Sunday, 18 October 2009

Diana Watch

It was my birthday yesterday. I'm not the biggest fan of birthdays but this one was a bit worse than usual. I was 35. That is half of my 3 score and 10 which is my biblically mandated limit and as we know, the bible is fact and isn't made up in anyway.
If that wasn't depressing enough, the annual review of my life was actually worse than the year before. I think this may be the first year that this has happened. Last year, Married, House, Full-time employment. This year, Married, House, Barely what you'd call a job. Bugger. Really do need to sort that out.
I did, however, have quite a nice birthday. I had to work in the morning which may be the first time I have ever worked on my birthday but in the evening we did go to a Modern Dance thing. Now, as you know, I am not the biggest fan of modern dance but Significant Other wanted to go and I'm a reasonably nice bloke so off we went. The premise wasn't too good either. A dance version of One Flew Other The Cuckoos Nest.
It was with a certain degree of trepidation that I took my seat for the performance but it didn’t last long. The opening number was fantastic. The dancers had masks on the front and back of their heads and the lighting was such that it was hard to tell which way their bodies were facing. The effect was slightly unsettling as the shapes that they were making looked distinctly odd and inhuman.
There was some slightly dodgy acting near the beginning of the piece but luckily they dropped that and concentrated on the Street Dance. It was fantastic. It was by a dance company called Bounce.

Oh god, please make it go away. The expenses “Scandal” was really, really dull but “Scandal 2, The Revenge” (which is sort of a prequel.) is really, really, really, really dull. The amount of money is so small and it's all a bit pathetic.
I know that no one really feels sorry for our MP's but it does seem a little unfair of Sir Thomas Legg to change the rules retrospectively and to try and enforce a number that is completely arbitrary. How would you like it if the tax man wrote to you and told you that they had thrown a dart at a board and that was new amount that you had to pay. For the last 5 years.
And I say again. This is being used by the right-wing press to deflect us from the story that they have trouble covering. The Banks. OK, they are covering the bonus bits but they are ignoring the bailout.
The amount of money spent to support the banks last year would pay the MP's expenses for 4000 years. Yes that's right. 4000 years (no hyperlink for this, sorry. It was on the Radio4 program the Now Show. Yes, it's a comedy program but I think this fact is true.) Puts a little bit of perspective on it, doesn't it?

So are recessions all bad? Well that depends on whether you've lost your job or not I suppose.
There are one or two things that are better though.
The World's carbon emissions might fall by up to 3% due to reduced travel (cars and planes) and reduced production of the general crap that we buy.
There is also a study that shows that life expectancy actually rises during a downturn. Several reasons have been put forward for this including when the economy is expanding we get more stressed and we drink and smoke to excess. We know what this does for us.
There is something that may damage your health though. Army recruitment is up. The army think that one of the reasons is a “surge in Patriotism”. It's more likely to be their other reason though. Lots of people don't have jobs and the army will give them one.

Have you ever thought that newspapers might be a little less than truthful? That, maybe, they just don't check their facts quite as often as they should? That sometimes they just make stuff up, especially about celebrities because they can't be bothered to sue? Well this week there have been two stories that would confirm your suspicion.
Lily Allen won an undisclosed amount of money from The Sun this week after she sued them for Liable. They ran a story with the headline “Ranting Lily” in which, they said, she made unpleasant statements about Cheryl and Ashley Cole and the Beckhams. They said that she had made these statements in an interview with a French magazine called “So Foot”. Their problem stems from the fact that she has never been interview by this or for this football magazine so she didn't say those things. Oh well. It's not like she's going to bother to sue...... Oh she is, bugger.
A documentary film maker has been sending various made up celebrity stories to see if they will publish them without checking to see if they are true, and guess what? It turns out that they will. Which is nice of them.
My favourite story that they planted was about Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud. They claimed to be the wife of someone who was moving house for Sarah and said that she had books on quantum physics and a telescope. The Sun ran a story headlined “Sarah's a real boffin”. They claimed that she was “a secret stargazer” who had “mind boggling books about astronomy and quantum physics.” The article also had a quote in it that the film maker denies came from them.

It has been a good week for Twitter.
On Friday there was a really nasty article written by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail about Steven Gately. I'm not going to discuss that here because I think all that needs to be said has been said but if you haven't read it click here and to read Charlie Brooker's brilliant response, click here.
Some on Twitter said that this was a freedom of speech issue and it showed that there are limits to this. This is, of course, absolute rubbish. She has the right to say whatever nastiness she wants, maybe after his funeral would have been a little nicer, but I also have the right to criticise her. That is the way it works.
The unpleasant and homophobic nature of the article caused outrage across the internet and especially on Twitter because of the speed at which messages and links can be posted. None of this taking hours to write a blog rubbish, just a quick “have you seen this?” and a link and outrage is your uncle. That and links to the quite rubbish Press Complaints Committee pointing out which parts of their code that she broke. The problem is that the Editor of the Mail, Paul Dacre, is on the PCC Committee that decides on what their code is and the editor of the Mail on Sunday, Peter Wright, is also on the PCC. Conflict of interest anyone?

At the beginning of the week we had a very strange and complicated story that I think I will cover very badly but it's important so let's give it a go.
The Guardian reported that it had been blocked by an injunction from reporting something. They gave enough clues that some clever people were able to look back through Hansard to work out who had asked the question and what the question was. Links to the Guardian articles started to appear on Twitter, shortly followed by links to blogs that were publishing the full text of the question, these included Wikileaks and JackofKent.
So by lunch time of that day we all knew, despite the legal injunction, what the question was and what and whom it was about. It was asked by Labour MP Paul Farrelly and was about a report into the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast by an oil company called Trafigura.
By 2pm the legal company Carter-Ruck had dropped its injunction when it became clear that it wasn't working but they were still suppressing the report its self. Or so they thought. It was already on Wikileaks and the BBC had seen the report a while ago and where being sued by Trafigura following a Newsnight article.
Carter-Ruck were using something called a super-injunction which prevents media reporting something and even stops them reporting that they aren't allowed to report something. They have grown up from injunctions that stop people reporting on Family Court activities.
There point is very simple according to Mark Stephens, a partner at law firm Finer Stephens Innocent. "As the libel and privacy capital of the world, people are coming here [to London] to bully the media and NGOs into not reporting on their nefarious activities," he said.
The UK Parliament is protected by something called Parliamentary Privilege which means an MP can't be sued for saying things or asking things in the chamber and you can also report them freely without fear of legal action. So they should be able to ask what they want.
The action has, of course, back-fired on the oil company Trafigura because in their clumsy attempt to hide something that was already on public record, they have shone a really rather bright light on it instead. This has brought them all sorts of attention that they weren't getting before despite being responsible for the dumping of toxic waste in a poor country that didn't have the means to deal with the waste safely. And why? Because it was cheap. Endangering the lives of poor brown people is ok because it won't cost that much. In fact in an out of court settlement it will cost you about £1000 per person. All for cheap oil.
The free speech of our press (that the right wing press are super keen on that by the way so that they can print nasty things, see Jan Moir) can be suppressed by one Oil company and its legal monkey can stop us hearing about what's being asked in Parliament. Oh, I think we need to sort that out.

Some awards for the week,

The Award for Best Birthday Presents of the Week,

This has to go to Significant Other who got me a couple of Charlie Parr CDs and a lovely little Ukulele, which it turns out, is quite hard to play.

The Award for the Most Incredible Sporting Achievement of the Week,

Chrissie Wellington, whose British, well from Norfolk I think, has won the World Iron Man Championship for the third time.
I wasn't sure what the “Ironman” involved so I looked it up. I believe the expression that left my lips was “fuck me!”. An Ironman event consists of a 2.4 mile swim, then they do a 112 mile bike ride and then they top it of nicely with a quick marathon. See, my swearing is a little more exceptable now, isn't it.
Jenson I know how to loose a championship Button also competed in this Ironman. He described her time of 8hrs and 54 minutes as “a little bit scary”. She beat her nearest competitor by 20 minutes.

The Award for Most Unfortunate Goal to have Scored Against You of the Week,

It is very simple. This is from yesterdays Liverpool vs Sunderland game.

See the ball hit the balloon and fly past the goalkeeper. That has got to hurt.

Have a lovely week all. A bit of work this week but hoping to get to see “Up” at some point.

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