Talk about Newsnight

Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl

England 0 - Austria 0 (SubbuteEuro2008)

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Jun 08, 05:54 PM

Sunday's alternative Euro2008 Subbuteo clash between England and Austria (off BBC premises and outside work time - see Idle Scraw, passim) failed to scintillate. Despite Capello's best efforts the placing Owen up front in the 4-2-3-1 formation (we are still waiting for the superglue to set on Wayne Rooney's hip) didn't work. At half time England had to revert - Frank Bassett style - to 4-4-2, replacing Owen with a circa-1956 vintage cardboard Subbuteo figure in a Newcastle strip....

Continue reading "England 0 - Austria 0 (SubbuteEuro2008)"

1968: "The Doors" mistaken for political extremists

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 May 08, 08:39 AM

doors_203152.jpgThe anti-Vietnam war demonstration of March 1968 was a turning point in post-war politics: it turned violent right in front of the world's media; the police were shown throwing punches into the faces of already arrested students, and in general losing control. The police files from that event are considered too sensitive to release. But Newsnight has obtained, under Freedom of Information, a stack of police files relating to the much bigger anti-war demonstration of October that year. Watch tonight: they tell a story of rising panic in the establishment: the creation of Britain's first bomb squad; an intelligence feedback loop between Special Branchand the press that ramped up the tension; and, farcically, the rock group The Doors being mistaken for a group of foreign revolutionaries...

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The end of economic niceness

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 May 08, 06:08 PM

Bank of England governor Mervyn King has warned that "for the time being at least the nice decade is behind us". He didn't accept recession was likely but admitted it was possible - even though the Bank's own "fan charts" do not give it even an outside, ten-to-one chance.

Coming on the same day as Gordon Brown's outline of draft legislation, the Bank's quarterly inflation report handily outlines the economic terrain on which the political battle of the next two years will be fought. And it's bumpy...

Continue reading "The end of economic niceness"

England's "dream" chance as Croatia drop out of Euro2008

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 May 08, 12:04 PM

Fabio Capello has been given the target of making the semi-finals in World Cup 2010 in exchange for his £6m contract. Dream on. Shorter term, however, England fans will have to endure a full month of silky-skilled humiliation as our entire TV network goes football crazy for Euro 2008, and we are not there.

For me it's just too much: so I have decided to experience the whole Euro footy tournament in a parallel world, into which I invite readers of Idle Scrawl/Xian Ren San Ji (confused? start here).

As of now, Croatia have just dropped out, England are back in and all their fixtures will be played here in the Newsnight office, using Subbuteo. The first fixture begins on 8 June, at 1800. In the meantime, Fabio and the squad will be warming up with a friendly against the EZLN guerillas of Chiapas, Mexico, who are still waiting to play their long-advertised fixture with Internazionale.

Now all we have to worry about is Wayne Rooney's hip as someone in the office has already stood on him - we are supergluing right now.

Idle scrawl = Xian Ren San Ji

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 Apr 08, 05:08 PM

(bad writing by idle person)

I am in the process of rebranding the blog for the newly expanded Chinese audience. There's some interesting stuff about the ongoing protests against BBC, CNN etc here and I repeat my offer to appear on CCTV to discuss this live for a Chinese audience, provided the Chinese audience can see one of my reports on China with subtitles.

I think the Chinese government is anxious for there to be a period of reflection now, after the torch relay controversy, and is concerned at the vehemence of some of the reactions by demonstrators at Carrefour branches - comparing Joan of Arc to "a prostitute" etc.

As to the rebrand, I got my Chinese producer to translate Idle Scrawl into Chinese. It comes out as "bad writing by lazy person": Xian Ren San Ji. - sadly the other bit of the double meaning, a Lancashire epithet denoting pure sloth, does not survive translation.

Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?)

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Apr 08, 09:34 AM

UPDATE: 1516 GMT Protesters in nine cities have blockaded Carrefour stores in protest at France's diplomatic stance on Tibet. See it here on Youtube....

In the past seven days Chinese students have held a protest outside BBC Manchester condemning the corporation's "biased" reporting of Tibet, the Olympic flame etc; over 3m young Chinese have joined an online protest by adding "Love China" tags to their MSN accounts, and, according to this report, the Chinese authorities are now so worried about the nationalist tone of pro-regime demos and websites that they have started to censor them. It's given me an idea...

Continue reading "Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?)"

Blogging - a new era

  • Newsnight
  • 18 Apr 08, 05:49 PM

blog203.jpgAs many of you who've used the BBC's blogs will know, it has for some months been a deeply frustrating experience, not just for you but for us too.

The point of blogging about our programmes is to have a swift and informal conversation with our viewers. That's impossible if it takes hours to get your comment or our response through.

I'm relieved to say that as of yesterday we have a new system which should be much more robust and which I hope will usher in a new era of blogging for Newsnight.

One change is that in order to comment you'll need to register by filling in a simple form.
Once signed up, you'll be able to comment on any BBC blog using the same login.

Many of you have already commented on how it's working and one or two have suggested it's designed to introduce more censorship.

That's certainly not our intention. The aim is to encourage much more open discussion about the programme and much more interaction with the programme-makers. I'm sure it isn't perfect and that you'll let us know how it could be improved.

Thanks very much to all those contributors - the Bob Goodalls, Barrie Singletons, Mistress76UKs and many others - who have persevered through all the blog problems. Apologies for all the Error 502s, and welcome to the new era.

Blog fix imminent

  • Newsnight
  • 16 Apr 08, 04:32 PM

Blog closed temporarilyFrom 1800 this evening (UK time), we'll be doing some essential maintenance to the blog. As a result of this, you won't be able to leave any comments on our blog posts from that time until Thursday morning and the comments function on all old posts will close. We apologise for any inconvenience.

The work will fix the very frustrating problems we've encountered for some time now with the whole comments system.

From Thursday a new system will be in place - this will mean you will need to complete a simple registration form in order to post a comment on the blog. Once signed up, you will be able to comment on all BBC blogs using the same login. There will be more details in the morning. In the meantime - if you wish to comment on the programme you can email us via

Blog problems - a solution is nigh

  • Newsnight
  • 10 Apr 08, 11:40 AM

blog502error.jpgAnyone who regularly reads the Newsnight blog will know that we have suffered from a series of technical problems for some time now. Comments disappear, the dreaded 502 'not available' message appears, and multiple copies of comments get submitted in error. (More on the problems here.)

Well, to much relief (not least here at Newsnight), a solution is about to be unveiled.

In the very near future the comments system that causes all the problems is being replaced by a BBC-wide system.

Under the new system, anyone wishing to leave a comment will need to sign in - a relatively swift and painless affair that comes with the added bonus of enabling you to leave your thoughts on blogs and message boards across all BBC websites.

Finally, we hope to revamp and relaunch the whole Newsnight blog shortly, with more bloggers, more variety, and the odd bit of video thrown in. But one step at a time...

We'll update you on the changes next week.

The Trial of Chen Liangyu

  • Paul Mason
  • 8 Apr 08, 11:27 AM

"Before, you used to have to pay a one billion dollar bribe to get a personal audience with a major Chinese politician," one foreign businessperson in Beijing told me; "now you only have to invest a billion". That was five years ago and it may have been exaggeration but, as the ongoing trial of Chen Liangyu shows - or would show if it were not being held in secret - corruption went to the top of the tree under former president Jiang Zemin.

Chen was the party secretary in Shanghai, a member of the CPC Politbureau and at the centre of a grouping known as the Shanghai clique. He was disgraced in September 2006 and went on trial on 25 March 2008 in TIanjin, accused of diverting 25 billion RMB into the pockets of himself and associates in the Shanghai Communist Party elite. Yesterday another key figure in the scandal, Zhang Rongkun, was sentenced to 19 years in prison. Zhang's case is worth lookiing at because it illustrates the proven extent of the network of bribery and corruption discovered in Shanghai's business elite - not in the bad old early 90s but as late as two years ago.

According to China Daily Zhang: a) embezzled money from the part-privatised company Shanghai Electric b) paid out 29 billion RMB in bribes c) illegally issued bonds in his own companies and d) manipulated the stock price of Haixin Group. One sentence stands out from the webpage on the state news agency's report on Zhang's sentencing. "It has not been revealed to whom he gave the money."....

Continue reading "The Trial of Chen Liangyu"

Chinese media to planet earth: you are wrong on Tibet....

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 08, 10:39 PM

Twenty-five “torch relay offenders” were arrested, China’s official news agency Xinhua reported tersely just now. They showed a photo of Gordon Brown with the torch and interviewed a man called “Nick” who bemoaned the politicisation of the games. Nowhere did Xinhua explain what the issue behind the protest was.

My colleagues on BBC Sport, meanwhile, had to turn the special programme on the Olympic Flame relay into something resembling an highlights video of the Met Police rugby team blitz defence. The attempt to take the flame from Konnie Huq is currently the most watched video on the BBC website, closely followed by the attempt to douse it with a fire extinguisher. As Dame Kelly Holmes ran into the Dome flanked by police, more police, and Chinese men in blue uniforms whose jurisdiction on British soil in not, even now, clear to me, the “friendly Olympics” looked about as friendly as the Poll Tax riot.

It’s been a major publicity coup for the protesters and a PR disaster for the British government. With publicity like this you do not need Youtube, although there is plenty on Youtube also.

However, almost unnoticed except by Zhongnanologists (the Chinese version of Kremlinology is named after the CCP HQ complex in Beijing) the Chinese goverenment is mounting its own international media campaign, and I think it is worth readers of this blog having a look at it...

Continue reading "Chinese media to planet earth: you are wrong on Tibet...."

Right, that's it, I am going to blog about China!

  • Paul Mason
  • 3 Apr 08, 03:28 PM

Last weekend the Chinese state mysteriously lifted its block on the BBC's English language website. I don't know how long it will last for, or why they did it. What we do know is a lot of Chinese readers were critical about the BBC's coverage of China they found there, which they believed had "departed from the truth". Having done my fair share of that coverage, including getting myself followed by secret police for interviewing a man purged from the party 50 years ago, I decided to take a look at the BBC website.

If you want to watch video reports on China, just click here for a list, sorted by date. If you ignore the odd colourful story about training English chefs to cook Chinese food, it's fair to say the "metanarrative" of most of our coverage focuses on the challenges of economic growth and the repressive nature of the Chinese regime. I've often heard foreign journalists say that there is only one story in China "and that's China". Everyone who's tried to report there knows what that means.

I think now there is a real challenge: for the first time I can be sure that my reporting on China will be seen or read in China, and not just by CCP officials with access to diplomatic-compound satellite dishes. So I have decided to re-start blogging here regularly, between now and the Olympics, to try and engage any English-speaking Chinese readers on a wider range of stories. I'm offering them a genuine chance to do what readers here do: influence and comment on our coverage. So here goes: Numero Uno - What about the workers....

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Wish I'd taken a punt now, really - on the Rock!

  • Paul Mason
  • 18 Feb 08, 08:31 AM

Two weeks ago I appeared on Newsnight to talk about the bids in for Northern Rock. I went as near as I could to suggesting that the pullout of Olivant, leaving Branson plus the in-house "bid", left the Rock very close to Nationalisation. The reason? Both bids effectively only offered half a billion of new money in return for the government removing risk on 24bn worth of debt. Of course only Treasury people could be privy to the deep inner mathematics of the bids but even a jackass such as myself could work out that this possibly did not represent best value for taxpayers' money.

I had strong belief there and then that it would have to be temporarily nationalised. Why? For a reason you can't stake your reputation on: the tone of voice of everybody in government I spoke to betrayed their despair at the non-appearance of decent bids from the private sector. When I asked Downing Street that night: "are you planning to nationalise the Rock" the reply was "Treasury matter, Paul" - as in Father Jack Hackett's famous all-purpose brush off "That would be an ecumenical matter..."

Continue reading "Wish I'd taken a punt now, really - on the Rock!"

Are the two remaining Northern Rock bids enough to stave off nationalisation?

  • Paul Mason
  • 4 Feb 08, 06:41 PM

I don't think so. The Treasury said today that any private sector solution to Northern Rock has to offer the taxpayer a "demonstrably better" outcome than any nationalisation. Let's be clear, (as I always say to finance geeks "as if for an idot") what the economic stakes are:
- Northern Rock owes the government 24bn pounds it can't pay back...

Continue reading "Are the two remaining Northern Rock bids enough to stave off nationalisation?"

Text of Conservative Letter re Newsnight revelations

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:51 PM

Lisa Klein
Director of Party Funding
The Electoral Commission
Trevelyan House
Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2HW
Tuesday, 15th January 2008

BBC Newsnight last night drew attention to three flights taken by David Cameron in October 2005 which were declared in the Register of Members’ Interests but not to the Electoral Commission.

Continue reading "Text of Conservative Letter re Newsnight revelations"

Latest from Conservatives on Cameron's flights

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 06:42 PM

For those of you glued to your PCs over the issue of David Cameron's non-declared flights, as reported below and on Newsnight last night, the Conservatives have now responded, registering the Dewsbury flight and correcting the name of the donor on another flight. In future David Cameron will register all flights with the Electoral Commission. The text of the CCO letter below, and now, Mr Hain, about that 108,000....

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Cameron's choppers

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jan 08, 04:14 PM

Here at Newsnight we are currently engaged in a theological dispute with Conservative Central Office of the “angels on a pinhead” variety. Namely, how many members of the Conservative Party have to be in a helicopter before the trip falls below the eligibility criteria for registration as a donation with the Electoral Commission....

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No Raila, No Peace - where next for Kenya

  • Paul Mason
  • 2 Jan 08, 07:25 PM

Corrupt government, rigged election, violence - some of it ethnically motivated: Kenya's crisis has thrown up stereotypical images of an African conflict. But the country's present agony is the product of a fast developing economy, and massive aspirations to democracy, which have been dashed...

President Kibaki came to power in 2002 promising democratic change; investment flowed in, the middle class grew rapidly: but corruption was slow to disappear. Raila Odinga left the government in 2005 and formed the Orange Democratic Movement, harnessing the power of NGOs and grassroots organisations in a voter registration campaign. Until days before the election, Odinga was ahead in the polls; and he was ahead as the votes were counted...

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Three unanswered questions for Jon Mendelsohn

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Nov 07, 12:55 PM

mendelsohn_brown.jpgDavid Abrahams’ dramatic call to Jeremy Paxman, in the middle of Newsnight ( watch it here), leaves Labour’s Larry Whitty with some very specific questions to address in his forthcoming inquiry. I was told categorically last night, by a Labour spokesperson, that Jon Mendelsohn had never solicited money from Mr Abrahams since he had become Gordon Brown’s chief fundraiser. Yet within minutes of Newsnight running that Labour response, and Geoff Hoon repeating it, Mr Abrahams was on the phone quoting a letter – he says handwritten, Mendelsohn says typed – from Mr Mendelsohn, which he says was an implicit request for cash.

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Markets: from bad to verse

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Feb 07, 05:02 PM

To mark the opening of a 'poetic space' for city types in London I am doing tonight's market anaylsis in verse...(You can also watch the piece here.)

When Shanghai falls by 9 per cent per night
And Greenspan speaks of doom, maybe this year
Big swinging London stock brokers take fright
Yet fundamentals say: irrational fear
For global growth's crescendo has not peaked
Nor is the cycle broke at fundament
The carnage panicked traders swiftly wreaked
Sparked from that crashing comet, sentiment

Six figure bonuses in wallets stashed,
The city guys and girls attempt sang froid
Hedged to the hilt, what if the market's crashed
Short selling leaves bank's money unalloyed
If this be worry then its cheek' unflushed
Speak but US credit, tones are hushed

Why can the screens go red if times are fine?
With too much cash in search of high returns
Some will buy plonk at prices of good wine
And when the cork is pulled their money burns...

To justify the money paid for shares
Even Chinese growth of 9 per cent
Is not enough. So traders dump their wares
We find what's been legit, and what been bent...
So do we face correction or a crash
Ask not the men who live by graphs and curves

For me I think this fallback will unwind
Corporate profits down but not yet
If you are one of the worrying kind
Worry about the big unanswered query
- Can China's ceaseless growth remain full steam
- To finance US debt, the biggest ever seen?

All forward looking statements in this rhyme
Involve risks and are only true at this time

Major union backs outsider for Labour deputy

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Feb 07, 12:15 PM

According to the Electoral Commission website, which will be monitoring these things, the first big donation has been made to a Labour deputy leadership candidate by an affiliated union. The donor: Amicus, whose 800,000 members affiliated to the party will form a major part of the electoral college. The recipient: Jon Cruddas MP, to the tune of 15,000.

Amicus' press office tell me that it was a decision made by the union's political committee in December, and that it does not indicate they are actually supporting him for leader. The donation, it seems, has been made in order to create a "level playing field" with the other candidates. One of whom, Hilary Benn, is an Amicus sponsored MP, unlike Jon Cruddas...

[UPDATE! Within seconds of posting this I was informed that Peter Hain's campaign has now also received 15k. This time from businessman and longtime Labour donor Bill Bottriell.]

Continue reading "Major union backs outsider for Labour deputy"

Evo, Didier, Tony, Lucy and Martin - memories of 2006

  • Paul Mason
  • 31 Dec 06, 10:13 AM

I'll end 2006 with memories of some the extraordinary people I've met this year (plus a couple who I did not meet but made an impression on me):

1) Evo Morales. I got to interview the new president of Bolivia during my trip there in March - it was touch and go because his press operation is not very attuned to outlets by the BBC but one night, after an attack of Boliivan lurgy, my producer dragged me out of bed to go and see a lecture by thevice president, on the pretext that if we met him,we might secure an audience with the main man. In the end, the vp did not show, disappointing an entire hall full of Catholic students, and my heavily perspiring and dizzy self. As we packed our cameras up our fixer took a mobile phone call. "It's on for tomorrow, you have your interview with Evo," she said nonchalantly: "We need to be at the palace by 5.30". Brilliant I said - a whole day to prepare for it. "No," she said, "They mean 5.30am"....

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AIDS: We expose the "goat cure" salesmen

  • Paul Mason
  • 1 Dec 06, 12:55 PM

CARD logo“The trials have now to this date gone through three phases, all of which have proved totally reliable in the cure of Aids” – that is what it said on the business plan.

If the claim were true it would be headline news for the world. Instead the headline news tonight, on Newsnight, is that we have uncovered a scheme by a British company to test a totally unproven “cure” for AIDS on patients in the African kingdom of Swaziland. The “cure” is based on goat serum.

The scheme was proposed by a British-based company called CARD, run by a man called Michael Hart Jones. He approached film actor Richard E Grant to front the scheme: Richard was born in Swaziland – fortunately he was not born yesterday: he came to us....

Watch the report

Continue reading "AIDS: We expose the "goat cure" salesmen"

Grade - big socks to fill...

  • Paul Mason
  • 28 Nov 06, 08:15 AM

Michael GradeCongratulations to Michael Grade who has leapt, red socks barely singed, from what we describe in business as "burning platform" to one in cinders. Tessa Jowell now faces the task of trawling through that class of people who own big, white Georgian houses with 20-foot high ceilings to find a replacement. In the meantime here's what I thnk it means...

Continue reading "Grade - big socks to fill..."

A "lost year of education" for Academy school?

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Nov 06, 08:42 PM

I've been at the Paddington Academy in North London to see what staff and pupils there hope does not go down as the first big failure of the new public-private education system....

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Can technology beat the internet censors?

  • Paul Mason
  • 27 Oct 06, 09:31 PM

netcafe203.jpgIts predecessor is 2000 years old but the Great Firewall of China is the wonder of the online world - so powerful that it can control net access for a fifth of humanity - it represents China's determination to control what's supposed to be uncontrollable - and it works. Watch my report here. In 2004 Shi Tao, a journalist in contact with democracy websites, took notes of a government briefing concerning how he should report the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, and sent it using his Yahoo email account. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison....

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Yes, Hilary Benn will stand for deputy

  • Paul Mason
  • 27 Oct 06, 07:37 PM

As you read here first two days ago, Hilary Benn MP is to stand for Deputy Leader of the Labour Party. He will apparently announce it tonight at his constituency party meeting. It is nice to be right - and I am glad the rest of the media is catching up: the Scrawl may be Idle but he is not very often wrong :)

Hillary Benn for Deputy?

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Oct 06, 04:54 PM

benn203.jpgVeteran Labour types will be rummaging through their lofts tonight in search of their old circa-1981 "Benn for Deputy" badges. For - never let it be said that the Idle Scrawl does not rush straight into print with single-source intelligence about the Labour leadership contest - I have learned that Hilary Benn is set to throw his hat into the ring for the position of Deputy Leader. I have checked with his office and there is "No Comment". At least we can be sure he is not throwing his hat in the ring for leader! They categorically denied that. Mmm.

Lancet Iraq survey methodology under fire

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Oct 06, 04:53 PM

Over the last couple of days two new themes have emerged in the debate over the Lancet/Johns Hopkins University report which estimated an excess 601,000 violent deaths in Iraq as a result of the invasion...

Continue reading "Lancet Iraq survey methodology under fire"

Lancet report: was the pre-war death rate assumption too low?

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Oct 06, 01:57 PM

A number of commentators have questioned one key assumption in the Johns Hopkins/Lancet report: the pre-war death rate of 5.5 per thousand. If the pre-war death rate had been higher, the difference with the post war finding (13.3) would have been smaller and the number presumed killed as a result of the conflict lower....

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Writing that "655,000 dead" report

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Oct 06, 09:46 AM

I would just like to add some points, as the reporter who covered a story that has now become controversial on the BBC Editor's Blog:
1) The "pre-mails" were interesting, generally forwarded to me by Peter - but they did not influence my report. I became aware that some of them might do - the point is I do not care whether somebody complains in the aftermath about my stuff, as long as I have worked in good faith and followed the (i) the principles of my profession (ii) the rules laid down by my bosses (distinclty in that order)....

Continue reading "Writing that "655,000 dead" report"

601,000 reasons to regret?

  • Paul Mason
  • 11 Oct 06, 03:50 PM

iraqcoffin203.jpgImagine an Iraqi village with about 14,000 inhabitants. In the year before the invasion, 82 people in that village die - two violently. In the three years after the invasion 547 people die, 300 violently. Of the 300, 77 die in explosions, 169 in shootings. Twenty six children die in air strikes. I have never been to Iraq but that picture does not jar with my mental image of what's been going on: particularly as 2/3 of the violent deaths are the result of insurgency or incipient civil war rather than "coalition military action".

But extrapolate that figure to cover the whole Iraqi population and you get the stunning headline that is racing around the internet right now: 601,000 violent deaths since the invasion. The problem is the body count says that "only" 50,000 died.

Continue reading "601,000 reasons to regret?"

Why Youtube? Why now? What next?

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Oct 06, 12:39 PM

Youtube made it from garage concept to acquisition in just 18 months: a dream shared every entrepreneur on Dragon's Den etc. But how did they do it, and how do you spot the next Youtube? To me the answer breaks down into three concepts:
- the technology
- tapping the zeitgeist
- the needs of the acquiring corporation...

Continue reading "Why Youtube? Why now? What next?"

Is Newsnight posher than the A-list? Update!

  • Paul Mason
  • 4 Oct 06, 11:10 AM

I was so amused by Laura Kuenssberg's report last night that I spilled Special Brew all over the sofa - the one I keep in my front garden. It raised the thorny issue of class: and I thought since we've given the Tory A-list a sociological going over, what about Newsnight?

You may recall that the Beeb's bosses were distinctly unforthcoming about the level of poshness within the workforce here, when questioned by another media organisation. So I've organised a voluntary straw poll of the Newsnight team.

With 33 replies in the latest results are as follows:

I'll update this posting with the running totals, but the results so far, with about a third of those eligible having replied, are:

1) Were you privately educated? 42% (Tories 52%)
2) Did you go Oxbridge? 30% (Tories 28%)
3) Are you from the South? 60% (Tories 61%)
4) Did you have any history of working for the BBC before you joined it?* 21% (Tory equivalent question 89%)
5) Do you own a Labrador? 3% (Question not asked of all Tory A-listers)

(*This has a bearing on poshness because many years ago, before they brought in rules to make things fairer, apparently a lot of people whose dads were judges and bankers seemed to turn up for work experience.)

Some thought I should have asked the same question as last night - i.e. "ever worked for the Tory Party?"; others thought it would be more accurate to ask "ever worked for the Labour Party?". Likewise one respondent thought the result was such a no-brainer that I would have to narrow it down to "did you do PPE?" and "do you live in Islington, Hampstead or Camden?".

Anyway, the preliminary judgement is that Newsnight is not as posh as the A-list: we are just as southern as the Cameronistas, a little bit more Oxbridge educated, but far fewer of us went to public school. And only one person on the programme admits to owning a Labrador. Also, some of my colleagues from the sarf (as they call it) insist on mentioning that in the part they are from, even Alsatians have to go round in pairs.

Can McLaren's software keep a business off the crash barriers?

  • Paul Mason
  • 29 Sep 06, 02:49 PM

We had a fascinating day at the futuristic bond-like HQ of McLaren, the Woking-based Formula One team. They're about to spin off the software that runs race strategy into a commercial business tool aimed at chief executives. The software analyses about 8 million possible scenarios per race, and recalibrates the possibility of them happening every two seconds: the idea is that the same methodology - for geeks it is based on Bayesian probability - can be used to speed up and make rigorous the kind of strategic decisions you have to take if you are a chief executive...

Continue reading "Can McLaren's software keep a business off the crash barriers?"

Astrid Varnay, 88. Opera singer.

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Sep 06, 12:44 AM

varnay203.jpgDuring the last two crazy weeks (Blair, iPods, NHS shenannigans) I've been trying to find time to write about Astrid Varnay, who died aged 88 on 4 September. She was a soprano who sang Wagner. At the start of the second world war she had a "Ruby Keeler moment" when, in 1941, she was called on to stand in at short notice as the female lead in Die Walkure at New York's Metropolitan Opera. As in all good "understudy makes good" stories, it just happened to be the performance that was being broadcast live to the nation. The next day Pearl Harbor happened! Thereafter she became, arguably, the greatest female opera singer in the world...

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Chinese student protest caught on videophones

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Sep 06, 10:51 AM

With the big internet companies getting hammered by the US Congress and human rights lobby, it's good to see that Youtube - the DIY internet TV channel - has been able to carry graphic footage, shot on a cameraphone, of students in Ruian, China protesting and getting dispersed by the police.

What happened, allegedly, was that a young teacher was found dead outside her apartment; the authorities concluded suicide; the student population took to the streets to question the verdict. Many took footage of their clash with police on their videophones, and posted them to blogs.

As the blogs got taken down, some footage appeared on Youube. You can read Sameer Padania's account of this unprecedented video revolt here at Global Voices online. And just click the link in the footage to see the footage at Youtube.

iTunes vs eMusic - the business angles

  • Paul Mason
  • 13 Sep 06, 10:38 AM

ipods_mason_203.jpgI went to the launch of both the new, movie-enabled iPods and the new cross platform MP3 download service, eMusic last night. Not to the actual all singing, dancing and cocktail party bit of course - I had a programme to make (watch it here). There are two more bits to the story that are worth thinking about: (i) what would you make if iPod's didn't exist but you wanted a movie playing device (ii) the startling business transformation story that is behind both iTunes and eMusic, and how un-British both of them sound...

Continue reading "iTunes vs eMusic - the business angles"

Illegal migrants: the analysis the Home Office will not release

  • Paul Mason
  • 12 Sep 06, 12:21 PM

(....or How Freedom of Information Works, Part 96). On 13 June, Home Office minister Liam Byrne told MPs his mind was open on the proposal for an amnesty for illegal migrants. On 13 July he ruled it out. What had happened to make this change - a fairly major change if you are one of the 1/2 million people here illegally? Answer: "analysis". But will Newsnight viewers get to see that analysis? See if you can predict the outcome of this story...

Continue reading "Illegal migrants: the analysis the Home Office will not release"

Sketch: The TUC on the eve of battle

  • Paul Mason
  • 11 Sep 06, 07:51 AM

Sunday is a round of press conferences and receptions at the TUC, in which, if you are well attuned, you can work out the meaning behind what people are actually saying. I went into yesterday with the following unanswered questions:
- how much support is there for Alan Johnson, the only potential Blairite candidate who could hope to pick up backing here?
- what's the impact of John McDonnell's candidacy, beyond raising policies that nobody else is willing to?
- who are the unions thinking of for deputy leader?
- how are they feeling about Gordon Brown?
Here are the answers:
1. Johnson: the big four union leaders have clearly been talking to Alan Johnson, and not just about deputy leadership. However Tony Woodley's statements about Johnson were fairly unequivocal...

Continue reading "Sketch: The TUC on the eve of battle"

When Am I Going To Get a Mobile That Does Everything

  • Paul Mason
  • 30 Aug 06, 11:33 AM

This question has been bugging me ever since so much paint came off my SonyEricsson P900 that I decided to upgrade this year to the new model. I have blagged a P990 (which is launched in the UK 1 September) and been trying it out. The problem is, though it's got Wifi and a better camera, it's clear we are years away from a smart mobile device that can replace wallet, keys, ID card, credit card etc. But, as my research has shown me, only a few years. Here's why:

Continue reading "When Am I Going To Get a Mobile That Does Everything"

Laffing all the way to the bank?

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Aug 06, 02:49 PM

byers203.jpgSummer would not be summer without members of the Labour hierarchy knocking lumps out of each other with handbags marked "policy renewal". Stephen Byers' gambit yesterday - to scrap inheritance tax because it is a "tax on hard work" - seems to be more than just the traditional phenomenon of Labour rightwingers getting very sentimental about money in old age: it contains a genuine philosophical challenge to Labour tax policy...

Continue reading "Laffing all the way to the bank?"

Matches, vaseline and a note about Al Qaeda?!

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Aug 06, 04:52 PM

Here in the newsroom we are watching live pictures of Boston airport baggage handlers roughly throwing a bunch of Brit passengers' luggage on the tarmac for a dog to sniff. According to wire reports the London-Washington flight was diverted because of a "confrontation" after a female passenger acting suspiciously was found to be in possession of matches, vaseline, a screwdriver and a note referring to Al Qaeda. Now who would get on a jet carrying this in current circumstances? Instant profiling by cynical members of the Newsnight team suggest a) a terrorist b) a tabloid journalist. As the old joke goes: Q. What's the difference? A. At least terrorists have supporters. Its all happening right now and we'll have the definitive take by 10.30GMT.

A wave of cynicism hits the blog

  • Paul Mason
  • 11 Aug 06, 01:16 PM

It turns out yesterday was a good day to open up the Newsnight blog: 150+ people have weighed into the debate on yesterday's alleged terror plot. As you saw on Newsnight last night, and as the BBC's Asian Network found on its phone-in this morning, there is a wave of cynicism and mistrust about what the government is telling us in the wake of the attacks. It is not confined to Muslims; also it is completely absent from American viewers/'readers. But it breaks down into three positions:
1) Some people believe that yesterday's alleged plot was staged by the British state - they also believe that 9/11 and 7/7 were carried out by the security services of the west, or Israel.
2) Others, remembering Forest Gate and the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, doubt the ability of the Metropolitan Police to get the right people; fear that innocent people may have been caught up in yesterday's arrests. A variant of this view is that it is "all too convenient" that John Reid makes a speech on terror one day and the next day a major terror plot is discovered, right in the middle of a politically damaging war in Lebanon....

Continue reading "A wave of cynicism hits the blog"

Heard the news in China? No they haven't

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Aug 06, 11:00 AM

Microsoft, Google, Skype and Yahoo were slammed today in a 149 page report from Human Rights Watch over their assistance to the Chinese authorities in censoring the Internet. It says:

"The above companies are complicit in the Chinese government’s censorship of political and religious information and/or the monitoring of peaceful speech in various ways—and, it is important to note, to widely varying degrees. They have all accepted at least some Chinese government demands without mounting any meaningful challenge to them."...

Continue reading "Heard the news in China? No they haven't"

Your mortgage rate is going's "odds on"

  • Paul Mason
  • 9 Aug 06, 02:21 PM

I've just been to the Quarterly Inflation Report press conference at the Bank of England. Last week they surprised the markets and raised interest rates to 4.75%. Today they gave a detailed account of the reasons and it brings no joy to mortgage payers but, maybe some to housebuyers. The bank's boss Mervyn King never gives "steers" about what future interest rates might do. But asked whether he might breach the 3% inflation benchmark, upon which he has to "write a letter" to Gordon Brown, he said it was 50/50 that it would happen in the next six months and odds on to happen over the next two years...

Continue reading "Your mortgage rate is going's "odds on""

I get demoted to a category

  • Paul Mason
  • 8 Aug 06, 04:09 PM

The blog looks wierd today because it is being changed into a generic Newsnight Reporters' blog. I will still be writing for it but I have managed to, in theory, persuade my fellow correspondents and presenters - and even some of those shadowy characters who really run Newsnight, The Producers, to write for it. Like the old blog it's an experiment - largely driven by the success of Idle Scrawl and the need for Newsnight to stop using analog technology (aka Stuart and Ian the web team) to organise online feedback. We will probably experiment again in 6 months time, and as a regular Typepad user I am already having a go at Vox. I am told the blog will sort itself out and my fantastically sarky picture will be back for those who are already missing it.

Giotto, Giolitti, graft, Gramsci....

  • Paul Mason
  • 20 Jul 06, 10:03 PM

As of today the Idle Scraw becomes "lo scarabocchio ozioso", joining the British chattering classes' exodus to the land of the above. I have packed my paints, a pencil, Tolstoy and some Montecristos - but not the means to post regularly here. I am handing over to Stuart and Ian, the Newsnight web team, to do as they will with these pages....

Continue reading "Giotto, Giolitti, graft, Gramsci...."

See the crisis like the relief agencies see it...

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Jul 06, 05:51 PM

I have discovered Reliefweb, which is currently running a very comprehensive wire service for humanitarian agencies dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Lebanon. There is extremely detailed information on where the refugees are going, when, in what numbers etc - though most postings are reliant on the Lebanese governemnt for casualty figures. I would have thought this Red Cross/Crescent posting is useful to any journalist on the ground scrambling to find out what's going on. it's a combination of newswires plus aid agency and government announcements - and you will like it if you like news as it appears before journalsts get hold of it. Pass it on if you find it useful.

World War 3.0 (Beta)?

  • Paul Mason
  • 18 Jul 06, 06:38 PM

gingrich203.jpgNewt Gingrich's pronouncement that we are "in World War III" has to be seen in the context of American politics. See this Seattle Times article for some context: Gingrich has been hammering Republicans for going soft and wants George W (Yo! Blair!) Bush to ratchet up the War on Terror into a full scale official World War III. Watch his Newsnight interview here. But here is how he put it on Fox News:

"When you have bombings in India, you have war going on in Afghanistan, you have war going on in Iraq, you have a war going on in Gaza and South Lebanon, you have Syria and Libya and North Korea actively plotting to defeat the democracies, you have Ahmadinejad, the leader of Iran, saying publicly he wants to defeat the Americans and eliminate Israel from the face of the earth, you have people plotting to blow up New York tunnels, you have Canadians plotting to blow up the Canadian parliament and behead the prime minister... My point is we're in a war!"

When I read that it prompted a few questions...

Continue reading "World War 3.0 (Beta)?"

Bush to Blair: That G8 peace strategy on open mic

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Jul 06, 12:43 PM

bushblair203.jpgAn open microphone at the G8 photocall picked up the following exchange between President Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair's comments are in brackets:

BUSH: "See the irony is what they need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit and it's over...
(BLAIR: yeah yeah...Syria)
BUSH: Right ...Felt like telling Kofi to get on the phone to Assad and make something happen.
(BLAIR: right)
BUSH: (words indistinct)..we're not blaming the Lebanese Government...

This is not a spoof! It really happened a couple of hours ago. What puzzles me is that if we are at the "trying to get Syria to do something" stage at the end of the summit, where were they at the beginning of the summit?

What the blogosphere thinks about Lebanon

  • Paul Mason
  • 17 Jul 06, 07:51 AM

lebblog203.jpgA quick trawl through the blogosphere on the Lebanon crisis produces the following. Truthlaidbear has a comprehensive blog-of-blogs, which sorts out those on the ground from those not on the ground, and includes both sides. I will be monitoring this during the conflict and want to know of anything better if you come across it.

Though this is not the first Blogging war, it remains the case that Iraq did not have a fully functioning free media + internet when invaded and therefore you were not able to get virtually realtime postings showing what happens when you bomb civilians. Now you are, and thankfully the images are below the scroll-line here at Letters Apart.

Also, this is turning out to be the first Youtube war. This home video from Haifa brings to life the fear of those caught up in the conflict as vividly as any news report.

Plus, in no particular order:

Canadians getting angry about the death of Lebanese Canadian civilians under Israeli bombardment.

Thomas Friedman's Friday article, linking the rise of pro-Iran Islamist groups in the democratically elected assemblies of Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian Authority much debated during the weekend.

Robert Fisk's reporting much copied/pasted, including this. And his revelation of the planning behind Hizbollah's offensive, plus a report that Israeli censors blacked out a Hizbollah attack on the northern military command post.

For the battle technology-heads, there is plenty of stuff, as here.

Occasional whiffs of humour, as here.

On Friday Newsnight covered the way the Lebanese and Israeli media are covering the war. We will go on trying to give you a picture of what people on the ground are hearing and seeing and how it is shaping their response to the war, particulary in Lebanon where the population has been divided over its attitude to Hizbollah. Get in touch if you are an Israeli, Palestinian or Lebanese blogger in the war zone.

More on McDonnell's bid

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 Jul 06, 08:00 AM

mcdonnell203.jpgThe Idle Scrawl's moby has been burning his ear off since the news that John McDonnell MP is to launch a leadership bid today. Let's be clear, it is not exactly yet a "bid" in the sense that it is not designed to spark an election now. I am told McDonnell would get about 20 nominations if he stood today - he needs 72 on Labour Party rules. In addition it is still intended that the question of whether to stand a candidate will be put formally to the LRC on 22 July. There is still some residual support for standing Michael Meacher but the sentiment I have heard expressed from McDonnell backers is as follows: since there is no middle ground between the left and the Brown loyalists, standing a less left wing candidate does not gain you anything but loses you clarity of critique of Blair-Brown. And since the big unions are not going to support anyone but Brown...Ahh, but there is a sting in the tail of this...

Continue reading "More on McDonnell's bid"

Levy affair pushes Labour left into leadership bid?

  • Paul Mason
  • 13 Jul 06, 03:20 PM

John McDonnell, Labour MP and chair of the Socialist Campaign Group has called journos to an "important announcement" tomorrow morning. Unless he is going to replace Steve Mclaren as England manager I think it is safe to assume he is going to announce his candidacy as a leadership challenger to Tony Blair.

This has been on the cards for a little while now but the timing, and the choice of McDonnell, were not a foregone conclusion and seem a little bit early compared to intel received by me previously...I am making calls but here's what I surmise at present...

Continue reading "Levy affair pushes Labour left into leadership bid?"

Australian "soccer" proves it is world class

  • Paul Mason
  • 13 Jul 06, 09:22 AM

tim_cahill203.jpgWhile the world has been glued to the story of one man and his ability to destroy the thing he helped create - I mean of course Zidane and the French footy team - on the other side of the world the Aussie public is coming to terms with football failure. I am indebted to Idle Scrawl reader Lisa, from Melbourne, for this priceless list of valedictory comments from the "Socceroos". It proves that, wherever football goes, Colemanballs goes with it.

"Germany is a very difficult team to play . . . they have 11 internationals out there." - Zeljko Kalac.

"Leeds is a great club and it's been my home for years, even though I live in Middlesborough." - Mark Viduka.

"I'd like to play for an Italian club, like Barcelona." - Vince Grella... (and many, many more: read on)....

Continue reading "Australian "soccer" proves it is world class"

Labour launches corruption, abroad

  • Paul Mason
  • 12 Jul 06, 05:01 PM

Emails have begun to land in my inbox about tomorrow's launch of the Development White Paper by UK aid ministry DFID. The White Paper was flagged up as being due, but not until next week and the paranoiac blogger in me is wondering why it has been rushed forward to tomorrow.

The contents of it are likely to be controversial, signalling as they do a turn away from stimulating "supply of democracy" - i.e. consultancies going in to developing world and redesigning entire legal systems - towards "demand for democracy". This inevitably involves DFID giving money to groups in civil society it believes will demand democracy and fight the horrendous corruption that exists in government in countries less fortunate than the UK.

No doubt this will involve financing newspapers that ask awkward questions about alleged government malfeasance; likewise even bloggers, who have been known to be on the front line of asking questions about, for example, positions in the legislature of these benighted countries being traded for cash.

Meanwhile, here in Britain, while a major department of state gets ready to teach the world about good governance, news has just broken that Lord Levy, the Prime Minister's personal envoy to the Middle East, and the man in charge of Labour fundraising, has been arrested in connection with the 1925 Honours Act and the 2000 PPERA.

More Zizou and nuclear malarkey...

  • Paul Mason
  • 12 Jul 06, 09:02 AM

zidane_ap203.jpgAs the world awaits Zidane's definitive account of the provocation for the headbutt, in a primary school in Salford the headteacher tells me kids spent most of Monday "practising" the Zidane headbutt, despite pleadings to the contrary. It seems to have a similar fascination for amateur video editors who, courtesy of Youtube, have been adding everything from Hollywood style special effects, to Super Mario overlays. Plus this Matrix-style compilation of Materazzi's greatest fouls. Back in the world of warm beer and elderly nuns cycling to church on a Sunday evening, curled ham sandwiches, extradited City businessmen (that's enough England metaphors, Ed.)...we are going nuclear...

Continue reading "More Zizou and nuclear malarkey..."

If Phil Anschutz built power stations…

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Jul 06, 05:07 PM

sizewell_pa.jpgThe long-awaited Energy Review will be published tomorrow. Nobody I know in the industry claims to have seen it, but there was a selective leak to the Observer Business section which revealed:
- they will build six 1.6mw nuclear power stations
- there will be a hefty bung to the renewables lobby to avoid the charge that renewables will lose out as money is spent on nukes.
The aim, as desired by the generation industry, is to make nuclear “economic” not by subsidising but by raising the price of carbon permits so that it looks cheaper than gas. However there are problems...

Continue reading "If Phil Anschutz built power stations…"

Why, Zizou, why?

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Jul 06, 09:46 AM

zizou_afp203.jpgAs always Youtube has various illicitly copied bits of the relevant footage of Zidan's head-butt last night, and the provocation. You can see it as French viewers saw it. Or here with the lip-synch blown up courtesty of Austrian TV. I can't make it out clearly but maybe, just maybe, Materazzi is saying something like "chipolata como Prescotto". But it's indistinct. The full truth later, no doubt.

Why I do not diss bloggers, but...

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Jul 06, 08:38 AM

If you look at the thread attached to the last Prezza article, or plunge into the blogosphere's discussions adjacent to the Prezza issue, you will see a theme emerging whereby the bloggers repeatedly assert that, a) they, in some way are doing better journalism than the journos and b) we are somehow hostile to them.

This is not the case. I want to make clear my attitude to the bloggers who are on Prescott's case...

Continue reading "Why I do not diss bloggers, but..."

Prezza, the bloggers and Paxman

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Jul 06, 11:41 AM

prescott_pa203300.jpgNot since 7/7 has the UK blogosphere looked like functioning in the same way as its US counterpart - until now. Slipping and sliding around the libel laws, and the custom and practice of us media types refraining from telling the world who is sleeping with whom at Westminster, the British bloggers are at it, right now, on an almost hourly basis, pushing the Prescott story forward almost faster than the Mainstream Media (MSM).

The fact is that, though the anonymous people alleged to have been involved with Prezza may be in the process of suing various newspapers, the names are out there in the blogosphere; and the bloggers are dissecting Prescott's latest interview with a - they claim - even finer toothcomb than we, the objective impartial Beeb. Actually the BBC website points out:

Asked repeatedly whether he had had any other affairs, Mr Prescott refused to answer directly.

The Prescott issue is an ideal topic for a blog feeding frenzy because it is in the objective interest of the Tory bloggers and the anti-Blair Labour bloggers for Prescott to go. It was when this happened in the USA that blogging started to have a real impact on events.

Newsnight last night acknowledged the fact that bloggers are now a factor in events by putting Toryboy Iain Dale live and unleashed (well, pre-recorded and heavily legalled) on the UK's flagship political programme. Watch it here.

If you want to dip into this world of ranching and on any of these links and you will soon get as far as we poor professional journalists have got: to a bunch of infidelity allegations that have not been substantiated but are, as of Today's 8.10 interview with Prezza, the subject of a non-denial; and to the documents at the centre of an argument over whether his decision to go and study the intricacies of farming courtesy of Phil Anschutz amount to a conflict of interest...

Continue reading "Prezza, the bloggers and Paxman"

The handbags are out for Ronaldo

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Jul 06, 03:59 PM

I received the following chainmail in my inbox today - evidence of a concerted campaign of revenge against Cristiano Ronaldo for his alleged role in getting Rooney sent off (thus sabotaging Newsnight's "Vibe Rooney's Boot" Campaign). I feel obliged to share it with you...

Continue reading "The handbags are out for Ronaldo"

Real aid or phantom aid

  • Paul Mason
  • 4 Jul 06, 11:02 PM

The charity ActionAid tonight issued a report claiming that up to half of all aid money in the world is "phantom" - spent on private consultancy, non-poverty related projects or "tied" to foreign policy objectives and companies from donor countries. We got an exclusive look at it on the programme - and explored the whole issue of highly paid private consultants getting their private school fees paid out of money that most of us think is destined for the kind of schoolteaching that happens under a tree. I'll post a link to the report once it's there on the Actionaid site - but what do you think? Hit the comments button and let's talk about something more important than my misvibing of Wazza's boot.

Gutted: a failure of management, not of bottle...

  • Paul Mason
  • 1 Jul 06, 07:05 PM

sven203pa_martinrickett.jpgThere is a serious moral to England's defeat that makes it no less bitter: the whole campaign was marked by failures of management.

Sven picked too few strikers: incontrovertible. He never found a workable formation - never mind that: there was no philosopy, let alone style - other than the one they found after the 62nd minute, which is the default style Sven encouraged: Italian football circa 1990. He transmitted hesitancy to the entire team, and you could feel that right to the end - I have a hunch that Sven ordered them to put all penalties on the floor, so as not to risk being off target: I saw him for the first time ordering them to do something before the penalties and I bet that is what comes out.

Click here to watch my Newsnight report on Sven

But these were just tactical failures of management. Sven's failure on the bigger picture was threefold...

Continue reading "Gutted: a failure of management, not of bottle..."

Crikey, Michael Crick is in Sven's reception

  • Paul Mason
  • 30 Jun 06, 06:14 PM

The words "Michael Crick is in reception" strike fear into the heart of many a politician. Today, fired up by the response of Newsnight viewers to the Swede's sang froid and England's poor performance, Cricky got into an England press conference and gave it both barrels. Echoing Gareth Southgate's famous quote, he asked Svennis whether - at half time tomorrow - he expected to be sounding more like Winston Churchill than Iain Duncan Smith...

Continue reading "Crikey, Michael Crick is in Sven's reception"

That Guantanamo decision in full...

  • Paul Mason
  • 29 Jun 06, 11:02 PM

Never say that Newsnight stands between you and the actual news, mediating and imposing its own interpretation. I know there are thousands of you legal bods out there just gagging to write exam papers or show off your detailed knowledge in the pubs around the Inns of Court on the basis of having read the Supreme Court judgment - of which an eminent American has just assured Newsnight viewers will be the last of its kind once all the liberal judges die. So, here it is: Hamdan vs Rumsfeld.

Join Newsnight's "Vibe Rooney's Boot" campaign!

  • Paul Mason
  • 29 Jun 06, 02:05 PM

rooneyboot_getty203.jpgThe England camp have notably stopped denying they've been bad, or going on about the virtues of ugly football, and made a concerted PR attempt to convince us the have got the message from the fans and they are fired up for Saturday. That will have to be good enough...

So in the spirit of mutual respect I am starting a global "Vibe Rooney's Boot" campaign.

The concept is simple: every England supporter on earth needs to focus their cosmic energy on Wayne Rooney's boot at the same time. You have to will Rooney to score. You have to focus not on any other part of his anatomy than his booted right foot. You have to do it at two set times:

1) Exactly at the end of the English national anthem, beginnign at the last note. You have to do it for a full minute.
2) If he is still on after half time, a 30 second refresh of the cosmic energy must be done exactly on the moment the whistle goes for 2H kick off.

If you are watching in a pub, club or public screen you must instigate the vibing by holding your arms out in the direction of Gelsenkirchen and wiggling your fingers.
You must imagine Rooney scoring: visualise it in your mind.
If it helps, do the low hum that has become popular at corner kicks, or even better start a chant - "Rooney's boot must score!"

Come on. As many commenters have pointed out, it is time to "get behind the lads". Let's do what the thanatoid manager has failed to do - some karmic adjustment on the England team.

Let's make this a global mass movement on the scale of MPH! (Except of course for Newsnight Scotland)

Send this link to your friends and get your karma ready for release.

If Sven quit this morning...

  • Paul Mason
  • 26 Jun 06, 11:26 AM

sven203associatedpress.jpgThere is so much negative analysis of England’s shambolic performance against Ecuador that I am put in mind of all the books on “Sven and the art of management” that must now, surely, be good for pulping. Here’s a challenge for fellow Idle Scrawlers – Sven resigns today and, Roy of the Rovers style, you are catapulted into the management role, jetting out the Germany right now. The team is assembled in a hotel meeting room; you have 30 minutes to prepare your strategy to beat Portugal. What do you say? Here’s what I would say:

“Lads – there’s only two possibilities: either you are a bunch of lazy, overpaid carthorses, or Sven was doing something wrong. I think the latter. That is why I have asked Mr Mclaren also to sling his hook. Look on it as a liberation – you’ve got a week to get it right and we are going to start the moment we leave this room. For now – a ten point plan...

Continue reading "If Sven quit this morning..."

Who's showing the next match? YouTube...

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Jun 06, 01:50 PM

(Don't stop commenting on my previous post. It is now getting vitriolic down there in the 90+ region of the comments. More to follow on Sven - but..)

youtube.jpgMeanwhile, back at the business end of the World Cup, the BBC/ITV have announced how their coverage of the QFs will be divvied up. The good news (bad news if you hate the Beeb) is that we have got the England-Portugal match. However, it is all becoming academic if you watch what's happening on the web: enterprising fans have been taking DV cameras, or using mobiles, of the match action. This being the "me" generation, most of the footage is of them gurning into the camera - but occasionally you get match action. Another popular thing going on is people videoing the TV screen during games and then posting it so that we can all share what it is like to be in Ghana and see them score.

Other spin-off coverage is the rise of the montage-to-music genre of football imagery to make a point. This excellent lament by a S Korea fan of their trouncing by Switzerland is a case in point....though because it is composed of copyright images you will have to click thru to it rather than running it on this site...

Continue reading "Who's showing the next match? YouTube..."

Martin Adler: superb, brave journalist. Realist.

  • Paul Mason
  • 23 Jun 06, 05:27 PM

Martin Adler, an award winning freelance journalist, was shot and killed in Mogadishu earlier today. I worked with Martin on a report on the revolt by the people of the Niger Delta against the oil companies whose wealth has so conspicuously not trickled down. The Newsnight team's visas had been sat on by the Nigerian government but Martin went in on a tourist visa and shot an incredible 12 minute film. We bought the rights to it and he and I worked on the script of the film together. I learned a lot from Martin: he had just won the Rory Peck Award for Charlie Company - an embed film with the US military.

Martin's approach to video journalism is the opposite to the way most mainstream media works: you go there, get the footage using little battered video cameras, you don't shoot "sequences" - you shoot the truth. He went on and on at me in the edit about the film director Lars von Trier and his philopsophy of Dogma, Rule Three of which says:

The camera must be hand-held. Any movement or immobility attainable in the hand is permitted. (The film must not take place where the camera is standing; shooting must take place where the film takes place).

Initial reports say that it was with camera in hand that Martin was shot by an assailant in the midst of an otherwise peaceful demonstration today. Martin worked freelance - going to the places corporate media are wary of, then selling the story to the highest bidder. He is one of a small clan of elite world affairs journalists who can shoot, write, produce, edit. Because of Martin, and people like him, we know a bit of the truth about what conflict does: it senselessly kills people, degrades them

I will remember him not just for the stories he got but for the way he told them - every work was an act of authorship. Of that clan he was the least scarred and cynical.

I can see him now, sitting in an edit suite, spinning through his own footage, debating with me whether we had been "true" to one of the subjects in the piece. Making calls about the next dangerous trip he was about to make. Going on about Lars Von Trier, truth and reality.

He put himself, his hand-held camera, his intellect and sense of humour in the way of the world's meanest people and horrible situations.

A senseless gesture by a man with a gun in a lawless, poverty stricken country has killed him. Thanks to Martin, millions of people understand why such senseless gestures are made, why countries are poverty stricken, and who supplies the guns.

The real big idea in Gordon's speech

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 Jun 06, 11:46 AM

trident203.jpgPity the spinner and the spun to. For 24 of the 36 hours before Gordon Brown made his latest Mansion House speech (read it here or watch it here) I was supposed to be covering it: I had even dug my black tie out of the back of the wardrobe. Then the editors of Newsnight decided Thames Water was a less boring story than Gordon on Globalisation. But in the middle of a reed clump in the Welsh Harp reservoir, Brent, I got a call from Gordon’s people alerting me that – like a well aimed outswinger on a humid day at Trent Bridge – the message of the great man’s speech had curved, late in its trajectory, away from globalisation and towards nuclear annihilation.

Was I aware, the “sources close”, asked me, that the nuclear issue was the “last of the big issues to be sorted out in the next six to eighteen months”? And that this was Gordon speaking “as himself” and “outside his remit as Chancellor”?

Actually yes I was – and having heard the full speech I wish that Gordon Brown’s spinmeisters had actually stuck to the original top line, namely Britain’s role in a globalised economy, because it is on getting that right – rather than maintaining the theoretical ability to outnuke Vladimir Putin – that the UK’s future probably depends...

Continue reading "The real big idea in Gordon's speech"

China goes to the Moon for Helium 3 by 2024

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Jun 06, 07:04 PM

moonchina20320.jpgChina's moon project leader Long Lehao told reporters that the PRC will put a man on the moon by 2024, with an unmanned lunar probe set to launch next year. Unlike the USA in the 1960s, the Chinese are not going moonside just to wind up conspiracy theorists and inspire rock bands: there is a serious economic purpose: Helium-3...

Continue reading "China goes to the Moon for Helium 3 by 2024"

Bill Gates did not invent PC, shock...

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Jun 06, 12:57 PM

On Friday Newsnight covered the statement by Bill Gates that he would step back from his role at Microsoft. My old mate Andrew Orlowski, from The Register, has pointed out that Gavin Esler inadvertantly said Gates invented the PC. As you all know he invented the software monopoly, kind of. And the geek-as-hero, for definite. Anyway if you want to read Andrew's pithy rejoinder to my alleged "canonisation" of St Bill, it is on the Reg. The piece itself can be viewed by clicking here, replete with the Leni Reifenstahl pastiche, the Linux penguin shooting Bill and a pro-Linux IT guy saying Microsoft is finished.

An insider's view of the Gorby era

  • Paul Mason
  • 16 Jun 06, 07:55 AM

The diary of Gorbachev's foreign policy adviser, Anatoly Chernyaev, has been published in English by the National Security Archive at George Washington University. It makes compelling reading for anybody involved in, or studying, the labour movement and the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Chernayaev is in the Kremlin just as Gorby begins to transform the bureaucracy, and describes the beginnings of perestroika in first hand detail.

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Flockin' all over the world

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 Jun 06, 01:40 PM

flock.jpgSome months ago I wrote about, and filmed, the team developing a new web browser called Flock. I have been systematically beaten up by techno-geeks ever since, for being so naive as to report on a "son of Firefox" without reporting Firefox first; or, for buying too much of the hype around Web 2.0. Well today Flock is the number one search item on Technorati: reason being they have just announced the "public beta" release of it...

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Exclusive: Ken calls for illegal migrant amnesty

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 Jun 06, 10:00 PM

London's mayor Ken Livingstone has tonight become the most senior Labour politician to call for an amnesty for Britain's estimated 1/2 million illegal migrants. He issued this statement to Newsnight:

"It was clear after the 1997 election that the disastrous state of the immigration service inherited from the previous government was leading to massive problems in the immigration system including an appalling backlog in dealing with cases. Having spent nine years trying to improve this failing system, and considering the overwhelmingly positive contribution of immigration to the economy and cultural life of the UK, there is now a compelling case for starting from scratch, and clearing all pending cases with an amnesty. Of course the government would first have to decide how it wanted to run the system from the point at which a new regime started and there would be nothing to be gained from giving clear commitments until the government was ready to act."

The move comes after Labour immigration minister Liam Byrne refused to rule out an amnesty. I understand community groups representing London's vast army of migrant cleaners and security guards are in discussion with churches with a view to a hearts and minds campaign among politicians to present this as the only practical option versus the cost of finding and deporting half a million people (ie nearly one in every hundred of the UK population).

MoD confirms "black" military aviation projects exist, sort of

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 Jun 06, 03:33 PM

My colleagues, Meirion Jones and Liz McKean, have been digging through old MOD documents about UFOs - contrary to what you might think the military are still very interested in the concept of alien invaders from outer space and as late as 2000 produced a comprehensive document rubbishing the idea of UFOs. One of the reasons people keep seeing them (apart from magic mushrooms) is the rumoured existence of US military aviation projects, in particular the Aurora project. Anyway some poor soul in the MOD had to go through the report when it was declassified and physically insert little crosses in biro where all reference to US military projects is "redacted" You can read the full thing on the Newsnight website or stay here and read the cut-n-paste summary below...

Continue reading "MoD confirms "black" military aviation projects exist, sort of"

Now that's what I call nationalism...Vol.1

  • Paul Mason
  • 14 Jun 06, 09:34 AM

The problem with nationalism is: it is a febrile emotion; even fragile. Like the stock market, it can go up and down in a volatile manner. You can see this from my anecdotal England flag count: it is down.

I have just wallked past a whole hundred yards of rush hour traffic jam, and not a flag in sight - even on the numerous white vans. The reason for this, I surmise, is the growing realisation that of the seeded teams England gave possibly the worst performance; that Trinidad and Tobago made the Swedes look ordinary; that England may have to face Ecuador, who made the Poles look ordinary - plus the fact that several other teams look like they are playing a totally different game to ours, in particular Argentina.

Maybe the white van driving community is simply reflecting the mood of the TV pundits, which has been hangdog since the 55th minute of the England-Paraguay match, when Sven revealed the full extent of his commitment to tactical surrealism. I would imagine Sven's televised interview last night, in which he saidhe had not told Michael Owen why he was taken off, has done its bit to reduce the flag count as well...

Continue reading "Now that's what I call nationalism...Vol.1"

Bolivia, footy, computers...

  • Paul Mason
  • 12 Jun 06, 03:33 PM

One of the best things about blogging is that you find kind of "separated at birth" people: if you like my blog's mixture of subjects then Oscar's blog - about Evo Morales, soccer tactics and PHP programming could be for you! (He just posted a critical dissection of my explanation of the offside rule under Saturday's posting).

Nuclear - now it's "how" not "if"...

  • Paul Mason
  • 12 Jun 06, 12:03 PM

sizewellb203.jpgGordon Brown's most recent statement flagging up a change in energy policy; plus the thin smidgeon of a revelation present in today's FT lead story are further evidence that the government Energy Review will propose the rebuilding of old nuclear power stations with new ones. The green lobby, which had tactically retreated from waste disposal and safety arguments to the high ground of "it's uneconomic" now finds that ground giving way. I take no view for or against new nukes, but here is how I am being briefed that the economic argument has been won...(by the way, it is said the review will appear in the last week before the parliamentary recess, yet I am told the policy document has been written already)...

Continue reading "Nuclear - now it's "how" not "if"..."

Last minute BS lesson... the too-high offside trap

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Jun 06, 12:29 PM

With just 90 minutes to go until the England game kicks off there is little time to lose. Here is a quick second lesson in the art of talking confidently about football without talking complete rubbish (aka: HTBSAFWTB - an occasional series).

Part II: The high offside line
1. Last night both Poland and Germany suffered due to their back four playing too "high" - that is, too far away from their own goal. Germany in particular let in two from Paulo Wanchope because of this. So how does it work...

Continue reading "Last minute BS lesson... the too-high offside trap"

What colour is your England flag?

  • Paul Mason
  • 9 Jun 06, 01:06 PM

flags203.jpgLast Sunday I saw a man stop his car, leave it parked with hazard lights flashing and his mother sitting in the back seat, walk to the middle of a busy road and pick something up off the tarmac. It was an England flag; he was asian; his mother was dressed in an elaborate traditional silk. The flag had dropped off his car aerial. Later I noticed that my local pub had decked its windows out with St George Crosses...

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World Exclusive! England on song, on Newsnight

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Jun 06, 09:37 PM

Stand by for a genuine world exclusive on Newsnight (Wed 2230GMT). Never mind our 24 hour news colleagues who have been hanging around a hospital worrying about some bloke and his metatarsal - we have vintage footage, never seen before, of the classic 1966 England Cup Winning Team singing a, characteristically awful, football song. Plus we have decided to have a go at the West Lothian question - our colleagues on Newsnight Scotland are threatening to come and dig up our turf and swing from our goalposts. And I'll be number crunching the NHS deficit (or as the Audit Commission calls it, the NHS England).

Fiction, opera, cricket, church... spot the odd one out

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Jun 06, 08:33 AM

zadiesmith203.jpgI was at the Orange Prize ceremony last night to see Zadie Smith win for her new book "On Beauty". The crowd was young, trendy, not particularly metropolitan and - this being a women's fiction prize - mainly female. It struck me, and some of my acquaintances in the book trade, that fiction has managed to do what so much in high culture has failed to do: revitalise its audience.

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Is Russia fighting an energy cold war?

  • Paul Mason
  • 2 Jun 06, 08:49 PM

Vladimir Putin met foreign journalists this afternoon to talk about energy politics and the forthcoming G8 summit. The EU has been pushing for Russia to open the gas export market to competition - at present the 50% state owned Gazprom has a monopoly. Putin said firmly this was not in Russia's interest. And he linked his intransigence, overtly, to the West's support for the so called Orange Revolution in the Ukraine.

"Our friends [in the West] actively supported the Orange events in Ukraine. If you want to further support developments there, you pay for that," he said with, as the AP newswire reporter put it, "the color rising in his face".

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More on that EZLN formation

  • Paul Mason
  • 1 Jun 06, 12:33 PM

mason_marcos203.jpgThe blog yesterday generated a flurry of interest in the EZLN and a flurry of speculation among readers that I actually know something about football. I can categorically deny the latter, but for those interested in seeing the legendary correspondence between Subcomandante Marcos and the boss of Inter Milan, it's here....

Continue reading "More on that EZLN formation"

How to b******t about football without talking b******s (an occasional series)

  • Paul Mason
  • 31 May 06, 01:17 PM

crouch4_203300.jpgThey say football is a world language, and that it is footy conversations that give men permission to express themselves in emotional language that would otherwise be bottled up inside our stilted selves. But at times like this football also becomes the default topic of conversation in many workplaces and nearly all business meetings. One of Newsnight's producers lamented last night that they would now have to "start talking about why Peter Crouch should not be played in the starting line up" (with a face like Wayne Rooney being asked a question on logical positivism).

So I am starting this occasional series on how to talk with unwarranted confidence about football, while avoiding talking obvious rubbish. What are my qualifications to write this? None! Welcome to the club...

PART I: Why Peter Crouch should not start for England... (or why he should…)

Continue reading "How to b******t about football without talking b******s (an occasional series)"

Freddie Starr ate my producer

  • Paul Mason
  • 23 May 06, 02:23 PM

freddiebite203.jpgOn Newsnight it is producers who do all the work. As business correspondent I get a regular producer assigned to me, and this is often seen as a career path to the heady heights of going into warzones, or the BBC's Millbank political nerve centre. However this is what happened to the career path of one recent business producer. I am not sure whether he qualifies for an Equity card for this... Why is he doing this? Click here.
Watch on Wednesday night for the full story...

Why I worry about Google…

  • Paul Mason
  • 23 May 06, 01:15 PM

I went to Google’s “Zeitgeist” conference for its European business partners yesterday. The non-business highlight was that the England team were in the same hotel and David Beckham wandered into the reception in his kit! For the record his metatarsals looked in great form...

The business highlight: here is an anecdote told by Eric Schmidt, the CEO, about how they came up with their world beating online ad system (which is destroying everybody else’s business model of advertising day by day):

“Larry Page was stapling spreadsheet printouts to a whiteboard one Friday afternoon...

Continue reading "Why I worry about Google…"

That Newsnight relaunch in full...

  • Paul Mason
  • 22 May 06, 12:02 PM

Keep a watch out for Newsnight's relaunch tonight. Like all relaunches it will be underhyped in case it goes wrong. It is in fact a redesign of the studio, with whizzy technology, and more kinds of seat for people to quake in as Jeremy interviews them (inlcuding me!). The title music has apparently been sped up by 2 beats per minute...

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Random facts on world migration

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 May 06, 03:58 PM

In lieu of a blog because I am frantically multitasking on several stubborn stories for next week...some facts. We did a piece on Newsnight last night about migration. In lieu of a proper blog I am including the stats we used and a link to the United Nations very useful chorizo of a report. The facts...

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No third way for Chavez

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 May 06, 05:11 PM

President Chavez has promised to speak for only 15 minutes. He is giving a eulogy to the various Latin American freedom fighters of the Bolivar era, and to the enlightenment tradition of the House of Commons going back to William Pitt. "We are all in danger...capitalism has degenerated into an empire," he says. The Labour Campaign Group of MPs is here in force, though nobody has yet proposed running Chavez as a stalking horse in the leadership row.
"There is no time to lose" he says, "tomorrow the White House could give the order to attack Iran, or Venezuela...even the UK if sentiment grows vs Bush."
"I don’t want to meddle in Labour Party but the Third way is impossible, capitalism cannot be given a human face” (Huge round of applause...)

Meeting Mr Chavez

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 May 06, 04:44 PM

I'm at a House of Commons reception for the Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. Filing this from my phone... more on Chavez as it happens...

A craft survives against the odds...

  • Paul Mason
  • 15 May 06, 10:41 AM

In December last year I reported from Varanasi, Inda, on the plight of silk weavers in Varanasi. (You can also watch a selection of my reports from the link in the Links section on the right of this page.) To recap, they are being driven out of business by imported Chinese silk which is, as one admitted, cheaper and more colourfast. Since thousands poor peasants had flooded into handloom weaving because of problems making a living off the land this is a problem. At its worst it is leading to starvation and suicide among the weavers. It seems that my report, which was screened on BBC World, has prompted an inquiry and campaign headed by the Crafts Council of India aimed at trying to save the weaving craft by marketing it in the developed world and protecting its intellectual property....

Continue reading "A craft survives against the odds..."

Amanece, lo veis? in des Morgenroth's Strahl?

  • Paul Mason
  • 11 May 06, 09:23 AM

Continuing the foreign language theme on this blog, there is a a bit of a kerfuffle going on in the USA over a Spanish version of the national anthem (listen to the MP3 here). It was released by campaigners for an amnesty for America's 11m illegal immigrants. The latest is that the Senate has backed a resolution calling for it to be sung in English only at official occasions, and George W Bush has told campaigners to learn it in English. They have hit back...

Continue reading "Amanece, lo veis? in des Morgenroth's Strahl?"

A montage of "approved" Entertainment content is shown

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:36 AM

Little Britain man being sick
Katherine Tate going am I bothered.
Doctor Who being attacked by a wolf
The Apprentice
The Manchester Passion
Last Night of the Proms
A shark eating a seal...

Thommo's big themes: 1. Martini media

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:28 AM

1. Martini media - anytime, anyplace anywhere (and hopefully not as they say in the drinks trade "twopence a bucket". Reinvent BBC website BBC Web 2.0 is the name of the project.
- BBC News to grow beyond its 250m audience. Sounds like a big investment in sport and sports journalism.
- "Mission to educate" - going to be bigger. More Planet Earths.
- Music - one pan-platform music strategy for BBC. Create your own virtual music channel.
- Audiences want more than information and knowledge.
Now Alan Yentob is going to talk about Entertainment...

Upsum 2

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:24 AM

They are going to make fewer but better programmes and they are going to try and engage "low approver audiences" - ie people who dont go ski-ing on a regular basis.

...a guy has leapt onto the stage to talk about 2015

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:15 AM

Content strategy is moving to "on-demand". He is the fourth person on stage so far and none of them has worn a tie. Now they are showing a film with "Roger X" who runs a free content website. Now George Entwistle is on - he used to edit Newsnight and now runs Current Affairs. He is explaining "on demand". Now a radio guy is saying something interesting - on demand will mean live radio is going to decline. Now Emily Bell is on - Guardian Unlimited supremo - saying if the BBC gets this wrong it will disappear.

Heck we are now hearing about metadata! Emily Bell is explaining why archiving is the new accountancy - ie not boring. Entwistle is talking about cross-platform 360 degree commissioning. Roly Keating, my boss's boss, is questioning the 30 and 60 minute slot. A man with very trendy glasses is inveighing against tunnel vision.

Entwistle spells out the new philosophy: for higher impact programmes with the same or fewer resources - make less.

...a vox pop of working class people is shown

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:11 AM

Young man: I watch BBC3 for "Three pints of lager"
Young woman: I've got Sky so I only watch normal TV to watch Eastenders
Young clubber type: The interactive's quite cool... on Sky Digital
(Sound of traditional BBC types leaping from balconies into Wood Lane)

...a marketing bloke takes the stage

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:07 AM

"A rapid move to digital" - most organisations have a revenue challenge, but the BBC faces a relevance challenge. Big social changes across the UK. 1/10 from ethnic backgrounds. Only 21% of homes are from traditional families. Some figures:
1/3 of people feel that the BBC does not make programmes for them.
60% of 16-24 don't watch 3 hours of TV a week.

...Thommo takes the stage

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 10:01 AM

He is wearing a yellow open necked shirt. Technologies revolutionising everything we do. Big shifts in programme strategy. Not just authority from the BBC is needed - but relevance. We haven't grappled with the creative challenge of digital. (The audience is full of the BBC great and good and the camera keeps cutting to Alan Yentob).

The BBC's "creative future" - live on this blog

  • Paul Mason
  • 25 Apr 06, 09:53 AM

You might be interested to know that the BBC bosses are making a big set of announcements about what you'll see on your TV set, computer, iPod and mobile phone in future. They've managed to spin it so that the story about Grandstand being axed is the top line but expect a lot more far reaching stuff than that. I don't usually blog about internal stuff but you lot are paying for this - and it might be the last strategic revamp the BBC goes through before digital communications kill the old idea of "broadcasting" - ie one source of information going to many people at the same time...

Continue reading "The BBC's "creative future" - live on this blog"

£1 a litre - how much of that is political?

  • Paul Mason
  • 24 Apr 06, 01:08 PM

Petrol is already £1 a litre on some British forecourts and the average price could soon (today?) pass £1. Coming out of OPEC right now are various statements from oil ministers that they are not going to raise the 28 million barrels per day ceiling on production. They argue that it is not short supply but demand driven by political instability - notably America's refusal to take off the table the possibility of nuking Iran, Condoleeza Rice's statement that "self defence does not require a UN resolution" in this regard, and Iran's veiled warning that it will take the price a lot higher if sanctions are imposed...

Continue reading "£1 a litre - how much of that is political?"

An uninvited guest on the White House lawn

  • Paul Mason
  • 20 Apr 06, 06:55 PM

I have just done a telephone interview with the lady who was evicted from the White House after heckling Hu Jin Tao, president of the People's Republic of China....

Continue reading "An uninvited guest on the White House lawn"

President Bush wields the knife...

  • Paul Mason
  • 19 Apr 06, 03:13 PM

Here at Newsnight the afternoon has sprung to life as a series of wires with yellow lightning flashes in the heading indicates that George W Bush has begun a reshuffle in the White House. Karl Rove is to "lose his policy role", while press secretary Scott McClellan has resigned. The sphere is already alive with paranoia and schadenfreude. Follow it all on BBCNews24, and have your say by hitting the comment button below.

Who really bought those modernist fitted kitchens?

  • Paul Mason
  • 18 Apr 06, 11:30 AM

When I idly scrawled about the V&A's exhibition of Modernist Design I bumped into a bigger debate sparked by Simon Jenkins in the Guardian, who has taken umbrage against tower blocks. I decided to steer clear of that furore and took refuge in the library on my week off. But you can never escape... while researching something totally different I came across the following: In Germany in 1929 a sociologist called Erich Fromm carried out research into social attitudes among manual and white collar workers....

Continue reading "Who really bought those modernist fitted kitchens?"

Some web links on the Iran nuke issue...

  • Paul Mason
  • 10 Apr 06, 09:03 AM

There's only one big talking point today: Sy Hersh's story on the alleged consideration of a nuclear attack on Iran. Elsewhere on the web Professor Paul Rogers of Bradford University has produced this analysis of how/ why it might happen - or not happen. Meanwhile if you want to follow the Iranian response from the horse's mouth, it is worth checking IRNA every so often.

BAE-Airbus issues go much deeper than jobs

  • Paul Mason
  • 7 Apr 06, 09:24 AM

* From now until after Easter this blog will become more blog-like and less of a DIY newspaper about Bolivia. I am back, my long-form Bolivia stuff goes out on BBC World/N24 on Saturday morning (in that slot I call "hangover TV") and I am on leave for more than a week. I will mostly be round and about the British Library, a prospect which makes me emit that sound Homer Simpson makes when he is given beer. I will keep blogging, but it will be wierd because I might blog about something but someone else will be reporting it on the telly. For example:

Most of the reporting of BAE Systems decision to sell its stake in Airbus to EADS has focused on the jobs issue. This has already elicited strong affirmations that the jobs are safe for the people who make the wings of the A380. But there are bigger things at stake: the future of BAE and the future of British military-industrial strategy (if there is one)....

Continue reading "BAE-Airbus issues go much deeper than jobs"

Forget Evo, Hugo... tonight it is Carlos

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 06, 06:04 PM

Those of you who have been watching our Latin American season on Newsnight will be pleased to know that world-famous Cuban ballet dancer Carlos Acosta will dance on the Newsnight set. Tune in at 2230.

Designing a new world

  • Paul Mason
  • 6 Apr 06, 10:36 AM

As of today there are two iconic exhibitions to be seen in London that define our relationship with “modernism” in design. One opened this morning at the V&A Museum; the other has been running for some time at a place called Alfie’s Antique Market...

Continue reading "Designing a new world"

Evo and Me: On BBC World at 12.30GMT

  • Paul Mason
  • 5 Apr 06, 11:19 AM

Hey everyone outside the UK. A short version of my report will be on BBC WORLD at 12.30 GMT, and I will be live on set shortly afterwards. Tune in if you are awake! Send me questions quick if you want them answered!

Day of the Sea

  • Paul Mason
  • 24 Mar 06, 01:51 AM


LA PAZ. Thursday. No big long entry from me tonight. We filmed El Alto's impressive march down to the main square. We had to keep explaining we were not Americans, or Goni supporters, or bombers. I am not kidding. We filmed in the main square with the multiple fancy uniforms. Evo called for a piece of Chilean coastline to be returned to Bolivia. Alvaro Garcia Linera had what we Brits call a "John Redwood moment" while singing the national anthem. A whole line of crusty old generals applauded Evo politely.

Continue reading "Day of the Sea"

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