Monday, 30 April 2007

Climate of Fear

From the Evening Standard:
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas will publish a report highlighting the "creeping encroachment" on civil liberties by the Government and official bodies.

The report accuses ministers of creating a climate of fear through increasing use of CCTV cameras, the computer tracking of shopping habits and plans for ID cards.

Mr Thomas, who three years ago warned that Britain is "sleepwalking into a surveillance society", argues that his fears may have already been realised.
You always see the train right before it hits you.

The Point That Isn't a Point

From the BBC:
University heads in the UK have rejected warnings that the European Commission is trying to wrest control of higher education from member states.

Universities UK said there was "no sign of a conspiracy" to take over the process of making degrees more comparable across Europe.
Quite right. There's no conspiracy; they're being blatantly obvious about it.

Sigmund Freud, Call Your Service

And now, from the Land of the Rising Sun (and very likely the Sirus Cybernetics Corporation) comes a water closet that not only keeps track of your toilet habits so that it can "serve" you better, but, God help us all, sings to you as well.

I suspect that this is the default tune:

Share and Enjoy
Share and Enjoy
Journey through life
With a plastic boy
Or Girl by your side
Let your pal be your guide
And when it breaks down
Or starts to annoy
Or grinds when it moves
And gives you no joy
Cos it's eaten your hat
Or had sex with your cat
Bled oil on your floor
Or ripped off your door
You get to the point
You can't stand any more
Bring it to us, we won't give a fig
We'll tell you,
'Go stick your head in a pig'.

Cabin in the Sky

If you're flying from London to Delhi, are not claustrophobic and have £4,422 rattling around loose in your pocket, you can forego even the first-class cabin in favour of your very own 26-square foot stateroom complete with seven-foot bed and complimentary Dom Perignon.

Meanwhile, yours truly will keep making do with the equivalent of a flying third-class railway carriage with complimentary nothing and a fervent prayer that the toilet is still operational.

Kitchen: 1999

Kitchen... of the FUTURE courtesy of the Philco-Ford Corporation.

Clever, but the moment the foodatron starts vetoing my menu requests is the moment I have a quiet word with the thing involving its CPU and a very large hammer.

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Dog Days

Light entries this weekend as I'm installing one of those invisible dog fence things, which turns out to be a bit more complicated than it sounds.

Here's a helpful tip: When you've got the perimeter wire installed and you're adjusting the settings on the control box, it is not a good idea to be holding the receiver collar with the electrical contacts face down in the palm of your other hand.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Designer Dystopia

Mark Henederson has a very good corrective in the Times about the fear of designer babies that is both reassuring and frightening because Mr. Henderson misses one very important point (emphasis added).

It is easy, though, to get carried away by cliché. Talk of designer babies, slippery slopes and brave new worlds adds little to constructive debate about PGD (Pre-implantion Genetiuc Diagnosis), because its dystopian potential is firmly limited by science.
This is very true, as far as it goes. Human genetic engineering is actually far more difficult and problematic than popular science would lead one to believe and the prospects of a Huxleyesque Brave New World are remote. Human beings aren't as genetically variable as other species, they are very difficult to engineer, take a very long time to reproduce, and stakes of even a single failure are so high that anything like a true eugenics programme would require a dictatorship of phenomenal reach, dedication and longevity. As Mr. Henderson says, we are not heading for a Gattaca situation of genetic Übermensch lording it over the rest.

Or are we? Even though it had Ethan Hawke starring in it and the painful presence of Gore Vidal in a supporting role, I found the scenario presented in Gattaca to be a compelling one; not because it depicted a world of godlike beings, but because it presented exactly the opposite. The "Valids" of Gattaca, as the genetically-engineered upper class were called, may have been carefully screened for things like heart disease or myopia, but the story made it clear that they were in no way supermen. They were merely treated as if they were. And in an oligarchy that is more than enough, as a brief glance at any Communist state will show.

In other words, it isn't a matter of true genetics, but of false aristocracy. The danger is that designer babies have the potential of being regarded as separate from the rest of humanity by way of their origins. They may not be Übermensch or Untermensch, but they could end up being seen as such regardless. From there, the slippery slope leads to caste, prejudice and a racial barrier more permanent than anything marked by skin colour. Whether the designed lord over us as Alphas to our Gammas or vice versa is immaterial. The damage will have been done.

Perhaps Brave New World isn't so far off after all.

Al Qaeda Round Up

From the Times:
A top al-Qaeda commander linked to a string of international terror attacks has been captured trying to enter Iraq and is in US custody, the Pentagon said today.
Between that and the Saudi's scooping 172 terrorists (if the report is credible), this has been a very good day.

The Life of a Writer

Yes, this is pretty much how I handle my professional correspondence.

The Emperor's Entree

I hate the snobbery of it. I hate food being overworked. Most chefs paint pictures on plates to hide their lack of technical ability. They are doing it for themselves, not for their guests.
Marco Pierre White on making food into little towers and other bits of over-complicated culinary insanity.

Long live roast beef and Yorkshire pud!

Priorities III

Scientists have come up with the mathematical formula for the perfect head on a pint of beer.

Cancer cure any day now.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

US Congress Turns French

The United States Congress has voted to surrender in Iraq-- apparently unconditionally, as they have yet to contact the Jihadists about terms and concessions.

High fives all around at Al Qaeda HQ.

Update: Courtesy of the EI time scanner, we present a view of the American embassy in Baghdad, March 2008.

Hal 9000 Unavailable for Comment

British scientists have come up with a surveillance camera system that can read lips.

Marvellous. Add that to the cameras with built-in Tannoys, the ones hidden in bean tins, and the ones that spy on you before you do anything wrong, and you'll leave the thoughtcriminal no place to hide.

And They'll Be Cranking It Up To Eleven

Spinal Tap are reuniting.

The Ruttles were unavailable for comment.

Update: I'd comment on why they're getting together again, but as this is a mock band supporting a global warming event, I prefer to refrain from fish in barrels.

Jaguar Retires

The Jaguar ground attack aircraft is being retired from RAF service next month after thirty four years of protecting the realm.

Well done, thou good and faithful servant

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Booze Belt

Greatest. Invention. Ever.

Never Bring a Catapult to a Crocodile Fight

A nine-year old Chinese boy and his friends climbed into a crocodile pit and taunted the reptiles with sticks and a catapult. Guess how it ended.


Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Abu Izzadeen arrested

Abu Izzadeen and five others in Britain have been detained on terrorism charges.

Always a good day when one of the bigger fish gets netted.

Peace in Our Time

Senate Majority Leader Harry "The war is lost" Reid on Kosovo (Emphasis added):
Just a reminder to the predominantly Muslim-led government[s] in this world that here is yet another example that the United States leads the way for the creation of a predominantly Muslim country in the very heart of Europe. This should be noted by both responsible leaders of Islamic governments, such as Indonesia, and also for jihadists of all color and hue. The United States' principles are universal, and in this instance, the United States stands foursquare for the creation of an overwhelmingly Muslim country in the very heart of Europe.

Translation: "We're good dhimmis. Here is your Sudetenland. Take it and don't hurt us, please."

Someone hand Senator Reid his umbrella.

Missing Factor

The BBC is running a feature article on the "flight" of middle-class Muslims from Britain for the more "tolerant" climes of the Middle East.

The reasons for their being so fed up with life under the Union Jack are cited by the Beeb as "Islamophobia," a "witch hunt" and "glass ceilings"against Muslims, "an environment where the messages in the media are anti-Islamic" and "intense pressure to explain their faith and its place in British society."

One tiny factor that is left out of the BBC's leave-no-stone-unturned approach to journalism might be that perhaps there is this little matter of a war against crazed Jihadists who wish to destroy civilisation and have demonstrated this in the Mosques and on the streets of London with words and bloody deeds and the marked reluctance moderate Muslims have in speaking out-- much less in taking a hand in combating these barbarians. Yet, if this article is to be believed (which is problematic), middle-class Muslims regard the British people and Her Majesty's Government as their enemy, not the Jihadists who hate moderate Muslims as much as they do the infidels.

Perhaps Muslims in Britain who are packing their bags would get a better reception if they chose the side of civilisation and the resolve of fight over flight.

Daily Planet Scooped

From the BBC:
'Kryptonite' discovered in mine
Clark Kent was unable to file his report owing to a sudden illness.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Wipe Out

Sheryl Crow on Saving the Planet:
I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting. Now, I don't want to rob any law-abiding American of his or her God-given rights, but I think we are an industrious enough people that we can make it work with only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where 2 to 3 could be required.
And the case against Ms. Crow's appointment as environment minister (or toilet attendant, for that matter) is proven.

Al Qaeda's Hiroshima

From the Daily Telegraph:
Al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq are planning the first "large-scale" terrorist attacks on Britain and other western targets with the help of supporters in Iran, according to a leaked intelligence report.

Spy chiefs warn that one operative had said he was planning an attack on "a par with Hiroshima and Nagasaki" in an attempt to "shake the Roman throne", a reference to the West, according to The Times newspaper in the UK.
We can hope that this is just bluster and wishful thinking. We can also stick our heads in the sand and hope it all goes away. As 9/11, 7/7, Madrid, Bali, Breslan and other plots too numerous to mention from Baghdad to Canada illustrate, for Al Qaeda and their ilk it isn't a matter of motives, but of means.

Sharia Bonds

From the Times (emphasis added):

Muslims keen to comply with the financial strictures of religious Islamic law may be able to buy Premium Bonds for the first time after a government review announced yesterday.

Ed Balls, the Treasury Minister in charge of City affairs, wants all types of government-sponsored savings products to be accessible to those who adhere to Sharia.

If lemmings ever become extinct, at least we'll have Her Majesty's Government to take their place.

For now.

Boris Yeltsin Dead

Boris Yeltsin, President of Russia from 1991 to 1999, the man who faced down a Communist counter-revolution in 1993 and oversaw the dismantling of the Soviet Union has died at the age of 76.

Rumour is that his liver is still at large.

St. George's Day

This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.
William Shakespeare
Richard II Act 2 Scene 1

Happy St. George's Day from Ephemeral Isle.

Canal Boat Mystery

And now, a trip to the Twilight Zone. A 43 foot long, four-foot wide canal boat with a top speed of four knots has gone missing and the police are utterly baffled as to its whereabouts.

Given that such a vessel is, as the name implies, confined to the canals and that your average canal boat is about as stealthy as a hod of bricks in the middle of the road, one must either conclude that the art of detection is not what was or that the Shropshire Union Canal has just made the Bermuda Triangle look like a goldfish bowl.


Germs come from Germany

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Sexing a Tomato

Tomato cucumber salad: The light lunch of Crusader depravity

From the AP on Al Qaeda in Iraq:
American commanders cite al-Qaida's severe brand of Islam, which is so extreme that in Baqouba, al-Qaida has warned street vendors not to place tomatoes beside cucumbers because the vegetables are different genders, Col. David Sutherland said.
The question is, which one gets the burkha?

Larry and Bob were unavailable for comment.

Earth Day

Lord Summerisle: Our Earth Day special guest master of ceremonies

It's Lenin's birthday Earth Day here at Chez Szondy and as usual we're pulling out all the stops to ensure a properly go-ahead, Gaia-affirming day of smug posturing and strident self-righteousness at our anti-racist, non-patriarchal 1/3 scale recreation of Stonehenge. The Druid rune-readers have predicted an absolutely massive turnout with participants flocking from the four corners of the Earth, but seeing as we are situated on a mountain several miles from the nearest human habitation and have explicitly forbidden anyone to get here using any form of motorised transport, the exploitation of our animal brethren, or participating in the rape of our sacred planet by riding bicycles with tyres made from petroleum or rubber from plantations that encroach upon the vital reforests, we may have to resign ourselves once again with only Mr. MacGregor and his dog Samwise from down the hill coming up to point and laugh.

Nevertheless, we have a full programme of eco-friendly activities that will seem cutting edge to anyone who hasn't had an original thought since 1968. I'm not exactly sure what the programme will be, however, as it is printed with earth-friendly lampblack ink that soaks illegibly into the extremely coarse pure-hemp rag, which I am assured is much more environmentally sound than regular paper. Exactly why this is, isn't clear as the people we get it from just giggle uncontrollably whenever I ask them anything. But I am personally assured that the Aztec-Trotyskite Drum Circle Collective will pound the vegan, politically-sound skins for all their worth. What this is supposed to accomplish, I don't know. I thought it had something to do with the giant puppets, but the giant puppeteers tell me that it is the other way round.

Also on the bill of biodegradable fare is a full raft of speeches from the Chairbeing of the Nether Wallop Eco-Terrorist Brigade, the Pod Leader of the Puget Sound Friends of the Orcas and Nobody Else, Academy Award-Winning actor Earl Fatuous, the spokesman of the Gay Taliban Outreach Group, '70s folk singing sensation Joan Screech, the Hereditary President for Life of the Socialist True Democracy League, Fidel Castro (courtesy of the Stalinist West Riding Spiritualist Guild), and the Archbishop of Canterbury. These may even be somewhat understandable despite being blared through cheap, inexpertly operated, handheld megaphones. It is hoped, however, that Mr. MacGregor will refrain this year from pointing out the hypocrisy of a load of Luddites opposed to everything since the discovery of fire using electronics operated by nicad batteries to get their message across-- however incoherent it may be.

The Finchley Womyn's Anti-Industrial Commune will also be on hand with their global-warming diorama (assuming that it does not snow again) and they will be happy to explain to anyone who wants to listen, and the larger group that does not, why it is necessary for impoverished Africans to do without clean water and electricity in order to Save the Planet while reassuring everyone that the so-called developed world will soon be doing without these selfish indulgences as well. We request, however, that visitors refrain from bringing up the environmental records of the Communist Chinese and their Soviet predecessors, as this makes them a bit stroppy.

If you are attending, please remember that Earth Day is a time for us to show our proper place in Gaia's design, so the celebrations will be meat, gluten, additive, GM crop, processed food, dairy, egg, alcohol, tobacco, fish, poultry, non-organic, non-free range, non-fair trade, involuntarily harvested, preservative, vitamin, packaging, and ideologically unsound foodstuff free. You are welcome to forage for nuts and berries in the surrounding woods, but we recommend you stay clear of the fields beyond unless you want to participate in the reenactment of the hunt scene from Planet of the Apes that the local farmers have promised this year if we try that again.

Visitors are also reminded that there will be no toilet facilities whatsoever, as Chez Szondy is a soap and chemical toilet-free zone and we refuse to scar Mother Earth with latrine pits, so do remember to go before you go and make sure all your shots are up to date.

Finally, we would like to reassure our visitors that we have not forgotten our commitment to the purest of neopagan revivalism and that the traditional sunset human sacrifice will go ahead as planned. Fears that burning of the victim selected volunteer in the wicker man would have to be cancelled because of greenhouse gas emissions have at last been put to rest, as Lord Summerisle has secured the necessary carbon offsets for which he is receiving only a moderate commission fee.

Hope to see you there and enjoy yourself, if that is doctrinally possible.

The Man From Atlantis

Our Earth Day Tribute.

Let me assure you, he is dolphin safe.

Carriers Okayed

The government has given the go ahead for the construction of two new strike carriers for the Royal Navy.

It's not nearly enough (the Navy needs two carrier groups at the very least) and doesn't in any way excuse the appalling, suicidal cuts New Labour has inflicted on the Senior Service, but we should be grateful for these tiny bursts of sanity.

Headline of the Day

From the Arizona Republic:
NASA gunmen got poor job review
You think?

Saturday, 21 April 2007


Something that should be cast in bronze and nailed to the desk of every politician, diplomat or editorialist who thinks it's possible to appease terrorists and tyrants.


Rudyard Kipling

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation,
To call upon a neighbour and to say:—
“We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:—
“Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray,
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:—

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”

A Transatlantic Tunnel

We were started to dig under the Channel, but then it got completely out of hand

Friday, 20 April 2007

1984 in 2010

Thoughtcrime: Set to become official in Britain in 2010, thanks to the tender totalitarian mercies of the EU.

Ham Steak: The Entree of Hate

I'll have an order of dhimmitude with fried potatoes, please. Hold the common sense.

Tunnel, Vodka & Fast Cars

No matter how bad it gets, at least you aren't commuting to work through a Russian traffic tunnel-- unless you are, in which case you have my deepest sympathy.

Tiny Detail

A yacht has been found off the coast of Australia with the sails set, the engine and computers running, life jackets and emergency beacons intact, and the table set for a meal. There were no signs of anything wrong, save for a torn foresail.

All very Marie Celeste, isn't it? Even the torn sail isn't that odd, since it probably happened when the craft fell off the wind and the jib was free to flap about until it tore itself to pieces. What could possibly have happened to have plucked three people into thin air?

At least, it's mysterious if you only rely on the BBC's print version of the story, which leaves out a tiny little detail found as a mere aside in the video report: the liferafts were missing. Suddenly it goes from mysterious to prosaic as the question changes from "How did they disappear?" to "Why did they jump into the liferafts from a perfectly sound boat?"

My money is on strong current, close reef and panic, which is how a friend of mine ended up in the water off the coast of the island of Hawaii clinging to a liferaft case dropped courtesy of the US Coast Guard that lacked any sort of instructions on how to open the blasted thing* while he watched his supposedly doomed catamaran crest a wave against a lava cliff, turn 180 degrees, slip back down without a scratch and head off to New Zealand.

*His remark at the time was "What am I supposed to do? Take it home and fry it in butter?!?"

A Response to the LEP

After our post yesterday on predatory Nissans, we received a stern protest from the League of Extraordinary Pedestrians laying out conditions for allowing our electrons free passage through the blogosphere.

In response, I would point out that while I do have a stock of eggshell paper that I am utterly unable to account for, I am universally acknowledged to being a rather bloodless individual, I am hopeless at joined-up writing, I am only able to attend 35 and one half meetings of the LEP grand council if there is sufficient Guinness or cheap Chardonnay on hand at all times, I am terribly dismayed at the thought of 53 shivering bears, and Carl the Cattle Dog is indisposed because he has eaten all the chocolate.

As a consolation, Carl has agreed to send along one of his more successful attempts at self portraiture.

Even the UN Security Council couldn't get that much out of him.

Life Catches Up

God, this is depressing. After finding that title sequence for Adam Adamant a few days ago, I stumbled across this clip from the '90s of Gerald Harper (Adamant himself) as an old duffer trying to avoid falling down the stairs.

I think I'm going to go and shout at some kids to get off my lawn.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Uh Huh. Right

From the Telegraph:
There is a possibility that the Elgin Marbles will be sent back to Greece, according to the director of the British Museum.

Neil MacGregor said the Marbles could be taken back to Athens on a temporary basis provided the Greeks acknowledge British ownership of the ancient sculptures.
And they'll give them right back the moment the BM asks without the tiniest thought of a double cross entering their minds. Really they will. Honest. No kidding.

Somehow I'm put in mind of Arthur Dent, his home and a bulldozer.


Put a pig in your tank.

Biodiesel fuel from pigs. Somehow, it's just not the same.

On the upside, it really annoys PETA!

The Dream

Nissan develops a new car that is capable of detecting pedestrians for you even if they're around the corner or otherwise concealed.

Yes, this is what we've been waiting for. Finally, those wretched little pavement pounders will be at our petrol-driven mercy. With this new techology, they'll have nowhere to hide, nowhere to run as we rev our engines in triumph and barrel down on them for the final...

Oh. It's meant to prevent accidents.

Never mind, then.


Performs heart surgery by worming its way through the chest cavity, hunts for Sarah Connor.

Eight out of ten for ingenuity, ten out of ten for the "ick" factor.

Update: Personally, I'd stick with the mental picture rather than running the video.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Not Too Many, But Too Little

In the Blair New World, if you are an infidel and commit bigamy, you go to gaol. If you are a Muslim and commit polygamy, you get extra benefits.

Well, that makes... What?

Modulate the Paramagnetic Subspace Field

Better days in three words: Flying leg kick
Science chases Star Trek for no very good reason. First it was cloaking devices, then it was teleportation, now it's deflector shields.

Brace yourselves, because blinkered half-baked utopianism, long-winded pretentious speeches, annoying know-it-all brats, soppy "counselors," slap-happy Ferengi, Renaissance Faire pirate Klingons and plots that sit there like week-old rice pudding until the last ten minutes of the episode cannot be far behind.

A Telling Point

Fight to preserve the United Kingdom or just shrug, pack up the Tridents and move south-- guess which one New Labour is opting for.

Tommy's Not the Man His Father Was

The American Spectator looks at political correctness and the state of Her Majesty's armed forces.

It is not encouraging.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Retrocyber for the Blue-Rinse Brigade

Good Lord. There's such a thing as retro-tech, but this computer chasis/telephone is a step beyond. All it needs is some cheap plastic flowers in a thick, glass light-up case and it would fit right into my grandmother's sitting room.


Have your copy book ready.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Science Marches On!

From the BBC:
Japan's leading toilet manufacturer Toto is offering free repairs to 180,000 toilets after some of them caught fire.
And 180,000 Adlerian therapists pull out the yacht catalogues.

Why Wait?

The Ministry of Love has come up with a tremendous boost to efficiency in controlling Outer Party members fighting crime: CCTV cameras programmed to spy on you before you do anything wrong. But as Stuart Thompson,manager of the company developing the camera, says, "The innocent have nothing to fear."

And the Thoughtpolice will tell you when you are no longer "innocent".

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Hornblower & the Ice-Cream Navy

William S. Lind over at weighs in on the Royal Navy debacle:

For Britain, and especially for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, the incident ended in utter disgrace. The initial surrender of the British boarding party to what appears to have been a much larger Iranian force is the only defensible British action in the whole sorry business. Even in Horatio Hornblower's Royal Navy, a British frigate captain was not disgraced if he struck to a French or Spanish ship of the line. Force majeure remains a valid excuse.

But everything else that was said or done would have given Hornblower or Jack Aubrey an apoplexy. The failure of HMS Cornwall to foresee such an event and be in a position to protect her people; the cowardicethere is no other word for itof the boarding party (including two officers) once captured; their kissing the Iranian's backsides in return for their release; and perhaps most un-British, their selling their disgraceful stories to the British press for money on their return -- all this departs from Royal Navy traditions in ways that would have appalled the tars who fought at Trafalgar.

Yet that is not the worst of it. The worst of it is the reaction of the Navy's higher-ups. According to a story in the April 7 Washington Times, the Royal Navy's top commander, Admiral Jonathon Band, leapt to the boarding party's defense with virtually Jerry Springeresque words:

He told the British Broadcasting Corp. he believed the crew behaved with "considerable dignity and a lot of courage" during their 13 days in Iranian captivity.

He also said the so-called confessions made by some of them and their broadcast on Iranian state television appear to have been made under "a certain amount of psychological pressure."…

"I would not agree at all that it was not our finest hour. I think our people have reacted extremely well in some very difficult circumstances," he said.

Had the captives been 10-year old girls from Miss Marples' Finishing School, Admiral Band's words might make some sense. But these were supposed to be fighting men from the Royal Navy and Royal Marines! Yes, I meant men. What Politically Correct imbecile detailed a woman to a boarding party?

I've reserved my opinion on who is culpable in this mess on the grounds that it is unfair to judge a man in a tight spot, but after the appalling way that both the former hostages (I almost hesitate to acknowledge them as Royal Navy) and the government has acted in the aftermath, it is clear that this is an episode that the Navy and Her Majesty's Government can only look back upon with shame. I'm willing to give all the benefit of the doubt to someone who falls into the hands of a load of murdering Jihadists and is forced to make propaganda against his will, but there are limits. Compare these images of RAF pilots John Peters & John Nichols that were broadcast on Iraqi television during the first Gulf War:

To this one of the fifteen hostages in Iran:

They didn't even have enough pride (or sense) to leave those blasted "goody bags" behind. Talk about selling your birthright for a mess of pottage! It's one thing to cooperate with the enemy to the absolute minimum under extreme pressure. It is quite another to do so with such enthusiasm after what we now know was so little persuasion-- unless fear of missing a daughter's birthday or being called "Mr. Bean" now counts as duress vile (And no, I have not forgotten the mock executions. On that point I refer back to Private Moyes).

As Mr. Lind points out, far more blame can be placed on the commander of HMS Cornwall, who sent his men into harm's way without adequate protection-- indeed, we now learn no protection at all. No RN officer should be in a position where he can't say this (courtesy of C. S. Forester):
Capt. Horatio Hornblower, R.N: If I am not back aboard the Lydia within one hour, she'll train her guns upon your fort and reduce it to rubble.
El Supremo: With you in it, Captain?
Capt. Horatio Hornblower, R.N: That is my order.
Near enough blame can also be placed with the boarding party officers who did not order their men to give the enemy as little as possible and a great deal more blame can go to Faye Turney and Arthur Batchelor, who sold their stories to the press regardless of whatever Whitehall fathead said that it was okay to do so. At the very least, I hope that a fistful of official reprimands are being shoved into service records.

But the real villian in the piece (aside from the Iranians, but that's irrelevant, as they should have come out of this with nothing but a few shot up patrol boats and a stern warning to never try it again) is the Blair government, who from the first were more worried about spin than giving the armed forces the support they need and deserve and it's going to take a damn sight more than Des Browne falling on his sword to put things right. According to Michael Smith and Maurice Chittenden in the Sunday Times,
The origins of the shambles lie in the navy’s concern over cuts. At the height of its power in the mid-19th century, it could muster more forces than the seven next biggest navies combined.

Now it is the Cinderella of the three services and has been largely sidelined during the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Royal Marine commandos and the SBS, still both part of the navy, have fought with distinction in both operations, but the main contribution from the navy proper was to fire off a few token cruise missiles on the opening days of each war. Even then the United States snaffled all of the best targets.

During the attack on Afghanistan, said one senior intelligence source, the Royal Navy’s expensive cruise missiles had done “little more than rearrange the rubble” at a couple of disused Al-Qaeda training camps. Her Majesty’s ships have not seen any serious action since the Falklands and are struggling to attract the right calibre of recruits.

Even the royal family now give the “senior service” a miss. It used to be standard practice for royals to serve in the navy, a tradition followed by George V, Edward VII, George VI, Edward VIII, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Edinburgh. But Princes William and Harry have both preferred the army, although William is scheduled for a short spell in the navy next year.

Fearing further decline, navy chiefs ordered a publicity drive centred around HMS Cornwall, a frigate sent to take over last month as flagship of Task Force 158, the allied flotilla protecting the Iraqi oil installations and territorial waters.

Television crews from Sky and the BBC were flown on board the ship to film the crew at work monitoring the northern Gulf; Cornwall was to be the front-page story in Navy News, the navy’s in-house journal. But from the start the publicity drive went awry.

Cornwall, known as “the ice-cream frigate” because of its designation F99, travelled to the Gulf via Barcelona, Malta and Croatia. Along the way the crew engaged in a series of sporting events with local teams; they lost every match.

From the wooden wall to ice-cream frigate in two centuries. Ye gods, if the shades of Cochrane, Fisher and Churchill aren't howling and clanking through the corridors of Westminster and affording Mr. Blair et al not a moment's peace, then they are seriously wasting their afterlife.

I remember during the Falklands War that I remarked that the conflict in the South Atlantic marked a crisis in British history. This was a moment when afterwards Great Britain would have the choice of either becoming once again a world-class power or joining her Continental brethren in slinking off to historical obscurity.

It looks as though Horatio Hornblower has been forsaken for Mr. Bean.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Room 101 Is A Tough Audience

Hear the one about the squirrels?

Don't repeat it, or the Thoughtpolice will be knocking on your door.

The Terror of the Terrapins

Never mind the Royal Navy, Londoners are definitely not the men their fathers were. Once able to stoically face the worst that the Luftwaffe could offer, London is now trapped in a vice of fear as crazed terrapins terrorise Hampstead Heath.

I am not very worried about this, as no doubt they will eventually be seen off by hordes of half-gone sloths followed by wave upon wave of ninja snails, but at least Britain is not as bad off as Argentina, where a zookeeper was savaged to death by an anteater. Presumably the animal's claws were involved, otherwise it must have been the most brutal licking in history.

Kentucky Fried Tyrannosaurus

From the Telegraph:
T rex: it probably tastes like chicken
And Colonel Sanders has his own Jurassic Park vision.


CombiScope AutoLab: the world's first robot dairy lab.

Now all we have to do is hook it up to robocow and the circle is complete.

Castro: Still Recovering

Castro just keeps getting better and better. According to fellow despot Hugo Chavez, Castro is "almost totally recovered."

At this rate, he'll soon be as "recovered" as Yasser Arafat.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Adam Admant

This is my ideal life style and self image, but my wife and child keep laughing to the point of dry heaves every time I put on the cape.

This, on the other hand, is probably closer to the mark.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Look Around You

Remember how god-awful educational films could be?

You will now.

Eating Edwardian

Bang goes another one of Britain's great institutions. The BBC sent Giles Coren to spend a week eating like an Edwardian gentleman and it comes off as something of an ordeal on par with being asked to consume an entire undercooked manatee-- a point that made me raise my eyebrows so high that my pince nez fell off my nose and damn near landed in the port. Had to ring for Beaches to help me find them, damn his eyes! I mean, look at this typical menu from day one that M. Coren had to soldier through:

  • Breakfast: Porridge, sardines, curried eggs, grilled cutlets, coffee, hot chocolate, bread, butter, honey.
  • Lunch: Sauté of kidneys on toast, mashed potatoes, macaroni au gratin, rolled ox tongue.
  • Afternoon tea: Fruit cake, Madeira cake, hot potato cakes, coconut rocks, bread, toast, butter.
  • Dinner: Oyster patties, sirloin steak, braised celery, roast goose, potato scallops, vanilla soufflé.
Begads, the milksop doesn't even mention any wines, spirits or port and he was already whinging before he even tucked into his curried eggs! Something tells me that M. Coren hails from a section of British society that does a bit too well for itself on salads and pasta in obscenely tiny portions and washed down with over-priced mineral water of dubious breeding at Islington cafes boasting eight different varieties of lattes between workouts at the gym and colonic irrigation or whatever else is the latest craze.

But seriously, I really was puzzled that he found this food so hard to stomach. I spent a great deal of my youth on a farm in the North and while we weren't what you'd call well off, my family did appreciate a decent spread and the above would have been a fairly normal offering-- even a bit on the lean side, though the oysters would almost certainly have been served on the half-shell as God intended rather than wasted in patties. In fact, I'd still be eating pretty much like that today if I had the time and I could wean wife and daughter away from the pizzas and microwaves.

Mr. Creosote was so misunderstood.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Learn Something New Every Day

Study Reveals How Drunken Bats Sober Up
Bats go on benders?

Robin unavailable for comment

A Titan of the Screen

Cheeta (left)

Cheeta turns 75 years old and still no sign of a special Academy Award for lifetime achievement.

Typical. You do twelve pictures, make a fortune for the studio, retire, stop schmoozing, fall out of the loop, and everyone forgets about you.

Hollywood is a tough town.