Archive | November, 2006

History Rewritten

30 Nov


Timothy Noah, over on Slate, wants to know why, in an era where the media is infatuated with anniversaries, there was no coverage of the 20th Anniversary of the Iran – Contra scandal in the weekends papers?

Noah gives a couple of reasons, but if you ask me, the one reason is that America wants to see its presidents as chosen, almost hallowed people. Reagan was, wilfully or not, heavily involved in the complicated Iran-Contra affair.

For the uninitiated, a stupendously simplified description of the Iran-Contra scandal goes like this: arms were illegally sold to America’s chief enemy in the Middle East, Iran, and the profits were illegally channelled to contra groups (radical anti-Marxists) in Nicaragua (in line with the Monroe doctrine of US intervention on continental America).

The American rightwing, led by the romantics at the Weekly Standard and the National Review, have completely rewritten the history of Reagan’s presidency. Reagan is held up as a bastion of all that conservatism stands for, and he is almost exclusively credited with ‘defeating’ the Soviet Union – no mention of Gorbachev or the Duma’s corrupt asset raiders in that history.

So, just two decades on from the scandal that almost saw a President impeached, the American right have scrubbed clean the nation’s collective memory (chief protagonist, Oliver North, is painted as an all-American hero on Fox News). I wonder, if given a similar time frame, they can reinvent the career of this President?

Wii are idiots

30 Nov


It seems some gamers are unable to keep hold of the new fangle dangle Wii controllers.

Prezzer bombs at PMQ

30 Nov


Just listened to Prezzer’s performance on PMQs, yesterday (podcast), and the reports are right, he was atrocious.

Time to jettison methinks…

Why Europe fades

30 Nov

Oxford University is currently debating its internal governance. 800-years of being run by an academic cooperative is under threat as modernisers seek to bring in external expertise. Timothy Garton Ash, one such moderniser, uses his Guardian Op-Ed column to push the case for reform. He makes an interesting point about European educational aspirations:

Britain, like France and Germany, spends only 1.1% of its gross domestic product on tertiary education. The US spends 2.6% – 1.4% from private sources and 1.2% from public. In other words, American public expenditure on higher education is more than our public and private expenditure combined. Europe talks the talk of a “knowledge-based economy”; the US walks the walk. And it is being followed aggressively by the upthrusting Asian economies.

What is to be done? One option would be for European taxpayers to pay significantly more for their leading national universities. That is about as likely as the Colosseum moving to Nottingham.

I know just the spot…


30 Nov

Pif Paf

Next Thursday I fly to Tallinn, Estonia, for 10-days. Naturally I’ll be blogging each day from this tech-savvy Baltic capital.

‘David Cameron is just a blue-rinsed Tony Blair’

30 Nov

Even he doesn’t know.

A group of talking heads address the question on everybody’s lips, “what exactly is David Cameron for?”

Murdoch’s hack in the dock

29 Nov

Is it wrong to feel some Schadenfreude at the predicament of journalist Clive Goodman? Goodman works for The News of the World, which isn’t a good start, but things get worse; today Mr. Goodman has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to intercept private telephone messages (stored by mobile phone operators on behalf on their customers).

Mr. Goodman, with fellow conspirator Glenn Mulcaire (a former footballer with Wimbledon AFC), accessed the private messages of various public persons, including aids to Prince William, model Elle Macpherson, and the politician Simon Hughes. Mr. Goodman then reported these stories in his loathsome rag.

What really gets my goat is the utter hypocrisy of tabloid journalism. Yeah, yeah, I know – join the human race – everyone hates tabloids; but please, I pay for this bandwidth, so hear me out. Tabloids fill their pages with little more than idle un-newsworthy gossip and moral grandstanding, and yet they themselves are guilty of the most heinous immorality.

They bitch about celebrity addictions, yet cocaine and excessive alcohol flows freely in the media world. They bitch about the government prying into our lives, and yet the entrapment and surveillance of celebrities is common-practice among the Red Tops. They have created a whole industry built on building up and knocking down public figures. It’s a self-nourishing circle of broken lives and ruined careers. What’s the point? How do these ‘newspapers’ contribute positively to our country?

So I hope you’ll forgive me for delighting in watching one of Murdoch’s winged monkeys standing in the dock. Its petty and vindictive I know, but I hope they throw the book at him – preferably a large, heavy one.