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Saturday, March 1

NSFW: Golden Gals Gone Wild



Golden Girl Betty White on Craig Ferguson.

This 'tribute to Betty' (she's an ole showgirl) featured at the Golden Gals Gone Wild art show of OAP bazookas in LA last year.

Please stop, you're killing me ...


From the Kenyan blogosphere

These questions about Kenya were posted on a Kenyan tourism portal by potential tourists from various western Countries and were answered by the website owner.

Q: Does it ever get windy in Kenya? I have never seen it rain on TV, so how do the plants grow? (UK)
A: We import all plants fully grown and then just sit around watching them die.
Q: Will I be able to see elephants in the street? (USA)
A: Depends how much you’ve been drinking.
Q: I want to walk from Mombasa to Nakuru - can I follow the railroad tracks? (Sweden)
A: Sure, it’s only two thousand kilometres….take lots of water.
Q: Is it safe to run around in the bushes in Kenya? (Sweden).
A: So it’s true what they say about Swedes!
Q: Are there any ATMs (cash machines) in Kenya? Can you send me a list of them in Nairobi and Mombasa? (UK)
A: What did your last slave die of?
Q: Can you give me some information about Koala Bear racing in Kenya? (USA)
A: Aus-tra-lia is that big island in the middle of the Pacific.
A-fri-ca is the big triangle shaped continent south of Europe which does not…oh forget it. Sure, the Koala Bear racing is every Tuesday night in Koinange Street. Come naked.
Q: Which direction is north in Kenya?(USA)
A: Face south and then turn 90 degrees. Contact us when you get here and we’ll send the rest of the directions.
Q: Can I bring cutlery into Kenya? (UK)
A: Why? Just use your fingers like we do.
Q: Do you have perfume in Kenya? (France)
A: No. We don’t stink.
Q: I have developed a new product that is the fountain of youth. Can you tell me where I can sell it in Kenya? (USA)
A: Anywhere where a significant number of Americans gather.
Q: Can you tell me the regions in Kenya where the female population is smaller than the male population? (Italy)
A: Yes, gay nightclubs.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas in Kenya? (France)
A: Only at Christmas.
Q: Are there killer bees in Kenya? (Germany)
A: Not yet, but for you, we’ll import them.
Q: Are there supermarkets in Nairobi and is milk available all year round? (Holland)
A: No, we are a peaceful civilisation of vegan hunter-gatherers. Milk is illegal.
Q: Please send a list of all doctors in Kenya who can dispense rattlesnake serum. (USA)
A: Rattlesnakes live in A-meri-ca, which is where YOU come from. All Kenyan snakes are perfectly harmless, can be safely handled and make good pets.
Q: I was in Kenya in 1969 and I want to contact the girl I dated while I was staying in Mombasa. Can you help? (USA)
A: Yes, but you will probably still have to pay her by the hour.
Q: Will I be able to speek English most places I go? (USA)
A: Yes, but you’ll have to learn it first

The images of machete-wielding mobs caused a tourist stampede, and the lingering uncertainty over the country's direction has caused a wave of cancellations, leaving dozens of hotels closed and thousands of guides, drivers, cooks, waiters, masseuses, wood-carvers and bead-stringers out of work.

Many of them support a vast network of relatives.

The truth is that most of the violence has subsided and it never really touched the tourist areas, like the Masai Mara.

But many Western governments seem to think otherwise. Australia is still warning its citizens traveling to Kenya to stay indoors, not exactly the greatest plug for game watching.

"These warnings are a real problem for us," Calvin Cottar, owner of an upscale safari camp, said. Even if the game lodges have been perfectly safe people have not wanted to come to Kenya if they think "they will be drinking Champagne while somebody is getting hacked to death over the hill."

Hillary is not the 'devil'



It would fit with the theme for Reuters to sell this pic. Misogyny has been the unwritten undercurrent to this election. She has been called every name under the sun with absolutely no comeback — and all 'explained' by who she's married to. And where have we heard that before? That's all it amounts to. 'Nigger' is not OK, 'bitch' is.

NB: This is a Matt Drudge promotion, he's obviously turned on Hillary. Which means it's still men deciding. The BBC's no better (Matt Fry calling Hillary 'honey'). Shame on the media, the commentiat, the Obama supporters and rest of the men and women piling on, but they have none.

Thursday, February 28

I want this in the UK!



You don't even need to know who this lot are; it's the concept. Show the wizard behind the curtain.

This is from Harry Shearer's 'damn channel'. Harry's the voice of numerous Simpsons characters. His channel has loads of this stuff.

Such is progress

New Washington Times (owned by the very, very right wing Moonies) Style Guide:

2) Gay is approved for copy and preferred over homosexual, except in clinical references or references to sexual activity.
3) The quotation marks will come off gay marriage (preferred over homosexual marriage).
David Duke (notorious white supremacist leader):
"I don't see much difference in Barack Obama than Hillary Clinton--or, for that matter, John McCain."
New Republic: Post-racial - how the American far-right is coping

Wednesday, February 27

Update: Iranian gay deportee, Mahdi Kazemi

All Mehdi Kazemi News updates are now at medhikazemi.com

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'Undercover mosque': police hit with lawsuit


Hallelujah seems to be the appropriate response to the news that Channel Four is supporting a libel claim against West Midlands Police.

These are the mob (WM police) which took Channel Four to law over their broadcast of a documentary featuring footage of British preachers calling for homosexuals to be killed, espousing male supremacy, condemning non-Muslims and predicting jihad.


These are also the same police who have received consistent criticism by West Midlands lesbians and gays for homophobia. I blogged last year about how West Midlands Labour councillors (it's a Labour fiefdom) were running anti-gay campaigns using a local gay sex meeting place as an excuse. There's plainly a homophobia problem which lives in the West Midlands.

So hurrah for Channel Four. They have a bloody good case.

Me! Me! Me!


Reading through the comments online as the Daily Mail launches its campaign against plastic bags is an object lesson in:

  1. intergenerational responsibility
  2. blatant selfishness
I recycle bags, this is about taxing ME, this is inconvenient for ME, I am upstanding, I don't litter ... I, I, I ...

What sort of a future do these sorts of people want for their children (or if they don't have them, like me, the generation of humanity who'll support them as they age)?

They want a future which they're not responsible for - that's for someone else (my bloody local council, Gordon Brown, chavs, my neighbors, politicians etc.). Anyone but me.

It's very very, very easy to put the blame elsewhere but we all make decisions, do actions, do non-actions, which have collectively created the polluted, litter-full world we live in. Angels didn't descend from heaven, spaceships didn't land - humans did it and we're all part of it.



Tellingly, the Mail is hanging it's campaign off the impact of rubbish on glamorous sea creatures. Look at this poor turtle, here's a gull wrapped in a plastic bag. I'm sure they know what they're doing and what works best with Middle England.

But howsabout talking about what sort of world our collective kids will inherit?

It's extremely encouraging that the vast majority of commentators have at least some sense of this at last - that concern for the environment is not about fluffy animals but our kids.

I was chatting about this today and there's one person who I'd pin as responsible for the British change-of-heart and that's David Cameron. He has 'normalised' environmental concern on the Right and thus marginalised the sort of selfish loons who appear to dominate American discourse (and used to in Australia).

None of this is to say that changes by individuals is enough - it's not. But we all (can) vote, we all decide, we can make companies and governments change tack. That's why we like being here, in the UK, rather than, say, Saudi Arabia. The public's opinion is what needs to change and it seems to be happening.

The Mail's campaign is very encouraging and - as they did with UK racism over Stephen Lawrence - it will result in a further normalisation of environmental concern. And that's for the good.

Video: Italians protest UK deportation of gay teen to Iran



Google translation from the Italian (Source: radioradicale.it):

In the coming hours the gay Iranian Seyed Mehdi Kazemi will be transferred from Holland (where he is after having fled from England following the British authorities' refusal to grant him political asylum) to London, before being deported to Iran where he risks execution for the crime of "lavat" (sodomy). The delivery of Mehdi should happen already tomorrow.

None Touch Cain and the Radical Party Nonviolento, transnational and transpartito ask the Foreign Minister D'Alema to intervene immediately to the UK to freeze the unacceptable process of deportation to Iran of Mehdi. That represent a violation of international conventions on human rights and in particular the Convention on Refugees, the jurisprudence of the European Court on Human Rights and the same law (Directive 2005/85).

Yesterday [Monday 25th February] at 17:30 in Rome, in front of the Embassy of Great Britain (Via XX September, 80), there will be a demonstration of No Touch Cain, Nonviolento Transnational Radical Party and Transpartito and Group Everyone, to ask the Government to halt the English 'extradition of Medhi to Iran.
Monday's protest (in Italian)

video

NB: I will try to get this onto a video sharing site.

Tuesday, February 26

Ten online campaigning tips for Ken Livingstone


I may have mentioned my lack of impress with Ken Livingstone's online campaign for the London mayoralty. The first efforts out the gate broke numerous web norms with the biggest hole being leaving supporters without fightback material against the rapidly building anti-Ken campaign and unexplained requests for money from Labour after it's fundraising scandals.

To be a wee bit more positive, here are ten tips culled from the US Primaries experience. They'll be applicable to both Boris and Brian and Siân as well but both of Ken's main challengers are miles ahead already.

I am not including the very, very basics such as not relying on images in email to convey information or testing your site for its usability — if you don't get that sort of thing everything here is waaaay too sophisticated.

1. Email.

  • This is still a prime first contact point, resource appropriately
  • Keep them short and punchy (Ken's waffle on)
  • Keep them task orientated for supporters
  • Lob them out immediately when attacks hit
2. Connect Online to Offline
  • Obama supporters can fill in a simple form and get a free bumper sticker
  • MeetUp and other massive event/organising sites are the prime focus for local campaigning - see Edwards campaign. Use them even before your own site
  • Only Obama has done this properly: tying microtargeting to participation such as online phone banks and text
  • Obama is running ads using web 2.0 to show where to vote
3. Your site won't do everything, don't rely on it
  • Most US Voters don't visit candidate websites
  • Extending your web presence is therefore essential to repeat your talking points
  • What Americans say they want from candidate websites are; their voting records; less spin; less reliance on video clips (for people dependent on dial-up); clearer statements on the issues
4. Viral is always about funny
5. Rebuttal is what the web's for
  • All the meme's against Obama have been far more effectively fought in an online than previous offline campaigns — the Karl Rove's are losing power as the wizard's behind the curtain
  • The web's depth allows you to go to town
  • Your supporters will be desperate for rebuttal talking points
6. Multimedia and video rule, obviously most of all with young people
  • I haven't seen clips circulating of Ken knocking back the booze — that's luck not strategy
  • Encourage and feed your supporters to create their own MM like Flash cartoons — see Mark Fiore
  • Mitt Romney ran a very successful 'create your own ad' effort through Jumpcut
  • You could start with a send-up of 'drunk Ken' — attack is the best defence
7. Expose and therefore normalise yourself
  • Not for nothing have US commentators praised 'Web Cameron' for craftily displaying a 'normal, family guy'
  • Unless you're a stand-up comic or Obama, talking straight-to-camera is boring
  • Brave trumps timid
8. Ditch blatant spin, bottom-up not top-down
  • Supporters, especially a blatantly multicultural selection, praising you - this interests who?
  • Better to seed communities of interest who support you to do their own specific, tailoured spin with your talking points
  • Hillary had to learn that playing safe and top-down command-control doesn't work online and looks awful
9. Bloggers rule Search
  • Google results will generally give masses of blog links
  • For both Ken and Brian this is a major problem given the Tory-leaning UK political blogosphere — although Guido is no Drudge
  • So invite Labour bloggers in and get them to piss inside the tent: encourage them
  • US candidates rank well in search (for their name) only Obama & Hillary for campaign issues keywords (e.g. 'Strengthen middle class')
  • Edwards had 43x more web pages indexed than Obama
10. Sometimes TV still beats Web
  • On Super Tuesday when California was declared for Hillary - the key moment - it took at least ten minutes before it showed up online.
  • On Super Tuesday everyone was 'live blogging' the same results everyone else was waiting for - from the news channels
  • Not so much here yet, but in the US TV is migrating online (I was watching MSNBC on Super Tuesday, they had numerous streams) so candidates feed that context with tailoured landing pages 'for more info'
  • Source referral from TV web pages needs gardening
... and 11. Listen to online politicking critics (like me). The Republicans didn't and look where that's got them.

And if you - cynical politician - still need some sort of convincing see Pew Research nailing the numbers on the Web's political influence in the Primaries.

Any other ideas? I'll expand this post as more ideas pop into my head.

Additions:

12: What is a 'political' website? Don't restrict your web presence
  • Don't play to the crowd who either never will or already are voting for you (except for mobilisation)
  • The Kenyan Crisis is one example when all types (literally) of bloggers and commentators on all types of sites have participated in politics
  • A London example might be the politics on Arsenal's discussion sites surrounding the attempted Usmanov take-over
  • Match and tailor talking points to communities of real or potential interest, e.g. bus safety to women - and gays - and *fill in the blanks*
13: Use Geo-targeting
  • Obama's campaign used this to present Texas specific content to users from Texas
  • It is now possible to target down to the town level in the UK
  • For elections this means you can tailor messages much more precisely for website visitors as well as searchers so you waste less online ad money

~~~~~~~~~~~~


On the numbers:
  • Pew's is the first US detailed research but OFCOM, amongst others is tracking the change in media use in the UK
  • You can see it also in the papers ranking up their sites - they see and are anticipating the move for info/news sourcing to online
  • 'Occams razor' (past experience) suggests that we are maybe 1-2 years behind the US
  • See the impact of YouTube already in the UK - e.g one of my local councillors was shown remonstrating in a street through a video shot on mobile and posted online, then the papers picked it up

Google Reader clips catch up

Latest of my Google Reader starred items:

More McCain comedy riffs

Following on from Jon Stewart:

Oscar is 80, "which automatically makes him the front-runner for the Republican nomination"
Late night hosts seem to have settled on McCain's age for comedy value.



"The guy who is always early for the 'Early Bird Special'"
"The guy at the supermarket who is confused by the automatic doors"

Mind you. that clip's from before the New York Times linked him to a glamorous lobbyist ...

This is hysterical.



They keep saying he's too old for the job. Hell, they'd be nothing better for his campaign than if he produced a closet full of Naughty Ladies ... 'I have an erection right now', then knock the podium over with it ...

Wonkette had the best summary of what the heck the New York Times printed:
  • While Grandpa Straight Talk was running for the presidency in 2000, all his aides were going nuts because he was constantly traveling with a good-looking lobbyist gal who was, at the time, in her early thirties.
  • Whether or not McCain and Vicki Iseman were having sexytime on the corporate jets he used to fly around the country, McCain did do the bidding of Iseman’s clients.
  • At this point, he had barely cleared his name from the Keating Five Savings & Loan scandal.
  • In one of his few acknowledgments that the Arizona senator has ever been to Arizona, McCain made a point of not flying direct from National Airport to Phoenix because he had some part in opening up that commercial air route — but because he always flies in luxury private jets provided by the Corporates, it didn’t much inconvenience him.
  • McCain helped launch some campaign-ethics group, but the group ended up doing the exact same corrupt things it was supposedly against, so he quit in shame.
  • Corrupt banker/developer Charles Keating was, obviously, an immediate supporter of McCain’s long congressional career. Keating showered dirty money and fancy vacations on McCain, who loves all that shit.
  • Then McCain tried to get the government off the back of Keating’s failing corrupt Lincoln Savings and Loan, because McCain really wants to get government off the backs of his corrupt millionaire friends.
  • McCain got caught, but somehow clung to his senate seat.
  • But McCain can still pretend to “wince” at the memory of getting caught, so who cares if the bailout cost American taxpayers $3.4 billion?
  • He also got caught having a big lobbyist fund-raising deluxe luxury fancy party in 2000. So he ran and hid like a little girl.
  • Lobbyists control his entire miserable, corrupt life.
  • He loves lobbyists, both in the figurative and literal sense, because he was probably screwing that one lobbyist.
  • And when the lobbyists need a quick letter to the FCC or whatever to help their clients, John Maverick McCain is always quick to help, the end.

Online marketing and UK eGov Frontierspeople


In January my fabulous egov webbie colleague Jeremy Gould organised the first UK Barcamp for government, held at Google HQ. BarCamp is a newish way of organising gatherings that's a breath of fresh air over the usual stale conferences.

It was an enormously successful event, for the first time drawing in a significant non-government input from the, often isolated, other people in NGOs, SMEs etc as well as bloggers with an interest. I was very sorry I missed it, not the least because it's exactly the sort of event I've wanted to see for - actually - years.

However ... and not having been there I recognise the limb I'm climbing onto (I used to review concerts and this is a classic, don't review if you weren't there) ...

One subject which I noticed was absent from discussion and follow-up and also didn't appear in the stated interests of the attendees was online marketing although I'm sure Search was discussed - it was @Google UK HQ after all.

Of course this is a first, so everything wouldn't make it in, although the 'agenda' at a BarCamp is all about what interests attendees, but it wouldn't surprise me if marketing was completely absent as my experience is that the area just doesn't register in the UK GovWeb scene. It wouldn't have been a focus for attendees because Social Media (in particular), online democracy and similar 'frontier' areas are 'subjects du jour' and there hasn't been the prior resonance, the history, with marketing as a topic for the people in this scene to put it on the agenda.

Elsewhere, it's never been a subject of interest within eGov. What there has been has been either irrelevant or dated (see DirectGov marketing and paulcanning posts passim) but - largely - notable by its absence. There is still no basic advice for government webbies on basic webbie things like Search Marketing / Search Optimisation (though government will advise SMEs on it!).

I hate to reuse the same word but here we go ... this is another disconnect. Marketing and especially Search Optimisation is an absolute essential for any web project.

Simply put, the 'findability' of any site is dependent on it and if something can't be found it won't be used. It precedes Usability.

I can't put it any simpler: if you don't market, how are you going to get used?

The eGov prism through which this topic is missed can be seen in something like discussions about whether councils or specific services (like Youth) should have a Facebook or Bebo page. The eGov discussion would revolve around what you would do with it, how you would use it to 'engage', policy etc. Wonky stuff.

But look at how Presidential candidates (and now some UK candidates) use these huge sites — it's mainly about extending their web presence. Making themselves more 'findable' because they are there in as many places as the potential voters might find them. That first, then maybe they might actually do more with that presence. That's how candidates have behaved online.

Never mind what you might do with a Bebo page, for example, if you simply stick one up that links to somewhere else that helps someone - especially the Youth - find you, boosts your overall presence and promotes your landing page(s). Just doing that is credible to audiences, anything more is pre-empting and assuming attitudes - you don't need to do more.

This is just the beginning, the very basics of online marketing - extending your presence.

Any web site manager looking through their logs will see a host of traffic sources. Looking at my blog; it's bits of traffic which adds up. Different posts finding different audiences through me pinging, links I've asked for and links which self-generate, referral, even one Wikipedia link which has brought lotsa traffic. And Email isn't insignificant as a traffic source. This is exactly how any other site builds traffic.

I've written a lot about how massive efforts like DirectGov really don't help punters through thinking themselves 'special' and not behaving like the rest of the web. How people use lots of different search terms and most won't find them what they want from government via Google, (which is how most people find anything online). Search is not easy (the mighty BBC is screwing it up right now) but it's not like others don't know how to do it and it's not like government doesn't have inbuilt advantages (trust).

The simple fact is that marketing is largely absent from the projects not just devised by big bad bureaucratic government but also those of the Frontierspeople: hence the gap at BarCamp. (Relative) successes tend to come from unsought viral promotion or exclusivity. They don't come from any thought through online marketing strategies because - put bluntly - there are none in eGov.

Any comparison with other sectors just shows this gap in its sharp relief. Who else would keep building sites with no strategy to drive traffic, let alone target an audience?

What actually is depressing is that, without wanting to sound martyrish, I'm scratching around to think of who else is raising the topic. There just seems to be very little resonance for marketing within eGov.

Am I wrong?

I'm scratching around for reasons and the only one I can think of which makes sense is look at the personnel. Who is coming from online marketing backgrounds into eGov? How does this knowledge make its way in? By contrast geeks. tekkies and wonks (of which I'm at least one meself) we have a-plenty.

Solutions? Again, I'm scratching but I think the quickest is to connect with the Frontierspeople equivalent in online marketing and not wait on the bureaucracy. I would also guess that this sector - being citizens and tax-payers themselves - wouldn't all be disinterested in contributing. It's just a shame that we'd (eGov) be coming from such a low base in that potential engagement.

But first we, eGov, just need to recognise online marketing as a vital, core part of creating websites. That hasn't happened yet.

La Dolce Vita

I somehow managed to not find the opening scene of La Dolce Vita clipped on YouTube (slap!) and instead used the Perroni Advert, which is a glossy tribute, as I was matching available clips to my fave films.

The Observer gave copies away on Sunday and as a teaser they found a lot more clips than me, including the stunning opening.



I've never seen a Fellini film I didn't like and could happily watch Marcello Mastroianni open an envelope but La Dolce Vita is a definitive classic:

  • It gave birth to the term Paparazzi
  • First appearance of Nico
  • Huge influence on Lost in Translation and Pulp Fiction. Woody Allen's Celebrity copies the structure
  • The opening scene of a Christ statue over Rome has been copied many times (see L.A. Story)
  • It's in The Simpsons and Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders did an exquisite parody

This is Web power · Pervs meet their match

This is the last of a few posts I've done on 'web power' — ways in which the Web is helping to change the world around us for the better. This last one is a little bit more complicated in its implications than either Italians fighting Mafia or Kenyans developing democracy online.

MANHATTAN — Dan Hoyt is a 'raw food guru' and subway masturbator in New York who met his match in a Camera-phone wielded by a woman fighting back.

The Daily News cover expose

Thao Nguyen, a Web designer, uploaded the photo of Dan and his dick to the girl-power site Laundromatic.net, hoping someone would identify her flasher. After many women responded she brought the image in August 2006 to the Daily News after the NYPD dismissed her complaint.

It ran on the paper’s front page, Hoyt was caught and she inspired the grassroots group Holla Back NYC, which later launched a Web site encouraging women to post photos of men who make uninvited or inappropriate comments and gestures. There are now sites for other US and Canadian cities.

Holla Back's motto is "If you can't slap 'em, snap 'em!"

There are quite a few reports from London too. Including a few pics - like this young dickhead 'reading' porn on the 17.45 from Manchester Piccadilly all the way to London Euston.

There's another pic of a man openly masturbating on the London Underground.

The idea doesn't seem to have caught on outside North America, perhaps because of libel laws. It had a rave reception from British feminists when launched but there's nothing like it in the UK and I can only assume the law or fear of the law has stopped women from copying it.

It's also potentially open to abuse in more ways than one. The site, for example, has gone out of its way to ensure that the photos are not a parade of 'scary black men'.

As well, it fits an evolving American niche where sites exist to do allegedly useful social tasks like 'expose' nannies having a fag break. Sites which hit first and answer questions later, all in the name of 'free speech'.

The bottom line though is that HollaBack lives up to its name - women hollering back to men that they won't take this crap. Only through the web can this sort of daily dose served up to women in public space be literally shown for what it is.

This is Web Power and, on balance, it's brilliant. Far better to be aggressive like this than passively accepting with 'women-only' carriages on the Tube (Brian Paddick's solution, neither Ken or Boris have one).

PC hearts lastfm


Last.fm is the British-born online music social network which was bought by CBS (of all people) last year. They have just 'upped the offering' by making a lot of music playable in its entirety on the website. And this has apparently helped its usage balloon in the States.

The reasons I love it are two sides of their core offering: new-to-me music. I love that the method introduces me to 'similar' music via various routes — one would be, after feeding the system lots of info, who else in the world shares my eclectic taste and another via 'tags'. But it also has an enormous archive so I can find music I've lost touch with, a lot from when I was a deejay (I've read that this makes me an example of their desired audience, middle aging blokes revisiting their youth!).

It's more than that though. It still has a 'community' feel, which is most evident on the forums where last.fm staff actually contribute. There's also local communities and lots of people with groups and events and more I've barely touched. But most of all it's enabled me to build up an archive so wherever I might be I don't need an ipod to hear 'my sort of music'.

I've had interesting experiences explaining it. 'Radio stations' really is a last.fm concept in need of a new name. Ain't easy to explain how it works but when showing it to a young friend of mine I jumped with glee when they 'got it' immediately. There are lots of ways to play around with it but the bottom line is you do have to give back to get out, it's not a passive medium.

The best thing by far though is the opportunity to be exposed to music you'll probably like but wouldn't otherwise know, and maybe a lil' bit further.

'tis the future with music I think. Apple be damned!






Oscars riffs on Iraq

"The films that were made about the Iraq war, did not do so well. But I'm telling you, if we stay the course and keep these movies in the theaters we can turn this around. I don't care if it takes 100 years. Withdrawing the Iraq movies would only embolden the audience. We cannot let the audience win."



Monday, February 25

Jacqui Smith is complicit in murder


A post of mine from last year on Iranian executions of gays has been consistently getting hits from people looking for information on that subject.

The link at the end is to the Iraqi LGBT exiles organisation — where you can donate to efforts to save people's lives.

I've now come across a similar group for Iran. They're supporting 'safe houses' and campaigning against asylum seekers being sent back to their deaths.

[Iran is not alone. Athough gays suffer murderous persecution ( a 'deathzone') in Iraq and many other nations, these are the ones with the death penalty in the statutes: Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen and Nigeria. NB: The UAE includes Dubai, home to numerous supposed 'friends of the gays', such as the Beckhams, as well as the massed slave labour building those skyscrapers.]

Last year, some British MPs, to their credit, told the Iranians what they thought of them to their face during an official visit.

The Iranian Minister Mohsen Yahyavi (who is the highest- ranked politician to admit that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality) told British MP’s at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in May this year, that homosexuals should be executed [he initially said tortured but changed it to executed].
However the UK is still deporting gays and lesbians back to Iran.

One was Pegah Emambakhsh, who was saved last year by the intervention, amongst others, of the Prime Minister of Italy.

Nineteen year old Seyed Mehdi Kazemi is yet another that Jacqui Smith wants to send to his death. I have just discovered his case. He is arriving at Heathrow tomorrow and it is not clear whether he will be held or put straight on a Tehran flight.

Hearing this is heartbreaking - literally - because, as one anonymous commentator put it:
It could be any of us who are LGBT, who is in that position, if not for the roll of the dice that allowed us to be born in the West.
Here is his story:
Seyed Medhi Kazemi was born in Tehran and is not yet 20. On September 15th, 2005 he set off for the United Kingdom after applying for a student visa. At first he lived with his uncle in London and attended an English course. In November 2005 he moved to Brighton where he enrolled at the Embassy CES College of Hove. He renewed his student visa to November 2006, with the intention of returning to his family in Iran once the course was over.

Medhi loved a boy back in Iran called Parham, with whom he had shared a secret relationship since the age of 15. Medhi and Parham regularly wrote to each other via e-mail until December 2005, when Parham suddenly stopped writing. In late March 2006, Medhi’s uncle informed him that his father had found out about his homosexuality and his relationship with Parham: the boy had been arrested by the Iranian authorities after being caught with a peer and accused of “lavat” (sodomy).

During the interrogation he was forced to give the names of all the boys he had had relations with, including Medhi himself. Medhi’s father had then received a visit from the Tehran Police, with an arrest warrant for his son as they wanted to put him on trial. In late April, Medhi’s uncle told him Parham had been put to death.

At this point, Medhi decided to apply to the British Home Office for refugee status, as a similar fate awaited him back in Iran: a death sentence for lavat, and maybe even mohareb, followed by hanging in an Iranian prison (seeing executions are no longer being carried out in public places after the decree signed by Ayatollah Mahmoud Hasemi on January 30th, 2008). His application for asylum, however, was turned down by the Home Secretary.

Medhi, terrified at the idea of being deported back to Iran - where a death sentence awaits him – attempted to flee to Canada, but he was stopped by the German border police. After telling them his story, he was sent to Holland (a country known for granting refugee status to Iranian homosexuals) and handed over to police custody. However, the United Kingdom then sent an official request to Holland, according to the Treaty of Dublin, asking for Medhi’s return, in order to proceed with his deportation to Iran.

On February 13th, 2008, Medhi informed his uncle of his whereabouts, he was being held in Venlo police station in Holland and had been told he was soon to be transferred to Rotterdam. Medhi’s uncle says he last heard from his nephew on February 15th. Medhi was in the detention centre at Rotterdam Airport, and according to the boy, no one had told him what his fate would be, nor when he was to be returned to Britain.

Omar Kuddus, from the Gay Asylum UK association, tells EveryOne Group that he received a phone call from Medhi, on February 18th, informing him that the flight that is to take him back to Britain has been arranged for Tuesday February 26th: it will leave at 8 a.m. (Dutch time) from the Amsterdam Airport of Schiphol, and arrive at Heathrow, London at about 8.30 a.m. (British time).

Medhi is at present in a precarious state of heath and suffering from deep depression. Several days ago he started a hunger strike.
Hearing yet another story like this makes me ASHAMED to be British and ASHAMED of the Labour Party I voted for. UK gays should note as well yet another Italian protest against Britain, at the Rome Embassy on Monday.

Jacqui Smith heads the Home Office, whose policy appears to be to send people back and hope for the best. They, contradicting the Foreign Office, continue to deny murderous persecution of gays and lesbians in Iran. Smith, and her predecessors, have consistently failed to take leadership in this area, which campaigners have been raising for years.

Jacqui Smith is the responsible party and needs to be called to account as complicit in murder.

This is the same as when her predecessors in the 1930s knowingly sent Jewish children fleeing Germany back to their deaths.

The Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP
House of Commons, Westminster,
London, SW1A 0AA
By Telephone and Fax :
01527 523355
By E mail
smithjj@parliament.uk

Please contact her and/or tell others about Seyed Mehdi Kazemi.

YOUR HELP MAY SAVE HIS LIFE

Sarkozy on camera: "piss off!"

Entering a exhibition, a bloke refuses to shake the President's proferred hand and says 'Touche moi pas, tu me salis' - 'Don't touch me, you'll make me dirty'.

Sarkozy's quick comeback: 'Casse-toi, casse-toi pauvre con' - meaning 'Piss off, you jerk'.

Cameras rolling and said with a smile. Such class.

Hillary mocks Obama

... but it's all a bit late ...



'The Sky Will Open, The Light Will Come Down'

Sunday, February 24

Monty misses the High Line



I've been enjoying Monty Don's tour of World Gardens on the Beeb, despite far too many presenter shots (unfortunately a TV norm). But he really missed something special in New York.

In Manhattan he visited one of the first Community Gardens, one tiny strip besides a Lower East Side block. But running nearby like a green river through West Manhattan is one of the most exciting urban park/garden projects in the world: the High Line.

This is the abandoned elevated railway which runs 22 blocks to the Hudson River.

The structure was designed to go through the center of blocks, rather than over the avenue, to avoid creating the negative conditions associated with elevated subways. It connected directly to factories and warehouses, allowing trains to roll right inside the buildings. Milk, meat, produce, and raw and manufactured goods could come and go without causing any street-level traffic.
Of course it was all set for demolition and redevelopment but New Yorkers fought (notably against Guiliani) and won it back for public space.

Now the whole length is being converted into a series of elevated gardens, meadows and parkland, with swimming pools, an amphitheater, even a beach, as well, in an immensely innovative way. 'The biggest opportunity for green space in Manhattan in 100 years'.

London actually has an elevated linear park in Mile End Park, which continues over a 'Green Bridge', designed by Piers Gough, to cross the main road.



Leeds wants to do something similar with an old viaduct. Paris already has the Promenade plantée connecting the Bastille with the eastern suburbs. Valencia' s Jardín del Turia is a similar 'linear park' through the heart of the city, there in a diverted river bed. Other cities like Chicago are looking at similar abandoned elevated railway conversions.

This strikes me as a very realistic, aesthetic, urban use of space and - Monty! - all about gardens.

Lots of creative New Yorkers — like film star Edward Norton — seem to be part of their giant community scheme. So, n'est ce pas, the video is good!

Here's more about The High Line.





A message to Ralph Nader from anonymous

Consumer advocate Nader starts presidential bid - Reuters - Sunday, February 24, 2008; 12:02 PM

First as tragedy, then as farce ...



NB: this is the same style as the anonymous anti-Scientology vid

Cromer avoids death by satellite


Not making this up ...

The British government says a sizeable chunk of the poison satellite of death will hit the earth at 5.30pm GMT today (12.30 Eastern). They expect it to hit somewhere in the South Atlantic, but are a little bit concerned that it might end up crashing into the picturesque seaside village of Cromer in Norfolk - they’re worried enough to have informed the local emergency services…
This is Cromer described as a "lovely hobbiton" in my US source full of "quaint, thatched-roof cottages" and something to do with "wicket goblins" (a Potter reference I believe). Oh those charming Americans!

If only. It's actually a depressed seaside resort town with a drugs problem and seafront bed'n'breakfasts full of displaced asylum seekers. The pier area's been tarted up but the Victorian Gothic hotels behind desperately need a lick of paint.

The 'quaint' (rich) bit of North Norfolk starts further up the coast.