Wednesday, January 31, 2007 

What to believe? (Part three.)

We were probably about due for another "terrorist" threat to emerge. As the Sun reminds us, every week when there isn't another 7/7 makes it all the more easier to forget about the "new realities" of the 21st century.

As has happened before, the Sun also appears to know better than everyone else exactly what the alleged plot was. Despite pleas from the police and politicians for others not to jump to conclusions and to show restraint in their reporting, the Sun does exactly the opposite:

EVIL Muslim terrorists were to kidnap a British soldier on UK streets and force him to plead with Tony Blair for his life in return for a pull-out of troops from Iraq, The Sun can reveal.

The soldier would have been filmed begging the PM to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan in a sick propaganda stunt.

Army sources said the target was a British Muslim soldier in his 20s.

He would eventually be beheaded on film in a sick mirror of the torture and savage killing of British hostage Ken Bigley if Mr Blair refused.

I don't think I need to remind you of the last time the Sun relied on "army sources".

The BBC is being far more circumspect, for a change:

Earlier BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Daniel Sandford said sources close to the investigation said the aim of the alleged plot was to kidnap a serving member of the armed forces, perhaps while they were on home leave.

He stressed the arrests were based on intelligence, which could prove to be wrong.

The last time the intelligence turned out to be horribly wrong was in Forest Gate, when the Sun delighted in smearing the Koyair brothers on multiple occasions.

The Sun goes on to quote another "source":

One well-placed source said: "This plot represents a staggering change of tactic.

"We have all been braced for more mainland bombs which claim many lives and cause turmoil and widespread public fear.

"This would have taken things to a new dimension. The pressure on the PM would have been unimagineable.

"And there would have been a knock-on effect in terms of military morale."

Well yes, assuming that this plot did actually exist and the whole raid isn't based on similar hearsay stupidity such as the so-called "Fathers 4 Justice" plot to kidnap Leo Blair, or for instance, the fake sheikh's Victoria Beckham kidnap plot which never was, or indeed Mahmood's other entrapment, that of men supposedly attempting to buy the non-existent red mercury substance. Then we've also got to assume that the men would have been able to carry out their entire plot without being caught in the act of either kidnapping the soldier, putting out their demands, and then waiting for any response before actually carrying out the beheading.

Now there will be increased security measures imposed on all servicemen and women to be on their guard.

The cunning plot represents a huge change in tactics by al Qaeda and its supporters.

It proves beyond doubt that terrorist cells are active in mainland Britain - just as MI5 boss Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller warned before Christmas.

And it demonstrates how sophisticated the al Qaeda cells in our midst have become.

Obviously. The men have been in custody for less than 12 hours and already they're al-Qaida, proof that terrorist cells are active, and proves how sophisticated "al-Qaida" now is. Why bother with a trial when it's already obvious that they're guilty?

The president of the local Alum Rock Islamic Centre has already had his plea ignored:

Ayub Pervaz, the mosque's president, said: "If people have broken the law they should be brought to justice.

"But we also appeal for no trial by media. If any of those arrested turn out to be innocent, this should be made clear."

The Sun have also already set about questioning the contents of an Islamic bookshop also raided:

Investigations by The Sun found several questionable books and dvds for sale including 'The Religious and Moral Doctrine of Jihad' listed for the bargain price of £1.95.

By Shaykh ul Islam ibn Taymiyyah the blurb for the book reads: "Ibn Taymiyyah verdicts in regards to Jihad are often not available especially on whom Jihad is to be carried out.

"The shaykhs verdicts are filled with a sea of knowledge that outlines fighting not only the enemy aggressor, but also apostates and even those who oppose clear cut rulings of Islam, despite their claims to be Muslims."

Ibn Taymiyyah has a decent Wikipedia entry here, and does appear to have influenced such well-known Salafis as Sayyid Qutb. However, picking one book out of what was likely a sea of them, probably more because of the word "jihad" than anything else is grossly unfair.

The only thing that can be said is that it is to be hoped that the intelligence is correct and that a horrible crime has been averted. If it turns out to be another Forest Gate, or another case of a plot being vastly exaggerated, ala the ricin case, it will hurt the intelligence services and the police all the more, and only exacerbate the calls for a watchdog over MI5 to be established.

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Scum-watch: Private Eye on the "Windsor Muslim yobs", heartless Screws journalists, and more.

The Eye provides us with the information of where the correction actually appeared in the paper:

Issue No. 1177 also provides this valuable insight into the ethics (or lack of) of News of the Screws hacks:

Then there's the curious incident of the Sun's overwhelming support for the Dome to house the supercasino which instead went to Manchester:

MANCHESTER was as stunned as anyone after the dubious decision to make it Britain’s gambling capital.

The big question is how it beat London and Blackpool for the money-spinning super-casino.

For all its attractions, Manchester was hardly hot favourite. Most bets were riding on the Dome.

Err, no it wasn't. Most assumed and hoped it was going to Blackpool, which seemed the best bet.

To most people, the Dome was the most sensible and logical location.

After which follows a rant about why giving the casino to Manchester is meant to buy off the locals' votes. That most natural Labour supporters would probably be at best curious or incredulous about this government's addiction to gambling doesn't seem to be worth mentioning. Not that suspecting there was something of a stitch-up is necessarily conspiratorial; BlairWatch lists some good reasons for questioning the line up decided upon.

All becomes clear to why the Sun so favoured the Greenwich bid however. As today's Guardian reports:

Yesterday some in Greenwich said the furore which followed the deputy prime minister's admission may have damaged London's case. The result will also have provoked gloom elsewhere. The Guardian has learned that Rupert Murdoch's News Corp holds a 10% interest in AEG's dome development subsidiary.

Who woulda thunk it?

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Scum-watch: Well, that lasted all of, err, a day...

As could have been expected, the Sun's short-lived outrage against ignorance didn't last very long. Taking advantage of a report by the Audit Commission titled Crossing Borders, responding to the local challenges posed by the influx of migrant workers, the Sun is completely breathless in its attack on what the East European migrants have done to our sanctified country:

ROCKETING immigration has left schools, hospitals, police and housing at full stretch, watchdogs warned yesterday.

Towns have been hit by racial tension, street crime and binge drinking as foreign arrivals flood in.

The report says:

There is little evidence that the increased numbers of migrant workers have caused significant or systematic problems in respect of community safety or cohesion. Despite this, community perceptions about migrant workers can be inappropriately negative. They are often confused with asylum seekers and refugees, and the tone of some national and local papers can encourage hostility. While British papers worry about the number of people coming to Britain, Polish papers blame their government for allowing so many skilled youngsters to leave.

On schools the report says:
99 Few migrant workers are accompanied by their families, at least initially. When they do bring dependants, the main impact on education services is related to language, though in a few cases the numbers involved have affected the planning of places. Language barriers and shift hours often mean face-to-face contact between schools and parents can be limited.

100 The need to teach English as an additional language (EAL) is an issue in an increasing number of schools and local education authorities (LEAs). Recent pupil censuses show that over 10 per cent of all maintained school pupils (and over 50 per cent in Inner London) have a first language other than English. Teachers may lack the necessary experience and expertise, schools may be unaccustomed to change or lack the capacity to manage the numbers effectively, and LEAs can find that their central support for schools is too small and inexperienced at dealing with the current numbers and rate of turnover.

101 Schools receive additional funding per pupil, and new arrivals without English count towards extra funding under the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant (EMAG). This grant is distributed to authorities by a formula, with locally determined formulae devolving at least 85 per cent to schools. The grant was £174 million in 2006/07. Grant levels were fixed for three years on the basis of the 2004 pupil census, to give more security for funding decisions, meaning that it does not reflect the large increases in some areas since then. The DfES has allocated some additional short-term funding for in-service teacher training and materials, and will consult with authorities and schools on future arrangements during 2007.

On hospitals:
103 Most migrant workers are relatively young and healthy, and move frequently. Many go to accident and emergency (A&E) departments if they need medical care, as they would in their home countries, and see little benefit in signing up with GPs. Footnote 4 There is no evidence that migrant workers attending A&E cause a specific problem for hospitals.

104 When dependants join migrant workers there are likely to be issues for health services from doctors’ practices, pharmacists and acute care providers, as pregnant women, children and older people are more likely to use health services. Issues include differing expectations, for example around maternity care; the impact of particular social trends, such as higher levels of smoking by some nationalities; and a need for interpretation to ensure diagnoses are accurate and patients understand when and how to take medicines.

On the police:
70 Some migrant workers may not trust the police in their home countries and so treat British police with suspicion. Differing assumptions can include expecting the police to require bribes. Such expectations hinder crime reporting and intelligence gathering, making prevention and cohesion activities harder.

71 Local police, especially diversity officers, are striving to make links, understand migrant workers’ needs and improve trust, often alongside more trusted groups:

* In Cornwall and Cumbria police attend some employer induction talks and work alongside union representatives.
* Police may collaborate with local authorities and others to set up and support local migrant worker groups.
* Some forces use ESOL classes as an opportunity to meet migrant workers and talk about issues such as personal protection and road safety.

72 Police-led work to educate migrant workers about life in the UK includes providing small cards with visual reminders about road safety and simple leaflets covering basic laws and regulations (Ref. 37). Some are promoting additional driving training for those recruited abroad as heavy goods vehicle drivers.

On housing:
61 Few recent migrant workers are offered social housing tenancies, since many come on special schemes, visas and permits and have no rights to it. Communities and Local Government (CLG) figures show that only 110 accession state nationals have been offered social tenancies since 2004. However, once EU citizens gain residency rights, they become eligible for assistance under homelessness legislation. They will also be eligible to join other local tenants and residents on waiting lists, increasing demand for affordable housing.

There are some problems here however, but certainly not worthy of describing housing as at "full stretch" due purely to migrants:

56 In areas of housing shortage, such as East Anglia and London, migrant workers add to the demand for affordable rented property. Councils in East Anglia report particularly rapid growth in HMOs. For example, in 2002 Breckland District Council regularly inspected around 40 HMOs; by summer 2006 they had a database of 480. In London 10 per cent of all privately rented households are now overcrowded and this is rising rapidly; on present trends the sector will overtake the social rented sector as the most overcrowded by 2007 (Ref. 32). There have been examples of gross overcrowding, including the use of illegally converted attics, sheds and outbuildings. Figures on HMOs are difficult to compare nationally since the data are unreliable, though some authorities have locally comparable records.

58 Poor management and maintenance of privately rented properties can adversely affect the appearance of a neighbourhood, leading to complaints from other local residents. Concerns about the impact of privately rented housing are not new, but where the number of such properties occupied by migrant workers is increasing, problems can become more obvious and may be blamed on tenants rather than landlords.

The term "racial tension" isn't mentioned in the report. Nor is the word "racism". Racist appears twice:

69 There is also evidence of racist views and hostility towards migrant workers in some areas (Ref. 36), and some migrant workers hold racist views too. Police report isolated examples of hate crimes, but there is no regular or widespread disorder.

Street crime also doesn't make an appearance. Crime is mentioned thusly:

68 Migrant workers can be victims of crime, with much reported crime internal to new communities. Overcrowded and physically insecure rented accommodation, where individuals are sharing with others they may not know, makes theft easier and increases tensions between individuals, which can in turn lead to assaults. Poor English makes some particularly vulnerable. Some of the individuals involved in the worst exploitation of new workers are also involved in criminal activity.

From the case study of Crewe council's response:

Mediation was used to resolve neighbour tensions. Community wardens spoke to new arrivals about refuse collection if complaints were made. The Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership identified potential flashpoints. For example, when England played Poland at football, CCTV was installed in relevant pubs and funding was provided for interpreters in the local A&E department.

The police force has had to build trust within the community. A part-time interpreter has been employed and a hate crime answer machine has been set up, to encourage more crime reporting. Concern over training for commercial heavy goods vehicle drivers prompted police to offer sessions on English driving regulations at local depots. The force has invested in 15 hand-held speech devices to improve immediate communication.

Likewise, "binge" also isn't mentioned in the report. The main mention on drinking is here:

73 Cohesion cannot be taken for granted and small tensions can develop, which can fuel local resentment. These include noise and disruption when large numbers of migrant workers leave for work early in the morning, noise linked to increases in the numbers living in individual properties, street drinking, failures to understand local refuse and recycling systems, tensions over other residents’ parking spaces if HMOs do not have adequate parking, and migrant workers appearing to monopolise the internet in libraries.

74 A number of local authorities and their partners have moved quickly to address such minor local frictions as part of wider work to promote locally cohesive communities. Concentrations of poorly managed HMOs are a particular concern, making work with landlords (including enforcement if necessary) important for cohesion as well as tenant safety. Responses include targeted information leaflets for basic issues such as refuse collection arrangements, and adding new languages to recycling bank signs. Informal and often personal initial contact, using community wardens, mediators, environmental health officers and refuse staff can deal with many concerns. Library services have provided more terminals and introduced pre-booking systems. There may be a continual need to repeat and reinforce messages because of high turnover.

75 Policy changes and appropriate enforcement may be necessary for some complaints, for example badly sited caravans or increases in street drinking and rough sleeping. Local dispersal orders were used in Hammersmith to control the large crowds of accession state nationals who had taken over pavements outside a particular newsagent, where cards in the shop window had offered employment and housing. Concentrations of street drinkers and rough sleeping in parks are understandably unpopular with local communities. The City of Westminster works with its local police to manage the particular problems associated with the number of people who arrive every day at Victoria coach station.

Other mentions come in the chapter on destitution:

62 Many migrant workers have limited entitlement to public funds. The few who fail to find accommodation or work, are made redundant, or become the victims of domestic violence and leave their homes, may not be entitled to housing benefit. Because hostels often depend on this, they may not be able to accept such people. Voluntary day centres and church-run night shelters can provide support since these are not as dependent on public funds, but individuals can drift into squatting, rough sleeping and street drinking. There is also a small, but growing, incidence of substance abuse (Ref. 35).

63 While destitution and rough sleeping can occur anywhere, they have been most noticeable in London. Accession state nationals now comprise up to half the recognised street drinkers in Hammersmith and Fulham and one in five of the rough sleepers in Westminster. Half the beds at the rolling night shelters run by central London churches in the winter of 2005/06 were taken up by accession state nationals.

64 Westminster City Council has used a government Invest to Save grant of £297,000 and a DWP secondee to help some accession state workers into employment, and to work with the police to repatriate others who lack the resources to be self-sufficient. CLG provided an extra £140,000 in homelessness grant in 2005/06 to London boroughs facing particular pressures. It is providing Westminster with an additional £100,000 through the homelessness budget for 2007/08 and is in discussions with DWP regarding future Jobcentre Plus involvement. However, rough sleeper numbers at the June 2006 count had increased compared with 2005 and numbers using available night and day shelters remain high. Responses in London will need to be coordinated across boroughs.

The situation then is not entirely rosy, but it's a lot better than it's being made to look in both the Mail (as shown here in a similar post by FCC) and the Sun. While I don't want to dwell on the point of the Sun possibly being responsible for the very ignorance it railed against yesterday (and which is today lauded by Damilola Taylor's father) you can't help but think the views of the article's own responders may have been influenced by the Sun's own misleading reports:

Get rid of all the immigrants and those taking up our prisons too, and maybe the homeless people could get given jobs to help searching the lorries coming in to the country etc.


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Tuesday, January 30, 2007 

Scum-watch: Two faces, one day.

What then, to make of today's Sun front-page? On one level, it deserves to be welcomed and applauded. Any message which points out the values and life that we share, that prejudice based both on background and on the colour of our skin is completely unacceptable, and that children especially are often the ones that suffer the most from the unkindness and closed-minds of their peers ought to be celebrated, especially coming from a paper with such a poor history both of promoting forgiveness and tolerance. It's just that I don't believe the Sun means it, and there are also far more sinister undertones beneath its apparent road to Damascus-type conversion.

More to the point, the very reason for the Sun running this on their front page has to be related in no small measure to the decision of Shilpa Shetty to sell her story to the Mirror. Normally, the tabloids that can't afford/don't want to stump up the cash for the stories of the latest 15-minute wonder to emerge from the reality shows/royal family flunky/mistress of someone vaguely famous is to attack them, rubbish their views and point out all their various flaws. Unfortunately for the Sun, the decision to turn on Jade Goody and the others involved in the bullying of Shetty has meant that with Shetty going to the Mirror and Danielle Lloyd going to the Star, they were left without any of their own exclusives.

Cue some bright spark who came up with an idea to save everything: turn on prejudice day! What better way to make up for the dearth of stories which their rivals have? Hell, they even got the Commission for Equality and Human Rights to OK their use of various racial epithets, just to make sure all was, err, kosher. Graham Dudman, the managing editor and public face of the paper, as Rebekah Wade tends to get into trouble whenever she appears in public,
even went to CiF with his feel-good aren't we doing something good line, trying to rouse interest in something which otherwise seems to have been ignored.

One thing you have to wonder about is just how much the kids which the Sun has pictured know about the newspaper's own recent history in being far from tolerant of their own backgrounds. For instance:

MUSTAFA MIYASAR, ten, from Scotland, has been called “terrorist”, an insult which began after 9/11.

This wouldn't have anything to do with the far from restrained at times coverage from the Sun of the actual terrorist threat. Front pages such as "PLOT TO KILL YOU", editorials warning the public to more or less stay scared, and this from after the conviction of Kamel Bourgass, who neither had ricin nor could have produced it with the phony recipe he had (not to mention he had no links with al-Qaida) don't exactly reassure the public that Muslims in general are not responsible for the actions of a tiny, tiny minority who share their religious faith.

JOYTI PANESAR, 11, of Leeds, held a sign saying “Paki”, an insult towards immigrant workers who arrived from Asia in the ’60s.

Different decades bring different workers. Today it's the East Europeans, and the Sun naturally would never dream of insulting them, casting them as invading hordes or as potentially bringing disease. Oh, wait:

Ms Deborah Jack, the Chief Executive of the National Aids Trust, complained that the newspaper had inaccurately described HIV rates in Eastern Europe. She also raised concerns that the article had confused HIV and AIDS.


The complaint was resolved when the newspaper published the following correction:

“On 16 November we reported fears immigrants from Eastern Europe made up a large proportion of new UK HIV cases. We have been asked to make clear Eastern Europe is not a significant source of new HIV diagnoses and Romania and Bulgaria do not have high HIV rates. They rank 39 and 44 respectively in the European league table of 52 countries.” In addition, the PCC asked the newspaper to mark its records in order to help avoid confusion between HIV and AIDS in future."

And here's that very day's editorial on the subject:

BRITAIN once wiped out TB and was gaining ground against AIDS.

Today we risk an explosion in both these killer diseases, thanks to infected immigrants.

Virulent new strains of tuberculosis are virtually incurable and easily spread.

Many have arrived from Africa, but startling new figures show a sharp rise in cases from new EU states Bulgaria and Romania which have the highest rates in Europe.

The irony is that the latest increase comes as health chiefs launch an awareness campaign against sexually transmitted diseases.

Understandably, those facing death will do anything to seek health care — especially if it is free.

But we will soon have to choose between acting as Good Samaritan to the world’s sick.

And protecting our own citizens against a deadly epidemic.

The article itself seems to have gone missing, so it looks as if it takes a PCC intervention for such woefully wrong stories to be removed from the archive. (See Muslim yobs passim ad nauseum and Rochelle Holness.) Still, when it comes to protecting "our own citizens" from the sexually infected hordes who are about to invade us, who could fault the Sun for being vigilant?

MARY RYE, 16, from Bromley, South London, has been called “Pikey”, a term said to come from an old English word meaning to travel or from turnpike.

Gypsy groups report the Sun to the police

Patrick Barkham
Thursday March 10, 2005
The Guardian

Gypsy groups reported the Sun to the police and the Press Complaints Commission yesterday, claiming that its new campaign against Traveller camps was an incitement to racial hatred.

Their leaders made formal complaints to the Hampshire and Sussex police, and communities spoke of the fear and intimidation caused by the tabloid declaring "war on gipsy [sic] free-for-all", under the headline "Stamp on the camps".

A woman living on a site in Kent was so worried by the Sun's attitude that she contacted the police yesterday and asked for their protection. Other Gypsies said their children were frightened when they read headlines apparently declaring "war" on them.

Here's some edited highlights from March the 9th 2005's Sun editorial:

Illegal sites are a symptom of the PC-driven victim culture in which even wrongdoers — such as gipsies who ride roughshod over the planning laws — are granted immunity and even given privileges.

The villain of the piece is the Human Rights Act, which our judges have limply interpreted to mean that these wandering tribes have a right to family life and respect for their homes which outweighs any harm they might do to the environment or rural communities.

What a difference nearly two years makes! Also note how the Sun uses gipsy rather than gypsies, purely so it can avoid potentially being racist, as gypsies are defined as a ethnic group. Smart, eh?

ZHAO PENG, 15, from Bristol, has been called “Chinky” a racial slur to describe Chinese people.

The Sun would never be so crude. That's why they referred to Ding Junhui, the Chinese snooker player who recently reached the Masters final as "Pot Noodle".

ZAYNAB AHMED, 16, from London, held the sign saying “Raghead”, a variation on the “Towelhead” insult. She says:
The most terrifying experience I had was when my cousin and I were going home after prayers at a mosque during Ramadan.

There was a massive group of football fans and they started making comments about our headscarves. It was really intimidating. They were laughing and shouting abuse. We were really scared.

Frightening indeed. Is it possible that some of them could have been Sun readers?

FIFTEEN women suicide bombers have been sent to murder British troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban chiefs have ordered them to dress as beggars or teachers and hide devices under burkas, a secret intelligence report has warned.

THE Sun today launches a campaign to close the veil loophole making a mockery of Britain’s airport security.

We told yesterday how a member of the gang which killed WPC Sharon Beshenivsky sneaked out of Heathrow by donning a Muslim niqab, with just a slit for eyes.

Now we are calling on Home Secretary John Reid to turn passport control at every airport in the country into a veil-free zone.

Nevermind that there has been no evidence presented whatsoever to prove that Mustaf Jama actually fled the country wearing a niqab, the Sun still felt the need to start up a pointless campaign. The coverage among the tabloids since Jack Straw's original speech has to been to point out that women wearing the headscarf, especially the full veil, aren't to be trusted; they either aren't willing to integrate, as their choice of religious dress is a wall of separation, or they're someone in disguise.

SEAN CALLEN, 12, of Southampton, hates the insult “chav scum” — a jibe at white working class people who wear brash designer clothes. It shows white people can be victims of bigots, too.

A search of the Sun's archive gives 201 results for chav, among them are such delights as the following:

A DIZZY blonde caught using both hands to doll herself up while DRIVING was heading to meet her secret lover, she revealed last night.

Chav calendar girl Donna Maddock said she wanted to look good for her date with her two-timing fella, who lives with a girlfriend and their child.

And speaking after she was done for careless driving by a court, the defiant 22-year-old said: “I must have looked like Penelope Pitstop driving along slapping the make-up on. But it’s something all women do. I can’t see what the big fuss is about.”

A WOMAN suspected of murdering her own mother was urged to turn herself in last night — by a sister who called her a “chav”.

Chav out first in eviction

TEARFUL Bonnie Holt was boiling mad last night as she became the first housemate to be evicted from Big Brother 7.

The Vicky Pollard-style chav told how she was “bored out of her brains”, sobbing to the others: “It was my time.”

It's the Chavtas, innit

THE SUN is proud to announce a new award for givin' it large – the Chavtas.

Our gongs will go to the champions of chav, the yoof culture phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.

Do you have a blindin' collection of bling?

Do you know somebody who dresses their dog in Burberry to match their own gear?

Write, with a picture if possible, to The Chavtas, The Sun, 1 Virginia St, London E98 1SN.

Then there's today's Sun leader on the subject, coupled with Dudman's own references to yesterday's survey about young Muslims:

Britain’s overwhelming vote to make Shilpa Shetty Celebrity Big Brother winner shows, thank goodness, we are a nation that hates racism.

But the show also proved how name-calling can become racist viciousness. The impact on society of offensive labels can be dangerous.

Shunned minorities retreat into ghettos and nurse their grievances.

At a more sinister level, as new polls show, it splits society and turns thousands of young Muslims into al-Qaeda sympathisers.

This is more worrying now than at any time in recent memory.

Tory leader David Cameron rightly blames multiculturalism and unchecked immigration for stoking the flames. But he puts his finger on another key factor — education. Ignorance breeds prejudice.

Right, so the Sun goes to the trouble of taking a picture of children who have suffered racism, all from different backgrounds, and then it still blames multiculturalism, despite all the evidence that living together fosters togetherness. The problem isn't multiculturalism, if anything it's because we've not become multicultural enough. Ignorance is indeed the problem, but you're highly unlikely to be enlightened from reading the Sun, let's face it. As for shunned minorities retreating into ghettos and potentially becoming radicalised, yesterday's study additionally pointed out how those who have been convicted of terrorism offences or who have killed themselves for their own perverted cause were almost universally better off than average, and had relatively few family problems. Racism might be to do with ignorance, but non-integration and poverty appear to be relatively low indicators for potential jihadis, at least from this country.

To be fair to the Sun, if its front page today does make someone who is prejudiced or racist think twice, and with its circulation reach it will hit a lot more homes than any other paper, then my cynicism can be dismissed. It's now up to the Sun to practice what it preaches - and by the above evidence, it's not hard to see how quickly this will be forgotten along with all the other short-lived outbreaks of moral superiority.

How quickly the Sun can change from attempting to be inclusive and all-embracing back to its hate-filled and downright nasty more familiar guise could not be better illustrated than its coverage today of their victory over Patricia Tierney:
Unhappy slapper loses

THE Sun won an historic legal victory yesterday after exposing the prostitute in the Wayne Rooney brothel libel case as a LIAR.

Gran Patricia Tierney, 52, tried to swindle hundreds of thousands of pounds in damages from us, claiming she was just an innocent receptionist.

She claimed her life had been ruined by a series of articles identifying her as a hooker known as The Auld Slapper in a Liverpool brothel Rooney used as a teenager.

But the court heard The Sun uncovered dramatic evidence last week that proved Tierney HAD been a prostitute at Diva’s brothel in Aigburth.

The mum of seven was caught out because of a damning statement she gave to Merseyside Police in May 2002 in which she admitted offering sex for £45 a go.

She stated: “My role was dual. On some days I would work as a receptionist.On other days I would act as a sex worker. My role would be to provide sexual services for clients.”

Historic my foot. Tierney was a liar, it's quite true, but all of this would never have happened if the Sun, instead of naming the woman and exposing her had simply covered her face and not revealed her identity, simply referring to as an older prostitute, which is what she was. There was no need to humiliate her; Rooney was the one who paid for the sex. As Michael White argues:

It seems that Mrs Tierney did do some sex work when she needed the cash and gave details - in confidence - to the Merseyside police when they investigated another case. Naive as well as greedy perhaps, to think it wouldn't come out. But you can't help feeling sorry for someone - not a rich footballer, but a working-class mother and grandmother of 16 - who finds herself on the receiving end of the tabloid treatment for not doing anything illegal.

"It has destroyed my children, my grandchildren, my husband and myself. What I have done, I had my reasons, but I did not deserve this. If it had not been for Rooney, I would not be here," Mrs T said, in applying for an adjournment.

Prostitution in this country is not illegal, but soliciting is. Tierney was not soliciting, and was not breaking the law. There's some additional information in the Grauniad's report:

Ms Tierney said she was "begging for her life". Mr Riley said the alleged libel and what had followed was "destroying us, slaughtering us".

The Sun had offered the family cash for "a dirty story, the dirtier the better" about Mr Rooney. "We never took any money. It's about getting her name cleared ... We are just low-life to the Sun."

After the judge delivered his judgment, Mr Riley was asked if he wanted to comment. "We never had a chance," he said.

How things change. While the Sun went all out for Rooney then, it later dropped its claim that Rooney himself had hit his girlfriend and told her to "fuck off home", paying him £100,000 in damages. Around the same time, Rooney signed his mega-deal with HarperCollins (proprietor: R. Murdoch) to publish his autobiography in installments.

The Sun's leader is even nastier:

GREEDY tart Patricia Tierney pleasured Wayne Rooney for a few quid in a seedy Liverpool brothel.

Then she tried to screw The Sun for £750,000, claiming we damaged her reputation by naming her.

She insisted she was just a granny helping out at the desk. The case was thrown out because she confessed to police two years earlier that she was a whore.

Now she risks jail for contempt of court.

Serves her right.

One day the Sun might get a taste of its own medicine when it comes to ruining lives. Until then, it'll continue to act almost with complete impunity, smearing anyone and anything that gets in its way, however much it pretends to hate prejudice.

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Monday, January 29, 2007 

Philips justifies her feeble correction.

Korova managed to get a response out of Melanie over her non-retraction of the Sun's inaccurate Windsor Muslim yobs report, and it's a corker. Also worth wondering who "Emma" in the comments is.

Related posts:
Mad Mel Meddles
Scum-watch: Feeble corrections
Scum-watch: Blaming a religion and community shamelessly.

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Multiculturalism, David Cameron and doing the exact thing they're accusing others of.

Amazingly, David Cameron has made something of a better speech on multiculturalism than Blair did back in December. Sure, the belief that multiculturalism has failed is still there, and describing the Muslim Council of Britain as similar to the BNP is not just stupid, it's ignorant, but let's leave it there for the moment.

Some of Cameron's speech was based at least partially on the Policy Exchange's report "British Muslims and the paradox of multiculutralism" (PDF), which this morning created lurid headlines in the tabloids, which Five Chinese Crackers delights in tearing apart. The poll conducted alongside the study is actually far more reassuring than it is frightening or alarming, as Sunny points out on Comment is Free. It's also worth noting that the more radical 16-24 year-olds views would be based on a far smaller sample of the 1,003 who were questioned, which will potentially skew the results. A truly representative survey would sample around 1,000 16-24 year-olds, which would probably alter the results quite substantially.

My problems with the study, which I've flicked through, are also similar to Sunny's. It seems to think that political Islam is one of the main problems, yet their very own poll shows that 51% felt that no Muslim organisation reflected their views, including organisations such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir. The organisation with the highest amount other than their own mosque was the Muslim Council of Britain, with 6%. These are the very same organisations about to be accused by another Tory policy review of promoting victimhood and being as potentially divisive as the BNP. The study also suggests that history lessons can contain an anti-Western bias, which proves that none of the authors have gone near a comprehensive classroom in years, or bothered to actually talk to any history teachers.

The attacks on multiculturalism are similarly wrongheaded. There is no contradiction between multiculturalism and integration; they are interdependent. Where multiculturalism has failed is that there has not been enough of the second. While some on the right regard 7/7 as the end of multiculturalism, others noted just how the people murdered that day were the very embodiment of that very social policy. They may not have known each other, they may have been purposefully avoiding each other's eyes before they were killed, but they showed that we're successfully living together and think nothing of it.

This is where the Policy Exchange is completely right. There has to be an end to seeing Muslims as different, and some on the left are just as guilty of this as the right is. They're neither victims, nor are they the enemy within. This is where the MCB can be criticised, and where the ideas of the New Generation Network come in.

And so how do the Tories intend to stop Muslims being seen as different and potentially a threat? By, err, naming the very organisations which are seeking to represent them (but failing) and saying that they're the problem. Vilifying them by comparing them to the BNP is just as counter-productive as some of the views the more radical of them espouse. Cameron himself says he wants a more calm debate, then he appears to be doing just the thing that's going to bring in the mouth-breathers. As ever, a compromise has to be struck, and neither Labour nor the Tories have managed it yet.

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Scum-watch: They're still outting "paedophiles".

I'm slightly hesitant about making this post, as the very last thing I want to do is in any way defend either sex offenders or paedophiles. That aside, the Scum, edited by Rebekah Wade, the same woman who masterminded the highly counter-productive News of the Screw paedo-name and shame campaign is once again up to her old tricks.

Normally, this wouldn't be something to be concerned about, and the cases involved are to say the least, potentially worth exposing. The biggest concern as always is that vigilante action will be launched, not just against those have been outted, but against those whose identity may be mistaken in the heat of the moment. Nonetheless, I think the Sun is going too far in at least the second case I'm about to highlight. Others will likely vehemently disagree.

To begin with, the nom de plume of the outter is simply "the Investigator". It's quite true that I'm also anonymous, but the one thing I'm not doing is ruining people's lives for things that they have done years ago. This is exactly what the "Investigator" is doing.

The first article by the Investigator was in last Monday's Sun, with a follow-up the next day, and a leader comment, probably written by the ginger ninja herself.

A BUS driver who picks up kids from school is a convicted paedophile — whose bosses KNEW of his sordid past when he was hired.

David Skinner, 52, was jailed for 18 months for molesting little girls.

Yet he has been allowed to drive a route around Margate and Ramsgate in Kent during which queues of trusting schoolchildren clamber on his bus.

The pervert was yesterday suspended by transport giants Stagecoach following a Sun investigation. But he was working for the SAME company when he was caged for indecent assault and gross indecency.

Open and shut case then right? A convicted child molester shouldn't be working with children, full stop. However:

Balding Skinner — seen by The Sun chatting to kids — was jailed in 1992. It is understood he molested three children aged between six and nine while babysitting.

So we're going back 14 years. He was jailed for 18 months and served 9. He was given his job back, and has been doing school bus runs, but the Sun doesn't say for how long or how often he's being doing them.

And that's it. Well, apart from some hearsay evidence from a a driver source:

One driver called single Skinner “repulsive”. He added: “Some of the drivers who were around when he was convicted knew of his past and were disgusted when he was allowed back on school routes. But when it was raised they were told he would be allowed to stay.

“Drivers get to know kids from school runs and often also pick them up when they go out on the town late at night.

“They know which ones are under-age because they’ve seen them in their uniforms.

“Once, Skinner and another driver were discussing the youngsters all dressed up and he admitted it was tempting to see them like that.”

In all the time he's since been working for the various bus companies, there doesn't appear to have been anything to suggest that he shouldn't been working at all with children. It's obvious that most of those convicted of sexual offences in connection with children are immediately barred from working with them, and that advice is generally given to companies as to who should and shouldn't be doing work such as school runs, but either that wasn't given, was ignored or made clear that he didn't pose a threat, or at least in their evaluation.

The Sun suggests that the manager who cleared Skinner to work the school runs has since left the company, and Stagecoach responded to the Sun's expose by suspending Skinner.

The problem I have with this is more than over the suspension, which seems the right move, certainly from school runs at least, is that he's been doing his job quietly all those years, has seemingly moved on and reformed, and now after all this time he's had been named in a national newspaper as a paedophile for a crime committed over a decade ago. Some will argue that parents always deserve to know of any conviction of an adult working in any way with their child, and I agree that I don't think Skinner should have been doing school runs. It's just that this could have been done without subjecting him to vilification for a conviction in his past. Of course, this isn't how tabloid journalism works. There has to be a story, otherwise the time and money spent investigating is wasted. Yet it would have been far better to inform Stagecoach, make sure that Skinner no longer does school runs, and leave it at that. Instead he's had his life turned upside down. It's true that he may well have ruined the lives of those he abused, one of which the Sun quotes the following day as being terribly upset when she discovered that he was driving buses round. Does that however years later justify destroying his, not to mention potentially subjecting him to reprisals?

Today's expose is far more controversial than that of Skinner's.

A RAT-FACED paedophile is driving a school bus — after being cleared by council officials.

Convicted child molester Nicholas Emms, 35, drives pupils aged nine to 13 to and from school each day.

He is the second paedophile school bus driver to be exposed by The Sun in a week.

Again, if he's been convicted of similar offences to Skinner then he shouldn't be working with children. The plot here though is far thicker than that of his:

But the pervert, who indecently assaulted a girl under 14, claimed: “I’m not a danger. I’ve been cleared for school runs.”

Emms was sentenced to two years’ probation at Worcester Crown Court in 1989.

We're going even further back, and while under 14 is ambiguous
, it may well be that the girl was 13. In 1989 Emms would have been either 17 or 18. Going back again to Wikipedia's quoting of the diagnosis of a paedophile:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

We also don't know the circumstances surrounding the indecent assault. They may have been boyfriend and girlfriend, it could have involved anything. It has to be said that Emms doesn't help his case with the following:

He said the conviction happened when he was a teenager, adding: “Everybody was having a laugh in those days.”

Emms is now 35, is married with a wife and has his own kids, has apparently not re-offended in any way, and has been cleared by the council to drive a bus on the school run.

Is exposing him in the public interest? Perhaps, but only just. It can be argued that the parents will now tell their children to be extra-careful around the bus driver, stay together in groups and don't stay on alone, but apart from that it seems that it would have been far better to let sleeping dogs lie. What has been achieved from "outting" him, apart from scaring parents, making children afraid of adults when there is no need to be anything other than cautious (it's also worth remembering that children are much more likely to be abused by someone known to them, usually within their friends and family) and again, bringing up the distant past of a man whose circumstances were hugely different then? He is also now open to potential vigilante justice.

The debate around child protection is going to be fraught. There's always a balance to be struck, and the Sun may well have done the right thing in naming Skinner. The reason though why we now have the sex offenders' register, organisations like MAPPA and the criminal records bureau is to take the potential for both injustice and justice out of the hands of those who don't know the full facts, and who might act in ways they might later regret. The only thing I can see that might have been gained from the Sun's expose today of Emms is that it might sell a few more copies and may make the "Investigator" feel happier with his work than he would of had he been subbing. The Sun may feel justified in its work, but the balance that it's striking is one that needs to be closely monitored.

I also don't have children. If I was a parent I might feel very different. Comments, name-calling on my naivety, etc, are more than welcome.

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Saturday, January 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Yeah, it continues.

First up, the Scum did at least have the guts to report the jailing of Clive Goodman and Glenn Mulcaire, but didn't admit to belonging to the same parent company as the News of the Screws. The story also isn't by-lined, which is odd. Perhaps the journalist involved was frightened of the repercussions of reporting their colleagues' misdemeanors, when usually News International completely ignores them.

On then once again to the continuing shrieking about a situation that the Scum has had more than a hand in creating:

EMBATTLED John Reid was under fire from all sides yesterday as the prisons crisis spiralled out of control.

Judges were in open revolt after being forced to free more dangerous criminals because of the cells shortage.

But other judges were accused of being opportunist and using Reid’s plea to jail only the worst-case criminals as an excuse to go SOFT on other menaces to society.

Yes, of course they are. The "soft" judges are in fact being eminently sensible, as Not Saussure points out regarding the sentences handed down to the two sex offenders, Derek Williams and Keith Morris. Not that this matters one jot to the Sun, it's just something to grab and bash even further with; that they happened to be involved in crimes which are editor Rebekah Wade's favourite was just an added bonus. Instead, the Scum "names and shames" three judges, two of those responsible for the above:

THREE judges caused fury this week by using John Reid’s recommendations to go soft on offenders.

In the first high-profile case Judge John Rogers, QC, gave pervert Derek Williams a suspended sentence at Mold Crown Court.

Then evil Keith Morris was bailed by Judge Graham Cottle at Exeter despite attacking boys.

In case No3 Judge Nigel van der Bijl gave cannabis smuggler Darius Sawka a 12-month suspended sentence at Canterbury Crown Court.

The judge said the normal sentence would be up to three years’ jail. But he told Sawka, 33, a German arrested at Dover: “The current situation with the prison population is that we are being asked to look at alternatives.”

As NS points out, Morris would in other parts of the country likely have been bailed anyway, overcrowded prisons or not. It seems local circumstances intervened in his case. Either way, he's going to prison shortly, has been put under curfew, and will more than likely be tagged and/or have to report to the local cop shop daily. As for Sawka, does anyone still care about smuggling cannabis, or should we even care? It's a Class C drug for God's sake, the arguments for legalising it grow stronger by the day, and the time would be better spent stopping those smuggling the hard drugs that actually increase crime.

In the stakes for useful idiot ex-Labour minister of the day, John Spellar sounds his mouth off to the Scum:

Former Labour Minister John Spellar stormed: “I fear some judges are using this as an excuse for soft sentences. Some of them are perhaps still a bit sore after coming under fire themselves last year.

“I wonder if they are taking the opportunity to pursue their love of soft-touch sentences."

Yes, you're quite right Mr Spellar. Those judges just
love to give out soft sentences and then get screamed at by the ever-reactionary tabloids and opportunist MPs who want to get their names in the papers. Spellar is apparently referring to the Scum's campaign of last year based on the sentence given to paedophile Craig Sweeney, when the judge simply followed the government's own guidelines for sentencing in the circumstances. That the Sun's campaign backfired when the judges themselves struck back at the despicably cowardly naming and shaming, and was abandoned within a month isn't worth mentioning.

John Reid himself puts in a reasonably decent defense of his time as Home Secretary, at least before he gets onto attacking the Lib Dems and Tories in the same politically motivated way that simply turns people off politics.

Then there's this utterly sickening article which pretty much shows what the constant attention the Scum gives to "paedo-pervs" does to people and influences the way they react to a "pervert" being in their midst:

Neighbour Jamie Jones, 18, said: “He’s a beast and a nonce and should be locked up for life.”

Valerie Williams, 27, who has a girl aged two, said: “What more serious offence can there be than paedophilia? It ruins a child’s life. It’s worrying he could be wandering around and looking at my child and others in the street.

“I want signs and photos of him and to put them around the area. People need to be aware of the risk.”

Donna Armitage, 24, mother of a lad aged three, said: “He could look through my windows and see my son. That man should be in a hostel.”

Oh God, he could be looking at your kids?! The horror, the horror. It's no surprise that the man himself is fearing that there could be vigilante action against him or his family; judging by such comments, he'd be stupid not to. Williams himself claims that the images were already on the hard drive when he bought it second-hand, and although I can't find the relevant article now, I did read one which said the date on the files was from the early 00s, which although can be easily faked, does go along with his defense. This iCWales article gives a little more background. Either way, however predictable the response to such a crime is, the man clearly doesn't deserve further vilification than that he has already received.

Meanwhile it emerged that Judge John Rogers, who handled Williams’ case, could come face-to-face with his BROTHER next month in an unconnected case.

So why are you reporting it? Oh, it's because you're assholes.

The Scum's leader focuses on it all yet again:

The Sun has campaigned hard for the suspension of pathetically lenient judges who routinely side with criminals over victims. But Reid and Falconer’s letter was manna from heaven for them. Now they have an excuse, officially endorsed by the Government.

Yes, all very noble of you, apart from the fact that Williams' and Sawka's crimes didn't involve any victims except themselves. Instead of judges using their own common sense, which they appear to have been doing and are being attacked for doing so, this is all part of the judges being soft conspiracy which the Scum's dreamed up, no longer able to credibly attack the government itself for being "soft" on crime.

More than anything, that only 3 cases have come to light regarding the Home Secretary's reminding judges of the rules they know only too well shows that this is a situation which is again being whipped out of all proportion by the media. It's all well and good coming across morally righteous about "paedos escaping prison", but not having any other solution than the current one which is so obviously failing leaves those howling with little to back them up once the hoo-hah dies down.

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Friday, January 26, 2007 

Scum-watch: It had to be a dirty paedo pervert, didn't it?

The Scum is having a field day with John Reid. Gone from praising his illiberal rabble-rousing rhetoric, it's turned on him with all the typical tabloid viciousness of building someone up to then tear them down.

JOHN Reid was dealt a new hammer blow yesterday when a PAEDOPHILE was freed because of his failure to build prisons.

It just had to be. To quote an idiot, you couldn't make it up.

Paedophile Williams — who had more than 180 sickening images on his computer — was let off with a six-month sentence and suspended for two years. He was also placed on supervision.

Married Williams, 46, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, was ordered to be placed on the sex offenders’ register for seven years. He was caught after his wife called in police. The revelation that a paedophile is among those escaping justice makes any hopes Reid might have of succeeding Prime Minister Tony Blair seem ludicrous — without taking account of the crime figures released yesterday.

What I'm about to say a lot will probably disagree with, but Williams is not technically a paedophile. A pervert, yes, but a paedophile, no. A lot like sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, looking at sexually explicit photographs of children does not make you a paedophile. If we want to get really pedantic about it, then Wikipedia reproduces the diagnostic criteria for psychiatrists:

The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th edition, Text Revision gives the following as its "Diagnostic criteria for 302.2 Pedophilia":[27]

* Over a period of at least 6 months, recurrent, intense sexually arousing fantasies, sexual urges, or behaviors involving sexual activity with a prepubescent child or children (generally age 13 years or younger).
* The person has acted on these urges, or the sexual urges or fantasies cause marked distress or interpersonal difficulty.
* The person is at least age 16 years and at least 5 years older than the child or children in Criterion A.

So it's not clear that Williams would be a paedophile, unless we're also now considering thought crime when it comes down to labelling people. The Scum also doesn't bother to mention the mitigating circumstances which were involved in his case:
that he pleaded guilty, and that the case had taken a long time to come to court, through no fault of his own. It's not as if he was entirely let off or freed - his sentence has just been suspended, and he's been put under supervision and has to sign the sex offenders' register for 7 years. The head of the NSPCC therefore obviously didn't bother even to look into the background of the case before she opened her mouth:

It is unacceptable that people who have committed crimes against children are not jailed simply because prisons are too full if the severity of the crime requires a prison sentence."

Unless we go along with the assumption that those who view child pornography are as a result going to want "new" material and that this will drive abusers on, i.e. supply and demand, an argument that is shaky to say the least, then Williams wasn't committing a "crime against children". Rod Liddle, in one of his rarer lucid moments in the aftermath of the Pete Townshend arrest,
wrote a decent piece questioning the underlying assumptions all around the viewing of child pornography. I'd personally say that the sentence Williams received is about right. Others will more than likely vehemently disagree. In Keith Morris's case on the other hand, he would be a paedophile, or if we're being really pedantic and the child was older than 13, an ephebophile. He has been released, I assume with a tag, when otherwise he would have been held on remand. Anyway, I've been sidetracked. On to the Scum's hilarious piece for looking for Reid's brain:

JOHN Reid skulked off to his office yesterday as The Sun stepped up the hunt for his missing brain.

He looked blank as he emerged from his smart Westminster town house.

I said: “Good morning, Mr Reid. The Sun and our readers are desperately trying to find your brain — can you give us a clue?”

He stared at the floor and shuffled to a Jaguar.

I asked: “Can you recall the last time you used it?” — but he sped off.


Finally, Tim went to the last place likely to know anything — the Home Office. Staff wanted to help — but said they were “not fit for the purpose”.

Oh my aching sides.
But guess what? The Scum have found the prison ship!

THE Sun yesterday found a prison ship John Reid could use to ease the jails crisis — the SAME ONE the Government sold just six months ago.

HMP Weare is still moored at the same Channel port as it was when the Home Office got rid of it for just £2.5million in August.

Mr Reid repeatedly told The Sun that the Weare had been sold off and could not be bought back — while his aides even said it was being lined up for the scrapyard.

For just £2.5million? Seems like a shrewd deal considering its sea-worthiness certificate had ran out,
that it had no fresh air and that the ship itself was in the wrong area for a prison.

But last night it was revealed the vessel has undergone a huge refit and could be bought back — but at THREE times the amount the Home Office got for it.

The Sun stepped in after disclosing the scale of John Reid’s failure to deal with the prisons overcrowding fiasco.

Within a few hours we discovered the Weare, which was opened in 1997 and closed in 2005, is still moored at Portland, Dorset.

It had been completely refurbished by its new owners, Sea Trucks Group, a Nigerian-based firm specialising in supporting the offshore oil industry.

Sea Trucks have spent a small fortune upgrading the vessel to provide accommodation for up to 1,000 people such as oil rig workers.

Exactly, as would the Home Office have had to spend a small fortune to keep it going. It instead decided that it wasn't worth the money, and also explained that it could be shut
because a new private prison had opened in Peterborough. Instead of spending £10 million buying the thing back the money would be better spent on an actual new prison, or on refurbishing extra places that already exist. None of this matters though, it's just something to bash Reid about with.

“As I understand it, when it was used as a jail it only had the least dangerous prisoners so that the security measures did not need to be the very highest.”

At the height of its use the Weare — built in the 1970s and used to accommodate soldiers in the Falklands — held 400 low-risk inmates.

The Sun here doesn't bother to inform its readers of extra details other than it held "low-risk" inmates -
it was a Category C prison, one security level above an open prison. Elsewhere, it's time to "name and shame" some more people involved in the Home Office, whether they're actually responsible for the chaos or not:

NINE top civil servants are responsible for day-to-day running of the Home Office.

They are meant to ensure prisons, probation, immigration and other services meet ministers’ targets.

Sorry to break it to you lot, but if the Home Office’s current shambles is the best you can do, you need your heads examined.

Obviously. Now that they've been insulted by the UK's best-selling newspaper, they're just bound to look themselves in the mirror and think: God - am I really this shit?
On then to the Scum's leader:

THE fiasco that is the Home Office gets more ludicrous by the minute.

It is now clear that John Reid is not the only one whose brain is missing in this benighted government department.

There are 73,359 public servants serving under the Home Secretary and his clutch of ministers and senior mandarins.

Not one of them has managed to find an answer to the problem of a prison network littered with signs declaring: “Sorry, No Vacancies”.

While officials and ministers shrugged, it took The Sun just two hours to find a jail ship floating on England’s south coast.

It is empty but spruced up and ready to take 1,000 criminals.

Laughably, it is the same ship decommissioned by Charles Clarke when he had his turn at making a mess of the Home Office.

If you presented this as the script of a Carry On film it would be rejected as too ridiculous.

Yes, and this sprucing up wouldn't have involved removing any of the normal features of a prison by any chance, would it? I'm sure the workers for Sea Trucks would have loved having their doors locked from outside without being able to get out, or other workers spying on them through the hatches for looking in. It was decommissioned because it wasn't worth spending the money on fixing it up; the money is now not worth spending on buying it back.

But you would have to be an idiot not to know our jails were heading for disaster.
# Convicts and suspects have been crammed into police cells, taking hard-pressed officers off the beat.
# Courts have been told by John Reid to cut the numbers being sent to jail.

You'd also have to be an idiot to think that having a prison population of 80,000 is sustainable, even in the short term. This isn't a very popular view however though in the Scum.

Which helps explain why yesterday’s crime figures showed robberies rising, and big increases in vandalism and drug offences.

Yep - in overcrowded prisons those inside are even more like to come out and re-offend. The Scum just wants more places built, without thinking about how prison for minor offences, especially for vandalism and drug offences simply doesn't work, especially without treatment programmes in the latter case, which are hopelessly oversubscribed and underfunded.

At the centre of this mess the Prime Minister, The Chancellor and all four Labour Home Secretaries are unable to answer a few simple questions:

Why weren’t extra prison places built years ago?

Most likely because they hoped that judges would take notice of their pleas for only serious and violent offenders to be jailed, but instead they've taken more notice of the media and political climate to get ever tougher on crime. Who is this climate driven by? You guessed it.

Who is to blame for this monumental error?

The last few home secretaries, Michael Howard for starting the "prison works!" crap in the beginning, the tabloids, led by this very newspaper, and some judges themselves.

What about using old army camps in Scotland and Northern Ireland, as well as England?

Because the money would be better spent on new prisons proper rather than doing up dingy and potentially unfit for human habitation army facilities, not to mention angering and not consulting those who live in the area.

How about that floating jail that has been staring them in the face?

Which err, doesn't belong to the government anymore, would cost way too much to buy back and wasn't worth refurbishing in the first place. Apart from that, great idea!

And why does a crisis have to be a catastrophe before this government gets its brains into gear?

But then, we were almost forgetting. Some of their brains are missing.

Probably because they would rather continue with the idiocy of banging up 80,000 or more rather than face annoying the Sun by going "soft". The current situation is still probably better than further riling the Wade and Murdoch banshee.

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Re-evaulating Dacre's Cudlipp.

The more thought I give to it, the more I think my response to Dacre's Cudlipp rant was far too fair. Although I was harsh on his claim that the BBC is the most powerful media organisation in the world, it ought to be called for what it is: a bare-faced lie. His speech (PDF) was littered with such brain-addled distortions, ignoring his own role in editing one of the most hate-filled newspapers in the country.

To cover one of his points I missed out, it's true that the Mail deserves to be praised for its naming of the men alleged to be guilty of the murder of Stephen Lawrence -- yet you also have to wonder whether by doing so the men will now never be brought to justice. Their lives are continuing, while Lawrence's was taken from him in a vicious racist attack.

The more you read into it the more you in fact start to realise that this is actually Dacre excusing himself and his own paper's coverage on the controversial issues of the day by concentrating all his own venom onto the BBC for doing its best to report the same things as impartially as it possibly can, for not furthering commenting and moralising, which is the Mail's first instinct. He genuinely believes that his values, the conservatism which his paper promotes and that his commentators, such as Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Philips howl about, are the ones most shared throughout the country. To realise just how distorted and inflammatory some of the Mail's reports are, you just have to read this exemplary post, along with many others on Five Chinese Crackers, who does a superlative if lonely job of taking them apart.

It's also coming to something when an ex-New Labour spin doctor actually *shock* tells the truth and rips the Mail apart. Lance Price's response to Dacre's lecture is well worth a read. If only he and his fellow apparatchiks had followed a similar policy of taming the Daily Hate tiger when they were actually in Downing Street.

Update: Newsnight tonight is having a snigger about Dacre's speech, before going on to debate the issue between Martin Bell and Richard D North, which obviously proves just how biased the BBC is.

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News of the Screws screwer set to meet screws.

So, farewell then to Clive Goodman for four months at least. The News of the Screws piss-poor royal editor has been sent down for intercepting messages on the phones of the royal family, while his private investigator co-conspirator Glenn Mulcaire has been sentenced to six months.

That Goodman has been sent down for accessing such banal information that not even the average News of the Screws reader would care about says much about the tabloids in the age of the internet. The scramble to get any tidbit of celebrity gossip has become so fierce as a result of the dedicated celebrity weeklies and websites such as Popbitch that the methods of journalists are increasingly entering the realm of the illegal, as the log books of a private investigator showed. As a result, they are bringing the whole profession into disrepute with their tactics.

One can only hope that Mazher Mahmood is the next one to feel the long arm of Inspector Knacker. Oh, and it'll be interesting to see if the Scum covers Goodman's sentence tomorrow.

Update: The Scum's website is reporting it, but we'll see if it actually appears in tomorrow's paper.

Update 2: Coulson's gone. Did he jump or was he pushed by Murdoch?

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Thursday, January 25, 2007 

Scum-watch: Downplaying Iraq, hypocrisy over prison overcrowding, and still lusting after young ignorant flesh.

What a happy coincidence it was for the first full debate on Iraq since 2004 in the House of Commons to come on the same day as John Reid was forced to go cap in hand to the judges, begging them to only jail serious and persistent offenders due to the crisis created by the government's perpetual crackdowns, spurred on by the tabloids. There was only ever going to be one topic on the mind of the Sun, but even by their standards the coverage given to the debate is utterly derisory and spectacularly dishonest. The article itself is dumped right down at the bottom of the online news page:

PM's rap for Ming over Iraq

TONY Blair dismissed calls yesterday for him to name the day British troops will leave Iraq.

The PM said it would be “disastrous” to set a deadline for withdrawal while killing continues.

He branded Lib Dem chief Sir Menzies ‘Ming’ Campbell “irresponsible” for demanding our forces are home by October 31.

Mr Blair vowed to see through the mission to put Iraq on its feet.

He stormed: “Our troops are there under a United Nations resolution, with full support of the government of Iraq.

“For us to set an arbitrary timetable — saying we will pull them out in October come what may — would send a disastrous signal to the people we are fighting in Iraq.

“Whatever its superficial attractions, it’s deeply irresponsible, which is probably why it’s Liberal Democrat policy.”

Mr Blair hit out after Lib Dems called for a phased withdrawal of our 7,000 troops from May.

Sir Menzies also rapped him for refusing to lead last night’s Iraq debate. But Mr Blair hit back during Question Time saying: “I’m debating the issue NOW.”

And err, that's it. They didn't even bother covering the actual debate, just the preliminary digs during PMQ's. Doing so might have exposed the war the Scum has supported before even Blair did for what it has been: a catastrophe.

Even so, the sophistry displayed here by Blair is glaring. The very policy Labour is currently pursuing is for a phased withdrawal to begin by the Spring - the Lib Dems are simply calling for all troops to leave Iraq by October, instead of being withdrawn to a barracks, an air base or close to the Iranian border, where they'll simply be an even bigger target for jihadists and roadside bombs. It's the very policy which Sir Richard Dannatt urged, calling for troops to leave soon in his interview with the Mail late last year.

Focusing on Campbell's call was the soft option for the Scum, attacking those who dare to differ from their own continuing support for never-ending war, while ignoring the Tories' more nuanced assaults on Blair's spineless response to whichever new initiative Washington announces. Trevor Kavanagh, the former political editor of the Scum also wrote an adulatory ass-kissing piece a couple of days ago about how Israel is ready to "blitz" Iran, marvelling at the same wonderful airborne harbringers of death that last year killed over 1,000 Lebanese civilians:

The Sun can reveal for the first time the astonishing force at Israel’s disposal.

It has 280 of the most sophisticated warplanes in the world — American-built F-16 and F-15 multipurpose jets, capable of flying to Iran and back without refuelling.

They carry at least two 2000lb long-range precision-guided bombs, capable of flying down an airshaft or through a window. Some have rock-blasting warheads which can reach deep underground, where Iran’s nuclear workshops are hidden.

With more pilots per aircraft than any other country in the world, Israel’s jets could be in the air almost 24 hours a day, flying hundreds of sorties over Iran.

Instead the Scum focused on Reid's failings to provide more prison cells:

A MASSIVE hunt was under way last night for Home Secretary John Reid’s BRAIN after his abysmal failure to solve the prisons crisis.

There were fears for the Home Secretary’s sanity after he broke a series of promises to get a grip of the overcrowding fiasco.

Mr Reid had pledged to build more cells, set up prison ships and turn disused Army camps into jails. But, in what could have been a sign of dementia, he has resorted to begging judges to let crooks loose rather than send them to the slammer.

No he didn't. Reid told judges to remember the other options, such as community sentences, except when dealing with serious and persistent offenders, which should be common sense in the first place. That it isn't is due in large part to the Scum's never-ending demands for tougher sentences, which has been shown before to highly influence judge's sentences as a whole rather than just for those who do genuinely need to be locked away both as a deterrent and to protect public safety.

Another article by the Scum's politicial editor goes on:

SWAGGERING John Reid was in the dock last night for a string of broken promises that fuelled the prisons crisis.

The big-talking Home Secretary was blasted for vowing to BUILD 8,000 more jail places, CREATE prison ships and GRAB disused army camps to relieve overcrowding.

But as jails are now so full that convicts are being kept in police cells, Reid has been exposed as delivering absolutely NOTHING.

This is bollocks to begin with, as the Scum only a few days ago praised the fact that a new prison is to open by the spring in Maghull on Merseyside. Still, at least there's one potentially bright spot to come out of this, as the whole situation seems to have led to the Scum dropping their previous support for Reid as Blair's successor:

Last night 152 convicts were being held at police station and court cells as the number “in jail” hovered above 80,000.

The fiasco will smash Reid’s proudly-held reputation as a self-styled tough guy.

Then the Sun blames Reid for not coming through on stupid and ill-thought out solutions which it suggested in the first place:

Reid cockily assured Sun readers in October that he would supply prison ships. He even ordered officials to scour ports looking for disused ferries.

The Home Office said at the time: “The Home Secretary has made it clear he wants to explore innovative solutions. We hope it will see us with extra capacity on floating vessels.”

But night Home Office officials admitted NO ships have been bought.

The Sun naturally ignores the fact that the last prison ship was closed because it had been recommended for closure by Anne Owers, head of the prisons inspectorate:

Her investigation found that the jail was "unacceptably cramped and claustrophobic" with prisoners having "no access to fresh air". The prison healthcare facilities were "very poor" and jobs for inmates were "very limited".

The money necessary to convert an "disused ferry" (ferries are only ever disused once they're utterly clapped out) to anywhere near something acceptable for use as a prison would much better spent towards building new prison space, or refurbishing current accomodation, something which has been cancelled throughout the system as a result of the overcrowding crisis.

The Scum continues:

In November, Reid vowed to open disused Ministry of Defence sites as prisons.

He said at the time: “We are in negotiations with relevant authorities over a number of sites in England and Wales.”

There is still no news of ANY MoD sites in the pipeline.

The Scum then very conveniently forgets both about its own role in suggesting MoD property as possible sites, and about its abrupt reverse ferret over Connaught Barracks, once it realised that families living locally had soliders serving overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan. Seeing as the existing MoD housing for soldiers has recently been condemned, you have to wonder just how bad the out of use accommodation is. It should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain that such a scheme was half-baked and that it was contradictory in the extreme when the Sun has been fuming about the open prisons, being, err, open when that is exactly what the sites would be, but these are Sun hacks we're dealing with. That they were listened to seriously in the first place ought to give an insight into the mindset of John Reid's Home Office: appease the tabloids first, think about realistic solutions second.

Not that this has saved him from the vitriol of today's Scum, the leader of which is foaming at the mouth:

THIS government’s policy towards locking up dangerous criminals can be summed up in two words: promises, promises.

So today The Sun has this message for Labour: we are SICK of your promises. When the hell are you going to DO something?

The prison population has gone up by roughly 25,000 in the last ten years. They seem to have more than fulfilled their promise.

Once again we are faced with letting out offenders early — or not sending them to prison at all — while judges are urged to give more soft community sentences.

And so the Scum continues the cycle. Community sentences are "soft". The public see them as "soft". Judges don't want to be seen as "soft", so they imprison even more offenders. Continue until the end of time.

The Sun does not believe every lawbreaker should go behind bars.

Quite so. The ginger ninja herself might otherwise have found herself in Holloway for assaulting her ex-husband.

But serious offenders deserve time in custody to teach them a lesson and protect the public.

But it's not working, is it? Re-offending rates have gone up from 55% five years ago to 67% now. As much as "teaching them a lesson", it's further teaching those that go in young that there's nothing for them outside.

Home Secretary John Reid and Chancellor Gordon Brown must stop feuding and come up with the plans and money for more prison places.

Including a prison ship. Do you hear that, Home Secretary? A prison ship. Like you promised.

Brilliant idea. Fuck bricks and mortar, just bring on the floating vessels.

Wake up Labour, and put the country first instead of your own careers.

Perhaps Wade ought to follow her own advice and from now on think what's best for this country instead of what Mr Murdoch thinks is best for this country. That doing so would result in her dismissal would be no excuse.

The failure of mass imprisonment to solve the problem of crime could not be more apparent, as today's figures released by both the Home Office and British Crime Survey show. Despite nearly 80,000 being behind bars, the chance of being a victim of crime has risen for the first time in years, up 1%, while personal robbery, fuelled by the carrying of expensive and easily sold-on mobile phones and mp3 players, jumped by 14%. Only a complete reappraisal of what prison is actually for will solve the overcrowding crisis, but it seems that no one is willing to listen, and with the Scum never ceasing to scream, this government is too cowardly to even consider such "radical" proposals as that of the ex-head of the prison and probation service, Martin Narey. The Scum is already reporting the Reid appears to have heeled to Wade's cry for ships and MoD bases to be used.

Elsewhere, the Scum is today yet again advertising the creepy charms of its MyScum MySpace rip-off community by plugging the desperate flesh-flashing of those who don't know any better, written appropriately by Dave Masters (warning: nudity):

Page editor Di James praised the girls' efforts and said it could lead to one of them being spotted by a top agency.

She added: "It's a great way to put yourself in the shop window!"

Indeed. An Amsterdam shop window.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007 

War against bullshit gains a new convert.

There couldn't be more of a contrast between the Director of Public Prosecution, Ken Macdonald's excellent speech last night to the Criminal Bar Association than with the attitudes apparently held by the British public on civil liberties, according to a survey by the British Social Attitudes survey.

According to Macdonald:

"It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary

It might? Talk of 30 plots, of the "sky being dark", constant demands for 90 day detention without trial, of deporting "terrorist suspects" to their country of origin where they might be tortured, detention without charge? Macdonald is entirely right, yet this fear-driven and inappropriate response has happened and is continuing. A plot in which there was no ricin, in which the recipe for making it was taken from an online source which was phony, and in which there was no link to al-Qaida was turned by the police and politicians into a scare-story designed to make the public even more fearful.

"London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement."

How could Blair and Reid present themselves as the saviours of the public if they did this though? The whole "war on terror" nonsense has always fallen into the trap of giving too much credit to those responsible for what is mass-murder. What has always been apparent is that there are men and women out there who wish to harm those who they don't know purely because of their twisted, fanatical beliefs. It's not a new threat, but it does require different methods due to changes in their own. What it does not require is knee-jerk changes to periods that those arrested under the terrorism acts can be held without charge, nor does it require abandoning the traditional procedure of arrest, charge, prosecution, imprisonment, for those guilty of serious offences.

It's therefore depressing to find that the government appears to be winning its war for hearts and minds on diluting civil liberties:

The report said support for civil liberties in Britain peaked in 1990, before going into a steep decline. In 1990, 9% of adults thought the police should be allowed to question suspects for up to a week without letting them see a solicitor. In the latest interviews, this nearly trebled to 25%.

And this is without the government or media suggesting that such a change could be necessary in order to fight crime and/or terrorism. It also shows how quickly either we've forgotten the miscarriages of justice of the 70s, which were often due to those arrested being denied access to lawyers and having confessions being scared out of them, or how the current generation is simply not being educated about them. Whether this is down to the increasing prevalence of the media to treat those arrested and not yet charged as though they're fair game both for smearing and "revelation" after revalation or through the belief that the police, now backed up by forensic science, are close to infallible is unclear. Either way, it shows something is/has going/gone wrong.

You do have to wonder about the potentially leading nature of some of the questions, though:

The survey found seven in every 10 people think compulsory identity cards for all adults would be "a price worth paying" to reduce the threat of terrorism. Eight in 10 say the authorities should be able to tap the phones of people suspected of involvement in terrorism, open their mail and impose electronic tagging or home curfews.

Put like that, there's always going to be a majority believe that almost anything is worth it if it reduces terrorism. If you instead made clear that the cost of ID cards is going to be at least £93, that this government's record of creating and managing databases is execrable (even though it's now decided not to create a new one for the scheme), that they've abandoned the idea of storing a scan of the iris on the card because they weren't good enough at establishing identity and that the fact that those responsible for the Madrid bombings had ID cards, then it's likely that seven in ten would considerably drop. The latter part of the paragraph isn't potentially too troubling; it shows that there is public support for wire-taping to made admissible in court, which the security services are still arrogantly telling the government to reject.

Less than a quarter of the population said torturing terror suspects would be "a price worth paying" and only 35% would accept a ban on peaceful protests and demonstrations.

That word only doesn't make that 35% figure any more reassuring. That anyone would almost ever accept any ban on peaceful protests shows something isn't working properly. Gordon is desperately thrashing around for things that define Britishness; what could be more British than complaining and demonstrating peacefully?

But the nation is almost equally divided on whether people charged with terrorism-related crime should be denied a jury trial - with 50% finding that acceptable and 45% unacceptable.

Thankfully, this is something which you know that MPs would never accept were it to be put to a vote. It's worth remembering that capital punishment was abolished and abortion made legal despite public opposition to both at the time. Even so, we can't rely on our representatives to always be so principled; an attack on the scale of 9/11 here could change everything. It's also not acceptable to refer, as some do on the CiF thread here, as sheep or otherwise. This survey, leading questions or not, shows that those of us who are concerned about this government's attacks on civil liberties need to raise our own game. Conor Gearty's own suggestions for doing so are worth noting:

(i) do not take civil liberties for granted; work out why they are important without assuming anything;

(ii) in doing this, be pragmatic up to a point - recognise that sometimes the state is right to restrict our freedom, that in a democratic society, the state is us - in other words, beware of drifting into an anarchic libertarianism, because if you do, the general public will stop listening to you;

(iii) keep a sense of proportion: liberty is by no means dead in Britain; we are not living in a police state; the executive remains accountable to parliament and the courts and does not always get its own way;

(iv) take a leaf out of the book of radical political and devoted Christian communities: having worked out what you believe in, stand up for it - talk among your friends and work colleagues; attend meetings of the like-minded; proselytise;

(v) do not simply reject all politicians and those who have power in our society simply because they are powerful and/or political: praise as well as condemn; government is not homogeneous, there are different voices: people like our courageous Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken McDonald, deserve support.
The fifth point is especially worth taking into consideration. The Tories have of late rediscovered their libertarian bent, opposing 90 days, forcing the government to compromise over control orders, etc. Much as some of us on the left are loath to do so, they deserve praise for their stand, made in the face of the jibes of Labour and insults of the Sun. The Liberal Democrats' recommendations to scrap mandatory life sentences, in effect keeping life sentences only for those who will spend the rest of their lives behind bars, and to abolish entirely short-term, meaningless and ineffective sentences were a much needed dose of common sense and reality. That they were hardly reported and dismissed by both the Tories and Labour was an injustice.

In short, we shouldn't entirely despair. Instead we ought to be building on what we have already achieved, and make a major effort to both show this government up for encouraging and relying on the politics of a fear, while also making clear that the current response to acts of terror has rather than made them less likely instead done little to thwart the threat, while also removing rights which until recently were held as sacrosanct.

Update: Macdonald's speech is available here in full.

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Harriet Harman launches blog.

Everyone give a big blogobowl welcome to Harriet "I've got tits" Harman, minister for constitutional affairs, who in a blaze of publicity (surely silence? Ed.) has launched her own weblog. Things may not be off to the most promising of starts in her praise for Hillary Clinton, but government ministers blogging is a good thing, and ought to be encouraged, as long as they're not exercises in futility, such as Mr Miliband's.

Oh, and silly jokes regarding Harman's main campaigning battle-cry for deputy prime minister aside, she's one of the few Labour ministers who doesn't make you want to pierce your eardrums with an knitting needle on hearing them speak, and I'm sure we can all agree that we could do with more who don't spark such reflex movements.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007 

Somewhere, a village is missing its idiot.

They say that Paul Dacre doesn't often give speeches in public. Whether this is down to the fact that he can't help swearing like Jade Goody combined with a drunken sailor, notorious to his own staff for his use of "cunt" twice in one sentence, or the fact that judging by his Cudlipp lecture last night, he just doesn't haven't have anything much of interest to say, is hard to tell. Somehow, I think it's the latter.

Nevertheless, he's given this year's Hugh Cudlipp lecture (PDF). And across Britain, every right-winger who loathes the BBC for daring to be as impartial as humanly possible rejoices.

After 4 pages worth of teary-eyed, "good ol' days" crap, Dacre finally starts to get to his point:

Well, I’m sorry to piss on their parade, but, with the honourable exception of the Telegraph, which, of course, is the only right-wing “quality” - The Guardian, The Independent and The Times are all losing money.

Such papers are effectively being subsidised.
So when The Times’s Ms Sieghart, the very embodiment of modern free-thinking women, holds forth on feminism, she does so courtesy of the topless girls in the still vastly profitable Sun.

Equally, when The Guardian’s Mr Kettle vents his spleen on the excesses of the free market he does so courtesy of the fat profits made by that fine example of the free market – The Guardian-owned Auto Trader.

Well thanks for telling us something we didn't already know. The very nature of liberalism often means that those who claim to be and practice its values are horrible hypocrites: I know I am. Sieghart also isn't being subsidised just by the Sun; the rest of Murdoch's vast empire is also paying for her. Oh, and describing her sneeringly as the "embodiment of modern free-thinking women" obviously doesn't prove the Mail editor's oft-accused penchant for misogyny, not one bit. Speaking of which, didn't the Mail at the beginning of the year also say that the excesses of the free market were promoting the "politics of envy"? Yep, it certainly did. Not that Mr Dacre is one to comment. His salary and benefits last year rose, according to Private Eye, from £997,000 to £1.23 million. By comparison, the Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, earned £312,000 (as well as taking home a bonus of £175,000), while the BBC Director General, Mark Thompson, earned £459,000.

And while The Guardian’s Scott Trust is a magnificent construct that allows some gloriously elevated journalism – and praise be to God for that, say I, – let’s not beat about the bush: subsidised papers are, by definition, unable to survive in a free market. Their journalism and values – invariably liberal, metropolitan and politically correct, and I include the pinkish Times here, - don’t connect with sufficient readers to be commercially viable.

Does Dacre have a point here? Maybe, but only maybe. Taking the circulation of all the papers Dacre mentions together based on the December ABCs, they add up to 1,240,168, more than 300,000 more copies than the profit-making Daily Telegraph sold, and 80,000 of those were at a discounted bulk price.

In other words, there quite clearly is a market for just the journalism and values which Dacre sniffs about. In a way, Dacre has something of a point. The advent of the internet especially has meant that having two centre-left "quality" papers is perhaps not going to be viable for too much longer; the Independent will probably eventually shift entirely online, go free or fold. Its owner, Tony O'Reilly, may pull the plug one day. The way the Guardian especially has taken to the online challenge, the way it's managed to engage readers, especially from America, means that it isn't going anywhere any time soon, and the Times will never fold while Murdoch continues to rampage across the globe. Additionally, the Guardian website turned in a profit last year, and it's by far the most popular British newspaper site. How is that not success?

Ah, say the bien pensants, but such papers are hugely concerned for the common good. But there is a rather unedifying contradiction here. For the Subsidariat, as I shall dub them, are actually rather disdainful of common man, contemptuous even, of the papers that make profits by appealing to and connecting with millions of ordinary men and women.

How often do you read in the Subsidariat, or hear on Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people.

Dacre here is confusing the paper people buy with the views they hold. Do all 800,000 Express readers honestly believe that Princess Diana was murdered? I somehow doubt it. As for contemptuous references to it, what do the tabloids expect when it's shown how by opinion poll how little tabloid journalists are trusted (9% compared to a narrow majority who trust TV news journalists), and what lengths they go to gain their "exclusives", not to mention their continuing reliance on paparazzi. While the furore over Kate Middleton has now died down somewhat, yesterday numerous papers printed photographs of Prince Harry's girlfriend, for err, wearing a dress similar to that which Ms Middleton had wore. When they're invading the privacy of the population for reasons far from the public interest, why are they so surprised think that the "Subsidariat" view the tabloids with contempt? They're bringing their own profession into disrepute.

Fair enough, you might say. The tabloid press – and it’s getting confusing here,because The Times and The Independent are, of course, tabloids now – is big enough to look after itself.

Except I don’t think it is fair because such arguments ignore the ever burgeoning growth of the most powerful media organisation in the world. I refer, of course, to the hugely subsidised BBC.

Oh, you're fucking kidding me. Is this meant to be satire? How on earth does the BBC in any way compare to the global behemoth which is News Corporation? It doesn't. As much as you may dislike the BBC Dacre, this is just plain bollocks.

Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol – and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them – let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. I, for one, would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4.

As opposed to the tabloids, who just demonise those who can't fight back. Colin Stagg, anyone? Asylum seekers? Immigrants? Those accused of terrorism? By coincidence, today Mail and Express journalists were giving evidence to the joint committee of human rights, and a Guardian hack took the opportunity to show that they're misleading their readers into believing Britain has a far higher share of immigrants than it actually does have - 21% and 19%, compared to the actual total, which is 7% of the population. Also Mr Dacre, you would pay the licence fee alone for Radio 4, right? Doesn't Radio 4, with its high-brow Today programme, worthy dramas and otherwise exemplify the very things you hate about the BBC? Doesn't this make you too a hypocrite?

But as George Orwell said “to see what is in front of one’s nose requires constant struggle”. And what is in front of one’s nose is that the BBC, a behemoth that bestrides Britain is, as Cudlipp might have put it, TOO BLOODY BIG, TOO BLOODY PERVASIVE AND TOO BLOODY POWERFUL.

Firstly, consider the sheer vast size of the Corporation which is, despite its bleating about being underfunded, a conglomerate that employs 26,000 people, has a vast £3.2bn budget, and thinks nothing of paying £18m to a chat show host.

And so on it begins, a rant against the BBC and everything it does everywhere, complaining about how the BBC haven't gone after New Labour scandals, which is nonsense (the organisation quickly backtracked from offering £100 to those who helped break exclusives on the loans for peerages scandal - which the Sun jumped on - the BBC can't win whatever it does), how it's destroyed the Tory party (it didn't - the Tory party and the electorate destroyed the Tory party) mostly backed up by no evidence whatsoever, except than by Dacre's invective. About the only example given is that one journalist had his revelation that the HIV rates were being brought up by African migrants being diagnosed once they had reached Britain cut at the last minute. If so, it's appalling, but doesn't by any definition translate to such censorship being overwhelming throughout the organisation. For instance, take the BBC's recent rather sensationalist investigation into translation services - natural Daily Mail territory. Maybe that's why Dacre's really pissed off - they're increasingly stealing his thunder.

Freedom of Information enquiries tell us, and we should be very unsurprised here, that the BBC Newsroom has more copies of the statist Guardian delivered than any other paper and that 90% of the Corporation’s job ads are placed with that paper.

Thus are the values of a subsidised newspaper that sells 380,000 copies embraced by an organisation that reaches into virtually every home in Britain.

Or maybe it's that the Guardian has by far the most respected media coverage, and is as a result the best place to advertise. Maybe the fact that a broadsheet is the most delivered has something to do with the fact that the tabloids increasingly have less and less "news" and more and more garbage? Dacre also doesn't let us know exactly how many more copies of the Grauniad are delivered, the margin is probably tiny.

But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.

Indeed. As "political correctness" swept the tabloids other than the Daily Mail last week, all condemnatory over the Big Brother race row, the Mail instead belittled the whole thing, advising viewers to switch off. When the BBC showed "Jerry Springer The Opera", the advice from the Mail certainly wasn't to switch off.

This, I would argue, is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don’t subscribe to the BBC’s world view. Told repeatedly that their opinions are not considered respectable or legitimate these people are disconnecting – one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.

Or it could be that the politicians themselves are now so indulgent of a minority - which, shock - is the same lower middle class that Dacre so eulogises and which the BBC apparently hates, also known as the "aspirational", that politics has become meaningless. Of course, tabloid attacks on politicians, regardless of allegiance have also had no role in undermining faith in those who govern us, oh no.

How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of right-wing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch’s rightwing Fox TV News service.

Yep, and still the far-right decries the American press as being liberally biased, much like Dacre and others decry the BBC for being just the same. That the American press were so cowed in the aftermath of September the 11th, so loath to criticise anything the Bush administration pushed through for fear of being labelled anti-American and unpatriotic that the Iraq disaster took place, which is still being praised to the rafters by the very right-wingers which Dacre now mentions doesn't undermine his argument one bit. Nope.

And here I wish to digress for a moment and address an issue that should deeply worry all those who believe in press freedom: Britain’s judges –whose dislike of much of the media should not be underestimated – are itching to bring in a Privacy Law by the back door.

Under the Human Rights Act we are witnessing the development, at a frightening pace, of an aggressive judge-made privacy law over which Parliament has no control.

All then becomes clear. The very newspaper which promised after the death of Diana to stop buying any photographs by paparazzi and kept said promise for about 5 minutes, now continues to want to keep splashing on snatched shots of minor celebrities getting out of their cars. There is a legitimate concern that a privacy law will be introduced through the back-door by judges - who incidentally are trusted by 81% of the population, a mere 9 times more than tabloid journalists - and that it could have a chilling effect on press freedom, but this will be a result of the pathetic celebrity worship which the same tabloids indulge in it if it happens, rather than legitimate investigations into politicians. The tabloids will only have themselves to blame if it does.

Indeed, had you told me 36 years ago that a cuckolded husband didn’t have the right to speak about his wife’s adultery, that a paper would be banned from referring to royal indiscretions contained in a round-robin journal distributed to scores of people and that the media cannot reveal the identity of a Labour ex-Education Minister who sends her child to private school – three issues that have come up recently on the privacy front - I would have simply disbelieved you.

I don't know about the first example, and can't say I could give a shit if I did. The second is referring to Prince Charles's journal, which was printed by the Mail on Sunday in part, before he then stopped them from revealing it in full, but not before his amazing opinion that the Chinese who took part in the handover of Hong Kong were "appalling old waxworks" was made public. The third is err, about Ruth Kelly, who was named and seems likely to fail in her attempts to get the PCC to intervene. The Mirror was just more forthright in naming her than the Hatemail on Sunday was.

Such restrictions are not conducive to producing adventurous journalism but, the judges, I fear, are all part of a movement by a liberal establishment to curb what they see as the excesses of the press.

Yes, of course they are dear. It's all one big conspiracy, which doesn't involve judges having to interpret the law as they see it one iota. Also, who could blame them if they actually were when the Sun "named and shamed" and attacked them last year for simply handing down sentences under the government's own guidelines?

Such papers need to be sensational, irreverent, gossipy, interested in celebrities and human relationships and, above all, brilliantly entertaining sugar coated pills if they are to attract huge circulations and devote considerable space to intelligent, thought-provoking journalism, analysis and comment on important issues.

Or they could, as Lord Northcliffe suggested, just provide their own little "Daily Hate", which the Mail definitely does.

Moving on:

The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour Party by breaking a genuine story, the Corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.

And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the Attorney General’s malfeasance, virtually ignored in The Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by The Sun.

Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10 and the question whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgements over Iraq – indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.

It is a good question, and this is the only part of Dacre's entire lecture which is entirely and documentarily true, yet even this is tempered more by the Mail's hatred of Labour more than it is of support for the BBC's journalism. As soon as the Hutton whitewash passed, the Mail was back to attacking the BBC in every way.


And what’s in front of one’s nose is that Britain needs greater freedom, plurality and diversity in its media.

All of which is provided in your super-soaraway Daily Mail! Oh, wait...

Update: Today's Grauniad published an edited version of Dacre's rant on its comment pages, sans most of the bits about the Groan itself. Here's a question worth putting to Dacre and the Daily Mail as a whole: would it give over comment space to Alan Rusbridger, ranting about Sky and the tabloids? Somehow I doubt it. Additionally, the piece is also up on CiF, where the debate has been as usual, reasonably fierce. CiF, unlike the Mail's site, doesn't moderate comments before they're posted, and it also doesn't censor comments which are highly critical of the newspaper. The Mail, on the other hand, heavily filters comments on its reports and comment pieces, generally only letting a token objection or disagreement with the article be given space alongside the adulatory masses and disgusteds of Tonbridge Wells. The difference between the politically correct liberals and the right-wingers which Dacre so loves is that we're not afraid to debate and do so without having to resort to the kind of news-management which would be more at home in Downing Street than in Islington.

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Monday, January 22, 2007 

Just fancy that!

This dropped into my inbox tonight:

You recently signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to
"Resign immediately."

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and
you can view it here:
Excellent. An example of e-citzenry in action. How can the prime minister justify his continued stay when it's so obvious he should go immediately?

Err, he doesn't.

Read the Government's response

The PM has made clear that he will be leaving office before the next Labour party conference.

Yep, even online, faced with just a simple text petition asking him to resign, he still avoids answering why he won't. Like an England fan who can't realise we're doomed to never win the World Cup again, but still bellows out his devotion to his nation, Tony is New Labour until he dies.


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It's the end, why don't you admit it?

According to "Dr" Cliff Arnall, today is the most miserable day of the year. Despite this not having any basis in fact whatsoever, seeing that Cliff Arnall has already been exposed by Ben Goldacre as a corporate whore, it seems that New Labour really does want it to be the day when you're most likely to think of doing a Saddam. Nothing could be more apparent than the continuing attempts of ministers both to questioning the police for so much as daring to question Ruth Turner, as well as the Blairite's continuing belief that only the "super-marginals" matter.

Let's start with Frank Field, who has written what can only be described politely as an "interesting" comment piece for CiF:

A successful terrorist attack on London could make part of the capital uninhabitable for decades and make Britain permanently poorer.

New York, despite having the two tallest buildings in the city demolished without warning, managed to be back up and running within weeks, although whether the dust created by the collapsed buildings will turn out to be a long-term health hazard remains to be seen. Unless our suicide bombing loving friends manage to explode a nuke, there's not much that could make the capital "uninhabitable" for decades.

This is only part of Field's first paragraph. This is where it gets really "interesting":

Yet, while London awaits its fate, Scotland Yard is fiddling away on an enquiry into the alleged sale of honours. How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend this enquiry as the best use of scarce police resources?

How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend investigating kids getting mugged for their iPods? How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend sending officers out to arrest people caught shoplifting 2 or 3 chocolate bars? How can the Metropolitan commissioner defend apprehending burglars?

This is quite possibly the most pitiful argument that an MP could ever possibly come out with. Believe it or not Frank, the police have different departments to investigate different crimes. See, there's the Counter-Terrorism Command, there's a Economic and Specialist Crime Command, and gasp, John Yates has set-up his own team of six detectives to investigate the "loans for peerages" affair. And you know what, the Met are even kind enough to provide a web page with all the information on each different department of the force. You could have seen it there.

In criticising the Metropolitan Police commissioner for a serious misuse of police time I have not assumed that there is no case to answer on the honours front. No 10 has at the very least been sailing close to the wind. The whole saga is tacky, to put it mildly.

Tacky. Prostituting the party to huge corporate sponsors because no one else was willing to stump up the cash at the last general election, possibly selling honours as a sweetener on the deal, and then deliberately hiding what had been done by exploiting a loophole in the very law which Labour brought in, and Field only finds this tacky, to put it mildly. I'd call it as bad as some of the worst sleaze which the previous Tory government indulged in, and seeing as Neil Hamilton received money in brown envelopes for asking questions and Jonathan Aitken prepared to have his daughter lie for him in court, that's quite an achievement.

The way that the police have conducted the enquiry suggests to the media that it is the PM who is in the frame. But where did those senior Labour party figures who run the party, particularly in the run-up and during the election, believe the £18 million spent on the election came from, if not from wealthy donors? When the small group of top Labour officials, including the prime minister and the chancellor, mapped out the campaign, did they all believe that the £18 million or so they were committing to election campaign grew on trees?

Maybe, just maybe Frank, they thought that the funds had been properly donated, all above board, keeping in line with the very measures which Labour introduced. They didn't have any reason to be suspicious, so they didn't ask.

What is the financial control structure in the Labour party that allows the treasurer to claim that he had no idea of the source of the £18 million? Does not the Labour party have an audit committee to ask such elementary questions before money is committed?

From what we know, Labour was so desperate for money that Lord Levy had to go out glad-handing, begging and bribing. Neither Jack Dromey, the Treasurer, or Jeremy Beecham, the head of National Executive Committee, knew about the loans until the papers exposed them. In fact, Dromey was so concerned that he was going to end up being the fall guy, that he then he made clear that he had, to paraphrase Manuel, "knew nothing". This didn't spare him then being attacked for not being inquisitive enough when he had no reason to be. John Prescott, and it has to be assumed, Gordon Brown also didn't know about the loans. According to the Independent, only Blair, Levy and the then party general secretary, Matt Carter knew about them. This is what is known as shifting the blame. Even if the treasurers had been aware of the loans, would they have been able to persuade Labour to either forgo them or convert them to donations? It seems unlikely.

These are some of the very important questions the Labour party leadership needs to answer. They are not questions which have so far been put in public debate. But we shouldn't have to turn to the police to gain answers to questions which tell us something pretty fundamental about how political parties are run in Britain today. That a full scale police enquiry was put in hand raises not for the first time the judgement of Ian Blair the commissioner.

Much as Ian Blair has to answer for, this is nothing to do with him. Sure, he has ultimate say over the investigation, but once a complaint has been made, the police have a duty to thoroughly investigate it, which is exactly what they have done. Much as Field would like for it not to have been turned over to the police, the very reason a complaint was made was because there is a suspicion that the law as it stands very well may have been broken. There have been claims in recent days of the Yates' inquiry discovering a "smoking gun", which may well be the other reason why New Labourites of all shades have taken it upon themselves to question both the police's remit and their tactics.

The commissioner has found himself in choppy political water recently and it was obviously easier for him to allow the enquiry to advance than to defend that with all the issues facing the Yard, the honours for sale fiasco was no where near the top of his agenda. But the easy option is, in this case, a negation of leadership.

During Ian Blair's watch the nature of the terrorist threat to Britain has fundamentally changed. Irish terrorists were about destroying buildings, usually after giving a warning. The nature of the threat posed by Islamic extremists is carried out by suicide bombers. What none of us know is when the next outrage is going to occur.

And your point is what, Frank? Are you trying to suggest that Ian Blair is negating his duties in countering-terrorism? Blair is more than open to the charge of being all mouth and no trousers, since he's more than happy to exaggerate the true level of the threat and to demand even more draconian powers, but surely he can't be accused of lacking leadership over tackling it, especially over an investigation that involves only six detectives.

Speaking of scaremongering, here comes Frank "I'm shitting bricks" Field's take on what the evil terrorists could possibly do to London:

Nor is the threat, awful as it is, confined to such horrors visited on innocent individuals. An explosion of a dirty bomb could make parts of London uninhabitable for decades or more. Such an explosion would bring down more than the surrounding buildings. Twenty per cent of Britain's income comes from the financial services sector. A dirty bomb would see much of this industry leave our shores. At a stroke our national income would be reduced from being at the top of the league of advanced countries, to the bottom, with huge repercussions for income and employment levels.

Likewise, bombing the Thames barrier at a record high tide with strong incoming winds would not only flood Canary wharf. Such an attempt would result in a pack of financial lemmings scuttling from our shores with the same devastating effect on national prosperity as a chemical or dirty bomb attack.

Field has then came up with two nightmare scenarios, and that is exactly what they are, nightmares. As a commenter on the thread notes, the studies into the threat posed by dirty bombs have all played down the threat, or rather, have concluded that there is a threat but that it's nowhere near the fevered imaginations of some of our politicians and other defense "experts". The real threat posed, as has been made all the more obvious by the 21/7 bombing trial, is from jihadists preparing their own bombs with easily available materials. A more realistic nightmare scenario would be multiple suicide bombers attacking multiple cities and multiple targets in a co-ordinated attack. That doesn't however pose the same horror as the use of nuclear material, or flooding the city through bombing the Thames barrier.

It is against the need to try and prevent a catastrophe on this scale for our country that I continue to question the use of police time over the alleged sale of honours. I know it's much easier for the police to chase a somewhat old fashioned crime as the alleged sale of honours than to try and foil the next, and then the next, terrorist outrage.

Right, so apparently our police have suffered so much under Field's own government that they can't do two things at once. He must realise that this is a completely false argument, so completely ludicrous that you almost do wonder whether he actually does realise that. Have you finally lost it, Frank?

The commissioner has put what we are told is his most gifted senior policeman onto this task but it is these very gifts that we need to employ trying to keep ahead of the new terrorists. Given the choice between ruffling some feathers of the smaller creatures at No 10 for perverting the course of justice or reinforcing the unglamorous daily grind of trying to protect the security of our country, Ian Blair's judgement looks eccentric, to put it mildly.

And so this litany of disingenuous garbage finally comes to the end. Is this is what Labour has now been reduced to? Faced with a police inquiry right at the top, a government that has given the police nearly every single new power they've wanted, all of sudden the supporters of Blair come out to question the very same organisation they've time and again defended to the hilt. Field doesn't just question the police's actual reason for existing, to investigate allegations of breaking the law, he has to bring in terrorism, the new catch-all for justifying anything and everything to cover the backside of the current occupier of 10 Downing Street (see today's ruling on Brian Haw for another example of this). It'd be easier to understand if a rabid Blairite had written this pathetic, new low for a Labour MP, but Field isn't, and never has been.

Which brings us neatly to Hazel Blears. She too believes, like Liam Byrne and Bill Rammell that the next election will be won through targeting the "super-marginals".

New Labour came to power with its belief in the "third way", that left and right politics no longer applied and that such labels were obsolete. It now even seems that vacuum has been thrown out of the window, in favour of anything that pleases a few select people. Gone is the belief in any broad narrative, that's so 20th century. Instead, we are all consumers and we're all going to choose what we want. Blears however, unlike Liam 'n' Bill, seems to know what the voters want; while Liam 'n' Bill think aspiration will win the day, Blears thinks that what the people are interested in are what she wants to talk about i.e. the police, the NHS and education, rather than foreign policy, civil liberties concerns or immigration.

All this though is just a waste of breath on their own concerns. Blair's downfall, Field's attack on the police for doing their job and Liam, Bill and Hazel's ideas are all connected. All of them are doomed. All of them are on their way out. It's the end for Blairism. Sure, it might be about to replaced by a slightly lesser form of Blairism in Brownism, but they're finished. It's the end. They just can't admit it.

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Sunday, January 21, 2007 

Phil Davies MP retracts his "fuck off".

Following on from Mad Mel's non-apology about the Sun's inaccurate Windsor Muslim yobs report, the Tory MP Philip Davies has been good enough to retract his plea for those responsible to "fuck off", with again, major kudos to Mask of Anarchy for bothering to contacting him:

Anyone up for attempting to contact Damian Green MP and Sir Andrew Green to see whether they'll also do the decent thing?

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Saturday, January 20, 2007 

They don't like it up 'em.

Do you remember how many times Blair professed his "complete confidence" in his namesake as the head of the Met? He did it on more than a couple of occasions last year. That's what makes the reaction to the arrest of Ruth Turner, Blair's political liaison officer, on the suspicion of perverting the course of justice in connection with the loans for peerages investigation, so illuminating. Out they come, all united in their questioning of the "theatrical" nature of the arrest, done as it was "before dawn" at 6:30am.

All of which made me remember the treatment of Lana Vandenberghe, who worked for the Independent Police Complaints Commission. She was the one who leaked the reality of what happened to Jean Charles de Menezes to ITV news, disgusted by the way that the police had lied and attempted to cover their tracks over what took place at Stockwell tube station on the morning of the 22nd of July 2005. For her trouble, she too was arrested before dawn, but rather than being questioned and released within hours like Ruth Turner, she instead had her door kicked in by 10 police officers and was thrown in a cell for 8 hours without access to food, water or a lawyer.

Whilst what Vandenberghe did was clearly in the wider public interest, correcting the myths which had been perpetuated, Ruth Turner is widely thought to have been arrested for potentially destroying evidence, i.e. deleting emails, a serious, imprisonable offence.

As Curious Hamster points out, this is the same government that wants us to trust the police, that wants them to be given further summary powers of justice and desperately wants us to believe that if we have nothing to hide then we have nothing to fear. As ever, when the boot is on the other foot, the predictable loyalists and hangers-on of Blair emerge from out of the shadows to voice their distaste. Isn't it all so terribly unfair?

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Scum-watch: What the fuck?

I seriously thought that my eyes were deceiving me when looking at today's Sun leader column. Apart from the stupidity of claiming that last night's BB vote was the most important since the last general election, while also ignoring their own role in "creating" Jade in the first place, here sits a leader hitting out at casual bigotry, and then there's this:

FOOTBALL is the universal language.

So the idea of allowing 390million Africans, many of them Muslims, to watch Premiership matches for free is inspired.

I might be reading too much into this, but what the hell has the fact that many of the 390 million Africans happen to be Muslims got to do with anything? Is the Sun suggesting that African Muslims are even more culturally impoverished than other Africans, or is it even implying something more sinister? It seems simply, that the Sun just can't help itself.

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Friday, January 19, 2007 

They just don't get it.

As Blair enters the last lap of his premiership, a loss of authority was always to be expected. After ruling his party with as close to an iron fist as possible since the 1997 election, crushing dissent, fighting their natural instincts and promoting himself as the only one who could both reform the country and the party, the beginning to the year has seen his power finally begin to evaporate. While he was off-holidaying at the home of a Bee Gee, both John Prescott and Gordon Brown described the execution of Saddam Hussein, or at least the manner in which it was carried out, as "deplorable", necessitating Blair to say something similar once he eventually got round to it. Meanwhile, the army have been disgusted by his speech at HMS Albion, and now with the deputy leadership race more or less under way, other ministers and potential contenders have been opening their mouths in ways which would have earlier resulted in Alastair Campbell kicking their teeth in.

Normally, such apparent honesty would be welcome, as would the discussion which comes from the open talk of mistakes which have been made. The way some ministers have spoken out though only shows just how both opportune they are, how they don't know what they're talking about, and how they just simply don't get it. For instance, hark at James Purnell, who voted very strongly for the Iraq war:

"There are many, many lessons we need to learn about Iraq and it is very important for us politically to recognise that. In terms of international politics, we need to learn the lessons of the mistakes that clearly have been made.

"I think the biggest mistake is that you always need to learn the importance of moral legitimacy and international support. Going back and looking at what happened, if we and the Americans had realised that the Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction as an imminent threat, we would have had more time to get a second UN resolution we were trying to get. If we had gone into Iraq with international support, the situation would have been much much easier.

No James, you berk, if the weapons inspectors had been allowed to finish their job properly, with "us and the Americans" realising that Iraq didn't have WMD as a result, there wouldn't have been a second resolution anyway because Iraq wasn't a threat to anyone, let alone us. Iraq was not, and would not have been in breach of UN resolutions; as Hans Blix pointed out in one of his final reports to the security council when Al-Samoud 2 missiles which slightly overshot their allowed distance were being dismantled:

We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.

This is the real, overriding, dominant lesson that should be learned from the Iraq disaster. The war was simply not justified. We instead rushed to send in the troops, riding the coattails of an American administration which had almost universally destroyed opposition, both in Congress and in the wider country, enjoying the comfort of being propelled by a belligerent patriotism which had taken root since the attacks of the 11th of September. Despite throwing every single possible reason for going to war at the general public, it was only ever in the beginning phases that a majority supported the conflict in this country. Blair's dossiers, pleas about the humanitarian situation, accusations of links with al-Qaida which were given a cursory nod and a wink if not fully supported, all were linked in with the spin and lies which will now be remembered for years to come. After all this, rather than reflecting the entire conflict has been a mistake, that trying to convince the public with so much bullshit has now made the electorate even more cynical and disdainful towards politicians in general as a result, we're still being told by ministers that all would have been OK if only there had been international support. This isn't just hookum, it's flagrantly dishonest.

From the same article, Hilary Benn talks a decent amount of sense in contrast to Purnell, but still doesn't seem to acknowledge what now needs to be done:

"The current situation in Iraq is absolutely grim, so let us be clear about that truth. Look, the intelligence was wrong, the de-Ba'athification went too far, the disbanding of the army was wrong and, of course, we should have the humility to acknowledge those things, and to learn. I am not insensitive to the huge well of bitterness and anger from lots of people in the party."

Excellent. Someone from Labour who happens to be a minister who understands the reality of how things are. How though did Mr Benn vote on the recent Commons vote for setting up an inquiry? Uh, he rejected the need for one.

This is exactly what the problem is. It's all well and good to accept that things have gone wrong, that much is obvious. The difficulty Labour now has over Iraq is that it's stuck, forced to recognise that mistakes have been made, but still not yet willing to either apologise or order an inquiry along similar lines to the Franks inquiry, hopefully without the whitewash, or for instance, the Scott inquiry into arms to Iraq. Instead, highly influenced by Blair's repudiation that he was anything but completely honest in his case for war, Labour continues to defend the indefensible, and until he's gone, will probably continue to do so.

Not that this has stopped Peter Hain from opening his own campaign for the deputy leadership by launching a salvo against the Bush administration. In an interview with the New Statesman he said:

"The neo-con mission has failed ... It's not only failed to provide a coherent international policy, it's failed wherever it's been tried, and it's failed with the American electorate, who kicked it into touch last November. The problem for us as a government ... was actually to maintain a working relationship with what was the most rightwing American administration, if not ever, then in living memory."

Almost entirely right of course, although whether entirely kicking a working relationship with the Americans into touch or not is a good idea remains to be seen. Hain's problem is that he was in the cabinet in the run-up to the Iraq war, he's voted for the war, he's defended the war, and you've guessed it, voted against the inquiry into the war. Hain might have more credibility if he'd actually at least voiced concern about the Iraq war and Blair's foreign policy in cabinet, but there's no evidence that he has. Robin Cook's diaries of the time only seem to suggest that he and Clare Short even bothered to question the prime minister's line, with David Blunkett of all people being vexed to begin with as well. If, shock horror, you were cynical, you might think that Hain is only saying this now in an attempt to split the left-Labour vote between him and Jon Cruddas.

To be fair to Hain, he has been one of the more out-spoken members of the cabinet, but he has also often been seen as a sop to the soft-left of the party by Blair in an attempt to keep them in order. More encouragingly than his comments about foreign policy are his points about reengaging the unions, made in an article in the GMB union's journal.

Even this apparent dalliance with a return to more traditional Labour policies has already brought a riposte from Blair and his ultras. Their arguments, as ever, are completely self-defeating:

"You don't win elections from your comfort zone. You win them by showing courage and optimism."

Except that this "comfort zone" isn't a return to what the Blairite ultras are calling the 1980s, it's realising that New Labour policies have failed. Blair, in his bizarre, deluded way, seems to feel that every single policy he's ever put forward has been "progressive", that New Labour is "progressive". It isn't. Introducing top-up fees is not progressive, wasting billions of pounds in PFI schemes is not progressive, attaching ourselves without receiving anything discernible in return to the most right-wing American administration has not been progressive, and innumerable policies dictated from Downing Street in response to tabloid headlines have not been progressive. Being "New Labour" rather than considering principles, what actually works and being against everything that the party has held dear for decades has not been progressive, it's helped destroy the party and led to an increasingly cynical electorate. Even now, Blair is determined that this continues:

"It's not about merely accepting the aspirant class, tolerating the element that might vote conservative but we want to vote progressive; it's not about being gracious enough to allow their concerns on tax or immigration or responsive public services to intrude on our core cause.

"It's about a wholehearted embrace of them. It's not enough to be 'not against them'. We need to be for them, welcoming them, letting them shape and influence our policy. It means never relapsing into appealing to our heart detached from our head."

In other words, this is a retread of Liam Byrne and Bill Rammell's analysis that the next election will be based purely on appealing to the swing voters in a tiny number of constituencies. This is depressing beyond belief: it's the equivalent of the way the Tories "dog-whistle" nonsense of two years ago. It's giving over everything "we" believe in to the whims of those who will never be happy with their lot whoever's in government. Are their aspirations our aspirations? Are we meant to adjust to theirs rather than attempt to show why ours might be better for society as a whole rather than just them? This is Blair's influence on politics writ large: constantly trying to instantly respond to whichever the current crisis is, rather than seeing the bigger picture.

"The reason we have to be the ones taking on the challenge of terrorism, security, and the linked concerns over crime and immigration is because the people see the challenge clearly and want us to respond. If we fail to, if it's all too difficult, don't be surprised if they turn instead to the right."

Blair's boneheadedness really knows no bounds. Somehow he cannot see how his policies on security, terrorism and crime have been incredibly right-wing, or rather he does and doesn't want to own up to it. Labour's attempts to outflank the Tories on the right on crime have been successful in political terms, but have failed to solve the problems facing us or placate the tabloids. Crime has fallen but the prisons are full, and the only policy is to keep on building and keep on locking them away.

The Blairites then, continue not to get it. Even as the ship begins to sink, the rats, already up to their neck in it, continue to squeak that they can't swim away. No, that would be "comfortable".

Related posts:
BlairWatch: FAO Peter Hain | Rats Spotted Leaving Sinking Ship
Paul Linford - Hain rediscovers his balls
Ministry of Truth - The Human Touch

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Mad Mel meddles.

Mask of Anarchy, attempting to get blood out of a stone by correcting Melanie Philips' opportune use of the Scum's untrue story about "Muslim yobs" in Windsor, has succeeded in getting her to change her original post. Spot the difference:

The silence is indeed deafening.

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Thursday, January 18, 2007 

Scraping the bottom of the racist barrel while fleeing the sinking ship.

(As always, the following is based mainly on what I've read and the clips I've seen. I haven't watched the actual show.)

For those who have been surprised by the vehemence of the bullying of Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother, the only genuinely astounding thing about it is that such reprehensible behaviour has occurred on the "Celebrity" version rather than the longer running and far nastier normal version for the proles.

Whether the behaviour of Jade, Jo, Jack and Danielle is based on racial prejudice, general ignorance or simple jealousy is harder to tell. Here is a stunningly beautiful, cultured, successful actor, thrown into a house with a failed former pop group singer, a winner of a beauty contest as a result of having her boyfriend on the judging panel and a runner-up in the third series of the same reality show she has now returned to. It was obvious that sparks were meant to fly - that's why Donny Tourette and Carole Malone were there in the first place, but with the former having fled once realising he would have to put up with Jade's extended family and the latter being a kitten in real life compared to the Glenda Slagg she is in print, the show was limping as a result. Ratings were down, fans were complaining that the presence of Jade had ruined the show, and it looked as if the words "damp" and "squib" were going to be universally employed by hacks everywhere.

The producers were probably utterly ecstatic as the conflict between Shetty and the others gathered pace; just what they wanted. They could not have bargained though on just how nasty the bullying was going to become, and how it was going to be seen as racist in nature. Although Jade's mother had repeatedly referred to Shetty as "the Indian", not bothering to learn how to pronounce her incredibly difficult two-syllable name, even doing so in front of the show's presenter Davina McCall once being evicted, without being questioned for being blatantly disrespectful at best and racist at worst, the real outcry only began once it was learned that Jade's boyfriend Jack had allegedly referred to Shetty incorrectly as a "Paki". Channel 4 has since disputed this, claiming that he instead called her a "cunt", but it has not produced the unedited recording to prove this conclusively. Reports on the television have overlooked it, mainly because it would mean having to either bleep their own reporter's use of the word cunt, not to mention the connotations of even repeating a racial slur, but it was this that was behind the original outrage and has continued to drive it ever since.

Unfortunately for Channel 4 and the producers of the show Endemol, if not for their bank balances and the ratings, the bullying has only gotten worse. Some of the nastiest behaviour has not been to her face, such as Danielle and Jo's ignorance regarding her cooking, or Danielle saying to Jade that Shetty ought to "fuck off home", but Jade last night hilariously and astonishingly hypocritically told Shilpa that she needed "elocution lessons". Shilpa, upset, said for the first time that she thought their behaviour towards her was racist, but has apparently today retracted that in a discussion with "Big Brother" in the enclosed diary room.

The reaction to all of this has been amazingly over-the-top. The majority complaining appear not to be regular watchers or fans of the show, as surely they would be aware that confrontation, hatred and casual bullying is what the show is almost entirely about, when it isn't being a popularity contest at least. The only difference is that the bullying has at best had cultural ignorance and jealousy underpinning it, with racial prejudice being involved at worst. While prejudice has occurred in the show before, as pointed out by Omar Waraich on CiF, it hasn't approached the levels seen in the current series. While complaints about what has been going on should have been expected, for it to cause an apparent "international incident" says more about our celebrity-centred times than it does about British society as a whole.

For this is what this is - a predictable response by four or five deeply ignorant, stupid, poorly educated people to a woman who has everything that they do not and from which none of them can escape from without either the permission of those running the programme or those watching it, at least not without mentally wounding themselves by giving up and throwing in the towel. Danielle Lloyd, a young woman who appears to be even less intelligent than Jade, which makes you wonder how her brain manages to keep telling her heart to beat, seemed to find her behaviour when confronted in the diary room about it humourous and could only answer why she had felt that Shilpa should "fuck off home" with "I don't know", delivered in her noxious sub-Lily Allen twang.

Their behaviour is not obviously racist; they are simply drawing on anything that can be used to beat her with. It appears racist, but whether they are deliberately intending it to be is much harder to prove. This is why calls for it to be taken off the air are so laughable and intellectually flawed: absolutely no one is going to become a racist, or use similar language towards those they meet in their real lives through watching this tripe. All it does is prove that so-called celebrities can be just as flawed, if not much more so, than the average person. It also underlines, as Sunny Hurndal argues, what unacceptable and acceptable behaviour in modern day Britain is. The outcry sets to the sword the lie that political correctness is being forced on the country from on high. Rather, such labels are being shown up for what they are: the reaction of those who can't stand the fact that Britain is changing and already has changed comprehensively.

The greatly amusing thing is the response of some of the tabloids. The Express, the same newspaper which day after day bemoans foreigners, migrants and the death of a woman who died a decade ago, suddenly seems to think that 5 inarticulate people have shamed the country. On the contrary, it's the sensationalist bullshit that middle-class well-educated journalists write day after day for their own politically motivated bosses that should really shame this country into action. Instead, they'd rather heap their bile on 5 people who don't know any better. That they have been utterly complicit in the rise and rise of these idiots only makes the cynical opening of their eyes to the truth even more contemptible.

The Sun's editorial line is even more shockingly hypocritical:

It is unbelievable that the comments of a few pea-brained “celebrities” can blow up into a full-blown diplomatic incident.

But that is what it has turned into and pompous Channel 4 can no longer stand by and do nothing.

In India they’re burning effigies of Big Brother bosses — and somebody could end up getting hurt.

The protests might be a huge over-reaction.

But the public is right to be appalled at the way Jade, Jack, Danielle and Jo have victimised Shilpa — who remained cool and dignified in the face of a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse.

This is not entertainment and we don’t want to see it on the telly.

No, quite right. The Sun has only been encouraging this "entertainment" since the very beginning, offering a cash prize to the first couple to have sex on-screen (as long as they weren't homosexual) and devoting pages and pages day after day to the brainless, vacuous morons who have occupied the house. The show was also featured at least 13 times on the front page of the Scum last year.

The die though has now been cast. Jade is almost certainly going to be evicted tomorrow, with the others who have attacked Shilpa likely to follow after her. As always, we should let the others who want to vote and watch the show get on with it - and continue with the unofficial boycott the show and all other reality tv deserves.

Related post (with a round-up of other posts on the same subject): Not Saussure - The burning issue of the day

Correction: It may well have been Shilpa who told Jade she needed elocution lessons. Apologies.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007 

The army doesn't much like Blair.

As might have been expected following Blair's ignorant, insulting and patronising speech given at HMS Albion, the men and women who are dying for Blair's warmongering weren't much impressed (via BlairWatch):

"On the part of the military, they need to accept that in a volunteer armed force, conflict and casualty may be part of what they are called upon to face."

Blair - I've no doubt you've been on this website and I hope you're reading this.

I sit here typing this in tears of anger, frustration and despair.

Having never served, HOW FCUKING DARE YOU make a comment like that. The finest, brightest, strongest, bravest young men and women in this country signed on the dotted line in selfless service of their country and you BETRAYED them by sending them into unsound conflict without adequate support.

YOU have made the decision to send young soldiers into a HELL from which some have never returned.


And if you think I'm being unreasonble, consider for a second my friends and comrades who will never again see the light of day. Consider the parents who leave their brave young son's bedroom just as he left it in the false hope that he might one day come home to them. Consider the children who, whilst you were no doubt enjoying a family christmas, wept and sobbed because daddy wasn't there to open his presents - Because you murdered him in your political pandering.

May your dreams be haunted for the rest of your days by the youth and laughter which you've so smugly poured away.

Blair. You fcuking cnut.

After which there are 13 pages of agreement and further comment.

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Preaching hate, dealing with it, and the Sun's take on it all.

I missed the Dispatches documentary on Monday which focused on the extremism preached at Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, but from the discussion on Pickled Politics and the transcript posted on the MPAC-UK website, it's apparent that the views held by the preachers are the kind that ought to lead to them being potentially prosecuted, rather than being allowed to continue to do so with impunity.

It's been well-known for a long time that the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia are especially keen to get their own brand of Islam increasingly exported and distilled around the globe. Rich donors, as well as the Saudi government itself have been involved in doing so. The key question has always been just how much of an influence such funding is having, whether those being preached to are becoming at least somewhat "radicalised", and whether those who have then been radicalised having actually acted upon what they've been taught rather than just being "arm-chair activists".

The Dispatches documentary therefore might result in a reappraisal of just how far such extremist preaching is becoming the norm in Britain. I've always had the impression that such teaching and lectures are rare in the extreme, and that far from the scaremongering of some, only low numbers have become radicalised and, crucially gone on to act on their beliefs.
For instance, we know that the 7/7 bombers were not influenced by any known cleric or preacher at their local mosque - rather, their radicalisation came from their own studies, use of the internet, etc, and they then traveled to Pakistan for their final tutoring and training. The opening of the trial this week into the alleged 21/7 bombers has however shown that those involved in that apparent plot had definitely been in attendance at the infamous Finsbury Park mosque, a revelation embarrassing to the security services and their apparent stand-offish approach to clerics such as Hamza and Qutada.

The documentary also asks questions of those in attendance when such preaching was taking place. Were they possibly frightened of speaking out against such extremism, were they lapping it up or was it simply nothing outside the norm? Blaming Muslims as a whole
like Lord Stevens did in his infamous Screws piece last year and expecting them all to condemn something they are patently not responsible for is one thing, but questions do also need to be raised about the apparent lack of concern, both from those in charge of the mosque and from those attending the lectures at what was openly going on.

It is therefore wrong to only bleat that those who both preach such unacceptable extremism and those who partake it are a tiny minority and to ignore the wider implications. Those clerics, imams and mullahs who are doing so need to be exposed. Those who are funding them need to be exposed. There needs to be a wider debate, both within and outside the Muslim community about just how it deals with the minority within that preaches potential violence and separation. However, it needs to be done without major fanfare, without the sensationalism which the Dispatches programme on occasion appears to have slipped into, and without as a result stigmatising the community as a whole.

The biggest danger is that those who make up the minority within the minority make the Muslim community as a whole both a potential target for violent backlashes, additional hostility and open to being tarred as unwilling both to integrate and as being a threat to the "indigenous" population, things that once would have been regarded as being extreme-right territory which are increasingly becoming mainstream thought. Every time another "plot" is broken up, another potential jihadi, no matter how ridiculous his plans, brought to court, the task becomes tougher. The very thing we cannot depend upon is the media reporting both fairly and calmly;
you only have to see yesterday's post to realise that. This makes it all the more urgent that this debate has to take place.

Speaking of which, here's the very reason why I've expelled the previous god knows how many words:
THE SUN today reveals our Secret Services have won hundreds of millions of pounds more for the fight against terror.

And not a minute too soon, judging by the C4 documentary on rabble-rousing Muslim fanatics.

Everyone who watched the Dispatches episode will have been horrified by the implications for British security.

Worshippers at a major Birmingham mosque were urged to slaughter all “kuffars” - non-Muslims.

As said, I haven't seen the programme, but taking the transcript on MPAC as what was transmitted, the closest that is came to worshippers being urged to slaughter non-Muslims is this:

Preacher: God, help us win the fight against the kuffaar, in every field, in every department of life. We beg you to help us fight against the enemies of our religion. Help us fight the kuffaar

Without wanting to get entirely into semantics, it's an ambigious enough statement that can be taken to mean violently fight the "kuffaar", but it certainly isn't saying without nuance slaughter or kill them.

Clerics demanded the overthrow of Westminster democracy, ranted against Jews and called for death to homosexuals.

Most chilling of all was that children with “soft hearts” should be groomed as suicide bombers.

Every blood-curdling rant was captured on camera by an undercover reporter.

The clerics claim they were quoted out of context.

But the context was all too vivid. They think they are winning.

Rubbish. This was just clerics preaching as they have been apparently trained to do. Who are this "they", and how do they think "they" are winning?

The 2005 London Tube bombings were far from the last.

Now we're back to scaremongering.
Remember everyone, stay scared.

Mosques across Britain are now recruiting grounds for extremists bent on destroying our way of life.

Again, this is taking one example and extrapolating it across the country. Mosques across Britain are a potential threat; the extremists want to destroy "our" way of life. Rather than regarding them as criminals who should be dealt with like all the rest, we're instead giving them too much credit and being too scared of what are no more than just hate-filled bigots. The real threat is from the "quiet ones" who stay under the radar, rather than the ranting likes of Anjem Choudrary. It's also worth remembering that Omar Bakri Mohammad was expelled from Britain where he could have been heavily monitored, where as now he's in Lebanon web-casting his hate to his closest followers and god knows who else. Deporting preachers and other "tough" measures are not necessarily the best response; they are however the easiest.
Tracking them is costly – and vital.

Perhaps so, but at the same time we ought to demand
that the security services are at the very least answerable to parliament, just as other state-run organisations are. At the moment they can act almost with impunity, as the rendition scandals have shown. Such a reform is just as vital as pumping in endless amounts of money.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007 

All too predictable.

With the beginning of the trial of the alleged failed 21st of July bombers under way, and a whole wealth of information being made available as a result of the prosecution's opening statement, today's press had to decide what to make the front page headlines. Would it be the fact that one of the men allegedly pointed his rucksack towards a mother and baby before attempting to set off his explosives? That the men had been under police surveillance? That some of them had previously been in attendance at the Finsbury Park mosque while it was controlled by the now incarcerated Abu Hamza? How about that one of the defendants, Muktar Said Ibrahim while attempting to leave the country to go to Pakistan, was found with £3,000 in cash on his person, or that the man travelling with him, was carrying a manual describing how to deal with ballistics wounds as well as a military first aid kit?

Well, while the Mail at least mentioned a couple of the above, they chose instead to go with this, as did the Scum:

Oddly, the Express, the most vociferous in calling for the veil/burqa to be banned doesn't mention it on their own effort. It's telling however that the other papers thought the fact that Yassin Hassan Omar apparently fled in a burqa the most important part of the evidence given. Amusingly or chillingly, depending on your own preference, they don't give as much emphasis to him being arrested 5 days later standing fully-clothed in a bath with a rucksack again on his back.

The emphasis on the veil/burqa has become such that, as I mentioned the other day, if another serious crime was committed by someone who happened to be wearing one, the resulting furore might make legal restrictions on the wearing of such garments potentially irresistible, especially to a New Labour government faced with angry tabloid editorials about repeated failings at the Home Office. The amount of fear felt about those wearing the niqab is also being raised by such high-profile reporting, when in reality the amount of Muslim women who wear it is tiny. They also face the spectre of being abused and singled out, simply because of their own personal religious beliefs, something which the newspapers and those commenting ought to think more carefully about before pointing the inevitable finger of blame.

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Scum-watch: Feeble corrections and the whimpering of an exposed page 3 girl.

With thanks to D-Notice for, err, noticing, yesterday's Scum finally did the decent thing and corrected (not apologised) for its entirely wrong front page piece of October last year which claimed that Muslim yobs had vandalised a house that local soldiers had looked at, with a view to moving in:

Barrack attack correction

Following our report ‘Hounded out’ about a soldier's home in Datchet, Berks, being vandalised by Muslims, we have been asked to point out no threatening calls were logged at Combermere Barracks from Muslims and police have been unable to establish if any faith or religious group was responsible for the incident.

We are happy to make this clear.

No apology then for potentially making local tensions surrounding fights outside a Muslim-owned dairy worse than they already had been; no apology for getting the head of Migrationwatch UK to comment on their completely untrue story, which he used to question integration, and no apology for being completely and utterly wrong in all cases. There were no threatening calls to Combermere Barracks by "Muslims", as their sources had stated, and no evidence the vandalism was carried out by "Muslims" either. That this comprehensively untrue front page story came in the same week as Jack Straw's comments on the veil, as well as the Sun's less than honest article on a Muslim police officer who asked to be excused from guarding the Israeli embassy, did nothing to help the situation.

One reason why these stories are so potentially damaging is that long after they have slipped from the minds of the most of the public, propagandists and others have been known to bring them up as evidence to prove their own twisted wider points. It should be of little surprise to learn then that Melanie Philips was one of those who took the Sun's article at face value, nor that other such enlightened blogs as JihadWatch and the Daily Pundit linked to the story, not to mention the clearly fascist "The Nationalist News in Good old Commie Britain". The Sun, unlike other newspaper sites, where when they get a story substantially wrong either correct it and make clear that they have done so at the top or bottom of the article or remove it entirely, has done neither. The report is still sitting on the Scum website, with nothing changed since its original publishing, much like the horribly wrong report about Rochelle Holness's final hours.

Credit does however go to Unity for exposing the Sun properly in the first place, and also to Pickled Politics and Sunny Hurndal especially for running with it.

Elsewhere in the Scum, Keeley Hazell, a previous winner of the clearly not exploitative page 3 idol contest, is crying about a "downmarket newspaper" splashing on her ex-boyfriend apparently releasing a sex-tape they made onto the world wide web (link contains nudity):
TEARFUL Page 3 sensation Keeley Hazell last night blasted an ex-boyfriend for “betrayal” after a private sex video of her became public.

The 20-year-old model said of jobless Lloyd Miller: “We had been in an on-off relationship for a year and at the time, I really loved this guy and trusted him.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think he would betray me in this way. Now I don’t know who I can trust.”

Keeley was reduced to a sobbing wreck after learning that stills of the video were in a downmarket newspaper — and the ten-minute film was on the internet.

The model, of Bromley, Kent, said: “I was in bed on Sunday morning when Page 3 girl Nicola T rang.

“She informed me stills from a personal video I had made with an ex-boyfriend were in a downmarket newspaper.

“I got straight up and went out and bought it. I just burst into tears when I saw the images staring back at me.”

Keeley spent yesterday in talks with her lawyers trying to get the steamy film removed from the internet.

She obtained an injunction on grounds of privacy preventing any further publication or promotion of the video.

Keeley believes it can only have been Miller, 20, and also from Bromley, who released the film.

The model, who shot to fame as winner of The Sun’s Page 3 Idol in 2004, said: “I never had any intention of it being seen. I haven’t even seen it myself and have no intention of doing so.

“We had taken a video camera on holiday with us to Tenerife last summer. We were both feeling relaxed after a couple of drinks and it just happened. I have turned down offers to do Playboy covers because there were certain things I simply didn’t want others to see. Now I feel I have no dignity left.

“In future I know I will have to be more careful who I fall in love with.

Apart from sniggering at the thought of a page 3 girl having any dignity whatsoever, the release of said video also raises a couple of other questions. The Sun editor's namesake, Rebekah Parmar-Teasdale was previously jettisoned by the Scum after it was discovered that she had took part in more hardcore shenanigans than those usually printed on the newspaper's third page, only to bring her back one time only to make it clear that the arrival of a female editor would not signal the end of the sordid institution. It seems unlikely that this will result in Keeley similarly being given the boot: she's for the moment too much of a draw, although whether now that her fans have seen her doing those things that page 3 only hints at will be satisfied with her continuing to only appear for the Scum and the little-boy wank mags remains to be seen.

Even more humourously, the Tories last month named her as err, an environmental hero, for among other things suggesting that making love in the dark could be as much a turn-on as a turn-off. If only she had heeded her own advice.

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Monday, January 15, 2007 

The sixth sense sicko.

One of the earliest jokes used by Steve Bell against George Bush, questioned about some of the indiscriminate bombing inflicted on Afghanistan, was that he, unlike the kid in the Sixth Sense, couldn't see dead people. As so often happens, satire appears to have become reality:

He also admitted that the execution of Saddam Hussein had been mishandled, describing the event as "discouraging", according to excerpts of the TV show 60 Minutes. He said he had only watched part of the execution on the internet, because he had not wanted to watch Saddam fall through the trap door.

Perhaps we really shouldn't be all that surprised at Bush's apparent queasiness regarding watching the death of the tyrant he overthrew. Bush's own desire to avoid seeing death could not be further exemplified than by his attempts to avoid serving in Vietnam, controversy over exactly how he avoided going or not.

Yet you can't help feeling that maybe his avoiding watching the eventual logical conclusion of his decision to invade Iraq says a lot about his entire political career. As governor of Texas he sent 152 condemned men to their deaths. As president he's directly responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 US servicemen, not to mention the innumerable Iraqis who have perished. It may be down to my own staunch opposition to the death penalty, but all those who do support it, especially if they are ultimately responsible for administering it, should be made to watch at least once what it actually entails. Bush seems capable of ordering it, but when it comes to Saddam Hussein at least, he couldn't stomach the direct consequences of his own actions. Like a dog having its face rubbed in it, Bush should have been subject to the Ludovico technique.

Showing him the death of Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti could be even more punishing to his health. How the Iraqi government have now not once but twice managed to monumentally mess up executions would be a good question to put to Albert Pierrepoint, if he were still alive. Their decision also to put them in orange jumpsuits, beloved not only by the US authorities at Guantanamo (the Grauniad suggests they were red jumpsuits, not orange, as the BBC reported, the red being in line with what US death row prisoners wear), but also by al-Zarqawi et al, is similarly bewildering. The only reasonable conclusion that can be reached is that this genuinely is Shia revenge, even if Tikriti's decapitation was unintended. Why else would you so publicly humiliate men who surely in death deserved at least some respect? While we're at it, we can also start the countdown until the footage appears on LiveLeak.

Elsewhere on blogs today, Osama Saeed laughs at Richard Littlejohn's stupidity, Ministry of Truth ridicules Johann Hari's belief in the government's general competence and innocence in wanting to create another huge cross-department database, and Pickled Politics rightly attacks the vile boyfriend of Jade Goody for racially abusing Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother, and Channel 4 for bleeping it out.

Update: Channel 4 has denied that Jack Tweed called Shetty a "Paki", instead apparently calling her a "cunt", and as the very last thing I do is actually watch the programme, I can't comment further, as the YouTube video linked to on PP has also been "removed by the user". Either way, the apparent abuse which Shetty has received shouldn't have been bleeped out in the first place. As ever on reality tv, you only see what they want you to see, and nothing else.


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More bloggocks, and some personal shit.

Infighting in the horribly named "blogosphere" has existed since its very inception, and will of course continue until its dying day when the offspring of Jordan, Chantelle and Jade, genetically modified by mad scientists in order to appeal both to the Heat-buying masses and the Torygraph/Grauniad reading pseudo-intellectuals, win power and immediately destroy mankind by accidentally pushing the red nuke button, thinking it alerted their lackeys to their desire for a bucket of KFC chicken. There hasn't yet been though such an apparent opening blast of civil war as that directed from Tim "Manic" Ireland towards Paul "Guido Fawkes" Staines.

I'm in the strange position here of having an at least tenuous involvement with both. Tim has considered my half-baked rants worthy of linking to, and in my short-lived battle last year with the representatives of a certain Mazher Mahmood, Guido offered moral support, as we were both threatened by the legal might of Farrer & Co. I'm therefore somewhat wary of some of Tim's more strident attacks on Guido's blogging.

While undoubtedly his apparent fiddling with comments is a breach of acceptable if unwritten blogging etiquette, and I have in the past found his self-promotion rather amusing, I think it's going a little too far to accuse him of being lower than a red-top. As readers of this blog will know (all 2 of you), the Sun at its worst excesses is the equivalent of TV's Naughtiest Blunders, except in a crude, ugly, misleading political propaganda form; a unending cavalcade of the very worst of absolutely everything. Worst of all, it's almost impossible to get any right of reply in the Sun, or News of the World. They will only print what they want you to see. The letters are hand-picked so that there is hardly ever any deviation from their own chosen line, and the only way to get any kind of recompense, unless they've committed an utterly huge blunder which would almost certainly lead to damages in a court of law, your only hope is that the Press Complaints Commission, which has Les Hinton, News International's chairman on the code committee, will listen to your complaint. If your complaint is about their political coverage rather than something about you personally, then forget it.

This is, I think, the difference between Guido and the tabloid press. Guido, because of his very presence as a blogger, can be taken to task by the community which surrounds him, as Tim today has shown. The Sun, for all the rivalry it has with the Mirror and the distaste amongst the liberal broadsheet press for its crude propaganda, cannot be held to account adequately by either the press or by bloggers. For the press to do so would result in all out war, something which hacks who despite differing political allegiances would resist, and with the resources that Murdoch has, would result inevitably in the defeat of those who rise up; and for bloggers, who cannot possibly contend or deal with every single abuse of power that is wielded, every story that is not just wrong, but horribly wrong, and warped by the politics of those behind it. Just trying to keep up with the worst excesses, as this blog tries to, is tiring and time-consuming enough. Guido, on the other-hand, can be held to account. His output is nowhere near that of a newspaper; he can be challenged on other blogs, and his refusal to reply to accusations would be telling. When it comes to taking on the might of the Sun, all you hope for is that you reach a few people who might otherwise be taken in, that you correct the worst of its mistakes and show it up for what it really is. You know that you will largely be preaching to the converted, but the whole "blogosphere" is based around doing just that, more or less anyway.

The fallout between left and right blogs, and between fact checking blogs and others shows that this contained internet community can (mostly) moderate itself. Where Tim is right to be concerned I feel is about the influence of far-right neo-con bloggers, such as Michelle Malkin, Little Green Footballs, etc. They're the ones doing the dirty work of the current US administration; abusing, smearing, distorting and attacking, with all the more ferocity because their own masters can no longer do it themselves. They in some way mirror what MediaLens sets out to do, except taking on the whole of the "mainstream" media, which they regard as liberal, defeatist, anti-American, etc, as their target, while MediaLens sets out only to take on the actual liberal media. Both are utterly convinced that they are right to do so, and as a result both have gone way too far, MediaLens with Iraq Body Count and George Monbiot for instance, the far-right with the concocted Jamil Hussein "scandal", the hysteria that the massacre at Qana was somehow contrived entirely by Hizbullah, as if they wanted the children to die in order to use them for their own purposes, and over the targeting of Red Cross ambulances by Israeli laser-guided missiles, which they denied actually happened. Unlike MediaLens, these bloggers have major influence; they're making waves, especially on the likes of Fox News, and they're getting their claims into the mainstream media, true or not. They genuinely can discredit blogs as a whole. Guido doesn't wield anywhere near as much power.

Tim is also on uncertain ground over the legal aspect. Guido may boast that he is untouchable, but that is as yet untested. He certainly received an order, along with this blog, to take down the photographs posted of Mazher Mahmood, and had his case not been such a potential blow to freedom of expression online, as well as argued by incompetents, we may well have had to provide damages to the scourge of celebrities everywhere, not to mention the innocents he has entrapped in the Victora Beckham and red mercury plots. Rosie Winterton, one of John Prescott's other presumed mistresses, also realised that if she tried to sue Guido over his accusations that she risked letting everything out of the bag. Tim is right to be worried that the likes of Guido could soon use such potential blackmail against innocent targets, but that ought to be perhaps dealt with when it happens.

Most of all, I feel there has to be a place for someone like Guido out there, as Nosemonkey also argues. To claim, as Guido himself sort of does, that he's an online Private Eye is to give him way too much credit, but he does occupy that sort of niche that is fun, humourous and less demanding than that of other political blogs. Private Eye's own financial dealings are reasonably secretive, also. While Private Eye may not have the ideology behind it that Guido perhaps has, how many Tories devoted to the party would come out on their blogs like he has today and imply that cannabis ought to be legalised?

I won't then be joining in with removing Guido from the blogroll, although I'm sure that now these points have been put across that many more eyes will be on him, watching his moves a lot more carefully than they perhaps have been.

On a personal level, Tim's wider points about anonymity, funding and background as much affect me as they do Guido. My own operation here, however pathetic, is based around anonymity. The original name I used here, Simon Verwest, is not my real name. The main basis for my anonymity is based partly on my own cowardice. However paranoid it may be to think, the attacks that I make here on the Sun/Murdoch make me an obvious target for eventual "revenge", or at least some sort of "expose" or smear, and to make a comparison, although I am in no way comparing what I do here to what Tommy Sheridan has done as a politician, something on a far lower level to what has happened to him is something, however ridiculous it might seem, that I fear.

This farcical reason for anonymity though is no excuse, nor is it the only one. Although a lot of blogging is surely down in at least some way to vanity, one thing I certainly am not seeking is fame, even among my peers as it were. I am, it has to be admitted, something of a solitary animal. Not only do I not like being identified, I'm scared of it. The cliché goes that if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, yet though I probably don't really have anything to hide, I still fear.

It's only right then that I at least give some background. I don't know how much the average reader cares, wants to know, other than to maybe read my convoluted ramblings, but in line with Tim's idea for something of a voluntary code, I'm going to at least come a little out of the shadows. I'm 22 years of age. I'm currently unemployed. For the last three years I've been slowly but surely recovering from severe depression, brought on by a number of factors. I had planned to go to university, 3 years and 2 years ago respectively, but the first time I decided it was best to give it another year, and the second time I found I just didn't have the mental strength to go through with it. I have no plans to try again as yet.

Half the reason I started writing here was to distract my mind somewhat. It's worked, and in conjunction with other things, I now feel a lot more confident both about myself and life in general. I hope to start looking for some sort of job shortly. I'm also going to change my name used here to septicisle, while still remaining something of my anonymity. Whether I fully "come out", we shall have to see. And in case you couldn't tell, I utterly loathe writing about myself. Trackback links are also now enabled, which for some reason I didn't previously have on, and you also now have to be registered to comment, which I doubt will affect things much.

Related posts:
Chicken Yoghurt - Off the artistic roll call
D-Notice - Bloggerheads vs Guy Fawkes
Bob Piper - Bloggerheads on the Plonker

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Saturday, January 13, 2007 

The continuing last gasps of our very own messiah.

I was going to fisk Blair's utterly abysmal speech yesterday, but Tom on BlairWatch has already done the job and done it well, so here's a more slimmed down version.

Billed by the BBC as being the first in a series of "valedictory" speeches, it wasn't so much a farewell as yet another example of his inexorable retreat from reality. While on Question Time this week members of the audience, prompted by fucking Kelvin MacKenzie of all people, demanded that Lord Falconer tell his friend to apologise for the Iraq war, what's more apparent than ever is that Blair isn't just not sorry for what's happened, he still believes in his own righteousness. He then has the audacity to apparently demand the army and families accept that death and injury are consequences of armed conflict, as if they didn't both know that, but also accept it:

On the part of the military, they need to accept that in a volunteer armed force, conflict and therefore casualty may be part of what they are called upon to face.
This is where Blair just can't see the wood for the trees. He can't accept that the army, which wasn't keen on the war in the first place, is now concerned that they're fighting a losing battle in Iraq, while complaining about the inadequacies of both their equipment once at war and the facilities provided for them back home. Blair's hubris is that despite all his claims that he accepts his views on foreign policy are "controversial", both this speech and the way in which it was delivered shows that he considers his views as both the only sane policy, and as the only policy. The army's apparent dissent in recent months, fed up with a situation on the ground in Iraq which they can do little to solve except get shot at in the process, is in Blair's eyes almost mutiny. How dare they think that his war is a disaster and that they should get out very soon? That this war was justified on a tissue of lies doesn't matter to Blair; he still expects families and the army to fight and not bleat when their sons and comrades die for what is called by the moderate oppositionists "a flawed prospectus".

Then there's this:

"September 11 wasn’t the incredible action of an isolated group, a one-off strike masterminded by Osama Bin Laden. It was the product rather of a world-wide movement, with an ideology based on a misreading of Islam, whose roots were deep, which had been growing for years and with the ability to mount a radically different type of warfare requiring a radically different type of response. What we face is not a criminal conspiracy or even a fanatical but fringe terrorist organisation. We face something more akin to revolutionary Communism in its early and most militant phase. It is global. It has a narrative about the world and Islam’s place within it that has a reach into most Muslim societies and countries. "
On the contrary, September the 11th was indeed the incredible action of an isolated group, but it was masterminded by its own participants rather than OBL. Nothing in the past six years has come close to replicating it. To compare the threat faced by militant Islam, which has been vastly exaggerated, as Blair is doing in this very speech, to revolutionary Communism, which took control of numerous countries during the last century is pure nonsense. The Taliban have no chance of returning to Afghanistan, and even they had only a casual relationship with the Salafist jihadism of bin Laden. The only place where such a militant Islam could take hold is ironically in Iraq, thanks to our misjudged invasion, and even then it would only be in the Anbar region, where the temporary alliance between ex-Baathists and jihadists is already being questioned by both sides. That we have in fact only exacerbated the problems in the Middle East through the Iraq war, giving far more succour to the extremists both at home and abroad than any regime currently can or does is something that Blair is not willing to recognise: to do so would be the equivalent of saying the emperor has no clothes.

Still he goes on:

That, in turn, impacts on the feelings of our Armed Forces. They want public opinion not just behind them but behind their mission. They want the "people back home" to understand their value not just their courage.
Public opinion is very firmly behind them, and has been since the beginning of the war. The problem is that the army themselves believe that rather than fighting for the country, they are fighting for Blair, his failed foreign policy, and for American neo-con chicken hawks who avoided going to Vietnam. Not only this, but Blair would rather that the armed forces didn't think for themselves; they see that staying in Iraq is just making things worse, as does the majority of the public. How can the public support their mission when it has so obviously and horribly failed?

Blair though is more interested in blaming everyone other than himself. He attacks other European countries who rightly wanted no part in the Iraq war for only wanting to peace keep; he echoes John Reid when he suggests that the media is too sympathetic to the "propaganda of the enemy"; he demands the army put up with the resources it has; and most of all, he seems to still believe that somehow Britain will remain this "great" power, that continuing with the same arrogant policies that have been put down since the dissolution of empire will somehow maintain the very last vestiges of our fast evaporating global influence. It won't. Blair's belief that our unending alliance with America will eventually foster goodwill towards us is a pipe dream. As he faces his last days as prime minister, rather than evaluating his time in office, laying low and preparing the way for the next leader, he's still driven only by his desire to show that he has been right about everything. He still believes in his powers of persuasion, but he's the only one who does.

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Friday, January 12, 2007 

Stop the fascist BNP, by err, shouting outside a theatre...

Sometimes anti-racist groups can be their own worst enemies. Continuing their campaign against Simone Clarke, their agenda is again presented in the Guardian, which also at times cuts off its nose to spite its face:

Around 100 campaigners are expected to mount a demonstration outside the Coliseum theatre in central London where Simone Clarke will take the lead in the English National Ballet's production of Giselle.

It is the 36-year-old's first performance since she was revealed as a member of the BNP last month as part of a Guardian investigation into the far right organisation.

Ms Clarke, whose partner Yat Sen-Chang is an acclaimed dancer of Chinese-Cuban extraction, went on to defend her membership in a detailed interview with the Mail on Sunday, saying the BNP was the only party "willing to take a stand" against immigration.

Yesterday campaigners said that she was using her position to promote the far right party's policies.

Weyman Bennett, of the group Unite Against Fascism, said: "We are calling on all who have an appreciation for the arts to demand that the promotion of racist and fascist politics is incompatible with an institution such as the English National Ballet."

The row is becoming increasingly difficult for the English National Ballet, which as a publicly funded organisation is obliged by the Race Relations Act of 2000 to promote good race relations.

Last night a spokeswoman said it was "not within the company's mandate to express any political view".

She added: "Any personal view expressed by one of our employees should not be considered as being endorsed by the company."

And this was the reality:

British far-right politics has changed a bit in recent years. Out have gone the bovver-booted bomber-jacketed skinheads. In have come the business suits and a ballerina.

And so, in the unlikeliest of turns, a dozen or so anti-racism protesters turned their foghorn vocal chords away from their familiar haunts to turn up on the steps of the Coliseum, the home of the English National Ballet in London's West End.

Bravo! This is the very worst kind of nonsense. No one knew that Clarke was a BNP member until the Guardian rightly exposed her, but to then claim she's using her position to promote the party is complete bullshit. All she's done is defend herself in a far from unsympathetic Mail article, and in the process proved that she isn't the sharpest knife in the drawer. In short, she's exactly the sort of person the BNP tries to appeal to.

The protesters may have had a point had she actually said something racist in the article, but she didn't. What she did make clear is that she thinks immigration is out of control, which is something a lot of ordinary people think. It's obvious that believing that isn't racist, neither is it particularly controversial. Believing that the BNP are the only ones talking about it, or that they're the only ones who could solve it, is something quite different. However, this is where the anti-racist groups behind today's protest have so often slipped up: they're more concerned with denying the party any air of publicity, rather than actually fighting their message. Shouting slogans outside buildings is a lot easier than arguing against them in debates. Going after a woman who's simply expressing her own, however misguided personal political beliefs, is not just counter-productive, it's cowardly.

For instance, look at the huge open goal that Richard Barnbrook has created simply by attending Clarke's performance. Could there be a better opportunity to point out just how hopeless the BNP are at actually being councillors once they're elected and how he's a leading member of a political party that is virulently homophobic, when he directed and starred in a film described as arty gay porn? Then there's Barnbrook's own comments about Clarke's relationship with her husband:

"I'm not opposed to mixed marriages but children [of these relationships] are washing out the identity of this country's indigenous people. That's my view. It's not the party's view."

Not true. That is exactly the party's view, as expanded at length here from their 2005 manifesto. You only have to read the views of actual members of the BNP here in a thread about Clarke from the Stormfront forum, to notice that she's regarded as a "race-mixer".

Instead, the protesters are probably still there, shouting "STOP THE FASCIST BNP!", while everyone around them rightly sees their presence as either daft or as someone remarks, pathetic. And the BNP? They're still winning.

Related post:
Doing the goose-step to Swan Lake, and other stories.

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What about my privacy, cries the hounded Ms Kelly....

Congratulations then to Ruth Kelly, who has somehow decided that taking the Mirror to the supine and servile Press Complaints Commission is a good idea:

Ruth Kelly, the communities secretary, is taking the Daily Mirror to the Press Complaints Commission for revealing that her son goes to a private school.

The Mail on Sunday broke the story, but did not use names.

"My sole concern throughout has been the welfare of my young son. I believe his right to privacy has been breached," she said in a statement.

Richard Wallace, the Mirror's editor, said: "We are confident that it was entirely right that we identify Miss Kelly so the public could decide whether her action was appropriate, given that they were clearly at odds with government policy."

She might have a case if her son had actually been identified, but he hasn't. All we know is that he has learning difficulties, that he used to attend a school in the Tower Hamlets borough of London, and that he is now going to attend a private school somewhere in Oxfordshire. It might be argued that he will have suffered as a result, even though he hasn't been identified, but the Mirror can also fight back, knowing that their revelation has resulted in a public debate, both about those who suffer from learning disabilities and the provision for them in standard state schools.

Ruth Kelly herself instead looks as if she's trying to close the door after the horse has bolted. We haven't had an explanation as to why 6 special schools rated either good or excellent by Ofsted with Tower Hamlets were rejected as not good enough for her son's needs. Instead she's trying to hide behind her decision by claiming that her son's privacy has been breached, ignoring the apparent double standards of being a piss-poor education secretary who did nothing to help those who have the same problems as her own son. Censorship, as ever, is the last resort of a scoundrel.

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Thursday, January 11, 2007 

Another grim milestone.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo Bay, where 9 British residents still languish, apparently now more or less abandoned by the government, with little to no hope of being set free any time soon.

The Guardian today reports that David Hicks, who the courts ordered be granted citizenship, had it stripped from him again within hours by John Reid, as he apparently err, poses a threat to national security, even though he's currently imprisoned in a prison camp described by numerous New Labour ministers as an "affront to justice" that should be closed down.

The only one of the 9 who might just be allowed back, Bisher al-Rawi, who was rewarded for keeping watch on Abu Qutada (himself now in prison awaiting deportation to Jordan, if it ever happens) by being rendered with the connivance of MI5 from Gambia, is according to his lawyer slipping into madness.

I'm not usually one for casually slipping into conspiracy theories, but the whole circus surrounding al-Rawi and Qutada utterly stinks. Qutada, as well as being accused of being one of Osama bin Laden's right hand men, and the spiritual leader of al-Qaida in Europe, was according to a 2004 Times article an MI5 double agent, who pledged to help MI5 stop attacks in return for them leaving him alone. A similar offer may well have been made to Abu Hamza. Qutada instead seemed to be setting up his own terrorist network. Apparently having al-Rawi also spying on Qutada, he became useless once Qutada himself was arrested in October 2002, having been on the run since the previous December. Upon leaving Britain to go to Gambia, al-Rawi and his friend Jamil El Banna were questioned by security officers about a battery charger that al-Rawi had modified. Concluding it was harmless, they let them go, only for MI5 to alert the CIA that al-Rawi was in fact carrying bomb parts. They swooped once they arrived in Gambia, and al-Rawi and Banna were rendered to Guantanamo.

I previously wondered whether al-Rawi might be the only one allowed back, in return for keeping quiet about his spying on Qutada. What seems apparent now is that Britain is only prepared to have al-Rawi back in no fit state to talk about anything.

Some can reasonably argue that Britain has no legal obligation to have those still held at Guantanamo returned. This might be true had Britain entirely washed its hands off them, yet it clearly hasn't. That ministers and others have time and again now condemned the prison camp, yet aren't willing to take back those who we have a responsibility to is also the height of double standards. The main problem is that now having spent years in a prison camp where conditions are according to Clive Stafford Smith the harshest he has experienced in twenty years of representing those on death row, there's little chance of trying them for any of the crimes they've been accused of. The injustice of holding men without charge, beyond the Geneva Conventions, at least up until the passing of the new laws earlier in the year by the Bush administration, means that there will now be little chance of justice for anyone. Hence the Catch-22 situation continues, for now and maybe evermore.

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Scum-watch: Bring on the suicide girls!

I would have missed this one if it hadn't been for Tim over at Bloggerheads. The Scum, apparently informed of a "secret intelligence report", has this warning for our troops in Afghanistan: the suicide girls are coming for you. (Don't get too excited: they're not those suicide girls.)

FIFTEEN women suicide bombers have been sent to murder British troops in Afghanistan.

Taliban chiefs have ordered them to dress as beggars or teachers and hide devices under burkas, a secret intelligence report has warned.

It marks an alarming new tactic in the Afghan conflict, although women suicide bombers have been used in Iraq.

Army bosses say it is almost impossible to detect the killers covered from head to toe. Troops in war-torn Helmand province are also reluctant to search women as it offends local sensitivities.

The bombers are believed to be Pakistani, Arab or Chechen. Many fell under the influence of al-Qaeda after being widowed in recent conflicts.

A military source added: “We’re pretty good at detecting male suicide bombers. But women will be almost unstoppable. Because of their burkas, the first time you’ll know she’s a bomber is when she explodes.”

An MoD spokesman said last night UK troops were “the best in the world at spotting new and emerging threats”.

Firstly, the image used by the Sun of a woman in a veil isn't a burqa, it's a niqab. The burqa is a full face covering, involving a netted mesh where the holes for the eyes on niqabs are, so they've cocked that one up. Secondly, the Sun or the intelligence report is really hedging its bets on where the "bombers" are going to be from. They're either Pakistani, Chechen, or, err, Arab, so from anywhere then. The Christian Science Monitor reports that there have been five suicide bombings involving women in Iraq, and some of those were failures, or from outside the country, including the one by the Belgian convert to Islam Muriel Degauque. You also have to wonder about the one involving the two women shortly after the end of the war; trigger happy troops may well have succeeded in hitting the gas tank when the car failed to stop, rather than been killed by two women in a car bombing.

The majority of female suicide bombers have been either Chechen or Palestinian, in both cases fighting in their own internal struggles, although women have also taken part in bombings in both Sri Lanka and Lebanon, again in their own conflicts. None of them had fallen under the influence of al-Qaida, as the Sun states, although it's possible the ones from Iraq could have done, although again, there's such a disparate number of Islamist groupings there that it would be next to impossible to be certain. It seems odd that female fighters from Chechnya would go to fight with the Taliban, especially to carry out suicide bombings. Veterans of the conflict in Chechnya may have gone to fight with the Taliban, but for women to do so would be extraordinary, which is why this report is so likely rubbish. The only report I can find of any female suicide bombers from Pakistan is this one from the BBC, reporting the arrest of two sisters suspected to be in training, both the nieces of a known militant. With the madrasas and the whole situation on the border it wouldn't blow my mind (groan) if there were potentially willing female suicide bombers, but again it seems this is more based on concern rather than fact.

You also have to wonder about the potential impact such a report has back here at home. Right on queue, one of the commenters, as Bloggerheads notes, screams:


Because one minister with at least half-decent intentions questioned whether there was concern about the women wearing them were forced into doing so, and how other people then reacted. What happened was that the tabloid media then had a field day, turning it into a question about religion and security when the original comment had nothing to do with it. The report isn't suggesting that veiled women over here are going to carry out suicide attacks, but in the current climate, with police officers excusing themselves for failing to catch men like Mustaf Jamma by instead blaming it on them escaping wearing veils, whether there's any truth to the rumour or not, it would only take a major crime to be committed by someone wearing a veil now for the whole matter to explode into a frenzy of demands to ban the garment, and not just from the Express. The whole issue is incredibly sensitive, but you can trust the Scum to pounce no matter what.

Elsewhere, there's this huge piece of congratulatory back-slapping, provided by Jack Straw:

PAPARAZZI harassment of Prince William's girlfriend Kate Middleton was condemned as "appalling" by Commons Leader Jack Straw today.

Mr Straw praised News International - owners of the Sun - for a self-imposed ban on using paparazzi shots of Miss Middleton and urged other news groups to follow suit.

News International has confirmed it will not publish future paparazzi pictures of Miss Middleton - a decision which affects The Sun, the News of the World, The Times, The Sunday Times and free newspaper thelondonpaper.

All very noble. But what was the Scum's solution to all Ms Middleton's problems, as suggested yesterday?

Cough up Wills

KATE MIDDLETON is just another civilian who happens to be going out with a Prince.

But as a young woman who may one day become Queen, she needs protection.

Until she is engaged, the cost cannot come out of the public purse. Prince Charles got round this by paying out of his own pocket to guard Camilla Parker Bowles.

Prince William should take a leaf out of Dad’s book.

How kind! Photographers everywhere take notice: you can stand outside someone's house every morning, in effect stalking them wherever they go, and even then your newspaper will demand that their boyfriend stumps up the cash to protect them. One has to wonder how Ms Wade would respond to having the paps seated outside her door every morning, invading her privacy constantly. You'd have to think that she wouldn't much like it.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007 

Proving the raving lunatic right.

One thing we know for certain is that Ayman al-Zawahiri is a ranting demagogue, who like all religious extremists distorts and selectively quotes from his favoured text, justifying murder and violence along the way. One thing he isn't regarded as being is a soothsayer.

That though may be about to change. Last Friday, an audio-tape from everyone's favourite second-in-command of a terror "organisation" emerged from whichever cave it was recorded in, and he was quite clear on what's happening in Somalia:

While I am addressing you today, the Crusader invading Ethiopian forces are violating the Islamic land of dear Somalia. Moreover, the Security Council is plotting to approve this invasion by issuing its resolution to dispatch international forces to Somalia and by its failure to issue a resolution that calls for the withdrawal of the Ethiopian forces from Somalia. Here, I am urging the Islamic nation in Somalia to be steadfast in this new Crusader battlefield, which America, its allies, and the United Nations are waging against Islam and Muslims.


My Muslim brothers in Somalia: Do not be terrified by America's power as you have defeated it before, thanks to God and His grace.

Today, America is weaker than before as the mujahidin dealt a fatal blow to it in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hence, it sent its slaves to you. Therefore, do not be affected by the first shock, it is just worthless propaganda, arrogance, and haughtiness. The real battle will begin by launching your campaigns against the Ethiopian forces with God's help and might. The faithful groups-- in their pursuit of death for the sake of God-- will devour the Crusader invading Ethiopian Army, which has launched an aggression against the lands of Islam, God willing.

Just to prove that this is entirely an internal matter in Africa, with Ethiopia having first moved its forces into Somalia back in July of last year and the Islamic Court Union formally declaring war on the 21st of December, followed by a hasty retreat which has turned into an apparent rout, the United States on Sunday/Monday ordered air strikes and attacks by AC-130 gunships on Ras Kamboni, a town near the Kenya/Somalia border. The target is said to have been the "big three", three al-Qaida members alleged to have links both with the bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and with the attacks in Mombasa in 2002.

Reports continue to conflict as to whether any of the three were killed, whether the air strikes are on-going, despite an apparent denial by the US military, and what has actually been achieved by deciding to intervene in a conflict which has simmered in the region for decades, but one thing is undisputed: people died in the attacks. At least 27, according to the Guardian report. Other reports, notably one from Reuters, suggest another 22 to 27 died in an attack on Bankajirow, over 150 miles from Ras Kamboni, where the Islamic Courts fighters are reportedly sheltering.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed may be dead, he may not. "Very senior Islamist court leaders", not the same thing as alleged al-Qaida militants, may have died, they may have not. Four civilians, including a four-year-old boy may have been killed, they may have not.

The deaths will rightly obscure the bigger picture, but it's one that needs to be contemplated. An Islamic court union that had brought apparent security and stability to a nation that had been in a form of chaos for over a decade, which appears to have had at least a decent level of support from the people for doing so, although not so much for its less enlightened strict interpretation of Sharia law, which led to comparisons with the Taliban, has been more or less destroyed in just over two weeks by the army of a bordering nation, one that had been inside Somali territory since last July. With the the courts union cornered, the United States launches air strikes against them, with the support of the Transitional Federal Government, that up until a few days ago had not even stepped foot in the capital of Mogadishu, while Ethiopian air strikes seem to be following up those attacks. How does this do anything other than prove Ayman al-Zawahiri right?

Of course, this isn't actually about him, or al-Qaida in general. This is just another outpost in the war on terror, which the Bush administration appears determined to step up, or rather, in today's less than honest parlance, "surge". That it coincides with tonight's expected announcement that another 20,000 troops are to be sent to Iraq is just one of those things. This is why we're fighting will be the message. Nowhere will be safe, something that unfortunately works both ways. Iraq is just a part of this. Can't you see?

To take realpolitik to its most extreme conclusions, you might also wonder whether this opening up another front in the war on terror, or in al-Qaida's eyes, a front in the war against the crusaders, is some kind of ploy meant to thin out the numbers that are fighting their holy war in Iraq. Which front does the young, idealistic jihadist choose to go for in 2007? Chechnya? Kashmir? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? How does the heat of Somalia sound? It's the newest addition to the world tour. That sources are alleging those killed in the strikes had UK passports, forged or not, will of course excite the tabloids. Was the niqab wearing police murderer Mustaf Jama among those slaughtered? Find out in tomorrow's super-soaraway Sun!

I may joke, but the latest developments in what has recently been rebranded as the "long war" highlight how there are two threads to it. From not wanting to be involved in "nation building", the United States has been sucked into two on-going conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, unable to bring peace to either. The other, more successful, but still horribly misjudged thread is the bombarding of "terrorists" with the apparent permission of the nation state in question. Last year's attempt to kill al-Zawahiri which instead blew apart civilians (Wikipedia claims some "terrorists" were also killed) was a previous instance. Sunday/Monday/Tuesday's strikes are of the same standard. While these attacks don't come close to the horror which Iraq suffers on a daily basis, they still have no regard for the nuances of the local populations they target, or the country's politics or make-up as a whole. Somalia has suffered from years of warlords imposing their own brand of terror. With them now likely to return to their previous stomping grounds, having been driven out by the Islamists, the country again descends into anarchy. Add to this that a call has now gone out for fighters to come and take part in the "jihad", even if the remnants of the ICU are eventually wiped out, and the country looks set to continue to bleed for a while yet.

This is without examining the world picture. The United States has again involved itself in a conflict in which it had no business in doing so. The Somalian transitional government and the Ethiopians may bleat that they needed the strikes because the area into which the ICU has retreated is a "no man's land" and "is forest", but it sounds less than compelling when the Ethiopian army has been more than capable of driving back the ICU from its previous strongholds, without major fighting or not. Their own aircraft also seem to be carrying out sorties. The world looks on, and the narrative is already written: US attacks Muslim fighters. Terrorists may be dead. Civilians killed.

Not that this affects one jot thinking back here at home from the usual quarters. If you can depend on one learned journal to always defend the latest foreign policy excursion from America, it's this one:


Freedom fight

THE world may be divided over Iraq, but every civilised nation should applaud America’s air strike against al-Qaeda in Somalia.

This is the failed state where Osama Bin Laden first declared war on the West in the 1990s.

He used it as a base for a sinister network of al-Qaeda dens across South Asia and North Africa.

Err, no it isn't. The Sun is mixing up Somalia with Sudan, where OBL was based for a number of years before going back to Afghanistan. The accusations of al-Qaida involvement in the Black Hawk Down disaster have never been proved. The only substantial link is that the US embassy bombings may have planned from where the US has now carried out air strikes.

Now for the first time since President Bill Clinton was humbled in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” catastrophe, America has struck back.

Right. The cruise missile strikes in Sudan and Afghanistan after the embassy bombings, which famously destroyed a medicine factory, wasn't striking back. The war on Afghanistan wasn't striking back. Numerous other strikes weren't striking back.

Two US gunships killed dozens of Islamist fighters — including top al-Qaeda leaders.

Not proved, and they were far from "top" al-Qaida leaders even if they were.

But this will not stop the multi-headed monster continuing to threaten Western targets.

Security chiefs say Britain and America are near certain to face attacks in the coming months.

Like those attacks that were going to happen at Christmas? No, this is just the Sun reminding everyone of the threat here at home. Stay scared everyone.

But nobody in the West — even France — can expect to escape extremist outrages.

You don't say? Combating the extremist threat is through removing the genuine grievances, explaining and defusing the perceived injustices, and greater integration, not through killing Islamist fighters in internal conflicts we have no business involving ourselves in.

The bloodshed in Baghdad is shocking. But whether the blame-mongers like it or not, we are at war with fanatics.

Cynicism towards President George Bush must not blind us to the much bigger threat facing the world this century.

This is the Sun signing up entirely to this re-marketed "long war". That the invasion of Iraq has made this threat far worse, has provided somewhere for these "fanatics" to train where there was not one before and has in the process killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, not to mention coalition soldiers, isn't mentioned, and for a good reason. The Sun was the newspaper that provided the most blatant propaganda for the government's case for war, and has continued to ever since. One day it might have to take some responsibility, along with the rest of the Murdoch media, for the bloodshed it helped start. Until then, its editorials and praise for "precision" missile strikes on terrorists should continue to be ridiculed.

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Scum-watch: They're asking for it.

I'm not one to normally defend the Dear Leader, but the Sun have again ascribed views to him which he clearly does not hold. They last did this before Christmas, claiming that he had voiced support for their campaign against "killjoys", when he did nothing of the sort, instead questioning whether the stories were based in fact. Today they're claiming that Blair said Saddam "deserved to die", when he instead went off on a tangent, trying not to be too hard on the botched execution:

TONY Blair said last night that the way Saddam Hussein was executed was wrong — but that the tyrant deserved to die.

The Prime Minister reminded the world the former Iraqi dictator was a mass murderer responsible for millions of deaths.

He condemned the chaotic scenes around Saddam’s hanging — but urged everyone to remember he was to blame for his own downfall.

He said: “The manner of the execution of Saddam was completely wrong. But that should not blind us to the crimes he committed against his own people. That includes the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

“One million casualties of the Iran-Iraq war and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire villages.

“The crimes Saddam committed do not excuse the manner of his execution, but that does not excuse the crimes. We should bear in mind while saying ‘it’s wrong’ that we should not lurch into a position in forgetting the victims of Saddam.

“Of course any sensible, moderate person makes these points about the scenes we have seen.

“But it should not be then translated into some sort of excuse for the crimes he committed against his own people.”

What the Sun has done is edited together two separate answers to separate questions, and even then he still doesn't say anything that even comes close to supporting the death penalty or the execution, simply repeating the true enough but age old justification for the war which has now been taken up since the WMD excuse fell apart. Here are the two answers he gave in full, from the 10 Downing Street website:

In relation to the death penalty let me just say this. As you know the practice is different in the UK and Japan, but I don't think that is really the issue here. As has been very obvious from the comments of other Ministers and indeed from my own official spokesman, the manner of the execution of Saddam was completely wrong, but that should not blind us to the crimes he committed against his own people, including the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, one million casualties in the Iran-Iraq war, and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, wiping out entire villages of people. So the crimes that Saddam committed does not excuse the manner of his execution, and the manner of his execution does not excuse the crimes. Now I think that is a perfectly sensible position that most people would reasonably accept.

Well I can't add a great deal to what I said earlier. The fact is that as everybody saw, the manner of the execution is unacceptable and it is wrong, but we should bear in mind and not allow that, while saying it is wrong, then to lurch into a position of forgetting the victims of Saddam, the people that he killed deliberately as an act of policy, hundreds of thousands of them in Iraq, the villages and towns that were wiped out by the use of chemical weapons deliberately as an act of government policy. So of course any sensible moderate person makes those points about the scenes that we have seen about the execution, but it should not be then translated into some sort of excuse for the crimes that he committed against his own people, of which you have heard testimony again today.

Blair's bringing up of Saddam's crimes is of course not the point at all; the first images which were broadcast of Saddam's execution were of a dignified, low-key affair, which although brutal and with the hallmarks of a general lack of humanity, did not give the impression of victor's justice, or the sectarianism that emerged once the unofficial mobile phone videos were presented on the web. Even the most brutal of men, if condemned to death, deserve to be treated with something approaching respect as their life is taken from them. That Saddam was not says much about the contemporary Iraq that the US/UK invasion has helped to create.

Elsewhere, the Sun really is asking for it:

Send us web's sickest sites

THE Sun today launches a crackdown on the web's most disturbing websites - and you can help!

From today, if you're shocked by a site and reckon it should be shut down contact us.

Email with the details and our web team will get on the case.

We want you to shop sites that are doing anything illegal, just like the body parts website exposed in The Sun this week.

Our investigators revealed how Brits were selling organs over the net via a twisted site.

The story told how crime gangs and crooked doctors were among those cashing in on the organs black market.

And with your tips, we can track down and expose more horrifying sites just like that.

So if you want us to investigate a web page email Your email will be treated in strictest confidence.

I've since sent the following email:

I've been shocked by the horrifying exploitation of young women by one site in particular. Ladies as young as 18 are encouraged to send in photographs of themselves semi-naked, all for the puny prize of £5,000, while an elderly, leering gentleman profits from their ignorance, and a flame-haired woman fills the pages of her newspaper with their frontal lobes, without having to pay them for the privilege.

Can you possibly help close down (warning: nudity)?


I await their reply.

Related posts:
Scum-watch: Various bits and bobs.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007 

I see no bombers....

The first word that comes to mind regarding the revelation that the head of MI5, "Dame" Eliza Manningham-Buller told MPs on the 6th of July that there was no imminent terrorist threat to London, and that the security situation as a whole was under control, is farce. That may however may be less than fair to those whom the following day were blown apart as a result of this farce. Rachel, in two typically brilliant posts, uses another f-word: failure.

The reports in the immediate aftermath of the bombings, that those responsible were "cleanskins", that MI5 can't be everywhere at once and that there were no failures within the intelligence services are also looking increasingly hollow. Reporting restrictions regarding Operation Crevice, with the prosecution of those being tried coming towards a verdict, are soon to be lifted. Rumours are emerging that at least one of the July 7th bombers had a connection to those involved with that plot. We also now know that the surveillance of Mohammad Siddique Khan involved agents listening to him talking about waging jihad, yet he was apparently not identified, and he was eventually put down as a fraudster, at the lower levels of jihadist militancy, rather than a potential suicide bomber. Rachel also mentions how the surveillance of MSK was abandoned to instead focus on Dhiren Barot, who although a veteran jihadi had no funding, no material and only ridiculous ideas like trying to penetrate the tunnels of the London Underground, and producing a dirty bomb from setting fire to or planting explosives around smoke alarms.

Also worth wondering about is whether MI5 is hopeless in general or was genuinely taken by surprise by 7/7. For Manningham-Buller to apparently go from considering the security situation under control to there being around 30 plots, with "Sir" Ian Blair telling us, according to whichever report you believe, that the terror threat is now either worse than that posed by the Soviet Union or since WW2, within a year and six months seems suspect. We were told beforehand that it was a matter of if, not when Britain was targeted, while in reality they were playing down worries just before we actually were struck, yet now Ian Blair wants us to believe that the "sky is dark". The foiled "liquid bombs" plot, which as time passes looks to be even more shaky and exaggerated than it was when the arrests took place, doesn't really help when it comes to analysing the true threat. All we know for sure is that the Sun wants us to stay scared, that the police want at least 90 days detention without charge, and that ministers still don't want a full public inquiry into 7/7.

It may yet turn out that the revelations once the Crevice prosecutions have finished will make such an inquiry irresistible. If it does, then it will have taken the government close to two years to do something it should have done immediately in the aftermath of the horror on the tube. If it doesn't, then they will continue to be betraying those who expected far better, both from MI5 and ministers who have done everything possible to play down the full facts, of which we are still uncertain. Establishing a watchdog similar to the IPCC for the security services, something Gordon Brown is at least interested in, is also long overdue.

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Humbug dressed as a 25-year-old birthday girl.

Christmas may have come and gone, but there's nothing like some humbug at the start of January to fill up the papers. Yesterday the Grauniad printed a decent leader arguing that Kate Middleton, Prince William's girlfriend, was being hounded by the paparazzi, and that if the behaviour of photographers didn't improve, calls for a privacy law would naturally increase as a result. One of its best lines was the following:

A degree of self-restraint by the press, avoiding using pictures of Ms Middleton on her own in her daily life, would reduce the enthusiasm of freelance photographers for taking them.

How then does the Grauniad decide to fill up 5 pages of the following day's G2? By commissioning a piss-poor sub-Daily Mail article by Kira Cochrane about err, the differences between Ms Middleton and a certain dead woman! Not only is there over 2000 words of this guff, there's 6 photographs of Ms Middleton used, including one from her time at university where she took part in a charity fashion show, wearing only underwear and a transparent negligee.

The BBC also isn't immune from this startlingly moronic and boring hypocrisy. The front page of a couple of hours ago, now changed after one of the more eagle-eyed staff noticed the stupidity, featured the following stories at the top, followed by this at the bottom:

News International, in one of their rare as rocking horse shite sensible moves, have also decided to ban all photographs of Middleton taken by paparazzi from the pages of their newspapers, although this got off to a less than auspicious start when the TheLondonPaper (sic), apparently not informed of the decision, used one in today's editions. How long the ban, similar to ones which were imposed after Diana's death and quickly forgotten about will last is also open to question.

As is so often with the Street of Shame, it's hard to know whether anyone outside of London's media circles could care less about Ms Middleton and her relationship with Prince William. Kira Cochrane tries desperately to justify her article in G2 with the following conclusion:

It turned out in the end that Diana was a much more complicated, exciting and interesting woman than that early coverage suggested. So it will likely prove with Kate.

No she wasn't. And no it won't. They'll only turn into "complicated, exciting and interesting" women if the press continues to splash constantly about them, believing that there's some kind of interest in their mundane, ordinary existence. Since Diana's death a myth has been built, and continues to be built, thanks to the efforts of countless biographers and conspiracy theorists that she was far more extraordinary than she in fact was. At the same time, there will always be Glenda and Glen Slaggs out there who will attack purely to fill space. This is how the media works: building up and kicking down.

The best way to deal with the monarchy is to entirely ignore it. Only when they prove what reactionary idiots they are (i.e. wearing Nazi uniforms, calling mild-mannered journalists "bloody awful" for simply asking questions at press conferences) should their activities be reported. The only other justification for mentioning their existence is when writing articles calling for their abolition. Once the supposed mystique which the media builds around them has been destroyed, it will be all the more easier to end this ridiculous and laughable anachronistic institution.

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Monday, January 08, 2007 

The pros and cons of Ruth Kelly's privates.

On the surface, Ruth Kelly's decision to send her son to a private, fee-paying school should be an easy enough one to denounce. It's only been a few months since her own piss-poor reign as education secretary came to an end, where she tried and failed to convince her own party to support Blair's pet trust schools project. That a government minister, one who only recently was in charge of improving school standards nationwide, should decide that her local schools are so poor that she needs to send her own children to a private school, is a smack in the face to all those who pay their taxes to fund their own children's education, not to mention the children themselves who have to suffer the conditions that aren't good enough for a government minister's child.

The issue itself though may not have come to light if the Mirror hadn't made the decision to actually name the minister. The Grauniad this morning reported that a cabinet minister had sent their son to a fee-paying school, but didn't name who we now know to be Ruth Kelly as to "protect the identity of the child". One also has to wonder whether that with Ruth Kelly also being a former Grauniad hack if that came into the equation. Justifying their decision in a leader column for plastering Kelly's decision over the front page, the Mirror makes a pretty compelling case. It might be argued it was a private matter if Kelly hadn't previously occupied the education hot-seat, or if she hadn't made any public pronouncements on state schooling, but this was plainly not the case.

What the makes the issue more complicated, personal and more difficult to comment firmly on is that the child, has "substantial learning difficulties", to quoth the BBC. To say that the quality of teaching and general provision for those with learning difficulties in state schools is controversial would be an understatement on the scale of saying that Iraq is a bit of a blunder. Some continue to call for separate schools for those with special needs, claiming that the policy of one size fits all that occurs in the state sector fails them, while the Labour government has been at the forefront of promoting inclusiveness, partly out of the belief that such schools only promote difference and fail to prepare their pupils for "normal" life as adequately as comprehensive schooling does. Both sides of the argument have merit, and as it falls to local authorities and councils to provide school provision, central government generally keeps out of the decisions that are made.

Yet the decision by Kelly is still by no-means clear cut, whether the child has learning difficulties or not. Even going private on the basis of professional advice, it's still a vote of no confidence in the schooling which he has had up to know. This is remember a government that claimed its first three priorities were "education, education, education", yet only just more than half leave school at 16 with five A-C GCSE grades. Top-up fees were introduced, despite claiming that they would do no such thing. It has been effectively 9 years of meddling; we've had city academies, giving control over the curriculum to evangelical Christians and oleangenious businessmen who've also donated money to Labour, and now trust schools introduced, along with "specialisms", yet there's been few measurable achievements apart from driving down class sizes and increasing the pass-rate a little, but by nowhere near enough.

Kelly's justifications and the coincidences involving the picked school are also far from clean:

She said it was not uncommon for pupils with substantial learning difficulties to spend some time outside the state sector to help them progress.

"Sometimes this is paid for by the local authority. In my case, I have not and will not seek the help of the local authority in meeting these costs," Ms Kelly said.

As much as this is true, most who do spend time outside the state sector tend to rely on tutors, and this is outside of school hours. Her choosing of the following school will also raise questions about whether she's being truthful when she says she intends to send him to a state secondary:

The private school which Ms Kelly is believed to have chosen charges £15,000 a year, and grooms children with a particular, relatively common condition for entry into elite public schools such as Harrow and Winchester.

Even if we dismiss Labour tribalism for a second, listen to the likes of Guido when he says that state schooling is collapsing in the Tower Hamlets area, and recognise that the hypocrisy here doesn't come close to approaching the levels of Diane Abbot sending her son to a private school, the decision is still suspect. It shows the limitations of education under Labour, yet the solution which Kelly and other middle class families choose is doing nothing to help the situation, rather instead demoralising teachers who recognise that not even ministers believe their own rhetoric, damns the proles to schools which the more affluent can avoid, and perpetuates the cycle of defeatism. That there are seven special schools within Tower Hamlets, including one specialist centre, additionally makes her look using it more as an excuse rather than a necessity.

The response from her political opponents has been less than condemnatory. It's more than apparent that the muted reaction is down to the fact that her son has special needs, with David Cameron unlikely to capitalise on something that he may yet have to do himself, not to mention his own privileged education. Sarah Teather, finding time out from her search for sex to comment on her actual position (is this right? Ed.), took much the same approach.

Personally, it's just another stroke against Kelly and her far from dazzling ministerial career. Hopeless at education, moved into a position where she finds herself, a member of Opus Dei, supposedly having to defend outlawing discrimination against homosexuals, and apparently doing the exact opposite, she should do the decent thing and resign.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007 

Scum and Mail-watch: The lies and excuses of both the police and gutter press.

Jason Croft and Michael Nixon, the two convicted murderers who went missing from Sudbury open prison in Derbyshire.

Another day breaks, and the tabloids are again united in shrieking at the Human Rights Act, when they should in fact be shouting at the police, the reality of overcrowding in prisons and their own hand in creating that exact situation.

Possibly prompted by an article in the Torygraph from last year, Derbyshire police supposedly defended their decision not to release the photographs of two murderers who have absconded from open prison with the following statement, taken here from the main Scum article:

“When making a decision to release any photograph, police forces must take into account numerous factors including the public interest test, whether there is a strong local policing purpose and, of course, the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts."
They've since claimed they were "misquoted", but this is plainly an excuse for not acting sooner, and possibly mislaying the photographs of the two men who have gone missing.

Not missing a trick, the Mail and especially the Sun have taken this as a great opportunity to bash the Human Rights Act, even though they've quoted both Charles Falconer and Shami Chakrabarti as saying that the Human Rights Act in fact provides the exact measures for those who have been deprived of their liberty to be apprehended, here in Article 5, the right to liberty and security:

1. Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:

(a) the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court;

(b) the lawful arrest or detention of a person for non-compliance with the lawful order of a court or in order to secure the fulfilment of any obligation prescribed by law;

(c) the lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable suspicion of having committed an offence or when it is reasonably considered necessary to prevent his committing an offence or fleeing after having done so;

And if this wasn't enough, then Article 8 additionally makes clear how these men have no right to the protections provided there either:

2. There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The mistake may have been through a misreading of the ACPO guidelines (PDF), as Not Saussure points out, which are written with "suspects" in mind, and even then Article 8 is pretty clear that if there's a real risk to public safety then so-called "wanted posters" are permissible. The confusion may also have been down to the opposition lead by Liberty to those given anti-social behaviour orders being "named and shamed", which is mainly on the grounds that doing so doesn't help in the first place, especially as ASBOs are increasingly being seen by some as a "badge of honour". As Linda Smith joked, an ASBO may be the only qualification that some of those given them ever get.

Only when we get to the end of the Mail article do they actually bother printing the corrected statement from Derbyshire police:
In a new statement the force said: 'This decision was based on the fact that there was no policing purpose to be served by the release of these photographs in Derbyshire, as inquiries indicated that Croft and Nixon had fled the county and posed no risk to Derbyshire residents.

'Derbyshire Constabulary would like to strongly point out that the human rights of the individuals in question had no bearing and were not the reason the pictures were not released.

'In making this decision the rights and safety of the public will always come before those of convicted offenders.'
This still doesn't explain why Derbyshire police didn't bother to even contact the victims' families, or release profiles/photographs of the men as soon as they were informed that the men had escaped. Either they're incompetent, weren't informed soon enough or they'd lost/not been given the men's details. Greater Manchester police have now released images of the two.

Not that this has stopped blatant lies from appearing in both the Mail and Sun's articles:

Last year the government admitted public protection had to be given greater priority in the Human Rights Act after serial sex attacker Anthony Rice murdered a woman after using the Act to help secure his release from prison.
No they didn't and no he didn't. Instead ministers and others wrongly blamed the Human Rights Act, as a report by the joint human rights committee found:

The Anthony Rice case. The chief inspector of probation blamed the mistaken release of the convicted murder on licence on the fact that public protection considerations were undermined by human rights considerations. The MPs and peers, however, found that the official inquiry into the case fails to reveal any real evidence that public safety was prejudiced by the Human Rights Act.
The Mail also doesn't mention that Verna Bryant, the mother of the woman killed by Rice, has herself since been successful in using the Human Rights Act to win an inquest into the death of her daughter. It didn't report her win in the high court, but it did report her intentions to do so. The Sun has done neither.

The Sun also got dear old Norman Brennan, the rent-a-quote robocop who runs both the Victims of Crime Trust and the "Protect the Protectors" campaign (i.e. arming all cops so they can shoot more innocent people in the head 7 times) to comment:

“This is just another bizarre episode in the way the Human Rights Act seems to benefit criminals rather than law-abiding members of the public.
Obviously never heard of Verna Bryant then, or the woman who succeeded in stopping those accused of rape from extensively cross-examining the alleged victim. Then again, this is Norman Brennan, who recently has had his accounts questioned, who previously supported the release of a vigilante, and said this in the aftermath of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes:

"The long and the short of it is that this country is at war with terrorists and in war there are casualties. Normally in the majority of cases it is the enemy but innocent people will suffer. I am afraid it is tragic but that is part of any battle.
How true, and I'm sure de Menezes's family appreciated the lies, distortions and smears which resulted from him being misidentified and being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The Scum's leader though is the real villian of this piece:

IT is a law that puts the interests of the guilty above those of the innocent.
Here's a challenge for Rebekah Wade, because I'm sure you're reading. If you can point out how any of the 18 chapters of the Human Rights Act put the interests of the guilty above the innocent, then I'll stop calling you a traitor. Do we have a deal?

It protects terrorists rather than the lives of people they want to blow to smithereens.
As opposed to protecting the wider public from detention without charge, and the rights of those who have their lives restricted by control orders when no evidence has ever been presented to them, then yes, the Human Rights Act does protect "terrorists".

It creates an atmosphere where a murder suspect can skip the country with his face hidden by a Muslim woman’s veil.
The Sun is here blaming something that no evidence has been presented for happening on something that they're blaming the whole downfall of British society on, i.e. the HRA.

Welcome to the crazy world of the Human Rights Act, quoted by idiots at Derbyshire Police as one reason they refused to release photographs of two vicious murderers who escaped from jail TWO MONTHS ago.

Once the stupidity of this excuse was exposed, there was a crashing sound as Government ministers and cops went into reverse gear.

Err, there was? The cops did, because their pathetic excuse had been rumbled. Lord Falconer actually stood up for the Human Rights Act for a change, making it clear that he wanted a proper explanation for why they hadn't beeen released sooner. Anyway, I thought this was the fault of the Human Rights Act, not "idiots" in Derbyshire?

It beggars belief that police — paid to protect the public — can become so foolishly obsessed with political correctness that they arrogantly put the “human rights” of murderers before doing their duty.
Or, rather, that the Sun blames political correctness for the police making excuses for why they aren't doing their job properly.

This Government reckons that the 1998 law and the signing of the European Human Rights Convention is one of its proudest achievements.
And for once the government is right, it is.

In fact, letting British laws be determined by unelected judges and a ludicrous court in Strasbourg is an insult to our democracy.
Quite right. Our politicians, elected on 22% of the popular vote should instead be the last word on the deprivation of liberty, deciding what sentences should be given those convicted of crime and whether or not today's page 3 stunna is worth taking into the toilet during lunch.

Restoring common sense to our justice system is one of the great challenges facing Gordon Brown when he takes over in Downing Street.
Indeed. Seeing as the Sun has such a wonderful record on bringing common sense to the justice system and to prisons, here's hoping that Gordon Brown has many more lunches to have with both Mr Murdoch and dearest, doe-eyed Rebekah.

Related posts:
BlairWatch - Wanted Posters and the Human Rights Act

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Friday, January 05, 2007 

Jamil Hussein - rumours of his non-existence have been greatly exaggerated..

Carnage from yesterday's car bombing of a petrol station in Mansour. New York Times report.

Unlike the search for Osama bin Laden, the search by right-wing blogger Michelle Malkin for Jamil Hussein, the supposed non-existent source for numerous AP reports of violence in Iraq has finished before it has even begun.

The saga began when AP reported that four mosques and six people had been set on fire by Shia militiamen in the Baghdad neighbourhood of Hurriyah. Both the Iraqis themselves and the US military then disputed that any of this had happened, while AP later corrected the story to one mosque. The main source for the report was one Captain Jamil Hussein, an Iraqi police officer who had been one of the main providers of information to AP from within the force itself, and had been doing so since 2004. An initial search by the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior, at the request of the US military, found no record of a Jamil Hussein at any Baghdad police station. Only later did another search find a Capt. Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, assigned to the Khadra police station, but it seems that the Iraqis then didn't bother to inform the US of their discovery.

Sensing blood, right-wing bloggers had something a field day, linking in their other dubious claims about the massacre at Qana during the Israel-Lebanon-Hizbullah war, the Reuters photographer who added smoke to a photograph for reasons known only to himself and claims since repudiated by Human Rights Watch that photographs of ambulances struck by Israeli missiles had been faked. Now that Hussein has been recognised by the Iraqi ministry of the interior as existing, Michelle Malkin and friends, instead of apologising, are as Tony Blair likes to do, moving on. In fact, it was always a side issue on Malkin's trip to Iraq itinerary anyway:

The "Jamil Hussein" story is one important item on our agenda, but not the only one. As Curt and other bloggers on this story have noted from the beginning, Jamilgate isn't just about "Jamil Hussein." Bryan and I plan to do as much on-the-ground reporting as we can to nail down unresolved questions--not only about Jamil Hussein and the Hurriya six burning Sunnis allegations, but also about the AP four burning mosque story discrepancies and the many other AP sources that our military has publicly challenged--including "Lt. Maitham Abdul Razzaq" and more than a dozen police officers listed by U.S. military spokesman Navy Lt. Michael Dean. There's also the issue of detained AP photographer Bilal Hussein. And we are looking forward to reporting first-hand on the security situation in Iraq outside the so-called "Green Zone" (International Zone) and talking to as many American and Iraqi Army troops with insights on these and other broader matters.

Well congratulations Michelle, now you've got more time to get shot at on Baghdad's streets with all the over "hajis", as Jamil Hussein himself now faces being arrested for risking his own safety helping a tremendously under stress news organisation report what is actually happening in Iraq. It also comes as one of AP's other Baghdad staff has been found dead, bringing to 4 the total killed since the beginning of the Iraq war, with 129 journalists in total having died.

There is of course nothing wrong with asking questions about news coverage, and wanting to get to the bottom of what seem like potentially wrong or misleading reports. However, as IraqSlogger points out in a measured piece, mistakes were made by all sides. AP may have been too hot-headed in defending its reporting, but surely now that it turns out Hussein is real it's easy to see why it was so defensive and dismissive of the rabid efforts by some to denounce their efforts to produce a true picture of the violence enveloping Iraq. Apologies all round would not go amiss, but none should be expected from Malkin and co.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007 

From elephants in the room to the rutting of New Labour.

In one sense, you have to admire the chutzpah of Gordon Brown, his admirers and advisers in briefing the Grauniad that they believe British foreign policy has got itself into a "rut" due to the continuing occupation of Iraq. They're continuing in the fashion of Blair's own spin doctors, the one who wrote the highly humourous memo that was leaked to the Mirror about the plans for Blair's departure from office, where Iraq was merely referred to as "the elephant in the room". This is an elephant that has rampaging for 16 years, killing hundreds of thousands, either through sanctions, bombs or sheer criminal incompetence. After a brief lull in the violence during Eid, the bombings appear to have started up again, another 13 dying in an attack on a petrol station. Every morning dozens of bodies are found dumped in Baghdad's streets, having discovered themselves stuck in the same rut which is so vexing Brown's supporters.

Even more galling is that the admirers further briefed that once Brown ascends to the throne, he's no more going to "cut 'n' run" than Tony. How could he? He'd never hear the end of it from the Scum, for the start. For all their support of the troops there, they'd rather that they continue to return home in body bags than for us either to drastically draw down forces, finish training the Iraqis, and then get out completely. No, Murdoch's war for oil must continue until it reaches its $20 a barrel conclusion.

It's OK though, as Brown's been brainstorming some apparent ways to either distract us from the slaughter, or at the least, perhaps level out the deaths with initiatives that those on the left will find impossible to oppose. Who could reject the idea of spending 2 pence a day on educating the children of Africa? Better still, this scheme can be done without spending yet more of the Treasury's coffers - those in the "richest nations" will all apparently contribute - even though how this will work in practice predictably isn't fleshed out. Also mentioned by Brown's briefers, but not in Brown's actual article, is that he apparently plans to get tough on climate change, making clear that he considers it a "foreign" rather than "domestic" issue. One has to wonder, judging by the less than tough changes in policy in the pre-budget report whether this will in fact be Brown attempting to pass the buck: if other countries are still refusing to act, why should we may well be his argument if his powers of persuasion fail him.

The chancellor's strategy, should he succeed Mr Blair later this year, will be to dilute the influence of Iraq by moving other issues up the policy agenda.

Only once last year did something other than Iraq top the foreign policy agenda, and that was when Israel set about destroying southern Lebanon from the air, while ministers declined to call for an immediate ceasefire and dismissed the idea of recalling parliament to discuss the hostilities. In reality, the idea is utterly farcical. Iraq has dominated the political debate for the last 4 years, and until the troops come home will continue to do so, however much this government attempts to stifle parliamentary scrutiny of its myriad failures. However much Blair wants to push Israel-Palestine to the top of the agenda, glad-handing as many politicians he considers to be moderate as he can while thumbing his nose at the extremists on his trips to the Middle East, his legacy has already been written. The only way Brown can escape a similar one is to abandon the shoulder-to-shoulder approach with the neo-conservatives which has done so much damage, both to the wider Middle East and our reputation. He instead seems ready to carry on regardless.

There may however have been a more immediate political motive for why Brown's article and briefers were out in force yesterday: John "Dr Demento" Reid picked today to make the first of what is an apparent series of speeches, and would you believe it, he's defended his saviour Blair's legacy to the core. With the Dear Leader earlier in the week pleading for "New Labour" values to stay, which is so ripe for parody after 9 years in office that to do so would be overdoing the point, Reid has just reinforced the message in his predictable shutting down any dissent fashion. The unfathomable thing is that these ministers can't apparently see how being New Labour to the core has demoralised the party and its supporters, wiped out half its membership and brought it to the edge of financial ruin, beholden to the corporate donors it mortgaged itself for in exchange for peerages. The only reason things aren't worse is because Cameron's a Blair clone with no policies to speak of.

Whether Reid will actually stand for the party leadership once Blair departs is still unclear. Dividing the party on New Labour/Brownite lines would only deepen the infighting, something which is in the interests of no one. What is apparent is that Brown intends, rightly, to purge the most egregious New Labour ministers and replace them with ones more in his own image. How Reid and others react to such a potential bloodbath may decide whether there is a proper leadership challenge or not.

You can expect that the various majority of policies though will continue as normal. Brown's love of PFI certainly isn't going to go away, he couldn't even resist getting a mention in of extremism and potential terrorism in the article on Africa today, and we all know he personally supports the extension of detention without trial for "terrorist suspects" to 90 days, even though such a deprivation of liberty isn't supported by evidence. Health reforms will continue, the attacks on civil liberties go on unabated; all New Labour values which are stuck in much the same rut as Iraq, but which won't be glossed over through distraction.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007 

Scum and Scumday Times-watch: Invasions, thugs, and outting bloggers.

Some days, looking at the Sun's news page, it's difficult to even know where to begin, which contemptible stories to ignore and which ones to focus on. Today is one of those days.

Let's start then with this calm and measured article:

BRITAIN is bracing itself for an invasion.

Aliens? Locusts? Killer Bees? Vikings? Neo-Conservatives? Fox News hosts? Rupert Murdoch devotees?

Up to 15,000 Bulgarians will come to live here this year after the former Soviet state joined the European Union on Monday.

15,000? Christ, get the minutemen to the borders now! There also appears to have been a sub-editing failure, as while Bulgaria was a member of the Warsaw pact, it was a never a Soviet satellite.

Then there's yet another scare story about how we are shortly going to be swamped by the hordes from Bulgaria:

BULGARIANS jubilant at their country joining the EU headed straight for Britain yesterday — by crowding on to the first bus out.

As a packed coach set off for London, jobless Nikolai Miglevski, 45, declared: “Now I’m free.”

He slammed job curbs imposed as Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on New Year’s Day — and said the threat of £1,000 fines would not deter his countrymen from finding work here.

Nikolai said: “I’m travelling on a tourist visa, of course. But I don’t know how long I’ll stay in the UK.

“I have many Bulgarian friends working in London. The Bulgarians already there will help the new ones. I like what I hear about London.”

Yes, after stories that only 3 dastardly Romanians had dared showed their faces after Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU, the Sun has taken itself to Sofia. It's managed to find the first bus apparently on its way to London, and describes it as packed - even though the accompanying photograph is taken at an angle which only shows half of the front of the coach, with just 7 people clustered near it. The Sun hack only speaks to 3 as well, and also didn't bother counting how many were actually on the bus, or getting a shot of it driving off in panorama for the true scale of those aboard. Still, I'm sure his dispatch was entirely accurate.

Elsewhere, the Scum is still defending the execution of Saddam Hussein, this time by turning on John Prescott for his daring to suggest that the abuse Saddam was subjected to just before he dropped from the scaffold was "deplorable":

SADDAM Hussein was a monster who tortured and murdered for pleasure.

By contrast, his own death was mercifully swift.

The jeering that accompanied it, from those he tormented most, was understandable though unseemly.

Understandable yet unseemly. That's all the condemnation that the Sun can find for the circus which surrounded him as he was put to death. The last public execution in this country was in 1875, when we decided that those about to die at least deserved the respect of not being insulted, ridiculed and mocked as they were executed, whatever crime they had committed. Not Saussure has posted up the thoughts of Dickens on public executions; they are as relevant now as they were then. Orwell's essay on a hanging in Burma, mentioned in the Grauniad leader, is also worth reading.
The Sun doesn't even deem the potentially dire consequences that the sectarian element to the execution may have in the next few weeks on the already out of control violence in the country worthy of a mention. Even those hostages murdered by Zarqawi et al only heard the chants of "God is great" rather than insults meant to humiliate them as they were killed.

It might even have been appropriate for a British minister to say something sensible about it. That rules out John Prescott. On both counts.

Yet this spluttering oaf — a disgrace even to his meaningless office as Deputy PM — was set loose on the BBC to denounce the incident as “totally deplorable”.

This, remember, is the undignified twerp who humiliated his wife and himself by cavorting drunkenly with the hired help who pleasured him under his Whitehall desk.

This is the man who never misses a chance to sneer, jeer or raise two fingers at opponents — if he can’t actually punch them in the face.

Exactly the sort of unpleasant thug who would be first out of the traps to jeer and dance on the grave of a political enemy.

Yes, and this "undignified twerp" is currently running the country, or was, as Blair is still off sunning himself at a home of a Bee Gee in America. All these insults though are aimed at the fact that by the Sun's reckoning Prescott had overstepped himself by calling what happened "utterly deplorable". In fact, as the Guardian leader mentions, it seems that Prescott was more concerned that the additional footage, shot on a mobile phone, possibly by a senior member of the Iraqi government, had emerged at all, more than the fact that Saddam was not allowed to go to his death with dignity. Some will, and can reasonably argue that as he showed his enemies no respect he didn't deserve any - but this could still have been the perfect opportunity to put previous abuses of power in the past, for the new Iraqi government to draw a line under the everyday brutality in the country and to show that they were going to do things differently. Instead things could have not gone more badly or been more indefensible.

The real reason for this editorial is that the Sun, having been so far behind the Iraq war that it would have supported the toppling of Saddam even if WMD had never been mentioned, cannot simply let something which it has took such delight in be bashed in such a way. That it was Prescott that did so made it all the more easier to attack.

On then, to the Scumday Times. For those who thought the journalism on the once revered newspaper was far removed from the abyss of its sister tabloids, it's worth reading this email sent to the sex blogger Girl With A One Track Mind, via BlairWatch:

Aug 5, 2006 11:08 AM

Dear Miss [my name],

We intend to publish a prominent news story in this weekend's paper, revealing your identity as the author of the book, Girl With a One Track Mind.

We have matched up the dates of films you have worked on - Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Batman Begins and Lara Croft Tomb Raider - and it is clear that they correlate to your blog. We have obtained your birth certificate, and details about where you went to school and college.

We propose to publish the fact that you are 33 and live in [my address] -London, and that your mother, [her name], is a [her address] -based [her profession]. The article includes extracts from your book and blog, relevant to your career in the film industry. We also have a picture of you, taken outside your flat.

Unfortunately, the picture is not particularly flattering and might undermine the image that has been built up around your persona as Abby Lee. I think it would be helpful to both sides if you agreed to a photo shoot today so that we can publish a more attractive image.

We are proposing to assign you our senior portrait photographer, Francesco Guidicini, and would arrange everything to your convenience, including a car to pick you up. We would expect you to provide your own clothes and make up. As the story will be on a colour page, we would prefer the outfit to be one of colourful eveningwear.

We did put this proposal to you yesterday, but heard nothing back. Clearly this is now a matter of urgency, and I would appreciate you contacting me as soon as possible. To avoid any doubt we will, of course, publish the story as it is if we do not hear from you.

Yours sincerely,
Nicholas Hellen

Acting News Editor

Remember, the privacy test is whether personal information published by a newspaper without permission is in the public interest. While it may be of interest to some people who the blogger actually is, it is certainly not the kind of information that is relevant to the running of the country, or even to the level of who a celebrity is having an affair with. If the Girl With A One Track Mind had entered into a relationship with a politician for instance, then maybe it could just about be argued that revealing who she is would be of great public interest. The reality is that she had simply just published a book based on her blog, which itself is based around her private sexual exploits.

Furthermore, the letter is clearly of a deeply threatening nature. It's the classic gutter journalism trap: we know who you are/what you've done, help us with the story and we'll make it all so much easier. Even this though is shot with malice and licks of sneering contempt, as they have a "less than flattering" shot of her, probably shot with a long-lens or covertly, meant to make both her readers and publishers wonder whether if she's some kind of a fantasist or fictionalising her accounts; clearly an unglamorous woman could never have such an eventful sex life. Then there's their suggestion for the clothes she should wear for the replacement photo shoot, which appears to translate to something tight, extravagant and possibly naughty; all the better for the old colonels and codgers to potentially get off on. The fact that the newspaper had obtained her birth certificate is also something that the information commissioner perhaps ought to investigate: private detective agencies like the one previously exposed by Richard Thomas may well have been involved. Not even the blogger's mother's privacy is safe: she's thrown in to embarrass the family as a whole, and make the deal even less likely to be rejected. That Girl With A One Track Mind refused to go along with Murdoch's minions blackmail was both brave and worth saluting. If this is the depths that the Sunday broadsheets are sinking to, then the tabloids themselves may not have finished scraping the barrel yet.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007 

Doing the goose-step to Swan Lake, and other stories.

I somewhat missed the full extended fallout from the Grauniad's infiltration of the BNP, but the majority appears to be around the less than interesting news that surprise, surprise, some at least halfway prominent people appear to be members. The most attention has been predictably on the telegenic and least likely member on the face of it, the ballerina Simone Clarke, who just happens to be married to a man of Cuban-Chinese descent. Defending herself, she gave an interview to the Daily Mail:

The reason is summed up in one word: Immigration. It has, she told the undercover journalist who exposed her, "really got out of hand' - and today she maintains the BNP" are the only ones to take a stand' on the issue that she believes troubles the majority of voters, even though such views have led to her being branded a racist and a fascist. "Using the word immigration is now a greater crime than cold-blooded murder," she claims.

Quite right. I mean, the journalists who expunged the huge amount of words over the last couple of days about the ascension to the European Union of Romania and Bulgaria and whether it'll mean a repeat of the mass migration of mainly Poles which happened in 2004, not to mention months of articles in the tabloid press scaremongering about invasions of gypsies and mongrel hordes, have all been charged and are currently waiting in the Tower of London waiting to be executed. Similarly, John Reid, who attempted to impose restrictions on the amount of said Romanians and Bulgarians allowed to come here has been stripped of the Home Office, had his bollocks zapped with a cattle prod, and his head now rests on one of the railings outside Buckingham Palace.

Like Melanie Philips, who spends her time ranting that no one is talking about subjects like Londonistan, before going on to spend 1000 words doing just that, with Michael Gove and others running behind her like dogs chasing a bitch on heat, there are numerous people out there who are convinced that some subjects just aren't talked about. Sometimes, they're just waiting for the chance, like the range of invective which followed Jack Straw's measured comments about the wearing of the veil, which quickly turned into the Express demanding the banning of said garment and Blair and cronies saying it was a mark of separation. When it comes to immigration however, the supposed lack of comment on it is complete nonsense. The tabloids are banging on about it every day almost. Today's Express for instance has another load of lies on its front page about foreigners stealing all our money.

There is a grain of truth in the allegation that politicians themselves are ignoring the issue of immigration. David Cameron, in his efforts to reposition the Tories, has notably put the issue down the party agenda. Yet it's only a year and a half since the Tory election campaign which told us time and again that "It's not racist to impose limits on immigration". Quite right it isn't. Since then John Reid, Ruth Kelly and others have told us repeatedly that we have to abandon "political correctness" about things as various as multiculturalism and immigration. The reality is that the issue has dropped down the political agenda, not just the Tories', in the last few months, probably helped by Reid's imposition of quotas on the new EU member states. If anything, it's been replaced by renewed fear and controversy over Muslim dress, the general integration of "them" into society, with terrorism not too far behind.

But her story has wider implications. When one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong with democratic British politics.

Really? Perhaps this is explained slightly more further on in the interview:

"I'd never been a member of any party before, although I'd voted Conservative a couple of times,' she explains. "I'm not a particularly political person but I read the manifesto and I took it on face value. Sometimes it feels as though the BNP are the only ones willing to take a stand.

“I am not too proud to say that a lot of it went over my head but some of the things they mentioned were the things I think about all the time, mainly mass immigration, crime and increased taxes. I paid my £25 there and then”

"I have been labelled a racist and a fascist because I have a view on immigration - and I mean mass immigration - but isn't that something that a lot of people worry about?

Now, it would be incredibly easy to make fun of Clarke because she couldn't even understand the BNP manifesto, as other blogs have. This though is potentially sneering at the dispossessed, poorly educated through no fault of their own, and as the Mail interview describes her, the politically naive. There's a reason why the BNP manifesto documents are relatively easy to understand, while also being written with enough political jargon in order to convince of their relevance and authenticity, not to mention integrity: these documents are targeted at those who have no time for in-depth political discussion, let alone wider knowledge of the intricacies of the legislative process, say. They're meant to appeal without being overbearing, pretentious or full of the technocratic New Labour speech which permeates everything they produce. As such, they're a success, and as Clarke points out, the documents are relatively honest, but only relatively.

Just take a look at the 2005 manifesto: 18 themes set-out straight away, with no room for nuance. Leaving the European Union; Immigration: a crisis without parallel; abolishing multiculturalism, abolition of income tax; tough on the causes of crime: criminals, etc. Your average Joe isn't going to read every single word, so they're only going to look at what appeals to them. For instance, many might miss what is hiding at the bottom of abolishing multiculturalism, if they hadn't already been appalled by the belief in eugenics at the top of page:

10. A massively-funded and permanent programme, using and doubling Britain's current foreign aid budget, will aim to reduce, by voluntary resettlement to their lands of ethnic origin, the proportion of ethnic minorities living in Britain, for as long as the majority of the electorate are willing to fund such expenditure.

In other words, as much as we say that if you're here legally you're more than welcome, we actually want you back to your land of "ethnic origin". Hey, we'll even help you out! What kind be kinder than that? How would Miss Clarke like her husband to feel as if he isn't welcome, when he knows that the party that even he apparently supports would really like it if he went back to either China or Cuba?

But oh, she complains, you don't have to agree with all the parties policies to support them:

"As with all parties, you can't agree on all things. You have to take the good bits and ignore the bad bits and that goes for any party. When I think about it I wonder, "Well, who's going to look after people like me?" People who work hard, who like to celebrate Christmas; people who are law-abiding citizens who pay their taxes - more and more of them - but feel that no one is speaking for them."

This though isn't like turning a blind eye to the equivalent of not agreeing with Labour on introducing ID cards or the Iraq war, but still supporting them in general; none of their, or the other party's plans (except the far far left and arguably UKIP on leaving the EU) are so radical that they could result in the break-up of British society or in the reintroduction of capital punishment for instance, as mooted here:

4. We support the re-introduction of corporal punishment for petty criminals and vandals, and the restoration of capital punishment for paedophiles, terrorists and murderers as an option for judges in cases where their guilt is proven beyond dispute, as by DNA evidence or being caught red-handed.

12. While every effort will be made to help addicts to recover, individuals convicted of the importation and large-scale dealing of hard drugs will face the death penalty.

This is only scratching the surface of the document. Hidden further inside it are references to the Iraq war being a neo-con project on behalf of the "Zionists", remarks about "the creeping Islamification" of Britain, and various other nonsenses. What marks the document and most of the BNP's output is just how "moderate" it has become. There is as little openly racist language as possible, masking their views in an air of respectability. As the actual Grauniad investigation found, and others have known for a while, the BNP strategy now is to appear just like any other political party, and hide behind the mask of being merely nationalist and economically to the left of Labour, when in fact their belief is in pure white nationalism. Their actual foot soldiers, rather than the middle class ones they're trying to lure, are the same old racists and hooligans of before, as evidenced by the likes of the Stormfront forum. In fact, let's go over there and see what they think about Clarke etc, shall we?

There's two threads, the first mainly based on the Guardian article published yesterday, and the second on the Mail's article:

Click on the images to see them full-size:

The comments on the Mail thread, are however, far more telling:

Simone Clarke to the BNP rank and file is a dream come true. She is in essence the archetypal useful idiot: so much so that there's no way she can be accused of racism, as the posters point out. It's a win-win situation for them; if she's sacked by the ENB, then she's a martyr for free speech. Since she hasn't recanted her support, she can be used as a propaganda piece for the "changed party". Yet the true BNP strategy shines through in these comments: moderation while out of power, no compromise once they are in power.

Nick Griffin, in his speech to the white nationalist conference in New Orleans of all places, made clear that they are waiting for a disaster of some sort that reflects the hyper inflation, mass unemployment and economic collapse that occurred in Germany in the run-up to 1933, leading to the rise of both the Communists and the Nazis, which along with the Reichstag fire enabled Hitler to come to power and liquidate his opponents and then democracy. In the mean time, they're preparing the ground for mass support by appearing to be everything they are actually not. That the middle-classes, drip fed the outrage by the tabloids which so often reflects mainstream BNP rhetoric are coming to support them shouldn't be a surprise, nor should they be condemned for doing so. The axis of the Guardian and Lee Jasper calling for Clarke's resignation simply confirms that the elite are against them and their beliefs.

What is so desperately needed is a genuine political alternative that reassures while it listens. Labour isn't doing this, the Tories still aren't trusted, and the Lib Dems are a joke. That the BNP aren't doing immeasurably better should be the real shock. If we don't acknowledge the threat, and move to counter it (ignoring it does not work) then if in a few years the BNP could possess the same amount of power as Jean Marie Le Pen's National Front.

Related posts:
Tim Worstall - Simone Clarke and the BNP
Five Chinese Crackers - Hurrah for the Blackshirts!
Pickled Politics - She won't play the black swan
Not Saussure - The BNP Ballerina

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