Sep. 5th, 2014

all hail
A clear example of the potential for misunderstanding [in nuclear conflict] comes from Bruce Blair, President of the Center for Defence Information in Washington. Blair was a launch control officer for US Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles. After the Cuban missile crisis, when the US and the USSR came close to nuclear war, the US government introduced a system of physical locks and launch codes that had to be given by the President before any missile could be launched. But as Blair explains: “The locks had been installed but everyone knew the combination. And so the ‘secret unlock code’ during the height of the nuclear crises of the Cold War remained constant at 00000000.” I have always used the same number on the combination lock of my suitcase, because it always seemed too much to bother with. The US Air Force took the same approach to the desire of elected politicians to control the use of nuclear weapons. Thus, for years, US presidents thought things were safer than they really were.

Dan Plesch, The Beauty Queen’s Guide to World Peace


Jul. 15th, 2014

all hail
From yesterday's Times:

A Labour peer now at the centre of a police investigation into claims that he abused 20 boys was reported to have cultivated an extremely close relationship with a teenager over a two-year period starting in 1975.

A series of letters to the boy on parliamentary notepaper, several signed “love from”, show the then MP arranged to meet him repeatedly, including at a Holiday Inn. Police have raided his office at the House of Lords and his home but have not questioned him because he claims to be suffering from dementia. [The Times]
You read that right. A peer is claiming that his dementia debars him from answering questions regarding allegations of abuse, but leaves him sufficiently competent to legislate in the country's second chamber.

Incidentally, the Times appears to be going out of its way not to suggest that this Labour peer having his office in the Lords raided by police over historic child abuse allegations is in any way connected with this one (Daily Mail link, sorry), so I'm not suggesting it either.


all hail
It's amazing that the coalition ever gets anything done when there's the internet to peruse:


Click for legibility

Meanwhile, in the Lords...

all hail
For some, New Labour's muckspreader approach to the word “community” left it limp, ragged and meaningless, a casualty of wanton language abuse. For the old guard, though, it still provides an extremely useful placeholder for any more useful or original thoughts:

Baroness Andrews: In my opinion, it should begin with the nature of the community and the sort of community* infrastructure that sustains the community once it is in place… one is looking at huge opportunities for the planning community to show what it can do. Secondly, it is about delivery and engagement with those very communities that are going to move in, not least with the development community itself, and setting very high standards for the development community in the way that it approaches the making of communities and its engagement with potential communities. [Hansard]

*This one was put out of its misery by Hansard, but she definitely said it.

Tory Book Club: The Devil's Tune

all hail
To all (both) of you who have bombarded (emailed) me with desperate requests (idle queries) about the blog, I haven't posted for a year or so for the exact same reason that I wouldn't spend time and energy detailing day by day the onslaught of a terminal disease. After a certain point I found it became too dispiriting to keep chronicling and reacting to so much malevolence, vandalism and predatory greed in government, served up with self-righteous posturing and naked dishonesty, and I truly admire people like Sue Marsh who have managed to carry on with just such a chronicle. The bravest fighters in any resistance tend to be those to whom the regime poses the most existential threat; they can't afford to falter.

Still, in a spirit of conciliation with and curiosity about our sadistic and grasping sensible and conscientious rightwing overlords, I have decided to try to understand, as much as I can, the thinking that underpins their actions. After all, that thinking will also underpin much of whatever wheezes the next few governments come up with as well, given that all the parties are picking their MPs from ever smaller gene pools of hive-mind wonks, Etonian princelings and self-made maniacs determined to show they're no less ruthless than the Etonian princelings.

Rather than wade through their showboating pronouncements in Parliament (they tend to play to a particularly unlovely gallery, and anyway that would just be too much of a busman's holiday), in an occasional series I shall be approaching them through their published works, because hey, these wrists won't slit themselves.

1. Iain Duncan Smith, The Devil’s Tune

Prepare to have your preconceptions challengedCollapse )

though not necessarily by this reviewCollapse )

Meanwhile, in the Lords

all hail
Baroness Howells of St Davids: Some may not have heard of her, but a woman called Mary Seacole, despite many prejudices, went out to nurse the soldiers of the British service. I have met men who have spoken and written about her role in saving the lives of British soldiers. She may have been considered an unqualified nurse but, being of African descent, she used her bush medicine—they told me—and kept many men alive. Some are now probably on the brink of not being alive. [Hansard]
Mary Seacole, of course, was a nurse in the Crimean war, a noted highlight of the 1850s. The last known survivor of that war did actually die surprisingly late, in 2004, but then she was a giant tortoise that had been used as a ship's mascot.

From our own correspondent

all hail
With the situation in Iraq fluid and dangerous, the House of Lords holds an emergency debate on recent developments.

"When I went to see some of the people on Chilcot’s team—I thought they might like to look at the papers I had written [on Iraq in the 1970s]—they said no, it was not of very much interest."

Iraq editionCollapse )

Meanwhile, in the Lords

all hail

They're in a debate about World War I commemorations. They have a speakers list, with a rough time limit for each speech of eight minutes. Lord West is in the middle of his contribution (where he also said this, talking about post-traumatic stress in soldiers shot for desertion, when he notices the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, sitting on the benches opposite, waving imperiously at him with her stick. (Hansard has made her say "My Lords" because there is no official procedure line for "waves imperiously at speaker with stick".)

Baroness Trumpington (Con): My Lords—

Lord West of Spithead (Lab): I am sorry, did the noble Baroness want to speak?

Baroness Trumpington: Yes, I want to say something. Hurry up and say what you are going to say.

Lord West of Spithead: I shall give way.

Baroness Trumpington: I have a question for the Minister. My father served as a regular soldier in the 9th Bengal Lancers. As such, he fought, and won an MC, in Mesopotamia. What is Mesopotamia these days? [Murmuring. One or two Peers sitting near her helpfully whisper "Iraq" but she doesn't hear them.] Is it involved in future commemoration events? Will the commemorative events go further to include India, which sent a great many people?
The Minister can't answer any questions until the end of the debate, some three hours later. He shrugs and waves wildly at Lord West to continue. Lord West gallantly tries to find some way of tying what Baroness Trumpington has just said to his own speech:

Lord West of Spithead: Yes; Mesopotamia, Iraq—it is all still in a mess, isn’t it? The best ever intelligence on Mesopotamia was the Naval Intelligence Division notes, which were actually jolly useful and I wish that we had read them better before we decided to go into that bloody place. [Hansard]
If you were in a particularly cynical mood you might argue that Iraq is indeed commemorating the fighting of a hundred years ago by enthusiastically re-enacting it, but that very likely wasn't the noble Baroness's point.

Van damn

all hail

Following the news that the Home Secretary has been diagnosed with diabetes, advertising vans carrying a new information campaign aimed specifically at her have been spotted driving around in the vicinity of the Home Office. A department official denied that the posters could be seen as scaremongering, saying, “It's the only language Theresa May understands.”


Jul. 20th, 2013

all hail
Here is the text of the story in today's Daily Mail about Lord Selsdon:
Most of us don’t have the time or the energy to reprimand anti-social drivers who drop litter out of their car windows. But it seems Tory peer Lord Selsdon has both these gifts – and good connections to boot.

In an extraordinary outburst in a House of Lords debate yesterday, the 75-year-old told colleagues how he calls his ‘friends at the DVLA’ to obtain the vehicle owner’s phone number. Lord Selsdon said he records the number plates of British cars when abroad if sees litter being dumped on the road before calling up his friends at the DVLA.

The peer claimed the DVLA would then use the details to find the telephone numbers of offenders before handing them over. But with a possible threat to data protection laws, the DVLA said it was trying to contact the hereditary peer before considering launching a full probe.

The Data Protection Act requires organisations such as the DVLA to keep the personal information they are processing secure and to have controls on making sure such information is not inappropriately accessed. But Lord Selsdon told the House of Lords that he found that British families travelling in large 4x4s to go skiing in the Alps were the most badly behaved.

The peer said: ‘I find when you look at the international scene that, believe it or not, some of the most badly behaved now are British families in large 4x4s driving to the Alps to ski.

‘They are the ones I've followed occasionally and, for a bit of fun, I've just taken note of their number and occasionally manage - because I have friends with DVL(A) - to find their telephone and I give them a ring.

‘I just say, ‘I'm sorry I happen to be involved in the political world a bit and it was noticed that at a particular point you did this”.

‘And of course most continental motorways have got signs every kilometre or every half kilometre or often more often so you know exactly where you are and so do the spies.

‘If the police themselves are deciding that they may be perhaps a little short of income for Christmas, the number of fines seems to go up.

'There is of course absolutely no connection between these two issues. But this is self-interest.’

Lord Selsdon made the surprise admission during a debate on a legislation drawn up by former journalist, Tory Lord Marlesford, which calls for anyone caught throwing rubbish out of a vehicle to be fined. Under the Littering from Vehicles Bill, a registered driver would be the automatic recipient of the fine.

The Bill, which stands little chance of becoming law, would require local authorities to publish the details of the contracts awarded in relation to its enforcement. A spokeswoman for the DVLA said: ‘We are writing to Lord Selsdon to ask him for further information.

‘Depending on his reply, we will then decide on whether or not it is necessary to conduct a full investigation.’

She said drivers were not obliged to provide their telephone numbers when applying for a licence so that in some cases the agency would not hold the details apparently requested by Lord Selsdon. The spokeswoman added: ‘We take our responsibility to protect information seriously. That is why information is only provided under strict controls to those who are legally entitled to it, such as local authorities and the police.’

A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said: ‘We expect any organisation handling personal information to have appropriate safeguards in place to ensure that access to people's details is strictly controlled.

'These arrangements must be effective in practice.’ [Daily Mail]


Latest Month

September 2014


RSS Atom
Powered by
Designed by Lilia Ahner