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Saturday, August 23, 2003

GA GA: If you had any doubts that Germany is seriously troubled society, read this:
“GERMANS would be given the vote at birth under a bizarre proposal to be considered by parliament next month. Under the plan, designed to combat voter apathy, parents would be entitled to cast the additional ballot on their child’s behalf until they reached 18; they would be legally bound to explain political affairs to their offspring and to accept their voting wishes.”
A silly season proposal from some lone eccentric politician? No, it appears to have quite widespread support:
“Even before its first reading in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, the bill has garnered the support of almost 50 politicians and a number of constitutional judges.. said Antje Vollmer, a Green parliamentarian who is backing the bill. “This is no joke because there are millions of little people living in our society today who often have more informed political views than adults, but who are currently being discriminated against simply on account of their age.”

THE REAL OPPOSITION: Latest revelations in the Kelly affair reveal the extent to which the BBC thought it was in fact the official opposition, directing the Tories as a useful minor coalition partner
"Documents released by the Hutton inquiry reveal Richard Sambrook, the BBC’s head of news, knew that Gilligan, the defence correspondent of Radio 4’s Today programme, was briefing Richard Ottaway, a Tory member of the foreign affairs committee (FAC).

In an e-mail dated July 3 and copied to Sambrook and other senior BBC news executives, Gilligan wrote: “Spoke to Ottaway again and he’s happy . . . Not a bad result.

He also told BBC management how Alastair Campbell’s latest attempt to “spin” his way out of trouble had made the Tories “angrier and more determined to stick anti-Campbell wording in the report”.


Friday, August 22, 2003

STOCKHOLM SYNDROME: After the curious refusal of the UN to request US troops even after they’d been warned that an attack on a soft target was planned, we discover that:
Most of the U.N. security guards at the compound had been placed there by the Saddam security service before the war and reported on U.N. staff movements at the Canal Hotel, headquarters for U.N. inspectors looking for weapons of mass destruction.
Why? Well a couple of blogs have pointed to the oil for food program as the corrupting source, but given that this happened at a much more personal level, it looks to me much more like Stockholm Syndrome; the UN staff and weapons inspectors found themselves identifying with their captors – the Baathist Iraqi’s. And now even though they have been released, they just can't break the bond they feel for their former guards.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

EVOLUTION: How the worm evolved.
GETTING THE POINT: Mary Ann Sieghart points to the missing name in the Hutton Enquiry:
So who is to blame? The BBC or the Government? Andrew Gilligan or Alastair Campbell? Geoff Hoon or Tony Blair? But one crucial name is missing. Ploughing through the evidence that the Hutton inquiry posted on its website yesterday, I could not help but conclude that the finger of blame points just as fiercely at David Kelly himself.

Here was a man who broke the Civil Service code of conduct by having countless unauthorised conversations with journalists. When these blew up into a huge story, he tried to cover up his guilt. When the cover-up itself looked as if it might unravel, he was faced with public disgrace and official disciplinary action.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

BEWARE OF BRITS BEARING TITS: This seems a little harsh from the culture that gave us naked, oiled, man on man wrestling:
An 18-year-old woman from Bath was at the centre of an increasingly bitter culture clash between residents of the Greek island of Rhodes and rowdy young British holidaymakers yesterday after she was sentenced to eight months in jail for removing her top in a crowded bar.

HUTTON ENQUIRY: After today’s evidence, The Times concludes that:
”Lord Hutton will deliver an opinion on ensuing events, in particular, the fact of, and the fashion of, the naming of Dr Kelly. It may be that he holds ministers predominantly responsible or decides that the BBC was as culpable for what happened. It does not seem probable, though, that he will deem Mr Campbell to be guilty of the “sexing-up” charge that initiated this story.”
But in light of the email that Giilgan sent to a member of the foreign affairs committee suggesting questions to put to Dr Kelly, even the latter porpostion is questionable.
The e-mail was disclosed by Mr Dingemans while Alastair Campbell was giving evidence. Mr Dingemans said that it looked as if Mr Gilligan was using the committee to “get at the Government”.

Helen Liddle, a former Scottish Secretary, said on Newsnight last night that it would have to be considered whether Mr Chidgey’s questions to Dr Kelly made the weapons expert realise that his cover had been blown.

She said: “It may well be that Andrew Gilligan has revealed Susan Watts’s source without involving Susan Watts in that process.
So it looks like the sacred principle of not revealing sources is expendable when you have an agenda to push. This letter gets the point:
"Peter Riddell is right that the most important question was always whether our Prime Minister exaggerated the urgency of the Iraqi threat to justify military action. But this must be determined by voters, not the BBC, and when they do so, they must be able to rely on impartial reporting.

Richard Sambrook, the BBC’s head of news, said that the corporation’s job was to “ask questions, raise issues and debate them”. He should have added “and always tell the truth”. Lord Hutton’s inquiry has already revealed the extent of its failure."

WHOSE LIP?: David Aaronovitch has an interesting take on who now holds the stiff upper lip now:
First was the power failure that blacked out a third of the cities in north America last Thursday, covering nearly 10,000 square miles and 50 million people. The traffic lights stopped, the street lights went out, the freezers unfroze, trains in the subways conked out and their passengers had to be led along the tracks to safety, millions walked miles and miles to get home…….. Over the weekend I scanned the pages of the New York Times for the orgy of recrimination that must surely have broken out when a nation as effete as the Yanks was deprived so absolutely of its creature comforts. And I couldn't find it. I discovered a report headlined For Agencies, the Blackout Was Well Timed, expressing the relief of advertisers and media organisations that the blackout had occurred (a) in the summer and (b) close to the weekend.

Now let's return to that question of how these mishaps might have been treated had they taken place here in Blighty. The Americans should understand that a national disaster is what happens when 7,000 houses are damaged by flood water, the French that a national scandal is what you have when 123 children are given the wrong A-level results. Devastation is a high wind in a caravan park, and chaos (according to the London Evening Standard) is what you get when you re-sequence the traffic lights or when a Lexus driver from Kent is wrongly billed for the congestion charge. The culprit must be found if a sudden snowstorm holds drivers up for two or three hours, or if the trains slow down because the rails are hot. And a real economic downturn is best exemplified (as it was in Britain last week) by yet another fall in the unemployment rate.

FULL BACKING: The BBC reporter arrested for infiltrating the police feels confident that he’ll be vindicated:
"The subject matter is hugely important and I think the BBC is fully justified in sanctioning such a project. I know I have the full backing of the BBC and that they are going to throw all their weight behind me.”
I seem to recall Gilligan felt the same way too.

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