Monday, July 28, 2014 

Our country is a graveyard.

Gentlemen, you have transformed
our country into a graveyard
You have planted bullets in our heads,
and organized massacres
Gentlemen, nothing passes like that
without account
All that you have done
to our people is
registered in notebooks

Tawfiq Zayad (Asad AbuKhalil's translation.)

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The class of the News of the World.

Nick Davies' Hack Attack looks to be as essential reading as Flat Earth News was:


Hoare was furious with him one time when Hoare brought in a story about a famous actress only to find that Coulson, first, refused to publish it; second, took the famous actress on holiday; third, was clearly being rewarded in her bed; fourth, and worst of all, told the famous actress how Hoare had managed to get the story in the first place, with the result that the source was exposed and lost forever.

When Hoare discovered all this, he told Coulson direct and to his face that he was a “complete cunt”. Coulson replied with a line which became a regular catchphrase as he worked his way upwards: “I’ll make itup to you, mate.” As though it didn’t matter what you did, because you could always throw a favour in somebody’s direction and just move on.
...

There is a story that Coulson’s assistant editor Ian Edmondson often liked to tell, about the time when he was still only a junior reporter on the News of the World and he had a girlfriend who was a reporter on another newspaper. He liked to call her “Boobs”. It so happened, he would explain, that Boobs made friends with Tracy Shaw, a particularly eye-catching young actor from Coronation Street who was of great interest to the tabloids. As Edmondson told it, there was one night when the two women had gone out on the town together and afterwards, Boobs had confided in him that Shaw had done some coke. This was obviously a secret, he would say, and one which could cause trouble for Shaw and potentially for his girlfriend – but also it was obviously a good story for the News of the World. So, he recalled with some relish, he had persuaded the trusting Boobs to tell him the whole tale again, secretly recorded her every word and gave it to the paper.

...

But Weatherup was no kind of street fighter. He appeared to be stuck in a 1970s time warp, playing the John Travolta part in Saturday Night Fever. He wore expensive suits and special gloves for driving and he had a well-known tendency, at the first sight of a sunny day, to turn up in the office in tight-fitting white tennis shorts; and an equally well-known tendency to slide up behind the young female reporters and massage their shoulders or even kiss their necks.

...

During the spring of 2005, for example, he (Coulson) personally oversaw a project to snatch an interview with the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, in Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, where he was serving his time for the murder of 13 women. This was kept very secret.

The reporter on the job was instructed not to tell colleagues. For maximum discretion, any senior editor could have managed the job, but Coulson liked to think he knew how to run an investigation and he duly authorised the payment of a hefty fee to Sutcliffe’s brother, Carl, and also the purchase of a camera and recorder that were specially designed to trick the metal detectors at Broadmoor. Carl Sutcliffe concealed them inside a plaster cast and visited his unsuspecting brother who then found himself splashed across the News of the World, primarily on the grounds that he had become fat – “a balding 17-stone slob”, as the paper put it.

...

Some sources were naive. They would tell their story before getting a signed contract and would simply never be paid. One woman agreed to talk on the promise that the News of the World would pay for her to have a good holiday. When she tried to claim her reward, an editor declared that she was from up north, so she could stay in a caravan, for £150. Some got contracts and fell for an easy trick. The contract promised them big money if the story went on the front page. The reporter knew very well it would go inside the paper but kept that quiet. When the story came out and the source begged for something, anything, the reporter would offer them a tiny fee and, as one put it: “You wear them down and, in the end, they’ll take buttons.” A few – including a woman who had been raped by a footballer – fell foul of a clause which said that to the best of the source’s knowledge, the story must be true: the News of the World printed the story, claimed the source had been knowingly wrong about some part of it and refused to pay up.

...

The paper ruined a long list of more or less famous men by exposing the fact that they had visited prostitutes. And yet, in search of more of these stories, one News of the World reporter was told to make contacts among high-class sex workers with the specific instruction that he should have sex with them, do cocaine with them and claim it all on expenses. So he did.

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Friday, July 25, 2014 

Sucking on the hose pipe.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014 

The (Palestinian) right to death.

Shall we cut straight to the chase this time?  As we know, Hamas stores its rockets in schools, hospitals, mosques, ambulances and so on and so forth.  There is a certain amount of truth to these claims: UNRWA has twice in recent days discovered rockets hidden in vacant schools, something it has condemned in the strongest possible terms.  The key word there though is vacant schools; regardless of what Hamas and the other militant groups are, they do not store rockets in places where civilians are sheltering from the violence.

When the IDF then shells an UNRWA school where hundreds of people were taking refuge, it knows precisely what it's doing.  When they say terrorists store weapons in all the places mentioned above they're making clear they reserve the right to attack anywhere; it's a defence in advance.  When those shells kill 15 innocents, all the IDF can do is try and divert some of the blame, even it involves telling easily disprovable lies.  According to the IDF, there was a humanitarian window between 10:00 and 14:00 today when those sheltering in the school could have left to try and find somewhere else to escape the violence.  Instead, Hamas apparently prevented them from leaving.  This is news to UNRWA, who say they tried to coordinate exactly such a window and it was never granted.  In any case, Hamas continued firing from Beit Hanoun.  The IDF was responding to that fire.  By shelling a school they had the exact coordinates of, where they knew there were hundreds of civilians who wanted to leave but couldn't.

Something about this story doesn't add up.  To be precise, this is the sort of story a five-year-old would find difficult to believe.  It leads you to one conclusion, and one conclusion only: the IDF doesn't care what it hits in Gaza, and it will always blame Hamas regardless of how bad it looks.  This is the exact sort of behaviour we condemn when it's the Syrian military doing it.  They're the same kind of lies we find outrageous when they're told by the Russians.  Yet still our representatives will keep repeating Israel has the right to defend itself.  The Palestinians, as said before, only have the right to die.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 

When words are not equal.

And what do you know, about alienation honey? Yeah please, explain how it feels.

There are numerous ways to shut down debate when it comes to Israel/Palestine.  The most obvious, and the most used and abused, is to cry antisemitism, although it must be stressed the line between vehement anti-Zionism and antisemitism is often an extremely fine one.  We saw this not too long ago when the Israeli ambassador to the UK denounced a Gerald Scarfe cartoon in the Sunday Times (having read a copy at the weekend, calling it a comic does a disservice to the Beano) as antisemitic on the grounds he portrayed Binyamin Netanyahu with a big nose, encasing Palestinians in a wall where the bricks were held together with blood.  This apparently invoked the blood libel and the age old antisemitic trope of caricaturing Jews as having big/long facial appendages.  As I noted at the time, it's fine for those who want to cry racism to do so on flimsy evidence, as Twitter would be even more unprofitable than it currently is if people didn't; when actual state actors start doing it to silence criticism, something much more sinister is at work.

Today we have a wonderful new example of the disparity in the nature of the discourse.  As they have in the past, Israeli politicians and those defending Israel's actions in Gaza have asked what other countries would do were they subjected to barrages of rockets on their towns and cities.  No nation could tolerate it, they say.  The IDF went so far as to photoshop an image of the House of Commons under just such an attack, questioning what we'd do then.  This obviously ignores how we dealt with the threat posed by the IRA, or how other countries which have faced down terrorist groups have done so without imposing a permanent siege on a heavily populated but relatively small city, but as the Israeli prime minister said, only Israel understands Israel.

When Lib Dem MP David Ward tweeted, saying "If I were in Gaza, would I fire a rocket? Probably yes" he was conducting a similar thought experiment.  You could say it's a rather redundant one, as transplanting yourself into such a situation without also taking into account how different your life would be makes it likely your entire world view would also be drastically altered, but at the same time it raises the question. What would you do? Would you resist as well, even if not necessarily alongside Hamas?  I find it likely I probably would.

Even to pose the question the other way it seems is to provide Hamas with succour, to suggest there is an equivalence between Hamas rockets and Israel defending itself.  Palestinians, as we really should have learned by now, don't have the same right to target those the UN says may have committed war crimes.  Indeed, according to the berk's berk, Tory chairman Grant Shapps, Ward's tweet may have incited violence, while Labour's Douglas Alexander said his "vile comments are as revealing as they are repellent".  Quickly the party issued a statement clarifying the obvious, that he was pointing out how people can be driven to such desperate measures, but not before the Board of Deputies of British Jews said Nick Clegg should expel Ward from the party.  Just as with everything else, words are simply not equal.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2014 

It's so fucking funny.

Supposedly, the older you get, the more right-wing you become.  It's strange then that at least when it comes to foreign policy, the more I age, the more to the left I shift.  Perhaps it's because the propaganda accompanying those shilling for war becomes ever more egregious; maybe it's because those selling leaden death are about as plausible as a pig dressed as a chicken; or it could be that as my anger on much else has dimmed, and boy has it dimmed, if anything it still hasn't peaked when civilians are massacred by the "most moral" army on the planet, supported and backed to the hilt by our own wannabe bombers.

We must start though with the shooting down of flight MH17.  Here is the worst example imaginable of what happens when you give heavy weaponry to amateurs, or as could be the case, when professionals are made to answer to dilettantes.  As soon as the news emerged a civilian plane had came down in the area where the eastern Ukrainian rebels have been pushed back to it was apparent what had happened.  Regardless of how the Donetsk People's Republic fighters got their hands on a Buk, whether supplied directly by Russia or captured from the Ukrainians, they couldn't have kept fighting this long without the tacit, barely disguised support of Putin.  He bears a heavy responsibility for the tragedy, and the fact he either refused or failed to pressure the rebels into allowing immediate access to the crash site so investigators could carry out their work speaks of the inhumanity of the Russian president.

This said, there is little many in the west like more than the certainty of past battles.  To hear some commentators and politicians over the last few days you could be forgiven for imagining the Russians themselves had carried out the most heinous, despicable atrocity of recent times.  The strike on MH17 apparently occurred in a vacuum, few of the reports setting out how the Ukrainians had carried out air strikes in the area before last Thursday, at least one missile destroying a house and killing those inside.  Nor have there been such shootings down in the past, it would seem, neither the Korean flight brought down by the Soviets in 1983 or indeed the USS Vincennes incident of 1988 being recalled.

Those quite rightly demanding justice and the handing over of those responsible might well reflect on the punishment given to the US navy crew whom unintentionally killed 290 civilians on Iran Air Flight 655: they received their medals, while the captain got the Legion of Merit.  Few have considered the irony either of the media traipsing all over what would normally be a crime scene, access carefully controlled so as not to lose evidence or contaminate the area.  Indeed, if the scene had been quickly handed over to investigators, it's possible the bodies of the victims could have stayed where they landed just as long if not longer than they did; that was certainly the case with Lockerbie.

Watching last Friday's session at the United Nations Security Council was an instruction in how diplomacy does and doesn't work.  The anger of US ambassador Samantha Power was palpable, her words at times mawkish.  "We now all know the letter I stands for infant," she said.  It doesn't of course when it comes to Gaza, where instead it must stand for irrelevant.  If the same politicians who have barely been able to contain their contempt and rage at Russia over MH17 directed even a tenth of that feeling at Israel, the pressure would have almost certainly already told on Netanyahu.

Israel instead is held to different standards, always has been, always will be.  "No one understands Israel but Israel," as the Israeli prime minister apparently told John Kerry.  It's the story taken up by apologists, as well as those who don't bother to sugar the pill.  When we highlight the disparity in the number of casualties between the two sides, the context is we want more Israelis to be killed to even things up.  It's also extremely distasteful to share pictures of dead children, because doing so "devalues the currency of shared humanity", while if we do it for the Palestinians, we should also do it for the children of every other conflict or disaster.  God forbid that we see the victims of a war where one side has rudimentary rockets and rifles and the other has tanks and the finest weaponry the west can supply.

If it wasn't apparently designed to infuriate, the IDF Twitter account could be taken for satire.  We're told the ground invasion is to destroy the tunnels Hamas hides its missiles in, but they conceal them in every civilian building too.  Israel is threatened by Hamas fighters using the tunnels to attack settlements just outside the Strip, despite them being obliterated the moment they step out of them, yet when Hamas kills Israeli soldiers inside Gaza they're still terrorists, rather than resisting an invading force.  The media can't repeat enough the great lengths the IDF goes to avoid civilian casualties, despite multiple incidents every day that suggest at best either lack of care or at worst a complete indifference, yet similar statements from Hamas never make the cut.  When civilians don't leave despite being warned to flee, they're either human shields or Hamas wouldn't let them go.  That nowhere in Gaza is safe doesn't matter.  Hamas is responsible.

We've heard it all before, and no doubt we'll hear it again.  One thing we do seem to have been spared this time is the Palestinians don't feel pain such is their martyrdom ideation line, perhaps because the grieving for those killed has been there for all to see.  So too we've seen more reports from the "Sderot cinema" or other vantage points where an extreme, tiny minority of Israelis go to watch the carnage being wreaked on Gaza, cheering it on, just as vengeful and filled with hate as we're so often informed Palestinian children are brought up to be.  Whether they really approve of the horrific consequences on the ground, when 19 children were killed in a single strike, apparently just as guilty as the solitary target, we can't know.  They surely however demand justice just as much as the infants on board the MH17 did.

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Monday, July 21, 2014 

Complicit in the lies of a serial offender.


Regular readers will know it takes a lot to stagger me.  Cynicism comes easily, because it is so easy.  Think the worst, and then you won't be let down come the inevitable.  There are no heroes only humans, and we are flawed flesh and bone, all with our own prejudices, failings and traits.

Sometimes though you still can't help but be blown away by just how unbelievably stupid supposedly intelligent people are.  In fact, in this instance stupid doesn't cover it.  The only word that even comes close to accurately describing the Crown Prosecution Service's original decision to prosecute Tulisa Contostavlos is fuckwitted.  A lawyer earning no doubt good money looked at the "investigation" carried out by this blog's favourite journalist, hopefully soon to be ex-journalist Mazher Mahmood, and felt, yeah, this isn't the most obvious example I've ever seen of entrapment, and told the CPS there was a realistic chance of conviction.  The CPS then reviewed his decision, and went along with it.  Then the judge, despite the defence making what has to be one of the most compelling applications for the case to be thrown out on the grounds Mahmood is a lying sack of shit, allowed it to proceed.

Only for Alistair McCreath to days later discharge the jury and find Contostavlos and her friend, Michael Coombs, who had already admitted supplying the cocaine after Mahmood asked Contostavlos to get some for him, not guilty.  Why?  Because Mahmood it seems put pressure on his driver, Alan Smith, to change his statement, having first told the police Contostavlos had spoken of her opposition to drugs as a family member was an addict as the pair talked in his car.  At the legal arguments pre-trial Mahmood denied he spoke to the Smith at all, only for Contostavlos's QC, Jeremy Dein, to winkle the truth out of Mahmood under cross-examination last week.  He had indeed discussed the statement with Smith, he just didn't have anything to do with him altering it.

Even now I can't begin to get my head round how Mahmood's latest and clearly for him most disastrous entrapping of a celebrity got to the point of being put before a jury.  Back in June last year the People, whether through speaking to Contostavlos and/or her management or a disgruntled source at the Sun wrote up an almost completely accurate blow-by-blow account of how the former X-Factor judge was enticed by Mahmood, although it didn't explicitly state her arrest and the "hoax" were connected.  They flew her to Las Vegas (either in first class or by private jet, according to whether you believe Mahmood or the People), telling her she was going to star in a Slumdog Millionaire-type film as a "bad girl" making the journey from London to India, possibly alongside Leonardo DiCaprio.  As in previous stings, Contostavlos was plied with alcohol, her defence going so far as to say her drink was spiked on one occasion, before Mahmood then sprang the trap.  Desperate to get the part, having been told Keira Knightley was also being considered for the role, she arranged for Coombs to supply Mahmood with his requested "white sweets".

Regardless of what you think about subterfuge by journalists, and the PCC code makes clear it can only be justified in the public interest, the person in this instance commissioning a crime is the hack, not the celebrity.  Not only that, unlike in other instances where those involved step back at the last minute, the evidence their target is willing to go along with their request acquired, Mahmood's drug stings have nearly always involved the actual supply of the banned substance.  By accepting such a level of skulduggery was permissible, despite the relatively slight nature of the offences committed, both the police and the CPS became complicit in Mahmood's abuse of power, not to forget lies.  Nor is this anything like the first time they've been embarrassed by Mahmood's mendacity and the Murdoch tabloid stable's hyperbolics: the Victoria Beckham "kidnap plot" trial collapsed after it emerged the key witness had been paid, while the "red mercury" case ended with all the defendants acquitted.

Indeed, yet again the court system gave in to Mahmood's bullshit, the myth of the man as tabloid investigator extraordinaire.  He gave his evidence from behind a screen, to both protect him from enemies and so as not to give away his identity to those he might yet seek to stitch up.  No matter that his visage has been available online for years now, or that, err, his victims know all too well what he looks like.  Also irrelevant is just how petty and cliche the drug dealer expose is; it's one thing to try and show corruption in sport, although Mahmood failed to do even that with John Higgins, it's another to get a pop star to show they know someone who can get drugs.  I mean, who knew they got up to such things?  It's not as though most of us have acquaintances whom dabble in illicit substances, and if tempted in the same way as Contostavlos was could just as easily find ourselves helping out a new VIP friend, clearly we're meant to regard this as a terrible indictment of the morals of our heroes.  What will the kids who look up to her think?  Nor do certain sections of the media encourage ambition and aspiration whatever the cost, oh no.

As well as being suspended by the Sun, Mahmood now faces the possibility of a perjury charge, another former News of the Screws hack accused of lying under oath.  This entire affair also gives the lie to the idea Leveson changed anything: still a Murdoch paper was prepared to do whatever it took just to catch out a jumped-up celeb.  How delicious then that someone like Tulisa (and admittedly her legal team) should be the one to finally pin the fake sheikh down.  This time, surely, there can be no way back for Mazher Mahmood.

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Friday, July 18, 2014 

Judge yr'self.

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A pound of flesh.


Three branches of the Entez family, around 60 people, were sheltering in a house in Zeitoun when it was struck by an artillery shell shortly after 8.45pm. Three of the family were killed – Abed Ali, 24, Mohamed Ibrahim, 13, and Mohamed Salem, two – and four injured. Three of the exterior walls were destroyed in the blast.

In the wreckage of the home on Friday morning, Salem Entez, 29, Mohamed Salem's father, approached the Guardian with a plastic bag, which he opened to revealed pieces of flesh he was collecting for burial. "This is my son," he said.

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