Friday, November 24, 2006

What censorship?

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised about this, but I'll admit to being pretty disheartened at the fact that only one out of Russia's leading English-language newspapers seems to have any mention of Alexander Litvinenko's death on their websites today. Ironically, it's the one described by as a "Pro-government jingoistic news site".

Monday, November 20, 2006

Shaken AND stirred.

Good lord. Can I keep him?


Friday, November 17, 2006


Chalk one up for the ladies in France, as Ségolène Royal steps up to the plate as the new leader of the Parti Socialiste. Ms Royal, who won over 60% of the vote, will now be a contender for the presidency at next year's general elections, where she will more than likely be fighting against the terrier-like Nicolas Sarkozy.

I personally like Ségolène - her name is fun to say, and she seems less stuffy and, well, up herself, than most of the ruling Paris intelligentsia. But as David Cameron's critics here in Britain will only too happily attest, apparent likeability is no substitute for a strong policy platform, and on this it seems that Ségolène is also lacking. What does she stand for, besides the old catchwords of "solidarity" and "participative democracy" (and liberty, equality and fraternity, of course)? Does her promise of party modernisation make her the Tony Blair to the Parti Socialiste's Labour Party? To quote Paul Anderson, I ask because I want to know.

Friday, November 10, 2006


My schoolgirl crush on Jon Snow gets bigger by the day. The latest reason to love the wacky-tie wearer? His refusal to back down over wearing Remembrance Day poppies while on air. Snow's rationale behind refusing to wear the poppy while broadcasting is simple. In his own words:

"There is a rather unpleasant breed of poppy fascism out there - 'He damned well must wear a poppy!'. Well I do, in my private life, but I am not going to wear it or any other symbol on air."

You tell 'em, JS!

Why is it so hard for people to understand that wearing symbols tied to a particular group is not acceptable for any real journalist, especially those who appear on television? Okay, so the British press is divided along fairly obvious political lines, but for there to be any kind of controversy over the fact that a journalist wants to make a point of appearing politically neutral and objective indicates how badly the true role of the reporter is misunderstood.

It's incredibly refreshing to know that someone like Jon Snow, who is held in such high public esteem that he doesn't really need to make these points anymore, still makes the effort to do so. The Daily Mail-reading masses who are supposedly up in arms at his decision should be happy with the fact that he admits to wearing a poppy in his day-to-day life and leave it at that.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The Hat and Feathers rides again

Do my eyes deceive me? Getting the bus home last night, I happened to look up at the old Hat and Feathers at the junction of Old Street, Goswell Road and Clerkenwell Road. The Hat and Feathers has been derelict for as long as I've lived in London, and apparently for a good long while before that as well. I remember walking past it during my City University days and thinking what a great local it would make, if only someone would take the risk. See the above link for a pic of what it's looked like for years.

Well, imagine my surprise last night when I glanced up from my copy of London Lite (the less said on that, the better) to find that the Hat and Feathers appears to be back in business! The boarding has been removed from the windows, the interior's been given a lick of paint and new lights (and a bloody good clean, I would hope, given the building's former use as a squat), and there is a trio of tables - with parasols, ugh - outside.

A quick Google search seems to suggest that it's been relaunched as a fancy restaurant, which is a shame, as that building was made to be a boozer. But still, the fact that such a beautiful EC1 landmark is now open to the public at all can only be good news.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Idiocy in Ottawa

Okay, now this really pisses me off, and that's a pretty rare achievement for Canadian politics. How long have the Tories been in power in Ottawa? Less than a year? Didn't take long for their true feelings on immigrants to be exposed, then, no matter how hard they've been trying to come across all cuddly and caring. The CBC reports that the federal government is now "reviewing the rules governing dual citizenship and whether Canadians living abroad should qualify for social programs when they return".

It gets better, too. Apparently, the review was triggered by the evacuation of Canadian citizens from Lebanon during the summer - people who hold joint Canadian and Lebanese citizenship but were living in Lebanon at the time of the attacks on Beirut. Granted, there is a public awareness that some of the evacuees went immediately back to Lebanon as soon as the coast was clear, despite the evacuation costing Canadian taxpayers C$63 million, but to go from this to considering blanket legislation for all dual-citizenship Canadians living abroad?

Citizenship and Immigration Minister Monte Solberg is quoted as saying that "If we're in a situation where somebody's absent, isn't paying taxes but is going to be using our social programs down the road, I think Canadians would feel that that is unfair."

Er... pardon my French, but what the fuck?

Is this guy insane? Does he not realise that us dual-citizenship holders (yes, I am one of them, so you can see my bias) LOSE our access to Canada's "social programs", ranging from free Medicare to even being able to renew our driving licence, once we leave the country and start working somewhere else? Even if we go back to Canada for a holiday, we're on our own as far as health insurance is concerned, and that's certainly not the case for dual citizenship holders in many European countries. Given the cash-strapped nature of the Canadian economy, I'm prepared to let that one slide for now. But for Solberg to somehow assume that we'd just return and start living off government handouts is not only incredibly insulting, it's also factually wrong. For a start, if I were to move permanently back to Canada tomorrow, I would have access to precisely nothing until I had regained my residency status. And secondly, the vast majority of us wouldn't exactly be returning just to sit on our asses and cash welfare cheques, we'd be returning to WORK. And when you work, you pay TAXES. And last time I checked, taxes are used to fund social programmes!!

So screw you, Solberg. I know plenty about my rights and responsibilities as a Canadian.

Cry of the partisan banshee

One of my abiding memories of the aftermath of 2000 U.S. presidential election was the smugness on the face of election official Katherine Harris as she walked up to the podium and unofficially handed victory to Dubya, by declaring him the state winner by majority. I never quite forgot or forgave (and hell, I'm not even American). Anyway, following yesterday's U.S. Midterm elections, it now seems that Ms Harris's own ambitions to become a Senator have been shot down in flames, following a campaign marked by some of the most memorable career-suicide moments of recent memory. This Reuters report sums up the whole sorry affair pretty neatly, but this part makes for especially good reading:

Harris accused the media of doctoring photos of her to add more makeup and gave conflicting explanations about her dealings with a
corrupt defense contractor who made an illegal donation to her

She called the separation of church and state "a lie" and told Baptists, "If you're not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin."

Staffers deserted her campaign in droves, then portrayed her in newspaper interviews as prone to shrieking fits over minutia such as botched coffee orders.

Harris was the only Republican candidate running statewide who showed up when President Bush held a rally in Pensacola on Monday
but did not get a seat on the stage with him and his brother, Gov. Jeb

Meanwhile, shades of Janet Jackson's "nipplegate" hysteria at this next line:

Bloggers ridiculed her bosom-flaunting wardrobe and the Palm Beach Post called Harris' candidacy "one long-running freak show" that did
nothing to shake her image as "a partisan banshee."


There was something so calculating and ruthless about Harris that day in 2000, when it was plain to see that the Florida vote was being called due to intense pressure from the media and local government (run by Jeb, natch) rather than any willingness to actually get it right. I've never forgotten it, or her. It may be petty of me to be happy at her failure to capture the Senate seat, but her role in the hanging-chad fiasco combined with her rabidly anti-immigrant stance and zealous approach to combining church and state leave me with little alternative.