Secrets Of The Overground part 2

I posted part 1 a few days ago.

The results of 7 May were so bad that traditional Liberal Democrat campaign tactics will no longer work

No more two-horse races?

One of the pleasures of general and local elections as a Liberal and then a Liberal Democrat used to be going out for a coffee the following Saturday, buying the Guardian and going through the results. There were always plenty of seats and councils where we had made progress.

It wasn't like that this time. In fact, I haven't had the courage to look at the results from 7 May too closely.

So thank you to Seth Thévoz for looking at them for me on the Social Liberal Forum site. But his conclusions make you turn to something stronger than coffee:
While the party came fourth nationally, on a constituency level the results were even more sobering, with 54% of Lib Dem candidates coming fourth; and an even more galling 26.5% actually coming fifth; and more sixth places than first places. In numerous cases where the party came fourth or fifth, there were only four or five candidates standing, and so the Lib Dems came bottom of the poll.
Some Lib Dem seats won in 2010 did exceptionally badly. In four cases, Lib Dems came third (Aberdeenshire West and and Kincardine; Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk; Brent Central; and Bristol West), and in one case (Norwich South) they came fourth. In all but one of these five seats (Brent Central), the incumbent MP was seeking re-election, so the much-vaunted ‘Lib Dem incumbency bounce’ did little or nothing to stem the collapse of the party’s vote.
In five seats that were held during the 2005-2010 parliament, but lost in 2010, the Lib Dems fell back to fourth place: Camborne and Redruth (the successor to Falmouth and Camborne, with Julia Goldsworthy re-standing after having lost by just 66 votes in 2010); Chesterfield; Dunfermline and West Fife; Hereford and South Herefordshire (the successor seat to Hereford); and Rochdale.
His concludes, surely rightly, that the debacle of 7 May means that the tactics we have relied on for the last 30 years or more are going to have to change:
If the party is to survive in first-past-the-post elections, and to even keep more than half of its deposits (let alone begin winning elections in new areas), its campaigning tactics will have to adjust dramatically. 
Featured on Liberal Democrat VoiceTactical squeezes, which were so catastrophically ineffectual in keeping 49 of the 57 held seats, are not enough. Voters will only start considering voting for the fourth- or fifth-placed Lib Dem candidate if given positive, inspiring reasons to do so.

More photos of Tim Farron and his band

A commenter on a post on Liberal Democrat Voice has left this priceless video.

I do not recognise the music,but the photographs are clearly of a young Tim Farron and his band - one of them has already appeared on this blog.

Thanks to David-1 for leaving the comment and also to Zefonik for uploading the video to Youtube.

Jethro Tull: Jack In The Green

After yesterday's excursion to Pitsford I have to choose the song that introduced me to the Jack in the Green.

It comes from Jethro Tull's 1977 album Songs from the Wood and is here performed live in Germany in 1982.

In the version on the album, Ian Anderson plays all the instruments. As I once blogged, there was a time when I thought that Songs from the Wood was just about the best LP ever,

Searching for the Jack in the Green in Pitsford

Gothick Northamptonshire by Jack Gould says of Pitsford:
Within living memory, on May Day there were chosen not only a May Queen and King but a mysterious figure called 'Jack in the Green'. 
A boy wore a cane construction about 4 feet ... high with leather straps inside to fit over his shoulders. This was made by a blind man in the village and covered by branches of laurel, barberry and other evergreens. It was possibly a reminder of the Elizabethan 'man in the oak'.
Gould goes on to say that the Jack in the Green should not be confused with the Green Men you find in churches, but other sources do connect them.

Anyway, I looked for the Jack in the Green in Pitsford yesterday, but I'm not sure I found him.

Tim Farron as a pop star - the photo they all wanted

A thousand thanks to the reader who sent me this. 

His email was headed "Tim Farron's band from 1987," and that is indeed what it appears to be.

Read more about Tim Farron's music career.

Later. Someone has turned up more photos of Tim and the boys.
Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
Even later. Those photos soon disappeared, but now you can hear the band.

Six of the Best 514

The government has gone full cockwomble on the Psychoactive Substances Bill, argues The Domestic Extremist.

"Do you know the first point I remember our values being defended, espoused, passionately and movingly during this campaign? Nick's resignation speech." Kevin McNamara, who fought Ealing North, dissects the Liberal Democrat general election campaign,

Dominic Collard is one of the twelfty million who have joined the Lib Dems since the general election.

"Sub-national government in the form of combined urban authorities and county regions headed by DEEMs will be more easily manipulated by central government than would be a system of local government." George Jones makes the case against directly elected executive mayors.

"Children are not projects, nor are they hothouse orchids, but they seem to be increasingly treated as such by anxious and well-meaning parents who are highly invested in outcomes." Bracing good sense on the value of boredom from Lori Day.

Clarendon Spark has some then and now photographs of the Leicester suburb of Clarendon Park.

"A fourth-rate New Order": The mystery of Tim Farron's band

[Later. A reader has sent me a picture of Tim and his band.

Even later. Listen to the band!]

Matt Dathan, the Independent's online poliitlcal reporter, tells us
Tim Farron is the leading contender to replace Nick Clegg as the new front of the Liberal Democrats but yesterday he revealed he fronted a rock band in the 1980s. 
It could have been a very different rise to fame for one of the few remaining Lib Dem MPs if his three-piece had not been written off “as a fourth rate New Order” three decades ago. 
And he has left would-be fans in the dark over the true identity of the band, refusing to reveal the name of the band but teasing fans by simply saying: "you can find it on YouTube".
I am not sure research is Mr Dathan's strong suit, as Tim gave the names of his band in an interview with Total Politics back in 2012 or thereabouts:
"I was once nearly a pop star,” Farron says. 
Really, I ask, breathing deeply. 
“Well, I say nearly. My band got offered a recording session with Island Records. In the blur of all the stuff, we didn’t do it…” 
What was the band called? “We had a variety of names. We were called Fred the Girl, for some reason. We were trying to be obscure. There were no girls in our band. We were also called The Voyeurs… We thought it sounded good until we worked out what it meant.”
I'm not sure this quite adds up: if a band was really serious then the possibility of recording with a major label like Island would be everything they had ever dreamt of.

But if Tim is not having us on, and if you are better at searching Youtube than I am, you may be able to find a video of him fronting Fred the Girl or The Voyeurs.

Storing Up Stories

Readers are keenly aware of the books they keep in their personal space.  Whether they have one set of shelves or several bookcases, each title read or unread is like a treasured friend.  Regardless of whatever organizational system is used, if one should become misplaced, the reader knows.

Like all good friendships, it's important to stay connected.  Where Are My Books? (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, May 12, 2015), a debut title both written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi is full of questions.  It's a mystery waiting to be solved.

Spencer loved books.
His favorite bedtime book was Night-Night, Narwhal.  

He could even read it aloud.  It had a special place on his bookshelf.  He knew it would always be there.

It was quite a shock when he woke up one morning to discover it was missing.  It was nowhere to be found.  Bedtime simply wasn't the same without Night-Night, Narwhal.  Tenacious Todd could not take the place of his beloved book.

Spencer was doubly surprised the next day to find Tenacious Todd was absent from its spot.  One by one his books were disappearing until there was only one left.  His father and mother were no help.  They were as puzzled as Spencer was.

It had to be his little sister.  She must be taking his books.  Her startled cries at his accusation dispelled that theory.

Determined to solve the missing title trouble, Spencer devised a plan.  He attached his best toy buddy to his last paged pal.  In the morning he took off running after the book bandit with his stuffed narwhal trailing behind the rascal.  What Spencer saw filled him with astonishment.  Like a true lover of books and reading, he knew exactly what to do.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi quickly engages readers in her story with the first five sentences.  We know Spencer loves books, especially one specific book.  With the next three words,

Until one morning...

we know there is going to be a definite escalation in the action.  With each subsequent theft, we are right beside Spencer trying to figure out what is happening to his books.  By naming each title, it's as personal for us as it is for Spencer.  Ohi uses words like tenacious, vanished and vowed asking readers to explore meanings.  This all leads to an ending which is sure to elicit a sigh and a smile.  Here is a sample passage.

That evening, he chose Tenacious Todd.  
It was okay.
But Todd was a toad, and toads were amphibians, and amphibian
books were supposed to be for right-after-lunch story time.

The bright, bold colors seen on the identical dust jacket and book case are just a hint of the joy reflected throughout the book.  Careful readers will see a familiar character on the front beneath Spencer's bed.  The look on his face tells us precisely what he is feeling, surprise and dismay.  There is a tiny head with the same expression on the book spine.  On the back, to the left, in a loosely framed oval Spencer is kneeling, reading his favorite book as his smiling sister tugs on his pajamas patterned with narwhals.

On the pale yellow endpapers, complementary to the hues on the jacket and case, we see a small Spencer, looking distressed, dressed in his day clothes hugging his narwhal in the lower, right-hand corner and in the lower, left-hand corner at the end, he, dressed in his pajamas, is happily embracing his book.  His new friends are dancing and laughing around him.  An utterly upset Spencer has his hand to his forehead as he looks at the text on the title page.

Digitally rendered the illustrations vary in size and perspective to extend and enhance the narrative.  Bold, black lines encase cheerful shades.  To create texture Ohi fades the background elements drawing our attention to a portion of the image first.  Then we carefully look at all the wonderful details.

Her pictures tell a story in addition to the text.  We don't read about the items left in place of each missing book, but they are clues.  When Spencer is chatting with his parents outside, his father is gardening as his mother, donning a tool belt, is building a bird house.  She's also looking inside an empty jar.

One of my favorite illustrations is for the words,

It was time for a new plan.

It covers two pages.  It's a close up of Spencer, feeling remorseful, and his now happy sister sitting on a blanket having a tea party.  Readers will again notice the inclusion of well-known book friends.  Spencer's mom is looking down on them with a slight frown.  The three characters are featured in vibrant colors.  The yard, flowers, bushes, trees, leaves and fence are slightly lighter.  The blanket and tea party guests are the lightest.  I really enjoy this layering effect.

Hand Where Are My Books? written and illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi to lovers of books and reading, mysteries, surprises and laughter.  As well as being a fantastic read aloud, I think this would be a great title to use in a reader's theater or a puppet show.  Congratulations Debbie Ridpath Ohi on your first book.  It's a gem.

To discover more about Debbie Ridpath Ohi please visit her website by following the link attached to her name.  She has another website,, dedicated to the art of writing and illustrating in the field of children's literature.  More interior images from the book can be viewed at the publisher's website.  Debbie has been a guest and answered questions recently at Picture Book Builders, Andrea Skyberg|Author & Artist, November Picture Book Month A Celebration!, and The Little Crooked Cottage. Enjoy the book trailer!

DoD Launches Review of Lab Procedures Involving Anthrax

DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, May 29, 2015 – The Defense Department is launching a comprehensive review of its laboratory procedures, processes, and protocols associated with inactivating spore-forming anthrax, according to a DoD news release issued today.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work today ordered the review after consulting with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the release said.

No Risk to the General Public

There is no known risk to the general public and an extremely low risk to lab workers from the department's inadvertent shipments of inactivated samples containing small numbers of live anthrax to several laboratories, according to the release.

As of now, 24 laboratories in 11 states and two foreign countries are believed to have received suspect samples, the release said.

The department is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is leading the ongoing investigation pursuit to its statutory authorities, the release said.

Monitoring the Situation

The department will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates to the public, the release said.

In addition to the CDC review, Work ordered all DoD laboratories that have these materials to test all previously inactivated spore-forming anthrax in the inventory, the release said.

DoD also is advising labs that received inactive anthrax from the department to stop working with those samples until further instruction from the DoD and CDC, the release said.

Comprehensive DoD Review

Work directed Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall to lead a comprehensive review of DoD laboratory procedures, processes, and protocols associated with inactivating anthrax, according to the release.

The DoD review, the release said, will consist of:

-- Root cause analysis for the incomplete inactivation of anthrax;

-- DoD laboratory biohazard safety procedures and protocols;

-- Laboratory adherence to established procedures and protocols; and

-- Identification of systemic problems and the steps necessary to fix those problems.

After the CDC investigation is complete, the department will conduct its own investigation with respect to any apparent lapses in performance and ensure appropriate accountability, the release said.

The department takes this matter very seriously and is acting with urgency to address this matter, the release said.

Work expects review findings within 30 days, the release said.

Happy Birthday G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born on 29 May 1874.

To celebrate this anniversary, let me quote again his remarks on political canvassing in his Autobiography:
Charles Masterman used to swear with derisive gusto that when we went canvassing together, he went all down one side of a street and up most of the other, and found me in the first house, still arguing the philosophy of government with the first householder. ... 
It is perfectly true that I began electioneering under the extraordinary delusion that the object of canvassing is conversion. The object of canvassing is counting. The only real reason for people being pestered in their own houses by party agents is quite unconnected with the principles of the party (which are often a complete mystery to the agents): it is simply that the agents may discover from the words, manner, gesticulations, oaths, curses, kicks or blows of the householder, whether he is likely to vote for the party candidate, or not to vote at all.
If you want to know more about G.K. Chesterton and his writings, a good place to begin is the resources page for him on the De Montfort University website.

Medical Examiner Explains Identification Process

By Amaani Lyle
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii, May 29, 2015 – A glass-walled lab offers a brightly lit view of tables displaying hundreds of meticulously placed bone fragments and other human remains, aligned much like military formations.

The lab has a sterile, silent feel, yet the scientists and lab technicians studying and handling the remains don’t seem detached as much as they seem focused.

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Edward Reedy, the first medical examiner for the newly reorganized Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, said he and his team use multiple lines of evidence -- circumstances, forensic anthropology, odontology and more -- to effectively identify service members.

Their Reason for Working

“This is not just a job,” he said. “It’s not some place just to come to work for eight hours and then go home. This is literally their reason for working.”

The captain noted that lab technicians and scientists understand deeply the importance of providing answers to next of kin, if only through trace evidence, decades later. He likened walking into the lab to walking into a church.

“It’s sacred ground to people,” he said.

With World War II alone having left more than 73,000 unaccounted for, many of them in the Asia-Pacific region, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency seeks to further enhance DNA testing techniques at the largest forensic anthropology facility and one of the largest pool of anthropologists in the world.

“We take a tremendous amount of pride in the scientific product and the ability to return missing American service people to their loved ones,” Reedy said. “We will periodically go back into our evidence and see if there’s any other material that has previously been unable to be identified because of its small size to be resubmitted for DNA.”

This process, the captain said, helps scientists try to identify even especially small bone fragments.

Less is More Through Technology

In the early 1990s, scientists had a minimum sample submission requirement of about 3 to 5 grams, with each gram about the size of a raisin.

“We’ve reduced that requirement now to less than 1 gram,” Reedy said. “So now 0.8 grams is the minimum sample size required for DNA extraction.”

The recovery process time frame can be daunting. It ranges from as few as six to nine months to decades, depending on the quality of the remains, which can vary depending on climate changes and the soil type where they were found. “For example, in Southeast Asia, the soil there is extremely acidic and will degrade the bone to the point where very little DNA is able to be extracted,” Reedy said.

Some remains, however, come with built-in protective covering, Reedy explained.

“Tooth enamel is the hardest substance in the human body, and it will literally survive decades,” Reedy said. The enamel protects the tooth material, which can significantly aid the identification process, he added.

It’s important to give a family answers about their missing relative, no matter how much time has passed, Reedy said.

Different Incarnations

Previously known as the Central Identification Laboratory, the facility has existed under several different incarnations since the end of World War II, but the science in earlier days was largely absent, Reedy explained.

“Back in the late ’40s and up until the early ’90s, there was no such thing as DNA technology,” he said. Scientists relied instead on anthropological techniques to identify recovered remains through race, stature or identifying marks or fractures, particularly on the bones, Reedy said.

But by about 1992, he added, advances in DNA technology occurred, allowing scientists to extract mitochondrial DNA from “ancient remains,” or skeletal material in which the decomposition process has already taken place.

Exponential Advances

“Mitochondrial DNA was the first technology method that was used to help in the identification process,” Reedy said.

Science overall has advanced exponentially, which has inherently yielded important partnerships with organizations such as the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, Reedy noted.

“AFDIL has really been a pioneer in advancing DNA technology -- not just for this laboratory, but the entire world,” the captain said.

While AFDIL scientists developed the extraction technique of DNA from bone, DPAA pushed for the evolution, Reedy said. “We were the driving force to make those advancements, to progress the science to the point where we could reliably identify individuals,” he added.

AFDIL developed demineralization protocol that completely removed all the calcium from submitted material, which releases the DNA in a sample during testing. “So not only is mitochondrial DNA released, but autosomal, nuclear DNA,” Reedy said.

Efforts Benefit Diplomacy

Reedy described DPAA’s worldwide, humanitarian mission as one that, in exchange for access to a country, can bring first-class medical care to a remote area, sometimes to villages that may have been deprived of treatment for years.

“It’s another extension of the Department of Defense’s mission to provide the best care to the world,” Reedy said. “That’s an advantage the country’s government can provide to their people.”

Reedy, also a forensic pathologist, said taking care of someone who is deceased is a task he values and treats reverentially.

“This mission really dovetails well into my training,” he said. “It’s very personal for me.”