Closer, but no cigar Mr Simpson

He followed up on his previous assessment of Iran’s election candidates, this time focussing on the winner, Ahmadnejad. It’s almost as though he were trying to bolster his argument that we should have been hoping for a Rafsanjani win.

But I was struck by his characterisation of America’s view of Iran:

‘Abroad, the Americans were the least surprised by the result. They assume anyway that Iran is a country seething with hatred for the US and determined to dominate the region by threat and undercover terrorism.’


Well, certainly they often take that view of Iran’s ruling class, but it seems to me a very ingrate sort of comment given that the US offers succour to all manner of dissidents from Iran. Since they’re not as infamous as Iraqi counterparts such as the tarred Chalabi, perhaps we can still find sympathy for them and interest in the views of those for whom the US has provided refuge.The point here is that the US rather assumes that under the dead weight of the Mullahs there are many people lying powerless who have no animus against the US and see them instead as a flickering lantern of hope.

Simpson goes on to say ‘Iranian politics are as complex and sophisticated as any I have observed around the world.’

Now, I could accept ‘complex’, and can understand a columnist’s desire for snappy duplicates to make his sentences sing, but ‘sophisticated’?

When was the last time the US’s politics was described by the BBC as ‘sophisticated’? (a challenge for fans of Justin Webb, I feel. Funnily enough, in this by now quite well known article, he says that the US is complex- in its heart-, and… unsophisticated (-in many respects).

Examples of Iranian political sophistication, here.

I suppose I mention the US because some might say that, as both the US and Iran have the death penalty, that makes Iran as worthy of the ‘sophisticated’ epithet as the US. Even granting that point, which I wouldn’t, still only leaves us with ‘as worthy as’– a slight problem for the Justin Webb fraternity (or the John Simpson oneedand by the way this doesn’t mean all Beeboids should think alike, but that the use of totemic language should be minimised and strictly weighted by factual evidencealso ed). Indeed, if I opposed the death penalty and considered all governments who allowed for its maintainance to be cause for branding a country unsophisticated (which I don’t), it still leaves the ticklish problem of how one squares Simpson’s view with the reality that as a proportion of their population, the Iranians (officially) execute far more people (in public, too) than does the US.

And, of course, it’s what they execute them for which is often horriffic…

Finally, Simpson says that ‘The best the British, French and Germans can do is persuade Iran to be more cautious and tactful in following its nuclear ambitions. Ayatollah Khamenei may see the sense of that.’ , which goes to reinforce the point that Simpson does not regard the Iranian desire for nuclear weapons as an extremist position.

He has foregrounded this comment by saying that ‘Iran believes it lives in a difficult neighbourhood, with Israel, China, Russia, India and Pakistan’– which seems on the face of it a fair enough point. But which of these exactly threatens Iran in a nuclear fashion? Who has an interest in nuking or invading Iran? Answer, none- and again he ignores the Israeli issue, which, if Rafsanjani is a moderate, makes you almost tremblingly curious as to what Ahmadnejad has in his locker (my own suspicion is they wanted a dog with a louder bark, who has a reputation for biting).

But, a country’s elite which flays its people, imprisons political opponents, executes many publicly, organises ‘interesting’ elections outside all scrutiny, and on top of all this sees its salvation in the ultimate psycho’s wet dream, the nuclear option, is to be regarded as too sophisticated to bother except with diplomatic pillow talk?

That’s why the BBC remains a gift to the moonbat left, singing an incoherent lullaby of appeasement.

When is a good result reported as a bad result?

In at least two of the news summaries on this morning’s example of the lamentable BBC Breakfast programme they reported that “Tory” Sir Patrick Cormack had been re-elected in Staffordshire South with a “reduced majority” in the much delayed General Election vote there following the death of the first LibDem candidate.

Nonsense. Sir Patrick, standing as a Conservative (i.e. not the pejorative ‘Tory’ nickname hissed out by disapproving lefties everywhere, including at the BBC) was re-elected with a hugely increased majority on a much reduced turnout.

For the benefit of BBC Breakfast Beeboids, the figures for 2001 and 2005, according to BBC News Online and The Times Guide to the House of Commons, are:







Sir Patrick Cormack, C






Paul Kalinauckas, L






Josephine Harrison, LD




Jo Crotty, LD





Michael Lynch, UKIP




Malcolm Hurst, UKIP

















I look forward to a correction being broadcast in each corresponding news summary in the next edition of BBC Breakfast – to do anything less would be glib acceptance of gross stupidity – even the most cursory glance at the figures shows Sir Patrick’s majority is considerably up. At the very least this repeated error should be noted and explained in Newswatch, the BBC’s error graveyard. Don’t hold your breath!

The Shrewd Analyst

Lavished with praise he may be, but ‘liberator of Kabul’ John Simpson, also author of this analysis of the Iranian elections, ought to be a little embarrassed by this contrast:

Simpson on Rafsanjani- ‘Unlike any of them, he understands the art of the deal, and is more concerned with what he can get away with than with making big statements.’


Rafsanjani contemplating putting the nuclear kybosh on Israel-

“If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession, the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world”,’

Simpson says ‘Mr Rafsanjani is a man who believes that politics is the art of the possible.’ , yet he omits to say what he is on record as regarding as possible, ie. the nuclear blackmail of Israel and the West with a view to the elimination of Israel.

Surely, contrary to Simpson, there is no conciliatory candidate here. We ought to be examining whether, a) Ordinary Iranians want us wriggling on the end of a WW3 pin, or B) Whether the elections were as unfair as some have claimed them to be, and this inital tie was a clever way of concealing that fact. Simpson, true to form, is dismissive:

‘Two of the main reformist candidates now claim the result was a fix. But maybe the reformists simply cancelled each other out, and let their most extreme opponent through.’

A simple business, analysis, in the expert hands of Mr Simpson.

Surprised by the obvious.

Brian Micklethwait is in sarcastic mode in this Samizdata post :

I am watching the BBC Ten o’clock News, and the lead story is Condoleezza Rice, spelling out the Bush doctrine:

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has delivered a forceful call for democratic reform in the Arab World in a major policy speech in Cairo. The US pursuit of stability in the Middle East at the expense of democracy had “achieved neither”, she admitted.

“Now, we are taking a different course. We are supporting the democratic aspirations of all people,” she said.

The BBC’s Frank Gardiner said her comments marked a complete departure for the US, and were “immensely risky”.

Indeed. In order to have seen this one coming, you would have had to have read some of President George W. Bush’s speeches, and in particular his Second Inaugural Address, and to have then made the even greater mental leap of realising that President George W. Bush had actually thought about what he was saying, and had meant it.

Links to the BBC piece and the Inaugural Address are provided in the Samizdata post.

Fran wrote


Stand by for some more Beeboid reporting from the Middle East. The trailer for Broadcasting House has just said that there will be some ‘moderate Israeli voices’ which we ‘rarely have the opportunity to hear’.

Two questions dear Auntie. Firstly, exactly WHY do we have so few opportunities to hear ‘moderate Israeli voices?’ After all, Israel and the Israelis are always there, and you don’t have to run the gauntlet of terrorism or a repressive regime in order to talk to them, now do you? (Unlike in the PA) Or are you implying that the majority of Israelis are rabid extremists wanting the extermination of Palestinians en masse? And therefore you’ve had to search far and wide before finding moderates?

Secondly, what you YOU call ‘moderate Israeli voices’? Can you mean Israelis who want to live in a Jewish State alongside their fellow Arab Israelis and Arab neighbouring states including a confident, friendly and cooperative Palestinian State without fear of antisemitism whoever perpetrates it?

Or do you mean Israelis who, because of the principles of Free Speech are free to vilify the existence of their own country and people in an orgy of self imolation and condemnation?

I await BH with uncontrollable longing ….

It was broadcast on Sunday morning. It would be interesting to know how it turned out.

Dr Who has suffered from the most appalling sound mixing

This is not really the place for this complaint, but maybe some BBC-ites are reading.

The whole series of Dr Who has suffered from the most appalling sound mixing. The music is way too loud compared to the dialogue. The last episode was particularly bad — at times the dialogue was almost inaudible under the music. I had to constantly adjust the volume — down when the loud music comes on in the action scenes, up when the dialogue (without music) comes back. For God’s sake re-mix the thing.

Rumsfeld thinks outside the box.

A belated hat tip to PJF and The American Expatriate for pointing out an exquisite use of ellipses. Please note that the Dowdified quote originally appearing in this article has now been removed by the BBC. Still, purely out of historical interest, here is what Scott Callahan observed:

Quoth Rumsfeld:

You just can’t hear day after day after day after day things like that that often aren’t true, with a lack of balance, and not come away thinking, gee, that must not be a very good country.

And after coming through the BBC quotation grinder:

You just can’t … not come away thinking, gee, that [the US] must not be a very good country.

To be totally fair, the mangled quote appears in a quote box on the side of the article, and the body of the article does contain the full, proper quote. But the quote box is highlighted and in bold, and is the first thing the eye is drawn to apart from perhaps the headline and the photo of Rumsfeld. And in it the BBC has altered what is an implicit criticism of the media into an unqualified and derogatory observation about the US itself.

The quote box now has an entirely different Rumsfeld quote, “The United States is notably unskilful in our communications and our public diplomacy.”

Essentially Lame.

In the comments to this post, Angie Schultz of Machinery of Night commented on a startling phrase in this piece by Steve Schifferes on the subject of President Bush and Africa. She said:

Talk about your weird sentences:

And now that Mr Bush is essentially a lame-duck President, no longer facing re-election, he has even less clout with Congress…

Apparently, one runs for a second term as President so as to have clout with Congress during one’s first term, but heaven help you if you win, because then you’ll have to serve out four years as a lame duck.

Oh, well, I guess there’s all that oil money to squirrel away for four years.

Robert Conquest in We and They pointed out the clever technique of inserting the word “essentially” where mere facts merit the word “not.” The example he quoted was “America is essentially a totalitarian country.” “Essentially” suggests that the writer and reader have seen a deeper truth beyond the superficial appearances of a situation – without the trouble of actually arguing the case. Bush’s party has a majority in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. It is difficult to see what more the poor man has to do to avoid being described as “essentially a lame duck president.”

BBC offers a nibble

I think it’s worth saying that the BBC often misses the point- where it wants to- while appearing to be covering matters fairly. They give an article over to Blair’s (alleged) apparent discomforture at Prime Minister’s questions, which today I watched (though I can’t comment on the BBC’s tv coverage of it as I watched on another channel). They pick up Michael Howard’s rather inapt metaphor for Blair on Europe, ‘wriggling like a fish on a hook’, and the view they depict of Howard’s position tallies well with Blair’s oft-repeated accusation that Howard wants to the leave the EU.

Yet watching PMQs I definitely, 100 percent, felt that Blair was not discomforted- in fact he was witty and waspish in batting away criticism while painting, as usual, his opponents as extremists. So, in some ways I would say I think that the BBC are exaggerating the situation. Why? Why was it seen fit to misrepresent Blair as on the defensive, unless… unless perhaps to compensate for not presenting the readers with the big slip of PMQs- the one that could damage Blair politically in a Euro area that hurts-, when Blair did a Prescott in his own much less obvious fashion. How could the BBC have missed it when it stood out like a sore thumb to me and to EuRef:

‘”The constitution can’t proceed until a way is found round those referendum votes…”

Cat, bag- phew, the Beeb closed it just in time to stop the cat escaping. Almost. It’s not a question of referendum, but circumvention.

AIDS and aid.

Two emails from readers about BBC coverage of African issues follow.

Karim Bakhtiar of the uncompromising new blog Nuke Labour writes:

Hi Natalie,

I came across the following example of BBC anti-private-sector pro-government pro-NGO bias.

Channel: BBC News 24

Programme: Reporters

Date: 12th June 2005

Time: 10:40 UK time

“Nomsa is HIV positive. Last year, feeling sick, she bought ARVs [Anti-retroviral drugs] from a private doctor, who didn’t have the correct combination of drugs in stock. Nomsa did not recover. Worse, by starting on the wrong course, she may have built up resistance to the drugs, making it harder to treat her”

“Nomsa is now at the same clinic as Prudence [the main subject of the report] run by the aid group Médecins Sans Frontières. Soon she’ll know if she’s responding to treatment or if she’s resistant to drugs, in which case she might not survive.

The Médecins Sans Frontières (or MSF) clinic is receiving more and more patients who are buying the wrong Anti-retrovirals from private doctors.

MSF believes this is happening because the government has not moved fast enough to provide free drugs to the huge HIV positive population.”

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous sent this:

On the BBC website, the issue of aid to Africa is straightforward. (“Enough payback for Iraq?”) It’s those knights on white chargers Blair and Brown against that nasty Mr Bush. The good guys want to wave a magic wand and cancel debt relief, thereby allowing Africans to build hundreds of new schools and hospitals. Mr Nasty is sitting in his counting house saying ‘bah, humbug’ to everything and condemning millions to premature death and misery.

In contrast, the British press have discussed in depth why the US’s policy to Africa is, in fact, both generous and much more realistic in tying aid to specific projects, ánd why debt relief may not be the best way forward. For example, Bronwen Maddox in the Times (July 8) (“Why it’s wrong to paint America as hard-hearted”) neatly explained why the US was “much more generous than its critics often credit” and why President Bush is constrained from backing Brown’s International Finance Facility because of the US constitution, which prohibits long term commitment to such projects.

The website has oodles of uncritical references to Brown and Blair’s demands, but can only parody the US’s efforts as the world’s biggest spender on African aid. This is how the “objective” assessment on the website about the US approach concludes:

“Bush treads his own path on Africa”

It has to be remembered that there is a lot less political support for foreign aid in the US Congress – unless it is to support political allies like Israel.

Many Republicans are deeply sceptical of the UN institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, whom they suspect of inefficiency and corruption.

And with the growing fiscal deficit, many Democrats would argue that any spare cash should be spent on displaced US workers, not helping workers get jobs abroad.

And now that Mr Bush is essentially a lame-duck President, no longer facing re-election, he has even less clout with Congress, as both sides are positioning themselves for possible Presidential contests in 2008.

During the Cold War, US supported generous foreign aid, including the Marshall Plan, because it was seen as vital for US interests to strengthen its anti-communist allies.

Despite the war on terror, it is no longer clear that the US has the political will to tackle the growing gap between rich and poor countries.

Tories go nuclear.

“Tory nuclear waste sites revealed”, says the BBC.

A list of 12 sites considered for storing nuclear waste by the last Tory government has been released under the Freedom of Information Act

I’m not one to say the Beeb must always accede to Conservative Central Office’s preference for the official name of their party, but count the number of times the word “Tory” occurs in this piece. Mention is made that “The current government is looking for a definite solution to nuclear waste storage, and will start from scratch” but we don’t discover what party the current government are. Here is more about that Tory list:

It was drawn up in the 1980s, but the plan to bury waste at the sites was abandoned following the landslide defeat of John Major’s government in 1997.

We might forget the size of Tony Blair’s majority in our excitement?


Means PLACES TO PUT NUCLEAR WASTE rather than marginal constituencies.

Nirex is emphasising that the released list is purely historical and when a decision is made on where to store nuclear waste, the Tory list would not become the starting point of a new exercise.

One of the Tory list sites in Essex, at the former Ministry of Defence facility at Potton island, is just a few kilometres from the centre of Southend.

And there has been speculation about Stanford in Norfolk, where the MoD owns land, which is also on the Tory list.

Bad Tories. Voting Tory makes you radioactive.

Hat tip – DumbJon.

UPDATE: Some poor innocents claim that the towns to be scorched by nuclear fire are selected by civil servants and scientists by criteria that are scarcely affected by what political party is in power.

No, no, it was Tories I tell you!

Fear them. They seek human women.

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Kerry Buttram over his last post

I have to respectfully disagree with my colleague Kerry Buttram over his last post. The BBC does some very good work on Zimbabwe, that does it proud. As I wrote last February on this blog

Plaudits to the BBC, though, for continuing to do good work on Zimbabwe. Another investigation is on News 24 at the moment.

I think some more focus on the latest developments in Zimbabwe would be in order, but as commentator Mark has pointed out in comments, BBC correspondents have done numerous reports at considerable risk to themselves to show what is happening in Zimbabwe. For that, I say (as before) well done.

An American in London.

Take a look at this new blog, The American Expatriate. The author, Scott Callahan, is what it says on the box. He says his primary aim “is to document and counter the misinformation about America that regularly flows forth from the British media.”

Of interest to Beeb-watchers is this post about how the BBC has changed its tune about the release of John Kerry’s military records.

But the one I really liked was this one, about the nomination of Christopher Cox to the Securities & Exchange Commission. I like it for its textual analysis:

Note the constant use of the passive tense. The SEC “is expected to…” Expected by who? The BBC doesn’t say. Doubts have been raised. Who has these doubts? The BBC doesn’t say. Mr. Cox is “seen as” close to the finance industry. Seen by who? The BBC doesn’t say. Even when the passive voice is abandoned, the actors are vague and unknown. Anonymous “experts” say this and “some commentators” say that. Hell, search the internet long enough and you can find “some commentator” saying virtually anything.

And I like it because it provides a comparator:

…compare this article with the Beeb’s piece on previous SEC head William Donaldson when he took over in 2003. Note how almost the entire piece is given over to Donaldson’s own words, while in this recent piece quotations from Cox are comprised of a single, 6 word sentence fragment.