Saturday, December 09, 2006 

Tolerance for some, not so much for others.

Blair's attempt at stringing together a somewhat coherent speech on multiculturalism and its benefits has predictably polarised opinion. Read in full, it's nowhere near as bad as Lenin and Tom on Blairwatch are suggesting, as some parts of it show that he's at least put some thought into the subject, and even may have been informed of the manifesto of the New Generation Network.

As you may expect however, other sections of it are designed purely to be quoted by the tabloids. It's far too long to fisk entirely (although reading this post now I've finished, it seems like I have), but here are some of its more choice moments:

The ethos of this country is completely different from thirty years ago. The courts recognise racial offences in a way that was inconceivable then. We have the most comprehensive panoply of anti-discrimination legislation in the world. We have tough laws outlawing discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, religion, race, gender and disability. The Human Rights Act provides basic protection to ethnic minorities and lays down some minimum standards. It is a matter of some pride to me that it has only been Labour governments that have introduced anti-discrimination legislation.

Ah yes, the hated Human Rights Act. Like most other Labour politicians, Blair occasionally points to the greater good they've done Britain by mentioning their enshrinement of the EU Convention on Human Rights, then within days he's blaming it for all the current ills of the Home Office. As the parliamentary committee on human rights pointed out, Blair is a hypocrite of the highest order, attacking the HRA over the ruling on the Afghan hijackers and over the failure to deport foreign criminals, when the HRA was in the right in the former and not to blame over the latter.

These murders were carried out by British-born suicide bombers who had lived and been brought up in this country, who had received all its many advantages and yet who ultimately took their own lives and the lives of the wholly innocent, in the name of an ideology alien to everything this country stands for. Everything the Olympic bid symbolised was everything they hated. Their emphasis was not on shared values but separate ones, values based on a warped distortion of the faith of Islam.

Much as this is true, it's worth pointing out here and now that nowhere in the speech does Blair mention foreign policy or its obvious impact on British society since 9/11. How could he? On Thursday he had been humiliated in front of the cameras by the utter boorishness of President Bush and his complete, wholly apparent state of denial. If there's one thing Blair isn't, he certainly isn't an idiot, nor is he stupid. He can be willfully idiotic or ignorant, yet many noticed the terror in Blair's eyes at Bush's horribly misjudged answer to the question put by Nick Robinson over the situation in Iraq. Blair may have sewn himself onto Bush's coattails ever since 9/11, for reasons known perhaps only to him, but he knows that even now in his twilight he can't let the cat out of the bag. To accept that foreign policy has played a role in the radicalisation of a tiny percentage of the Muslim community would be to acknowledge that his idolatry to American power and the righteousness of military intervention has destroyed him both ideologically and intellectually.

We like our diversity. But how do we react when that "difference" leads to separation and alienation from the values that define what we hold in common? For the first time in a generation there is an unease, an anxiety, even at points a resentment that our very openness, our willingness to welcome difference, our pride in being home to many cultures, is being used against us; abused, indeed, in order to harm us.

I always thought after 7/7 our first reaction would be very British: we stick together; but that our second reaction, in time, would also be very British: we're not going to be taken for a ride.

How odd that Blair describes accurately the reaction of both the political parties and the majority of the public to the 7/7 bombings, then takes his very own political decision as the public's second reaction. In the aftermath of 7/7, Charles Clarke, then home secretary pledged to work with his opposite numbers in the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over any new legislation that was needed. Both David Davis and Mark Oaten praised this cross-party conversation, only for it be ripped apart by Blair's "the rules of the game are changing" speech, given once Clarke had gone away on holiday, which led inexorably to the government's defeat over the proposed 90 day detention for those arrested under the terrorism act.

But this is, in truth, not what I mean when I talk of integration. Integration, in this context, is not about culture or lifestyle. It is about values. It is about integrating at the point of shared, common unifying British values. It isn't about what defines us as people, but as citizens, the rights and duties that go with being a member of our society.

Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other faiths have a perfect right to their own identity and religion, to practice their faith and to conform to their culture. This is what multicultural, multi-faith Britain is about. That is what is legitimately distinctive.

But when it comes to our essential values - belief in democracy, the rule of law, tolerance, equal treatment for all, respect for this country and its shared heritage - then that is where we come together, it is what we hold in common; it is what gives us the right to call ourselves British. At that point no distinctive culture or religion supercedes our duty to be part of an integrated United Kingdom.

These aren't "our" essential values; these are the supposed essential values of "New Labour". As we've learned over the years, New Labour itself doesn't treat them as gospel either; witness Ruth Kelly trying to water down discrimination legislation for her bigoted Christian friends and the abuse of the rule of law, when it comes to holding foreign terrorist suspects without charge and over control orders. Then there's the so far only-mooted plans to outlaw flag burning and the wear of masks on demonstrations, and even potentially criminalising certain chants. This isn't to mention the banning of protests within 1km of the houses of parliament without permission; Brian Haw once again faces prison later this week for his 24 hour/365 days a year protest. Then what about organisations such as the Communist Party, which are clearly not interested in preserving democracy, and which current ministers such as John Reid used to be part of? How do they fit into our values? Are we meant to outlaw everything that doesn't completely agree with the current belief in our democratic ideal? Blair's mooted values aren't everyone else's, and imposing them from above when holding those views doesn't hurt or affect anyone is just as tyrannical as those who claim to act in the name of Islam are.

Others warned me against putting the issue in the context of 7/7, of terrorism, of our Muslim community. After all, extremism is not confined to Muslims, as we know from Northern Ireland and fringe elements in many ethnic groups.

But actually what should give us optimism in dealing with this issue, is precisely that point. It is true there are extremists in other communities. But the reason we are having this debate is not generalised extremism. It is a new and virulent form of ideology associated with a minority of our Muslim community. It is not a problem with Britons of Hindu, Afro-Caribbean, Chinese or Polish origin. Nor is it a problem with the majority of the Muslim community. Most Muslims are proud to be British and Muslim and are thoroughly decent law-abiding citizens. But it is a problem with a minority of that community, particularly originating from certain countries. The reason I say that this is grounds for optimism, is that what the above proves, is that integrating people whilst preserving their distinctive cultures, is not impossible. It is the norm. The failure of one part of one community to do so, is not a function of a flawed theory of a multicultural society. It is a function of a particular ideology that arises within one religion at this one time.

I'm sure Blair isn't trying to be patronising and condescending when he says "our Muslim community", but that's what it comes across as. Blair mentions that extremism isn't confined to Muslims, and uses the example of Northern Ireland, yet he doesn't apply the Lord Stevens test, developed after his notorious hateful sectarian rant earlier in the year in the News of the Screws. If you replace Muslim with Irish or Catholic throughout the text, does the paragraph now comes across as simplistic, ignorant and offensive? If so, then it means that you're talking bollocks, and Blair here is certainly talking bollocks. Despite trying his hardest not to blame Muslims as a whole, it's exactly what he's doing. No one else is the problem, nothing we've done has made it worse, it's entirely your fault. Blair does at least feather the nest here by making clear that he still believes in multiculturalism, yet he still continues to apportion blame as if they're the only ones who can do anything about it.

Yet, because this challenge has arisen in this way, it is necessary to go back to what a multi-cultural Britain is all about. The whole point is that multicultural Britain was never supposed to be a celebration of division; but of diversity. The purpose was to allow people to live harmoniously together, despite their difference; not to make their difference an encouragement to discord. The values that nurtured it were those of solidarity, of coming together, of peaceful co-existence. The right to be in a multicultural society was always, always implicitly balanced by a duty to integrate, to be part of Britain, to be British and Asian, British and black, British and white.

And where is the evidence that this is not what is still happening now? In Blair's own words, this problem is apparently caused by a tiny percentage of an already small community. The press and government have decided to make a mountain out of a molehill. The notion that Islamic extremists somehow threaten the very fabric of our nation is farcical; it's only through overreacting to this threat, considerable as it is, that our values will become corrupted and that multiculturalism may fail. This is exactly what has been going on. Terrorism has been turned into a party political issue, entirely through the Blair governments attempts to paint the opposition as soft, egged on as they are by parts of the media. We're in danger of doing the damage to ourselves through our own inadequacies and general panic, rather than "they" are to "us".

So it is not that we need to dispense with multicultural Britain. On the contrary we should continue celebrating it. But we need - in the face of the challenge to our values - to re-assert also the duty to integrate, to stress what we hold in common and to say: these are the shared boundaries within which we all are obliged to live, precisely in order to preserve our right to our own different faiths, races and creeds.

We must respect both our right to differ and the duty to express any difference in a way fully consistent with the values that bind us together.

This is mostly stuff that deserves applauding. Blair is brave to come out and say that the naysayers which includes his own racial equality supremo, are wrong about multiculturalism not working. His argument however faces an inherent contradiction: Blair says we have to respect the right to differ, yet what if our differences collide with Blair's stated values? This is a conflict to which Blair's answer is the following:

Partly the answer lies in precisely defining our common values and making it clear that we expect all our citizens to conform to them. Obedience to the rule of law, to democratic decision-making about who governs us, to freedom from violence and discrimination are not optional for British citizens. They are what being British is about. Being British carries rights. It also carries duties. And those duties take clear precedence over any cultural or religious practice.

Conform. You must conform to our values. Perish the thought then that Britain might ever at some horrible point in the future vote in a fascist or similarly extreme government; to then object to that "democratic decision-making", if even the government itself subsequently breaks the rule of law will mean that you're breaking our common values and therefore you aren't British. If then the only way to overthrow that government was through armed insurrection, that would also mean you're not British. Blair's ideas about conforming seem to be a lot like patriotism. If you're not proud to be British, or consider yourself European rather than British, then you're not living up to our values. Consider yourself Asian-British, rather than British Asian? You're not conforming.

Conforming has ugly connotations. It's a demand, an insidious belief that you must be like us, otherwise you either aren't good enough or you're "different". Liking this country, enjoying its freedom, paying taxes and obeying the law is no longer enough; you have to love it and conform to its values as well to be truly integrated. Rather than wondering why some are alienated from British society, Blair only wants to talk of those who are in such a state of mind moving instantly from being disaffected to actively conforming, not how such a task is going to be achieved.

This talk of conforming has been lapped up by the Sun, for whom it was obviously targeted towards. For everyone else, it just comes across as posturing with nothing behind it. Blair does have six further elements of policy that he intends to implement alongside this order to conform:

First, we need to use the grants we give to community racial and religious groups to promote integration as well as help distinctive cultural identity. In a sense, very good intentions got the better of us. We wanted to be hospitable to new groups. We wanted, rightly, to extend a welcome and did so by offering public money to entrench their cultural presence. Money was too often freely awarded to groups that were tightly bonded around religious, racial or ethnic identities.

In the future, we will assess bids from groups of any ethnicity or any religious denomination, also against a test, where appropriate, of promoting community cohesion and integration.

This does to an extent tie in with the New Generation Network's plea for an end to communal politics. In practice, it instead comes across rather as disregarding the views of those who aren't compatible with New Labour's. Both major Muslim representative groups, the Muslim Council of Britain and the Muslim Association of Britain link the rise of extremism to foreign policy. Will both be punished for doing so? It's also worth wondering whether this will affect Christian groups as much as it possibly will those representing the other religions. Would Blair consider the teaching of creationism in academy schools run by Sir Peter Vardy as promoting "cohesion and integration", as well as their strident views on minor indiscipline? It seems highly unlikely.

One of the most common concerns that has been raised with me, when meeting women from the Muslim communities, is their frustration at being debarred even from entering certain mosques.

Those that exclude the voice of women need to look again at their practices. I am not suggesting altering the law. But we have asked the Equal Opportunities Commission to produce a report by the spring of next year on how these concerns could be practically addressed, whilst of course recognising that in many religions the treatment of women differs from that of men.

A worthy response, but will they actually listen and implement the reports' conclusions? Past evidence doesn't inspire confidence.

Fourth, there has been a lot of concern about a minority of visiting preachers. It would be preferable for British preachers to come out of the community rather than come in from abroad. Where they are recruited internationally, we will require entrants to have a proper command of English and meet the pre-entry qualification requirements.

The concern about "extremist" preachers is again out of all proportion. Much of the evidence from those who have become radicalised suggests that their beliefs have emerged not from being tutored by imams, but from individual research and the wealth of information available on the internet and in books. These ideas are still a decent response, however.

Fifth, we have a very established set of rights that constitute our citizenship. We should not be shy to teach them. That is why citizenship became part of the statutory national curriculum in secondary schools in 2002.

The national curriculum needs to stress integration rather than separation. The 1988 Education Reform Act states that religious education in all community schools should be broadly Christian in character but that it should include study of the other major religions. There is currently a voluntary agreement with faith schools on this basis. Faith schools also naturally give religious instruction in their own faith. It is important that in doing so, they teach tolerance and respect for other faiths and the Education Department will discuss with the faith groups how this is achieved and implemented, according to new national guidelines.

There is some merit to doing this, but the proposals earlier in the year from Alan Johnson would have done much more to promote inclusion rather than religious segregation in schools. Within days, the backlash, especially from "our Catholic community" had meant that the plans were dropped.

Sixth, we should share a common language. Equal opportunity for all groups requires that they be conversant in that common language. It is a matter both of cohesion and of justice that we should set the use of English as a condition of citizenship. In addition, for those who wish to take up residence permanently in the UK, we will include a requirement to pass an English test before such permanent residency is granted.

This would be great if there were actually full opportunities for those who want to learn English to get free courses to be able to do so.Instead, English as a second language courses are being cut back, and more and more are having to pay to learn.

Most of the rest of the speech is given over to talk of deprivation and religious similarities rather than differences. Blair can't resist squeezing in a bit of veil bashing, though:

But perhaps less well-known is the strength of the debate in Muslim countries. In Turkey, there has recently been a fierce controversy over the Muslim headdress of women. In Tunisia and Malaysia, the veil is barred in certain public places. I know it is not sensible to conduct this debate as if the only issue is the very hot and sensitive one of the veil. For one thing, the extremism we face is usually from men not women. But it is interesting to note that when Jack Straw made his comments, no less a person than the Mufti of the Arab Republic of Egypt made a strong approving statement; and it really is a matter of plain common sense that when it is an essential part of someone's work to communicate directly with people, being able to see their face is important. However, my point is this: we are not on our own in trying to find the right balance between integration and diversity.

It comes across as if Blair's been reading the Express's demands to "BAN IT!", which in their article mentioned Tunisia's ban on the veil in government buildings. While it was hard to agree with Aishah Azmi's case for discrimination, it's unlikely to be repeated now in a school-type setting. The case for banning the veil in government buildings entirely is much less compelling. It ought to be decided on a case-by-case basis. There was also this phenomenal piece of bollocks:

"I think it is great that in British politics today no mainstream party plays the race card. It is not conceivable, in my view, that this leader of the Conservative party would ... misuse the debate on immigration and that is both a tribute to him and to the common culture of tolerance we have established in this country today," Mr Blair said.

Err.... Almost the whole debate around the veil in the aftermath of Jack Straw's comments was playing the race card, except nearly everyone joined in. David Davis accused Muslims of voluntary apartheid. Phil Woolas, who had previous, as described by Peter Oborne, commented on Aishah Azmi's case when he had no business to. If he had done the same thing during a criminal case, the trial may well have collapsed and he would have been held in contempt of court.The Sun accused Muslims of vandalising a house which soldiers had considered moving into, and has not corrected the story or apologised for being proved wrong. The Express demanded that the veil be banned. Jonathan Freedland commented that if the hysteria had been directed against Jews rather than Muslims he would have been reaching for his passport. Blair finishes his speech with:

Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain, Britain. So conform to it; or don't come here.

That's right. If you don't want to be bashed endlessly and used as a political football, you'd be best staying where you are.

Worth noting for their tolerance are readers of the Sun, who reacted thusly to the news that Blair in an exclusive interview with the Scum's token Muslim, Anila Baig, said that a Muslim may one day be Prime Minister:

If that happens then Britain will become a nation of Islam. Glad now i left.

If this happens then there goes England as we know it, Churchill would roll over in his grave if he saw the state that England is in right now, and if a muslim became PM of England.

Enoch Powell would turn in his grave. His comments have turned out to be prophecies more true than anything Nostradamus ever said. The day we get a Muslim PM is the day me and my family leave this mess of a Country.

This country is already being run by those not from it. The current government as always only gives a dam about themselves. So why not throw the country to the non-English and the muslims who already control this once (but no longer) great country via the back door by scaring the people of this country by means of the pathetic Brussels brigade and the non-common scence ruling of the human rights act.

Lets put the Great back in to Britain and give England back to the British.

might as well change the name of britain now to "BhunaLand" in readyness for the pc brigade and this idiot of a PM we have now, my grand dad will be churning the ground in which hes buried if he could see the sorry state of affairs this country (once great) has become. we bend over backwards for them, cant say a wrong word to them. no wonder they are talking over this world. pc has got us all by the conkers, and we are afraid to admit it.

“They said there would never be a woman Prime Minister, but there was."
that's because the population of England is around 50/50 male female.
but soon England will be 50/50 again with the immigration laws.
so many people leaving because the way England is and more people coming to get England ready for Muslim prime minister

Related posts:
Not Saussure - Blair on multi-culturalism
Sunny Hurndal - First define the problem

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Friday, December 08, 2006 

Unmistakable greed.

Yes, this post does provide an excuse to put a photograph of Melua up.

Somewhat buried beneath the less than thrilling contents of the pre-budget report was the release of the
Gowers report into intellectual property copyright. As you might expect, the majority of it (PDF) is so dry that if you put a match to it it'd probably take your face off with it, but in there are a few proposals which should have been implemented years ago, and at least one which has caused the bloated music companies and a few artists to rise up in the biggest fury since Bono had his hat stolen.

The law will be amended so that consumers can legitimately transfer music for their own use, for example from a CD they have bought to an MP3 player. The review also proposes exemptions to allow individuals to sample copyrighted work to create something new and that the law be liberalised and updated to take into account digital archiving and preservation by libraries and academic institutions.

Finally. Ever since the days of the industry claiming that "home-taping was killing music" it's been technically illegal in Britain to make a copy for personal use of a copyrighted product which you've bought, i.e. either a DVD or a CD. As iPods and their cousins have become ubiquitous, this is potentially criminalising around half of the population, as Gowers mentions in the report. Uncontroversial, right? Everyone does it, hardly anyone's rightly ever been prosecuted for doing so, makes sense. Well, to all but to those who claim to represent the artists in question, of course:

AIM, a trade body representing 900 independent labels, said: "We believe Gowers may well be opening the floodgates to uncontrolled and unstoppable private copying and sharing from person to person."

AIM then seems to be suggesting that buying a CD shouldn't give you the right to then copy the data from that CD onto another device for the express purpose of personally listening to it. AIM's solution seems to be that if you want to listen to the music from the CD you've just bought on your iPod or digital music player, you should buy it again from one of the wonderful online vendors of popular music, such as iTunes or Napster, both of which supply that music in horrendous quality, crippled with digital rights management protection, that means you can only play it using their software and hardware, unless you then decide to break another law which means that you can't remove the copy protection from those files whether you want to or not (The UK author of DVD Decrypter, until last year the best available DVD ripping program, was forced to stop updating after being threatened with legal action from Macrovision.). Not only would this double the price of a piece of music, it removes the ability to do what you want with something you have personally purchased, such as create an uncrippled copy at near lossless quality from the original.

There are a few sites which offer music without DRM and at decent quality, such as, but they tend to only offer a selection of artists, with nowhere near the choice available on places such as iTunes. Other sites with dubious legality, such as the Russian, which combines low prices with giving the user the choice of quality and format, are being threatened with lawsuits and closure. AIM's stance is nothing but sheer greed, pure and simple.

The record companies however realise they're fighting a losing battle over personal copying. Better to save their fire for other, slightly more contentious disputes, as we shall come to. Besides, Gowers has lined the report nicely, by giving in to demands for the potential punishment of pirates to be brought into line with the ridiculous American laws, which currently provide for repeat offenders to be imprisoned for up to 10 years and fined up to $1 million. Gowers proposes that 10 years be a possible punishment here too. Everyone agrees that the shady guy on eBay selling second-hand or new DVDs that turn out to be bad copies is a total shit, but a potential 10 year jail sentence for doing so is out of all proportion to the crime. This would affect the people who you know full well are selling copies as well, such as a Chinese guy who goes round all the shops near where I live and announces himself by walking in and saying "DEE VEE DEE?" "DEE VEE DEE?". You know what they sell, he knows what he's selling, and while it may not be a victimless crime, he isn't begging and he isn't robbing you at knife point either. The Gowers report additionally recommends a beefing up of Trading Standards, giving them the power to take the battle to copyright infringers, rather than it having to be reported to them first.

What's really got the industry and some artists riled up is the reports' recommendation that copyright protection should not be extended further than the current 50 years for which it applies. The devil here though is in the detail. 50 years applies to those who make the creative content, i.e. those who play the music. 70 years protection is given to those who actually wrote the song. This is why the music companies themselves are so opposed, as it means their income from the selling/playing of the recording will be taken away, whilst the actual writer will continue to be paid for another 20 years. Additionally, the "less talented" artists, i.e. those who just played while the others wrote, will be stripped of their assets.

It's of little surprise then that artists such as Cliff Richard and Katie Melua have signed an advertisement in the Financial Times opposing Gowers' recommendation. Some of Richard's early material will become public domain within two years, and as he didn't have a role in writing a decent proportion of it, he's going to be shortly out of pocket. As for Melua, it's well known that the vast majority of her insipid material is written by Mike Batt, notorious for getting his start in the music industry by providing the Wombles with their musical accompaniment. The album sleeve from her debut, Call off the Search (I, err, have a copy because of the free bonus DVD, owing to the fact I'm a sad sack of shit and rather fancy her) credits her with writing a whopping two songs on the entire thing, meaning that if things stay as they are by the time she's 72, she'll have lost pretty much all of any money still coming in. Paul McCartney and U2 are also signatories, both of whom despite earning and being worth millions, continue to launch lawsuits against various individuals/companies, in search of recompense for laughable "crimes" or for yet more royalties.

The industry and artists' proposal is that copyright be extended to 95 years. They therefore not only want to still be being paid for what they may have done at the age of 20, which could be no more than pluck a guitar string on a song which unaccountably becomes a huge hit for the length of their lives, they want their offspring to be able to profit from it as well, as the Guardian rightly argues. As a commenter on CiF from Revolver Records makes abundantly clear, this is less to do with any of the debates about what something that makes up a part of our collective culture is worth and for how long it should be worth something, than with competing with the Americans.

As with everything else in America, corporatism looms large. The appropriately nicknamed Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act or, if you prefer, the Mickey Mouse Protection Act from 1998 extended this to a whopping life plus 70 years for the author, and 95 years for everyone else involved. Disney was heavily involved in the lobbying, as you might expect, as was the MPAA and the ever litigious RIAA. Our equivalent of the RIAA, the British Phonographic Industry (not pornographic, note), is demanding that we also adopt 95 years. They recently commissioned a poll by those incorruptible people at YouGov, which amazingly found that 62% supported equal time as the American system gives. The BPI presented this as "British consumers demand fair play on copyright for British musicians".

Or rather, that the European Commission adopts 95 years, as the decision is down to them. Gowers was simply advising the government to support the status quo. In addition to the American argument, the BPI also relies on the dubious fall back that continuing the status quo would "damage the ability of the music industry to invest in new music and promote old recordings", which translated means that they wouldn't be able to continue to profit from getting shit new "bands" to record new versions of old classics, as they weren't involved in the writing of the song, and that they wouldn't be able to keep re-releasing Abba and Queen best of albums until the end of time, as they'd become public domain sooner or later.

In short then, capitalism continues to flourish only when you can rely on the works of others to keep the money pouring in. To hell with collective culture and not exploiting the same old stuff other and other again, money really does make the world go round.

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Thursday, December 07, 2006 

Get in or get out.

It's hard to countenance the apparent response by both Bush and Blair to the Iraq Study Group's findings. Here's an opportunity to more or less get out of Iraq - and get out soon - and still the sub-Churchillian posturing continues unabated. There's still talk of victory, talk of success, Blair thanking Bush for his clarity of vision, Bush saying that the violence is not a result of a lack of planning, all of which is insulting both to the Iraqis and to those who are genuinely reporting the reality on the ground.

The whole purpose of the Iraq Study Group was to find a way out of Iraq for the Republicans, not just Bush, which could be at the same time be supported by the Democrats, giving it the notion of bringing the two horribly split sides of America together. There's a reason why the theoretical withdrawal date sited by the report is by the first quarter of 2008 - just in time for campaigning to properly get under way for the Presidential election. The majority of troops would be out, some kind of victory would be able to be spun out of the all enveloping jaws of defeat, and whoever gets the Republican nomination would be able to start reasonably afresh.

Yet there they both stand, two lame ducks, two men who will forever be associated with this catastrophe, and nothing seems to have changed. Both are still grinning, both still hanging off each other's every word, seemingly oblivious to how their strategy has been torn to shreds, with an at least somewhat feasible alternative served up to them free of charge, and they refuse to take it. It was to be expected that the opportunity for talks with Iran would be rejected with the usual caveats that Iran must abandon its nuclear enrichment programme and stop supporting terrorism, and thanks to the assassination of Pierre Gemayel it was always going to be easier than expected to disregard the idea of engaging with Syria either, yet the blanket refusal to even consider such ideas continue to show the inherent phoniness which was of keeping all options open.

Despite all the talk of success and victory, it is apparent to everyone except Bush and Blair that we have failed, and failed horribly. How can the appearance, every day, almost without failure, of countless tortured bodies in Baghdad being anything other than a crushing hammer blow to everything that we have supposedly been trying to achieve? What now appears to be underway is a cynical and predictable shifting of the goalposts. What's happening in Iraq now, you see, isn't our fault. It's all down to the extremists and radicals and outside forces that don't want us to succeed; if necessary, as the Iraq Study Group suggests with its putting down of benchmarks to be reached by the Iraqi government, we'll even blame the politicians who have faced down assassination to represent their communities. We tried, but our efforts just weren't matched by the Iraqis. Gary Younge expanded on this a couple of weeks ago.

In the midst of all this, Blair's utter slavish nature to Bush continues. He has the clarity of vision, seemingly in the same sense that David Blunkett has the clarity of hearing. They stand shoulder to shoulder in complete denial. The Guardian again urged Blair to do the decent thing today - yet all the signs point to the fact that Blair both has no influence, and even if he did, his position has always been the same as that of Bush. When it comes down to it, despite MP's voting for war, the full blame for this tragedy will be purely on his shoulders. It was through his undying belief in his ability to communicate, to win over the public entirely through his shifting and evasive arguments that we are, to paraphrase John Kerry, stuck in Iraq.

The Iraq Study Group itself dismisses the idea of a quick withdrawal as it believes that it would be lead to increased sectarian bloodletting, yet there is no evidence that the current US/UK presence is actually helping to prevent the slaughter which is already out of control. It also rejects the possible splitting of Iraq into its three relative ethnic zones on a semi-autonomous nature similarly to that which the Kurdish area has enjoyed for over a decade, even though reports suggest that the nascent civil war is causing families who haven't already fled to seek the protection of their own in segregated neighbourhoods or areas of the country. Both deserved further consideration, especially as the second option may eventually become a reality thanks to the sectarian violence.

As Simon Jenkins argues though, the Iraq Study Group shouldn't really have any impact on the British involvement in the war. We were denied our own inquiry a couple of weeks ago, with the government and Sun newspaper using the specious argument that to order one would to be undermine our troops, a notion supported by cowardly Labour backbench MPs when it came to the vote. Whatever decision America makes for its own involvement, there is absolutely no credible reason for keeping British forces in Iraq. The only one which even starts to reach muster is that we should stay and continue to train the Iraqi army and police. With two regions already having been handed over to the Iraqis from British control, this justification is suitably weak. Whatever decision America comes to, and none of them are easy, we should and must get out of Iraq within the next few months. Prolonging the agony of our own soldiers is pointless and potentially counter-productive.

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Wednesday, December 06, 2006 

Joy to the world.

Man your battlestations. The Christian backlash is coming:

CHANNEL 4 was blasted last night after revealing its Christmas Day message will be delivered by a British Muslim woman in a full veil.

She has been identified only as Khadija, a Zimbabwe-born lecturer in Islamic studies. It is understood she will speak about the growing influence of different faiths in Britain — and possibly about her views on the veil.

A C4 spokesman said: “This year has been dominated by issues of race and religious identity. We thought it was appropriate.” He added Khadija will wish viewers a Merry Christmas.

But the Christian Institute said: “This is just what you expect from Channel 4, which has shown contempt for Christianity and Christian values.”

For a start, the Queen's Christmas message rarely has anything to do with Christmas itself. It's more an opportunity for our blessed monarch to reminisce about the year in her interminable monotonous voice. It's a bit like the Great Escape; you know it's there, and if you're bored enough you might watch it. Caring about it is a lot harder.

To the Christian Institute website then, where it becomes apparent that they're less concerned about promoting Christianity, which is their supposed mission, and more devoted to maintaining the right to be bigoted, as a visit to their publications on what they call "homosexual rights" reveals:

Statement on Gay Marriage

Why gay and straight relationships should not be equal in the eyes of the law.

The Case for Keeping Section 28
January 2000

Looking specifically at Scotland, this report shows why the Scottish Executive should keep the law that bans local authorities from promoting homosexuality

Gay Pressure on the Young
January 1999

Looks at sexual pressures on young people in the light of plans to reduce the homosexual age of consent from 18 to 16.

Is the "gay pressure" on the young the same pressure which I witnessed at school where any potential sign of homosexuality was treated as something to be made fun of and hated? The same pressure which teachers are increasingly concerned about, with homophobic bullying being endemic within schools? It couldn't be.

Here's another newsflash to the Christian Institute. The word "alternative" ought to give you a clue to what the basis of the programme is built around. Were they objecting when that well-known Christian Sharon Obsourne gave the message? How about Ali G? Somehow I doubt it.

Channel 4 are doubtless attempting to be controversial, as they have been since the beginning, and getting a woman who wears a niqab to do their message when they could have got someone more notable and better informed to do the same thing is worthy of criticism. This though ignores what the message of Christmas is meant to be about. The day is supposedly about hope, about being optimistic for the future. In a year in which certain people have tried their hardest to drill up hate against Muslims, what could be more appropriate than a Muslim woman talking about different faiths on the day which most families come together, of faith or of not?

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006 

Bringing it home.

There's little surprise that the government has reacted so dismissively to an in-depth, well-worth reading in full report by the Demos think tank, which heavily criticises the government's attempts so far at "engaging" the Muslim community. Not only does it take on the government's mendacious two-faced nature, with its attempts at wooing organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain while in private and public briefing newspapers that Muslims need to do more to tackle extremism themselves and "spy on their kids", it also launches attacks on the wretched Very Scary Spice:

The government has also been cautious about being seen to be close to those groups that might have some understanding of al Qaida, fearful of the types of attacks mounted by commentators such as Melanie Phillips. These are groups that are radical and fundamental in their outlook (but not violent), whose religious roots are closest to those of al Qaida, and who therefore tend to come across recruiters and activists in their mosques and community centres. (p 27)

Demos' main six points for pushing forward are:
  • enhance the lives of Muslims by tackling poverty, low
    attainment and discrimination
  • strengthen community infrastructure
  • improve leadership, both by the government and within
    the Muslim community
  • open up the foreign policy-making process to greater
    scrutiny and provide opportunity for input from all parts
    of British communities
  • divert youth from extremism
  • put communities at the heart of counter-terrorist
    intervention and policing, as an integrated part rather
    than an add-on or an afterthought.

All of which should have been common sense and implemented in the first place. Instead since 7/7 we've had the government suggesting that multiculturalism isn't working, setting up panels which it then doesn't bother listening to, relying on turning the real terror threat into a party politicial issue, lecturing Muslim parents to spy on their kids for signs of brainwashing and government ministers commenting on issues such as a school-teacher suspended for wearing the veil when they should have kept their mouths shut. This isn't to mention Jack Straw's initial comments on the veil, which although perhaps well intentioned, led to 2 weeks of hysteria thanks to the way the tabloids jumped on Straw breaking the "taboo".

Rachel North points out how often the government had been warned that foreign policy was causing radicalisation. There were even more warnings than ones she has linked to. In October 2003 the Institute for Strategic Studies warned that the Iraq war had strengthened the ranks of al-Qaida and its sympathisers, as well as "galvanising" its will. In August of that same year the Foreign Affairs Committee said that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein had not diminished the terrorist threat to Britain, even suggesting that war in Iraq may have impeded the fight against terrorism. Before and after the war, the well-informed Guardian security affairs editor, Richard Norton-Taylor wrote that MI5 and senior Whitehall officials were concerned that the threat would increase if Iraq was attacked.

Despite all of these reports and everything that has now taken place, the government still refuses to admit that the Iraq war has increased the threat not just to the UK, but also to the world. Phil Woolas, who did his best to inflame the row over the wearing of the veil, had the nerve to accuse Demos of sensationalising the issue. The rank hypocrisy and irony of such a comment, when this government has so sensationalised and ramped up the threat in order to force through draconian new legislation is insulting.

The combined efforts of the New Generation Network and Demos are providing a way forward. The government desperately needs to drop its contempt for any view over than its own prevailing one. The consequences of not doing so are huge.

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Never thought we'd be revolutionaries.


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Scum-watch: Bouncy abuse.

One of the Sun's well-known quirks is its reliance on referring to convicted sex offenders variously as "beasts", "perverts", "maniacs", and even occasionally as "evil". While those sentenced for their crimes can quite reasonably be described in most cases as such (although I balk at applying the term "evil" to anyone), the Sun's use of such emotive language is in sharp contrast to what justice should be: balanced, accountable and not pushed over into seeking retribution or revenge for the sake of it. Sentimentality and emotion, precious as they are, should not be allowed to reign supreme.

It's therefore worth comparing today's Sun's treatment of a woman convicted of indecently assaulting two under-age boys with that of the bile and outrage thrown the way of men convicted of similar offences:

'Bouncy' sex mum is caged

A MUM who had sex with two under-age virgins was jailed for 18 months yesterday.

Bouncy castle hire boss Yvonne Renton, 39, was given nine months for indecently assaulting the boys, aged 14 and 15.

And she got another nine months for making a death threat to the 15-year-old in a vain attempt to intimidate him into not giving evidence.

Twice-wed Renton, a mother of two, looked tearful as she was sent down at Maidstone Crown Court.

Judge Jeremy Carey told her she used the boys for her own sexual gratification. The lads were friends of her son and helped her put up the castles.

The 15-year-old, with whom she had sex at least 20 times, was later diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

Judge Carey said: “He became infatuated with you and his fragile mental state was stretched beyond breaking point.”

The judge showed some mercy by telling Renton she could serve half her sentence on licence. She was also put on the sex offenders register.

Notice that there are no ad-hominem insults, no statements of outrage about the relatively short sentence given or other additional comment which usually marks other similar articles in the Sun. While there are no directly comparable articles with a man indecently assaulting two girls, here are some which are close to the crimes committed by Renton from the Sun's archive:

Perv 'shopped' for victims

A SEX fiend who used his local Tesco to find teenage victims was jailed for five years yesterday.

Shaun Barnwell, 23, lured three girls into an alley near the store and sexually assaulted them. One of his victims was just 14 — and the others were aged 16 and 19.

Even after he was caught and granted bail at a hostel he subjected another woman to a similar attack, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

Prosecuter Mary Harley said Barnwell chatted up his victims in the Tesco at Tetbury, Gloucs, while pretending to be shopping.

He persuaded the 16-year-old girl to go for a walk with him last March. When she spurned his advances he indecently assaulted her.

His next victim was the girl of 14, whom he groped in an alleyway. The 19-year-old was kept prisoner during a terrifying ordeal in which he tried to molest her.

Barnwell pleaded guilty and also admitted indecently assaulting a woman in Leicester when he was on bail.

Putting him on the sex offenders’ list indefinitely, recorder Peter Blair told him: “These were appalling offences.”

Perv's loophole let-off

A SCHEMING pervert who had sex with two young girls will serve only ONE YEAR in jail — because he exploited a loophole in the law.

The victims of internet paedophile Michael Wheeler, 36, were only 13, a court heard yesterday.

The maximum sentence for sexual intercourse with a girl that age is two years — but it is LIFE if they are younger.

Wheeler snared the two virgins through web chat rooms when they were only 11 and 12, then he “groomed” them until they were 13.

Cops believe he deliberately waited before having sex with them — knowing he would get a lighter sentence if caught.

The computer expert had posed as a randy 16-year-old lad and bombarded the two girls with hours of disgusting messages.

After winning their trust he arranged secret dates with them.

Even though they realised his age when they met him he kept them under his spell, Norwich Crown Court was told.

He indecently assaulted them and had unlawful sex with them in his car, at his computer firm office and at his father’s house.

The girls were pals but Wheeler persuaded them not to tell each other they were having sex.

His first victim told cops: “My innocence has gone, my friends at school have fallen out with me. I do not relate to boys any more.”

Separated Wheeler, from Cambridge, was arrested when the girls’ parents found out he had been meeting the youngsters.

Police believe he was involved with up to seven girls in the same class at the same school. Cops said last night he had been “priming” a third for sex.

Wheeler, who admitted 11 offences, was jailed for three years and put on the sex offenders’ register for life.

But he could be free next summer, because of remission and time spent in custody.

Det Insp Neil Smith, who led the inquiry, said after the hearing: “I’ve no doubt he will re-offend. He is a very, very dangerous man.”

The Government is set to close the sentencing loophole this year.

Girl raped by 'gay' migrant

AN asylum seeker with HIV raped a girl of 17 and got another aged 14 pregnant — after winning permission to stay in Britain by claiming he was GAY.

Sex beast Gabriel Vengesai, 45, lied that he faced persecution as a homosexual in his native Zimbabwe, a jury heard.

But all along he had a GIRLFRIEND. After duping officials, he preyed on the 14-year-old daughter of a woman he knew.

Evil Vengesai never told the youngster he had HIV. She went on to have his child, although miraculously mother and baby both escaped infection.

Cops arrested the monster only for him to be freed on BAIL. He then lured the 17-year-old to his flat in Aldershot, Hants, and savagely raped her.

Yesterday the maniac was caged indefinitely after a judge branded him a “serious risk” to the public.

Judge Tom Longbotham ordered him to serve at least 6½ years, declaring: “Your continuing presence is detrimental to this country and this court recommends your deportation at the end of your sentence.”

The 17-year-old, who suffered internal injuries as Vengesai brutally attacked her, faced the ordeal of giving evidence against him still not knowing if she had HIV.

It was only after a jury convicted him of rape that she got the all-clear.

Vengesai, who came to Britain in 1996, was also found guilty of having sex with the younger girl.

Judge Longbotham said it was only luck that Vengesai’s victims escaped infection. A report read out at Winchester Crown Court said of the brute, who shunned condoms: “Vengesai thinks he is entitled to sex as a male, and women need sex.”

The 17-year-old’s mum said after the trial: “This man came to Britain on the pretext of being a practising homosexual, who on arrival in this country was diagnosed as HIV positive.

“Upon release we would expect the immigration office to act quickly and deport this hideous man so he can do no further damage to the young girls in our communities.”

Mooner, over on the Scum's Myspace-style community, seems to have noticed the difference too:


I don't know whether that entered the judge's mind, but I'm more than certain that's the reason that the Sun didn't attack Renton with the full force it usually reserves for sex offenders. I am not in any way defending those convicted of such damaging, horrific crimes, but standards ought to be the same. The difference is that one of main fantasies of young men is often to be "taken in hand" by an older woman; this view means that potentially mentally destructive offences are often brushed over or dismissed as being life-enhancing, when if it was a man taking advantage of a similar aged girl, the difference of reaction would be palpable, as shown by the above articles.

Keeping with the same theme, today's Sun continues with yet more police supplied speculation about the killer of Laila Rezk:

THE killer of glamorous mum-of-two Laila Rezk is a twisted sex beast, police believe.

Tests failed to find any evidence the 51-year-old was raped but the state of her clothes indicated a “sexual element” to the murder.

Laila may have been followed after getting off a bus before the savage attack at her £600,000 home in Kingston Vale, South West London.

She was found an hour later by her son Tamer, 20, and daughter Dina, 22, and died the next day.

Cops said the killer may have used his fists to pummel her.

In other words, the police are clutching at straws, have no idea who committed the crime and are potentially walking down completely wrong paths. Brilliant!

Finally, the Scum brings us "news" that its page 3 idol Keeley is apparently, the perfect woman:

PAGE 3 beauty Keeley Hazell is officially the perfect woman, according to a new study.

Keeley has all the attributes men desire including long brunette hair, sparkling eyes and full natural lips.

Our 20-year-old from Bromley, Kent, is their ideal height — around 5ft5ins — looks great in a floral dress and has good teeth and a friendly smile.

Thousands of men were quizzed for the poll in Grazia magazine. As well as their likes, fellas also revealed dislikes — moody, broody, bolshy or boozy girls.

Nine out of ten wanted women to be normal weight “with curves”. No wonder they’ve all gone head over Keel’s.

Translated, this means that the majority of men like girls they don't know, who get their big tits out for national newspapers, and like their women not to be independent, introverted or drunkards. Who would have thought it?

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Tried and failed.

Love him or loathe him, Roy Hattersley can still write a stinging comment piece. The march of time, it must be said, has been kind to Roy. He served the majority of his years in opposition, implacably opposed to the Militant Tendency which did so much to damage Labour during the 80s, whether self-inflicted pain or otherwise. Forever associated with being on the right of the old Labour party, he now attacks New Labour from the left. He hasn't moved, but Blair has moved the party, if not its supporters. Examining the layers of bullshit that cocoon the oxymoron that is our "independent nuclear deterrent", Hattersley contrasts his support for having nuclear weapons during the cold war with the justification for now keeping them. While his positioning then can be questioned and argued against, his stand now is exactly the right one.

It's clear that while there is a convincing argument for keeping Trident for now and waiting, say, at the least, 5 years, as Michael Meacher proposes, to see if any clear "threat" emerges from out of the middle of nowhere, there is no current justification whatsoever for the spending of at least £20bn and at the most £75bn on a weapons system that is currently "deterring" no one and which, unless we suddenly lose our minds in the aftermath of a terrorist atrocity to make September 11th look like a picnic, will never be used.

The arguments used by Tony Blair and set out in the white paper are wafer thin. He suggests that it would be "unwise and dangerous" to unilaterally give up our nuclear weapons system. Unwise, possibly. Dangerous, no. For the whole justification for keeping Trident now to look even half-way compelling, we have to forget both about the so-called "special relationship" with the United States and, also, about Nato. Are we meant to believe that our alliance with the United States would ever become so weak or fractured that if we were threatened by either a nuclear armed state, or nuclear armed terrorists (let's not even get into the debate about how unlikely that is), that they would not come to our aid, or threaten to strike back equally or more powerfully? Even if we decided to go our own ways on foreign policy, it seems highly unlikely that America would let Britain be menaced in such a way. Blair's argument also seems to be the final nail in the coffin of Nato; no longer does it seem that an attack on one is an attack on all, which was even hinted at in the aftermath of 9/11 by the head. It's preposterous that neither nuclear armed France or nuclear armed America wouldn't come to our aid.

Equally illogical are the two examples of North Korea and Iran which are liberally being banded about. North Korea claims to have up to six nuclear bombs, but judging by their pathetic test, their technology is about as far from perfect as it can get. We don't know whether they can attach their nuclear devices to any of the current missile systems; even if they can, as a recent test demonstrated, their missiles are similarly unreliable. They might, with the best luck in the world, be able to fire a missile with a warhead that could reach either Hawaii or Alaska. North Korea is therefore, and seems unlikely to be in any way a threat to us in the near future. She is China's, Korea's, Russia's, Japan's and the United States's problem.

Iran is even less advanced than North Korea. Current estimates still suggest that if Iran even is actively developing nuclear weapons, and that is still a big if, as it is only currently enriching uranium, that it would be at least 5 years away from a viable system. Even then, Iran's current longest range missile, the Shahab-3, has a maximum range of 2100km, which would be able to reach Israel. The nearest major British interest is the military bases in Cyprus, which were notoriously used and abused in the propaganda in the lead-up to the Iraq war, as screaming headlines then warned that "BRITS ARE 45 MINUTES FROM DOOM".

This is all assuming that nothing happens in the on-off diplomatic maneuvering surrounding Iran's nuclear ambitions, and that the country is left alone to get on with it, without there being either a bloodless solution, or at worst, an unilateral military strike by either Israel or the US on nuclear research plants. Iran is more of a threat to British interests through potentially sponsoring terrorism and extremists throughout the Middle East than through its weapons systems.

Which brings us neatly onto the threat posed by terrorists themselves. The closest a terrorist attack has come to using weapons of mass destruction was the Sarin gas atrocity on the Tokyo tube; horrifying, but far far less deadly than September the 11th was. The whole phony argument surrounding the chance of terrorists finding themselves somehow with a nuclear weapon falls apart when you consider how they're a: going to transport it, as they're obviously not going to be able to fire it normally; b: how they're going to transport it to where it's going to be exploded without them being detected and c: how they're going to explode it once they've achieved both of those things. In short, it's a non-starter. Far more horror and terror will always be achieved by suicide bombings from otherwise "normal" citizens than through the fiction which is getting hold of a nuclear weapon. Even if they managed to get a hold of a serious amount of a nuclear substance for a "dirty bomb", investigations and studies so far have suggested that the reality would be far less devastating than our leaders would like us to believe.

All of which ignores whether our nuclear weapons would actually deter any of the above from either attempting to acquire, or even using them once they have been comprehensively acquired. It seems highly unlikely that they would. Despite what everyone believes, MAD still does apply. If North Korea or Iran were to fire a nuclear missile, we all know full well that the United States and/or Israel would retaliate with full force. The mullahs are not mad enough to want Armageddon. Neither is Kim Jong-Il. As the white paper makes clear, the system is hilariously "not designed for military use during conflict," meaning that it is completely and utterly useless.

It is not impossible to imagine that some threat that may justify the retention of nuclear weapons may emerge in due course. While it is unlikely to do so in 5 years, that space of time would suggest whether such a threat is more or less likely. If a week is a long time in politics, then 5 years is an eternity. Instead, with the decision that the Prime Minister is now urging to be taken now, the real reasons why a new submarine fleet is being put forward are that BAE Systems, terrified that it may lose the Al-Yamamah deal over the Serious Farce Office's investigation into the Guardian-revealed slush funds, wants a multi-billion pound contract just in case. The other reason is that Blair, searching so desperately as he is for a legacy, wants another small line to be included in the history books after the pages and pages about Iraq.

Once again, this is ignoring the other counter-arguments, such as that replacing Trident would breach or make a laughing stock of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty, as covered brilliantly and in-depth here by Curious Hamster, that the "independent nuclear deterrent" is nothing of the sort, or where the money spent on Trident could be better used. All we are left with is a promise of "a full debate", with our parliamentarians being offered a vote which has already been won thanks to David Cameron's brilliant efforts as opposition leader, further proving how he is the true successor to Blair in stifling any view other than the prevailing one. Taking everything in to account, we will never have a better time to either mothball or dismantle a weapons system we should not have acquired in the first place.

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Monday, December 04, 2006 

Scum-watch: Maniacs and hypocrisy.

The Sun is back to its old trick of speculating on and sensationalising serious crimes again today:

COPS are probing whether a deranged maniac may have used his BARE HANDS to batter tragic Laila Rezk to death.

Tests failed to show a weapon was used on the mum of two — suggesting the beast used his FISTS.

The actual meaning of "tests" in this article seems rather ambiguous, for later on the report makes clear:

Cops were sickened by the attack and assumed a weapon was used. But a search found nothing near the house in Kingston Vale, South West London.

Tests are being done to see if Egyptian-born Laila was sexually assaulted.

Presumably both tests would have been conducted at the same time, if they had taken place, although any forensic examiners are more than welcome to correct me if I'm wrong. Rather more probable is the fact that since the plod have failed to find a weapon, they've either briefed/been paid by the Scum that the murderer was unarmed. Seeing as both the Mail and Sun have referred to the murderer of Laila Rezk as "a deranged, stalking maniac," when it's unclear whether the actual assailant is any of those things, the leak that he used his fists is very helpful towards the story they've already weaved.

Elsewhere today in the Scum:

A WOMAN cop off sick with “stress” is topping up her salary as a soft porn photographer.

WPC Gillian Mooney, 49, took the saucy snap of professional model Emma.

Ho-hum, typical Scum story. Or so you think. Until...

The Sun booked Emma for a photo-shoot with Mooney.

Emma paid the £150 fee and posed for the WPC in a studio built into the living room of her semi. Emma was asked to sign a form allowing the snaps to be sold on.

Emma, 23, said: “I got the impression she wanted me to do some artistic nude shots. She did say most of her work was weddings and children.”

Right, so a WPC on the sick happens to be a part-time photographer as well. Big deal, plenty of police officers and firefighters do other jobs on the side. Obviously it raises the question of whether she is actually still stressed or not, but having a national newspaper splash on it is bound to do wonders for her nerves.

More interesting however is that the Sun describes what she does as soft pornography. The photograph from the shoot the Sun booked, but notice didn't pay for, so they can't be accused of adding to her bank balance (although I'd almost be prepared to wager a small sum that the Sun provided the money) is quite clearly a glamour shot, but not one containing nudity. According to "Emma", whose word we have to take at face value, she got the "impression" she wanted to do some artistic nude shots. Impression suggests that Mooney didn't actually infer that she could additionally do full glamour shots, if Emma so wanted.

All of which is beside the point however. If what Mooney is doing is soft pornography, then what, pray tell, is Page 3 Idol (warning: nudity) and Page 3 itself? Not only are those submitting their photographs not being paid for the privilege, they're competing for the wonderful prize of a whole £5,000. The Sun has always and continues to justify page 3 as a "bit of fun". What's the difference between Mooney's "soft porn" shoots and the Sun's bits of fun? Nothing, except for the Sun's contempt and disdain for its own readers. When it comes to smearing and booting people when they're down, ala "Lady Mucca", pornography is distasteful and even shameful, but when they're doing the same thing it's quite different. As I've stated before, I'm no puritan and certainly wouldn't ban page 3 given the chance; I just think it has no place in a publication that calls itself a "newspaper".

P.S. Just to be fair and balanced (® Fox News), here's David Cox on Comment is Free telling us why Murdoch is actually the greatest thing to ever happen to Britain.

P.P.S Here's Five Chinese Crackers taking apart another of today's Sun's stories, this one on the scandal of a school having a Carribbean theme Christmas.

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