Thursday, July 28

We'll see.

Today is either one of the most important days in British and Irish history or just another day of the usual bullshit. The annoying thing is that there's no way of telling which.

I particularly like this detail:

This will take effect from 4pm this afternoon.


Why? Planning a last couple of shootings in the next hour-and-a-half, Gerry?



Moral inequivalence.

There's more of this bollocks in the papers over here than I can find on the Web. The BBC gives a reasonable summary of the gist of the complaints, but fails to capture the more extreme histrionics. Just read their report and imagine the same thing but with more self-indulgent whinging from some quarters and more spittle-flecked shouting from others.

Firstly, Blair has said what any fule no:

Al-Qaeda terrorism is not on the same par as the IRA, Prime Minister Tony Blair has suggested.

He said IRA political demands or their previous atrocities could not be directly compared to fundamentalists who carried out the 9/11 US attacks.

It was invidious to make comparisons because "terrorism is wrong", he said.

"I don't think you can compare the political demands of republicanism with the political demands of this terrorist ideology we're facing now."


And, predictably enough, Ulster's Unionists have taken the opportunity — they never miss one, you know — to make themselves look bloody stupid:

Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey said he had warned Mr Blair against "creating double standards between terrorists".

"There is no point in using the numbers killed to distinguish between terror groups as the prime minister seems to be implying," he said.

"However, if Mr Blair wants to use a crude stratification process in order to establish a hierarchy of terror, he will find that the number of those murdered and maimed in Northern Ireland is greater."

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said Mr Blair's comments were an "insult to every victim of terrorism".

"Whether a terrorist sets out to murder one person or 100 people, they are a terrorist and no difference should be drawn," he said.


Reg Empey is one of Northern Ireland's most respected politicians, but he's clearly incapable of even the most basic reasoning. Does he really mean to say that the IRA have killed and maimed more people than Al Qaeda? No, I think he means to compare just the London bombings with the IRA's entire campaign, which is unreasonable and stupid. Does anyone fall for this stuff? At least when Westminster's politicians lie, they do it well. Our lot are such bloody amateurs.

On the one big issue of Unionism, Unionists are right. And they've been losing the political battle these many years because they insist on making themselves look wrong. They really only have one policy: the IRA are evil and should be resisted at all costs. This policy is correct, but it has become such a dogma that it is carried into the realms of insanity. For Unionist politicians, not only are the IRA evil, but they are the ultimate evil, not to be out-evilled by any other. And, when you make ideas that stupid the bedrock of your thinking, you're going to have all sorts of stupid thoughts. Like, for instance, the idea that we mustn't just fight the IRA and their sympathisers, but must also fight people who dare to suggest that the IRA might be slightly less bad than some other things, such as massive tidal waves, the Holocaust, or the victory of Satan over all the peoples of the Earth.

Look. Pointing out that Mao was much worse than Hitler does not imply that Hitler was actually quite a nice chap and that perhaps we shouldn't have bothered fighting him after all.

The IRA — who, let us not forget, are all bastard scum — killed people as a means to an end. Whatever one may think of the rights and wrongs of that end, it was always possible to stop the IRA killing people by giving the Six Counties to Eire. It would have been wrong to do so for a large number of reasons, but it was still possible. Not so with Al Qaeda: for them, killing infidels is the end itself. They're not killing us to get concessions; they're killing us because we're us. In the words of one Hamas leader:

We don't attack you to get you to give us something. We attack you to kill you.


The point that the DUP and UUP fail to understand is that the difference between Al Qaeda and the IRA isn't how many people they succeed in killing; it's how many they want to kill. In Al Qaeda's case, that number runs into billions. And yes, of course that makes them worse than the bloody IRA. Obviously.



New gadget joy.

I've just got me a Nokia 9500 and have to say that any talk of how fantastic it is must necessarily be understatement. It is utterly, utterly superb. People keep telling me it's a bit big for a phone. I respond that it's very small for a laptop. It has a QWERTY keyboard, it has wi-fi, it's surprisingly good with spreadsheets (not that I'm ever going to use that function, but it's kind of good to know in some indefinable and possibly sad way), I can type documents on it, it's got a video camera, it's got 80 meg of memory plus an MMC, its clock function tells me when sunrise and sunset are in my hometown, and its web-browser, despite being on a mere phone, really is a proper web-browser.

I can blog from it and can view the blog on it. This is the future, I tell you.



More news of this tour.

The Squander Pilots tour of Scotland has got bigger in two ways, as if you're interested. Firstly, it's got geographically bigger: we're now playing Dunfermline on the 4th of November, as I'm sure the residents of Dunfermline will be thrilled right through to their socks to hear. Secondly, it's got musically bigger, because our friend John from Kasino has agreed to play bass with us, and Ronnie, who used to play bass with us, has agreed to sing vocals on Given, which is nice. Given is one of our most popular songs, but it is a duet, so we have rarely been able to perform it since Colin the singing bassist left the band somewhat acrimoniously.

By the way, turns out the Edinburgh gig is at Caledonian Backpackers, wherever that is. Strange name for a venue, but I ain't arguing. I'd offer this new-found knowledge as evidence that I'm not quite so disorganised after all, except that I have no idea under what roof the Dunfermline gig's going to be.

Squander-watchers, if there are such things, may be interested to know that John is now Squander Six. No, possibly not all that interested.

Cheers.



Tuesday, July 26

Punctuation.

Radio One's detestable Newsbeat (and oh, how that name makes me cringe) has something against breathing, in that they don't let their newsreaders do any. A brief pause for breath might cause listeners to get bored and touch that dial, so not only is every item announced in their own distinctively weird sing-song overemphatic style, but there is never any gap between items — not even a change in tone to indicate a change of subject. After years of listening, I had thought I'd got used to it, but this still startled me:

Rape investigation starts after school trip claims that an injection can cure obesity.

 



Monday, July 25

A fatal error.

Of course, making fatal errors isn't half as bad when they're fatal to someone else.

I stand by what I said here:

As long as [the police] insist that they are absolutely the only people allowed to act against criminals and to defend the public, they take on the responsibility of doing the job perfectly — not just very well, but perfectly.


That's hardly apposite, though: ordinary members of the public have a role to play in fighting terrorism, and that role probably doesn't involve getting into gun-fights with terrorists. This is one area where the police and security forces are right to insist that they hold a monopoly. (Though I can't help but wonder: what if a member of the public pulled a gun on the Tube and shot a real suicide-bomber in the head, preventing detonation and saving lives? How would the police's attitude towards their own killing of an innocent man compare with a non-police killing of a terrorist?)

They seem to have the right attitude here: they are ready and willing to shoot suicide bombers dead rather than letting them succeed. I for one am glad to hear it. It's a pity that the first time they act on this new policy turns out to be the wrong time, but I hope that, in time, they will kill the right men. Jean Charles de Menezes acted very stupidly indeed, and it is a great shame — and surely not his fault — that he did so in a situation in which stupidity can kill.

There is one thing, however, that the police have done badly wrong here. Why the hell wasn't the new policy announced? Had there been bulletins on the news last Thursday, announcing that the Met were going to shoot anyone who refused to co-operate, would Mr de Menezes have run from the police on Friday? And, if he had, how much sympathy would we have for him? Would the Brazilian diplomatic corps be giving the British Government quite such a hard time?

The Met's new policy towards terrorists is the right policy, but it should not have been unleashed on an unsuspecting public. I am sure there will be further changes in policy over the coming months. From now on, the police had damned well better start warning us.



Thursday, July 21

I was wrong and I was right.

If this was Al Qaeda, then credit where credit is due: two attacks in two weeks implies that they have more manpower and explosives in London than I might have thought, the bastards. But, if reports so far are correct, then JB was uncannily accurate in his assessment of their abilities:

Al Qaeda are almost as crap at terrorism as the UVF — the Loyalist terrorists who always seemed to go into a Catholic betting shop & open fire, only for the guns to jam.


According to one Ivan McCracken, who was on the train and spoke to a first-hand witness,

a man was carrying a rucksack and the rucksack suddenly exploded. It was a minor explosion but enough to blow open the rucksack.

The man then made an exclamation as if something had gone wrong.


Feh.


Update:

This is odd. It looks like none of the bombs even contained any explosives, but, if the report I quoted above is accurate, it also looks like at least one of the bombers expected a huge explosion and was surprised by his own non-suicide. Let's hope they can keep up this level of comical ineptitude. Or alternatively, let's hope MI6 can keep up a brilliant line in selling fake explosives.



Wednesday, July 20

My opinion of Amnesty International just keeps getting lower.

Philippe Gosselin, a Peace Corps volunteer and definitely not some sort of rabid right-wing human-rights-disdaining type, reports from Senegal:

The law used to persecute gays, Article 219, was put in place by the French during colonial times, and it still exists in all of their former African colonies, though somehow not in Burkina. It's actively enforced in Senegal. Z gave me the example of two of his friends who were arrested on trumped up charges of public sex while they were sitting together in a park that had a reputation of being a cruising spot. The possible punishment is between 1 month and 2 years in prison, and they were both condemned to 2 years. They weren't even allowed to speak in their own defense at the tribunal. Z told me that nobody bothers to refute the judgements because the society's attitude is, "They're gays, they deserve it." Z's organization also helps its members who are AIDS patients find people who will agree to treat them, because they're often refused treatment at local hospitals or clinics. Even organizations like Amnesty International have offered nothing but sympathy for these injustices, claiming that if they help the gay community it would sully their relations with the government would harm their capacity for addressing other abuses.


It's like some weird perversion of O'Sullivan's Law.



Tuesday, July 19

One of them things.

Rob has "kindly" tagged me with this music questionnaire thingy. Ach, why not?

Total volume of music files on my computer:
Now, there's a question. I haven't really got into the whole MP3 thing as such. I have a handful of MP3s on my Mac, maybe twenty of them, mainly things that can't be obtained in any other format, but, generally, give me a CD any day: they're superior in all sorts of ways. That being said, I am a musician, and I use the Mac to record and produce records, so the hard drive isn't remotely large enough to hold all my music files. To give you a rough idea, one five-minute-long song, when it's made up of sixteen or so stereo AIFF files plus various digital effects and twenty or thirty bounced tracks and a bunch of alternate takes, can take up about 3 gig. So, even though I'm not into MP3s at all, I still have about 40 gig of music files.

Last CD I bought:
It think it was Athlete's new album. It's not particularly good or particularly bad. Vic bought Jem's Finally Woken a couple of weeks ago, and it's fantastic. Since what's mine is hers, I'll claim that one.

Song Playing Right Now:
Nothing on in the physical world, but Jem's Just A Ride's on in my head, which is the way I usually listen to music these days.

Five Songs (or Albums) I listen to a lot or that move me:
There's nothing I listen to a lot any more. Here are some that move me in one way or another.
Together Alone by Crowded House: a great album; the title track is the only song ever that can consistently make my spine tingle.
Distant Dreams by Karen Ramirez. I certainly don't listen to this very much, having bloody lost it, which is very annoying, 'cause it's superb.
What Sound by Lamb: the best album so far by arguably the world's greatest electronics-based band.
Lost Songs: Volume One by No-Man: even by the standards of my favourite band ever, still one hell of a collection of music.
And Come From Heaven by Alpha: a staggeringly good album, different to everything else out there. Alpha produce lush, atmospheric, laid-back, semi-easy-listening-style jazz songs with orchestral arrangements that, frankly, should make the likes of Craig Armstrong and Adrian Utley just give up. Their singers are excellent, especially Helen White, whose voice, I don't mind telling you, does things to me. And, if you're a pretentious muso like me who likes the occasional bit of advanced theory in your listening, Alpha are quite astoundingly clever. Stick this album on and people just stop and listen and relax. We had it playing at our wedding. It's beautiful. Shame about the second album, really.

Tag three others:
Must I? Oh, very well, then.
Gary, as usual, of course.
Ray, who doesn't have a blog but can answer in the comments here.
And Johan.



Touring the world.

As some of you may have noticed, I'm in a band, me. We're called Squander Pilots and have achieved critical acclaim and zero fame. Such is the way of things.

Anyway, we've done nothing for ages and ages, what with my being on the wrong side of the Irish Sea for rehearsals to be at all practical, but we're going to do something this October: we're going to tour. Not the world, though. That was a lie. Just Scotland, so far.

Thursday 20th October:
    The 13th Note, Glasgow.
We've played this venue more times than I can count, and I've got a maths degree. It's great, in it's charmingly decrepit way. One of our gigs here had to be called off mid-song when water started pouring through the ceiling onto Alun's head. You've never seen so much electronic equipment turned off so quickly. And we hosted the Departure Lounge club night here for most of 2003. It'll be great to be back.

Saturday 22nd October:
    Somewhere in Edinburgh.
Oh, I'm so organised. I have no more precise idea of where this gig will be than "in Edinburgh". Great. But an actual proper venue is involved, and I'll remember which one any day now. Those nice folk at Baby Tiger are organising it.

Sunday 23rd October:
    The Tunnels, Aberdeen.
See how I know the name of the venue? Impressed? This is rock'n'roll, I tell you. We've never played Aberdeen before, so that's nice. I hear they're all quite mad up there. It's the cold. Frosts their brains.

While this may look like a perfect opportunity for you to turn up and harangue me for my views on stuff, I have to inform you that I shall only be entering into political discussions with people who buy our album. And you can't say fairer than that.

Meanwhile, we're trying to expand this thing a bit. If you've got a venue and would like it added to our tour, get in touch.

Sorry, what was that? Oh, what do we sound like? Why, like this.

Oo, I'm dead excited. Haven't gigged since February '04. Or rehearsed. Oh, bugger, yeah; need to do some of that, now, don't we?

And so to bed.

Cheers.



Monday, July 18

Minutes of silence.

So I'm back.

Shopping in Stuttgart, an announcement comes over the store PA telling us to observe the internationally coordinated two minutes' silence for the London victims. Something about it really pissed me off. It took me a little while to figure out what, exactly.

There's the obvious point that I was surrounded by people who are almost universally opposed to any effective action being taken against the perpetrators. The German people — not just their government — are against declaring war on the terrorists, are against action being taken against states which harbour terrorists, are against Guantanamo, are against using the military to kill terrorists instead of using the police to make pitiful attempts to prosecute them. Those two minutes of silence are the most the Germans are willing to do: they'll pity the victims, but they'll do everything in their (thankfully little) power to ensure that further victims will be created, not that they see it that way. But, annoying though that is, that's not it.

Then there's the cheapness of silences these days. One minute's silence every year for every single British soldier killed in both World Wars. It's not much, but its very rarity makes it all the more poignant. These days, just be in the wrong place at the wrong time and you get a silence all of your own, right across the world. I feel pity for the victims and sorrow for their friends, but it doesn't insult their memories to say that they don't deserve this. Unlike the men and women who have traditionally been the objects of our silences, they didn't die for us. But that wasn't it either.

There's the total lack of even a second's silence for the IRA's numerous victims down the years, the sheer nastiness of implicitly declaring that these people's deaths were somehow more important because they were Londoners. If Al Qaeda had blown up a busload of Northern Irish Protestants visiting London, would there be any silent memorial? Somehow, I doubt it. But that's not it either.

A day later, I realised what the real problem was, what was really sticking in my craw. It's the message. The silence sends a simple message to the terrorists: We are devastated. We are traumatised. Our entire nation is distraught. You have succeeded. Even if that were true, it would be wrong to give the bastards the satisfaction of telling them. Even if. But it's not. It's bollocks.

This attack, as far as I can see, shows just how well the War on Terror is going. We've been expecting this for a long time; we know that they've been trying to attack London since 9/11: interrogation has revealed that a cell were due to pull the same stunt at Heathrow that day but were stymied by the worldwide grounding of aircraft. So it's taken them nearly four years to manage one attack. Pathetic. And, in the end, what was that attack like? Big? Hardly. Mark Steyn is badly wrong for once:

Thursday was an appalling act of savagery: the final death toll, in the high dozens, would have been regarded as a spectacular body count in the heyday of the IRA terror campaign; hundreds more will bear the scars of that morning for as long as they live; and thousands of other Britons — the families and friends of the dead — have had a huge gaping hole blown in their lives. Had this happened in 1975 or 1985, it would have been an act of murder that reverberated through British political life for weeks and months.


It's right to compare this attack to the IRA's, but to conclude that the increased death toll is some reflection of Al Qaeda's logistic superiority is ridiculous. Al Qaeda's death toll is higher than the IRA's for two simple reasons: they never give warnings, and they kill their own operatives. The IRA may be murderous bastards, but they're not suicidal, and they're astute enough to know that they're fighting a propaganda war and that too much murderousness would backfire; sometimes they don't give warnings, but they usually do. Looking at what they've achieved politically, one has to concede that they calibrated their murderousness about right. Al Qaeda don't give a damn about such considerations: they want to kill as many infidels as possible, so they target civilians and never give warnings. And that's a relatively easy game to play, terrorism-wise. I could, right now, with no help, no training, and no organisation, go out and kill three or four people before I was stopped. If I were willing to die in the process, I could easily take out far more. If you want to measure Al Qaeda's efficacy against the IRA's, the question you need to ask is: could the IRA have bombed three tubes and one bus at the same time? The answer is that they could have done it in their sleep, they would have hit three buses, and the blasts would have been bigger — and everyone knows it. Al Qaeda are short of explosives and short of manpower, at least in London. Which is why the correct response to their attack is not a self-pitying silence, but one simple word: Feh.



Thursday, July 14

Modern life.

Somewhere near the top of an Alp, my phone bleeps at me, telling me that I've got voicemail. I quickly listen to a message from the woman handling our insurance claim for the flooded bathroom. Today, I sit in an annoyingly marmot-free cafe in Stuttgart, using my phone to respond to an email about a job offer.

I can remember when an international phone call had such a bad line that you needed to shout, was prone to random disconnection, cost a small fortune, and sometimes even needed an operator to connect it. And I'm not that old. What a fascinating modern age we do live in, and no mistake.

Incidentally, German drivers are crazy homicidal bastards. All of them.

I saw an amazing invention the other day, which was so amazing that it was completely stupid: a combination ping-pong and chess set. Yes, really.

Back soon.



Wednesday, July 13

A first.

Today, I did something I've never done in July before: I walked across some snow. It felt pretty damn momentous, and slippery.

Needless to say, this was up a mountain. The severe weather warnings have gone away at last, so up I finally went. According to the tourist-information posters at the cable-car station, platoons of playful marmots gambol through the Alpine meadows mere minutes away. Do they bollocks. I think I may, just may, have seen the entrance of a marmot-burrow on a far hillside. But it might have just been a meaningless patch of mud. I feel robbed.

The view was actually rather impressive, though, so the ascent wasn't a total waste of my oh-so-precious time.

Bavarian deserts are profoundly wonderful; I am attempting to eat all of them. My stomach may exceed my baggage allowance on the return trip. That would be awkward.



Tuesday, July 12

Weather.

You may have seen the weather report for Central Europe. On the way back from Lindau yesterday, we drove right into it: the heaviest rain I have ever seen from inside a car. In a matter of two minutes, the roads were inches deep. Visibility was destroyed by the sheer volume of water on the windscreen: the windscreen-wipers just weren't up to the job. This was in the mountains, so we were surrounded by thick mist on twistily winding roads.

It was fantastic.

And now it's sunny and hot. Go figure.

It's a shame to be missing the festivities back home today. Throw a brick for me.



Monday, July 11

To plan, according, going.

Rain, rain, rain, with a forecast of rain and thunder and lightning. I'm a big fan of thunder and lightning, but not of being up Alps during them. So still no marmots, is what I'm saying. The sneaky rodents have called on their sneaky rodent weather-gods to thwart me, possibly.

On the up side, I'm swimming in amazing bacon products. Mmm. If I were a pig, I'd want to go to Bavaria when I died. They do wonderful things to dead pigs here.

Right. Off to Lindau, in the rain. Bye for now.



The power of delusions

Here in Australia our multicultural channel SBS , which has always served as a reliable outlet for the most lurid "Documentaries" of an Anti-American or associated pathological flavour, had planned to screen "The power of Nightmares" in the week following the London Bombings.

It was replaced with a documentary of slightly different Flavour, "From D-Day to Victory".

I really hope this signals at least a small shift away from insanity.



Saturday, July 9

Proper hot chocolate.

Ah, they make hot chocolate properly here. None of that watery brown pish that's had a couple of Smarties waved at it that's so inexplicably popular in Britain. No, here, it's made of milk and chocolate, and it comes with whipped cream that hasn't been anywhere near an aerosol, and it comes in a pot, and there are no bloody marshmallows. Fantastic.

In other news, they have Almond Mars Bars here. They taste like Mars Bars with almonds in them.

I have yet to see a marmot, but I did see a tub of authentic marmot-fat skin-cream today. Makes as much sense as anything else in the cosmetics industry, I suppose, but it does seem a little strange, marketing-wise, to put a picture of a very cute marmot on the label. Look! Isn't he cute? We killed him and mushed him up and stuck him in this jar! Buy our stuff! Hmm.

Bavaria is so picturesque that, if they weren't German, you'd suspect it were an elaborate hoax. Men really do wear lederhosen here, and the waitresses wear puffed-sleeved flouncy gingham dresses with lace aprons. Every house is covered in flowers.

Tomorrow, we shall ascend the Nebelhorn. By cable-car, of course. I am aware that some people choose to climb mountains by hand, but am of the opinion that they're all as mad as threepenny apes. Anyway, with luck, I shall see the elusive marmot.

Bye for now.



Friday, July 8

Running interference

Harry’s Place thought that it would be better to pass over without comment the contemptible statements made by the SWP and George Galloway. But they do yield something to exegesis. It is not simply that the statements reveal the extent to which the fascist left* runs interference for the Salafist Jihadists**, they are more precisely the demands of the terrorists re-phrased.

The terrorists and the fascist left are simply running a good cop bad cop routine (good cop here is a strictly relative term).

Whilst much of the focus of commentary is focussed on the seeming witlessness of those terrorist appeasers who are now prepared to repeat the Spanish syllogism, the timing of this latest attack shares with the attacks on 9/11, Bali, Madrid a keen appreciation on the part of the Jihadists of the pathologies on the left which can be exploited for common cause. 9/11 was a date that resonated with the Chomskyite left as the anniversary of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende, and the choice of the WTC and Pentagon as targets would have their own resonance amongst the anti-globalisation left and the roughly congruent Pilger-Caldicott-Chomsky left. The Bali attack (aside from making Michel Houellebecq appear prescient) was likewise nothing so much as the virulent rhetoric of the hard left made violently manifest. The Madrid bombing, aside from the initial, and forgivable confusion with the Communists of ETA, was designed as a more forceful statement of the same position as that held by Zapatero’s socialists, who one might say had their electoral asses saved by the Jihadists, and subsequently kept their end of the deal.

It is in no use saying that terrorist methods should preclude the possibility of negotiation – in Europe it is too late for that, as terrorist methods appear unable to even preclude political alliance. The ritual condemnations by the likes of Galloway et al are literally just throat clearing ahead of the inevitable delivery of the terrorist’s demands, the condemnations are just the good cop apologising for his partner’s boorishness, but he asks the same questions, and his menace is no less for being indirect.

I am almost hoping that the rumours (calling them reports would be to give altogether far too much credence to source that has done little to earn it) that at least one of those sought in connection with the bombings in London was released from Guantanomo Bay. It might just provide a moment of clarity, but then given the depressing force of the delusions peddled to us by MSM, one cannot be sure.

* fascist left - as distinguished from the decent left - of which there are still examples.
** Whilst we can talk of an anti-terrorist Islam, it is much harder to accord such status to the Salafist or Wahabist sect, which begins to more clearly emerge as nothing but the logistical and ideological tail of Islamofascism's most malignant manifestations from Sudan to the Southern Phillipines, from Finsbury Park to Peshawar, from Beslan to Baghdad.



Thursday, July 7

You know I'd love you better.

I'm off to Bavaria, land of pork and yoghurt. I intend to sleep in and eat. I also hope to see a marmot this time. I went up an Alp last time I was there, but no marmots showed themselves, the sneaky inconsiderate little devils. Marmots are great. Not quite as cute as wombats, but I can't afford to go to Australia, so they'll have to do.

Tony Blair says

It is particularly barbaric this has happened on a day when people are meeting to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa


the implication of which is that, if he hadn't been at such a terribly important meeting today, if the bombs had exploded, say, last Wednesday, it wouldn't have been quite as barbaric. Fuck you, Mr Blair. Really.

And if the prospect of days of earnestly interminable self-important pish like that doesn't make this a good time to get out of the country and switch off the news for a week, what would?

There may be the occasional bit of blogging via my phone, and I promise I'll bring back a photo of a marmot if I manage to see one. In the meantime, I leave you in the capable hands of Johan, our clever new Swiss-Swedish-Australian cattle-farming opinionator. Be nice to him, please.

Cheers.



Self-absorption.

Let's say you're in London. You hear this morning's news. You're upset — not because of what's happened, but because you yourself weren't directly involved. So you quickly make up a story about an extra attack, that you witnessed, and you call the police or the BBC or anyone who'll listen and tell them all about it. How bloody inconsiderate are these terrorists, anyway? Don't they know how important you are? How dare they arrange things in such a way that events don't focus more attention on you?

For the record, only one bus has been destroyed and there was no suicide bomber shot dead at Canary Wharf. The people who "witnessed" these events should be locked up.



The view from OZ

All channels here in Australia have been covering the London attacks, mostly by carrying BBC, Sky, ITN and CNN. The picture we are getting is of a London that has been shocked but not panicked by the attacks, the latest casualties are being reported as 50 confirmed dead (and some dweeb on BBC was calling the attacks “calibrated”), and there has been a great deal of praise for the speed and efficiency with which the emergency services have deployed.

For any expat Australians reading they should be advised that DFAT is operating a 1300 number here for family, but have advised family and friends to in the first instance to make direct contact.

My sister has a number of friends in London and could not get anyone on their cell phones, but was able to get e-mail responses to all but one enquiry, others should maybe try the same, as simply re-dialing only makes the load problem worse.



Guest Blogger Introduction

Joseph has kindly invited me to guest blog, and asked that I make a short introduction. I am a middle aged Australian geek and cattle farmer, but began life as a Swede in Switzerland, and my politics have migrated almost as far as my person. As well as sharing with Joseph a commitment to combating the current epidemic of pathological anti-Americanism, and all the shabby and malevolent ideologies that will march behind that burning banner, I have a certain affection for ferrets.

It is a terrible day, that should have been a day of celebration, but is instead marked by the tragedy inflicted by evil, despicable and barbarous men willingly in thrall to a pathological ideology. My thoughts are with Joseph, his family and friends, and all his countrymen.



They've been trying for four years.

And now they've succeeded. They only needed to get lucky once.

My sister's alive, because she wasn't at work today. My dad and step-mum often go into London, but didn't today.

And now we can look forward to hordes of bastards blaming Bush for this, or Blair, or Israel, or anyone but the people who planted the bombs. Great.



Wednesday, July 6

Olympidinium.

So, London's won the Olympic bid. Easy to say this now, of course, but I thought they would. Paris is a grossly overrated city, still cunningly hawking its own propaganda from the last time it was in any way romantic, circa 1927. City of romance? City of dogshit and prostitutes, more like. I'm not a big fan of London, but it is considerably nicer than Paris. The IOC presumably actually visited Paris, thought "Hang on: this isn't the place we saw in that Truffaut film. No, I don't want to buy a crappy beaded handbag; go away. What's that smell? Please stop shouting at me," picked London, and spent a few weeks claiming that Paris was a real contender so as not to stoke any of that dangerous Gallic ire.

(OK, to be fair, La Defence is fantastic; one of the greatest pieces of city-centresque business-district-type developments ever. And it's about as representative of Paris as Pollokshields is of Ulaanbaatar.)

Anyway, so now we're stuck with a colossal waste of our money, but I can't say I'm that bothered. Anyone who thinks that Our Beloved Government weren't going to waste a colossal amount of our money if London hadn't won the bid is a cretin, and probably smells of Paris.

And can Londoners please stop going on about how wonderful it is that their aged decrepit terribly awful public transport will finally get the investment it so desperately needs, so that they can expect a tube every minute instead of every two minutes? London has the best public transport in the UK by a mile. No, please don't tell me about the Northern Line again. I've been on the Northern Line many a time, and it's far far better than what most of Britain gets. As are London's other tube lines, buses, and trains. Anyone who thinks London transport needs more investment should get out of the bloody city for once in their lives and try using the public transport in Leeds or Glasgow or Manchester or somewhere. Londoners, you don't know how lucky you are. Oh, and you're all wankers.

David Beckham said the other day that one of the great things about London getting the bid would be that a generation of young Britons, seeing the games in their own country, would be extra-inspired to take up sports and become champions. This might have been true in the 1950s, but is probably bollocks now, thanks to the recent amazing breakthroughish invention of the televisual picture-box magic reception device, of which David may have heard. Roger Federer says that he was inspired to take up tennis by seeing Becker win Wimbledon for the first time. Federer isn't the same nationality as either Becker or Wimbledon and wasn't actually anywhere near Wimbledon at the time, but was able to watch the match from afar, almost as if the images were being electronically encoded, transmitted in the form of electro-magnetic radiation, and decoded by a machine in Federer's house. London isn't a particularly convenient destination for most of the UK, so I reckon most Britons will watch the Olympics in much the same way. That's not to say they won't be inspired by the events; just that they won't be much more inspired than they would have been watching the same games take place in... well, OK, not Paris, but somewhere nice. I wonder how many of the players by whom Beckham was inspired he saw play live? I know sod all about football, but I'd be willing to bet (for chocolate money only) that Beckham was inspired by, among other things, George Best and the bloody 1966 England World Cup Victory, and he only ever saw them on telly. Then again, maybe he has a point, in some way that I can't be bothered defining.

Oh sod it. I'm not that interested in any of this, you know.

So, anyway, yeah, Olympics, London, eh? Does this mean we have to put up with seven years of hype? I suspect so.

I'll stop now.



Tuesday, July 5

Geldof.

I like Bob Geldof. The man's sensible and realistic. All this time he's been worrying about Africa, he's kept his mind open, and has been willing to notice and admit it when a solution doesn't work. He knows that Africa's biggest problems right now are corruption and violent dictatorships, and he says as much. He's a fan of President Bush and disparaging of Clinton, because he values what people do more highly than what they say. He knows that money doesn't solve corruption (quite the opposite), so got the right idea with Live 8: pressure powerful governments to pressure African governments to reform. I think that's one of the best proposals anyone's made yet. And yet something went awry. Mark Steyn knows what:

Let's take it as read that Sir Bob and Sir Bono are exceptionally well informed and articulate on Africa's problems. Why then didn't they get the rest of the guys round for a meeting beforehand with graphs and pie charts and bullet points in bright magic markers, so that Sir Dave and Dame Madonna would understand that Africa's problem is not a lack of "aid". The tragedy of Live8 is that its message was as cobwebbed as its repertoire.


That's it, right there. Geldof's an intelligent man with a good idea, but he invited a bunch of ill-informed wrong-headed twonks on stage and forgot to tell them to shut up.

That being said, he has done a fantastic job. I have never in my life heard so many news reports about African poverty in which the problem of corruption is given such prominence. Even Radio One's vapid Newsbeat (oh, how I hate that name) spent a few minutes yesterday talking about ways to reduce government corruption, even giving the problem higher billing than the ever-popular lack of aid. My jaw hit the floor. The terms of the debate have been changed for the better. Thanks, Bob.

I wonder when Madonna will notice?


Update:

And inviting Kofi Annan on stage was an appalling mistake. Few men embody governmental corruption more.
 



Protestation.

Watched some footage of the demonstrations in Edinburgh on the news last night. What a shower of twonks.

One group had been heading towards the city's financial institutions, so, no doubt aware of the violent mania that can grip anticapitalists in the presence of banks, the police had diverted them into a side-street, shut off both ends, and kept them there for a couple of hours. They were sitting around aimlessly; it didn't look crowded and didn't get violent, but was, no doubt, an annoyance and a disappointment for the protestors. Anyway, one girl complained to camera that "We didn't expect to be stuck somewhere where there aren't even any shops to buy food for two or three hours." Obviously a truly committed anticapitalist: can't even go without shops for two hours.
 



Monday, July 4

Dissolution by stealth?

So, ID cards, eh? What a bugger. May Blunkett rot in the Hell of Eternal Furniture Rearrangement for managing to fulfill every Home Secretary's wet dream and actually get the bastard thing through Parliament.

Many people are signing this pledge thing, which is a very good idea, but flawed. The government are intending to amalgamate the ID card application process with the passport application process, you see, so the only way to refuse to register for an ID card is also to refuse to leave the country. That's not practical for all of us. Ironically, the only way to escape the intrusion of New British Uberstatism — that is, by leaving the country — will be to volunteer for the intrusion of New British Uberstatism. Or you can "escape" by allowing them to lock you in the country. Nice. Combine this with the new plans to track our every car journey by satellite, and you've got a real Stasi. Churchill was right.

Here in Northern Ireland, we have an interesting constitution, somewhat different to that of the rest of the UK. For instance, all Northern Irish subjects are equally entitled to British and Irish passports. As a general rule, Nationalists take Irish passports and Unionists take British ones. But the Northern Irish people are notoriously resistant to state bureaucratic intrusion in their lives: we have, I believe, the highest rate of TV license fee avoidance in the UK. If a mere TV licence is regarded as an unacceptable infringement of rights, what will happen to the ID card over here?

Well, I know of one staunch Unionist who is already considering taking out an Irish passport for the first time in their life. I imagine plenty more will follow. We all know the Labour Party's answer to the Irish Question. What are the chances that they won't use an increase in applications for Irish passports in the province as "evidence" that the people of the North really want to join the Republic? If I were a cynic, I'd suggest that this may have been part of the plan all along. Oh, hang on; I am a cynic. Well, then.

Of course, with the ID cards and their attendant database in place, who can say the Government won't be right? Maybe we will want out of the Union. More freedom in Eire than the UK? Bizarre, but it looks like it's going to happen. Who'd ever have thunk it?
 



The greatest player ever.

There was some discussion on the BBC yesterday about whether Roger Federer was as good as Pete Sampras. My opinion is that Sampras didn't even come close. Even if, ten years from now, Federer ends up having won fewer titles — which, on present form, looks spectacularly unlikely — he will still have been the better player.

Here's why: when you watched Sampras play, you watched to see whether he'd win. He was probably going to win, yes, but there were a handful of players, such as Agassi, who could beat him, so there was always the chance he'd lose. With Federer, you watch knowing that he's going to win. If his opponent manages to take it to four sets, that's practically a victory for them. There simply is no-one in the world right now who even stands a chance against him. Look at yesterday's final: sweat dripping off Andy Roddick as he played his heart out and demonstrated exactly why he was seeded 2, playing a game that would have decimated any other player in the world; Federer hardly appearing to exert himself at all as he pretty much ignored Roddick's brilliance and just stomped all over him. He's so good it's actually funny. Roddick was laughing.

When the big servers first came on the scene, the game got boring for a while as they aced their way through matches. And then along came Agassi, the great returner of serve, and they were buggered. Nowadays, every player can return the big serves, and the game's evened up again. Similarly, sometime in the next few years, a player will come along who has figured out how to beat Federer, and more will follow. And then the whole game is going to make a quantum leap of entertainingness: just imagine two players of Federer's quality battling it out. I can't wait.

The weird thing is that, even though every Federer match is a foregone conclusion, it's still great fun to watch. It's just amazing that anyone is that good. And he's so nice.