Saturday, April 08, 2006 

Closet racists and out in the open racists.

Here's a teaser for you. How do you prove that your party is not, in the words of David Cameron in one of his rare lucid moments, made up of "fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists, mostly"? By, err, getting an armoured personnel carrier and parking it outside the hall where the Conservative party is holding its spring conference. Of course, David Cameron wasn't being serious, because if we were to take him at his word, he'd have been describing George Eustace his press officer as such, as he was formerly a UKIP candidate. Cameron is also still maneuvering the party's exit from the main right-of-centre grouping in the European parliament, where he'll be joined by the likes of the frequently accused of racism Italian Northern League.

Away from closet racists and onto to the full-blown racists. The British National Party is in uproar because Sharif Abdel Gawad, a "totally assimilated Greek-Armenian" has been chosen to represent it in a Bradford ward. This has angered the less reconstructed members of the party, who are disgusted that an "ethnic" (the new word which stops the party from being completely and openly racist, instead hiding its agenda behind a veneer of respectability.) has been chosen for what they think should be a pure-white party.

The BNP really only has one purpose; a protest vote for those who think doing so will get attention. Its councillors which have got elected in the past have been useless, either not bothering to turn up to meetings or being completely incompetent. Unfortunately, as the political parties start to meld together as the Tories and Labour are doing, more and more are likely to turn to the extreme-right, especially when fed lies and propaganda in the election literature which drops through their door. All three main parties are claiming that the councils they run on the whole have the lowest council tax. All are campaigning on crime, and their policies are mostly indistinguishable from their national ones. The BNP instead usually focuses on what is actually happening locally, such as how it exploited the "grooming" of young girls in Keighley, wrongly blaming the local Asian population. Sad and depressing as it is, it seems they could conceivably receive more than the 190,000 votes they apparently picked up in last year's general election. Unless the "mainstream" parties realise the threat of such unmasked racism, the situation for the minorities in this country, picked on by both the popular press and those who think they are being ignored, is likely to get worse.

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Front page-watch: Dirty tabloids.

Following up yesterday's dream front page, the Mail claims that the comments of Chris Keates were a slur on Judge Feinstein. Here they are again:

"The judge had every right to question whether there were other ways of dealing with the incident. He was wrong to do so in a manner which trivialised racist taunts and abuse.

"Judges have a responsibility to consider the potential impact of their comments. Relegating an incident of what appears to have been repeated abuse to the level of a playground spat is unacceptable.

"The timing of his remarks is particularly unfortunate. The local elections are imminent. Candidates from the extreme right are being fielded in many cities. Comments, which dismiss racial abuse as 'political correctness gone mad' simply feed the pernicious agenda of extremists."

I can't find a slur in there. Chris Keates didn't link the judge to the extreme right. As is plain, all he/she did was say that dismissing repeated racial abuse, which is what the judge did by comparing it to how he was called fat at school is unfortunate, considering the BNP is making a major push at the upcoming local elections, which are a month away. Still, it makes for an excellently outraged front page, and pushes all the average Daily Mail reader's buttons. A judge being attacked for attacking political correctness? Outrage! It also makes a change from the likes of the Mail attacking judges for giving out lenient sentences, or proposing to not send all first time burglars to jail, to actually be supporting one. Can we expect the Daily Mail to be the new friend of the judiciary? (Answer: no.)
On to today's soaraway Sun, which splashes on the allegation that Prince Harry (you know, the one who dressed up as a Nazi stormtrooper, had an encounter with cannabis and who hit a photographer) visited a lap-dancing club. As well as bringing to mind the film character played by Clint Eastwood, the Sun also seems to be inferring that visiting a strip bar isn't that wholesome an activity. Could this be the same Sun newspaper which has two page 3 girls who are supposedly lesbian lovers, who described in intimate detail their first hot 'n' steamy sex session? Could this now moralistic newspaper be the same one which every day has a gorgeous pouting topless young lady on its third page? Could this newspaper be a doppelganger for the one which on the 17th of March ran two reports, one about police allegedly letting a paedophile live 300 yards from a school, the other about a male school teacher who admitted sexual activity with a girl under 16, under the headline "Groping Sir Jailed", while on its third page the newspaper had two lovelies wearing just school ties, gymslips and suspenders, promoting the giveaway of a St. Trinians DVD? Yes, the Sun sure is a adequate judge on what's dirty and what isn't.

Finally then to the Diana Express, which leads on everyone's favourite six-foot-under princess for the 4th time this week. Unfortunately from Obsolete's point of view, and probably fortunately from everyone else's, no horses died today during the running of the Grand National, otherwise the Express would have been flogging more than one dead nag on its front page.

Update: According to the Independent on Sunday, Tyneandthyneagain did die yesterday after unseating its rider at the 11th fence. Bit late for the joke, sadly.

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Friday, April 07, 2006 

Mail-watch: Politicial racism gone mad!

You can almost picture Paul Dacre's heart soaring as he saw this story go across his desk. Political correctness? Check! Judge speaking out? Check! Getting the opportunity to print the insults they'd like to use when discussing asylum seekers? Check! It is nice however to see that the Mail isn't freaking out about bird flu, although that might well happen tomorrow.

As you might have guessed, the headline doesn't really tell the full story. The boy who is being prosecuted is accused of abusing the boy in the school playground between 1st of July and the 30th of January this year. In other words, it seems that the boy's victim was being bullied, and over quite a lengthy period. This doesn't seem to have been a one-off exchanging of insults. (Although one of the posters on Comment is Free suggests the two kids are now best of friends.)

Then we have the judge, who rather curiously seems to consider that being called fat and being called racially offensive names is comparable. You can lose weight, but you can't change the colour of your skin. I agree with him that the CPS should reconsider the prosecution, but his attitude towards the case seems to suggest that he doesn't consider schoolyard racism a problem. He is also right in that the child doesn't seem to understand the words he was using; you can't exactly be both a "paki" and a "nigger". It seems difficult to believe that the school could not have dealt with this in-house. Referring schoolyard problems to the police really should be the absolute last resort, if anything it shows that the school can't seem to impose discipline itself.

Nonetheless, as Chris Keates of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers says:

"The judge had every right to question whether there were other ways of dealing with the incident. He was wrong to do so in a manner which trivialised racist taunts and abuse.

"Judges have a responsibility to consider the potential impact of their comments. Relegating an incident of what appears to have been repeated abuse to the level of a playground spat is unacceptable.

"The timing of his remarks is particularly unfortunate. The local elections are imminent. Candidates from the extreme right are being fielded in many cities. Comments, which dismiss racial abuse as 'political correctness gone mad' simply feed the pernicious agenda of extremists."

And of course, the attitude of both the Daily Mail in printing it on their front page, and the Daily Express, not being able to make-up a Diana story, today splashing on "migrant skivers" does absolutely nothing to help matters. Then there's the child who was the victim of all this: having what most likely caused major hurt belittled by the judge and the mid-market tabloids is not going to help his self-esteem. Still, it probably helps sell papers, and after all, that's what matters.

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Guardian only newspaper to publish Mahmood's photo; Galloway blogs again.

Seems like the Guardian was the only paper that had the guts to print Mahmood's photo (Yes, I know that photo is awful quality.). I flicked through all the rest (all right, I didn't bother with the Sexpress or Financial Times) and only the Times appeared to even mention the case, and they seemed to have printed the day before's article again by mistake. I might have missed it though, so feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.

George himself has now blogged on the subject, and as per usual is followed around by those who criticise him whatever he does, whether he's just helped strike a blow against the most arrogant newspaper in this country or not.

Oh, and I can't resist mirroring this from Recess Monkey:

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Thursday, April 06, 2006 

Victory for press freedom, bloggers and George Galloway: News International doesn't appeal against Mr Justice Mitting's verdict.

Click above for larger version, or:
Victory PDF.

There is very little like the sweet taste of victory, especially when faced by the behemoth that is News International. Today News International told its lawyers not to contest yesterday's decision by Mr Justice Mitting to allow the distribution of the photographs of Mr Mahmood, one of which is from a passport, and the other which shows him in flowing robes, both of which can now be seen above.

The last thing that I expected when I wrote last week's post on Galloway's encounter with the fake sheikh was that I would be sent an injunction by Farrer & Co, who represent the royal family as well as Mr Mahmood. I discovered the photograph of Mahmood on an Albanian news website which has a address. Both of the pages with photographs of Mahmood have now been removed. Late on Tuesday night I checked my email and discovered the injunction, which can be seen a couple of posts down. I immediately removed Mahmood's photograph, even though this site is located in the United States and likely out of the reach of UK law. The last thing that a poor blogger such as myself needs is a lawsuit hanging over his head.

I then contacted George Galloway's website, and the Respect coalition, looking for support. I spoke to a woman who works on Galloway's website, who informed me that one of the photographs Galloway was distributing, the one from the passport, was taken by her from Obsolete and handed to George. Whether this is true or not I am unsure of, as other blogs had also published the same photograph of Mahmood. Either way, this came as a surprise.

The real heroes here were those bloggers who defied the injunction and published the photographs of Mahmood yesterday. Those who seek to intimidate are facing increasing problems in the age of new media. There are many out there who will not be cowed by big law firms, or the likes of News International. They deserve our support more than anyone or anything else. Bloggerheads, Lenin's Tomb, Guido, Curious Hamster and many others, including those who edited the Mahmood entry at Wikipedia, and who signed the pledge at PledgeBank should be very proud of themselves, and I really mean that. Guido has a full list here.

I will not be claiming expenses from Farrer & Co, which Guido seems to think those who received the injunction may be entitled to, as I think the actions of Farrer and their clients have resulted in more publicity for this blog than I could ever have imagined. I will end this post with the letter I just sent to Farrer & Co. Once again, thank you to everybody who defied the order, supported me and the freedom of the press, while News International claimed that Mahmood's life was in danger.

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for the confirmation that the injunction has ended. I hope that this is the end of the matter.

If I may, I would just like to highlight how badly the actions of yourselves and your client have backfired. My website had been averaging around 60 unique hits per day. Yesterday, following the injunction against myself and other bloggers, as well George Galloway, the site received 841 unique hits, which does not account for those who returned during the day as the case against George Galloway progressed. My website was also today mentioned in the Guardian report of the hearing.

While I, fearing legal action from yourselves removed the photograph of your client from my site, other bloggers defied the intimidation of the News of the World and Mahzer Mahmood and published his photograph in reaction to News International's attack on the freedom of the press. As a result of your actions and the attitude of your client, his photograph is now even more in the public domain than it would have been had you realised the likely consequences of your actions.

My reasons for publishing the photograph of your client in the first place are thus. This was not about supporting George Galloway; this was about exposing the hypocrisy of a man who craves privacy but who has denied it to the victims of his exposes. Allegations made by such mainstream journalists as Roy Greenslade, that your client was involved in the entrapment of the gang who were set-up to be apparently trying to kidnap Victoria Beckham, suggests that he and his newspaper have ruined the lives of men and women who have done very little to absolutely nothing wrong, let alone anything illegal. For your client then to attack the freedom of websites such as mine to publish his photograph, which was already easily available on the internet, is an outrageous attempt to intimidate critics into silence.

Even more alarming is that your client was seemingly attempting to corrupt politicians, in a supposed expose on the party funding scandal which is currently engulfing both the Labour and Conservative parties. When he is exposed as doing so, he resorts to the law to protect photographs of himself, which themselves are old, from being published by the mainstream media. His attitude to press freedom is one which is typical of the rich and powerful; he will use it against the greedy and corrupt when it means that his newspaper will sell more copies, yet when he feels threatened by it he resorts to the likes of yourselves to intimidate his critics. I'm sure that you can appreciate the hypocrisy of his position. That he also seemed to be targeting politicians who opposed the Iraq war, which News International newspapers were vehemently in favour of, seems to show that your clients were out to smear all opponents of that conflict at best as hypocritical, and at worse corrupt.

I will be watching the News of the World this weekend very carefully for any reaction to this week's events, as I'm sure other bloggers and George Galloway will be as well. Any attempt by your clients to slur, smear or perform hatchet jobs on those who you tried to gag will I'm sure be met by bitter resistance.

As the injunction has now expired, I will be publishing the photographs of your client on to my website again shortly. If you have any objections to this, I suggest that you contact me immediately.

Obsolete writer.

Edit: I'm still spelling injunction wrong. Someone kick me up the ass.

Update: Lenin has written a fantastic breakdown of the ruling, showing just how utterly the News of the Screws case was destroyed.

Update 2: Stephen Brook, who wrote the articles about the court decision for Media Guardian, is incredibly angry about the arguments which the Screws used in its attempt to stop Galloway and bloggers from using the photographs of Mahmood. It seems like this whole misjudged attack on the freedom of the press by the newspaper which infringes the privacy of others the most is going to come back to haunt it. Finally, the Screws is getting its just desserts.

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006 

News of the Screws loses, but appeals: Injunction extended 24 hours. UPDATE: Farrer sends confirmation.

UPDATE: Farrer & Co have sent over their confirmation of the verdict, that until 4pm tomorrow the injunction stands:

Click for bigger version or:
PDF version of the above letter.

In their application for a new injunction, lawyers acting for the News of the World argued that publishing the two images, one a passport photograph and the other showing the reporter in Arab robes, threatened Mahmood's safety, his ability to continue his undercover investigations, breached copyright and was unfair and unlawful under the data protection act.

However, Mr Justice Mitting declined to grant a new injunction. "It's more likely than not that this claim in a full trial would fail. Accordingly I am obliged to refuse the injunction sought," he said.

But while Mr Justice Mitting ruled against the paper, he allowed a fresh injunction while it appealed his decision. The appeal is due to be heard tomorrow.

Whose breach of copyright? Does Mahmood own the copyright to a photograph of his passport? The photo of Mahmood in flowing robes was apparently taken by a victim of one of his stings, so I find it doubtful that person would have any problem with his photograph being published. The judge also sees right through the Screws' spurious claims that the photos threaten Mahmood's safety:

The News of the World barrister Richard Spearman QC said Mahmood had received many threats from the subjects of his investigations and that his safety would be in danger if the photographs were published.

"I disagree," Mr Justice Mitting said. "For the photographs of Mr Mahmood to be of any use to such people they would have to have a whole package of further information about his whereabouts and his habits.

Mr Justice Mitting added that the true purpose of the application was not so much to protect Mahmood "but the protection of his earnings capability and publication of his investigative journalism and his utility to his employers in that respect".

The high court judge said it was "debatable" that the reporter acted in the public interest because he was not an officer of the state, such as a police detective.

He rejected the claim that the passport photograph had been taken for a private and domestic purpose, as Mr Spearman had argued.

The claims that Mahmood is subject to death threats seems to date back to 2002, according to this BBC news article:

In 2002 he was said to have received a death threat in which a £100,000 contract was put on his life.

The injunction itself is also vague, which has caused confusion and bemusement in newspaper newsrooms:
The injunction issued on behalf of the newspaper by law firm Farrer & Co - taken out to stop MP George Galloway from publishing Mahmood's picture - includes the line: "Nothing in the order shall of itself prevent any person publishing any photograph or image lawfully in the public domain."

This wording is unusual in its inclusion of the word "lawfully", which is not normally used in injunction instructions.

It is unclear whether "lawfully" is a reference to the newspaper believing that pictures sent yesterday by Mr Galloway to MPs, members of the House of the Lords and the royal family, are unlawful.

And if "lawful" pictures of Mahmood can be published, then what makes them "lawful"?

Mahmood's picture is freely available on the internet and has already been published in the national press - in April 2001 the Observer caused a stir by publishing a shot of the journalist alongside a report about his exposé of Sophie Wessex's indiscretions.

However, since Farrer & Co issued its injunction last night, some websites have been removing Mahmood's picture.

It can be argued that the photograph that Obsolete and others published was definitely in the public domain, seeing as it was freely available on the internet. Whether it was "lawfully" in the public domain is another matter.

The only reason I have removed the photograph of Mahmood is because I prefer to be safe rather than sorry, whether this site is hosted in the United States or not. The last thing I want is any possible legal action. Thankfully, and to their credit, many other bloggers have taken it upon themselves to publish the photos of Mahmood, as detailed below and in the comment on the previous post. Curious Hamster over at a Big Stick and a Small Carrot has also posted the photograph. It's one thing to try and gag George Galloway, but take on the bloggers over something as slight as this, especially when it involves the hypocrisy of a "investigative" journalist who craves privacy but who denies it to his victims, and you've got a battle on your hands. This is something that the law firms and their litigious clients are going to have to learn in the new media climate.

Update: The monkeys over at Wikipedia have been at the Mahmood entry. It doesn't mention this blog, but hey, I think the injunction has promoted it enough.

Note to self: It's spelled
injunction, you idiot.

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Lenin's Tomb publishes photos of Mahzer Mahmood.

They have more balls than I do, and good on them. According to the comments, the Morning Star also published his photo, which is even more worthy of praise.

Update: Fake Sheikh homepage seems to have been yanked. Try here instead.

Let's see what 4pm brings.

Update 2: From Media Grauniad:
3.45pm: The News of the World's injunction preventing publication of pictures of fake sheikh Mazher Mahmood has been extended by one hour until 5pm while a high court hearing continues ...

Update 3: Recess Monkey was also gagged by the injunction. Bloggerheads and Guido have now published Mahmood's picture.

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Obsolete ordered to remove photo of Mahzer Mahmood by court injunction, courtesy of Farrer & Co.

The letter from Mahzer Mahmood's lawyers. Click for larger version.

Well, it had to happen sometime. Obsolete has received its first threat of legal action. Obsolete has been ordered to remove the photograph which I published along with the post about George Galloway's encounter with the fake sheikh. For the moment I have complied with their request, while seeking advice from the internet host company, as this blog is hosted in the United States, not the United Kingdom. Above you can see the letter which was emailed to me by Mazher Mahmood's lawyers, Farrer & Co. Below is a transcript of the court order.



B E T W E E N :





UPON hearing Counsel for the Applicant without notice to the Respondents

AND UPON the Applicant by his Counsel giving the undertakings set out in Schedule 1 at the end of this Order


An injunction is hereby granted restraining until after 4pm on 5 April 2006 or further order in the meantime the Respondents and any person with notice of this order (whether by themselves or by their servants or agents or otherwise however or in the case of a company whether by its directors or officers or servants or agents or otherwise howsoever) from publishing or disclosing to any other person or allowing or causing to be published in any newspaper or to be broadcast in any sound or television broadcast or by means of any cable or satellite programme service or public computer network any photograph of the Applicant

PROVIDED THAT nothing in this Order shall of itself prevent any person publishing any photograph or image lawfully in the public domain

2. Paragraph 1 above shall apply subject to the following PROVISO in relation to any internet service provider (“ISP”), its employees and agents:

(a) an ISP shall not be in breach of this injunction unless it, or any of its employees or agents:

(i) knew that the material had been placed on its servers or could be accessed via its service; or

(ii) knew that the material was to be placed on its servers, or was likely to be placed on its servers or was likely to be accessed by its service; and in either case

(iii) failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the publication;

(b) an employee or agent of an ISP shall not be in breach of the injunction unless he or it:

(i) knew that the material had been placed on its servers or could be accessed via its service; or

(ii) knew that the material was to be placed on its servers, or was likely to be placed on its servers or was likely to be accessed via its service; and in either case

(iii) failed to take all reasonable steps to prevent the publication and to induce the ISP to prevent the publication;

(c) as ISP, employee or agent shall be considered to know anything which he or it would have known if he or it had taken reasonable steps to find out;

(d) “taking all reasonable steps to prevent the publication” includes the taking of all reasonable steps to remove the material from the ISP’s servers or to block access to the material.

3. The proviso to paragraph 1 of this order shall not apply so as to permit the publication of material falling within paragraph 1 of this order merely on the ground that such material has at any time been published on the internet and/or outside England and Wales.

4. Copies of this order endorsed with a penal notice be served by the Applicant’s solicitors on:

(a) such newspapers and sound or television broadcasting or cable or satellite programme services and public computer networks as they may think fit, in the case of a public computer network, by e-mail and in each other case by facsimile transmission or pre-paid first class post addressed to the Editor in the case of a newspaper or the Senior News Editor in the case of a broadcasting or cable or satellite programme service, or person responsible for any public computer network in the case of that network; and

(b) on such other persons as the Applicant’s solicitors may think fit in each case in the first instance by the means mentioned in paragraph 4(a) above and as soon as practicable thereafter by personal service.

5. Any person affected by the injunction set out at paragraph 1 above is at liberty to apply upon notice in writing to the Applicant’s solicitors.

6. Time for service of application shortened to 2 hours.

7. The costs of and occasioned by this application are reserved.

Dated the 4th day of April 2006.



(1) If the court later finds that this order has caused loss to the Respondents, and decides that the Respondents should be compensated for that loss, the Applicant will comply with any order the court may make

(2) As soon as practicable the Applicant will issue and serve a claim form claiming appropriate relief

(3) The Applicant will cause a witness statement to be made confirming the substance of what was said to the court by the Applicant’s Counsel

(4) The Applicant will serve upon the Respondents as soon as practicable (i) this Order (ii) copies of the above witness statement and any other documents provided to the court on the making of this order (iii) the claim form and (iv) an application notice for the continuation of this Order returnable at 2pm on 5 April 2006

(5) Anyone notified of this Order will be given a copy of it by the Applicant’s legal representatives

(6) If this Order ceases to have effect the Applicant will immediately take all reasonable steps to inform in writing anyone to whom he has given notice of this Order, or who he has reasonable grounds for supposing may act upon this Order, that it has ceased to have effect


The Applicant’s legal representatives are:

Farrer & Co, 66, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LH

Tel No 020-7242-2022
Fax No 020-7242-9899

Out of office hours contact numbers: 07803601353 (JNC)

I'm no legal expert, but this order seems only to concern Mahmood. It appears that Mahmood has taken out an injunction against Galloway to stop him from publishing Mahmood's photo, and against any internet sites that currently have been hosting photographs of Mahmood. I found Mahmood's photo on an Albanian news site, of all places, after being directed there by a post on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog. No doubt they have received a similar order. 3 other addresses have also been cc'ed the email I received from Farrer & Co. The injuction lasts until 4pm tomorrow afternoon, it should be interesting to see whether it gets extended.

How very strange and hypocritical of a man who has been "exposing" others that he turns to the law when others put photographs of him into the public domain. Do you have something to hide, Mr Mahmood? We should be told.

Links to the actual documents I received:
Court Order (The actual document was in .doc format, a friend converted it to pdf. (Thanks.))
Letter from Farrer & Co.

Here's the story from the Respect coalition website:
Rupert Murdoch’s News International tonight obtained a 24-hour injunction against George Galloway MP, Ron McKay and those acting on their behalf against the publication of photographs of News of the World employee Mazher Mahmood, the “fake sheikh”.

The picture had already been circulated to Members of Parliament and the House of Lords, to the Queen’s private secretary and to others in public life who may be in targeted by Mahmood’s unscrupulous, agent provocateur methods. Ironically, the solicitors acting for News International, Farrer & Co, also act for the Queen.

The restraining order expires at 4pm tomorrow and George Galloway plans vigorously to contest the ban. “This is exactly what we expected. And now we see just how hypocritical and slight News International’s professed commitment to press freedom is,” said George Galloway.

“Since I broke the news of my encounter with the fake sheikh other interested parties have come forward providing voluminous further evidence of thoroughly unscrupulous methods.

“The judges in the trial arising from the Victoria Beckham kidnap that never was, and in the trial of London’s Burning star John Alford, have already raised serious concerns about his activities. And others are in prison awaiting trial. Any good he might once claim to have achieved has now been massively outweighed by the damage he is doing.

"The evidence already coming my way reinforces my determination to see that Mahmood is brought to book. If News International were truly concerned with the integrity of the press it would be retiring Mahmood this evening instead of trying to prevent others from being forewarned of his activities.

“This is the beginning of a battle that may turn out to be long-running, but it is one I intend to win.”

And here's another article from Media Guardian:
The News of the World obtained a high court injunction yesterday to stop George Galloway publishing pictures of its most celebrated journalist, Mazher Mahmood, the investigative reporter more commonly known as the "fake sheikh".

The MP for Bethnal Green and Bow claimed Mahmood tried to make him the target of a sting late last month by attempting to get him to make anti-semitic remarks and implicate him in illegal party financing at a London hotel.

He has branded Mahmood - whose previous victims include the Countess of Wessex and the England manager, Sven-Goran Eriksson - "an agent provocateur and a disgrace to journalism".

Mr Galloway had made good on his threat to out Mahmood earlier yesterday, when he sent two pictures of the reporter to all MPs and the royal family, as well as posting the pictures on the Respect party website.

The images were later removed from the site.

"The secret's out, I hope your editors will publish his picture," Mr Galloway told reporters gathered at a news conference yesterday.

The News of the World, which has gone to great efforts to make sure that the identity of its star reporter remains a mystery, had asked newspapers not to publish images of Mahmood, who works undercover and is said by the paper to be responsible for the conviction of more than 130 criminals. It had also claimed that Mahmood and his family are the subject of death threats regarded as "serious and credible" by police.

Yesterday afternoon, the paper's parent company, News International, successfully applied to Mr Justice Mitting for a 24-hour high court injunction prohibiting publication of the pictures.

Mr Galloway said last night that he intended to challenge the order as soon as it expires at 4pm today.

"This is exactly what we expected. And now we see just how hypocritical and slight News International's professed commitment to press freedom is," Mr Galloway said.

"Since I broke the news of my encounter with the fake sheikh other interested parties have come forward providing voluminous further evidence of thoroughly unscrupulous methods ... The evidence already coming my way reinforces my determination to see that Mahmood is brought to book.

"If News International were truly concerned with the integrity of the press it would be retiring Mahmood this evening instead of trying to prevent others from being forewarned of his activities."

The News of the World defended Mahmood's meeting with Mr Galloway, arguing that it was part of "wholly legitimate inquiries" into the activities of a number of individuals in relation to the loans-for-honours and party funding scandal.

Earlier this year, Mr Galloway was the victim of a sting by the News of the World's sister paper, the Sun, when an undercover reporter sent him flowers on Valentine's Day and visited his office.

Mahmood and his family must obviously not feel safe enough, protected only by a cousin with a mouth of gold teeth. To ensure his safety he has to resort to injunctions. Bless.

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006 

Backing Blair: Unless Tony goes, don't vote Labour.

Backing Blair has been updated for the upcoming local elections, and has a rather laudable aim. Seeing as Blair is so reluctant to go, he has to be thrown out.

The problem with this is that even if Blair does go, I don't think I could vote Labour, for all the reasons they have listed on that page, and some more. Blair promised to listen. He said he realised that the public wanted his party returned with a lower majority. He hasn't listened, and he's acted as if he still does have a three-figure majority, which is why he has lost two votes in parliament since his re-election. Combined with the arrogance of front-bench ministers and the attacks on civil liberties, voting for a Labour councillor, however far removed from Blair and his cronies, seems unthinkable. As a result, I have no idea who I'll vote for. Along with many others, I feel completely disenfranchised.

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John Reid: International law and rules of war are out of date.

The last time "Dr" John "Oh fuck, not health" Reid opened his mouth in a major speech, he suggested that if Lord Haw Haw were alive, he'd have a weekly column in the newspapers. This time he's implied that because of the changed circumstances of the apparent threat we now face from barbaric terrorists, the Geneva conventions are out of date:

"That is why I pose three questions about the international legal framework. Put simply, in today's changed circumstances are we convinced that it adequately covers:

* the contemporary threat from international terrorists?
* The circumstances in which states may need to take action in order to avert imminent attack?
* Those situations where the international community needs to intervene on grounds of overwhelming humanitarian necessity in order to stop internal suppression - mass murder and genocide – as opposed to external aggression?

Afghanistan is a good example. There were clear legal grounds for the international community – led by the US – taking action against Afghanistan after 9/11. Al Qaeda had proved both the intent and the capability to kill thousands of innocent men women and children. The threat of them doing so again was clearly imminent for all to see.

But what if another threat develops? Not Al Qaeda. Not muslim extremism. Something none of us are thinking about at the moment. The proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction has coincided with the growth of those prepared to use them. We know that terrorist groups continue to try and acquire such weapons and that they have described their willingness to use them. We also know that they continue to seek opportunities to launch attacks on a similar or greater scale as 9/11. Hopefully, we would learn of any such threat before any atrocities had been committed. I believe we would have strong legal grounds to take action to protect ourselves against attack. I also suspect that others would disagree. A debate would centre around "imminence". The very significant consequences of action or inaction in these circumstances should give us all pause for thought.

So, uh, what is that this threat that none of us are thinking about at the moment? Apparently it isn't al-Qaida or muslim extremism, so could it possibly be that a suggestion that Iran or North Korea may give weapons of mass destruction to terrorists? In an incredibly glib statement, Reid tells us that terrorists try to acquire these weapons and have described their willingness to use them. No doubt true, but the only terrorist group that has ever obtained what could be described as a chemical or biological weapon was Aum Shinrikyo, which released sarin gas on the Tokyo subway, killing 12 and injuring over 6000. In other words, Reid is making a number of assumptions about things that might happen, not that are going to happen. Hopefully we would also learn about such threats before they happened, which is a nice piece of optimism.

Reid's main point though is that of pre-emption, which he apparently feels should be made more lawful than it is at the moment. This has been the cornerstone of US foreign policy since 2002, and of which Iraq was the first victim. Both the US and UK have been somewhat angered by Kofi Annan declaring that the war was illegal, and ever since have been trying to get everyone to see their point of view. The trouble is that international law applies to everyone, as Simon Tisdall points out. Iran has understandably been getting rather worried about the war of words which have gone between it and the US, with Iran promising to match pain with pain, should sanctions be declared by the UN security council. As Tisdall writes:

From Iran's perspective, all this amounts to a serious military threat that may not yet be "imminent" - but could soon become so. Its spokesmen have pledged to meet pain with pain and hurt with hurt.

The assumption until now has been that Iran would passively wait and see what the Americans do. But as Mr Reid has helpfully pointed out, western countries increasingly believe they have, or should have, a legal right to pre-empt. Logically, Iran has an identical right - and may choose to exercise it.

The possibility, however remote or unlikely it may seem now, of Iran attacking before it is attacked demonstrates how dangerous the whole Bush doctrine of pre-emption really is; and how problematic, too, are attempts to change international law to suit contemporary circumstances.

In reality, any such attack by Iran would be suicide. Even if it did have nuclear weapons, which even the CIA has admitted could take it five years to acquire, any attack, such as one on Israel would result in both the US and Israel turning Teheran, if not the entire country into a sheet of glass. Yet under Reid's apparent thought process, any such move by Iran would possibly be legal. The whole reason for Iran's continuing dash for nuclear weapons has been because of the differences in US policy towards North Korea and Iraq. North Korea, apparently having nuclear weapons, has not been invaded. Iraq, accused of having weapons of mass destruction but actually having none, was invaded. To Teheran, the development of a nuclear weapon therefore makes sense, especially when faced with the US army sitting on two of its borders, and with a nuclear Israel, Pakistan and India within close vicinity. It all comes down to the old mutually assured destruction thesis; no one is going to launch the first weapon, because it will lead to everyone dying, and no one has been crazy enough to want that to happen yet.

Reid's motives are of course that the west is always right and has pure reasons for wanting to be protected under law for launching pre-emptive strikes; the last thing anyone wants is another September the 11th. Yet the laws which were drawn up following the second world war were as a result of the Holocaust, the deaths of six million, the dropping of atomic weapons on Japan and the bombing of cities in both Germany and Britain. Reid apparently wants these laws to be changed because of the deaths of a tiny number compared to those who perished under the Nazi war of aggression, and because the barbaric terrorists are apparently even more evil than the Nazis which so many politicians are eager to compare them to. It is reminiscent of how the US squealed when in the first stages of the Iraq war pictures of captured soldiers were broadcast, while the United States was carrying out its shock and awe on the population of Baghdad. Let's be clear: a death is a death, yet politicians seem to want to sweep away the humanitarian advances and rules we have tried to impose on war because a rag-tag band of men want to harm us. Is this not a callous overreaction to the actual threat that we face?

Reid drops the biggest clanger in the speech here though:

However, he said, it was not "sufficient just to say [Guantánamo] is wrong".

Apparently Reid feels that saying that a prison camp where men are held without charge, without access to lawyers and where so many have been so desperate to end their suffering that have gone on hunger strike, only for the military to force-feed them, is wrong is not sufficient. This is even when Blair says that Guantanamo is an anomaly, and when Peter Hain said that it should be closed. The United States doesn't even have the decency to return the poetry of one of the held men who was eventually released due to his innocence, yet we cannot just call the prison camp of Guantanamo wrong.

Reid is right to start a debate. More discussion is needed, especially over intervention when it comes to stopping genocide. But we must not just abandon our gradually built up values just because we face a new threat. That would not just lower our own moral values, but also do the most to show our own hypocrisy at a time when we need to win hearts and minds.

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Sun, Mail and Mirror-watch: "This insult to our girl's life."

I was going to let this pass by, as the case does seem tragic, even in the face of hyperbolic tabloid outrage. Then I read the Guardian report, and discovered how the mother has mysteriously seemed to change her opinion of the man behind the wheel:
At the January hearing, Ms Craen's mother Susan, 47, had said the only appropriate punishment for Singh would be to force him to attend her daughter's funeral.

"It doesn't make any difference to me if he gets three years or life," she said at the time. "He took away my daughter and time spent in prison can never bring her back.

"If he had come to the funeral and stood near all her family and her friends and witnessed the grief we all felt, he might have realised the pain he's caused."

Mrs Craen spoke out against the sentence after yesterday's hearing.

"Abigail was murdered on October 30 last year," she said. "The man who killed her left her dying on the edge of the road. He did not brake or stop and did not come forward for eight days.

"Abigail was a wonderful, talented and beautiful girl whose life was full of laughter. The sentence is an insult to her. She is dead and the man who killed her has a small interruption in his life. This is no deterrent or punishment."

Normally I'd be inclined to agree with her latter statement. The man was clearly callous, had no insurance, was speeding and didn't stop. Yet he did come forward, admitted his full guilt, and in court he apparently repeatedly wept. This was why the judge was lenient. He has to live the rest of his life knowing that he extinguished the hope of a young woman who wanted to give back to the community. Because he has served 5 months on remand, taking into account that he may serve the rest of half of the sentence before being released on probation, most likely tagged, the Sun distorts the sentence into 9 months. Their article, followed by comments, of which every single one demands a tougher sentence and at least one that says taxes should rise in order to build prisons, doesn't mention her previous comments. Singh is referred to throughout as a maniac, and is quoted as calling himself a "selfish bastard", but that doesn't broke any sympathy for him with the Sun. Their leader column doesn't mince its words:

JASWINDER Singh is a killer.

He took 20-year-old Abi Craen’s life as recklessly as if he had attacked her with a deadly weapon.

He raced his car over an intersection, ignoring a red light — and kept driving without a thought for the young medical student he had left dying in the road.

Then the coward hid his damaged car in a friend’s garage to escape justice.

This cannot be brushed aside as the sort of accident that could happen to anyone.

Singh had just been handed back his licence after a drink-drive ban.

He was only shamed into confessing after pictures of the poor girl’s shattered body were published by her grieving parents.

Singh should have been banged up for manslaughter. At the very least, he should have got the maximum 14 years for dangerous driving.

Instead, he will shortly be free after being sentenced to a ludicrous 18 months.

That is a grotesque insult to Abi, her distraught family — and to British justice.

He took her life as recklessly as if he had attacked with a deadly weapon? Is the Sun really this stupid, or is it trying to make its readers believe that Singh's actions were somehow pre-meditated? What an exaggerated thing to say. I agree his sentence should have been harsher, but 14 years would be stupidly long for someone who has shown remorse, and is clearly traumatised by his actions, selfishness and cowardice.

I have a theory to why Ms Craen's mother seemingly changed her mind about caring about the sentence that Singh got for killing her daughter. Could it possibly be that certain tabloid newspapers may now well pay to get her story and interview as an exclusive? No, that would be cynical, and to suggest that the girl's mother is looking to profit from the death of her daughter would be an outrageous slur. Much like calling Singh a murderer and implying that his actions amount to pre-meditated killing.

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Monday, April 03, 2006 

Thank you.

As this site goes towards its 6,000 unique hit (according to that clustrmap over there) and close to its 400th posting, I'd just like to thank everyone that comes here, especially those that return every day and link here from their own sites. I didn't know when I started writing this blog whether anyone would read it or whether I'd lose interest. Apparently people do, and I apparently haven't. This was started to help take my mind off other things, and it has helped to a certain extent.

To those of you who've commented, who've helped me improve my writing, and even just to those of you who might read the odd post off a search from google, thank you.

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The Blair and Brown rift: reaching crisis point, or bubbling under?

Nearly all of the newspapers at the weekend were reporting that the relationship not just between the prime minister and the chancellor but also between their relative supporters had reached a new low. The Guardian reported one person's belief that the Blairites believed Brown had removed the £200 discount on council tax for pensioners purely to damage the prime minister in the run-up to next month's elections, by some bizarre logic that if Labour performed poorly he'd be more likely to throw in the towel. Another report suggested that Alan Milburn, an arch-Blairite, was getting ready to challenge Brown in a leadership election once Blair finally does go, while the News of the World carried a poll showing that 42% of voters want Blair to go now, with only 2% wanting him to stay until after the next election. To ward off this apparent speculation, Blair and Brown now will apparently launch the local election campaign together on Wednesday, after a report in yesterday's Observer alleged that Brown had been banished from the event.

Is all this speculation for real, and does it really matter? Michael White, ex-Guardian political editor says no, while Derek Draper, who has worked at the centre of "New" Labour says yes. White's case, and that of some of the commenters seems to be that it's all spin designed to sell newspapers and take minds off the loans and NHS problems. Perhaps so. Draper's case is more compelling though, and seems closer to the truth. According to him, Blair and Brown genuinely loathe each other, and so do their supporters. This has been coming slowly but surely to the boil since the original Granita deal, apparently reneged by Blair.

Rather than get involved in all the rivalry and bitterness, it would be wiser to take a step back. While Blair has been the one at the helm, the one who has been unrelenting in the so-called reform agenda, who has turned to the Tories for their support for his education bill and who has led the country into the disastrous war in Iraq, Brown has been the one who has kept the economy afloat. Yet Brown has never played his hand, or if he has, he hasn't played it strong enough. We don't know whether he objected to the Iraq war, whether he was against tuition fees or foundation hospitals, business academies or the unrelenting crushing of civil liberties. What we do know is that he done very little to stop any of it from happening, perhaps with the exception of foundation hospitals which he is said to have opposed and managed to water-down. We can blame Blair all we like for what we object to, but he couldn't have done it without either the support of Brown or without Brown letting him get away with it. Brown's apparent agenda was to be for Lords and constitutional reform, and more spending on education, but Blair's reluctance to let go of power means that he has in effect stolen it. Blair was the one who had the final say over the loans, and who nominated the donors for peerages, apparently without Brown's knowledge. Yet Brown still says nothing in public. Instead his supporters brief against Blair's, doing nothing but showing the public that Labour is facing a schism.

The debate should about where Labour is going, what its policies should be, and how it's going to sell them to an ever more dubious public and an increasingly critical media. Instead Labour is re-running the Granita deal over and over. Take a look at the ministers in the cabinet who are either full-blown Blairites or Blair supporters. There's Tessa Jowell, Charles Clarke, John Reid, Patricia Hewitt, Alistair Darling, Hazel Blears, John Hutton, Geoff Hoon, all to name but a few. Some of them are so loyal that they'd seemingly throw themselves under a bus to save Tony. All of them also hold the honour of being either unpopular or making many loyal Labour supporters' teeth go on edge whenever they open their mouths. Gordon Brown apparently would either sack a good number or they would resign before he could do so, should he ever finally ascend to the job of prime minister.

The point has been reached when many no longer feel they can support Labour in any shape or form, such has the anger become against not just the policies, but the manner in which they have been promoted and argued for since last year's general election. As it stands, Blair has to go. It's time that the craven sycophants surrounding him realised that. It seems doubtful whether Brown would draw that big a line under the Blair years and fight for the heart of Labour as he feels it beats. Frankly, so disillusioned and upset have many natural Labour supporters come, even a diluted and already burdened Brown should be given a chance. Blair has to give him it, and end the speculation and in-fighting once and for all.

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Diana-watch: Recycling, regurgitating, ridiculous.

Isn't this at least the second time that the Diana Express has now reported that the spooks are plotting to sabotage the inquiry into the death of the ex-princess? In fact, the whole front page is a rehash; the story about David Beckham was the lead on yesterday's Sunday Mirror, lifted almost verbatim from their pages.

Anyway, back to Diana. What is the truth over her death? Who except from Mohammad Al-Fayed and those in his pay believe that Diana's death was anything other than an avoidable accident, from which she would have survived if she'd been wearing her seatbelt?

Whenever I see that the Express is yet again reporting on a woman that died 9 years ago, I'm reminded of the film Day of the Dead (bear with me here). In that film, the head of the military men, after discovering that the scientists' plan to stop the zombies is little more than trying to domesticate them, bellows: "THEY'RE DEAD! THEY'RE FUCKING DEAD!", which indeed they are. Diana shares that trait (being dead, not a zombie, although a zombie princess with the zombie baby Al-Fayed seems to believe she was carrying would make for a good cameo in a zombie flick.) After 9 years, and with no signs that this obsession with Diana is leading to a resurgence in sales, isn't it time that Dirty Des, Mentally Hill and Al-Fayed finally realised that? After all, even the Guardian is making snide comments in its news articles, as from this one:

Other April fool stories included Radio 4's Today programme announcing that the axed UK Theme was to be replaced by Euro Theme; the Daily Mail on Tony Blair ordering the No 10 doors to be painted red; The Sun spotting a penguin by the river Thames and the Daily Express reporting that the French authorities were hiding secrets over the death of Diana.

Actually, the last one was not an April fool.

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