Posted by Tim Ireland at September 27, 2006

Category: Page 3 - News in Briefs

What a performance!Sure, you could read Teh Speech in full. You may even choose to peruse a leisurely fisk or a slightly more detailed/impassioned one that’s due over at Blair Watch any minute now. You may even take the time to consider that the word ‘performance’ has more than one meaning and/or wonder quietly how well the speech would have fared if every major passage ended with the words; “… and all we had to do was break a few teensy-tiny rules.”

But we all know what really matters is what Rupert Murdoch Rebekah Wade thinks… and how Rebekah Wade the girl on Page 3 chooses to express that view…

Today Zoe (‘author’ of the most audacious Page 3 editorial of all time) hails Blair’s speech as “simply the best” and says; “What a performance! He showed all the qualities that attracted millions of voters in 1997. It will be very interesting to see whether his departure rebounds on Labour come the next election.”

I’m also repeating today’s extended editorial so it may be preserved for the ages (like Blair’s speech, it’s as bold as brass and has a little bit of everything):

The Sun Says – Labour will miss Blair when the tears have dried: Has Labour gone stark staring mad? It is hard to reach any other conclusion after seeing the party stand and cheer the most successful leader they’ve ever had – the man they’ve forced out of office. In what will go down as the speech of his life, Tony Blair spelled out what he has done for his party – and what they have done to him. He sprinkled his delivery with good jokes – the best about his wife Cherie and the next door neighbour. And he played skilfully on an audience that is fast regretting its act of regicide. Tearful delegates were left in no doubt about their monstrous act of ingratitude. He recalled how Labour spent 18 years in Opposition until he rescued them in 1997 and led them to three “unique” victories. He listed Labour’s subsequent successes – at one point cheekily claiming success over immigration and crime. Some were near tears as he admitted: “You can’t go on forever. I won’t be leading you into the next election.” But he made clear he won’t be bundled out until May – as revealed by The Sun – when he marks “10 years in the hot seat” as Prime Minister. It all had an eerie reminder of 1990, when the Tories brought down their greatest winner Margaret Thatcher after 10 years in power. With that act the Tories sowed the seeds of their own destruction and opened the door for Tony Blair. Yesterday, Gordon Brown applauded as his old friend and rival paid tribute to his “remarkable” contribution to Labour’s long run in power. But that was it. There was no endorsement of Gordon as successor – and no handshake afterwards. Worse, he utterly eclipsed the Chancellor’s own low-key speech the previous day. While Mr Brown was perfectly competent, the PM was the maestro, pitch perfect with lots of funny lines between the serious stuff. In half a dozen searing sentences he tore the Tories and David Cameron to pieces – although Cameron was the only man breathing a sigh of relief yesterday. There were no tears. Tony Blair wasn’t going to give his executioners that pleasure. This was a headmasterly farewell, stern in parts, warm in others. There were swipes at maverick ex-ministers like Clare Short. He compared her to others who “never forgot their principles when in office; and they never discovered them when they left office.” And without a hint of apology, he took them all head-on over the issue that cost him his job – Iraq. He insisted terrorism is not our fault, and denied there was a war against Islam. He even managed to win applause as he reminded them: “Terrorism killed nearly 3,000 people on the streets of New York long before war in Afghanistan or Iraq was even thought of.” The nearest he got to a catch in his voice came as he offered tips on winning a fourth term. They could take his advice or ignore it, he said. “Whatever you do, I’m always with you. Head and heart. Next year I won’t be making this speech.” He continued: “The truth is you can’t go on forever.” But Tony Blair was not telling the full story. He doesn’t want to go. He believes he could have landed them an historic fourth term. So do the weepy delegates who waved placards in the hall pleading with him to stay. Too late now comrades.

UPDATE – Well said, that man…

Independent – An intelligence assessment that gets it right: For Tony Blair to claim, as he did in his speech, the terrorist threat is “not a consequence of foreign policy” on the ground, that terror existed before 9/11 is denying reality to the point of criminal negligence. The British public has just as much right to an accurate assessment of risk and cause as the American public. It should not be deprived of it simply because its Prime Minister wants to avoid shouldering responsibility.

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 25, 2006

Category: Tony 'King Blair

A completely false sense of grievance I:
New York Times – Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terrorism Threat: A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

UPDATE – Denied!

A completely false sense of grievance II:
Bloomberg – Cherie Blair Walks Out of Labour Party Conference, Calls Gordon Brown Liar: Tony Blair’s wife, Cherie, walked out of a speech by U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown, accusing him of misleading the public about his relationship with the prime minister. As Brown told the Labour Party conference in Manchester that it had been a “privilege for me to work with and for” the premier, Mrs. Blair left the conference center saying “well that’s a lie.'”

UPDATE – Denied!

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: Tony 'King Blair

Bloggerheads – Blair, Capita and ‘easy money’ above the table (March 22, 2006): I’m going to ask you to think about that for a moment… these people came offering donations, but were instead asked for loans. Were it not for this scandal, how many of them do you think would be prepared to simply write off the loan after a suitable period? You get ten points if you answered correctly; All. Of. Them.

New Statesman – Cash for peerages: the new evidence (September 22, 2006): According to my Labour Party source, who is at the highest level of the party structure and perfectly placed to know, at least some of these loans were never intended to be paid back. According to this individual, they were never loans at all but purely and simply secret donations. And has my source told the police? You bet.

Blair Watch – Labour’s bright idea to solve its funding crisis… us!: Maybe, instead of hitting us up for more cash, the Labour Party should ask itself why its membership has halved but its fundraising has trebled since Tony Blair became Prime Minister.

(Psst! For the answer to that question… click here.)

The New Statesman article relates to a Dispatches documentary that will be shown on Channel 4 on Monday 25 September at 8pm. I urge you to watch it.

Oh, and keep an eye out for the first edition of the Labour Party’s campaign return… coming soon to a web browser near you.

UPDATE (24 Sep) – Two related links for you:
Independent – Exclusive: Lies, loans & lordships (The cash-for-honours scandal: Top Labour official tells ‘IoS’ ‘Party deliberately got round the law’ )
Independent – Dodgy donations: How Labour’s cash crisis led to the biggest sleaze scandal in the party’s history

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: The War on Stupid

BBC – London bombing victims ‘let down’: The emergency response to the London bombings on 7 July last year was flawed, a Home Office report based on the experiences of victims has found… Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, the minister charged with responsibility for liaising with survivors and bereaved relatives, said: “We’ve taken some very hard lessons and very practical lessons from what went wrong.”

Yet another lesson learned by New Labour. They’ll get it right sooner or later…

(More on this – and many links – via Rachel.)

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: Tony 'King Blair

Councillor Gareth Davies is welcome at the Labour Party Conference, while Councillor Bob Piper is not. Says it all, really.

UPDATE – Blood & Treasure – From the red zone: They’ve actually blocked off a fair chunk of the city centre, with no access at all except to the apparat. Great. Treated like a terrorist suspect in my own city. This isn’t a public event. It’s the sales conference of the governing party. (via)

UPDATE (24 Sep) – Bob’s inside.

(Psst! The nurses run naked in Portsmouth General… pass it on.)

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: Flash Music Video, Games and Objects

I’ve been promising you some Flash fun (of the political and non-political variety) for some time now. The non-political material is right around the corner… the first version of the new political material goes live today:

Click here to see the first New Tory Labour flash-video that I’ve produced for the Liberal Democrats.

The Liberal Democrats initially approached me about doing a music video along the lines of the stuff I created for Backing Blair with a primary focus on Tory/Labour policies and promises on the environment.

Early ideas I floated included:

1. A new song politely-titled: ‘Forget you and your first class ticket to nowhere’.

2. Another new song; a lilting, boppy Caribbean-influenced summery number that was pro-warming, on the basis that we’ll all be able to enjoy many summery days in our new seaside homes… in the Scottish Highlands.

3. A re-recording of ‘Up, Up And Away’ by Fifth Dimension with an animation tracking the ascent of man and climate change throughout this period. This had a nifty punchline at the end, where you could ‘play again’ or ‘play again with nuclear waste’. If you clicked the latter, the video would re-play with modern nuclear waste buried under The Great Pyramid of Giza… and staying radioactive up until the present day and well beyond.

[Psst! during music research for this project, a new idea for an independent video occurred… more on that later.]

But the strongest idea departed from a one-off model, and instead presented the Liberal Democrats with something serialised and versatile:

New Tory Labour - Teh HeroThe Concept

Instead of a song, I would commission a jingle, with a strong intro, 60-second instrumental and a sting at the tail. During the instrumental, a central character would put the case for ‘action’ on the environment from a Tory/Labour perspective. This would allow the Lib Dems to take matters issue by issue (or absurdity by absurdity) *and* have room to expand beyond the environment if they chose to do so.

The Character

The ‘hero’ of the piece is a cheesy (and really quite scary) Frankenstein creation made up from bits of David Cameron, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown.

The mouth is based on the eerily-named Preston Blair phoneme series by Gary C. Martin.

Mouth movements have been enhanced by further manipulation of the chin, cheeks, eyes and eyebrows (right down to a tell-tale twitch that occurs whenever our hero tries to maintain his cheesy grin for more than 3.5 seconds).

The Setting

I began with a blackboard in the background, but the ‘roll-down’ method allowed for faster (and more dramatic) use of images.

All images are drawn by hand, eliminating the need to get permission for use of photos etc.

The Jingle

The choice of tune for the jingle was obvious (New Tory Labour = Shave and a Hair Cut) and Nicolas Bulostin delivered just the right level of cheese.

The use of a simple piano arrangement for the ‘sting’ was an accident; I used this to time the final animation while waiting for the finished sting and fell in love with it.

New Tory Labour - Teh LogoThe Branding

Initial logos (you can see some rejects here) started out with mixes of blue and red, including many early treatments playing on the Conservatives’ pre-broccoli attempts to take control of the magic squares.

The chosen logo represents New Tory Labour (or, if you prefer e-stylee; ‘newtorylabour’) aiming for that precious centre ground.

The Execution

There’s very little tweening or automation involved; the core of each animation is built frame-by-frame, beginning with the head (lip-synch and expressions) and then expanding on body/graphic movements.

Yes, it’s a lot of work… but it’s fun work and it delivers a tasty result.

[Psst! And, as an added bonus, local smear-merchants Dennis Paul and Mike Chambers are going to go totally spare about it, despite my making the following ab-so-lute-ly clear at the time; “I have done creative/production work for the Liberal Democrats in the past (and plan to do more)…”]

Search Engines

There’s a focused search engine strategy on the first video especially; most people who are in the know (i.e. not including certain Google “maximisers”) will be able to spot it. It’s a tall order, but I’m hoping for results comparable to that for ‘leo blair’.

So, that’s about it… here’s that link again:

Click here to see the first New Tory Labour flash-video that I’ve produced for the Liberal Democrats.

Remember folks; if you like it; share it.

The more you share it, the more likely it is that I’ll be asked to do another… and another… and another.

Cheers all.

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: The War on Stupid

A lovely poem by Rachel. Go see.

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 22, 2006

Category: The War on Stupid

Independent – New terror that stalks Iraq’s republic of fear: The republic of fear is born again. The state of terror now gripping Iraq is as bad as it was under Saddam Hussein. Torture in the country may even be worse than it was during his rule, the United Nation’s special investigator on torture said yesterday. “The situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand,” said Manfred Nowak. “The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it had been in the times of Saddam Hussein.” The report, from an even-handed senior UN official, is in sharp contrast with the hopes of George Bush and Tony Blair, when in 2003 they promised to bring democracy and respect for human rights to the people of Iraq. The brutal tortures committed in the prisons of the regime overthrown in 2003 are being emulated and surpassed in the detention centres of the present US- and British-backed Iraqi government. “Detainees’ bodies show signs of beating using electric cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns,” the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq says in a new report. The horrors of the torture chamber that led to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq being labelled “The Republic of Fear”, after the book of that title by Kanan Makiya, have again become commonplace. The bodies in Baghdad’s morgue ” often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes and wounds caused by power drills or nails”, the UN report said. Those not killed by these abuses are shot in the head. Human rights groups say torture is practised in prisons run by the US as well as those run by the Interior and Defence ministries and the numerous Sunni and Shia militias.

Guardian – Sir Menzies Campbell’s conference speech: Excessive powers – and the excessive use of powers – alienate the very communities we need on our side. Terrorism thrives where civil liberties are denied. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight to maintain the principles of the Human Rights Act. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight for the independence of judges and the rule of law. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight against any acceptance of torture. And if the proposal comes back – and it will – we will fight to ensure that the government cannot imprison people for ninety days without trial or charge. When tackling terrorism, we must recognise that how we act abroad is as important as how we act at home. We should all be proud of the contribution the United Kingdom has made to democracy, to the values of tolerance and diversity, to the spread of the rule of law. But in a few short years, Britain’s reputation has been tarnished. In foreign policy, the Prime Minister has elevated belief over evidence, conviction over judgement, and instinct over understanding. Put quite simply, he has presided over a foreign policy which is neither ethical nor effective. Week after week in Parliament, the Prime Minister has had to lead tributes to the members of the armed forces who have been killed in action. Since Parliament last sat in July, another 29 have died. We must never forget the price that we ask the men and women of our armed forces to pay. In Iraq we are approaching a state of civil war. Hundreds dying every week. Terrorism taking root. And all the while, Guantanamo Bay stands as a shameful affront to justice and the rule of law. Secret Prisons, rendition, the suspicion of torture. How can those who operate outside the rule of law argue credibly for its observance in Iraq? We Liberal Democrats will not shrink from our responsibility to challenge the government for the consequences of its decisions. Security is not being gained, it is being lost. Terrorism is not being defeated, it is being invigorated. Freedom is not being spread, it is being undermined.

Adrian Hamilton – It’s a bit late for ministers to express regrets now: If you hear the noise of splashing from the halls of Government at the moment, it is the sound of ministers desperately trying to row away from the Iraqi policy and its consequences. In the last week we have had both the Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, in different parts of the world declaring how wrong Guantanamo Bay was: a “shocking affront to the principles of democracy,” declared Lord Falconer in Australia, a breach of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions opined Lord Goldsmith in Chicago. Didn’t say that at the time, did they? All those years when Charles Kennedy doggedly raised the question of treatment of British detainees at Prime Minister’s Question Time, to be swatted aside by a Tony Blair determined to avoid any hint of criticism of President Bush and a Commons all too ready to jeer at anything as serious as this, we didn’t get one solitary voice or its law officers that this grotesque institution was unacceptable by any international standard of behaviour.

Los Angeles Times – Bush Bows to Senators on Detainees: President Bush acceded to dissident Senate Republicans on Thursday, agreeing to new rules for interrogating and prosecuting suspected terrorists that leave intact international treaty protections against torture. In a major concession to Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans, the administration dropped its efforts to have Congress redefine U.S. obligations under the Geneva Convention. The compromise bill in effect bans the most controversial CIA interrogation tactics, including water boarding, a form of simulated drowning, said those involved in the negotiations. At the same time, the agreement gives Bush the legal protections he said were needed to preserve a secret CIA interrogation program. The compromise bill would allow Bush the latitude to employ interrogation tactics which go beyond legal limits set for the U.S. military.

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 20, 2006

Category: Consume!

Guardian – Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial: Britain’s leading scientists have challenged the US oil company ExxonMobil to stop funding groups that attempt to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. In an unprecedented step, the Royal Society, Britain’s premier scientific academy, has written to the oil giant to demand that the company withdraws support for dozens of groups that have “misrepresented the science of climate change by outright denial of the evidence”. The scientists also strongly criticise the company’s public statements on global warming, which they describe as “inaccurate and misleading”.

Oh, they’re doing more than that… here’s something I meant to blog a while ago…

The Raw Story – Republican firm hired by Exxon exposed as Gore documentary spoofer

But feel free to keep ignoring the men behind the green curtain.

Posted by Tim Ireland at September 20, 2006

Category: Tony 'King Blair

That’s funny… I was talking about this very point just last night:

Independent – Blair damages party by clinging to power, say Labour officials: Tony Blair is facing fresh pressure to stand down soon from Labour officials worried that his “long goodbye” is disrupting the party’s plans for next May’s mid-term elections. The officials say the uncertainty over who will lead Labour into the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and English council elections is damaging grassroots morale. They report that some party members are refusing to commit themselves to standing as candidates or campaigning for the party while Mr Blair remains leader. One official said: “Tony should go immediately. He is destroying the party. He is clinging on to the cliff by his fingertips while other people trample all over them.”… Last night a row was brewing over a decision to block an emergency debate over the leadership at the party conference next week in Manchester. A number of constituencies tabled motions calling for the national executive committee to agree a timetable for Mr Blair to step down early next year. The conference arrangements committee meeting is believed to have thrown out all the motions. “They decided that the issue of the leadership is not a contemporary issue, and they were ruled out of order,” said one Labour campaigner.

The Tories didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of winning the last general election, but currently they’re gaining an alarming amount of ground *and* enjoying the luxury of all sorts of reserves.

The time to start taking this on is now… but Blair’s putting the squeeze on me – and lots of people like me – by continuing to cling to power through the use of fear and deception.

I don’t want to see a Conservative government… but I can’t possibly be expected to roll over and allow Blair to have his way. The games he plays are far too dangerous.

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