Saturday, April 04, 2009

Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

Japan: A Story of Love and Hate - Times Online

BBC Four's Japanese season is proving that there are right and wrong ways to scrutinise a thus supposedly inscrutable nation. Two weeks ago Marcel Theroux showed us the wrong way, bouncing off in wide-eyed search of the spiritual concept of Wabi Sabi and coming back with the news that it was all very Japanese and unknowable.

And last night Sean McAllister showed us the right way in Japan: A Story of Love and Hate. After, he said, two years trying and failing to prise open Japan's “sliding door”, he gave up on Tokyo and moved to a small town 300 miles north. There he came across an eccentric called Naoki Sato. There is, we were told, a local saying that “the nail that stands out most must be hammered down”. Naoki Sato, a part- time post office worker with a Beatles haircut, was that outstanding nail, and how he had been hammered! A former Maoist revolutionary, he had enthusiastically taken up capitalism in his thirties and owned two companies, a bar and a BMW. In 1992, however, the economy crashed and Naoki became one of Japan's “new” or, as he put it, “usual” poor. Now 56, he lived in a tiny windowless room, his only break from the housework the seven hours a day that he spent collecting insurance premiums for the post office.

A sad film, worth seeing. It quite cheered me up.

'Heaven on Earth' at the National Gallery of Art

Art Review: Paul Richard on 'Heaven on Earth' at the National Gallery of Art -

A review of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

...the 52 pages from old vandalized books in "Heaven on Earth: Manuscript Illuminations From the National Gallery of Art" are the opposite of trash. They declare their preciousness as soon as one lays eyes on them. They gleam of polished gold. Their layout and their letters and their focused little pictures show excellent control of the shiny and the tiny. Their calculated parts have been fit together finely by specialists in many skills. It's like looking at the innards of a bejeweled watch.

Friday, April 03, 2009

I smoke pot, and I like it

I smoke pot, and I like it - THE WEEK

The Atlantic Monthly’s Andrew Sullivan has been documenting on his blog the stories of typical, productive Americans—kids’ football coaches, secretaries of the PTA—who smoke marijuana because they like to smoke marijuana, but who understandably fear emerging fully from the “cannabis closet.” This is a profoundly necessary idea. If we’re to begin to roll back our stupid and deadly drug war, the stigma of responsible drug use has got to end, and marijuana is the best place to start. The super-savvy Barack Obama managed to turn a buck by coming out of the cannabis (and cocaine) closet in a bestselling memoir. That’s progress. But his admission came with the politicians’ caveat of regret. We’ll make real progress when solid, upstanding folk come out of the cannabis closet, heads held high.

So here we go. My name is Will Wilkinson. I smoke marijuana, and I like it.

Actually I don't smoke pot, but that's because I don't like it. But it should be as legal as the Bombay Sapphire martinis I most definitely do like.

Obama's Ultimate Agenda

Charles Krauthammer - Obama's Ultimate Agenda -

Obama['s] goal is to rewrite the American social compact, to recast the relationship between government and citizen. He wants government to narrow the nation's income and anxiety gaps. Soak the rich for reasons of revenue and justice. Nationalize health care and federalize education to grant all citizens of all classes the freedom from anxiety about health care and college that the rich enjoy. And fund this vast new social safety net through the cash cow of a disguised carbon tax.

Obama is a leveler. He has come to narrow the divide between rich and poor. For him the ultimate social value is fairness. Imposing it upon the American social order is his mission.

Via Andrew Sullivan.

This comment by Charles Krauthammer is meant to be a criticism.

For the life of me, I cannot see how it can be.

Camelot Lives

Iowa Supreme Court upholds Hanson's ruling; marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman

Iowa Supreme Court upholds Hanson's ruling; marriage no longer limited to one man, one woman | | The Des Moines Register

Great News. Sweden and Iowa both allow gay marriage in one in the same week!

Update: Same sex marriages will be allowed in Iowa from April 24th. It would take until 2012 to get a constitutional ban through the Iowa system (by which time it will hopefully be a non-issue).

Plus Vermont yesterday approved same-sex marriage by huge majorities in both houses (although the Governor could still veto).

How long before the UK catches up?

Israel about to bomb Iran?

Only Obama can save Iran from Israeli bombs | Richard Beeston - Times Online

The Times (London) now makes public what Andrew Sullivan and others at The Atlantic have been getting more and more worried about.

An Israeli colleague was sent on an assignment so secret and sensitive that it was years before he would share the full story with friends.

He was dispatched by Menachem Begin, then the Prime Minister, to European capitals with orders to meet editors, politicians and opinion makers to spread the word that Israel was increasingly concerned about Iraq's nuclear programme and would do anything to stop Saddam Hussein building the bomb. The warnings, intended to prepare Western public opinion, were largely dismissed as sabre-rattling (one editor insisted on discussing a new lavatory system designed on a kibbutz) - until June 1981, when Israeli Air Force F16s bombed the plant to rubble.

A few days ago a chill went down my spine when an articulate and intelligent senior Israeli official made exactly the same argument about Iran's nuclear programme at a briefing in London. He described an Iranian nuclear weapon as an existential threat to the Jewish state, which would defend itself whatever the consequences.

An Israeli attack on Iran would make any current "crisis" seem minimal.

I suppose much significant history, of a kind that can only be explored very obliquely in "alternative results" essays of the type attempted by Nial Ferguson, occurs when some leader manages to deflect a military crisis.

If Obama can deflect an Israeli attack, it will perhaps be his greatest achievement - but the future will not notice.

UPDATE:. See Jeffrey Goldberg's account of his interview with Netayanhu.

Larry Elliott: Brown won't save our jobs. But he may save his own

Larry Elliott: Brown won't save our jobs. But he may save his own | Comment is free | The Guardian

Crucial passage:

In the long term, Brown's view of the world looks distinctly Panglossian. Nothing in yesterday's summit suggested that the fundamental problem - imbalances in the global economy - is being tackled. Indeed, German and Japan, the countries suffering most in the global downturn, are those that need the strongest growth in domestic demand. Economic policy is now exceptionally loose: if the stimulus is removed too soon there will be a double-dip recession; if central banks and finance ministries wait too long there will be a dangerous burst of inflation.

In the long run we will all be dead or computers will save us. In the medium term a burst of significant inflation will occur. If that is the case, on a personal this would be a time to buy a house on as low a fixed mortgage rate as possible and see the mortgage inflate away in a few years.

Otherwise, Krugerrands.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Dancing Pope advert banned

Dancing Pope advert banned - Telegraph

The Advertising Standards Authority branded the flyer offensive and ordered it to be removed after a complaint by the Ipswich and Suffolk Council for Racial Equality (ISCRE) on behalf of angry Poles and Catholics.

No Comment.

A Brown Comeback?

Gordon Brown did very very well at his televised press conference. It may be the single highest point he will ever has a politician, since I don't think Labour can win the next election.

But it might be able to force a hung parliament. British Parties during elections almost always move closer together. People tell poll takers one thing, but when it comes to vote stick with the familiar.

If house prices begin to improve, and if unemployment remains a bigger problem for already Tory-leaning voters, then perhaps it's just possible that people might decide the Tories have nothing better to offer.

UK Gays Now More Likely to Vote Tory Than Labour (Or LibDem)?

Iain Dale's Diary: Gayers Now More Likely to Vote Tory Than Labour (Or LibDem)

Iain Dale notes that

Gaydar, has published a poll showing that gay people in Britain are, for the first time ever, more likely to vote Tory than for the two other main parties. Here are the results of the poll.

This will cause much gnashing of teeth in the predominantly left wing gay press, but will not come as a surprise to the rest of us, who have always thought gay people as a group ought to find Conservative ideas about liberty and individualism more attractive than the alternatives.

The survey is based on "1,800 gay users of the Gaydar". I don't think that is very reliable as a guide.

Whatever else one thinks of the Labour government, surely all can agree that it massively advanced the social and legal equality of LGBT people. One of David Cameron's signature moves has been to accept this social shift, but it is impossible to think that it would have happened without Labour.

This kind of advancement also only took place elsewhere under Liberal (Canada) or Socialist (most of Europe) parties. Even Sweden's decision yesterday to allow gay marriage faced opposition *only* from the Christian Democrats. I know European Parties don't always map onto British ones, but why don't conservatives ever actively advance gay equality.

If, however, Cameron's Tories call for giving Civil Partnerships the name of civil marriage, and also allow those religious groups that want it to celebrate gay unions in church, I will eat my words.

A Queen's New Ipod

These are the songs on the Queen's new Ipod according to ABC News

"If I Loved You," Jan Clayton, "Carousel"
"You'll Never Walk Alone," Jan Clayton, "Carousel" [Here Shirley Verrit]
"There's No Business Like Show Business," Ethel Merman, "Annie Get Your Gun"
"Once in Love with Amy (Where's Charley?)," Ray Bolger
"Some Enchanted Evening," "South Pacific"
"Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend," Carol Channing, "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes"
"Getting to Know You," Gertrude Lawrence, "The King and I" [Here from the film]
"Shall We Dance?" Gertrude Lawrence, "The King and I" [Here from the film]
"I Could Have Danced All Night," Julie Andrews, "My Fair Lady"
"I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face," Rex Harrison, "My Fair Lady"
"The Party's Over (Bells Are Ringing)," Judy Holliday [Here Faith Prince]
"Maria," "West Side Story"
"Tonight," "West Side Story"
"Seventy Six Trombones," "The Music Man"
"Everything's Coming up Roses," Ethel Merman, "Gypsy"
"The Sound of Music"
"Try to Remember," Jerry Orbach, "The Fantasticks"
"Camelot," Richard Burton
"If Ever I Would Leave You," Robert Goulet, "Camelot"
"Hello, Dolly!" Carol Channing
"If I Were a Rich Man," Zero Mostel, "Fiddler on the Roof"
"People," Barbra Streisand, "Funny Girl"
"On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)," John Cullum [Here Robert Goulet]
"The Impossible Dream," Richard Kiley, "Man of La Mancha"
"Mame," Charles Braswell [Here an amateur performance]
"Cabaret," Liza Minnelli
"Aquarius" Ronald Dyson, "Hair'
"Send in the Clowns," Judy Collins, "A Little Night Music"
"All That Jazz," Chita Rivera, "Chicago"
"One," "A Chorus Line"
"Tomorrow," Andrea McArdle, "Annie"
"Don't Cry for Me Argentina," Patti LuPone, "Evita"
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," Jennifer Holliday, "Dreamgirls"
"Memory," Elaine Paige, "Cats"
"The Best of Times," George Hearn, "La Cage Aux Folles" [Here John Barrowman]
"I Dreamed a Dream," Aretha Franklin, "Les Miserables"
"The Music of the Night," Michael Crawford, "The Phantom of the Opera"
"As If We Never Said Goodbye," Elaine Paige, "Sunset Blvd."
"Seasons of Love," "Rent"

Watch all these, and you can be a queen too!

Yesterday's News

BBC introduces five-minute ‘gay delay’ to avoid causing offence - from Pink News - all the latest gay news from the gay community - Pink News:

The BBC is to implement a new 'gay delay' system which will prevent presenters from landing in hot water over 'homophobic' jokes.

Last week, an Ofcom ruling found Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles in breach of the Broadcasting Code over comments he made about gay singer Will Young.

The new BBC system will impose a five-minute delay between filming and transmission of live television or radio programmes in which a gay tsar will quickly phone LGBT groups to check if a joke is really funny before it is aired.

A BBC spokesman said: 'We are very pleased with the new gay delay system and are confident it will help avoid any offence to the LGBT community while allowing our presenters the freedom to entertain at the same time.

About time.

Dignitas prepares legal challenge over assisted suicide for healthy people | Society |

Dignitas prepares legal challenge over assisted suicide for healthy people | Society |

The founder of a Swiss clinic that has helped hundreds of people with terminal and mental illnesses die said today he was seeking a change to the law to allow his organisation to help healthy people kill themselves.

Ludwig Minelli, whose Dignitas group has helped more than 100 mostly terminally ill Britons to die, told the BBC he planned to test the legality of helping a healthy person end their life alongside their dying partner.

Minelli said Dignitas was preparing a legal challenge in Switzerland to see whether a doctor could write a lethal prescription for someone who is not ill.

'There is a couple living in Canada, the husband is ill, his partner is not ill but she told us here in my living room that, 'If my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him',' he said.

'This will constitute some problem for us, especially also for the Swiss physician and we will now probably go to the courts in order to clear this question.'

Minelli said there should be virtually no restrictions on helping people to kill themselves, describing it as 'a marvellous possibility'.

On the whole I favour legal access to self-adminstered life ending medications for the terminally ill. In Britain we have a typically British half-way house. Opiates will be freely administered to those in pain, and those who accompany family members to Switzerland seem not to be prosecuted. Any such prosecution would face a serious possibility of jury nullification.

The Swiss organistion seems to want to draw a bright line around what is legal, and more or less allow doctors to prescribe drugs for suicide to anyone.

That goes too far. Some lines are better kept fuzzy.

Black Boys are Delicious


The New York Post, gives the details:

Pod save the queen!

Just a few weeks after the new president made gift gaffes in his offerings to the British prime minister, the Obamas extended an iPod to Queen Elizabeth II yesterday.

The engraved digital media device came with video footage of her last visit to the United States and included 40 Broadway show tunes, including 'Aquarius' from 'Hair' and songs from 'Rent' and 'Annie.'[drag version]"

I wonder the Ipod includes Black Boys are Delicious from Hair.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Obama, Brown, and Cameron Today

Jonathan Freedland: Obama was off form, but Brown was still basking | Comment is free |

As for Brown... This was the moment he had been waiting for, at least since Obama's election last November. He had craved this chance, to stand alongside the world's most popular leader; indeed, his strategy for re-election appears to be all but built on it. . So, when Obama praised Brown's "extraordinary initiative and leadership" and then said the world owed him "an extraordinary debt of gratitude", the PM was a picture of delight. Later, just watching Obama speak, apparently in no hurry for the press conference ever to end, Brown leaned on his lectern wearing an expression that he may never before have revealed in public: simple contentment.

I thought Brown looked pretty silly. He really did grin like a Cheshire cat. And it all seemed so misjudged. British voters may like Obama, but they don't associate Brown with Obama, and will not vote for Brown because of Obama.

What made Brown look good today was when David Cameron appeared in the media saying:

"I welcome those countries that can have a fiscal stimulus, that can afford it, then that's good for them, good for the world economy. But everyone should know that countries can only do what countries can afford to do, and the governor of the Bank of England has said that here in Britain we cannot afford a further discretionary stimulus."

This made Cameron simply look even sillier. It may be that there is no solution to this financial crisis, but the only one on offer is applied Keynesianism. Since Keynesian measures failed in Britain the 1970s there are serious reasons for rejecting them. At the moment, however, no one is proposing an alternative approach, and the US has already embarked on the Keynsian gamble. There is no alternative, and Cameron must have come across as a lightweight to Obama.

John Harris: How can the left push organised politics away from the contorted groupthink of Westminster?

John Harris: How can the left push organised politics away from the contorted groupthink of Westminster? | Comment is free |

Clearly, the terms of Westminster argument are absurdly out of synch with the moment: the next election, as things stand, will effectively be a contest between what might be termed Mandelsonism and Osbornism – ideologically speaking, a fight set in the political margin of error. Worse still, while politics outside parliament grows ever more-pluralistic, the Labour party doesn't just cling to monolithic top-downery, but extends it.

Better put than I managed yesterday.

Benedict XVI on Power and Money

Andrew Brown: Pope Benedict XVI is not on the side of the bankers | Comment is free |

The pope speaks well (on this issue at least]

'Finance, commerce and production systems are contingent human creations which, if they become objects of blind faith, bear within themselves the roots of their own downfall. The only true and solid foundation is faith in the human person. For this reason all the measures proposed to rein in this crisis must seek, ultimately, to offer security to families and stability to workers and, through appropriate regulations and controls, to restore ethics to the financial world.'

The Anonymous Liberal: Believing Your Own Propaganda

The Anonymous Liberal: Believing Your Own Propaganda

Obama -- and nearly every other American liberal -- would much rather focus on issues like health care, education, and energy policy, issues they care about and have crafted detailed policy proposals to address. They believe in capitalism and would prefer to govern over a healthy economy in which private industry was humming along and didn't need to be bailed out. How can anyone with any functioning brain cells really believe that Obama wants to spend his time figuring out how save GM? Or that he really wants to have his administration run that company? Honestly, that's just crazy stupid. This is the last thing in the world that Obama would choose to have on his plate. It's a bad situation, with no easy answers.

The God that Failed

David Frum: Lies about me, and the lying liars who tell them - Full Comment

We saw a country divided in two, red states and blue, NASCAR vs. NPR, real America against the phonies in the cities. A movement that had begun as an intellectual one now scornfully pooh-poohed the need for people in government to know anything much at all. But expertise does matter, and the neglect of expertise leads to mismanagement and failure — as we saw in Iraq, in Katrina and in the disregard of warning signals from the financial market. It was under a supposedly pro-market administration that the United States suffered the worst market failure of the post-war era, and that should have sobered us. Instead, we rallied to Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber.

Museum of Bad Art - Wikipedia does April 1st

Museum of Bad Art - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Museum of Bad Art (MOBA) is a privately owned museum whose stated aim is 'to celebrate the labor of artists whose work would be displayed and appreciated in no other forum'.[1] It has two branches, one in Dedham, Massachusetts, United States, and the other in nearby Somerville. Its permanent collection includes 500 pieces of 'art too bad to be ignored', 25 to 35 of which are on public display at any one time.[2]

MOBA was founded in 1994, after antiques dealer Scott Wilson showed a painting he had recovered from the trash to some friends, who suggested starting a collection. Within a year, receptions held in Wilson's friends' home were so well-attended that the collection required its own viewing space. The museum moved to the basement of a theater in Dedham. Explaining the reasoning behind the museum's establishment, co-founder Jerry Reilly said in 1995: 'While every city in the world has at least one museum dedicated to the best of art, MOBA is the only museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting the worst.'[3] To be included in MOBA's collection, works must be original and have serious intent, but they must also have significant flaws without being boring; curators are not interested in displaying art that is deliberately kitsch.

Check the "History" Tab.

Israel may go it alone on Iran strike

Israel may go it alone on Iran strike | The Jewish Chronicle

While the American intelligence community is tearing itself apart in public over the question of whether Iran has accumulated sufficient uranium for a nuclear weapon, a quiet debate is going on behind the scenes in Israel.

Most Israeli intelligence analysts believe Iran is a few months away from the point of no return.

If pro-Israel president George Bush decided not to attack Iran, it is hard to see Barack Obama with his new policy of engaging Iran and the Muslim world ordering a strike. That leaves Israel with an awful dilemma — can it go it alone?

An attack on Iran will almost certainly cause a chain reaction in which proxies Hizbollah and Hamas will use Iranian-supplied weapons to engage the IDF on two fronts.

It's just odd this is getting so little UK coverage.

A Coming War with Iran

Wars, especially spectacular wars, have a way of blowing all other press stories out of the sphere of political discussion.

So what are we to make of the persistent rumours in the US that some kind of war with Iran is in the offing. Over the past year Andrew Sullivan, who is not everyone's cup of tea, seems to have shifted his long term support of Israeli policy. He was upset with the pictures that came out of Gaza, but he seems just as upset as the stories he is getting from the neocon right, about Israeli efforts to induce such a war.

If this happens, all other political bets are off.

Patient died after woman blocked ambulance with her car in dispute over shared driveway

Patient died after woman blocked ambulance with her car in dispute over shared driveway | Mail Online

Labour, Tory, or Lib Dem Voter?

First April Fools Day Story

Twitter switch for Guardian, after 188 years of ink | Media | The Guardian

Consolidating its position at the cutting edge of new mediatechnology, the Guardian today announces that it will become the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter, the sensationally popular social networking service that has transformed online communication.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A reason to get buried

Artist's cremation creations |

One painter has built up what you might call a significant body of art – by using the ashes of loved ones her clients have lost.

Val Thompson adds the secret ingredient to her paint to create a unique, personalised and lasting tribute.

She just mixes it in, adding another dash 'to help build up a bit of texture on the canvas'.

Sikh and ye shall not mind

Ship of Fools: Features

Like it or lump it, the BBC has dumped its Christian head of religion without reason, while the flagship devotional programme, Songs of Praise, is now in the safe, sympathetic hands of a Sikh producer.

I don't really have strong feelings about a Sikh producer for Songs of Praise. But I do like Ship of Fools' alternate selections to run BBC religious programming:

-Fred Goodwin
-Richard Dawkins
-Eric Idle
-Terry Sanderson

Planning for a Labour Defeat

It is now incomprehensible to imagine Labour will win the next UK general election.

Quite apart from the typical ageing of governments, Labour in government has lost its way in the UK. It has become a centralising, freedom averse, party with few links to its natural bases, and no idea how these natural bases are changing.

Unlike the Democrats in the US, Labour does not have to fear losing the working class. Its support there is challenged more by the BNP than the Tories, and the BNP will not take seats. Apathy among the working class might.

But it also has to have the support of the decent (i.e. non Thatcherite) middle and upper middle class. They want, like the college-educated mass in the US, to support a social democratic party which also respects the life of the mind, and the standard liberties aspired to by all educated people.

Nobody, not the workers nor the degree holders, want a hectoring bunch of post student politicians who always seem to start from a holier than thou "it's just common sense to [restrict XXX freedom]".

At this stage the best strategy for real left of center people must be to a) make sure no destructive Tories get in ( hard this - Cameron and Gove are OKish, Osborne still looks like his Bullingdon picture), and plan and hope that there is time for a quick Labour revival. Clearly Labour is planning to attack the Tories on a class basis, but that does not really work when you have spent 12 years telling people that being working class is something to be ashamed of.

The entire centralizing "aspirational" "stakeholding" "incredibly comfortable with huge salaries" team needs to go. And go quickly.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Rep. John Shimkus: God decides when the "earth will end"

YouTube - Rep. John Shimkus: God decides when the "earth will end"

A complete nutter. Unfortunately this man is one of the 435 people who make up the US House of Representatives.

Via Andrew Sullivan

Enough for 3000 Joints!

Afarensis: 2,700 Year Old Cannabis sativa Discovered

The burial at Tomb M90

The burial is that of a 45 year old male. The grave goods included bridles, archery equipment, a harp, a leather basket, and a wooden bowl. Both the basket and the bowl were filled with vegetative matter - about 789 grams (~ 1 pound 11 ounces). Radiocarbon dating was performed and a calibrated date of 2,700 years BP was returned. Analysis of the vegetative material indicated it was Cannabis sativa.

Via Andrew Sullivan

For Top Colleges, Economy Has Not Reduced Interest (or Made Getting in Easier)

For Top Colleges, Economy Has Not Reduced Interest (or Made Getting in Easier) - The Choice Blog -

The interesting issue for American academics is that this has had no impact on the difficulty new Ph.Ds have in getting a job,or getting decent pay once in a job.

What are all these students going to do?

Study communications and buy papers written for $10 a page by people in India?

I taught some really GREAT students at the so-called low level University of North Florida. There were some timeservers for sure, but among the graduate students I had there were some of the most committed, serious, and able students I ever met.

And my own schools were Edinburgh, London, and Fordham. [For medieval history unbeatable.]

The Problem with Economists

Paul Krugman - America the Tarnished -

I like Paul Krugman in general, but this statement today shows everything that is wrong with economists:

Like many other economists, I’ve been revisiting the Great Depression, looking for lessons that might help us avoid a repeat performance. And one thing that stands out from the history of the early 1930s is the extent to which the world’s response to crisis was crippled by the inability of the world’s major economies to cooperate.

The complete ahistoricism is astounding. Economics must, at some level, be about the interaction between money AND peoples motivations, expectations, and experiences in life.

These are now all so different from, for example, the 1930s, that the only possible constant would have to be some notion of fiscal system or monetary exchange. Value and how we assign value are are all so different in sociological and psychological terms (even within select economies) that comparisons are pointless.

Economics is less a science than a way of talking about the past with some numbers thrown in.

Now for something completely different. Pub is closed by Monty Python hand grenade | Mail Online

Now for something completely different. Pub is closed by Monty Python hand grenade | Mail Online

Bomb disposal experts failed to see the funny side when when they rushed to disarm a suspicious object only for it to be the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch made famous by Monty Python.

Police evacuated several buildings, cordoned off a street and called in explosives specialists after water company workers stumbled on the film prop under a fire hydrant cover in Shoreditch, east London.

But the dangerous-looking weapon turned out to be the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch that featured in the 1975 film Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

Officers had evacuated a pub and another building, while office staff in another building were stopped from leaving.

But when the bomb squad arrived, they quickly established there was no danger and the street was declared safe.

In the film, the grenade was used to slaughter a killer rabbit. Python actor Eric Idle had filmgoers in stitches as he said: 'Oh Lord. Bless this hand grenade, that with it thou mayest blow thine enemies to tiny bits, in thy mercy.'

Alberto Romanelli, who owns the Windmill pub nearby, said the police action in ordering his pub to be evacuated had been as ridiculous as the film scene.

'They evacuated the pub while they were doing X-rays and stuff,' he said.

'It all lasted about 45 minutes before they decided it was nothing - which I thought was pretty obvious from the start. I lost a good hour's worth of business.'

Emma Eve, a training centre receptionist, said: 'It was scary. They wouldn't let us out of the building.' Office worker Graham White said: 'The situation was nearly as crazy as the film.'

Former Python Michael Palin, who appeared in the film, said: 'Our Holy Hand Grenade was fictional and there were no plans for creating one. We don't want to add to the armaments of the world.'

Obama and the G20

Michael Tomasky: Obama and the G20 | Comment is free |

We American liberals are engaged in a massive conspiracy not to say so outright, but pssst: We're hoping that the G20 will the lead the world toward a more social-democratic model of governance and financial regulation.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Home secretary Jacqui Smith embarrassed by new expenses row | Politics |

Home secretary Jacqui Smith embarrassed by new expenses row | Politics |

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, apologised today for an expenses claim which included adult films watched by her husband Richard Timney.

Smith said she mistakenly submitted an expenses claim which included five pay-per-view films, including two adult movies which were viewed at her family home in her Redditch constituency.

The �67 Virgin Media bill was submitted last June as part of Smith's expenses. It included two 18-rated features, each costing �5, which were viewed on 1 April and 6 April last year.

I think it shocking that Mr. Timney did not know there is free porn all over the internet.

Obama Will Face a Defiant World on Foreign Visit -

Great Picture.

Blue Eyed Greed?

Op-Ed Columnist - Blue Eyed Greed? -

As international lunacy goes, it was hard to beat the pope saying that condoms spread AIDS.

But Brazil’s president, known simply as Lula, gave it his best shot.

At a press conference Thursday in Brasilia with Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Britain — who has a talent for getting himself into dicey spots — Lula started off coughing from some cheese bread he’d wolfed down. Then he suddenly turned accusatory.

“This crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who before the crisis appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing,” charged the brown-eyed, bearded socialist president.

I think the Pope did worse than Lula.

What's new?

Despite Red Flags, Judges Ran Kickback Scheme for Years -

“The judge’s whim is all that mattered in that courtroom,” said Marsha Levick, the legal director of the Juvenile Law Center, a child advocacy organization in Philadelphia, which began raising concerns about the court to state authorities in 1999. “The law was basically irrelevant.”

Judges ruin more lives and with less self-reflection than drug dealers.