Friday, October 31, 2003

First man sacked for blogging?

A Microsoft employee has been fired for blogging a picture of Apple Macs being delivered to company HQ in Seattle. This is the post at issue. God knows what's wrong with them. Despite the dull techie Windows vs Mac wrangles, Microsoft have been selling software to run on the things since I were a lad (literally), and own a great mass of them. They announced that he'd committed "security violations" - the trendy excuse for any injustice - and zapped him instantly. They could do this because (of course) he was a temp and therefore has fewer employment rights than a lab rat (I paraphrase). And that's the real issue.

Ocean of nonsense? The elasticity of information

BBC story

Apparently, researchers at Berkeley have concluded that 800 megabytes of information is produced for each person on the planet every year. That's doubled since 1999, when they last checked. The conclusion is of course dependent on many other factors - just what is information? Does printing many copies of the same book create new information? But it's a good infofart anyway. And it reminds me of my own General Theory of Information, which runs as follows: The volume of traffic expands to fill the communications available. Seems obvious enough, especially as talk is free.
As with all the best maxims, though, it's the consequences that count. If you increase the communications capacity, the traffic will grow - not necessarily instantly, but it will do it.

We can assume that the increase in traffic is value-neutral - there is no reason why worthwhile messages will be any better communicated than nonsense. There can only be so many facts, valid judgments, relevant statements, truthful comments and the like around at any given moment. Obviously this will vary over time, but I'm quite sure it's fixed in the short run. There is no comparable limit on the generation of rubbish, though - after all, it can't be any harder to get it wrong than to get it right, the number of possible misconceptions and imaginings is infinite, and people appear to have a natural tendency to erroneous beliefs. Add the moderate but important contribution of propaganda and deliberate lies, and you'll see the full implications. Even if the total quantity of valid information does increase with capacity, it will increase less rapidly than the quantity of bullshit in the system. Increase the capacity, and the gap will be filled by more rubbish than wisdom.

The only exception is the case where genuine stuff didn't get through because of low capacity. In this case, an increase will clear the backlog - but even so, a greater increase in capacity is needed to clear a given amount of information due to the generation of nonsense.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Bog Rolls Over Baghdad

From the last issue of International Affairs, I see Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden's review of the invasion of Iraq. How wonderful...reviewing a war like a book...I digress, though. On the question of propaganda, Sir Tim is moved to the following remark: "A total of 158 air missions dropped 31,800,000 leaflets. The US analysis equates this to 120,454 rolls of toilet paper, which may be an early indication of how effective this technique was seen to be." Indeed. Seeing as back then they were willing to drive pickup trucks with 23mm guns on to within 20 yards of M1A1 Abrams tanks (that was how one of the tanks was lost in Nasiriyah - in a sandstorm, admittedly, but brave as hell), and now they are blowing up Red Cross staff and themselves in ambulances packed with high explosives - the propaganda must be beginning to work..

BBC NEWS | Earth buffeted by big solar flare


I noticed on a bulletin board that someone saw the Northern Lights from an Edinburgh-London flight at the latitude of Manchester on Monday. Almost a pity not to be up north..

"The compass variation at the Lerwick geomagnetic observatory in Scotland changed by 5.1 degrees in only 25 minutes at about 0630 GMT.

Japan's space agency has announced that its Kodama communications satellite has been affected by the flare. It has been shut down with the hope it can be reactivated when the storm has passed"

The compass variation shifted by 5.1 degrees..what power!

BBC NEWS - Key Kremlin figure 'quits'


This is the same chap who recently shocked the Russian and Ukrainian press by threatening to bomb the Ukraine at a press conference on a minor border dispute in the Straits of Kerch. I wonder whether that had something to do with it..or perhaps he was trying to embarrass Putin? Still, it's very depressing to be obliged to support someone like Khodorkovski, whose record is as dodgy as only an oligarch's can be - just because they are all that is left as a check on the power of the secret state. Russia under Yeltsin was industrialised (but de-industrialising) anarchy, and it has since become a police democracy. Although the constitution looks - if you screw your eyes up - vaguely like a democracy with a powerful centralised state and strong executive presidency (France, for instance), practice is very different and the political quality of Russia has probably gone backwards. The key now is the complex of the presidential administration, the FSB, the "power ministries", and the friendly oligarchs like Mikhail Fridman. Those ministries, though, are becoming more and more identical with the president's power structure.

Curiously, an executive presidency with the powers of a head of state, an interior, foreign and defence minister was last suggested in democracy by one Jörg Haider in his book "The Third Republic". (The republic he meant was of course Austria, not France) Not the best example.

A Fistful of Euros: Life outside of Europe

A Fistful of Euros: Life outside of Europe

From the same lot, this is amusing..

"The Bible does not predict the establishment of the State of Israel, nor does it predict that the Antichrist will attack it when there is peace with the Palestinians. Yes, I've read the entire Bible. I even used to go to Sunday school. Whatever it is you think you're reading there, it isn't there. Frankly, if there has to be peace in Israel for the world to end, I wouldn't start cashing in my stocks yet anyway.
I don't care what Jesus would do; I worry too much about about what George W. Bush would do. And, I will accept Jesus Christ as my personal saviour when you accept that you've been brainwashed by your cult.
Yes, I'm from Europe and no, I don't like Heineken. I also don't drink Coors because I don't like the taste of horse urine in a can.
France and Germany have virtually identical policies towards Iraq and it's the US that has softened its stance, not the other way around. Yes, it is entirely fair that the US should pay nearly all of the bill for rebuilding Iraq, because if you broke it, you have to fix it.
They're euros, not euro-dollars. And they're not worth eighty cents, they're worth a buck fifteen. Get used to it.
I don't care if you were in Vietnam, you're still a drunk redneck in a pick-up truck."

Got that?

A Fistful of Euros: The trials of the Tories

A Fistful of Euros

Well, it finally happened. Letter number 25 arrived a day after IDS demanded that the plotters move by Wednesday. (not that he had any way of preventing them from writing in after Wednesday, but let that pass) Now we will all have the free entertainment of a Tory election. They aren't really very good at elections - after all, the original tories existed to limit the franchise and support the King - and last time around they managed to have an election that neither chose nor rejected anybody. It's usually only the Swiss who do this sort of thing, but then they mean it. The important bit is, naturally, what becomes of British democracy in the event of the strange death of Conservative England. Can a democracy fly with only a left wing? Especially in a country as rightwing as Britain. We've got to admit that - just look and listen to them!

I really wonder what the country would be like without Tories - would the Labour Party, or at least the Blair content of it, swing to the right and become something like a European christian democratic outfit, as Roy Hattersley frequently accuses Blair of being? That would imply a large Liberal Democracy to the left flank, overlapping on many economic issues but well to the left on the liberal/authoritarian scale, privatisation and foreign policy. And they would doubtless pick up the defectors from the new new Labour. Or would some of those go to the hard left? Even if the Blair party would probably be capable of gathering much of the conservative camp, surely the tribal right of the Conservatives would reject and struggle on as a rump (Real Tories?). Or would they go BNP? There are simply too many Conservative voters around for the right wing to remain empty. If Labour and the Liberals were to stay where they are on the spectrum and compete, they would be disenfranchised, easy meat for a British Le Pen phenomenon.

A vision of the future - a discredited Labour party sprawled over the centre, the Blair team following instinctively their Bill Clinton/Dick Morris 1995 triangulation obsession to the right, the party pulling left, Brown and Robin Cook competing for the spiritual leadership of the Left, a much bigger Liberal party to the Left - and a 30%+ BNP or similar block. Horrible, isn't it? Especially as whatever Tory representation was left would very likely be partly in sympathy with the fascists. I've always enjoyed the spectacle of Tories suffering, it's a gut Labour instinct that survives resignation, disillusion, betrayal - but we really have to worry about the social structure without them. Perhaps in the end the best thing would be the departure to the Right of some people in the Labour Party and greater pluralism in parliament. In a proportional representation world, you could imagine the Tory divisions resolving themselves into a Stahlhelmfraktion of Tebbitite diehards and a liberal, business-conservative grouping, as well as a big Lib Dem representation and a Green presence at the other end. It might make politics more complicated, but it would at least make for balance. Maybe the answer to the challenge of realignment is to have more realignment.

Friday, October 24, 2003

BBC NEWS |Crash victims cheer rail overhaul

BBC NEWS | Business | Crash victims cheer rail overhaul

Well, it's finally happened - Network Rail has renationalised (well, I'm going to admit it even if the government won't) all maintenance of the railways. The workers' flag is deepest red... How odd, anyway. Like Christmas coming early for a lot of people. Puts the PFI arrangements for the Tube in a very bad position - how can (say) Jarvis be considered reliable on the tube but not on the main lines? And that's all gooood.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

Europe: best when you don't notice it?

A Fistful of Euros has this article on the slow progress and near-zero profile of the European intergovernmental conference that is currently struggling to agree the final text of the EU's new constitution. According to another blogger quoted by Fistful, EuroSavant, a tougher and more power-political approach to the Constitution might have been more effective - for example, agreeing the text between the 15 current members and presenting it as part of the accession terms to the 10 new members. I can't say I agree - apart from the obvious implications in terms of democracy and fairness, nothing could have strengthened the hand of the various, more or less nasty Europhobes like Andrzej Lepper in Poland or Meciar in Slovakia more. People in the candidate states are worried enough about the terms of entry being dictated by the west without it being any more true than it already is.

Further, I was moved to leave a comment to the effect that European integration had always been deliberately low-key - a process founded on practical and incremental measures of concrete co-operation. Like electricity supply, it's one of those things that's working when you don't notice it. I don't think it would have lasted if it had been more politically dramatic, and I have the strong impression that the EU is at its least effective when it's at its most demonstrative. The fanfares tend to be followed by farts. Recall M. Jacques Poos's pronouncement that "The hour of Europe is at hand!" immediately before the union failed to do anything of use about Yugoslavia, or the lavish ceremonies attending the renewal of the Franco-German treaties this year while the union was tearing itself apart over Iraq, constitutional reform and agriculture. Closer to home, British prime ministers tend to make grand statements about Europe just before collapsing into the latest crisis with a burst of evil-smelling tabloid gas. The historic event of Germany being represented at a European Council meeting by France was somewhat devalued by the fact that nothing was decided at the meeting.

To return to the constitution, I am moving towards the view that perhaps the mistake has been to organise it like this. The two-stage process always presented the danger that the "conventionnels" (the conventionists? the convened?) would deliberately fudge or work in bad faith in the knowledge that national and institutional interests coul be re-asserted in the IGC, as well as the prospect of a workable draft being hacked to death or drowned in waffle once the diplomatic circus of an IGC got going. It might have been better to beef up the convention with more elected members and make its final document the final text. The ratification could have been national or perhaps by referendum. More drama, I know, but perhaps more simplicity.

By the way, who is this?
"Minister," you see, implies a sovereign state - and we don't want to give any support to the notion that this Constitution will in any way create a sovereign state."
You might be surprised. It's the Czech foreign minister Cyril Svoboda talking about the proposed European foreign ministership. Remarks like this, of course, are what keep High Euroscepticism going - the enduring fantasy that a Tory government could somehow create (just like that!) a Eurosceptics' Europe without any real institutions by allying itself with (the exact allies change under pressure) "the Scandinavians" or "the new members". Remember Iain Duncan Smith's "Prague Declaration" earlier this year. Of course you do. Go on. What, you don't remember? The problem is, of course, that the new members want to join the EU. They don't want to join some second-class outfit on the fringes - it looks far too much like the various ideas put forward to stall them in the 1990s. (the European Confederation, anyone?) And in fact Mr. Svoboda's position is far closer to Tony Blair's than anyone in the Conservative Party but (perhaps) Ken Clarke. It's not the thing he objects to, note, but the name.

Not that it will put the backbench Bismarcks like David Heathcoat-Amory off their pipes, though. Now, I suppose, they like this idea even more because Don Rumsfeld has made it sound American and exciting.

Monday, October 20, 2003

George W. Bush or Chimpanzee?

George W. Bush or Chimpanzee?

Highly amusing link

Excessive force in Rafah

Ha'aretz story

"The Rafah operation, named "Root Canal," has been underway for 10 days. It involves large numbers of infantry, armor and engineering troops, backed up by attack helicopters. So far the operation has been only partially successful.Three tunnels have been found and demolished. But there is reason to believe that there are many more tunnels running under the border. The tunnels are not only used to move weapons that end up in the hands of the terror organizations, but also to smuggle in goods and merchandise. There's no disputing the justice of Israel's position that the tunnels are flagrant violations of past security commitments made by the Palestinian Authority to prevent the uncontrolled flow of arms into areas under its control. No less
understandable is Israel's frustration over Egypt's failure to do anything to block the smuggling routes.

But there is nothing in the justification of Israel's position that can sweepingly justify the military activity underway on the ground -
neither its dimensions nor the character of the operation, which appears to be violent and arbitrary. So far, the operation has led to the deaths of two children, aged 8 and 12, and
apparently other innocents, as well. The operation has destroyed the homes of hundreds of people, who unluckily lived along the border and their homes were searched by soldiers looking for the tunnels. In some cases, homes were demolished because tunnels were indeed found under them. But in other cases, it's been reported, multi-storey buildings were toppled for no reason."

"Root Canal". How amusing. Does anyone really think that this sort of bullying exercise serves any purpose at all? No. The problem is that the Sharon-ist mind assumes that the Palestinians will be bullied into submission, and that this can be achieved by the same means as when Sharon was commanding in Gaza in 1970 - bulldozing houses on a variety of quasimilitary pretexts ("fields of fire") as a form of preemptive intimidation. It isn't going to work again. An Irish comedian recently described the War on Terrorism as "like trying to swat a fly in your kitchen with a fridge". If anyone believes that they are really looking for individual terrorists with bulldozers, I suggest you think on that image.

Pakistanis Cross Border With Ease to Join Taliban (

But on the other hand

The next crisis bubbles steadily away. How long before a new disaster? I seem to recall saying that having an entirely vacuous brawl with Iraq would take attention and resources off al-Qa'ida and the stabilisation of Afghanistan, and it looks like I was right.

Bush Says Pact With N. Korea Possible (

Some good-ish news at last

Well, at least an edging back towards sanity. After all, why does North Korea want nuclear missiles? Because of fear. Address the fear and we can address the missiles. Further, recalling George Kennan's long telegram on the USSR mentioned yesterday, an insecure and repressive state needs to find enemies to justify its internal repressiveness. Wind down the military confrontation level, and you can expand detente to wider relations between North and South K. And that will make the "magnetic pull" of the South stronger yet - which will eventually lead to peaceful reunification. Yup, it's the old
Willy Brandt/Egon Bahr line again. Good to see a little professionalism seeping through.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Spiralling downwards...

What really infuriates me about the Tories at the moment is that they are such an abject cluster fuck that no-one is paying any attention to the poisonous cancer of a government we are afflicted with. So the Highways Agency are planning for the possibility of sections of the motorway network jamming to such a degree that those stuck will have to be supplied there until the traffic can be reversed. So Diddy David Blunkett's new extradition treaty with the USA means that each and every one of us can be rousted and shipped to some undisclosed location on the mere say-so of some pissant small-town Republican bigwig promoted to a real job for his loyal campaign contributions without any evidence being presented to a court whatsoever, whilst the meanest, nastiest excuse for an American citizen may do whatever crime it likes in Britain with impunity as long as they reach home soil, as the Constitution forbids extradition. So Geoff "Iraqi mothers will be grateful for our cluster bombs" Hoon has decided all the armed forces' new equipment projects can be scrapped. Barely any new destroyers (the ones the navy are counting on for their air defence between now and whenever the new carriers and F35s come into service), one armoured brigade to go because Apache helicopters will do everything (so why were they useless in Iraq?), all supposedly for faster, whizzier expeditionary ops - but the network-centric warfare programme is to be shit canned as well. No connection there.

But the political shrapnel hurtling out of the Tory bomb site blocks the view. Everything keeps going catastrophically wrong and each time is worse than the last. When I formed this blog, I considered naming it "The Downward Spiral". But I felt that was overly pessimistic. Clearly, though, pessimism is the wave of the future. Look at this. Go on, look at it. LOOK AT IT!

"an 'undisclosed location' (a place the CIA calls 'Hotel California') - presumably a facility in another co-operative nation, or perhaps a specially designed prison aboard an aircraft carrier"

So that'll be as in "You can check out any time you like - but you can never leave!" Jesus. I will bet good money that this zone of horrors is right on British soil. RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus? Too accessible. The carrier can be ruled out - there are no secrets aboard a ship, however huge. Diego Garcia, most likely. The place we threw the people off so we could kowtow to the Pentagon better. What a fine example of George F. Kennan's argument that the Soviet Union needed external enemies to justify the illegitimacy of its internal terror. We are seeking external enemies to justify external terror to internal opinion, but the principle seems much the same.

I don't want to buy your new honest Tories

As the shit storm about Iain Duncan Smith's wife being paid by the state to be his secretary, after the tax payer was already shelling out £121,000 a year for his salary as leader of the Opposition and he had the services of the party machine to answer his phone calls, brews up, a very curious phenomenon has appeared. That is the mysterious appearance of a whole volley of Mrs DS' supposed "friends from the school run" writing oddly similar letters to the press. (We shall, obviously, recall that the Conservatives' main argument in the great debate is that they are utterly free from "promises and spin".) Strangely enough they all seem to include the phrase "Crick thinks answering the phone in an office (with a skinny latte from Starbucks it took you half an hour to collect, in one version) counts as work but taking a call while cooking pasta for 10 doesn't". Now this would be all well and good if it wasn't so vilely hypocritical. Apart from the frantic spinning of the Tory-wife kitsch, we have to put up with the idea that grabbing as much public money as your well-heeled manners will permit is some kind of laudable feminist statement. Balls. BDS, as I suppose we have to call her, does and will never know anything about struggling - she was born rich and has got richer. It's typical of the Conservatives that the Duncan Smiths (TDSs?) found it necessary to grab the extra £18,000, and even more typical of the party of Peter Lilley ("I've got a little list/Of single mothers who get pregnant/just to jump the housing list")
to claim this as a blow against patriarchal injustice.

Equally, it's classically Tory to go on and on and - axewieldingly, acid in the woundly, desperate smackheadly - ON about something called spin which, we are supposed to believe, was invented overnight by Peter Mandelson (gay! Jewish! pro-European!) and Alastair Campbell (weirdly, it already seems odd to type the words) in May, 1997 whereas British politics before that instant had been so many repetitions of Gladstone's Midlothian campaign - whilst dragging out God knows how many utterly obscure women to pen paeans to the Leader's wife as a means of relieving their latest leadership crisis. Spin? Not a jot. Neither was there in the personalised e-mail I got from a conservative friend recently, which started off as if written by human hand but turned out to be a top-and-tail job on a standard Central Office newsletter, complete with the ritual announcement that "the Liberal Democrats are being investigated for false advertising".

Now this is too much. Trading Standards authorities, who the Tories will claim are doing the investigation if you press them, police such legislation as the Sale of Goods Act, the Trades Descriptions Act, Consumer Credit Act, and the Weights and Measures Regulations. I do not see that voting for a political party means engaging in a contract for the supply of goods or services. A contract must involve obligations on both parties and a consideration. Do the Tories really promote paying for votes? It's a myth. It's a lie. It is purest spin.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

On that Chinese space theme..

So - you don't think this bulletin board posting might be a plant?

"Long live China! Long live the Chinese people! ! Long live the Chinese Communist Party! ! ! Long live the Chinese nation! ! ! !"

He's back safely

BBC NEWS | World | Asia-Pacific | China hails space hero

So - no need for all that secrecy in the end. An amazing thing, even if it does look like a bottle bank..

Yang Liwei keeps up the tradition of astronauts saying very little of interest, though. His first remark from space was "I feel good", which is quite up there with Alan Shepard's "Boy, what a ride!"

That Jiuquan picture

Has pushed the blog skew whiff. It's being removed until I've edited the swine into a more helpful shape.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

China Ready for Human Spaceflight

China Ready for Human Spaceflight

And they've done it! I've seen a couple of sour grapes jokes about the mission today. Yeah, yeah, yeah - the ship may well be a copy of the Soyuz, but this is still amazing. Great - we haven't done anything new since 1968 - but we can still carp! Groan! Bitch! Whinge! Fantastic.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

British Monomarks Ltd.

Clients - British Monomarks Ltd.

Well, this is where the postcode our friend from "England First" gave points to through the Royal Mail postcode finder. What a surprise! It's a mailbox company. But their "clients" page doesn't seem to mention the fascists. Rather shy, wouldn't you say?

Dog taught to make Nazi salute

Link to story
Original Berliner Kurier article

Vienna's Der Standard reports that a Berlin man will appear in court on Thursday charged with "using the characteristic marks of an unconstitutional organisation", an offence under German legislation forbidding neo-Nazi activities, Paragraph 86a of the Federal Criminal Code. The nature of the alleged offence is unusual - he trained a dog to make the Nazi salute on command.

The 54-year old man apparently cried "Sieg heil!" and made the salute himself first before giving the dog the command "Adolf - sitz! Mach den Gruß!" (Sit, Adolf! Make the salute!) at which cue the hound (a German Shepherd cross called "Adolf") raised his right paw to the prescribed (and indeed proscribed) position. The court will first decide whether or not he (the man not the dog) is fit to stand trial, probably a wise precaution given that he put the beast through its paces in the presence of two police officers.

Here's a picture of the dog, unfortunately not doing its party piece -

Revisiting the Battle for Baghdad (

Thunder Run: Revisiting the Battle for Baghdad (

Very interesting interview with the leader of the first assaults into Baghdad. It was his lot who were visible over the Information Minister's shoulder whilst he was denying they existed.
"in the process, you want to create as much chaos as possible out here. Why is that? In the end, my forces can deal with chaos better than theirs can" Interesting, if rather Sharon-ish.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Just for amusement's sake

Something I forgot about IDS

By the way, I noticed this the day after Iain Duncan Smith made his "speech". All those orchestrated jokes about the Liberal Democrats were mysteriously missing from the text given to the Press by the Tories. Did I hallucinate it? Or did the Tories - totally straight and honest and opposed to any of that evil spin! - give a different and slightly less childishly vicious version of the speech to the media than IDS did to the delegates?

Admin: RSS feed

After much trying we finally have an outgoing RSS feed that works. For anyone who wants to syndicate the Ranter, go to that "BlogRSS" graphic on the sidebar. All right?

Friday, October 10, 2003

A Fistful of Euros

A Fistful of Euros

It's good to find - at last - a pro-European blog! With a quote from the eminent (and now very late) historian, H.A.L. Fisher on the top. "Purity of race does not exist. Europe is a continent of energetic mongrels." Rather fine.
The same blogger who prepared that article, Mediocre Fred, has also recently written at length on another Ranter target, the US fraudster and conspiracy propagandist Lyndon LaRouche, who is apparently standing for the Democratic presidential nomination. LLR, the editor of Executive Intelligence Review, is famed whereever faintly anti-Semitic gun nuts meet for his idiosyncratic explanations of the world. It was his rag that popularised the Princess Diana assassination babble, and you see his stuff in all sorts of supposedly respectable places on the net. It's the usual stuff - international financiers, world government - and we know what that usually means. This is him on the men behind Arnold Schwarzenegger:

"I would simply say it's a banking group, a private financial banking group, which was involved in France in setting up of the Banque Worms operation, which gave us the Vichy government and those who invented Hitler, and those who were plotting the Nazi takeover of Europe during the 1940s. The same group, exactly the same group"

Which turns out, surprisingly, to be the gentlemanly Anglo-French banking house Lazards, one of the last old-fashioned Jewish family-owned merchant banks left.

"And the key thing are the synarchists. The synarchists are the same. Lazard Bros. in France was part of the Nazi operation during WWII."


Here's some of Fred's comments on him:

"But America is no place for quitters, and LaRouche has put his hat back in the ring for 2004. He has a campaign Web site and everything.

Why LaRouche? Well, for one thing, he isn't tainted by political experience, like so many other candidates out there. He has a lot of views, which he's not shy about expressing. And he's been to prison on federal conspiracy charges. Now, other candidates might try to hide that bit of biographical information or cook up some sortof excuse. But Lyndon LaRouche is no ordinary candidate. To him, his jail sentence is a key selling point. According to his literature:

LaRouche is the only presidential candidate to have been convicted in a Federal criminal case. As the measure of a man's virtue is often the numerousness and savagery of his enemies, the fraudulent character of that conviction is, in fact, the most powerful proof of his exceptional qualifications for election to be President."

Open Source Politics: Running government like a business

Open Source Politics: United States: The Government Is in Business

A very good post from an excellent blog on the stupidity underpinning one of the most common no-meaning proposals in modern politics - the idea that government should be run like a business. This idea has long legs, especially in the US where it goes back at least to Calvin Coolidge. (And wasn't he a brilliant success.) In Britain it is much more recent, post-79 at the earliest although its real application began in the John Major governments and picked up under Tony Blair. It's this sort of thing that leads to the Immigration Service being told they are inefficient "because your unit costs are too high" - it turned out the whizzy management consultants (whoop! whoop! bullshit warning!) had simply divided the total budget by the number of passengers through UK ports - forgetting a few other things like enforcement investigations inside the country, deportations, detention of deportees awaiting departure. Or the Ministry of Defence selling all the married quarters to a bank who would give them a lot of money up front - but then charge the ministry rent, demand that they pay dilapidations, and require that they could sell a percentage of the houses every year (but the MoD would have to pay to renovate them first).

Businesses generally don't do things that are against their own financial interests simply because it's in some rightwing snake-oil textbook. This is because they exist to do two things - to make money now, and to keep making it in the future. Classical economic theorists take as a standard assumption that firms are always and everywhere short-term profit maximisers, but what successful business really ignores the future? In fact, there is a really good way of spotting the ones who are looking to the future - they are successful now, because they prepared that success ten years ago. (Jack Welch of GE used to say that the short term was just that - ten years.) The problems arise when they do put on the blinkers. Success is institutional, and that means preparing the technology and the ideas and the culture now.

Governments, though, when they try to behave like businesses, usually come up with a parody of the textbook profit maximisation model. You can't spend £100,000 this year if it means £200,000 less next year. The treasury will not allow it. You must absolutely set numerical targets for everything. If your department gets into the papers, expect a posse of ministers to drop on your neck to Sort Things Out, because they think that this railroad tycoon fantasy is how successful businesses work. It's not - it's how Enron worked. In case you think that this is a rant against the Right, governments can be just as bad trying to run businesses as if they were government departments with the attendant conservatism and politicisation.

In the end, it's an issue of culture. A government that tries to be a business, just like a business that thinks it's a government, will fail because the two kinds of institutional culture evolved to face two different environments. Capital is one-eyed - it has only one responsibility to anyone, which is to make profits. Unusual for the Ranter? Not at all. You cannot expect businesses to take care of the social costs they leave behind voluntarily or to provide the rules within which they have to be to survive. That's like expecting a virus to contribute to the health service.

And that's why we need a government.

BBC NEWS - Jarvis quits rail maintenance

Jarvis quits rail maintenance

The construction firm, PFI guilty party and disastrous rail maintenance contractor Jarvis plc has decided to withdraw from all its railway maintenance contracts! So let us all rejoice!

"Jarvis is pulling out of routine maintenance, partly because it is worried about its reputation being damaged by accidents caused by poor workmanship."

Well, that just about sums it up. Note that accidents obviously would have nothing to do with the company. No. It's those shiftless peasants, the workers, damaging their reputation! This strikes me as being an insight into the real problems at Jarvis - the top management obviously do not feel any responsibility for their firm's performance or lack of it. It's always somebody else's fault, but you can bet your balls none of the directors will fail to claim the salaries they are paid for that responsibility. Those of us with functioning memories will recall the firm's unimpressive showing immediately after the Potters Bar accident, when they instantly announced an Internal Inquiry. The inquiry reported back within two days, declaring that it was all down to sabotage by mystery vandals. The firm still maintains this despite the Health and Safety Executive's conclusion that there was no evidence at all for such a conclusion.

I recall Jarvis director and Tory politician Steven "Shagger" Norris defending the indefensible on Radio 5, going on and on at great and slimy length about their wonderful inquiry and how utterly honest they were. I just think it's a very remarkable coincidence that their ultra-reliable, hyper-honest investigators should have come to a firm conclusion within two days when it took the HSE almost a year - and that they just happened to hit on the one possible explanation that would exonerate the firm completely. Right.

Network Rail will now take over Jarvis's area of responsibility, the Great Northern, itself. Wasn't that called nationalisation once upon a time? The chief executive of GNER, Chris Garnett, declared that "I think the fact that (Jarvis is) going is very good news for all our passengers". I agree, especially as I use that route quite often myself.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

IDS speaks - quietly of course

The Conservative party's "leader" Iain Duncan Smith was on the spot today, giving what everyone said was the speech that would make or break his chances to survive a party mutiny. If that was it, you might think he was doomed already - but the hall screamed with hysterical force every time they were asked to. Just Tory leader worship, or did they really believe it? And if they did, why did they cheer wildly when IDS said "Tony Blair"?

It was an odd speech - IDS began by railing at Blair's "promises", but went on to issue a volley of high-cost promises of his own, as well as devoting several minutes to more promises of lower taxes. Every so often he would attempt a joke or a Telling Take-Home Soundbite - doubtless highlighted with a fluorescent marker on his script so he didn't miss - and botch badly. His speech writers had carefully implanted all the words (promises, acting, spin, tax versus fair deal, honest, asylum) that every Tory has been using once every sentence for weeks (how strange for a party so viscerally opposed to evil Labour spin!) into the text, and probably into his brain too. But it didn't help. He was obviously leery of missing one of those special, non-spin, soundbites and slowed down to sub-GW Bush in advance of each. Then he read it out as if explaining where the toilet was to a very stupid class of schoolchildren, before audibly preening at his own cleverness. (At least he has been cured of saying "Oh, yes!" in a John Major voice at these moments, though.) I suppose he was leaving gaps for applause, but the gaps always turned out to be much longer than planned. There were two reasons - first of all, his delivery was so gauche that the delegates always took interminable seconds to pick up on the fact that they were meant to cheer, giving a sort of anxious hiatus. Then, there was the way he seemed to lose his place afterwards and need time to catch up.

IDS's style appears to copy two examples - John Major and George W. Bush, perhaps the two least impressive orators in the English language. He has Major's odd, dated vocabulary and strange mixture of headmasterish hectoring and mumbling. He has Bush's cringemaking gaps........... between sentences, weird tendency to put a full. stop. after. every. word. and air of not knowing exactly what the next phrase will be. But it's not just that. He even quoted Dubya! That's like Arsenal taking advice on beating Manchester United - from Doncaster Rovers! He actually used the phrase "No Child Left Behind", the mendacious title of Bush's education policy. In fact, he seemed to propose some of the policy too (vouchers, vouchers, vouchers - do they never have any other ideas?). The other thing he found under a Bush was that particular kind of unconvincing machismo. When he said "Get out of the way because WE'VE GOT WORK TO DO!", I felt like saying "You wanna make me?" Probably because he flips from Major to Bush constantly. He began his Big! Dramatic! Showdown! with the party rebels by saying "To thowse who doubt." (His vowels are so Majory that they go over the brink of overenunciation) "To thowse who deliberate! I say this: Don't. work. for. Tony. Blair." Up to this point he was in John Major/headmaster mode, giving very clear directions along the corridor to the remedial class. But after the word Blair, though, he pulled the lever. "Get. On. Board! Or geddouttatheway! Because WE'VE GOT WORK TO DO!", his voice twisting under load into a curious groaning honk. It was meant to be the moment the afterburners were fired and the mighty Duncan Smith thundered off, but it was more like a whoopee cushion with a leak.

It went on, too - through the curious bit when he devoted what felt like an hour to saying how great Michael Howard was (not at all trying to get him not to stand for the leadership. No. Who could think such a thing?) and then immediately made a seamful transition to a Carole Caplin joke. "Michael, I understand that things are not so rosy in the red corner." The hall gaped for long seconds - IDS was back in Majormode and talking like a Speak'n'Spell. Why address it to Howard? What did he mean? Gap. "I've heard the only colour Carole Caplin won't allow in No.10 " - cut off sharply, still robotic. Gap. Now the delegates began to cheer, obviously having been given a cue that one of their hate fixations was coming up. IDS seemed foxed - he hadn't got to the punchline yet! Gape! Then he managed to get it out - " Brown!"
Evidently he hadn't heard that Ms Caplin's No.10 security pass had been withdrawn months ago.

He had obviously been heavily primed by Central Office to have a go at the Liberal Democrats. Both big parties have been pushing the line that Charles Kennedy is a joke (a drunk, invisible) hard lately, despite the curious fact that they seem to get steadily more popular. Perhaps people don't like this sort of media-village robopolitics?
Perish the thought. This was how IDS tried it:

"Charles Kennedy."

A long, corpsing, dead in the West End silence. Finally, someone began clapping ostentatiously on their own and the mob picked up that they were meant to laugh. It wasn't impressive and was clearly heavily managed. Then he did it again! And, dear God, a third time! Finally he got going with some spurious figures, before concluding that Lib Dem ballots "should have an asterisk on saying Warning Contains Nuts!" Oh, yes! But the most striking feature of the whole tiresome farrago was that however vacuous the statement ("Everyone in Britain deserves a fair deal - we must be on their side"), however vicious the sentiment ("On the same day, in the real world, bogus asylum seekers escaped from one of his pathetic detention centres when they should have been deported months ago!"), however blatant the shroud waving ("But these were just a curtain-raiser for this prime minister's blackest act. This government used Dr David Kelly as a pawn in its battle with the BBC. His death was first and foremost a tragedy for those who loved him but it shamed our country - it shamed our whole political system." Does that include the party that wanted war, weapons or not, because Dickie Perle told its leader to?), however unlikely the promises ("This Labour government will never give taxpayers value for money but Conservatives will.
In local government, Conservatives already deliver better services for less tax.
As Michael Howard said yesterday in his excellent speech, Conservatives believe in low taxes - we will always be a lower tax government than Labour!"), however emetic the emotional babble ("And then Gran's on the phone - her operation's been cancelled again. It seems the doctor says he must give priority to other patients to meet Tony Blair's targets. Gran doesn't count!") - they still howled! They yelled and roared! As long, of course, the floor management could cue them in on time.

If you're looking for nuts, you've come to the right place. This lot would cheer anything with a sign saying Leader on it.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Great news...the Americans will let Iraq have mobile phones

One may recall that very soon after the collapse of the Ba'athist regime, a business had started up offering a world standard, GSM mobile phone network in Baghdad and some other parts of Iraq. That was, until the Americans saw it differently and confiscated most of their equipment. This was no doubt why - they didn't like the fact that the world mobile standard isn't the same as the CDMA system used in the States, hence not providing as much pork from the Iraq reconstruction barrel for US electronics firms. Mr. Issa, of course, is the car salesman made good who put up the funding for the California recall campaign but had to withdraw from the running after dodgy deals in his past were revealed. This is also very interesting on the topic. But now the CPA has changed its mind, and according to "communications minister" Haider Jawad al-Aubadi, "Iraq badly needs the mobile system to enhance the security of the country". Yeah.

It'll be more like this, though - not so much "Hello? HELLO? I'm ON THE TRAIN!" but "Hello? HELLO? HELLO? I'M HIDING IN A DITCH! YES, A DITCH! No, I didn't call you a bitch. A DITCH! A trench! NOW CAN YOU CALL THE MILITARY POLICE AND ASK THEM TO STOP SHOOTING!"

New far-right group active in Staines?

As I was walking out of the railway station in Staines, Surrey, along the path next to the tracks that connects the station to the town centre, I noticed that all lampposts on the way had been plastered with stickers reading "Africa for Africans! Asia for Asians! Europe for Europeans!", over a brief blurb on the benefits of "racial separatism" and contact details for a group called "England First", including their website and a phone number. A further version declared "Open Your Eyes! To Media Lies! Multi-Racism Failed!" (I suspect the person behind these probably is a multi-racist..) One, oddly enough, adhered to the back wall of the police station.

Has anyone heard of this lot? The TUC's anti-fascist magazine Searchlight produces no less than 87 search hits for "England First", but none of them seem to refer to the group (if it is a group), and I can find no reference for them in the otherwise excellent archives. So it was clearly time to Google. Amusingly the no.1 result was for "England's first living wage campaign", and no.3 was for "England's first gay minister, Rev. John Church" fact, there was reams more good stuff, like blogs by immigrants, reports about England's first black sportsmen, old sports reports...but the fascists seemed elusive. This is of course a function of how Google works - sites are ranked for importance by the number of others linking to them. And that's why I'm not going to link the page I found in the end. They turned up at, a name that should tell you all about it. Here are links to "International Friends of Germany" ("Campaigning for the rights of German Nationalists in Germany" - which weirdly has an address in France) and stickers snarling "The Queer Plague Must Be Stopped", in alliance with some mob from Northern Ireland (the mind cringes). To get to the meat of the story, this lot declare that they are "the new campaigning name of the Third Position in England" and claim among other things to have "prevented two new homosexual pubs opening in Yorkshire". They further claim to have "raised awareness of race attacks" in Oldham before the race riot and to promote the work of Horst Mahler. Mahler, who I think I've ranted about before, is a former Red Army Faction terrorist turned nazi who operates something called the "Deutschen Kolleg" ("The Thinktank of the German Reich" according to its website).

How these boys manage to demand a day of remembrance for the victims of communism whilst promoting a man responsible for some of those victims beats me.

Anyway, a neat little window offers us the information that "The Secretary" has an address in the London postcode WC1N 3XX. There are supposedly further and equally nameless secretaries in Halifax, Birmingham, and Ryde. Email addresses are given for two other regions, but as these have no phone numbers or postal addresses I assume them to be noms de guerre used by the others. Curiously the stickers I saw had the Midlands phone number - 0121 241 7916, for the record.

Here are the WHOIS results for that website:

Final Conflict Magazine
Kenneth Schmidt
877 Valley Road Unit 6
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
Phone: 9737443302

Registrar Name....:
Registrar Whois...:
Registrar Homepage:


Created on..............: Wed, Jun 13, 2001
Expires on..............: Sun, Jun 13, 2004
Record last updated on..: Wed, Jun 11, 2003

Administrative Contact:
Final Conflict Magazine
Kenneth Schmidt
877 Valley Road Unit 6
Upper Montclair, NJ 07043
Phone: 9737443302

Technical Contact:
Netfirms, Inc.
System Administrator
1054 Centre St.
Thornhill, ON L4J 8E5
Phone: 416-661-2100
Fax..: 416-661-0700

Zone Contact:
Netfirms, Inc.
System Administrator
1054 Centre St.
Thornhill, ON L4J 8E5
Phone: 416-661-2100
Fax..: 416-661-0700

Domain servers in listed order:

So, the magazine EF claim to publish is actually in the USA. Curiouser and curiouser.

BBC NEWS Middle East | Israeli soldier killed on Lebanon border

Israeli soldier killed on Lebanon border

"A UN official told Reuters that one of its water trucks had been hit by three bullets from the Israeli side. No one on the Lebanese side was hurt, said officials."

Now where have we heard that before? Do they just get the red mist whenever they see anything painted white? Generally, though, this is just more bad, bad news. Forward march in the wrong direction...

Monday, October 06, 2003

Alas, a blog

Another excellent blog..Alas, a blog

The royal road to the conservative soul?

A horrible experience this morning! BBC Radio 5 running a phone in about the former Conservative minister David Mellor (you know, the weird fatfaced one who was appointed Secretary of State for National Heritage by Major - they called him the "minister for fun", but he was sacked for having quite a lot of fun with a former model called Antonia de Sancha whilst wearing a Chelsea football shirt) who has declared that Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith (you probably don't know...) is (I paraphrase) a mass of waste that should be dumped at sea. Not that there's anything new about senior Tories doing any of this - it's become a sort of ritual for, about every three months, a conservative to suddenly spring up like a jack-in-the-box and vent his spleen all over IDS. Then, after a couple of days of frenzied coverage, they calm down and a parade of shadow (and often shadowy) ministers appear and proclaim religiously their utter loyalty to The Leader, before racing off to catch up on their plotting against him. Routine.

This occasion, though, appears to have triggered unexpected passions within the breast of Torydom. And what a horrible thought that is. Here is a woman calling from - CHRIST! - my home town to say that "I blame you. I blame the BBC and the newspapers. All you ever do is Denigrate! Our! Leaders! I mean, I don't care if he is bald or not bald, he's not an actor like this Blair, with his promises...and he's not keeping his curly locks too well IS HE?" The presenter attempted to break in to allow a second Tory to comment, but she would not be silenced..."Iain Duncan Smith is our Leader and he will win the general election, he will look after pensioners whether or not we are given the air time we have a RIGHT! to..." This time Julian Worricker did switch over on her, but apparently she could not be shut off entirely as the next contributor was repeatedly interrupted by a sort of murbling racket - a mixture of rumbling, burbling, and mumbling which clearly expressed hate although it could not be more closely examined. The other caller was as powerfully in favour of Mellor's comments as she had been against - a chap called Harry from Wolverhampton with a strange, highly strung voice, who kept rising to a falsetto as he ranted. He pointed out that the party needed a candidate for prime minister, not to be favourite son-in-law - a mistake, as it stuck in her mind and caused her to repeat endlessly that she didn't have a son in law. Then up flipped another Margaret to lay into Harry..."What has this Mellor to do with us? He IS NOT A CONSERVATIVE! We are the conservatives!"

What was especially alarming was this weird, cultish leader veneration, as well as the amazing degree of violence and aggression in their voices. Everything was either an attack on Our! Leader! and hence on Britain! or it was distrustful, traitorous, denigrating...for example, here's Margaret(2) in action:

"If it wasn't for Tories there would not be a Britain! Our greatest leader, Winston Churchill - if it had all been about Looks then, whether or not he was bald, what would have happened? We would not be talking here today!"

Just a pity that Churchill had to rejoin the Tories in a hurry when he became prime minister because he hadn't been a Tory since about 1905...or that the top Cnservative of his day, Lord Halifax, would have made terms with Hitler had he become PM. It's also a pity that the Tory basis appears to contain so many people who are quite mad, and that their blind obedience appears to let them believe - really believe - that IDS's new course of doing everything the Tories were against until last year has any meaning at all. The big news on Tories at the moment is the split between IDS and Michael Howard that is coming. IDS surely can't go on pouring out public spending commitments at this rate whilst claiming to be the low tax party without his shadow chancellor resisting. On pensions, education and pretty much everything they have offered an opinion on, IDS and David Willetts are writing cheques Michael Howard can't cash.

Outstanding lefty blog


An excellent and well designed blog on left-wing and US labour issues. Especially this table showing the link between union membership and elections. (nb - the states that voted Republican are shown in red and vice versa, paradoxically)

Friday, October 03, 2003

References in last post

The documents I referred to in the last post are both available under Downloads.

So - no weapons and it's official.

The much trailed ISG report is out and it says, as expected and widely pre-announced, that they have found no weapons of mass destruction. All the government excuses predicted in the Ranter of 25/09/03 have so far appeared. Sure, the ISG apparently believe that Saddam Hussein had an "intent at some point in the future" to possess them. Well, given that Iraq actually did have them until the UN inspectors destroyed them, between 1991 and 1998 - this is, as Jack Straw might have put it, an unremarkable claim. And one laden down with a vast freight of if - if sanctions had been lifted, if they could have obtained the kit and supplies, if the UNMOVIC inspectors had not discovered them first - then they might have "an intent". To borrow a quote from Mark Twain, "they found a "clew", but you cain't hang a clew fer murder!" Further, the report - or rather, the statement on the report, as we are not trusted to see the document itself - goes on to talk a great deal about very little. Having been constrained to admit the nonexistence of any real, existing nuclear projects, they also have to accept that the hated, despised UN had succeeded in at least "reducing" Iraq's capacity to produce chemical arms. Given the non-discovery of any chemical arms, we may assume that this reduction is a reduction to zero - but the White House could never admit that.

Further along, we hear much about supposed secret laboratories operated by the Iraqi intelligence service and not declared to the UN. But, as the report gives no detail at all, it is impossible for anyone without the precincts of Langley to judge whether or not these labs were genuinely used for nefarious purposes, or whether they might indeed have been discovered by Unmovic - unless Mr. Kay or his masters are willing to give the locations, we cannot be sure that this is not double counting of facilities already discovered by Unmovic as there is no way of crosschecking with the UN documents. Surely, had there been any sign that these places, given always that they exist, were used to prepare biological arms, the Americans would have given chapter and verse on them? It is common knowledge that the preparation of biological cultures is technologically undemanding - I recall at the time of the famous dossiers that we were frequently told that a brewery or dairy could be used without great difficulty to mass produce biological agents. Almost any scientific laboratory, in fact, could be described as suitable for this work. Again, Mr. Kay does not deign to publish the evidence that they were indeed run by the intelligence service.

The nearest approach to a headline-grabbing claim in the document is the declaration that a vial of C. botulinum was found in the home of a scientist. The report does not say whether it was the organism, and if so whether it was live, or whether it was the toxin, a dead chemical incapable of reproduction and famous for being injected into the sagging faces of foolish but wealthy women. C. botulinum is the least dangerous strain of botulism and one frequently used to prepare cattle vaccines. The Foot and Mouth Vaccine Institute at Daura was one of the institutions involved in pre-91 weapons work - a possible explanation of this vial and the other (but, curiously, unspecified) reference strains found at the scientist's house might be that they came from the vaccine lab and were dispersed for safe keeping before the war. Again, the statement does not reveal what various other agents mentioned were - surely, had they been lethal, this would have been a very pleasing revelation from an American viewpoint? As with much of this document, I have the strong impression that its authors have chosen to project a menacing vagueness where they have found nothing, rather than disclosing their results fully. I suspect I might take the claimed discoveries more seriously, were the discoveries the ISG does not find so exciting fully described.

The only substance in the statement appears to be in the section relating to long-range missiles, which is (perhaps significantly) the least objectionable. Again, though, the searchers appear to have discovered a considerable quantity of papers (as predicted by Hans Blix, who said they "might find some interesting documents") but little or no hardware. There is apparently evidence that the leadership had ordered work on long-range development "up to 1000kms range" (Mr. Kay's words), but the statement declines to be any more categorical, except to state that although some components had reached a prototype stage, the Iraqi government had decided that the project would take too long to complete sometime in 2002. This is not very frightening. Not only that, but the original project was intended for a range of 600kms - or in other words no more than Iraq had already achieved with modified Scuds (the al-Hussein and al-Abbas) in 1991. Further, the report goes into considerable detail on Iraq's apparently continued ability to make the fuel for Scud-type missiles. It says nothing, however, about finding any Scuds or anything similar - although before the war the US and UK governments (and I) believed a few al-Husseins might still exist.

Moving from ballistic to cruise missiles, Mr.Kay can at last and with relief rest on a solid discovery. Iraq possessed until the war various anti-ship missiles, including the HY-2 cruise type with a range of 100kms, within the UN limit. Apparently they had extended the range of some 10 rounds to between 150-180kms. And at least this is fairly reliable, as they even managed to fire two of them at Kuwait of which one was shot down. This is hardly earth-shattering performance or earth-shattering news. The other piece of cruise news that has been heavily pumped is that Iraq also worked on a much more ambitious land-attack cruise missile, the Jenin, which consisted of an HY2 driven for part of its flight by a converted turboshaft engine from a Russian helicopter. This was meant to achieve the hyped 1000kms, but -

"To prevent discovery by the UN, Iraq halted engine development and testing and disassembled the test stand in late 2002 before the design criteria had been met."

Or in other words, there was no missile. Still, we can tell this was a serious claim - Mr. Kay feels able to give some detail including the type of engine, and the level of detail appears to be the best guide to the worth of statements in the report. There were also, apparently, efforts to build unmanned aerial vehicles - one of them flew some 500kms - but the report has to own up to finding no support for the dossier claims that they were being prepared to drop germs or gas, although "this remains an open question". Don't hold your breath. And what's this? UNMOVIC statement on outstanding disarmament issues, 06/03/03 "In fact, one report describes a UAV with a range of 500kms". Rehashing old UN material? Never...

One of the few programs that are described in detail, the idea of converting SA2 surface to air missiles into short range ballistic missiles comes in for some coverage. Apparently, significant engineering work went on and actual missiles were "transferred to a facility north of Baghdad" - but again, Mr. Kay fails to deliver. No such weapons were found. But interestingly enough, in the light of Kay's statement that they were never declared to the UN, gives three missile types as being "SA-2 derivatives" on its table of Iraqi missiles. These are as follows:

The al-Samoud - range 150kms, and hence technically legal.
The al-Fahd/300 - range 300kms.
The al-Fahd/500 - range 500kms.

Now, the al-Samoud 2 was the rocket found by UNMOVIC to have a range of 193kms - a violation of the 150kms limit - that they crushed under a bulldozer on worldwide television. The al-Fahd 300 was, according to GlobalSecurity, abandoned in the R&D stage in 1993 after some six flight tests had been conducted. The details of the rocket were released to UNSCOM in 1995 by Iraq after Gen. Hussein Kamil's defection. And the al-Fahd 500?

"The Al Fahd 500 was depicted as having an intended range of 500 kilometers. It was displayed at the 1989 Baghdad Arms Exposition. The display was actually a mock-up used for a disinformation campaign that never reached the design phase."

So - either it's all crap, or it's another version of the al-Samoud. (al-Samoud 3?) Just as a "And finally..", Mr. Kay suggests that he possesses documents suggesting that in 1999 Iraq discussed acquiring the North Korean Nodong SRBM, with a range of 1300kms. But - of course - none were ever transferred. To finish off with, there is a blatant falsehood when the statement declares that "In the delivery systems area there were already well advanced, but undeclared, on-going activities that, if OIF had not intervened, would have resulted in the production of missiles with ranges at least up to 1000 km, well in excess of the UN permitted range of 150 km".

Really? Well, the Jenin cruise missile scheme was abandoned (according to Mr. Kay) to avoid detection by the UN. None of the other ghosts in the archive seem to have come to anything - and surely they would have been detected by the UN too? If the author of this document had cared whether it was true or not, he would have said "if UNMOVIC had not intervened".

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Admin Notice: RSS feed

Due to the continuing problems with my Blogstreet RSS feed, I've decided to scrap it. We now have our own feed powered by RSSify - the link is the XML button down on the sidebar just above the Blogging Brits links.

Dodgy US vehicles off to Iraq

Seattle Times report

Hopes of the much-talked of "revolution in military affairs" that Donald Rumsfeld likes so much rest in part on the volley of new weapons projects that his team are spending reams of money on. One that's about to be tested is the Stryker family of wheeled armoured vehicles, and the new army brigades based on them. The first brigade is going to Iraq at the moment. And many people are fearing the worst. The vehicles are meant to be almost as easily deployed as airborne or light infantry, but with much better mobility on the ground and fighting power. It all goes back originally to General Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff, who had this brainwave in 1999 after the fiasco of US army movement to Kosovo. A specification was drawn up for a family of eight wheeled vehicles capable of being deployed by C130 aircraft for 1000 miles, carrying 11 soldiers each as a personnel carrier or a variety of specialist tasks and capable of withstanding gunfire up to 14.5mm calibre and rocket propelled grenades. So as not to need tank support, one variant would carry a 105mm gun turret. All would be equipped with very advanced electronic gubbins.

And here they are...but the armour to keep RPGs out isn't ready, and the ones going to Iraq are being wrapped in an improvised wire mesh screen as a sort of once-only protection. And they are so heavy that they can't be transported in C130s with their fuel and ammunition - the big-gun one can't be at all. They tend to get stuck off the road, and they are awkward on it, being the size of a bus. The big gun version can't be fired near friendly soldiers because the muzzle flash is so vicious they might be killed. And when they took the muzzle brake off to cure that, the recoil wrecked the vehicles. In fact, you might as well look at the Congressional report into the whole sorry mess - it's in the Download section.

Hazards Magazine


Very good article by one of my fellow bloggers. On the same theme, let's not forget the Simon Jones memorial

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

That 727 story redux

If you think back a while, the Ranter covered a story concerning a Boeing 727 tanker which had gone missing from Angola, resulting in a terrorism scare. I was rather sceptical, and when a bulletin board story came up suggesting that it had been located in Beirut after being repossessed I got quite smug, publicly! Recently though, the story has come to life again as they may have got the wrong aircraft (doh!). What's especially interesting are these two links posted by a user on this BB. You'll notice that the seller of the plane in the second link below is the same man as the convicted dealer in fake aircraft parts in the first. Has it perhaps been broken up for spares on the black market?

1996 Business Week story
Sales details

Hussein's Weapons May Have Been Bluff ( "With no chemical or biological weapons yet found in Iraq, the U.S. official in charge of the search for Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction is pursuing the possibility that the Iraqi leader was bluffing, pretending he had distributed them to his most loyal commanders to deter the United States from invading.

Such a possibility is one element in the interim report that David Kay, who heads the 1,200-person, CIA-led team in Iraq, will describe before the House and Senate intelligence committees on Thursday, according to people familiar with his planned testimony. "

Justice Dept. Launches Criminal Probe of Leak (

Link: "But on July 22, Newsday reported: 'Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. 'I didn't dig it out, it was given to me,' he said. 'They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it.' " It's uncannily similar...

BBC NEWS Blair defiant ahead of Iraq debate

Blair defiant ahead of Iraq debate

Well, they've warmed up with a bashing for the government on foundation hospitals this morning...although, mind you, Blair took the super-democratic option and conceded, avoiding TV pix of furious delegates waving their party cards on a card vote.

kostenloser Counter