Sunday, December 31, 2006

Rumsfeld and Saddam

Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants were convicted for crimes committed in the town of Dujail in 1982.

Saddam shaking hands with a beaming Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq on December 20, 1983. Is it possible that Rumsfeld and his friends were unaware of Saddam's acts the previous year? Not really.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Eyes Wide Shut (contains spoilers)

I can honestly say this is the most unusual Christmas film I have seen. However I watched it on Christmas Eve and the action all takes place during advent. There are some jolly characters in red cloaks but no beards but they are taking part in a somewhat satanic prelude to an orgy and they soon drop the cloaks to reveal that is all they are wearing apart from the occasional thong.

And the viewer/voyeur is sometimes invited to see the nudity through the eyes of a doctor – Dr Bill Harford – first the naked body of an unconscious woman whose life he saves and the naked body of an apparent suicide victim

And for all the nudity, Bill Harford’s sexual encounters are all unfulfilled. His initial encounter with Domino (a name which presages the “fancy dress” masked orgy he later attends – is interrupted by a telephone call from his wife (curse these mobile phones!) He himself turns down the offers of his deceased patient’s daughter and a fancy dress shop owner who offers him his underage daughter “for anything the doctor orders!” And at the satanic fancy dress orgy he sneaks into, he is teased and then caught and sent off with a warning.

The film is also a thriller in the more traditional Hitchcock sense of the term. There seem to be two murders but the good Doctor drops all his investigations and accepts the unlikely explanations of his rich client who turns out to have been behind one of the masks. In the end he is content to go back to his beautiful wife and keep his eyes wide shut.

The dialogue transcript is available here

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tories name the 12 who shaped our nation.

The Conservative education spokesman, David Willetts has announced his “nation building” History curriculum. In place of the study of history, he prefers the narrative approach (telling children little stories) about 12 chosen great people.

The list has 11 white men, three of them wearing crowns, and one white woman. It seems the black and ethnic minorities in the UK made no contribution to its history if we believe the Conservative party; and men made 11 times as great a contribution as women.

Some of the choices – based on the contribution to creation of British institutions and structures are surprising. The inclusion of Oliver Cromwell probably has Prince Charles feeling his collar – one of Cromwell’s “memorable structures” was the scaffold on which King Charles was executed.

Although there are three kings, King Henry 8th is excluded. It is unusual for the Conservative Party to assert that the Church of England is not a significant institution.

Other omissions are less surprising. The Tolpuddle Martyrs are not there – trade unions are an institution the Conservative Party would sooner forget about.

And the whole concept is cockeyed. History is not made by individuals “great” or otherwise. Nye Bevan did not single-handedly create the NHS any more than Millicent Fawcett single-handedly brought about votes for women and neither of them was stupid enough to believe they did.

It is convenient to reduce history to stories about individuals – and then pick and choose which individuals constitute “history” but the events which really shaped these islands, like the Chartist movement, involved the participation of the working class and the poor.

History is made by millions. And so is the future. As David Willetts and his merry men will find out.

Derek McMillan

The list is:

Saint Columba, 521-597 (Christianity in Britain)
Alfred the Great, 849-899 (the Kingdom of England)
Henry II, 1133-1189 (Common law)
Simon de Montfort, 1208-1265 (Parliament)
James IV of Scotland, 1443-1513 (the Kingdom of Scotland)
Thomas Gresham, 1519 -1579 (the stock market)
Oliver Cromwell, 1599 -1658 (the British Army)
Isaac Newton, 1643-1727 (the Royal Society)
Robert Clive, 1725-1774 (the British Empire)
Sir Robert Peel, 1778-1850 (the police)
Millicent Fawcett, 1847-1929 (universal suffrage)
Nye Bevan, 1897-1960 (the National Health Service)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Christmas cards with a purpose

Omar Deghayes, British resident imprisoned without charge or trial and currently being tortured in Guantanamo bay will be spending Christmas in prison while Blair and co are enjoying themselves.

The Save Omar campaign - whose only demand is that he should stand trial if he has committed any crime - are asking all supporters to post Christmas cards with anti-Guantanamo and Justice for Omar greetings to the Prime Minister and the relevant members of his cabinets. Here are their addresses:

Prime Minster Tony Blair
10 Downing Street

Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
19 King Charles Street

Home Secretary John Reid
2 Marsham Street

Sunday, December 10, 2006


A speaker in assembly at a school "somewhere in Sussex" was fulminating at tedious length about the attempt to "do away with Christmas" by calling it something else.

It has always been called Yule until the Christians came along and appropriated the pagan symbols of holly, mistletoe, the yule log and the tree and called it Christmas.

Well it is a free country they can call it what they like but their synthetic indignation is irritating.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bush's mid-term defeat cartoon

Alan Hardman's cartoon comment on Bush getting his come-uppance in the mid-term elections.