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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