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The Enigma story, and the misattributions of credit:

In U-571, Hollywood gave the credit for the Enigma code-cracking heroics of World War Two to the Americans. In the British thriller Enigma, out today, the praise is given to the English. Now, if a protest from the Polish embassy in London is to be believed, it was the Poles that done it after all.

From what I’ve read, the Polish cryptographers are certainly missing out on a lot of the credit they’re rightly due.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:29:35 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: UK accused of movie history revisionism,4029,559785,00.html

Enigma deepens as Poles claim code-cracking breakthrough

Friday September 28, 2001

In U-571, Hollywood gave the credit for the Enigma code-cracking heroics of world war two to the Americans. In the British thriller Enigma, out today, the praise is given to the English. Now, if a protest from the Polish embassy in London is to be believed, it was the Poles that done it after all. The statement claims that Polish intelligence experts captured the Enigma machine on which the Germans conducted all their most secret cipher traffic before the war had even begun, and later presented this to the Allied forces. The statement quotes a Professor M.R.D. Foot as claiming that: “The most important service the Poles ever rendered to the anti-Nazi cause was something they did before the war had even begun.” An accompanying missive from the Federation of Poles in Great Britain adds that: “Mathematicians of the Polish Intelligence Service were the first to
break the Enigma code. In July 1939 passed over to British Intelligence a copy of the Enigma machine and the fruits of their work done in breaking the code in the years 1932-1939. This work greatly assisted the Bletchley Park code breakers and contributed to the Allied victory in world war two.” The Polish authorities are particularly annoyed with Enigma’s depiction of a traitorous Polish officer at Bletchley Park, the wartime headquarters of code-cracking intelligence, who works as a spy for the Nazis. The statement insists that no Pole ever worked at Bletchley Park. “Obviously we feel that this is a gratuitous slur on Poles who fought side by side with their British allies.”

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Nightmarish details of what the US planned to do as a first strike, in the event of nuclear escalation in the cold war. Mutual assured destruction is the only valid term, IMO.

Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 12:11:50 +1000
From: Justin Mason (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: US nuclear attack plans of the cold war (fwd)

— Jay Lake forwarded:

> In 1955, Gen. Curtis LeMay, the head of SAC, told the Joint Chiefs his
> nuclear attack plans for the first time: “The plan called for the
> instantaneous destruction of 645 military targets, 118 cities and sixty
> million people in the Soviet Union.” Note that since 1957 at the
> *latest*, and contrary to public statements by Presidents of the time
> and since, the commander of SAC has had the ability to initiate a
> nuclear attack, without orders from the President.

> “[….] In 1958, the military sought and received more classified funds
> to build more nuclear reactors, to make more plutonium, to triple the
> number of warheads within a year.” When Eisenhower learned of this in
> 1959, he summed up the military’s position this way: “They are trying to
> get themselves in an incredible position–of having enough to destroy
> every conceivable target in the world, plus a threefold reserve.”
> It wasn’t until late November 1960 that the then head of SAC, General
> Power, showed the President it’s plans for nuclear war. “The plan began
> World War III with a devastating first strike. Three thousand two
> hundred and sixty-seven nuclear warheads annihilated the Soviet Union,
> China and Eastern Europe in a single blinding blow. And the first strike
> was just that: the beginning. SAC planned to follow this apocalyptic
> spasm with thousands and thousands more bombs, everything we had on
> hand. Ten nations would be obliterated. Five hundred million people
> would die.
> “The plan accurately reflected General Power’s thinking. “The whole
> idea is to *kill* the bastards!” Power said in December 1960. “At the
> end of the war, if there are two Americans and one Russian, we win!””

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One thing I should note — World New York is possibly my best news source for WTC-related commentary, especially for the eyewitness reports. A great site. It was great before the WTC, too — let’s hope things get back to normal pretty soon…

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Great article on practical counter-terrorism in Salon today:

Ask now of any action you mean to take — bombing, assassination, ground war — whether it means there will be more or fewer terrorists when the children who are now in preschool grow up to fighting age. This is not an argument against the use of violence. Violence is absolutely essential; but it has to be used so that it conveys the right political message to the people who might become terrorists when they grow up. The state has to become as good at theater as its enemies. There’s a short version of this lesson: “Don’t shoot the boys throwing stones.”
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Jackie Chan cheats death — again:

A late script crucially delayed plans that would have landed action icon Jackie Chan on top of the World Trade Centre during last Tuesday’s terrorist assault. The Hong Kong star had been due to film a scene from MGM’s action-comedy Nosebleed atop the North Tower at the moment when the terrorists hit, but due to the scriptwriters’ tardiness, the shoot was cancelled at the last minute.

Via forteana.

Date: Thu, 20 Sep 2001 11:07:25 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Jackie Chan cheats death (again),4029,555058,00.html

Late script saved Chan from New York attack

Thursday September 20, 2001

A late script crucially delayed plans that would have landed action icon Jackie Chan on top of the World Trade Centre during last Tuesday’s terrorist assault. The Hong Kong star had been due to film a scene from MGM’s action-comedy Nosebleed atop the North Tower at the moment when the terrorists hit, but due to the scriptwriters’ tardiness, the shoot was cancelled at the last minute. “Filming was scheduled to have taken place at 7am last Tuesday morning,” Chan told the Hong Kong newspaper, Oriental Daily News. “As I had to be at the top of one of the towers I would probably have died.” Chan concluded, “Well, I guess my time is not up yet.” Chan was to have starred in Nosebleed as a Manhattan window cleaner who foils a terrorist scheme to blow up the Statue of Liberty. Backers MGM say it is still to early to say whether the film’s content will now be altered. As for Chan, he already has two films on the go. He is shooting the Hong Kong spectacular Highbinders and preparing for his role in Steven Spielberg’s Tuxedo

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Worth a read. An Aussie columnist describes what happened on a mailing list he frequents, in the wake of the WTC attack.

Date: Mon, 17 Sep 2001 21:09:20 +1000
From: Peter Darben (spam-protected)
Subject: High emotion and internet mailing lists

Peter Wear is a regular columnist in the Curious Snail, normally devoting his scribbling to some rather clever (if occasionally heavy handed) political satire. This turned up in today’s paper and I think it provides some food for thought, given Bob’s excellent observation of the list as group therapy, and some recent postings.

For what it’s worth, when I first heard that “something” had happened in New York, my first movement was to the computer, not to the teev. I wanted to see what happened from your points of view, as I’ve found in the past that reading through the sequence of claim and counterclaim, news and rumour that turns up in this list always gives me a much more personal of international events as they unfold. As I read through the postings to the list, I noticed that my last posting for the night (sent at about the same time as the first jet hit the WTC) was a message or two before the first appearance of the news on the list.

—– (from The Courier Mail (Brisbane) 17.9.01)


The catastrophic events in New York and Washington are yet to change our world, but the first tremors of the coming upheaval are already detectable

  • on the Internet.

Millions are trading e-mails, but the real eye-opener for me has been an Internet backwater, a small photography newsgroup I occasionally visit. That’s right, camera nerds from all over the world who tap keyboards, chatting about Mikons and lenses and tripods – a couple of hundred virtual friends from various countries. We know each other pretty well – the experts and the poseurs, the earnest and the flip. It’s all, well . . . folksy.

Not any more. Last week, like so much else, it began to fall apart. At first the messages conveyed shock and condolence. Then Luke, in New York, stood on the trip wire. “This sort of explosion and death,” he wrote, “has been going on for years in the Balkans and the Middle East. Now we know what it is like. Killing begets more killing. When does it end ?”

With all-out nuclear retaliation, it seems. “The same way it did in Japan,” wrote Jim, “turn every grain of sand to glass in these countries.” And quickly, added Fred. “No time to play around. It’s time to kill and break things. We can’t let cowards intimidate us.”

Leica Lust called for ” a response so terrible no one will ever again risk this kind of attack. Never again. Never. Never.”

“A couple of days vacation might be a good idea,” scoffed Mxsmanic, a longtime provocative contributor. Relations quickly deteriorated. Our little camera group was starting to fall apart.

“You are a puerile asshole,” frothed Leica Lust. “My only hope is that you are of draft age and will have the opportunity to water the tree of liberty you hide under with your own blood.”

These are people who have chatted amiably about lenses and flashguns.

It didn’t improve when someone called for prayers. “I’d rather be doing something constructive than bleating with the rest of the flock at church,” was the first reply. This attracted droves of hardline Christians, folk who’d previously only expressed views on auto-focus. God, it was made clear, was on America’s side. The cynics retaliated. “God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform. And this was a real puzzler.”

That seemed to inspire the first international response. “When I heard the “selected” President of the US end his speech by ‘God Bless America’, I felt an urgent need to vomit!” wrote Geert from Belgium. “Has anybody asked himself the question WHY these disgusting acts took place ? . . . Wasn’t it the CIA who supported Muslim fanatics against the Russian army trying to keep the Taliban out of the country?”

Tony from England agreed. “Islamic countries, and some other countries too, see the US as and evil, unprincipled despotic power which tramples on smaller nations . . .”

Ralf reminded us from Germany that : “Each day as many people as were most regrettably killed in the US starve in what we outrageously call the Thirld World . . . each bloody single day. Where are the presidents and prime ministers condemning this attack on all civilised mankind?”

The lectures from Europe incensed some Americans and chastened others. “This is largely our fault,” Bill wrote. “We are the cause of this,” Darren agreed. “Choosing money over morals. When you have more, some will have less.”

And Charo thought : “The innocent people of Afghanistan, who have already suffered temendously at the hands of this (Taliban) regime . . . should not be made to suffer doubly in our attempt to make ourselves feel better.”

Bill was having none of it. “The ‘innocent’ people of Afghanistan have had three days to fire up the camel or whatever it is they do while waiting for another hand-out from the US. I don’t care how deented the remainder are, they have to know this party will never last the weekend. Exterminate the bastards.”

The last message I read came from someone suggesting a huge defiant party on the roof of the Empire State Building, “as a way of showing everyone that we won’t be cowed, and we won’t be scared away from what makes us unique. This is New York, for chrissakes, we’re the toughest, busiest, most sleep-deprived, most trash-talking mother——- on the planet”.

The demise of our little group of multinational camera geeks is unimportant, but the manner of its crumbling left me with a sense of foreboding.


Personally, I’ve been surprised at the care with which people have treated this. I can remember some of our biggest flame wars have started from something which seems so trivial when compared to the enormity of all of this. Perhaps something has happened which we all feel so strongly about that we have, for the time being at least, abandoned our regional biases and extended the hand of understanding. Fel noticed folks out in the real world being so much more polite all of a sudden, and, for the most part carried that into our little corner of the internet.

Bob hit the nail on the head when he spoke of the importance of this group for our emotional well-being. We’ve all shared personal tragedies and triumphs here. We came to an agreement long ago that the subject of this group would sometimes be allowed to extend out past the boundaries of forteana (not that forteana should have any boundaries ;) Let’s not try to justify our discussion of this as conspiracy fodder or rumour watch (although these are worthy goals) – sometimes we just need to talk things over, as all friends do.

That’s enough typing for me – I head off to the lounge room with some trepidation about watching the first satirical news program since last Tuesday. I’m sure Backberner will handle it with aplomb

‘night all


“John Ryland pulled Christine Blackshaw to him. An embrace that said all,

shut out everything. Two people in love in a world of their own. A higher 
plane where huge crabs did not exist, oblivious to everything else. 
Euphoria."                         Guy N. Smith - Origin of the Crabs
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My uncle Kevin, and the other members of the Irish Northwest Passage Expedition have successfully sailed the Northwest passage, from the Atlantic to the Pacific around the north coast of Canada. Cool!

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The view from Islamabad, courtesy of Z Magazine via FoRK.

Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 17:41:21 -0700
From: “Bill Hofmann” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: FW: ZNet Commentary / Hoodbhoy / the view from Islamabad / Sept 17

Another voice.

> —–Original Message—–
> From: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
> Behalf Of Michael Albert
> Sent: Sunday, September 16, 2001 11:24 AM
> To: (spam-protected)
> Subject: ZNet Commentary / Hoodbhoy / the view from Islamabad / Sept 17
> Hello,
> During September we are mailing to ZNet’s 50,000 Free Update Recipients
> our Daily Sustainer Commentary which usually goes only to our Sustainer
> Program members.
> If you don’t want these mailings you can turn them off for the month at
> the ZNet Top Page (
> We hope you will consider joining our Sustainer Donor Program. To learn
> more about the program and for links you can use to join it, please
> visit:
> ======
> by Pervez Hoodbhoy
> Samuel Huntington’s evil desire for a clash between civilizations may
> well come true after Tuesday’s terror attacks. The crack that divided
> Muslims everywhere from the rest of the world is no longer a crack. It
> is a gulf, that if not bridged, will surely destroy both.
> For much of the world, it was the indescribable savagery of seeing
> jet-loads of innocent human beings piloted into buildings filled with
> other innocent human beings. It was the sheer horror of watching people
> jump from the 80th floor of the collapsing World Trade Centre rather
> than be consumed by the inferno inside. Yes, it is true that many
> Muslims also saw it exactly this way, and felt the searing agony no less
> sharply. The heads of states of Muslim countries, Saddam Hussein
> excepted, condemned the attacks. Leaders of Muslim communities in the
> US, Canada, Britain, Europe, and Australia have made impassioned
> denunciations and pleaded for the need to distinguish between ordinary
> Muslims and extremists.
> But the pretence that reality goes no further must be abandoned because
> this merely obfuscates facts and slows down the search for solutions.
> One would like to dismiss televised images showing Palestinian
> expressions of joy as unrepresentative, reflective only of the crass
> political immaturity of a handful. But this may be wishful thinking.
> Similarly, Pakistan Television, operating under strict control of the
> government, is attempting to portray a nation united in condemnation of
> the attack. Here too, the truth lies elsewhere, as I learn from students
> at my university here in Islamabad, from conversations with people in
> the streets, and from the Urdu press. A friend tells me that crowds
> gathered around public TV sets at Islamabad airport had cheered as the
> WTC came crashing down. It makes one feel sick from inside.
> A bizarre new world awaits us, where old rules of social and political
> behavior have broken down and new ones are yet to defined. Catapulted
> into a situation of darkness and horror by the extraordinary force of
> events, as rational human beings we must urgently formulate a response
> that is moral, and not based upon considerations of power and
> practicality. This requires beginning with a clearly defined moral
> supposition – the fundamental equality of all human beings. It also
> requires that we must proceed according to a definite sequence of steps,
> the order of which is not interchangeable.
> Before all else, Black Tuesday’s mass murder must be condemned in the
> harshest possible terms without qualification or condition, without
> seeking causes or reasons that may even remotely be used to justify it,
> and without regard for the national identity of the victims or the
> perpetrators. The demented, suicidical, fury of the attackers led to
> heinous acts of indiscriminate and wholesale murder that have changed
> the world for the worse. A moral position must begin with unequivocal
> condemnation, the absence of which could eliminate even the language by
> which people can communicate.
> Analysis comes second, but it is just as essential. No “terrorist” gene
> is known to exist or is likely to be found. Therefore, surely the
> attackers, and their supporters, who were all presumably born normal,
> were afflicted by something that caused their metamorphosis from normal
> human beings capable of gentleness and affection into desperate,
> maddened, fiends with nothing but murder in their hearts and minds.
> What was that?
> Tragically, CNN and the US media have so far made little attempt to
> understand this affliction. The cost for this omission, if it is to stay
> this way, cannot be anything but terrible. What we have seen is probably
> the first of similar tragedies that may come to define the 21st century
> as the century of terror. There is much claptrap about “fighting
> terrorism” and billions are likely to be poured into surveillance,
> fortifications, and emergency plans, not to mention the ridiculous idea
> of missile defence systems. But, as a handful of suicide bombers armed
> with no more than knives and box-cutters have shown with such
> devastating effectiveness, all this means precisely nothing. Modern
> nations are far too vulnerable to be protected – a suitcase nuclear
> device could flatten not just a building or two, but all of Manhattan.
> Therefore, the simple logic of survival says that the chances of
> survival are best if one goes to the roots of terror.
> Only a fool can believe that the services of a suicidical terrorist can
> be purchased, or that they can be bred at will anywhere. Instead, their
> breeding grounds are in refugee camps and in other rubbish dumps of
> humanity, abandoned by civilization and left to rot. A global
> superpower, indifferent to their plight, and manifestly on the side of
> their tormentors, has bred boundless hatred for its policies. In supreme
> arrogance, indifferent to world opinion, the US openly sanctions daily
> dispossession and torture of the Palestinians by Israeli occupation
> forces. The deafening silence over the massacres in Qana, Sabra, and
> Shatila refugee camps, and the video-gamed slaughter by the Pentagon of
> 70,000 people in Iraq, has brought out the worst that humans are capable
> of. In the words of Robert Fisk, “those who claim to represent a
> crushed, humiliated population struck back with the wickedness and
> awesome cruelty of a doomed people”.
> It is stupid and cruel to derive satisfaction from such revenge, or from
> the indisputable fact that Osama and his kind are the blowback of the
> CIAs misadventures in Afghanistan. Instead, the real question is: where
> do we, the inhabitants of this planet, go from here? What is the lesson
> to be learnt from the still smouldering ruins of the World Trade Centre?
> If the lesson is that America needs to assert its military might, then
> the future will be as grim as can be. Indeed, Secretary Colin Powell,
> has promised “more than a single reprisal raid”. But against whom? And
> to what end? No one doubts that it is ridiculously easy for the US to
> unleash carnage. But the bodies of a few thousand dead Afghans will not
> bring peace, or reduce by one bit the chances of a still worse terrorist
> attack.
> This not an argument for inaction: Osama and his gang, as well as other
> such gangs, if they can be found, must be brought to justice. But
> indiscriminate slaughter can do nothing except add fuel to existing
> hatreds. Today, the US is the victim but the carpet-bombing of
> Afghanistan will cause it to squander the huge swell of sympathy in its
> favour the world over. Instead, it will create nothing but revulsion and
> promote never-ending tit-for-tat killings.
> Ultimately, the security of the United States lies in its re-engaging
> with the people of the world, especially with those that it has
> grieviously harmed. As a great country, possessing an admirable
> constitution that protects the life and liberty of its citizens, it must
> extend its definition of humanity to cover all peoples of the world. It
> must respect international treaties such as those on greenhouse gases
> and biological weapons, stop trying to force a new Cold War by pushing
> through NMD, pay its UN dues, and cease the aggrandizement of wealth in
> the name of globalization.
> But it is not only the US that needs to learn new modes of behaviour.
> There are important lessons for Muslims too, particularly those living
> in the US, Canada, and Europe. Last year I heard the arch-conservative
> head of Pakistan’s Jamat-i-Islami, Qazi Husain Ahmad, begin his lecture
> before an American audience in Washington with high praise for a
> “pluralist society where I can wear the clothes I like, pray at a
> mosque, and preach my religion”. Certainly, such freedoms do not exist
> for religious minorities in Pakistan, or in most Muslim countries. One
> hopes that the misplaced anger against innocent Muslims dissipates soon
> and such freedoms are not curtailed significantly. Nevertheless, there
> is a serious question as to whether this pluralism can persist forever,
> and if it does not, whose responsibility it will be.
> The problem is that immigrant Muslim communities have, by and large,
> chosen isolation over integration. In the long run this is a
> fundamentally unhealthy situation because it creates suspicion and
> friction, and makes living together ever so much harder. It also raises
> serious ethical questions about drawing upon the resources of what is
> perceived to be another society, for which one has hostile feelings.
> This is not an argument for doing away with one’s Muslim identity. But,
> without closer interaction with the mainstream, pluralism will be
> threatened. Above all, survival of the community depends upon strongly
> emphasizing the difference between extremists and ordinary Muslims, and
> on purging from within jihadist elements committed to violence. Any
> member of the Muslim community who thinks that ordinary people in the US
> are fair game because of bad US government policies has no business
> being there.
> To echo George W. Bush, “let there be no mistake”. But here the mistake
> will be to let the heart rule the head in the aftermath of utter horror,
> to bomb a helpless Afghan people into an even earlier period of the
> Stone Age, or to take similar actions that originate from the spine.
> Instead, in deference to a billion years of patient evolution, we need
> to hand over charge to the cerebellum. Else, survival of this particular
> species is far from guaranteed.
> The author is professor of physics at Quaid-e-Azam University,
> Islamabad.

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The Sun provides tolerant coverage of Islam? Never thought I’d see the day.

Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 12:13:27 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Sun shocked into tolerance

On the press

Papers went for it and won

> >From the Sun leaders defending Islam to the Telegraph quoting Kipling the nationals made a good fist of their first drafts of history

Special report: Terrorism in the US

Peter Preston Sunday September 16, 2001 The Observer

There were, of course, all the predictable oddities, banalities, illogicalities and flat-out eccentricities. The Sun (oddly, maybe even eccentrically) cleared a double-page spread to tell its readers that: ‘Islam is not an evil religion… Blaming Islam for the horrors the world witnessed on Tuesday is like blaming Christianity for the hatred between Protestants and Catholics in Belfast. The Muslims in Britain ARE British.’ If that’s eccentricity, give us more of it by the bucketload. The Mail, within a single leader column, railed against British ‘appeasement’ of Sinn Fein/IRA while instructing George Bush that ‘it is surely the time for another effort at Middle East settlement’. … full analysis of UK media coverage at,6903,552462,00.html and of US coverage at,6903,552463,00.html

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Oh dear — Astrologer takes credit for predicting WTC attacks. “Aye right”, as they say.

Date: Fri, 14 Sep 2001 12:26:36 -0700
From: Brian Chapman (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected) (spam-protected)
Subject: Astrologers predicted it

The Mirror | 14 Sept 2001


MIRROR astrologer Steve Judd predicted a catastrophe involving America

  • and possibly Afghanistan – nearly six weeks ago.

Judd – part of our renowned Jonathan Cainer team – was close to tears yesterday as he recalled his prophecy of August 6.

The key, he wrote, was the opposition of two planets, Saturn in Gemini and Pluto in Sagittarius. Judd said this occurred every 35 years “from last night until May 2002”.

He wrote: “The opposition hits the US horoscope powerfully and immense changes in American political, financial and even constitutional circles are more than possible – even probable.”

Judd, who specialises in charting the fortunes of nations, warned the world to expect an “intensification, and hopefully resolution of religious conflict worldwide (Israel, N.Ireland and Afghanistan etc)…while extremism will rise in the short-term”.

Judd, 46, said yesterday: “I knew as early as 1994 that something cataclysmic was going to happen. There was an intensification in America’s chart from 1999 to 2002.”

A similar picture was apparent just before Vietnam and when the US entered the Second World War.

Judd added: “On Tuesday, I was appalled that astrologers are not taken seriously.” He believes there is worse to come in the next six or seven months, with stability to follow from the end of May next year.

Daily Star | 13 Sept 2001

Local astrologer predicted attacks in US

Terrorism will strike again in the heart of the United States, Lebanese astrologer Samir Tomb predicted in his yearbook for 2001. Preempting Tuesday’s attacks on America in his book, which describes astral influences and Chinese, Arab and Indian astrological horoscopes, Tomb announced “a terrorist attack which will cause victims.” The Lebanese astrologer also foresees a “strong shake in the world market,” and a stronger euro against the dollar in the fourth quarter of 2001. AFP

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On a lighter note, I’ve written down my adventures through Thailand on the way over to Australia — with pics! Check it out.

Much fun was had. Hopefully I’ll be able to add some more travels to the site soon enough — although it’s doubtful I’ll be doing any overland trips from Asia to Ireland, given the likely feelings towards westerners in the Middle East, soon enough…

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I’ve been very quiet about the attack on the World Trade Center; this is not from any unwillingness to talk about it, it’s more because, for the last week, I’ve been doing virtually nothing else, in a range of forums, particularly on Crackmice and the TBTF Irregulars list. What can I say — I guess I’m just not a committed blogger ;)

Anyway, I’ve been forwarding on lots of details on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda organisation, which generally makes it look like the US and its allies will have their work cut out for them. Here’s a good one from The Guardian (UK):

Communications are vital. Messages are sent by word of mouth to Pakistan, and from there they are emailed. Bin Laden, testimony has shown, had no contact with any of the east African bombers except for al’Owhali, whom he met, once, 18 months before the attack. Instead the men were selected, briefed and supervised by senior aides, some from organisations affiliated with but discrete from bin Laden’s. And this is the key: al-Qaeda does not act as a commander, it acts as a facilitator, a coordinator, putting together disparate elements – some in Afghanistan, some in the target country, some in other locations entirely – who together can pull off an operation.

It’s going to be messy. And as a much-forwarded piece by Tamim Ansary points out,

We come now to the question of bombing Afghanistan back to the Stone Age. Trouble is, that’s been done. The Soviets took care of it already. Make the Afghans suffer? They’re already suffering. Level their houses? Done. Turn their schools into piles of rubble? Done. Eradicate their hospitals? Done. Destroy their infrastructure? Cut them off from medicine and health care? Too late. Someone already did all that.

There’s lots more good, insightful journalism in the Guardian’s special report on Afghanistan and special report on the WTC attacks. Recommended reading.

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A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board.” Life doesn’t get much more tragic than this.

Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2001 17:33:11 +0100
From: “Donal O’Carroll” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Tragic twist for Irish survivor,1300,550792,00.html

Tragic twist for Irish survivor

Staff and agencies Wednesday September 12, 2001

A man managed to escape the World Trade Centre yesterday as it was hit by a hijacked jet, only to find out that his sister and young niece were on board, his family revealed today.

Irishman Ronnie Clifford fled after the first plane struck the twin towers in New York yesterday, and escaped the second tower as it was hit by the United Airlines Boeing 767.

In a devastating turn of events, his sister Ruth Clifford McCourt, 45, and her four-year-old daughter Juliana were passengers on the second plane – they died as he escaped.

Meanwhile, British officials in New York believe that at least 15 Britons may be among the missing in the devastated rubble of the World Trade Centre. Consular officials are currently liasing with emergency services to try to establish identities.

Mrs McCourt, originally from the Lough, Cork, was among 56 passengers on the hijacked plane which was travelling from Boston to Los Angeles.

Mr Clifford’s brother, John, today told of their deaths and his brother’s escape. John, also from Cork, said he began fearing for his sister and niece after discovering that his brother was safe.

He said: “Tragically my sister hit the tower building as my brother was on the ground floor. He’s safe now. He’s very traumatised.”

John Clifford said he became concerned when the two buildings collapsed because he knew his brother worked in one. However, he later “phoned to say he made it, he was OK, traumatised, that he was within an inch of his life”.

“He went through the front door on the ground floor and a lady was about three seconds in front of him. She was hit by a terrific fireball. She subsequently died,” he added.

“He said that unfortunately, while he was okay, he had a feeling that his sister – my sister – had left Logan airport to go to Los Angeles with her daughter at around 7.30 in the morning.

“So we were then concerned that she may have been on either of the two flights that crashed into the towers, and that was confirmed,” he said.

A friend of Mrs McCourt, who lived in Connecticut and was flying to LA for a few days’ holiday, was also killed.

Mr Clifford said his sister’s husband was absolutely devastated. Juliana was their only child. Mr Clifford said she was a “beautiful” girl and described his sister as “full of life”.

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The Evil Gerald special report: “Enterprise to be “ready by Christmas, deffo” — Chief O’Brien.

Chief O’Brien broke the news to Captain Jean-Luc Picard by informing him that the transporter engines were “totally banjaxed”, but promised to begin work on them at 8am the following morning, as he was just about to “knock off” for the day.

A shocked Picard was told that the total cost would be ?5,000 “on the books”, although O’Brien hinted that speedier and more competent work could be carried out for ?3,000 if the usual tax and invoicing regulations were disregarded.

He also stressed that the general state of the engines was “something shocking” and that, in his professional opinion, persons unknown had previously made “a complete bags” of repairing them. Said O’Brien: “Just take a look at what some chancer’s done here to the transmodulator coils. That’s all gonna have to come out of course, you know that.”

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Very scary; it’s been discovered that your childhood recollections might be false memories, suggested to you from ads you watch on television.

Date: Wed, 05 Sep 2001 10:44:06 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: False memory advertising,3604,546901,00.html

No thanks for the memory … it was only a TV advert

Tim Radford, science editor Wednesday September 5, 2001 The Guardian

Future generations of Britons will wistfully recall their wholemeal Hovis childhoods, that first Werther’s Original toffee from cuddly grandpa, and those festive meals around a Bisto gravy Sunday roast – even though they might never have experienced them. Elizabeth Loftus, a psychologist at the University of Washington, told the association yesterday that commercial advertisers could be unwittingly implanting false memories in unsuspecting viewers. She and colleagues had studied a Walt Disney TV advertising campaign called “remember the magic”. This used imagery that evoked family outings and what seemed to be home movies of people shaking hands with Mickey Mouse. She wondered if these ads had triggered “memories” in viewers who might never have been to Disneyland, or shaken hands with Mickey Mouse. So she tested volunteers with her own “Disneyland advert” in which someone shook hands with an impossible character – Bugs Bunny, created by Warner Bros. She found she was right: some of the volunteers who saw her film were more likely to believe that they had in fact met Bugs Bunny at Disneyland in childhood. She found that Ovaltine, Alka-Seltzer and Maxwell House had begun to dig into their vaults for nostalgic film of 40 years ago. In one study, US adults “remembered” drinking Stewart’s root beer from bottles in their youth, although the bottles had only been in production for 10 years. A vice-president of marketing swore he remembered drinking from the bottle after childhood baseball games and then told her: “Memories are always better when they are embellished.” Professor Loftus established five years ago that false memories could be suggested. She asked respondents to “imagine” being lost as a child, and months later they recalled as real memories the imaginative tests she had set them. “In a sense, life is a continual memory alteration experiment where memories are continually shaped by new incoming information. This brings forth ethical considerations. Is it okay for marketers knowingly to manipulate consumers’ pasts? “On the one hand, the alteration will occur whether or not that was the intent of the marketer. And in most cases, the marketer is unlikely to try to ‘plant’ a negative memory. “On the other, there are ways in which the marketer can enhance the likelihood that consumer memories will be consistent with their advertising messages.”

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When the Queen Mother dies, UK TV is going to go apeshit:

One officially recommended script achieves a tone hovering neatly between Iraqi state radio introducing Saddam Hussein and a Monty Python sketch. Over the next two hours (the presenter will say): “We’ll be looking back over her long and remarkable life . . . We’ll be hearing from many of the people who – although they never met her – felt that they knew her too.” (As long as their views have been vetted in advance and declared safe by those responsible for the defence of the nation’s airwaves.)
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Before coming over here to Australia from Ireland, I put my CV (ie. resume) up on (I initially assumed I’d be looking for work over here — it’s since turned out that my Irish employers are happy to keep me on, even when I’m on the other side of the world.)

I’ve been getting loads of job offers (about 3 a week, by email and phone) from companies and recruiters in the US, since I put the CV up.

I think I’ve just figured out why… a search for “unix cv resume” on Google returns my CV as the first hit!

No wonder. Any half-awake recruiter who wants someone who can “do UNIX” will try a Google search. Better figure out some way of fixing it to get a lower ranking…

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Coca-Cola has been working on a new sales technique for restaurants, called H2No“: a method to reduce what is known as “tap water incidence”.

Each time a glass of water is requested, waiters must emphasise the wide range of beverage selections available, including soft drinks, non-carbonated beverages and alcohol. Especially, no doubt, those produced by Coca-Cola.

Date: Tue, 04 Sep 2001 13:46:20 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Month-old story from forteana-l finally hits British press

Evening Standard – 4 September

Coke's war on water

by David Rowan

You've finally plucked up courage to ask a sniffy waiter for a glass of tap water and the worst you're expecting is a passing scowl of disapproval. So you had better hope he hasn't been trained by Coca-Cola in its latest corporate mission - Just Say No To H2O.

Concerned at the vast potential profits lost by diners not paying for liquid refreshment, the world's largest soft drinks company has been working with restaurants to teach staff "beverage suggestive selling techniques".

The plan - codename H2No - involves briefing staff to "influence" customers to reduce what is known as "tap water incidence". Each time a glass of water is requested, waiters must "emphasise the wide range of beverage selections available, including soft drinks, non-carbonated beverages and alcohol". Especially, no doubt, those produced by Coca-Cola.

The strategy appears to be working: at least one restaurant chain has reported higher profits since training serving staff in the H2No programme. The result, says Coca-Cola, is sending "a powerful message to the entire restaurant industry - less water and more beverage choices mean happier customers".

Details emerged when the company's website told of the plan, highlighting profits at The Olive Garden restaurant chain. Under the headline "The Olive Garden targets tap water and wins", the website says: "Many customers choose tap water not because they enjoy it, but because it is what they always have drunk in the past."

To encourage them to spend more money, the American chain developed a competition with Coca-Cola offering company merchandise and an allexpenses-paid trip to Atlanta to staff who met monthly targets. "When the contest was completed, almost all participating restaurants realised significant increases in beverage sales and reduced levels of tap water incidence," the company claims.

The corporation researched why customers might order tap water, and suggested what might make them choose something else. For the 30 per cent who cite weight or other health considerations, the best strategy, it says, is to offer lighter or noncarbonated alternatives.

For those who ask for water "because it's there", waiters should never offer a glass unless it is specifically requested, and then not before using "suggestive selling techniques" to promote drinks with a price.

A number of websites have criticised the strategy. On one email reads: "Jesus guys, we know you're in it for the money, you don't have to pretend you actually care." Such criticisms have prompted Coca-Cola to take down web pages relating to H2No lest people "who aren't in a sales-related business" misunderstand its purpose. (A copy has, however, been stored at this address: The company says the campaign, launched in the US, has not been extended to the UK.

London restaurateurs told about the scheme had little sympathy for Coca-Cola's campaign. "They're wrong about it improving the dining experience," insisted David Wilby, Antony Worrall Thompson's partner at Wiz in Notting Hill. "The way to give the customer a better experience is to give them what they want - we wouldn't raise an eyebrow if someone ordered tap water."

At The Savoy, Olivier Thomas, food and beverage manager, said: "We have no problem serving tap water and wouldn't think of charging for it." Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay also saw nothing embarrassing about asking for water. "I love tap water," he said, "in a really nice decantered jug". But he added: "It's only visiting chefs who ask for it."

Still, Coke's on to a winner whatever customers choose. It is selling tap water in pretty blue bottles under the brand name Dasani. The drink has been "enhanced with a special blend of minerals for a pure, fresh taste", but is otherwise straight from the local water supply. What tap water fans might call the real thing.

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Sex in space rears it’s head again (ooer): apparently NASA have sent over a pregnancy testing kit for the {astro,cosmo}nauts on the ISS. Best quote:

In his book Living in Space, Dr Stine, who died in 1997, said that Nasa staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulates low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of weightless sex. “It was possible but difficult,” he said, “and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place.”

Say no more!

Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001 12:06:03 +0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Sex in space: thin blue line keeps crews in check

The Times


Sex in space: thin blue line keeps crews in check


ASTRONAUTS on the International Space Station (ISS) have been supplied with DIY pregnancy tests in case the enforced intimacy of space travel prompts mixed crews to try for the 200-mile-high club. The test sticks have been included in the station’s medical pack in one of Nasa’s first admissions that its astronauts might have sex in orbit.

Although the US space agency has always taken a prudish attitude towards such activity, the kits are intended for its aftermath: female astronauts take a pregnancy test before launch and are not allowed to fly if it is positive.

Scientists know little about the effects of space travel, particularly those of weightlessness, on human embryos and any astronaut found to have become pregnant on board the ISS would almost certainly be returned to Earth at the earliest opportunity.

The station’s present crew will not need the kits: all three are male. The crew they replaced recently, however, included a female flight engineer, Susan Helms, and the next crew but one will also have a female member, Peggy Whitson.

Details of the pregnancy test and directions on how to use it have emerged from a set of leaked Nasa documents on emergency and medical procedures obtained by the website The documents provide astronauts on board the ISS with guidance on dealing with situations ranging from a crew-mate becoming suicidal or psychotic to diarrhoea, motion sickness, nosebleeds and dentistry. Nasa would not comment on the handbook.

Keith Cowing, editor of and a former Nasa scientist, said that the tests were clearly aimed at detecting conceptions in orbit.

“Since the crew get a good physical exam before flight, and I doubt that anyone would deliberately fly while pregnant given our sparse knowledge of what might happen, one has to assume that this test is to detect a particular medical condition that developed while the individual in question was already in space,” he said.

“There is a rather short list of ways whereby this specific condition can arise. Nasa never discusses the possibility of sex in space, but it does not look like they’re worried about what an astronaut might have done with her husband the night before launch.”

It remains unclear whether or not the 200-mile-high club already has any members. There is no suggestion that any astronauts have had sex on board the ISS since its launch in 1998, but many believe that the increasing length of time spent on board — the last crew were in space for 165 days — makes it more likely that such a relationship will develop.

Harry Stine, a former Nasa technician, said that the agency had conducted experiments in the simulated weightlessness of a flotation tank, but never in space itself. In his book Living in Space, Dr Stine, who died in 1997, said that Nasa staff at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Huntsville, Alabama, had used a buoyancy tank that simulates low-gravity conditions to test the possibilities of weightless sex. “It was possible but difficult,” he said, “and was made easier when a third person assisted by holding one of the others in place.”

Nasa has always been coy about the idea of sex involving its astronauts, but some cosmonauts have been more forthcoming. Valeri Polyakov, who spent 14 months on Mir between 1992 and 1993, said to mission control shortly before his return: “No need to say what we are longing for.”

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It seems a 3-metre-across meteor exploded over the Pacific on 23 April this year.

Date: Mon, 03 Sep 2001 15:02:23 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Big bloody meteor detected

Monday, 3 September, 2001, 13:27 GMT 14:27 UK Low sounds detect meteor blast By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse

One of the first stations of what will be a global “infrasound” listening network, has detected a meteor that exploded over the Pacific Ocean with the force of the Hiroshima nuclear blast. “Infrasound” refers to sound waves that fall below the 20 hertz lower level of human hearing. The new detectors record signals that are too faint, and vary too slowly, to be detected by humans. The global network is designed to monitor clandestine nuclear tests but scientists say it will have many scientific uses as well. It will be able to detect previously unsuspected meteor entries into the atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, and the formation of hurricanes. Hiroshima blast One of the first significant signals received by the infrasound array built by the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, was of a meteor that came crashing into the Earth’s atmosphere on 23 April. Estimated at between 2-3 metres (8 – 10 feet) across, it exploded with a yield of a few thousand tonnes of TNT, nearly the force of the atomic weapon that was dropped on Hiroshima. “If this rock had come into the atmosphere at a slightly different time, it might have exploded not over the Pacific, but over a large metropolitan area,” said Dr Michael Hedlin of the Scripps Institute. “With this global listening network we can develop much better statistics on large meteors and get a better idea of how often these massive objects enter the atmosphere.” Large explosions send part of their acoustic energy into the audible range, but those signals dissipate rapidly. But they also emit large amounts of energy into the infrasonic range in signals that decay slowly across vast distances. The 23 April explosion occurred 1,800 km (1,118 miles) away from the Scripps detector. It was also detected by an infrasound array in Germany, 11,000 km (6,835 miles) away. ‘Unprecedented opportunity’ As well as meteors, infrasonic sound is generated by supersonic aircraft, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanoes. According to Hedlin, scientists have already discovered that volcanic eruptions produce strong infrasonic signals, “seismic and infrasound data taken together give a much fuller account of activity inside the volcano that might be indicative of an impending, significant eruption.” Scientists are also planning to build a new infrasonic array at Cape Verde in western Africa, near to a region where hurricanes develop and emit infrasonic signals. “There is a lot going on in the atmosphere that we need to know more about. The infrasound network will offer us an unprecedented opportunity to better understand these phenomena on a global scale. “We anticipate that this global network of listening posts that monitors Earth’s fluid exterior shell where we live will someday become as indispensable as the global seismic network that monitors the Earth’s solid interior for seismic activity.”

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Just got ADSL installed — it’s sweet. Napster rides again! Well, to tell the truth — gnapster rides again, the proprietary stuff was never going to work for me on Linux anyway, and they’ve been thoroughly shafted by the RIAA now.

Anyway, as a result, I’ve been getting very heavily into the Congo Natty back catalogue. Junglist! ;)

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Sweet! If you’re into your old ragga jungle, Congo Natty is the label Rebel MC set up — it’s got some incredible tunes. I’ve been looking for copies for a while, and finally, I found this discography. Beautiful…

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A very cool, very simple Flash animation — follow the money! (via the IRRs)

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Two worlds collide — Barry Morris, CEO of Iona (my employers for 7 years), playing live on stage with Spinal Tap. NOOOOOO!! ;)

On a less disturbing note, I’m off to Thailand for 3 weeks, so updates will be even more sporadic than previously…

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A two-headed crocodile has been born at Samut Prakarn Crocodile Farm on the outskirts of Bangkok. I’ll be going to Thailand in a week so I can verify if this is just a case of the magic of superglue. ;)

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Alan Turing is finally being honoured for his work, with a statue in Manchester. There’s an interesting follow-up mail from Mike O’Dell there, too: “the notes go on at length about the need for subroutines, subroutine libraries for common functions, and he even invented debugging and the concept of a debugger program. he also described what we today called a relocating assembler and linker – inventing the whole notion of “relocation” as an “obvious” aside.”

ALAN TURING, the national hero who broke the Nazi’s enigma code and is credited with turning the tide of the World War Two, is to be honoured with a life-size statute.

The bronze monument, which will be unveiled today, comes almost 50 years after the brilliant scientist was driven to suicide by persecution over his homosexuality. Five years after its inception, the pounds 20,000 sculpture of Turing sitting on a bench holding an apple will be displayed in Manchester’s Sackville Park in the city centre.

The mathematical genius became a national hero after his involvement in World War Two, he also helped invent the inaugural computer, at Manchester University, but was persecuted and prosecuted for his homosexuality. He committed suicide in 1954 by eating a poisoned apple.

Many believe Turing has never been recognised properly for his outstanding contribution to science. But Glyn Hughes, the statue’s creator, is confident that Turing has finally earned his rightful place in the history books. Hughes, from Adlington near Chorley, said: “It’s stunningly realistic. I’m sure it will go a dirty black over time, but it looks wonderful today.”

GRAPHIC: Glyn Hughes’ sculpture of the wartime hero, Alan Turing, will
be unveiled in Manchester today Paul Burrows

Via: David Farber (spam-protected)
Subject: Re: IP: Statue of a computer scientist
Date: Mon, 25 Jun 2001 22:01:00 -0400
From: “Mike O’Dell” (spam-protected)

many years ago, the Journal of the British Computer Society published a collection of Turing’s papers and notes along with some history-of-science analysis.

what was truly stunning was that Turning not only invented the general purpose computer as we now understand it, but he also invented *programming* and even *software engineering* as we now understand it. the notes go on at length about the need for subroutines, subroutine libraries for common functions, and he even invented debugging and the concept of a debugger program. he also described what we today called a relocating assembler and linker – inventing the whole notion of “relocation” as an “obvious” aside.

he had the design for a complete computer almost done, and he was fighting for resources to build it, but caught up in his other problems it fell to others to build what was probably a lesser machine.

I hope all the BCS stuff got collected and republished somewhere, and if someone knows where I’d love to know as I haven’t been able to find it.

Reading those notes makes it abundantly clear that there’s very little in modern computing that Alan Turing didn’t invent or at least fortell.

His loss was an incalculable tragedy.

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The hazards of sweary parrots. “Everything was going OK until the word ‘arse’ was blurted out from the cupboard.” Isn’t that always the way?

Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2001 09:02:07 -0700
From: (spam-protected) (glen mccready)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Polly want a court-marshal?

Forwarded-by: William Knowles (spam-protected),,2-2001211806,00.html


ADMIRAL Sir Alan West, Commander-in-Chief Fleet, was addressing fellow officers in the wardroom of the frigate HMS Lancaster during a tour of the Gulf when a high-pitched voice from a side room cupboard shouted “Arse”.

Mildly perturbed but with steely resolve, the admiral continued with his briefing. “Bollocks”, said the voice.

Further choice epithets not unfamiliar below decks followed without regard for the fact that serious top brass could hear them. “Slag”, said the voice.

It could have been worse. Sunny, the 18-month-old African grey parrot who is employed as the Lancasters mascot and who usually lives in a cage in the wardroom, has an extensive repertoire.

She can quote the words of Sir Michael Caine, “Zulus, thousands of ’em”, whistle the theme tune from Steve McQueens The Great Escape, and remark in the manner of a macho Australian, “Show us your growler”.

The Lancasters officers had thought Sunny should stay out of sight during the admirals visit, but the voice refused to be silenced. “F off”, it said.

One of the Lancasters ratings said: Everything was going OK until the word ‘arse’ was blurted out from the cupboard. The Commander-in-Chief looked a little stunned at first, but fortunately he just carried on as normal. God knows what he was thinking.

The crew had taught Sunny her bad habits, another rating said: Now she shouts ‘arse’ and ‘bollocks’ every other minute.

In future, if senior officers come aboard, Sunny will be banished from the wardroom, as she can no longer be trusted to observe naval discipline.

When she returns to Portsmouth next month at the end of the type 23 frigates six-month tour, she needs to mind her As and Bs or she might find herself an ex-parrot.

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A message from David Prior quotes the FCC’s Michael Powell, stating that “the amount of money BT spent on a 3G licence, plus that which will be spent on development and roll-out, could have funded (fibre-to-the-home) deployment to 95%+ of households in the UK.” Sickening.

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Toby Young on being interviewed by Joan Bakewell about porn. “It was like being interviewed about pornography by my Mum“. Pretty funny, in an excruciating way.

Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 15:47:22 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Not fortean, but pretty funny

From The Spectator, 23 June 2001

Mum’s the word

Toby Young

Gore Vidal said there are two things in life you should never turn down: the opportunity to have sex and the chance to appear on
television. Consequently, when a researcher from the Beeb called and asked whether I’d like to be interviewed by Joan Bakewell for her forthcoming series, I immediately said yes. Apart from everything else, it would give me a chance to meet the thinking man’s crumpet in the flesh. It was only later, when I had time for reflection, that I thought this might have been a bit rash. You see, the subject she wanted to talk to me about was pornography.

I wrote about my interest in porn for The Spectator not long ago but Boris thought the article was ‘a bit racy’ for Speccie readers. It was about the trauma of having to part with my collection of X-rated videos when I moved back to London from New York last year. To be fair to Boris, he told me later that he thought he’d made the wrong decision but by that time it was too late — I’d already flogged the piece to GQ. (If anyone would like to see it, you can contact me at (spam-protected) and I’ll email you a copy.) Anyway, this article was read by one of Joan Bakewell’s minions and that’s why I got the call.

I realised I’d made a terrible mistake when the researcher rang back and asked if I’d be prepared to play Joan Bakewell one of my ‘favourite tapes’ on camera. Certainly not, I told him. In any case, I’d left all my tapes in New York. Nevertheless, any hopes I had of passing myself as a disinterested journalist were dashed. Clearly, I was being interviewed in my capacity as a ‘user’, not an impartial observer. I suddenly got paranoid about how they were going to bill me when my bald head first appeared on screen. ‘Toby Young, pornography addict’? ‘Toby Young, compulsive masturbator’? ‘Toby “Wanker” Young’? Unfortunately, it was too late to back out now.

‘So, Toby,’ Bakewell began, when the cameras started rolling, ‘when did you first develop your lifelong passion for pornography?’

I was stymied. My plan had been to appear as smooth and debonair as possible in the hope of seeming completely unembarrassed. It was being filmed at my bedsit in Shepherd’s Bush and I had a copy of Philip Larkin’s letters at my feet, ready to flick to his dispatch to Robert Conquest in which he talks about his visit to a Soho sex shop. ‘You see, Joan. Plenty of respectable people like porn.’ However, I immediately flushed crimson.

‘Er, well, er, I’m not sure, er . . . .’

‘I have to say, Toby, I just can’t see the point of it,’ Bakewell continued. ‘To me, it’s just like watching little bits of gristle. Why d’you find it so . . . compelling?’

As I struggled to answer this, I could see the cameraman darting about in front of me, getting the close-ups he’d been instructed to get by the director: quivering lower lip, shaking hands, rapidly blinking eyes. This was turning into a nightmare.

‘C-c-c-could I please have a glass of water?’ I stammered. ‘My mouth’s suddenly gone dry.’

The whole experience was like being interviewed about pornography by my Mum. Indeed, Joan Bakewell was actually a contemporary of my mother’s at Cambridge. It wasn’t her intention to embarrass me — she seemed genuinely puzzled by what an obviously intelligent chap like me saw in this filth — but I felt exactly like I did when my Mum discovered a pile of Playboys under my bed when I was aged 14.

The low point came during a discussion about who pornography is for.

Joan: ‘I gather from talking to pornographers that these films are
very popular with modern couples. Apparently, after they’ve put the kids to bed, they open a bottle of Chardonnay, sit down on the sofa and watch one of these tapes together.’

Me: ‘That’s all bullshit, Joan. The fact is, the main market for porn
is sad, lonely, loveless men, men who can’t get women.’

Joan: ‘Is that you, Toby?’

Me (Spluttering): ‘Er, no, no, of course not. I mean, not any more. I’m about to get married. My interest in pornography was just a phase.’

Joan: ‘A phase? Come on.’

At this point, the cameraman swivelled round to get a close-up of my television and the videotapes scattered in front of it on the floor, before swinging back to get a shot of me sitting on my sofa looking shifty.

Me: ‘No, really.’ (Pause.) ‘A 20-year phase.’

After this ordeal, I can say with some confidence that there is an exception to Gore Vidal’s rule. Have as much sex as you like and appear on television as often as you can, but for God’s sake don’t agree to talk about anything of a sexual nature on television, particularly with someone who reminds you of your Mum. Sorry, Joan. But it’s difficult to appear like a thinking man when you’re talking about crumpet.

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One for Tom — “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Libertarian“. FoRKposted by Bill Humphries.

I Am the Very Model of a Modern Libertarian

by Kim Plofker

[With apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan, and also to one Lollius. Note: In order to avoid the infringement of individual rights by imposing totalitarian ideals of harmony, the soloist and choristers may sing each in his or her own tempo, tune, and key.]

I am the very model of a modern Libertarian:
I teem with glowing notions for proposals millenarian,
I’ve nothing but contempt for ideologies collectivist
(My own ideas of social good tend more toward the Objectivist).
You see, I’ve just discovered, by my intellectual bravery,
That civic obligations are all tantamount to slavery;
And thus that ancient pastime, viz., complaining of taxation,
Assumes the glorious aspect of a war for liberation!

You really must admit it’s a delightful revelation:
To bitch about your taxes is to fight for liberation!

I bolster up my claims with lucubrations rather risible
About the Founding Fathers and the market’s hand invisible;
In fact, my slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes me the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His very slight acquaintance with the fountainhead Pierian
Makes him the very model of a modern Libertarian!

All “public wealth” is robbery, we never will accede to it;
You have no rights in anything if you can’t show your deed to it.
(But don’t fear repossession by our Amerind minority:
Those treaties aren’t valid — Uncle Sam had no authority!)
We realize whales and wolves and moose find wilderness quite vital,
And we’ll give back their habitats — if they can prove their title.
But people like unspoiled lands (we too will say “hooray” for them),
So we have faith that someone else will freely choose to pay for them.

Yes, when the parks are auctioned it will be a lucky day for them —
We’re confident that someone else will freely choose to pay for them!

We’ll guard the health of nature by self-interest most astute:
Since pollution is destructive, no one ever will pollute.
Thus factories will safeguard our communities riparian —
I am the very model of a modern Libertarian!

Yes, factories will safeguard our communities riparian,
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!

In short, when I can tell why individual consumers
Know best who should approve their drugs and who should treat their
Why civilized existence in its intricate confusion
Will be simple and straightforward, absent government intrusion;
Why markets cannot err within the system I’ve described,
Why poor folk won’t be bullied and why rich folk won’t be bribed,
And why all vast inequities of power and position
Will vanish when I wave my wand and utter “COMPETITION!” —

He’s so much more exciting than a common politician,
Inequities will vanish when he hollers “Competition!”

— And why my lofty rhetoric and arguments meticulous
Inspire shouts of laughter and the hearty cry, “Ridiculous!”,
And why my social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian —
I’ll be the very model of a modern Libertarian!

His novel social theories all seem so pre-Sumerian —
He is the very model of a modern Libertarian!

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Some interesting recollections about high-power radio transmissions causing toasters to sing and the like.

Date: Sat, 09 Jun 2001 09:21:51 -0000
From: (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Singing Toasters – Just for Starters!

Back in the middle 1930s, Cincinnati’s clear channel radio station WLW broadcast at hi-power – 500,000 watts, ten times today’s standard – and measured its DAYTIME audience to include Hawaii and Scotland. (Mrs. Simpson, the future Duchess of Windsor, listened for a little touch of home and sent fan mail.)

People who then lived around WLW’s Mason, Ohio, transmitter received WLW programs over electric toasters, light bulbs, vacuum sweepers, electric AND gas stoves, clocks, COAL (!) furnaces, water and gas pipes and right up out of kitchen and bathroom drains! (Shades of Stephen King’s IT!) One woman – personally known to me three decades later – listened to WLW out of the kitchen drain all day, but the signals always stopped just before her husband came home from work. He merely assumed that his young wife was going nuts, but the real explanation was that WLW changed its directional antenna array at night.

During World War Two the transmitter was retuned to shortwave and became known as WLWO (WLW Overseas), broadcasting programs especially to Nazi-occupied Europe. After the War it became the anchor transmitter for Voice of America broadcasts to the Iron Curtain countries.

George Wagner (spam-protected) (spam-protected)

— In (spam-protected) (spam-protected) wrote:

A year or more ago during a discussion of odd EMF effects, etc , I mention that as a teen I remembered that one Summer my family rented an isolated camp. That camp had an old style toaster in it and on quiet nights you could clearly hear a local radio station from the toaster.How ??? beats me ! Resonating wires sounds good but I think it’s an oversimplification.


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Incredible — Colombia Pictures fabricated a fake film critic, to provide ad-copy-on-demand.

Date: Mon, 04 Jun 2001 14:24:40 +0100
From: “Tim Chapman” (spam-protected)
To: forteana (spam-protected)
Subject: Fake film critic,4029,501215,00.html

Columbia critic exposed as a fake

Sara Gaines Monday June 4, 2001

A critic who has given ringing endorsements to a string of Colombia Pictures films has been exposed as a fake. Newsweek magazine discovered the gushing “critic” David Manning was created by the studio’s advertising department to boost campaigns for a host of new releases. The fake critic’s relentlessly positive quotes were included in advertising spiel for at least four films and the studio has apparently been happily churning out rave reviews in his name since last July. The glowing quotes attributed to Manning included tributes for A Knight’s Tale in which Australian actor Heath Ledger was praised as “this year’s hottest new star!” and for the Rob Schneider comedy The Animal which was hailed as “another winner!” Other endorsements were used in advertising copy for Hollow Man and Vertical Limit. Susan Tick, a spokeswoman for Columbia’s parent company, Sony Pictures Entertainment, admitted to Newsweek the reviews were “an incredibly foolish decision.” The company has now withdrawn adverts which contain the fabricated quotes although some newspapers had already carried them over the weekend. In the adverts Manning is named as film critic for The Ridgefield Press, a family-owned weekly in a small Connecticut town.

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Signature FoRK Debate Moves — a list of cut-out-and-keep debating tactics for mailing lists, featuring such tried-and-trusted feints and lunges as the Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment, The Link Slam (my favourite), and the truly beautiful to behold Tom Whore.

Date: Sat, 02 Jun 2001 04:06:49 -0500
From: Jeff Bone (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Signature FoRK Debate Moves

(In memory of CobraBoy… Humor Ark Ark?)

So much as I hate to say it, FoRK is pretty analogous to the WWF in many ways. As such, it too has its signature moves. In deconstructing the recent rambles and pondering the Debate-O-Matic ideas that have been tossed about, it occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to document some of those signature moves. Here’s a rough cut. (Before anybody starts yelling, let me acknowledge that I indulge in almost all if not every one of these myself on a regular basis. This isn’t (hypo)criticism, it’s reflection.)

The Character Assassination

The Character Assassination is a classic maneuver with a fairly self-explanatory name. Rather than attacking the point of argument itself, the attacker seeks to undermine the defendant his/herself. This is done in a variety of ways, yielding variations that are each themselves worthy of study. The general character assassination attack can take two modes: direct and indirect. In the direct attack, the attacker draws directly from the surrounding debate context in order to build material — relevant or not — which is positioned to undermine the defendant’s credibility, and therefore weaken their position. In the indirect attack, the attacker uses context outside of the debate itself to executive the move.

The Stereotype Assassination

The Stereotype Assassination is a variation on the Character Assassination. In it, the attacker seeks to draw parallels — real or otherwise — between the defendant’s position and a tendency to unthinkingly buy into stereotypes. Because we all “know” that stereotypes are over generalizations, narrow-minded, and generally “wrong” the attacker is able to undermine the defendant’s credibility and therefore their position without addressing specific issues at all. The stereotype maneuver is ironic in nature; the attacker is usually utilizing unfounded generalization from the defendant’s actual argument in order to paint the defendant as engaging in stereotyped thinking.

The Category Assassination

The Category Assassination is in many respects the ironic complement of the Stereotype Assassination. In this move, the attacker builds the perception in the audience’s mind that the defendant belongs to some particular category, and then makes the assertion that the category in question has some particular stereotyped mindset / behavior / what have you; by having such behavior, the attacker asserts, the defendant cannot possibly have a position of merit -wrt- the current debate.

The Context Stomp

The Context Stomp is a cheap but effective maneuver. In it, the attacker intentionally misrepresents something the defendant asserted, taking a particular point out of context and flaying the hell out of it. Doing so may or may not detract from the defendant’s position, but it certainly distracts. The defendant is put on the defensive, and must clean up the situation before proceeding to prosecute his or her point.

The Level Lunge

The Level Lunge is another distraction maneuver. The attacker seeks to gain points by plummeting down the metalevel ladder; first, the meta-argument is attacked, and then the meta-meta-argument, and so on. This is a good maneuver to engage when the attacker is on the outs, losing the fight, as it can force a stalemate. (A successful Level Lunge resulting in a stalemate is referred to a Stack Overflow Termination.)

The Slight-Of-Hand Strawman

In the Slight-Of-Hand Strawman, the attacker directly engages the defendant’s arguments, but during the process subtly shifts the point. After doing this long enough, the attacker has constructed a weak strawman which is quickly knocked down for the kill. The SOHS is widely regarded as a cheap maneuver not worthy of FoRK. In past lives though not on FoRK, Gojomo has been known to be a skillful master of this maneuver.

The Zecious Zero

In the Zecious Zero, the attacker tediously constructs an apparently logical framework, states that it is formally correct and any disagreement must therefore be merely a definitional / semantic matter, and vigorously defends the formal framework. It should be noted that in most cases the framework constructed is “zecious” in the extreme; while having the appearance of a very detailed formal framework, it is usually internally inconsistent. Only the complexity of the framework hides the inconsistency. (Kudos to Gordon Mohr for coining the term “zecious.”)

The Extrapolation Explosion

The Extrapolation Explosion is a combo Context Stomp / SOHS special. In it, the attacker puts together multiple iterative context stomps and SOHSes in one post, extrapolating from the current debate, until the defendant’s argument is so grossly distorted that it cannot maintain its integrity. This move is extremely hard to defend against; in this regard, it resembles the Level Lunge in that attempting to counter usually results in Stack Overflow Termination.

The Insinuendo

The Insinuendo is not an attack per se, rather a feint. It is a mild and subtle CA move which is not intended to score but rather to disorient the defendant and plant the seeds of doubt in the minds of the audience. When executed correctly, it can be very effective; however, FoRK isn’t a particularly subtle place, so we don’t even see this one attempted very often.

The Jane-You-Ignorant-Slut

The JYIS is an Insinuendo without the subtlety. It is almost entirely ineffective in either disorienting the defendant or in seeding doubt among the audience, but it does have one beneficial effect. When executed well, it demonstrates the attacker’s superb sense of humor and comedic timing, and therefore scores points *for* the attacker without actually taking them away from the defendant. FoRK tends to see JYIS at the tail end of threads collapsing into rhetorical holes, which is unfortunate; it’s a beautiful maneuver, but worthless in such a situation.

The Mortar Lob

The Mortar Lob is the Hail Mary of our moves. It involves drastically changing the topic mid-thread, making an extreme shift towards some position entirely unrelated, and firing away. It is usually a last ditch effort employed as a defensive conversion maneuver when one is on the way out. The Mortar Lob almost never works, but if you don’t try it, you’re a pussy.

The Loaded Word Gambit

In this move, the attacker loads the argument up with words which carry significant emotional baggage and implication. By appealing to the knee-jerk interpretations of these words, the attacker seeks to gain the advantage. The Loaded Word Gambit is almost never effective, and often results in the Semantic-Spiral-Of-Death.

The Semantic Death Spiral

This maneuver is often used in either of two contexts. It is often engaged when both positions are rhetorically strong, or when the rhetorical frameworks employed cannot be meshed at all. It’s an endless recursion of definitional arguments, with each combatant seeking to co-opt the other’s argument by defining away any disagreement. The Faith Thread is a good recent example of a tag team SDS bout.

The Curse and Recurse

The Curse and Recurse is a disorienting attack in which the attacker gets all wiggy to throw the defendant off, pops the stack, then circles back around to resume the same attack sequence that didn’t work the first time around. This can go on forever unless it falls into some terminal sequence.

The Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment

In this attack, the attacker diligently — perhaps through a significant act of e-mail archaeology — seeks to undermine the opponent’s position. This attack can take a variety of forms. It is often used to illustrate some (potentially irrelevant) inconsistency between the defendant’s current position and some position adopted in a previous bout. It can also be used, as by Greg Bolcer recently, to illustrate the fundamental incorrectness of the defendant’s position by referring to a previous post made by somebody else. When deployed as the latter, this move is also known as The FoRK Historical Stupidity Attack. There is no effective defense against the Old Post Resurrection Nightmare, though the defendant may sometimes attempt the Teflon Don in retaliation.

The Drunken Master

The Drunken Master is a move intended to completely imbalance the attacker. It is often employed after a brief hiatus during which the attacker engages in some late night substance abuse; the attacker then blathers at top volume until the defendant is totally unbalanced, at which point the attacker attempts to close in for the kill. (And usually falls on his/her face in the process.) The Drunken Master always feels good at the time, but is usually regretted the next day.

The Pedantic Nightmare

The Pedantic Nightmare is the complement of the Semantic Death Spiral. In it, the argument is focused on its formal structure, without regard to semantics. The attacker seeks to use endlessly tedious formal reasoning in order to illustrate the inconsistency of the defendant. It is usually ineffective both through the attacker’s failure to prosecute it properly and the defendant’s unwillingness to let it happen.

The Dennis Miller

Also known as The Reference Roundhouse. In this move, the attacker attempts to co-opt credibility by dazzling the defendant and the audience with a barrage of not particularly relevant references, preferably obscure, usually nonauthoritative. The theory is that if the attacker has such a vast array of trivial knowledge at their disposal, surely they are therefore correct in their assertions. (I know, it doesn’t make sense, but that doesn’t stop us from trying it from time to time.) The Dennis Miller is often coupled with the Teflon Don when things go awry, which is pretty funny when you think about it. The Dennis Miller can be effective in the right context, and is almost always fun to watch.

The Vocab Blitz

The Vocab Blitz is another credibility co-opt maneuver intended to add punch to a particular attack. The Vocab Blitz involves maximizing the syllabic length of any and every possible word in a particular parry in order to demonstrate the attacker’s intelligence. Clearly, such a genius much be infallible. (Or so the thinking goes.) The Vocab Blitz is cheap and meaningless.

The Link Slam

The Link Slam is an attempt to shore up an attack by over reference. The theory is that clearly the attacker has researched the issue much more thoroughly than the defendant. Whether this is believed or not, this can be effective; it often sends the defendant on a fact chase, therefore distracting them enough for the attacker to make a finishing move.

The Psuedofact Slam

The Psuedofact Slam is like the Link Slam, but without the links. In this move, the attacker shores up their position with a seemingly limitless array of very specific sounding and potentially believable supporting “facts.” These “facts” need not and often do not have any factual basis whatsoever; the attacker need not even do a Google beforehand, as no attribution or support is provided. Only a diligent defender can effectively parry a Psuedofact Slam.


Also known as The Cartman, the Screw-You-Guys-Im-Going-Home is a defensive measure of last resort, effectively ending the bout without a victory condition. Pretty clear from its name what it consists of, the SYGIGH was most recently effectively employed by our own Strata in a debate with Yours Truly. The SYGIGH almost always results in a rematch, once the party who employs it decides a rematch is needed.

The False-Falling-On-Ones-Sword

This maneuver consists of the attacker feigning a conciliatory or self deprecating position, in an attempt to draw the attacker in and put them off guard. It is usually immediately followed up by some combo of the Slams, or even — particularly effectively — an Old Post Resurrection Embarrassment.

The Overpost Armageddon

The Overpost Armageddon is a massive blitz of sequential follow-up e-mails, each of which typically tears a single previous post apart line by line, employing various attacks. The goal of the Overpost Armageddon is to completely overwhelm the defendant, making it literally impossible for them to counter each attack. The author is periodically the reigning master of this particular maneuver, though in his case this is believed to be the result of some neuropsychological disorder such as TLE- or OCD-induced hypergraphia. The problem with this maneuver is that it usually leaves everyone involved — including the attacker — exhausted for days.

The Teflon Don

This is a particularly obnoxious defensive maneuver in which one eliminates all possibility of further damage simply by claiming that the positions taken, rhetorical style employed, formal structure, definitional correctness, or behavior in any way represent one’s own character, beliefs, etc. The Teflon Don is a terminal move, which cannot be countered, though it should be recognized for what it is: the king of all cop-outs.

The Consistency Spasm

The Consistency Spasm is a disorienting attack in which the attacker alternates between two obviously inconsistent positions in order to find maximum advantage from which to press further attacks. It’s not a pretty sight. Only the most steadfast defendant will hang in there instead of simply leaving the ring in disgust.

The Circular Thrash

The Circular Thrash employs single level circular “logic” in order to support the attacker’s position. It’s impossible to counter if undetected, but is a risky proposition: upon discovering a Circular Thrash, the defendant needs to merely cry out “Shenanigans!” in order to call the match and declare victory. If this is done, the attacker who attempted the Circular Thrash is usually surprised to find themselves standing alone in the center of the ring, calling out “Hey! I wasn’t done yet!”

The Running-To-The-Edges

The Running-To-The-Edges is a particularly sophisticated attack derived from both the Extrapolation Explosion and the Level Lunge. In it, the attacker immediately level jumps not with respect to the meta-argument level but rather to the maturity-of-argument level. In doing so, the attacker takes the defendant’s nascent and ill-defined condition and fires a barrage of edge cases at it which appear to contradict it. The conceit is that this invalidates the defendant’s admittedly general argument, by implying that the edge cases cannot be reconciled with the defendant’s position. Russell recently introduced this maneuver to FoRK, where it has enjoyed immediate popularity.

The TrapperKeeper

Named for the South Park terminator spoof episode, The TrapperKeeper is the most beautiful, elegant, and sought after of moves. In it, the attacker baits the defendant with arguments or assertions that the defendant should conditionally agree with. If the bait is successful, if the defendant “touches” the attacker’s TrapperKeeper, sharp spikes shoot out to impale the defendant. Unfortunately, the TrapperKeeper has to this author’s knowledge never been effectively executed on FoRK.

The Tom Whore

The only eponymous move in our repertoire, The Tom Whore is a joy to behold when executed properly. In it, the attacker becomes simultaneously so artfully obscure / obtuse that no retaliation is possible. The immediate effect is that the defendant is left looking rather dazed while picking the Speedo wedgie out of their ass crack.

Whew. Anyone have any additions or edits?

Your faithful servant,




A Las Vegas sleaze-merchant reckons that a “shadowy cabal of criminals, corrupt insiders and professional hackers” selectively re-routes phone calls in order to “steal” customers.

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The Observer and Daily Mail both got sucked in by a survey with some dubious credentials.

Date: Mon, 14 May 2001 16:32:42 -0000
From: “Martin Adamson” (spam-protected)
To: (spam-protected)
Subject: Drug abuse, the ‘Daily Mail’ and the former punk with an alien on his website

The Independent

Drug abuse, the ‘Daily Mail’ and the former punk with an alien on his website

Firm claims it talked to 20,000 teenagers for a headline-grabbing survey. But trading standards and a university are not so sure

By Chris Blackhurst 14 May 2001

It was a typically apocalyptic Daily Mail front page. “School Drug Abuse Shock,” screamed the paper’s headline on 1 May this year, “400,000 children under 16

are regular users, warns survey." Inside, the comment page carried a pulpit-thumping piece: "Why daren't we tell our children the truth about drugs?" by Mary Brett, head of health education at Dr Challoner's Grammar School in Buckinghamshire.

"The drug culture continues to tighten its grip on our young people, dragging ever more teenagers under its malign influence," warned Ms Brett.

She went on: "An authoritative survey just published confirms that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of 13 and 14-year-olds starting to take drugs, with many becoming regular users. According to the report by the Adolescent Assessment Services group (AAS), by age 16 almost 9 per cent of boys and 7 per cent of girls are taking drugs at least once a week."

The Daily Mail was not alone in highlighting the study. Under the headline "Shock rise in hard drug use among pupils", The Observer reported how the survey findings, "based on questionnaires filled in by 20,000 children in 67 secondary schools last year, contradict recent government claims that juvenile drug use is falling". The Observer quoted Jeremy Gluck, head of the Adolescent Assessment Services: "The results were very striking, drug use is much more extensive than we thought. The sheer numbers involved are very worrying. Some totals were so high that we genuinely didn't want to believe them." Mr Gluck's study was also covered by BBC2's Newsnight and by the Press Association.

A full copy of his report is available for £25 from the offices of the AAS in Swansea and he is also selling places at a conference on drugs and school-children for £95 each.

The questionnaire contains a code, which, says the AAS blurb, "allows us to follow individuals over a number of years without anyone ever knowing who they are. In this way we could survey a class of Year 6 primary school children at age 10 and follow them through secondary school every year until they leave at age 16." The questionnaire does not concentrate solely on drugs. "If an LEA or health authority wanted to know about the level of awareness to HIV and Aids in 12-year-old girls we can arrange for their inclusion and analyse the data accordingly." This year, the AAS claims to be surveying 100,000 young people.

Odd then, given the scale of such an operation, that the AAS is not in the phonebook and its offices are Mr Gluck's home in suburban Swansea. The firm is not known to any of the local bodies with a keen interest in drug problems: the Welsh Assembly, Swansea Council or South Wales health trusts. Odder still that Mr Gluck seems to have no qualifications for pronouncing on the nation's health. He is a Canadian, a former punk rocker with a band called the Barracudas, who, when he is not selling reports on drug abuse, runs his own website where he claims to be in touch with a higher being called Aona that keeps him posted about the destiny of the human race. He also once ran for a council by-election, for the "Independent Party of Wales", attracting nine votes. As well as the AAS, Mr Gluck runs another organisation, Spiritech UK, which he bills on the internet as "an online initiative dedicated to exploring the spirituality-technological interface and how we are evolving in cyberspace".

As for Mr Gluck, he describes himself as "an artist and writer by vocation, a visionary and dreamer by nature, and a meta-modernist by intent ..."

He maintains an internet dialogue with Aona, which tells him we are not alone: "The human race is not unique. There are many human-type races throughout the universe, so much so that it would be quite useless trying to quantify this fact." Earthlings are hampered at present by our DNA, which, Aona tells Mr Gluck, is not fully developed. But do not worry: "This is a restriction for earth-born human beings, yet it is also a source of their future or impending strength ­ restriction always brings out the best in a being, because it forces that being to master its nature through endurance."

Unfortunately for Mr Gluck, more down-to-earth bodies are taking a keen interest in his affairs. Swansea Trading Standards are looking into Mr Gluck's organisation. John Spence, director of Trading Standards for Swansea, said: "We've had certain information given to us among which there are issues which need to be clarified in relation to the activities in which Mr Gluck is engaged."

Alan Williams, the Labour MP for Swansea West, has asked the decidedly less than ethereal figure of Jack Straw to investigate. "I've referred the survey to the Home Office," said Mr Williams. "I wish the people who used this report had investigated its bona fides properly first." Particularly worrying is the suggestion that this could involve the surveying of large numbers of children and secret monitoring of them over a number of years.

Mr Gluck has also incurred the wrath of Swansea University. In its blurb accompanying the report, the AAS claims to be "a spin-off company from the University of Wales". Mr Gluck does work for the university. He is a part-time lecturer in IT in its adult education department. A spokeswoman for the university said: "His claim that Adolescent Assessment Services is linked to the university is not true and we have told him to remove the reference."

Mr Gluck maintained that he surveyed the children on behalf of 10 local education authorities. As well as not naming the schools the report provides no clues as to the identity of the authorities. "I can't name them because of confidentiality ­ the children must be protected," Mr Gluck said. "The whole procedure is designed to protect the anonymity of the children."

The Independent wanted to have a long chat with Mr Gluck but he was remarkably unforthcoming on detail. He acknowledged the AAS was not in the phonebook but assured us it did exist. He did not say how many people worked for an organisation that claims to survey 100,000 children. He would not say how many copies of his drugs report he has sold or how many people had paid for the conference, except that the response has been "overwhelming". The discussion, such as it was, became truncated when he was asked whether he was concerned about the referral to the Home Office.

"Before I speak any further I shall have to speak to my colleagues," he said. "The actual report is sound," he emphasised, before repeating he would have to consult his unnamed colleagues. He said he would call back. He never did.

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