November 29th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

Another bit of shift-silliness – 6pm-2am yesterday, then starting work at 9am today. But all in a good cause – I’m getting a free meal out of Jagex this evening. I’ll probably get along to WUS sometime after that.

But anyway, back to the weekend…

I think everyone involved was a bit surprised that I managed to meet ioerror on Saturday. The only contact we’d had was through lj comments and a couple of very cracky phone messages, and I’d never met him or any of the people he was staying with. But once I’d deciphered the directions and made my way to Hampstead, it turned out I was walking into a full thanksgiving meal (thanks,Travis), with a bunch of interesting US expats.

Fortunately ioerror is a very easy person to talk to, and the other guests were fascinating as well. Conversation swerved from computers to politics to philosophy and back again – nice to talk to people who are well-informed about more than one thing:) There was a constant clicking of cameras – leading to one picture of me that I quite like, and plenty of others

Then (and I wasn’t expecting this either), myself and ioerror went to Slimelight for the night. Given the number of times I’ve ended up not going there with various CamGoths, I guess it was about time I went. I love the chance to go and dance until 7am – which you just can’t do in Cambridge. And also the anonymity of it. One of the great things about the Calling is that everybody knows everybody, but that also makes it horribly claustrophobic and political at times.

I’d also never realised how close Slimelight is to King’s Cross. Why on earth have I been staying in London, or getting the last train back, when I could have just danced until the first train on Sunday morning?

Thanksgiving in London, politics in Iraq, and me in Slimelight

November 28th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

Weekend was enjoyable, and very full.

Saturday morning I went to a teach-in on Iraq. I probably wasn’t at my most alert – a 10am start isn’t ideal when you have to travel to London first, and when you finished work at 2am the previous night.

But the speakers were excellent. I’d expected Rahul Mahajan to be a bonkers Marxist and/or conspiracy theorist, mainly on the grounds that his blog is called Empire Notes. He did a good job of looking at things through the eyes of particular segments of Iraqi society. So Sadr comes across as paranoid, and the non-Iraqi jihadis are idealistic young men lost in a foreign country, who don’t know their way around and are easily manipulated by local groups.

Kamil Mahdi (a British-Iraqi economist, and CASI ally of times past) was an odd choice to give the opening rant. He was OK, but I’d rather have heard him talking about the economic situation. Then there was Ismael Dawood, who I hadn’t heard of and was introduced as an Iraqi Human Rights activist. He just went straight through a selection of human rights abuses commonplace in Iraq, and what changes he wants to get rid of them. Totally clear, ad very compelling. I’ve been searching for anything else he’s written/done, but all I seem to turn up are adverts for this events, and articles about a cricket-player with the same name.

I also got to spend a while talking to Mike L, who I see far too little of these days. He still manages to know everything about everything, and about politics in general. Among the fascinating things he told me is this:

Victor (Viktor?) Bout is one of the world’s most notorious arms smugglers in the world. The US and UK claim that he supplies Osama Bin Laden and the Taliban. He’s supplied weapons to fighters in Sierra Leone, Angola and the DRC. His assets were frozen by a UN Security Council Resolution. So, generally a pretty nasty guy. Britain has been pressurising other countries to wash their hands of him. But DfiD (the department for international development) has been paying him to ship Armoured Personnel Carriers to Basra.

I’d rant about the ‘ethical foreign policy’, but it’s been too long since we even pretended to have one of those. Anyway, all this took me up to the early afternoon. Then I went off to see ioerror for the first time. But that’s going to need a post of its own.

I’m puzzled by the memo

November 24th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink

I’m puzzled by the memo leaked to the Mirror a couple of days ago. This claims that Bush wanted to bomb Al-Jazeera headquarters in Qatar, until he was talked out of it by Blair. It’s a crazy idea even for Bush, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible. What I find hard to believe is the story of how the document came to light. According to the Mirror article:

The memo, which also included details of troop deployments, turned up in May last year at the Northampton constituency office of then Labour MP Tony Clarke.

Would something this damaging be handed out willy-nilly to MPs – especially to somebody like Tony Clarke, whose voting record shows that he was reasonably anti-war and anti-Blair in the first place.

But then, the government seems to be treating it as if it’s genuine – charging people and threatening editors under the Official Secrets Act. So I’m confused – I guess it’s possible that somebody leaked this to Tony Clarke in the past, and that he and his staff kept it secret until now. It might become clearer in a while – for now, I’ll just hope that the document turns up on Cryptome, which it will if it gets into the public domain.

[also covered by the Guardian, The Times, and probably a few others.]

The obligatory ooh! holiday! post

November 23rd, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

While I’m sat here – yes, I did go to Malta at the weekend. And yes, it was paid for by Jagex (which could have some small connection to me being in a better mood with them today).

Yes, it was fun – mainly because I got to do lots of things that are nice to do once, but I would never have done if left to my own devices. That covers the five-star hotel, and the trip to the casino (euch! full of zombie-women at slot machines! don’t want to do that again!), and the general lads’ holiday aspect of it (most people spent most of their time getting drunk inside two blocks of the hotel). Malta itself is pretty much in that category of ‘things I liked, but wouldn’t want to do again’. Lots of nice old bits – but nothing that you’d want to spend more than a few days looking at.

hmmm…that came out a lot less enthusastic than I’d expected it to. It was great, just not any more great than you’d expect from when I said ‘free weekend in Malta’.

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Protected: Jagex: not a nice employer after all

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November 9th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

Yay!

The bonkers 90-day detention without charge proposal has failed.

*does happy little dance*

Money in Iraq

November 7th, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink

The Iraq Analysis site site is accumulating an impressive amount of new content at the moment.

Among it is a fairly damning statement from the IAMB on contract management in Iraq:

The KPMG audit of the 23 sole sourced contracts revealed exceptions in a number of cases including
* (i) insufficient documentation to justify non-competitive contracting action,
* (ii) lack of support for the provision of services or receipts of goods, and
* (iii) discrepancies in the amount billed.

And then they recomment “_ that amounts disbursed to contractors that cannot be supported as fair be reimbursed expeditiously_”

So, one more point goes to those distrustful anti-american anti-corporate types.

On a similar topic, somebody from Corpwatch (the US one) has written this book about the economic end of the war. It might be horribly out-of-date by now (it was published November 2004), but then everything on Iraq seems out of date at the moment. I’m planning to read it anyway, if I can get hold of a copy.

November 6th, 2005 § 0 comments § permalink

I’m pretty sure that’s not the sound a hard drive should be making.

If I vanish from the the internet shortly, you’ll know what to blame.

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Galloway summary

November 2nd, 2005 § Comments Off § permalink

This, despite being 6 months old, is a very useful summary of the allegations against George Galloway.
(via crooked timber, which also brings the story up-to-date)