Saturday, September 03, 2005 

Hurricane Hoedown.

Credit to all photographers/agencies and especially for most.

Oh and don't worry, Halliburton are already on the case:

The Navy has hired Houston-based Halliburton Co. to restore electric power, repair roofs and remove debris at three naval facilities in Mississippi damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

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Flashback: No Trousers Charlie talks out of backside.

Remember this?

The home secretary, Charles Clarke, today said it would be "very, very surprising" if the two terrorist bomb attacks on London last month were not linked.

In his first comment since returning from a strongly-criticised summer holiday, Mr Clarke said there was no evidence "in the judicial sense" to yet link the July 7 and 21 attacks, but that the intelligence services were looking at the "support, training, inducting and tasking" of the men involved.

I said then that it was an incredibly stupid and presumptious remark to make. Now this has appeared, in an article about MI5 stepping up surveillance of 'Islamist extremists':

Officials are also convinced that there was no link between the July 7 cell and the failed July 21 attackers, whom they regard as "copycat" bombers. They base their view chiefly on the unplanned bombing of the bus in London's Tavistock Square by one of the July 7 suicide bombers, Hasib Hussain.

It is believed that Hussain, from Holbeck in Leeds, was meant to detonate his rucksack device on a Northern line train at the same time as his three fellow suicide bombers travelled south, east and west.

The would-be bombers on July 21 targeted a bus as well as three London Underground trains.

How about an apology or a clarification, Mr Clarke?

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Yobbish yob tsar to lead 'respect' "task-force".

There are some stories that you couldn't really make up. This is another piece of the fiction we live:

A government adviser who praised binge drinking and threatened to "deck" Downing Street officials will head a taskforce to promote respect, the Home Office said yesterday.

Louise Casey, 38, was formally investigated in July after complaints that her jokey speech to senior police officers breached the civil service code. She apologised and kept her job. But her promotion from head of the antisocial behaviour unit to director of the 30-strong taskforce drew criticism yesterday.

The National Association of Probation Officers said the appointment was "extraordinary" in light of her comments. Mark Oaten, home affairs spokesman for the Lib Dems, said it would "raise eyebrows".

So, what was that she actually said? Here it comes:

This is the first time I have done an after-dinner speech. It is half past nine at night and I'm sober and I am troubled by both those two things.

I feel like I am wearing a hoodie in Bluewater, being at a conference of coppers and researchers.

Topic for the evening. Research: help or hindrance? Hindrance, thanks very much.

I suppose you can't binge drink anymore because lots of people have said you can't do it. I know. I don't know who bloody made that up. It's nonsense. Particularly when you are 40 you can binge drink whenever you want. Life's downhill from there ...

Doing things sober is no way to get things done. I try to explain that to ministers but they don't get it.

All [our exhibition] stuff was bloody nicked at the Adelphi, Liverpool. What a fucking nightmare that would have been from a PR perspective. I just got hammered at the Adelphi.

I tell you that's a sad and miserable life.

Bloody BBC1 ... When do they interview the people who are on the receiving end of antisocial behaviour?

Excuse my language. I get lots of complaints about it. But you can't complain. It is an after-dinner speech. So you can write to Hazel Blears as much as you like. I'll just say 'after-dinner speech' and I wasn't even pissed ...

There is an obsession with evidence-based policy ... If No 10 says bloody 'evidence-based policy' to me once more I'll deck them one and probably get unemployed.

I remember the first time I did a meeting with a minister. It was like something out of Acorn Antiques. Honest to god. The most powerful person in the room is Betsy who brings the tea round.

After attacking senior civil servants who go to Eton and Oxford: You are a tough audience. Did you all go to Eton or something?

I don't want something written in the friggin' Guardian slagging me off.

What really hacks me off about this Bluewater stuff. It has bugger all to do with kids wearing hoodies. That really trivialises a serious issue. I don't care about teenagers wearing a hood up. What I care about are those who have rocks in their pocket to throw at the street warden who wants to talk about getting them involved in a sports competition.

Yep, a nice case of joined-up government. She attacks Eton and Oxford; granted, I'm not a fan of them either. She attacks research, evidence based policy, BBC1 and boasts of getting "fucking hammered" at the Adelphi. In short, she's a typical New Labour lackey. Unaccountable, out-spoken and full of herself. A shining example of how to instill respect into young people. All we need now is for her to punch someone who throws an egg at her.

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Friday, September 02, 2005 

New Orleans in flames.

The situation in New Orleans does seem like it may be about to get more stable. The interdictor blog, probably right now the best place for updates on what is actually happening reports that the military finally do seem to be getting there. It only took four days. Fires are now also being reported in addition to the earlier explosions.

I'm not going to comment on the whole rescue and aid operation, but I get the feeling that this might be the breaking of Bush. We'll just have to wait and see.

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The complete vacuity of a terrorist.

It appears that a tape has finally turned up of one of the London bombers explaining his reasons for taking part in the attacks. The video of Mohammad Sidique Khan was followed by the usual finger-pointing menace of Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's "spiritual" leader.

"I am going to keep this short and to the point, because it's all been said before by far more eloquent people than me.

"But our words have no impact upon you, therefore I'm going to talk to you in a language that you understand. Our words are dead until we give them life with our blood.

"I'm sure by now the media has painted a suitable picture of me, this predictable propaganda machine will naturally try to put a spin on it to suit the government and to scare the masses into conforming to their power- and wealth-obsessed agendas.

"I and thousands like me are forsaking everything for what we believe. Our driving motivation doesn't come from tangible commodities that this world has to offer. Our religion is Islam, obedience to the one true God, Allah and follow in the footsteps of the final prophet and messenger Muhammad.

"This is how our ethical stances are dictated. Your democratically elected governments perpetuate atrocities against my people and your support of them makes you responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters.

"Until we feel security, you'll be our target. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we'll not stop this fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation."

Mohammad Sidique Khan doesn't seem to appreicate that his own recording is itself a piece of propaganda; that of the lowest form, a man who can only speak of his beliefs after his death. Instead of trying to change things through demonstration and peaceful methods, he chose to end his life by using his body to kill the innocents who surrounded him on that tube train. His video is meant to be addressed to the people of Britain, that we are responsible for the atrocities because we elected the government that is perpertrating them. Here's a few stats for Mohammad Sidique Khan, wherever he now is: only 36% of the electorate voted for Labour in the May election Of that 36%, of which I was one, how many does he think supported the war on Iraq? I voted Labour because my MP abstained on the vote for the war, and because they are still at the moment the least worst option that can actually govern. If this means that I supported the illegal and immoral war on Iraq and the continuing abomination which is the war on terror, then target me. Not those commuting to work.

It's a sad state of affairs when someone like Mohammad Sidique Khan, once a teacher, starts believing that the only way to bring about change is to become a suicide bomber. It's an even sadder state of affairs when the government still refuses to admit that the war on Iraq made us a target. Jack Straw has commented on the video, saying that there is "no excuse for terrorism". That's an arguable remark to start with, but let's forget about that. Saying that the Iraq war increased the threat to this country is not making an excuse for deadly suicide bombs. It's the truth. The government realises that there was no real strategic reason for them to join the US in the Iraqi crusade. It was purely political. Jack Straw is an intelligent man. He knows that. About the only men who do not are probably Tony Blair and the most craven and sycophantic of his followers.

The video itself leaves many questions about the origins of the suicide bombers. I think it's pretty certain that a lot of the conspiracy theories can now be thrown out the window. I don't recall any previous al-Qaida linked attacks having videos of the perpetrators explaining their "reasons" for the attacks. Hamas and Islamic Jihad are the groups which usually make such recorded statements. I do not believe that this was an attack authorised or ordered by any leading members of al-Qaida. As has been shown, al-Qaida is pretty much broken. What has replaced it is numerous autonomous groupings that have a shared ideology similar to the of al-Zawahiri and bin Laden, originating from the teachings of Sayyid Qutb. The relatively easy access to bomb "recipes" and other information, both on the internet and the black market has furthered their cause immensely.

If anything, this video has shown how the new anti-terror laws are yet another victory for those who use the excuse of Islamic fundamentalism for their own nihilistic purposes. The deportation of supposed "extremists" to countries where they could be tortured, the crackdown on anyone who dares to justify acts of terrorism, and the use of control orders shows the country in a state of panic. Panic and the reduction of civil liberties is exactly the response they want. Yes, we must become more secure, and address the threats. That requires better intelligence and not more draconian measures. The government could start by making wire-tap evidence admissible in courts. Such an act would show the government standing up to the arrogance of MI5 and MI6, as well as showing that the government is not responding to propaganda and murder with more of the same.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005 

Hurricane Katrina.

I haven't really felt the need or the desire to post about the obviously horrific situation that's going on in the states affected by the hurricane, mainly because news is still so sketchy and unreliable. However, here's a few links that are probably worth reading/seeing.

LSU hurricane expert on CNN just estimated 100,000 drowned

The Hurricane President

Satellite image of New Orleans 31st August 2005

Sat Image of Wasted Biloxi MS 31 Aug 05

Cryptome Eyeballing Katrina damage

I think it's way too early to blame this yet on global warming, or other even more out there conspiracy theories, which if you really want to see, click on the Rigorous Intuition link at the side. This is a natural disaster, just as the tsunami was. Whether it could have better prepared for is now the question that must be asked. Most of all, why did they persevere in thinking that a city below sea level would always be able to survive in a climate that is so susceptible to extreme weather?

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Child mental illness in the UK 'stable' at 1 in 10.

One in 10 children in Britain has a recognised mental disorder, ranging from depression to autism, according to the latest government figures.

The study, the second to map patterns of child mental health nationally, also found that boys were more likely than girls to have a mental disorder, and that in general children in poorer, worse-educated or lone parent families were likelier to be affected.

The statistics, based on a 2004 study of 8,000 children in England, Scotland and Wales, echo the findings of the first survey of child mental health in Britain in 1999, which recorded the same proportion of youngsters with a disorder.

They were interpreted yesterday as an indication that levels of mental health disorders among five- to 16-year-olds, which had risen over the preceding 25 years, had now stabilised and may begin to fall.

Experts also said they were reassured by figures showing that medication was very limited for children with disorders other than those connected to hyperactivity.

Obviously this doesn't recognise those who are living with mental illness but are not receiving any help with it, either because it's not recognised or untreatable (personality disorders). I find it difficult to believe that mental illness is now going down at a time when the world itself seems to be getting crazier by the day. The last 4 years have been enough to turn the most sane person into a gibbering wreck. The only way to counter this seems to be insulate yourself from any news and just keep consuming.

As for the figures showing that medication was limited for children, this may well be due to the recent rulings that the SSRI class of anti-depressants cannot be prescribed to persons under 18 because of the findings that they can increase the risk of self-harm and suicide. There are still concerns over the high rate of prescriptions for ADHD.

While I've been sceptical for a while about the effects of anti-depressants and their use as a cash-cow for drugs companies which rushed to produce them in the wake of the marketing of Prozac, I've also found that those opposed to their use can be just as aggressive and unwilling to see that some have been helped by these drugs, including the most complained about, Seroxat. What is fascinating and to do with this is the placebo effect. An excellent recent article about the effect is here, which is a great read.

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When is a terrorist not a terrorist? When he's a Jew.

Some rather excellent thinking has gone behind this decision by the Israeli defence ministry.

Four Arab Israelis shot dead by a soldier opposed to the closure of the Gaza Strip settlements are not victims of "terror" because their killer was Jewish, Israel's defence ministry has ruled, and so their families are not entitled to the usual compensation for life.

The ministry concluded that the law only recognises terrorism as committed by "organisations hostile to Israel" even though the prime minister, Ariel Sharon, described the killings by Private Eden Nathan Zaada, 19, as "a despicable act by a bloodthirsty terrorist."

Actually, this pretty much all makes sense. After all, the state of Israel was established thanks to terrorism which led to us fair Britains withdrawing from the area. The state of Israel was declared on the same day, with the United States recognising it seconds later. How can it then pay compensation to Israeli Arabs murdered by an AWOL IDF soldier? It seems even the words of Ariel Sharon, proclaimed as a war criminal himself by some, can't change such a ridiculous state of affairs.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2005 

Lock us all up.

Looks like the ways of the USSR certainly haven't quite died out yet:

A leading human rights activist in Uzbekistan has been locked up in a psychiatric hospital in an echo of Soviet-style practices after distributing anti-government leaflets which prosecutors claimed insulted the country's emblem.

Elena Urlayeva had earlier criticised President Islam Karimov for the Andijan massacre in May when government troops allegedly shot hundreds of innocent protesters.

Mrs Urlayeva, who is a member of the opposition Free Peasants party, was arrested in the capital, Tashkent, on Saturday and incarcerated in the mental health ward of a city hospital.

Talib Yakubov, chairman of the Human Rights Society of Uzbekistan, said Mrs Urlayeva had been detained in the past and forcibly injected with drugs. "It is because she is such a persistent critic who works 24 hours a day to help the people," he said.

Mr Karimov's regime is accused of a catalogue of human rights abuses and fears a backlash from opposition groups. The Free Peasants party is not officially recognised.

A police spokesman confirmed to Interfax news agency that Mrs Urlayeva was arrested for distributing leaflets with a caricature of the Uzbek national emblem: a fairytale bird with outstretched wings representing freedom that was depicted as downcast and bedraggled.

Yesterday the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights called for Mrs Urlayeva's immediate release.

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Anne Applebaum's incredibly moving and detailed short history of the Russian gulag, primarily focusing on it during Stalin's time as leader, but also before and after. Unlike most history tomes, it's readable and doesn't fall into being dry. From the 60s right through to the collapse of the USSR, throwing activists into psychiatric wards was a popular of getting rid of them, and also involved doctors making up fake disorders to keep them there. It's sad to think that similar practices are still being used today, and even more shameful that Craig Murray was sacked for speaking out about such dreadful abuses in Uzbekistan.

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Britain already using new terror laws to stop other "subversives" from entering the country.

I really didn't see this one coming, oh no:

Charles Clarke, the home secretary, has used the government's crackdown on preachers of hate to ban an American professor who speaks for the Animal Liberation Front.

Steven Best, professor of philosophy at the University of Texas at El Paso, had intended to travel to the UK to take part in an event to celebrate the closure of a farm breeding guinea pigs for research.

In the wake of the London bombings of July 7, the Home Office announced it would not allow people to enter the UK who "foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs; seek to provoke others to terrorist acts; [or] foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts."

In July Dr Best spoke at an international animal rights conference in England. At that conference, he was quoted by the Daily Telegraph as saying: "We are not terrorists, but we are a threat. We are a threat both economically and philosophically. Our power is not in the right to vote but the power to stop production. We will break the law and destroy property until we win."

According to the newspaper, he added that activists did not want to "reform" vivisectionists but to "wipe them off the face of the earth". The Home Office cited these words in a letter to Dr Best last week banning him from entering the UK. Dr Best, who claims his words have been taken out of context, said he was not surprised by the ban. "It was only a matter of time, especially after July 7. The climate in Britain is totally unbelievable. It's very fascist. It's becoming a police state," he told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The Animal Liberation Front is a destructive violent organisation which I hold no brief for. Despite this, the laws in current effect are meant to deal with those who are preaching hatred against the country and fomenting suicide attacks on innocents. The Animal Liberation Front has never done either of the above, although it is an organisation which can quite easily be described as terrorist in nature. Why stop this obviously foolish academic from coming to crow about how "they" stopped a guinea pig farm from continuing business?

In short, it's another step towards the US approach of having lists of people with names that might be connected with terrorism, who they immediately stop from entering the country or who they detain on arrival. Expect it not to be too long before we have Yusuf Islam barred from this country.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005 

Deadly Israeli hypocrisy.

This is a really horrible case that exposes the Israelis not only as hypocrites, but as hypocrites that are prepared to let a child with cancer die.

The electricity pylons that could mean the difference between life and death for Ennas al-Atrash are dotted a few hundred yards from the little girl's village in Israel's Negev desert.

But the residents of Sawa are Bedouin Arabs whose village is deemed "unrecognised" by the state, and so they are deprived of the basic services that Ennas's doctors say are essential if the frail three-year-old is to have a chance of survival.

Ennas was diagnosed with cancer in her chest cavity in January and subjected to weeks of chemotherapy and two operations. She was sent home to recover with a daily injection of medicine to boost her collapsed immune system. The drug has to be stored at a steady temperature between zero degrees and 4C (32F-39F).

But the Atrash family has no reliable means to do so because the Israeli government refuses to allow 80,000 Bedouin Arabs to be connected to the power, water or sewerage infrastructure on the grounds that their villages are illegal - even though many have stood since before the modern Israeli state existed.

It has made no difference that Ennas's father, Yusuf, is a doctor in Israel's state health system who treats other, more fortunate, children while his own daughter's health is hostage to politics.

"We put her drugs into a plastic bag and pack it with ice cubes to try to keep it cool. We're not sure it keeps it the right temperature," he said.

Last week, Ennas, who has lost her hair and is said by her mother to be terrified of going to hospital, fell victim to secondary infections and underwent another operation. The doctors say she needs radiotherapy and more drugs to boost her immune system. But the family still has no proper refrigeration.

The Atrash family shares a generator with four other homes, but the cost of running it constantly is so high - about £900 a month, which is the average monthly wage in Israel - that it is turned on for only four hours each evening.

The family says its last hope is a petition to Israel's highest court to be heard on Thursday.

Dr Atrash spent months pleading with government departments. Officials said they were constrained by the law, although this has not stopped the infrastructure ministry from providing power, water and roads to Jewish outposts in the West Bank which are also regarded as illegal.

The Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal. According to Israel, the Bedouin Arabs village is also illegal. The difference is that the Arabs aren't the right religion or the right colour. It's ok if their children die, while Jewish settlers were shown being cradled by IDF soldiers, their bodies spasming with emotion and misery as they were evacuated from the Gaza strip, recorded as a part of Israel dying. If Israel still has any compassion for anyone apart from its own population, it will let the little girl's family have power.

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Skewed priorities.

Jane Longhurst was murdered by a friend's boyfriend. She was 31 years old and a special needs teacher. Undoubtedly, her death was a tragedy. What makes this death different from any other however is that her killer was found to have an obsession with violent internet pornography.

Coutts (35), a voracious consumer of web sites devoted to snuff movies and necrophilia, was sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum tariff of 30 years. The Scottish-born part-time musician visited Web sites with names such as "necrobabes", "death by asphyxia" and "rape pleasure".

More than 800 pornographic images were found saved on Coutts' home computer over three quarters of which showed acts of violence against women. The court also heard that Coutts had accessed violent images the day before Ms. Longhurst was murdered in March 2003.

After strangling Ms. Longhurst with a pair of tights, Coutts took her body to a storage unit, for which he had a pin number for out-of-hour-access. The security log showed that he had visited the corpse at least 10 times in the month before he finally disposed it in a marsh.

After the discovery of Ms. Longhurst's body, employees at the Big Yellow Storage company in Brighton informed the police that Coutts had hired the lockup shortly after her disapperance. When they opened the lockup, police found Ms. Longhurst's possessions as well as a blood-stained rope and a condom containing Coutts' semen.

What has followed this case has been the usual calls for a complete crack-down on violent internet porn. The government has now appeared to cave-in to such a measure.

The Home Office will today propose to outlaw the possession of extreme adult pornography downloaded over the internet from abroad.

Although the existing Obscene Publications Act makes publishing such pornography an offence, the government argues that the internet has made getting hold of it easier while at the same time allowing suppliers to evade prosecution. In a consultation document published today the Home Office suggests making illegal "the possession of a limited range of extreme pornographic material featuring adults". It cites the depiction of bestiality, sexual interference with a human corpse or certain forms of extreme violence involving serious bodily harm.

"This is material which is extremely offensive to the vast majority of people and it should have no place in our society," said the Home Office minister, Paul Goggins. "The fact that it is available over the internet should in no way legitimise it. These forms of violent and abusive pornography go far beyond what we allow to be shown in films or even sold in licensed sex shops in the UK, so they should not be available online either."

The government and campaigners cite the case of Jane Longhurst, killed in 2003 by a man obsessed with violent sexual pornography. Her mother Liz, who has helped organise a petition that has so far been signed by more than 35,000 people, yesterday welcomed the proposed new law.

Snuff movies do not exist. There has never been a single one that has come to light which depicts the actual murder of a person, with it being sold as entertainment and the others involved in the movie getting paid. So, does real necrophilia on the internet really exist? I personally feel that it is extremely unlikely, but who knows? There might be some real east European necrophilia sites out there somewhere, or possibly on an obscure usenet group. The chances of Mr Coutts actually running into one of those and not a site which depicts necrophilia is far more likely. There are defintely sites such as that out there, as there are ones based around incest (again, debatable whether they are real or not) beastiality, and extreme bondage/S & M/rape type sites.

I find a lot of pornography distasteful, but I'm happy to admit I watch and use it. I also have a soft spot for Jess Franco type softcore erotica. I'm a firm believer that the government should keep out of the bedroom. That also applies to what consenting adults wish to do for money. If they want to take part in films that depict rape and involve pain to do with sex, that is up to them. If an adult wishes to pay to view such simulated acts, that is also up to them. The most important part of the government's consultation document is the following.

The consultation document admits that research into the subject is not advanced enough to confirm the link between such pornography and violent crime. "We recognise that accessing such material does not necessarily cause criminal activity," it says. "We consider the moral and public protection case against allowing this kind of material sufficiently strong."

In other words, we don't have any evidence that viewing such material will turn such a person into a necrophiliac that will go out and seek women to strangle. However, we do have a campaign on our hands and with some of the most draconian laws on obtaining porn in the western world, who's going to care about banning disgusting violent porn?

A case highlighted by the campaigns at Melon Farmers is that of a man identified only as "braintree". He was illegally selling DVDs recorded off adult channels. However, he unfortunately happened to have an animal and scat DVD in his possession when he was raided. While he had no intention of selling such material, he was charged with intent to supply under the Obscene Publications Act. In addition to the these two DVDs, some of the others he had recorded contained urination (urinating is allowed on its own at R18, but urinating on another person or showing someone licking or drinking it is usually cut) and fisting, both of which are regularly cut from R18 titles by the BBFC as they are considered "obscene". In the end, he pleaded guilty to the charges. He was sentenced to 4 months in prison. A fuller account is available here.

What did the above case serve anyone? Yes, he was breaking the law by selling DVDs he had recorded, but there are many other examples of sites based in the UK selling R18 DVDs, which itself is illegal as recently decided by a high court ruling. Why are the police not going after them? As usual, the police and the power of state is turned on one person.

If the above consultation stays in more or less the same shape and becomes law, we can expect there to be many other braintrees. The government has no evidence that such explicit material makes a person likely to be more violent. I've always found that those who watch or seek out such material are less likely to act out any fantasies they might have had once they have actually seen it or acts depicting such fantasies. Mental health professionals admittedly are split on the issue, though. Furthermore, would such a law affect mainstream "art" cinema? Films such as Last House on the Left and I Spit On Your Grave are still not available uncut in the UK, both of which deal with rape and the resulting revenge. The first inparticular is possibly the best polemic against violent gratuitous action films and even violence itself which I've seen. Irreversible, which contains a long anal rape scene, passed uncut in the UK, could also fall under such laws.

Why has this come up now? This government is facing such pressure over so many other issues that a tabloid-pleasing law such as this may help take some heat off Labour. As a result, many innocent citizens who have unusual or minority tastes may end up in prison for paying to watch consenting adults have sex for money. I thought those days had passed. Most of all though, is this what Jane Longhurst would have wanted? Is this what Graham Coutts' ex-girlfriend wants? Why is it that one murder can cause the loss of freedom for so many? It seems we are no nearer moving away from knee-jerk reactionary decisions.

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Monday, August 29, 2005 

The Sun-watch.

Yesterday was a pretty slow news day, I'll admit. What with a huge hurricane looming off the Gulf coast of the United States, threatening to swamp New Orleans, and the Shias and Kurds pushing through an Iraqi constitution without Sunni approval. Hell, there was even a cricket match of some sort won by some country. So, what does the leading tabloid newspaper put on its front page for this fine bank holiday Monday?

Yep, it picks on a "welfare cheat" who's been spreading his seed a little too freely. That's if the story's true, of course. Rebekah Wade, if you actually did edit the paper yesterday and you're not swanning it off on some beach somewhere, you're an inspiration to us all.

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You mean the government knew the Iraq war was stirring extremism???????

New Labour, as most governing parties are, is often fundamentally dishonest. The cries from Tony Blair and others that the attacks on July the 7th had nothing to do with the war on Iraq, and that there was no reason to think such a thing have been rather undermined by the appearance of a letter leaked to the Observer, available here.

The Foreign Office's top official warned Downing Street that the Iraq war was fuelling Muslim extremism in Britain a year before the 7 July bombings, The Observer can reveal.

Despite repeated denials by Number 10 that the war made Britain a target for terrorists, a letter from Michael Jay, the Foreign Office permanent under-secretary, to the cabinet secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull - obtained by this newspaper - makes the connection clear.

The letter, dated 18 May 2004, says British foreign policy was a 'recurring theme' in the Muslim community, 'especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq'.

'Colleagues have flagged up some of the potential underlying causes of extremism that can affect the Muslim community, such as discrimination, disadvantage and exclusion,' the letter says. 'But another recurring theme is the issue of British foreign policy, especially in the context of the Middle East peace process and Iraq.

'Experience of both ministers and officials ... suggests that ... British foreign policy and the perception of its negative effect on Muslims globally plays a significant role in creating a feeling of anger and impotence among especially the younger generation of British Muslims.'

The letter continues: 'This seems to be a key driver behind recruitment by extremist organisations (e.g. recruitment drives by groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir and al Muhajiroon). The FCO has a relevant and crucial role to play in the wider context of engagement with British Muslims on policy issues, and more broadly, in convincing young Muslims that they have a legitimate and credible voice, including on foreign policy issues, through an active participation in the democratic process.'

The letter or the article doesn't tell us anything we didn't know already. What it does show is that the government knows full well what it is doing and what it is doing wrong. They know they was no reason for Britain to take part in the war on Iraq, apart from Blair's slavish subservience to George Bush. What has he got in return? His majority at the election was slashed, he's widely viewed as a liar and many no longer have any trust in what he says. That it took 8 years as prime minister for this to come about is more surprising than anything else. Perhaps the best thing to come out of this is that Blairism and the sycophants who surround Blair are now seen as spoilt goods. While it's hard to get enthusiastic about a Brown-led Labour party and government, surely anything is better than the deceit and spin that the Blair years will be remembered by.

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