Saturday, March 24, 2007 

A fascination for penance.

There are acts of contrition, and then there are gestures that are well-meaning but ultimately end up seeming shallow. Slavery was an abomination, on that everyone agrees. We can feel remorse that our ancestors were complicit in this most disgraceful of injustices, we can commemorate the abolition of it, but can we honestly say we're sorry for something which no one now alive was directly involved in?

This is why the whole "apology" debate to me seems utterly perverse. At a time when the far-right is gaining in strength across Europe, when Iran hosts a conference dedicating to "investigating" what "really happened" in the Nazi death camps, when in Turkey talking about the Armenian genocide can result in you being murdered, and when Japan continues to deny or play down the reality of what occurred during their incursions into Manchuria, we don't need to be sorry about slavery, we have to learn the lessons of it and make sure that it never happens again.

The Home Office finally did something about modern day slavery yesterday. After months of arguing, completely outrageously, that signing the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking would encourage illegal immigrants to claim that they were in fact trafficked sex slaves, John Reid signed the convention. While it's a welcome start, the government is now only allowing women who have been trafficked in and forced to work as prostitutes 30-days leave to remain before being deported back to their country of origin. As was shown when a brothel was raided in late 2005, women who often know little English and who have been terrorised by those they're sold to take a while to open up to anyone, let alone those they don't know and who are more than eager to deport rather than comprehend what they've been through.

Amnesty is instead proposing the "reflection" period be extended to at least 90 days, with up to six months being available if they need further time to recover. This is vital for many reasons: the first purely on the grounds of compassion, and secondly as women who have been deported sometimes find themselves straight back in the hands of those who originally sold them. If these women need sanctuary, then they should be given it rather than simply dumped back home for the sake of the immigration figures.

Modern day slavery is actually probably less of problem than has been made out; as ever, it's been exaggerated by the media, when sometimes eastern European women and others have come here to work as prostitutes purely because of the money that can be earned. This though isn't an excuse for not signing up, and for once the Home Office can be proud that it has done something that honestly will help, rather than hinder.

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Friday, March 23, 2007 

Brilliant ideas pt. 94

The whole point of carrot and stick diplomacy is that as well as feeding those you are trying to persuade, you have to be prepared to potentially give them a few taps in order to steer them towards the right decision. Generally, even if the carrots aren't working, you're not meant to then whack the person so hard that you fracture their skull. Alan Johnson hasn't apparently learned this lesson.

On the face of it,
his proposals for extending the school leaving age to 18 are at least worth considering. There are many teenagers who leave school at 16 with few if any qualifications who then spend the next few years of their lives in the cycle of employment in poor-paying unrewarding jobs, going on and off job-seekers allowance when they either get bored or when the work dries up, where further training and education would be a far better option.

However, that's about as far as it goes. For although Alan Johnson accepts that only a "hardcore" would be likely to not go along with his plans, he's already putting into place far-reaching sanctions for those who petulantly decide that school no longer has anything to offer them:

The government wants to introduce “education Asbos” and fixed penalty fines for teenagers who refuse to stay in education or training until the age of 18, the education secretary, Alan Johnson, announced today.
A teenager who persistently refuses to follow an education or training path would be issued with an attendance order, similar to an antisocial behaviour order, or Asbo, compelling them to attend a specific training or education programme.

If an order is broken, the teenager would face a criminal prosecution that could end in a £50 fine or community sentence.

To say this is a bit harsh would be akin to suggesting that Little Britain is a bit unfunny. This wouldn't only apply to those who are simply leaving education, but also to those who already have jobs in family businesses, as well as teenage mothers, who would have to spend at least 16 hours a week in either education or training.

Many would additionally argue that once someone has reached 16 it might already be too late. The whole reason why so many become disillusioned with education during their GCSE years is that they feel what they're learning is going to be little help in the wider world, or that they're being taught to the exam.
The Tomlinson report on secondary education may well have been the solution to this: it would have combined the vocational education which many currently miss out on with the more academic education which currently holds out. The biggest change in recent years is that the bog-standard or close to failing comprehensives have started to split the year groups into the brighter, academic sets which take the GCSEs, while those with the poorer SAT results go on to do GNVQs, which count for a number of GCSEs, but which few employers recognize as such. It means that their results therefore look better than they actually are.

This was the situation when I was in the sixth-form. A number of our teachers regularly complained, or even despaired at the behaviour of some of their classes of 14 or 15-year-olds, realising they were fighting a lost cause when they had already turned off. At 16 currently, a lot of those who disrupt lessons or who don't want to learn leave, with those staying on often coming out of their shells as a result. Johnson's reforms potentially mean that this situation carries on for a further two years for no real purpose, when the changes have to be made at 14 rather than 16. Johnson himself argues:

"There is a risk that it is those young people with lower aspirations, who perhaps come from families and communities that have themselves had a poor experience of schooling, who miss out as participation increases. Within this group are often the young people who would have most to gain from longer participation and higher attainment. We cannot allow the most disadvantaged to miss out."

He may have a point, as some at 16, having realised that they should have studied harder during their GCSEs are faced with few enticing options other than going back to the classroom. Whether dropping the current education maintenance allowance, which rewards those from low income families with £10-£30 a week for staying on is a good idea when these are the exact young people he's hoping to help the most seems to sum up the contradictory nature of Johnson's plans, and
as Not Saussure notes, New Labour itself. It provides all these carrots, then it knocks your head off just in case.

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Scum-watch: They come over here, convert our women....

In the on-going Sun campaign to alert the nation to the foibles of "our Muslim community", today we're informed of the amazing decision of a young woman who's converted from Catholicism to Islam:

A PRETTY blonde teen has stunned her mates by converting to Islam and covering up with a full veil.

Catholic Danielle Jones — now Safiyah — ditched her mini-skirts and crop tops and now wears the full face niqab of Muslim women.

Duh-duh-duh! Would it have made any difference if she was butt ugly, ginger and had previously worn clothes made out of bin bags? Is this the Sun purely being bitter about not getting her to get them out for MySun before she decided to change religions? Does anyone really care? Am I still typing these daft rhetorical questions? Oh, and "full face niqab of Muslim women" has to be the most clunking sentence I've read in a while. Surely now wears the full face niqab style of Islamic dress?

The 19-year-old made her shock decision after her step-dad died of a brain tumour. She said it was her Muslim pals and their faith who helped cope with the loss.

And she revealed the decision to convert made her feel “a million times” stronger.

Safiyah, of Bolton, Lancs, said: “I couldn’t stand the way men stared as I walked down the street. Now I feel a million times more empowered wearing my full-face niqab. Nobody is judging me on how my body looks.

“More and more, the Muslim faith seemed to make a lot of sense to me.

“It’s as if I have found the missing piece of a jigsaw.”

While they won't be judging her on her body, they will of course now be judging her by the decision to wear the niqab. According to the MyScum community, she should have traveled to Saudi Arabia or Pakistan first, and despite taking what seems to be a rather radical step which requires major soul-searching, she's just a silly weak-minded girl.

Safiyah, who hopes to act as a mediator between the Muslim and British communities, added: “I don’t miss drinking. I’m happy.”

Which surely is all that matters, whatever your own views on religion. Oh, and this:

Could have been worse.She could have got a tattoo

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Thursday, March 22, 2007 


Unity has been kind enough to tag me as a thinking blogger. Only problem is I now have to tag a further five who haven't already been (at least as far as I'm aware). Taking them unashamedly from my blog roll:

Five Chinese Crackers
Mask of Anarchy
Blood & Treasure


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Iraq: four years on.

A mother and child walk past the body of an alleged failed suicide bomber.

It somehow doesn't seem possible that it's four years on from the beginning of the Iraq war. Or, indeed, that the war itself has probably claimed casualties every day since March the 20th 2003. Even those of us opposed to the invasion didn't even in our worst nightmares come close to predicting the hell that has engulfed the country since then. I thought that a quick war, followed by the US quickly putting into position some minor figure from the Ba'ath party as a puppet president, or one of its favoured exiles, while elections were planned was the most likely outcome, with some groups possibly continuing to fight the Americans until they left. Instead, a quick victory was followed by unfathomable incompetence at every turn, mass corruption, gross human rights abuses by both the coalition, jihadists and the new Iraqi government, and the slow but steady eruption of an internal conflict that looks very much like a civil war, even if some Iraqis reject that description.

To sort of answer Tim's question about what you were doing on that day, I, being a puffed-up idiotic 18-year-old who was big on daft political gestures, bunked off from sixth-form and err, did nothing. I don't remember whether I used the internet that day - I might well have done, although I also went through a period during 2003 of trying to keep off it, but I do recall watching the more brave members of my age group perform sit-in protests in the road across from the Houses of Parliament, occasionally being lifted away by the police, who were struggling to deal with something that the clearly hadn't bargained on happening. I wish I'd had the guts to do something like that.

Where are we then, four years into this war without apparent end? Our leaders themselves remain in office, despite all the justifications for the war being destroyed one by one. True, some of the most egregious of the warmongers have either resigned, moved on or been sacked, but Blair still occupies 10 Downing Street and George Bush was re-elected, only for his ratings to plummet and for the Democrats to at last win back both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Here, despite endless debate, we still have to put up with the utterly shameless activities of some in the Labour party, like Ann Clywd, who on Monday appeared on Newsnight to again triumph how wonderful everything in Iraq was, or at least in Kurdistan, which had been semi-autonomous for years before the invasion and had already had its own army and security force which wasn't disbanded in the aftermath by the idiots put in charge of the Transitional Authority. Even then, there are regularly attacks in the main cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, which Ms Clywd, having given up her previous status as a sometime member of the awkward squad to support Blair's war would rather you didn't know about.

Despite mounting evidence to the contrary, Labour continues to dismiss any links between the Iraq war and the growing terrorist threat not just Britain, but to the entire world. 7/7 did not occur in a vacuum, whether those who took part were genuinely radicalised by the war or not. Those soldiers who went out to fight the war have returned to find themselves scorned and forgotten by the government that did so much to make sure that their completely unnecessary addition to the US "coalition" took place. The army itself sees the reality on the ground in Iraq, that the presence of British troops in Basra is only making the situation worse rather than helping improve the security situation and that it's time to get out, but the government would rather ignore this astute analysis and instead draw down the number of troops slowly in deference to their ultimate masters in Washington.

For the Iraqis themselves, after suffering almost incomparably since Saddam launched the war against Iran in 1980, (with Western backing) many did indeed welcome the overthrow of the hated dictator, but their gratitude for their "liberation" was soured by the years of sanctions that had resulted in the deaths of at least 500,000 children (PDF), infamously referred to by Madeline Albright as being "worth it", and by the humiliation of not personally being responsible for their leader's downfall. The first signs that some of the Iraqi people were becoming restive were suppressed by the Americans with lethal force; 17 protesters in Fallujah were shot dead on April the 28th of 2003, with two more killed in another protest two days later. This can now be seen four years on as the catalyst for the beginning of the insurgency, which resulted in the tribes north of Baghdad aligning themselves with the emerging jihadist groups.

The death toll, from the occupation, the indiscriminate tactics of the insurgents and the sectarian conflict sparked by the destruction of the Al-Askari
mosque in February of 2006 is impossible to know for certain. At the very, very least, 100,000 have died since March 2003. The Lancet study of last year estimated that the most likely figure was 655,000, although the margin of error was between 350,000 and 900,000, and as that study is now six months old, the total would now again be even higher. The everyday horror of life, especially in Baghdad and Anbar province, although despite claims to the contrary there are attacks throughout the country almost daily, is also close to being impossible to imagine. For the last year or so dozens of bodies, many showing signs of torture, others with heads either missing or separated from their bodies, have been dumped on the streets in the dead of night. Photographs routinely show men, women and children walking past dead bodies as if they weren't there, or rather wishing they weren't there. A blogger on McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau site describes in excruciating detail how a friend's brother was kidnapped, with them eventually having to search the morgues for his body after he wasn't released despite a ransom being paid. The burying of unidentified bodies is contracted out, with the contractor taking photographs of every body before burial in case the family does eventually come looking. In this case, he had a photograph of the friend's brother, his body bruised and with a hole drilled in his forehead, but when they went to where he was meant to have been buried, his grave was nowhere to be found.

With all this in mind, the results of the BBC polling of 2,000 Iraqis (PDF) were nowhere near as pessimistic as you might imagine. While 2 million have been displaced inside Iraq itself, and a similar amount have fled to surrounding countries, 42% at least believe that their children will have a better life, with 37% thinking the opposite, and 58% still believe the country should remain unified, with 43% supporting democracy. While 35% believe that the coalition forces should leave immediately, 69% think the presence of the US forces is making the security situation worse. Support for attacks on coalition forces is almost split right down the middle: 51% deeming them acceptable with 49% against.

There are also some developments that are worth being cautiously optimistic about. There does finally appear to be a schism opening between the jihadists and the Sunni tribes in Anbar; Sheikh Abdul Sattar has turned against the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq, and according to this Channel 4 News report, has succeeded where the Americans have failed in arresting and flushing out some of the mujahadeen. The surge, after six weeks, has succeeded in bringing down sectarian violence and the number of deaths, although this may simply be a repeat of what happened in Fallujah, with the insurgents and others getting out only to return later once the troops have left. The ISI, which incidentally on its press release blog never claims responsibility for attacks on civilians which its affiliated groups are almost certainly behind, has become more desperate in its tactics in response to this, using chlorine alongside the more conventional explosives in its truck/car suicide bombings. Another report, unconfirmed, was that two children were used in a car bombing at the weekend as decoys.

For if Iraq is going to emerge from this disaster inflicted by the West, the solution is within its own borders. There is little more that we or anyone else can do. It would be naive to think that our immediate withdrawal would result in the violence ending, but it would also be daft to imagine that the sectarian violence would spiral out of control, or that the insurgents would quickly overthrow the government. If anything, the current al-Maliki coalition is weak because it has to justify itself more to Washington than it does to the Iraqi people. As Simon Jenkins argued yesterday, Iraq has had to put up with over a decade of interference from outside. It has to be hoped that in another four years Iraq will be standing on its own, foreign troops long gone, a still unified country gaining in confidence. If this is to happen, we have to get out, and if not right now, very soon.


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Wednesday, March 21, 2007 

Stalin Hood.

picture by Beau Bo D'Or for Channel 4

Well, the least that can be said is that this might put Polly's back up. Rather than lifting the tax threshold that currently means the poor pay more tax as a percentage than the rich do, Stalin Hood instead decided to rob from the poor to try and get the ever disgruntled middle classes and Rupert Murdoch (a suitably sycophantic Sun leader this morning was richly rewarded) off his back. Judging by the front pages of the Murdoch media just featured on Newsnight, it looks like it's worked on the latter. Whether it'll work with the former is much harder to predict.

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Drugs! Blades! Death!

The brutal murders of Steven Bayliss and Nuttawut Nadauld by Tom Palmer were almost a wet dream come true for the tabloids (and other media). Obsessed with knives! Addicted to skunk! Watched a movie about a serial killer stabbing his victims to death repeatedly in the days before the murders!

How much any of those things actually influenced the murders is open to question. Sentencing Palmer, the judge told him the most likely explanation for his behaviour was "a sudden and lethal explosion of anger, although what caused it remains something of a mystery". The whole addiction to skunk and developing schizophrenia defense was the one actively pursued by Palmer's lawyers. The psychiatrist who has been treating Palmer since his arrest himself said that cannabis had exacerbated Palmer's descent into mental illness, but that it was not the cause.

Indeed, Palmer's family background itself may hold just as much light for why he eventually came to murder two of his friends for no apparent reason. Even the Daily Mail is forced to admit that:

[But] they did report that the 20-year-old has a family history of breakdowns, nervous disorders and even schizophrenia

This isn't to dismiss out of hand the effects of strong cannabis and the links between those who smoke it and go on to develop psychosis. Those who already have a family background of mental illness, or who have in the past suffered from mental ill-health are those most at risk from habitually smoking the drug. As with any other drug, teenagers, with their minds still developing, are better off leaving well alone at least until they're 18. The risk posed however is far more slight than that which the media has tried to present. At the weekend, the Independent on Sunday claimed it had got it wrong in campaigning for the decriminalisation of cannabis, leading Transform to fisk the arguments of the Sindie into oblivion.

One friend, giving evidence, gave further insight into his mindset just before the murders. He had carved swastikas into his stomach, which ought to be enough for anyone to realise that he needed to talk to someone, and urgently. We're not told of his relationship with his family, but it seems bitterly ironic that his father is apparently a nurse at Broadmoor.

His so-called obsession with knives is also open to question. The Daily Mail's article does its best to hype this up, then's forced into admitting:

He had access to weapons and knives through his interest in outdoor activities and sport - hobbies which appear to have begun innocently enough, but by the time of the killings he was proficient in several martial arts and kept stocks of practice equipment in his bedroom.

It appears then that he good excuses for having knives, and that it was only with his mental health apparently in decline, with paranoia levels rising, that he started carrying them.

Which leaves us with his other "obsession", horror films. His favourite, according to both the Sun and the Daily Mail, or at least the one he watched in the days leading up to the murders, was the Last Horror Movie. Here's the Sun's take:

The court had heard Palmer was obsessed with violent horror films. His favourite was The Last Horror Movie, in which a serial killer videos himself slitting throats.

The 1982 movie also features a gory beheading.

Just a slight problem with this. The Last Horror Movie was made in 2003, and as far as I'm aware, as I own the DVD and have just flicked through it to be reasonably sure, there's no beheading. Sure, there is at least one throat being slit, someone's set on fire while tied to a chair, and he feeds the cooked flesh of his victims to his friends and family amongst other things, but there's no beheading.

The Last Horror Movie is in fact more a pitch-black comedy than it is a horror film. Taking its lead from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and Man Bites Dog, it's one of those films on the edge of the genre that make the viewer question their own complicity in watching the carnage associated with stalk and slash. The whole plot itself is ridiculous, as the protagonist, despite leaving mountains of evidence, is never caught. The conceit is that this is a slasher film that's been taped over by some lunatic (or rather not a lunatic, as he claims convincingly that he isn't mad) with his own graphic home video, and that his next victim is in fact you for not turning it off. Compared to the glut in gory horror now coming from America, exemplified by the likes of the Saw series, the Devil's Rejects and Hostel, it's on a whole different intellectual plane, and I would of thought not been too appealing to someone more interested in blood and guts than in the whole debate about what role horror films play in the modern consciousness.

The case sparked warnings about the dangers of gruesome DVDs and using skunk. Labour MP Martin Salter said some horror films were “practically snuff movies”.

Would this possibly be the same Sun newspaper that was last week giving away a free horror film DVD every day? Indeed, one of the films it gave away (Evil Dead, banned in the aftermath of the video nasties moral panic, was only classified by the BBFC on video in 1990, and then with nearly 2 minutes cut) was one it along with the Daily Mail lambasted in the 80s and early 90s as being responsible for general moral decay and for warping the minds of children. As for Mr Salter's daft comments, there are films that are practically snuff movies, but they're the ones currently being produced by jihadist groups as propaganda, not the ones that Hollywood and independent film makers in this country are making.

We may well never find out exactly what caused Palmer to kill his two friends on that day. All the evidence however suggests that he had suffered a slow descent into depression and psychosis, even if neither had became fully developed. Skunk may indeed have exacerbated this, as the psychiatrist said, but it seems unlikely that it was the sole cause. More does need to be done to teach youngsters that cannabis is not risk-free, as the head of Rethink states, but then neither are cigarettes or alcohol, with some evidence suggesting that it poses far less of a risk than either. As ever, an apparently unexplainable act of murderous violence has been blamed variously on drugs, horror films and obsession with knives, when none of these in actual fact come close to making clear what actually happened. It's easier to do than instead realise that the warning signs may well have been there, and simply weren't noticed.

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007 

Scum-watch: Veiled exclusives.

Light blogging today as I've just had a thoroughly enjoyable visit to the dentist, but I can't pass up highlighting the Sun's sheer joy at seeing that Alan Johnson, the education secretary, has laid out the potential banning of the wearing of niqabs by pupils in school. Of course, it's even better when they're given the news as an exclusive and splash it all over the front page:
VEILS will be banned in schools to help pupils learn and to keep them safe, Education Secretary Alan Johnson has ruled.

His decision will affect thousands of Muslim girls who wear clothing like the full niqab.

He will publish details of his guidance to headteachers in the Commons today. The wearing of full-length robes may also be affected.

Thousands? Really? This is what has always been so perplexing about the whole debate on full veils - the numbers of women who wear them in this country is incredibly low. Only towards the end of the article does the Sun give a ball-park figure:

The ruling will be used to scupper any counter-bid by Muslim parents. It is estimated that 2,500 girls wear full-length Islamic dress in class in England and Wales.

Even here it's not clear whether this figure refers to girls who wear the niqab or who the wear the jilbab, as the Sun willfully conflates the two by bringing
Shabina Begum into the equation.

I actually think that the decision is a good one - some girls may indeed be troubled by the implications of the ban on their own interpretation of their religion, but they can still wear the hijab in school and the niqab outside of it if those are their wishes. I would rather that no one felt the need to cover their hair or body because of what any religion teaches, but the problems posed by the niqab are such that their limited banning in schools is justified. What I don't agree with is the condescending tone taken by the Sun leader, which seems to know better than Muslims themselves about the teachings of the religion:

WHATEVER arguments there may be for the veil, schools are not the place for them.

So we welcome Education Secretary Alan Johnson’s classroom ban.

He cites security, safety and the need for teachers to see a response on the faces of their pupils.

But he could equally have argued veils are divisive, provocative and have no justification under the teachings of Islam.

Divisive? Possibly, but the aftermath of Straw's comments on the niqab showed that it's more the tabloid press and Express readers that find them provocative and divisive. Actual women who wore them and spoke out showed that the casual assumptions made about veil wearers were far from the actual truth. As for no justification, that's a question that ought to be left for the Muslim community itself to debate, not for a tabloid newspaper which has done so much for community relations to state unequivocally.

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Monday, March 19, 2007 

Scum-watch: Knife crime? The Sun has the solution!

Let's start out with some caveats. There is undoubtedly a problem, especially in inner cities, with youths carrying knives and not being afraid to use them. They might be carrying them out of fear that they themselves may be attacked, mugged for their iPod or mobile phone; they might be doing so as a status symbol; and they might have them in their possession to rob others. Whichever reason it is, and gang culture and youth culture itself play a part as well, there are ways in which the problem can be tackled. Jackie Ashley in the Grauniad today puts forward a few good ideas on how it can be done.

One of the bitterest ironies of the death of Kodjo Yenga is that he had been featured on a MTV programme about knife crime, where he mentioned that although it was a problem, he thought the media were exaggerating it. Even though Yenga himself has now become the latest tragic victim of something he spoke out against, he was in fact probably right. When someone is murdered, we like to think that there's a motive behind the slaying, looking for meaning in the meaningless, anything to distract us from the at times cold-blooded reality. Yenga's murder, and that of Adam Regis, both appear from what we currently know to be utterly senseless crimes; the motive may not have been in the case of Regis's assailants to kill him, and the apparent chanting of "kill him" by the mob who chased Yenga was likely typical bravado, similar to how schoolchildren will quickly gather around a fight in a playground cheering on the writhing combatants, but neither death fits the narrative which we like to think is always behind violence. It's when this insulation from the fear and horror we associate with murder is removed that we then start looking for other explanations and for answers that we might otherwise ignore or dismiss.

The Sun is not perhaps the greatest example of this in action. By nature, the Sun takes the banal and routine and tries to turn it into something it's not. The sensationalism it relies on, especially as sales inexorably decline, means that a single crime or murder necessitates a radical or over the top response. When a few come along in a cluster, as they recently did with a number of shootings, which were as usual quickly forgotten once the story had moved on, then the Sun becomes even more certain and hysterical in its editorial outpourings.

IT is a sick society where children murder children with such apparent glee.

Saturday night’s stabbing of 15-year-old Adam Regis in London was just the latest in a series of five teenage killings in the capital.

It is not only areas of London where this madness reigns. There have been young victims in Manchester, Nottingham and Birmingham.

Right, so society's sick. This slaughter is not confined to one area, but to other big cities as well. So far, so typically Sun. Next step: bash a minister.

Instead of Communities Minister Ruth Kelly dismissing these nightmare murders as “isolated incidents” she should be urging her fellow cabinet ministers into action.

Kelly's statement that these were "isolated incidents" was indeed crass, although her point in general was that we shouldn't rush to all jerk our knees in unison and delve straight into "why oh why" type dramatics. John Reid however, who wants to ingratiate himself so much with the Sun that he perhaps ought to move in on Wade now that she's available, has heeded the Sun's advice:

"We need to take action before, as well after, the awful headlines we have seen," he told Parliament during a debate on the subject.

Here's where the Sun comes up with the solution(s):

Like ending the crazy situation where only ONE in every 58 policemen is on the beat at any given time. Too many of the rest are struggling with red tape and form-filling.

OK, that fills the quotient for a statistic which makes absolutely no sense because we don't know how many police officers actually are "on the beat" at any given time, although apparently it's only one in 58. Still, it looks like it means something. That's the attack on bureaucracy done, next, come out with that completely bat shit crazy idea that can be easily knocked back but is an typical right-wing point to make:

Like introducing ‘zero tolerance’ even for the smallest crimes — a policing strategy that turned New York into one of America’s safest cities.

Presumably not the type of zero tolerance which resulted in Tyrone Brown, who mugged a man of $2 dollars with a gun, and in the same year tested positive for marijuana who spent 17 years in prison in Dallas as a result. Is the Sun prepared to build the thousands more prison spaces that would be required were "zero tolerance" to be imposed, especially at a time when prison overcrowding is resulting in re-offending rates spiraling? Will the smallest crimes involve smacking your now ex-husband? Does it include motoring offences? Doesn't zero tolerance just inspire further resentment and grievances from those who are harshly punished for relatively minor crimes?

Then there's the whole issue of just how safe New York has been made by zero tolerance. There's firstly the question of whether it was zero tolerance that has made it safe, as others point to the CompStat crime analysis system. New York is indeed safe - by American standards. A quick look at the crime statistics, especially the the number of murders, shows there were 889 in New York in 2004. By comparison, London had 221. Even taking into account the population difference, with New York having 19 million and London having around 13 million, that's a huge difference. The 889 figure is in fact higher than the number for the whole of Britain in 2004 - the British Crime Survey reporting there were 820. Rape is a much less authoritative figure, but again shows the difference: 3,636 in New York, 576 in London. Burglary - New York 70,696, London 6,950.

Like having drugs-testing and automatic knife searches in schools.

Not that any of the recent murders have occurred in schools, and recent figures showed that although teachers were concerned about weapons being brought in, only 1% had been in a situation in which they were involved. Making school even more unpleasant is a tough job, but the Sun seems to want to step up to the plate.

Like ignoring the human rights lawyers and INCREASING police stop-and-search operations.

Which are generally a waste of time and only increase tensions.

The kid glove approach has failed us all. But no one more than the children whose lives ended almost before they began. Kids like Adam Regis.

Quite right. Bring on the American "solution" when we don't have an American problem.

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