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"The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction.  By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is you really want to say." 
~Mark Twain


Brit TV Film Depicts Bush Slaying
The Associated Press, Aug 31, 2006

LONDON -- A British television network plans to broadcast a dramatic, documentary-style film about a fictional assassination of U.S. President George W. Bush, the network's head said Thursday.

The program uses actors and digital manipulation of real footage to show a fictional account of Bush being gunned down after delivering a speech in Chicago, Peter Dale, the head of More4, told a news conference.

Video: Film depicts Bush assassination

"Death of a President," also scheduled to be shown at the Toronto Film Festival in September, focuses on all those linked to the pretend crime — including nearby anti-war protesters, suspects, Secret Service guards and investigators, Dale said.

More4, which is the digital offshoot of Britain's Channel 4 network, plans to show the program on Oct. 9.

The White House declined to comment on the network's announcement, saying it would not dignify the program with a response.

"It's an extraordinarily gripping and powerful piece of work, a drama constructed like a documentary that looks back at the assassination of George Bush as the starting point for a very gripping detective story," Dale told reporters.

"It's a pointed political examination of what the war on terror did to the American body politic," he said.

Dale said he expected the film would upset some, but defended it as a sophisticated piece of work.

"It's not sensationalist, or simplistic but a very thought-provoking, powerful drama," he said. "I hope people will see that the intention behind it is good."

"Death of a President" is directed by Gabriel Range, whose 2003 TV movie "The Day Britain Stopped" showed what might happen if the country's transportation network ground to a halt.

Big Brother on Campus
By Katherine Haley Will
Published in The Washington Post July 23, 2006

Does the federal government need to know whether you aced Aristotelian ethics but had to repeat introductory biology? Does it need to know your family's financial profile, how much aid you received and whether you took off a semester to help out at home?

The Secretary of Education's Commission on the Future of Higher Education thinks so. In its first draft report, released in late June, the commission called for creation of a tracking system to collect sensitive information about our nation's college students. Its second draft, made public last week, softens the name of the plan, but the essence of the proposal remains unchanged.

Whether you call it a "national unit records database" (the first name) or a "consumer-friendly information database" (the second), it is in fact a mandatory federal registry of all American students throughout their collegiate careers -- every course, every step, every misstep. Once established, it could easily be linked to existing K-12 and workforce databases to create unprecedented cradle-to-grave tracking of American citizens. All under the watchful eye of the federal government.

The commission calls our nation's colleges and universities unaccountable, inefficient and inaccessible. In response it seeks to institute collection of personal information designed to quantify our students' performance in college and in the workforce.

But many of us are concerned about invading our students' privacy by feeding confidential educational and personal data, linked to Social Security numbers, into a mandatory national database. Such a database would wrest control over educational records from students and hand it to the government. I'd like the commission to tell me how our students would benefit from our reporting confidential family financial information.

Those of us in higher education aren't the only ones with concerns about this. Earlier this month the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities released results of a survey that showed the majority of Americans oppose creation of a national system to track students' academic, enrollment and financial aid information. More than 60 percent of those polled opposed the creation of such a system, and 45 percent of those surveyed were "strongly opposed" to the proposal.

Privacy groups from both ends of the political spectrum -- including the Eagle Forum and the American Civil Liberties Union -- criticized an early form of the proposal that Education Department officials were exploring in 2004.

We already have efficient systems in place to collect educational statistics. I question why the commission, which shares our concerns about the increased cost of education, would want to create a database that not only violates privacy but also would be very expensive. Our existing systems meet the government's need to inform public policy without intruding on student privacy because they report the data in aggregate form. Colleges and universities report on virtually every aspect of our students' experience -- retention and graduation rates, financial aid rates and degrees conferred by major institutions -- to the federal and state governments as well as to organizations such as the NCAA and to many publications, including U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review.

The commission seems bent on its Orwellian scheme of collecting extensively detailed, very personal student data. Supporters say it would make higher education more accountable and more affordable for students. Admirable goals, but a strange and forbidding solution.

This proposal is a violation of the right to privacy that Americans hold dear. It is against the law. Moreover, there is a mountain of data already out there that can help us understand higher education and its efficacy. And, finally, implementation of such a database, which at its inception would hold "unit" record data on 17 million students, would be an unfunded mandate on institutions and add greatly to the expense of education.

At a time when the world acknowledges the strength of the American system of higher education -- that it is decentralized, diverse, competitive and independent -- why would a commission on the future of higher education want to impose federal regulations and federal bureaucratic monitoring of individual students in the name of "improving" higher education?

The writer is president of Gettysburg College and chair-elect of the Annapolis Group, an organization of leading independent liberal arts colleges.

 2006 The Washington Post Company
Posted July 28, 2006


     By Joseph Spencer

     Submitted July 14, 2006


I don’t know why I’m writing this. I am the least qualified, most self-centered egomaniac of my time. That last sentence proves all.


But writing out on this page will help me realize what I know…what do I know? On the wide scale, the huge scale - nations, countries, peoples. Right now, people are attacking each other, breaking treaties and occupying space that is not theirs. But shit - as long as they’re not in my little closed off island who gives a fuck right?


Who gives a fuck that there are nearly 639 million guns in this world - eight million made each year. Who gives a fuck that by 2020 death via weapons could outweigh those of malaria and other diseases? As long as it’s out of our little country.  Whoops - the UK exports 4.6 billion pounds worth of arms…in a year - HA. We supply northern Africa and the Middle East with 22 per cent of its guns. We are in the top five leading exporting nations of arms.  Those five nations? The five permanent members of the UN Security Council.




My little island, this great nation lead by the people who care about the welfare of others…hmm.


“But Liam, surely they only allow exports to countries that will use them responsibly?!”


Oh yes, of course. Well, we here in the UK are subject to export embargos, as well as others, we obey the UN and EU embargos. When an embargo is set up, we may no longer export arms to those countries they are subject to - i.e. we have an embargo on Zimbabwe. But, then there are always the easy loopholes.  Say an arms trafficker based in England needs to get guns to our happy consumers Zimbabwe…He/she would simply buy from Pakistan and state the country they want them going to is Zimbabwe. The UK government does not need to issue or receive any information for this - despite the transaction being taken out as an English one. In fact arms can end up in an entirely different place to what is stated, and do quite regularly…whoops!


“So, what’s up with that?! They bought and sold away from here - never was made on, or came to British soil!”


This company is based in the UK. That’s the problem I have. They can be buying the guns from an arms production company based in the UK, whose factory and a wing of the office is based in Pakistan. I’m sorry, but there is a UK stamp, and that hurts. These companies are plentifully subsidized by this government too. Millions go into tax cuts for them - because they are a winner for this government.


When Morocco, after attacking and taking control of two thirds of Western Sahara, tried to purchase large turret mounted machine guns from a BAE systems owned company, dutifully our “ethical” foreign affairs office turned this down…no, no, no they will not allow BAE systems to sell new weapons…But little Robin Cook did allow them to ‘refurbish’ the old weapons they had there pointing at the rest of Western Sahara. I’m sure the immensely large and powerful BAE systems were making themselves heard to the people apparently in charge on that one.


Now we must clear this up - Morocco to the north of West Sahara had invaded and taken control of what is owned by the natives, and napalmed them as they were running away - fleeing for their lives. Morocco gave money - to have their non working weapons refurbished - thus obviously…obviously… come now….. Obviously helping them to kill more!


It can not be seen any other way.


And I’m pretty sure arming an invading force isn’t in the good sportsmanship guide for the UN.


But then again - we are one of the five permanent members…and just a guess, but I think BAE might be arming and providing the military transport for the UN forces.


Where women are raped and killed in front of their children in the name of liberation. When the people who believe they are bringing justice are fast becoming the occupying force. I could never believe that freedom is bought from the barrel of a gun. And I use my words carefully there - bought. Bought with the cost of every innocent person’s life.


There is no price on life. And none of the statistics presented here are pure numbers; each one has an impact on human life.



     By Joseph Spencer
       Submitted June 3, 2006


It's the alcohol. It must be, because it sure as hell is not me. The inspiration, the push, an over- the-top tangent that rounds off into psycho-babble driven prose. I think it stops me from being so insular, helps me to interact and enjoy the other people around me. Or is it a screaming desire to push too far?


I think I wouldn’t drink if any of this was missing.


And so I order my first drink in some over-priced, under-staffed stagnant hole of refreshing Italian accents and that goddamn Moroccan yellow which seems to pop up whenever I want to break necks. Don't worry, I don't plan to give you a blow by blow account of every drink, of every quick, refreshing, then later, dependant throw back. But this one is the most important, it's in many ways the only one you fully taste; the start of a binge is never as quick as when at its height, because mainly the binge isn’t yet conscious. It can remain a shallow grass serpent with unlockable jaws and venom-spitting teeth for many hours, but usually it pounces.


Fifteen pound for burger and chips. Since when did the word "gormay (fuck the spelling)" mean overpriced? And since when did I eat in places like this? Well, the reason is across the small table situated next to the wall, a small woman with a taste for handbags and trinkets some call accessories...oh, and how can I forgot, a terribly overwhelming love of shoes. "shoesies." Only a truly demented fashion lover refers to these goddamn things as shoesies. But Sarah is brightly infectious and soon enough I’m buying belts, t-shirts and those shoesies Noel Fielding had on.


I complain for too long about the price of this meal, but of course I don’t accept her offers to pay for me as well, even though I want to. My paper tells of a scandal; some woman has been faking immigrant’s British-ness tests for money. The picture presented with the piece shows the woman looking evil, without remorse and almost slyly pleased with herself. I hope she is; being found out is even more inebriating than carrying on, and that’s why we all push it too far. So we eat, and I moan, and we eat and I moan, and we leave.


You don’t need to know how we went to the drill hall, where the Armando Iannucci's charm offensive will be recorded, and got our tickets stickered, then went to a bar for a swift pint before returning and entering the bar at the drill hall, waiting to be ushered into the auditorium where the show shall be recorded. But what you do need to know is what that room was like, and I think Sarah said it perfectly, if not a little slurred by then.


"I think we're the only people in this room who haven’t read the Da Vinci code"


I wonder how many were in PR, marketing or lower management. The shirts with tiny colored lines and hatches said it all. Every man was different but the same: the age range 28 to 50, mainly the most prevalent type, the struggling youth. Balding 35-year-olds cutting out their character still, as the "wacky" fun bloke wearing a Monty Python Ministry of Walks tie during the working hours, and a pink open collar showing an abundance of chest hair with the conservative 1/2 top buttons undone after hours. Some even went as far as to take the shirts out of their trousers, but none of them were accompanied by a woman. I don’t think any of them had souls either.


Still, we waited and openly denounced the room as a bunch of cads and tossers, overhearing some give-forth, vile, formulaic deconstructions of comedy and all that is sacred to laughter. After forever, the doors opened and in rolled the room. The seats filled up and the show started.


You can hear it if you like, "Armando Iannucci's charm offensive" on the BBC player, on the radio 4 part, and after this week you can pick it up on pod cast apparently.


There’s something strange, some kind of weird pull that grabs me by the centre of your chest and punches the back of my head, beckoning me to run to a microphone and join in, or just shout shitty fucking bollocksy piss, “yeah, ha! I’m in front of hundreds of cocked-up shit-flying munch-suckers. Fuck yeah.” But I didn’t, and I don't know why. I wish I did, but I’d have been ejected. I could have gone for a much-needed piss, I wouldn’t have talked to Armando Iannucci and Clive Anderson posed as a member of the press after the show, and maybe even later wouldn’t have taken place.

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