Saturday, March 17, 2007 

Crying a phony river.

Much shedding of crocodile tears in the Street of Shame over the tragic death of Sally Clark, victim of one of the worst recent miscarriages of justice in this country. The Daily Mail, which has since been conducting a witch-hunt against paediatricians who have diagnosed women as suffering from the controversial Munchausen's syndrome by proxy (the killing or harming of children by a mother in a bid to draw attention/sympathy to themselves, the most (in)famous sufferer of which is probably Beverley Allitt) cleared the front page for the news. As Postman Patel points out in an outstanding post, this is somewhat different coverage to that which followed her conviction, when the report in the Mail was headlined "Driven by drink and despair, the solicitor who killed her babies".

The sad death of a woman apparently broken by her time in prison for a crime she did not commit comes in the same week as the previously posted on failure of the Hickeys' to get back the compensation deducted from their payouts for living expenses. Additionally, a study by Baroness Corston into how women are treated by the criminal justice system recommended that existing women's prisons should be shut down (converted into prisons for men), with small local secure units being set-up in their place. If any further evidence was needed of the dire conditions in some sections of the prison system, especially those dedicated to women, the Guardian's a day inside series of interviews makes for depressing reading:

Gina Westaway, 51
Senior prison officer in the care, support and reintegration unit, HMP Styal, Cheshire

Checking our list of self-harmers was one of my first duties, and I noticed that there was a "code blue" on a female prisoner yesterday evening. She had tied a ligature round her neck, and an officer went into her room and cut it off. Self-harming is an issue in our unit - in February we had 140 incidents. The women break the plastic cutlery to cut themselves, or rip up the sheets to tie ligatures.

Incidentally, the government recently announced that the compensation paid to those who suffer miscarriages of justice will be capped at a maximum of £500,000. Apparently you can set an arbitrary, central, state dictated price on a life ruined by a false conviction. When you consider that Labour is more than happy to spend £9bn on the Olympics, which lasts for two weeks and at least £20bn on replacing a weapons system we neither need nor will use, the money paid out to those who suffer so terribly through the fault of the state seems an insult.

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Friday, March 16, 2007 

Ron Jeremy tells all.

We know that he spent at least 3 years in CIA "black" sites. It's incredibly likely that he was tortured. Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan, suggests that he may well have been handed over to the security services in that god-forsaken country, notorious for raping both men and women with glass bottles and boiling at least one person to death. During his enemy combatant tribunal, he had no access to a lawyer. Parts of the transcript are predictably blocked out, including those where he refers to the fact that he was tortured. Keeping all of this in mind, is Khalid Sheikh Mohammad a man broken by torture, a master terrorist or a lying bragger?

The answer is probably a bit of all three. His confession to more or less every terrorist attack ever linked to al-Qaida, at least prior to his capture, and every plot that might have as much been mentioned in passing during communication within the group may itself be a tactic to inspire fear. It's been well established that he was likely involved in 9/11. Along with Ramzi Yousef, he was involved in the original plot to bomb the World Trade Center, and the planning for Bojinka, which might have been the basis for last year's August liquid bombs plot, or if you're more conspiracy-minded, resurrected to convince the public that a ramshackle plot which would have been simply impossible to actually pull off was far more serious than the police and government were letting on. He might well have been involved in the death of Daniel Pearl; he was captured in Karachi, where Pearl's body was found. Whether he personally decapitated Pearl, like Zarqawi is alleged to have beheaded hostages in Iraq, is simply impossible to know for certain.

As for the rest of the things he confessed to, he may well have been involved at the margins, or with the funding, but that would likely be as far as it went. While one counter-terrorism official alleged that KSM funded the Bali bombs, they were almost certainly carried out by Jemaah Islamiyah, and may well have been an independently funded attack. Likewise with the attacks in Mombasa. How far he was involved with Richard Reid's shoe-bomb plot is open to question, as is whether Reid was an actual member of al-Qaida.

Even the Sun's "terror expert" Neil Doyle doesn't think much of KSM's "confession" to plotting to fly 12 planes into nuclear power plants, except that he suggests that bin Laden played down the idea. The reality is that such a plot has never come up before because err, it's bollocks. Try searching Google and see how many hits you get examining such a nefarious plot. It's worth wondering whether those torturing KSM dropped many of these ideas liberally into his sessions, based on news reports however untrustworthy, and stopped zapping his balls when he agreed he was involved. His years spent in CIA black sites, probably in solitary confinement, might well have made him believe he actually was involved in all this nonsense.

Alternatively, he could just be a big show off. He was one of those jihadists who was influenced by the ideas of Takfir wal-Hijra, and not just so that he blended more into Western society. A number of sources suggest that while he and Yousef were in the Phillipines they took full advantage of the local tourist facilities. Indeed, like Yousef, it's difficult to know where Islam came into any of this. It may be, despite his denials and seeming sorrow, that he just liked blowing things up and taking lives in the process.

KSM's confession has if anything made the whole enemy combatant tribunal process look even more ridiculous and completely analogous to the American justice system. Everyone knows he's been tortured, his confession to everything except driving the white Fiat Uno that crossed the path of Princess Diana's car in the tunnel in France only looks feasible to rabid neo-conservatives, with even officials from the Bush adminstration suggesting he might have "exaggerated" a little, and with him only being the first to go through this kangaroo court system, it looks like we've got a whole spring of laughs to look forward too.

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Scum-watch: Lady Mucca returns.

I loathe celebrities. I detest the way the countless magazines devoted to them stare out at me when I walk in the newsagent. I wonder how those who work on them justify their continuing existence when they head into the office every morning. They probably went to university with the intention of becoming a investigative journalist, exposing corruption, lying politicians and helping in some way to make the world a better place. Their whole life has been one long shallow lie, but in order to pay off the rent and maintain their cocaine habit at the weekend they have to keep pumping out the insipid, turgid, witless prose about whichever starlet is currently too thin/fat, who's the hunkiest male star, and who's been captured daring to walk outside their house by the salivating one-handed public, who forward their blurry mobile phone photographs in the hope that their handiwork will appear in a magazine destined to be read only by pond life with the attention span of an monkey addicted to crack and by those unfortunate people who've forgot to bring something to read to the doctor or dentist's surgery.

You'd probably then think that I don't much care for Heather Mills, or give two shits what she thinks about anything. And you'd been right. She does however have a point about media harassment. The Sun, as you might guess, doesn't think she does:

SPARE us the crocodile tears, Heather.

Lady Mucca pops up on every TV and radio station she can find.

Only to moan she’s the victim of media harassment.

Police chiefs are so fed up with her they say she’s crying wolf.

They complain she can’t stop reaching for the panic button.

Excuse us while we reach for the off-switch.

For those of you not in the know about how Mills' has come to be known as "Lady Mucca", this new epithet came about when the Sun bought an ancient porn book/sex guide which featured Mills and some bloke in a number of risque positions, along with whipped cream, etc.

As you might well know, this derogatory nickname, coming from the Sun newspaper, which prints a topless young lady on its third page every day, runs the page 3 idol competition in which women across the country are encouraged to get their breasts out for the grand prize of £5,000, and which now operates MySun, the most barrel-scraping social-networking site on the face of the planet, which is today urging women to get them out to win a Sun photoshoot for Easter, is just slightly hypocritical.

As the Sun reaches for the off switch, it seems unlikely that Wade herself will be telling her hacks to stop writing about her. After all, since exposing Mills last June, the term Lady Mucca has appeared in the Sun at least 75 times. Among these amazing stories, which clearly prove Mills isn't being harassed, are such vitally important journalism as:

LADY Mucca spotted buying hi-fi from London's Portobello SECOND-HAND market

LADY Mucca slopes off on cheapie skiing holiday despite being offered £30m payout

A MUM says Heather Mills booted her in the bottom with her false leg in a coffee shop

HEATHER Mills shared intimate moments with her hunky personal trainer at station

HEATHER Mills booted out of supermarket — because she was once a teenage shoplifter

43% Biggest bitch? Nutta or Mucca
VOTE on our e-poll for either Lady Mucca Heather Mills or Nasty Naomi Campbell

Clearly, Mills is just a crybaby gold digger.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007 

Injustice multiplied.

Imagine, if you will, that you've been wrongly convicted of murder. That your conviction itself was the result of the police fabricating evidence and beating you and the others convicted alongside yourself. That during your 18 years in prison, you were regarded as amongst the lowest of the low as a result of the fact that you were convicted of killing a child, enduring assault and having your food tampered with on numerous occasions, including being tainted with glass and urine.

After those 18 years you're finally free, and cleared of any involvement in the now unsolved murder. In the compensation paid out to you however, the Home Office deducts what it regards as a suitable amount for your board and lodging. Somehow, the fact that even outside prison you still have to pay for the time you wrongly spent inside, eating tampered with food, every day wondering whether you'd ever escape from what one judge would eventually describe as a "prolonged kidnapping" adds insult on to over a decade of injury.

This is what the Hickeys, two of those convicted of murdering the newspaper boy Carl Bridgewater, have now had to face up to. Appealing to the highest court in the land against this obvious and disgraceful injustice, they lost by a majority decision of 4-1. The judges, trying to justify the unjustifiable, suggested the deductions should be seen as "expenses" they would have had to pay if they had in fact been able to work. That's all right then.

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This is a dead parrot.

In those all too rare moments of optimism, I have like tygerland, who has just rejoined, thought about becoming a member of the Labour party. It's partly out of the naive belief that somehow my thoughts and my voice could help in some way to turn around the direction that New Labour has headed in, and also more recently out of the desire to make sure that the left-wing alternatives to Brown get as much support as possible, even if I don't particularly want either Meacher or McDonnell to lead the party, just to show how much grassroots support there is for a more radical government program, much like the one which tygerland sets out.

It's only later, or rather within minutes, that the much more familiar disillusion sets it. It'd be nice to think that Brown will be a more inclusive leader to Blair, someone prepared to listen to the activists and supporters on the ground rather than do exactly the opposite of what the vast majority of them would do, but all the evidence suggests that he'll be just as much as a control freak as Blair, if not more. Secondly, Brown has made more than apparent that he's not prepared to back down an inch on security and foreign policy matters. He supports an extension to the 28-days without charge detention limit for "terrorist suspects"; he supports the retention of Trident; he failed to stand up to Blair over Iraq; and he's showed no sign of being about to end Blair's Faustian pact with the Murdoch media.

Of course, it can be argued that ending the alliance with the Downing Street Echo would be tantamount to political suicide, that putting off a decision on renewing Trident would allow the Tories to take the initiative over security and claim that Labour is putting the security of the nation at risk, however ludicrous such a position would be, and that if he had opposed Blair over Iraq then he would have been sacked, but these are the exact sort of issues where decisions taken from on high have left the grassroots feeling angry, betrayed and disenfranchised.

The problem with Labour though is not just any longer with the leaders. It's with the whole package of policies which are currently being pursued. Take yesterday's announcement from the Home Office which outlines proposals given to it from a review of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act. Ignore the gimmicky decision to put short-term jails in the local branch of Tesco, and instead focus on the vast expansion of the power to take DNA and fingerprints from anyone who so much as farts out of turn. From wanting to be tough on crime and the causes of crime, the current solution to all our problems seems to be to take everyone's biometric information and put it on every database the government can put out to tender. This is a huge change in the very nature of the relationship between citizen and state - if you manage to avoid being forced to get an ID card, then they'll get your fingerprints through catching you dropping litter, not cleaning up after a dog or not wearing a seatbelt. Those over 10 who commit non-recordable offences would also no longer be immune from having their fingerprints and DNA taken. From a database that was originally meant to be used only to help solve serious crimes, we've come to the point where it's now the largest in the world.

It's obvious to everyone what the police and some politicians want. They want the database to have everyone's data on it, but they can't come out and say that they want children to have their fingerprints taken at a certain age just in case they ever commit a crime. It would spark outrage, probably even in the Downing Street Echo. Instead, they're going about creating it by stealth, coming up with ever more weak excuses for taking personal information. Also worth noting is how plans originally mooted as being used to question "terrorist suspects" after they've been charged are now suggested to be used universally.

This is I think what makes most people so increasingly queasy about political parties in general, not just Labour. It's that you simply can't trust them, and that even if you did, they sure as hell don't trust you. Some have suggested that they're going to vote for the Tories at the next election simply because they've promised to scrap ID cards. After however much Labour has or is going to spend on the scheme, even if the Tories got in, I just can't imagine them ripping the whole thing apart.

Simply put, after 9 years of Labour government, putting up with numerous lies and so many unforgivable policies, to believe that re/joining the party now will make any genuine difference is laughable. The only way I can see relations between the political parties and the general public being repaired is for proportional representation to be introduced, forcing them to listen. Otherwise, I think we're headed for another generation of minority conservative government, whether through New New Labour or the Tories themselves, with ever reducing electoral turnout.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007 

Britain's Abu Ghraib.

Daoud Mousa with photographs of his son and grandchildren.

Last night's Panorama, which was moved forward as a result of the last two soldiers on trial over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners being cleared, was as depressing as it was damning. It made clear that there had been an obvious closing of ranks amounting to a cover-up over the death of Baha Mousa while he was in British custody in Basra, having suffered 93 separate injuries within 36 hours of being arrested.

As Not Saussure notes, the reason for Colonel Jorge Mendonca's acquittal has now been made public. It seems the evidence of Major Antony Royce was crucial: he contradicted the prosecution's claim that "conditioning" - the use of stress positions, forcing prisoners to stand for long periods with their arms outstretched and hands cuffed, hooding and sleep deprivation, had not been cleared by the "chain of command". Royce told Mendonca that it had been, and it seems he was very much relieved. The judge notes that Mendonca seems to have been a fall guy: he did not do anything that he should have done, and he did not do anything which he shouldn't have done.

Panorama alleged that those other than Corporal Payne, who was forced to admit to being involved in the beatings and other mistreatment which lead to Mousa dying, had not been brought to justice due to both failings in the investigation by the SIB, and through a systematic failure of memory suffered by other soldiers called as witnesses. Payne's lawyer, who sat through this joke of a court martial, confirmed that the words "I don't remember" were used over 600 times during the trial, and commented that he had never seen anything on that scale in a court room.

Mousa and 6 other men were arrested at a Basra hotel in September 2003, a number of weeks after Captain Di Jones, a popular young soldier from the Queen's Lancashire regiment had been killed by an IED. Following a tip-off that weapons were being stored in the hotel, British troops stormed in at 6am, only to find the man who they were really looking for, the hotel's owner, had already fled. Having apparently being informed that those arrested were involved in the death of their comrade, and finding weapons stored (All of the men arrested were later cleared of any involvement in the insurgency, simply being hotel workers. Mousa was the receptionist.), their treatment was from the beginning little short of brutal. This continued throughout their detention: evidence was given that Corporal Payne had "played" the detainees like a choir, kicking and punching them one at a time, relishing the cries and groans his blows brought from the captives. Video footage of Payne shouting and forcing detainees into stress positions was shown to the court. What is not in dispute is that Payne was not the only soldier who took part in the abuse; we know the regiments that were in Iraq at the time, and even some of the soldiers who were involved. That they have not been brought to trial, and now seem unlikely to be is just one of the major injustices of this case.

The other main question is just who did authorise the "conditioning" of detainees. With Abu Ghraib, it went all the way to the top, to Rumsfeld, although his signing off of certain techniques didn't involve the sexual humiliation which was routinely inflicted on those who passed through the American-run jail; that was likely implemented by the CIA officers who were also involved. Brigadier Euan Duncan gave evidence that US commanders had criticised British forces for failing to "extract sufficient intelligence" from those arrested, which presumably led to someone up the chain of command authorising the conditioning practices which had been banned since 1972. Whether this was at the army level or the political level we simply don't know. In relation to the death of Baha Mousa, Antony Royce was told by Major Mark Robinson, a brigade "intelligence adviser" to condition prisoners. Royce, worried this contradicted the firm and clear prisoner-handling training given back in Britain, consulted the brigade's legal adviser, Major Russel Clifton, who assured him that conditioning was permitted.

As Jeremy Vine states at the opening of the programme, from some of the reporting you'd think that no one had died, that beatings had not taken place and that the soldiers involved, whether they were those who were tried or not, had been wrongly maligned. The arrogance and refusal to admit that crimes had been committed was exemplified by the behaviour of Colonel David Black, who emerged from the court to deliver a statement which was brimming with pompous unrighteous anger, eyes flashing beneath spectacles, his every word underlined by a sharp flick of his head. He was in effect suggesting that soldiers shouldn't be held to account, even when the evidence of abuse is as strong as it was in this case. The Scum quotes him as saying:
[Our Boys needed to be able to work] “without looking over their shoulders inhibited by the fear of such actions by over-zealous and remote officialdom”.

The Sun's leader is even worse:

COMMON sense prevailed when two British soldiers were cleared of abusing Iraqi prisoners.

Major Michael Peebles and Warrant Officer Mark Davies served with courage and bravery in the most difficult conditions.

This ludicrous show trial — which has already seen four other soldiers cleared on the judge’s orders — has been a waste of time and money.

These men risked their lives in Iraq but were repaid by being hung out to dry.

Every aspect of investigating so-called crimes within the military needs to be re-examined.

Our servicemen and women deserve nothing less.

No mention that the Iraqis who were the victims of these "so-called crimes" too deserve nothing less than those responsible being brought to justice.

If anything, this farce is worse than the treatment meted out to those responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib. While they were the scapegoats for the decisions made higher up the command chain, in this case it appears that the army itself has gone completely into denial. No one apparently saw anything, or it's strangely slipped their mind. No one knows who authorised the outlawed techniques in the first place. Only Payne, who was unfortunate enough to be the only one who could not escape from justice due to the evidence presented, has so much as admitted that abuses even took place. Hopefully this will be taken into account when he is eventually sentenced. As for the rest of those involved, they can take pride in the way their actions have brought the British army down to the same level as their coalition partner.

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Scum-watch: Take one hijab or two into the sauna?

Via BlairWatch, here's today's obligatory Sun-story on the foibles of members of "our Muslim community", as the Dear Leader referred to them:

A MUSLIM woman in full hijab robes was allowed to swelter in a SAUNA because worried staff did not want to offend her.

She then jumped into the sports centre’s swimming pool to cool off while still wearing the black top-to-toe Islamic dress.

Straight off, the basic ignorance of the whole article is more than apparent. The hijab is not a robe: the hijab is a headscarf, nothing more, and in Islamic scholarship, as Wikipedia states, has a wider meaning of modesty, etc. Surely the sub-editor could have sorted this out in seconds?

Due to this misunderstanding, it's difficult to work out exactly what she was wearing. I'm assuming it was either a jilbab or a chador.

After ten minutes in the sauna and ten minutes in the pool the mystery woman changed out of her wet hijab into a dry one in the changing rooms and left alone.

Yesterday members of the David Lloyd Leisure centre in Oxford said they were baffled by the women’s actions.

A woman then acts rather bizarrely for an incredibly short time, and just happens to be wearing religious dress. Huge news story. Oh, wait, don't tell me, this is actually a case of POLITICAL CORRECTNESS GONE MAD:

Club member Ian Caldwell, 46, was sitting in the sauna when the fully-dressed woman walked in.

He said: “I pointed out that it was a sauna and asked her if it was appropriate. All the other women in there were all in bathing costumes.

“When I saw her in the pool later, she was still wearing the Islamic outfit.

“The pool attendant said she was allowed to wear this due to her religious customs. It was just political correctness gone completely barmy. I told the manager that it was my custom to attend saunas naked, as they do in Sweden, and said I trusted he would find that equally acceptable.

“But to be serious, this is a question of hygiene, not religious rights.”

It seems odd that Caldwell doesn't explain what the woman's response was to his questioning of her clothing, and it also appears that the pool attendant just let her get on with it rather than bothering to ask her why she was acting in that way. She doesn't appear to have been hurting anyone, and arguably, bringing up the whole question of hygiene when everything suggests that she changed into a clean robe when she arrived and then back into the clothes she wore beforehand is just as politically correct. The whole article is leaping to conclusions: that staff didn't interrupt her because they were worried about "offending" her etc, when they might have just been following the usual British way of letting weirdos and the more eccentric among us get on with it.

Then we have Taj Hargey, who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to previously criticise the MCB on the also widely criticised Panorama programme, and who also offered to fund the school which was taken to court after a 12-year-old girl was banned from wearing the niqab (it has to be said I fully support the school in that case) mouthing off:

“How can you swim properly if you wear a hijab?”

Err, pretty easily I would have thought if it was tied up correctly. Does Hargey not realise that olympic swimmers themselves tend to cover their hair for rather obvious reasons? Surely the whole point of this is that it would be a lot more difficult to swim in a robe, is it not?

“Wearing a veil is nothing to do with Islam, it is a cultural tradition.

It's true that this is an on-going debate within the Muslim community, and that a good few would disagree with Hargey, so we'll let him get away with this. It's his next statement I have more of a problem with:

“They think this is their way of making a statement, but this is the worst possible statement. They are shooting themselves in the foot.”

Personally, if I wanted to make a statement the last thing I would do is wear a robe while in a sauna. That's not making a statement, it's being pretty daft. As is making a big deal out of the bizarre actions of one woman. If the Sun truly wanted to be fair, it would have perhaps also got a quote from someone who doesn't have such similar views to that of the approved Murdoch line. Instead, we've got another article to add the Muslim baiting pile that have appeared in the Scum of late.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007 

Have we found a use for Trident so soon?

Tony Blair compared the fight against climate change to the battle against fascism and the cold war today, as the government pledged to cut carbon emissions by 60% by 2050 with the publication of the UK's first ever climate change bill.

Right, so when do we start bombing? Where do we bomb? Where do we point our independent nuclear deterrent? Do we start with Heathrow before moving on to Chelsea, or do we first commit acts of sabotage against Didcot power station? How about having the police storm houses where the negligent selfish bastards leave the TV on standby, with orders to shoot to kill in case there's Islamic fascists with bomb belts seeking refuge inside?

The Dear Leader's comparison isn't just lazy, it's utterly meaningless. Climate change cannot be an enemy unless we ourselves are the enemy; we've created it. It's not a battle that can be won either through military means or through the threat of military action. It can be argued that climate change does potentially pose a threat through forcing mass migration or creating natural disasters, but the worst ravages of climate change are only likely to be felt once the vast majority of us now alive are long dead, and that's if not enough is done now to tackle the problem at the source through reducing carbon emissions.

Blair does have something of a point in suggesting that different generations of politicians face different challenges, but he certainly isn't going to be around to deal with this supposed new challenge, unless there's something he hasn't told us. The other main problem is that Blair and others have already tried to build up an new bogeyman to take the place of the cold war in the threat posed by al-Qaida et al. At least this somewhat resembles what could be an existential threat, but it's one which has been heavily exaggerated for political purposes, and powerful ideology though it is, is not one which directly threatens the life of the nation, as it were. Add into this Blair's recent rhetoric about failed states and the continuing impasse over Iran's nuclear ambitions and this is the main realistic threat posed. Unfortunately for Blair and co, this doesn't in any way resemble or exude the same menace as the Soviet Union did, let alone Nazism, and it's doubtful that any amount of attempts to convince the wider public as a whole into believing this will wash, however much help friendly propagandists and others give.

I can only surmise that the real reasons every new "threat" is bigged up to being the end of life as we know it is that politicians believe that unless you're suitably dramatic and over-the-top no one will listen to you, which has some merit in the age when Al Gore claims that Current TV is going to change the world as we know it through user-generated content, the most successful pieces of which so far are Loose Change, the propaganda videos produced by jihadists, and whichever video is currently top of the YouTube charts. The second is that it seems to be every politician's deepest desire to be Churchill: leading the nation out of its darkest hour, bringing everyone together and coming out victorious. The by-product of the Churchill act is that it frightens people, which is always a good way of achieving acquiescence. Who cares if it just makes you look like an imbecile who can't think up a new way to address a new problem without conjuring up images of instantaneous doom? It'll at least go down well with someone. Probably.

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Monday, March 12, 2007 

The power of nightmares.

Last night I woke in a damp sweat. The vision I had, one of a Britain broken, enforced into feudalism as the sky turned dark, with children rapidly resorting to scavenging and feeding on vermin, was the most horrific and vivid that I had ever experienced. It had all started the day, in a delusion of good vibes and liberal limp-wristedness that we had abandoned our independent nuclear deterrent. Politicians and newspapers said it was lunacy, that we couldn't predict what enemy would emerge in the next few decades, and that most of all, it finally broke our reputation as a great country. The ever traitorous left-wingers, delighted by finally destroying the weapons they had always loathed, crowed and said it sent a message to the world.

It did. Within hours of the last missile being dismantled and the final submarine being broken apart, there were reports that there had been a huge explosion over Manchester. Eyewitnesses from outlying towns quickly flooded radio stations with their terrifying last phone calls, saying that what seemed to be a mushroom cloud had briefly appeared above what had been Manchester. It was in fact only the first attack; within hours, all the major cities had been hit. With a brisk northerly wind blowing, the fallout was spread alarmingly quickly. Looting broke out almost immediately, and with a single nuclear attack itself enough to overwhelm the NHS, health care crumbled within a matter of days. Most died without knowing where the attack had came from; those who survived didn't care, infused only with a rage against those who had abolished the weapons which kept the nation safe.

It was the image of the bleak, desolate landscape of the countryside which I had fled to on hearing of the first attack that I awoke with, my final surroundings seared on my brain. With the water poisoned and the animals which had inhabited the woodland themselves dying, there was no way I could have survived. Instead, using a rope taken from a nearby abandoned farm, I tied a ligature from a tree and hung myself, my neck snapping like one of the twigs which covered the forest floor.

How I breathed a sigh of relief as I realised that it had only been a night terror! I remembered the words of the defence secretary Des Browne, who had been so completely right when he stated that Trident made people feel more secure in their beds. I settled back down, soothed, and slept soundly, dreaming only of being blown apart on the tube as an unfortunate result of a young man detonating his backpack of explosives, having been radicalised by the war in Iraq. Still, these things happen.


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Scum-watch: We need Sarah's law. And the comments prove it.

Is Rebekah Wade reflecting the concerns of society or is she exploiting the population's most base fears? That's the conundrum I always mull over when reading the latest hysterical report on why we need Sarah's law and now. Is the campaign motivated out of sales, genuine belief there's a problem that's being underreported or out of some own demon from Wade's past which she's getting her galley slaves to constantly write about?

This isn't to trivialise child abuse. It is a serious problem, but as one of the more sensible commenters on the report mentions, it's far more likely to occur within a close circle of family and friends than from a random stranger. The next question that has to be asked is whether "exposing" these "monsters" is actually scaring the public or making them more secure. It's not one that I have an answer to. I do however remember the hysteria created by Wade's previous campaign at the News of the Screws, which inspired the kind of mob justice, especially in protests in Portsmouth, that you more associate with fiction than with modern Britain.

Today's report focuses on court rooms across the country and the sex offenders passing through, with the courts only being monitored for three eight-hour days. As you might expect, there's the usual variety of people who've downloaded child pornography, as well as those who are actual abusers. There's also a few anomalies which I don't think have any right to be presented in such a sensationalist manner. This, however, is the Sun. It's the only way it knows.

Here's the introduction, complete with scarily-staged (correction: it seems to have been photoshopped now I look at it) photograph of the stereotypical image of a paedophile: someone most likely with a body odour problem, wearing dark clothes, hat, glasses and unshaven, stalking a playground while a child swings, oblivious to the danger that's right in front of her. The reality, as painted by the actual cases in the courts, is often very different.

PAEDOPHILES and child sex offenders are the scourge of modern life. There have always been perverts preying on children, but the arrival of the internet has opened up new channels of depravity for sick individuals.

As well as those who physically assault youngsters from a position of trust and those who lure kids into danger, many download obscene images of children – ensuring all too real abuse.

Every day our justice system is battling to catch and punish these vermin. Often the sheer number of cases is such that only the most shocking make the Press.

We watched courts around the country for three eight-hour days last week to get a 24-hour snapshot of life in Paedo UK.

Below we outline just some of the cases.

Of the 12 cases the Sun presents, 5 of them involved actual abuse. Of those, only 3 involved assaults/abuse/rape with children which falls strictly under the definition of paedophilia, and one was a case 20 years old. The other two involved teenagers likely to be pubescent. This of course doesn't downgrade the crime, and this might seem pedantic, but labeling anyone who has sex with girls under the age of consent as a paedophile is lazy at best and at worst is ignoring the facts of the case.

For instance, one of the cases highlighted is of a 20-year-old soldier who invited a 14-year-old girl back to his house and had sex with her. The sex was presumably consensual, as it doesn't state otherwise. The sentence handed down was a 12-month jail term suspended for two years, a course for sex offenders for two years, and placement on the sex offenders register. The Sun doesn't go into the case in full, and the judge is quoted as saying that he took advantage of the girl. It's worth wondering why the case has come to court, as similar cases are often not pursued, which might mean there are other factors involved, but such a sentence for what was presumably consensual sexual activity, especially as the judge describes the man as highly immature seems harsh, and the Sun's exposure of the case is more so. He broke the law, but in the apparent circumstances does his exposure serve any purpose? Does the sentence serve any purpose when the judge concludes that the soldier is not a predatory paedophile?

I can't pretend to answer the questions raised. Most of the sentences passed however seem to me about right - neither too harsh or too lenient. The cases from Belfast and Newcastle are the most troubling; in those I think the sentences are definitely on the lenient side, especially as both had previous. This suggests though that the judges are on the whole getting it right.

The Sun's leader is particularly venomous:

IT’S like turning over a stone and watching the creepy-crawlies rush out from underneath.

And there are two especially frightening things about the paedophiles we uncover today.

First, the sheer number of them. These are just the vermin who happened to appear in court during our 24-hour watch.

12 cases over 3 days all across the country doesn't seem particularly excessive in my mind, but I might be being too relaxed or casual about the whole thing. After all, I'm a young adult male. I'm about the least likely person to be the victim of a sex crime. Is that affecting my judgment or not?

Second, how many of them have normal, responsible jobs — bus driver, soldier, foster carer and even a policeman. They cloak their evil with respectability.

These people are our enemy and they are a silent, secret enemy.

The Sun can’t be in every court in the land, every day, to haul these wretches into the limelight.

Are they our enemy or are they damaged individuals themselves? Are they predatory or have they themselves been preyed upon at some time? Instead of calling them the enemy, shouldn't we be recognising that they are just like everyone else going through the court system? Isn't calling them the enemy giving them a war-like status when they are certainly not soldiers and who can't be merely brushed aside using weapons? Isn't demonising them rather than trying to understand their urges and developing strategies from that part of the very problem?

We need a law that forces the authorities to turn a spotlight on the perverts in our midst.

A law that means the name and address of every paedophile is known to local parents whose children might become their victims.

We need Sarah’s Law. And soon.

Sarah's Law may have helped in only 3 of the cases, and that is by no means certain. The other problems involved with a naming law are the vigilante aspect, and the fact that it may further encourage potential predators to go even more underground, or simply go AWOL. While American states name sex offenders on websites, there is by no means the same moral panic there as there is here, thanks partly to the lack of populist mass-sale country-wide tabloids, and evidence suggests that those convicted who subsequently disappear instead of "signing on" the register are far more numerous to those who go missing here.

If we perhaps needed any more evidence of the potential for vigilantism, we can look at the comments on the Sun article. Of course, such a subject is always go to raise passions, and what people say online is often bravado in situations like this, but it's still an indicator for the type of feeling aroused by articles such as these.

I know what sort of punishment I and many others would dish out to these *******. It would last much longer than 12 months and they certainly could not be around a child again. But we live in a pathetic country whose pathetic laws do nothing but protect the guilty.

i would cut all the bits from them .that way they can never hurt another child fof the rest of there life ,even thats to good for them .bring back the death buy hanging or let them loose wiyh 50 mums debby

How can we expect anything to be done when the so called back bone of this country cannot even given these sick and twisted individuals a sentence worth while! These inhumanly animals should never be allowed to walk the streets! I think hanging should be brought back they do not deserve to breathe the same air as us!!!

Crime now, but let the special interest groups have their way, and child molesters will be a protected class of persons. What was considered anti-social in years past is now front and center as "normal" behaviour. The Sun does well to highlight the plight of the victimized. This abhorant perversion shuold always spark a heartfelt moral outrage among civilized people. Let us not forget that certain sub-cultures practice underage sex on a regular basis. They should not be exempted from child protection laws simply because they fled a barbaric country. If they want to live in a civilized country, then they should adjust to civilized laws, not bring their tribal mumbo jumbo with them.

None of the men featured appear to be from an ethnic minority, and it's perhaps worth mentioning here the efforts of the BNP in trying to suggest that Asian men in Keighley were responsible for the grooming of teenage girls, when the truth was much more complicated.

JUDGES get your act together and punish these amoeba's properly, never mind 6months and 2 yrs sentences, get them down for life! They're ruined countless kids lives!!! And a good dose of bromide in their tea!

Not the greatest justification here for a Sarah's law based on Megan's law:

Here in the usa we have a web site that you can go on, You can put in your address and it will fetch up a page with a local map showing all the addresses of pedo's in you area,You then click on each address and it will show you a picture of the scumbucket along with what his of her actual crime was. Now you would think with this that our kids would be safe but no..These things still get to grab our kids just the same and if they don't register their new addresses as they move around(what they are not supposed to do without police permission by the way)the police have no way of tracking them.Maybe we should start thinking about chipping these things(I cant call them people)or maybe putting those ankle braclets on them for the rest of their life,Better still put them in jail for longer periods,I don't three months, six months, or one year is good enough This is our children were taking about here and has anyone stopped to think of the life sentence these poor little things get to serve for 10min of a pedos fun.

The Sun's website, supposedly dedicated to seeking "justice for you", may well have the opposite effect. Its modus operandi, which seems to be to lock up ever more people for even longer, is the exact thing that is helping to drive re-offending rates up. Its demanding of "Sarah's law" could make children even more vulnerable. It distorts Lord Phillips' nuanced speech into suggesting that he wants killers released early. Oh, and in wonderfully good taste, it celebrates a woman who may well have hounded her husband's "killer" (he caused a pile-up through driving on the wrong side of the road) to death. It appears that Sun justice is in fact no justice.

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