And now, a word to .....
...... the morons at goingfree.com (I won't gift them with a direct link).
Do not send me super-duper-freebie-special-offer e-mails using the title "CV for your attention". (US readers: CV= Curriculum Vitae = Resume) I have a very busy mailbox and do not wish to have my time wasted.
You have made yourself look like a bunch of f**kwitted, scumbag, bottom-feeding dickheads and made me tell everyone I know (and we've had 11,000 unique visitors this month) never to open e-mail from you, and certainly not to buy from you.
That is what you intended, isn't it?
FURTHER THOUGHTS: I don't actually object to them sending me spam e-mail, although I hate the bloody stuff. I object to their deception. They lied to me in order to increase their chances of getting the e-mail read. As a result, they leave me questioning the code of ethics the operate under. They will obviously do anything to get a customer and, as a consequence, I don't trust them as far as I can spit a rat.
UPDATE: It seems that goingfree.com had their e-mail lists raided. Details here.
The best argument we've heard yet
We were going to cover the appearance of Iranian journalist Amir Taheri on the UK's Channel 4 TV station. He details the best argument we've heard so far for ousting Saddam Hussein.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on which way you look at it) Steven Chapman has already done a jolly good job of it.
His view, in summary, is that Western governments (he singles out the US and UK in particular), through their support for Saddam against Khomeini in the 1980s, helped to create the Saddam we know and loathe today. He went on to remind us that our governments knew about Halabja as it was happening, and that after the Gulf War they left the Kurds and Marsh Arabs swinging in the breeze - to their great cost. The thrust of his argument was that we needed to make amends for our former inaction and acquiescence by removing Saddam and giving Iraq back to the Iraqis. We - quite literally - owe it to them.
Go read it. If you're unthinkingly anti-war, we dare you to read it.
He's on Blog*Spot and the archives are playing up again. Look for the article Monday, September 30, 2002: Iranian journalist and editor of French journal Politique Internationale Amir Taheri has just been on UK Channel 4
International Criminal Court - seeking compromise
The BBC reports that European Union (EU) foreign ministers are attempting to reach an agreement over the ICC that will allow the US to sign up for it.
We here at Group HQ, to use a colourful phrase, think they're pissing into the wind.
The main point under discussion is related to those (mostly third world and poor) countries that have already struck deals with the US, agreeing not to prosecute US citizens for war crimes. It has been suggested that a clause be written into the ICC rules allowing EU member states to enter into similar agreements with the US under "certain conditions".
We feel this will annoy everybody, and fail in its purpose. Why?
Supporters of the ICC will say that it seriously undermines the intent of the court. (Which is true - it would)
It does nothing to address the most serious problem from the US's point of view: the US has a constitution, generally regarded as be carved ins tone by its citizens. The US says it would have to go against its own constitution to submit to the ICC.
There is also the minor stumbling block of the US not trusting the politics of most European nations as far as it could spit a sperm whale.
ADDITIONAL: In comments, Steve Gardetto asks:
A month or two ago there were reports in the Blogosphere that France had obtained a 7-year ICC exemption for itself on the QT. Did that ever get confirmed or is it a myth?
The atmosphere intensified on Friday, when France revealed that its ratification of the ICC convention included the activation of a special clause that would grant French military personnel immunity against ICC charges for seven years.
France has already both signed up for, and ratified, the agreements that allow for the International Criminal Court - with the special clause.
Why are those (large) parts of the world that are up in arms about the USA not wanting to sign up for the ICC, for very similar reasons, not shouting at France? Hello?
US authorities have arrested a Bulgarian man who tried to board a flight armed with two box cutters and a pair of scissors in his backpack.
The 21-year-old man was swiftly hauled away after authorities at the Atlantic City, New Jersey, international airport found the scissors hidden in a bar of soap, and the box cutters in a bottle of lotion.
Which all sounds pretty serious - similar weapons to the 9/11 hikackers and intentionally concealed. It is difficult to come up with an acceptable reason for the concealment. At the very least, the suspect is an idiot prankster.
Countries will be allowed to declare bankruptcy
Ananova reports that countries crippled by debt will be allowed to declare bankruptcy, allowing them to re-negotiate terms with their creditors.
This is radical stuff, although it is, perhaps, the only reasonable way of solving the problem.
It is critical that mechanisms are put in place to stop the process from starting up again. We have no doubt that there are leaders of countries who would happily use the debt relief to borrow more money for their despotic ends.
Why we love this .....
..... little one horse town by the sea, as we call the hometown of Group HQ. This was originally posted by us over at Suli's blog: Get Your Drawers On, but we do like to share.
Here's one reason:
Both views are less than 5 minutes walk from Group HQ. Both pictures are taken from the same spot - I turned 100 degrees after taking the first to get the second. The sea there is the English Channel. The smudge on the horizon is France. The cliffs are the White Cliffs of Dover. Beautiful, no? Our little town does have its problems, but it has great location.
Our winters aren't too cold, and our summers never too hot. The constant sea breeze means our air quality is high, and the culinary (and other) delicacies of France are close by.
'tis time to talk of many things: quantum evolution
The origin of life
Fossil bacteria can be found in the most ancient intact rocks, which date to about 3.5 billion years ago.
How long would it take a simian typist banging wildly on the keys to type out the entire text of Hamlet? The answer is forever.
The two-slit experiment.
The world isn't entirely real.
The 'multiverse' interpretation, every possible event that happens in this universe, a host of alternative events happen in other universes. Everything possible happens in a 'multiverse' of parallel universes. (Heinlein would love that one)
The creationists can dismiss their bands of typing monkeys. Quantum mechanics guarantees life's emergence.
Go read The Blind Bookmaker article on TCS: Europe - it blew me away with it's its (stupid!) simple explanation of complex ideas.
Broadband: Let's party like it's 1999!
No, let's not.
This BBC technology report explains the perils of getting broadband on the cheap. The comparison is with the large numbers of garage-based ISPs that came out of the British woodwork 3 years ago, all offering fixed-rate, unlimited access. Most of them have gone bust of course.
Bill Thompson suggests we may be about to see a similar sorry tale with broadband providers.
Meeting the Kilshaws
Remember this couple? They were the ones who purchased two baby girls from America, then adopt them. In a case that attracted worldwide attention, and caused the Kilshaws to be vilified, a British court ordered the babies returned to the US almost 2 years ago.
The Kilshaws allowed a TV team to make a "Meet the Kilshaws" documentary last year which, we suspect, was intended to salvage their reputations. Instead, it only served to make matters worse.
Three months ago, Mr Kilshaw was struck off as a solicitor (meaning he can no longer practice the legal profession) when he was found to be using clients money to support his overdraft.
The latest twist to this [sarcasm] high class act [/sarcasm] can be read about here.
It's too early to get really excited, but .....
..... United States researchers say they have detected a group of proteins that naturally blocks HIV from developing into AIDS, a discovery that promises to revolutionise treatment for the deadly disease.
There's no escape
Russia is preparing to take its first post-Soviet census. They are pulling out all the stops to ensure that everyone is included. The Soyuz capsule currently en route to the International Space Station is carrying census forms for the Russian cosmonauts on board.
Why do men like Doctor Strangelove?
My 3 regular readers by now understand that the nom de blog of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake VC, AFC, DSO, CBE RAF (retd.) is the name of a major character from the movie Doctor Strangelove. This is one of my all-time favourite movies and Ed Driscoll and I can quote the entire movie between us. (Much to the chagrin of Ed's wife, the lovely Nina.
Ed has written an excellent review of the movie
here, on Blogcritics, and attempts to answer the above question. Take a look.
Some of my favourite lines from the movie:
"Mandrake! Get over here, the redcoats are coming!" (Mandrake, of course, is one of the redcoats)
"Gentlemen! You can't fight in here - this is the War Room!"
Prince Charles crossing the line? This article in the Times raises an issue that bothers some of us: royalty becoming involved in politics.
The main points covered in the article are:
The Prince of Wales defied his advisers yesterday by vowing to continue lobbying the Government on political issues.
In the growing war of words over the leak of his private letters to ministers, the Queen has expressed concern that her son is coming dangerously close to breaching the convention that the Monarchy does not get involved in party politics. The Queen saw the Prince at Balmoral on Monday.
Downing Street has also become angry about claims that the Government was responsible for the disclosures and about royal sources who have criticised the "lack of confidentiality".
Mr Blair’s official spokesman said that ministers always welcomed Prince Charles’s views. He added that the first time Downing Street had become aware of the leaked hunting letter was when it was contacted by the Mail on Sunday. "We said then, as we have said ever since, that we never comment on exchanges between the Prime Minister and any member of the Royal Family."
St James’s Palace yesterday issued an unusually strongly worded public statement confirming the Prince’s intention to carry on writing. "It’s part of the Royal Family’s role to highlight excellence, express commiseration and draw attention to issues on behalf of us all," it said.
"The Prince of Wales takes an active interest in all aspects of British life and believes that, as well as celebrating success, part of his role must be to highlight problems and represent views in danger of not being heard. But this role can only be fulfilled properly if complete confidentiality is maintained."
Sir Michael strongly believes that all correspondence from senior members of the Royal Family should cease when a contentious policy is agreed by the Government of the day and he is said to have been appalled by Prince Charles’s outspoken description, in his letter to Mr Blair, of farmers being treated worse than ethnic minorities. The Prince has written to most major Government departments in recent months, covering issues ranging from the design of buildings to the plight of Tibet. No other member of the Royal Family lobbies ministers in the same way, although Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother was known to send letters on a variety of subjects.
The Prince probably writes most frequently to Mr Blair, but he has also recently lobbied Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary; Margaret Beckett, Environment Secretary; Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary; David Blunkett, the Home Secretary; and Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary. One minister told The Times: "It’s very difficult to know what to do when he contacts you. I’m sure he feels he is doing what he thinks is right and on some things, he does have useful experience or contacts. But there are a lot of people out there with specialist knowledge and they have to go through the proper channels. While you can’t treat the heir to the throne like any other lobbyist, that is what he is in danger of doing sometimes."
There are growing fears that the row could fuel Labour’s republicanism. The Fabian Society is already conducting a review into the future of the Monarchy, which is expected to include questions about whether perogative powers can be justified when a monarch takes a political position on controversial issues.
Ian Davidson, Labour MP for Glasgow Pollock, told the BBC: "If he wants to be involved in politics, then he should consider standing for election. Let’s not kid ourselves that Prince Charles is a representative of ordinary people. This is someone who was born with a mouthful of silver spoons, a mega-wealthy farmer looking for things to do, so he fires off letters."
The Prince, like all the royal family, is unelected. He is not the only person in the country with a wealth of experience and good contacts. Why should he be able to use his position to gain unfair access to the ear of the government when many others can't?
The problem could solve itself in time - if he keeps this up, politicians will eventually decide to abolish the royals and make us a republic (presumably).
We are reminded of a current TV commercial in the UK. It assumes that the Duke of Wellington failed to defeat Napoleon at Waterloo (perhaps Blucher's German army never appeared). It shows Buckingham Palace as Le Palais Hotel and Casino, amongst other things. Most amusing.
Nigerian scam artists: an explanation
This BBC report may explain why the Nigerian scam artists exist at all - they may be government funded (we think). The late military ruler is thought to have embezzled some 3 billion GBP (US $ 4.5 billion) and placed it in Swiss banks.
The article tells how a deal to get it back has collapsed.
The country must be going broke - they need money desperately. Perhaps civil servants are operating the e-mail scam?
That, or the unreleased Swiss account money is where the payoffs to the idiots who fall for the scam are hiding?
Venus, a haven for life? Venus?
Venus? Are we talking about the same Venus? Second planet out from the sun Venus? Venus of the scorchingly-hot surface? Venus of the acid-laced atmosphere?
This ABC report about a New Scientist article says it's possible.
A letter from germany
Monika is a German friend of Group HQ and is heavily involved in politics in her home city of Koln (Cologne). We asked her to write something we could publish about the recent elections there. She, and many other germans, are really pissed-off with the comments coming out of America and, in the interests of balance, we are very happy to publish her thoughts.
She speaks English very well, and writes it quite well. She did say we could correct her grammar and spelling if we wanted to but, in an attempt to ensure the flavour of her words isn't changed, we've decided to publish it verbatim.
Discuss. There will be a test.
Have you realized what did happen here? This american president, overestimating himself as usual, did try to interfere into german elections. Schroeder had said all the time, he didn't want a war with iraq, but Bush just started to moan about it, when the statistics for schroeders party seemed to get better again. IMO this is a real scandal. What does he think he his? Aladdin in his lamp? And what does he think we are? (just in case he can remember the name of our country) A couple of half-civilized idiots who paint themselves green when some aeroplane throws bananas at us?? Really, one could say I'm a bit angry about all this. But let me start at the beginning:
In 98 Schroeder and his party (SPD - Social Democrats in Germany)won the general elections. He won because Helmut Kohl was there for 16 years and people wanted a change. They would have elected a tennisracket, if it had just "SPD" in big letters on it. In 98 we were shown films and spots from Blairs campaign. Schroeder was to be the first politician who started an american-like election campaign. It worked. Schroeder promised many things. He promised better and lower taxes, he promised to reduce the unemployment at 20%, he promised more rights and more money for families and such little things like justice, fairness and solidarity. (Blair must have been about the same in his promises, wasn't he?)
Schroeder started with fun and activity, but, also like you once told me about Blair: He put his fingers on everything and didn't one thing til the end. Here it was about the same. Schroeder did some things really good: He made a law that no new nuclear power plants (is that right? I mean the kind of thing Homer Simpson works at) allowed and let the existing 30 years to run out; he made a law that allowed homosexual people to have a marriage-like ceremony (and having them benefit from rights like they were married) and many other things I really like. After 16 years of opposition everyone had to learn how to lead a country. Then Kohl, the ex-chancellor had his donations-scandal and his conservative party (CDU - christian democratics in Germany) had the worst crisis they ever had. Thy canged a lot of the leading heads. A woman now leads the party. Schroeder is confronted with the kosovo conflict and many people condemn him for going into this war.
Sure - Schroeder did not reduce unemployment at 20%. How could he? First there is the global economic which is down. Then it was - clearly a real stupid thing to promise such a rubbish . There once was a wise man who said that politicians still believe the story politicians could *make* jobs. They simply can't.
At the beginning of this year the campaigns started. The parties declared their candidates. The CDU is unsure if the Woman (Angela Merkel) should do it of the Bavarian (Edmund Stoiber). Stoiber wins the internal fight and becomes candidate. He is not a member of the CDU. Stoiber is a member of the CSU which is a sister-party of the CDU. The CSU is only to find in Bavaria. There she usually has a 60something% majority. Bavaria is what many americans think all germans are - wearing Lederhosen, eating Weisswurst and having Oktoberfest. Most Bavarians are not to understand for a western german like me (living in cologne). They talk a terrible dialect and are mostly known for their "clean country" for their sepraratism and for them having a pretty well working economy - now. They do not have so many big cities, Bavaria is one of the more farmer-oriented parts of germany. Some of the jaded western people like me see the Bevarians a bit like "Rednecks", I think. Edmund Stoiber is not a guy you like from first sight. Do you remember the child in your class who was always the best, got the best marks and was teachers darling? Who never helped others at tests and that? Did you like this child? Then you see, how many germans think about Stoiber. He's about the same part of guy.
He stands for: Harder politics against foreigners, harder politics against people who get welfare money, back to nuclear energy, away with equal rights for homosexuals, no to abortion and his opinion about women would really be progressive - at about 1950! He wants to run after George Bush and lick the marks his boots let in the sand, some years ago he stated lots of really hard anti-european points, which he now never repeats.
How did people percept both candidates: Schroeder is clearly the better showman. Cameras love him. He is cool and interviews are pretty good with him. Stoiber has problems with cameras. He starts to stutter at interviews, forgets and confuses names at talkshows, forgets even the word "Germany" at an interview. He stumbled when he entered a stage and programs showed it again and again. If the election would have been at June, Schroeder would have lost it. The big companies and all people with money expected more help from Stoiber and so made atmosphere against Schroeder. Stoiber seemed to be the man who could get the parts together and bring germany at th e (deserved) top again. But then the flood came. Stoiber couldn't cope with that, because he was unable to react only half as spontaneous as Schroeder can. Schroeder already is into the water until the hip when Stoiber just starts to think about getting a car and coming there.
People remembered that one reason for the flood was the neglecting of the environment of the river. They made the river "straight" to increase the flood speed. People remembered the green party and next to topics like "Employment"; "Economy" came the topic "Ecology". Stoiber simply had nobody in his competence-team who could say a clear word about "green" stuff. That was one of the things costing him votes.
The other thing was his partner - the Liberal party in germay. It was clear that the CDU could only win with the Liberal Party (FDP) as little compagnion. They have one man in their leading team who likes to get press-attention with anti-semitic (anty jewish) statements. He made a flyer in which Sharon and one jewish journalist in germany were shown and kinda said this are assholes and they are it because their jewish. This did cost the FDP lost of votes.
So again the question - why did George W. Bush interfere into a democratic election? And why did he wait just until after the flood, when the chances for SPD started to get better??
So, don't take exception to her language - german is her first - but feel free to attack the ideas if you want. Remember the comments only hold 2,000 characters so, if you want to write a tome, e-mail it (Link at upper left) and we'll post it.
Welcome Vodkapundit/Live at the WTC/Sgt Stryker and Instapundit readers
We've been linked to by all of the above in the past three days, bringing hundreds of new visitors to this site, so we just wanted to extend a welcome.
The Mandrake, what's it all about? panel over there on the left will give you an idea of what this blog is about. You can see our best stuff here: Mandrake's Best Bits. We are regular contributors to Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing and Blogcritics. The Group Captain spent almost 9 years in the UK's Royal Air Force and so many posts have a military or strategic slant - some are just plain silly.
Stick around - this blog has never been called boring.
Who can spell "idolatarian"?
The Times Online has an opinion column entitled "This is not a dossier but an act of desperation."
It is, of course, about the dossier of evidence against Saddam Hussein. The Times is against attacking Iraq.
We reproduce the entire column here, because the Times does not like international readers.
We still wander in a daze. Democracies rarely stay up all night seeking reasons to go to war. Normally they do the opposite. They talk, negotiate, compromise, take refuge in the United Nations. They do not like fighting, unless driven by an overwhelming logic of events.
Yesterday’s government dossier on Iraq reads like a desperate quest for such a logic. Ministers cannot be quaking with fear at the prospect of an imminent assault from President Saddam Hussein. A year ago they claimed that their bombing was “containing” him, stopping him from harming even his own people, let alone his neighbours or British interests. Of course he seeks nasty weapons. Paranoid dictators always do. But nothing in the dossier constitutes evidence of an early threat, let alone a casus belli between Britain and Iraq. What is going on?
I am no pacifist sap. I was convinced when past British Governments told me of threats to the British state. One threat was from Soviet Russia, and came complete with target maps, lists of vulnerable cities and an armoury of all-tooeffective weapons of mass destruction. Yet where were Tony Blair and Clare Short and others in the Labour Party? They wanted unilateral nuclear disarmament and claimed that the “threat” was dreamt up by warmongering Americans. They were wrong.
Unlike many in the Labour Party, I believed that the Falklands war had to be fought against a palpable assault on British sovereignty. I thought the Gulf War just in that the invasion of Kuwait could only be resisted by main force. I felt the same about domestic terrorism. Mr Blair, supported by Ms Short and others, believed in releasing IRA terrorists from prison on the strength of vague promises of disarmament. This seemed naive and reckless appeasement, and so it has proved. People need no lessons from Mr Blair or Jack Straw in being “tough on terrorism, tough on the causes of terrorism”.
But yesterday’s dossier is not serious. Mr Blair told us yet again yesterday what a nasty person Saddam is. We know that. The task of leadership is not to write tabloid front pages but to judge how far a threat to the nation’s interest is real and, if so, how the nation should respond proportionately. Neither Mr Blair nor George Bush has yet explained what has suddenly led them to abandon containment of Iraq and to demand Saddam’s head on a plate.
Indeed the first surprise for those who thought the West’s policy on Iraq has been crass and counterproductive is to find that Mr Blair agrees. Despite what we were told at the time, the 1998 bombing of Baghdad was ineffective. It did not remove weapons of mass destruction. Sanctions did not stop Saddam rebuilding his arsenals. They did eliminate the entire Iraqi business and professional class as possible opposition to Saddam and make him so rich he could buy any weapons he wanted.
Every bomb that landed cemented him in power. Containment was such a failure, says Mr Blair now, that Britain must go to war to rectify it.
The dossier’s attempt to present Saddam as an incipient nuclear power is worse than half-hearted. He has no factory to treat enriched uranium even if he found it “somewhere in Africa”. Had he such a factory, it could be bombed. His biological weapons are hard to deliver, least of all with his ageing Scuds. They were not used even in the Gulf War. Saddam has had these weapons for 20 years. So have many highly unstable Central Asian states. Nor does the dossier explain why these weapons could not be eliminated “surgically”, as their predecessors were by the Israelis in 1981 and allegedly by American missiles ever since.
Saddam displays no expansionist intent. Containment has at least held him within his borders for a decade. He is not known to be arming a terrorist group. There are no urgent pleas for Western help from his neighbours. He has made no ultimatum against them or against the West that would justify a pre-emptive attack. The possession of evil weapons is itself no legal basis for aggressive war. The whole scenario is bizarre.
Saddam is certainly a league leader among dictators. We are not dealing with a jumped-up Taleban or a mad ayatollah. The Iraqi leader’s 20-year rule has been tenacious, merciless and brutal even by Middle East standards, long before the West gave him the excuse of economic sanctions as an engine of repression. Yet he was considered an ally of the West and was supplied with Western arms. A strong ruler in Baghdad was seen as useful by Western pragmatists. To the hard men of Washington and London, high-flown phrases about democracy, humanity, disarmament and civilised values were for wimps. They liked the cut of Saddam’s jib when it suited them.
Now he is beyond mere damnation. He is the object of a Third Crusade in the holy war on terror. After Kosovo and Afghanistan, the suspicion is hard to avoid that the West’s warrior statesmen are seeking new citadels to conquer. Whether or not Saddam is a menace to world peace, menace he must become. Hence yesterday’s lurid report. As Randolph Hearst cried of the prelude to a different encounter: “You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war.”
Until this month, there seemed little doubt that Mr Bush, with Mr Blair in tow, would have gone directly to armed conflict as soon as troops were in place. Both were abruptly constrained by democracy. A battery of international lawyers declared such aggression illegal and a wide “coalition of the cautious” emerged, not least from congressional leaders and members of Mr Bush’s family court. They demanded that any such adventure must first win the support of the United Nations and allies.
Mr Bush was right to go to the UN this month. It was a UN resolution that Saddam has flouted since 1991. America now accepts that the UN should lead the next response to that flouting. Nuclear proliferation was always the unfinished business of the Cold War. The UN had a primary role in curtailing that proliferation. The world has a collective interest in seeing the UN’s will obeyed.
Seeking that obedience is already proving messy. Yesterday Britain’s Ambassador to the UN claimed that America had dropped “regime change” as a demand, since the UN cannot enforce it and Saddam can hardly accept it. The US has since denied this. Meanwhile, the French on the Security Council are redrafting both the American and British requests, to avoid building in an inevitable path to war. Washington’s fear that the UN route would prove a morass of delay is coming true. Yet this venture is too tenuous for any other route to be plausible.
For the moment it might seem that America’s hands are tied. Yet on the assumption that weapons inspection proves as unsatisfactory as it did before, then war is back in play. On that assumption, America would be vastly reinforced in its view that Saddam is a prima facie threat. Reinforced too would be the demand that he and his arsenals be neutralised and the UN’s will enforced.
There is little doubt that a renewed failure of arms inspection would secure a UN Security Council mandate authorising military enforcement of Iraqi disarmament. Whatever strongarm tactics America and Britain might deploy to win that mandate, mandate it would be. America would have done as it was bidden. Opposing American action to enforce the mandate would mean opposing the enforcement of the will of the UN. That in turn would be an intolerable boost not just to Saddam but to global lawlessness.
At this point supporters of the UN would have little option. However thin the evidence of an Iraqi nuclear arsenal, however minimal the overt threat to peace, “appropriate force” to punish a decade-long and blatant defiance of the UN would be hard to question. The content and security of Third World arsenals is a reasonable concern to Western democracies. The UN might seem humiliated into a forced acquiescence of American aggression against Iraq. That would be better than the UN being humiliated by Saddam.
That route, and that route alone, would justify Britain joining a war against Iraq. The route is long and tortuous. It might take months, even years. But the British Government yesterday failed to make a case for any short cut.
If we can find time later today, we'll dig out what the Times wrote before Gulf War I.
Black Hawk Down and We were soldiers
We just posted a review comparing these movies, over at Blogcritics. Go take a look - it's a group blog of 180 independent reviewers of CDs, movies and books, as well as a general news section.
Curiouser and curiouser
As we reported here (in a Pythonesque way), recent robotic explorations of Egypt's Great Pyramid have shown doors in unexpected places. Well, they've been and gone and found another one.
Ukraine: slap wrist time?
According to this International Herald Tribune report, Iraq may have an advanced passive radar technology, courtesy of the Ukraine. With the knowledge of the Ukrainian President, even.
A passive system sends out little or no signal of its own. Instead, it tries to detect the emissions from incoming aircraft - radar altimeters, search radars etc. Consequently, the crew of an incoming 'plane will typically be unaware they have been detected.
The efficiency of the system is unknown - detecting such low-power sources from background 'noise' is not simple. If it works, it would be an extra complication.
A blog called Evhead will be getting a million hits
Any Blog*Spot blog we try and access this morning goes to Evhead's
UPDATE TO THE UPDATED UPDATE: Guess who Evhead is:
This is the personal web site of Evan Williams, president/CEO of Pyra Labs, the creators and operators of Blogger, a web application used to publish, among other things, sites like this (so, you see, this is work!). Here, I write about the Internet, business, blogs, San Francisco, my life, and various other things as they occur to me. (Also: There are pictures.)
Well isn't that just rubbing salt into the wound?
Now it says "No website configured at this address" when we try and access our Blog.
UPDATED UPDATE: Now it says:
The Blog*Spot service is currently undergoing scheduled maintenance. The maintenance window for this work is from 4:30 a.m. Pacific Time (7:30 a.m. Eastern time) to 7:30 a.m. Pacific Time (10:30 a.m. Eastern time). More information is available here.
We appreciate your patience and will make every effort to minimize the maintenance window for this work. Please check back soon!
Pyra Labs System Administration
It is a well know fact that there are no Blog*Spot users outside of the US, or even the West Coast of the US. Guys, this is shitty customer service. Our readers will be unsurprised to hear that they never respond to e-mails - either direct, or to their laughable support site. The Blogger status page is, if you're lucky, update long after the event.
Sheesh, as a very experienced Customer Service/Support senior manager, I'd send them my CV/resume, except that it'd be a complete waste of time.
UPDATE TO THE UPDATE OF THE UPDATED UPDATE: They posted this, a few hours before pulling the plug:
Blog*Spot maintenance is scheduled for Tuesday, September 24 from 4:30 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Pacific time (7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.) Eastern. Sincere apologies for any inconvenience this causes. The load on the Blog*Spot servers has been growing at an unexpectedly increasing rate over the last few weeks, and today we saw the most stress yet. The work tomorrow should improve the performance of the Blog*Spot file server, and this should help overall performance, pending the addition of more web servers.
Nothing like planning ahead, is there? Hmmm, the above suggests they don't have mirrored database servers with automatic failover.
FINAL (?) UPDATE: at 1600Z (1100 eastern, 8am pacific), it's up. However, it's running very slowly. Slower than it did on a 56k modem (we have 1mb broadband here at Group HQ).
Iraq weapons dossier at-a-glance
We have published the BBC's 'at-a-glance' guide to the document Tony Blair unveiled this morning becaue the BBC page is taking an age to load - probably due to a hit overload.
* Iraq has "military plans" for the use of chemical and biological weapons, even against his own population
* Some weapons are deployable within 45 minutes of an order to use them
* Saddam is one or two years off building a nuclear weapon
* Iraq has constructed engine test equipment for a missile capable of striking British military bases in Cyprus, Nato members Greece and Turkey and Iraq's Gulf neighbours and Israel
* Saddam has tried to acquire "significant quantities" of uranium from Africa despite having no civil programme that could need it
* Iraq has "tried covertly to acquire technology and materials which could be used in the production of nuclear weapons".
* Specialists have been recalled to work on a nuclear programme
* It has developed mobile laboratories for military use
* Iraq is preparing to conceal evidence of weapons and incriminating documents from weapons inspectors in the future
* Iraq has retained up to 20 al-Hussein missiles, with a range of 650km, capable of carrying chemical or biological warheads
* It has started deploying its al-Samoud liquid propellant missile and extended its range to at least 200km, beyond the 150km UN limit
* Iraq has started producing the solid-propellant Ababil-100 and is trying to extend its range to 200km
* Saddam has retained authority over command and control arrangements to use chemical and biological weapons
* Intelligence reports say he may have delegated authority to his son Qusai
* Saddam does not regard weapons of mass destruction as a last resort
* Saddam regards the possession of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles as the basis of Iraq's regional power
* Chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programmes are "well funded"
* Iraq generates income outside UN control to an estimated $3billion in 2002
* Illicit earnings are used to maintain Iraq's armed forces and to develop or acquire military equipment including chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic programmes
* Illicit earnings have increased from around $1bn in 1999 to $3bn in 2002
Iraq under Saddam
* Saddam uses patronage and violence to motivate supporters and control or eliminate opposition
* Saddam practises torture, execution and coercion against enemies
* He pursues a long-term programme of persecution against Iraqi Kurds, including the use of chemical weapons
* People are arrested and detained for alleged political or religious activities
* Executions carried out without due process of law with thousands of prisoners executed
* Women prisoners at Mahjar are routinely raped by guards
* Prisoners at Qurtiyya Prison in Baghdad and elsewhere left in metal boxes to die if they do not confess
* Penalties for criminal offences include amputation, branding, cutting off ears and mutilation
* "Slander" against Saddam results in having tongues removed
* Some 40 Saddam relatives, including women and children, killed
UN weapons inspections
* April 1991 first resolutions passed to enable UN to dismantle Iraq's nuclear, chemical, biological and missile programmes
* These programmes were in contravention of Iraq's treaty commitments
* Iraq has "persistently" obstructed UN weapons inspectors
* It has been state policy to retain all weapons programmes despite agreements to do otherwise
* Weapons inspectors banned from going to eight "presidential" sites
* Iraq has admitted to having a system for hiding proscribed material from inspectors
* Weapons inspectors have been intimidated by Iraqi officials
* Forged documents used to account for proscribed materials for the growth of anthrax and botulinum toxin
* Iraq has destroyed weapons unilaterally to stop the UN being able to account for them
* In the dossier, the prime minister says that although gathering intelligence inside Iraq is not easy he and other ministers are satisfied with the authority of the information
* He says it is "unprecedented for the government to publish a document of this kind".
* He says he has become "increasingly alarmed" in recent months by evidence that Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction in contravention of UN resolutions
* He says: "I am quite clear that Saddam will go to extreme lengths, indeed has already done so, to hide these weapons and avoid giving them up."
* And he adds: "I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current, that he has made progress on Weapons of Mass Destruction and that he has to be stopped
We here at Group HQ are supporters of the bid to oust Saddam Hussein from power. Our main reservation is that there are other tyrants in the world who are allowed to go unchecked. This suggests situational ethics. We would like to see evidence of a more general desire to do something about the other unsavoury regimes around the world.
Guiness Book of (Increasingly Silly) World Records
The 49th edition of that esteemed tome is now available. The series has sold better that 95 million copies since first publication in 1955, making it the world's best-selling copyright book (the Bible being the best-selling non-copyright book).
The BBC chooses to focus on some of the sillier records in it report:
American Jackie Bibby, who held eight rattlesnakes by their tails in his mouth without assistance
Marco Hort, from Switzerland, who stuffed 210 drinking straws into his mouth and held them there for 10 seconds
French couple Francois Frenandez and Madeleine Francineau who became the oldest couple to marry at the ages of 96 and 94 respectively
Briton Christine Martin, who spent 90 minutes bathing in 10 gallons of maggots
American Kevin Cole who sent a spaghetti strand 19cm after blowing it from his nostril
They built EuroDisney where?
Is the title of our fist post over at Get Your Drawers On, where Suli has experienced a Pit Bull Terrier snacking on one of her arms. Go take a look, and leave warm and fuzzies for Suli while you're there.
Welcome Instapundit readers
You probably arrived here via this link.
The Mandrake, what's it all about? panel over there on the left will give you an idea of what this blog is about. You can see our best stuff here: Mandrake's Best Bits. We are regular contributors to Sgt. Stryker's Daily Briefing and Blogcritics. The Group Captain spent almost 9 years in the UK's Royal Air Force and so many posts have a military or strategic slant - some are just plain silly.
Stick around - this blog has never been called boring.
London's Liberty and Livelihood march yesterday
David Carr, of Samizdata.net, attended the demonstration. Go read his report Being there.
Not being a photography-minded chap, I have no photos to post but I can recall some of the slogans that stood out from the sea of banners and flags carried along with the march (the Stars and Stripes being very prominent, incidentally).
This one stiffened my back:
"Born to Hunt, ready to Fight"
This one made me smile:
"We'll keep our cowshit in the country, you keep your bullshit in the town"
And this one raised the hairs on my neck:
"The Last Peaceful Demonstration"
Having moved among these people today, I am left with the distinct impression that they mean it.
Well, why are you still sitting there staring at this blog?
ADDITIONAL: The Group Captain grew up on a farm in the Kent (SE England) countryside. The hunt has very little effect on the fox population - it is basically a sport for toffs - and good luck to them. The real point is that this government seems to hate the countryside or, if we set the positive spin slider to maximum, it doesn't understand it and the people in it.
We're hoping that almost half a million people demostrating peacefully will make them sit up and take notice - that's more people than anything since the miners strikes during the Thatcher years, and those demonstrations were violent.
Top ten reasons why sharia will never succeed in the West
We stole this (we have no morals) from those nice folks over at Samizdata.net, which is a group blog you really should be reading if you're not already.
1. Would you be willing to tell Miss Piggy she's unclean?
2. What would we do with all the one handed politicians?
3. The Budweiser Chameleon. So you think The Birds were nasty?
4. We've only got virgins for Martyr's age 8 and under.
5. It's impolite here to throw rocks when someone asks to get stoned.
6. Pancakes and a side of camel fat just doesn't have that ring to it.
7. It won't help crime because toilet paper works in either hand.
8. Ham and cheese sandwiches beat goats milk for lunch hands down.
9. Bob Evans would sue for loss of livelihood.
10. Playboy Magazine just wouldn't be the same with Burqah gatefolds.
Turkey: More like the middle east than a western democracy
Which is ok - almost all of Turkey is in Asia. Or it would be ok, if the Turkish government weren't almost desperate to portray themselves as a modern western democracy.
Turkey is applying for membership of the EU; observes what amounts to a heavily-armed peace with its neighbour, Greece; unlawfully occupies half of Cyprus and has a terrible human tights record. It is also a patriarchal society [understatement alert].
The 550 seat Turkish parliament is expected to have just 21 women members after the upcoming general election. A figure that has changed little since the founding of the Turkish Republic.
Turks will often tell foreigners that thanks to Kemal Attaturk, the founder of the Republic, Turkish women were granted the right to vote before their French counterparts.
But the fact is that they have made very little progress since then.
If you talk to Turkish men they won't accept that there is inequality.
Much as Turkey wishes to be seen as a modern Western democracy, attitudes towards women are closer to Middle Eastern culture than to Europe.
Did the earth move for you, dear?
An earthquake measuring 4.8 on the Richter scale (small for some parts of the world, big for the UK) hit central England and Wales today. There are no continental plate borders under this country, so it is assumed to be alocal fault.
Germany: Schroeder wins - just
It looks like Germany's Chancellor Schroeder has held on to power with a majority reduced from 21 to 9 seats.
The gap between German and the US will now probably grow wider, as might the lesser gap between Germany and the rest of Europe. It has not been easy, watching Germany move from the powerhouse of Europe, to the deep political and economic problems it faces today.
Guest blogger call
Suli, over at Get Your Drawers On,has had a run-in with a pit bull terrier and so cannot type. She's calling for guest bloggers to fill the temporary void and we've stepped up to the plate - any other volunteers?
Gulf War II - a Gulf War I general's view
Retired Major General Patrick Cordingley, who commanded the British 7th Armoured Brigade during Gulf War I, says an invasion of Iraq is "totally unjustified".
His other comments to the Telegraph in this article, include:
"the case for war has not yet been made by the politicians"
"I'm absolutely opposed to a war. I feel very strongly that it is wrong. There is no justification for sending British troops to Iraq."
"There is also growing frustration that, while the Americans appear to be making all sort of plans for an invasion, the British military is completely in the dark. Nothing has come down from the top, and we need direction."
The full article doesn't go into much more detail than the above quotes, so the reader is left without enough data to come to an informed opinion.
Many a true word spoken in jest?
We stole this (we have no shame) from Gert's blog (a blog you should visit by the way).
George Bush was at the UN last week. The Iraqui foreign minister approached him and said, "My son is a very big fan of your American films and TV programmes - Star Wars, Star Trek etc. But what we can't understand is: you have white people in them, black people, Chinese people, all sorts, but you don't have any Arabs."
George Bush looked at him, "Ah, but they're set in the future."
Most boring national anthem on the planet?
(Based on an idea from Billy Connolly's humour)
Britain is not very good at sporting events. We tend to come home from the Olympics with an embarrassingly small number of medals. We think it's due to our boring national anthem - it's enough to put you to sleep.
Here are the words:
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and Glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!
O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
Oh, save us all!
Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign;
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!
My personal nomination for a replacement is I vow to thee my country. The words are appropriate:
I vow to thee, my country all earthly things above
Entire and whole and perfect, the service of my love;
The love that asks no question, the love that stands the test,
That lays upon the altar the dearest and the best;
The love that never falters, the love that pays the price,
The love that makes undaunted the final sacrifice.
And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness, and all her paths are peace.
We had the WeatherPixie taken out and shot. The providers seem to have reset their database, losing all the settings, and changed all the graphics. It hasn't been working properly for more than a week.
Tres Producers has been deleted from the Blogroll because Blogcritics is now where it's a - all the cool dudes are reading there (and writing, in our case).
Some Blogs have been suffering from what have been dubbed as Blogroaches. That nice dudette over at a small victory - stupid like a moose has designed two graphics. The first, no blogroaches, we have added to the left column:
She has designed a second one for pasting into comments made by Blogroaches:
Saddam likes to protect his own people
Saddam Hussein has started his old Gulf War I trick of moving some of his forces into civilian areas. He seems to particularly want to protect mosques and hospitals, as well as areas of civilian housing.
We here at Group HQ think it's nice to see him taking such great care of his civilians. If he has any history of doing this in order to fan the flames of anti-Americanism, we might think he was hoping these areas would be damaged. If his troops had any history of themselves damaging these buildings, then blaming it on the Americans, we might express concern.
Fortunately, Saddam is an honest, honourable, sane and sensible kind of chap.
We're sorry, our sarcasm generator switch seems to be stuck in the [Enable] position.
There is yet hope for civilisation
A headline from today's Telegraph:
Despite equality, women today still prefer gentlemen
The Group Captain is not ashamed to admit that he tries to behave like a gentleman. He has only ever issued three challenges to a duel (seriously), thinks women should be treated like ladies (except behind closed doors of the dungeon bedroom, yet still strives to treat them as equals. Being a gentleman, yet treating a woman like an equal are not mutually exclusive.
In a recent poll of one (Mrs Group Captain), points 1, 3, 4, 5, 14, 15, 16, 17, 20, 27, 43, 44, 54, 57, 60, 62, 76, 80, 81, 84, 88 and 96 here, were offered as clues to The Group Captain's eccentricity and gentlemanly aspirations. Others call him "Barking mad!"
From the story:
While acknowledging that the sexual revolution is partly to blame for the destruction of the old-fashioned gentleman, half of women say men have little concept of social etiquette, politeness or courtesy.
Dr David Lewis, a psychologist, said men who were successful in business and sport were still regarded highly by women. But chivalry and social graces, such as pulling out chairs, carrying the shopping, complimenting a woman on her appearance and opening doors, were often more important than money.
Both sexes thought the death knell for gentlemanly behaviour was sounded during the Sixties. Optimistically for British males, a third of women thought true gentlemen were found only in the UK.
They scored highest for their capacity for chivalry, followed by Japanese men and Italians. American, Australian and German men scored lowest.
Tony Blair is regarded as the most gentlemanly politician. John Prescott came bottom.
Many thanks for all the good wishes
The family here at Group HQ would like to thank all the kind folks who sent their best wishes for Cameron's birthday. He particularly enjoyed the several animated musical cards he received via Yahoo!
Here is another gratuitous picture, this is of the way Cameron and his Mum, Tanya, looked after the exertion of yesterday's birthday party. The red cheeks are caused by a combination of teething and the sticky tape used to attach the nasal-gastric tube he's fed through during the night.
Happy Birthday Cameron!
Our only Grandchild has chronic renal failure and will need a transplant at some point (it's "when", not "if"). Despite his illness, he is a constant source of joy to us. Today is his first birthday, which at some points in the previous year, and during our daughter's pregnancy, we weren't sure he'd see. So, we hope you'll forgive us wanting to tell the world about it.
Reduction in civil liberties in the UK Pt. 14 - Michael Mansfield QC speaks out
Michael Mansfield QC (Queen's Counsel) is one of the UK's top Barristers. He has now spoken out about proposed changes to the law and, as he does it far better than do we, his entire interview with the BBC is quoted:
As a top QC, Michael Mansfield represents clients charged with the most serious crimes in the book. He has won some celebrated cases, helping to clear the names of people who were falsely accused or wrongly convicted.
But after almost 40 years as a lawyer, he is worried about the impact of proposed changes to the criminal justice system.
He believes some fundamental legal principles are being undermined.
The result, he warns, is that there could be more miscarriages of justice in the future. Mr Mansfield speaks about the subject with a passion born from long experience in the courts.
As a radical lawyer, he has taken up many unpopular causes over the years. He defended men arrested during the miners' strike, and helped to secure the release of the Birmingham Six and Judith Ward, wrongly accused of being IRA bombers. He is currently involved in the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, in Northern Ireland, representing the families of some of those who died. Mr Mansfield once turned down the chance to become a judge, and is an outspoken critic of proposed changes to the criminal justice system.
He is concerned over what he sees as the continued erosion of the defendant's right to silence, and argues that the presumption of innocence is now being undermined. He is also alarmed by the suggestion that a jury should be told about a defendant's previous convictions.
"In some cases, if there is a striking similarity between the cases, it can be admissible," he explains.
"But are we going to give juries details of previous convictions as a matter of course? I find that terribly risky, because there is a real risk of prejudice.
"It will make a difference, but it will be the wrong one, and it will probably lead to more miscarriages of justice."
A proposal to allow use of "hearsay" evidence is also gives him cause for concern.
"If people don't come to court to give evidence themselves, it is difficult to test their statements by questioning them," he says.
"This rule was introduced to protect us from gossip and evil rumour. To talk about redressing the balance between victim and defendant misses the point. You have to create a situation where they are equally protected."
Another worry, he says, is the possibility that in future a defendant could be acquitted by one jury, only to face a second trial when "compelling new evidence" emerges.
"With this proposal to do away with double jeopardy, I think it is more a case of when it happens, rather than if," he says.
"It is being said that it will only involve a small number of cases. But I am concerned about the drip factor, and I think a large number of cases will get embraced.
"I think it deflects from the real point, which is that there should be a proper investigation in the first place. The prosecution shouldn't get a second bite at the cherry."
Mr Mansfield is also concerned by what he sees as the steady erosion of the right to trial by jury.
"More than 90% of criminal cases are now tried without a jury in magistrates' courts," he says.
Mr Mansfield argues that the management of criminal investigations should be placed in the hands of a judicial officer, to ensure that all the available evidence is considered.
"An investigation has to be impartial, which does not always happen, and that has led to some miscarriages of justice," he says.
"At present, investigations lack proper direction, expertise and resources."
Another problem, he says, is the reluctance of some people to come forward to give evidence in court - and not just women in rape cases. Witness and victim support schemes should be improved, he says, to ensure that anyone who has to appear in court is kept in the picture. If a case is dropped, for example, they need to be told why.
Mr Mansfield says he welcomes a move by the government to review sentencing policy.
"The size of the prison population - 71,500 - is ludicrous," he says.
"Sixty per cent of jails are overcrowded, and that is intolerable. The government recognises that, but the courts have yet to get their heads around it.
"I am not saying you should not jail psychopaths, but prison is too often used as a dustbin."
Shall we push the [Panic] button now?
NOTE: Parts 1 - 13 in this series can be accessed here:
Sick version of the Nigerian e-mail scam
Here's a new, sick twist to the usual scam - we have added the italics.
I am Mr.Bobby Roberts, the assistant area manager of a leading bank in South Africa.Your details were made available to me by a close friend that works with the international trade centre,here in Johannesburg. My purpose of contacting you is about a transaction we will like you to assist us in carrying out in my bank.
The transaction is as follows, a united state of American citizen,by name Mr.Stevens B. Poulos,deposited a huge sum of money in a fix deposit account with my bank which maturity was to be 1st of December 2001,unfortunately Mr. Mr.Stevens B. Poulos died in the September 11th bombing of the world trade centre in New York.He has no next of kin and nobody has written or called at our bank for claims.
My colleagues and I have made all the internal paper work to transfer the amount in question out of our bank,but what we don‚t have is someone whom we will front as the next of kin to Mr.Stevens B. Poulos,it is based on this that you are being contacted.
There is no atom of risk involved in this transaction because we have already arranged all the internal and external banking network for this process. Do indicate your interest in going into co-operation with us by mail.,so that more details will be furnished you. Finally,do treat this information as a confidential one as I sincerely wait for your immediate response.
Alternative email address:email@example.com
http://www.webmail.co.za the South-African free email service
We're thinking e-mail bomb, explaining why we're doing it. The ISP might pull the plug, which might shut these fuckwits up temporarily.
ADDITIONAL: This is what we sent:
You and your assistants are a bunch of lying, cheating, bottom -feeding, scum-sucking, fuckwitted, scumbag criminals.
I hope your pubic hairs become infested with the fleas from a thousand camels, and foul and obnoxious diseases afflict you for many painful years.
This is sick
We here at Group HQ are eternally grateful for living in a culture where we can rant and rave against injustice and, as our three regular readers know, we do like a good rant.
This story, from the New York Post is one of those times when defending people's democratic right to freely express themselves is very difficult.
As grieving New Yorkers marked the anniversary of the World Trade Center's destruction, the folks at Rockefeller Center got in your face to commemorate the terror attacks.
A violently disturbing sculpture popped up last week in the middle of Rock Center's busy underground concourse - right in front of the ice-skating rink. It depicts a naked woman, limbs flailing, face contorted, at the exact moment her head smacks pavement following her leap from the flaming World Trade Center.
The worst part about the piece is that you can't miss it. Even if you try.
We're assuming the empathy meters of whoever agreed to display this in such a public place must have been reading negative at the time. This is almost too insensitive for words.
Have the thing on display somewhere, but not in so public a place.
Eric Fischl is the artist responsible for this work. We have three suggestions:
Don't anybody by any of his work while he's alive - we don't want to encourage more.
Put his analyst on danger money.
Put the person(s) responsible for the decision to display it in such a public location in the soft spot we have developed for them: a swamp in the Amazon.
Our friends the Egyptian readers of Al-Ahram Weekly
Look here for the background story to the poll shown below.
Note: Totals sometimes number more than 100 per cent because, on some of the questions, respondents were allowed to select more than one answer.
QUESTION 1: How would you describe your feelings when you saw the destruction of New York's twin towers?
They deserved it: 52%
Sympathy for the victims: 35%
Afraid of the future: 24%
Admiration for the culprits: 28%
Anger at the culprits: 10%
QUESTION 2: Who do you think is responsible for the attacks?
Israeli intelligence/Mossad: 39%
We'll never know: 25%
Al-Qa'eda or other Islamic militants: 19%
QUESTION 3: How do you view the American war on terror?
A means of asserting the US's global dominance: 68%
A war against Arabs and Muslims: 51%
A justified response to the attacks: 15%
QUESTION 4: How do you view the results of the American war on terror?
Descent into chaos and increasing violence: 93%
The end of democracy and human rights: 48%
Success in eradicating terrorism and a more peaceful world: 1%
QUESTION 5: How do you view the future of radical Islamists?
Their popularity will increase: 51%
They are becoming weak and isolated: 31%
11 September was their death blow: 11%
QUESTION 6: What do you feel should have been Arab and Islamic governments' position on the US war on terror?
Remain neutral: 22%
We sometimes wonder whether we should be trying to bomb these radicals back to the Stone Age or forwards to the Renaissance.
Shades of old-style socialism
The Telegraph reports worrying noises from the Spin Labour Party. The following are not phrases we expected to hear in the 21st century:
Achieve greater equality
Nobody is left behind
"..... we continue to redistribute power, wealth and opportunity to combat poverty and social exclusion, to deliver public services that people can trust, and take down barriers that hold people back."
The Labour Party has manifesto commitments not to increase the top rate of income tax. Despite this:
In the last Budget, Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, introduced, in effect, a new 41p top rate of tax. From next April, all earnings above £30,940 will be subjected to a one per cent National Insurance surcharge - an extra £10 for every £1,000 of taxable pay.
This, coupled with Tony Blair's words, appear to signal that more stealth taxes can be expected. Not income tax rises, because that would break the manifesto promise. Our Glorious Leaders finally showing their true colours.
Free market economy
Less government interference
No controlling of inflation by positive feedback
Lower personal tax burden
Will be taken out and shot.
Ever wonder how President Bush and Vice PresidentUS Secretary of State Prime Minister Blair work so well together? After all, they're effectively each others opposition party.
Another piece of the strategic puzzle drops into place This BBC report confirms that the British government has given the US permission to build the special hangers needed for the B-2 stealth bomber on it tiny Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia. The hangers are needed to prolong the life the radar-absorbing skin of the 'plane.
B-2 bombers have previously used the Island as a stop-off point for missions over Kosovo and Afghanistan. This base will be the first case of them operating away from the US mainland but, given that Diego Garcia is a speck in the vastness of the Indian Ocean, security seems unlikely to be a major concern.
Ah, those sneaky ancient Egyptians
Last night, in the US, National Geographic aired a live programme from Egypt. During it, as robot was sent along a narrow passage in the great pyramid to look through a blocking stone to see what was on the other side, and an undisturbed sarcophagus in the pyramid builders' village was opened.
The sarcophagus revealed the intact skeleton of a man who, according to the hieroglyphics was Ny Swt Wsrt, the administrative overseer (think Mayor) of the district. (Howintheheck do you pronounce that name?)
The robot had less success. Having drilled through the three inch thick stone and inserted a fibre-optic camera, it saw another stone! The team is going away to think about this and says it may tale 12 months to come up with a Plan B. They suspect a chamber is at the end of the tunnel, and fairly obviously hope to find great things there.
It's almost as though the builders were looking ahead, isn't it?
The scene: ancient Egypt 6,000 years ago, the Gaza Plain (which was probably called "that flat bit of desert just like all the other bits" back then), Great Pyramid half up, Monday afternoon, just before tea time.
Architect: Dudes! I'm worried about this treasure chamber. We don't want it raided in years to come.
Supervisor: Dude! The room is at the end of a 300 foot passage that is only 8 inches square - nobody will be able to get up there!
Architect: I know, but what if they breed a really tiny camel? They could send it up there for a look.
Supervisor: [sighs] OK, we'll put a couple of doors in, but this is going to bugger up the petty cash. We'll sneak them in as sund.explns.
Saddam plays his last trump card
Iraq's foreign minister yesterday pledged to allow the unconditional return of UN weapons inspectors. Washington Post story here.
This is the only move Saddam Hussein had left to delay Gulf War II.
We at Group HQ have seen action in Northern Ireland and so, in general terms, prefer to avoid war. However, there are some evils in this world that it is important to actively stand against, and the current regime is one of them.
We have vivid memories of satellite (?) photographs of UN inspectors vehicles being delayed at one gate of a suspected weapons compound, while loaded trucks left by another. Saddam's henchmen did everything they could to obstruct the inspectors last time - there is absolutely no reason to expect things to be any different this time.
Ah well, it just gives us more time to organise our forces.
Mugabe watch: imprisoning the judges
President Mugabe of Zimbabwe and his gang of fellow despots have once again signalled to the world that they don't give a flying f**k about world opinion or justice.
This BBC article reports on the arrest and detention of a retired High Court judge on what appear to be trumped-up charges. Justice Fergus Blackie was the judge responsible for sentencing Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, to three months in prison and fined him 50,000 Zimbabwe dollars ($900) for contempt of court. This was later overturned on appeal, after Justice Blackie retired.
An application for the release of a retired white Zimbabwe judge who is being held over alleged professional misconduct has been rejected by a High Court judge in Harare.
Lawyers contested Fergus Blackie's continued imprisonment saying police had no grounds for suspecting irregularities in his last judgements before he left the bench in July.
Mr Blackie has yet to be formally charged and lawyers plan to apply for bail at a court hearing expected on Monday.
This arrest is the latest round in a battle between the despots and the justice system in Zimbabwe. A system which is seen as being largely untainted. Judges have sometimes overturned government decisions about the land resettlement programme which has seen agriculture almost grind to a halt in a country where an estimated 6 million people are facing chronic food shortages or starvation.
We plan on going after the Saddam Hussein's of this world because they pose a clear and present danger to others. Is the fact that Mugabe has confined his obnoxious efforts to his own country the only reason why we don't go after him?
We hope this is a joke/bluff/plant, too Ha'aretz, commenting on a Times report, says:
An exiled Iraqi nuclear scientist believes Baghdad is closer to building an atomic bomb than previously thought, The Times newspaper said on Monday.
The British newspaper said Dr Khidir Hamza, described as a top Iraqi nuclear researcher who fled to the West in 1994, believed that Iraq was able to make copies of a German-built centrifuge and use them to enrich uranium smuggled from Brazil to produce a nuclear bomb within the next few months.
Has it really been that long?
This humble blog unleashed itself on an unsuspecting (and largely uncaring) world six months ago today. Here, for those of you who weren't here on day one i.e. all of you, is our fist post. It explains the delightful colour of this page.
Welcome to the Blog of the late lamented Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, VC, AFC, CBE, RAF (Retd.).
I shall be using what I am pleased to call my mind to take a humorous (yes, that's how we spell it in English english) look at the rest of the world from a British viewpoint. I completely fail to apologise in advance for dismantling cultural icons, (in)famous people, silly ideas and for any paraphrasing (if not downright plagiarising) of extremely clever people and their words.
My first reference, for those of you who haven't yet spotted it, is to Stanley Kubrick's Doctor Strangelove - one of my all-time favourite films. Group Captain (I keep writing Wing Commander - which is one rank lower) Lionel Mandrake was General Jack D. Ripper's exec. He was also terribly British and, like me, served in the Royal Air Force.
I chose the violent green colour of this page intentionally. It's called institution green and is said to be a calming influence on those of unsound mind. I leave you, my only reader, to decide which of us needs calming.
My next post went downhill from there:
On attaining geekhood
It was a cold and stormy night ..............
No, wrong prose.
I'm into computers. Almost a geek. I'm a British citizen but consult in Silicon Valley, California. I keep telling people that I'm bi-continental, but my male friends then move a little further away from me. Barbarians! Anyway, I often tell my American friends and colleagues that I am out here to civilise the barbarians ..... most of them take it as a joke.
There are some things out here that are on my pet peeve list: too much advertising on the TV and radio (In a one-hour TV programme they typically have 15+ minutes of commercials); they drive on the wrong side of the road; supermarkets don't have real cow juice - they put things in it, or worse: they takes things away from it; I can't get a good cup of tea unless I bring my own tea from England; they don't understand the rules of cricket (nor do most Brits. but that's irrelevant); they want everything yesterday, if not sooner etc.
But, you know what? In all my travels (and I have travelled quite a bit of this planet), I have never found so much energy. In everything they do here, the attitude is "Can do, now!"
It is sometimes said that Silicon Valley drives the US economy, which is not quite true. What is true is that they are trying things, thinking things, and doing things out here that much of the rest of the world will be doing when we've (I can say we - I work out here) finished ironing out the bugs.
I love the energy here. Not to mention the near-perfect climate.
Let's all talk about Emily, AKA Hawkgirl
It's a quiet Sunday morning at the end of Silly Season 2002, and we'll do it in the best possible taste. We're talking about Emily, over at Give War A Chance which is, by the way, a jolly good blog.
SiteMeter showed a hit for "hawkgirl sex" here during the night, and I followed the search. This blog is result number 4, and the first blog in the list. Other blogs are below us, before we reach Emily's own blog at 65. What's all that about?
From the people who gave you the Harrier, Concorde, and the hovercraft, we present:
The Mk I, WhatTheFragHappenedToAllTheComputers? warhead for your existing cruise missiles or other unmanned vehicles.
The weapon is carried to the target area by a cruise missile or unmanned aircraft and detonated. Its pulse of electromagnetic radiation can disable or destroy computers, communications equipment (radios, switchboards), radars, and possibly power plants. It is assumed that such weapons would be used in the first wave of attacks against Iraq.
US officials said that the British-designed weapon works better than the one they were testing. One assumes they will be seen at a Gulf War II near you soon.
Reduction in civil liberties in the UK Pt. 13 - Blunkett: "stop criticising"
Britain's Director of the Ministry of Information Home Secretary, David Blunkett is, according to this Ananova report:
telling civil liberties campaigners to stop criticising surveillance measures taken by the Government after September 11.
Lowlights of his talk with the Grauniad Guardian newspaper (which is not in the least bit amusing in itself, of course), include:
..... accused the civil liberties lobby of "pocketing without so much as a thank you" legislation introduced by Labour on data protection.
..... points to the Party's moves on freedom of information, and the Human Rights Act, to argue critics are complaining unjustifiably.
"What I occasionally find irritating are self-styled privacy campaigners who denigrate or ignore protections not available to most of our European neighbours."
He also finds it "surprising" that some Labour MPs are "instinctively aggressive about the role of the state and insist on their absolute protection against it".
The last two sentences bear closer inspection.
"What I occasionally find irritating are self-styled privacy campaigners who denigrate or ignore protections not available to most of our European neighbours."
Did he just say something that might get him into trouble with Big Brother, AKA The Party Machine? The Labour party seem intent on making this country part of the great pool of homogenised European nations, yet Blunkett has just stated that our protections are better than the rest of Europe's.
Or did we miss the point? It seems that it is the "self-styled privacy campaigners" who irritate him. We here at Group HQ will gladly accept the title. Of course he doesn't like privacy campaigners - we disagree with almost everything he's trying to do, for what we believe are good reasons.
He also finds it "surprising" that some Labour MPs are "instinctively aggressive about the role of the state and insist on their absolute protection against it".
Surprising? He should see this reaction from within his own party as alarm bells. Some of those who should be amongst his most vocal supporters are voicing concerns.
We've written many words on this subject before. Below are links to 13 essays on it.
Reading this National Review Online article, together with our personal reactions to the first anniversary of 9/11, made us realise two things:
1. The language used by the author, Roger Kimball, is rather over the top, but we basically agree with him.
2. We are finished with the grieving process and are ready to move on.
Now, before our 2 regular readers get their flamethrowers out ..... Our grief, we realise, has been vented. What is left is sadness and a great anger against the perpetrators of 9/11 and other atrocities. That, coupled with a burning desire to stop them ever doing it again. This will probably not be 100% achievable because, as an security expert will tell you, the hardest threat to guard against is the terrorist who is prepared to die for their cause. That does not mean that we must not try.
One way to deal with a Troll
A Troll is one of those hit-and-run (usually anonymous) f**kwits that leaves nasty comments on blogs. Dawn Olsen has a particularly numb-nutted one, and demonstrates one way of dealing with it.
Radical muslims and that London gathering
As we reported here, the radical muslim meeting went ahead in a north London mosque yesterday.
Lowlights of the day include:
Described Osama bin Laden as a "hero"
Calling for Britain to be turned into an Islamic state
Entitled September 11: A Towering Day in History, some of Britain's most radical Muslim clerics were meeting to discuss topics including the "positive outcomes" of the attacks.
The mosque was the scene of a tense stand-off as dozens of police separated those attending the meeting from about 100 British National Party (Neo_nazis for my non-UK readers) protesters and a counter demonstration by 30 Anti-Nazi League members.
Abu Hamza warned Britain and the US: "If you were on the agenda you would see suicide bombings everywhere, just like in Israel. "So it's simple. Stay away and preserve your people."
Dr Muhammad Al-Mass'ari, secretary general of the Commission for the Defence of Legitimate Rights, echoed his comments and said the 11 September attacks were maybe not "the wisest thing" but were "legitimate".
"An eye for an eye", as an old book said. "But it was only one eye for 100 eyes, there is still much more to do."
NOTE: Let's be clear that Group HQ is referring to radical Muslims only when it makes this critisism - not the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims everywhere. As a general rule, we despise radical and/or fundamentalist groups of all persuasions.
We believe we should all be free to practise whatever belief system we individually choose, so long as we don't try and impose it upon others. Radical/fundamentalist f***wits everywhere are the sort that try and impose their beliefs, usually with violence and we despise them.
Earth gains a third moon?
OK, hands up everyone who never knew we already had two.
Earth's second one is called Cruithne. It was discovered in 1986 and it takes a convoluted horseshoe path around our planet as it is tossed about by the Earth's and the Moon's gravity.
This BBC report tells of how how the Earth may have captured a third moon earlier this year.
An amateur astronomer may have found another moon of the Earth. Experts say it may have only just arrived.
Much uncertainty surrounds the mysterious object, designated J002E2. It could be a passing chunk of rock captured by the Earth's gravity, or it could be a discarded rocket casing coming back to our region of space.
It was discovered by Bill Yeung from his observatory in Arizona and reported as a passing Near-Earth Object. It was soon realised however that far from passing us it was in a 50-day orbit around the Earth.
Paul Chodas of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California says it must have just arrived or it would have been easily detected long ago. Calculations suggest it may have been captured earlier this year.
Cruising the Web yesterday, it seemed most Blogs either put up a memorial page and closed down, or posted something meaningful and carried on. We didn't note anything distasteful - perhaps because we avoided sites like Al Jazeera's.
Not everyone in the world thinks you deserved 9/11.
Some of us support your 'war on terror'.
Some of us remember.
Mr and Mrs Group Captain have visited New York City on a number of occasions. We love the place. We remember how the two towers of the WTC dominated the skyline.
At around 1:30pm British Summer Time (8:30am Eastern), we turned on our tv, looking for a weather forecast. You know what we saw. We sat there in silence for more than an hour, watching the horror unfold.
Around 2:45pm, we thought of our friends Nina and Ed, in California. It was only 6:45 am there, and we were sure they'd still be asleep but, because we knew we'd want to know if the roles were reversed, we call them.
The conversation went something like:
GC: Sorry to wake you up at this time.
Nina: [yawning] Hi, what's up?
GC: Turn on your tv.
Nina: What station?
GC: Any station, it doesn't matter!
We went on to explain what we knew at that time: that terrorists had hijacked planes and flown them into both towers of the WTC and the Pentagon.
The Group Captain has had the unenviable task of telling people of the death of a loved one on several occasions in his life, and that conversation felt very similar.
We are at war ladies and gentlemen - lest we forget, or take notice of those that portray 9/11 as a tragedy or a disaster. All the words have been said before so, from almost a century ago:
On 3rd May, 1915, an exhausted Canadian doctor, Colonel John McCrae, was doing all he could for the wounded and dying on the battlefields of Flanders. The unimaginable carnage he witnessed at the front is captured in the moving words of a poem he wrote that day.
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up your quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
We're not wallowing in pity here, nor do we want closure to put 9/11 behind us. What we do want is for the f**kwit dictators, terrorists and radical nutcases around the world to be dealt with, once and for all. So far, only the US and Britain (in a small way, given the size of our armed forces) have been prepared to stand up and be counted.
We now return you to your regularly-scheduled normality.
Ed Driscoll has many good comments and links, as well as his Tech Central Station article, Technology to the Rescue, about how financial firm Moody's coped with 9/11 and the aftermath.
moxie.nu is handling today a little differently, and that's ok too.
I was doing ok, working down my Blogroll, until I got to Cut on the Bias - Remembering The Lost. I think it was the gradual buildup, rather than Susanna's particular Blog entry that caused me to lose it.
Acidman, over at GUT RUMBLES, tells it like it is, in his usual inimitable style.
We here at Group HQ have been wondering what, if anything, to do about marking tomorrow's anniversary of the attacks on the USA.
Our decision is to make a 'where were you when?' first, then carry on as normal.
To do anything else, like close down for the day would, in our opinion, be granting the terrorists another small victory. The thing they are likely to hate more than anything, is for the infidels to carry on with life, despite everything they do to try and stop us.
Dragging Sharia Law Courts into the light of reason This BBC report is about Safiya Husseini, the Nigerian woman sentenced to death by stoning for adultery last year. This happened in one of Nigeria's northern states that have enacted Sharia Law.
Safiya was in Rome, Italy yesterday, to be made an honorary citizen. Safiya's case caused controversy around the world and Italy was particularly affected by her plight.
The reaction in some parts of Nigeria has been rather different:
Two of the 12 state governors who brought Islamic law to northern Nigeria say they tried to prevent Ms Husseini from receiving it.
"When I learned of the invitation I wrote to the State Security Service chief and the Immigration Service asking them not to issue a passport to her," said Sokoto Governor Attahiru Bafarawa.
He said that the immigration authorities granted his request but that the Women's Affairs Ministry sent a delegation to Ms Husseini's village to give her a passport.
Governor Ahmad Sani, of Zamfara state, also condemned Rome's decision.
"Our fear is that Safiya and her daughter will be converted to Christianity, which we believe is the intent of the invitation," he said.
While we strongly doubt that it is Italy's intention to convert her, she could hardly be blamed for doing so - women haven't been stoned for centuries in most of the world.
A deafening silence from The Times This post, our deconstruction of an awful piece of journalism by the once respected Times of London, also prompted us to e-mail an assistant editor over there. No response after four days. We aren't letting this drop, so ignoring us won't make it go away.
Blog*Spot is doing it again
Or not doing it again. It has not been possible to make a connection for hours, although no error message is given. The Help system says nothing, and the status page has no entries since August 9th.
A wine list
We would be pleased to offer the following at any soiree at Group HQ:
A six-litre bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild 1996
A three-litre jeroboam of the same vintage
Case of Château Mouton Rothschild 1995
Six bottles of Château Lafite Rothschild 1990
Case of Château Haut Brion 1994
Six bottles of Château La Fleur Petrus 1990
Estimated value of that wine cellar: GBP 130,000+ (US$ 195,000).
Her Majesty's Customs and Excise, with whom we have a number of issues (reported here, here and here), poured the whole lot down a drain.
The wine importer had them confiscated when officers noticed a discrepancy between his import documentation and the actual shipment and , under current rules, they disposed of the wine.
This raises several issues:
1. The importer was clearly breaking the law and attempting to avoid paying some of the heavy duty that would be imposed on such a shipment.
2. UK law covering duty on wine, beer, spirits cigarettes etc. is, in our not even slightly humble opinion, insane. We have been unable to dig out the figures (surprise), but suspect the cost of policing (with Customs officers) these crazy laws may well outweigh the duty collected.
3. Couldn't these officers be better employed in the search for illegal drugs? Just a thought.
4. The bloody barbarians! Disposing of a shipment of that quality proves, if any further proof were needed, that the barbarians are already inside the gate.
An OJ style legal screwup? This Telegraph story states:
The conviction of two boys, aged 13 and 14, in Florida of murdering their father was thrown into confusion yesterday after the jury foreman insisted that the verdict was given on the false assumption that a family friend had already been convicted of the killing.
The female foreman of the six-member jury that convicted the boys of "second-degree murder without the use of a weapon" said jurors had been fooled by the prosecution's decision to hold an earlier trial in which a family friend, Ricky Chavis, a handyman and convicted paedophile, was tried and cleared of the murder.
Later in the story:
The unprecedented decision by the prosecutor to run the two trials separately and to prosecute for first-degree murder and arson in both cases had mystified the American legal profession.
Veteran trial lawyers suspect that prosecutors were afraid that in this case, the two camps of defendants could throw up such confusion and smokescreens that a jury would feel it had to return a not-guilty verdict.
"When people are in cahoots, they can manipulate stories in bewildering ways," said one. "This is a case that will be talked about and debated for many years."
The whole story does not make for comfortable reading and we are left feeling deeply underwhelmed. It is possible that a guilty person has gone free and the boys got off with a lesser conviction.
Even if that is not the case, the circumstances of the way the trial was handled show the US legal system in a bad light.
Scumbag Watch: London's extremist Muslim 9/11 celebration This Telegraph report has caused some very mixed feelings at Group HQ.
Extremist Muslim clerics will meet in London on September 11 to celebrate the anniversary of al-Qaeda's attacks on America and to launch an organisation for Islamic militants.
The conference, which will be attended by the most radical mullahs in Britain, will argue that the atrocities were justified because Muslims must defend themselves against armed aggression.
It will launch the Islamic Council of Britain (ICB), which will aim to implement Sharia law in Britain and will welcome al-Qa'eda sympathisers as members.
We are very grateful to be living in a country that is still sufficiently democratic to allow freedom of speech of this obnoxious type, and we defend their democratic right to do it. We also defend our democratic right to report this under our long-running Scumbag Watch and to think very very BadThings about them. We're hoping an anti-demonstration will spring up - as usually happens when the Neo-Nazi scumbags rear their ugly heads.
It is interesting (but not surprising) to see how many of these people are wanted criminals in other countries, or have suspicious pasts.
Omar Bakri Mohammed, who was born in Syria and lives in London, has been investigated by Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad for anti-Semitic statements. He is entitled to stay in Britain although his 1980s claim for asylum failed. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1986.
Abu Hamza al-Masri, a cleric at the Finsbury Park mosque, is wanted in Yemen on anti-terrorist charges.
Yasser al-Siri, 40, an Egyptian-born dissident, still in the UK after US extradition proceeding were dropped due to lack of evidence. He has been sentenced to death in Egypt for a bombing which killed a 12 year-old girl.
And extremist Muslims wonder why there are people in the world that hate them? Assholes!
NOTE: Let's be clear that Group HQ is referring to radical Muslims only - not the vast majority of law-abiding Muslims everywhere. As a general rule, we despise radical and/or fundamentalist groups of all persuasions.
We believe we should all be free to practise whatever belief system we individually choose, so long as we don't try and impose it upon others. Radical/fundamentalist f***wits everywhere are the sort that try and impose their beliefs, usually with violence and we despise them.
Cricket, that most English of games, and tea
[Warning: long and ambling post alert]
Better known as the game we taught an empire how to play better than we do, with rules that are not meant to be understood by any nation that doesn't actually play the game.
This BBC report is about the selling of the turf that makes up part of the hallowed (by cricket fans) surface of Lord's cricket ground. Wonderful stuff.
Someone from the Colonies once asked me to describe the perfect cup of tea. I didn't write it down at the time, but I shall endeavour to reproduce it.
The scene: A hot Sunday afternoon in August, just before 4pm; a small village cricket ground in the English countryside; many oak trees; spire of Norman church visible through the oak trees; 2 cricket teams; locals watching the proceedings, including various retired Colonels, diplomats and senior civil servants.
Ingredients: some of those little cucumber sandwiches with the crusts trimmed off; scones with real butter and home-made strawberry jam and clotted cream; hot buttered crumpets; fresh strawberries with single cream and sugar; a silver tea service; delicate porcelain cups and saucers; silver spoons, sugar lumps in one of those little silver sugar lump containers, complete with silver tweezers for picking the lumps up; silver tea strainer.
The tea: The teapot must first be warmed with boiling water (the tea itself, must be made with water that has boiled, then cooled slightly). The loose tea leaves are spooned into the warmed pot - one spoon per cup (all real English people can look at any teapot and tell you how many cups it will produce) and one for the pot. The water is then poured into the pot and the contents gently stirred to evenly distribute the leaves. The pot is then covered with a tea cosy to keep the heat in and left to stand for The correct amount of time. Wars have been fought over how long that is. (World War I was a family squabble amongst European royal families - all inbred - about The correct amount of time) Most people agree that The correct amount of time is "Around three minutes.", but nanoseconds each side of that figure are important.
The ultimate question: This subject has caused divorces - when to put the milk in the cup.
Thou shalt, upon pain of eternal damnation and the infestation of thine pubic hair with the fleas of a thousand camels, pour the milk into the cup, then the tea!
The chief reason for this being that it is the best way of gauging the strength of the brew - by colour.
Holding the silver tea strainer just above the rim of the cup, pour the tea gently, ensuring no tea leaves spill over the edge of the strainer and into the cup.
Add sugar lumps to taste, taking care not to betray any 'Johnny foreigner' tendencies by making a lot of noise when stirring it (fine porcelain was adopted by the British to assist us to sniff out foreigners).
Finally, take your plate with its cucumber sandwich, scone, jam, clotted cream etc. Find a nice patch of grass to sit down on and enjoy.
Mugabe Watch: Threatening the farmers and the opposition ReichschancellorDespotDictator President Mugabe of Zimbabwe, has told the thousand or so white farmers refusing to obey his eviction order. His dictates have brought farming to an effective halt in Zimbabwe, while an estimated 6 million people face starvation. The state-controlled radio station quotes him as saying about the farmers:
"Time is not on their side."
There are growing signs of unrest as the best farms are reported as going to Mugabe's cronies, and not evenly distributed as promised. Well, isn't that a surprise. Evidence is growing to show that the deeds to much land have been handed over to Libya. Zimbabwe is massively in debt to Gadaffi because of unpaid oil bills.
Now he is turning on what little visible opposition remains:
Mugabe has also lashed out against two prominent white lawmakers from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change.
"Your place is in prison and nowhere else. Otherwise your home is outside the country," Mugabe said of the two politicians upon his return to Zimbabwe from neighbouring South Africa.
The question remains: when will somebody do something about Mugabe? We in the first world are terribly selective about the targets we go after.
Who lost The Flag?
According to this report from a South African news site, the flag raised by three firefighters over the wreckage of the World Trade Centre is missing. The flag preserved by the city is larger than the original.
There is no suggestion (yet) that the original has been stolen, just that it may have been accidentally switched.
Perhaps, being a veteran, the Group Captain is a hopeless romantic in likening this flag to the one hoisted over Iwo Jima (or was it Okinawa - the little grey cells are fading) by US Marines in WWII.
Could it be? This Voice of America report got us thinking (no small feat on a Friday morning).
Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television says next week it will air confessions from wanted al-Qaida members who say the terrorist network was responsible for the September 11 attacks.
Al-Qaida has yet to claim direct responsibility for the attacks, but Al-Jazeera says the two men will detail how the group planned and carried out the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
The obvious conclusion to draw is that Al Jazeera is giving more free publicity to terrorist scumbags. Is it possible to draw another conclusion?
What if the security agencies videotape the transmission? Would these tapes later be admissible as evidence in court? State-controlled television would not want to be seen to be helping the infidel, would it? Yet the state controlling it depends on the west for technology, amongst other things. Is this an indirect way of helping us, or are we being naive again?
Major rant alert: The Times loses it This story, from The Times 4th September edition, has been blogged by various folks, including Spleenville (Thanks to Ed for the heads up).
The report is deeply strange, and inaccurate in many ways. We will now take great pleasure in taking it apart. The report starts off in a reasonably accurate way:
The captain of America’s most famous aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk, has been sacked for losing control of his crew, just as President Bush is readying the US military for an attack on Iraq.
Naval chiefs dismissed Captain Thomas Hejl after a series of arrests of crew members for alleged robbery, assault and drug-smuggling.
In a blunt statement announcing the departure, Vice-Admiral Robert Willard, the Commander of the US Seventh Fleet, said that he had acted "due to a loss of confidence in Captain Hejl’s ability to lead his crew".
Although the admiral stopped short of directly linking the decision to a possible war with Iraq, he said that the loss of confidence in Captain Hejl’s leadership extended to his ability to "carry out essential missions and taskings".
He added: "The United States is engaged in a global war against terrorism, and it is vital that our forward deployed ships be ready to carry out our nation’s taskings when ordered."
OK so far, with one small exception:
The captain of America’s most famous aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk .....
Most people outside the US can name just one US aircraft carrier (if they can name any at all), and it isn't the USS Kitty Hawk CV-63, it's the USS Enterprise CVN-65. (Enterprise link is to the unofficial web site - the navy.mil site returns a "No route to server" error)
Captain Hejl was replaced by Captain Robert Barbaree, commanding officer of the warship USS Seattle .....
The USS Seattle is a Fast Combat Support Ship, used to re-supply warships at sea. Unlike typical supply ships, the Fast Combat Support Ship has the speed to keep up with the carrier battle groups - enabling them to stay at sea for longer. Although armed with Sea Sparrow SAMs (Surface to Air Missiles) and Vulcan Phalanx CIWS (Close-In Weapons System) for self-defence, they are not strictly warships.
From this point, the article descends into what can only be described as US bashing. It paints a lurid and inaccurate picture of a big, bad, bullying, hating, racist, divided, criminal, segregated, divisive ship and country and frankly, we expected better of The Times.
Boarding one is like entering a time warp back to the former Deep South. In the bowels of the carrier, where the crew are cooped up for six months at a time, manual workers sleep dozens to a room. Most are black or Puerto Rican, paid $7,000 to $10,000 a year to work in the broiling temperatures of the kitchens and engine rooms.
Conditions are cramped. Conditions are cramped on most warships - the Group Captain, who nearly joined the Royal Navy, spent a lot of time on them. Messdecks (as they're called over here) are typically stacked bunks. This is true for all lower ranks, regardless of whether they are pink, green purple with blue spots or black. The low pay, which again has nothing to do with race, is common in armed forces around the world - that's why their best brains often leave for civilian jobs and better money. Heck, it's one of the reasons the Group Captain left the Air Force.
The armed forces of the USA, like those in Britain, encourage all ranks to better themselves during their service, and provide many opportunities to do so. It does require that servicemen and women want to take up the opportunities.
As you move up the 11 segregated levels towards the pilots’ quarters beneath the deck, the living quarters become larger, the air cooler and the skin tones lighter. Officers exist in almost total ignorance of the teeming world beneath them, passing around second-hand tales of murders, gang-fights and drug abuse.
First of all, the pilots' quarters are there so they are close to the flight deck , their aircraft, briefing rooms etc. This is a matter of operational requirements, not segregation and racism.
Visitors are banned from venturing down to the lowest decks, which swelter next to the vast nuclear powered engines.
That sentence proves that the writers of the article have almost certainly never set foot on the Kitty Hawk. The Kitty Hawk is a conventionally-powered aircraft carrier (the only one in service now). This, we understand, is because the Japanese government didn't want nuclear powered ships in its ports. This poses a long-term problem, as the Kitty Hawk is approaching the end of her service life and would have to be replaced by a CVN - a nuclear powered carrier.
Despite the reminders of normality suggested by libraries and supermarkets, there are few real diversions. Television monitors are dotted about the ship relaying news programmes and feature films from the United States, but otherwise the daily routine revolves around work, sleep and repetitive slop from the ship’s canteens. Religious differences are catered for by allowing different denominations to worship in the ships’ chapels — there are 12 Muslim chaplains serving in the US Armed Forces.
And your point is? This is life on board a warship. The US Navy is no different from others in this respect. These are warships, not cruise liners. Oh, you wanted to suggest religious intolerance. Did you, perhaps, check your facts? There are currently 14 full time Muslim Chaplains in the US Navy, with three more in training. There is a shortage of them, and the Navy appears to be addressing the issue.
Access to the deck, which buzzes with F14 and F18 aircraft taking part in exercises, is banned for all except the flight crew.
This shows a complete lack of fact checking or direct knowledge. The flight deck of an aircraft carrier is reckoned to be one of the most dangerous places on the planet during flight operations. Access is limited to aircrews and aircraft handlers for a good reason: safety! Access is not limited in order to keep the poor, downtrodden lower-deck personnel in their place.
Every couple of months, the carriers stop for a few days shore leave to restock with supplies and allow the crew to glimpse natural sunlight.
Most re-supply takes place at sea - that's what the Fast Combat Support ships are there for. The crew of a carrier are worked particularly hard and port time for rest and recreation is arranged whenever operationally feasible. The wording of that sentence in the Times is emotionally charged and appears to be a blatant attempt to cause trouble.
While the officers have the distraction of military exercises, the rest of the crew spend most of their time looking forward to their return.
These people have never served in the military. NEWSFLASH: the highlight of the day for all military personnel is receiving mail from home. They can be away from home for many months at a time and missing family and other loved ones is a major issue. The US Navy, in common with other armed services, will go to extraordinary efforts to ensure that snail mail, parcels and e-mail get through - they completely understand the positive effect on morale this has. All personnel look forward to getting home to family and friends - not just the lower-deck slaves (which is the picture of them the Time seems to be trying to paint).
This Times article is not journalism. It is factually inaccurate; hyperbole ridden; racially intimidating garbage. The Times used to be one of the most respected broadsheet newspapers in the world.
How the mighty have fallen.
The official US Navy press release about the appointment of a new captain of the Kitty Hawk.
Major find at first permanent colony in US
OK, so this may be of less hysterical historical interest to my two non-US readers, but it is of enormous interest to amateur historian like the Group Captain.
Archaeologists have discovered a well and the remains of a building inside the boundaries of James Fort, the original location of the first permanent English colony in the New World.
The find suggests that the fort housing the first English settlers to arrive on the shores of North America in 1607 was larger than originally believed. The well may also harbor artefacts made of wood, leather, and cloth, in addition to plant material and seeds that are not normally preserved.
"It's an incredibly exciting feature to find," said William Kelso, director of archaeology for the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA). "Colonists often used abandoned wells as trash pits, eventually filling them in. In addition to the tantalizing possibility of finding organic materials, it's possible we'll learn more about the fate of the colonists."
The feeling around Group HQ is that our US readers haven't forgiven us for demanding the unconditional surrender of the US to the Olde Countrie here. More so since the threatened dire consequences were visited upon them.
WHEN two pilots taking part in a gliding competition in the Scottish Highlands began to lose height as their thermals deserted them, they had to find somewhere to put down.
They decided that a “nice-looking field” without any livestock near the River Dee would be ideal. But as they touched down “a lot of lovely constables came out to greet us”. James Davidson and Sue Heard had landed their gliders on the cricket lawn at Bal- moral.
“We didn’t actually see the Queen,” Mr Davidson said. But the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had seen them.
The Queen was taking tea in the Rose Garden when Ms Heard landed and had moved into the drawing room by the time the second glider, piloted by Mr Davidson, landed. According to Buckingham Palace officials the Queen took photographs of her visitors.
Memories of Divine Wind
"Divine Wind" is the translation of Kamikaze from Japanese into English. The subject fascinates me and I wrote a thesis on it some 20 years ago.
Now, information that I had to painfully extract from multiple sources is available in one place. The book Kamikaze, by Albert Axell is to be published later this month. Amongst other things, it contains a translation of the manual carried by the pilots.
Mrs Group Captain tells me that at least one of our three regular readers may be a car enthusiast, so here are the details:
The Jaguar, a surprise addition, was winched on board the flight deck shortly before the Navy’s flagship sailed from Portsmouth. "It’s not mine, it’s the ship’s," Captain Alan Massey, commanding officer of the carrier, said.
Captain Massey and other senior officers will have use of the Jaguar during port visits on a long-planned ten-week Nato amphibious exercise in the Mediterranean. They will be calling in at Gibraltar, Barcelona, Naples and Malta.
The "flagship" British car will be tucked away in a corner of the carrier’s hangar but will have to be winched off if HMS Ark Royal is diverted to the Gulf in the event of a government decision to join the Americans in a war against Iraq. "Perhaps the Jaguar could be used to bring Saddam Hussein for talks in Baghdad," Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane’s Fighting Ships, said.
Mugabe Watch: Still blaming everyone else
Mugabe, speaking at the world summit in Johannesburg, has spoken in scathing terms about Britain and Tony Blair. He is, as usual, blaming somebody else for his country's problems.
Britain has, in some ways, an unenviable colonial past, and the way 90%+ of farmland was given to white farmers is an issue that should be addressed. Mugabe is using this element of truth to build the rest of his (entirely specious) logic.
Speaking as the summit entered its last three days, Mr Mugabe rounded on the European Union and Britain.
He said: "We are African we are not British or European. We are doing our best to sustain our environment in every way possible.
"We have fought for our land, we have fought for our sovereignty, small as we are, we have won our independence and we are prepared to shed our blood."
Mugabe has a proven track record of shedding blood in his rise to power - always other people's.
Mr Blair was not present for the Zimbabwe leader's speech, but was when Namibia's President Sam Nujoma continued the attack.
Mr Nujoma said: "We here in southern Africa have one big problem, created by the British.
"The honourable Tony Blair is here, and he created the situation in Zimbabwe."
We are obviously being unreasonable: how can we expect them to take responsibility for their own actions when it's all our fault?
Surprise: inappropriate Web use can get you sacked
The subject of this Yahoo story is something we've commented on before.
LONDON (Reuters) - E-mail and Internet abuse, including the downloading of pornography, has overtaken theft of office supplies and lying to the boss as the top disciplinary action reported in the work place, a new study said.
The Group Captain has managed teams of people and, following such an offence, would either fire the employee involved, or issue a written warning - depending on the exact nature. A good manager accepts that employees will want to check their personal e-mail during the working day and, so long as they restrict this to lunchtime and other breaks, I had no problem with it. Downloading porn, or playing on-line games is a different matter. Either is entirely inappropriate for the workplace.
Where some companies are over-reacting is by not allowing any Internet access. See our earlier ramblings on the topic.
San Francisco - one of our favourite cities (except for the politics)
The Telegraph has an excellent short essay on San Francisco:
I was the only one who was a threat during my stay. Or so it must have seemed to the two soldiers in the Humvee by the Golden Gate Bridge (which since September 11 has come to be seen as a potential target).
I snapped a couple of pictures. Then a couple more. At that point the hand of one of the soldiers went up flat against the windscreen and he stepped out, fingering his rifle. "Sir," he said, "we don't mind a few pictures. But you got enough there for a reconnaissance." In this famously liberal city, I had bumped up against the limits of tolerance.
Are they trying to piss off the business passengers now?
Because I'm one - and I will certainly be pissed-off if they ban the use of laptops and PDAs on flights. OK, so many of us use them to watch a DVD during long and boring flights, but we also use them to work.
This Times Online report says that tests show that ultra wideband (UWB) equipment (such as 802.11b wireless network cards, presumably) can interfere with systems on passenger jets.
British Airways aren't impressed:
A ban on laptops would have severe implications for the business travel market. British Airways said yesterday that 75 per cent of its business travellers carried them. The airline is introducing a new service in February allowing passengers to use their laptops to access their workplace computer systems and use e-mail and the internet while airborne.
"It is very important for these customers to have the choice of using a laptop during a long flight," a BA spokeswoman said. "They may need to work on a presentation or catch up with e-mails."
No shit, Sherlock!
The interference problem has been touted for years. We are told that cellphones, CD players and even GameBoys can cause low-level interference. Unofficial evidence suggests that this is only the case with older aircraft that aren't shielded against these emissions. Could it be that the airlines are making their customers (who aren't treated at all well in most cases) suffer for their technological failings?
No apologies for sounding a little bitter and twisted - we here have clocked up hundreds of thousands of miles of air travel and so have some experience of the issue.
BBC: Amazing Tales from the Planet Tabloid competition
It's time for the annual "Which-tabloid-story-was-the-silliest?" competition over at the BBC.
1) There's nothing like a fry-up even if you're up a mountain, right? Darn right, say the potholers who phoned in an order to their favourite caff... which then enlisted a backpacking delivery man to trudge four miles to the summit to serve up the grub.
2) Er, which Fifth Ave? A letter clearly addressed to Hollywood star Paul Newman, of 1120 Fifth Ave, New York, landed on the mat of former dinner lady Irene Stoner, 120 Fifth Ave, York. Irene now hopes Paul will get some of her mail: "All I ever get is bills and he's welcome to those."
3) On holiday in the world's first nudist town. And there's photos to go with it. Need we say more?
4) Size does matter... when it comes to wine glasses. For research from Tennessee (!) shows that an important part of a wine's taste depends on its chemical reaction with oxygen. So theoretically, plonk will taste better in a glass the size of a goldfish bowl. Snobs will no doubt sing the praises of this "blowsy, full-stemmed number" - and that's just the wine.
5) Which star has had the most new hairstyles? Ladies, take your places for the GREAT HAIRDO RACE. And they're off! Cher takes an early lead, closely tailed by Madge, but Julia's gaining fast... and here comes Kylie! But can she keep up with La Lopez? No she can't - and J-Lo wins!
6) We know foreign men (and footballers) kiss each other - now Brits are getting in on the act. Elton John and George Michael may be no surprise, but they've been joined by the likes of Prince Charles, Mick Jagger and Kylie's on-off-on-on-off-maybe boyfriend (not at the same time and not each other).
We contribute to Blogcritics, which is a site you should have bookmarked if you're interested in music and books (movies will be added shortly, too). Blogcritics front page here, our latest book review here: Billy.
This BBC story tells of a scheme in Canada that will shortly come to the UK. The logic team here at Group HQ think it's a good idea - the emotional team want to lock the offenders away and lose the key.
The diplomats must be going apeshit over this one
Abolishing the death penalty is a requirement for membership of the European Union (that we feel it's the quickest way to get Britain out of the EU is another post).
Germany has taken this requirement one step further and has long had laws that forbid the extradition of a criminal suspect to a country that does have the death penalty if the charges they face might reasonably be expected to result in a death sentence.
Zacarias Moussaoui, trainee pilot, associate of 9/11 hijack pilot Mohamed Atta, is currently in custody in the US. He spent some time in Germany, and that country has material evidence that would (presumably) assist the US case.
Currently, Germany is refusing to release this evidence to the US, on the grounds that their law won't allow them to.
The US won't recognise the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court because to do so would violate its Constitution - this I understand completely. Germany won't break its laws and, while I think this particular law is wrong, it is their law.
The only obvious way out would be for the US to give assurances that it will not seek the death penalty and, given the (understandably) high emotions running around 9/11 cases, they probably don't want to do that.
Update: 4 rapists and 2 jurors get the death sentence in Pakistan
They were sentenced by an Anti-Terrorism court (strangely), not a Sharia court. This means that they will be executed by hanging, rather than stoning.
How ironic that their own treatment (if their expected appeals fail) will be relatively civilised, when their actions were so barbaric.