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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