December 2005

Audience participation&Self09 Dec 2005 01:03 am

Observant readers may have noticed there is a new avatar in the sidebar. It has a fox tail and everything. What larks. Thanks to the lovely Aravis for telling me where I could find it.

Who? What? Why? I’ve ranted on enough about politics this week, so today’s post will be an Ask The Audience session. Please offer your responses on any questions you feel drawn to. Much obliged.

(1) Can you recommend me a good general level book about early-ish British history (any period from the year dot to medieval, ideally a basic overview of a large chunk of it)?

(2) Does anyone have a digital camcorder? What would you say are the absolute minimum specifications needed for it to be worth having? (We’re talking the lowest end of the price range here, so don’t trouble yourself if you’ve got some swanky 3 grand affair with built-in lazer guns and espresso dispenser.)

(3) Can someone explain the concept behind RSS feeds to me in a way that doesn’t make me go “Oh RIGHT… I see” and then forget 20 seconds later?

Your time starts… NOW!

British politics&Human rights08 Dec 2005 02:33 pm

Instruments of torture

Just when you thought you’d had all the sensible legal decisions you were likely to get in one week, here comes another one.

Today, the British Law Lords found unanimously that the Government’s detention of 8 men without charge is unlawful because it relies on evidence which may have been obtained by torture. Lord Carswell concluded that “to allow its admission would shock the conscience, abuse or degrade the proceedings and involve the state in moral defilement“.

None of this fuss should have been necessary. The inadmissibility of evidence gained by torture is already a long-standing pillar of British law. Unfortunately, Blair’s government seem to have chosen not to bother themselves with such trifles. Even the Court of Appeal – the highest court in the land, junior only to the House of Lords and the European Court of Justice – recently decided that such evidence could be used, provided it wasn’t obtained by British authorities.

The “turn a blind eye” attitude of those ministers and judges is the very reason “rendition” (in Condi Rice’s terminology) and Guantánamo are tolerated. The torture and degrading treatment of human beings is still being done in our name, even if we are plugging our ears with our fingers and singing “la la la, can’t hear you”. To suggest otherwise is disingenuous at best.

Now, the increasingly deranged British government will be obliged to uphold the law. The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, must review all cases where prisoners are being held due to evidence obtained in countries where torture takes place.

So the week’s going pretty well for human rights activists. What next? Abandonment of the preposterous ID card scheme? I’ll mention it in my letter to Santa.

British politics&Human rights&Pop culture&The art of blog07 Dec 2005 10:15 am

Judge Apparently The Telegraph has briefly quoted your own Foxy in today’s paper. I haven’t seen a print copy yet, but I’m told it’s on page 19. The web version seems to be here.

Non-Brits, just to explain: The Telegraph is an extremely conservative (with a big and small C), right wing, Establishment broadsheet daily newspaper, beloved of the ruling class.

I look forward to a short boost in readership comprised entirely of High Court judges, Tory MPs and minor aristocracy. (Is it too soon to take them aside and explain they might not agree with everything they read here?)

American politics&South Asia06 Dec 2005 05:18 pm

Blatant attempts to embroider the truth
Upset Pakistan’s English-studying youth.
Schools found their textbooks contained a lame rhyme
Hiding a reference to Bush in each line.

Intrigue ensued, for the source is unknown.
Some think this hint was deliberately sown
As a seed of discreet propaganda; and so,
Now the secret is out, the trick poem must go.
Islamabad calls Bush a close favoured friend.
Desperate to please, their own people they send
In chains to Guantánamo Bay, without trial,
On a mission to win Dubya’s simian smile.
Torture and Bush-praising poets are vile.

British politics&Human rights05 Dec 2005 07:02 pm

Here come the brides Today, we have a piece of new legislation that makes the country better, not worse. And that’s not something you can say every day.

As of today, gay couples can register their partnership and receive the same kind of legal rights as heterosexual married couples. The law has been in place since November last year, but changes to all the applicable administrative systems have taken time. From now on, civil ceremonies between same-sex couples will be officially recognised.

Here come the grooms Of course, the government has wriggled out of using the word “wedding” in the Civil Partnerships Act, presumably to alleviate the concerns of those upstanding citizens who feel two people promising to love and take care of one another for life is an abomination.

But the sophistry of calling it “registration” rather than “marriage” doesn’t hide the fact that this is one of the biggest British civil rights gains in recent times. Over the last few years, ministers have seemed more comfortable eroding their constituents’ liberties than increasing them. This is a positive step indeed.

Loved up Couples who register their partnership – and let’s refer to it as “marry” regardless, shall we – will be assessed for benefits, immigration and state pension rights as a couple. They will be able to succeed tenancy agreements in the event of one outliving the other. They will receive due compensation in the event of an accident. They will be recognised under inheritance laws. If they choose to split, they will need to dissolve their partnership through the courts, just as straight married couples do. If they have children, the absent parent will have rights of contact.

So I’m looking forward to the summer already, when I hope to get twice as many wedding invitations as usual. I think I’d better splash out on an outlandishly chic hat.

The art of blog04 Dec 2005 01:24 pm

So yeah, your host has dark brown eyes and a womb. Shall we move on?

Lazy blogging Did you know bloggers are “reshaping the world in which professional journalists operate just as much as the telephone shook up the profession in the first half of the 20th Century”?

Apparently so. There we are, typing out half-baked rants at random intervals, and all of sudden it seems we’re changing the world.

Perhaps that’s why even Rupert Murdoch’s ultra-mainstream newspaper The Times is covering the story of the bloggers who are prepared to publish the Al-Jazeera memo.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have more power than you realise.

By the way, is it sunny where you are? It is here. (Yes, we’re taking over the weather report as well as the news. You can keep your “scattered showers”, BBC.)

Self02 Dec 2005 03:00 pm

It’s a bit like being Kate Thornton on The X-Factor.

[suspense-ish music]

“I can now reveal…. [10 min pause]…. that the WINNER… [20 min pause]… by a SINGLE vote… [45 min pause]… is… [3 hour pause]… coming up right after this ad break!

[winks to camera]

Don’t go away!”

[Studio audience groans theatrically as though this doesn’t happen every single week]

Well, it was close. But the two paragraphs of personal information came out on top, by just one vote. So two paragraphs you shall have.

If you are horrified by this result, or you feel it will tarnish our co-blogship forever, please look away now. Here they are.


My father is from the East and my mother is from the West. I grew up in a fairly dull part of the Home Counties. You might call it an unhappy childhood; if you offered me a million quid to relive a single month of it, I’d turn you down. Luckily, I escaped at 18 to to study English literature in London. I chose the university purely on the basis of its arty students and cool staff. This is possibly a prime example of why 18-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to make important decisions. But I don’t regret it. My pink-haired, pierced professors taught me how to think for myself. “Question everything,” they said.

My creative work is split. I am half musician and half writer. If forced at gunpoint to choose between the two artforms, I’d be torn, but I’d choose music. Those who guessed at music journalism weren’t wrong: some of my earnings are from this source. I have a bit of an ethical dilemma with it at times… obviously free music and guestlist places are pleasant enough, but essentially your writing is an extension of a corporate PR effort to shift product. Like all big business, the music industry isn’t very nice, and that’s putting it mildly. On the positive side, interviewing creative people has meant I’ve been able to have long conversations with two of my heroes. The first time was when I was 16 and still at school. I’d blagged my way to him with lies and cheek and teenage bravado. It was my first ever ‘celeb’ interview and it was an excruciating experience. The second time, I was a more sensible 29, and it was a delight. I wasn’t disappointed by either of the subjects, but it was hell on toast to try and do them justice in words afterwords.

Oh yeah, and I’m female.

Audience participation&Self02 Dec 2005 11:17 am

X marks the spot The vote is now closed and the results are in. The winning option will pop up here later today.

Tell you what though, this democracy’s a right hassle, isn’t it? I can see why Saudi Arabia don’t bother with it.

(Arf… back later)

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