (which England won today) deserves to be celebrated for much more than cricket. It's more than 10 years, I'd guess, since Norman Tebbit made his infamous remarks about which team British Asians ought to support. Hopefully today might have just helped knock that sort of vindictive and hateful thinking out of the ground for six. Today's star performers for England were Sajid Mahmood, a British Muslim, and Monty Panesar, a British Sikh. These groups are woefully under represented in British sport (that means you football!) and I hope these lads make the people who can help change that take notice.

Lebanon

It's nearly a month into the Israeli attack on Lebanon. Today the Israelis have told the people of Tyre not to flee the city by car as any moving vehicles will be assumed to be carrying weapons. So the alternative appears to be stay put and wait for the bombs to hit.

There's plenty being said on this each day and I'm not sure I can really add anything to the debate, but I find it absolutely extraordinary. The Israelis are even restricting the movement of the Red Cross whose workers you might reasonably expect to be afforded some kind of immunity. But no.

Here's a petition drawn up by some American academics condemning the attacks. Have a look.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Happy Birthday, Fidel


With most of America hardly wishing him a speedy recovery and Dubya salivating like a tethered Rottweiler yards from a t-bone at the prospect of FC's terminal breath, I'd like to wish Mr Castro a happy birthday come Sunday.

Feel free to add any like-minded felicitations in the comments section. Any dissenting voices will of course be purged.

Read more here.

Update

I've changed the appearance of my blog a little from the original. However I'm still trying to get to grips this html design stuff, so I'll stick with whites and blues for the moment.

All tips and suggestions welcome.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sheridan slays the NOTW

Tommy Sheridan today won his legal battle against the News of the World. Good on him, says I.

Read all about it here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Year Zero

So, this is a blog... Looks ok. At some point I'll add to it. Bear with me while I try to figure out how it works.