Later in the interview, Ben talked about Bob’s famous secret source, whom he claimed to have met in an underground garage in rendezvous arranged via signals involving flowerpots and newspapers. “You know I have a little problem with Deep Throat,” Ben told Barbara.
“Did that potted [plant] incident ever happen? … and meeting in some garage. One meeting in the garage? Fifty meetings in the garage? I don’t know how many meetings in the garage … There’s a residual fear in my soul that that isn’t quite straight.”
I read it over a few times to make sure. Did Ben really have doubts about the Deep Throat story, as it had been passed down from newsroom to book to film to history? And if he did, what did that mean?’
[quote] The Unknown Unknowns … a quote from Donald Rumsfield. ‘…there are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.’
[politics] Ten political assumptions … a list of assumptions that drive much thinking within the political mainstream … ‘Devaluing professional autonomy and ethics. The counterpart of the elevation of management is – in schools, universities and hospitals – a denigration of traditional professional standards and ethics.’
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On holiday on the Islay estate of her aide Peter Morrison, Thatcher – wishing to avoid post-dinner party games – went for a nocturnal walk. Her protection officers, thinking her asleep, were in the pub, but one policeman was still on duty. Suspecting the unknown figure, in a long, hooded cloak, was an intruder, he unleashed his alsatian, who knocked Thatcher down and pinned her to the muddy turf. “The incident passed into legend among her inner circle,” writes Aitken, “with the punchline question: ‘How on earth did the dog dare?'”
[funny] Depraved Masochist Enjoys Following The News … more from The Onion … ‘Sources confirmed that Petrillo makes no effort whatsoever to conceal his insatiable desire for self-inflicted torment, going so far as to take pride in his familiarity with issues such as America’s distribution of wealth, the latest jobs report, what’s happening in Congress recently, and the nation’s current incarceration rate. In fact, he is reportedly not content with simple masochism, and often spreads the anguish of his knowledge to his fellow citizens. “Whenever I come across an interesting article online, I like to email it to my friends and try to get a conversation going,” said Petrillo, his voice betraying no shame.’
[politics] Conservative conference: Ukip and Thatcher give David Cameron a headache… fascinating look at the state of the Conservative Party right now … ‘The man in the waistcoat is another Tory who supports a deal with Ukip. “We both want the same thing,” he says, “and it’s foolish to fight each other.” But the closing music after Cameron’s speech is unlikely to appeal to the faragists – Fleetwood Mac’s Don’t Stop, with its mantra: “Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” The Ukippers reckon yesterday can be brought back…’
I should stress that never at any time did Gordon or the two Eds have any idea whatsoever that I was leaking stories to the media or briefing against colleagues. Every time something to our advantage dominated the headlines, they would all three gasp with amazement and say: “Wow! What a brilliant coincidence. Aren’t we lucky to have so many coincidences! Are you sure you didn’t have anything to do with this?” And I would reply: “I know I’ve got a reputation for being a bit of a liar, but I promise I’m not lying this time. Believe me, if I’d known the minister was shagging his secretary, I’d have told the Mail ages ago.” And they would say: “You’re so sweet, Damian.”
The most distinctive thing about Rumsfeld is his use of language. Is it Orwellian? In 1984, language is used as a means of control—but it is conscious control. With Rumsfeld, I felt I was witnessing something more complex: a man using language to obscure the world from himself as well as from others. In his Pentagon press conferences he would frequently quibble over the meaning of words: “pre-emption,” “insurgency,” “quagmire.” It was almost a way of keeping a safe distance from reality.
Most people remember that Rumsfeld’s famous comment about “known knowns,” “known unknowns,” and “unknown unknowns” happened at a press conference, but few remember that it was in response to a question about what evidence we had that Saddam Hussein was linked to terrorist organizations—which was the justification for the war in the first place. The more I studied this performance, the more I realized that what Rumsfeld said wasn’t really an answer. It was an attempt to change the subject, to turn reporters’ questions about intelligence into a lofty question about the nature of knowledge: “Sometimes we have evidence for things and sometimes we don’t; sometimes we know what we’re looking for and sometimes we don’t.”
[mail] In the Sorting Office … depressing long-read on what the happens after the Royal Mail is privatised … ‘Every week Dutch households and businesses are visited by postmen and postwomen from four different companies. There are the ‘orange’ postmen of the privatised Dutch mail company, trading as TNT Post but about to change their name to PostNL; the ‘blue’ postmen of Sandd, a private Dutch firm; the ‘yellow’ postmen of Selekt, owned by Deutsche Post/DHL; and the ‘half-orange’ postmen of Netwerk VSP, set up by TNT to compete cannibalistically against itself by using casual labour that is cheaper than its own (unionised) workforce. TNT delivers six days a week, Sandd and Selekt two, and VSP one. From the point of view of an ardent free-marketeer, this sounds like healthy competition. Curiously, however, none of the competitors is prospering.’
[bbc] How Biased Is The BBC? … Apparently it’s not biased in the ways you might think… ‘Conservative politicians were featured more than 50% more often than Labour ones (24 vs 15) across the two time periods on the BBC News at Six. So the evidence is clear that BBC does not lean to the left it actually provides more space for Conservative voices.’
[politics] The 10 Most Scandalous Euphemisms … a list of catchphrases generated by political scandals … ‘Hiking the Appalachian Trail – When South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford disappeared for six days in 2009, his aides told reporters he had gone for a walking holiday along the US’s most celebrated hiking route. In fact, it soon transpired Sanford had been with his Argentine mistress in Buenos Aires. The phrase quickly ignited the imaginations of the press corps.’
[politics] Whistleblowers Are Weird … The Daily Beast on Edward Snowden … ‘[Whistleblowers] are weird in their own way, because they have to be in order to be willing to violate the trust of their group in order to protect a principle. In Eyal Press’ book on dissenters, Beautiful Souls, they come off as rigid, idealistic, a bit self-righteous, and more than a little naive. Those are not characteristics that make you fit in.’
[politics] The relentless charm of Nigel Farage … fascinating profile of UKIP’s leader … ‘It also strikes me that the geniality, the pints, the cigarettes, the red meat, the hail-fellow-well-met—that these totems take their toll on Farage far more than he lets on. “I’ve learned how to do it,” he says, meaning his affability, “how to exaggerate it. Of course you learn in this job.” He’s eccentric in a way, but most of all he is what he is: a suburban stockbroker from a minor public school with one very good point. And perhaps his greatest significance is as an indictment of the other party leaders.’
Vice: So you’re literally trying to take us back the Dark Ages?
Acting Witan of Mercia: It’s crystal clear that the Norman invasion in 1066 smashed the old system. This wouldn’t matter a jot if the world was OK as it is, but it isn’t. The causes of the problems of today go back to 1066. Before the 1066 holocaust, England had more to do with northern Europe and Scandinavia than the continent. If you look at those countries now, it’s a closer model to where we might have been had the Norman conquest never happened.
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January 18, 2013
[politics] Could Ed Miliband be Labour’s Margaret Thatcher? … some interesting similarities highlighted by Andy Beckett… ‘Miliband has a history of being underestimated – just as she was when opposition leader, and during her early years as prime minister. Like her, he was unexpectedly elected party leader. Like her, his public manner was then quickly judged unpalatable, his voice too nasal as hers was too shrill. Like her, he can seem too much of a party stereotype for broad appeal: the bourgeois north London leftie to her prim shire Tory. Like she did, he faces a smooth premier – “Sunny Jim” Callaghan for her, David Cameron for him – considered by journalists and voters to be more “prime ministerial”, but also made vulnerable by internal splits and the lack of a Commons majority. As she did, Miliband has led his party to a substantial but not always solid poll lead. Two and a quarter years into his tenure, it is identical to her party’s at the same stage: hovering around 10%.’
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August 24, 2012
[politics] Britannia Unchained: the rise of the new Tory right … The Guardian profiles a group of right-wing Tories and wonders if history ever repeats itself … ‘In radical right circles, it is strikingly common to hear comparisons between Cameron’s government and that of his Tory predecessor Edward Heath: narrowly elected in 1970, briefly tough before a chaos of U-turns, replaced in 1974 by an often equally beleaguered Labour administration – before the right’s big moment finally arrived in 1979, with Thatcher’s election. If history repeats, which it rarely does exactly, we should expect the Unchaining of Britannia to commence in 2019.’
[politics] So, bumbling Boris Johnson is lovable and funny? Well, have I got news for you … What is Boris Johnson really like? … ‘[Max] Hastings, who has known him for nearly 30 years, still has affection for his former protege but has also sounded warnings about his unsuitability to become PM, not least because of his “startling flashes of instability”. To those who have worked closely with Johnson, his outbursts of temper are notorious; even his sister, Rachel, describes his approach to those who dare to criticise him as “Sicilian”. Female members of the London Assembly have lodged a formal complaint about his offensive conduct.’
[politics] Taxi for Mr Buckles: MPs savage G4S boss over Olympics chaos … Simon Hoggart describes the appearance of Nick Buckles before a group MP’s yesterday … ‘Disaster followed disaster. It turns out that too few G4S staff turned up at a cycling event in Surrey . When would Mr Buckles know how few people would show? At 9 o’clock, he said. That’s 9pm after the understaffed event. Mr Horseman-Sewell chipped in. There was a difference between people not showing up having been accepted, he said, and a shortfall. We were in the realm of the higher metaphysics…’
[funny] Leaving child in pub ‘right for Britain’ says Cameron … ‘DAVID Cameron has insisted that leaving his nine year-old daughter in a pub is the sort of tough decision that will rescue Britain from recession. The prime minister left Nancy in a pub near Chequers after the move was agreed during a conference call with chancellor George Osborne and Nick Clegg…’
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June 4, 2012
[politics] Oh Happy Days: A Personal Recollection Of Working For Jeremy Hunt … ‘I distinctly recall one presentation after a period of company expansion. All of us, old stagers and new recruits, were gathered together in front of a Powerpoint screen. On it were projected smiling photographs of various members of staff, the heads of sales, IT and so on. The company had recently outsourced much of the data entry work to a centre in India. Jeremy Hunt, smiling away in that peculiarly insincere, head-bobbing way that you’ve all seen on the news, was leading. We gasped in horror as our “new colleagues in India” were introduced: there glowed a slide that featured row after row of the same cartoon clip art Generic Brown Person, sat behind a computer.’
[comics] V for Vendetta masks: Who’s behind them? … ‘Anybody watching coverage of the demonstrations may have been struck by a repeated motif – a strangely stylised mask of Guy Fawkes with a moustache and pointy beard. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrived at the Occupy London Stock Exchange protest to make a speech wearing one of these masks. He took it off, reportedly at the insistence of the police.’
At one point, he says, a senior editor at the Sun made a point of sending him a message via another Labour MP: “Tell that fat bastard Watson we know about his little planning matter.” This, he says, was a reference to his application to put a conservatory on his family home in the Midlands: a typical “non-newsy, low-level thing” that played its part in making him “start to think like a conspiracy theorist”.
Weiner needed a more private channel of communication for flirtations up to and including pictures of his package. Since the women followed him already, he could send them direct messages. But to receive their replies, he had to follow them in return. Only then could he engage in flirting or sexual repartee.
Weiner seemed not to realize the extent to which Twitter’s rules still made him vulnerable. The women were publicly listed among those accounts he followed. Since he only followed around 200 people, these new followers seemed out of place among the politicians, journalists, and celebrities on his list. It was all too easy for a political foe to notice that Weiner was adding young women (and in at least one case, a porn star) to his followers soon after a public exchange.’
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March 15, 2011
[funny] Unreliably Witnessed: ‘A banker, a Daily Mail reader and a benefit claimant are sitting at a table sharing 12 biscuits…’
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February 4, 2011
[movies] Why The King’s Speech Is A Gross Falsification … Christopher Hitchens On Winston Churchill, Edward VII, and The King’s Speech … ‘[Edward VII] remained what is only lightly hinted in the film: a firm admirer of the Third Reich who took his honeymoon there with Wallis Simpson, the woman for whom he forfeited the throne, and was photographed both receiving and giving the Hitler salute. Of his few friends and cronies, the majority were Blackshirt activists such as the odious “Fruity” Metcalfe. (Royal biographer Philip Ziegler tried his best to clean up this squalid story a few years ago but eventually gave up.) During his sojourns on the European mainland after his abdication, Edward, then the Duke of Windsor, never ceased to maintain highly irresponsible contacts with Hitler and his puppets and seemed to be advertising his readiness to become a puppet or “regent” if the tide went the other way. This is why Churchill eventually had him removed from Europe and given the sinecure of a colonial governorship in the Bahamas, where he could be well-supervised.’
[politics] Steve Bell’s Political Cartoons of the Year … On David Cameron: ‘By way of a bonus, Cameron does not favour the depiction. He came up to me at a Spectator party at the Tory conference in October, and asked me how long I was going to carrry on with it, before advising me: “You can only push a condom so far”.’
[wikileaks] Wikileaks Exposes Internet’s Dissent Tax, not Nerd Supremacy … ‘Ability to disseminate one’s ideas on the Internet is now a sine qua non of inclusion in the global public sphere. However, the Internet is not a true public sphere; it is a public sphere erected on private property, what I have dubbed a “quasi-public sphere,” where the property owners can sideline and constrain dissent.’
[politics] Bob Crow: ‘I couldn’t care less if we had a million strikes’ … interesting interview with the leader of the RMT Union …‘Since he took charge in 2002 the RMT’s membership has grown from 54,000 to 80,000, and has enjoyed substantial annual pay rises, improved conditions, and even the reopening of a final salary pension scheme. “The Evening Standard had it right, it said I was ‘obsessed’ with improving my members’ living standards. Dead right, I actually get pleasure when I see one of my members get a pay rise. That’s another one we’ve had over them. Yeah, I admit to that.” And they get it, according to Crow, because unlike most modern unions they are willing to strike.’ [via @LDN]
Yet just as we feel all hope is lost and we sink back into the miasma, back to the shadow world of ghosts and gods, a miracle arises; everywhere before the direction of self interest is known, people yearn to see where its compass points and then they hunger for truth with passion and beauty and insight. He loves me. He loves me not. Here then is the truth to set them free. Free from the manipulations and constraints of the mendacious. Free to choose their path, free to remove the ring from their noses, free to look up into the infinite voids and choose wonder over whatever gets them though. And before this feeling to cast blessings on the profits and prophets of truth, on the liberators and martyrs of truth, on the Voltaires, Galileos, and Principias of truth, on the Gutenburgs, Marconis and Internets of truth, on those serial killers of delusion, those brutal, driven and obsessed miners of reality, smashing, smashing, smashing every rotten edifice until all is ruins and the seeds of the new.
[politics] Dictator-lit: Kim Jong-il’s political philosophy … ‘I count at least three lies in the first sentence, and another three in the second, although there could be more. Multiply that by a couple of thousand and you will get a sense of Kim’s pathological language machine, the Omega Point of totalitarian communist propaganda, a nightmare matrix of deceiving nouns, adjectives, prepositions and verbs, from which there is no escape.’
[funny] First they came for the quangos … Diamond Geezer on the UK Government’s Spending Review … ‘Then they came for something fundamental,
And I did not speak out because “we simply can’t afford it”.’
[politics] Dear Ed Miliband – My Cruel Cartoons Will Hurt Me More Than You … ‘He has huge potential for caricature. Like John Prescott and unlike Tony Blair, his face tends to betray what is on his mind. Most politicians put on a guarded expression, but his face is more open and seems to let his feelings show. He has been caught gurning a couple of times, and looked like a rabbit caught in headlights just before the result was announced.’
Digested read: Tony Blair A Journey … ‘You know, I had a tear in my eye when I entered No10 for the first time in 1997, though it wasn’t, as the Daily Mail tried to claim, because I was choked with emotion at how far I had come since I was a young, ordinary boy standing on the terraces of St James’ Park, watching Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle. It was because Gordon had hit me. Ah, Gordon! He meant well, I suppose, in his funny little emotionally inarticulate way.’