Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hussein's death sentence upheld

Iraq's Appeals Court has upheld the death sentence against Saddam Hussein and he is to be hanged within 30 days.

I've blogged about why he should not be put to death before and direct you here should you wish to read it again. However, in an effort to avoid too much self-reference I'll redirect you to Christopher Hitchens who put it best.

The time and place of the execution is to be kept secret and the world will only learn of Hussein's demise after the noose has been tightened. Nonetheless I wouldn't bet against pictures and testimonies emerging. Perhaps after this case has been concluded the Iraqi government might consider how best to hand down the death sentence in future, if at all. Afterall, what purpose does the hanging of a human being serve other than to amuse the baying mob? There will be no audience to cheer and howl as Hussein's legs spasm and sprint and convulse. A simple injection or bullet at close quarters would best satisfy the real intention of his eradication, that of disposal. Hanging is an old time punishment for an old time arena. Let Hussein's death mark the death of the gallows in a new Iraq.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Irving babbles

I made it, eventually, to my destination. That's all I want to say on the matter. Oh, and renationalise the railways!

Anyway, there's little in the news apart from fog so I'm going to give yet more, probably wasted typing time to Irving. He's criticised the laws which saw him banged up for Holocaust denial as Stalinist. And that's about as much of a story as the Beeb has made out of it. One thing that does interest me is that if he's out on probation what does he have to do to violate it? Since arriving back in Britain he's already said he doesn't have to apologise any further since the courts have granted him what he wanted. Should he continue in this vain is he likely to be hauled back over to Austria?

I think it was George Galloway who referred to himself, shortly before his Senate showdown, as the "most scrutinised politician" in Britain, though I may paraphrase. In a piece of self-delusion almost as staggering, David Irving howls about a "world-wide attempt to silence" him.

It'd be a bit like the Pamphleteer claiming to be the most up-to-date and prolific blog in the blogosphere.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Flight chaos hits the Pamphleteer

I was supposed to be getting a BA flight today at 12.15pm. It's been cancelled. I'm on hold to BA. And have been for the past 75 minutes.

***Update @ 9.15ish. Still holding.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Irving walks

The British historian and infamous holocaust denier, David Irving, has been released on probation after an Austrian appeals court ruled in his favour. He is to be deported to the UK tomorrow.

Irving's jailing came after he returned to Austria some 17 years after he gave a speech in the country denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. He was arrested last year when he returned to deliver a speech to a group of far right students.

It is, I think, a good day for Austrian justice if not a particularly savoury one for the rest of us. However unpalatable Irving's views are he should not have been locked up. We cannot have democratised societies which seek to criminalise a particular view or argument. Although the government is leading us that way with its wrong-headed legislation on incitement to religious hatred. Time and again the best way to defeat people like Irving is by rubbishing their spurious scholarship and baseless claims, exposing it for the casuistry and sophism that it is.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bishop continues to deny claims of drunkenness

Sticking firmly to the not-quite-an-adage that if you say something enough times then it will be so, the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, continues to deny stoutly allegations that he went to a party and drank an unholy amount. He also commits every philosophy lecturer's most frowned upon sin, begging the question. That is to say he uses as his premise that which he is trying to prove. Or, more simply, the Bishop of Southwark couldn't have been in a rip-roaring state of celestial saturnalia because, er, he's the Bishop of Southwark.

Bishop Butler told
John Humphrys on this morning's Today programme that he didn't:

"get drunk frequently. I would not be able to do my job if I got drunk. I certainly don't think it's a resigning matter."

Que? Is it just me or does he change his position three times in three sentences? Is the statement above not the verbal representation of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back homeward stumble of a boozed-up soak?

If we assume he's heading into sentence one defiantly refuting all allegations of his involvement in any kind of Bacchanalia, he then changes his hymn to concede that he does get drunk but not frequently. But then he staggers zig-zagging into sentence two where he pulls a volte face and says in indignant fashion (maybe banging his fist on the table or pointing at his interlocutor threateningly) that he wouldn't be able to do his job if he'd had one-too-many cherrys. But then after falling face down in a pile of bin bags he gets up, spins around and heads off back in the direction he's just come from. "I shhhertainly don't fffink itsscchh a res.. hic... resign... hic... meshigning ratter."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Opik gets cheeky

Liberal Democrat MP, Lembit Opik, has formally announced his split from weather presenter Sian Lloyd.

Bizarrely he's now involved with one of the pop sensation 'the Cheeky Girls'. Doesn't she resemble someone?

Saudis threatened to withhold intelligence

Not satisfied with Britain's reaction to threats to cut commercial ties it seems Saudi Arabia upped the stakes in the BAE investigation scandal by threatening to withhold intelligence on Al Qaida.

There's much about this affair I cannot fathom. The Serious Fraud Office spends £2million on the investigation and just when it gets something juicy (apparently, it was about to gain access to Swiss banks accounts) Lord Goldsmith steps in and pulls the plug. What does this mean for future investigations? Can BAE now send its executives around the world bribing and swinding with impugnity in whichever tinpot dictatorship they choose?

The SFO is currently investigating BAE dealings with Romania, Chile, Czech Republic, South Africa and Tanzania
. If Tanzania turns around and says it won't buy anymore military jets from us, will Blair send in Goldsmith again? The government interference in this case is despicable.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Pinochet: the end

A rare free afternoon provides some much appreciated time for me to blog a little, read a little. There are often stories and events that I feel compelled to write about but quail at when sat in front of a blank monitor for reasons too numerous to list. Part of my reasons for blogging were to see whether I was firstly any good at it, secondly to see if I stuck at it (five months and counting!) and in the hope of crystallising thoughts and arguments aided by debate and disagreement (more of that would be welcomed).

So it's with no little hesitation that I turn my keyboard to Pinochet. I know little of his history other than what's currently being reported on. As such, I've just read two articles from sources you would perhaps expect to assume divergent stances. One is in the American online magazine 'Slate' and is written by Christoper Hitchens and the other from the Telegraph. Both would appear to agree on the numbers where Pinochet's concerned: 3,000 dead between his 'rise' to power in 1973 and his stepping down as president in 1990. That Pinochet was on nodding terms with Thatcher and Henry Kissinger doesn't bode well where I'm concerned. In another piece in the Telegraph, he's attributed as being the architect of a strengthening of Chile's economic status in South America. While the author acknowledges that he wasn't above profiting personally from that economic success. Hitchens also acknowledges this but points out that even the most fervent Friedmanite stopped short of advocating state sanctioned torture as a means to economic licence.

We've long known that the military coup of 1973 was CIA-backed. But the Allende government was none the less democratically elected. Thatcher said that Pinochet saved Chile from a small minority of communists who nearly wrecked the country. She is reported to be "greatly saddened" by news of his demise. However, Thatcher feels she owes him a debt for Chile's support during the Falklands war. She has tempered whatever emotions she feels by not releasing a formal statement, mindful perhaps of those who will be angered that he has eluded trial. Furthermore, a posthumous uncomplimentary word may be interpreted as a tad discourteous by Pinochet's supporters. Pinochet himself made it known that he felt betrayed by the land of Thatcher when he was arrested in 1997, lamenting:

"I am saddened that the experience of my arrest has shaken my belief in Britain. Previously, I never doubted that Britain was a country where people may move about freely. I did not believe that I would be the subject of spurious attempts by foreign prosecutors to convict me on unproven charges."

Perhaps inadvertently letting slip how unaccustomed he was to the normal processes of a fair judicial system, i.e., one which first lays charges and then sets about proving or disproving them at trial. The same kind of trial he consistently managed to avoid and will never now face.

Addendum 15.51: the list of political opponents we know Pinochet had murdered and the generally agreed condemnation those actions are now viewed with should present a timely reminder to those in authority that the murder of Alexander Litvinenko ought to be investigated as rigorously as possible no matter into whichever lofty corridors the investigation may wander.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Was he pushed or was he pissed?

Or "Bished as a newt" as the Sun calls it today. It seems the Bishop of Southwark, Tom Butler, took a bit of a tumble on Tuesday and couldn't remember what happened. Being a stolid, godly type the obvious explanation was that he must've been set upon by some undesirables, as a spokesman told the BBC yesterday.

However, today's Sun seems to have unearthed a very different explanation for Bulter's woes.

A little too much Christmas cheer?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Intrigue continues in Litvinenko death

Channel Four news is claiming a scoop tonight having revealed that the Met believes Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned at the Millennium Hotel in London. At the same time reports are coming out of Russia that one of the two Russians Litvinenko met on the day he was poisoned has fallen into a coma.

Dmitry Kovtun met Litvinenko at a bar in London's Millennium Hotel on 1 November. He has only just been interviewed by British authorities and fell ill shortly after. Russian prosecutors have today announced they will investigate both Litvinenko's death and what they are describing as the "attempted murder" of Mr Kovtun.

The Russian authorities are well-advised to cooperate with the British in any investigations. Having so far ruled out complying with any future extradiction requests, these latest developments ought to alter this stance. If, as is likely, Litvinenko has been assassinated by a Russian national then anyone suspected of his murder ought to be handed over to face an English court. You'd also think the Kremlin's curiosity might just be a little aroused as to who has managed to lay their blood-soaked paws on £20 million worth of radioactive gear, the amount found in the former KGB agent is said to be estimated to cost. Unless it already knows of course.

'A' bomb in Wardour Street

And a tornado in Chamberlayne Road North London. Freaky times on the Event Horizon.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Iraq Study Group recommends engagement with Iran/Syria

And not a great deal else it would seem. Urgent change is recommended to prevent the country sliding "towards chaos". Too late to prevent that I fear.

The BBC report that the 142 page report contains 79 recommendations with three key points:

A change in the primary mission of US forces in Iraq to enable it to begin to move combat forces out responsibly

Prompt action by the Iraqi government to achieve reconciliation

New and enhanced diplomatic efforts in the region

Not particularly revelatory. In recent weeks the media has been filled with experts and seers who have called for engagement with Iran and Syria. So whether Baker and co are simply delivering recommendations 'a la mode' is hard to judge. Regardless, it's difficult to see Bush sitting down with Ahmadinejad. I'm not in favour of troop withdrawal at this moment, but perhaps a publicised date for quitting Iraq might give something for all sides to focus on.

France launches 24 hour news channel

Yes, nearly a week since my last post. Usual story, though. I've been in Belgium for a few days so I have an excuse of sorts.

France 24 launches tonight with its full debut on satellite and cable tomorrow.
The channel is said to the brainchild of Jacques Chirac who first considered such a channel in the early 90s. However, it was his frustration at what he considered France's lack of a voice in the run up to the Iraq war which has brought the project into existence.

It's kicking off with streaming in French and English though I've not found out who it will be available to in Britain. I suspect it'll just be Sky customers at first. Being an unshamed Francophile I hope it becomes a success and should provide an interesting alternative to CNN, Fox et al.