31 October 2006

The Monster Mash

well err...

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's dead

Given that the local kids will be out soon trick or treating I suppose I had better get into some sort of mood for it. Bugger it, here's some Bauhaus instead...

David Blunkett and the urban legend

We have all heard urban legends and most of us have been taken in by them, be it the gruesome tale of the Doberman choking on a burglar’s fingers or the poodle in the microwave. It is heartening to seethe David Blunkett (whose recent diaries have made him about as popular in labour circles as a turd in a swimming pool) is equally gullible.

Blunkett seems to have fallen for the “person who does an Arab a good turn and is advised to stay away from x on such and such a date” tale. It is a tale that seems to have been given new life since 9/11 but it is older than that. Years before when the IRA were still committing acts of terror the story would, have been about an Irish man telling someone to stay out of x. Natually it never happened.

According to the BBC the tale crossed David Blunkett's path in late 2001. An entry in his diary reveals how he had spoken to an old school friend, who had heard the story involving the return of a wallet to an Arab man and a warning not to be in London on 11 November.

"I immediately registered the significance of this," Blunkett wrote at the time. "The 11th of November is Armistice Day, the one day in the year when all leading politicians from the three parties, the Queen, other members of the Royal family, and the leading personnel of the armed services are in the same place at the same time - a known time, in central London. I decided that I should at least tell Tony Blair as it was absolutely clear that nobody had fully thought through the significance. We agreed there was no way we could possibly cancel Armistice Day, but we were certainly going to have to take increased precautions”. Then later: "Sunday 11th of November: And we've come through Remembrance Sunday safely. All the worry was for nothing, thank God."

According to Albert Jack, author of “That's B*ll*cks: Urban Legends, Conspiracy Theories and Old Wives' Tales” The tale dates back as far as a myth surrounding the Hiroshima bombings in which Americans were apparently warned to get out of the city before the atomic bomb was dropped.

The urban legend is essentially modern-day folklore The stories may have an element of truth, they may reflect public fears or they may simply be morality tales updated for our times. Where once they spread by word of mouth the internet means that they travel the world with far greater alacrity, often as cyber-age chain letters
I am surprised I missed this story. It was aware of it until I checked the breaking news section on the Fortean Times website. Althoughit may not be quite as good as it was 20 years ago when it was a labour of love with a circulation of about 2000, the Fortean Times is still a worthwhile read – Truly no FT, no comment! I would highly recommend Snopes which is a goldmine or urban legends

30 October 2006


Fuchsia magellanica still in full bloom and will be until the frosts come.

From treacle floods to poison birds

Boston Molasses Flood 1919

It is odd sometimes how one thing can lead to another: Last night, the not-wife and I
were watching a programme about urban legends and the subject of the Boston Molasses Flood of 1919 came up (yes it really happened! over 20 people were killed when a Molasses tank burst). The not-wife mentioned an incident in the Gordon Riots when a catholic owned distillery was ransacked creating a flood of gin which caught fire killing more than a few rioters (A gin distillery was indeed ransacked during the riots. Perhaps it should have been called the Gordon’s riots…). I am not joking - we do have this sort of conversation!

With a streaming cold today and thus time on my hands I decided to look up the distillery incident when I came across the London Riots Re-enactment Society (although somehow I can’t see them being permitted to burn down any distilleries any time soon!). On the same site there was a page relating to poisonous birds.

POISONOUS BIRDS? Someone is having a joke, or so I thought. Zoogoer (the magazine of the Smithsonian National Zoological Park) carried an article about their discovery

In 1989, Jack Dumbacher a graduate student was conducting fieldwork on the ecology of birds of paradise in Papua New Guinea. Part of his research involved catching the birds in fine mist nets. As would be expected other birds would also get caught, and Dumbacher spent a lot of time freeing unwanted species like the hooded pitohui (Pitohui dichrous), a jay-sized songbird with black and orange colouration.

One day Dumbacher was freeing yet another hooded pitohui from his nets when its sharp beak and claws scratched his hand. Dumbacher put his hand in his mouth and got a strange numbing sensation that he recognized as the effect of some toxin. At first he thought nothing of it, but when another member of the team mentioned the same odd sensation. Dumbacher’s interest was piqued. This incident set him on years of research

Hooded Pithoui

It turns out that the Hooded Pithoui (along with a few other species of birds from New Guinea) carries an extremely potent toxin known as batrachotoxin, which is otherwise found in South American poison frogs. It is most likely that they obtain the toxin from their diet rather than make it themselves. The most likely source is a small beetle (the Choresine). Where the beetle gets the poison from is not known.

Interestingly the Pithoui is a pretty common bird in New Guinea and has been studied for over a century but its poisonous qualities went unobserved for decades. A case of hiding in plain sight I suppose. There isn’t much point to this post except to muse on how one can look for one thing but find something totally different. Ah, serendipity!

29 October 2006

A meeting of veterans

The Observer carries a story today concerning a meeting between the oldest surviving British and German WWI veterans. Henry Allingham, 110, and Robert Meier, 109, met in Meier's home town of Witten, near Dortmund.

Allingham and Meier are the oldest men in the UK and Germany respectively. Allingham remembers watching WG Grace play cricket. Meier remembers meeting the Kaiser during the First World War. There had been a plan to make yesterday a three-way meeting with France's oldest veteran, but he was too frail to travel. For a time Meier had been written out of the history books. Last year the death of 108-year-old Charles Kuentz was widely reported as the passing of Germany's last First World War veteran. In fact the number of Germans had been underestimated: some sources suggest as many as eight are still alive. The number of known surviving British veterans stands at nine.

Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915, became a Mechanic First Class and flew eight missions as a gunner. He served aboard one of the first aircraft carriers and witnessed the Battle of Jutland, then in early 1917 was sent to the Western Front, where he serviced planes and had to retrieve those shot down at Ypres and the Somme. In 1918 he transferred to the newly formed RAF and is its sole surviving founder member.

Meier, born in 1897 to German parents in Ukraine, was also in the trenches. He fought again in the Second World War and was taken prisoner by the Soviet Union, which held him for two years. 'The time in prison took it out of me,' he recalled, adding that without that hardship he would be even more mobile today.

Apparently there are still 51 WWI veterans alive, although a proportion will not have actually seen active service while at the beginning of the year there were about 90. That so many are still alive is probably unsurprisjng given the millions who fought in the conflict. One thing is certain the veterans will be gone in a few years and then the conflict will pass from living history.


This is my attempt to post the dullest photographic subject on the internet.... it's the victorian sewer vent at the end of my street...

Yew Berries

I planted a Yew a few years ago in the full knowledge that it will, if untouched, be around for centuries, if not millennia. At present it is covered in bright red berries. Not surprisingly, given that it is nearly November, the garden is in decline even though some things are still well in flower. It is good to still see some colour as winter draws ever nearer.

28 October 2006

Robyn Hitchcock - Adventure Rocket Ship

Adventure Rocket Ship appears on Robyn's new album Ole Tarantula. In my (extremely biased) view is is a wonderful song that should be purchased and loved by everyone! It is a great song from one of Robyn's very best albums

Bribery and corrpution in the arms trade - are we shocked?

Al Yammanah, (The Dove) is one of Britains biggest ever arms deals. In 1985 Britain agreed to sell 72 Tornado and 30 Hawk warplanes to Saudi Arabia. The deal was renewed in 1993 when Saudis agreed to buy another batch of 48 Tornado warplanes. Last year a final stage was signed in which Saudi Arabia agreed to buy 72 Typhoon fighters. The arms deal has helped keep British Aerospace (now BAE) afloat for the last 20 years

Yesterday the government was yesterday scrambling to recover secret documents containing evidence suggesting corrupt payments were made in the Al Yamanah deal. MoD documents reveal that the price of each Tornado was inflated by 32%, from £16.3m to £21.5m. It is common in arms deals for the prices of weapons to be raised so that commissions can be skimmed off the top. The £600m involved is the same amount that it was alleged at the time in Arab publications was exacted in secret commissions paid to Saudi royals and their circle of intermediaries in London and Riyadh, as the price of the deal.

Saudi Air Force Tornado

The allegations were treated with such concern in Whitehall in 1985, documents reveal, that a copy of the Arab magazine in question was immediately sent in confidence by the Foreign Office to Mrs Thatcher's chief aide at No 10, Charles Powell, with advice that officials "should simply refuse all comment". Yesterday, 20 years on, the MoD at first sought to take the same line. It insisted the Chandler telegram must have been leaked and said "we never comment on leaks". In fact, a copy was released to the National Archives on May 8 by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Last night, the DTI said : "The files were placed in the National Archive by mistake. Successive governments have regarded the Al Yamamah agreement to be confidential. The files have now been removed." The MoD said : "We regret the fact that this material has been made public. We attach great importance to the confidentiality of the government to government Al Yamamah agreement with Saudi Arabia, and in order to protect that confidentiality we are not commenting on these papers

Saudi Hawk

Ian Gilmour, a Conservative minister at the time, recently confirmed bribes were common on Saudi arms deals. Lord Gilmour told BBC2's Newsnight: "You either got the business and bribed, or you didn't bribe and didn't get the business ... If you are paying bribes to high-up people in the government, the fact that it's illegal in Saudi law doesn't mean much."

It has also been alleged that Lady Thatcher's son Mark received secret commissions from the deal.

Amnesty International has launched a campaign on behalf of prisoners of conscience arrested by repressive governments for expressing unwelcome views or disseminating sensitive information online.

In an appeal yesterday today, Amnesty urged webmasters around the world to stand up for their imprisoned fellow bloggers - in countries such as Iran, Tunisia, Vietnam and China - and denouncing major internet service providers, including Yahoo! and Microsoft, for providing foreign governments with the information they need to purge the web of dissenting voices.

The call comes as the online world prepares to meet at the Internet Governance Forum) to discuss the future of the internet. Amnesty released a statement to the IGF today and is sending a delegation to ensure that human rights are not sidelined and remain at the heart of the forum’s discussions.

Steve Ballinger, part of Amnesty International’s delegation to the IGF, said: “Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending. We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.

“The internet is a powerful force for human rights, enabling the free flow of ideas and information around the world. But some governments have sought to curtail this freedom. People have been locked up just for expressing their views in an email or a website. Sites and blogs have been shut down and firewalls built to prevent access to information. Companies have restricted internet searches to stop people accessing information that repressive governments don’t want them to see.”

Yahoo! via its Chinese partner company, Alibaba, has provided the Chinese authorities with private and confidential information about its users that has been used to convict and imprison journalists. It has also agreed to censor and deny access to information. Microsoft shut down the blog of New York Times researcher Zhao Jing on the basis of a Chinese government request. The company has also admitted that it responds to directions from the Chinese government in restricting users of MSN Spaces from using certain terms. Google has launched a censored version of its international search engine in China.

Amnesty International is also highlighting the cases of prisoners of conscience, imprisoned for the expression of their peaceful views online. Chinese journalist Shi Tao used his Yahoo! account to email a US-based website about an internal government directive instructing journalists how to handle media coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for "illegally providing state secrets to foreign entities." Yahoo! provided information to the government that was used in his prosecution.

Vietnamese political dissident Truong Quoc Huy was first arrested in October 2005 with two other young people after chatting on a democracy and human rights website. He was held incommunicado for nine months then released, but on 18 August 2006 he was rearrested in an internet cafe in Ho Chi Minh City, where he had logged on to a chatroom. His whereabouts remain unknown and no charges have been publicised.

Irrepressible Campaign

27 October 2006

A silly joke for Friday

A woman goes into the bar and orders a Double Entendre so the barman gives her one...

Aye thangyou


Pompeii’s biggest and most richly decorated brothel, The "wolves' lair" reopened to the public yesterday after extensive restoration.

Pompeii was packed with bordellos. At least 25 have been identified. But most occupied a single room, usually above a wine shop. The "Lupanare" (or lupanar), was different. Archaeologists believe it was the ancient city's only purpose-built whorehouse. So-called because, in Latin, lupa (she-wolf) was a common term for a prostitute, it consisted of 10 rooms and a latrine beneath the stairs. Set into the wall of each of the women's rooms was a stone bed covered with a mattress.

Researchers believe that its wall paintings, which depict different position, were intended to advertise the various specialities on offer. The more elaborately painted upper floor, which had a separate entrance, is thought to have been reserved for better-off clients. The prostitutes were slaves, usually of Greek or Eastern origin. Their earnings were collected by the owner or manager of the brothel. Well it seems that the modern sex industry emulates its classical counterpart in that respect....

Is that it? I can lick my own bottom..,

Robyn shows he is utterly unimpressed by Mimi's ability to touch her nose with her tongue.

My entry for this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats

26 October 2006

Murder in the Mountains

Early on the 30th of September a group of Tibetan refugees were making a trek across the border into Nepal, moving in single file across a mountain slope near the 5,800m high Nanpa La Pass, Chinese border guards opened fire.

A few minutes of jerky video footage shot by a Romanian cameraman on a mountaineering trip brought their plight into Western living rooms this month. In the video, a Chinese border guard calmly opens fire on the group of unarmed Tibetans. Two figures drop to the ground. "They're shooting them like, like dogs," says an incredulous voice, one of the other mountaineers standing beside the cameraman. And then the camera trains on the dead body of one of the Tibetans in the distance.

The full story of what happened that day in the Himalayas has now emerged. The accounts of survivors can be pieced together with those of the mountaineers who witnessed the shooting. "There was no warning of any kind," Thubten Tsering, a Buddhist monk, told reporters in Delhi this week. "The bullets were so close I could hear them whizzing past. We scattered and ran." There were 75 of them in the group when they left. Only 41 made it across the border into Nepal, and on to India. Two are believed to have died. There are 32 others still unaccounted for. "We don't know where they are or what happened to them," said Mr Thubten.

The body in the footage is that of Kelsang Nortso, a 25-year-old Buddhist nun. A witness, who did not want to be identified, said: "We were walking in line. Before the shooting we knew the soldiers were after us so we started to walk quickly. They warned us to stop, and then they started shooting. We were running. The bullets were landing near us. The nun who died was 100 metres ahead of me. I saw her fall down. I was lucky. A bullet tore my trousers, but it missed me." She and some of the other refugees had to run past Nortso's body as it lay in the bloodstained snow.

In all, between 2,500 and 4,000 Tibetans flee across the border into Nepal every year - one of the toughest borders in the world to cross, since it runs along the line of several of the highest mountains on earth, including Mount Everest. They cross at Nangpa La and a few other passes, following in the footsteps of the Dalai Lama who made his own escape through the Himalayas in 1957. The crossings at Nangpa La are generally made during the night to avoid Chinese border patrols, but the one that was attacked was attempting to cross in the morning - possibly because of the large number of children in the group. Most have to pay guides around 5,000 yuan (£340) to guide them through the mountain passes - serious money in rural Tibet.
"Most know they are taking a big risk to come to India," said Urgen Tenzin, of the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. "There are threats from Chinese guards, but also the extreme freezing conditions and the dangers of climbing steep mountains to get to Nepal."

The Romanian video footage was not the first the world heard of the incident. The first accounts emerged from Western mountaineers who were in the area, and who witnessed the killings. The story did not emerge immediately, and it is believed fears over the safety of Western mountaineers still in Tibet, and fears the Chinese may clamp down on mountaineering expeditions, made some of the witnesses hesitate in coming forward at first.

The Chinese authorities reacted by issuing a statement through the Xinhua news agency that claimed the border guards only opened fire after they were "attacked" by a group of some 70 Tibetan refugees who refused an order to go back to Tibet. That version of events does not stand up against the video footage, which clearly shows the refugees as defenceless. It is also contradicted by every witness statement - such as that of a British climber who described "Chinese soldiers quite close to advance base camp kneeling, taking aim and shooting, again and again, at the group, who were completely defenceless".

Pressed on the incident, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Liu Jianchao, said: "If the report is accurate, the Chinese authorities will investigate the matter. As to whether it is a policy for border police to open fire on people, I think the border police and army's responsibility is to safeguard the peace and security of the Chinese border."

The mountaineers have not come out of the story free from controversy. "Did it make anyone turn away and go home? Not one," said an American climber who asked not to be identified. "People are climbing right in front of you to escape persecution while you are trying to climb a mountain. It's insane."

After the incident, the refugees who had escaped capture regrouped in the mountains, and headed down into the lowlands of Nepal. It took them another eight days. In total, they walked for 25 days across some of the highest mountain passes on earth.

25 October 2006

Elahe Heidari - Iranian Artist

from Kargah.com

Two years ago I knew little about Iranian culture. I still don’t know much but I was pleasantly surprised to discover (well not discover as such but to have it drawn to my attention by Redwine – for which I am extremely grateful) the sheer depth of quality of Iranian art.

One artist who stands out is Elahe Heidari. Elahe lives and works ln Tehran and has exhibited extensivley in Iran and as well as contributing to group exhibitions in India and Portugal

from Kargah.com

I was particularly taken with the sheer power of her work, particularly her portrayal of women. It is heartening that most who see examples of her work are deeply impressed and more than a few feel as strongly about it as I do.

On my wall

More examples of her work can be found at Kargah and the Gallery Etemad. I would strongly recommend Kargah is well worth exploring at length.

Gallery Etemad

Rush Limbaugh - what a nice man (hmm)

Perhaps we are fortunate “mild surprise” jocks here in the UK rather than the shock jocks that seem to be common on the American airwaves. While nobody is above criticism, Rush Limbaugh ‘s recent attack on Michael J Fox seems to have come back and bitten him on the arse.

Fox who suffers from Parkinson’s disease made a series of TV advertisements for Democratic candidates who support stem cell research. In the ads he talked to the camera during a violent shaking attack. Fox’s body weaved and writhed while his head jumped out of the frame in violent spasms.

Rush Limbaugh accused Mr Fox of acting to exaggerate the effects of his Parkinson's disease. He told his audience: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's purely an act. This is really shameless of Michael J Fox. Either he didn't take his medication or he's acting." He added: "This is the only time I've ever seen Michael J Fox portray any of the symptoms of the disease he has. He can barely control himself

Neurosurgeon Prof John Boockvar, said: "Mr Limbaugh's allegations are ludicrous. Those with Parkinson's have "on" and "off" spells.” Dr Elaine Richman, a neuroscientist and author: "Mr Limbaugh's attack is insulting. It's appallingly sad, at best. "Anyone who knows the disease well would regard Mr Fox's movements as classic severe Parkinson's disease. Any other interpretation is misinformed."

As anger grew, Mr Limbaugh half-apologised, saying "Now people are telling me they have seen Michael J Fox in interviews and he does appear the same way in the interviews as he does in this commercial. I will bigly, hugely admit that I was wrong, and I will apologise to Michael J Fox, if I am wrong in characterising his behaviour on this commercial as an act." But then he added: "The truth - the whole truth - must be told. Michael J Fox is allowing his illness to be exploited. That Mr Fox is a victim is not a license for him to mislead or manipulate the public."

What a lovely guy. Just the sort of person many would like to grasp warmly by the throat. Limbaugh and his sort are one slice of american culture that can stay firmly on the other side of the Atlantic

24 October 2006

23 October 2006

Hawkwind - Take me to your future

A little while ago I said that I was looking forward to getting my hands on the new Hawkwind release Take Me to Your Future. I have finally gotten around to buying it and despite some reservations I am certainly not disappointed.

Take Me to Your Future is unusual in that is a dual CD/DVD consisting of a 5 track EP on a one side and 5 Full video track plus extras on the other. .The cover appears to be based on Georgia O Keefe’s 1927 painting Radiator Building.

The five tracks on the CD side are: Uncle Sam’s On Mars, Small Boy, The Reality of Poverty, Ode to a Timeflower and Silver Machine.

Uncle Sam’s On Mars originally appeared on the 1979 album PXR5. The band has a habit of revisiting earlier works with varying degrees of success (Last year’s re workings of Paradox and Spirit of the Age were good but an earlier reworking of Psychedelic Warlords was dreadful). This new version of Uncle Sam is worthy enough: it is an improvement on the original in my view but you are left to question whether it really was necessary.

Small Boy and Ode to a Time Flower will appear on the forthcoming “Calvert Project” – poetry readings by the late, great Robert Calvert will be set to music composed by Dave Brock. According to Starfarer’s site both originally appeared in Centigrade 232, a 1978 collection of Calvert’s poetry and then again on audio cassette in 1988. The accompanying music to Small Boy is soft and atmospheric while Ode to a Time Flower is louder and has a “techno” edge. On the basis of these two tracks I am will certainly be purchasing the Calvert Project when it sees the light of day.

The Reality of Poverty should have appeared on last year’s Take Me to Your Leader (TYTML). I wasn’t too impressed when I first heard it but it is a grower. I am not sure why this was left off TYTML I would have much rather it had been included and the execrable Letter to Robert consigned to the dustbin.

Finally there is another re-recording of the bands biggest hit Silver Machine – My initial feeling was “why bother?” But it works. This is the definitive version of the song and justifies the price alone!

The tracks on the DVD side are Images, Utopia, Assassins of Allah, The Golden Void
Steppenwolf, Don’t be Donkish and Paradox

Images, like most of the other tracks on the DVD side, will appear on future DVD releases; in this case Space Bandits Space Bandits was a patchy affair, featuring Bridget Wishart, the band’s only female vocalist to date (I don’t count Samantha Fox !) Images was one of the highlights of the album. It is a good song and a good video which includes contemporary live video footage.

Utopia will appear on Australia 2000 – a recording of an Australian television broadcast from March 2000. . The band are on good form, the sound and image quality are excellent but perhaps the downside is Harvey Baindbridge’s improvised spoken part. A copy of the video is legally (honest!) available on YouTube courtesy of the bands record label Voiceprint I will let you judge for yourself.

Assassins of Allah (formerly Hassan i Sabha) is taken from the Hawkwind Passport holders only DVD Winter Solstice 2005. Recorded at last year’s Astoria concert, The band were on sparkling form that night and it is good to know that it has been recorded for posterity.

The Golden Void will appear on the re-release of the 1989 Treworgey Fayre concert (again for passport holders only). Great sound but again but the image quality isn’t that good.

Steppenwolf was recorded during rehearsals in 1996 and features the tour dancers practising their choreography. Odd footage but it is really quite enjoyable!

Finally there are photo montages of previous Hawkfests (the band's private festival) and the TYTML launch party A new instrumental, Don’t Be Donkish and a new version of Paradox provide the musical accompaniment

Take me to your Future is basically a sampler album for future releases with a couple of unique tracks/videos thrown in for good measure. Although an essential purchase for an obsessive fan (like me!) it is by no means the best introduction for a new listener. Given that it is available quite cheaply I would imagine that few fans would feel they have been ripped off.

22 October 2006

The end of the peer show at last?

Today’s Sunday Times (as well as plentu of other sources) is carrying a leaked government memo which indicates, perhaps, that movement on Lords reform may at long last be forthcoming.

A plan, drawn up by Jack Straw, the Commons leader proposes that the House of Lords will be reduced in size by more than a third to about 450, of which half will be elected. Life peerages will be abolished and the number of women and ethnic minorities substantially increased.

In addition peers would be allowed to sit in the Lords for no more than three parliamentary terms No single party would be allowed to command an overall majority, no matter how big its majority in the Commons.

The current system of attendance allowance would also be swept away. Instead, peers would be paid a salary and expected to work full-time, a change that could treble the current cost of £13m to the taxpayer despite the reduction in the number of lords.

Although the Tories and Liberal Democrats (and probably a fair few Labour members too) are expected to demand a bigger proportion to be elected the proposals for an equal mix of elected and appointed members is seen as a significant breakthrough in efforts to reach all-party agreement on Lords reform.

One Liberal Democrat peer close to the negotiations said: “The Lords reform logjam is breaking up. You can really feel the earth move when even Jack Straw, a hardcore constitutional conservative, is backing a 50% elected House of Lords.” However, Tom McNally, the Lib Dem leader in the Lords, warned Straw that allowing political appointments to continue would fail to address public fears over abuses and would create a system that was “institutionally corrupt”.

Proposals are expected to be put to a free vote in the Commons after Christmas, with the first elections and appointments to the new upper house taking place at the next general election

What is proposed does not go as far enough for my liking but at least it shows the Lords reform has not been brushed totally to one side. I do have one question: we are we are still debating the fate of our unelected upper chamber in the 21st Century?

21 October 2006

How Soviet tanks crushed dreams of British communists

Over the last few days the Guardian has been carrying features on aspects of the Hungarian Uprising. Today’s article How Soviet tanks crushed dreams of British communists shows how the Communist Party of Great Britain was in effect destroyed on the streets of Budapest - over a quarter of its membership left in disgust. While it retained some influence in the Trade Union movement into the 1970s it was never again a significant political force.

On Sunday November 4 1956, the British Communist party executive committee convened for a highly charged session. New from Budapest was getting worse. Soviet forces were moving into the city, using tanks to shell rebel strongholds. The party paper, the Daily Worker, had been sticking to the official line about "counter-revolution" and "fascist activities". A few minutes away thousands of protestors were gathering in Trafalgar Square to demonstrate against the Anglo-French attack on Egypt. By rights, the comrades should have been protesting against the aggression in the Middle East. But they were preoccupied with their own problems.

They knew their condemnation of Eden's response to the Suez Canal nationalisation would ring hollow when the Red Army was mowing down Hungarian workers. However, general secretary John Gollan set a defiant tone by insisting that: "Imperialism was trying to regain ground. If the rebels won, it would be a victory for reaction and Hungary would become a fascist base with a dagger pointed at the socialist countries. The Red Army was therefore right to intervene."

Gollan was backed by Rajani Palme Dutt , the party ideologue (and a fanatical Stalinist) and the executive committee agreed, with just two dissenting voices, a statement that "the action of the Soviet forces in Hungary should be supported by communists and socialists everywhere".
1956 had already been momentous year for British Communists: the party had been shocked by the revelation of Nikita Khrushchev's secret speech to the 20th Soviet Communist party congress in which he had exposed and condemned Stalin's crimes. But it was events in Budapest that pushed thousands of communists over the edge towards Trotskyist groups, the Labour party, or out of politics altogether.

The party’s paper, the Daily Worker reflected the crisis among the rank and file. Reporter Peter Fryer had been sent to Budapest to report on the situation. It was expected that Fryer would contradict the “blood curdling” reports in other papers of Russian tanks shooting down Hungarians. These hopes were short-lived. Fryer completely contradicted the party’s analysis that the uprising was a "fascist-reactionary" attempt to destroy socialism and restore capitalism. Two of his three dispatches were spiked and the third heavily edited.

"The events in Hungary, far from being a fascist plot, were a revolution by the vast majority of the people against the despotic rule of the Stalinist bureaucracy," Fryer wrote later. The Daily Worker played up reports of lynchings (mostly of the AVO secret police) and of communists being beaten to death. Fryer resigned and sent his letter of resignation to the Manchester Guardian. Nineteen Daily Worker journalists resigned in solidarity and communists were reduced to reading the Daily Telegraph to find out what was happening.

By January 1957, the party had lost 9,000 members (a quarter of its membership , including historian EP Thompson, author Doris Lessing and leaders of the Fire Brigades Union and the Scottish miners - a quarter of its total strength. Others kept their heads down and stayed Chimen Abramsky, was a member of the international secretariat. His wife, Miriam, left the party straight after Hungary, but he hung on. "I was totally naive and utopian to believe I could change the party line from within, but I was knocking my head against a brick wall." Abramsky left in 1958 in solidarity with Hyman Levy who was expelled for an unauthorised pamphlet on anti-semitism in the USSR.

Historian Eric Hobsbawm, is often asked why he stayed in the party "longer than most". He answered in his book, Interesting Times: "I belonged to the generation tied by an almost unbreakable umbilical cord to hope of the world revolution, and of its original home, the USSR. For someone who joined where I came from and when I did, it was quite simply more difficult to break with the party than for those who came later and from elsewhere." Pride played its part, too.

20 October 2006

Some jokes are not funny

A hat tip is due to Simply Jews for this story.

Vladimir Putin appears to have stuck his foot firmly in his mouth when he was overheard joking about the virility of Israeli president Moshe Katsav, who is accused of multiple rape.

Mr Putin's comment was made at the end of a press conference held by Mr Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Moscow, which focused mainly on the Iran crisis. As the leaders prepared to leave, the microphone caught Mr Putin saying "greetings to your president". The microphone then went dead, but journalist Andrei Kolesnikov told the BBC he heard the rest of the comment. He said the president continued: "What a mighty man he turns out to be! He raped 10 women - I would never have expected this from him. He surprised us all - we all envy him!" There reportedly followed loud laughter among the official delegations.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov admitted: "Yes really, these words were pronounced." But he said it "in no way means that President Putin welcomes rape". "The president was joking," he told the BBC's World Today radio programme. "Russian is a very complicated language, sometimes it is very sensitive from the point of view of phrasing. don't think that the proper translation is able to reflect the meaning of the joke."

Call me cynical or careworn but do I detect a little bit of spin doctoring on Mr Peskov’s part? Surely not!

Another small piece of history

While I knew that Mike Fuller became the first black chief constable in 2004, it seems that I was wrong to believe that Norwell Roberts , who joined the Metropolitan Police in 1966, was not the UK’s first black police officer.

Today’s Independent carries an interesting story: it transpires that the first black police officer was John Kent, who worked in Carlisle from 1837. He was the son of, Thomas Kent, who was brought to work on the estate of a Cumberland landowner returning from duty with the colonial civil service in the West Indies.

Bob Lowther, a former detective superintendent who has researched the history of the old Carlisle City Constabulary, traced Mr Kent through police records. He first appears as a, "supernumerary constable'' or probationer, joining on 17 August 1837. He was made a permanent constable on 26 October. In 1841, he was in the thick of the action when a constable was murdered by a blow to the head as an election crowd got out of hand in the city centre and overwhelmed the Chief Constable and about eight of his officers. It is recorded that PC Kent gave evidence against the accused at Carlisle Assizes.

Sadly PC Kent's career did not end on a high note: he was sacked after just seven years with the Carlisle constabulary for being drunk on duty - a common occurrence among officers at the time. A lack of clean drinking water in the city is often blamed for excessive beer consumption. "He had reported late for duty two or three times," said Mr Lowther. "I don't know if drink had anything to do with that, but the force had had a new chief constable who had posted notices saying that anybody found drunk could expect severe punishment. On 6 December he came in intoxicated, so he was taken before the watch committee." The young officer was duly disciplined and his services were dispensed with on 12 December 1844.

The National Black Police Association (NBPA) attaches huge significance to the discovery of his career, which it says is totally unexpected. "The significance is that while we had people of colour joining that far back" said David McFarlane, NBPA's national co-ordinator. "A lot of people are under the misapprehension that black people only arrived here during the Windrush years (the 1940s and 1950s), or when the Asians came in the 1970s, but people of colour have been in this country for centuries.”

Norwell Roberts, joined the Metropolitan Police in 1966. (on the same day as former Met Commissioner Paul Condon), rose to the rank of Detective Sergeant and received the Queens Police Medal in recognition of 30 years distinguished service

Cat blogging time

For no apparent reason Ted climbed up onto the tattiest of our of our three arches and went to sleep. Just to be perverse (as cats ALWAYS are) He just woke up as I took the photo.

My entry for this week's Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats

19 October 2006

Weapons of Math Instruction

Stolen from the Modulator, who swiped it from..., who lifted it from... Ah well It amuses me

A public school teacher was arrested today at John F. Kennedy International Airport as he attempted to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a set square, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He did not identify the man, who has been charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a problem for us," Gonzalez said. "They desire solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like 'x' and 'y' and refer to themselves as 'unknowns,' but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country. As the Greek philanderer Isosceles used to say, 'There are 3 sides to every triangle.'

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better Weapons of Math Instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes." White House aides told reporters they could not recall a more intelligent or profound statement by the President during his entire administration

Time for a silly joke or two

OIt is time for me to say Enough!, No more! and what better to do that but tell a few crap jokes? This us the one Irishman joke I enjoy because of the sting in its tail:

An Irishman was looking for work in London. He goes to a building site where the Foreman says to him that he can have a job if he can answer this one simple question:

"What is the difference between a girder and a joist"

The Irishman looks the foreman in the face and says:

"That's simple. Girder wrote Faust and Joist wrote Ulysses"

What do you call a woman with one leg shorter than the other - EILEEN, Boom. boom!

What do you call a man with a family of rabbits up his arse? WARREN

I thangyou!

I won't give up the day job

18 October 2006

A poet and a prater

Hugo Chávez, president, revolutionary, and firebrand is now in election campaign mode. Newspaper e;ecyion adverts have done away with the usual beret, the red shirt and the martial rhetoric and introduced a poet, against a leafy background, with a "message of love for the people of my Venezuela"

In a 13-line poem, Mr Chávez says he became a painter, a student, a soldier, a president and a champion of the poor out of love, and asks to be re-elected in December. The tone is designed to appeal to the numerous undecided voters to give him another term.

Mr Chavez, who is expected to win re-election in December, is reaching out to those unhappy with his ties to Cuba and anti-US rhetoric. Opponents have mocked the poem. "For the love of God, please stop it!" said one blog. One critic responded with a poem accusing Mr Chávez of being an oppressor. "Some types of love just kill you."

Ode to Venezuela

Always, I did everything for love For love towards the tree, the river, I became a painter/ For the love of knowledge, I left my dear hometown, to study/ For the love of sports, I became a baseball player/ For the love of the homeland, I became a soldier/ For the love of the people, I made myself president, you made me president/ I have governed for love/ There is a lot more to do. I need more time/ I need your vote. Your vote for love

My own poetry is pretty bad too but I wouldn’t dream of using it in an election campaign! His spoken performances are far worse:

In 2004 Chavez feted Mugabe as a "true warrior of freedom" during a visit to Venezuela. Earlier this year Chavez heaped praise on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ."We have not way but supporting Iran and Ahmadinejad, because he has stood up against colonialism and the colonial policies of the world powers so strongly that we are left with no other choice but supporting him”. Hmm his stifling of freedoms especially those of women are irrelevant then.

Perhaps he should stick to poetry after all. Better still, he should stick to the good stuff like free clinics, literacy programmes , and subsidised shops (mercals).

Creating a lean, un-mean, non-violence machine

While yesterday’s papers focused on Martin Narey’s (the erstwhile heard of the Prison Service, now chief executive of Barnardos – once he ran prisons now he runs orphanages, hmmm) accusation that former Home Secretary David Blunkett had screamed for rioting prisoners to be machine gunned (in 2002) another prison related article went virtually unnoticed.

The Home Office has been accused of delaying new research that aims to reduce violence in Britain's overcrowded prisons by up to 40%. The former chief inspector of prisons, Lord Ramsbotham (left), said yesterday that the department was guilty of "breathtaking prevarication" over a proposed trial to improve prisoners' nutrition, which he believes would dramatically reduce offending behaviour in jails.

Scientific work conducted by the charity Natural Justice in 2002
demonstrated a causal link between bad diet and the number of violent incidents at Aylesbury young offenders' institution. In a double blind placebo controlled trial, the number of incidents dropped when prisoners were given multivitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. Since then the charity and researchers have been trying to get the go-ahead to repeat the trial on a larger scale at other prisons. They have secured more than £1m funding from an independent research charity, and the prison service confirmed that it had identified two prisons to take part, but the work has been allegedly been blocked by delays at the Home Office.

"It would cost roughly £3.5m to give the correct balance of nutrients, either through proper diet or supplements across the prison service. For that you could have up to 40% reduction in violent behaviour. So why isn't the Home Office embracing it?" Lord Ramsbotham said . "If the correct mix of diet reduces offending behaviour - and I am absolutely convinced there is a direct link between diet and antisocial behaviour - it's hugely important for prisoners, it frees up staff time for rehabilitation."

A spokesman for the Home Office said all research was subject to approval by the department's project quality approval board. The government was committed to offering all prisoners a healthy diet and provided at least one low-fat, low-sugar option on every menu.

Actually this is not a new story as can be seen from this BBC Report from 2003. Back then the Prison Service stated that while it has agreed to further studies in two prisons it had not accepted the findings of the original study and would not be putting any money into further research. In 2002 the Lancet published a report that diet may help reduce the incidence of prison suicides. Perhaps the study does show a false positive but it is worth conducting a larger test to find out one way or another . If it does turn out that a simple dietary change is all that is needed to make a substantial reduction in violent behaviour then it is money well spent.

No broadband, no problem?

In yet another attempt to restrict western influence and stifle dissent the Iranian government has announced that it is banning high-speed internet links. Service providers have been told to restrict online speeds to 128 kilobytes a second and been forbidden from offering fast broadband packages. The move by Iran's telecommunications regulator will make it more difficult to download foreign music, films and television programmes. It will also impede efforts by political opposition groups to organise by uploading information on to the net.

The order follows a purge on illegal satellite dishes, which millions of Iranians use to clandestinely watch western television. Police have seized thousands of dishes in recent months. The latest step has drawn condemnation from MPs, internet service companies and academics, who say it will hamper Iran's progress. "Every country in the world is moving towards modernisation and a major element of this is high-speed internet access," said Ramazan-ali Sedeghzadeh, chairman of the parliamentary telecommunications committee. "The country needs it for development and access to contemporary science."

The crackdown comes in an atmosphere of increasing restrictions on the media. Last week, Mr Ahmadinejad launched a fierce attack on the head of the state broadcasting organisation, IRIB, which he blamed for stoking public fears about inflation. Iran's leading reformist newspaper, Shargh, was also closed last month.

17 October 2006

Department S Is Vic There?

This is a clip from the band's 1981 hit. My mate Mike is the one in the beret playing guitar.

Department S were not bad at all. They had a couple of chart singles in the UK (Is Vic There and Going Left, Right) and a third hit in Europe (U Want) but their debut album was never released until the band were long, long gone and the lead singer Vaughn Toulouse dead. Had it been issued released I am sure it would have been a success. C'est la vic I suppose

Mike has an excellent Myspace site dedicated to Department S. It is well worth checking out.

Super Furry Animals - Rings around the world

Hawkwind meets the Beach Boys in Wales?

Summer Fun - The Barracudas

Another favourite dating back to 1980 - and a minor hit to boot, this time from the *now forgotten?) Anglo-american surf/punkers

16 October 2006

Politician generates numerous weak puns about his nude campaign poster

Albert Rivera's nude body is everywhere to be seen in Catalonia. just what he wants as he runs for president of Catalonia . The 26-year-old lawyer knows his campaign to lead this powerful Spanish region is a long shot but he hopes at least to get voters talking about something else besides their role within Spain and whether they should speak Catalan or Spanish.

Rivera acknowledges using nudity is "pure marketing" designed to buck tradition, grab headlines and lure young voters. "If major brands are so daring in their ad campaigns, why can't a political party be? We wanted to move away from traditional Catalan politics and show people that they can relate to us."

His platform features strong support for bilingual education in a region where it is virtually impossible for public school students to attend classes in Spanish.
The party also wants more low-cost housing for young people and discounts for students on all public transportation. But its main rallying cry is criticism of the overtly nationalist politics that have dominated Catalonia for decades.

Although Rivera doesn't pretend to be a serious contender for president, his party is hoping its mix of unconventional campaigning and a youth-friendly platform will help them win one seat in the 135-member Catalan parliament. The president is chosen by the party or parties that form the government . Capturing a seat requires at least three percent of the vote, about 100,000 ballots. Although the party has the backing of well-known cultural and intellectual figures in Catalonia, garnering so much support in so little time is not easy.

The campaign image has been distributed on flyers to tens of thousands of people, and 10,000 posters are plastered on buses, billboards and buildings in the Barcelona area. The campaign image has drawn little public disapproval, even from conservatives. "It's very well done!" Cristina Gollado, 70, said with a laugh she compared the photo on a flyer to the real Rivera standing next to her. "I'm old, so I was a little taken aback by the picture. But of course I'd vote for him, if only for his good looks."

Nude campaign posters? It is just as well we won’t have naked campaigning for the leadership election. I doubt anyone would welcome Brown or O’Donnell in the raw.Ho hum...

15 October 2006

(Size) Zero tolerance

This article appeared in today’s Observer and seems to show that advertisers are out of touch with the sort of image that sells to women…

Having been blamed for devastating women's self-esteem “size zero” models are now accused of being poor at selling things. Research has found that instead of being admired by women, excessively slender models are regarded as less ethical, knowledgeable and truthful than their larger peers. 'The advertising and fashion industries are reluctant to use larger models because they say that thinness sells,' said Dr Helga Dittmar, of the Social Health Psychology Research Group at the University of Sussex. 'But our research has shown that thin models are less effective in selling products than average-size models.'

Dr Dittmar asked 800 women aged from 18 to 30 to rank the effectiveness of adverts featuring slim models with a UK size eight (US Size 4) dress compared with those using size 14 models. (US size 10) She said she expected women to find thin models more convincing and persuasive. 'Instead there was a strong message that models were evaluated more positively when they were average-sized,' she said.

The Dove women - Sale

Dr Dittmar said: 'Only the tiniest percentage of women can ever hope to achieve the bodies shown in most advertising. There are well-grounded fears that images of size-zero models spark a body dissatisfaction in women. Compared with ultra-thin models, those with an average, healthy body size were viewed as more credible, more trustworthy, and more knowledgeable than their skinnier peers by all women, whatever their profession, age or personal weight issues,'

The reaction to the adverts held true for a range of different products, including bodycare items, make-up and food. The only item that the ultra-skinny models were better at selling was diet aids.

Erin O'Connor - No sale?

However, a spokeswoman for the Premier Modelling Agency said: 'Statistics have repeatedly shown that if you stick a beautiful skinny girl on the cover of a magazine you sell more copies. We supply the women the advertisers, our clients, want. The clients would say that they are selling a product and responding to consumer demand. 'At the end of the day, it is a business, and the fact is that these models sell the products.'

Public Opinion 1, Burgermaster Boris 0

Despite tory heavyweight Boris Johnson’s stout defence of the Rotherham 'burger queen' mothers the idea that children should be allowed to eat junk food at school has almost no public support, according to a MORI poll

Only 11 per cent of the public back their stance, while 86 per cent believe pupils should not be allowed out at break times to buy fast food and sweets from nearby shops. The survey was conducted just after Johnson, the shadow higher education minister, caused controversy when he supported parents who were running a fast-food delivery service, which they passed through railings at Rotherham's Rawmarsh School, by saying: 'Why shouldn't they push pies through the railings? This pressure to bring in healthy food is too much.'

Galloway condems Islamophobia, anti semitism still fine though?

Islamophobia is a problem that must be addressed, George Galloway has told his Respect party's annual conference in North London.

Singling out Jack Straw for particular criticism Galloway said "Everybody with a brain knows the reason why Jack Straw got down and dirty and scraped the bottom of this filthy barrel was to join the Dutch auction in New Labour of who can be most beastly to a minority - a minority which is already beleaguered and anxious in this country. And it's a disgusting, ugly sight and sound to see or listen to."

Fine words from gorgeous George! I should not mock: Galloway has shown his steadfast support for Muslims over the years not least through his steadfast support for such champions of justice as Saddam Hussein.

It is a major shame that his devotion to combating islamophobia is not matched by a fanatical opposition to anti Semitism

After being introduced on Al Jazeera television last November as “a former member of the British Houses of Parliament” He responded: “I am still a member of parliament and was re-elected five times. On the last occasion I was re-elected despite all the efforts made by the British government, the Zionist movement and the newspapers and news media which are controlled by Zionism.”

No Zionist Occupation Government, George? Perhaps you should don your leotard and go back to robotic dancing. You and Pete Burns made such a lovely couple!

As far as I am concerned Galloway’s continued presence on the political stage is about as welcome as a turd in a swimming pool

14 October 2006

De valera: partition and hypocrisy

Ryle Dwyer, an American living in County Kerry, writes a weekly column in the Irish Examiner. From time to time his column deals with aspects of Irish history. Against a backdrop of progress towards the resumption of power sharing in Northern Ireland this week’s article looks at the hypocrisy displaeued in the past over the over the issue of Irish partition (to access the full article, go to opinion then select Ryle Dwyer, The article in question is dated today, 14 October)

An intriguing aspect of the talks in St Andrews is that there has been no mention of resolving partition. This distinguishes the current talks from most of those over the last century when the partition question inevitably overshadowed all Anglo-Irish negotiations. It was the great red herring that was used to obscure some of the greatest political failings and thus distort and poison our politics for much of the century.

Eamon de Valera, who led the fight against the 1921 Treaty (note: this treaty led to the creation of the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland but left 6 of the 9 counties of Ulster as part of the UK) that culminated in the civil war, recognised the necessity of partition even before the Treaty negotiations began. He warned members of the Dáil on August 22, 1922 that if they refused to recognise the rights of Unionists, Irish nationalists would lose international support and the British would be given a free hand in Ireland. .

However, he harped so much on partition, he managed to generate a whole series of myths about the issue: that it was the cause of the civil war; that the 32 counties were one, united “nation from the dawn of history”; that Britain was totally responsible for partition; that the issue had nothing to do with religion; that a united, politically-stable Ireland would result if the British withdrew from the Six Counties.

In seeking to highlight the partition issue, de Valera was one of the few politicians anywhere to oppose the 1928 Kellogg-Briande Pact, which sought to outlaw war. He objected to the pact because, he contended, Britain would use it to hold people in subjugation by insisting that signatories of the pact should not support struggles of national liberation within the British Empire.

The two largest counties (of Northern Ireland) — Fermanagh and Tyrone — each had a nationalist majority. If the unionists of the North were entitled to partition, the nationalists there had an even greater right to re-partition. While de Valera was in power, however, he never asked for the transfer of those two counties or the other contiguous areas in which nationalists were in the majority. He was content to abandon those people and those areas in order to perpetuate a legitimate nationalist grievance, and thus keep the partition issue alive.

In diplomatic circles he quietly suggested what is now called ethnic cleansing, by advocating that those Ulster unionists unwilling to accept the 1937 constitution should be transferred to Britain and replaced by Catholics of Irish extraction from Britain. At the start of the second world, de Valera contended that the existence of partition left his government with no choice but to remain neutral. But in 1940 when the British offered to declare Irish unity in return for the use of Irish bases, de Valera showed no interest in the offer. (to be fair it is unlikely that Churchill ever had any real intention of letting Ireland become a united island). When European unity was being discussed after the war, de Valera decried any Irish interest in becoming involved.

“I am sure,” he told the Council of Europe, “you can understand with what a cynical smile an Irish citizen would regard you, if you spoke to him about uniting into a huge state the several states of Europe with their diverse national traditions, so long as he contemplates his own country be kept divided against his will.”

It was one of the great tragedies that he made no real effort to bring about a normalisation of relations but just exploited the issue for his own ends and so left a distinctly unstable situation after him. Although Seán Lemass and Jack Lynch tried to normalise relations, the green wing of Fianna Fáil resorted to de Valera’s old tactics when the Northern troubles erupted in the late 1960s.

It was not until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 that nationalist Ireland recognised unambiguously the right of the people of Northern Ireland to a separate existence, as long as the majority there desired it. This was a major step in establishing decent relations with the majority in Northern Ireland. Hopefully another step can be taken in the coming weeks, in the interests of all.

Giving ground and gable ends

The British and Irish press are carrying stories which seem to indicate that devolved government may be returning to Northern Ireland. A key obstacle (but not the only one) has been the fact power would have to be shared between the two largest parties, the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein. Both sides seem to have given considerable ground and power sharing now seems to be a realistic prospect.

Rather than dwell on this subject I would rather highlight a story based on a report on the Northern Ireland submariners Association website.

James Magennis

Last year a Mural dedicated to the Ulster Freedom Fighters (a loyalist terrorist group) and looking for all the world like an Iron Maiden cover was removed to make way for a giant painting of James Magennis, the only person from Northern Ireland to win the Victoria Cross during WWII. The memorial, which dominates a gable wall at Tullycarnet in east Belfast, was painted by artist Kenny Blair as part of celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of the Allied victories in Europe and the Pacific.

Magennis was awarded the VC for taking part in an attack on Japanese warships in the Straits of Johore in Singapore in exceptionally difficult circumstances. Although feted in England, he was did not receive the anything like the same reception in Belfast: pupils at his old school refused to stand for what they considered a "Brit" hero and it is believed that official recognition was denied to him because of bigotry from both sides of the sectarian divide. In the end he settled in Bradford and lived there until his death in 1986. A memorial to him was finally unveiled at Belfast City Hall. In 1999

Loyalist Commission member Frankie Gallagher said: "The story of James Magennis is a fascinating one and this mural tells it brilliantly. This is part of a five-year strategy for the Tullycarnet estate to address what is the fourth-worst education attainment level in Northern Ireland. Education is a major issue and by putting up this mural we want children to learn about their own history, and the diversity of their own history. It is vital, and the children themselves will be building a memorial garden at the site in the near future."

Quite tellingly the Mural was unveiled by Democratic Unionist Party MP Peter Robinson. Earlier this year members of the DUP attended the Republic’s commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme


This post is rather long and is of extremely limited interest to most of my readership. It is aimed at “team members” of the Further Left Forum and is posted here because it would not be accepted as a comment on that blog.

Yesterday while perusing the Further Left Forum. I saw a post which linked to a well respected leftist and anti islamist Maryam Namazie. I noticed that the link was incorrect so I posted the following comment:

jams o donnell has left a new comment on your post "Death Penalty":

This link to Maryam Namazie's blog above does not work. Hopefully this link will work.

Her blog and the links are well worth investigating.

All posts to the Further Left Forum are moderated by Pocho, who is the blog owner (even if he may deny this). He sent the following message to the other team members, including Renegade Eye, Say No to Mullets and Pisces Iscariot, all of whom are FL team members and who are linked to the Poor Mouth.






The message was written in upper case and is exactly as it was sent to me. It was clearly his intention that I see this message but as I have no wish to disclose my email I will respond here. I will say that what Pocho said about me is a mixture of distortion and downright lie I would go further to say that it verges on the defamatory.

1, The comment I posted on the Further Left Forum was intended to correct a damaged link to a person I respect deeply. Clearly Pocho seems to think there was an ulterior motive (“Look like the innocent flower, But be the serpent under’t” – to quote Lady Macbeth).Firstly, Pocho might wish to consider that two previous posts this year (In may and July, neither of which had any ulterior motive either ) were passed without similar comment Pocho might also wish to consider why he linked the FL forum to this blog for some time. I chose not to return the compliment

2. I was a regular of the original FL Yahoo room and it is true to say that I was attacked heavily. My user id at the time was cloned but for Pocho to say that “several of us” worked to defend me is at the very best an economyof the truth; Pocho did not lift a finger to help. Zatilkia on the other hand did a lot do defend me and for that I am still very grateful. Pocho is also showing some breathtaking hypocrisy. He forgets that he tolerated a number of people who brazenly abused other FL members. Does he remember Attila?. Although he did eventually cut Attila dead, for a very long time he did nothing whatsoever to stop his abuse of regulars.

My activity in the IRC successor was limited. I will freely admit that my last words to Pocho were, if my memory serves me “go to hell you sick bastard”. While these words were harsh they were the result of a heated As for the other two members I am alleged to have abused he has alleged previously that I swore at another regular (an Indian from a very privileged family and a very rich husband who lives in Canada who plays at hard line maoist politics). That is not true. The third person may well have been the Greek/south African or whatever team member who lives in the UK (perhaps) This member was the purveyor of such sensible policies as the ethnic cleansing of protestants from Northern Ireland. If I swore at him it was as a result of his sheer and utter idiocy

3.” Moral disagreement with 9/11 and 7/7”: What this means is that I consider these acts to be acts of terrorism, nothing else. Pocho showed his high moral position on London bombings by describing the event as “London getting a bit of justice”. As for 9/11, his stance is summed up by his oh so witty comment in the old FL room where he described the people who jumped from WTC as a “Hard Rain”. That was not an isolated comment – on several occasions he supported the actions of the 9/11 attackers., Pocho may subscribe to the Ward Churchill view of the dead as “little Eichmanns” I do not.

4. In 2004 I put together a piece on the Rosenstrasse protest for the FL library, Last year when I wished to cut links with the room I did demand that that article be removed from his library. For him to say that it was not worthy of the library is a downright lie. I requested that it be removed on the basis that it did it did not fit with his blanket advocacy of violence.

5 Pocho talks about snide comments on the FL forum: These so called snide comments have been deleted by so it is not now possible to judge whether they were snide or not. I would like to point out that last December 2005 one team member (I will not embarrass them by saying who) posted an article from the Onion as real news. When I left a comment along the lines of “oh dear better to concentrate on America’s real iniquities rather than those that are made up” Pocho vilified me then deleted the whole post.

The Further Left Forum does not accept debate willingly. It is the measure of the man that there would be any hesitation in accepting this polite post: by Roman (see sidebar for a link to Roman's excellent blog)

“Team members were divided on accepting the comment below.

Zatikia, You said: "America thinks they can just fence themselves in and abuse the world and they will be safe."

America is a sovereign nation just like Mexico. As such, it has over the last 200+ years evolved into a nation which is governed by a rule of law and order just like Mexico. It is the wish of the citizens of this country that our borders be secured but for the last 30 years or so our government leaders have allowed the orderly system of legal immigration to devolve into chaos. Why? So that large agricultural, manufacturing and service industries will have a plentiful supply of cheap labor. Both Mexican and US leadership's lack of border enforcement has been, and is now, criminal in nature.

I was an immigrant. I came here legally after submitting papers and waiting for 3 years.
Do you mind it if you are waiting in line and someone steps in front of you? How about if it is a never ending stream of people stepping in front of you? Is this fair?”

This will be my only comment on Pocho’s post. He will never have to worry about dismissing any further comments out of hand, As I cannot subscribe to his virulent anti American, anti Semitic, pro islamist, world view there will be no more comments from me there.

13 October 2006

Diet Coke?

“Drink Coca-Cola and lose weight at the same time! “ may sound about as likely as beach-front property in Wolverhampton. but next month, the Coca-Cola Company is launching a tea-based drink called Enviga which, it says, will actually burn more calories than it adds to the body of the average, healthy consumer.

Enviga, a joint venture between Coca-Cola and Nestlé, will contain a cocktail of caffeine, calcium and a green tea extract called epigallocatechin gallate. The drink will essentially be a stimulant, speeding up the metabolism and thus encouraging energy burning. According to research conducted at the University of Lausanne - but yet to be published in full - a healthy person aged between 18 and 35 could lose up to 100 calories by drinking three 12oz cans of Enviga over the course of a day. The drink itself contains about five calories.

When it is rolled out over the course of the next year or so - Enviga will take its place in the emerging market for so-called "negative calorie" drinks. A Florida company has already produced a drink called Celsius, which it claims raises the metabolism rate by as much as 12 per cent and "significantly increases calorie-burning".

Deborah Roberts, the company's senior brand manager for North America, said Enviga would be marketed to people who already lead relatively healthy lives. "This is about the small steps you take every day to have a more balanced lifestyle," she said. The drink will come in three flavours, green tea, berry and peach, and sell for about 80p.

Coca-Cola has made repeated attempts to shake the unhealthy image of its soda products, not always successfully. Its foray into the lucrative bottled water market famously came unstuck in Britain when the company was forced to admit that its brand, Dasani, was just tap water.

If the research is true then drinking 3 cans of Enviga a day – at a cost of £2.40 - will burn all of 100 calories. This is roughly equivalent to half a hamburger or two fingers of Kit Kat.. Despite Coca Cola’s claim that Enviga will be targeted at people who already lead a healthy lifestyle, I would imagine that it will mainly be drunk by people clutching at straws.


Friday cat blogging - for the Friday Ark and Carnival of the Cats (see sidebar for link)

12 October 2006

Turn on, tune in, dry out

According to yesterday’s Independent A single dose of the hallucinogenic drug LSD is an effective treatment for alcoholism. Studies on thousands of alcoholics treated with the drug in the early 1960s showed it helped trigger a change in mental attitude leading drinkers to quit.

A historian who unearthed the research, led by British psychiatrist Humphrey Osmond and carried out in Canada, has interviewed the participants four decades on and says the results are dramatic. Erika Dyck, professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Alberta, said: "The LSD somehow gave these people experiences that psychologically took them outside of themselves and allowed them to see their own unhealthy behaviour more objectively, and then determine to change it.

"Even interviewing the patients 40 years after their experience, I was surprised at how loyal they were to the doctors who treated them, and how powerful they said the experience was for them - some even felt the experience saved their lives."

The research was carried out in Saskatchewan where Osmond and colleague John Smythies had gone after they became disillusioned with the state of psychiatric research in Britain. They reasoned that a single large dose of LSD might have the same effect as experiencing delirium tremens which they had noted often marked the turning point in a drinker's career.

In one study, two-thirds of the alcoholics stopped drinking for at least 18 months after receiving one dose of LSD, compared to 25 per cent who stopped after group therapy and 12 per cent after individual therapy. But the 1962 study was received with scepticism by a research group in Toronto. They repeated the study on blindfolded patients in isolation, and concluded that, under these conditions, LSD was not an effective treatment for alcoholism.

Writing in the journal Social History of Medicine, Dr Dyck said: "The LSD experience appeared to allow the patients to go through a spiritual journey that ultimately empowered them to heal themselves, and that's really quite an amazing therapy regimen. We accept all sorts of drugs, but I think LSD's 'street' popularity ultimately led to its demise. That's too bad because I think the researchers in Saskatchewan, among others, showed the drug is unique and has some intriguing properties that need to be explored further."

The ban on the use of LSD in medical experiments appears to be lifting, as researchers in the US have recently been granted permission to conduct experiments. In Britain, some psychiatrists have been calling for research projects involving LSD and similar drugs to be re-started. The Royal College of Psychiatrists discussed the use of the drugs in treatment at its annual meeting in March, for the first time in over 30 years.