Black Sabbath and Louder Than Hell

As a long time fan of Black Sabbath1, I’ll have to look for this book.

“Louder than Hell,” the massive (and massively entertaining) new oral history of heavy metal by Jon Wiedenhorn and Katherine Turman, reminds us where the musical portion of this cultural embrace of the demonic began: in the bombed-out ruins of the British Midlands. The founders of Black Sabbath, half of the musicians in Led Zeppelin, and the key members of Judas Priest were all raised in Birmingham and its suburbs, surrounded by the wreckage of Germany’s attacks on Britain’s manufacturing centers. It’s a bleak heritage, but the city should consider building a tourism trade around it, as Liverpool has with the Beatles. “BIRMINGHAM: CRADLE OF HEAVY METAL: COME SLEEP IN THE JAIL WHERE OZZY OSBOURNE DID TIME.”

As the Sabbath front man tells Wiedenhorn and Turman, the Summer of Love never reached England’s second city:

When I was a kid, I was hungry. I had my ass hanging out of my pants I hated the fucking world. When I heard the silly fucking words, “If you go to San Francisco, be sure to put a flower in your hair” I wanted to fucking strangle John Phillips [of the Mamas and the Papas]. I was sitting in the industrial town of Birmingham, England. My father was dying of asbestos from industrial pollution and I was an angry young punk.

It wasn’t just a mood. The industrial surroundings directly influenced the development of the heavy metal sound. Sabbath’s lead guitarist, Tony Iommi, who’d gone to school with Osbourne, lost the tips of two of his fingers in a workplace accident in (ironically enough) a metal-fabricating plant.

“I had to come up with a different way of playing because I couldn’t play the conventional way anymore,” Iommi says in “Louder than Hell.” He created his own fingertip prostheses from melted liquid-soap bottles, tuned down the strings of his guitar and combined them with banjo strings, which bent more easily. Not long after the accident, Iommi came up with a composition that tapped into a dread that was centuries old.

Discussing the opening song on Sabbath’s self-titled début, Wiedenhorn and Turman explain:

The three-chord riff in “Black Sabbath” has been credited as the first use of the tritone, or diabolus in musica, in heavy metal. In the Renaissance era, the tritone was feared by the Church because of its ominous sound. Later on, various classical composers—including Richard Wagner and Gustav Holst—would incorporate the tritone into their compositions.

(click here to continue reading Black Sabbath and ‘Louder Than Hell’ : The New Yorker.)

Black Sabbath’s new album, 13, is not bad. It isn’t as great as their classics, but it doesn’t suck either. As a lot of folks have noticed, the long-time Sabbath drummer, Bill Ward, sat out this album and tour, and his jazzy, swinging rhythms are sorely missed. Any drummer who modeled his sound after Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich is all right by me. Ozzy’s voice is even worse than you’d think, but the album is decent.

  1. And no longer in the closet about it because who gives a shit what someone listens to after a certain point []

The Straight Dope: Was there really a Robin Hood?

Preoccupied With His Vengeance

Earlier today…

Nobody is sure who the real Robin Hood was, or even if there was a real Robin Hood; and it’s certainly not known when or how he died (although the fictional Robin, in one account, was killed by an evil abbess). The earliest any authority says he arrived on the scene is 1190, and some have him wandering in as late as the 1320s. Two plausible candidates for the historical Robin Hood have been identified: Robert Hood of Yorkshire, AKA “Hobbehod,” who was recorded in 1228 and 1230 as having been an outlaw and fugitive (which constitutes the sum total of information known about him); and Robert Hood of Wakefield, also in Yorkshire, who lived in the early 1300s.


The Straight Dope: Was there really a Robin Hood?

Romney, and Aryan Racial Theory as a basis for Foreign Policy

Whitney - Graceland
Whitney – Graceland

Dr. Juan Cole discusses a bit of European history in context of Romney’s Aryan Nation remarks.1 Talk about dog whistles: Romney is talking to a very specific type of racist, whether intentional or not.

Anyway, Dr. Cole writes, in part:

I really dislike Nazi references. They are for the most part a sign of sloppy thinking, and a form of banal hyperbole. But there just is no other way to characterize invoking the Anglo-Saxon race as a basis for a foreign policy relationship, and openly saying that those of a different race cannot understand the need for such ties. It is a Nazi sentiment.

If you would like some evidence for what I say, consider Adolf Hitler’s own point of view:

For a long time yet to come there will be only two Powers in Europe with which it may be possible for Germany to conclude an alliance. These Powers are Great Britain and Italy.”

Of the two possible allies, Hitler much preferred Britain because he considered it higher on his absurd and pernicious racial hierarchy. Indeed, Hitler held Mussolini a bit at arms length while hoping for a British change of heart, a hope only decisively dashed in September, 1939, when Britain declared war.

Hitler complained that colonialism was in danger of diluting Aryan European strength, weighing down the metropole powers. He contrasted this situation with that of the white United States, blessedly possessing its “own continent.” Indeed, it is, he argued (genocidal crackpot that he was), Britain’s special relationship with the Anglo-Saxon-dominated United states that kept it from being overwhelmed by its subhuman colonials:

“we we too easily forget the Anglo-Saxon world as such. The position of England, if only because of her linguistic and cultural bond with the American Union, can be compared to no other state in Europe.”

The argument of Romney’s advisers has exactly the same shape as Hitler’s, only it is being made from the American point of view rather than the European.

And, if we had a Jewish president at the moment, couldn’t the Romney camp make exactly the same argument, that the person didn’t appreciate the importance of the Anglo-Saxon heritage and ties? Is this really the discourse you want to engage in just before you arrive in Israel?

Romney has to find out who told Swain these things, and fire them. He has to publicly disavow these racist sentiments. They pose the danger for him of raising again the question of his own attitude to African-Americans as a young man in the 1970s before the Mormon church stopped discriminating against them on the grounds that they bore the mark of Cain.

Beyond the distasteful resemblances of this white supremacist discourse to the worst forms of rightwing extremism, the allegation astonishingly neglects to take account of who Barack Obama is.

Obama’s maternal grandfather, Stanley Armour Dunham, had English ancestry (among others), and some genealogists trace him back to the Earl of Norwich, who was a surety baron of the Magna Carta. Moreover, Stanley Dunham served in the US military in London and then on the continent during World War II, and was involved in saving Britain from Nazi Germany. You’d think that would be a basis for pretty warm feelings. And remember, it was Stanley Dunham who actually raised Barack Obama; he did not know his father.

In contrast, the Romney clan’s only practical relationship to Britain aside from ancestry was trying to convince Scots in Edinburgh in the 1920s to give up alcohol and caffeine and become Mormons. Aside from explosive mirth, I don’t know what other emotion that record might evoke among English Anglicans of the sort Romney appears to want to rub up against, but it certainly would not be warmth.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that the whole idea of “Anglo-Saxon” England is a myth. Historical geneticist Eric Sykes has found in hisSaxons, Vikings and Celts that the genetic mix in England is not for the most part different from that in Wales and Scotland and Ireland. There are, here and there, signs of Norse or German (Angles and Saxons) settlement, but they are minor and have to be looked for and are mainly in the y chromosome markers, i.e. on the male side of inheritance. The women are virtually all “Celts.”

But even “Celts” are a historical construct as a matter of “race.” In his Seven Daughters of Eve, Sykes had found that almost all Europeans are descended from only seven women who lived sometime in the past 45,000 years, one of them from the Middle East. These seven haplotypes or genetic patterns show up in all European populations, including the Basque (in the mitochondria, the power plant of the cell, which is passed on through females and does not change in each generation).

There simply are no distinctive “races” in Europe.

(click here to continue reading Romney, and Aryan Racial Theory as a basis for Foreign Policy | Informed Comment.)

  1. quote: “suggested that Mr Romney was better placed to understand the depth of ties between the two countries than Mr Obama, whose father was from Africa. “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney” []

Exhibition of invisible art

Homage to Robert Rauschenberg Redux
Homage to Robert Rauschenberg Redux


  Inevitable jokes aside, this sounds interesting. I’d go if I could.

London’s Hayward Gallery will gather together 50 ”invisible” works by leading figures such as Andy Warhol, Yves Klein and Yoko Ono for its display of works you cannot actually see. It is thought to be the first such exhibition staged at a major institution in the UK. Gallery bosses say the £8 a head exhibition demonstrates how art is about ”firing the imagination”, rather than simply viewing objects.

Invisible: Art about the Unseen 1957 – 2012 opens on June 12 and includes an empty plinth, a canvas of invisible ink and an unseen labyrinth. It includes work and documents from French artist Klein who pioneered invisible works in the late 1950s with his concept of the ”architecture of air”.

Also in the exhibition will be Warhol’s work Invisible Sculpture – dating from 1985 – which consists of an empty plinth, on which he had once briefly stepped, one of many explorations of the nature of celebrity.

(click here to continue reading Empty plinth and blank piece of paper to feature in exhibition of invisible art – Telegraph.)

John Cage 4 33
John Cage 4’33”.PNG

I assume someone will play John Cage’s famous piece, 4’33″

4′33″ (pronounced “Four minutes, thirty-three seconds”) is a three-movement composition by American experimental composer John Cage (1912–1992). It was composed in 1952 for any instrument (or combination of instruments), and the score instructs the performer not to play the instrument during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements (which, for the first performance, were divided into thirty seconds for the first, two minutes and twenty-three seconds for the second, and one minute and forty seconds for the third). The piece purports to consist of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as “four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence”

or some of his precursors:

Cage was not the first composer to conceive of a piece consisting solely of silence. Precedents and prior examples include:

  • Alphonse Allais’s 1897 Funeral March for the Obsequies of a Deaf Man, consisting of nine blank measures. Allais’s composition is arguably closer in spirit to Cage’s work; Allais was an associate of Erik Satie, and given Cage’s profound admiration for Satie, the possibility that Cage was inspired by the Funeral March is tempting. However, according to Cage himself, he was unaware of Allais’s composition at the time (though he had heard of a nineteenth century book that was completely blank). 
  • Erwin Schulhoff’s 1919 “In futurum”, a movement from the Fünf Pittoresken for piano. The Czech composer’s meticulously notated composition is made up entirely of rests. 
  • In Harold Acton’s 1928 book Cornelium a musician conducts “performances consisting largely of silence”. 
  • Yves Klein’s 1949 Monotone-Silence Symphony (informally The Monotone Symphony, conceived 1947–1948), an orchestral forty minute piece whose second and last movement is a twenty minute silence (the first movement being an unvarying twenty minute drone).

How Bolivia Lost Its Hat


Diplomacy hasn’t really changed that much over the years, has it?

In 1867, the British ambassador to Bolivia fell afoul of its dictator, Mariano Melgarejo, by refusing a glass of chicha, a cloudy drink based on fermented maize. Opting for cocoa instead, the ambassador got more than he asked for: Melgarejo, incensed, forced him to drink an entire bowl of liquid chocolate. He then paraded him three times around La Paz’s main square, tied up and seated back to front on a donkey, before shipping him back to London.

When the disgraced ambassador related his story to Queen Victoria, she was not amused at all. Her Majesty resolved to have the Royal Navy bombard Bolivia’s capital in retaliation. Consulting a map of South America, she soon discovered that La Paz lay far inland on the Andean altiplano, well beyond the reach of British cannon. So she simply marked the offending country with an X, pronouncing: “Bolivia does not exist”.

The story is related in the 1971 book “Open Veins of Latin America,” Eduardo Galeano’s critical analysis of imperialism in Latin America. The book rocketed up the best-seller lists when Mr. Chavez gave it to newly elected President Obama at a Summit of the Americas in April 2009.
Several variations of the original story exist, adding color but subtracting veracity: that Melgarejo invited the ambassador to the senatorial inauguration of his horse, or the official presentation of his new mistress; that he challenged the ambassador to kiss his mistress’s behind, or that the ambassador pooh-poohed the glass of chicha even though offered by Melgarejo in person; and that the dictator forced an entire barrel of cocoa down the ambassador’s throat.

(click here to continue reading How Bolivia Lost Its Hat –


Virginia Woolf Visits the Daily Mail

Creative Review - Wardour Street
Creative Review – Wardour Street

Virginia Woolf may have had a delicate appearance, but she was stronger than she looked.

The New Yorker recalls:

as Evelyn Irons recalled in an essay published in our pages in 1963, three members of the Bloomsbury Group requested a tour of the Daily Mail’s printing presses in 1932. “Look here, Virginia wants to see your paper being printed,” Vita Sackville-West had told Irons at the time. “Do you think you could arrange it?”

Irons, who later became a war correspondent and was the first woman journalist to reach Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest, was then the editor of the Mail’s women’s page. (She would later be fired for “looking unfashionable.”) In that capacity, she had, the previous year, interviewed Sackville-West and the two women had begun an affair. According to Victoria Glendinning’s biography of Sackville-West, Irons was the subject of a number of Sackville-West’s 1931 love poems. “It seemed very odd to me that Virginia Woolf should want to see the mass-circulation Daily Mail being put to bed, but it could be arranged, and easily,” wrote Irons.

At nine o’clock one night the following week, Sackville-West, Woolf, and Woolf’s husband, Leonard, arrived at the Mail’s offices for their tour. “The whole evening had an unreal quality,” Irons recalled, and continued:

There they were, perched around the room like unfamiliar night birds: Vita Sackville-West, tall, intensely handsome, wearing her usual long, dangling earrings and smoking through a paper cigarette holder; Leonard Woolf, a dark, brooding man with aggressive eyebrows; and Virginia Woolf, recalling the moon in the daytime sky—ethereal, bone-pale, the eyes set deep in the skull. She was fifty, but age had nothing to do with her appearance; she must have looked like that forever. You might as well show those clattering presses to a ghost, I thought.

However, her guests were not there to hear anecdotes. Despite her ethereal appearance, Virginia Woolf had more than a passing interest in the working of the newspaper’s presses. To Irons’s surprise, Woolf engaged in lengthy and detailed discussions with the printers, handling their tools and often shouting to be heard over the noise of the presses. At one point Woolf even displayed her ability to read set type upside down. “We don’t often get ladies coming in from outside who can do that,” said one of the printers. The experience changed Irons’s view of Woolf:

There seemed to be little that was wan or mothlike, delicate or remote, about her now. Her long, slender fingers were smudged with black ink, and her behavior was that of a mechanically minded man.

(click here to continue reading Back Issues: Virginia Woolf Visits the Daily Mail : The New Yorker.)


London 2010 – a set on Flickr

I finally made a first pass through all my photos from our visit to London last year. There might be a few others, but I found and processed the most obvious “keepers”, in my estimation. If you have a few moments to spare, and want to see a large photo set of one of the most glorious cities in the world, you should click here to view London 2010 – a set on Flickr.

The slideshow version is here (Flash, and thus takes a moment to load).

I was thinking about London in comparison to Chicago. When I moved to Chicago from Austin, I was impressed and intrigued by the diversity and energy of the city. Austin is many things, but it isn’t a very old city, it isn’t really that big, nor overly walkable, and thus there isn’t much history to be discovered while strolling. I love to explore a place simply by walking, discovering beauty and decay partially by chance, partially by design.

London is an even larger multiple of this equation: a vibrant, diverse place with a rich mosaic of history woven into the fabric of the streets. I’ve been in London for less than two weeks, total,1 but it is easily one of my favorite cities. I could never really see myself living in Manhattan, for instance, but living in London would be grand.

A few photos for example:

Michelin-Tyre Co Ltd -Bibendum
Michelin-Tyre Co Ltd -Bibendum

Castles in the Night
Castles in the Night

Crouch Beds
Crouch Beds

Strollers, Green Park
Strollers, Green Park

Sooner or Later One Of Us Will Know
Sooner or Later One Of Us Will Know

Cowgirls on the Prowl in Piccadilly Circus
Cowgirls on the Prowl in Piccadilly Circus

Turn Approaching - TRI-X 400
Turn Approaching – TRI-X 400

Morning Smoke
Morning Smoke

Creative Review - Wardour Street
Creative Review – Wardour Street

Just Biking in the Rain
Just Biking in the Rain

  1. last summer and in the mid 1990’s []

Prime Suspect Remake

I agree completely with Matt Zoller Seitz:

“Prime Suspect” wasn’t burdened by such pressures. It wasn’t an American-style network TV show; it was a series of movies, or miniseries, or movie-miniseries. (That I’m having trouble just labeling it says a lot.) Created and overseen by Lynda LaPlante, it debuted in 1991 with a 200-minute, two-part drama. The next 200-minute two-parter aired 17 months later, in December 1992. Another aired in December 1993.  The fourth “Prime Suspect” departed from the template, offering three self-contained 100-minute stories that aired three weeks apart. The final three installments returned to the 200-minute, two-part model, airing in 1996, 2003 and 2006. It is hard to imagine any broadcast network indulging that kind of “whatever works” production schedule — and that’s the first warning sign that this project has an excellent chance of being flat-out bad, or else competent but compromised, like ABC’s short-lived American version of the ITV series “Cracker.”

If an Americanized “Prime Suspect” ends up on the NBC grid, it will likely debut at midseason with a six-episode limited run. If it gets picked up, its producers will have to make 22 episodes a year, each running about 42 minutes. The drama will be stuffed into ad-friendly five- to seven-minute chunks like Spam packed in cans. And although there might be some content that’s considered “edgy” by network standards, I doubt we’ll see anything like the opening act of “Prime Suspect 1,” which showed a group of male cops and a male coroner examining the naked, pasty, hideously hacked-up corpse of a female rape-and-murder victim. Far from being gratuitous, the scene was integral to the program’s unflinching attitude toward the vilest human behavior. It looked at savagery through a cop’s eyes. And the sexualized brutality showcased in that first scene connected to the professional and personal struggle of DCI Tennison, a great detective whose male colleagues treated her as, at best, a female interloper, at worst a piece of meat.

An NBC version of “Prime Suspect” can’t match the first 20 minutes of the first British show, or spend 200 minutes (five regular-length American broadcast TV episodes!) on a story as racially and sexually charged as the one that drove “Prime Suspect 2,” or attempt a muckraking urban epic along the lines of “Prime Suspect 3,” which dealt bluntly with prostitution, child pornography and the death of a “rent boy” without seeming exploitative. Nearly 20 years after the debut of “NYPD Blue,” NBC and its broadcast brethren still aren’t tough enough or wise enough to handle that sort of thing. Commercial cable is only slightly better-equipped. There’s violence galore on FX and AMC and other commercial cable channels, but it’s mostly stylized genre violence (action thriller mayhem, sci-fi gore). They’re still oddly shy about sex, shooting around naughty bits when they show the act at all. And they won’t let characters say “fuck”; when John Slattery’s character said it on “Mad Men” — a series aimed squarely at adults — AMC bleeped him. (And since I mentioned “Cracker,” let’s note that on the original British series, Robbie Coltrane’s Fitz was a chain smoker. ABC didn’t want to air a show with a hero who smoked, so on the U.S. remake starring the late Robert Pastorelli, the hero was an ex-smoker who kept a cigarette tucked behind one ear.)

More important, American TV is averse to letting race, class, politics and other touchy elements drive stories because it might make viewers and sponsors skittish. That’s why the American crime show’s favorite bad guy is the serial killer, a mythologically exaggerated monster whose existence lets filmmakers titillate and terrify while declining to engage with society at large.

Jane Tennison never dealt with effete, wisecracking, Hannibal Lecter-type bogeymen. She lived in reality. Over 15 years,”Prime Suspect” dealt frankly with sex, sexism, race, class and the intrusion of politics into police work. It did so subtly, prizing plausibility and never delivering a jolt without reason. And it treated time as an ally instead of an enemy. One of the pleasures of “Prime Suspect” was the opportunity to re-engage with it after a long break and discover that Tennison had risen in rank or settled into a new job or a new relationship. The gaps between installments enhanced the sense that you were seeing excerpts from a life in progress.

You can’t do any of that on NBC. You can’t re-create or even approximate “Prime Suspect” in a commercial broadcast network series that airs 22 episodes a year. The material can’t breathe in the same way. And forget about being unflinching. What passes for unflinching on NBC is “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” an entertaining but mostly absurd procedural that bears about as much qualitative relation to “Prime Suspect” as “Training Day” does to “Serpico.” And don’t even get me started on TNT’s “The Closer,” a fitfully entertaining series that has wrongheadedly been described as an American answer to “Prime Suspect,” presumably because its main character is a strong-willed female detective. (It’s not a subtle psychological drama, it’s a suck-up-to-the-star spectacle about a mercurial Southern belle following her muse and dazzling the nonbelievers. “Prime Suspect” writes in plain script, “The Closer” in big block letters.) Not many American cop shows, broadcast or cable, have engaged with reality as directly as “Prime Suspect” — and the best of those were produced not in Hollywood, but in Baltimore:  “Homicide: Life on the Street,” “The Corner,” and “The Wire.”

(click here to continue reading The problem with American remakes of British shows – Prime Suspect –

Coincidentally, Netflixed the entire 7 seasons of Prime Suspect recently, and enjoyed them immensely. I doubt very seriously it will translate into American-style television drama. Maybe if it was on HBO, maybe, but certainly not on NBC. The remake may turn out to be ok, but it will not be anything like the Helen Mirren classic, which you should watch if you haven’t. Or re-watch if it has been a while…

Helen Mirren’s Detective Chief Inspector Jane Tennison, the only female DCI on an old boy’s club London homicide squad, is like a phantom lurking around the edges of the action while the men rush through their latest murder case, joshing and winking in the kind of male camaraderie the cop genre has celebrated for decades. When DCI Shefford dies of a sudden heart attack, Tennison demands to take over. Despite her superintendent’s resistance (“Give her this case and she’ll start expecting more.”), she becomes the squad’s first woman to head a murder investigation. Scrutinized at every moment by her superior officers, Tennison is faced with a case that spirals out from a single murder to a serial spree, a second-in-command who undermines her authority and her investigation at every turn, a team resistant to taking orders from a woman, and a private life unraveling due to her professional diligence. Lynda La Plant’s script is a compelling thriller riddled with ambiguity that turns dead ends, blind alleys, and the mundane legwork of real-life cops into fascinating details. Mirren commands the role of Tennison with authority, intelligence, and a touch of overachieving desperation. Superb performances, excellent writing, and understated direction make this BBC miniseries one of the most involving mysteries in years. Look for future British stars Ralph Fiennes and Tom Wilkinson in supporting roles.

Bush Still Doesn’t Like McCain

Not sure if this changes anything, but amusing nonetheless:

Bush-McCain-celebrate Katrina.png

George W. Bush’s bombastic return to the world stage has reminded me of my favourite Bush anecdote, which for various reasons we couldn’t publish at the time. Some of the witnesses still dine out on it.

The venue was the Oval Office. A group of British dignitaries, including Gordon Brown, were paying a visit. It was at the height of the 2008 presidential election campaign, not long after Bush publicly endorsed John McCain as his successor.

Naturally the election came up in conversation. Trying to be even-handed and polite, the Brits said something diplomatic about McCain’s campaign, expecting Bush to express some warm words of support for the Republican candidate.

Not a chance. “I probably won’t even vote for the guy,” Bush told the group, according to two people present.“I had to endorse him. But I’d have endorsed Obama if they’d asked me.”

Endorse Obama? Cue dumbfounded look from British officials, followed by some awkward remarks about the Washington weather. Even Gordon Brown’s poker face gave way to a flash of astonishment.

(click to continue reading Bush: “I probably won’t even vote for McCain” | Westminster Blog: The latest on UK politics |


Tony Blair and His Big Lie of Omission


“A Journey: My Political Life” (Tony Blair)

David Corn of Mother Jones wants to know why Tony Blair’s new memoir leaves out a meeting with George Bush right before the start of the Iraq War boondoggle. Probably because Blair is aware that public discussion of such a meeting might be next conducted in Nuremberg.1

In his new (self-serving, of course) memoir, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair praises George W. Bush as a man of “genuine integrity and as much political courage as any leader I have ever met.” Yet Blair leaves out of the 700-page tome any mention of a meeting he had with Bush in which the US president proposed a plan to trigger the Iraq war through outright deceit.

… Yet Blair devotes a serious chunk to defending his decision to partner up with Bush for the Iraq war. “I can’t regret the decision to go to war,” he writes. “…I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded.” He adds, “I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right.”

(click to continue reading Tony Blair’s Big Lie of Omission | Mother Jones.)

Achilles Last Stand

And the meeting that Blair skips over wasn’t just about the best kind of tea to accompany crumpets and clotted cream…

But there’s no reference to the meeting Blair held with Bush in the Oval Office on January 31, 2003, less than two months before the war would be launched.

During that conversation, Blair told Bush that he needed a second UN resolution that explicitly authorized military action against Iraq, having promised his Labour Party that he would seek one. Blair explained that the resolution—or, at least, an attempt to obtain the resolution—was necessary political cover for him and, according to a memo written by a Blair aide documenting the meeting, “international cover, especially with the Arabs.” Bush agreed to try to twist arms at the UN, but he informed Blair that he had already selected a tentative start date for the war: March 10. (Ultimately, there would be no such UN resolution.)

But more than politics was discussed. According to the memo, Bush and Blair each said they doubted any weapons of mass destruction would soon be discovered by the UN inspectors then searching for such arms in Iraq. With no WMDs, it could be harder to win support for the war. But Bush had an idea—or two.

The memo notes that Bush raised the notion of provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. “The US was thinking,” the memo said, “of flying US reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach” of UN resolutions. A retaliatory attack would then be fully justified; the war could begin. Bush also discussed producing some “defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam’s WMD.” At this meeting, the two men also agreed that it was unlikely that “internecine warfare” would break out between “different religious and ethnic groups” after an invasion of Iraq.

This memo was a startling revelation. Here was the US president hinting at mounting a giant con game to start a war: creating a phony incident to grease the path to an invasion. The memo—portions of which were published in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands’ Lawless World—does not record Blair objecting to this potential subterfuge. (I have read the entire memo.)

Blair could provide a tremendous service to historians (and the citizens of England and the United States) by offering an accurate, eyewitness account of what transpired in the Oval Office that day. What did Blair think of a US president hinting at such trickery to kick-start a war? Did he take Bush’s notion seriously? Did Bush propose any other unconventional ideas? Yet by engaging in Soviet-style revisionism—don’t recognize an inconvenient historical event—Blair doesn’t have to answer these questions. Nor does he have to defend his apparent silence in response to Bush’s suggestion that they cheat their way to an invasion. Nor does Blair have to reconcile his description of Bush—a man of integrity—with the documented record (created by Blair’s own aide). By ignoring this conversation, Blair demonstrates that this book—despite his passionate claims—is not a good-faith and candid accounting of all the trials and tribulations he underwent as the United States and England headed to war.

And then there is this reaction:

A Facebook group entitled ‘Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops’ gained more than 1,000 members inside a day. The group’s creator, Euan Booth, said the idea was non-violent direct action against a man he described as “our generation’s greatest war criminal”. His idea found support on Twitter, with a Viz Top Tips tweet suggesting: “Brighten up your day by moving at least one of Tony Blair’s books to the crime section in your local book shop.”

(click to continue reading Tony Blair’s autobiography becomes crime book after Facebook and Twitter campaign |

More than 10,000 have joined at this moment. The group’s mission statement:

Be part of a literary movement. Literally.

Subversively move Tony Blair’s memoirs to the crime section in book shops

Make bookshops think twice about where they categorise our generations greatest war criminal.

Go on….do it. 


Please invite your friends to do it too!


  1. Well, we could hope anyway – war crimes don’t expire, look at the trouble Kissinger has traveling in the civilized world []

Obama gives Cameron a decent Goose Island

Maybe the Bud Light schtick was calculated1, but when Obama met British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama gave him a decent local brew.


Cameron is a Conservative, but a moderate presiding over a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats after 13 years of Labor rule, and at least one of Obama’s former aides, Anita Dunn, worked for him during his election campaign.

Goose Island Beer Company

The two leaders have bonded over sports, one of Obama’s signature means of connecting. They culminated their friendly trash talk over the World Cup Saturday.

Seated in dark leather chairs, with the G8 and G20 logo serving as a backdrop in the small room, Obama and Cameron satisfied a wager they had made on the U.S-Britain soccer match.

“Since it ended in a tie, we’re exchanging, by paying off our debts at the same time, this is Goose Island 312 beer from my hometown of Chicago,” Obama said, holding a yellow-tagged bottle of beer.

Cameron then handed his beer to a smiling Obama. “This is Hobgoblin,” he said.

“I advised him that in America, we drink our beer cold,” Obama quipped. “He has to put it in a refrigerator before he drinks it, but I think that he will find it outstanding.”

(click to continue reading ‘Special relationship’ under strain as Obama and Cameron meet – Print View.)

Beer doesn’t have to be ice cold to be enjoyable, and I’ll have to look for Hobgoblin when2 I’m in London this August.

  1. of course, maybe the craft beer choice could be calculated, and Obama really does drink Bud Light Lime, ewww []
  2. if? []

British Security Chief Denies Collusion With U.S. In Instances of Torture

Jonathan Evans is a liar, in other words

Carried Away Again

The director general of Britain’s MI5 security service denied Friday that his agency colluded in torture, after a court ruling showed that it knew that a detained British resident had been abused by American intelligence officers. The court disclosed information provided to MI5 by the C.I.A. that Binyam Mohamed, a British resident from Ethiopia, had been shackled, threatened and deprived of sleep in American custody.

The MI5 director general, Jonathan Evans, left, wrote in The Daily Telegraph that British intelligence had been slow to detect “the emerging pattern of U.S. mistreatment of detainees” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But there wasn’t any similar change of practice by the British intelligence agencies,” he said. “We did not practice mistreatment or torture then and do not do so now, nor do we collude in torture or encourage others to torture on our behalf.” One paragraph of the judge’s ruling that strongly criticized MI5 was deleted at the request of a government lawyer. Mr. Mohamed has been fighting to prove that he was tortured and that British authorities knew about it. [Click to continue reading World Briefing | Europe: Britain: Security Chief Denies Collusion With U.S. In Instances of Torture]

Since the NYT doesn’t bother to include the link so you can read Mr. Evans statement, here it is in all its self-serving glory

Stilton Cheese and Stilton England

Strange byproduct of EU food rules: Stilton cheese is not really Stilton cheese, and probably will never be.

John Major is a Twat

STILTON, England — This small hamlet shares its name with a famous curd. But under European Union law, it’s illegal to make Stilton cheese in Stilton.

The bar on producing Stilton cheese here is a curious consequence of EU efforts to protect revered local foods by limiting the geographical area where they can be made.

The EU’s protected list of more than 800 foods and drinks includes famous names like Champagne and Parma as well as lesser-known delicacies such as Moutarde de Bourgogne, Munchener Bier and a Spanish chili pepper called Asado del Bierzo. It even covers Foin de Crau, a hay for animals from the fields of Bouches-du-Rhône in southern France.

But to the chagrin of locals, no cheese made here can be branded as Stilton. That’s because a group of outsiders, called the Stilton Cheesemakers Association, raised a formal stink.

The association, whose members have been making the cheese for more than a hundred years, in 1996 sought to protect the “Stilton” name by applying for a Product Designation of Origin from the EU. In its application, the group wrote that “the cheese became known as Stilton because it was at the Bell Inn in this village that the cheese was first sold to the public.” The 17th-century inn, which still stands in the main street, is the village’s oldest.

[Click to continue reading English Village Tries to Milk a Connection to Its Cheesy Past –]

Gotta love this detail:

One 18th-century notable who dropped by was Daniel Defoe, author of “Robinson Crusoe.” He wrote about the inn, and the cheese he enjoyed there, in a travelogue published in 1724. He remarked that the cheese, unfettered at the time by EU product rules, was known as the English Parmesan, and he offered a mouth-watering description of how it was consumed. The cheese, he wrote, “is brought to Table so full of Mites or Maggots that they use a Spoon to eat them.”

BBC photographers are not a criminals either

So how many photos of St Paul’s Cathedral are taken every day? How easy would it be for someone to find a photo without even having to visit London? Pretty easy, methinks.1 Or just purchase a postcard, usually sold right in front of the building in question. And of course, what terrorist needs to have snapped art photos of architecturally and culturally significant buildings before planning their attack? None, remember? It’s just a movie plot, never happened in real life.

A BBC photographer was stopped from taking a picture of the sun setting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. A real police officer and a fake “community support officer” stopped the photog and said he couldn’t take any pictures because with his professional-style camera, he might be an “al Qaeda operative” on a “scouting mission.” Now, St Paul’s is one of the most photographed buildings in the world (luckily, there is zero evidence that terrorists need photographs to plan their attacks), and presumably a smart al Qaeda operative with a yen to get some snaps would use a tiny tourist camera — or a hidden camera in his buttonhole. An ex-MP2 goes on to describe being stopped for talking into a hand-sized dictaphone in Trafalgar Square (where thousands of people talking in their phones — most of which have dictaphone capabilities — can be seen at any given time).

The real damage from terrorist attacks doesn’t come from the explosion. The real damage is done after the explosion, by the victims, who repeatedly and determinedly attack themselves, giving over reason in favor of terror. Every London cop who stops someone from taking a picture of a public building, every TSA agent who takes away your kid’s toothpaste, every NSA spook who wiretaps your email, does the terrorist’s job for him. Terrorism is about magnifying one mediagenic act of violence into one hundred billion acts of terrorized authoritarian idiocy. There were two al Qaeda operatives at St Paul’s that day: the cop and her sidekick, who were about Osama bin Laden’s business in London all day long.

[Click to continue reading BBC photographer prevented from shooting St Paul’s because he might be “al Qaeda operative” – Boing Boing]


video interview at the BBC:

BBC News photographer Jeff Overs was stopped and questioned for taking photographs in Westminster.
Speaking on The Andrew Marr Show, for which he takes photographs, Mr Overs said he was worried that policing against terrorism was making the UK feel like “the Eastern Bloc”.

[Click to continue reading BBC News – BBC photographer on being stopped by police]

Know Your Rights! These Are Your Rights!3 /4


  1. 54,464 items just at Flickr []
  2. Mathew Parris []
  3. apologies to The Clash. This is a public service announcement. With guitars! []
  4. Bert Krages Photographer’s Right in handy PDF form []

Minions of Rupert Murdoch illegally hacked 3000 cellphone accounts

Either Rupert Murdoch is too close a friend of most US media conglomerate CEOs, or else they are scared of incurring Murdoch’s wrath. What other explanation for the lack of coverage of the juicy Guardian UK scoop regarding Murdoch illegality?

But so far the Guardian, which last Wednesday broke the news of how two newspapers belonging to Rupert Murdoch illegally hacked into the mobile phone accounts of “two or three thousand” people, as well as “gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemized phone bills [belonging to] Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars” has the story pretty much to itself.

On the surface this is surprising. Here, after all, is a story that combines boldface names like Gwyneth Paltrow, Elle MacPherson, Nigella Lawson and George Michael with the official spokesman of the Conservative Party (Andy Coulson, media strategist for Tory leader David Cameron, was editor of the News of the World when the paper allegedly paid private investigators for access to the celebrities’ accounts) and Rupert Murdoch, the world’s most powerful media baron. The BBC put the story at the top of its world news lineup, and followed up the next day with a story about how some of famous targets were contemplating lawsuits. So why has the Guardian’s incredible scoop turned out to be a 2 day wonder?

[Click to continue reading  The Dog That Didn’t Bark]

Quite curious, no?

Rupert Murdoch’s News Group News papers has paid out more than £1m to settle legal cases that threatened to reveal evidence of his journalists’ repeated involvement in the use of criminal methods to get stories.

The payments secured secrecy over out-of-court settlements in three cases that threatened to expose evidence of Murdoch journalists using private investigators who illegally hacked into the mobile phone messages of numerous public figures as well as gaining unlawful access to confidential personal data, including tax records, social security files, bank statements and itemised phone bills. Cabinet ministers, MPs, actors and sports stars were all targets of the private investigators.

Today, the Guardian reveals details of the suppressed evidence, which may open the door to hundreds more legal actions by victims of News Group, the Murdoch company that publishes the News of the World and the Sun, as well as provoking police inquiries into reporters who were involved and the senior executives responsible for them.

[Click to continue reading Murdoch papers paid out £1m to gag phone-hacking victims | Media |The Guardian]

such as

When the high court last summer ordered the News of the World to pay damages to Max Mosley for secretly filming him with prostitutes, the paper was furious. In an angry leader column, it insisted that public figures must maintain standards. “It is not for the powerful and the influential to run to the courts to gag newspapers from publishing stories that are TRUE,” it said. “This is all about the public’s right to know.”

Even as those words were being published, lawyers and senior executives from News International’s subsidiary News Group were preparing to run to court to gag Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association, who was suing the News of the World for its undisclosed involvement in the illegal interception of messages left on his mobile phone.

By persuading the high court to seal the file and by paying Taylor more than £400,000 damages in exchange for his silence, News Group prevented the public from knowing anything about the hundreds of pages of evidence which had been disclosed in Taylor’s case, revealing potentially criminal behaviour by journalists on its payroll. It also protected some powerful and influential people from the implications of that evidence.

[Click to continue reading  Trail of hacking and deceit under nose of Tory PR chief ]

Red Light Night

names like:

Scotland Yard disclosed only a limited amount of its evidence to Taylor. The Guardian understands that the full police file shows that several thousand public figures were targeted by investigators, including, during one month in 2006: John Prescott, then deputy prime minister; Tessa Jowell, then responsible for the media as secretary of state for culture; Boris Johnson, then the Conservative spokesman on higher education; Gwyneth Paltrow, after she had given birth to her son; George Michael, who had been seen looking tired at the wheel of his car; and Jade Goody.

When Goodman, the News of the World’s royal editor, was jailed for hacking into the mobile phones of Palace staff, News International said he had been acting without their knowledge. One of the investigators working for the paper, Glenn Mulcaire, was also charged with hacking the phones of the Lib Dem MP Simon Hughes, celebrity PR Max Clifford, model Elle MacPherson and football agent Sky Andrew as well as Taylor. At the time, the News of the World claimed to know nothing about the hacking of these targets, but Taylor has now proved that to be untrue in his case. Others who are believed to have been possible targets include the Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, who has previously accused the News of the World of bugging his car; Jeffrey Archer, whose perjury was exposed by the paper; and Sven-Göran Eriksson, whose sex life became a tabloid obsession.