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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