Archive for December, 2005

…more right-wing than you can imagine. Think about it – here we have a character who having paffled through the election campaign saying that Tory foreign policy has to be about more than Zimbabwe and Gibraltar, but has just made William Hague his shadow foreign secretary. Hague’s brief is apparently to “target Jacques Chirac”.

How insane is this? Target him with what precisely? To what end? Wouldn’t it be better to target the Labour Party? Seriously, he seems to think that he is campaigning in a French election. Now, I remember Hague babbling about Britain being “a foreign land”, but I didn’t realise Hague’s response to this would be to inner-emigrate to France. Does he think Jacques Chirac knows who he is? Given the state of the EU budget talks, a fit of anti-French ranting backed (no doubt) by the tabloids would do more to strengthen Tony Blair’s bargaining position than anything else, a curious aim for an opposition.

Billy Hague’s judgment has never been great, something conventional wisdom tends to overlook in favour of assuming it was all to do with his looks. He never got over the impression that his party thought a Labour government was a bizarre workplace accident and didn’t take it seriously, except for a sub-set of madmen who were convinced the sky was about to fall in. His initial centre-ground strategy failed due to a serious lack of commitment and policy ideas; except for donning a baseball cap, who remembers any policies of his that went in that direction? He then swung over to the hard right, chiefly I think because it was easy, forgetting that Blair was quite happy to see the Conservative Party celebrating its tribal hard-rightness. He lined up with some very odd people, drank too much dotcom koolaid (he was still going on about funding universities from radio spectrum licensing after the 3G auctions were over and it was abundantly clear no-one would ever pay those sums again), and went ape by falling in love with fascist killer Tony Martin.

Now he is convinced that, far from being in opposition, he is actually the real foreign secretary. Chirac, if asked, would probably think you were talking about the nuclear reprocessing plant at La Hague in Normandy. Which is quite accurate: Cameron’s cabinet looks like an industrial facility for the reprocessing of spent political fuel rods. Here we have Francis Maude, a man whose record of continuous failure since 1997 does not seem to be any bar to his continuous promotion. Here David Davis, slowly twisting in the wind. Here Dr Death, Liam Fox, whose continued failure since 1997 awards him the defence portfolio and the title of Maximum Leader of the Tory Right. Cazart! Is that Oliver Letwin? Even Iain Duncan Smith has the chairmanship of a committee. For a Young! Modernising! influence, they all seem terribly familiar figures.

But the real problem is the man himself. He quit politics in 1994 to become Director of Corporate Affairs at Carlton Communications, a TV channel remembered in the joke that “we are entering the age of narrowcasting, of hundreds of specialised channels instead of a few general ones like BBC1 that everyone watches. For example, there’s Sky Sports for sport, the History Channel for documentaries about Nazis, and then there’s Carlton for utter shit..” The joke points out a deeper truth. Remember “narrowcasting”? Remember hundreds of TV channels? Remember when that was the future? Yup, that’s right – 1994. Next year the Web happened as a mass phenomenon and the tellycrats have been feebly trying to keep up in terms of ideas ever since. Well, David Cameron did something similar. He spent the years 1994-2001 as a glorified PR man for a fourth-rate TV channel, then returned to politics…and he hasn’t changed a bit.

He is quite evidently convinced that PR, earnest and slightly posh public speaking, looks out of Lisa Simpson’s favourite magazine Non-Threatening Boys, and utter intellectual blankness is still the New New Thing. Tony Blair is still the Modern Age for Cameron, not a tired pre-internet model one step from the scrapheap and two steps from the ultimate cultural death, nostalgia. It took time, but it became clear with Blair that, when the veneer of telly wore through, there was something ugly, writhing and dripping from its leathery fangs. It won’t take five minutes with Cameron; the antibodies have been produced.

His failure, by the way, began at his first PMQs when he turned on Hilary Armstrong. Apparently those present thought it was a good performance. I disagree. He came across as even more arrogant than Tony Blair, some feat, and more of a bully. “Has she finished? HEV YOU FINISHED?” Christ, it’s a stretch to imagine Boris Johnson gaining votes anywhere but Henley, but this was forty times worse. He sounded and looked like the most obnoxious and boorish pub poshster you’ve ever met. Most people have had this experience at least once, and it’s not a good association to trigger.

Physicists at the University of Cape Town have invented a way of printing out photovoltaic cells (solar panels, but the phrase doesn’t fit here) on paper. The point is to produce solar gear that is cheap above all”; Professor David Britton, its inventor, argues that people who can’t afford to buy the conventional panels, which are far from cheap even by western standards, could pay for a couple of them every year. The process involves layering the contacts and semiconductors onto paper using an inkjet printer, and an A2-sized poster should produce 100 watts of electricity.

This is absurdly cool, especially in-context. Around Cape Town, in the townships, one sign of progress in the ANC’s original aims is the mass of new electricity cables being run out to hook up the people to the grid. It seems a pity, starting from scratch, not to put in renewable power. This might do it, and it also reminds of a very important question: if anything serious is to be achieved in replacing environmentally stupid technology with better technology, we need to break the notion of “green” as a lifestyle option for annoying rich people. It has to be open to the working class.

Physicists at the University of Cape Town have invented a way of printing out photovoltaic cells (solar panels, but the phrase doesn’t fit here) on paper. The point is to produce solar gear that is cheap above all”; Professor David Britton, its inventor, argues that people who can’t afford to buy the conventional panels, which are far from cheap even by western standards, could pay for a couple of them every year. The process involves layering the contacts and semiconductors onto paper using an inkjet printer, and an A2-sized poster should produce 100 watts of electricity.

This is absurdly cool, especially in-context. Around Cape Town, in the townships, one sign of progress in the ANC’s original aims is the mass of new electricity cables being run out to hook up the people to the grid. It seems a pity, starting from scratch, not to put in renewable power. This might do it, and it also reminds of a very important question: if anything serious is to be achieved in replacing environmentally stupid technology with better technology, we need to break the notion of “green” as a lifestyle option for annoying rich people. It has to be open to the working class.

Operation Firedump

Earlier this week, the US Department of the Treasury’s order to freeze the assets of a variety of Viktor Bout companies was extended to the entire world by the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee. All assets belonging to the persons and organisations named in this list are now subject to confiscation anywhere in the world.

The list is, certainly, a little out of date. Several of the operating companies listed have ceased activity, and there is no mention of Phoenix Aviation, Jet Line International, or Aerocom among others. (The delay between the US Treasury’s action and this action is apparently due to the time it took the Office of Foreign Assets Control to pass on documents to the UN, that and Russian objections to the inclusion of Viktor’s brother, Sergei, founder of Air Bas and CET Aviation.) However, a non-trivial number of aircraft continue to fly in the name of firms named by the UN.

This leaves two lines of action: one, to identify the newer firms, and two, to make the UN blacklist a reality. It’s time to find these aircraft and demand their seizure. All bloggers are invited to mirror this and help land them on the fire dump, which is where most of these planes will end up given their age and general condition.

The list is currently as follows, correct as of today:

UN-76497, Ilyushin 76-D. Serial number 43402039. This is probably the aircraft referred to in the UN list with MoldTransavia, and is now with GST Aero, repeatedly referred to in UNSC Expert Panel reports. It was also involved in the events detailed here. The most recent photo is here.

SANTA CRUZ IMPERIAL

EL-AHO, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 183006205.

EL-ASC, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 3340909.
EL-ASJ, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 402112 (doubtful)
EL-AHT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 6004 (doubtful)
EL-ALC, Antonov 26A. Serial number 87307104.
EL-ALT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 17311805.

No recent photos available.

IRBIS AIR COMPANY

UN-42428, Yakovlev 42D. Serial number 45204223046. Recent photo here.
(Leased to Sudan Airways, believed operating to Iraq)
UN-75002, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 185008603. Recent photo here.
UN-75003, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 184006903. Recent photo here.
UN-75004, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 186009202. Not very recent photo here.
UN-75005, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 187010204. Recent photo here.
UN-26582, Antonov 26B. Serial number 47313504. No photo since 2002.
(Leased to Ariana Afghan Airlines)

AIR BAS

3C-KKO, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 1901706 (No photos available)

GAMBIA NEW MILLENIUM

C5-GNM, Ilyushin 62M. Serial number 3036142. Recent photo here.

SAN AIR GENERAL TRADING

3C-QRF, BAC-111. Serial number 61. Not very recent photo here. (Operated for SAGT, owned Jetline International)

TRANS AVIATION GLOBAL

UN-B7201, Boeing 727. Serial number 22045. Recent photo here.
UN-B2707, Boeing 727F. Serial number 21861. No photos yet.
UN-B****, Boeing 727. Serial number 22046. Recent photo here.

Notes: Most of the Santa Cruz aircraft are probably beyond finding, but even negative information is worth having. Air Bas has largely been closed down at least as aircraf t registration is concerned – 3C-KKO is the last known active aircraft in their name. 727 no. 22046 was last seen undergoing considerable engineering work and may not look much like its photo.

What you can do: 1). Mirror this post. 2) If and when a plane is located, tell the world. 3) Demand its confiscation – try the civil aviation authority of the country in question. Post what you said, and the contact for the person you said it to. 4) Encourage others to do so.

Operation Firedump

Earlier this week, the US Department of the Treasury’s order to freeze the assets of a variety of Viktor Bout companies was extended to the entire world by the UN Security Council’s sanctions committee. All assets belonging to the persons and organisations named in this list are now subject to confiscation anywhere in the world.

The list is, certainly, a little out of date. Several of the operating companies listed have ceased activity, and there is no mention of Phoenix Aviation, Jet Line International, or Aerocom among others. (The delay between the US Treasury’s action and this action is apparently due to the time it took the Office of Foreign Assets Control to pass on documents to the UN, that and Russian objections to the inclusion of Viktor’s brother, Sergei, founder of Air Bas and CET Aviation.) However, a non-trivial number of aircraft continue to fly in the name of firms named by the UN.

This leaves two lines of action: one, to identify the newer firms, and two, to make the UN blacklist a reality. It’s time to find these aircraft and demand their seizure. All bloggers are invited to mirror this and help land them on the fire dump, which is where most of these planes will end up given their age and general condition.

The list is currently as follows, correct as of today:

UN-76497, Ilyushin 76-D. Serial number 43402039. This is probably the aircraft referred to in the UN list with MoldTransavia, and is now with GST Aero, repeatedly referred to in UNSC Expert Panel reports. It was also involved in the events detailed here. The most recent photo is here.

SANTA CRUZ IMPERIAL

EL-AHO, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 183006205.

EL-ASC, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 3340909.
EL-ASJ, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 402112 (doubtful)
EL-AHT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 6004 (doubtful)
EL-ALC, Antonov 26A. Serial number 87307104.
EL-ALT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 17311805.

No recent photos available.

IRBIS AIR COMPANY

UN-42428, Yakovlev 42D. Serial number 45204223046. Recent photo here.
(Leased to Sudan Airways, believed operating to Iraq)
UN-75002, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 185008603. Recent photo here.
UN-75003, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 184006903. Recent photo here.
UN-75004, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 186009202. Not very recent photo here.
UN-75005, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 187010204. Recent photo here.
UN-26582, Antonov 26B. Serial number 47313504. No photo since 2002.
(Leased to Ariana Afghan Airlines)

AIR BAS

3C-KKO, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 1901706 (No photos available)

GAMBIA NEW MILLENIUM

C5-GNM, Ilyushin 62M. Serial number 3036142. Recent photo here.

SAN AIR GENERAL TRADING

3C-QRF, BAC-111. Serial number 61. Not very recent photo here. (Operated for SAGT, owned Jetline International)

TRANS AVIATION GLOBAL

UN-B7201, Boeing 727. Serial number 22045. Recent photo here.
UN-B2707, Boeing 727F. Serial number 21861. No photos yet.
UN-B****, Boeing 727. Serial number 22046. Recent photo here.

Notes: Most of the Santa Cruz aircraft are probably beyond finding, but even negative information is worth having. Air Bas has largely been closed down at least as aircraf t registration is concerned – 3C-KKO is the last known active aircraft in their name. 727 no. 22046 was last seen undergoing considerable engineering work and may not look much like its photo.

What you can do: 1). Mirror this post. 2) If and when a plane is located, tell the world. 3) Demand its confiscation – try the civil aviation authority of the country in question. Post what you said, and the contact for the person you said it to. 4) Encourage others to do so.

Touroterrorism

Al-Qa’ida as a branch of the hotel industry, from Jamie Kenny.

Which made me laugh. I’ve just got back from a GSM conference in Cape Town, and no doubt I’ll get around to posting something worthy about leapfrog development and the like in the next days, but at the moment I feel like cheap laughs at the expense of others.

I shared a hotel with the world’s supply of German travel agents, who had been invited there by some local authority in a transparent effort at bribing them into sending more Germans to the Cape, on the pretext of some sort of conference (notice a pattern?). As is not uncommon, the real point was the extra-curricular activity. Part of the show was a bus tour of the city, including an opportunity to gawp at the poor in the township sprawl of the Cape Flats. Somewhere in Khayelitsha, the two buses stopped so that the travel agents could take photos of some “traditional dancers”.

And then, of course, they were invited to stand and deliver at the pistol’s point. Having been relieved of money, jewellery and (of course) mobile phones in an orderly fashion, the tourists and the bus driver, who was also robbed, were released with contemptuous indulgence, in their vehicles. I don’t know about you, but I find the whole story suspiciously neat, especially as the tour guide (who unlike the bus driver wasn’t mentioned as having lost anything) only seems to have had one name (“Sonja”). After all, how did they know they were coming? Hell, the probability of stumbling on robbers at random even there can’t be that high.

You could market it – the authentic Khayelitsha shakedown. The pictures will astonish your friends and the apres-robbery party back at the hotel is legendary.

In more serious news from the crime beat, Ilyushin IL-76TD ER-IBE, serial number 43454615, formerly of Aerocom, Asterias Commercial, and now with Jet Line International, has been down at CPT all week in a rather smart red-white livery that would gladden Jack White’s heart, or at least his record-company stylist’s.

The joy of search

I am the No.1 result on Google for “botulism anorak”, immediately ahead of this amusing site. I’m also a hit for dubai dominatrix, if a long way down the Yahoo! rankings.

More interestingly, someone on the Government Secure Intranet googled tom kelly guardian iraq visit private. I’m result number three. Interestingly, again, one “Tony Evans” at News International, specifically Times Supplements, searched for “mohammed atta” and “martin amis” from IP address 143.252.1.30 and landed here. Martin, your lawyer is on the line…

The LA Times, a frequent reader of this blog, reports that the Kurds are cutting their own deals to explore for oil, and the Iraqi central government are Not Happy. After all, they have every reason not to be, given the burning issue of how the oil revenue from the existing oilfields is distributed – the Kurds developing a source of revenue outside that would be a serious destabilising force within the Shia-Kurdish alliance. (Remember that the two key bastions of the coalition in Iraq are the British troops in southern Iraq covering the logistical point-of-entry, and the alliance between the Kurds and SCIRI, which restricts the possibility of a coup attempt and rules out Turkish intervention up north.)

Strangely, the LAT article makes no mention at all of Heritage Oil’s exploration & production interests in Kurdistan, as reported here three months ago, not even in the light of the Aegis Defence video scandal.

Weird, though. I go away for a few days and Iraq-related sleaze is pouring out everywhere. Death squads. Torture. Journalists paid to print propaganda, by Republican Party hacks. It’s like the crap-dam just burst. What it implies, I suspect, is that the second-tier officials who know where the bodies are buried just felt it dawn on them what an epic, criminal blunder they are implicated in. Now, they are all sitting around watching each other, hoping to be the first to rat and getting ready to leap for the hatch or start stabbing once anyone else makes a move.