Don't Panic!

There are times, however, when panic is quite understandable. I’m sure that one of these times must be when you have been sent to the Department of Homeland Security office, a mirror-walled room which can see out, but you can’t see in. You have a red file, and to be honest, you think Cuba is only a few hours away.

The journey to this point was fine. I like travelling on buses to airports; there’s something wonderful about the idea of everybody on the bus travelling to different places. Glasgow, Paris, Vienna, Singapore, Rio, Florida; all these journeys began on a bus from Gloucester Green station.

There are upsides to Bonnie’s condition: with her being in a wheelchair, we managed to jump hundreds of queues, from check-in to security clearance, and we were the first people to board the plane to Washington D.C. It wasn’t the most exciting of flights, but! We had a Blue Peter presenter sitting next to us! So if you see a BP report from Virginia or Winston-Salem, North Carolina in the next month, they came over on the same plane that we did. Also, I’m pleased to report that home hot-dog cooking has progressed from just one choice of dedicated cooker; the new SkyMall magazine has two different types, the new one promising to heat sausages just like they do at baseball games. And of course, it warms your buns too.

When we landed at Washington, I was rather worried. If you remember from other times I’ve talked about it, or you’ve flown into America before, you know that the Visa Waiver form has a series of questions on the back, asking things like “do you have a physical or mental disorder?” all the way to “were you a Nazi?” If you answer yes to any of these, you’re supposed to contact the US embassy, because it may mean you aren’t eligible for the waiver. Normally, we all laugh, and tick no to everything.

Except one of the questions is: “have you ever had a US visa cancelled?” And the last time I flew in, my education visa was cancelled. Bonnie also had to answer yes to the physical disorder question, so both of us were concerned that we were going to be deported back home.

Again, we skipped the queue, and went up to the customs official. After our fingerprints and pictures were taken like common criminals (except for Bonnie, who managed to get away without doing either, hence if you hear about a wheelchair-bound terrorist spree, blame the nice woman at D.C. immigration), I was sent to the mirrored room.

My mother and I were the only white people there except for the staff.

Eventually, I was called up to be questioned. They just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to try and restart my education at UNC, which wasn’t helped by me telling the official (a man who called everyone “Boss”; except for me) that I was going to be staying in Chapel Hill with friends. Oh, and I was unemployed (oh, technically, I am a freelance journalist, but seeing as how ‘journalist’ seems to be a Homeland Security codeword for “take out back, strip-search, and then send to Outer Mongolia,” I decided that unemployed might be better). Luckily, he was satisfied with my answers, and sent us on our way.

Deep breath.

Our flight down to Florida was just a blur; one hour and fifty minutes of “I didn’t get deported! Hurrah!” going through my head. Our next trial was at the car rental stand. They had run out of mini-vans. The man behind the counter did us a favour and upgraded us to what he thought was the next step up; an 8 person van. We when got there, however, it was a 15-seat minibus. Or The Bus of DOOM. So Dad’s first experience of driving in America again was a huge bus, in the dark. Oh, and we following somebody else’s directions to get where we were going. As you can imagine, a few tempers frayed on the journey, but we made it here safely.

And here is really lovely; a huge house, with a small pool in the back garden, bedrooms with silly-sized wardrobes, and a 5-disc DVD player. Not that we’ll be using it, but it’s still impressive. I’ll try and get some pictures up in the next few days.

We’re here, then. And that was Friday. Tomorrow I’ll write about today, which is shorter, although it does involve President Bush’s motorcade…

currently playing: Johnny Boy — Johnny Boy Theme

Florida Bound

I’m off again. I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update the blog over the next few weeks; if it’s anything like last time, it will probably be more active than it normally is (but I’m on a dial-up connection for the first ten days, which may slow things down somewhat). Anyway, while I’m gone:

Hobart Paving

Lots of Florida fun to come!

currently playing: Black Box Recorder — Start As You Mean To Go On

with apologies to robin carmody

England Made Me single coverEngland Made Me Black Box Recorder Chrysalis Released: July 1998 Highest UK Chart Position: 89 Available on: England Made Me

Understand: Luke Haines Hates You.

In his previous band, The Auteurs, he railed against the nostalgic reinvention of the 1970s, using the album How I Learned To Love The Bootboys to expose the rotten chipboard soul behind the rose-tinted talk of Spangles, Space Hoppers, and the Bay City Rollers. With Black Box Recorder, he expanded his range to pour scorn over the idea of “Cool Britannia”. That there is something about England, something sinister, something that grinds us all down into the ground, making us bitter and twisted, constantly looking back in time to make the monotony of the present day bearable. England Made Us, and no matter what, we cannot escape from its shadow.

The cover adorning the single features Lord Lucan; the perfect image for England’s past; landed gentry, a member of the class we all supposedly aspire to. Somebody who would have probably been aware of, and possibly even involved in, the plot to overthrow the Labour Government of the 1970s, to prevent us upstarts from ruling and placing the country back in the hands of the benevolent gentlemen of the Conservatives. Lord Lucan, who killed his nanny and fled prosecution when it became clear that there were things even a Lord couldn’t get away with.

And the song itself? Sarah Nixey’s perfectly upper-middle-class English accent speaks softly as she delivers her lecture on what it means to be from England, only singing when the chorus interrupts; a sad lament of “England made me”. Instead of offsetting the disturbing lyrics, the school teacher delivery makes them all the more haunting. The first line sets the tone; the spider trapped within the glass. England as sadists, drummed into us even as children. The music that goes along with Nixey’s vocals is minimal, reminiscent of a children’s ITV show, and like Sarah, only comes to life during the chorus. For the most of the song, it provides a melancholy and ghostly backing; the spectre of England that can’t be described using mere words. Only at the end does it open its gaping jaw and swallows everything.

Luke Haines Hates You. But he knows it’s not your fault. A year into the rule of New Labour, and the sheen still hadn’t worn off; 1997 was the first time that Thatcher’s children got a chance to vote, and we sent them packing, hoping for a real change. Haines points out that we were just fooling ourselves. England never changes. It changes us instead.

Round 4: Crisis On Infinite Ballots

Last night, I discovered that there exists a version of Holding Back The Years as sung by The Frantic Elevators, Mick Hucknall’s original punk band. Is it sick and wrong that I desperately want to hear this? Apparently, it sounds like The Fall covering Simply Red. It needs to be part of my record collection.

Anyway. The final debate. Breaking news of this evening:

Nevada does its best to remind everybody that you shouldn’t pick on Florida all the time. And, Travis, I know you’re not reading this, but still: do you really want to vote for a party that supports this sort of thing?

The Libertarian Party fails in its lawsuit to get its candidate in the debate tonight.

And, while I’m not going to link to it, The Smoking Gun manages to top the thought of Nicholas Soames’ lips by printing a sexual harassment suit against Bill O’Reilly. And really, paragraph 81 tells you more than you ever needed to know. Trust me.

Music for this evening is supplied by Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The U.S.A.. Because I’ve never listened to it before, and it seemed fitting.

I have a bad feeling about tonight. In the past two debates, Kerry managed to drive Bush to and beyond the point of annoyed by beating on Iraq. It seems to be the one subject that the President was accept no argument on, and he quickly becomes unhinged when pressed. Tonight is national issues only, so Kerry can’t do that, and as we saw last week, Bush seems to be more confident when it comes to talking about America. We shall see…

Right, back to the first debate rules, or joint press conferences. And everybody is probably watching the Yankees- Red Sox game instead. Here we go…

First question to Kerry: “will we ever be safe and secure again?” Back to cargo holds, shipping containers, and alliances again. Bush: “we’ll be safe when we spread liberty around the world”. Hmm, another replay of the first debate, along with a gratuitous use of “freedom on the march!”

HAHAHAHAHA! We’re being blamed for the flu vaccine shortage! Screw you and your alliance, Bush! Oh, and apparently, another reason is because the companies are afraid of being sued.

Hmm, Bush seems once more on his feet, and projecting…arrogance?

Our first mention of McCain! Go bipartisanship! Hah. Kerry talks about his plan, in almost quite specific terms, and Bush lists all the times he voted for tax rises. Stumbling over each one.

Mr. Bush! Clean your dribble! Kerry goes for a Sopranos joke. It even manages to raise a laugh from the audience. Now talking about outsourcing; I like how he admits how he can’t stop it, but how he will make it more attractive for companies to stay in America. Kerry talks about many issues, and Bush can’t understand it all.

Bush breaks the rules, stumbles, then drops into the standard “YOU’RE A LIBERAL!” spiel.

TOLERANCE AND RESPECT AND DIGNITY! AND I GET TO OVERWRITE THE CONSTITUTION WITH A CRAYON!

By the way. did we mention that Dick Cheney has a

GAY

daughter? I dislike the way how the Democrats handle themselves on this issue. But he’s against the amendment, so it’s better than the alternative. And Kerry handles the abortion question well once again, standing firmly behind Roe v. Wade.

And now onto health insurance. Exciting stuff. Bush’s speech about bringing down the price of healthcare was terrible, stalling, talking about buggies and horses, and just sounding like somebody who shouldn’t be there. Kerry calls him on a few points, but he’s on the defence.

OF COURSE IT’S GOING TO INCREASE THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE ON MEDICARE! THAT’S THE WHOLE GODDAMM POINT, YOU NUMBSKULL!

Privatising Social Security! That’s a wonderful idea! Heh, and now Bush plays the bipartisan card. Bush has forgotten that today’s workers pay the fund. But Kerry hasn’t. HAHAHAHAHAHA. “We fixed it. And Bush broke it.” But now they’re just talking about taxes again. And once more with “It’s Clinton’s fault!”

And now, border crossings! Hmm, I think that Bush’s talk of a temporary workers card probably won’t go down well with some of his base. Oh dear, Kerry hops about the biometric bandwagon.

Kerry goes for raising the minimum wage. And kicks it out of the park. And Bush…talks about education. Umm, okay.

Bush avoids answering a question once more, and Kerry gets to say “I’ll defend Roe v. Wade.” More education stuff, and Kerry slams him down.

No draft! I can’t be bothered to rehash this; Bush talks about the ‘global test’ yet again, removing all that unnecessary context. Pesky little thing that.

Bush really wanted to sign the assault weapons ban. Honest.

Ooh, affirmative action. Hah, and Bush mentions Pell Grants again, to try and deflect Kerry’s earlier criticism. He looks very smug and satisfied when he stops talking.

Kerry handles the religion test okay, including a “love thy neighbour” attack on the other guy on stage. Bush now complains that the Democrats won’t work with him, forgetting of course that the Republicans control the House, the Senate, and the Executive Branch. Hahahaaaha. And then slams down his hand lots of times.

How come Bush gets to finish last this time and last time? I can’t remember back to the first debate. Anyway, Kerry gives a decent enough summing up, and Bush only trips up a few times.

Again, no meltdown, but again, Kerry seems like a person you can trust to look after a country, whereas you’d be wary of giving Bush the keys to your car…

Incidentally — there were no questions about education, or the environment tonight. You might have thought they would have been issues of national importance.

That’s the end of the debates! Now only a short time until the actual voting. That might also be blogged, but I might succumb to the alcohol before the results start to come in, so don’t rely on it!

currently playing: Presidential Debate 2004

A Song For People

This will probably be the lost song posted for a while, unless I come across something really good while I’m in Chapel Hill and Florida (I do have a list of albums to buy, so this is quite likely). Anyway, a song from a while back, bought from Piccadilly Records in the Northern Quarter of Manchester, although its origin lies in the American South:

LambchopUp With People

Final debate tomorrow, remember!

currently playing: 52nd Street — Cool As Ice

Pre-Holiday Links!

Who’s up for a little kidnapping? (we must ship him back to Hong Kong before it’s too late!)

ZOOM!

Well, this sounds fair. Sadly, I don’t think America has equal time laws like we do.

Wow, looks like fun. Although it might be better to print them out on a laser, rather than bankrupting yourself on black ink.

Fun with biros!

currently playing: Neko Case — Porchlight

Round 3: Once I Was A Wooden Boy

We’re back. With fancy formatting, no less.

Okay, tonight’s debate is slightly different from the last two. Instead of the usual moderator and candidates, an audience of undecided voters will ask the questions, Now, you might be thinking: “how could anyone possibly be undecided at this point? How do these people manage to dress themselves in the morning?!” You might also entertain the thought of: “Gee, well this means that some real and incisive questions could be asked for once.”

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

There’s nothing like an election campaign to crush all the optimism out of a person.

Tonight’s questions have all been submitted to a moderator for approval (I’m guessing that “how many kids did you kill today?” will probably not make it past this point), and the moderator will choose which members of the audience will deliver the questions.

“But surely,” you ask, “can’t they just say anything when given the microphone? It could still have an element of surprise!”

I refer you to my previous answer. According to the rules, if an audience member deviates from their script, the mike will be cut off, they will be taken outside, and stomped on with big hobnail boots.

So, really; it’s not going to be all that different. But the candidates might get to move around, which means: Bush gets to be folksy!

The new Delgados album is lovely. I still haven’t got around to listening to the Fatboy Slim one, though. I’ll load it up on my CDs and take it on the plane, perhaps.

I imagine the original plan was for the Labor Department (their name, so their spelling) to release favourable job numbers this afternoon, and for the President to talk up the good that his tax cuts have done for the economy. Unfortunately, not only were 98,000 new jobs in September fewer than the 150,000 required per month to keep up with the increasing working population, but August’s figures were also revised downwards by 20,000. So, erm, expect 911 and hurricanes to be brought up tonight to explain that.

Oh, and another thing to watch for tonight: I predict that Bush will state that he is against any idea of a draft. There’s no evidence that the Republicans have even contemplated such a suicidal action, but it appears to be the most successful Democrat smear campaign in years; 51% of 18-29 year olds believe that Bush will reinstate the draft. He mentioned it last time, using the words “all-volunteer army”, but I suspect he’ll want to state it more forcefully tonight.

Off to Missouri then…

Kerry has really got that cheesy grin down well now, hasn’t he?

The Bush opening: “HE’S WISHY-WASHY! BECAUSE HE IS!”

Oooh. “Why invade Iraq when there are other countries that were worse?” And the answer? Obviously, because 911 changed everything. And Oil-For-Food comes out into the fore. I’d still like to know whether the evidence about that comes from someone other than Ahmed Chalabi. Bush seems better tonight. He’s still talking in complete sentences, anyway. Hahahaha, and the “global test” again. As well as having a go at the UN. But I think Kerry fought back well, pointing out the sanctions were imposed to prevent Saddam Hussein from having WMD, and hey, he didn’t!

Bush is starting to sound clipped already. “wrong war, wrong time, wrong place” brought out yet again.

Oh, and Europe knows nothing about Israel. Another mention of The Hague. Is he afraid of ending up there, or something? Ha ha, “certain capitals” HE’S TALKING ABOUT PARIS AND THEIR FROG-EATING WAYS!

Please answer the question, Kerry, instead of talking about Iraq. Okay, I’m with you now. I always like a candidate who wants to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“That answer almost made me wanna scowl” DAMN THAT PEACENIK! oh, and through syntax issues, Bill Clinton was enriching uranium in North Korea.

The draft! “there’s a rumour going around the internets” That Gore and his internets, fighting from the grave.

Wow. Bush just snapped at the moderator. I didn’t actually see his demeanour when delivering his attack on Kerry, but it sounded uncontrolled and rather unhinged, to be honest.

Oooh, Bush is really trying to get into his normal rhythm now. Oh, and the Canadians are apparently going to try and give bad medicines to the Americans. That’s why he’s against cheap imports! Kerry is out swinging, attacking past decisions, past votes, and making a swipe at power, oil, and drug companies. And all Bush can come back with is “Clinton did it too!”

Government-sponsored healthcare is bad. So Tom, you’re a bad bunny.

“You’re batting 0 for 2!” BOO-YAH!

Bush: “I’m going to spend and spend and spend and spend. But Kerry can’t fund his plan” Um, okay…

Bush blaming it on Clinton again. Damn, Bush, he’s just had a heart bypass! That’s cold, man!

OOO! ENRON DISS!

Bush is shrugging his shoulders. But Kerry got the laugh.

Bush is better tonight. Kerry is doing better though.

Heh, the environment. Does anybody even need to hear this? I’m surprised that Bush even bothered. And talking about clean skies was a mistake, given how much the administration has gutted the Clean Air Act.

“I’m going to be a President who believes in science.” HAH.

Those healthcare figures still scare me. 5m people without even basic healthcare.

Oh, Kerry made a dumb mistake there, giving Bush the opportunity to mock him “I own a timber company?”

Now, PATRIOT. Oh for crying out loud! The judges aren’t allowed to turn down the warrants! Okay, after that response, I heart Kerry. Keep the good bits, chuck out the rest.

Stem cell research. Danger for Kerry. But neither is really engaging with the question. Bush is trying to sound all concerned. Kerry is all about the science, Bush keeps mentioning ethics. But that’s it.

Now onto activist judges. It’s really about the Supreme Court, but Bush is using to talk about “under God”, and saying he wants strict constitutionalists; Kerry wants good judges. But you’ll be pleased to know that Bush is against Dred Scott. Frankly, some of us were concerned. Of course, a strict constitutionalist may not have such a problem with Scott, saying as how the document itself makes reference to the differing voting rights of slaves and free persons.

Final two questions. Another abortion question. Kerry says that he can’t impose his beliefs over the Constitution. Hehehe. Bush can’t seem to understand it, or won’t. Kerry explains just why he voted against partial-birth abortion, yet Bush just can’t understand anything other than yes or no.

The final question: Name three of your mistakes Mr. Bush. Did you really think he was going to answer this?

Bush is much better when delivering statements like the one he’s doing now, without the chance for rebuttal. Another 911 reference (oh, and it’s not like you’re actually implementing the Commission’s proposals, so sod off).

A draw? Personally, again I think Kerry was better. But Bush, for the most part, didn’t break down like last time, so he’ll probably come off better this time.

Thanks to Tom for keeping me entertained during the night!

currently playing: 2004 2nd Presidential debate

But no Bittorrent?

Congratulations to the BPI for an increase in single sales!

Oh, well, go and die in a corner.

currently playing: Clinic — IPC Subeditors Dictate Our Youth

Oops

Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer. I'm up in the Senate most Tuesdays when they're in session. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.

Smithers, who is that man with the shiny cheeks?

currently playing: The Concretes — Chico

Round 2: The Legion of Substitute Heroes!

You know, if Kerry manages to pull this off, then there’s going to be celebrations all over the world; it’ll be like the end of a sci-fi movie when the world has been saved: flash-cuts to Egyptians staring out over the pyramids, Japanese going nuts in Tokyo, the British having a well-earned cup of tea, and, on the forest moon of Endor, the Ewoks strike up a tribal dance, to the chant of “JUST LIKE YOUR DADDY!”

Or perhaps that’s just me.

Incidentally, watching the Conservative conference today — Michael Howard talking about how his patty is the one of personal responsibility and then in the next breath promising to castrate or repeal the Human Rights Act reminds me once again why they can’t be allowed near Government; Labour might have a bad record on civil liberties, but it was the Tories who brought in the Prevention of Terrorism Act and the Criminal Justice Act in the first place. And dear God, I do not want to know about Nicolas Soames’ first kiss. There are some things the human mind is not meant to contemplate.

Tonight, then, John Edwards will be showing his cheeks off to the America public, while Dick Cheney will try and keep the human mask on, lest the people see the horror of the four-dimensional entity of evil that lies beneath.

Meanwhile! Florida continues to use its interesting interpretation of ‘equal protection’! Defending every one of those precious 537 votes…

For many, this will probably be the first time they’ve seen John Edwards since the Democrat Convention. Their strategy so far seems to have been to sent him off to lots of small towns and cities, drawing decent-sized crowds, but keeping him off television for the most part. Dick Cheney hasn’t been so quiet, often popping up to say that if Kerry wins, the terrorists will celebrate and attack America for the next four years whilst he gets his nails clipped. Oh, and of course, banging on about that link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Not that Mr. Rumsfeld got the message, yesterday stating there was no hard evidence of such a link, and today saying there was a link.. They have a word for that, you know…

Tonight, I’ve decided to switch news networks, plumping for BBC News 24. They’re currently demolishing the Al-Qaeda—Iraq link; apparently a new CIA report casts serious doubt as to whether Saddam Hussein even knew that Zarqawi was in the country, let alone giving him support. Hey! Tony Blair is in the Sudan. I didn’t know he was going.

Yes, I do love gorillas but it’s society’s crime not ours.

Ah, Grant, don’t ever change. Sorry, I got distracted.

Anyway, onto the debate itself. It’s a sit-down affair, because apparently Cheney likes to sit down and refused to do the debate otherwise. And here they go!

They’re…they’re writing on pads in silence. Perhaps the BBC went to the feed early.

Same rules as the last debate. Bah. First question to Cheney. Funnily enough, about the recent slips by Rumsfeld and Bremner. Edwards comes back with “you still aren’t telling the truth”. Not very exciting yet, although Edwards did use the time shift to his advantage. It’s a bit like playing Chaos; if you get the order right, you can make a good final point.

Cheney now says that he never linked 911 and Iraq. It is to laugh. Cheney is now banging on about Kerry’s “global test” slip last week. Afghanistan! It’s safe! Honest!

Heh. Edwards brings up Kerry’s Vietnam service. Got to stay on message.

Banging on the “global test”. Oh, and apparently, the Iraqi security forces make up for 50% of the casualty totals so far, so it’s not 90% American casualties. Go Dick!

HAHAHAHAHA. I’m not questioning his patriotism. But honestly guys, be afraid…

Hmm, Edwards doesn’t seem to be getting his point across. He should have tied the no-bid directly to the Bill that they didn’t vote for.

Cheney, sadly to say, is winning so far. Getting Edwards on the ropes by suggesting he’s demeaning the Iraqi effort.

“We’re dealing with Iran differently than Iraq” — because they have an army. Oh, and nuclear weapons. OOPS.

OOOH. Haliburton! Sweet! Cheney tries to weasel out of it. Accusing Edwards of not turning up to the Senate. Wait, so, if the reason why there’s fewer suicide attacks because Saddam Hussein is gone, does that mean that the Wall isn’t necessary.

Edwards hits back on Cheney’s record.

Now onto domestic issues. Edwards is hitting hard on the job issue. Cheney talks around the subject, talking about education and tax rather than actual employment. OH AND THE CHENEY SMIRK!

John, you’re going to run over. But you didn’t, and sounded pretty good actually. Cheney claims that small businesses will be hurt by the upper tax rises. And Edwards doesn’t respond to that point. That’s a mistake.

Oh joy. Gay marriage. Well, I suppose the Kerry/Edwards position is sufficiently draconian enough not to offend Middle America (one of my problems with the Kerry ticket, but I know it’d be suicide to go all the way. makes me sad, but I understand). Ah, ACTIVIST JUDGES! This bit is actually quite depressing. “We don’t support a Constitutional Amendment, but we still think gay marriage is icky”.

Trial lawyers now. This should be interesting, as Edwards has a history with medical lawsuits. Edwards does well, but Cheney responds by suggesting that Edwards avoided paying Medicare taxes. Heh. More Haliburton tax-dodging claims.

I apologise that this entry isn’t all that interesting. There was a comedy moment earlier on, when Cheney brought up El Salvador as a shining beacon of human rights. Yeah, I don’t get out much, I know. There’s no spark to this debate at all. Which is a shame, as everybody thought it was going to be a highly-charged evening. Instead, Edwards is blustering, nervous, and making mistakes all over the place. Cheney still comes across as Evil Incarnate, but Evil That Knows What He’s Talking About As Opposed To The Young Guy Across The Table.

I do love how Iraqi lives are being traded for American ones, and that’s supposed to be a good thing. Oh, and how the PATRIOT Act is brought up as an instance of bi-partisanality, when the act was printed during the middle of the night and passed without giving anybody any time to READ the whole thing…

Also, the moderator has been awful tonight. She keeps on getting the order mixed up, thus giving both men more response time than they should have.

Closing time. you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.I know who I want to take me home. Oh, right. The debate. Well, Edwards is talking about being the son of a miller and voting against “more of the same”; Cheney going for the fear factor, aha — if you vote for Kerry, you deserve to die!

I’m all depressed now. Going to bed and hoping Friday’s debate is a little better for the Kerry team.

currently playing:VP Debate 2004