Saturday, February 03, 2007 

The politics of leaking.

There's an incredibly interesting piece in the Grauniad today about the leaking and speculation which has surrounded the Birmingham terror arrests. It's in effect the police saying that they've had nothing to do with the various briefings that have led to the more sensationalist headlines:

Police sources in the West Midlands said yesterday they suspected the anonymous briefings may have been intended to deflect attention from the prisons crisis and the cash for honours inquiry, while counter-terrorism officials in London told the Guardian there was concern that the speculation generated is interfering with the investigation by the newly formed Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit.

One counter-terrorism official warned yesterday that "an awful lot of inaccuracies" had begun to appear in the media, to the alarm of West Midlands police. "As a result of some of the speculation, police feel they have been hampered in their evidence gathering," he said.

Some of the more sensational claims about the plot - such as reports yesterday that two young British Muslim soldiers had agreed to act as "live bait" in an attempt to trap the suspects - were dismissed by counter-terrorism officials as being completely untrue. Claims that police uncovered a list of 25 intended victims were also dismissed.

The Times article on the "25 terror hitlist" mentions a "defence source", while the Sun's article stating that "beheading videos" had been found at one of the searched houses refers to a "police source". The original Sun article on the 1st of February attributes some of the information to a "senior security source".

It's therefore difficult to know who to believe, especially when previous cases have involved the police and security sources briefing and leaking on a grand scale. This might simply be a case of the police trying to pass the buck onto the government for some of their officers going off the record without permission, exasperating their superiors and this is their message to them to shut up. That said, probably the last place the police would talk to about their concerns over leaking would be the Guardian if their own officers were responsible.

On the case against the government, the Times and the Sun often are the favourite papers to leak to, mainly because they're the most sympathetic to their cause. It also would be far from unprecedented for journalists on both papers to have lied about the sources for their stories. The Sun was also the newspaper that was fastest to react to the whole story breaking - within hours the political editor of the Scum had written his highly detailed piece, alleging that those arrested had been involved in a plot to behead a serving Muslim soldier. If it was sources inside the Home Office and Downing Street who have in fact been behind the briefings, then it makes a mockery of John Reid's appeals for restraint; it goes without saying that Reid, a former communist thug, should be only trusted as far as he can be thrown.

None of this, as BlairWatch also points out, necessarily means that the plot didn't exist. It may however turn out to have been a lucky coincidence for a government that has been grasping at anything to deflect attention away from the incompetence at the Home Office and from the continuing fallout from the loans for peerages inquiry. It also shows the hypocrisy of this government: whining and angry about alleged leaks from Yates of the Yard, yet at the same time more than happy to smear men within hours of their arrest. David Miliband's words about the Yates' inquiry are therefore heavy with irony:

"We have a great British tradition that you are innocent until proven guilty and I think anyone who is throwing mud should stop."

Mr Miliband maybe ought to point this out to those who are ultimately responsible for the briefings.

Not that any of this has stopped leaks either from the police or the government. Today's Scum has yet another apparent "exclusive", this time from a "police source":

A MUSLIM soldier at the centre of an alleged kidnap plot may be sent to Iraq — because he is SAFER there than in Britain.

A police source said: “It has been spelled out to him that he remains a terrorist target while he stays in this country.

“Some of the suspects who allegedly targeted him are in custody — but others slipped the net.

“Obviously there are many dangers in Iraq but he will be part of the massive British contingent and will have no fear of the UK-based terrorists who singled him out here.

“The soldier feels he would be safer serving in Iraq with his comrades at the moment than walking around his own neighbourhood.”

Sounds like utter rubbish, unless it was indeed the soldier's own idea. No one has any idea where he's being kept, and seeing as the security sources have dismissed the idea that those arrested had a list of up to 25 Muslim soldiers, there's also not a security breach from within the MoD. Trying to suggest that he'd be safer in Iraq is to ignore completely the situation over there, even in Basra (At least 135 were killed in Baghdad today in the latest bloody massacre). The real reason for why he'd want to instead go back to Iraq is so he could escape the no doubt suffocating security that has been placed around him - they don't so much as let you take a piss in peace.

On then to two incidents of shameless sycophancy; one from the Sun, one from Martin Kettle.

BLAIR laid it on the line yesterday: he will NOT be hounded out of Downing Street.

Not by the endless police inquiries into the cash-for-honours affair. Not by Labour rats who think it is time to jump a sinking ship. And not by a hostile BBC.

And today he has a stark message for his party that should end all the behind-the-scenes scheming.

He will warn that if fewer than one voter in fifty switches to the Tories at the next election, Labour will lose its majority.

If that doesn’t concentrate the plotters’ minds then Gordon Brown is going to inherit a crippled party when he takes over this summer.

It's almost as if Alastair Campbell himself was writing the Sun's editorials. The blame for what has happened to Labour, and why it's now in the doldrums is everywhere except on Blair himself. It's the "hostile" BBC, the endless police investigation and the "plotters", even though it's obvious that there are no plotters. It pretty much sums up Blair's own attitude to what's gone wrong, and what the solution is: more of the same. Despite all the evidence that he is the problem, that it's the policies that he wants the party to continue with that are causing the apathy, Blair has more than made clear that like Thatcher, he's not for turning. The Sun, which is supposed to know when someone's finished, and when to switch support, appears to have lost its political nous. Whether this is down to Murdoch's apparent sniffiness towards Cameron, his advance in years, or Wade's own political illiteracy is unclear.

The Chancellor had better order his supporters to heel. He has waited long enough for the top job. A little longer won’t hurt.

Everyone who wants Tony to go now is a Brown supporter. It's a smear, a straw man argument that the Sun delights in. That anyone with half a brain can see that the longer Blair stays the more the party will suffer doesn't come into it.

This is where dear old Martin Kettle enters. It appears that he read yesterday's Sun editorial, because he uses surprisingly similar language in urging the Yates' inquiry to come to an end:

A long police inquiry is neither illegal nor uncommon. But this inquiry is also profoundly sensitive in a way that cannot be dismissed as irrelevant. This case involves the elected government of the land - as well, do not forget, as the financing of all the major parties and the legislature of the nation. It is therefore a challenge not merely to Tony Blair - of whom we may or may not approve - but to the general polity. There is more than one public interest at stake. If crimes have been committed then those who are charged must of course answer for them. But there is also a public interest in the maintenance of our system of government - a system that is generally good, not bad. The longer the investigation goes on, the more the question of proportionality comes into play. That is why it is time for the police to put up or shut up.

In fact, it's more than just the Sun's leader which Kettle seems to have plagiarised - his opening gambit, comparing the investigation into the poisoning of Litvinenko to the Yates' inquiry, was one that as a commenter notes, was made on this week's Question Time.

There's a relation which both Kettle and Blair share - both are being drawn inexorably into becoming increasingly apologetic - in yesterday's interview with John Humphrys on the Today programme, Blair's previous sheen, his indomitable belief in himself and in his ability to get out of any scrape purely through putting his own side across had almost entirely gone AWOL. He just about survived, mainly because Humphrys didn't push him as hard as perhaps Paxman would have, but it may well turn out to be a watershed moment. Blair made clear that he knows that the public no longer trust him, but that everything's OK because he trusts him, which just about sums up his own various levels of delusion and arrogance in continuing to cling on to power.

It's the same with Kettle. He must realise that the more apologia he pens for Blair, the more that his own readers begin to mock him, which is exactly what they do on the CiF thread, but he still believes that it's the right thing to do nonetheless. The difference is that Blair can end the humiliation for the both of them, while Kettle can only keep boiling himself over with indignation for all the prime minister's critics.

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Friday, February 02, 2007 

Scum and Times-watch: Leaks and lackeys.

The leaks are continuing to come thick and fast over the arrests of 9 men in Birmingham under suspicion of being behind a plot to kidnap a serving British Muslim soldier. Or it could be two, or according to the Times, up to 25, as the men may well have had a list detailing the names and addresses of just less than two dozen servicemen. The Times also alleges that at least two of the men may have attended a camp "directly linked to al-Qaida", claiming that "al-Qaida" chose Britain to be the testing ground for their terrorist initiatives, the kind of information that makes Melanie Philips and Michael Gove start salivating.

The more down-market end of the Murdoch empire doesn't want to be outdone. The Sun today claims that "murder videos" were found at one of the houses being searched in Aston, Birmingham, which if true, are likely to have been copies of the type of jihadist propaganda which turns up on radical websites and then later on sites such as LiveLeak (formerly Ogrish).

I wouldn't have so much of a problem with such information being put into the public domain as long as it was done so by a police spokesman, but instead, as has happened in previous cases, we're seeing a media free-for-all in which police and security sources leak information which may or may not be true, and then let the media potentially embellish it even further.

According to the BBC:

At an afternoon press conference, ACC Shaw told reporters the searches so far had yielded a "significant quantity of exhibits" but would give no further details.

No, they'll just leak them to the newspapers instead.

Today's Sun leader focuses instead on the loans for peerages affair, and would you believe it, it takes a line so similar to the one which 10 Downing Street has given in private that you wonder whether the two are indistinguishable:

DOGGED Yard chief John Yates has been walking a fine line in his cash-for-gongs probe.

Yesterday he crossed it.

In a staggering cloak and dagger flourish, he not only quizzed the Prime Minister but ordered Downing Street to keep quiet about it.

This was apparently to make sure they were no differences between the information that Blair had given them and that also provided by Lord Levy, who was then again arrested, this time under suspicion of perverting the course of justice. The reason why they wanted Downing Street to keep quiet seems to have been to make sure that Levy was not potentially tipped off. For a newspaper that prides itself on always supporting the police and often gets plenty of juicy information back in return, this seems a rather willfully ignorant way to talk about such a ploy.

In his year-long marathon, Mr Yates has TWICE interrogated the Prime Minister, TWICE arrested Lord Levy and TWICE grilled Downing Street supremo Jonathan Powell.

He has also arrested Downing Street “gatekeeper” Ruth Turner TWICE for possible conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

No he hasn't. She may have been questioned twice, but she's only been arrested once, which even then provoked gnashing of teeth from the Blairite-ultras and government loyalists.

Now the Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner has two options . . .


He’s had ample time to assess whether there is a case to answer or not. His inquiries have created a cloud of suspicion over the Blair government which will not disperse, even if nobody ends up in court.

How very different the Sun's attitude to this investigation is to those suspected of involvement in terrorism. Then 90 days detention without charge is not just common sense, it's an absolute necessity. When it comes to investigating a scandal at the top of government, where there now seems to be evidence of a possible cover-up, just as the inquiry appears to be reaching its conclusion the government's only remaining loyal ally in Fleet Street comes out demanding that a police officer either put up or shut up. If this didn't involve the prime minister or the Murdoch empire itself, when else would the Sun ever tell a police officer investigating a crime to put up or shut up?

Nor can he simply dump responsibility by handing his dossier to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Err, he's gathering the evidence, it's up to the CPS to decide whether there's enough to go through with a prosecution. The Sun loves to act stupid when it's to its advantage.

Whatever others may think of the characters involved, this is either much ado about nothing or serious wrongdoing.

After almost a year, Mr Yates has enough evidence to reach a professional judgment . . .

Either wrap it — or scrap it.

Either way, the loans were hidden through a loophole of this Labour government's own creation. The secrecy surrounding them, with the loans kept hidden from nearly everyone who should have known about them, means that there's the stink of corruption around this for a good reason. Blair and his acolytes have no one but themselves to blame for getting into the situation at the last election where they were forced to rely on rich businessmen, and then to attempt to cover-up just who was bankrolling the party ought to be enough to show that there was serious wrongdoing from the beginning. The only question is whether what happened was actual selling of peerages or just a happy coincidence for the men who loaned their millions. Either way, the whole political system has become tainted, and until Blair does the decent thing, it will only increase the cynicism of the general public. As for the Sun, in its attempts to exert pressure on the police when otherwise it would do the exact opposite, it's shown again just how deep the unwritten pact with the current occupant of Downing Street is.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007 

Clinging on for no greater purpose.

It's completely impossible to work out just what it is that somehow makes Tony Blair think that he should still be prime minister. He's not just a dead man walking, he's almost in the same position as Saddam Hussein found himself in in his final moments. Not only has his power evaporated, with it about to be wrenched away to the man he's spent most of the last few years fighting with it, he's getting mocked even in his final moments of what seems like clarity. Blair still believes that he can achieve something, and this week he actually almost did. Northern Ireland is back on the road to devolution, with Sinn Fein making their historic pledge to support the police, yet all of it was overshadowed by the re-arrest of Lord Levy and now the revelation that he was again questioned by police over the loans for peerages affair last Friday.

Blair, if he's honest with himself, and let's hope that his delusion hasn't reached that stage yet, must realise that his continued stay in 10 Downing Street and as the Labour party leader is only hurting both the country and the prospects of his party being re-elected. The question that he should be asking himself is how much longer it should be before he puts both himself and us out of this misery. While an immediate resignation would be incredibly welcome, if we put ourselves in Blair's shoes for a moment, would we want to give the opposition the pleasure of seeing a police investigation result in the first ever prime ministerial scalp? They would never stop crowing, and certainly not on election day.

Hanging on though, as he is, just inflicts even more damage. The smell of corruption isn't just over the loans - it grows ever stronger over the decision to drop the Serious Fraud Office investigation into an alleged slush fund for the Saudis provided by BAE. The Guardian today reports that Blair personally forced Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, to tell the SFO to drop the investigation, despite Goldsmith previously deciding that there was sufficient evidence to at least charge Sir Dick Evans, former head of BAE. Goldsmith found himself incredibly flustered and looking less than honest in a brilliant interview conducted by the FT. The Liberal Democrats have also rightly turned on Goldsmith, and his strangely quickly changing opinions.

This is why it seems so apparent that Blair's vanity is the thing that is actually keeping him at Number 10. He's made clear that he won't be forced out until after the May elections, showing complete disregard for the Labour party's chances in those very elections, which are bound to be greatly increased were he to go quietly now, giving a chance for the leadership election to take place before campaigning gets underway in earnest. He's still looking desperately trying to find something that will mean he can leave office on a high - even though his options, the longer he puts it off, continue to dwindle. There's no sign of any good news from Iraq, Israel/Palestine continue to be deadlocked, with the boycott of Hamas continuing and Mahmoud Abbas left powerless. The chatter about an attack on Iran grows louder, the sign of another politician facing his demise drastically raising the stakes for little reason other than his legacy. The Home Office may be about to be split, but it won't be sorted out until Blair is long gone.

While some claim that there may be a silver lining to the loans for peerages cloud, with reform of the funding system and the House of Lords as a result, if the investigation leads to charges, he'll never be remembered for inadvertently kick starting those changes. Even the apparent plans for doing both are half-measures, the Lords, crying out to be fully elected, is instead going to be a hybrid of both, if parliament gives the green light, which is far from certain.

One legacy which Blair will have that few will thank him for is the values that he has stood for continue to infect those that amazingly continue to look to him for their inspiration. John Denham on Tuesday chided the ultra-Blairites for their lack of ambition in targeting only the super-marginals. Some MPs can still see what Blairism has led to: the embrace of the consumer, of choice, has become so ingrained that they only seem to care what a tiny sub-section of the country cares about, rather than see the bigger picture. The capitulation to the Mail/Sun agenda, which inevitably results in the removal of families such as the Bokharis, described movingly by Austin Mitchell MP, has turned off traditional Labour supporters across the country, yet even now when Labour faces its biggest challenge to remain in power they can't see what their agenda has done.

If renewal is to come, unlikely as it seems, then it has to begin now. This simply isn't going to happen, unless the Yates' inquiry drops a further bombshell. While it was Blair's lies that led to the catastrophe of Iraq, it's his vanity that may well result in the defeat of his government.

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Scum and Mail-watch: Beheadings, experts and 90 days.

Well, it's good to see that the Daily Mail took full account of the advice from police and politicians not to jump to conclusions over the terror arrests in Birmingham. They repeat the claims of the Scum yesterday that this was obviously an al-Qaida plot (all Islamic terrorists and extremists are al-Qaida, don't you know?) in about the biggest font they could possibly use. That al-Qaida plots genuinely go in for mass casualties rather than the death of just one person doesn't seem to matter; the executions carried out by al-Zarqawi et al in Iraq were the work of his Tawhid and Jihad (aka Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad) group, which was later renamed al-Qaida in Iraq, with few established links, if any, with actual al-Qaida operatives. The letters exchanged between al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri were far from pally, as Zawahiri objected strongly to Zarqawi's attacks on Shias.

The Sun's coverage today is slightly less hysterical than it was yesterday, but only slightly:
The Sun can also reveal that the swoops came after a suspect was spotted buying a video camera from a local electronics store at the weekend.

Well, that clinches it.

The kidnapped soldier was to have been taken to a secret address nine miles from Birmingham — in the town infamous as the home of the Tipton Taliban.

Uh, I think the Sun means the Tipton Three.

Tipton hit headlines around the world in 2001 when three young Asians from the district were discovered fighting with Taliban forces in Afghanistan. Dubbed the Tipton Taliban they were held at Guantanamo Bay before being released — but are still under 24-hour surveillance.

This is all heavily disputed, and the Sun doesn't feel the need to mention the way the three were treated at Guantanamo, or how they were interrogated by MI5 officers who clearly couldn't care less about their health, or the fact they were British other than to make allegations which were later proved to be untrue.

THE Maktabah bookshop was at the centre of yesterday’s raids.

Among its stock were books by dirty bomb mastermind Dhiren Barot and Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, who was widely regarded as Osama Bin Laden’s “spiritual adviser” in the late 1990s.

Dirty bomb mastermind? If coming up with idiotic plans for setting fire to smoke alarms is enough for you to be called a mastermind, then we've certainly reached a new low in dumbing down. And if Abdullah Azzam is the same as this one with a Wikipedia entry here, then whoops, because he was err, assassinated in 1989.

Then we're treated to the insights of "leading terror expert" Chris Dobson:

“It is another example of the way that the terror war started by Osama Bin Laden is spreading out from his al-Qaeda network like a franchise of fast food shops.

“Bin Laden no longer has to plan any operations, he simply gives general instructions in a recorded speech which is flashed around the world by television and on the internet.”

Right. Hence bin Laden, who is clearly just a figurehead at the top of an organisation which has been given far too much credit for its role in spreading the Salafist/Wahhabist/jihadist ideology (delete according to your preference as to the most legitimate description) is still the big bogeyman. It's all down to him, see? If only we'd caught the bastard and not gone off in a bloody tangent in Iraq.

The Sun's leader decides not to underline the sheer horror of it all, instead deciding to resort to some desperate BBC bashing:

POLICE may have foiled a plot to kidnap, torture and behead a British Muslim squaddie.

This is the latest blood-curdling development in the battle between extremists and the liberal West.

Nothing is too horrific for those fanatics intent on punishing the “infidel”.

And how does the BBC choose to report this raid by West Midlands police?

Their lunchtime TV bulletin warned: “We must remember this raid was intelligence-led . . . and, as we know, the intelligence services often get it wrong.”

Just whose side are these guys on?

On the side of recognising that those arrested and eventually charged are innocent until proved guilty, as opposed to being innocent to being smeared guilty. And what's more, it's true: they got it wrong on Iraq, they got it wrong over Forest Gate, but then seeing as the Sun supported the government and the police to the hilt over both, it's only fitting that they seem to have forgotten so soon.

Even more fitting (and predictable) was the announcement this morning that the government, despite denying it for weeks and months that they actually are going to seek to extend the 28-day detention period for "terrorist suspects", even though it's less than two years since they were first humiliated over the measure. The only surprise was that the information hadn't been leaked to the Downing Street Echo:

The home secretary, John Reid, is to make a fresh attempt to extend the maximum period that terror suspects can be detained without charge beyond 28 days, it was announced today.

Mr Reid told ministers at this morning's cabinet meeting he would attempt to find cross-party consensus on a longer detention period for questioning, the prime minister's official spokesman said.

Which if he gets will show up the spinelessness of both the Tories and the Lib Dems.

Mr Reid told the cabinet that since changes extending the maximum detention period from 14 to 28 days were introduced there had not yet been a case in which a longer period of questioning was needed.

And there were plenty of suspicions that the police used the full four weeks over the alleged liquid bombs plot purely to make their point that they believe they need longer.

Mr Blair's spokesman told a regular daily press briefing following cabinet: "The police service has now concluded that it is right and proper for government to address this issue and wanted the home secretary to discuss it with colleagues in government and more widely, with a view to seeing whether a consensus can be achieved.

Excellent. It's not the government now that decides what's necessary, it's the police. Says something about both democracy and the role of parliament after 9 years of New Labour.

Reid and the cabinet don't seem to realise that 90 days has become the very symbol of this government's attitude towards civil liberties: remove them and only think about the consequences later. If there genuinely is a case for extending the current period of detention without charge, then that case has yet to be made. Up until recently Reid himself had made clear that he didn't think that there was yet any evidence for such a period, except in the masturbatory speeches from "Sir" Ian Blair and reactionary leader columns of the Sun. As so often seems to have happened, they appear to have been enough to win the day. If this all they have, and a similar period of detention is put to the vote in the Commons again, they must be slaughtered for it. Only an overwhelming and humbling defeat might finally get the message through their skulls.

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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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