Sunday 18th March
Yesterday I explained how I was able, in principle, to track down the anonymice and other pestilential pseudos who were leaving obnoxious comments on blogs within our small community ( at any rate, those using a certain hit counter). I mentioned (in passing )that since announcing what I was doing, the problem has disappeared, although that did not stop Bill Taylor and Richard of Orléans claiming I was the perpetrator, and was simply "covering my tracks". How charming, especially as we now know that Bill Taylor was all the time trolling under the name of "Lacombe Lucien", and remaining quiet when Richard of Orléans accused me of being "SH", "anonyhamster," and, guess who, "Lacombe Lucien". For the record, I repeat, once more, that I am none of these, and have not used a pseudonym at all in 2007, except for the one occasion on Sarah's blog (already mentioned) when I entered a conversation on "toxic relatives" as "Anonymous" to encourage (successfully I might add) a particular anonymouse to reveal themselves, long enough to track them down (to Ottawa), and to announce their cover was blown. We've seen no more of that particular presence , whom I suspect (but cannot prove) to be using the same computer as "Anne Gilbert". He/she too has been making themselves scarce since I've been tracking.
Hopefully, the malicious type of anonymouse is now a thing of the past. But for me, that is academic. I myself have withdrawn from personal blogging. Why ? Because I don't take kindly to having my protestations of innocence thrown back in my face. I don't like being stitched up. I don't like being demonised. I don't like the community remaining silent when Bill Taylor and Richard of Orléans spread their malicious lies and poison. In short, I consider the blogging community that developed initially on Colin Randall's Telly blog to be dysfunctional, and no longer wish to be associated with it. Sorry, but that's the naked truth, and there's no sense beating about the bush.
So it's now for others to take the baton where self-policing of blogs are concerned. Here, for convenience, are the links to use if you want to monitor who is visiting two of the blogs, Sarah's and Louise's . If a hostile comment appears, then by looking at the time, and referring to the visitor log, you can usually pin it down, if not on the first occasion, certainly after two or three when a clear unequivocal pattern is established.
I have added my own to the list, purely for archival purposes, but it no longer accepts comments, for reasons stated, although I'm still contactable by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
I emailed Colin Randall, a while ago, suggesting that he should install the same hit counter on Salut, or make his own "open access", since I suspect that it offers the same features. I have yet to receive a reply.
Saturday 17th March
Last updated 13:20
Today's posting will be built up in stages. Hopefully it should not take more than a day, but I shall make a start now while most folk are in their beds (apologies though to N. American visitors).
The first thing to notice is that there's a new graphic at the top. It's a log of visitors to this site, up till about 40 minutes ago, when I did a screen capture, and then cropped to size.
I would draw your attention to No.5 in the list, "rogers.com", who logged on to Dreams & Daemons at 10.25 pm French time. I shall be having quite a lot to say about that particular visitor. It's the computer belonging to Bill Taylor, aka "Lacombe Lucien".
It's largely on account of the hostile comments appearing on blogs from "Lacombe Lucien" , as well as the activities (at least in the past) of the pseudos and anonymice, that I have felt obliged to track visitors not only to my site, but to others that have the same embedded tracking software. Yes, some of you may not be aware, but simply by installing particular brands of hit counter on one's computer, one can track visitors to one's site, and also allow others to do so, if left in open-access mode. I first spotted one these enhanced hit-counters on Sarah's blog, when clicking on her Stat counter. It's still there (please don't uninstall, Sarah, at least not yet). I then installed it on mine - it's the plain yellow one at the bottom of this page. And I notice that it's recently appeared on Louise's blog too. Again, please don't uninstall Louise. I'm trying to perform a public service, whatever others might say ......
Click on the counter and up pops a simple summary sheet. But for real detail, click on the items in the margin, under the heading "Recent Visitors" and you get the graphic shown above. To find out more about each visitor, click on the number that shows their ranking in the list, eg 5 for rogers.com. You'll be amazed at the amount of information there, right down to their ISP and operating system.
To be continued
Update: Saturday 17th March 15:20
Having signed-off (so to speak) on Louise's blog earlier today, reiterating that I have now withdrawn completely from personal blogging, the following comment was added by Bill Taylor:
"My only comment here is to repeat something I said a couple of weeks ago: This guy has problems. He'll be happier behind his own little Iron Curtain. But I wonder who else will fail to re-emerge? "
3/17/2007 1:34 PM
Here we see the Toronto Star journalist in his Mr. Hyde mode, deploying his Joseph Goebbels-like skills to the full.
"The guy has problems" is the classic retreat for someone who's bankrupt of arguments. The reference to the Iron Curtain is also revealing (almost Freudian one might say, while we are in this psychiatric vein): the old Soviet Union did not pack its political dissidents off to jail. Oh no, far too crude. They admitted them instead to psychiatric wards.
Yes Bill Taylor: it's clear that you are now in full ex-tabloid journalist mode, lacing your prose with the weasel words. But let's not dwell on this aspect of your craft. It's the last comment that needs addressing briefly: "But I wonder who else will fail to re-emerge?".
This is your dog-eared old trump card, isn't it: that all the anonymice/pseudos that were plagueing blogs until about a month ago ( which promptly ceased when I announced I was tracking) were me, yours truly, even the highly malicious ones that were making threats, notably against yourself. And while I was rushing to your defence, what were you doing, Bill Taylor ? Why, you were posting hostile comments to my blog under the pseudonym "Lacombe Lucien".
Lacombe Lucien said...
THIS SITE TO BE DEMOLISHED Tenders are invited to pull down this unsightly eyesore
28/2/07 8:59 PM
And when your side-kick, the Toxic Anglo-Saxon , picking up your refrain, accused me of being said Lacombe, you remained silent, a clear attempt on your part to stitch me up, the pair of you.
I'll deal with that pathetic warped specimen of humanity later. It's you I'm focusing on right now, given your shameless weasel words today on Louise's blog. You are a very clever, calculating , sinister operator, Bill Taylor, accusing others of the very anti-social thing in which you yourself are engaged. You try to present me as an internet troll, when all the time it's you who's been engaging in the cloak and dagger stuff. What does that make you, Bill Taylor ? I'll tell you: a schmuck and a hypocrite to boot.
Is there anything you would like to say now in your defence, Bill Taylor, while I take a break and compose my thoughts on the sheer obnoxiousness of your internet presence ?
Here again is my email address: email@example.com
2nd Update: Friday 16th March
Blogger is playing up: this is the second attempt to update, having lost everything last time !
Robert Colville's Telly blog is entitled "Why laziness rules the world". Skipping the lost intro, here's my tuppenceworth:
"Estate and letting agents are my particular bugbear. I once switched estate agents after the first one, with sole agency, kept telling me the market was slow, and not to expect obtaining my full asking price. The new agent agreed to me RAISING the price substantially, and, guess what, found a buyer within days !
But we weren't so lucky 3 years ago. The sole agent - a national chain- said the property had stuck, and finally found a buyer who offered a price at the bottom of our range. But we later learned that the agent had provided the buyer with a mortgage (no doubt earning a nice introduction/administration fee at our expense). What is more, our suspicions that the buyer was a speculator were confirmed in short order: the new owner did an immediate loft conversion, and sold the property after less than 2 years to a buy-to-let merchant. There are now 5 different residents in the one building, with no parking space for at least two.
So despite paying my agent thousands of pounds to obtain the best price, I suspect the house was sold to a known speculator for far less than its true value.
What is more I know three people, two of them close relatives, whose houses have stuck, and who finally caved in to proposals from the agent to "take it off their hands" for a fraction of the asking price. In two cases, the areas then immediately became property hotspots due to big redevelopment plans which probably only the estate agent knew about at the time.
Moral: if you think your house is taking too long to sell, and you are being asked to lower your expectations, then smell a rat, and be quite ruthless in dumping the agent, and finding a new one. Just watch the tie-in period that you sign up to. If they say three months for sole agency, tell them 6 weeks maximum, or you will look elsewhere.
Letting agents? I'll save that one for another day, once I can find the blood pressure pills."
Update: Friday 16th March
Your View in today's Telly invites views on Tessa Jowell's confirmation that the cost of staging the 2012 London Olympics has now spiralled to well over £9 billion - three times what we were originally told when the bid was entered. That's unbelievable - even for this bunch of incompetents and shysters who rule over us. Here's what I've just submitted:
"We the taxpayer/London Council Tax payer/ National Lottery player have all been conned, big time. So scrap the London Olympics NOW. Give the Games to Paris, while there's still time. Spend the 9 billion pounds where they are needed - hospitals, schools, Armed Forces, transport. Anywhere except speculators' paradise, north of Stratford. When will this squandering of billions of taxpayers' money end ?"
Third Update: Thursday 15th March
As previously flagged, I have now decided to withdraw completely from personal blogging. Dreams & Daemons is now intended purely as a personal archive of my submissions to MSM blogs and the like. I am blocking the Comments facility to this blog immediately: apologies to those of you like Loui, Sarah, Louise and others who have been welcome here in the past. I hope you will understand why it's now time to stop providing a soapbox to those unwelcome visitors whose only interest is in badmouthing, or pushing their own agenda.
I am also renouncing a lifetime of adherence to humanism. The behaviour of certain individuals on the internet has completely changed my views on the nature of the human condition. I now realise that certain people behave in a manner that can only be described as robotic: the gap between man and machine is much narrower than I thought, especially with recent advances in cybernetics, fuzzy logic etc. Quite what will fill the gap vacated by humanism remains to be seen. It won't be a weird cult, or extreme politics, but it will definitely be something that fits with my growing right-wing tendencies. "Live and let live " is no longer a viable option in a world in which everyone thinks it OK to do their own thing, making up rules as they go along, or thinking that life can be lived without rules, whether self- or externally imposed.
I shall post something shortly , probably tomorrow, on how bloggers can monitor unwelcome visitors to their sites. The general principles will already be clear from those following Louise's and Sarah's blogs, but I may have one or two observations that folk may find useful.
I am still contactable by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dreams and Daemons now ceases to be an interactive blog. Goodbye everyone.
Second Update: Thursday 15th March
David Bond's Sport blog (Inside Football) is entitled "Strange Ideas in the World of Football". It centres on Brian Mawhinney, now Football Association Chairman, but better known in his previous existence as a member of John Major's government. David Bond finds it strange, first that Mawhinney should have taken that job, and second, that Mr. Big is now pushing to have penalty shootouts as a means of avoiding drawn matches in the Premiership.
It's rare for this blogger to venture into an area about which he knows little. But having once had dealings with Mawhinney ( I needed to borrow an oxygen electrode from him, round about 1976 when we were both at Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine - he as a Reader, and me as a humble Postdoc' Fellow/ Honorary Lecturer) which meant an initial audience with his eminence, and then having to fight of his acolytes who kept coming to reclaim it before I had finished what I needed to do):
Here's my comment - first to go up:
"Like you, I was puzzled by Mawhinney's career move. The man has always impressed me, ever since seeing him perform prior to his entering politics. He was a Reader in Medical Physics at the London Medical school at which I did my PhD, and was highly impressive in the way in which he chaired Senior Common room meetings, like the hustings for a new Dean. Later on, I ran into a civil servant at a dinner party who served under him in Northern Ireland. He was known as someone who was highly focused, but did not suffer fools gladly.
He and John Major were close friends, representing adjacent constituencies (Peterborough and Huntingdon), so it may well be that with Major's departure from politics he felt he had lost an ally, and was probably more temperamentally suited to Government than Opposition.
Penalties ? I detest them, and don't understand what possessed so sharp a mind to suggest this method of draw-breaking.
My own solution, more to prevent goalless draws, is to abandon the practice of a single over-proficient goalkeeper: players would take it in turn to defend the goal. The appearance of a player known to be weak in goalkeeping skills would signal an intensive effort to net one or more during the 'window of opportunity'. "
Update:Thursday 15th March
There's an article in today's Telegraph entitled "Brown's tax increases hit family incomes".
My comment was the second to go up:
"It's interesting that the rise in National Insurance contributions some 4 years ago has been singled out as a major factor. Yet press comment at the time was fairly muted. A typical headline would have read " Budget special: Brown puts an extra penny on NI contributions".
NI contributions used to be levied at a rate of about 10p for every pound of eligible income, and that was raised to 11p. What's an extra penny ? For someone earning, say, £20,000 of eligible income, their NI deduction increased from £2,000 per year to £2,200. That was a whacking 10% increase, but the press reports of "an extra penny in the £ " made it sound like a mere 1%.
Thanks to lack of media vigilance (a reflection perhaps on poor numeracy) Brown was allowed to get away with an iniquitous stealth tax, and one moreover that was index-linked: his take increases year on year with rising incomes. But he stubbornly refuses to increase our tax allowances in line with inflation, and it's the same with the ceiling for stamp duty on houses, such that 'fiscal drag' nets him extra billions each year. My son has just bought his first house, and has had to pay the Chancellor some £5000 for the privilege.
A Chancellor who operates in this mean, grasping underhand fashion, is not someone I would wish to see become PM. The man's a creep, and gives me the creeps."
Second Update: Wed 14th March
Melisssa Whitworth has just posted in the Telly's blogs on a US-authored book entitled "The Evil Empire". Star Wars revisited ? Nope. It's us he's referring to, or what he calls "the English". Seems we're responsible for all that's wrong with the world. No, it was not written by Richard of Orléans. This guy has at least a scant regard for the facts. Mine is the first comment to go up. Nostalgia ain't what it used to be ....
"Sorry, not personally complicit in getting China hooked on opium ( blame my great great grandfather instead), but I accept that it was not Britain's finest hour. But we gave them back Hong Kong, and cheap Chinese goods have saved the UK economy from the rampant inflation that should have resulted from Gordon Brown's spending spree. So they can't hate us too much.
Not guilty either to creating slums (but my desk is a small contribution to that retro genre).
But I plead guilty to having helped take the soul out of rock-and-roll ( like attending those post-Bill Haley/Presley gigs at Eel Pie Island with ne'er a teddy boy in sight), and am still a fan of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and that entire 60s thing that originated on Merseyside, and which musically still leaves one reeling with its sheer inventiveness).
Oops - forgot about Buddy Holly, and one or two others Stateside, who preceded and possibly inspired them. But US druggie-influenced flower-power killed the Beatles and the life-blood of 60s music, so let's hear no more cr*p from across the pond, NY Times included, if you don't mind, about the Evil Empire.
Occasionally I think there's no God, but then I ask myself "Who do I thank for creating the Atlantic Ocean ?"
Update: Wed March 14th : Hey, guess what ? Shane Richmond has just issued an invitation to meet his team of Telly bloggers at the new Victoria HQ. It's down for the evening of April 12th. After a quick check with easyJet, and a headstrong flash of the plastic, I have just shot off this reply:
"Nice one, Shane. I must hand it to you folk at the Telly - when it comes to the human touch you are streets ahead of the competition.
I went to a similar hospitality "do" quite recently at the headquarters of Nice Matin, on the outskirts of (not surprsingly) Nice. That was most interesting - I've been meaning to post my video, complete with noisy soundtrack, but with my own modest blog in semi-hibernation mode, I have not got round to doing so yet.
Have just this minute booked my flights - in on the 12th, back the next day. I look forward to meeting you and your splendid team. PLEASE don't change your mind ....."
Is anyone else I know likely to be there ? Louise ? Sarah ? Let us know if you are.
Second update: Tuesday March 13th, 19:05 French time
There are now 283 comments on the Telly's Cameron thread. Most say the same as me: in becoming a born-again eco-fundamentalist , Cameron has deserted traditional Conservative thinking, and is becoming harder to distinguish from the Liberals/Greens in both Gnu Labour and the Lib Dems.
Here's my second contribution to the thread that has just appeared:
"Carbon dioxide is not a classical pollutant in the sense that sulphur dioxide is, which, incidentally Phil S. is the main culprit where acid rain is concerned.
CO2 is not toxic to human life per se, but is instead suffocating - depriving one of oxygen. But then the same could be said of any other gas that is not oxygen.
Carbon dioxide is only a pollutant in the sense that it is a greenhouse gas. But then so is water vapour !
Personally I dislike hearing carbon dioxide referred to as a pollutant as if it were sulphur dioxide.
OK, so we have probably overloaded the planet's mechanisms for removing it through excessive burning of fossil fuels. But that's because there are billions of us who expect to live in comfortable surroundings.
But while keeping warm or running a car may be personal decisions, there are vast amounts of CO2 poured into the atmosphere from industry, power stations etc where we as individuals have had no say, even when those same processes have produced classical pollutants that have caused acid rain, bronchitis, attacked buildings etc.
So it's a bit rich for someone whose party traditionally allied itself with the captains of industry to now turn on ordinary working folk, essentially making them scapegoats and thence tax fodder for their next Chancellor, simply because they/we want to holiday in the Maldives instead of Margate.
Living on planet Earth has always been a risky business - especially for those living in regions prone to earthquakes, hurricanes, volcanoes, tsunamis etc. It is pathetic to see Little Englanders becoming doom-mongers purely because of a risk - still theoretical - of rising sea levels.
It is arrogance of the highest order to imagine that we can fine-tune the composition of Planet Earth's atmosphere to suit our own comfort and convenience. Our first priority should be dealing with consequences, not causes, of climate change.
Sorry polar bears - you will have to take your chances. I'm more concerned about the Maldive and Canvey islanders ! "
Posted by Colin Berry on March 13, 2007 5:29 PM
Update: Tuesday March 13th
"Are Cameron's Conservatives still Tories?" is the question put in today's Your View in the Telly. Our Dave's predicament is admittedly not an easy one - political realism means one having to accept a degree of pandering and opportunism if he's to prevent Gnu Labour winning a fourth term of office. But his latest proposals on taxing air travel seem to me to show he's away with the eco-fairies, and unfit to be PM. My views on the man and his eco-religion suddenly crystallized yesterday, with this missive as a result, which appeared in the first crop of comments:
"What a disaster ! We have this execrable Government of ne'er-do-wells, addicted to self-serving spin. Yet the only realistic alternative is a motley crew of nonentities in thrall to gimmickry. And the particular brand of gimmickry - micromananging our use of fossil fuels - is one that will make increasingly greater inroads into our quality of life, since the proposed levies on air travel are clearly just for starters.
There is an opportunity right now for a brand new political party to replace the main Opposition party, the latter having been progressively sidelined by a succession of wannabee PMs with no real sense of political conviction.
The new party should be called simply The Low Tax Party. Lowering tax is just a means to an end - the creation of a society in which folk are less dependent on the State for handouts and encouraged to fend more for themselves. It's a concept that used to be called Conservatism, before the party was hijacked by the eco-freaks and lifestyle micromanagers.
On your bike, Mr. Cameron. You and your ilk are not what the country needs."
Second update: Monday March 12th Still on the subject of Telly blogs in general, and Christopher Howse's "language" blogs in particular, his latest post has a comment from the redoubtable "Dr. Deipnosoph". One or two other regulars (eg Ped), as well as myself, have tried in the past to blow the whistle on this superb piss-taker, but to no avail. Anyway, he appeared again today, and here was my reply:
Title: Fly -by- night character
Now there's a coincidence ! I was at the very same soirée in 1957 as you Dr. Deipnosoph, where I was seconded as part of my Grade 1 Guest Filtration Certificate (aka Bouncer's Stripe). We had been warned that you might try to gatecrash, but your arriving disguised as Charlie Chaplin had us all completely fooled: it just never occurred to us that you would assume the persona of a slapstick comedian - we are filled with admiration at the sheer audacity of your double bluff.
There was just one moment when a sliver of doubt entered our minds, which was near midnight when you slipped on a somewhat grubby raincoat, and did a circuit of the buffet area, grabbing all the uneaten caviar canapés, which you stuffed into a Tesco's carrier bag. But being the fools that we are, we just put it down to harmless eccentricity. But I'm broadminded: pinching the hors d'oeuvres is surely no worse than taking le pisse, if you see what I mean (as I'm sure you do).
Colin Berry at 12 Mar 2007 16:43
Updated Monday March 12th Have just got back from visiting relatives in the UK, and am catching up with my favourite blogs. Christopher Howse does one for the Telly, and his most recent topic is one that this iconclast could not resist: spoof publishers' rejection letters.
He provides two, the first addressed to Shelley, the other to Gerard Manley Hopkins.
Here's one I submitted an hour ago that has just appeared:
Title: Dear JRR
Dear Professor Tolkien
Further to my letter of 5th May inst, I have now heard back from my contact at the Institute of Vulcanology. He assures me that temperatures of magma close to the surface rarely exceed 1500 degrees Celsius. If that is the temperature needed to "unmake" the special ring around which your tale revolves, then there is an obvious objection: your "hobbits" presumably had blacksmiths, who with their bellows-assisted charcoal furnaces should have been able to achieve a similar temperature, thus negating the need for Frodo and his companions to embark upon so long and perilous a Quest to Mount Doom.
I fear the willing suspension of disbelief will not be achieved in your otherwise splendid trilogy.
Perhaps you should consider condensing your tale as a boys' adventure yarn, eg the kind that Eagle does in comic-strip format. Would you like me to drop Marcus Morris a line ? He's the editor, and a reverend gentleman to boot. He is always on the lookout for heroic adventures that have a hint of religious allegory.
PS I thought Gollum provided a welcome touch of light relief ....
Colin Berry at 12 Mar 2007 09:17
Updated Monday March 5th About those apples: did you know that apples can grow well, even in cooler northern climes. Take Canada as a case in point: until recently I used to think that there was only 1 variety of apple in that country - a red one from the Toronto area. Then yesterday I learned there's another, a green one, closer towards Ottawa. I won't bother you with their names, since I've learned that the names change, depending on where you are.
If you're really interested in the whole range of Canadian apples, good, bad or indifferent, here's the link:
But if you're like me, you'll just concentrate on the ones you know best, in my case those two Ontario varieties, less than 250 miles apart.
BTW: Did you know that if you wish to enlarge a picture, like the one above, all you need to do is point and click ?
Updated Sunday March 4th Yes, the picture's been changed. Louise (see comments) was fed up with sight of those socks, so here's something a lot more sober, about which I'll say something later.
Sorry, " Lacombe Lucien ", as you presently like to be known - both here and on other blogs in the family - this site is not ready for demolition just yet. There are still those issues that need to be discussed, like moderation, censorship, self-policing etc etc. Oh yes, and how to behave like a decent human being. Incidentally, Lacombe, your location is shown clearly on the graphic, which may make you see red.
But it's European locations that are my chief interest at present. What's that Sinatra line about "little green apples" ? Your days are numbered, anonymouse/anonymice.
It's said that if you invent a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. I wonder if the same is true of making folk aware of one that's been hidden at the back of a cupboard all the time, without anyone noticing it was there - until yesterday, that is.
More to follow.
ed: updated Tue Feb 13 at 21:15 French time (scroll to end, new text coloured in red for ease of locating- no flagging of emotional state intended, preferred colour blue being used already for links) : re Shane Richmond's latest Telly blog entitled "When is a blog, not a blog ?"
Here's a picture of the more photogenic end of my body, and yes, I've decided to put my feet up for two or three weeks, possibly longer.
Maybe it's a reaction to Will Lewis's description of bloggers as geeks who need to get out more*. Lewis, just in case you didn't know, is Editor of the Daily Telegraph.
But he discovered himself last week how handy it can be to have a blog at one's disposal, and used it to lambast BA for attempting to bump him off his flight to the Davos junket. Of course, once informed (or reminded) who he was, BA found him a seat in short order.
But there's a simpler explanation for my absconding: I just don't like treadmills, including self-created ones. With things being pretty quiet in these parts, I decided now might be as good a time as any to take a mini-sabbatical.
It'll be a chance to go out and explore the Greater Blogosphere, post a comment here and there, maybe get some new entries in those Links (aka Escape Routes) in the sidebar.
But don't drop your guard, Richard of Orléans. I'm still on the lookout for displays of Brit-bashing/quasi-racism/ hypocrisy/inconsistency and plain simple getting-your -facts wrong.
As for that Bill Taylor (Toronto Star): there's only one way to deal with a self-confessed wind-up merchant. Just don't give him the time of day. Pretend he's not there. Walk on by. Walk on byeeeeeeee.
* Re which I posted an unflattering few words to Julian Glover's thread in the Guardian's Davos coverage in its "Comment is Free" section.
ed: update Monday 29 Jan . Have just posted the following to Wordblog ( "MSM bush telegraph 2" in the Escape Routes) re the steady decline in the quality of reporting in the Sunday Times over many years.
"I still buy the ST, but I no longer read it with the same confidence and pleasure that it gave back in the 70s and 80s. In those days the articles were well-researched and authoritative. Then the rot set in. There were the instant post-mortems on every airline crash, pointing fingers of blame, that were not subsequently confirmed by the painstaking official enquiries. What gave the ST the right to sit in instant judgement on so emotive an issue as human tragedy ?
The ST then used to reveal astonishing ignorance in matters of personal finance, like not knowing the way building societies had long calculated interest on an annual basis.
I once wrote to them showing how as a result of this tradition, early repayments could earn one no credit in reduced interest for up to a year. The letter was acknowledged, shelved, and then the comments reappeared weeks later under a journalist’s byline with no mention of my tip-off.
They then got rid of Roger Anderson, the consumer champion, who won redress for many victims of scams etc (including someone in my own family). He was never replaced. Why ? Was he upsetting too many advertisers with his growing impatience and contempt for industry malpractices ?
Recently I wrote to the ST Letters editor, pointing out that their so-called Facts feature on carbon monoxide in the aftermath of the Corfu tragedy was entirely wrong in suggesting the gas was heavy, and would sink to floor level. Link to earlier post. It was weeks before a correction was made, and then it was placed in the most inconspicuous place on Page 2 instead of appearing as a letter.
Years ago, there was a entire feature in the Magazine on Watson of “Watson & Crick” DNA double -helix fame, presenting him as an expatriate Briton who had been forced to desert his home country. I pointed out that he was a Chicago man. At least that made the letters column. But I now see so much ignorance and superficiality that I frankly don’t take a thing I read in the ST at face value.
Given the existence of Google and search engines, there really is no excuse any longer for this continuing sloppiness.
Given this paper now costs £2 in Britain ( and a skeleton version where in live in France is €5), I think we are entitled to better than this.
My wife is furious because they have suddenly stopped doing the national sections (Welsh, Scottish and Irish) , which she used to access online. At this rate, we’ll stop buying the ‘dead-tree’ version altogether. What price customer loyalty when one is taken for granted in this way ?"
ed Update Jan 29, 18:30. Yesterday the Sunday Telegraph ran the following article:
Profile: Britannia By William Langley
Last Updated: 12:01am GMT 28/01/2007
A trident in her hand, a lion at her feet, and a nation on its knees. Is the lady for returning ?
I posted a reply mid-afternoon, but no new comments appeared after 1pm yesterday - most infuriating. Finally, a new batch of comments did finally appear today. But that's not much good, coming a day late !
Here, purely for the archives, was my contribution:
"Last November, I posted on my blog an article called "Re-discovered- our Britannian heritage". link It was a response to Stephen Oppenheimer's genetic studies, showing a large common gene pool between English, Irish, Welsh and Scots, derived he believes from Basque settlers arriving some 15,000 years ago. He is pretty dismissive of claims that the Celts were the original settlers of Britain, or that the English are of predominantly "Anglo-Saxon" stock arriving after the Roman occupation. I've always hated official forms on which one has to state nationality. Should one write "British" (too vague), or English (too specific). In future I shall write "Britannian" and see if there's any come-back....Posted by Colin Berry on January 28, 2007 2:59 PM
ed update 18:40 French time
Telegraph blogger Andrew Gimson has just posted on "Education and Class Angst":
Here's my comment: Look, I think what you guys have to realize is this - and, OK, I know what you're going to say, that here's a privately-educated man pulling up the ladder after him, but, seriously, under New Labour, it's something entirely different now from what existed under the Conservatives. Forget about these labels - Comprehensive, City Academy, Faith School, Independent, what you need to understand is that our modern society no longer works on the basis of how or where you were educated. It's WHO you are that counts, and what you can GIVE to society that matters. Believe me, I know, through meeting people in all walks of life who have made it in life without going to Eton or Fettes - pop stars, computer billionaires, friends of my wife, celebrities in all walks of life, just ordinary everyday folk, like you or me. As I was saying just the other day to Lord Adonis, or was it Prince Charles, bla bla bla bla ..........bla,bla,bla bla bla bla bla ..............
Posted by Colin Berry (on behalf of Tony Blair)
ed: update Tuesday 30 Jan at 12:10 French time:
Second contribution to the "Education and Class Angst thread:
OK, I hear what you guys are saying. It's clear from many of your comments that 10 years of New Labour have finally began to restore some much-needed confidence in the State system that suffered so much under Tory misrule. If I hear you correctly, what we now need to do is beef up the system a bit, so that brighter kids are not held back, and parents don't have to bankrupt themselves in putting their children into private schools(much over-rated in my opinion, having seen one at first hand).
Perhaps what's needed is a cautious return to an element of, let's call it talent-spotting, at the crucial pre-teen/teen interface. So children who are deemed to be academically-inclined would go to a dedicated kind of school, suited to their aptitudes.
They wouldn't be exposed to a lot of boring stuff, like grammar, that us previous generations suffered, so I thought of calling them "Non-Grammar Schools". There they would be freed from the constraints of the National Curriculum, and be able to study traditional subjects, like History, Modern Languages, Latin, separate Sciences even. Much greater emphasis would be placed on terminal exam, instead of Parent/Sibling/Internet/Teacher/Private Tutor -assisted coursework.
What to call the exam ? How about Optimum Attainment Level, or simply O-Level for short ?
Colin Berry (on behalf of Tony Blair) at 30 Jan 2007 10:54
Updated again, Tuesday 30 Jan at 16:00 French time
Shane Richmond's Telegraph blog is devoted to today's launch of Microsoft Vista. Yours truly decided to add his nerdish tuppence worth to the Comments with the following:
Let the buyer beware
One of the main determinants of a computer's performance is the available system memory (physical RAM). The one I'm using at present was recently upgraded from 256Mb to 512Mb, with a marked improvement. Despite that, there is still only 101Mb available physical memory when booting up, which reduces further to 72Mb when going online - barely adequate for anything involving multi-tasking.
When I discussed this with the chap in my local shop, he said I should have bought a laptop bundled with Windows XP Professional rather than Home Edition, but this was not offered as an option at the time. Given that XP Home edition can take such a big bite out of one's system memory, I, for one, will not be rushing to buy Vista, even on a new laptop with 1024Mb, until I know what the drain will be on memory.
For those not au fait with checking for working, as distinct from installed memory, one can find available RAM by going to Programs-Accessories-System Information, and then waiting for the table to come up, which may take a few seconds.
Colin Berry at 30 Jan 2007 14:32
Updated again, Tuesday 30 Jan at 23:55 French time
Andrew Gimson (Telegraph blogger) has just opened a new thread on Alec Douglas-Home who served briefly as Prime Minister before Labour won the 64 election, ending "13 years of Tory misrule".
I was working on the University newspaper at the time as News Features editor. Together with a colleague, we talked the new Education Minister Michael Stewart ( later to become Foreign Secretary) into letting us interview him at his lair in Curzon St. His manner was cautious and headmasterly, but then we were full of suspicions about Labour's real intentions. We even tried to sound him out on the possibility that grants might adjusted up or down to favour subjects that Labour considered fashionable ! The thought that they might one day be replaced with loans, and students charged top-up fees on top, never entered our heads ! Innocent youth !
Anyway, here's what I have just posted. It was delayed for several hours, presumably for legal clearance ( maybe the Telly moderators were worried about the unflattering references to Private Eye, but it's the Eye of the 60s that's being referred to, not today's relatively strait -laced offering).
There's one small error: Alec Douglas -Home was the 14th, not 13th Earl . Memory plays tricks after 40 years !
A man to be reckoned with
"Modest, maybe, but Alec Douglas-Home was no wimp or easy push-over. Let's not forget that this was the man who in 1971, as Foreign Secretary, decided the Soviets were becoming too brazen with their spying activities in Britain. His response: he expelled 105 of their diplomats, just like that. Everyone was gobsmacked, us, the Soviets, and probably his wife as well.
The crisis in Anglo-Soviet relaions blew over very quickly, perhaps giving the West its first real hint that the Soviets, for all their bluster, were pragmatic realists. Some might argue that John F Kennedy had maybe shown as much during the earlier Cuban missile crisis. Or was he just lucky ?
Private Eye was merciless with the so-called 13th Earl of Home. His was, after all, a surprise appointment, in the aftermath of Profumo, in the days when votes were weighed instead of counted. Everyone thought Rab Butler would succeed Harold MacMillan, but was later to become known as the "The Greatest Prime Minister We Never Had".
Incidentally, I went right off Private Eye magazine during Home's brief tenure at No.10. Admittedly he was not the most inspiring of figures physically, but constant reference to him as a "cretin" or "cretinous" when he was clearly a gentleman of the old school finally persuaded me that satire without fair play was the stuff of 5th form school magazines."
Colin Berry at 30 Jan 2007 19:21
Latest update: Wed Jan 31 13:40 French time
Toby Harnden has just posted on his Telegraph blog under the title "Obama and the racist smear campaign" ( accessible from my Links in the sidebar -"Escape Routes").
I have just posted the following comment, which will hopefully disabuse Bill Taylor (Toronto Star) of his bizarre idea that I am a closet racist.
"It's that last but one sentence which betrays the email for what it is: malevolent propaganda.
"Obama joined the United Church of Christ to help purge any notion that he is still a Muslim."
Note the use of the loaded word "purge".
Reading the email, one could be forgiven for thinking that the Joseph Goebbels School of Propaganda has been re-established, using ever more subtle techniques for controlling the "minds" of impressionable folk.
It was probably this kind of stuff, or the prospect thereof, that frightened off Colin Powell, making him arguably the Greatest President that America Never Had.
So are Americans going to let it happen a second time? What will the rest of the world conclude about America, given the common factor of neither of them fitting a white Anglo-Saxon template ?
Or is it really to do with religion rather than skin colour? If so, how happy is America with the perception that McCarthyite paranoia and witch-hunting are in the process of being reborn, albeit directed this time against an imagined taint of Islam ?"
Updated Wed Jan 31 a second time at 23:30 French time:
Submitted this second comment to the above thread (Toby Harnden) in response to a ferociously PC comment from Maddie.
"And every headline that asks 'Will Barack Obama Be The First Black American President?", is racist !"
So we are now required to pretend we're colour-blind, to avoid Maddie's charge of racism, even though we may detest discrimination on the grounds of race or colour, in any shape or form.
Being aware of colour, noting society's responses to it, positive or negative, is something entirely different from discrimination.
I agree with Maddie on a lot of things, but not on this one ! Preserve us from this kind of sanctimonious PC !
Would she brand as sexist a headline that asks "Will Hillary Clinton be the First Female American President?" ?
Oh dear. Egg on face time. Having re-read Maddie's entire comment again, I realize she was being ironical , so have had to send a quick chaser asking the Telegraph to cancel it.
I've moaned before about the Telly's policy of moderating Comments in reverse chronological order (last come, first served), but for once that may work in my favour, if they see the request for withdrawal before posting that misjudged comment!
ed: updated Thur Feb 1 at 08:40 approx French time
The Telly has just opened a new thread on "Your View" re William Hague's call for a reappraisal of our "special relationship" with the US. I have previously stated my own non-dewy-eyed views on this subject. here was an unmissable opportunity to put them into the public domain.
"It would be better, William Hague, just to concentrate on winning the next election, and then just doing it quietly, without fanfare (ie laying sentiment aside and going our own way).
The special relationship has always been an embarrassing media myth, one that will only be laid to rest when Britain is SEEN to act independently of the USA.
Yes, America came in on our side during WW2, but only after the fall of France and the Low Countries, after Dunkirk, after the Blitz and after the Battle of Britain. In fact Uncle Sam only remembered the so-called special relationship after Pearl Harbor, and the formal declarations of war by Japan and Nazi Germany on the United States. Up to that time, Britain had stood alone for over two years. And then, as the price of Anglo-American victory, our gold reserves were transferred to Fort Knox, and we were saddled with long-term debt. We have only just paid the last instalment.
The only thing special about the special relationship has been its durability, given its amazing one-sidedness.
The important thing in future when, hopefully, we once again plough our own furrow in world affairs (assuming the present Government can be dislodged) is to keep our senior Western partner in the loop, to avoid a repetition of Suez.
I like the emphasis on forging relations with India, China etc. If an economic realist wins the Presidency in France, and the new members like Poland pull their weight - and stay democratic - maybe Europe will be worth another look - but not before."
Second contribution to same thread at 11:30
Britain has the 4th (or maybe 5th) largest economy in the world. It's a hub for air-travellers, the City of London is a pre-eminent financial centre, we have some superb and varied scenery in a remarkably compact area, attracting tourists from all over the world etc etc . The population is 60m and growing. In what way is Britain a "small insignificant island" off the coast of Europe, "Grateful Expat" ? Have you looked at an atlas recently ?
Posted on February 1, 2007 10:22 AM
PS This will probably be the only addition today, since I'm off on a visit to Nice -Matin (newspaper) today to see how it's produced. J and I are going with our local Antiboulenc society. First, I need to brush up on some journalistic lingo !
Updated Fri Feb 2 at 11:40 approx
Roy Hattersley, one-time Deputy Leader of the Labour Party has some advice in today's Times for the present holder of that post, the hapless and wayward John Prescott.
John Livesey with his useful perceptive eye queries the sense of Hattersley putting his advice to Prescott into the public domain, but wasn't terribly precise in the reasons for his misgivings. Here's what I said:
"John Livesey has hit the right button, but understated the full implications. This article will make it harder for John Prescott to do the necessary, because Prescott will anticpate the retort: "Let me guess: it's Roy who's been putting ideas into your head, is it John ?
But I enjoyed hearing you speak, Mr. Hattersley ( Birmingham University Union, circa 1965 !)"
Last night's visit to see Nice-Matin and its sister papers (Var Matin etc) being produced was highly successful.. I was allowed to take photographs everywhere we visited, from the Pre-Press room, where the final decisions are made re layout, to the printing presses. And all preceded by an excellent supper in the staff "canteen". (There has to be a better, more upmarket word for a French "canteen", which is closer in its ambiance to a University refectory). The visit will be the subject of a future post, post-sabbatical that is. ated Feb 13
Updated Feb 13, 21:15
For those of us who like to philosophise about the meaning of life, and all that, there's a new post from Shane Richmond on the Telly blogs, entitled "When is a blog not a blog ?".
Yours truly, aka me, has already put up a couple of comments, the first directed to Shane, the second at some know-all /put-downer, aka Tim. Isn't it just like the good old days - attack, then watch your back......
There's a price to be paid, these days, for analysing. It's to be called a pedant. Musn't be judgmental: if I'd been born 20 years ago, and had attended a modern comp', I'd probably be saying the same thing, while watching the clock ( so as not to miss BB).