Archive for September, 2003

And blogging whilst they’re at it

Appledore Shipbuilders in North Devon is under threat of closure. Receivers were appointed today. For the last few days, the work force has been occupying the yard in a so-called work-in. These are the lot who were demonstrating at the Labour conference yesterday. (Given that the MOD was apparently considering splitting an order for offshore patrol craft between Vosper Thornycroft in Portsmouth and Appledore – one hopes they may be swayed to make a gesture for party unity..) This is now a featured blog. Good luck.


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The archives are back.

Data Reveal Inaccuracies in Portrayal of Iraqis (

Sorry for the Washpost burst, but I feel I should share with you the fact that 55% of Baghdadis have a good impression of France and only 29% have of the US.

Well, it is the cradle of civilisation.

Iraq, 9/11 Still Linked By Cheney (

No, “Dead” Dick Cheney won’t admit it – he still keeps talking about mystery meetings between Mohammed Atta and Iraqis in Prague even after the CIA, the FBI and Czech intelligence have admitted they had the wrong man. It’s a curious feature of the world, but one we see all the time, that a policy or belief is at its most dangerous and offensive after it has been discredited. Once it was believed. Then experts and radical weirdos began to speak out. Now, the world finally accepts it. But this is when the quasi-religious phase, the phase of absurdity, kicks in: those involved now find it necessary to make regular public declarations of belief and to demand it from others. It may only be a matter of time or procedure before change is achieved, but such things tend to be enforced and proselytised more strongly than ever before in this period. Examples – the Stability and (no) Growth Pact – Romano Prodi thinks it should be called the Stupidity Pact, every reputable economist laughs at it, France and Germany ignore it; but the commissioner responsible still finds it necessary to rant about vast fines. The Iraq Survey Group – there’s another. Dead ideas are very bad for you, generally – the Conservatives have never got over the idea of somehow having another, little European Union where Britain would be Top Nation and nobody would have to obey any treaties (but the free trade privileges would still be upheld). Although this has been well dead ever since the Nordics joined the EU, the ghost still walks. People like David Heathcoat-Amory nurse Napoleonic fantasies of an anti-Europe Europe of Britain – wait for it – Sweden and Denmark! as well as…er….some of the new members (who have all committed to membership in the EU and the Euro). And this is why Iain Duncan Smith is going to stand up on a platform at the “Rally for a Referendum” next to an obscure Danish woman whose recent pronouncements include “Muslims have a taste for mass rape” (what – even the women?). Great stuff.

Bush Aides Say They’ll Cooperate With Probe Into Intelligence Leak (

“Wilson said that in the week after the Novak column appeared, several journalists told him that the White House was trying to call attention to his wife, apparently hoping to undermine his credibility by implying he had received the Niger assignment only because his wife had suggested the mission and recommended him for the job.

“Each of the reporters quoted the White House official as using some variation on, ‘The real story isn’t the 16 words. The real story is Wilson and his wife,’ ” Wilson said. “The time frame led me to deduce that the White House was continuing to try to push this story.”

Well – it couldn’t happen in Britain, could it? Could Joseph Wilson, the former ambassador who debunked the stories about uranium from Niger, be Bush’s Dr.K?

What the hell?

Link to report

It is reported that many of the ships chartered by the MoD to transport the Army to Kuwait for the war against Iraq were very dodgy indeed – up to and including the one that was detained by coastguards before it could leave on grounds of safety. This is very un-fantastic news: the military have always used chartered transports, going back beyond the Spanish Armada, and there is a word for it – stuft, or Ships Taken Up From Trade.

For the Falklands, the navy had to mobilise a huge concourse of merchant shipping ranging from the liners Canberra and QE2, vast container ships like the ill-fated Atlantic Conveyor and oil tankers down to trawlers. The P&O ro-ro ferry MV Elk carried so much ammunition that the effect of a direct hit on her in San Carlos would have been “comparable to a nuclear warhead” in the opinion of the amphibious warfare chief of the time, Commodore Michael Clapp. On the way, the civilian sailors of the merchantmen had to work out how to replenish at sea, unload into landing craft and survive under air attack – Conveyor was refuelled south of Ascension Island by the Fleet tanker Tidepool, a ship almost as huge, with the civilian vessel acting as guide. One has to wonder how well – say – MV Johnny, a Greek owned but Maltese flagged vessel detained by the authorities whilst loading for Iraq for a total of 27 safety breaches would have got on. But as usual, the government found nothing at all wrong with hiring a ship on the coastguards’ blacklist and even less wrong with breaching its declared policy of opposing more flagging-out. (Did they tell John Prescott?)

RIP Bar Room Philosophy

One of our partner blogs, the first ever to link to the Ranter, this fine institution has ceased to be. Meanwhile, problems continue with our RSS service. The Confined Space feed still won’t update, and our own feed returns meaningless error messages.


A prison-grim story.