Thursday, May 31, 2007 

Scum-watch: Shameless red-baiting.

Ignoring the sentimental trash about a butterfly coincidentally landing on Kate McCann on the front page, today's Scum goes out of its way to scaremonger about the Labour deputy leadership candidates daring to speak freely during the hustings on Newsnight and elsewhere of late.

GORDON Brown last night warned the Labour deputy PM rivals against lurching to the Left.

All six candidates favour handing more power to the unions — and some want higher taxes.

Oh god - higher taxes?! Those crazy fiends! It soon all becomes clear quite why they're setting out to smear the candidates for daring to speak their minds for a change:

Tony Blair fears Labour will swing back to the Left once he goes — and the last few weeks have seen challengers appealing to union dinosaurs.

Well, if Blair fears it then the Scum has to at least try and make it look like it's so. George Pascoe-Watson, the piss-poor political editor, has even gone
to the trouble of making a list of all those "Lefty policies".

The tragedy of the Sun's hatred of the left is that it has always been at the expense of its working class readership. Most of those on the minimum wage reading the statements from the candidates, especially about the City uber-rich paying themselves their obscene bonuses, are more than likely to find themselves in agreement. The real surprise about the list is in fact how moderate it is: where's the left-wing idiocy about setting limits on private sector provision in the NHS when there's no evidence that it either provides a cheaper or a better service? The anger about Hilary Benn's comments on socialist values should be that the last ten years have been absent of them, and that it's taken Blair's hegemony to be lifted for it even to be suggested that there might be something admirable about them. The Scum often likes to complain about political correctness that makes certain words or views taboo, yet it's had more than a hand in making the "s" word into something that it isn't and never has been.

The leader itself brings out those old bogeymen that it delighted in smearing time and again, which also insults NHS staff and attacks university lecturers for suggesting that amazingly enough, most students are radicalised about something:

GORDON Brown says the next deputy Labour leader can’t count on becoming his Deputy PM.

Thank goodness for that.

Jon Cruddas for one has said he doesn't want to be deputy prime minister. Besides, isn't this the same Scum which loathes Prescott with a vehemence it usually reserves for paedophiles? Surely anyone would be an improvement on him?

It’s been like watching All Our Yesterdays as candidates strutted their stuff this week.

All six men and women promised more power to the party and a greater say for union paymasters.

Gosh, giving the party members a say in party policy? That might be too near democracy for a newspaper that's been given more of a role in Labour's thinking than the members themselves have.

They were falling over themselves to apologise for the Blair blunders that gave them 10 years unbridled power.

Because the country obviously wants the same obstinacy that the Blair years has given us to continue, doesn't it?

So it was a relief to hear the PM-in-waiting put them right.

“There will be no retreat to the narrow politics or the failed policies of the past,” he said.

Phew! Just for a moment, we glimpsed the ghosts of Red Robbo and Arthur Scargill queueing for beer and sandwiches at Number Ten.

Quite. Give us Hazel Blears over those two any day.

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Does anything else need to be said?

I don't think so.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007 

The dead end of choice.

After 10 years of Blairism, or if you believe Simon Jenkins, who doesn't think that Blair has changed politics enough to have an "ism" named after him, the slighter kinder faced continuation of Thatcherism, the Conservatives have finally worked out how to respond from having the rug pulled from under their feet. They're going to be the new Blairites.

The Conservatives are best placed to carry on Tony Blair's public service reforms, the shadow chancellor says.

George Osborne claimed Gordon Brown, the next prime minister, had "abandoned the centre ground of public service reform to the Conservative Party".

All of which sounds familiar. That might be because this is more or less the exact same argument put forward by Alan Milburn and Charles Clarke, during the launch of 20:20 vision, their disastrous attempt to form an anti-Brown faction that they hoped would flush out a leadership candidate in their own image:

We believe in radical reform. For us reform is for a progressive purpose – to make for a fairer society. We look to policies that empower individual citizens, reward aspiration, spread opportunity, tackle intolerance and inequality, provide security, protect the environment and that are internationalist not isolationist. And we look to a style of politics that is based on dialogue, debate and devolved power.

Take out the bit about being progressive and probably tackling intolerance and inequality, and you pretty much have where the Tory party is under Cameron - few policies, but a lot of buzzwords which mean very little.

The whole sorry mess of Osbourne's speech is up on the Conservatives website, and reading it is like being spoon-fed saccharine by David Cameron himself. The gist of it is that Labour is returning to the left - look at those desperate deputy leadership candidates prostituting themselves and their wacky "socialist" ideas! - that Gordon Brown isn't condemning them for doing so, meaning he's obviously going to hoist the red flag above Downing Street as soon as he gets the chance, and that because Labour is cooling on "choice", they're the responsible, sensible heirs to Blair, and they'll continue his glorious legacy by knocking some reformed sense into our schools and hospitals.

The very reason why Labour has supposedly suddenly "cooled" on choice is because they've finally had it rammed down their throats by the patients that they don't care about it. The Healthcare Commission found through their questionnaires with 448 patients that the three questions concerning choice were among the 10 least important aspects of a hospital's service, out of the 82 it asked about. Osbourne predictably quotes research which says the opposite, from those involved in pilot schemes. This contrasts with the view of Picker institute, which ran the questionnaire study, who told the Healthcare Commission there was no point running similar questions the following year, as there was so little interest. The futility of extending choice even further is undermined by just how demoralised and fed up the NHS staff are with the constant reorganisations and new systems they're constantly having to adjust to - they want stability, not further change for the sake of it, which is exactly what the Blairites and now the Tories want to offer.

Most of all, quite why after 10 years of Blair, when we're finally getting rid of the spinning, lying bastard, the Tories think that aiming to emulate his policies is a good idea seems to suggest how lost they've become by the new political landscape. Blair's apologists often like to claim that he's pulled the political centre to the left, based on the money pumped into the public services; while it's true that he has achieved a consensus on that, on other measures Blair has pushed the "centre" so far to the right, whether through his policies on criminal justice, the re-imposition of the market into the NHS, with independent treatment centres which get their money whether they perform the number of operations set out in the contract or not, PFI schemes which are bleeding the taxpayer dry and city academies which allow the private sector or so called "charitable" organisations, usually church groups, to have control over the ethos and make-up of the school for a bung towards its upkeep, that the Tories haven't much of a clue how much further they can go without totally alienating the average person who claims the centre ground is where they are. As a result, all they offer is a continuation, and the age-old smears that Brown, the architect of PFI, is going to shift us all back to the loony left he's already condemned. If Labour's a party in terminal decline, the Tories seem to be more than happy to follow them into oblivion.

Related post:
Chicken Yoghurt - The bores of perception

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The revenge of emotional pornography.

Lazarus's autobiography, the title of which is only one letter off being accurate.

For those being directed here from, see the bottom of this post.

Great stories tend to come in twos. Darwinism, it seems, is back with a vengeance:

A FIRE which swept through a fourth floor flat in Weston is believed to have been caused by a candle lit by a kind-hearted elderly woman for missing four-year-old Madeleine McCann.

Jean Lester, of Westbury-on-Trym, was visiting her aunt in the neighbouring flat at the time the fire broke out. She said: "I came out of my aunt's flat and saw Mary in the corridor. She was very distressed.

"She told me that she had lit a candle for the missing girl, Madeleine, and placed a note by it in the hope it would help her safe return."

It would be easy to suggest that this is the kind of thing that the emotional pornography of the last few weeks featured in the tabloids would lead to, so that's just what I'll do. Rather than helping find a little girl missing hundreds of miles away, it's done the inevitable and came back and bitten the poor old woman in the ass.

Coincidentally, another loathsome parasite who encourages the irrational belief of providing help and support through collective hope and prayer has finally, and equally inevitably, turned up in Portugal:

A TOP psychic will travel to Portugal today to join the hunt for Madeleine McCann.

Diane Lazarus, 40, has already helped cops with high-profile cases including the murders of Jill Dando and little Sarah Payne.

Yes, her name really is Diane Lazarus, although it's her husband's surname, if you believe that. Here's her own propaganda:
From a young age Diane Lazarus (known to many as Diane Lloyd-Hughes) first experienced the power of her amazing gift by seeing, hearing and speaking to spirits and since then Diane has learned to control her gift and can switch on and off at will. Today she is rated in the top five of professional practitioners in the sphere of non-physical science, worldwide.

Non-physical science, known to everyone else as lying to the vulnerable and gullible. Or alternatively, as the dole officer clerk in
History of the World Part 1 remarks to Comicus, who gives his job as stand-up philosopher, "Oh, a *bullshit* artist!". She also couldn't have done that great a job in finding the killer of Jill Dando; many consider Barry George to be innocent.

In an exclusive interview mum-of-two Diane from Crosshands, South Wales, told The Sun online:

- Maddie was targeted after being secretly watched by her abductors, including one woman

- She is in Spain after travelling by car on main roads from Portugal and is being well looked after

Really? Could this insight possibly be related to the alleged sighting of a small blonde girl at petrol station on a motorway which leads to Spain?

Police searching for British girl Madeleine McCann believe she may have been snatched by a group of two men and a woman.

The group of three were captured on CCTV at a petrol station on a motorway that leads to Spain, according to reports in two separate Portuguese newspapers.

The group were reportedly with a young girl, who looked distressed, newspapers 24 Horas and Correio da Manha reported. Police later confirmed that they are studying the CCTV footage and that the evidence may be “key”.

Lazarus continues:

- One of the culprits has olive skin, dark hair and a drawn, skinny face

A person with olive skin in Portugal? Now she's really stretching her credibility!
“I hope going to Praia da Luz will give me the leads to where exactly she went from there. I feel she could be in Spain.

“I have also picked up that they cut Maddie’s hair and made her look like a boy.”

This is amazing! What more can Mrs Lazarus tell us?

Once in Praia da Luz, Diane will ‘tune in’ on a map of the area around the Mark Warner holiday complex and a snapshot of missing Maddie.

Diane said: “I need to start from the beginning and be where it all happened.

“Quite honestly I don’t think Madeleine has come to any harm. She will be returned to her mummy and daddy.

“I feel there are a few people, including a woman, involved in the disappearance.

“They went out of their way to get a girl of a certain age. They also knew Madeleine had a brother and sister, Sean and Amelie.

“They felt as the McCanns have two other children taking Maddie wouldn't be quite so bad.

Oh, so they're considerate kidnappers. At least the McCanns have that to hold on to. She can't resist dropping names, though:

Diane will spend four days on the Algarve after being invited by a close friend of Gerry and Kate McCann, both 38.

"Hundreds of people have contacted me to see if I could help.

“Even Bonnie Tyler, who is one of my best clients, has been in touch.

Rather than being a total eclipse of the heart, this seems to be a total eclipse of the mind. Lazarus has one last piece of advice:

“I’ll be very mindful of the McCanns too. They’ve prayed a lot for Madeleine's return which is great.

“Prayer really does work. Everyone should say a prayer for Maddie’s safe return.”

Indeed, and make sure you mind the curtains when lighting the candle.

Update: This blog has had the dubious honour of being featured on's page devoted to Madeleine McCann. Much like Diane Lazarus, Brian is a fraud, a liar and a charlatan, preying on the distraught relatives of missing people's vulnerability and desire to believe someone who says they can help them. An example of how he makes it look as if he's predicted something before it's happened is explained here and here. He is additionally debunked here, and allegations of how he has cheated people out of money are here. Finally, he's let have it by various posters on the James Randi forums over his lies about Madeleine.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007 

The undead princess.

Princess Diana is dead, just in case you'd forgotten. She's been dead for close to ten years. In life, she was chased by newspapers trying to sell their sordid wares. In death, she's chased by newspapers trying to sell their sordid wares. Oddly, the very same newspapers which day after day filled their pages with paparazzi photographs of the woman, apart from suffering a few pangs of guilt in the immediate aftermath of the accident in the Paris tunnel, with the Daily Mail famously announcing that it would never again buy snatched shots, only to break its own declaration within a matter of weeks, have since then felt the need to act as her personal shield; she can't defend herself, so they will instead. Again, this was a surprising role reversal, considering that the Glenda Slaggs' had loved to rip Diana to shreds over whatever they saw fit, leading after her end to the biggest reverse ferret in newspaper history. No longer was she a silly bulimic girl who had betrayed the royal family, now she was the greatest Briton who had ever lived, whose beauty, principles and dignity were second to none.

It's therefore unsurprising that the middle-market tabloids are united in anger over Channel 4's decision to screen a documentary which allegedly features images of Diana laying in the car being treated before she died. We had the very same faux-outrage last year, when an Italian magazine published the far from shocking images, at the same time as some genuinely shocking photographs from Lebanon and Israel were being comprehensively ignored.

Even so, it's difficult to deal with the sheer level of chutzpah, especially of the Daily Express, accusing Channel 4 of being "ghouls cashing in on her memory". This is the same newspaper which has spent the last few years propagating the bullshit theories of Mohammad Al-Fayed, the man most responsible for the death of Diana in the first place, dedicating its front page time and again to false "new leads" and lies about what happened that night. If it wasn't for the Express's Diana obsession, it would probably be even further in the mire created by its asset-striping pornographer owner, Richard Desmond. The only surprise is that Desmond hasn't tried to combine the two by giving away Diana sex dolls with each turgid copy.

As for the Daily Mail, variously accusing Channel 4 of "trampling on her grave", and today printing the words of Rosa Monckton, urging Diana to be given the privacy in death she didn't get during her life (from the very same Daily Mail), could this possibly be the same Daily Mail which back in February was giving away a free Diana figurine from Royal Doulton "worth over £100", as well as Diana DVD entitled ten years on? That isn't trampling on her grave, that's just taking advantage of her, and as we all know, there's a great difference between the two.

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Injustice multiplied part two.

The injustice of having money deducted from the payments to victims of miscarriages of justice continues:

A 37-year-old man jailed for a crime he did not commit is being charged almost £7,000 for his time in prison.

Warren Blackwell from Woodford Halse, Northamptonshire, has been told the sum will be deducted from compensation to cover savings on rent and food.

He spent three years in jail convicted of sexually assaulting a woman with a history of false claims against men.

The same thing previously befell the Hickeys, who spent close to two decades in prison for the murder of Carl Bridgewater, a crime they did not commit. That decision was upheld, astoundingly, by four law lords in a majority decision which means that without the government legislating, and with no apparent case to take to the ECHR, that such despicable penny-pinching from those who have had years of their lives taken away from them is likely to continue.

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Peter Hitchens gives Grauniad readers a giggle.

Continuing with the theme of pointing and laughing/crying, Peter Hitchens provides a valuable insight into how the anti-statist, moralist right has to make innumerable incoherent leaps of logic to somehow fit both Blairism and Thatcherism into the same left-wing mould. Tygerland has more.


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We're doomed.

The world's first creationist museum, which tells visitors the Earth is only about 6,000 years old, has opened its doors in the American midwest.

The Creation Museum claims dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus rex lived alongside ancient civilisations but were strictly vegetarian before the Fall of Man and that the Grand Canyon was created by Noah's flood.

Quite so. Why else would the T-rex have had those huge teeth other than to carefully chew only the most succulent foliage available?

Mark Looy, a co-founder of the privately funded centre, said: "The guests were very happy with the museum experience.

"Of course, we had some naysayers come through and engage us in conversation, and that's fine - we want them."

It would perhaps be unkind to suggest that Mark's second name is only an n away from accurately describing his beliefs, but his mindset pales into insignificance compared with the man responsible for some of the museum's hi-tech exhibits:

When Mr Marsh was asked to explain the existence of fossilised remains of man's ancestors, he replied: "There are no such things.

"Humans are basically as you see them today. Those skeletons they've found, what's the word? They could have been deformed, diseased or something.

"I've seen people like that running round the streets of New York."

That's that then. Our evolutionary ancestors are still with us, except they're now dressed up in suits, racing around Wall Street and performing their daily task of being masters of the universe. It all makes sense. How could we have possibly have not noticed?

Over on the Answers in Genesis site, the organisation which has helped fund the "museum", John Upchurch informs of us of how he came to believe:

Many years ago, I first heard about creationism from the mocking pages of an anthropology book and the ridicule of an astronomy professor. I laughed, too—once. But as I was wandering through the corridors of the Creation Museum, watching the videos and reading the exhibits, I kept thinking back to the letter that Ken Ham’s mother sent AiG just before the opening festivities. Her prayer was that the museum would “stand up to the world as a beacon of God’s love, power, and grace.” And that is my prayer, too—that those who are tempted to scorn this museum will, as I did many years ago, find out that creation
and science attest to the reality of what God tells us in Genesis.

That reality would involve a spirit being creating the world in seven days, making man and woman in his image, then letting a rogue angel infiltrate the garden of eden disguised as a talking serpent, urging Eve to partake of the forbidden fruit that God had so helpfully installed as a test to whether his subjects would obey him, which she and Adam then do, with God casting them out as a result.

And we think the Scientologists are crazy.

Related post:
Pharyngula - The Creation Museum

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Monday, May 28, 2007 

Derogating from the human race.

It's difficult to think of a darker weekend for civil liberties than the one this country has just experienced. It began with Reid informing us that he might well derogate from the ECHR to put a halt to his and future home secretaries' embarrassment, went further downhill with the news that the Home Office wants even those caught dropping litter to be placed on the DNA database, and fell into a trough with Blair's appalling article in the Sunday Times alongside the irredeemable plan to bring back the "sus" laws.

Blair's article itself is breathtaking, both in his apparent complete ignorance of civil liberties, which can only be described as willful, as we know full well that he is not an idiot, and in its delusional qualities. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is either Blair or his government's fault. He calls for consensus at the same time as he decries the opposition for daring to vote against his plans for 90 days, even though he offered a week-by-week court hearing throughout that time! How could they not agree with such a safeguard?

This and a closing comment though have to be the best/worst parts:

We have chosen as a society to put the civil liberties of the suspect, even if a foreign national, first. I happen to believe this is misguided and wrong.

Blair appears to be suggesting that we ought to be especially suspicious of foreign nationals, as they seemingly don't deserve the same presumption of innocence until proven guilty as the rest of us. If Blair had used a similar method of reasoning when he first met George Bush then he might not now be quite possibly the most hated man in Britain, but that perhaps sums up the whole way he's gone about things. The other glaring point here is that anyone can be a suspect, and indeed, if the government has its way, then we probably all will be suspects rather than citizens. For the prime minister of this country to suggest that it's "misguided and wrong" to put the civil liberties of a suspect, not someone who's been convicted of any crime before anything else is frightening. While he talks of sending signals, something which Not Saussure expands upon, is he not putting a far more dangerous message across, one which suggests that we're moving beyond that old fashioned idea of everyone having the same rights as everyone else? It's the talk of someone who has no respect for the values which he and others in his party want to inculcate in the public, of fairness, of equality.

It's perhaps this though which explains exactly where Blair has reached in his retreat from reality:

I was stopped by someone the other week who said it was not surprising there was so much terrorism in the world when we invaded their countries (meaning Afghanistan and Iraq). No wonder Muslims felt angry.

When he had finished, I said to him: tell me exactly what they feel angry about. We remove two utterly brutal and dictatorial regimes; we replace them with a United Nations-supervised democratic process and the Muslims in both countries get the chance to vote, which incidentally they take in very large numbers. And the only reason it is difficult still is because other Muslims are using terrorism to try to destroy the fledgling democracy and, in doing so, are killing fellow Muslims.

The myopia of which is pretty astonishing, although it's the usual argument from Blair of it all being the fault of terrorists. He'd rather not discuss the myriad of failures, the decision to disband the Iraqi army, the de-Ba'athification order, the looting, the brutality of Abu Ghraib, the horrifying sieges of Fallujah, the endemic corruption of the reconstruction contracts, the bloody disaster of being unable to impose security, the ignorance which meant that the possibility of sectarian conflict was dismissed, and most of all, the obeisance to American power without having any influence in how that power was actually wielded. All of that pales into insignificance in Blair's mind when compared to how the terrorists are the only ones who've stopped Iraq and Afghanistan from turning into democratic paradises envied the Middle East over.

It's really come to something when the Sun, of all papers, is urging caution over the proposed "stop and question" powers thought up in a blaze of brainstorming, either by Peter Hain, who suggested the powers currently in effect in Northern Ireland be extended or Tony McNulty, another exasperating Home Office minister, depending on who you believe. We're told that no one was apparently consulted about this at all, in typical leak to a Sunday newspaper fashion, but at least we can depend on Hazel Blears to instantly think it's a wonderful idea. How the sus laws could possibly be any use against terrorists isn't explained, in an age when "intelligence" is the all important factor, but it's the kind of thinking of a government that doesn't think that having a CCTV camera on every corner is intrusive, that having the largest number of DNA profiles on a database isn't something to be ashamed of but instead worth boasting about, and where civil liberties should come second to the rights of suspects. It's the image of a society where fear is winning over hope, where the government is just as guilty of perpetuating it as any tabloid or terrorist group.

Related post:
Nether-World - Ihre Papieren, Bitte!

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Trial by Fleet Street part deux.

Isn't it strange how the Portuguese police, who up till now have been loath to reveal almost any details about the case at all, have apparently leaked that Robert Murat, the only "suspect" in the investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann, had child pornography on his computer? It's also odd, at least in a coincidental sense, that his ex-wife when questioned yesterday by the Sunday Moron about whether he'd indulged in the use of online pornography said that she'd never caught him looking at it.

Don't read too much into that though, because the Scum has some other source material for you to consider in the hunt for a witch. According to Murat's ex-boss, he was "a huge porn fan, addicted to women." Not only that, but he apparently terrified a fellow female employee by stalking her, and all the women hated him. Oh, and he suspected he had an "unhealthy" interest in children. No doubt he had al-Qaida sympathies as well. Last but not least, the Scum reveals that his website viewing included sites containing bestiality. Whether he's additionally into scat, hentai or is sadly not forthcoming.

But wait! Does your child look anything at all like Madeleine? Then you too can probably get into the tabloid of your choice! One family contacted the Scum after their daughter was nearly snatched:

Portuguese Lina Santos said: “When I saw Maddie’s photo I shivered. She is so similar to my daughter Carolina. They are like doubles.”

Except err, her daughter has very dark blonde hair, and doesn't looking anything like Madeleine at all. Apart from that, they are indeed like identical twins! Coming back to Murat's ex-wife, the Sunday Moron also seems a remarkable resemblance:

THE startling likeness between Madeleine McCann and Robert Murat's daughter hits you at once.

As little Sofia Murat stares into the camera wearing a yellow "Madeleine ribbon", she bears a haunting resemblance to the missing four-year-old.

As the photograph clearly demonstrates:

I bet no one's ever seen them in the same room, right?

Meanwhile, the News of the World is embarking on an advertising campaign across Europe, which also happens to mention Madeleine, or rather Maddie, as only the newspapers have ever referred to her.

The whole point of every aspect of the search for Madeleine escapes me. She's now been missing for over three weeks, and any sightings have completely and predictably dried up. Rather than helping to find her, it has to be considered if the high profile campaign has in fact made certain that whomever's taken her will never let her out of wherever it is she's being held, if she isn't already dead. If you were plastered over every billboard in the country with wanted signs, and being talked about in newspapers and media across an entire continent, the obvious thing would be to lay low for a while. Still though the torrent of coverage pours forth, with a DVD being played at the Championship play-off match for reasons known only to the organisers, and some sad lonely individual setting up a meeting point for other sad lonely individuals on Second Life to pretend to pray about a girl in the real world who's disappeared.

To begin with, the coverage was the equivalent of emotional pornography, voyeurism dressed up as empathy or concern that this could happen to any one of us. Now it's simply coverage for coverage sake, still designed primarily to benefit the sales of newspapers and viewing figures, but without the pretense of offering any kind of support, like a relationship in which the romance and lust have been replaced by familiarity and the slow gnawing feeling of tedium. All that's left is to speculate, draw conclusions and slowly but surely forget.

Update: Seeing as this page is being linked to again by, here's an repost of a post I've already made on his amazing "psychic ability":

This blog has had the dubious honour of being featured on's page devoted to Madeleine McCann. Much like Diane Lazarus, Brian is a fraud, a liar and a charlatan, preying on the distraught relatives of missing people's vulnerability and desire to believe someone who says they can help them. An example of how he makes it look as if he's predicted something before it's happened is explained here and here. He is additionally debunked here, and allegations of how he has cheated people out of money are here. Finally, he's let have it by various posters on the James Randi forums over his lies about Madeleine.

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Fascists or Islamists rise against British oppression?

There's much comment and confusion over just which organisation is behind a protest being planned for outside Downing Street on the 15th of June against "British Oppression". The site is written in the familiar radical Islamist screed, leading Pickled Politics to originally allege that it was the work of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, only for that to be dismissed when they personally denied being behind it. Faisal Haque, writing on the Telegraph blog, believes it to be the work of the successor organisation to Al-Muhajiroun, which currently appears to be Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, which may well be right. There are however some discrepancies.

The whois for lists the owner as:

Faruk Miah ( +44.07745 388 220 Fax: +. 24 Little Green Terrace, White Road, Manchester, Manchester M90 9JH GB

24 Little Green Terrace doesn't exist. Nor does White Road, or the postcode, M90 9JH. Nothing particularly strange in the whois information being false, considering the one for this very website is also an obvious fabrication, and it may be potentially clutching at straws, but what does Little Green remind you of? A certain far-right US blog, perhaps?

The potential demonstration has certainly riled up the fascist filth, that's for sure. As Postman Patel notes, Stormfront currently has a 22-page thread discussing the finer points of either staging a counter-demonstration, or signing a petition urging the authorities to ban it. The remnants of Combat 18 have also noticed, as has the BNP itself, which has sent a letter to an unnamed police officer complaining about the posters advertising the demo being pasted up in certain areas of Birmingham, although it has personally cautioned against any "official" counter-demonstration. (They also raise a legitimate point: has whomever's behind the protest already gained permission from the Met for such a demonstration within the "restricted zone"?) The National Front has no such qualms, to judge by this posting. A self-proclaimed "radical Muslim" who blogged about the demonstration found himself descended upon by various fascists and one or two Harry's Placers, although perhaps more interesting or predictable is that he claims to blog for human rights but is virulently homophobic, something he has in common with the very fascists he loathes.

Is it possible that this is a ploy by some far-righters to draw in radical Muslims, and then either start a riot or simply try and get a repeat of the infamous demonstration which took place outside the Danish embassy? Or are some of us simply reading too much into it? After all, the Islamist, the magazine apparently published by the remnants of Al-Muhajiroun, links to the "British Oppression" website.

One thing is for certain. The very last thing that we need right now, with both Blair and Reid proposing even tougher anti-terrorism laws is for a similar demonstration for the Motoons one to take place, or even worse, for there to be possible confrontation in Whitehall between fascists and Islamists. As the BNP's own propaganda states:
Let them protest against Blair and Co. in London and everywhere else for that matter and get ready to count the number of new BNP votes we will gain for each second of television broadcasting, every column inch of newspaper reporting and every photograph taken of some cleric calling for death to the West!

It could of course turn out that no one bothers to turn up; the Danish embassy protest at most was 500 strong, and both groups tend to be all mouth and no trousers. Nevertheless, the only ones to profit will be those who want the Muslim community to be even more isolated, attacked and loathed, and that additionally fits the agenda of both.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007 

Just two piles of bodies, one Israeli, one Palestinian.

A Palestinian boy stands in front of a burning truck, during the recent in-fighting in the Gaza strip.

The weariness concerning the continuing conflict in Gaza between militants firing their rudimentary Qassam rockets and Israel responding with the overwhelming force of its hellfire missiles is hard to get past. Always beneath the surface of the on-off confrontation between the resistance groups and that of the IDF is a grim calculus of death; 40 Palestinians have now died in air strikes since Hamas and others stepped-up the firing of rockets into the towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, while a single Israeli woman was killed when a Qassam landed on top of a car. 11 other Israelis have been wounded in the last two weeks, while since the Qassams were first launched in 2001 12 Israelis have lost their lives to them.

The figures surely tell their own story. However much pain can be inflicted by Hamas and others on Israel, they only get it returned to them with far more vengeance than they could ever manage. Since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, over 1,000 Israelis have been killed, while over 4,400 Palestinians have died. A similar tale occurred during last year's Israel-Lebanon-Hizbullah war, when over 1,000 Lebanese civilians died while only 43 Israelis did, a battle in which Hizbullah was almost universally seen as the victor, despite the casualties.

The higher than usual firing of Qassam rockets came at a time when Gaza had again became an open battlefield between Hamas and Fatah gunmen, continuing their power struggle which has simmered ever since Hamas won the elections in January of last year, triggering the economic boycott which has left the Palestinians ever more cut-off and reliant on help from such well-intentioned fair-weather friends as the Iranians. The tactic seems to have worked in stopping the in-fighting, only to heighten the carnage caused by the predictable response from Israel. Both sides have a contempt for human life that helps them justify their respective responses; each attack is a response, every missile an act of self-defense. The absolute stupidity which keeps Hamas and others firing their pathetic rockets is almost impossible to countenance, bringing only death and destruction in their wake, while doing nothing to help bring an end to the occupation and the creation of a Palestine state any closer. It's easy to blame the Israelis for the way their missiles kill the innocent while also targeting militants, but the Qassams, however technologically backward, and psychologically rather than physically damaging, could not be tolerated by any state. The response to them may be disproportionate, but few would deny them the right to attack those launching the homemade missiles into Israel. It might be considered collective punishment, which is illegal, but no one's really prepared to raise their voices that loudly about it.

This bloody, tedious stalemate has become one of the defining features of the Israel-Palestine conflict. However often both sides reach out with apparent olive branches, Hamas doing so early this year, when one of its militant leaders admitted that Israel was a reality, in complete contradiction with its anti-semitic charter which calls for its destruction, and Olmert recently, when he gave a cautious welcome to the Arab Peace Initiative, while still refusing to discuss the matter of the right of return for refugees, the bloodshed seems to inexorably continue with no end in sight. Welcome developments, like that of Palestinian women who bravely confronted Israeli soldiers last year in peaceful, unarmed direct action protests, which if taken further could have taken the gun out of Palestinian resistance, seem to have come to a halt.

As ever, there seems very little to be optimistic about. Hamas continues to hold the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who before long will have been in captivity for a year, while Israel continues its own raids on Palestinian politicians and others; many of those held during last summer's incursions into Gaza are still in custody, while Nasser al-Shaer, regarded as one of the most moderate members of Hamas, was again arrested, having been detained for a time last year. The Israeli government itself is still mired in the aftermath of the heavy criticism handed down in the Winograd inquest into the Lebanon war, Olmert and Peretz both on their way out, Kadima likely to be replaced by Likud and Netanyahu at an eventual election.

Where the battle being fought between Fatah al-Islam and the Lebanese army fits into all this is anyone's guess. A radical Islamist group which apparently shares the same Salafist ideology as al-Qaida, it seems to have sprouted almost out of thin air, leading many to wonder just who's backing it and why. The usual claims that it's all Syria's doing, despite the Syrians being diametrically opposed to takfirists, even if it might let some of them cross into Iraq over its vast border, don't seem to stand up, while Seymour Hersh has alleged that Saudi Arabia, much more sympathetic towards Sunni radicals as long as they don't attempt to overthrow their own corrupt monarchy, was funding the group as a bulwark against any eventual attempts by Hizbullah to gain further power in Lebanon. In any case, the fears that the Nahr al-Bared camp would be turned into a bloodbath through indiscriminate fighting between al-Islam and the army appear to have been thankfully proved unfounded: most of the refugees in the camp have now fled, while a tense truce is holding, although this may only be a lull while the army restocks. While sympathy for al-Islam was always low, the tactics of the Lebanese army, using the same shelling methods which the Israelis have in the past subjected Gaza to, could have raised tensions in other refugee camps in Lebanon.

The solution to all of this also remains the same as ever. The Palestinian groups, or at the very least, Hamas and Fatah, should announce unilateral ceasefires. Hamas needs to recognise Israel's right to exist; it doesn't have to renounce violence yet, which would likely be too far a step all at once. In response, Israel should stop all building works on settlements within the West Bank, and begin negotiations on the question of prisoners, either to be swapped or released or otherwise, which could then be built on into negotiations on a state in itself. The populations of both Israel and Palestine always agree on one thing: both desperately want peace. It's just some of their politicians at the moment which don't.

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Find Felicity Jane Lowde.

Despite Felicity Jane Lowde (one of her many paranoid blogs can be awed over here) being found guilty of harassing Rachel North, she is now apparently living rough in London and continuing her stalking campaign using internet cafes. There is a warrant out for her arrest. The photograph in question is 10 years old; she has apparently aged considerably since it was taken, and has put on weight. If you see her, it's advised you don't approach her, but instead phone the police immediately. Hopefully we can get her the treatment she needs before she ends up causing further misery to others she thinks have slighted her.

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Which kind of God hater are you?

Via D-Notice:

Scientific Atheist


Spiritual Atheist


Militant Atheist


Angry Atheist


Apathetic Atheist






What kind of atheist are you?
created with

Turns out I'm a nerd rather than a hippy, then.

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Friday, May 25, 2007 

Leaving no stone unturned?

Retired Rambler asks some pertinent questions over just who's looking after the Find Madeleine fund. According to the Times the fund has been denied charity status, on the grounds that it isn't for the public good, meaning that tax will have to be paid.

Despite there being little to no transparency, the fund according to the website now stands at over £300,000. Would it be a low blow to suggest that it might be worth keeping a watchful eye on just how the money is eventually accounted for?

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Scum-watch: Lie after lie after lie.

Even by the Scum's standards, today's attack on the Human Rights Act, written by Tim Spanton, is a lie infested spectacular which could only have been put together by someone ordered to write a hatchet job.

Justice failed by act of folly


THE Human Rights Act has made a a laughing stock of British justice in some high-profile cases.

Serial killer Dennis Nilsen was allowed to have hardcore gay porn in his cell — after he argued a ban breached his freedom of expression.

One of the most well-known myths about the HRA. From the review of the Implementation of the Human Rights Act:

The most notable example in this category is the application made by Denis Nilsen in 2001 to challenge a decision of the Prison Governor to deny him access to pornographic material. The case is now often cited as a leading example of a bad decision made as a result of the Human Rights Act. In fact it failed at the very first hurdle.


Men and women can simulate sex with rubber dolls in a street because Article Ten of the Human Rights Convention gives freedom of expression “without interference”.

Err? The first question has to be why anyone would, and secondly, if the police received complaints about such a thing happening, they'd be more than within their rights in ordering the couple to move on, and could quite easily make an arrest either for breaching the peace or for outraging public decency.

Hundreds of schools dropped detention four years ago after a girl claimed it violated her rights.

This is presumably a reference to Freya McDonald from Tomnavoulin in Morayshire, who back in December 2002 was apparently prepared to sue her local education authority over the number of times she had been held in detention over what she and her parents described as trivial offences. And that's it. I can find no further articles to suggest that the case even went ahead. Searching Google for McDonald only turns up the same articles and one which is clearly not to do with her, and to judge by the Guardian's extensive education archive, detentions seem to have remained completely unaffected.

Derbyshire Police refused to release photos of two murderers who escaped jail last year — for fear of affecting their human rights.

The exact quote from the Derbyshire police spokesperson was:

“When making a decision to release any photograph, police forces must take into account numerous factors including the public interest test, whether there is a strong local policing purpose and, of course, the Human Rights and Data Protection Acts."

Which the tabloids predictably took as an attempt to blame the Human Rights Act, which it most likely was because of Derbyshire police's own incompetence. Rather than attacking the police, they instead took it out on the law which had nothing to do with it. Derbyshire later issued a corrected statement:

'This decision was based on the fact that there was no policing purpose to be served by the release of these photographs in Derbyshire, as inquiries indicated that Croft and Nixon had fled the county and posed no risk to Derbyshire residents.

'Derbyshire Constabulary would like to strongly point out that the human rights of the individuals in question had no bearing and were not the reason the pictures were not released.

'In making this decision the rights and safety of the public will always come before those of convicted offenders.'

Fat paedophile Andrew Baldwin was allowed to use a SCHOOL gym unsupervised last year during class time — despite being convicted of sexually abusing three girls aged 12 and 13. Forest Of Dean Council were worried about breaching his human

Full article here.

The headmaster told me it was out of his hands because the solicitors say a ban would breach this paedophile's human rights.

Then it's time to get some new solicitors. There is absolutely nothing in the Human Rights Act which would stop the school from banning the man from school premises, and seeing as he's been convicted of molestation he should be banned from coming into contact with children in any case. I'm at a complete loss to even understand which article the solicitors thinking banning Baldwin would breach; Article 8, which guarantees the right to a private life, but not if Baldwin represents a threat, which he does, or Article 11, which guarantees the right to freedom of assembly but which again has the same caveats as 8. It's complete lunacy, based on ignorance of the act rather than it being the fault of the law itself.


Prisoners in Scotland are set to receive £1,000 compo each because they could not vote in this month’s local elections.

This is the only one that has even a grain of truth in it. The ECHR ruled back in 2005 that denying prisoners the right to vote was in breach of the charter - and since then the government has done absolutely nothing to change the law. It has to be said that this is about the only case where I disagree with the ECHR: you go to prison, you lose your right to vote, simple as. Quoting the Herald article:

In a ruling that decided Scottish prisoners must no longer be denied the vote, the Court of Session said the election would be "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) because the UK currently operates a blanket ban on prisoners voting.

At least one law firm acting for prisoners now intends to seek an interim interdict against Scottish ministers to halt the elections. If they fail, lawyers intend to seek compensation instead. Council elections due on May 3 could also be affected.

Which obviously either didn't go ahead or failed. The £1,000 figure comes from another ruling which considered that adequate compensation for being denied the vote, but in order to even have a chance of getting it, prisoners' would have to sue again, and there's no sign that any of them either has, or if they have, they're no nearer being able to actually claim. It's another scare story that isn't worth worrying about until it happens.

The simplest amount of research on any of these supposed "acts of folly" would have shown almost all of them up to be nonsense. On any quality newspaper a sub-editor would have had to do just that, but the Sun either wants to deliberately mislead or just lets any old crap be published without it being checked, ala Rochelle Holness and Muslim yobs.

On to the Sun's actual article:

Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair confirmed the Human Rights Act was to blame for tying his officers’ hands.

He said: “We enforce the law as it is and we will now do our best to find these people. But the police service would always be interested in a better system than one that is as imperfect as this.”

Not only is it nothing to do with the police's hands being tied by the HRA, when it's the failure of the government to either allow these men to be prosecuted or to put into place the legislation necessary so the evidence against them can be used, but Blair clearly doesn't blame the HRA but actually the current laws.

Control orders were introduced as a fudge to counter human rights objections to locking up terror suspects without trial.

Human rights objections being the House of Lords ruling that indefinitely locking up foreign terror suspects without trial was, to quote Lord Hoffman, 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. That is the true measure of what terrorism may achieve. It is for Parliament to decide whether to give the terrorists such a victory.

Back to the Scum:

Yesterday cops refused to name or release photos of the three other suspects on the run — to protect their HUMAN RIGHTS. Two are from London and one from Manchester.

Mr Cameron said: “It is crazy the rights of criminals are put above the safety of law-abiding citizens.”

Yet another complete lie. None of the men under control orders have ever been officially named, although we do know the identities of some of them because of the way they've tried to publicise their own cases. If the government wanted to release their identities they could, in the same way as Reid went to court in order to reveal the details of the three who've absconded. They've decided not to do so, for reasons known only to themselves.

Finally the Scum's leader:

THE Human Rights Act must go.

And we should rewrite the European Convention on Human Rights.

Seeing as the Human Rights Act and the ECHR is one and the same thing, the Sun doesn't even seem to know what it's talking about. The ECHR doesn't need rewriting, it needs respecting.

The human rights of the majority must come first. Not those of the terrorists hell-bent on mass murder.

Because the HRA doesn't protect the rights of everyone you see, just the terrorists'. The entire argument being put forward for ripping up the HRA is a false dichotomy.

Since then ministers have come up with pathetically weak Control Orders. We are all at risk as a result.

Which is patently untrue as only those on the weakest control orders have escaped. Those who carried out 7/7 and the others who have been charged with plotting other attacks have never been under what amounts to house arrest.

Tony Blair has tried to lock suspects up for 90 days without charge. He is right to be frustrated that MPs reduced it to just 28 days.

Yet there’s no getting away from it. Suspected terrorists flee the country as ministers fiddle.

Gordon Brown has the perfect opportunity to wipe the slate clean.

He takes the seals of office on June 27. We hope he takes action on June 28.

We have human rights — to life.

There we are then - 90 days detention and ripping up our own rights will save us from the evil terrorists. In order to stop what are "fascistic" acts of violence, according to John Reid, we have to move ever closer to fascism ourselves. Those who want to carry out such acts of barbarism already seem to have won the argument.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007 

Blaming everyone except themselves.

Beneath the initial embarrassment for the government of 3 further "terrorism suspects" breaching their control orders and going on the run, there must almost certainly be a degree of relief and even delight. How else could those dead dogs, Reid and Blair, with their lickspittles still sniffing and even licking their fetid, decomposing backsides have otherwise managed to come out with yet another attack on judges, the opposition and the "hated" Human Rights Act?

Despite the attempts by the gruesome twosome and "Sir" Michael White to pin the blame elsewhere, the real reason control orders have both failed and been illiberal in equal measure is because they were designed to do just that. Unwilling to introduce wiretap evidence because the security services are worried it might expose their techniques, despite the fact that intercept evidence is admissible in nearly every other European country and in the United States, it's instead left some of those who were initially detained illegally in Belmarsh living a Kafkaesque nightmare in which they're heavily restricted in what they can do, yet they can't be told the reasons for why such conditions have been imposed upon them in the first place. While this is abuse of power at one end, at the other end has been the apparent refusal to prosecute those who aren't considered a direct threat to this country, but who just might have designs on going to fight in others. This is presumably for the same reasons as the former, except because there is no apparent risk of them hurting the public in this country the control order system is instead only applied much more lightly, giving those on them more than enough opportunity to go on the run and avoid the tedium of having to go through a daily ritual of having to go to a police station or phone a private monitoring company.

Lord Carlile, in his role of monitoring the affects of anti-terrorism acts, has been doing a tour of studios suggesting that the intelligence against the three men is "solid". It's apparently not so solid though that they know just what country the three were apparently intending to go and fight in; everyone has been suitably vague about that, which raises the question of whether they're not letting on for security reasons, or the possibility that the intercepted conversations, whether they took place online or over the telephone were similarly short on details. That they weren't even considered dangerous enough to be electronically tagged ought to be enough to tell you that they might not have been as deadly as we're being told.

For the government to now turn around and blame everyone other than itself for the difficulties is hypocrisy of the highest order. When control orders were first mooted, they were warned by the opposition parties, judges and Liberty that they were likely to be found incompatible with the ECHR, and lo and behold, some of them have been. The government approach since September the 11th has not been to work within the boundaries of the law, which it knows all too well about, but to breach them and hope it gets away with it. This has resulted in it losing judicial reviews time and time again, which incidentally if the government really wanted to challenge it could just ignore, as they are not binding, and then blaming the judges for simply doing the job they were appointed to do. They and the Human Rights Act make for convenient whipping boys, covering up for their own breaches of the laws they put into place and the arrogance with which they have broken them. Even when a judge suggested that one of those being restricted by a control order should be prosecuted, John Reid ignored the ruling entirely and imposed another order which was slightly less restrictive. One has to wonder if this is because they fear having the subsequent trials end in acquittal and humiliation, ala the non-existent ricin case.

The government's solution to all this then isn't to recognise that the "light touch" control orders are useless and that those on them should be prosecuted, but rather to impose ever tougher measures and potentially tear up the HRA in the process. This might involve "derogating", in other words becoming the only country in Europe to be so authoritarian and illiberal that it needs to step outside of a convention that has worked for 57 years, and continues to protect both the weak and the voiceless, or, as the BBC puts it:

But he added he would prefer to develop "an understanding" across Europe to "build on" the European Convention of Human Rights to reflect the current problems.

Except there's no chance of reaching an understanding when everyone apart from us is managing to stay within the bounds of the ECHR, and by "build on" Reid means gut. He recently argued that human rights law needs to be rewritten to protect people from terrorists, when what he really wanted to say was that human rights law needs to be rewritten so people can be locked up for 24 hours a day on his say so on the back of the same kind of intelligence which told us there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and a cyanide bomb in a house in Forest Gate.

Everyone's a winner then baby, except for, oh, all of us other than the government. Three men that might just be a threat to British troops somewhere on the planet go missing, the government gets to blame everyone that's ever so much as raised a squeak against their attacks on civil liberties, Gordon Brown gets an opportunity to be "tough on terror", which should play well with the Sun, and the pesky human rights law which have so affected the fight against extremism might well get thrown out the window. Not a bad day's work for a home secretary on his way out, leaving us with a legacy just as bad as that of his master and political soul mate.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - Michael White talks rubbish
Craig Murray - More Right Wing Guardian propaganda

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Racist scum act like racist scum.

Both Bob Piper and Ministry of Truth cover the typical sort of behaviour that can be expected of BNP councillors - Simon Smith and Carl Butler, both on Sandwell council, walked out of the meeting when the new mayor, Gurcharan Singh Sidhu, a British citizen for 44 years and a councillor for twenty, was elected, on the spurious grounds that the Magna Carta bans "foreigners" from public office. Nothing to do with Sidhu having brown skin and being a Sikh, then.

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007 

Trial by Fleet Street.

Private Eye on the media's witch-hunt of Robert Murat. Click to enlarge. In case you can't read the last bit on the bottom right, it says:

"-- The Telegraph, which nevertheless printed the pictures in question in a double-page spread, 18 May.

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Taking our women, jobs and benefits!

Last night, faced with the latest statistics that showed that immigration from the eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004 has likely peaked, I wondered just how the tabloids were going to be able to spin the figures into showing that the Poles etc and now the Romanians and Bulgarians are still flooding in. Rather than making a big thing of them as usual, would they simply drop them back onto page 94? Would they blatantly lie, as the Mail has previously done? Or would they come up with a new statistic to be outraged about?

They decided upon the latter. The Express, in full crusader battle cry, screams 92,000 EASTERN EUROPEANS MILK OUR BENEFITS. For once, they're telling the truth but as usual they're being wholly disingenuous. What the Express (and the Mail) have done is taken all the number of benefits claims made by migrants, for jobseeker's allowance, income support, state pension credit, child benefit and tax credits, and added them all together. The Mail has kindly provided the table below which shows what's being claimed and what it isn't.

As you can see, the numbers claiming benefits for being out of work are still so minuscule as to be almost entirely negligible. The Express and Mail have instead thrown their toys out of the pram about the numbers claiming child benefit and tax credits, which on the surface do look large, leading the papers to claim that this is adding up to around £100m in benefits going to migrants. What neither paper bothers to tell you though is that the accession statistics (PDF) also tell you how many national insurance numbers have been allocated since 2004 for employment purposes, through which they'll be paying tax. These stand at 610,751. That means that over 500,000 migrants are taking nothing out while putting far, far more back in than the others are claiming back. And anyway, why shouldn't those 90,000 migrants that are paying tax just the same as the rest of us are not be allowed to claim the same benefits that we're entitled to?

Both papers, trying desperately to keep their readers believing that nothing has changed, quote "Sir" Andrew Green of Migration Watch:

"These figures confirm that massive levels of immigration from Eastern Europe continue un­abated. It is even more vital to reduce immigration from the rest of the world if our public services are to be able to cope."

Really? Here's the applicants by quarter of application from January 2005 to March 2007:

As the graph shows, the numbers applying to come here from the countries which joined the EU in 2004 for was in actual fact at one of its lowest levels in the last two years last quarter. It's true that the numbers might yet go up in the next two quarters, with students and others coming here in the summer months mainly to help in the agriculture sector, but otherwise the figures look to be broadly in line with what's been the case since 2004. Nowhere in either of the Mail or Express articles is the very legitimate point made that many of those who have come here since 2004 will have long returned home; both prefer to perpetuate the myth that the 630,000 that have registered since then are all still here. Even that isn't good enough for the Mail, which adds the following qualifier:

But officials admit this could be the tip of the iceberg, as the figures do not include the self-employed, spouses, children or those who do not bother to register.

The Express, always trying to out do the Mail, even pulls a figure out of its ass to make the same point:

But the figure is likely to be closer to 840,000 once the self-employed are included.

Strangely, neither the Mail or Express dwells long on the number that have applied to come here from Bulgaria and Romania (PDF with statistics in full here.). The Mail instead focuses bizarrely on the fact that some have specified that they're "circus artistes", something which FCC goes into further detail on. The Express does much the same. Could this possibly be something to do with the fact that, as the Guardian reports, Migration Watch confidently predicted, with the Express and Mail repeating the claim, that 300,000 Romanians and Bulgarians would come here within 20 months? If the numbers continue at around the current rate, it will be much closer to 60,000, and seeing as the government has pledged to limit numbers to 20,000 a year, it's unlikely to even be that high. As for the Scum, which recklessly scaremongered and lied last year about Romanians and Bulgarians bringing HIV/AIDS with them, for which it was reprimanded by the PCC, it either printed yesterday's online report in today's paper or simply didn't bother.

The tactics of the Mail and Express are, much like Blair, to obfuscate rather than tell the truth. When reporting the actuality means contradicting their own prejudices and potentially informing their readers that the sky isn't about to fall in, they instead have to shift the truth around a bit. When the government does this, it's rightly called spin, and confidence in politicians has plummeted as a result. The difference is that the right-wing tabloids do this every day, and while public confidence in them is also low, they still have the same impact on government policy and on the public mindset that they've always had, and unlike our politicians, we can't vote these bastards out.

Update: Madeleine Bunting, in one of her rare decent pieces, makes much the same points.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007 

Iranians under the bed.

One of the children killed by a car bomb in a market in the Shia Amil district of Baghdad.

Other than just completely making shit up, for which see the post below, the other journalistic trick when writing an article which can't be in any way verified is to attribute the entire thing to either a "source" or to "officials". This is the sort of thing that Con Coughlin and the Telegraph have previously delighted in doing when it's come to smearing Iran, but for some reason the normally quite sane Simon Tisdall has been given the front page of the Grauniad to reiterate everything that was whispered in his ear by "US officials":

Iran is secretly forging ties with al-Qaida elements and Sunni Arab militias in Iraq in preparation for a summer showdown with coalition forces intended to tip a wavering US Congress into voting for full military withdrawal, US officials say.

This is all very convenient. The surge, while reducing deaths in Baghdad, has merely shifted the carnage in Iraq out into the provinces surrounding the capital. It's done very little even then to stop the takfiris in the "Islamic State of Iraq" from committing mass murder in the Shia marketplaces, as demonstrated by today's latest outrage. If the situation isn't any better by September, when General Petraeus is to make his report on whether he's managed to stem the violence, then the momentum towards withdrawal from Iraq is likely to become inexorable. To blame the whole failure on Iran must be very tempting.

It's incredibly difficult to come up with any reason why Iran would want to further arm the jihadists in Iraq, considering that the US is going to leave eventually whatever happens. Once the US is gone, the likes of the "Islamic State of Iraq" are unlikely to just decide that their blessed jihad is over; the movement of al-Qaida in Iraq from being the pet project of al-Zarqawi to a "coalition" of fighters in the Mujahideen Shura Council to a self-declared country with the Islamic state suggests that they consider this to be their best chance at starting the caliphate which they've had long, priapic wet dreams about. The threat that such an armed, experienced and deadly militia could pose to Shia Iran, whom Zarqawi condemned as non-Muslims, would be far greater than that from a group such as MEK, allegedly now being funded by the Americans themselves.

There's little doubt that Iran is funding and possibly even training Shia militias, but this has long been known about and almost accepted in a perverse way. Ghaith Abdul-Ahad reported at the weekend from Basra that the Iranians were openly selling the Mahdi army weapons. The British forces there seem to have given up on countering both the influence of the militias and of Iran, knowing that there's very little that they can do in practice about either. We've come to the conclusion that the best thing is just to get out, and the decision to blame Iran for anything and everything in the region when we in the first place removed the counter-balance of Saddam is just an attempt to cover our asses over the inevitable criticism once it happens.

None of this explains why Tisdall would still write such a load of unmitigated garbage, although the Telegraph is also at it today, additionally reporting that Tehran is arming the Taliban. If they were, it would make even less sense than arming al-Qaida in Iraq; they supported the removal of the Taliban in the first place, and quite why after years of following that same policy they'd turn full circle is only explained in the sense of trying to further undermine the US presence in the region. Iran's current strength is a result of the vacuum left in Iraq, and that would be deeply affected enough by an unstable Iraq, let alone a similarly in turmoil Afghanistan.

The only conclusion that can be come to is that all this briefing is just another phase in the propaganda war which some journalists are more than happy to take part in. Iran's holding all the cards, and if we're going to lose face, we might as well do it while demonising them in the process. In the long run, such a strategy is only going to do damage to the opposition in Iran to Ahmadinejhad, further uniting the country around a leader that is increasingly seen as a failure domestically.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - WTF is going on at the Guardian?
Dilip Hiro - Briefing encounter

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Taking our women and taking our jobs.

At the weekend the Mail on Sunday found itself facing the full ire of bloggers after it printed a hatchet job on Owen Barder, a Labour blogger who has since taken up a £100,000 job in the civil service. While that article was full of lies and distortions, nothing in it even comes close to two recent articles about immigration.

On the 25th of April, the Mail claimed that the number of migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania, who joined the EU at the beginning of the year, had tripled compared to the same number who had came here in the same time period in the previous year. The Mail's figure was that 60,000 had came in the three months to February. As Five Chinese Crackers pointed out at the time:

What the paper has done is take the number of visitors from EU25 countries (pre-January EU countries) and subtract it from the number from EU27 countries (post-January EU countries) to find out the total from the two new EU countries. So, the number of people visiting has trebled.

It got the figures in the first place from the Overseas Travel and Tourism First Release (PDF). Yes, that's right, these numbers weren't from any sort of official statistics but in fact from data collected on the numbers of tourists, making them completely and utterly meaningless. That didn't stop them from starting the article with "[T]he number of migrant workers from Bulgaria and Romania in the UK has tripled since they joined the European Union" though, which was a blatant lie.

The Mail wasn't satisfied with just 20,000 a month, which still seems relatively paltry compared to the number of Poles who've came here to work. A further sexing up of the figures was necessary. On the 10th of May, the Mail's social affairs correspondent Steve Doughty breathlessly reported:

The number of visitors from Eastern Europe has risen by a quarter since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, a Government survey has revealed.

The first count taken since the beginning of the year shows there were around 50,000 arrivals each month from the two new members.

The count, at ports and airports, suggests that warnings of a new flood of immigrants could be coming true.

Again, Five Chinese Crackers took the Mail to task:

The actual number of extra visitors from the two new EU countries so far since accession in January compared to last year is just 29,000. Yes, the Mail's original 'Migrant numbers triple' story claimed a rise from 23,000 in three months of 2006 to 60,000 in 2007, but it was using the figures of December 2006 to February 2007, including one month before accession. The more recent figures show that the number of visitors from January to March 2006 was 31,000, and in the same period of 2007, the figure is 60,000. So, the actual number of extra visitors from the two new EU countries in March 2007 is around 10,000. The Mail implies that the accession of the two new countries is responsible for a rise of 50,000. Does the Mail lie much?

Do bears keep Andrex handy in case they get caught short in the woods?

Today the official quarterly migration figures were released by the Home Office. Have we indeed been flooded by vampires and gypsies?

Err, no:

Only 8,000 Romanians and Bulgarians came to work in Britain in the first three months after their countries joined the European Union on January 1, according to official figures published today.

The Home Office figures show that 10,418 Romanians and Bulgarians applied for permission to work in Britain between January and March this year, of which 7,935 were granted. The figures include 2,660 who registered as self-employed and 200 who described themselves as "self-sufficient". About two-thirds were Romanian.

In other words, the Mail was either out by 52,000, going by its first report, or by 142,000, if you believed Steve Doughty. This isn't just being slightly out; these are massively erroneous articles that will have only encouraged the belief that we're being "swamped" by migrants when this is clearly not the case. The other figures released today also show that the number of migrants coming from the other eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004 dropped by 16,000 compared to the same time last year.

How then does the Mail spin getting it so completely and utterly wrong? Why, by implying that the figures themselves are hiding the reality, of course!

10,000 Bulgarians and Romanians come to work in UK in three months - but that's just the official ones


Today's figures, which do not detail the numbers of Romanians or Bulgarians who have come to live rather than work, show that 5,075 have had applications to work here approved.

Quite why Romanians and Bulgarians would come here to live if they hadn't got a job (the numbers of self-employed are unlikely to be that high. Correction: the self-employed are included in the R/B figures, but not in the data from the other eastern European countries) or family sadly isn't explained, but that doesn't matter. The doubt has been sown; you can't trust this government, after all. If our media were honest, it would use these figures to show that the worst case scenario predicted by the likes of Migration Watch has not come to pass. Instead, the Mail has done the absolute opposite, as has the Scum. It might be glib to say so, but while Margaret Hodge helps the BNP one day a year, the right-wing tabloids do it every day.

Update: the Mail article has since been changed. See Five Chinese Crackers (again) for more, and above once I post later.

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Monday, May 21, 2007 

How to legitimise the BNP.

The British National Party must be delighted with Margaret Hodge. Last year she helped the party to one of its biggest successes in its history, grabbing 11 seats on the Barking and Dagenham council (all in Barking, which seems appropriate) after she said they were going to make a major breakthrough - and surprise, surprise, they did, once the media had predictably descended into the area. The party even thanked her personally after their victory, with Richard Barnbrook, the BNP London spokesman commenting that if he'd given her a million pounds he couldn't have asked her to do more.

Yesterday, for reasons known only to herself, she was at it again. In a lecturing Observer article titled "To my fellow immigrants", as Hodge herself was born in Egypt to Jewish parents who were German refugees, she has a go at debating the merits and downsides of migration. Almost inevitably, she stumbled straight into the trap of legitimising one of the BNP's most popular myths: that migrant families are being put before those who have lived here for generations.

We prioritise the needs of an individual migrant family over the entitlement others feel they have. So a recently arrived family with four or five children living in a damp and overcrowded, privately rented flat with the children suffering from asthma will usually get priority over a family with less housing need who have lived in the area for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents.

This is to an extent true. Those whose needs are considered greatest are put towards the top of the list for council homes in Barking and Dagenham, in a somewhat recent change from the previous scheme by the council. When it actually comes down to this being put into practice however, as the figures produced by Downing Street when questioned about it show, only 1% of lettings in 2005-06 went to foreign nationals, amounting to around 1,100 homes in a year.

The damage though is already done. As Hodge should well know, the media and the BNP both love to pounce on any potential playing of the race card, and when a minister says something along the lines of immigrants are getting all the bloody houses and this has got to be stopped, however crude an extrapolation of her article that is, it's the proverbial manna from heaven. The item on tonight's Ten O'Clock News couldn't have provided a better piece of propaganda for the party, as the hack interviewed a Polish migrant who could hardly speak English who was eager to get on the council waiting list, then a long time resident in the same circumstances who claimed that he'd on the list for 11 years who'd been informed it was all down to the immigrants by the BNP councillor, followed by Richard Barnbrook, allowed a completely free ride to preach the BNP's usual invective of mistruths. The facts that asylum seekers have no access to council housing and that foreign migrants have very limited access to benefits, with only a tiny number claiming them, as was previously revealed, were strangely absent.

The other point, as has been made, is that New Labour has been utterly woeful at providing new council homes in the first place. With the right to buy being promoted just as much as it was under the Tories, the stock simply hasn't been replaced, leaving families to fight over an ever dwindling amount of places. It's therefore of little surprise that desperate times have called for the desperate measure of instituting whose need is the greatest rather than who has been on the list the longest; as with most grievances, legitimate or otherwise, this is then picked up on and blown out of all proportion for political ends.

Hence the Tory spokesman Damian Green jumping at the chance to say how the Tories would impose an annual limit on migrants, even though it has very little to nothing to do with the housing shortage experienced especially in the south, for which his party shares a decent amount of blame for helping start in the first place. We can expect the press to jump at the opportunity to do the same thing: when Jack Straw made his comments on the veil, within days the Express was screaming to ban it and the Sun was printing lies about non-existent Muslim yobs damaging the homes of soldiers.

As Nancy Kelly of the Refugee Council said, the way to tackle the BNP is not to take their lead. Giving them the opportunity to say I told you so without pointing out their lies, making clear how their councillors fail miserably and that their "solution" is mainly to send 'em all back isn't just stupid, it's suicidal, but it seems that Margaret Hodge has already realised that her political career is at an end, or if it isn't, it should be.

Related posts:
Lenin's Tomb - Labour's racist housing argument
Blood & Treasure - Village wisdom
Pickled Politics - Margaret Hodge’s disgusting duplicity

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Roll up, roll up! Who wants ten years in the slammer for having this book?

Via Postman Patel:

A 34-year-old man accused of possessing an al-Qaeda training manual has been released on bail by magistrates.

Khalid Khaliq, from Beeston, in Leeds, was arrested earlier this month on suspicion of involvement in the 7 July London bombings.

Could this "al-Qaida training manual" possibly be similar to the one featured on that well-known jihadist website, the Smoking Gun? Among the lessons featured in the "Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants" are the making of ricin: the same phony recipe which Kamel Bourgass had a copy of. Other essential teachings in the ways of waging holy war against the infidels are knowing that you can kill someone by making them eat cigarettes:

There is enough nicotine in three cigarettes to kill a person. Sixty to seventy milligrams of pure nicotine will kill a person within an hour if eaten.

Well well well. Who would have known?

To be serious for a second, this isn't really funny. The potential punishment for having a copy of such a laughable document is a possible 10 years in prison, which ought to tell you something about the idiocy of imposing custodial sentences on the back of someone having a book that might be useful to terrorists. Chuck Palahniuk, before submitting Fight Club to publishers, asked experts whether the recipes that are recited in the novel for nitroglycerin, which he had obtained during his research, were legitimate. He was told they were, and so modified them slightly. This, sadly, is the sort of territory we're getting into.

The other three who were arrested at the same time as Khaliq have all been released without charge. Mohammad Sidique Khan's cousin, Imran Motala, gave an interview to the Grauniad at the weekend. Despite apparently being under surveillance for at least a year, with no signs whatsoever that he was involved in any form of radical Islam, he was still held for 7 days before being released. This isn't the first time that months of surveillance seem to have got something horribly wrong - the other was Forest Gate. It's also worth remembering that a couple of the arguments against holding an inquiry into 7/7 are undermined by such revelations: firstly that not every suspect can be held under surveillance over long periods, when those who are obviously innocent apparently can be, and secondly that an inquiry will divert resources for tackling extremism now. If people like Motala can be held under scrutiny for so long, those resources seem to be in the wrong place already.

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Lowering the collective level of intelligence one step at a time.

We spend a lot of our time these days either condemning or talking about the backwardness of Islamic fundamentalists, but it's not often we decide to take a dip in that other cesspool of the illogical, irrational, unscientific and radically conservative, namely the American Christian far-right.

Take, for instance, just one of the Republican candidates for president in 2008, Samuel Dale Brownback. Formerly a Methodist, he converted to Catholicism with the help of an Opus Dei member, that quite wonderful organisation which counts our very own Ruth Kelly as one of their number. Being a man that takes his belief in God seriously, he naturally wants to ram down the throats of every young person the doctrine of intelligent design, which in real terms is neither a doctrine or intelligent. Additionally, he describes the effects of Roe vs Wade, which established the right of every woman in America to have the choice of an abortion, as a "holocaust", which certainly doesn't insult every woman who has gone through the emotional wringer of deciding what's best both for her and her unborn child.

As you might expect, Brownback has predictably attracted the support of those who are even more right-wing than he is. The stated mission of Blogs for Brownback is that they want a "principled" conservative to win the nomination for president, and for him to commence battle against that "far-left liberal kook (Hillary Clinton)". Blogs for Brownback doesn't just discuss the domestic and foreign policy issues which the candidate will have to deal with once he's elected though, oh no. Much more important it seems is to once and for all prove that "Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine":

What’s even worse than the debate raging in American schools about the teaching of the soulless doctrine of evolution, is the non-debate over an issue that rational Americans have foolishly conceded to the secular among us: the issue of Heliocentrism, or the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun.

And where does the blogger's proof for the concept of the Earth in fact being the centre of the universe come from?

Don’t take my word for it, or the evidence of your own senses, Copernicans. There’s also the Word of the Lord:

“He has fixed the earth firm, immovable.” (1 Chronicles 16:30)

“Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm …” (Psalm 93:1)

“Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken.” (Psalm 104:5)

“…who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast…” (Isaiah 45:18)

“The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5)

“Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.” (Joshua 10, 12-13)

Finally, "Sisyphus" just lets it all out:

If you ask me, that settles the question right there. I support the Bible, and I don’t want my children learning about Heliocentrism in school. I think this doctrine encourages atheism, Darwinism, and anti-Americanism. I don’t want my tax dollars going to finance this kind of false science. It’s complete rot, and I hope that those of us who come to realize this can ultimately prevail against its propogation amongst OUR children with the money from OUR salaries.

Even then he still isn't finished. Further down, in the comments:

As for those offering evidence the Earth is flat, I have to say that you may be on to something. Not having been in space myself before, I cannot state conclusively either way; it’s hard for me to believe that NASA is people by liars and charlatans, but after the deluge of lies I’ve been exposed to on this thread, it’s become somewhat easier for me to accept that. You’ll have to give me some time to meditate on this one. For now, I think the sensible among us can all agree that the Earth, be it flat or round, does not move. If you keep reminding me, and keep sending me evidence from Scripture and scientific websites, I may come to see things your way. Time will tell.

Which has you thinking that surely, surely, this is a brilliant satire, the kind of gag which the Flat Earth Society have been pulling for decades. Only, if it is, it has to be one of the most elaborate and excellently pulled off in quite a while, as there's a whole blog's worth of this well-written but bonkers nonsense.

Even if it is a parody, its main point still stands: there really are some among us who are so pigheadedly ignorant, despite their apparent intellect, that there'll fight to impose their own beliefs on us all, and they're by no means all Islamic.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007 

In search of hysteria.

Are there really no depths to which these internet users will sink? Could you possibly believe that there are people evil enough to be trying to cash in on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by setting up phony websites which rather than trying to help find her are instead full of adverts?

Sorry, I entered Daily Mail-land for a second. Let me rephrase while mocking myself.

Are there really no depths to which these newspapers will sink? Could you possibly believe there are journalists, editors and proprietors trying to cash in on the disappearance of Madeleine McCann by filling their newspapers with photographs of the McCann's other children hugging soft toys even though there hasn't been any new developments since earlier in the week?

Here's what "internet expert" Colin Sweetman told the Mail:

"When it's the misspelling of something like Google, that's one thing, but to capitalise on the disappearance of a little girl is a despicable practice."

Quite. But did you know that you can help widen the search for "Maddie" if you're going on holiday by wearing one of the Sun's Where's Maddie t-shirts?

Meanwhile, the Express, which earlier in the week compared the only "suspect" so far named to Ian Huntley, has much more important speculation news. Robert Murat has apparently asked a number of people for alibis; somehow, the Express takes this attempt by Murat to clear his name through showing he could not possibly have taken Madeleine as further evidence of his abundant, obvious guilt.

Angela Philips, writing on CiF, attacks the naysayers by saying this isn't prurient media barons taking advantage of a great opportunity to sell some newspapers by indulging in emotional blackmail, but rather pure empathy from journalists and the population of Britain towards the McCann family. Such pure empathy can be seen on MyScum, where the coverage seems to have driven several of those commenting close to despair:

this is to much!! i cant bear to see Maddie´s sister and her parents faces anymore. this is breaking my heart. i cry all the time, someone, somebody MUST know something !! i think about Maddie all the time, and i cant sleep. i pray for you Maddie all the time, and i know you will be home soon with your mum and dad, and your sister and brother. whoever did this crime must be a very disturped person !!! i pray to God to talk with this person heart and let Maddie go. even this is affecting me daily, because i simply cant forget about Maddie and her family, i can never compare my sadness and frustration with Kate and Gerry. i just thank God that He gives them strenght to carry on with the search for Maddie, Becauses i know for sure that she will be found. i bless the woman who saw Maddie in Maroco and God help her to identify the man who was with Maddie.

I can't believe someone would do this to a little girl!! every time it comes on the news it makes me want to cry my heart goes out to her family!! I'll be praying for her safe return!!!!! ino she'll come home soon and safe.

Hi i think they should try and use a spitulist,clairvoyant or must be worth a try....that Poor little girl..It wasn't her fault all this happened to her..And her parents must be so distrant..They are a beautiful family and i do hope this is going out all around the world...someone MUST KNOW SOMETHING!!!It tearing my hair out with it and soon this story will disappear...something Must be done fast.thankyou and good luck

Their apparent breakdowns doubtless have nothing to do with the specialised section the Sun has set-up, which has almost as many reports as the whole normal news page has.

It is however easy to quote statistics regarding how many other children will have gone missing in the 16 days since Madeleine went missing and glibly remark how many children in Iraq, Darfur or wherever else will have died in that time period. This is slightly unfair, both on the media and on the McCann family. There was always going to be immense public interest in the story, whether it had happened to a respectable middle-class religious couple or a godless working class family, although the coverage may have been different as some have more than convincingly alleged. The main problem with the coverage from the beginning hasn't been that it has been all-out to find Madeleine: it's rather that it's geared towards serving the own interests of those who are so kindly helping to spread the message, whether it's British Airways, the News of the Screws or "Sir" Philip Green, while at the same time indulging in the kind of mawkishness and synthetic, manufactured grief that is making ordinary people around the country feel almost in some way responsible and personally involved, even though there's nothing whatsoever that they can do. For papers like the Daily Mail to be outraged when some companies and individuals take advantage of the situation in the exact same way that MP's wearing yellow ribbons were and the press itself is isn't surprising, it's just classic Street of Shame humbug. And neither is going to get Madeleine back.

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Farewell to Falwell.

Generally, it's regarded as distasteful to dance on the graves of the recently deceased. Honestly though, what other possible reaction is appropriate when the world has been sadly deprived of another bigoted, hate-preaching apocalyptic false prophet?

Jerry Falwell became world infamous when he so accurately pointed the finger of blame shortly after the 9/11 attacks. Rather than going with the general feeling that this had been an attack by 19 inadequates armed with boxcutters and fundamentalist Salafi Islam, he instead remarked, while talking to Pat Robertson, a fellow nut-job:
"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

Who could possibly disagree with such a refined opinion? Then again, how could Jerry Falwell, who believed in the very same God that the hijackers did, who hated the same people that they did, and who probably would have found much in common with their views on society itself had they ever met, point the finger at those who were actually responsible without attacking his own creed?

Whenever such enlightened fellow members of the human race depart from this mortal coil, I can't help but imagine by indulging their own beliefs just where they would turn out to have gone. There's surely no contest in this case: Falwell went straight to hell. Since the beginning of Falwell's preaching, the Devil will have had plenty of time to think up just how best to torture this hater of homosexuals, abortion and illicit sexual relations. It wouldn't just involve Falwell being made a bitch for the rest of eternity in burning damnation; that would be too obvious and nowhere near enough punishment for someone who spent the best part of his life persecuting those who simply had different beliefs and lifestyles to those he favoured. No, Falwell wouldn't just be receiving everlasting, continuing death by mau mau, he'd be forced into having unprotected sex with just the sexually liberated women he condemned, only for them to become pregnant and then abort his love children right in front of his face, all while being jumped up and down on by Tinky Winky, another of his targets.

Thankfully for Falwell, who failed to follow the two main teachings of the person whose message he supposedly spent his life spreading, loving your neighbour as yourself and extracting the rafter from your own eye before pointing out the one in your brother's, neither hell nor heaven exist. He is instead at peace, which is something that can't be said for those campaigning for their own rights, such as gay marriage to be recognised, who are still being discriminated against with plenty of thanks to the power of his organisation over America's politicians. There is one bright spot; his hatred of those with a different sexual orientation wasn't enough to appease another branch of well-known lunatics:
the Westboro Baptist Church has announced that it will be picketing his funeral (PDF).

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Friday, May 18, 2007 

The Labour party is dead. Long live the Labour party.

The people's flag is palest pink
It's not the colour you might think
White collar workers stand and cheer
The Labour government is here
We'll change the country bit by bit
So nobody will notice it
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year

The cloth cap and the wollen scarf
Are images outdated
For we're the party's avant garde
And we are educated
So raise the rolled umbrella high
The college scarf, the old school tie
And just to show that we're sincere
We'll sing The Red Flag once a year

The People's Flag is Palest Pink.

John McDonnell's blog advises those who supported him in his bid to at the least stand for the Labour party leadership not to mourn, but instead to organise. If someone was feeling bitter, they might well say that the organising should have been done before the wake became inevitable, but in actuality the election of Gordon Brown unopposed as the next Labour leader, and as a result, the next prime minister, is not his and his supporters fault. This was the final spasm of a party that since the Blairite takeover has been in its death throes. The corpse now lays in state on the government benches, and there's little chance that it will ever be reanimated. The Tory maggots are already drooling at the opportunity to gorge themselves on the flesh of the once great beast, becoming full on the Blairite policies which they will later regurgitate and reheat for the consumption of the public. City academies never looked so appealing.

How on earth did it come to this? We all knew that John McDonnell could not possibly win the Labour leadership, and indeed, that if he did that it would likely mean the defeat of Labour at the next election. This was never about John actually leading the party. The whole point of his candidature, at least as it should have been, was to emphasise the deep discontent over the Blairite (and Brownite) policies of the last ten years within both the party and the trade unions, not to mention within the public itself, and for at the very least for a line to be drawn under the control freakery of the past. McDonnell's candidature would have reignited debate within the party, helped to soothe the anger about numerous policies decisions and made clear to Brown that no longer could the leadership arrogantly and haughtily ignore the will of the activists and nominally Labour supporting masses within the country.

Instead, what happened was exactly what McDonnell's nomination would have helped to counter. When Michael Meacher, who up to the beginning of the week had been conducting an exercise in his own vanity finally abandoned his own leadership bid, for a few hours it was possible to believe that the left would be able to unite and fight for their right to be heard. In fact, the fracture stayed irrevocably broken.

It didn't have to be this way. If the Socialist Campaign and Compass groups of MPs had both combined their efforts, they could have easily got McDonnell on the ballot. Compass, in a mealy-mouthed statement on Brown's ascension, says:

On the leadership we know some Compass members and supporters will be very disappointed that John McDonnell didn’t get the backing to get on the ballot. A debate based on a challenger would have been a good thing. If there had been a contest we would have balloted you on who to back. But the Labour election process is not a debating society. MPs were nominating who they wanted to lead the country and the Party into the next election to successfully fight off the growing challenge from David Cameron. Many MPs who are members of Compass or have worked with us have supported Gordon Brown. Some backed John McDonnell. We think backing Gordon Brown was the right thing to do. John McDonnell is a decent and hard working MP but it’s just not credible to argue that his platform offers a leadership alternative to Gordon Brown. This is about who should represent the Party to the nation.

This is a nonsense. The MPs themselves are nominated by the constituency Labour parties; the Labour election process may not be a debating society during the parliamentary stages, but it is once the ballots are being sent out to the members of those very constituency parties. A vote was essential in order to gauge their hopes, fears and concerns after 10 years. Compass, a supposed grouping of MPs and others that are meant to be backing a return from the so-called radical centrism of Blairism to centre-leftism has helped in denying both the party and in effect, the country, as the debate would have been conducted nationwide and not just within the Labour party itself, a democratic choice over what direction should now be taken.

It turns out, thankfully, that we have nothing to worry or be disillusioned about, for Gordon has been "truly humbled". So humbled, that when he emerged to make his short, far from convincing speech on how things are going to change, that he couldn't help smiling and laughing in that discomforting way of his. It was obvious from the beginning that he would do everything in his power to try and block any contest: we now know for certain that his own band of groupies worked their damnedest to stop Meacher's supporters from switching their votes. At the weekend, the Mail on Sunday, which along with its sister daily is very favourable about Brown, published the allegations about John Reid which were talked about that made him finally drop his own bid, digging up old tales about Reid propositioning a female MP while he was an alcoholic. Reid might be a bastard Blairite thug, but smear campaigns are still beyond the pale. With Reid dropping out, Clarke and Milburn were the only other possible candidates, and both turned out to be too cowardly to even attempt to get on the ballot, despite their sniping, attempts at character assassination and ridiculous 20:20 vision site. The desperate attempts to put forward David Miliband were always doomed to end in failure.

There's been some suggestions that John McDonnell was simply too far left even for the left, and that another candidate would have done better, but no one else was either prepared to put themselves forward, or were even more obscure than McDonnell himself. Could Jon Cruddas have made the same arguments he's making in his deputy leadership bid? Would John Denham, a well-respected MP and to the left of the Blairites, had any chance?

Not that it will have necessarily made difference. The arguments, both from Brown and the Blairites, directed against both Jon Cruddas and McDonnell, are that they're only interested in taking the party back to the 1980s; in case they haven't noticed, Labour has recently been at around 1983 levels of support in the opinion polls. Brown, both at the hustings last Sunday and yesterday gratuitously insulted the left, even after McDonnell had praised his intellect. In one sentence he was promising that he would try to earn the trust of those that think the political system doesn't listen, then in the next denying those on the "far left" that trust because "they simply don't have support for their views in the Labour party", thanks to Brown's ruthless suppression of dissent and hushed threats towards anyone thinking of supporting McDonnell. We now face 6 long weeks of Blair's odious goodbye tour before Brown even ascends properly to the throne, full of the same inane, television-smashing inducing double acts like that seen yesterday in Washington. Even now Blair's seemingly endless vanity cannot be assuaged.

After 10 years of one hegemony, another will eventually begin. Should the left, as McDonnell urges, organise, or is it time that it finally woke up and realised that Brown's brave new Labour party seems to be just a continuation of the same old policies that simply aren't working? Should it shift its support behind Jon Cruddas, the only credible candidate for deputy leader, even though he supported both the war and now supports Brown, or should it instead jump off the deep end and back Blears, knowing that such an outcome will only help bring nearer the demise that it's sleepwalking towards?

The Labour party is dead. Long live the Labour party.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - The King is Dead
Nether-World - Sad day for democracy
Stumbling and Mumbling - The end of the left?

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Your love alone is not enough.

I'm a contrary motherfucker. Much as I dislike going away from this concrete, soulless hellhole which I call home, I quickly find that I enjoy myself much more than I ever would have expected.

We went to the Lake District, staying at Flookburgh, and traveled around most of the national park in the five days we were there. It's one of the few parts of Britain that I can say without caveats that I absolutely adore. The rolling countryside, winding, almost empty roads, the clearness of the lakes and refreshing, nourishing air. I haven't been in high season, when I expect the place is crowded to the rafters and much less enchanting as a result, but at this time of year its beauty is almost unsurpassed. Field after field and hill after hill are occupied by local, rarer breeds of sheep, many with newly born lambs in tow, skipping along, unaware of the likely slaughter to follow in a few months time, but for now at least without the slightest care in the world.

The photograph above was taken at Fell Foot, a National Trust owned small country park on the shore of Lake Windermere. We arrived at about quarter past five as the actual facilities were closing, which meant we had almost the entire place to ourselves until they locked the place up at around seven. The lush grass a few yards back from the lake was literally covered in dozens of rabbits which had come out to nibble and forage as the bulk of the public had gone, and most were so tame that you could go within a few feet without them dashing for cover. Tuesday had been something of a dull day, but at around six the sun finally put in an appearance, and for half an hour the lake was resplendent in the early evening light. The swan in the photograph, no doubt used to being fed by visitors, came right up to us and almost seemed to demand that we find something for it. Perturbed that we didn't have anything, it swam off, and it seems I caught its departure just right.

Cumbria seems to be one of the last few holdouts against complete Tescopoly. I only saw one the whole time we were there, which was heartening. Most of the towns in the district are also still individual, only the larger ones having the chain stores which blight and depress the rest of the land. We can but hope that it continues to stay that way.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007 


Being dragged away again for a few days. Should be back next Friday/Saturday.

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Saturday, May 12, 2007 

We are all bourgeois, err, I mean McCanns now.

We share your pain claims the Scum. Except that they don't, and we don't, do we? Can any of us who haven't been in the same position as the McCanns claim, and this includes when children briefly wander off, as they are wont to do, actually know what they're going through? No, of course not. We can however to pretend to know what they feel, we can go through the motions and, when you're a newspaper, you can make as much out of it as possible by trying to surf the wave of sympathy.

Hence this pointless plea from the Sun:

THE Sun today urges Britain to show support for the anguished family of snatched tot Madeleine McCann — by wearing yellow clothing in her honour.

We want our army of readers to show they are shoulder-to-shoulder with Kate and Gerry McCann during the agonising wait for news of their missing four-year-old.

Why? What difference will it make? When we choose to wear something that either shows our support for a cause or in memory of something that's happened, whether it's a poppy, or even a white wrist-band during the Make Poverty History drive, we're make a statement about our beliefs, whether it's about never forgetting those who sacrificed their lives for freedom or otherwise. What's the point of wearing a yellow ribbon except to show that you've got too much of an emotional connection about something that you can do absolutely nothing about? The McCanns, however much they claim they're being buoyed by the support they're receiving, are only thinking about one thing, and that's getting their daughter back: wearing a small piece of cloth or a certain clothing isn't going to do that.

It's the same with the requests to pray for her. Presumably these calls are being made to the same God which let her be snatched in the first place. Or is this a challenge from that same source to test their faith?

There's also nothing quite like getting some publicity out of the misery of others. How else to explain the decision of Philip Green, Richard Branson and the News of the Screws, the cunts of capitalism, to put up a reward which has now reached £2.5 million? The flyers being produced by the Scum couldn't possibly miss off their logo, and as for the footballers going out with yellow wristbands, even if requested by Madeleine's aunt, well, words fail me. Alan Johnston, as Chicken Yoghurt points out, captured by Islamic militants from one of Gaza's clans or not, could only wish for such measures. Between a bald journalist and a pretty 4-year-old girl, there's no contest, as both Gordon Brown and David Cameron can both attest to.

Give it another week, and if she's still not been found, the press will probably begin to forget and move on. Pounds of flesh extracted, good deeds fulfilled, police from foreign country sniped, hatred of paedophiles brought to the boil, jobs a good'un. Then we'll see who feels whose pain.

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Irresponsible and reckless, said the spider to the fly.

As much as some of us have cheered when the government has been rightly given a bloody nose by judicial decisions over the last few years, it's hard not to view the decision of the judge in the Al-Jazeera leaked memo trial as anything other than a disgrace to his profession.

Not that he was by far the only one worthy of the highest criticism. "Sir" Nigel Sheinwald, Blair's foreign policy adviser, which means he has to share responsibility over the Iraq disaster,
gave evidence suggesting that "lives would be put at risk" if the memo were to be openly published. The judge himself fell openly into believing this contemptible opinion, itself reputed during the trial, saying in sentencing David Keogh and Leo O'Connor:

You decided that you did not like what you saw. Without consulting anyone, you decided on your own that it was in the best interest of the UK that this letter should be disclosed. Your reckless and irresponsible action in disclosing this letter when you had no right to could have cost the lives of British citizens.

Reckless and irresponsible are of course adjectives which were used by Clare Short in the run-up to the Iraq war to describe Blair's arrogant, deluded refusal to budge from supporting regime change. David Keogh on the other hand attempted to get a memo into the public domain which he personally described as showing "President Bush as a madman". Now, we don't need a memo to know that Bush is a madman, but we're lead to believe that the contents of the memo were along the lines of Bush advocating bombing the headquarters of al-Jazeera because of their coverage, ironically enough, of war crimes in Fallujah. Bush was calling for a war crime in response to journalists daring to report on war crimes.

In fact, Sheinwald went even further into the depths of rhetorical depravity during his evidence. He said that discussions between world leaders must stay secret no matter what they're discussing. This means that even if you were a civil servant and during your work came across a memo which involved the leader of the free world talking about, say, committing genocide, even in those circumstances you would just have to forget about it and wait for the bombs to start dropping and the missiles to commence launching.

The judge didn't stop at handing down prison sentences to two men who like Tony Blair, were doing what they thought was right though, oh no. Just to add to the general level of ridiculous bureaucracy involved in the whole case, he then gagged the media from err, reporting what Keogh had said in open court regarding what the minutes of the memo, and then also ordered that other allegations regarding the memo couldn't be reported in the same report as that involving the case, although they could on other pages of a newspaper, as long as that then itself wasn't mentioned in the original report. Understand? No, the only person who does is Mr Justice Aikens.

There were of course those other
leaks recently discussed that put lives at risk, but we can rest assured that no members of the police force or Whitehall appartachiks will be imprisoned for their roles in dispatching lurid details of the "beheading plot" to the tabloids. This always seems to be the way: when uncomfortable informations emerges, the first response is to shoot the messenger. Hence why when the BBC exposed the racism in the ranks of Greater Manchester police that they arrested the journalist responsible. When the brave woman from the IPCC leaked the reality of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes to ITV News, she had her door broken down in the early hours of the morning. Then again, who could forget the leak of the Hutton report to the Scum, which strangely was never successfully traced to anywhere.

Keogh and O'Connor and the media fighting the gagging orders all plan to appeal. One can only hope that they come across a judge without a seeming chip on his shoulder.

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100 years ago...

Last year, the Grauniad sent along the two daughters of Simon Hattenstone to the (Grauniad sponsored) Hay Festival to meet some of their favourite authors in the name of attempting to find out what the book week was like for kids. This involved plenty of photographs of the two precocious darlings with their heroes, and seemed destined for their scrapbooks, as I mentioned at the time. If my memory serves correctly, Private Eye also had a short piece about it in the Street of Shame.

Today, the following comment on the post dropped into my inbox:

fuck off

me and my sister wrote that article ourselves
and you must be very sad and desperate to write things like that about kids

and i dont have a fucking family album

alix h

Well A-licks, I can only offer my profuse apologies for daring to suggest that nepotism may have been involved, and judging by your way with words, a place at the Grauniad is no doubt waiting in the wings. Congratulations!

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Friday, May 11, 2007 

47 Blears later.

Sometimes, you wonder if you're on the same left as the others who proclaim to be "progressive" are. How on earth is it possible that I supposedly share the same political values and goals as these more than 47 members of the undead?

You at least have to hand it to Cameron for that insult. The description when applied to these brain-chewing decomposing throwbacks could not be more apt. Hazel Blears, a woman without a single idea of her own, without the slightest clue to how to deal with someone with a grievance except spit the same old platitudes back at them over and over again, someone who most probably loses Labour another thousand votes every time she appears on any political programme, who clearly doesn't know what to do if anyone so much as points out the complete vapidity of her entire belief system, a person who could test the patience of Ghandi with her half-baked whimpering, and still she and 47 other similarly deluded idiots for Labour think that she could honestly bring more voters in through her down-to-earth lack of any discernible talent or substance whatsoever. I suppose that's all right though, because according to Cosmo Landesman, that's what people like now. Maybe we can get Blears on Big Brother masturbating with a beer bottle. Or on seconds thoughts, let's definitely not.

Fair's fair, the deputy leadership of a party in terminal decline isn't that taxing a job, and it's hard to imagine anyone being worse than John Prescott, but I'd rather have a lying, shagging, ex-union semi-proletarian who can't get his words out right, but who clearly has a soul and a definitive ideology than this bag of dyed red hair and approximately sixteen braincells,
all of which contain only Labour's greatest achievements over the past 10 years, those being hospitals up to their eyeballs in debt thanks to PFI, and tackling anti-social behaviour, which Labour itself created by giving an 81-year-old woman and vulnerable suicidal people badges of honour while destroying civil liberties and creating a surveillance society.

Labour was once a party which counted the likes of Nye Bevan, Ernest Bevin and even Hugh Gaitskell amongst its members. Today it's reduced to Tessa Jowell, Chris Bryant, Ruth Kelly and someone called John Heppell, who thinks this about Blears:

We need a deputy leader who can inspire, enthuse and lead. I have no doubt that Hazel can do all three.

Indeed. Straight to an inevitable Tory victory.

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Michael Howard vs Alastair Campbell.

Like most sensible people, you probably weren't watching Newsnight at around ten to midnight last night. Unfortunately, I was. Fortunately, Chicken Yoghurt has uploaded the following exchange between Alastair Campbell and Michael Howard, which has to be one of the best confrontations on the programme in a long time. You can see the deep, visceral loathing flashing in Campbell's eyes at the indignity of Howard daring to suggest that he, the power behind the throne, is almost personally responsible for helping to destroy public confidence in politicians. Not only is he doing just that, but he's got the nerve to say it directly to his face. Campbell's repeated quick blinking makes you wonder whether he's trying to make himself believe that it isn't actually happening.

If only someone other than a failed Tory politician had had the guts to do it.


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Thursday, May 10, 2007 

The great obfuscator.

Can it really be true that some are paying tribute to Blair by calling him "the great communicator"? Is Brian Brivati being deadly serious and not playing CiF for fools by praising him for the "humanitarianism" of his foreign policy? Can Martin Kettle get any more sycophantic without openly weeping about the political death of our lord and saviour, Anthony Charles Lynton Blair?

To call the coverage of Blair's end of the beginning of his exit overblown would be to do a disservice to those who specialise in going over the top: Muse and My Chemical Romance could learn lessons
from the hysterical response of the BBC, who seem to think that the man's died rather than announced that, err, he's still going to be around for the best part of another 2 months.

The thing is, plenty of us have been waiting for this moment for the last two to three years. It was always going to be an anti-climax. However much we dislike it, Blair has more or less been able to chose when he leaves and on what terms. He destroyed any plot there was last year, and has managed to survive for far longer than he should have been allowed to, due both to the weakness of his opponents and the astonishing way that parts of the media fought tooth and claw to make sure that he stayed put. It was this Faustian pact with the Murdoch media that helped him stay in Downing Street while also helping to ensure that he was loathed by vast parts of the party which he has never loved and which will never love him back. If in 1992 it was the Sun wot won it, in 2007 it was the Sun wot kept Blair there.

Handily enough, Blair's "farewell" speech in places sums up all that has always been wrong with the man. His hatred of ideology, the emptiness of the "third way", comes shining through in his analysis of Britain as he was growing up and coming towards his "political maturity":

And all of that was curiously symbolised, you know, in the politics of the time. You had choices. You stood for individual aspiration and getting on in life, or for social compassion and helping others. You were liberal in your values, or conservative. You believed in the power of the state, or the efforts of the individual. Spending more money on the public realm was the answer, or it was the problem. And none of it made sense to me. It was 20th century ideology in a world approaching a new Millennium.

And yet Blair was elected on the back of
"the longest suicide note in history". If none of Labour's 1983 manifesto made any sense to him, why on earth was he even a member of the party, let alone standing to represent both it and the people? Did he believe in it then, before this Damascene conversion to seeing the light and that the path to the light was paved with the bricks stamped with New Labour? Was he seeking power for power's sake, or was he back then fighting for social compassion and helping others? As has been pointed out, Blair's analysis is deeply flawed in any case: this isn't a reflection of Britain in the 1980s, the miner's strike, Greenham Common and the poll tax riots, when greed was officially good and when social unrest and misery reached their highest level until err, now, this is a vision of 1980s America, and the ideological battles there, not the ones that scarred and continue to scar Europe.

Most of what follows is the long listing of Labour's great achievements, how schools no longer have outside privies, how the NHS has successfully defeated cholera and how there's now a shiny 42" plasma screen in every home, but he does finally get to what is and always has been his biggest personal failing:

And in time you realise that putting the country first doesn't mean doing the right thing according to conventional wisdom, or the prevailing consensus or the latest snapshot of opinion. It means doing what you genuinely believe to be right. That your duty as prime minister is to act according to your conviction.

Except we know full well that the other members of his government have had to push through policies which they themselves regard as beneath contempt. That this is the government which can't do anything without first getting in a focus group, and that when it does do something of its own initative it does it so cack-handedly that you wish they had got in one of this soul-destroying groups of aspirational, middle England voters to give the thumbs up or down in the first place. It's only when he's been so utterly certain of himself, believing in his own powers of persuasion and conviction that he's rammed through policies with no thought for their consequences, his party or anyone at all. This happened over Iraq, it happened over trust schools, foundation hospitals, tutition fees and 90 days detention without charge. In his next paragraph he attempts to ridicule the accusation often made that he on these occasions he's acted like someone with messianic zeal, yet the evidence is there for all to see in this very statement. When he was defeated over 90 days, it wasn't a disaster because he knew he was right. History will judge him well, because he knows he was right, even it means he has to delude himself for the rest of his days.

And then came the utterly unanticipated and dramatic - September 11 2001, and the death of 3,000 or more on the streets of New York. And I decided we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. And I did so out of belief. And so Afghanistan, and then Iraq, the latter bitterly controversial. And removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was done with relative ease - but the blowback since, in global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. And for many, it simply isn't and can't be worth it.

For me, I think we must see it through. The terrorists who threaten us around the world will never give up if we give up. It is a test of will and belief, and we can't fail it.

See, the disaster in Iraq isn't our fault for invading it on a tissue of lies and distortions, it's all down to the evil terrorists and those that support them. It isn't down to our complete lack of ability to influence both US policy, which did more than anything to create the necessary environment for the insurgency, it's their fault for daring to attack a liberating force that is bringing democracy down the barrel of a gun. Blair did it, and he looked upon it, and he saw it was good. His belief is that it was right is all that matters. Nevermind that beliefs can be wrong; he had the best intentions at heart, and who can possibly condemn him for that?

We may as well then have a quick look at his assumed legacy. Relative peace in Northern Ireland, started by John Major, but Blair does deserve credit for carrying it through to the end, even though he ignored the role of Mo Mowlam, but then she's dead, so who cares? The introduction of the minimum wage,
which as Paul Linford points out, Blair hated, but did anyway. It still remains below a living wage. The introduction of the Human Rights Act, which we know full well the Blairites wish they'd never done, and the Freedom of Information Act, which they're trying to neuter. Despite all the veiled attempts at redistribution, through tax credits, which are a failure and hugely wasteful, however Polly Toynbee tries to spin them, or the tax system itself, inequality is actually worse now than it was at times under Thatcher. The prison system is hopelessly overcrowded, filled with the mentally ill, the drug addicted, vulnerable women and others who would be better doing community sentences than being locked up, as a result of Labour being tough on crime and forgetting entirely about the causes in order to appease the ever reactionary tabloids, even though crime is now at a historic low.

Then there's the emergence of a surveillance state,
John Reid choosing today of all days to write on CiF about ID cards are going to enrich and protect our lives, even though they're going to cost at least another £400m. The most CCTV cameras in the world, the removal of the right to protest within a mile of parliament, the police more powerful and influential than ever before, despite all the moaning that they can't do anything without filling in a form. In the name of the war on terror, we've been complicit in the transporting of suspects to places where they can be tortured, we're prepared to deport people back to their country of origin on the basis of a piece of paper which says they won't be mistreated, honest, and for a while we even suspended habeas corpus. Blair has led us into four separate wars, only one of which can be called truly successful. His government lied and broke international law by taking part in a illegal war which has killed at the very least 100,000 Iraqis, and out of a desire to prove that they hadn't done what he now know full they did do, hounded a man to his death.

Out of all of this, apart from Iraq, I think Blair will eventually be remembered for two things, both connected. The mendacity of his government has made the public so cynical that politics may well have to be completely rebuilt, from the bottom up. This will be an uphill struggle because in destroying trust in government, he's at the same time helped convince vast parts of the media, if not the public, that ideology is dead, that long-held principled beliefs, whether they be on the right or the left of the political spectrum, are something to be suspicious of and that indulging in them will only alienate the modern, aspirational voter who just wants good public services and there not to be any pesky teenagers, old people or beggars on the street when they walk down it. The inevitable result of this enduring vacuity at the heart of modern politics? Hazel Blears.

For all his great assumed powers of communication, for his ability to persuade, convince and speak for the people, if we're to believe a breathless Nick Robinson, Blair is actually the great obfuscater. He wants to have his cake and eat it. He doesn't enlighten, he aims to confuse. He isn't responsible, yet he's right. He's right because he believes he was right. And if you don't like it, well, you're entitled to your opinion. But you're wrong.

Related posts:
Blairwatch - Sic Transit Gloria Mundi
Mr Eugenides - The party's over
Blood & Treasure - first rough draft


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Wednesday, May 09, 2007 

At least that wasn't £30,000 wasted...

The Scum must be breathing a sigh of relief tonight. When the news came across the wires that the wife of one of the 7/7 bombers had been arrested, there must have been a few moments of panic before they read further on. The newspaper, back in 2005, paid a cool £30,000 to the wife of Germaine Lindsay for her story. Somehow you get the feeling that Rebekah Wade might have been in some hot water had it turned out to be otherwise.

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Skewed priorities part 3.

Yesterday was, as the BBC informed us, quite possibly the most momentous and historic day in a century in Northern Ireland. Against all odds, and after 30 years of terrorism and indiscriminate violence, Ian Paisley and Martin McGuinness, the least likely bed-fellows since, well, ever, are now respectively the first and deputy first ministers in the devolved Northern Ireland assembly, the never surrendering Democratic Unionists and the never forgetting, let alone forgiving Sinn Fein sharing power and apparently determined to make it work.

What then, you may ask, did the two middle-market tabloids decide to splash on their front pages this morning? Surely celebratory pieces that a previously thought intractable war was finally at an end, that talking to terrorists can work and that Blair, despite all his other legion of failings, has at least one thing that will in future years be looked back on as being worthy of the highest praise?

No such luck. For there was a far more important story, one which everyone except the most anal, tedious anti-European had forgotten about: the European Commission has finally, predictably, came to the conclusion that the imperial system of measurement can be continued to be used alongside that of the metric system. The back-story to this is that selling in imperial measures only was outlawed in 2000 - but as long as you put the metric equivalent price on the label/ticket, you could continue to do so. From 2009 it was proposed that we should go metric only, 9 years after the event and, as Nosemonkey points out, decades after the policy itself was originally proposed and agreed upon. This was however an obvious outrage and a Brussels diktat that had to be resisted. How dare those Euro-loonies demand that we change over to a measurement system that actually makes sense and which children have been being taught in schools now for who knows how many years?

So there we are. Instead of headlines about peace in our time, we have the Daily Mail informing us about having an ounce of sense and the Express telling us that obsolete measures have been saved. I, meanwhile, am off to drink a yard of battery acid.

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Raging against the Hilton machine.

Is it really possible that that petition is not a joke, not another prank by someone who knew the media couldn't resist taking the story and running with it? Is it possible it isn't yet another piece of publicity seeking from the cunt that could write a book about if it if she wasn't illiterate? After all, there are no named sponsors on the petition.

And yet, and yet, it seems to be legitimate. Yes, this means that there genuinely are people so fucking moronic, so indescribably retarded, so unutterably obsessed with celebrities and their worthless, miserable lives that they'll defend them even after they've been caught committing what should be one of the modern seven deadly sins, and then excusing her "mistake" by glossing over the fact that she was personally informed that her license was therefore revoked. You'd think that the semen-slurping, soulless, dead-eyed bitch from the depths of the very worst of American "culture" had been given an unfair sentence, such as a couple of years imprisonment, not 45 days, likely to be even less than that in practice.

Normally, I oppose capital punishment, but I think in this case we can make an exception, and bring back the chair for one long final day of judgment. In return for all the brains she's helped fry, all the young people she's helped to teach that you too can become famous and successful as long as you suck some ugly neanderthal's disgusting flaccid dick while being filmed and show absolutely no evidence of having any braincells at all, we can put numerous volts through her anemic, emaciated, diseased cunt. Think of it as a peace offering to the Iraqis: we're sorry that so many of you have died so that this rich blonde racist weasel and millions of others like her have their so-called freedom, so we're going to let her burn until there's nothing left but her teeth and the part of the tongue she bit off as the first wave of electricity flowed through her limbs as a way of making amends. Then we'll put a bullet through the heads of every person who's signed the petition, even if they did so "ironically", just because we can.

Or you could just sign the numerous other petitions calling for her to be imprisoned. Personally I prefer the first option.

Related post:
Mr Eugendies - 44 nights inside for Paris

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007 

Emotional pornography continued.

It’s easy to criticise from afar, but their failure to act more promptly and efficiently is deplorable.

So the Sun informs us, in a sentence from its leader which sums up the whole hypocrisy of the newspaper in one easy line.

Not content with reprinting the mother's statement yesterday on the front page of the newspaper, as did the Daily Mail, when there's absolutely nothing that anyone here can do about the whole situation, Scum Online has now opened up a sort of guestbook of woe, where you can add your faux concern about the disappearance of the McCann's daughter, which is somehow meant to be giving them support, entitled "write a message for Maddie". Three footballers, for reasons similarly known only to themselves and possibly for good PR, have also appealed for anyone with information to come forward, as if being urged to do so by the PFA player of the year will make the difference to someone who otherwise wouldn't have done.

Unless the police get their act together, Madeleine’s traumatised parents may be condemned to spending the rest of their days wondering if their lovely daughter is dead.

Or living her own nightmare in the hands of inhuman monsters.

The Sun seems to have got it mixed up. Madeleine's traumatised parents already seem to be living their own nightmare in the hands of inhuman monsters. They're called the media, and they're more than extracting their pound of flesh.

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Off the record.

Liberty has published its proposals for a protocol governing so-called "off the record" briefings on terrorist raids that have been given by both the police and Whitehall sources in the past. While commendable and worth supporting, there's absolutely no chance of them being put into practice:
Liberty's conclusions on the protocols are:

• The current situation where no proper guidelines, protocols, guidance or procedures exist regarding off the record briefings to the media by police officers or civil servants during anti-terror operations is unacceptable and potentially disastrous. Such guidelines should be developed as a matter of urgency.

• In developing such guidelines the over riding concern is that nothing should be done to jeopardise any potential trials or ongoing operations.

• The guidelines should be based upon the presumption that the flow of information about anti-terror operations should be as open as possible rather than ‘on a need to know’ basis.

• The guidelines should ensure that information comes from appropriate and readily identifiable sources within the police or civil service to allow for proper accountability. Failure to adhere to the guidelines will be a disciplinary matter.

• A commission should be established as a matter of urgency to draft such guidelines for the police and civil service concerning off the record briefings in line with the above conclusions.
Despite Peter Clarke's attack on those who leaked the alleged background to the Birmingham terror raids before the arrests had even taken place, both the police and government have shown that they have no real interest in stopping such briefings, purely because despite the anger they generate, they serve their own agenda too well. At the same time as they urge the media not to speculate, both the police and John Reid were only too happy to point out that the Birmingham raids proved that the terrorist threat is very real, as the released logs from Liberty's FoI request show (PDF).

If the government really gave a damn about Clarke's allegations, they would have ordered an inquiry, even if it would have meant sacrificing a minor civil servant who was given the task of briefing the tabloids. If Clarke had really meant what he said, he'd have denied the reports in the
Guardian following his speech which suggested that some of the information that he was so angry about had indeed came straight out of Scotland Yard itself. The anger about the briefings didn't come from the Met, who had been only too happy to wildly brief, as Liberty sets out in its case studies on the "ricin" case and Forest Gate (PDF), but from the West Midlands force, who weren't used to such raids and then were left looking foolish after they didn't even question 3 of the men subsequently released about the plot which was being reported in the media.

All of this is down to the politicisation of the terror threat. Clarke spent much of his speech which included the denunciations of the leaks trying his hardest to deny that the police had been involved in either scaremongering or that there was anything wrong in trying to get 90 days detention without charge on the statute book, both issues which are highly contentious. We've had speech after speech and interview after interview with Ian Blair and friends telling us how
"the sky is dark", and how they still consider 90 days as essential, and then they take umbrage when this is pointed out to them. The ricin plot which never was involved crowing on both sides of the Atlantic, opportunistically used by Colin Powell in his now notorious presentation to the UN Security Council. We're meant to believe that it was pure coincidence that the day before last summer's "liquid explosives" raids John Reid made one of his biggest attacks, not on those actively plotting terrorist acts, but on those he said "didn't get it".

This makes for a wonderful Catch-22. For the government and police to inspire confidence that they're not exaggerating the threat, as they supposedly recognise they need to do, they need to introduce the very reforms that they're not going to because they would make it far too difficult to use the intelligence they have for their own ends. In short, nothing's going to change.

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Monday, May 07, 2007 

Do we have to share in this voyeuristic misery?

There's something eminently distasteful in being forced to stare into the face of abject heartache. Since last Thursday, when Madeleine McCann was apparently snatched from the bedroom of the hotel where her parents were on holiday in Portugal, we've been deluged with the images and video of the worried parents, their anguish growing with every hour that their daughter isn't reunited with them, making increasingly desperate pleas for their child to be returned and for help. Yesterday Madeline's mother asked for everyone to pray for her, and today begged whomever's taken her to let her go.

It has to be questioned just what sort of role the media is playing in this, and about the whole morality of causing further discomfort to the parents when there is absolutely nothing that they can do to help. The parents' are between a rock and a hard place; if they refused to play the media's game, as it's unlikely that the police are involved in urging them to make public statements, then they could quickly find themselves accused of not being distressed enough, that somehow they could be involved in the kidnap. Instead, they're being backed into a trap where with each day that passes they're expected to be ever more upset, making increasingly futile gestures such as the ones today, begging the abductor to let her go when such pleas are almost certain to be ignored or go unheeded.

If the abduction had happened in this country, I might feel somewhat differently. As it is, there's nothing that anything of us here can do. We can't take part in any searches, we can't string up the nearest sex offender from a lamppost, all we can do is watch and indulge ourselves in seeing the misery of two people who have had their pride and joy taken from them.

The way the tabloids react to these sad cases is always a sight to behold. It's the worst nightmare which some of them scaremonger about, yet when it happens they almost wallow in the way the frightened individuals react, the Sun reporting every nuance about the service attended by Madeleine's parents yesterday, as if it mattered or gave any further insight into what they're going through. The current Sky News front page combines the mother's plea with a gallery offering "holiday snaps of youngster", so any aspiring paedo can at least jerk himself silly over the kidnapped girl's image.

This is in essence the monster that the 24 hour news culture has helped create. In the quest for ratings and constant updates, they demand every reaction be recorded, every uttering by a police officer be decrypted for any clues about the disappearance, and for the parents to edge themselves ever closer to complete emotional collapse. It's grief tourism, it's a voyeuristic desire to record the pain of someone else then throw it away once it's become old, and before we know it we're on to the next missing white woman or school shooting.

This model was perhaps set by Holly and Jessica, who've become so ingrained in the collective conscience that like the sites of massacres and battles they're now known by just those three words. We went from seeing the photographs of them in their Manchester United shirts and the CCTV of them going for their walk right up to their funerals. We shouldn't have perhaps been surprised that some people found themselves so involved in the disappearance that Soham itself became a popular ghoulish tourist attraction in the days and weeks afterwards. The Sun has helpfully this time provided us with a "Kidnapper's view" of the hotel, perhaps not seeing the sheer tastelessness of such a gesture.

The whole thing could not be more summed up by the mother's apparent request for the kidnapper "not to scare her", a plea so redundant considering that he would have terrified her in grabbing her in the first place that it ought to make everyone involved think about exactly what they are additionally putting the poor woman through. We're not gaining anything, they're not gaining anything, it's time that we knew when to pull the plug.

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Goodbye so soon?

Good riddance then to John Reid. Even by the standards set by recent Home Secretaries, and we have the Safety Elephant, Shagger Blunkett and Jack Straw's ignominious reigns to consider, he was most certainly the worst. No sooner had he entered the job than he was immediately caving in to numerous campaigns that the Sun had started, interfering in the Craig Sweeney case and as a result ensuring that he didn't receive a tougher sentence. He went along with the Sun's ludicrous, idiotic and inhumane plan to turn old Ministry of Defence bases into prisons quick sharp, only to find that the local residents weren't much enamored with the solutions of everyone's favourite daily tabloid. He recently delivered some of the most inflammatory and downright dangerous rhetoric on immigration, thinking only of how it might reignite the passion that the tabloids had originally felt for him, only for it to have evaporated when the prison overcrowding crisis kicked in.

Historically, Reid is going to be seen as the bruising straight-talker who said that his new department was "not fit for purpose", further demoralising the very people he needed to get on his side. Within a year of taking the job, he's ripped it up and effectively started it again: this week will see the creation of the Ministry of Justice, with its Orwellian overtones highlighted by how it's going to be run by the unelected, ex-flatmate of the outgoing prime minister.

Reid's decision to return to the backbenches, according to him purely because of a desire to "recharge his batteries" and enjoy his family and football more, means that his reforms will go on without the person who has brutally pushed them through being there to take the blame when they inevitably turn sour. This is in fact only the last act in such a pattern: Reid has spent the last 10 years in 9 different ministerial jobs, and in at least the last couple he's moved out before he could take the flak for his own changes.

His short stint as health secretary has come in for heavy criticism for the way he characteristically acted like a bull in a china shop, ordering ever more reforms and being involved in the new pay contract for consultants, which recently came under fire after the National Audit Office found they had been paid more for doing less work than they were when the deal was signed.

As defence secretary, supposedly his ideal job, he announced the deployment of thousands more troops to Afghanistan, while claiming that their itinerary while there involved only reconstruction and that he'd rather that they return home with firing a single shot. Nearly two years on, and dozens more body bags have returned, while the Taliban has regrouped and increasingly adopted the tactics of the Iraqi insurgency.

Quite why he's really decided to resign now is more difficult to work out. We know that he and Brown loathe each other in a way only two rival Scots can; yet Brown was apparently prepared to stick with the thug, maybe because it would mean that one of his pals wouldn't have to carry the can when the next scandal arrives. Even so, it doesn't seem possible that there isn't some sort of maneuvering going on here. Reid might well be thinking that Brown is doomed to failure, and that he could be the man to pick up the pieces when Labour is turned out at the next election, but this seems improbable: the party would almost certainly turn to someone younger, probably Miliband, not an old bruiser like Reid who would antagonise the party and grassroots rather than unite it.

There are several other theories worth considering. Reid could be in effect taking one for the Blairite team, sacrificing himself so that Brown is forced into keeping some of the dead Blairite wood he would have otherwise cleared out. Most people thought that Tessa Jowell, Patricia Hewitt and probably some others are almost certainly going to be out on their hides, and many would think not before time. Reid's move could cause Brown to reconsider. Alternatively, Reid might have jumped before he was pushed, thinking that he would have gone no further and he's now free to plot and snipe as much as he likes, whatever he says to the media now. Or he could simply, however unlikely it seems, be telling the truth.

In any case, not only are we getting rid of Blair, we're getting rid of another bastard at the same time. If that's not worth a mild celebration of some sort, I don't know what is. We can at least take heart that the next home secretary can't be any worse. Can they?

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Saturday, May 05, 2007 

The new untermensch.

The findings of the Mental Health Advisory Team's survey of deployed American services serving in Iraq shouldn't come as anything like a surprise. It's also easy to blame the apparent contempt with which US servicemen hold Iraqis in general to their state of mind as result of long serving tours and deaths within their ranks, when this only tells half the story.

From the very beginning of the Iraq war, the American approach in particular to the citizens of the country has been telling. They promised shock and awe, knowing full well that there were few military targets that hadn't been hit over the previous decade of imposed no-fly zones, meaning that innocent civilians were going to be slaughtered so that it made for good television pictures. Within weeks of the overthrow of Saddam, trigger-happy soldiers were shooting dead unarmed protesters, one of the major factors in kicking off the insurgency. Then there was Abu Ghraib.

Reading the posts of those who have returned from Iraq is just as instructive. Iraqis are referred to as "hajis", for which read the way that the Vietnamese were called "gooks". We can bleat all we like about the dehumanising aspects of war, and true as it is, there's nothing like good old-fashioned colonial attitudes and the belief that some lives are worth less than others.

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Humbug, how we've missed you.

Shock horror! The Scum reports that "A SHOCK ITV1 programme reveals that increasing numbers of teenage girls are desperate to have boob jobs", along with a suitably revealing photograph of gorgeous pouting Leanne, who celebrated her 18th birthday by getting fake tits.

This would of course be the same Sun newspaper that fills its pages day after day with countless photographs of Jordan, Gemma Atkinson, and of course, Keeley Hazell, who despite having real breasts that look better covered over than out and the face of a 5-year-old is somehow considered the 2nd sexiest woman on the planet. Its page 3 idol contest, the lowest common denominator competition that a "newspaper" has ever run, encouraged thousands of women across the country to believe that their only real worth is their chests, and that only by flashing the flesh will they get anywhere in life. It's spent years trying to cater to male fantasies, whether they be lesbian sex, schoolgirls (the uniforms, especially) or school teachers, while hating and making fun of gay men, crusading against paedophiles and damning soft wet liberals for inculcating only political correctness, and now it wonders why teenage girls are dumb, ignorant and interested only in increasing their confidence through expanding their sacks of fat?

We can't just blame the Sun. The rise of the lads mag, especially the weeklies which compete to see how many nipples they can get in each week's depressing, soul-destroying bog read and how much semen they can get their teenage boy readership to expend on average, are just as culpable, as is reality television, especially Big Brother, where for the last few years the only women who have appeared have been either surgically enhanced or so desperate to show off their bodies that within a week of getting evicted they've appeared in the aforementioned magazines.

In fact, we're all to blame. We've allowed this culture to flourish, where instead of making fun of and destroying these sad, fucked up people, we've allowed them to become the centre of attention for the wrong reasons. Instead of reporting what Paris fucking Hilton was wearing when she attended her court hearing, we should be coruscating the worthless, oxygen-stealing cunt for drink driving and putting the lives of people actually worth something at risk. We should be mocking the women who are so completely lacking in self-esteem that they feel the need to increase the size of their bosoms until they're the size of the brains of their entire circle of friends put together and maybe even considering sectioning them, but instead we applaud and bay for more. We're more interested in what's up Britney Spears' skirt (a
scar and a gaping axe wound that could envelop a giant octopus, as it turns out) than whether we're on the road back to Tory government.

I'll admit, I'm being a little harsh. The women getting boob jobs out of confidence issues are probably on the same path as those who cut themselves, enjoying the self-destruction and temporary release from anguish that it brings. As for the rest of them, and this celebrity culture which smothers everything, I mean every word I say.

Related post: Rise and rise of the idiots.

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Friday, May 04, 2007 

The post election comedown.

No alarms and no surprises from my modern day rotten borough. The Labour candidate did slightly better than last time, if my memory serves me correctly - grabbing second place with a whopping 262 votes. The Tory got 1,218, while all his opponents combined managed only 488 between them.

For some reason known only to myself, I spent the best part of the night/morning watching the BBC coverage of the results as they came in. There's little more painful than witnessing in succession, John Reid, Hillary Armstrong, John Hutton and finally, Hazel Blears try and fail to put a gloss on the massive Labour losses. It wasn't the wipeout that had been predicted by some, but 485 lost seats is still impossible to put a positive spin on. This was Labour being cut down to its core vote that will always turnout, previous supporters staying at home or returning to the Tories, especially in the south. The party simply has no one to blame except itself; this isn't the fault of the individual councillors, it's down to the party being prepared to indulge Blair's vanity for far too long.

This couldn't have been more exemplified by Blears and her eternal loyalty to her master. As some of the poor results came in from Wales, she had the audacity to suggest that this was down to there not being enough public service reform, that Welsh Labour with its policy of "clear red water" between it and Westminster was part of the problem. In fact, as anyone apart from Blears could have pointed out, the only overall losses Labour have suffered were to Plaid Cymru, who had campaigned on a nakedly socialist platform, the exception being Cardiff North which fell to the Tories who had targeted it relentlessly. The reason that the losses weren't heavier was that Labour in Wales still maintains some of its principles which it has long since abandoned in England.

A similar story has emerged in Scotland. While England has moved to the right, Scotland and Wales have shifted back towards the left. The SNP victory is "historic", but they must be secretly disappointed that their major opinion poll leads were cut back to in the end a win of just a single seat more than Labour. The SNP profited in particular from the implosion of the Scottish Socialists, and despite the opposition of the Scottish Sun to independence, running scare stories, they have Murdoch to thank for destroying Tommy Sheridan, who failed to win a seat with his new party, Solidarity. Just how much the SNP mean what they say is open to question: their opposition to the renewal of Trident and to the Iraq war is not going to mean much when they can't do anything about either, while support for independence itself is probably more popular in England than it is north of the border.

Probably worthy of more comment than the actual SNP win is the monumental cock-up of trying to run different elections on the same day with little apparent input on how people were supposed to vote correctly. While it's unlikely that any results might have been different if the spoiled ballots had been counted, the actual disenfranchising of up to 100,000 voters is something we thought was more associated with stripping the rolls of black voters in Florida than in the Western Isles. It doesn't augur well for the SNP's attempt to ram through a referendum on independence only with "additional questions"; it seems plenty of people found it difficult enough to fill in ballots where you had to either mark an x or put your choice in order of 1, 2, 3.

Best news of all was the comprehensive failure of the fascists. This was meant to be their big year, with immigration high up the agenda, and with their largest field of candidates in years, yet they made a net gain of a single seat. Such a result is bound to lead to an implosion within the party, when discontent is at such a high but they can't make a breakthrough. The local activists and councillors across the country deserve major credit for their efforts in stopping them.

As for the biggest and most unexpected losers on the night, they were undoubtedly the Liberal Democrats. They made no progress whatsoever in Scotland or Wales, and lost over 240 council seats. Whether this is down to a poor campaign, the switching of voters back to the Tories after playing coyly with the Libs, the end of the bounce their opposition to Iraq gave them, or the blandness of Ming Campbell is hard to tell, with all probably playing a factor. The most punishing thing for Campbell may not be the losses, but the appearance of Charles Kennedy on Question Time, coming across as well as ever. It's still not beyond the imagination that Campbell could yet be deposed, although Kennedy is an unlikely candidate.

David Cameron's claim that the Tories showing was "stunning" is by the same measures a little hollow. They're still nowhere in Scotland and Wales and in the big cities in the North West, even if they've made slight progress in places like Sunderland. If Gordon Brown were to call a snap election, which he certainly isn't, there's nothing to suggest they'd grab a majority, with a minority government being the most likely outcome. In fact, this is possibly the best possible outcome. Such a result would mean either Labour or the Tories having to call on the Lib Dems to help them form a government, which might finally mean getting PR at Westminster, even if yesterday's ballot wasn't exactly the greatest advertisement for it. Wales and Scotland shows that the left or left policies can still get a result: it's just that Labour has abandoned it.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007 

The blogging counter-revolution.

It's World Press Freedom Day, and the Guardian, being the Guardian, thinks it's a great idea to get an expert to pronounce on how fantastic blogging is and how it's enriching our lives. The expert? Iain Dale.

Being a first class prick, it's not hard to pick some holes in his argument:
Blogs have liberated people who have things to say. There are 70m blogs in the world, and they have become a vital means of communication for people who live in parts of the world where the traditional media cannot remotely be said to be free. It's no coincidence that the highest ratio of bloggers to the population is to be found in Iran.

This is true, but it's also liberated people who have nothing to say, and those who say nothing of any worth. Of those 70m blogs, it's worth wondering just how many of them are devoted to politics, and not your cat, your sex life or your job. Again, millions of those blogs are set-up and then never posted to again, but they still count towards the figures. The amount of blogs that are updated every day with new content and still going after a year is minuscule. Blogging can be liberating, it can be enfranchising, it can be a breath of fresh air, but it's not the greatest thing that's ever happened to the world by a long shot.

Social communities like MySpace and Facebook allow people to interact with likeminded people in a way that the traditional press never can. The challenge for the mainstream media is to catch up with the opportunities to extend press freedom that the internet provides. They ought to be the drivers of opening up democracy on the internet; instead national newspapers and broadcasters seem to have their feet stuck in concrete as they struggle to come to terms with the new media world.

If this seems vaguely familiar, it's because it's much the same point put forward by... David Cameron. He seemed to miss the fact that MurdochSpace and YouTube are not in fact much used for making grand political statements, but by crap unsigned bands, for hosting user-generated videos of idiots being idiots and by the odd ordinary person to showcase their spectacularly exciting life. The politicians attempting to crash the party are the equivalent of the drunk dads and uncles at weddings embarrassing themselves and everyone else by dancing like a spider with no legs to Achy Breaky Heart. Dale has fallen into the same trap.

This is a huge opportunity, but also a threat - a threat to the press. Again, gone are the days when celebrated newspaper columnists would be able to pontificate on the great issues of the days and sit back and think "job well done". These days there are millions of columnists all around the world who can do the same thing - they're called bloggers. Newspaper columnists hate them because they've broken into their monopoly and democratised it. Newspaper journalists only blog because they think they ought to or their editors have told them to. They hate having to podcast, or, even worse, videocast. It's not what they do. They are the modern Luddites. And we all know what happened to them ...

This is rubbish. "Old media" organisations are falling over themselves to catch-up, as evidenced by pretty much every paper except the Independent having numerous blogs and podcasts available. Besides, does anyone really listen to news or politics podcasts? The most popular by far are those produced in order to let people catch up with radio programmes they've missed, and the others are independently produced that have nothing to do with freedom of the press or otherwise.

Some newspaper columnists do hate the interaction that blogging has introduced, but they're mostly the ones that made you want to scream at the newspaper long before they even started having comment sections online.

About the only part of Dale's post that is incontestable is that blogging is and has been a boon to those living under tyranny. The problem is that blogging itself can be used by those who imitate those tyrannies: shutting down debate, re-hashing propaganda and at times, downright lying. You only have to see the very worst offenders to see that this can and will be used at some stage to blacken the name of bloggers as a whole: Little Green Footballs and the like, and EU Referendum's smears and exaggerations of what when on Lebanon during last summer's war instantly come to mind.

Dale himself isn't clean in this area. His response to a mild ribbing from myself was to tell me to "piss off" and that I was a "first-class prick", which by the standards of internet discourse is very mild, but not very impressive from someone who stood for the Conservatives at the last election and who is regularly called upon to inform the wider public of blogging, whether he regards himself as a "blogging expert" or not. The recent blocking of certain blogs that are critical of Dale also doesn't exactly show up Dale to be much of a paragon when it comes to debate, the very thing that blogging thrives on.

In the comments on Dale's piece, Markson probably says it best:
However, it allows for the wildly successful spread of myth parading as fact and objectivity being drowned out by the sheer noise of the blogosphere. People flock to sites that confirm their own beliefs, further entrenching extremism.

There is only so much that other blogs can do to counter this, as there is when it comes to fact-checking the mainstream media as well. Just because blogs are personal and "independent" doesn't mean that they're not open to the exact same abuses and prejudices which the corporate media is. However welcome the rise in citizen journalism and comment is, pretending that all of it is fantastic and empowering is being willfully blind.

Related post:
Ministry of Truth - Freedom? What Freedom?

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So who the hell do I vote for? Labour it seems...

As I expected, I ended up biting my lip and voting for the local Labour candidate. Yes, I realise that I'm a horrible monster, a hypocrite and that I should be lined up against the wall and shot.

Somewhat related, there's a decent debate on CiF regarding the fortunes of the BNP, with posts by both Daniel Davies and Peter Tatchell.

My own view, somewhat predictably, is split between the two. Davies is right that we shouldn't overstate the BNP's success or otherwise today, but neither should we be complacent about it. Wherever the BNP are standing, they need to be challenged, even if they don't have any chance of winning. Tatchell is right in that the BNP are developing their own spin merchants, re-branding themselves as the acceptable face of the "indigenous" people of Britain, who are being downtrodden by political correctness and pandering to the "ethnics". Incidentally, this is almost the exact same message being preached on a daily basis by the right-wing tabloids, who scream and bleat when this is pointed out to them.

Davies is also correct though in pointing out that the BNP's real foot-soldiers, the hardcore, are weirdos, who believe that the Holocaust never happened, that Hitler and Jesus Christ are comparable and that 9/11 was an inside job. It's also true that the vast majority of them are absolutely hopeless councillors, who in some cases can't even work how to vote correctly.

Tatchell's point that low turnout helps the fascists though is the most apt. If the BNP are standing where you are, then for God's sake go and vote, even if it means plumping for a Tory and a kitten dies as a result. The slogan from the last French election summed it up best: better a crook than a fascist. The next step is to start countering the propaganda from the tabloids which is helping fuel the BNP, but that's for other posts...

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007 


There are times when apologies are not enough. In the Japanese manga and film Ichi the Killer, the yakuza Kakihara slices his tongue in half and offers it to his fellow gang-leaders in their syndicate to make restitution for torturing another yakuza, under the mistaken belief that he was responsible for the disappearance of his own boss.

While I can't quite advocate those responsible for the Iraq war carrying out a similar act of contrition and penance, it'd be nice to think that if they're not going to properly apologise and instead continue to only make more than clear why they fell into such a hideous mistake in the first place that they'd just shut up.

Take the interview in today's Grauniad with Geoff Hoon. Not only does he not tell us anything that even the most bone-idle political commentator could have worked out for himself, but he talks with such a self-regard and haughty attitude that you wonder why he even bothered taking part in a discussion where he was going to asked about Iraq. Instead, he just comes across as unutterably ignorant:

"Sometimes ... Tony had made his point with the president, and I'd made my point with Don [Rumsfeld] and Jack [Straw] had made his point with Colin [Powell] and the decision actually came out of a completely different place. And you think: what did we miss? I think we missed Cheney."

Well, at least we know that he and Rumsfeld were on first name terms, although why you'd want to be is a mystery in itself. After 4 years then, Hoon's conclusion is that they missed the vice-president, long regarded as being the real power behind the commander in chief. To give him a slight amount of credit, this may be more out of defending the special relationship than anything else, as the whole Iraq debacle and almost everything since then has only made one thing clear: we have absolutely no influence in Washington whatsoever. Blair was taken for a ride because he either couldn't see the real reasons behind the inexorable march to war, or he indeed did and was fully behind them, only for his "liberal intervention" to go horribly wrong.

Giving the most frank assessment of the postwar planning, Mr Hoon, admits that "we didn't plan for the right sort of aftermath".

Or rather, as we know, they didn't do any planning for any sort of aftermath. The State Department drew up a full plan for post-Saddam Iraq only for Rumsfeld to throw it out the window and leave Paul Bremer to install his shock therapy, both economically and socially.

"Maybe we were too optimistic about the idea of the streets being lined with cheering people. Although I have reconciled it in my own mind, we perhaps didn't do enough to see it through the Sunni perspective. Perhaps we should have done more to understand their position."

Oh, that's all right then. Geoff's came to terms with himself everyone! This is the type of vapid navel-gazing after the fact that you expect from a teenager, not a politician. Perhaps, maybe, should, it's all a little bit late.

Of the summary dismissal of Iraq's 350,000-strong army and police forces, Mr Hoon said the Americans were uncompromising: "We certainly argued against [the US]. I recall having discussions with Donald Rumsfeld, but I recognised that it was one of those judgment calls. I would have called it the other way. His argument was that the Iraqi army was so heavily politicised that we couldn't be sure that we would not retain within it large elements of Saddam's people."

The dismantling of several ministries and removal from office of all state employees with Ba'ath party membership was also an error, Mr Hoon says.

The decision is widely seen to have paralysed the country's infrastructure. "I think we probably saw it in a different way [to the US]. I think we felt that a lot of the Ba'ath people were first and foremost local government people, and first and foremost civil servants - they weren't fanatical supporters of Saddam."

The other huge error which isn't mentioned here is the reliance of the US on the Iraqi exiles who had both their own agendas, as well as some of them not having been in Iraq for decades. Their faulty information was at the forefront both of the intelligence which was dead wrong, and at the decisions which were then subsequently made. The imposition of the puppet Coalition Provisional Authority, over the head of any interim Iraqi authority which could have advised and helped avoid these monumental errors was of much the same problem: the complete failure of the British government to have almost any influence whatsoever.

Mr Hoon also expressed regret over the government's claim in the run-up to war that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, which, he now accepts, turned out to be false. He said he had "gradually come to the acceptance" the weapons did not exist. But he insisted the government had acted in good faith.

He still does not understand why the intelligence proved to be false. "I've been present at a number of meetings where the intelligence community was fixed, and looked in the eye and asked are you absolutely sure about this? And the answer came back 'Yes, absolutely sure'."

Mr Hoon added: "I saw intelligence from the first time I came into office, in May 1999 - week in, week out - that said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction ... I have real difficulty in understanding why it was, over such a long period of time, we were told this and, moreover, why we acted upon it."

We know through various memos that Sir Richard Dearlove had indicated that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" and that Blair would not budge "from his support for regime change". We know that the dossiers were sexed-up. As for Hoon's memories of the intelligence he say week in, week out, Robin Cook, who doubtless saw the exact same intelligence, made clear in his resignation speech that "Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target." As it turned out, even Cook's mentioning that Iraq probably had biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions was wrong.

On the question of an apology, he says: "That's the whole thing about apologising, and saying we were wrong. - it's quite hard. You can say "it did not turn out as we expected" and "we made some bad calls", but at the end of the day I defy anyone to to go through what we went through and come to a different conclusion".

2 million on the streets of London came to a different conclusion, a majority on the UN security council came to a different conclusion, even the Liberal Democrats came to a different conclusion, and that was without 4 years of hindsight. If even now the ministers responsible for this catastrophe cannot think of any different outcome, then maybe they really do deserve having their tongues ripped out.

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Spread this number.

09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007 

Two cheeks of the same arse.

Polly's at it again. During 2005 she urged us all to wear nosepegs to stop the smell emanating from the corpses that Blair was standing aloft so that we'd be able to vote Labour anyway. Today she's telling us that voting for the Tories is not the answer, with even less success.

One of Toynbee's main arguments is always that the right-wing media distort the truth and attack Labour without any sense of restraint or principle. As with many of Toynbee's arguments, there's a decent amount of accuracy in it, as numerous posts on this blog have noted, but while she's saying that the right is always on Labour's back, she ignores the Faustian pact that Blair has long had with the whore of Fleet Street, the Sun.

Today's Sun is further proof that we can expect no real change in the relationship between the Murdoch media and Gordon Brown. As the latest Private Eye noted in passing, Brown has been increasingly seen dining with Rebekah Wade. He even shared a stage with the Dirty Digger himself a while back in Davos.

Some will hit back that the New Labour-Murdoch alliance has helped keep Labour in power for as long as it has, that constantly trying to both appease and please a newspaper proprietor who detests everything that Labour has traditionally stood for is a price worth paying for the government being perpetually at loggerheads with such a powerful foe. The reality is that Blair sold his soul and that of his party when he made the journey to Australia in order to court Murdoch. Ever since, the relationship between the Murdoch press and the government has been almost one that reflects the last days of the Wade-Kemp axis: one side keeps coming back even though it knows it's just going to eventually get hit again. It can be reasonably argued that if it hadn't been for Murdoch's unstinting support for the Iraq war, of the constant playing down of scandals such as the BAe corruption farce and loans for peerages that Blair himself, and maybe even his government would have been long gone. In return, Labour gets ever tougher on crime, but still not tough enough for the Sun, while it wages a war on both terrorism, which is counter-productive, and on civil liberties, which is irredeemable.

We shouldn't be that surprised then that Gordon has taken time out from his busy schedule campaigning for a lost cause to write a love letter to someone who he's never even fancied. Even more surprising are what he thinks Blair will be first and foremost remembered for. Not for what, in tandem with himself, he achieved with the minimum wage, independence for the Bank of England and economic success, but rather, err, the relationship with the US.

WHEN historians look back on Tony Blair’s ten years as Prime Minister, they will look back on some of the most memorable moments and achievements in our post-war history.

Gordon knows what you're thinking, I know what you're thinking. That single word is mentioned only once in this paean, and that's in passing. Unsurprising, really, that hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis aren't considered either a memorable moment or an achievement.

I think first of September 11, and how by immediately saying we stood shoulder to shoulder with America, Tony spoke not just for Britain but for every nation, and gave strength and courage to a world paralysed by shock and fear, as always on the side of freedom.

It's perhaps not best to mention here that within a year and six months the coalition that had emerged in the wake of 9/11 was irrevocably destroyed by the mania of Bush and Blair in attacking Iraq. Is something that any British prime minister would have done at the time really an achievement?

I think of July two years ago, when Tony returned from bringing the Olympics to London to persuade other world leaders at Gleneagles to take action on international poverty and climate change.

Which as the Guardian reported last week, has turned out fantastically well.

I think how quickly those triumphs — for which Tony had worked for years — turned to tragedy in the space of a few minutes on July 7, but how steadfastly he set the tone of Britain’s continuing and long-term response to terrorist extremists: Resolute, defiant and unyielding.

And how he destroyed the cross-party consensus which had emerged after the bombs by returning from holiday, scared shitless by the Sun demanding that something be done IMMEDIATELY, to claim the "rules of the game are changing", which only exacerbated the problem and gave the terrorists' the satisfaction of knowing that they could rely on the government to reduce freedom to provide "security".

I think of how he spoke for the country after the death of Princess Diana and then of the tireless determination he has shown for ten years — facing down every frustration and setback — in trying to bring lasting peace and prosperity to both communities in Northern Ireland, and to both communities in Israel and Palestine.

He only spoke for the part of the country that went mad for a couple of weeks over the tragic but ordinary death of a woman. To everyone else he sounded like an idiot. While Blair does deserve credit for the progress made in the peace process in Northern Ireland, he's done absolutely nothing to help Palestine, and made clear where his bread's really buttered by supporting Israel's brutal war on Lebanon-Hizbullah last summer, joining in with the United States in helping to scupper any chance of an early ceasefire.

And I think how the young Tony Blair, who never thought he would have to send our Armed Forces to war, has seen them serve with great valour in Kosovo, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and Iraq.

There it is! The less said about this whole paragraph the better.

And when I think of the hours we spent sharing a Commons office in the 1980s, debating how the Labour Party might become New Labour and how we could fight for the great causes of our age, I look back on how in the years that followed he not only led our party to a unique triple of election victories but — the greater achievement for him — also made Britain first in the world for debt relief, action on Aids, a fair trade deal for the poorest countries, and tackling climate change.

The great causes of our age presumably being helping the filthy rich get even filthier, the abandonment of anything even resembling traditional Labour values, and a "liberal interventionist" foreign policy which is neither liberal (except in the classical, imperialist sense) nor about helping protect the citizens which intervention was meant to.

And he has been right to say that what binds Britain and America together is the shared beliefs in liberty, democracy and the dignity of every single individual that both our countries value.

Unless they're Iraqi or an alleged terrorist, in which case you'll either be bombed, or rendered to a black hole CIA prison where you'll be tortured until you either confess or go crazy, or preferably, both.

I am honoured to call Tony my oldest friend in politics, of course with the inevitable ups and downs along the way, but still the longest partnership between Prime Minister and Chancellor for 200 years.

Honoured to have worked with him to create a Britain that is stronger, fairer and more prosperous than that bright morning back in 1997 when Tony first walked up Downing Street — a Britain which can hold its head up high in the world.

Is Brown being facetious, or knowingly ironic? He surely can't be serious about being Tony's oldest friend, unless we're going by the old adage of keeping your friends close and your enemies even closer. As for Britain holding its head up high, we're now hated just slightly less than America, which is quite an achievement.

The Sun's leader is full of much the same, vomit-inducing sycophancy:

And, despite Iraq, he can claim moral victories abroad in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan.

As the still returning body bags from the poor, blighted latter country can attest to.

Brown then already has his balls in a Murdoch-branded vice. Here's to ten more years of New Murdoch.

Related post:
Bloggerheads - Celebrating 10 years of the Downing Street Echo

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War crime? Smore crime!

Images of the injuries sustained by Baha Mousa, lying dead after being beaten to death by British soldiers. Photographs taken from the Guardian.

Buried by the reporting on the fertiliser plot, the only soldier with the dignity to admit to taking part in the beatings which led to the death of the Iraqi hotel receptionist Baha Mousa, was yesterday sentenced to a year in prison and dismissed from the army.

Yep, you read that right. Even though Corporal Donald Payne was convicted of a war crime, as defined by the International Criminal Court Act of 2001, his punishment, apart from losing his pension, is a whole year of imprisonment for taking part in the abuse. He was cleared of manslaughter, as it was not proved that his blows had personally lead to Mousa dying. Payne was identified as one of the soldiers' who took it upon himself to conduct the Iraqi detainees like a choir, who had been mistakenly identified as potential insurgents and possibly the men that had killed a popular young captain, Di Jones, battering them one at a time, relishing the groans and pleas coming from the prisoners, while entertaining his fellow comrades who at no time did anything to stop the blatant breaking of rules on treatment of detainees that had been introduced over three decades previously.

In a way, it's hard not to feel sorry for Payne. He was honest enough to come forward and admit that he was in the vanguard of attacking the prisoners, even though by all accounts the evidence against him, unlike that against the others tried during the court martial, was damning. Rather than being protected by the other soldiers involved and by the higher-ups who authorised the re-introduction of conditioning in the first place, he's been left to hang out to dry, a sacrificial lamb designed to appease those who demanded justice for Baha Mousa and those who suffered with him. Instead, Payne's treatment is more than representative of the way both the government and the army have dealt with allegations of abuse by British soldiers: cover it up, deny anything really shameful happened, and move on.

If Payne hadn't admitted his guilt, then the army might have entirely got away with it. The closing of ranks which took place during the trial, the endless repetitions uttered by witnesses of "I don't remember" and the lack of interest in much of the media other than to damn the government for daring to bring the court martial in the first place has meant that much of the British public probably think that the only real abuses by British troops in Iraq were those photographs of Iraqis being forced to simulate sex for the cameras. The photographs above, and the diary of a soldier reproduced in the Grauniad at the weekend tell a far different story.

Payne is now considering whether to sing like a canary about what he knows. One can only hope that he does: the authorities who OK-ed the use of conditioning need to be exposed and brought to account, as do those soldiers that took part in the beating of four ordinary Iraqis who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It all seems very different from the speech that Colonel Tim Collins gave on the eve of war:

It is a big step to take another human life. It is not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in other conflicts, I can assure you they live with the Mark of Cain upon them. If someone surrenders to you then remember they have that right in international law and ensure that one day they go home to their family.

From there we go to "the fat bastard" who couldn't be revived, which was "what a shame".

It's therefore difficult to take seriously Sir Richard Dannatt's claim that they don't know who was responsible for the death of Baha Mousa. As Panorama pointed out, they know the regiments that were there, the know the soldiers who were in the base where they taken, and they know who took part in the conditioning. It's just that they haven't been brought to justice.

Finally, as you might expect, today's Sun has absolutely no mention of the sentencing of Payne. Then again, we shouldn't have expected one, for Payne's imprisonment is only for a so-called crime. For Mousa's family, the Sun is only a so-called newspaper.

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