Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Timely Trek

Not bad at all.

Hat-tip: (which has some other stuff too...)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

"According to political analysts, the road ahead for President Gore is not an easy one."

I didn't expect to see this:

DEC 8 2008: WASHINGTON—In an unexpected judicial turnaround, the Supreme Court this week reversed its 2000 ruling in the landmark case of Bush v. Gore, stripping George W. Bush of his earlier political victory, and declaring Albert Arnold Gore the 43rd president of the United States of America.


I assume that this story in the Telegraph last week was true:

Muslim preacher Anjem Choudary has branded Christmas "evil" in a sermon posted on the internet.

The lawyer, who recently praised the Mumbai terror attacks, urged all Muslims to reject traditional Christmas celebrations, claiming that they are forbidden by Allah.

The 41-year-old shocked Christians and even those of his own faith by branding yuletide festivities as "the pathway to hellfire".

Choudary, who is chairman of the Society of Muslim Lawyers, ruled out all celebrations, including having a Christmas tree, decorating the house or eating turkey.

In the sermon posted on an Islamic website, he said: "In the world today many Muslims, especially those residing in western countries, are exposed to the evil celebration Christmas.

"Many take part in the festival celebrations by having Christmas turkey dinners.

"Decorating the house, purchasing Christmas trees or having Christmas turkey meals are completely prohibited by Allah.

"Many still practise this corrupt celebration as a remembrance of the birth of Jesus.

"How can a Muslim possibly approve or participate in such a practice that bases itself on the notion Allah has an offspring?

"The very concept of Christmas contradicts and conflicts with the foundation of Islam.

"Every Muslim has a responsibility to protect his family from the misguidance of Christmas, because its observance will lead to hellfire. Protect your Paradise from being taken away – protect yourself and your family from Christmas."

Choudary is Principal Lecturer at the London School of Shari'ah and a follower of the Islamist militant leader Omar Bakri Mohammed.

Earlier this year, he led a meeting at the heart of the area where the liquid bombers lived, which warned of a British September 11.

Well, he's a perfect example of the opposite of what Liberal Democrats believe in, isn't he? If so, it would be good to see a bit more condemnation from the Lib Dems of this sort of thing.

All I can say is, it's good to see that many Muslim families are apparently having turkey dinners - that's their choice, they should be free to do it.

We have to make sure that Mr Choudary continues to lose the argument- and isn't allowed to win through fear and intimidation.

I Might As Well Eat A Lot Jump

For those who'd like to know what major rock bands expect from a venue, have a look at this on the Smoking Gun website.

It's what Van Halen required..... and it's over 50 pages long.

Hat tip : Andrew Sullivan.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

8 Years Old Today

The American political site Talking Points Memo is 8 years old today.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Colin Powell Sheds A Tear

A very sober man gets a little emotional....

"It was like New Years Eve.It was like Millennium New Years Eve".

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

He Didn't Vote For Obama Today

It's a tale that you should read here. It should warm your heart...

And there's someone else with similar thoughts here.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

If You've Ever Wondered What An American Ballot Paper Looks Like.....

You can download one from Vermont, together with nearly 40 pages of candidates statements, here

8 pairs of candidates for President and Vice-President
6 for Congressman
7 for Governor
4 for Lieutenant Governor
3 for State Treasurer
4 for Secretary of State
3 for Auditor of Accounts
4 for Attorney General

Only 3 candidates for Auditor of Accounts. Not so glamorous as the other positions, maybe?

I notice that the sitting Congressman, Peter Welch, is standing for re-election as a Democratic/Republican. Huh?

Meanwhile, two of the candidates for governor stand out. One, Mike Bethel, because he seems to be an interesting guy "I am a 57-year old resident of Bennington living on disability income. I use a wheelchair, but I don’t consider myself disabled. Over the last several years, I have been an advocate for the poor, for children, and for working Vermonters"

The other, and the worst choice for me, would be Cris Ericson, who is standing as an independent for the US Congress and governorship and makes Sarah Palin look solid and knowledgeable. Ms Ericson wants to legalise cannabis but launches an anti-semitic rant about how certain doctors treat people and adds "Is Osama Bin
Laden laughing at Vermont in his cave? Is George Washington rolling over in his grave?"

However if I was a Vermonter I would probably do the more straightforward thing and vote for the Democrat candidate for governor, Gaye Symington.

Hat-tip : Volokh Conspiracy

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Month of Bad News.....

Is it just me, or is the news over the last month been a bit more depressing than usual? I don't even mean the economic situation, or global warming. I've just seen too many stories about species extinction , religious conflicts, inhumane governments and even steps to giving robots powers to control humans....

Global, Oct 6th:

Nearly a quarter of the world's land mammal species are at risk of extinction, and many others may vanish before they are even known to science, according to a major annual survey of global wildlife.

At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are threatened, with 188 listed in the highest risk "critically endangered" category. One in three marine mammals are also threatened, according to the five year review.

The "red list" assessment, conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), involved more than 1,700 experts in 130 countries, and confirms the devastating impact of forest clearing, hunting, fisheries, pollution and climate change on the populations and ranges of the world's most studied class of animals.

Ivory Coast, Oct 17th:

The population of the endangered West African chimpanzees in Ivory Coast has fallen by about 90% in less than 20 years, a study has suggested.

Researchers found 90% fewer nests than a similar audit carried out in 1990, which suggested the chimp population had crashed from 12,000 to about 1,200.

Increased levels of deforestation and poaching were likely to be main factors for the decline, they added.

Details of the survey's findings appear in the journal Current Biology.

Ivory Coast, thought to be one of the last strongholds for the species (Pan troglodytes verus), was believed to be home to between 8,000 and 12,000 individuals.

India, Oct 19th :

Hundreds of Christians in the Indian state of Orissa have been forced to renounce their religion and become Hindus after lynch mobs issued them with a stark ultimatum: convert or die.

The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.

Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council.

Afghanistan Oct 20th:

Taliban militants have stopped a bus travelling on the Afghanistan's main highway, seized about 50 people on board and slaughtered around 30 of them.

A Taliban spokesman said the militia's fighters carried out the attack in the country's south and that they had killed 27 Afghan army soldiers riding on the bus. However, Afghan officials said no soldiers were aboard and that the militants had killed civilians.

The bus was travelling in a two-bus convoy in the Maiwand district of Kandahar province, a Taliban-controlled area about 40 miles (60 kilometers) west of Kandahar city.

USA, Oct 24th

"The latest request from the Pentagon jars the senses. At least, it did mine. They are looking for contractors to 'develop a software/hardware suite that would enable a multi-robot team, together with a human operator, to search for and detect a non-cooperative human subject. The main research task will involve determining the movements of the robot team through the environment to maximize the opportunity to find the subject ... Typical robots for this type of activity are expected to weigh less than 100 Kg and the team would have three to five robots.'"

Iraq. Oct 25th:

The full scale of the persecution of Christians in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul became apparent last night when the UN's refugee agency said about 13,000 had been hounded from their homes this month - more than half of the city's Christian community.

The UN high commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) said it was sending aid to thousands of Christian refugees fleeing Mosul after a three-week campaign of killing and intimidation. About a dozen Christians have reportedly been killed in the recent violence, prompting many members of the community to seek sanctuary in churches and homes in outlying villages, or in Syria. "Many left with little money and need help," said Ron Redmond, UNHCR spokesman, in a briefing from Geneva. Christian neighbourhoods had been bombarded with threatening phone calls, letters and messages pinned to doors for months, but the killing began a few weeks ago, he said.

Zimbabwe, Oct 26th:

Mr Mambo's wife Mary was one of them, diagnosed with a kidney ailment and in desperate need of treatment which he could easily afford.

But in the cruel and surreal world of Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe the devoted husband could not withdraw his savings from the bank in time to pay doctors for the care that could have saved her life.

The hospital told him that he had to make a Z$20 million down payment before they started treatment (the equivalent at black market rates of around £7.20) - but the banks have a withdrawal limit of just Z$50,000 per day. Then he was told to buy drugs from private pharmacies to save her at the cost of Z$30 million. By the time he got special clearance from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, hyperinflation had forced up the cost of the drugs to Z$50 million.

On Thursday she died as he knelt beside her bed. But his agony wasn't yet complete. He had to transport her body back to their hometown of Chinhoyi, 80 miles away, where their three children were waiting, this time at the cost of $40 million.

"The doctors have been criss-crossing this place, watching her waste away without care," he said. "She was not a candidate for death, I have my money in the bank but they have been cruel enough to deny me access to that money."

Mr Mambo's tragedy was barely noticed in Parirenyatwa Hospital, named after the nation's first black doctor. That man's son is now the Health Minister, David Parirenyatwa, a Mugabe crony who has been accused of orchestrating violent attacks against supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wouldn't It Make Elections More Interesting If Everyone Could Vote For Themselves?

A true story from Minnesota in Politico:

A woman questioned the accuracy of the certified election results for president in 2004. It turns out she wrote herself in as a candidate for president of the United States. The Secretary of State’s office informed Joy Elaine Pendergast that her “single vote was counted, reported, canvassed and certified according to Minnesota law.” Unfortunately, the deadline for an official recount had passed. When I checked the results, indeed, a single write-in vote for Joy Elaina Graham-Pendergast is recorded in Minnesota’s official election results for 2004.

Friday, October 24, 2008

An Intelligent Assessment of The American Election

Not by a politician, but by a physicist - Alan Scott from Wisconsin. It's worth listening for seven minutes to hear his sober non-partisan analysis.

This is part of the VoteforScience You-Tube challenge

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Clegg And Blue Touchpaper

Although it's in my blogroll, I don't actually look at the Light Blue Touchpaper blog very often. It's from security research scientists at the Cambridge University Computer Laboratory.

But I did have a look this week and what do I see? "

Liberal Democrat leader visits our lab

This week, Nick Clegg, leader of the UK Liberal Democrat Party, and David Howarth, MP for Cambridgeshire, visited our hardware security lab for a demonstration of Chip & PIN fraud techniques.

They used this visit to announce their new party policy on protections against identity fraud. At present, credit rating companies are exempt from aspects of the Data Protection Act and can forward personal information about an individual’s financial history to companies without the subject’s consent. Clegg proposes to give individuals the rights to “freeze” their credit records, making it more difficult for fraudsters to impersonate others.

A party leader visiting a lab? Make's a pleasant change from reading about creationist US politicians, doesn't it?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

At Fifty : Favourite Politician That I've Met

When I was about 16, Rayleigh Liberals invited Clement Freud to our town to speak and I wandered along to listen.

Only about 15 people turned up, but Clement spoke at ease and with aplomb, and I asked a question (though I can't remember what it was). He shook my hand after the meeting and I took his photo. I was still a young Heathite Conservative back then.... it took a while for me to realise that he was on the cover of Band on The Run (see my previous post).

So he's my favourite Liberal MP that I've ever met (with Ros Scott being my favourite baroness). I still enjoy listening to him on Just A Minute.

I like his story about how he got elected:

"Politically, I was an anti-Conservative unable to join a Labour party hell-bent on nationalising everything that moved, so when a by-election occurred in East Anglia, where I lived and live, I stood as a Liberal and was fortunate in getting in. Ladbrokes quoted me at 33-1 in this three-horse contest, so Ladbrokes paid for me to have rather more secretarial and research staff than other MPs, which helped to keep me in for five parliaments."

And about his family :

During his time as a Member of Parliament, he visited China with a delegation of other MPs, including Winston S. Churchill, a grandson of the wartime leader of the same name. Freud noticed that the Communist Chinese hosts regularly gave Churchill larger, or higher status, accommodation than him. Tactfully he enquired why and was told it was because of the status of Churchill's namesake. Freud observed that this was the first time ever that he had been 'out-grandfathered'

Monday, October 20, 2008

One Day To Fifty - Some Favourite Music

Three songs that bring back happy memories, with a couple of versions of each...

Playing this on my cassette player when I was getting ready to go out as a teenager....

Playing when I got up on my first election day.....

And this has been played a lot ever since I got married..... in a happy way...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Two Days To Fifty: Favourite TV

Here's a series I always used to enjoy watching - pity there weren't more episodes made.

The show is "Shoestring" starring Trevor Eve. After having a mental breakdown he has become a "private ear" for a local radio station.....

This particular episode is called "Circle Of Uncertainty".

And then there was the justly famous Hill Street Blues - I remember watching this in the house I shared when I was a student....

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Three Days To Fifty: Two Favourite Books

I'd be interested to know how many people have heard of "Little, Big" by John Crowley.

I describe it as 'a favourite' and I normally re-read my favourites, yet I have only read it the one time, about 20 years ago. (I still have the book, protected in a plastic cover). It's just too dense a book to pick up for a casual re-reading.

It's a fantasy that's hard to accurately describe (especially after two decades!) At it's heart is an American family who live on the edge of magic for several generations. The individual family members more or less know that something magical may be going on but aren't really sure what it is. Sons are unhappy that their fathers don't tell them more. Fathers wish that they could find the right moment to tell their sons the little they know.... All is by described with a writer with a wonderful gift of language. It's a work of beauty, and I was totally gripped by it deep, veiled richness.

I really am going to have to read it again....

A book that I have read and re-read is Lois McMaster Bujold's "A Civil Campaign".

Its science fiction - with more than a hint of Jane Austen about it. Bujold has written about a dozen books featuring a character called Miles Vorkosigan, who is an aristocrat from a conservative, militaristic world named Barrayar. Miles has the advantage of coming from the second most important family of his whole planet, and has tremendous charisma. However he has the disadvantage of having brittle bones and a dwarfish physique - in a society which is repelled by deformity or mutation.

After some years as a mercenary leader operating under a pseudonym, Miles has a respectable role as one of the Emperor's investigators. All he wants to do now is settle down and marry the woman he loves, a widow called Ekaterin. However she has no idea of his feeling towards her - and a previous career as a mercenary leader doesn't exactly give Miles the right training for wooing...

The book is extremely funny in places, and the characters and the dialogue are splendid. Plus there are several serious sub-plots - Barrayaran women have about as many rights as early Victorian women, and Miles has an opportunity to improve things a little...

You can actually read the first half of the book here.

A Battleground For Her Heart

"The truth is.... I need you, I need you now more than ever"

Hat-tip: Andrew Sullivan

Friday, October 17, 2008

Four Days Before Fifty Years -Sport

Here's one of my favourite sporting memories - the 1991 World Athletics championships. Black, Redmond, Regis and Akabusi take on the USA....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Five Days Before Fifty Years

Hmmmmm. I celebrate the big Five-Oh next Tuesday ,so I'm going to be a bit self-indulgent over the next few days and post stuff about a few personal favourites.

To accentuate the alliteration of "Five Days Before Fifty Years" , I'll begin with a Favourite Film - "Frequency"

It's underated, perhaps because it's a Science Fiction / Thriller crossover that is really a film about family bonds. It can have a certain effect on grown men who lost their father when they were young.....

In this extract, John, a 1990 New York detective, has been called to a crime scene. He's feeling edgy and unhappy because he knows the following day will be the 30th anniversary of his fireman father's death.

Meanwhile in 1960s New York there's a guy who's really puzzled how someone on his ham radio could predict the details of a baseball game....

Why I'm 4 Ros

My reasons for supporting Ros Scott are very simple. I've only met her once, when she came to a small party event in Basildon back in 2006. She was warm, witty, intelligent and downright inspirational.

I can't think of anyone I'd rather see representing and galvanising our party. If only we could get her on TV every day....

Obama's Organisers

I found an article here by Al Giordano on how the Democrats are organising themselves at the grassroots level.

It's interesting stuff for political campaigners anywhere. Here's a sample:

Now that Debrah has settled into her role as one of Obama's Toledo Community Directors, she's amazed at the sophistication of the Obama structure. As a Community Director, she oversees three Neighborhood Team Leaders, volunteers who comprise the heart of Obama's volunteering infrastructure. Each neighborhood team, in turn, has up to five different coordinators: (1) the canvass coordinator; (2) the phonebank coordinator; (3) the volunteer coordinator; (4) the data coordinator; and (5) where applicable, the faith coordinator.

In Ohio, Campaign for Change State Director Jeremy Bird told us, there are 1,231 defined neighborhoods, as of August 25 there were about 800 in place, and as of Saturday approximately 1,100 NTLs had been tested and were up in operation. By "tested," Bird said, each NTL had undergone and met a series of specific challenges the field organizers had presented.

First, can the potential NTL organize a group of people? Whether by hosting a house party, a faith forum with a church group, or some other type of organizational meeting, the potential NTL needs to show they can lead the organization of their neighbors.

Second, can the potential NTL pass the voter contact test? Can he or she lead a canvass, can he or she build a group phonebanking night? It's a leadership test, built around voter contact.

Third, are they willing to make the final commitment by attending specific training for their role? Debrah Harleston smiled as she told us about the imminent blooming of satellite offices throughout the Toledo area so that neighborhood teams can begin running right in the neighborhoods autonomously.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tuvok and Barack

When I saw this biting video by American Comedian Sarah Silverman telling people to go to Florida and get their Jewish grandparents to vote Democrat....

..... I knew I had seen her somewhere before:

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Never Mind the Buzzcocks....

A song that sums up my awkward teenage years is turned into something simply delightful...

I don't know who these people are , but this is just lovely.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

An Impressive Speech

From last July - American Trade Union leader Richard Trumka makes the most memorable speech I've heard in a long time, as he attacks racism against Barack Obama.

Hat-tip : Andrew Sullivan

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Love And Life In The USA

    From todays
      John Edwards' former temporary girlfriend, Rielle Hunter, does not want him to take a paternity test. Her attorney said that she was a private person and she was convinced that Andrew Young is the father, something Young admits. Edwards says he broke off with Hunter more than 9 months prior to the birth of Hunter's daughter. How come everybody's got an attorney these days to speak for them? Is she worried about being indicted for adultery? In most states only the married person is legally guilty of adultery and it is not a crime everywhere. However, in Michigan the sentence is life imprisonment whereas in Maryland the punishment is a fine of $10.
          life imprisonment?

          Tuesday, August 05, 2008

          What Does A Taser Do To The Human Heart?

          ....the Taser, while marketed as an effective way to stop a bad guy cold without killing—and even, at times, as a women's fashion accessory—is actually a form of physiological Russian roulette.....

          An explanation here.

          Sunday, July 27, 2008

          Love And Death In The USA

          First, here's a story about love. Well, sex, anyway.

          It's from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution :

          Wendy Whitaker's name may be on Georgia's sex offender registry, but her offense suggests she is no predator.

          At age 17, while a high school sophomore, Whitaker had oral sex with a 15-year-old male classmate. In 1997, she pleaded guilty to sodomy and got five years' probation.

          Whitaker, 28, has moved twice because of the sex offender law's restrictions that say an offender cannot live within 1,000 feet of places where children congregate. Whitaker was recently told by a sheriff she must move again because her home is within 1,000 feet of a church.

          I'm thinking - she pleaded guilty to what?

          I found the story via the excellent Echidne of the Snakes blog. And the death story is from there as well. Here's a news report from Louisiana:

          WINNFIELD, La., July 23 (UPI) -- Louisiana authorities are awaiting the results of a state police report before deciding whether to file criminal charges in the Taser death of a handcuffed man.

          Baron "Scooter" Pikes, 21, was shocked nine times by officer Scott Nugent after being arrested on a cocaine charge in Winnfield earlier this year, CNN reported Wednesday.

          Nugent, who was fired as a result of the incident, may face criminal charges now that Pikes' death has been ruled a homicide.

          Winn Parish Coroner Randolph Williams says Pikes was jolted so many times with the 50,000-volt Taser that he might have been dead before the last two shocks were delivered.

          Williams said Pikes was handcuffed and on the ground when the stun gun use began.

          Nugent's lawyer says his client followed proper procedure in subduing a man who weighed 247 pounds.

          I don't imagine that "Scooter" Pikes was a nice chap. But to die at 21 like this? I don't think there are more painful ways to die than by electrocution. Let's try and ensure that when tasers are used in the UK, they save lives rather than end them.

          No Swearing.

          The Blog-O-Cuss Meter - Do you cuss a lot in your blog or website?
          Created by OnePlusYou - Free Online Dating

          Hat-tip: Roger Green

          Age Banding - Why Stop With Books?

          Having read Sara's post opposing age banding for children's books, I am wondering whether the idea could actually be extended further.

          For example - cars. I'm 49, I drive a Vauxhall Astra. It's probably the right car for me - but how about having a discreet age banding included in the model name - like, say, "Astra GT 1500 45-49?" Wouldn't that make my big car-choosing decisions so much easier in future?

          And then there's' TV programmes. Which age band is Doctor Who intended for? 8-10? 11-14? 45-49? I'm going to have to keep watching it until they tell me...

          What about food ? When our son was 12 he liked Brie. Surely that's really intended for an older person? Why can't they put an age range on the label?

          Then there's clothes. And films. And blogs. Shouldn't we forced to put a label on our blogs showing an age range? Only trouble is then is that I would probably be too old for Millenium Elephant. And too young for Lord Bonkers' Diary

          Um, maybe let's scrap the age banding idea after all.

          Friday, July 25, 2008

          A Political Poser

          Here's a question to really test your knowledge of fairly obscure politicians:-

          Which serving, democratically elected, Commonwealth Premier had previously spent time in jail after being convicted of heroin trafficking?

          Unhelpful clue: his party has the initials YP.

          Sunday, July 13, 2008

          I've Decided To Take On Obama And McCain

          Of course it's true - just see this news report:

          Belated Hat-tip : Roger Green

          Saturday, July 12, 2008

          A Site To Look Out For

          If you are going to be following the US elections this autumn, a good site to look at is

          It's main feature is a map of the USA showing the latest opinion polls for each state, and a projection of the electoral college vote based on those figures, plus some analysis.

          Thursday, July 10, 2008

          Moving The Date Of The 2009 County Council Elections

          Has anybody else seen this from the Department of Communities and Local Government:

          We are seeking views about moving the date of the English Local Elections from Thursday 7 May 2009 so that they take place on the same day as the European Parliamentary elections on Thursday 4 June 2009.

          This consultation seeks, in particular, views of councils and other stakeholders on where the balance of advantage lies - holding the local and European elections on the same day or diffferent days four weeks apart. The results of this consultation will help us reach a decision as to whether or not the 2009 local elections should be moved.

          A report on this is coming to our District Council all-Tory Cabinet next week, with a recommendation to support the switch.

          On principle I think it's better for local elections to keep their own separate identity. When I stand in a council election, I aim to fight it on council issues....

          (Incidentally, it's a little hard to find on the Communities and Local Government website anything that says it is a government department or government ministry. Somewhat confusing.)

          Monday, July 07, 2008

          How To Save Donna

          Millennium Elephant's review of Doctor Who's "Journey's End" has imspired me to write this....

          Because I really really like Donna. She's my favourite companion of all the ones I've seen - and I can just about remember Zoe as a new companion. Have a look back at Donna in say,Pompeii, and see how much enjoyed and appreciated all that she was experiencing.

          I thought the "Time Boy" moment when the new improved DonnaDoctor save the cosmos was just delicious.

          But it's not too late to save her... If there's one place that could use her talents, it's the Shadow Proclamation. (Incidentally, why didn't they appear in "Journey's End"? ) They clearly heve some understanding of her condition (they even predicted it somehow ) and if their water can help people maybe they could stabilise her.... and employ her.

          Wilf could visit her once in a while. He deserves that. And even her Mum might be impressed.

          And having Donna appearing as guest star, talking to her bunch of Judoon sidekicks in Judoon would be simply marvellous. Wouldn't it?


          Turn Left... "I'm nothing"....

          Super Temp (The Lady is Mine)...

          Emotional Donna...

          How To Save A Life....


          Don't make me go back...

          Saturday, July 05, 2008

          My Doctor Who Guesses

          Everybody's entitled to speculate on tonight's Doctor Who. Why not me?

          1) David Tennant will continue playing the Doctor - as the Time Lord will regenerate into the 11th Doctor tonight but keep his existing appearance.

          2) Donna the Temp is actually Romana, the Doctor's Time Lord companion from a long time ago. She will regenerate tonight as well ...

          Note that Richard Dawkins had a cameo last week , he is the real-life husband of Lalla Ward (pictured below), who played Romana. If so, perhaps Lalla will return to the series to play Romana again in her new regenerated form. In that case , both Tennant and Ward will be playing a new version of the character they have played before. (Does that make sense?)

          3. The First Doctor will make an appearance - after all he is the only previous version who has been to the Medusa Cascade.

          If I'm wrong on this, and Tennant is leading the series, (shame on him) then maybe the 11th Doctor will be played by Russell T Davis himself... Clues? I'ts obvious that he loves the character, he's just given up the producing role, and he's the best person who could hang around the set and not arouse suspicion :)

          You Can Read The Figures, But You Can't Comprehend Them

          From Astronomy Picture of the Day:

          "How far can you see? Even the faintest stars visible to the eye are merely hundreds or thousands of light-years distant, all well within our own Milky Way Galaxy. Of course, if you know where to look you can also spot the Andromeda Galaxy as a pale, fuzzy cloud, around 2.5 million light-years away. But staring toward the northern constellation Bootes on March 19th, even without binoculars or telescope you still could have witnessed a faint, brief, flash of light from a gamma-ray burst. The source of that burst has been discovered to lie over halfway across the Universe at a distance of about 7.5 billion light-years."

          Monday, June 30, 2008

          A Chance To See What Mugabe's Men Do To A Seventy Year Old Woman

          From This Is Zimbabwe today:

          Mike, Angela and Ben were taken by a “war vet” named Gilbert Moyo and approximately twenty thugs to Pixton Mine (Pixton Mine is currently being used as a youth militia torture camp). Implicated in the attack is a Zanu PF party member named ‘Mazambani’ and an army General.

          Cold water was thrown over them before all were beaten.

          Mike Campbell, who is 74 years old, was beaten with rifle butts. Mike has serious concussion and a broken collar bone and fingers.

          Mike’s wife Angela (70) was thrown to the ground by the abductors resulting in a double fracture of her arm/shoulder, requiring surgery. One of the militia took burning twigs from the fire and put them on her lips.

          There's photos as well.

          Sunday, June 29, 2008

          In Memory of Richard Vingoe

          Past members of Rochford District Council will have warm memories of Richard Vingoe, who was a district councillor here until 2002. He led the small Hockley Residents Association group, who were influential on the council in the 1990s and early 2000s.

          Richard sadly died last week at the age of 59, and we had a minutes silence for him at Thursday's council meeting.

          He was dedicated and honest, good company to be with, and an admirable role model for anyone wanting to serve their community. I'm so sorry I'll never see him again.

          Sunday, June 22, 2008

          Alternate Reality TV

          I'm trying hard not to turn this into a Doctor Who fansite, but last night's episode - "Turn Left" - make me think hard.

          I think it's the first programme I've seen on the BBC since "Threads" that includes a nuclear explosion in Britain. And without the obvious horror of Threads, it still illustrated how our country's civilisation could barely survive one nuclear bomb. I wonder if we are forgetting just how dreadful these weapons are - after all they were created in the time of farthings and 78s and Vera Lynn.

          So much for classing Doctor Who as escapist.

          For those who enjoyed the episode, here's a really good podcast that I've found about it.

          Sunday, June 08, 2008


          Henley wasn't Boris Johnson's first choice of parliamentary seat- he tried to become Conservative PPC for Rayleigh, my home town, but Mark Francois was selected by the local party instead.

          If that had happened, we might well have a by-election right now here instead....

          DON'T Watch This

          Unless you've already watched the whole of the two episodes already. This is the ending of what is probably my favourite Doctor Who story:

          But you can watch this, which is the very beginning....

          "Dying gives us size!" .


          Friday, June 06, 2008

          A Quick Check

          That's a relief....

          Thursday, June 05, 2008

          A Disgrace To A Liberal Party?

          I thought this was a liberal party, that supported the right of people to protest. Even when you disagree with them.

          Especially when you disagree with them.

          Doesn't seem to be happening here ......

          Tuesday, June 03, 2008

          Border Skirmishes Between Religion and Science

          Here's three American websites I've been looking at lately.

          The first is CONSERVAPEDIA - the "Trustworthy Encyclopedia". For me it's an example of religion trying to trample all over science. I know that other Lib Bloggers have mentioned it before, but it's worth a second look. - or second warning. Don't think of it being a Conservative website in just political terms, they are sixteenth century or worse in what they think of science. Not only are they trying to dump evolution, they are trying to dump modern astronomy.

          Here's an extract from their article on the moon:

          Atheistic theories of the origin of the Moon, widely taught for decades despite lacking the falsifiability requirement of science (see Philosophy of science), have been proven false.[8] Lacking any other atheistic alternatives, some scientists assert that the Moon originated from a collision early in Earth's history which created an orbiting ring of debris from the iron-poor surface of the planet which eventually coalesced into the moon.[9] This theory, however, is contrary to key observations of the Moon, such as the relatively low levels of iron in the Moon's crust. Additional tests fail to support the atheistic theory.[10]
          Biblical history records the Moon being created on the fourth day of creation week, along with the Sun.....

          .....Humphreys determined that the basalt had been laid down about 370 years after creation, and the brecchia had been laid down 1840 years after creation, or about 190 years after the Flood.[19] These findings clearly suggest that the Moon, and presumably all other bodies in the solar system, have been subject to two separate system-wide bombardments, one occurring in the second or third generation after the fall of man and the other occurring well after the Flood.
          Note the equivalences here:

          modern accepted science = atheistic science
          atheistic science = bad

          A while back the Onion website did a nice piece of satire on creation science:

          KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

          "Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

          Trouble is, the satire isn't that different to what's on Conservapedia:
          Everything in the universe that has mass attracts every other thing that has mass. The mechanism which transports this force has never been observed, scientists have created the graviton, a hypothetical particle, in order to uphold the naturalistic explanation absent of a supernatural force.
          They haven't found a supernatural force, but they are still hoping for one.

          Turning away from Wikipedia, there's STARDESTROYER.NET a forum which invotes you to "Get your fill of sci-fi, science, and mockery of stupid people" - I think by 'stupid people' they mean the type that trust Conservapedia.

          There's a lot of SF stuff here, some interesting science news, some copies of correspondence with creationists and some interesting writing. Probably the one item that would upset the Conservapedia people most is this ongoing work of fiction entitled Armageddon???? in which Satan tries to claim Earth as his own, but meets unexpected resistance from the combined armed forces of the USA, Russia, Britain, Singapore, Al Qaeda.... It also makes Gordon Brown , George Bush and especially Bill Clinton into heroes. You might say it's a case of science trying to trample over religion.

          In this early extract, the Royal Navy take on a demonic sea-monster:

          “Hit it again. Full power to the forward sonar transducers.” The contact had been settling down when the second pulse hit it. If anything the threshing was even worse than with the first pulse. “That’s a Baldrick, no doubt. Weapons, fire tubes one and two. Target that thing.”

          Taking four tons off the extreme end of the moment arm caused Astute’s bow to dip. It didn’t matter to the torpedoes, they were already out and climbing to the shallower water near the surface. Once there, they kicked up to 81 knots and ran out to the estimated position of the target. At that point they dropped their guidance wires and dived vertically on the contact below them.

          A shaped charge can penetrate six times its diameter; that gave the pair of Spearfish torpedoes a theoretical penetration of 126 inches. In fact, they did a bit better than that, blasting deep cavities in Ralaraspanathsis’s back, severing his spinal column and burning deep into his vital organs. His body tissues, vaporized by the blast, sprayed out and down, searing and cooking his internal organs and bursting open the swim bladder that kept him afloat. Crippled and dying, he felt himself floating upwards towards the surface. Confusion filled his mind, he was a herald. How could they have done this?

          “Well, there’s no doubt about, we just scored a Baldrick.” A cheer went up around the control room. Ever since Prime Minister Gordon Brown had quoted ‘Blackadder’ in his initial announcement, the British had taken to calling the denizens of hell, ‘Baldricks’. It had a nice, contemptuous air about it, one that was beginning to catch on. “Number One, take the boat to the surface, we need to collect samples.”

          Finally, I found the LIBERTE EGALITE TRIVIALITE BLOG described as "Random screeds about... you know... stuff, from a heathen atheist bleeding-heart liberal ex-mormon rationalist in the heart of the reddest state." It's just a.... blog, but there's some nice stuff there on Dr Who and an interesting account from the author of the blog on how science. pornography, cinnamon oil and the Mormon faith clashed in his teenage years. It's worth a look, even if only to say hi to a liberal Dr Who fan in Utah.

          Sunday, May 25, 2008

          How To Measure The Speed Of Light Using Your Microwave

          You need some marshmellows as well.....

          It seems an ideal home experiment for a bank holiday, and it's fully explained here.


          Saturday, May 10, 2008

          The Doctor's Daughter

          Well, if this wasn't going to get me blogging again, nothing would....

          A very cool trailer, a shame that the episode didn't really live up to its potential. But then again, Dr Who is always more than the sum of it's parts, and this episode has certainly added a new part.

          I half-guessed the age of the war - the technology for creating troops certainly made such a time-span possible. But I can't quite work out how the General got to look so old... nor how he picked up his accent.

          Sunday, April 13, 2008

          Pratchett and Accolades

          From the Telegraph today:

          "For years I have been asking why one of the greatest satirists who ever lived - in this country or any other - is consistently ignored by those who ought to be lionising him. I'm talking about Terry Pratchett, who may have the financial rewards commensurate with his talent - but where are the Booker prizes, or the Whitbreads ? Where are the literary accolades? Whenever he's interviewed, it's usually with a faint air of surprise that someone who writes fantasy can be so erudite and funny."

          Can we please keep Pratchett in mind the next time we vote for "Liberal Voice Of the Year"?

          Monday, March 24, 2008


          Just watch this. Pure joy:

          Hat-Tip : Andrew Sullivan

          Sunday, March 23, 2008

          A Liberal Government In Britain in 1948?

          For those who like alternative history, here's a timeline where Archibald Sinclair leads a Liberal Government. It's not a very nice world though:

          The 10th Duke of Devonshire paced his rooms in a silent fury. How dare the BBC relay this disgusting rubbish out of Germany ?! But ever since the Liberal victory in the aftermath of the economic collapse, the UK had been to Hell in a hand-basket. He fairly shook with anger. To think that his own eldest son had perished fighting these bastards, killed by the nuke that exploded above the invasion fleet in the Channel ! And now this, this indescribable appeasement ! For he was sure that was what this was - a New Appeasement, as the right-wing newspapers had it

          He came to the window overlooking the main road, and stood stock still. The interpreter's voice still relayed Goering's words to his ears, but now he observed the scene on the road outside. He frowned at the sight of an Alvis sitting at the turning, all burgundy-and-cream, pre-war colours if there was such a thing. Had its owner hidden it during the years of blackout, or was it newly repainted ? No, it did not seem to be; he could see scratches along its side. How odd...

          Sunday, March 02, 2008


          .... It's been over a month since I posted anything.


          Partly , it's spending too much time at the keyboard doing other things, such as Facebook. But I haven't looked at Facebook for a while now either.

          Normal Service will resume in a while.

          Sunday, January 20, 2008

          Something They Didn't Predict...

          "We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control, the publication of The Astrological Magazine will cease with the December 2007 issue."

          Hat Tip: The Volokh Conspiracy

          Saturday, January 12, 2008

          How It Might Have Been for Harold, Iain and Jo.

          For fans of alternative histories:

          From La Libre Belgique, Friday 23rd October 1964:

          Du chaos en Outre-Manche

          The attempts by M. Wilson to form a new and stable government in Britain were given fresh impetus by the demands of his new coalition partner, the Liberal leader M. Grimond.

          M. Grimond has called for Parliament to vote next Tuesday on Proportional Representation, his condition for remaining in the new government. He has also told M. Wilson that he expects the new Prime Minister to force a three-line whip upon Labour MPs, of whom a sizeable grouping seem extremely opposed.

          Tomorrow, M. Wilson was due to oversee the independence ceremony of the colony of Northern Rhodesia. However, it appears that a Lord will be sent in his absence as he attempts to bring some stability to his own country.

          Follow the unfolding story here at the Alternate History Discussion Board.

          Sunday, January 06, 2008

          The Truth Shall See Ye Fret

          Pratchett not included in "Liberal Voice of the Year" poll.

          My First Post on the 2012 American Presidential Election

          It might be carried out on a more even basis:

          "A Stanford University computer scientist named John Koza has formulated a compelling and pragmatic alternative to the Electoral College. It’s called National Popular Vote (NPV), and has been hailed as “ingenious” by two New York Times editorials. In April, Maryland became the first state to pass it into law. And several other states, including Illinois and New Jersey, are likely to follow suit.

          How NPV works is this: Instead of a state awarding its electors to the top vote-getter in that state’s winner-take-all presidential election, the state would give its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. This would be perfectly legal because the U.S. Constitution grants states the right to determine how to cast their electoral votes, so no congressional or federal approval would be required. NPV could go into effect nationwide as soon as enough states pass it (enough states to tally 270 electoral votes—the magic number needed to elect a president). In 2008, NPV bills are expected to be introduced in all 50 states.

          “We’ll have it by 2012,” says Robert Richie, executive director of the reform group Fair Vote.....

          ....Illinois is the quintessential example of the flaws in the current system. As a safe state for Democrats, both major party candidates ignore it. There is little motivation to campaign there since the winner in Illinois gets only 21 electoral votes and the loser gets nothing. As a result, Illinois voters play virtually no role in shaping the issues of the election".

          Hat-tip: Echidne of the Snakes

          Tuesday, January 01, 2008

          Finding Common Ground Between Christians And Atheists

          I've found a semi-serious list of 10 things that Christians and atheists can agree on. For example, no 3:

          3. In Everyday Life, You're Not That Different

          You Christians, if the transmission in your Camaro explodes, are you going to use prayer to reconstruct it? No, you'll call a mechanic. When your tooth hurts, you don't assume it's possessed by demons. You look for a cavity. Basic, everyday troubleshooting.

          Well, at the very worst, the atheists are just applying the same common sense, real-world troubleshooting to the God question. At the creation of the universe and in the heart of mankind, they expect to find the same physical, tangible answers they'd find inside a burnt transmission. If they're wrong about God, they're only wrong in that they've taken the tried-and-true troubleshooting we all practice one step too far.

          On the other hand...

          Atheists, even if you reject the idea of God completely and claim to live according only to the cold logic of the physical sciences, you all still live as if the absolute morality of some magical lawgiver were true.

          No, wait. Don't go away.

          When some guy hustles you out of eighty bucks in an ebay scam, you don't nod and say, "Interesting! This fellow lacks the genetic predisposition toward equitable dealing that generations of sexual selection in favor of social behavior has instilled in the rest of us! A fascinating difference!"

          No, you think what that guy did was wrong. You want justice. You think he should have acted differently.

          Even though there's no "wrong" molecule floating in the air and there's no "justice" element on the Periodic Table. You don't think of the swindler as just a fellow animal who happens to behave differently than you. You think he should have acted some other way, according to an invisible ideal that everybody is aware of and knows they should obey.

          When that "boob at the Super Bowl" incident happened a while back, I constantly heard atheists making fun of Christians and their puritan silliness over sex. "Come on! It's just meat! We're all just mammals! Sex is natural! What are you afraid of?!?!?"

          Yet, the moment you find out that while you were on vacation, your girl got drunk and slept with the entire Chicago Bears...

          I've also found, on the smae website , a very funny list of the 9 most badass verses of the Bible. Not for biblical literalists.

          Is It Time To Commission An Opinion Poll On Faith Schools?

          There have been some very interesting discussions on Lib Dem Voice about how our party should interact with religious organisations and what we think about faith schools in particular.

          I noticed one comment there (no 53) that official party policy is against faith schools - which is something that isn't often mentioned.

          This issue isn't going to go away, especially if there is a likelihood of more faith schools being established. If more Islamic schools are going to be established, are they going to be based on priciples like this of the International Board of Research and Resources - "a brainchild of a group of Muslims stimulated into action by Brother Yusuf Islam.":
          The primary sources of Islamic Education are universally recognised as follows:
          1. The Qur’an
          2. The Sunnah / Hadeeth
          The secondary source of Islamic Education includes Ijtihad which is the interpretation and analytical deduction of scholars based on the primary sources of Knowledge, the Qur’an and Sunnah. This category of knowledge incorporates Ijma’ (consensus of the scholars); Qiyas (analogy); Istihsan (juristic preference); Istihslah (public interest); ‘Urf (common customs); the sayings of the Sahaaba and History.

          I wouldn't like to see this as the basis for a British child's public education in maths, english, geography history, science etc. Neither do I want to see American-style battles over the teaching of evolution or even skirmishes with advocates of 'creationist physics'

          Should we move out of the 'comfort zone' on this? Should it be in our manifesto for the next election to bring an end to faith schools? Or to put a freeze on the creation of new ones? I don't know. But I would really like to see the party commission a pollster to ask the public a question like this:

          What policy would you like to see the government take on state-funded state schools?

          1) Create ,if requested, more new state-funded 'faith' schools for the children of Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Muslim and Sikh parents;
          2)keep the existing ones open but not open any new ones except in exceptional circumstances;
          3)turn all the existing faith schools into 'normal' state schools?

          with the follow-up question:

          If the Liberal Democrats adopted the policy you prefer, would you be more likely to vote for them?


          "Uncertainty is the word I would use to describe the mood around Kenya this morning in contrast to fear and anger last night."

          If you want to read some Kenyan blogs, Global Voices Online is a good place to start.

          Bowling For Soup At My Age

          Is it inevitable that my favourite music is still mostly from the 70s and 80s ?

          I joined Facebook last week and when doing the music quiz on ilike I had to listen to a lot of bands I'd barely heard of before.

          My favourite is definitely Bowling For Soup. Their '1985' is ironically enough, about someone whose musical tastes, and indeed entire dreams, are still trapped in the 1980s (devotees of Robert Palmer will enjoy the parody here):

          And "High School Never Ends" is a wry reflection that adult life isn't much different to school '

          Then when you graduate
          You take a look around and you say HEY WAIT
          This is the same as where I just came from
          I thought it was over
          That’s just great
          The whole damn world is just as obsessed
          With who‘s the best dressed and who‘s having sex,
          Who‘s got the money, who gets the honeys,
          Who‘s kinda cute and who‘s just a mess'

          This is a very witty video, but those of a sensitive disposition, (especially after last night) may not want to see the simulated vomiting scene near the end:

          Maybe Facebook is going to keep me young....
          Chris expresses his own views on this weblog.

          I write this blog in a private capacity , but just in case I mention any elections here is a Legal Statement for the purposes of complying with electoral law: This website is published and promoted by Ron Oatham, 8 Brixham Close , Rayleigh Essex on behalf of Liberal Democrat Candidates all at 8 Brixham Close.