Monthly Archives: November 2004

It’s been a funny old week…

Right now I’m sitting with my laptop at a communications centre at Schipol Airport in Holland, using an expensive wifi internet connection and procrastinating about finishing my talk for the University of Bergen on monday.

Over the last week I have had several fun and messy nights out in London, attended my grandmother’s cremation, caught up with lots of old friends that I hadn’t seen for years, stayed on a farm in the Fens and had a few job-search related “networking” meetings.

I also had to abandon my friend Phil with nothing but my mobile phone, a extra shirt and couple of quid, after he locked himself out of his (very secure) Brixton flat as I was leaving for the airport!

Soon I am going to be taking a KLM flight to Bergen in Norway, where I have been invited to do this talk at the University (which I haven’t finished yet, incidentally). I am also going to do the “Norway in a Nutshell” tour tomorrow, which I’m looking forward to.

Then it’s back to the U.S. on Tuesday.

Investigate the Vote Petition

It seems that there is a growing acknowledgement that there were some serious voting irregularities in key swing states in the 2004 U.S. Presidential election. The following from a recent e-mail from, who have started a petition to demand that Congress investigate these allgeations:

We’re all hearing the stories and wondering what’s true and what isn’t. But at least two cases of serious problems are accepted beyond doubt:

  • In Broward County, Florida, electronic voting machines counted backwards: as more people voted, the official vote count went down.[source]

  • In one Columbus, Ohio suburb, election officials have acknowledged that electronic voting machines credited Bush with winning 4,258 votes, even though only 638 people voted there. [source]

Also according to, six (Democratic, of course!) members of Congress have called on the General Accounting Office to:

“..immediately undertake an investigation of the efficacy of voting machines and new technologies used in the 2004 election, how election officials responded to difficulties they encountered, and what we can do in the future to improve our election systems and administration. [source PDF]”

Curiouser and curiouser! And let’s not forget that Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon, threatened with impeachment as a result of the Watergate scandal, resigned less than two years after winning a landslide election victory.

So, go sign the petititon: Call me a hopeless optimist, but perhaps there’s still a slim hope for regime change in the United States before 2008…

Taxi Driver

I watched the Martin Scorsese/Paul Schrader classic Taxi Driver again the other day, and it’s still just as fresh, dark and brilliant as it was when I last saw it — which was probably on a rented Betamax video some time in the early eighties.

The soundtrack (the last piece of work by Bernard Hermann before he died) is also incredibly atmospheric; a dark, brooding complement to the movie.

Anyway, here are the “filthy lucre” Amazon referral commission links, in the unlikely event that I’ve persuaded you to purchase either of them (I’ve ordered the soundtrack, and am gonna ask Santa for a copy of the DVD).

Election Conspiracy..?

Was the U.S. Presidential Election rigged again?

Rumours are starting to circulate that the unusually large discrepancies between the actual election results and the exit polls in key swing states such as Florida and Ohio this year can be suspiciously correlated with the use of electronic vote-counting machines from private corporations that openly support the Republican Party.

Scandalous election rigging, or liberal sour grapes? You’ll have to decide for yourself, but after the 2000 election, I certainly wouldn’t put it past the current administration to cheat. Thanks to Meg N. (via Scyld) for compiling these links.

On a lighter note, Scyld also found a very entertaining ad on Craig’s List (Austin) today:

Straight male seeks Bush supporter for fair, physical fight – m4m

I would like to fight a Bush supporter to vent my anger. If you are one, have a fiery streek, please contact me so we can meet and physically fight. I would like to beat the shit out of you.

Hilda Maud Pressland (“Lou”)

1913 – 2004

Beloved great grandmother, grandmother, mother, wife and sister, joins her cherished husband Keith Pressland in death today.

The last of my grandparents died in hospital in the U.K. today at the age of 91, after suffering a massive stroke about 10 days ago. She was a constant loving force throughout my childhood from my earliest memories onwards. She used to bring us sweets (candies in American) when she visited several times a week, and I can’t remember a family Christmas at which she wasn’t present.

In my early memories, Nanny was still married to my mother’s father, Stan Minnis, but lived (“in sin,” as she used to joke) with her boyfriend Keith Pressland out of wedlock: It was still a pretty big deal in those days, but even as a child I always admired her bravery in leaving a loveless marriage to be with a truly wonderful man that she loved deeply, and who loved her equally deeply in return. Years later, as an awkward adolescent, I went to their wedding.

Keith, who we fondly called “Uncle” (and shown below in a 1987 photo), died in 1996 at age 73, and Nanny was heartbroken. Many in the family suspected that she would follow him shortly afterwards; she used to talk about dying so that she could be with Keith (she was not a devout Christian, but did believe that she would be reunited with her husband after death).

Nanny spent her last year at a managed living facility, where she retained her independence and dignity by living in her own space, but where there was also plenty of help nearby, and an active social scene with some of her old friends. I believe she was very happy there — the picture above was taken just four months ago in the communal gardens at her new home.

Goodbye Nanny, we’ll miss you very much. I’ll drink a glass of Bailey’s at Christmas in your memory.

Coping with Tragedy

So like many of the millions, no, billions of people around the World that are absolutely gutted that George Dubya Bush has been elected (for real this time!) for another 4 years, I’ve been seeking solace from the various serious and not so serious post-election commentaries online. Here are some of my favourites:

Klamtroob: What Happened

Analysis of a tragedy, by an informed and eloquent American. Thanks to Amy for pointing me to her friend’s blog a while ago.

How Soccer is Eating America

The best long-term hope for a more globally-aware America? Thanks to Scyld for finding this one.

Marry an American

Those good, good people to the North have started a website to help liberal Americans migrate to Canada through marriage. Thanks to Ricky for this one.

Dear Limey Assholes

The Guardian newspaper in the UK launched an initiative to help readers in Britain contact undecided voters in Clark County, Ohio. This page details some of the hilarious responses.

Daily Mirror front page, 4 Nov 2004

The headline of this low-brow left-wing Brit tabloid reads: “Doh! 4 More Years of Dubya! How can 59,054,087 People be so Dumb?” Thanks to George for sending this first, although I also got it from Scyld.

God Help America

More polemic from the Daily Mirror. Not elegantly written, but satisfyingly scathing.

More links as they (inevitably) arrive…

Nova Canadia?

Canada is looking increasingly tempting since yesterday’s election, but the problem is that I now have a lot of friends in the U.S. — here’s a potential solution to all manner of problems:


Wait… Didn’t something a bit like like this happen in David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest?

(Thanks for finding this H!)

Oh Ohio, what have you done? (alternate title: Bollocks!)

Well, so much for my cautious pre-election optimism; it looks like Bush has narrowly won the U.S. Presidential election without cheating this time.

So now we have four more years of the Bush/Cheney Administration to look forward to. Four more years of:

  • Divisive, simplistic, conservative Christian dogma;

  • Bombastic isolationist American neo-imperialism;
  • An incompetently-occupied Iraq with a growing bodycount;

  • Global terrorism;

  • Tax handouts for the rich, increasingly desparate poverty for the poor, and an ever-growing budget deficit for future generations to pay off;

  • Chronic abuse of the environment;

  • A nation divided.

Bollocks. This is even worse than the Thatcher years.

Tense, but still cautiously optimistic

The U.S. Presidential Election is still too close to call, but I’m still cautiously optimistic that Kerry’s going to win.

So far, there have been no surprises, because most of the key “battleground states” are still too close to call. But voter turnout is huge, which is good for Kerry.

I’ve been watching (terrestrial broadcast) TV a little, but the quality of the coverage is even worse than the reception. Dan Rather, the veteran election anchor on CBS, is even less articulate than Bush! The BBC map on the web is the best presentation I’ve found so far.

However, looking at the map geographically can be quite depressing, because the whole middle of the U.S. is GOP (Republican) coloured… Fortunately most of these landlocked states voting for Bush are sparsely populated, and have very few Electoral College votes — like 3 or 5, compared to California’s 55 or New York’s 31. The New York Times has provided a more encouraging histogram map (click “View Map According to Electoral Votes”).

One thing is obvious — the result isn’t going to be clear until very late.

Election Day

I think Kerry’s going to win the U.S. Presidential election today. Here’s why:

  • Many former Republican voters have gone on record pledging to vote for Kerry this time around. I haven’t heard of any former Democrat voters swinging to the Bush side

  • Apparently Dick “Sick” Cheney flew to Hawaii to campaign for the 4 Electoral College votes there today — surely an act of desperation!

  • There are something like 14,000 volunteer lawyers standing by across the U.S. to assist in the case of voting irregularities

  • Kerry looks increasingly confident, whereas Bush simply looks tired and dogmatic

  • The opinion polls (which are notoriously inaccurate) are predicting it to be within a few percentage points — easily within the margin of error

  • Kerry is well-known for making last-minute come-backs

  • The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, ending the Curse of the Bambino

  • A left-wing coalition party led by cancer doctor Tabaré Vázquez was elected at the weekend in Uruguay

  • Because the alternate scenario is just too awful to contemplate