Sunday, October 23, 2005

If you were on trial for being a Democrat, would there be enough evidence on your blog to convict you?

Here's some news stories from this month:


No decision has yet been made on whether to replace Britain's ageing Trident nuclear deterrent, the prime minister said. But nuclear weapons remained "an important part of our defence", he said, as he appeared to rule out giving MPs a vote on the decision.


Ex-Cabinet minister Clare Short has launched a bid to give MPs the final say over whether troops go to war.

Ms Short said Tony Blair - or any future prime minister - should be forced to seek Parliament's consent for military action.

But Commons Leader Geoff Hoon kept speaking long enough to prevent a vote being taken on the bill.


Anti-nuclear protestors are being warned special police powers will be used to limit a rally on Monday.


Under the plans to drive up school standards, headteachers would be allowed greater independence from local education authorities (LEAs) by becoming 'trust schools'. They would be able to vary the national curriculum and form closer bonds with private firms.

Geoff Hoon has said he hopes Gordon Brown will be elected Labour leader without opposition when Prime Minister Tony Blair stands down.


We Lib Dem bloggers write a lot about what "Liberalism" means these days. But we seem to take the "Democrat" part of our name for granted. Yes, it may be there as a historical accident, but it should still be crucial to our identity. After a good start with the establishment of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly , Labour seem to be riding roughshod over local democracy and sometimes doesn't treat parliament correctly. One of the things that we might be able to agree with the Tories on is to give councils more independence from central control...

I think the "Democrat" part of our name is an asset that we don't use enough. Maybe we can emphasise it more often in the future...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A Dark Cloud in the East

The Telegraph reports today that former members of the Russian military are helping Iran acquire technology from North Korea. This could be used for missiles capable of hitting European capitals such as Berlin and Rome (but not London).

At this stage Putin doesn't want to take the issue to the UN Security council. I don't know why his government seems to be being so helpful to Iran . Iran doesn't have the Bomb at the moment, but if it develops it and then , like a friendly uncle, offers it to other Islamic countries, Russia has as much to lose as anyone else (except perhaps Israel).

In the next few months the British and US governments will need to speak on whether or not Iran has weapons of mass destruction. It would be good to believe what they say, but they don't have a very good track record, do they?

The Telegraph ends its chilling leader with the sentence "It is the last chance to avoid war".

After failing to get support from Putin, Condoleeza Rice meets Tony Blair today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Blogging invented by Russian in 1837 ?

The excellent Siberian Light blog quotes from Mosnews that blogging was described - if not actually invented - by the Russian Prince Vladimir Odoevsky in 1837 ! Odoevskiy was an intellectual and a science fiction writer who apparently wrote a book called "Year 4338"

According to Mosnews:

"Odoevsky suggested in future there would be a kind of connection between houses that would allow people to communicate quickly and easily, the way they do now via the Internet.

“Houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to communicate,” Odoevsky wrote.

Even more interestingly, Odoevsky suggested every household would publish a kind of daily journal or newsletter and distribute it among selected acquaintances, a habit which Russian bloggers immediately recognized as blogging.

“We received a household journal from the local prime minister, which among other things invited us to his place for a reception,” one of Odoevsky’s characters tells a friend.

“The thing is that many households here publish such journals that replace common correspondence. Such journals usually provide information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, different thoughts and comments, small inventions, invitations to receptions.”

Mosnews got this story from a Russian Blogger Ivan Dezhurny, a Russian poet and singer.

Boring additional note:
I was rather suspicious of this story - could it be a Russian April Fool , perhaps? However it seems genuine. The Black Family's battered 1961 McGraw Hill Encyclopedia of Russia and the Soviet Union describes Vladimir Fyodorovich Odoyevskiy (1804-1869) as a writer and musical critic who wrote a collection of philosophical fantasies "Russian Nights" published in 1844.

However according to a web-page I found Odoyevskiy was still in the middle of writing "Year 4338" when he died. So I'm not sure how this matches up with 1837.

But it still looks he was the first fellow to think of blogging.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Blues on Fire ... and Pier Ablaze

A Sunday of mixed emotions in Southend... United go top of League One after beating Nottingham Forest 1-0 and setting a club record of eight consecutive wins.

... and the pier - the longest pleasure pier in the world ... was seriously damaged by fire.

Leader of Southend's Lib Dems , Graham Longley, was quoted by our local paper as saying "Southend Pier is in the middle of my heart and it looks like it has been ripped out. It is our best and most prominent attraction and I feel like I have just been told an old friend has been in a serious accident"

Votes for Prisoners

Oh dear, I seem to be having one of those right-wing moments. But I am really the only Lib Dem who doesn't want to give prisoners the vote? Mark Oaten says:

"The Liberal Democrats have a longstanding commitment to lift the ban on prisoners voting. Today's ruling is not just about rights. It is about ensuring that prisoners return to their communities as responsible citizens. Telling offenders that they have no part to play in our democracy is no way to end the cycle of crime."

Is there evidence from other countries that giving prisoners the vote reduces the rate of re-offending? If so, why aren't we publicising this more? If not, can we make this about 999th on our list of priorities?

Incidentally, if this policy came in, it would make one of the ulfra-safe Tory council seats in our district rather more open , as we have Bullwood Hall young women's prison in Hockley! Would make canvassing quite interesting...

However the only good aspect of this policy is that if it had been introduced 30 years ago, it might have provided the background for a really good episode of Porridge. Fletcher - surely Labour. Godber - Liberal? Barraclough - Tory? Mackay - surely Tory too, or could he have been closet SNP?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

"During the daytime there is still freedom of movement in the UK." - Time Magazine 21.02.80

It's an important football day today, we really need to beat Austria. I can remember staying up at late as a 12 year-old watching us play Germany in 1970 and feeling utterly miserable when we lost 3-2.

But according to the brilliantly inventive Anthony Wells, it would have been far worse for our country if we had won.

What political events might follow from England doing well in the World Cup next year?

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Liberals back Lib Dem Candidate

"Sam will be a superb Councillor. I’ll be voting for Sam and I hope you will!”

See Mike Oborski's Liberal Party Website

This is apparently the first time since the split in 1996 that the Kidderminster Liberals have endorsed a Lib Dem. It's got to be good news.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Grimness Over Essex

I love my county, but I've recently heard two true stories concerning residents of my ward who haven't exactly received good customer service....

The first concerns a couple who went to a certain budget supermarket and parked their car in the supermarket car park. Unfortunately when they came back to their car they had a flat tyre and had to call the AA out to help, which took a while. As a result they spent longer than the stipulated 2 hours in the car park, and almost unbelievably, were given a £75 fine by the supermarket!

The second story is from a friend who bought a bag of chips from a fish and chip shop in Grays. The lady serving him asked if it was to eat now or to take away. My friend replied "to take away" and asked if she could put some salt and a bit of vinegar on. The response was "This isn't the F****** Hilton, it's Grays". Sad, really.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Clowns to the West of us, Jokers to the East, here we are...

US Website TPM Cafe reports that some US Neo-Cons have launched a "Committee for A Strong Europe". There's not much hard information on this, all I can find is a French-language website , A L'Heure Americaine which links to its Statement of Intent.:

We, Europeans and Americans committed to the defense and promotion of freedom in a dangerous world, have come together to create The Committee for a Strong Europe. Our belief is that a Europe whose foreign policy is strategically sound and morally grounded, and whose nations are strong economically and militarily, can be a responsible and important actor on the world stage. The United States has a deep and abiding interest in a strong, capable, and independent Europe able to wield significant influence around the globe. Our conviction is that a strong Europe can act effectively in concert with the United States to deal with the threats we face, and to take advantage of the opportunities we share to expand freedom around the globe and to shape a world in which liberal and democratic principles flourish.

Guiding Principles of The Committee For A Strong Europe

- We believe that the desire for freedom is universal--unbounded by culture, religion or geography.

- We believe that a strong partnership between the United States and Europe is crucial to the defense and promotion of freedom for all nations.

- We believe both Europe and the United States must have strong and free economies that encourage entrepreneurship and individual initiative and responsibility.

- We believe both the United States and Europe should invest adequately in their armed forces so as to have strong militaries capable of serving in a wide variety of missions around the world.

- We believe that all free nations must fight terrorism and adopt policies that challenge states that harbor or support terrorists.

- We believe that all free nations have an obligation to aid those living in tyranny, and that regimes that subjugate their own people at home will not be reliable friends and allies.

Europe's strength today risks being undermined by a lack of strategic clarity, by the threat of economic stagnation, and by declining military strength. This is not in Europe's interest, nor that of the United States. Our goal is a United States that works with Europe, and a Europe that works with the United States.

There is no doubt that the United States and Europe face major challenges today and in the years to come. But with a Europe animated by a clear sense of resolve, and a United States committed to working in genuine partnership with its European allies, the cause of liberty can prevail. We intend to work together to help it do so.

All seems admirable. But I rather suspect that when they write about a foreign policy that is "strategically sound and morally grounded" , they are basically looking for allies to back up whatever the US wants to do next.

It will be interesting to see just how significant this committee will be... there's a suggestion on A L'Heure Americaine that former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar will be the honorary president. The next question is ... will Tony Blair get involved?

Mr Blair , incidentally, sees Russia's President Putin today. The BBC reports that soon Russia will supply 50% of the EU's natural gas needs.

So exactly who is going to have more influence - the Neo-Cons to the West, or the Oil Tsars to the East?

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Apologies in advance to any South Americans

I've never been a big fan of telling jokes about the mental abilities of President Bush - I don't think it helps the situation- but I did like this one from Rambling with Roger :

Don Rumsfeld is giving George W Bush his daily briefing and tells
him that three Brazilian soldiers have been killed in Iraq.
George says
"that's absolutely terrible", is lost for words,
and holds his head in
his hands for several minutes.
His staff are amazed at the response,
and the whole room stays silent.
Finally George lifts his head from the
table and says "exactly how
many is a brazillion?"

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Far away from the problems of our little world...

I've been adding some links to more sites today .... a lot of political sites, but also to the Nome Nugget (my favourite online local newspaper - worth a look) and to a couple of sites dealing with space art and extrasolar planets. The illustrations here are from Nova Celestia. However the artwork - and the background information - at is also very good.

Walter Wolfgang's Week

AS all good bloggers know, undoubtably the lasting memory of the Labour Party Conference was the manhandling and removal of the 82 year old heckler Walter Wolfgang, a Jewish refugee from nazi Germany. Not only that , but anti-terrorism laws were then invoked by the police to deal with him.

It seemed to most people that this was an absurd over-reaction by the Labour Party and the Police and a slightly chilling reminder of the powers that they have. (As well as being a public relations disaster.) However some people have taken a different slant:

Oliver Kamm has pointed out that Mr Wolfgang isn't perhaps as saintly as some of the press makes out, and apparently belongs to such organisations as "Labour Action for Peace".

Meanwhile on Harry's Place, there's a post that begins:

I find Walter Wolfgang’s musings on the Iraq war, Kosovo, his allegiance to new millennium CND - the sick bastard child of a once noble peace movement – and membership of the Stop the War Coalition – now exposed as a front for Trotskyite supporters of fascistic child murderers in Iraq – all utterly abhorrent.

The post on Harry's Place has generated over 200 comments. I haven't read them all, but the one that sums up my views is from Stephen Marks:

Nor are Walter Wolfgang’s broader views, or the opinions of HP bloggers and commenters on those views, of any material relevance. The bouncers who threw him out, together with the young constituency chair who took his part, did not have the benefit of Oliver Kamm’s diligent research into Wolfgang’s political history. All they knew was that he had shouted ‘nonsense’ and ‘that’s a lie’ at Jack Straw - opinions which, whether right and wrong, are shared by millions of Labour supporters most of whom are neither Respect members, Turkish Stalinists or CND activists with a past record of co-operation with Communists during the Cold War.

The stewards had their instructions to eject anybody who interjected - and, it appears, to sit ‘with intent’ next to someone who muttered ‘hear hear’ during a rare speech which did express criticism of the war.

It should by now be well known that Labour conferences are almost entirely stage-managed, with constituency delegates often hand-picked by regional officers from moribund ‘rotten borough’ constituency parties and spoon-fed ready-written speeches. In many parts of the country - though not here in Oxford - the party is a moribund and hollowed-out shell.

It is this disease, of which the outrageous treatment of Walter Wolfgang is merely a symptom, which ought to be the subject of concern from a blog which claims to represent social democratic values.

Ironically one of Jack Straw’s grandparents was also a refugee from Nazi Germany - and was I believe a conscientious objector during WW2, unlike Wolfgang who volunteered for the British forces. Had he returned from the grave to heckle his grandson, he would no doubt have received the same treatment.

I do not have an immense amount of time for Jack Straw. But it seems he does mount the soapbox and hold a street meeting in his constituency at weekends. Unlike all too many of today’s politicians he could probably have dealt ably with a modest critical heckle.
Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

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