The Idler: Evolution of democracy

NM Idler AP Nayan, an Asian elephant, delights in being hosed down by his keepers at Chester Zoo, England, on Tuesday. It was a hot day. Picture: AP

Things continue to evolve in the cradle of modern democracy. A select committee of the House of Commons has reported that three executives of Rupert Murdoch’s News International misled its members when they investigated the phone-hacking affair at the News of the World and were therefore in contempt of parliament.

This has now been referred to the standards and privileges committee of the House for a decision as to how the three miscreants should be punished. A Labour MP has called for imprisonment or fines, though the more normal procedure would be for them to be called before the bar of the House.

This does not mean they have to buy a few rounds in the MPs’ bar upstairs, it means they get marched at sword-point to the brass bar at the MPs’ entrance to the House of Commons, where they have to grovel and apologise.

But the problem here is that the three – Les Hinton, Tom Crone and Colin Myler – are by all accounts anything but penitent. They believe they’ve had a raw deal.

What happens if they are marched to the bar of the House, where they proceed to shout: “Yah! Boo! Sucks!” to the assembled MPs? Do they then get sent to the Tower of London?

It’s a tricky question in the evolution of parliamentary democracy. The affair does not cease to entertain.

Supertash

EAT YOUR hearts out, Royal Air Force types. Ram Singh, of Chauhan, India, has (as recorded on yesterday’s front page) entered the Guinness World Records book as the man with the longest moustache.

Tip to tip, it measures an astonishing 4.27m. When he holds the tips above head-height, two great loops of hair hang down below his waist.

What a wonderful challenge for former Springbok rugby coach Peter “De Snor” de Villiers. If time should hang heavy these days, why not devote it to grooming the moustache for great things?

Space debris

SPACE scientists are becoming alarmed by the amount of junk orbiting the Earth. Six astronauts were awoken early and scrambled into escape capsules recently when Nasa ground control spotted a piece of space debris hurtling towards the International Space Station above the Earth.

The fast-moving junk was spotted just one day before its potential impact, making it too late to manoeuvre the station to a safer orbit. The only course of action for the three Russians, two Americans and one Dutch astronaut crew was to take shelter and prepare to evacuate if required.

In the event, the debris, a chunk of a defunct military communications satellite, missed the ISS by approximately 12km. The incident, in March, was the latest close shave for the space station. Six other crew members had to take shelter in June last year when another piece of junk whistled past, just 335m from the station.

It was a precautionary measure, but Nasa estimates that anything larger than a baseball poses a potentially catastrophic threat to the ISS. It’s a problem that is getting rapidly worse. US Air Force Space Command is tracking around 22 000 pieces of man-made space debris, mostly larger than 10cm across, and there are estimated to be hundreds of thousands more smaller bits.

What’s to be done about this? Presumably the junk has in it all sorts of wiring. A start might be to get the word out among the fellows who steal copper cabling so regularly from Telkom and Eskom that there’s tons of high quality stuff whirling about up there.

They’ll find a way to haul it in.

When to stop

OVERHEARD in the Street Shelter for the Over-40s: “I know a guy who’s addicted to brake fluid. He says he can stop any time.”

Tailpiece

TWO fellows are fishing from a boat in Durban harbour. The water is like glass. Suddenly a huge hand comes up out of the water.

It moves across to the left. Then it moves across to the right. Then it moves across to the left again. Then it slips back under the surface.

“Holy smoke! Did you see that?”

“Yeah. Biggest wave I ever saw.”

Last word

Ahhh. A man with a sharp wit. Someone ought to take it away from him before he cuts himself. – Peter da Silva


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