Saturday, February 17, 2007 

Prosecute? Why bother?

The facade surrounding the need for control orders is slowly but surely crumbling. Yesterday a judge, quashing one only for John Reid to impose a slightly less stringent one within minutes, suggested that the man should have been prosecuted rather than be under house arrest.

In the first challenge to a control order in which the court heard full evidence, Mr Justice Beatson quashed the order on a Tunisian, E.

The home secretary issued a new order with less restrictive terms, pending an appeal, but he claimed this would increase E's likelihood of absconding.

"To protect the public, I have today made a new control order. Inevitably this is weaker than the original one, which means it is more difficult for the police to supervise him."

The stupidity of this is manifest. If he was to be prosecuted, it's likely that he'd be remanded in custody due to the potential risk he poses. Instead, John Reid would rather continue with a policy which is not only illiberal but also ineffective.

E was mentioned as a co-conspirator in a terrorism trial in Belgium. The case relied heavily on intercept evidence, which is only inadmissible in UK courts if the interception happens here.

Mr Justice Beatson said the home secretary's decision to maintain the control order on E was tainted by his failure to keep the issue of prosecution under review. The judge also quashed the control order on the grounds that the cumulative effect of the restrictions, particularly the requirement to have all visitors and anyone E met outside the home vetted, deprived him of his liberty, in breach of the European human rights convention.

This is how ridiculous the current situation is. We can use the intercept evidence collated by the security services' of other countries, but we can't of our own. Joined-up thinking at its finest. The judge should know whether there's enough evidence to prosecute, and in this case it seems apparent that there is. One has to wonder if they aren't simply because of the bind it would put the security services in, with reports from the trial likely to embarrass both the government and MI5/6 through the idiocy of the continuing farce.

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Scum-watch: That Peter Hain, he ought to be strung up, it's the only language he understands...

You wouldn't really think that the Labour deputy leadership contest would interest the Scum much. It's a mostly worthless ceremonial position which would probably be better off being abolished than continued with, or at the very least merged into the Labour chairman role. The reason for the Scum's sudden surge of angst has been that Peter Hain, the bouffant perma-tanned Northern Ireland and Wales secretary has been rather shamelessly touting around for support by brandishing his "leftist" credentials, the very same credentials which he has spent the last few years keeping under wraps while supporting such traditional Labour values as bombing foreign countries back to the stone age, introducing top-up fees and promoting foundation hospitals.

There's nothing quite like a shameless lefty to make the Sun's blood boil, but their decision to support Alan Johnson, the not quite Blairite who was briefly heralded last year by the Blairites as being the "stop Gordon" candidate, is just as ignorant. It marks the Sun's trajectory from being hardline Thatcherite to being hardline Blairite. Blair, the man without a legacy apart from Iraq, has been so feted by the Sun that it makes you wonder whether there isn't some kind of Faustian pact between Tony 'n' Rupe. Rumours abound that Murdoch has already bought the rights to Blair's memoirs, but even that doesn't come close to explaining why the Scum is so obsessed with protecting Blair and his acolytes. Anyway, let's have a giggle at the Sun's reasoning:

FORMER postie Alan Johnson today wins The Sun’s backing to be Labour’s next deputy leader — to stop Peter Hain’s bid for the job.

Education Secretary Mr Johnson is front-runner to become Gordon Brown’s No 2.

Rival Mr Hain lurched further to the left last night when he was supported by militant train drivers.

Aslef endorsed the Ulster Secretary after more pandering to the trade unions and US-hating lefties.

Their move confirms Mr Hain as the champion of Labour’s dinosaurs.

Aslef has a long history as one of the nation’s most hated unions. It has brought misery to millions of train passengers with strikes and go-slows.

From stopping Brown to stopping Hain, Johnson might wonder just what sort of poisoned chalice is being handed him. As for Aslef bringing misery to millions of train passengers, isn't that the job of the rail franchisees, not to mention this government's continuation and expansion of the ludicrous and failed privatisation? Some on the left might reasonably retort that Johnson has lurched further to the right now that he's being supported by the Scum.

Mr Johnson, 56, is now odds-on to become deputy leader by the summer.

He will make a keynote speech in Glasgow today declaring himself as moderniser — not a throwback to the Seventies.

He will promise “renewal not reversal” in a two- fingered gesture to lefties who want to turn the clocks back to the days of union power.

Renewal not reversal sounds an awful lot like forward not back, the brilliant slogan which so exemplified the vacuousness of New Labour. Whether Johnson is odds on is also debatable - The Daily last September gave Peter Hain odds of 2/1, with Johnson on 3/1. This was before the Jon Cruddas surge - Paul Linford's summary of bloggers' support shows that Cruddas' is overwhelmingly the most favoured, and it seems likely that his appeal to the grassroots will mean that he'll be a candidate to be reckoned with, even if Lenin doesn't much like him.

Twice-married Mr Johnson will spell out how he rose to the top from humble beginnings.

He came from a broken home where his dad walked out and his mum died when he was 12.

He was brought up by his elder sister and started shelf-stacking when he quit his school in Chelsea.

He quit when he was offered a promotion at the supermarket without a pay rise. He became a postman at 18 and joined the Communication Workers Union, rising to the top to become general secretary.

During his post career he delivered to Dorneywood — the grace-and-favour mansion where deputy leader John Prescott was snapped playing croquet.

Today he will say his life is an example of the Britain he wants to see — with no barriers to success.

It must be quite something for a Sun hack to have to write a hagiography instead of a hatchet job. This is all very interesting, but this doesn't tell us anything other than the fact that he's something of a traditional Labour man. Peter Hain may have had a more stable and privileged upbringing, but he made just as an important political impact through his campaigning against apartheid. (I'm too young to remember the Sun's stance on apartheid, so if anyone would like to inform me, I'd appreciate it.)

PM-in-waiting Mr Brown has refused to endorse any of the challengers but has worked closely with Mr Johnson on education policy. Other candidates include Labour chairman Hazel Blears and constitution minister Harriet Harman.

Ex-No 10 fixer Jon Cruddas is a strong contender but Cabinet veteran Jack Straw has yet to decide on running.

The Sun doesn't see fit to mention Hilary Benn, who is a far stronger contender than Straw, Harman or the ghastly Blears. I have a funny feeling that the more Hazel Blears appears on television, the more people decide not to vote Labour, as you only have to listen to her noxious voice, her mendacious obscurantist reasoning and witness her undying allegiance to her hero, the prime minister, to see that she's about as serious a candidate as Sooty is. In fact, if you put Sooty up in the contest, he'd probably win, let alone beat Blears.

On then to the Scum's leader, more hilarity from which to come shortly:

ALAN Johnson deserves to be Labour’s deputy leader. He embodies the Britain we want to see.

His rise to the top from a humble start is a shining example to all. Mr Johnson has coped with personal tragedy and the rigours of public life.

He was a moderniser in the unions, but isn’t in hock to them. His slogan, renewal not reversal, makes perfect sense.

Makes perfect sense in that it's meaningless, which is what the Sun likes to see in its politics. Anything that isn't meaningless is a threat. His rise to the top may be a shining example, but it's not one that Mr Murdoch believes in. Rather than join in with the festival of philanthropy that media barons like Ted Turner and other billionaires are indulging in, the Dirty Digger is instead giving his children $100m each in share options.

The contrast with shameless Peter Hain could not be more stark. He is anti-American and pro-union, ingredients sure to destroy Britain.

Seeing as Hain has been part of the same Blair government that has in been in total hock to the Bush administration and which has betrayed the unions on a number of occasions, and everything's gone just swell, as evidenced by the Iraq war and the mass waste of public money on PFI and privatisation, then I don't think the Sun has much to worry about.

The rest of the bunch are has-beens. And never-will-bes.

I might end up being wrong, and I don't want to be the next Mystic Mogg, but Jon Cruddas might prove them wrong yet.

Anyway, onto the hilariously hypocritical Sun leader on gun crime:

WHEN David Cameron says society is in deep trouble, it is hard to argue with him.

No it isn't.

Their parents are the products of a disastrous combination of the liberal 1960s and 1970s followed by the “me, me, me” culture of the 1980s and 1990s.

And who more exemplified the "me, me, me" culture of the 80s than the Scum?

The new generation thinks anything goes — and that wealth and fame are life’s only worthwhile aims.

How could they have come to such a conclusion? Why don't we have a look at just some of the stories on the Sun's news page:

Anna Nicole new will mystery

TRAGIC Anna Nicole Smith left all her money to son Daniel — who died last year

From sex kitten to kerbside
IT'S been a tough year for Britney Spears, but how did it all go so wrong?

Dad Mitch on Ms Winehouse

BRITS wild child does NOT have a drink problem - says her doting dad Mitch

Charlotte wants Church wedding

CHARLOTTE Church says she will accept if boyfriend Gavin proposes on birthday

Kerry's rage at f*rting groom
KERRY Katona spent wedding night ALONE — after her new hubby couldn't stop parping

Prices right up your street
A SURVEY of England and Wales' most expensive streets is topped by Chelsea

Kenny Chesney: I'm not gay
RENEE ZELLWEGER'S former husband has hit out at gay rumours about their annulment

Weekend birthday wishes
SEXY socialite Paris Hilton will be having a capital birthday as she parties this weekend

J-Lo’s white lightning
STYLE WATCH Diva dazzles crowds wearing an Oscars-worthy elegant white gown

Jack and Jodi's delicious debut
JACK RYDER and Jodi Albert debut in their very first big-screen movie together

Can you Lind me £23,000?
YOUNG women have average credit card bill of £23k in new trend called 'the Lohan Effect'

No correlation there, obviously.

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Friday, February 16, 2007 

Won't someone please blame the children?

WAR ZONE UK, screams the Daily Mail, with no apparent recognisation that what has happened in 3 square miles of London doesn't in any way reflect the state of the nation. The sub-editor, additionally, seems to have taken this opportunity to swallow a dictionary. Apparently south London is descending into "nihilistic anarchy", and like Iain Dale, the sub doesn't seem to realise what nihilism actually is. If those who had carried out the shootings were nihilists, they'd be shooting everyone just for the sake of it. In the three recent cases involving the shooting of teenagers, revenge seems to have played a major part, whether it's for perceived slights, mistaken identity or for exchanging petty insults via text message. The Grauniad's report seems to get it right: the only common strands to the deaths are a proliferation of weapons and fact that both killers and victims are getting younger.

The deaths in south London, coming in the same week as the damning Unicef report which places Britain at the bottom of a league table of 21 western countries in measuring child well-being, has predictably led to an avalanche of gnashing of teeth, with who's to blame and what's gone wrong being bandied about liberally. Very few have actually come up with any solutions, and while it's true that there are no easy answers, we ought to at least able to realise the basics.

It's apparent that we can no longer blame Thatcherism. The 16 year olds killing each other on the streets of south London weren't born during her tenure. What we can instead point to is the legacy of Thatcherism, which despite the attempts of the Tory party to shake it off and the Labour party to pretend that its attempts to alleviate child poverty have been successful enough, is still the spectre that's haunting Britain. The emphasis on individualism, consumerism and materialism which has permeated society since the 80s is reaching its logical conclusion: mass alienation, mental ill-health and a general lack of empathy for others. It's no coincidence that the United States and Britain, the two nations that have so embraced neo-liberalism and unfettered capitalism, are bottom of the Unicef table.

The only surprise is that we were bottom and that the United States wasn't. We at least like to think that we're a little more civilised than our friends over the pond, that we retain the vestiges of a welfare state, even though it's still attacked by both the right-wing media and the Labour party itself. We could blame the lack of ambition that our children have on the way that education has been turned into one long examination; we could blame it on reality tv that encourages everyone to think that they can become famous even if they're an idiot and have no discernable talent; we could blame it on the breakdown of the family and role models. The unfortunate thing is that all these things in some way appear to be to blame, and that we don't have any solution or way to change any of the above. How could we when the defining moment of this year so far according to the media has been the way that Jade Goody was turned from something of a role-model, as shocking as that on it own is, to being a racist lower than pond scum chav that "we" should never have taken to heart in the first place?

Even blaming the vacuousness of our culture is too easy, and certainly doesn't provide anything close to a solution. Some might despise the way we work all week and get drunk at the weekend, but the current generation simply doesn't know any other way. It's the same with the way we've started treating teenagers; they're not old enough to get drunk, but they're old enough to be a nuisance, hanging around on street corners. They don't contribute to society, so they're even easier to stigmatise. That the vast majority of them are probably more concerned with being left alone than with jumping on cars doesn't make any difference. Labour has connived with this view ever since it gained power. Few were concerned about anti-social behaviour until Labour started banging on about it, but when the politicians start talking about something enough, whether it's true or not, people start believing it.

In a contradictory way, the whole reason why children seem to be suffering so much is because we are expecting so much of them, and they either can't keep up or simply don't want to. At the same time, our expectations can also be incredibly low. Coming back to the beginning, it's a surprise that the Daily Mail has even noticed that a number of murders have taken place in south London; it's something that's too difficult to explain, that doesn't correlate with the current middle-class occupations of the moment, house prices and campaigns against inheritance tax and road pricing, which explains why they've chosen to approach it in the simplest way they can, which is to sensationalise it. That these murders aren't sensational, but almost impossible to understand is the real issue. What possesses someone, no matter whether they haven't had a great upbringing, however macho their culture is or how pathetic the message the music they listen to puts out, to shoot someone their own age dead in their bed, mistaken identity or not? There just isn't a simple answer.

One thing's certain, and that's that David Cameron, to quote one of his previous hecklers, doesn't know his arse from his elbow. His speech, thrown together seemingly in minutes, variously and vapidly blaming the failings of families, that marriage and relationships can be held together through tax-breaks, seemed to be destined only to appeal to those who will have forgotten within days of the whole palaver. It was the kind of soundbite based that Blair was once famous for, designed to respond to headlines with no policy being behind it. Amazingly, Blair himself, with his calm and measured comments, got far more to the bone of the matter, making clear that we ought to get a state of perspective. The statistic of the day ought to be those shot dead last year dropped from 77 to 49. In other words, the amount of people killed with guns in this country in a year is the equivalent of a relatively quiet day in Iraq. That the solution to the problems in Iraq are probably more obvious and easier to put in place than those facing our children isn't much of a comfort.

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Scum-watch: "The Investigator" returns.

The Sun's "Investigator" is back doing his dirty work. After previously outting "paedophiles", he's today turned his attention to the current employment of Omar Khayam, who you might remember was last year returned to prison after he took part in the Danish cartoons protest wearing a faux "suicide bomber vest":

A MUSLIM fanatic who dressed as a suicide bomber at a rally threatening terror attacks has got a job on TRAINS.

Sick Omar Khayam cleans carriages unsupervised for rail giant First Group.

And he has even got keys to onboard electrical cupboards.

Holy god, really? Are we all going to die? Probably not. Here's some background from back then:

Asif Nadim, the chairman of Khayam's local mosque in Bedford, the Jamia Masjid Gulshani Baghdad, said Khayam was a "bit of an idiot" whose protest had offended everyone, including fellow Muslims. But he claimed the story had been blown up out of all proportion with the dredging up of the drugs offence committed when Khayam was 16 (The Observer article says 18). Khayam was caught when he threw a 2oz bag of crack cocaine from a car window to try to avoid detection. He got eight years in 2002 for possession of a class A drug with intent to supply and a fine for having a small amount of heroin, but his sentence was cut to five-and-a-half years on appeal.

The guy then got a ridiculously harsh sentence for something done when he was still a teenager. Prison doesn't seem to have beaten any sense into his head, judging by his attendance of the protest, but there's very little to suggest that Khayam is any way an "extremist", just a little wet between the ears and easily led. The Observer tracked down Khayam's father in Pakistan, who certainly wasn't convinced of his son's extremism:

Some reports suggest Khayam was drawn to radical Islam during his three-year jail spell, which ended with his release on licence last year. His brother, who describes Khayam as a 'moderate Muslim', denies the charge.

'He said that when there's a 23-hour lock-up, you have to make the most of the one hour you have free. He tried the gym at first, then he paid more frequent visits to the mosque.' His father interjected. 'From a religious point of view, he stayed the same. Prison had no influence on him.'

After being released last year Khayam started a bricklaying course and helped out with the family computer business in Bedford. Then came the Danish embassy protest and the suicide-bomber outfit.

The Daily Mirror did publish an article which claimed that he had became increasingly radicalised in prison, but it appears to be no longer available. His brother also rejected this:

In jail Omar got a job as a chef, Nazish says, and became popular for his fine South Asian cooking. 'Usually during Ramadan [the Muslim holy month of fasting] they just have a sandwich and an apple. When Omar arrived everything changed. He cooked chicken and meat biryanis, kormas, jalfrezis - everything you would find in a good restaurant. There were more converts to Islam in the prison than ever before. Then there was a ban on converting because they know most of the guys were doing it for the food.'

Anyway, back to the Scum:

Furious train drivers last night claimed the safety of staff and passengers is being put at risk.

One driver added: “It’s an astonishing security breach.

“We cannot believe this man is employed in a job giving him access to locked places on trains where bombs could be hidden and never be found.

“He has keys that could be passed on to others for the electrical cupboards in carriages. It is a risk too far.”

They're right to be concerned, but as ever, if these are actually drivers and not inventions of "The Investigator" then they ought to have taken their concerns to their superiors rather than splashing Khayam all over the national press again. He appears to have been trying to get on with his life, and seems to have picked the wrong job. As the First Group spokesman says:

“We are subject to UK employment law and carry out all necessary employment checks. The safety of customers and employees is our main priority.”

They would have known full well about Khayam's criminal record, and also more than likely about his idiotic and offensive protest. If he was a real threat, then they would have rejected his application, especially considering the heightened nature of the threat from extremists towards public transport. Khayam, like others confronted by the Sun, didn't do much towards his cause with his response:

“So what? I’ve not committed a crime. If there is a concern, that’s what the police are there for. That’s what security services are for.”

True, but if he'd explained that he was neither an extremist or any threat in a rational manner, he'd have at least not looked so quick to anger. Either way, one expects that Khayam will shortly be losing his job. I'm inclined to (almost) agree with the one sane voice on MyScum, who says:

with all the nonsense this paper publishes the link between the fanatic Madrid train track bombers and this guys radical views and job are far too serious to brush under the carpet, this man must be removed from this sensitive position and regardless of what discrimination this guy would decide to claim he would only have his past actions to blame for unnerving the public confidence in his position.

As usual, my objection is more to the Sun's journalism than the actual facts presented.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007 

Rendition: The silence continues.

Yesterday's vote, tighter than expected on the EU's investigation into rendition, brought out the best in some of those elected to represent the UK in the EU. Take for instance, Gerald Batten, of the UK Independence Party:

said the report represented typical "anti-Americanism" and a "grab for more power for the EU". Much of the content of the report, he said, was "speculation". The international community was now engaged in a war of ideology against "fundamentalist Islam" and he thanked the US for leading this battle.

See, it doesn't really matter if the US in leading that battle abducts those referred to as "terrorism suspects", puts them on a jet and flies them either to a willing third-country or a CIA prison in a friendly country where they're tortured. Suggesting as much makes you anti-American.

As for the response from governments rather than MEPs, it's been much the same as it has been since the beginning. The reports have now made clear that however much they denied it, the UK government did know what was going and didn't do anything to stop it. CIA flights landing here may have just refueled, they may have been carrying rendered prisoners, but because of the almost complete lack of cooperation we still don't know for sure.

We do however know that MI5 not only knew about the rendition program, it's helped with it. In 2002, Bisher al-Rawi and his friend and Jamil el-Banna were arrested in Gambia and later transferred from Africa to Guantanamo Bay, after MI5 informed the CIA that the men were carrying an "electronic device" which could be part of an improvised explosive device. It was in fact a modified battery charger. Bisher al-Rawi had previously helped MI5 keep tabs on Abu Qutada, who himself may well have been an MI5 double-agent. With his usefulness apparently at an end, MI5 got rid him of.

Like Geoff Hoon, who was criticised heavily in the report for his lack of cooperation until Labour MEPs got the section removed, Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5 didn't want to discuss her organisation's involvement in rendition, refusing to attend even a closed session of the joint human rights committee.

As for the rest of our elected representatives, they too are maintaining a less than dignified silence. Some of them have already been shown up as being liars. The all-party parliamentary group on rendition might get some of them to break their vow, but don't bet on it. The intelligence and security committee may give it a go too, but whether we'll get any further without Congress itself investigating seems unlikely. Not that they'll be able to do much other than uncover further information: those CIA agents involved in rendition have already been pardoned, even though they're obviously not guilty of anything in the first place.

Hail then our leaders and their belief in equality, human rights, and liberty for all. As long as they don't see them, and as long as they don't have beards.

Related post:
Big Stick Small Carrot - Sound of Silence

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Scum-watch: Yet more lies about human rights.

The Sun has not taken kindly to its war on the human rights act being comprehensively destroyed by Charles Falconer. In one of the rarer circumstances of ministers standing up to the tabloid media's baseless and incredibly damaging campaigns, his speech yesterday to the Royal United Services Institute, following a previous one last week, was always likely to be reported, if at all, with hostility.

TONY Blair’s law chief Charlie Falconer amazingly denied yesterday that human rights were hampering Britain’s war on terror.

The Lord Chancellor said they were one of the most effective WEAPONS against al-Qaeda.

Lord Falconer said the European Convention on Human Rights “does not in any way properly inhibit us from fighting terrorism”.

But his remarks fly in the face of court decisions which have left Tony Blair’s anti-terror laws in tatters — by ruling they ABUSE human rights.

In 2004, Law Lords blocked emergency powers to hold nine suspects without trial, saying the measure posed a bigger threat to Britain than al-Qaeda.

They didn't block the emergency powers, they ruled by 8 to 1 that they held that holding foreign terror suspects without charge did just not breach article 5, the right to liberty, but was also entirely counter-productive, and discriminatory in that it only affected foreign "terror suspects". Their ruling was not binding without the lawyers for the men taking the case to Strasbourg; the government initially threatened to ignore the ruling, but was forced by the refusal of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to support a renewal of the "state of emergency" into introducing control orders instead.

The Lords also didn't say that the measure posed a bigger threat to Britain that al-Qaida - those were the words of Lord Hoffman alone. In his ruling he stated:

"This is one of the most important cases which the house has had to decide in recent years.

"It calls into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention."

"This is a nation which has been tested in adversity, which has survived physical destruction and catastrophic loss of life. I do not underestimate the ability of fanatical groups to kill or destroy, but they do not threaten the life of the nation."

"Whether we should survive Hitler hung in the balance, but there is no doubt we shall survive al-Qaida. The Spanish people have not said that what happened in Madrid, hideous crime as it was, threatened the life of the nation. Their legendary pride would not allow it.

"Terrorist crime, serious as it is, does not threaten our institutions of government or our existence as a civil community."

"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these."

As the Guardian leader of the day after the ruling argued, of the 2001 act:

It has eroded the very freedoms for which we are supposed to be combating terrorism.

The Sun however is only interested in putting up a straw man argument: that the Human Rights Act protects the freedoms of "terrorists", while ignoring that it protects the freedom of everyone. The disproportionate response of this government in turning to legislation to "tackle" terror has undermined civil liberties and abused human rights, but when it's against those who are "enemies" this doesn't matter one iota to the Sun. It's a slippery slope, but the Sun would never admit to it being one. Just tell Tony he's right.

The Scum article continues:

Last year, judge Mr Justice Sullivan said control orders — a replacement for detention without trial — were illegal.

Indeed he did, but John Reid then appealed. Reid subsequently lost the appeal, and those under the control orders had the restrictions placed on them slightly loosened. Control orders are still in effect, even though at least 2 men have subsequently managed to go missing despite being under them, which brought into sharp focus the reality of both how discriminatory and useless they are. The government's continuing refusal to make intercept evidence admissible in British courts, at the behest of the ever secretive spooks, means that we're depriving those under control orders both of the right to hear the evidence against them, and to defend themselves from the very evidence that the authorities claim to have. It's Kafkaesque, and it's little wonder that some have decided to actually return to their home country rather than continue to put up with a breach of liberty in a nation that once prided itself on it. The government has had more than enough of an opportunity to come up with a solution that doesn't breach the Human Rights Act, in line with other European countries, but it has refused to do so.

A month later, the same judge ruled that nine Afghan plane hijackers had a “human right” to stay in Britain.

No he didn't. He ruled that the refusal to give the men leave to remain, a decision made by an immigration panel who decided their lives would be at risk if they were deported back to Afghanistan, was an "abuse of power". The men had brought the case in the first place because they were being treated as failed asylum seekers, and so could not work, which is what they wanted to be allowed to do. In return for wanting to contribute to British society, they were treated to this libelous and deeply distorted Scum front page:

Charles Falconer has since accepted that the way John Reid and Tony Blair reacted to the ruling only encouraged the tabloids to act outraged:

Yet in the cold light of day the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, had accepted "unequivocally" that it was right that human rights law should prevent the hijackers from being sent back to Afghanistan if there was a risk they faced death or torture.

But Lord Falconer, who last week called for “common sense” over human rights, yesterday even had a dig at judges. He said: “Policy must come first and the law second. We need to get away from where human rights are viewed as a ‘terrorists’ charter’.

Had a dig at judges? The Sun would never do that! I wonder who is chiefly responsible for making the Human Rights Act become viewed as a "terrorists' charter"?

“Our freedoms are embodied in that convention. We shouldn’t be ashamed by it. We shouldn’t be embarrassed by it. It doesn’t prevent us fighting terrorism.”

It's about time this was made clear, but it's been this government that's only been too willing to join in with the Sun and others in undermining the Human Rights Act. It they had fought back from the beginning, either legislated better or not at all, then none of this would have ever occurred.

Then we have this idiocy from the Tories' constitutional affairs shadow:

The Tories have pledged to replace the 1998 Act with a Bill of Rights.

Shadow constitutional affairs secretary Oliver Heald said: “Lord Falconer is talking about the Human Rights Act he should have passed, not the flawed Human Rights Act we have.”

Seeing as the Human Rights Act was simply introducing the European Convention into UK law, with a number of omissions, then Heald ought to take his problem with the HRA up with those who drew it up in 1950. The Human Rights Act was mainly brought in so that those seeking judgment under the ECHR no longer had to go to Strasbourg to do so. The Tories idea for a Bill of Rights would presumably contain much the same rights that the HRA does, and even Ken Clarke described it as "xenophobic nonsense". It's a non-starter of a plan, but it's enough to get some kudos from the tabloids.

The Sun's leader gets off to a great start with an insult:

IF you were caught red-handed for mass murder, smooth-talking Charlie Falconer would try to get you off with an Asbo.

Geddit?!? He's an idiot brief?!

Which is pretty much what the Lord Chancellor tried to do yesterday when he insisted human rights laws are no bar to the war on terror.

He ignored the fact that police today are paralysed by fear of legal action if they make an arrest.

Obviously. That's why the police in Birmingham didn't make any arrests... err, wait a minute. The police in fact have very little to worry about, as this week's IPCC report into the Forest Gate raid made clear. The police who arrested Abu Bakr and another men and held them for a week while only questioning them for at the most at four hours and about nothing to do with terrorism haven't had to as much as explain their actions to the men.

Or that law lords banned round-the-clock surveillance on dangerous suspects because it infringed their liberty.

Which we've already discussed, was the right decision and was the British equivalent of Guantanamo Bay, even if the men weren't abused as those at Gitmo have alleged they have been.

Tony Blair once vowed to tear up human rights laws if they hampered the fight against terror.

He did so after unveiling tough laws which, he claimed, would have been rejected on human rights grounds before London’s 7/7 catastrophe.

And it was Charlie Falconer who claimed at the time that those 52 innocent civilians might never have died . . .

Had Mr Blair’s anti-terror laws already been in place.

I don't recall Falconer doing so, and if he did then he should have resigned for making such a specious statement. The Scum is also ignoring its own role in making sure that Blair's doomed 90 days legislation was heavily defeated, its hysterical attempts to get support for the law which involved using the image of one of those injured on 7/7 who vehemently opposed Blair's measures, then turning on those who dared to vote against by calling them "traitors". As then, the Sun and Rebekah Wade are the true traitors; conniving in the dilution of civil liberties, supporting the very measures which remove our rights in order to fight those who have no respect for them.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007 

Valentine's gape.

This post was execrable. I apologise for that.

Spotted in the local paper:

Have yourselves a happy, prolapsed gaping anus day.

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Guido and that Grauniad report.

For those of you who are intrigued about the two decades old Guardian story about the blogger Guido Fawkes' alleged dalliance with the BNP when he was a student, then you can read it in full here.

I'm linking to the article in question purely because this blog was previously similarly gagged, as others have been now, when I republished photographs of the News of the World journalist Mazher Mahmood that were already in the public domain. The difference between then and now is that Guido was one of the other blogs that received the same injunction; this time it's Guido that's threatening to send in the lawyers.

I make no comment on the story, and as I previously mentioned, I feel it is wholly unfair and potentially counter-productive to make an issue out of what an individual's politics were when they were a student. I do however think that Guido's behaviour smacks of hypocrisy, and that those who want to read what other blogs have only been allowed to talk about rather than republish should be able to. I was not involved in the setting up of the blog that republishes it, and only found it from reading another blog, one that has only been involved in the periphery of the whole "blog war".

If Guido wishes to provide me with the retraction which he states he has, then I will also be more than happy to reproduce it here, or reconsider my linking to the article.

Update: Guido has since provided me with the letter from David Rose, which in my mind closes this whole issue. I still feel that those who want to read the article should be able to, so the link will remain, but they should do so with the knowledge that David Rose later wrote to Guido and made clear that he had changed his mind about Guido's motives in contacting the BNP. It does not amount to a retraction from the newspaper, but it does as a personal one from the journalist himself. This makes me wonder why Guido has made such an issue out of a story which doesn't have any legs, but that is up to him.

Related posts:
Chicken Yoghurt - The last laugh
Big Stick Small Carrot - Freedom of Information
Ministry of Truth - Knives and Fawkes

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007 

Comparing and contrasting the ex-BNP bomber and the Koyairs.

In one of those more happy, not conspiratorial coincidences, the release of the second IPCC report in the police raid on the home of the Koyair brothers and their neighbours (PDF) has nicely complimented the guilty plea of Robert Cottage, a former BNP member, who has pleaded guilty to the possession of explosives.

When police raided his house on 28 September 2006 they discovered 21 types of chemicals which, when combined, could form explosives.

Miss Blackwell said they also uncovered a document called the Anarchy Cookbook, which detailed how to make different types of bombs.

Ball bearings - which the prosecution claim could be used as shrapnel for explosive devices - were also found, along with four air pistols.

After interviewing Mr Cottage, detectives raided Mr Jackson's home on 1 October and found a bow and arrow and two nuclear protection suits.

Up until now, the mass media has been almost silent on this discovery, which at the time was referred to by the local media, around the only part of the fourth estate apart from blogs that reported on the raid, as the biggest ever seizure of bomb-making materials from one home in the country.

Before we get into denouncing the double standards of media, knowing full well if it had been Muslims who had been found with such material instead of two white men that it may well have led the news agenda for a couple of days, Rachel makes a number of good points based on her own digging into the story. It simply seems that it passed the media by - if they had known about from the beginning, they would have made something of it. As it happened, the police also initially played down the raids, so it seems only the local media took any interest, and didn't pass it on to their colleagues in the national press.

The one thing that grates though is the fact that the police seem to have accepted that Cottage was not planning a terrorist attack, and only charged them under the ancient (1883) Explosive Substances Act. Cottage's claim that he believed civil war was coming, a belief similar to those held by extreme-right survivalist militias in the United States, and that he was keeping explosives ready for it, shouldn't be allowed to wash. You can't imagine Islamist extremists getting away with such an excuse in court, nor would the tabloids allow them to.

At least in the case of Cottage and his friend David Jackson, justice seems likely to be done. When it comes to the Koyair brothers, their family and their neighbours, they will go on waiting. While today's second IPCC report is not a whitewash, and is far more critical of the police operation in Forest Gate than Scotland Yard are admitting, as Martin Kettle points out, it still leaves a good few questions. The main one surrounds the intelligence that triggered the raid in the first place. The report says (image because the report doesn't allow text copying for some reason):

As the intelligence has only been provided on a confidential basis, unless it happens to be leaked, it seems we're destined to never know for sure just exactly what the police were expecting to find other than a "highly dangerous explosive device" or a "remote-controlled chemical bomb". The media reports at the time were similarly unsure of what it was the police were looking for. The Daily Mail and Times suggested it was a suicide vest that would also have sprayed out poison, the Sunday Express screamed "ANTHRAX TERROR BOMB HUNT", while the News of the Screws, in the same story that wrongly claimed that one of the brothers had shot the other, reported that it was an "explosive device designed to spray out deadly cyanide".

If the police had been willing to be truly open, they would have released the intelligence in full, with any details which could have identified the source censored. Instead we have to take the IPCC's word for it that the intelligence was both believable and so troubling that it necessitated a raid that was brutal in its execution. It's also worth considering this initial Grauniad report that suggested there had been two months of surveillance before the raid -- how in two months did they not realise that this was an ordinary family with nothing to hide who have since been treated abysmally?

There are also contradictions between the evidence given by the officer identified as hitting Hanif, one of the residents of the adjacent house to the one owned by the Koyair family, and his own account of what happened. Hanif contends that he was hit with the butt of the officer's gun as soon as the police entered the room where he had been sleeping -- the officer maintains that Hanif was failing to comply with directions, and he was afraid he was reaching for something under his bed. The officer in any case falls back on the excuse that he was operating in the face of "extreme threat", even though this was a raid carried out in the early hours of the morning, where all the occupants of both houses had been asleep until the police entered, and that he was operating in the property that was raided only because it was believed that both were connected. While the house was owned by the Koyair family, there was no way to gain access to one from inside the other.

The report does mention the leaking and coverage of the raid, but as commenting on such things is outside its remit, doesn't draw any conclusions. It would have been nice for the IPCC to investigate where the leaking came from, but that seems to have been too much to expect. Instead, we have to draw our conclusions, and judging by the way the Murdoch press in particular set out to "get" the Koyair brothers, suggesting that one of them had a criminal record when he did not, that they had a suspiciously large amount money in cash, even though the family had explained they had it because of their religious belief in not using bank accounts which accrue interest, and then finally, and most damagingly, that one of the brother's computers and phones' had child pornography on. When the CPS failed to prosecute and it emerged there were a lot of questions over just how the pornography appeared on the devices, the Sun still persisted, with an officer telling it that "the images were there and a jury should have decided how they get there".

No one disputes that if there is a clear case of public safety being threatened, then such disruptive and potentially personally destructive raids have to take place regardless of such concerns. However, as the report sets out, the police made little to no allowances for the intelligence being incorrect, and the officers acted throughout almost as if they were above the law. The way in which the media were leaked such defamatory and completely inaccurate information shows the contempt in which the men were treated. They were guilty until proved innocent, and it seems that the police were so determined to find something to use against them that they may have even turned to planting child pornography, something which cannot be proved, but in the circumstances of the operation cannot be easily dismissed as being laughable or conspiratorial.

One can only hope that the recommendations of the report are taken on board. That the events of the last couple of weeks seem to have repeated history, only this time with the Home Office coming under suspicion for the leaking, and with a number of the men accused of terrorism being charged, certainly doesn't inspire confidence in either the police or government to restrain themselves when dealing with such sensitive operations.

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Monday, February 12, 2007 

Insert joke about Cameron and weed.

Has there ever been a bigger non-story blown out of all proportion than the simply astounding revelation that "call me Dave" smoked some of the green when he was a teenager? It was already obvious that he had experimented with drugs, possibly cocaine, and as recently ago as the 90s, and that had all been forgotten about once the Tory leadership election was over, so for this to emerge now just shows the desperateness of the Indie on Sunday in spending some of their cash on a serialisation of James Hanning and Francis Elliott's no doubt scintillating Cameron: the Rise of the New Conservative.

It would have been far more illuminating if Cameron had in fact not taken drugs. You'd have to be either a saint or a loner to get through Eton, Oxford and then years as a PR wonk for Carlton Communications without dabbling in one or more illegal substances. Some would probably think that you'd have to be taking mind-altering chemicals in order to actually get through any of them without having the kind of nervous breakdown that results in you ending up gibbering in the gutter with a shopping trolley as your shelter against the rain. Just imagine having to live with the likes of Wills 'n' Harry and their mates for 5 years, the only comfort being the daisy-chaining where you can at least pretend that it's not some rugby-loving hairy-palmed silver-spoon fed bourgeois neanderthal pulling you off, and instead just dream that it's in actual fact that gorgeous pouting Samantha, the slightly dangerous one who gets squiffy and isn't afraid to get her skin inked.

Why Cameron felt the need to comment but not to actually admit to what he did when no one is going to condemn him for inhaling in his youth is only probably going to increase the speculation. If he came out and admitted that yes, he had taken drugs, and said, amazingly, it tends to be what young people to do and that maybe we shouldn't be so eager to jump up and down on their exuberance, then he'd probably earn a lot more respect from those who couldn't give two figs about politics, the same ones he's so desperate to appeal to. If he has indeed snorted cocaine, or, heaven forbid, even taken ecstasy, then why not come out and say so? Obviously it's not going to be as easy to shake-off and play down as smoking a spliff at school, but for God's sake we need politicians who are human and do have experience other than spending their whole lives not having to worry about anything at all (just like, err, David Cameron). It's only going to be likely to come back and bite him if he has indeed done what many suspect, and it might do so just before elections when it could hurt him.

The whole issue of drugs and the Conservatives is fraught with hypocrisy. The Daily Mail, the paper so vehemently opposed to even cannabis being downgraded, is ironically the paper most likely to be read by the parents of the kids who are out at the weekend hoovering up cocaine as fast as Colombia can produce it. The journalists themselves are hardly likely to be sober and as opposed to casual drug use as their pieces and representative leaders are; one only has to remember the accusations of Lord Ashcroft about the cocaine use of hacks on the Times. It's these reactionaries who are responsible for so many potential reforms being abandoned as soon as they are mentioned; cannabis is always a "gateway" drug, schizophrenia awaits anyone who inhales, and let's not even dare suggest that giving heroin to addicts may bring down crime. How could that even be considered when law-abiding taxpayers can't even get Herceptin and other miracle cures for their ailments on the NHS?

Cameron could potentially lead a less condemnatory drugs policy, putting once and for all the lunacy of Anne Widdecombe's zero tolerance approach behind them. He has suggested that ecstasy ought to be downgraded: anathema to the Daily Mail, but common sense to anyone who has seen both the popularity and the price of the drug plummet in recent years. The hysteria of the 90s, based on a lack of understanding about both the culture surrounding it and the drug itself, could be firmly put behind us. Any chance of this for the moment is gone, with Cameron pathetically forced to suggest that he has wrong to so much as take a puff. Once we get beyond the point-scoring and stupidity, we might finally embrace the reality that prohibition and prosecution of minor users of recreational drugs is both a waste of time and more damaging to the person in the long run than the substances and chemicals themselves are.

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Scum-watch: Ignoring their own role in perpetuating misery.

The mother of the victim of paedophile Craig Sweeney today gives a moving interview to the Sun about how they're still living in agony, and how the system seems to have failed them, especially in how counselling took months to get. It should go without saying that such difficulties are completely unacceptable, and that more needs to be done for those who find themselves the victims of such traumatic and devastating crimes.

The main ire though is based on the Sun's story last week on how Sweeney might be getting a place in a "quiet wing". As ever, the reality may not be quite that painted by the Sun, as a spokesman for Wakefield jail makes clear at the end of the article:

Last night the Prison Service said: “HMP Wakefield is conducting a scoping exercise on whether a quiet wing in the prison is viable. No decisions have been made.”

Wakefield is also far from being a safe haven for its notorious inmates, as reports from the weekend made clear:

Bath snatch paedophile Peter Voisey has been beaten up in jail. The 35-year-old pervert, who kidnapped and raped a six-year-old girl after snatching her from the bath in her Tyneside home, was punched in the face by a Pakistani inmate after calling him a "terrorist".

His attacker, who is not a sex offender, said to him: "In my country you'd be hanged for what you did."

The Sun article also of course doesn't happen to mention their own role in making sure that Sweeney wasn't given a potentially harsher sentence. While Sweeney was given life, and may well remain inside for the full 18 years (or longer, if he's judged to still be a risk to the public) that the sentence set down, the judge followed the sentencing formula devised by the government which gives a discount for pleading guilty and then also sets a minimum term which has to be served before parole will be considered. Using the formula, this meant that Sweeney could potentially be free within 6 years, although to say that's unlikely would be the same kind of understatement akin to suggesting Hitler was only slightly naughty.

It was the Sun's outrage, picked up by John Reid, new in the Home Secretary hot-seat, that meant that the attorney general was unable to send the sentence to the appeal court to consider as unduly lenient. They are as much to blame as anyone else for the continuing misery of Sweeney's victims' family. As before, they're betraying the very victims of crime that they so pledge to fight for.

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Iain Dale, in his smug and condescending way, has offered something of a ceasefire in the blogging civil war, even if it doesn't really look anything like one. He also offers something of a explanation over the "nihilist" incident, which while not going far enough, is enough for me to remove the liar button from the sidebar.

When Tim at Bloggerheads launched his opening attack on Guido, I was on the fence. Since then, the behaviour of both Paul Staines and Dale towards Tim, as well as that from comment makers on both of their blogs (especially from Caroline Hunt, who if I was being unkind about would suggest was one letter out from being perfectly described by her own name) has led me to be increasingly sympathetic to Tim's cause. Attempts to paint Tim as either a New Labour hack or a Brownite are laughable, as anyone who took the time to browse his archive would realise.

Equally amusing was Guido's flailing about yesterday, muttering darkly about m'learned friends, after a number of blogs picked up on a couple of decades old report about Guido wanting to link the Federation of Conservative Students group with the BNP. Untrue and ancient as it might be, and I personally feel bringing up such old stories is counter-productive and petty, it showed Guido, who had previously mocked attempts to silence him through the libel laws and stated that he was untouchable, as being just as quick to jump to potential litigation as some of his own victims.

Tim himself has replied to Dale's post, and Unity has as ever made a typically excellent response which addresses and explains many of the issues of what has happened over the last month or so. Guido has agreed to an interview with Sunny, which should be interesting, while Curious Hamster, who found himself involved, has also made clear his views. Let's see how long, if at all, it holds.

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