Bits and Pieces

Sunday, February 29, 2004

Mmmmm... Crunchy

I've been promoted to Crunchy Crustacean in the TTLB Ecosystem. I didn't enjoy being a Wiggly Worm for one minute, no siree Bob.

Oscar Night

Well, it's that time of the year again. Hundred of malnourished women and guys in penguin suits gather to applaud each other. I'm no fan of the Oscars. Anyway, here are the predictions. Since I haven't actually seen most of the films (in fact I haven't even heard of most of them) you shouldn't expect a high level of accuracy.

Best Picture

It has to be Return of the King. I haven't seen it, but everyone said it was great, so I'll take their word.

Actor in a Leading Role

I think Bill Murray deserves it. I haven't seen Lost in Translation but Murray has been impressing me since Caddyshack. Come on - Ghostbusters, Scrooged, What About Bob?, Groundhog Day, Kingpin, Wild Things, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums. Can you think of a guy who is more deserving of praise? Didn't think so. Give the man a prize.

Actor in a Supporting Role

I've not seen any of the films, but Tim Robbins is consistently good.

Actress in a Leading Role

Again, I haven't seen any of the films, and have only heard of one of them (Something's Gotta Give), but I'm gonna say Charlize Theron.

Actress in a Supporting Role

I neither know nor care. Who the hell is Shohreh Aghdashloo? I swear Hollywood gets weirder every year.

And what have you learned from reading these predictions? I need to go to Blockbusters more often.

Saturday, February 28, 2004

Got To Buy Some Bins

I just got back from an eye test, and the news ain't good. I haven't had a test since the first week of July 2002, so I'm long overdue.

I started wearing glasses at the age of 13, and hated every second of it for 3 years until I was allowed to wear contacts. I've happily worn lenses for ever since, moving from gas permeable to daily disposable (as a result of an ex-girlfiriend throwing a garlic clove in my eye and breaking a gas permeable lens).

Unfortunately my job requires me to stare at a screen for 8 hours a day, and a lot of my off-time is spent in front of a PC too (sad, no?). As a result of putting the lenses in at 6:30am, staring at a screen for 8 hours in an office with bad air-con, and then taking the lenses out at midnight to get a few hours sleep, my eyes have been starved of oxygen. On examining my eyes the first thing the optician said was 'Jesus!'. It doesn't get much worse than that.

Anyway, I have been told that I shouldn't wear the lenses any more, and must buy a pair of specs. I'm not dreading this as much as I expected. There have been considerable leaps forward in spectacle design since I wore them as a teen. Most of all, I am forced to accept that the way I use lenses will ultimately cause permanent damage. As my greatest fear is blindness, I have no choice but to see this as an opportunity. After all, 'There's none so blind as they that won't see'.

Friday, February 27, 2004

Public Smoking Ban Proposed

I am incensed, absolutely pissed off, at the news I read today. The Royal College of Physicians has recommended that smoking be banned in all public places in England.

This policy is so misguided it makes me laugh. I can imagine the boffins who came up with it looking at what was next on the agenda: "Communism. Yeah, that might work."

This particular quote made my blood boil at the stupidity of the idea: "the harder it is to find somewhere to smoke, the more incentives there are to quit." Incentives to quit? Hey, the threat of lung cancer, heart disease, bad breath, yellow teeth and the fact that we're inhaling cyanide and benzene hasn't deterred us. What makes you think a no-smoking sign will? That quote was from Derek Wanless, the former head of NatWest Bank, seemingly oblivious to the precedent set by Prohibition and almost every other effort to reduce or eradicate harmful substances and behaviour. This is a guy who was in control of my bank account for 5 years. What was I thinking?

As as fairly heavy smoker I support a hypothetical complete ban. In my more lucid moments I realise that smoking will probably kill me. The problem is that a ban obviously wouldn't work. The only effect of this ban would be a lot of pissed-off people ending up in court on breach of the peace charges, myself leading the crowd. I for one could do without it.

- Posted by Hello


I can't be bothered writing about politics right now, so allow me to tell you about my favourite place in the world: Melbourne, Australia.

I went to Melbourne in summer 2002 to visit my brother, who was travelling for a year after finishing university. My original plan was to fly to Sydney, rent a convertible and drive up to Brisbane to meet him, but his plans changed and he ended up in Melbourne. I was on the verge of cancelling the trip, as I had no intention of spending the Australian winter in such a temperate climate as Melbourne. I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't.

I arrived in Melbourne Airport at 5am on a cold June morning, relieved after a horrible 25 hour flight with a stopover at Singapore. With nothing but my luggage and a scrawled address, I jumped on a coach to the CBD. On arrival, I stood for a few minutes at the Bourke Street tram stop, savouring the feeling that I had the city to myself. Melbourne had yet to come alive, and the only activity was at a small newspaper stand, the owner bustling about setting up the racks. Presently an old green and yellow tram came creaking down the tracks, its destination marked number 12: St. Kilda.

My first worrying moment came when I got off the tram at a Burger King on Fitzroy Street, St. Kilda. The town was still pitch black and silent as the grave, and I had absolutely no idea where my brother's flat was. All I had was an address on Canterbury Road and an instruction to get off on Fitzroy. After 20 minutes of searching I found the building, awoke an obese old man on the first floor with my knocking, and got him to let me in.

In the light of day St. Kilda looked a lot more inviting than it had seemed last night. The bright winter sun shone on a quaint town that seemed to have been moved wholesale from the coast of Victorian England. The long promenade fringed by a pristine stretch of white sand; the rickety old wooden rollercoaster of Luna Park looking like it could collapse at any moment; the myriad cake shops catering to every taste, as long as it was sweet. If it wasn't for the fact that the town was popular with travellers who favoured tie-dye shirts and long greasy hair I could almost have believed I had travelled back into the past.

Over the following weeks I slipped into a comfortable routine. I would awake on the sofa when the early sunlight peeked through the sliding door, and walk a hundred yards to a bakery or 7-11 to pick up some freshly baked bread and something to cover it with. After breakfast I would gather the troops (among them my brother and his flatmates: Jonny, Olly and Dom), and play football for a couple of hours in Albert Park.

Loch Ard

Most of the nights were insane and alcohol fuelled. The World Cup was being played at the time in Japan and South Korea, so most nights were spent either in the Elephant and Wheelbarrow, an English theme pub (why do the English enjoy these pubs so much?) or a sports bar in Chinatown in Melbourne, where we witnessed the most unusual behaviour. South Koreans who had come to watch their country play would sit drinking soft drinks, and after replacing all the chairs and tables at the end of the game, they would quietly file out of the bar and go home. I remember when South Korea were knocked out of the tournament. Someone had printed out several hundred small flags and hand coloured them all., During the game the South Koreans waved them like there was no tomorrow, but at the end of the game they left them all in orderly stacks at the bar for disposal. I have the utmost admiration for South Koreans. Their good manners and composure is something English football fans could do with learning.

Anyway, I have written quite enough for now. I will save my stories for the next time I feel a little nostalgic. Next time I'll tell you about the Great Ocean Road, where we were caught in storms in the middle of a tropical forest (and later that night kidnapped and abandoned by drunken Australians). Or maybe the time my brother was poisoned and needed a CAT scan after waking up face down in front of a church with cuts on his face. Or maybe even the time we met Harold Bishop from Neighbours, and he shocked us with some foul language about Aussie Rules Football (who would have thought that he knew words like that?) For now, I bid you adieu.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

I Wish I Was in America

You want to know why? No? Well, you've got a smart mouth mister.

Here's why. Sex and the City is over in the US, but there are still a few painful episodes to endure here in the UK. Now I don't want you to get the idea that I actually watch it, but my 16 year old sister insists on watching it whenever I'm around. After about 4 years of hell it is almost over.

I have no real problem with the show. I can choose to ignore it if I wish. What worries me is that these 4 absolutely repellent women are idolised by millions of teens and young women, including my younger sister. These women embody all that is nasty and base about feminism. Samantha, an aging slut, managed to crowbar the word 'fuck' into every sentence, regardless of whether it was necessary (or even gramatically correct). Cindy Chupack, writer and executive producer of the show, said

"I think it was very liberating to hear women using the language that was previously reserved for men's locker rooms -- Samantha more so than the other characters."

Why is it 'liberating' to show women swearing excessively on primetime TV? Why is it desirable to make young women think it's cool and clever to swear? Us guys have already lost the fight. Can't we save the women from Tourettes style profanity?

Even worse than the constant stream of profanity was the attitude to sex. Every week each character seemed to meet a new guy (or two), take him home on the first date and fuck him 'til sunrise, dump him for some ridiculously small fault, and then go and laugh about it with their friends. My sister watches this show! I don't want her to get the idea that that's the way she should act. I know I should credit her with more intelligence than that, but to be honest I'm not sure I can. TV has a hypnotic influence over people (especially teens), and sometimes the brain is by-passed.

Anyway, I look forward to the last episode so I can wave goodbye to this god-awful program. Hopefully my sister can then go back to watching dull, wholesome programming like, er, Will and Grace.

UK 'Right to Life' Test Case Begins

LONDON (Reuters) - A British man dying from a degenerative brain condition began a test case at London's High Court Thursday against rules which allow doctors to withdraw artificial feeding from terminally ill patients, possibly leading to their deaths.

Wheelchair-bound Leslie Burke, 44, who suffers from cerebellar ataxia which will ultimately kill him, has brought his "right-to-life" challenge against the UK's General Medical Council.

Under current UK law, doctors can withdraw feeding tubes from a patient if they decide it to be in the best interest of the patient (i.e. they will never recover, and their life is being prolonged needlessly). Burke wants the right to be kept alive until he passes away naturally.

But at what point does it become cruel to keep a patient alive? In Burke's case, his degenerative disease will leave him immobile but with an active mind. He could be locked in the prison of his body indefinitely, with no way of communicating his wish to die to doctors. This is the dillema faced by the courts, as this test case will affect thousands of other such patients.

I dread to think of the thousands who would choose to be kept alive without considering the ramifications of their choice. I remember watching an old black and white horror film as a child (the TV itself was black and white, so the film may well have been in colour). A man had been attacked and left to die in a forest. His body was recovered and prepared for burial, and he was taken to his funeral in a glass-topped casket (maybe that part was my memory playing games with me). The terrifying part of the scene was that throughout this the man was fully aware of what was going on. He silently screamed to the pallbearers to let him out. The final scene was shot looking up from the point of view of the man, watching desperately as the soil was shovelled onto the casket.

That scene terrified me for years, and the memory of it makes me hope that Burke loses his case. The price of his right to live may be too high.

Shipman Still in One Piece

It turns out that Harold Shipman's body is still intact. Reports of his cremation were false.

(Medico Legal) Centre manager Linda Dale said: "Harold Shipman's body is still being held at the centre. It came here immediately after his death.

"I understand the body has been released by the coroner and is now waiting to be removed."

Burn the bastard already. His mere presence pisses me off.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Shipman Cremated

Shipman cremated at private ceremony

LONDON (Reuters) - Mass murderer Dr Harold Shipman, who hanged himself in his prison cell last month, has been cremated at a private family ceremony, newspapers report.

Britain's most prolific mass murder is finally gone from the face of the earth, and not a moment too soon. As the former GP of some of my best friends, I have no hesitation in saying I hope his ashes were 'accidentally' flushed down the toilet.

Shipman killed over 200 people in Todmorden and Hyde, my home town. He commited suicide while serving a life sentence last month. The man was an evil bastard, plain and simple, and I hope he is in hell right now.

Semantics of Marriage

Unfogged has a very interesting article on the semantics of marriage, and why the idea of gay marriage may stick in the craw of many heterosexuals.

The article seems to hit the nail on the head. The phrase 'I'm married' reinforces heterosexual identity. At the heart of it gay marriage, while not necessarily viewed as repellent by the majority, would threaten the identities of millions of straight people.

While I think that semantics shouldn't be a valid argument as to why two gay men or women shouldn't have their union recognised by the state, I can see the point. Identity, a sense of belonging to a group, is possibly one of the most fundamental aspects of personality. To have millions of people suddenly denied a part of their personality may have psychological consequences we can't predict.

Or, you know, we're all making a big thing out of nothing, and should all just shut up and let them get on with it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Earthquake Kills Dozens... Hundreds?

An earthquake measuring 6.5 on the Richter scale has killed at least 82 people, with up to 300 possible deaths, in northern Morocco.

The earthquake hit near Al Hoceima, a port on the Strait of Gibraltar, in the early hours of the day.

I spent a little time in Morocco, and wrote my dissertation on building codes in undeveloped countries, so I'm fairly familiar with the building standards in the country. When people think of buildings in countries like Morocco they think of Islamic architecture and mud-brick walled ancient buildings. What they don't think of are the shoddily built tenements thrown up using any materials available, buildings that are held up by will alone. These wrecks can barely take a stiff breeze, never mind an earthquake. The problem is that building codes are rarely enforced in undeveloped countries, and we see the result year in and year out. Izmit, Turkey; Bam, Iran. Tens of thousands dead, because they can't afford to ensure safe building practises. All I can say is it's lucky this quake didn't hit in Tangier or Rabat. If that happened we'd be looking at thousands instead of dozens dead.

*Update* - the death toll has increased to at least 229.
*Another update* - the death toll is now at least 560.

President Begins Attack

Bush took his first direct swipe at Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Speaking to an audience of Republican governors, Bush said the Democratic field offered diverse opinions on a host of issues.

“For tax cuts and against them. … For liberating Iraq and opposed to it,” he said, ticking off several other examples and adding the punch line: “And that's just one senator from Massachusetts.”

I don't like the guy, but his speechwriters can occasionally come up with a good line.

So this will be the strategy. I expect Bush to continue along the lines of 'they don't have any solutions' followed by a generous helping of 'they are running a negative campaign'. From what I have seen of the Democratic campaign so far the guy has a point. As I said the other day, the Democrats need to come up with some firm aims if they expect the public to put their trust in them. With approval ratings plunging, Bush can't afford to take the high road and delaythe start of his campaign. Considering Bush has raised over $100 million for the fight we can expect some pretty hardcore campaigning soon.

Hey, At Least I Have A Job

James Joyner of OutsidetheBeltway has been made unemployed. I may be painfully poor, but at least I have a job. If anyone has any leads for him, please get in touch. In the meantime he could probably do with any spare change you could throw in his tip jar.

As of around 10 this morning, I am on the market.

It isn’t a complete surprise, in that the company has been experiencing financial woes for months now, but I didn’t think it would happen for a few months. I had been quietly dabbling in the job market for a while but not aggressively enough, as it turns out. They’re paying me through the end of March and I’ve managed to build my savings back up a little, so I can make it for a couple of months, anyway.

Monday, February 23, 2004

Assault Weapons Ban

On September 13th, 2004, the Federal Assault Weapons Ban will expire. The ban as it stands is fairly pointless, banning certain semi-automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. Come September, the ban will 'sunset' unless President Bush and Congress intervene and either renew the ban or bring in new, tougher legislation.

The gun argument has always baffled us in the UK. Over here you are simply not permitted to own a gun unless you have a damn good reason. If you are caught carrying a gun on the streets then you are going to jail (provided an Armed Reponse Team doesn't shoot you dead first). Guns are not tolerated because they serve no purpose. There is no reason for you to own a gun. It's as simple as that. Every man, woman and child in the US and UK can get by without a weapon. That's why we don't get the fact that gun laws are an issue in the US.

In the UK we see the solution as very simple. Assuming that you are not willing to give up all your gun rights, only handguns should be legal. These should be used solely for home protection (despite the fact that keeping a gun in the house increases the chance of you being killed). Rifles and shotguns should be permitted only for those whose professions require them (farmers, park rangers, Jack Bauer, etc.).

But we all know that guns aren't going away in the US any time soon. You wanna know why? It isn't because people want to protect their homes, or care about their Constitutional right or anything like that. This is the reason:

Guns are cool.

It's true. Guns are cool. They look cool. They blow holes in stuff, and while you carry one you don't feel like Bob in accounts. You feel like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry; Arnold Schwarzenneger in Commando; er... Lara Croft in Tomb Raider (couldn't think of any other gun-toting women). I think they're cool myself. Back when I started college in 1997 I went out and bought myself a ball-bearing firing air pistol (being the most powerful projectile weapon available in our gun shops). I still have it, and still think it's cool. When I was in secondary school paintballing became popular, and for a few years we all ran around forests pretending we were in 'Nam.

What we need to do is grow up. Guns may be cool but they kill a lot of people. I believe the majority of support for the right to firearms would vanish if people sat down and thought 'Is it worth it?' In 1999 (the last year I could find data for while on my lunch break), 28,874 people were killed in gun-related incidents, and more than twice that number were injured. Is it worth it?

For me the question of assault weapons is detracting from the real issue. Guns should be banned period. Confusing the issue by nit-picking about pistol grips and bayonet attachments can only serve against the ultimate goal. Put down the weapon.

What a Great Idea

This is one of the best ideas I have seen in recent years, and a fantastic way to improve relations between the US and the people of the Middle East.

I have... decided to begin a project to translate important books by great Americans and about America into Arabic, and to subsidize their publication so that they can be bought inexpensively. I hope also to subsidize their distribution.

The idea that the US Constitution, an admittedly great and noble piece of work, is to be translated to Arabic and distributed to people whose only knowledge of America is that which has been forced down their throats by dictator bad guys can only be a good thing - as long as it is handled properly.

Everyone deserves freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the right to the pursuit of happiness, but let's hope that the Global Americana Institute can resist the temptation to turn these publications into pro-US indoctrination. I for one would be more than happy to donate to the Institute, especially since the founder is hoping to register as a charity (making donations tax-deductable).

Ralph Nader - Most Influential American?

The first I heard of Ralph Nader was a few years ago while reading Michael Moore's 'Stupid White Men' (I know, I know, but it's an entertaining book). Nader's notoriety never made it across the pond during the last election, and at the time I didn't really read blogs or election news so I missed him.

The way Moore sees it, he had the idea to blackmail the Democrats into moving more left (lefter?) than they were comfortable with. Maybe blackmail is too strong a word. Nader held a fairly minor number of swing voters who were unsatisfied with the fact that the Dems were a little too Republican, and he had the opportunity to deliver these votes to the Dems in return for a few Nader-friendly policies. In the end it didn't pan out and Nader took a little under 2.8 million vote as a Green Party candidate.

At the end of the day there were 12,513 votes registered in Florida for a candidate other than Gore or Bush. The margin between the two candidates was 537. Logic dictates that Nader held at least 537 votes that would have otherwise gone to Gore, so it is not beyond possibility that Gore could have 'bought' these votes from Nader.

So, just as Dean was able to push the Democratic candidates further to the left than they wanted at the beginning of the Primaries, Nader will once again have the power to further his cause in the General Election. Has he learned from his mistakes in 2000? Who knows. What I do know is that the Democrats will be thinking long and hard about Nader's goals this time.

Sunday, February 22, 2004


Just been reading a post at Yourish about Mel Gibson's dad questioning the holocaust. The question that comes to mind is this: why is anti-Semite such a dirty word while anti-Christian or anti-Catholic seems like just good sense? If I stated that I thought Catholics have silly ideas about contraception most people would have no problem agreeing, but if I insulted Judaism I would expect, and probably receive, a chilly silence.

Sorry George

WASHINGTON - Spot, President Bush's brown-and-white English springer spaniel, died Saturday. She would have been 15 next month.

Sorry George. That sucks. I remember when we made the decision to put the family cat to sleep after he'd been in the family for about 15 years. You have to have a pet to understand how shitty that sort of decision is.

Saturday, February 21, 2004


I'm just back from a club, having difficulty typing (5 attempts at the word 'difficulty'; 3 at the word 'the').

I'm still on a buzz from the beer, so I thought I'd take a look at instapundit, where I found this entry (e-mail opinion, rather than the views of Glenn Reynolds):-

The Democrats are trying to hold open seats in the Carolinas, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana, and they have sitting senators up for re-election in the Dakotas, Arkansas and Nevada. They also hope to pick up seats in Oklahoma and Alaska. None of those states are places where naysaying about Iraq or demands for deference to the U.N. are likely to play well.

the Democrats will have to be very careful with their foreign policy message as November nears, or risk down-ballot disaster that solidifies the GOP's hold on the Senate.

In part I agree. Naysaying about Iraq will not work, as the Bush administration will simply cloud the issue with information suggesting that the Iraqis are much better off and happier today than they were a year ago. The Democrats are picking a fight they can't win.

However, I do not agree with the idea that the Democrats should be careful with their foreign policy. As I said earlier, they need to come out fighting with their policies. Damn the naysayers. If the public don't agree then damn well make them agree. Choose a destination, guys. Choose a destination.

How The Democrats Can Beat Bush

Forgive me. I know little of politics. I have never held office, never chosen to vote, and don't even live in the US. However, it seems to me that the Democratic Party have lost their way. In fact they lost their way at some point before my birth, but it's as bad today as I have ever seen.

Even during this make-or-break time, as America chooses the man who will lead the fight against George Bush, I fail to see any coherent message, any solid strategy for the Democrats. I hear nothing but Republican bashing. Let me tell you, in the few years since Bush came to power he's proved remarkably adept at wriggling out of bad press. Asleep at the wheel on 9/11; the shocking handling of the economy; unnecessary wars (two of 'em) - Teflon George has wriggled out of harm's way. He's managed to turn the voting public into clones of the British public during WWII, when we were more than willing to suffer any hardship and make any sacrifice, including sending our sons off to die on foreign soil, in order to beat the enemy. Bush has had this weapon for almost three years, and he and his administration have employed it masterfully. In the upcoming months they will turn it on the Democrats.

If the Democrats are to have any hopes of winning in November they must change their tack. They won't win by bad-mouthing Bush, saying he's been doing it all wrong. They need to let the public know they can do it better. I'm reminded of a scene in an episode of the West Wing in which Leo McGarry is concerned that the President has been keeping away from controversial issues so as not to ruin his chance at re-election:-

McGarry: Listen up. Our ground game isn't working. We're gonna put the ball in the air. If we're gonna walk into walls I want us running into them at full speed.

Lyman: What are you saying?

McGarry: We're gonna lose some of these battles. We might even lose the White House. But we're not gonna be threatened by issues. We're gonna put them front and centre. We're going to raise the level of public debate in this country... And let that be our legacy.

My message to the Democrats is this: find a destination. Find a destination, and don't stop until you get there. Forget about all the negative politics, forget about Bush's service record and all the other non-issues. Republicans can play the negative game just as well. Be strong on issues that matter. Don't sugar coat it to appease the majority. If the majority don't agree with your policies then you can spend the next four years in opposition trying to change their minds.

If they lose in November after following my advice, at least they'll lose with dignity. If they lose with their current strategy, they'll lose more than an election.


Let me tell you a cautionary tale. Before I settled on the name Sortapundit, I flirted with (since I am English). I was at work at the time, so I clicked through the annoying 'Internet usage strictly prohibited' notice and logged on.

My first port of call was Lycos, as that was where I bought for a reasonable price. It allowed free URL forwarding, and was relatively user-friendly. However, the site wouldn't accept payment with my Visa Electron card (a 'real' Visa card was refused due to huge student debt).

So, on I toddled to Google, which came up with, a respectable looking site that would sell me for $35. They accepted my card, and I went on to the 'my account' page... Only to find that one of the conditions of use was that they could place an 'unintrusive' advertisement in the browser window. Of course I hadn't read the terms and conditions before registering the domain (who does?) so I didn't have a leg to stand on.

Anyway, I went on and finally found a site that would accept an Electron card with no strings and ended up buying Anyway, before you move on, just click here and see exactly how 'unintrusive' the ad is.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Update on Iran

The polls have opened in the the Iranian election. 46 million Iranians over the age of 15 are entitled to vote. Here's hoping for, I don't know, 5 votes.

Here's some background on the situation from the Washington Post.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Iranian Bloggers To Report on Election

Iranians are in for an interesting day tomorrow as polls open for the general election. Pro-reform advocates have called for a mass no-show in an effort to undermine the rule of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The Ayatollah, who by all reports rules the nation with an iron fist, succeeded Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in 1989. Before that he was President from 1981-1989.

In May 2003, over 100 members of parliament wrote an open letter to the Ayatollah, warning that unless he removes obstacles to reforms the survival of the Islamic system will be at risk.

Anyway, Khamenei's government barred 2,400 candidates who are looking for reform. It later muzzled two liberal newspapers, Yas-e-nou and Sharq, in the leadup to the election.

In the meantime, Hossein Derakhshan is encouraging Iranian bloggers to keep us up to date on the election as it happens. I'll do my best to post what I find, as I'm sure others in the blogosphere will. Good look reformers.

High Noon

So, it's a good old fashioned showdown between Kerry and Edwards, in the greatest 'merican tradition. The first showdown will be on Super Tuesday, when the two desperadoes will unshuck their shootin' irons and duel it out across California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island and Vermont. The showdown will reveal if Edwards is a tough hombre, or if Kerry has a yeller streak as long as the Mississippi.

But it won't end there. In the weeks to come we'll finally see who goes on to the glory of the Presidential Election, and who just goes on to glory. Yeehaw!

Weblog Review

Well, my review has come in and it's better than I expected. Considering the Weblog Review last year described my site as an 'emotional trashcan' that would only appeal to 3rd graders, I awaited my review with some trepidation to say the least.

Anyway, the site was reviewed 3 times last year, and received an average rating of 2.6/5. In its new form it has now been reviewed twice, with ratings of 3/5 and 4/5. It's safe to say that I'm pleases with this.

My only problems are that the reviews on the front page of their site are arranged in date order, starting with the oldest. That means that the first impression readers get is of the disastrous 2.5/5 review of June 2003. Bah. The other problem is that one of the reviewers failed to notice that the site has a new URL,, as well as name, leading to a little confusion on her part (and on readers of the review).

Anyway, I'm sure you have guessed by now that I am an obsessive stats watcher. I spend all day with one eye on my stats tracker to see how people are finding the site (occasionally funny Google searches that lead to the site help alleviate the boredom).

In conclusion, my boss is becoming curious as to why I am frantically typing when my job requires only the occasional touch of the keys, so I'd better sign off now. Here he comes.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004



Attention sil vous plait

I have a visitor from the WeblogReview coming shortly, so I thought I'd better make it clear to him/her that this is indeed, only it has a new and funky name. Please call it in the review if you read this before it's written. Thanks.

Dean Bows Out

As expected, Howard Dean withdrew from the Democratic presidential campaign today. However, he promised to keep his "campaign for change" alive in an effort to influence the path of the Democrats.

What amazes me is how a candidate can continue to fight after losing so often and by so great a margin. Personally, I would not have made it as far as 17 losses before dropping out.

Although I attempt to report on US politics, I often find it a completely alien landscape. I look at it from a distance, never really understanding what the hell is going on (as is plain from my previous posts). The only advantage of reading my opinions is that they are typical of an outsider, someone who can look over the whole thing and try to make some sense of it.

I don't mind saying that to the rest of the world America seems a crazy place. US politics are a perfect example of this craziness. The candidates often act like mental patients, collecting huge donations and blowing it all on attention-grabbing commercials, rousing speeches and whistlestop tours from coast to coast, kissing babies and shaking hands along the way.

This simply doesn't happen in England. Candidates are quiet, sombre and composed. Campaigns occur not on national TV, but in musty town halls and the local news. The candidates rarely attack their rivals, but treat them with a cold respect. The only drama comes from the occasional outburst (John Prescott's fantastic left-hook to the chin of an egg-hurling protestor in 2001 is a fine example). However, this sort of entertainment occurs once in a blue moon.

For this reason I find the glamour of a presidential race hard to ignore. It is not often that we in the UK have the chance to watch politics that plays more like a soap opera than an election, complete with tales of infidelity and desertion. Americans know how to make politics interesting. For that, I thank the candidates.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Dean Vows To Fight On

It baffles me what kind of person would continue to campaign after 16 losses (and a 17th expected in a few hours). If I was in Dean's position I'd call it a day tonight or tomorrow. His words? "I'm optimistic."

How can anyone be optimistic after losing 17 straight primaries? I'd be crushed after 1. That's probably why I'm not running. Well, that and the fact that I'm British and have never held office, but that's neither here nor there.

Add to this the fact that his campaign manager has left, and Kerry has seen such fantastic success, it looks to me like its all over for Dean. The only thing that could restore any confidence in him is if he absolutely stormed Super Tuesday, but what are the chances? Persnally, I doubt he'll still be here in March, but Dean disagrees.

"Our campaign is not in turmoil at all. We are moving forward and we are going to go to 'Super Tuesday' and on beyond that," Dean told NBC's "Today Show."

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Plot Thickens

A statement released Monday by Alexandra Polier

"For the last several days I have seen Internet and tabloid rumors relating to me and Senator John Kerry. Because these stories were false, I assumed the media would ignore them. It seems that efforts to peddle these lies continue, so I feel compelled to address them. I have never had a relationship with Senator Kerry, and the rumors in the press are completely false. Whoever is spreading these rumors and allegations does not know me, but should know the pain they have caused me and my family. I am in Kenya with my fiance visiting his family, and we ask that the press respect our privacy and leave all of us alone."

So, finally there is a statement from 'the accused'. Seems Matt Drudge has been telling porkies. People must stop believing that guy. I, of course, never believed a word of it. Ahem.

John Kerry Infidelity: Hoax?

A few things about this John Kerry intern story don't seem to add up. The one that's making me think the most is the claim that Alex Polier, the alleged mistress, has been spirited out of the country at the behest of Kerry until the story blows over.

However, I find this idea hard to believe, especially following the news that Polier filmed a kiss-and-tell video to be aired on a US TV network. The expose was apparently filmed around christmas time. If this is true, then why would Polier bother to agree to leave the country?

My own belief is that this is all just so much hot air, cooked up by parties unknown in an effort to cast a shadow over Kerry's campaign success.

The proof will be in the pudding, though, as the network probably won't sit on the tape forever.

Steve Grossman to Jump Ship, Support Kerry

The chairman of Howard Dean's presidential campaign said on Sunday that he would leave and shift his support to Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts if Dr. Dean lost the Wisconsin primary on Tuesday, an outcome he sees as all but inevitable.

It seems most people know which way the wind is blowing at this stage in the race, and it's blowing due Kerry. My God, I'm a literary genius. Poetry, pure poetry.

Sydney Riots

A serious riot broke out last night in the Sydney suburb of Redfren between the local Aboriginal population and police. Roger Maynard reports on a confrontation which again highlights Australia's most enduring social problem.

The death of Thomas Hickey, a 17-year-old Aboriginal boy. He was impaled on railings after falling off his bicycle on Sunday. The local community, including Thomas's mother, insist that the police were chasing the teenager when he lost control of his bike and died. A warrant had recently been issued for his arrest after his failure to appear in court over assault claims.

Should we be surprised? Since whitey landed at Botany bay we've treated Aboriginals as second-class citizens. We denied them the right to property, hunted them down like animals and even made it government policy to take a generation of their children into care. Should it come as a surprise that they're a little disgruntled?

The results of our awful behaviour can be clearly seen by anyone who has spent time in Australia. Most of the Aboriginals I've ever met have been on welfare or in low-paid jobs. A shocking proportion are dependent on drink and drugs, and the life expectancy is over 20 years less than that of the white population.

I love Australia. I would like to retire there. In fact, given the option I would emigrate there today. However, the country is institutionally racist. The Aboriginals have never had a Martin Luther King to effect a shift in the nation's consciousness. The best they had was King Billy, and all he did was stand around in ragged clothes.

In short, we can expect these problems to get much worse before they get better. If there is ever to be a unified, inclusive Australia, they need to start taking a long hard look at themselves.

Whats in a Name?

I've had it with

After months of having link exchanges refused because of the name, of getting fan mail from 15 year old kids with chips on their shoulders, and of being alligned with extremist left wing weirdos, I've decided to invest in a new name.

I give you...

Sunday, February 15, 2004

British Spy Op Wrecked Peace Move

A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of Iraq, The Observer can reveal.

Adolfo Aguilar, the former Mexican ambassador to the UN, claimed that US officials intervened before the invasion of Iraq to halt talks with the aim of giving weapons inspectors more time.

As the talks were held in secret, it is suspected that the Americans found out about them through illegal surveillance.

Aguilar Zinser said that it was clear that the Americans knew about the talks through surveillance. 'When they [the US] found out, they said, "You should know that we don't like the idea and we don't like you to promote it." '

The Mexican government confirmed last week that diplomatic letters were sent to Straw last December asking him to clarify whether GCHQ was involved in spying on its UN allies. They have yet to receive a response. The Foreign Office refused to comment on the new allegations.

The most important question that must be asked is why has this story not received any attention over in the US? Could it be that if it proves to be true it could further extend the rift that exists between the US and UN, whose relationship was stretched to breaking point over the invasion of Iraq?

This adds credence to the belief that Bush and Blair were determined to take down Hussein at all costs.

Dean Losing Support

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, the one-time front-runner in the bid to take on President Bush, denied on Sunday that top aides were planning to leave his campaign after critical voting in Wisconsin on Tuesday.

Seems like it's jump ship time for the Dean people. Not a big surprise after the runaway success of the Kerry campaign.

"We're going to keep going, one way or the other"

Remarkably reminiscent of Clark's words... a couple of days before he threw in the towel.

In the aftermath of this story, Dean's true identity was revealed on camera.

DEA to Cut Pain Drug Availability

WASHINGTON - The Drug Enforcement Administration is working to make one of the most widely prescribed medications more difficult for patients to obtain as part of its stepped-up offensive against the diversion and abuse of prescription painkillers.

Top DEA officials confirm that the agency is eager to change the official listing of the narcotic hydrocodone -- which was prescribed more than 100 million times last year -- to the highly restricted Schedule II category of the Controlled Substances Act. A painkiller and cough suppressant sold as Lortab, Vicodin and 200 generic brands, hydrocodone combined with other medications has long been available under the less stringent rules of Schedule III.

Is this announcement timed to coincide with the Cymbalta suicide? If it is it seems a little heartless to pin a policy on the back off such a sad event. Still, as I said the other day, if it helps to decrease the use of needless medication it can only be a good thing.

Damned Prostitutes

For the second time in a month a hooker tried to rob me last night. I was coming home from a bar in Manchester, and had just stepped out of an all-night Spar when a tragically unattractive hooker latched on to me. After following me for a few minutes she attempted to kiss me while jamming her hand in my pants pocket. This kind of thing seems to be reaching epidemic proportions in Manchester, and its pissing me right off. People ought to respond in the way I do: push them roughly into the road and hope for traffic.

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Anti-Depressants: More Trouble Than They're Worth

As I posted yesterday, a young woman, Traci Johnson, committed suicide while taking part in a clinical trial of the experimental anti-depressant Cymbalta.

The guys over at The New Republic wrote an interesting article in which they blame the drug for Ms. Johnson's suicide. To support the claim, they say the suicide rate of those who have taken Cymbalta is several times higher than in the general population.

Personally, I wouldn't be so quick to attribute the suicide to the medication itself. Those who volunteer for clinical trials tend to belong to demographics that may be more likely to consider suicide than the average joe. For instance, I took part in clinical trials for anti-depressants when I was a struggling student. At the time of my trials I was under enormous pressure to graduate (having already failed, and having to repeat a year) from university. I had accrued about £20,000 of debt, and I was working a full time job in a high pressure environment while working through the night on coursework and research.

In this I wasn't alone. The motivation of my fellows subjects was that we were being paid £750 for a month-long part time study. We were all students with huge debt. People in such situations are surely more likely than average to consider suicide. As such, we should consider other factors in Traci's environment before we pin the blame on the drug.

Regardless of what triggered the suicidal feelings, I have serious reservations about the use of anti-depressants in any circumstances. I question the wisdom of using chemical means to alleviate a mental disorder. Raising awareness that such medication carries cons as well as pros can only be a good thing. If it causes anyone to reconsider the use of anti-depressants, then at least some good will come of this.

Apathy Sets In

Its only been a few days since I decided to start posting again (the general public, alas, has yet to notice). As soon as I began to think about what subjects to write about it occurred to me that I no longer have this deep loathing for George Bush. I'm not saying he'll be on my Christmas card list any time soon, just that I'm finding it impossible to really work up a big head of steam.

Maybe this is the result of my leaving education. Back when I set up the site I was still in my fourth and final year at university, and mixed with students (read Bush-hating tofu-eaters) every day. It's easy to slide into the habit of hating Georgy boy, and a lot of fun to boot. Once I left uni the urge just kinda faded away.

Anyway, I'll probably change the name of the site when my domain name expires in May. It's putting people off and attracting some really weird e-mails. Almost every piece of mail I get comes from 15-year olds. I want some grown-up mail, dammit!

Al Qaeda Planned World Cup Attack

TOKYO (Reuters) - A senior member of Al Qaeda has told U.S. authorities that the group drew up a plan to launch attacks in Japan during the 2002 World Cup, Japanese media say.

The reports came at a time of growing concern in Japan about possible attacks on its soil linked to its decision to dispatch non-combat troops on a reconstruction mission for Iraq.

Such concerns were fanned by reported threats late last year by al Qaeda to "strike at the heart of Tokyo" if Japan sent troops to Iraq.

The United States has informed Japan of this information, which U.S. authorities are thought to have gained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the suspected planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, the Sankei Shimbun daily said, quoting a government source.

Read the full story here.

I was in Melbourne during the 2002 World Cup, and basically spent a month sitting in a sports bar in Chinatown with a bowl of peanuts and a Carlton Cold in front of me (OK, with a short break to visit Ramsey Street, home of Neighbours). It struck me as odd that nobody was raising the issue of terrorist threats at the tournament. After all, this was less than a year after September 11th, and it's not like nobody has ever set off a bomb at a sporting event.

What made me worry more was the fact that Japan and South Korea are so damned crowded. There must have been about, I don't know, 2 million Korean guys packed in the bar every day. Just imagine how many are packed in Seoul and Tokyo. Add to this the tens of thousands of travelling supporters from across the world; the inevitable civil disturbances tying up the emergency services; the difficulty of tracking the movements of possible terrorists in the crowds, and the impossibility of searching every ticketholder at every game. They could have picked a day and killed thousands.

Did we get off lightly, or did we know that they didn't have the capability?

Friday, February 13, 2004

Why? Why? Why?

(CBS/AP) Three-decade-old memories took center stage in the controversy over President Bush's military record, as former National Guardsmen made claims about whether he showed up for duty in Alabama in 1972.

Two men told a newspaper they were told to expect Mr. Bush, but never saw him. But a third veteran said the president, then a young officer, did fulfill his duties.

When is this story going to die? Listen, political people, it has served its purpose. Anyone who is willing to believe that Bush cheated on his service already believes. We're not going to win over any more people. OK? OK.

If you really must dwell on this non-issue, this is the war record comparison between Bush and Kerry.

Can we please move onto something more important? Issues, maybe?

Kerry Responds to Bush Campaign Video

Saying it came as "no surprise," Kerry dismissed the attack as an attempt to divert attention from the president's own dismal record on jobs, the economy, health care and foreign policy.

And meanwhile...

MADISON, Wis. (Reuters) - Democrat John Kerry won the support on Friday of fellow veteran and former White House rival Wesley Clark, a retired four star general who asked the Massachusetts senator: "Sir, request permission to come aboard."

Is Clark merely fishing for a cushy job in the Kerry administration, or are his motives more honourable? Whatever his motivation, I'm glad he'll bring his own endorsers into the fold.

Clinical Test Suicide

A 19-year-old college student who had shown no outward signs of depression killed herself over the weekend at an Eli Lilly & Company laboratory in Indianapolis where she had been participating in a company drug trial for an experimental antidepressant.

I did an anti-depressant clinical trial when I was struggling through college. The purpose was to test its effects on sexual function, so I had to, er, perform a couple of times. Not wishing to sound insensitive, but suicide was almost a pleasant alternative compared to handing the specimen cup back to the nurse when I was done.

US Soldier Linked to Al Qaeda

FORT LEWIS, Wash.—A National Guardsman was arrested and accused of trying to provide information to the Al Qaeda terrorist network, the U.S. Army has announced.

Army Lt.-Col. Stephen Barger said yesterday that Specialist Ryan Anderson was being held at Fort Lewis "pending criminal charges of aiding the enemy by wrongfully attempting to communicate and give intelligence to the Al Qaeda terrorist network."

Anderson's hometown newspaper, The Everett Herald, reported that Barger had converted to Islam 5 years ago.

Kerry Scandal Breaks Across the Web

How much truth is there to the rumours of John F Kerry's infidelity? Many bloggers are of the opinion that it's nothing more than a dirty tactic to undermine the candidacy. I myself wouldn't put it past a powerful politician to carry on an affair with a younger woman (hey, there's a first time for everything). Whatever the truth, I guess we'll found out next week if the rumours are true that Time magazine will be outing Kerry.

Ultimately, this can mean nothing but trouble for the Democratic campaign. To have the front-runner replaced by a second- or third-placed candidate would be a fantastic coup for Bush's re-election campaign. Could he ask for more (barring the unlikely possiblility of taking Bin Laden into custody)?

If the story holds water, most would assume that Kerry would be forced to bow out of the race (a course of action that Edwards and Dean will no doubt be gleefully rubbing their hands over).

Anyway, I'm keeping my beady eye on the news.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

Clark May Endorse Sen. Kerry

Word is that Wes Clark will endorse John Kerry as the Democratic nomination this Friday.

Democratic officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Clark would bestow his endorsement on the front-runner on Friday in Madison, Wis. Kerry gained Clark's pledge of support as rivals John Edwards (news - web sites) and Howard Dean (news - web sites) crisscrossed the state, focusing on jobs and health care.

Good to see Clark taking his loss in the primaries like a man. Good job fella.

Guest Articles

Following a few emails on the subject, I've decided to open my doors to a few guest articles. You pick the subject, but it should be related to politics. I would appreciate a few American guests to post. If you are interested please email me and I'll get back to you. It's a good chance to plug your own blog. I look forward to hearing from you.

Uh... We're Stumped Guys

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The CIA, under fire over its intelligence about Iraq's arms programmes, has posted a notice on its website offering rewards for information on the elusive weapons.

Can't catch my breath.... Too funny for words.... Going to black out... Must.. Stop.. Laughing.

I think this is what the term 'LOL' was designed for.

The West Wing - Greatest Ever TV Show

Now I realise that I kind of missed the boat with the whole West Wing thing. After all, Aaron Sorkin has been pumping out episodes since the end of the century.

However, here in my home town in the depths of Northern England, the show finally reached my eyes, ears and - dare I say it? - brain only a few short months ago. For years my friends and workmates harped on about it, but their words fell on deaf ears. Until, that is, a few months back. With little to do and nothing better to watch I decided to give it a try. I was amazed.

I realised that this is the White House as I wish it was. Jed Bartlet as the wise old President, flawed but honourable; Leo McGarry as his right hand pitbull; Josh Lyman, Toby Zeigler and Sam Seaborne as the backup. Sure, they're not perfect, what with their alcoholism, MS and proclivity for sleeping with call girls, but they have our best interests at heart, dammit! Allow them these eccentricities.

It goes without saying, of course, that I rushed out and spent the best part of my wages on the DVD's of the first and second series (worth every penny and then some, I might add). And thus I spent the next two weeks sitting in bed after work, laptop resting on the duvet, hungrily soaking up the storylines. I now eagerly await the third series (already pre-ordered on Amazon).

Unfortunately, my discovery of the show has only served to remind me how bad the current administrations are (both in the US and closer to home). The people I see in power do not seem to me to have our best interests at heart. Their only aim seems to be to make their mark in the history books and their bank accounts. I know I'm a cynical old fool, and am probably way off the mark, but I can't help it.

Can't wait to get home. I still have a few episodes to watch.

Enough With Bush's Military Records

As anyone who ever read anything I've scribbled is well aware, I am anything but the #1 fan of George Bush, but this fixation on his military service needs to be put to bed. We dragged it all up in 2000 and it did no good, and now we run the risk of making this the defining issue in the runup to the election.

Now I'm all for making Bush look like a fool, but there are many ways to do that. Lets concentrate on his terrible handling of the economy. We don't need to hunt down decades old records to prove he sucks with money. We just have to look at the country.

Okay, he more than likely cheated on his service. He probably missed some of his service, and he probably lied about it. However, he did fuck up the economy in the last 4 years and drive the world into a needless war (costing too many coalition lives in the process).

So how about we shut up about the non-issues and look at the things that really matter?

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Unaccountable Popularity

It will never cease to amaze me the way in which my popularity rocketed in my absence. Back when I used to post every day I couldn't get hits for love nor money (not that I ever tried love - I'm a bitter little monkey).

However, the minute my back is turned people start coming in droves. Apparently I now receive about 250 hits a day. Not bad for a simple blog.

Even more baffling, however, is the fact that other sites began to link to me. Every other day I would get an e-mail to let me know about a new link. My Google page rank crept up, and I now peer down at my loyal readership from the dizzy heights of a 4/10 rank (which has now been - hopefully temporarily - reset to 0 since the move) Hello down there.

What's more, I turn up at the top of the page with a Google search for 'War+Bush'. Answer me this: when was the last day during which you didn't do such a search? It's the first thing you do after breakfast, isn't it? No... before breakfast. No... you skip breakfast to do the search, and then phone in sick at work so you can stay home and read my new posts.

Anyway, now I'm back I fully expect you all to fuck off back to wherever you came from, just to spite me.. I sincerely hope you don't, though.

The Story So Far

Kerry Wins More Primaries: Clark Blows Raspberries
"We didn't want those stupid states anyway," remarks Clark

Bugger. I liked Wes Clark. Kerry looks like an old muppet doll. With a bad haircut. Still, better than Dubya.

Crazy American Airlines Pilot Terrifies Passengers

An American Airlines pilot terrified passengers when he asked Christians to identify themselves and allegedly went on to call non-Christians "crazy".

He went on to say that "everyone who doesn't have their hand raised is crazy", passenger Amanda Nelligan told CBS news.

The true motives for keeping the cockpit doors locked on planes has finally been revealed. We're trying to keep the dangerous religious nuts safely locked away in their little compartment during the flight. Imagine the terror that would ensue if one of them got out into the passenger section. Pure chaos. I hope security picked up the Bible cunningly disguised as John Grisham's 'A Time To Kill' hidden in his bag.


In the interest of not boring you to death, I have erased every regular post written in the past year. I didn't have the patience to read the bollocks, so I'll spare you the effort.

If you really, really don't have anything better to do, the old site can be found via the archives link to the right of the page.

New Home for WorldWarBush

Well, we've moved. I got tired of writing my own damned HTML tags out on Lycos, and as a result stopped posting. Here I can just post and click - easy.
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