Tuesday, July 31, 2007 

Wither the Tories?

There's a joke somewhere about David Cameron giving a typically specious speech on school discipline (solution: send 'em out to the voluntary sector) at the same time as some members of his own party are doing the equivalent of shouting out without putting their hands up first and then talking over the teacher, but I'm not sure I know what it is.

There are two conclusions you can come to about why the Tories, after having led in the polls by various margins for over a year, at one point even coming ahead of Labour when asked how they rated the parties on the NHS, are now once again flatlining. The first is that this is just a trough, with Brown getting the expected bounce everyone always thought he would, and that once Brown has been in the job for longer than a month, the Tories will once again find themselves gaining on Labour. After all, the local council elections, discounting the two by-election results in two safe Labour seats, showed that the party was getting back towards the support it needed in order to win the next general election. Factor into this that up until some of the recent reports on policy which Cameron ordered when he became leader that the party had almost no discernible, concrete policies whatsoever, apart from mutterings about the environment and understanding young people more, and things look even better. Once the party finally gets into the minutiae of what it proposes, the gap will lengthen ever further.

The second is that the first is bunkum. The problem, despite all the scandals, cock-ups and outrages of last year wasn't Labour itself: it was simply the tosser who was still prime minister. It was Blair's vanity, his attempt to hang on no matter how much damage it did to his party, that was what the public really objected most to. Despite Gordon Brown being next door for 10 years, having personal involvement of much of what went wrong, the man who signed the cheques that made the Iraq war possible, the lack of a contest within the Labour party over his ascent, and all the attempts by the Tories to smear him as the past and the "roadblock to reform", a change at the top was all that was needed. There are still tough times to come, but David Cameron is now no longer the "new man". If anything, he's now a reminder of all of Blair's worst qualities, defined by the image of him cycling into Westminster while a car carrying his documents follows behind him.

The reality, as it always seems to be, is most likely somewhere in between the two. The Cameron bubble has most certainly burst: the murmurings against him from within the Tory ranks were always there, but while they were ahead in the polls and seemingly back on top, most were reasonably content. Cameron's mistake was in starting to think that he was bigger than the party itself: putting the party down as "Cameron's Conservatives" in the Ealing Southall by-election was a ploy which horribly backfired, making Dave seem like a self-aggrandising narcissist who had single-handedly turned the corner for the party. Selecting Tony Lit as the candidate, hoping that a somewhat well-known telegenic local would bring in the votes needed was the kind of short-sighted stunt which deservedly also came back and bit him in the ass, after those photos emerged and details of a donation to Labour came out. More damaging and hurtful to the party's activists was the grammar school fiasco: whether it was an attempt to create a clause 4 moment, or something which the top brass felt that would appeal to the average voter who overwhelmingly disapproves of grammar schooling and selection, they ought to have realised this was the equivalent of poking a napping rottweiler in the eye with a pointy stick, and the resulting savaging could have been foreseen.

While these are all legitimate grievances as it were, the continuing dissent seems more of the petulant variety than that which is terminal. The hand-over of power has gone better than expected for Labour and the Tories' attempts to try and unnerve Brown have failed, but to get rid of Cameron now or to lurch back to the right would be an act of sheer lunacy, panicking at the very first hurdle. The last two elections have shown that they can no longer win simply by being harder on immigration, crime and Europe and the same economically as Labour when there's little to separate the parties on everything else. The problem with this is that there are already two parties on the centre/centre-right ground; leaving not just traditional Tory voters but also most of the left essentially disenfranchised.

Cameron's solution has been to try to pander to both those sympathetically liberal with his emphasis on the environment and toning down of the rhetoric on crime, as well as a rediscovering of the libertarianism the party was founded on in response to terrorism, while moving back towards the right socially, advocating marriage, talking of a broken society and now demanding that discipline be re-established in schools. While some of the latter is designed to appeal to the Daily Mail set, and he's got the response he was hoping for, it's that well, first no one believes him on the environment, and the socially conservative stuff looks to everyone else as the same old back to basics nonsense about bashing the single mum and lauding the family that neither works any longer or is likely to bring over the floating voter. Some of the other demands about what Cameron should be doing are similarly daft: Graham Brady, who resigned from the shadow cabinet over the grammar school mistake said that Cameron should be focusing "on a grittier, more relevant message to the inner city communities worried about crime". That's all well and good, but those same people are still never going to vote Tory, whatever he says about their fears.

It may all come down to just how much the Tories want to win. However much some of us may dislike it, Blair won thanks to the hatred and boredom which 18 years of Tory government had brought, the sheer desire for power at any cost by those who emerged after the death of John Smith, and finally, by shafting the left and making a pact with the Murdoch press. He didn't need to continue with the radical centrism once he and New Labour was securely in power, but everyone had underestimated just how much he had actually meant what he said. The nightmare for the Tory grassroots, and indeed, many others, is that the Tory urge become inexorable, but that Cameron too means what he says. He might have written the 2005 Tory manifesto, but everything suggests that he really does want to be the heir to Blair. When Brown calls the next election for may well turn out to be the real defining moment.

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Bomb bomb UK!

After two trials, with the juries in both cases failing to reach a verdict, Robert Cottage has finally been sentenced after he pleaded guilty to possessing explosives. A collection of explosive chemicals which were, according to the initial police statement, the largest haul they'd ever seized from a house. Oh, and did I mention that Cottage, by his own admission, had ordered and stored these chemicals because he believed a race war was imminent due to immigration? Rather than using them to make the sort of bombs that explode and slam white hot pieces of shrapnel into those unlucky enough to be in the vicinity's bodies, severing limbs, decapitating heads and generally causing a nuisance, Cottage instead planned to use his chemicals to create bangers which would cause flashes, and scare off any of the rampaging brown/black/Polish people running about looting. Or at least that's what his lawyers argued. Given that the prosecution, according to Postman Patel, admitted that only a "squib" could be produced from his stockpile, he may well be telling the truth. In an age in which innocent brothers get shot and smeared for looking a bit dodgy and possibly having bombs which spray out poison though, it all looks a little like double standards.

The judge, probably more because he pleaded guilty than anything else, took Cottage at his word. I quote:

"I am satisfied it was Cottage's views on how he put it 'the evils of uncontrolled immigration' would lead to civil war which would be imminent and inevitable.

"I accept the intention was to hold these chemicals until the outbreak of civil unrest. That was a criminal and potentially dangerous act.

In other words, he was certainly not the next David Copeland. Remember that. Would it be too cynical to think that if Cottage had brown skin and was called Mohammad that the judge might not have accepted his excuse? Or indeed, that the media coverage of the initial raid and the trials might have been slightly up the news agenda?

Cottage was sentenced to two and a half years, which is probably about right. As he's already spent 10 months in custody, he may only have to serve another 6 or so months. Tom on BlairWatch goes through how long some other terrorists without any equipment are currently spending at Her Majesty's Pleasure, which again just might put this case into some sort of perspective. Gathering explosive material and planning for a civil war it seems is also less of an offence than spending an afternoon with other ignorant goons shouting stupid, inflammatory slogans. Welcome then to modern Britain.

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Scum-watch: Wade found floating off St. Ives.

Has such tedious, idiotic, hyperbolic nonsense ever occupied a newspaper's front page for three days straight? No, I'm not talking about the Star's Big Brother obsession, or the Express' various fixations on Diana and Madeleine, although both could equally apply, but the Scum's continuing insistence that there really is a great white shark currently swimming off the coast of St. Ives. Oh, and it's female, and most likely has a mate nearby.

That's the latest stone tablet to be delivered by today's Scum, quoting this time
"Leading Aussie shark watcher Dave “Sharkman” Baxter":

“That’s definitely a Great White — probably an adult female about 12ft long. Her mate will be close by.”

Incidentally, this leading Aussie shark watcher is so famous that searching for him on Google only brings up the various news articles currently quoting him and his expert insight, oh and one forum post.

Quite why the Scum is continuing with this charade is difficult to fathom. Their original source for it possibly being a great white has decided that it isn't, as noted yesterday, and now David Sims, who leads the only scientific study of large sharks in the UK (and does appear on Google) has ridiculed the coverage by saying that the first film shows either dolphins or porpoises, while the second is a basking shark, as others from the start pointed out it was most likely to be.

God, writing this I feel like a vicious, humourless little pedant, so that must mean that I'm about the same as usual. Does the fact that it's not a serious news story though make any difference when the newspaper is quite possibly purposefully misleading the nation?

The paper is though asking for suggestions for what the shark should be called. How could it be known by any other moniker than "Rebekah"? It's phony, pretending to be something it isn't, and tends to lash out after spending all day drinking.

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Monday, July 30, 2007 

Mr Brown goes to Washington.

After the "terror attacks" and the torrents of water cascading from the sky, Gordon Brown might well think that going to visit George Bush would be a doddle by comparison. The difficulty was always going to be in knowing the right balance to strike - the apparent instant friendship that flowered when Blair 'n' Bush first met, kindred spirits if they ever were two, was never going to be on the agenda. At the same time, with the Scum already howling about the "special relationship", he also can't afford to be anything less than always on-message, even if the tone is going to be very different.

The whole meeting should, and deserves to be strained on all levels. Bush is not just a lame duck, he's a dead duck, festering before the entire planet as he and his neo-con cohorts desperately try to shore up some kind of legacy, and possibly even attempt to draw Iraq out long enough so that if a Democrat manages to win in 08, voting machines and lists aside, that the victor is bequeathed with a gift that no one would ever want. If Brown had really wanted to set out the change in the relationship from being the doormat to being the poodle that bites back, he could, as Ming Campbell pointed out, more than capably have been able to make his agenda clear, urging that Guantanamo Bay be closed down and that Britain has finished with Iraq, getting out within a matter of months, if not weeks. While the hard right here may shout about betrayal, Brown could afford to kick Bush in to touch, even possibly helping towards his and the Republicans' downfall by getting out of Iraq now. The surge is failing, the country is somehow in a worse state after four years of occupation and supposed reconstruction than it was under Saddam and sanctions which contributed towards the deaths of 500,000 children, and yet still our politicians somehow can't dare to anger those who took us into this disaster in the first place.

We can at least be glad that the infectious idiocy which Bush seems to radiate somehow hasn't managed to infect our new Dear Leader. The grimace on his face as Bush drove him round in the golf buggy, not managing like Tony would have done to have grinned uneasily through it, was refreshing in itself. The whole press conference where as usual we learned absolutely nothing, was just as tepid. Bush, still after 7 years doing the same act of attempting to be the class clown without the intelligence to pull it off, speaking in the same achingly slow drawl, which you would take for sarcastic if you didn't know it was the way he always speaks, was attempting to be effervescent, while alongside Brown was almost trying not to be noticed, again, like he was at his first prime minister's questions, visibly nervous. He wasn't exactly icy, but it certainly was someone who was uncomfortable in his skin and rigid in his speech.

This was undoubtedly the way it was always going to be, and like everything that has gone on since Blair's exit, while most things have continued as were, the very fact that it isn't the same grating, agitating bastard manning the helm has changed the situation, and judging by the opinion polls, most of the public's minds as well. Aggravating as such blanket statements made by Brown about how the world should be thankful for the American response to 9/11, this again seems to have been made purely to reassure the already weary and suspicious Republicans after the speech by Douglas Alexander and the interview by Mark Malloch-Brown, who seems to be more than happy to anger the usual suspects that are already biased against him.

Changing the terminology used about the war on terror, or whatever it is we're calling it this week, is one of the subtle, some might suggest cowardly ways of doing things differently while actually doing nothing. It helps that it pisses off the likes of Melanie Philips, but does really suggesting that what salafist takfiris are waging is a war of inhumanity change anything whatsoever, other than changing the original absurd abstract noun? In fact, what others have long been calling the "twat", a war against bullshit, makes more sense, both in the way that dropping bombs on people doesn't tend to help them, and that what we're fighting, if we're fighting anything, is a war against the insanity and inanity of restoring a mythical, religious age of purity through acts which are expressly against that belief system in the first place. We've got more than enough of that here already.

Nothing then that we didn't expect, and nothing of the unexpected. Whereas previously we would have hated every excruciating moment of the press conference, now, despite the apparent status quo continuing, there's enough for most people that they won't fly into the same rage as they would have done. Brown's biggest problem right now is that it simply can't last.

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Various things.

First up, Andrew Dismore and the Joint Committee on Human Rights thoroughly eviscerates the government's "case" for doubling the detention without charge period for terrorist suspects.

Sarfraz Manzoor, in his article on British Asians (much discussion of the report underlying it over on Pickled Politics) and success talks of "coconut" as being the British equivalent of the insult "Oreo". It's no doubt a regional thing, but the insult here has always been similarly junk food based, with those thought of trying too hard to fit in being called a "Bounty".

Finally, with the Scum yet again leading on their brilliant expose of how sharks are going to infiltrate our schools and start eating children, Richard Peirce bursts the bubble by suggesting it's far more likely to be either a porbeagle or a mako shark.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007 

The silly season commences and Fox News takes on Anonymous.

The politicians have deserted Westminster, school's out for summer, it can only mean one thing: the silly season is upon us. What better way to get it started than in today's Scum, with the usual hoary old tale of a "great white shark" being sighted off the coast of Cornwall?

SHOCKED tourists told of their terror last night over the Great White shark sighting off Cornwall.

And one holidaymaker said: “This has got to be every swimmer’s worst nightmare.”

Despite getting the head of the Shark Trust to proclaim that the shark filmed is indeed a "predatory shark", it remains far more likely that it was a relatively harmless basking shark, which are often sighted off St. Ives, as this one was.

Even the Sun's usual standard of journalism can't come close to the level of idiocy displayed in this Fox 11 News "investigation" into Anonymous, a coven of "hackers on steroids" using "secret" websites to defame and intimidate various individuals across the length and breadth of the interweb.


One can only come to the conclusion that this will not end well.

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Friday, July 27, 2007 

Scum-watch: Floody hell.

The Sun really does seem to be a roll at the minute when it comes to trying to scare those already flooded into even further bouts of ennui, depression and anxiety. Yesterday, in the calm, measured manner for which the newspaper is renowned, it splashed on its own investigation, headlined "THE TOXIC TIDE". For anyone doubting just what sort of toxicity the newspaper was talking about, it helpfully illustrated the problem with the stock poison warning label, the skull and crossbones. Not wanting to be possibly outdone, it listed just about every possible disease that might be lurking in the filthy water:

Experts confirmed that water samples collected by The Sun on the outskirts of Gloucester bore traces of animal and human faeces.

Analysis revealed disturbing levels of bacteria and viruses, including salmonella, hospital superbug C.Diff and cryptosporidium.

Dysentery, gastroenteritis, gastritis and meningitis could all be contracted by the rapid spread of infection, causing crippling stomach pains, diarrhoea, and possible long-term effects in children.

And if that wasn't enough:

One of the biggest fears was that there could be an outbreak of deadly cholera.

Is bacteria (sic) thrives in warm, dirty water and the disease spreads between people who consume contaminated food or water.

The disease — most dangerous for young children — ravages the gut, causing chronic diarrhoea.

That can lead to severe dehydration, rapid kidney failure and death.

Or if that doesn't get you, E.coli will:

The E.coli 157 bug can also be lethal. It surfaced in Britain in the 1980s and is passed on by eating infected food or drinking contaminated liquid. It kills by damaging the kidneys.

Dysentery is also caused by a form of bacteria, spreading rapidly through food, infected water and physical contact with victims.

It leads to chronic stomach cramps, then diarrhoea and possibly kidney failure.

Strangely, nowhere in the entire article is the obvious pointed out: unless you for some reason feel like drinking the water, the chances of catching anything are slight. Thankfully, we have the BBC, which last week the Sun said needed to have the stables cleaned out and the jobsworths sacked in order for trust to be restored, to bring some clarity to the issue:

Professor Kevin G Kerr, consultant Microbiologist at Harrogate District Hospital said: "Some areas of the world experience serious outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and typhoid after major flooding.

"But large-scale outbreaks of infection would be very unlikely in the UK, partly because these diseases are very rare in this country but mainly because water companies are able to provide clean drinking water - either bottled or from bowsers - to people without tap water."

Dr Ken Flint, a microbiologist at the University of Warwick, said: "As long as people don't drink the flood water they won't get a water borne disease."

And environmental microbiologist Dr Keith Jones, from Lancaster University, said: "Despite the dire warnings about outbreaks of disease following flooding, they rarely happen.

"Although there is the potential for an increase in enteric disease after flooding, if you follow the advice given by the Environment Agency and the Environmental Health Officers, you should be safe."

Indeed, no disease outbreaks were reported in the flooded areas of the US affected by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

And there is no evidence from previous UK floods, such as Carlisle and Lewes, that bugs in the water caused an increase in gastro-intestinal illness and enhanced surveillance by the Health Protection Agency has not detected increased reports of infection in areas that are currently affect flooding either.

Not content with just over-hyping the deadliness of the flood water, today's Scum instead decided to err, over-hype the deadliness of the water contained in the bowsers, while having a good old bash at those favoured bogeymen, the one-dimensional, omnipresent yet invisible yobs:

FURIOUS flood victims last night slammed yobs who ruined their emergency water supply.

Gangs of youngsters urinated in a desperately-needed water bowser and tipped bleach into another.

They also emptied one of the mobile tankers of its precious water within 15 minutes of its arrival in Cheltenham, Gloucs — then stood by laughing.

All splashed on the front page, with the headline "POND LIFE" just to hammer home the disgraceful behaviour of these feral youngsters. Oddly, especially for an exclusive that led the paper, the story was nowhere to be seen on the news page by tonight. (I had to search for it.) Could that possibly be related to the BBC yet again having to clarify the Sun's voluminous apoplexy?

Gloucestershire police have said they have received about ten reports of criminal damage to bowsers and one unconfirmed report of urine in one of the containers.

One would presume that the unconfirmed report came from err, the Sun. In any case, "Guinnessman" in the comments on the article has the solution:

Why can't the powers-that-be have the nerve to declare martial law in the worst affected places. That way, these little scum-bags could be shot.

Out of 3 pages of why-oh-whying, calls for parents to give their youngsters a good beating to sort them out and diatribes about chav scum, it's left to the usual one person there often is on these threads to insert just a tiny amount of sanity:

Come on - where's your sense of humour? Kids will always be kids! Can't you see the funny side of peeing in the water? Have you forgotten what its like to be young?

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The devil weed returns.

Is it possible to go a whole week without yet another scare story about cannabis causing collective psychosis in the media? The Grauniad, usually more immune than others to over-hyping scientific studies, highlighted the scary figure that smoking the drug can increase the risk of schizophrenia by 40%, which most of the rest of the media have picked up on.

Unity provides a lengthy fisk, but the most important points are thus: firstly, smoking cannabis does not increases the risk of developing schizophrenia by 40%, it increases the risk of developing "any psychotic outcome", not just schizophrenia. Secondly, this quite wonderful figure of 40% needs to be put into context. The figure is taken from the statistic that 1 in 100 of the population have a chance of developing severe schizophrenia; according to the Lancet study, smoking cannabis increases this chance by 0.4%. In other words, an average user of cannabis, if there is such a thing, increases the possibility of developing "a psychotic outcome" by a massive 0.4%. Doesn't look so frightening now, does it? Unity additionally points out that that the 1 in 100 figure comes from the US, while the National Statistics Office puts the chance of developing a psychotic disorder here at 1 in 200, further lowering the risk.

The study really doesn't tell us anything we don't already know. Those under 18 are at greater risk from smoking cannabis, cannabis increases the risk of developing a psychotic illness, and those with a genetic disposition towards mental ill-health increase the risk of developing such a complaint by smoking cannabis. All these things have been known now for years, and have been considered by the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs when coming to their conclusion that cannabis should be, and should remain, a Class C drug.

Still, we can at least be slightly sated that the Grauniad didn't jump to the sheer lunacy of the tabloids. The Mail and Sun, who also just happen to both be hysterical campaigners against the downgrading of cannabis to Class C, try to outdo each other with their own misleading articles. While both claim that smoking just one roll-up increases the risk by 41%, the Mail tacks on the sensational tales of 3 murderers, all of which it attempts to claim were in some way influenced by their use of cannabis. The Sun, on the other hand, just went straight for the jugular. Despite Rebekah Wade previously going on a mental health training course after she splashed "BONKERS BRUNO LOCKED UP" on the front page when he was sectioned, the piece is tastefully headlined "'Psycho' risk from one joint".

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Thursday, July 26, 2007 

Rendition: The whitewash is applied.

Another day, another reasonably damning report on rendition, this time from the Intelligence and Security committee, which ties itself in knots (PDF) in order not to implicitly condemn MI6's role in the rendition of alleged terrorist suspects. First, it provides a lesson in how to obfuscate by defining the different sorts of rendition:


6. The term “rendition”is used to mean different things by different people. It encompasses numerous variations ofextra-judicial transfer such as: to countries where the person is wanted for trial; to countries where the individual can be adequately interrogated; transfer for the purposes of prolonged detention;and military transfer of battlefield detainees.

7. In order to provide clarity,the Committee has used the following terms throughout this Report:

“Rendition”: Encompasses any extra-judicial transfer ofpersons from one jurisdiction or State to another.

“Rendition to Justice”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes ofstanding trial within an established and recognised legal and judicial system.

“Military Rendition”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons (detained in, or related to, a theatre of military operations) from one State to another, for the purposes of military detention in a military facility.

“Rendition to Detention”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system.

“Extraordinary Rendition”: The extra-judicial transfer of persons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system, where there is a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDT).

For example, the transfer of battlefield detainees from Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay would fall into the category of “Military Renditions”. The transfer of a detainee unconnected to the conflict in Afghanistan to Guantánamo Bay would be a “Rendition to Detention”. A transfer to a secret facility constitutes cruel and inhuman treatment because there is no access to legal or other representation and, on that basis,we would describe this as an “Extraordinary Rendition”.

Isn't that glorious? According to the committee then, what happened to Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna, who were rendered to Guant
ánamo Bay as a result of information provided to the CIA by MI6 wasn't actually an "extraordinary rendition", as they weren't being sent to somewhere where there was a "real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment". I don't know about you, but I consider two men being effectively kidnapped by a security service far outside of their own legal jurisdiction and then imprisoned in a camp where numerous former detainees have alleged that mistreatment was endemic, in al-Rawi's case for 4 years, with al-Banna's detention still continuing, to be cruel and inhuman treatment, whether they were personally tortured or not. In fact, I'd say it was pretty much a complete fucking outrage. Using this definition however, the committee comes to this conclusion:

D.Those operations detailed above, involving UK Agencies’ knowledge or involvement, are “Renditions to Justice”, “Military Renditions”and “Renditions to “the Detention”. They are not “Extraordinary Renditions”, which we define as extra-judicial transfer ofpersons from one jurisdiction or State to another, for the purposes of detention and interrogation outside the normal legal system,where there is a real risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”. We note that in some of the cases we refer to, there are allegations of mistreatment, including whilst individuals were detained at Guantánamo Bay, although we have not found evidence that such mistreatment was foreseen by the Agencies. The Committee has therefore found no evidence that the UK Agencies were complicit in any “Extraordinary Rendition” operations.

With the goalposts thus shifted, the UK agencies get a clean bill of health. Everything is right with the world after all!

Elements of whitewash are splashed liberally around most of the cases which the committee has investigated. On Binyam Mohamed, who you might remember as the prisoner who had his penis repeatedly slashed with a scalpel, MI6 informs the committee that they one of their men did indeed interview him in Karachi in 2002, and that it's quite possible that information they handed to the Americans on him was subsequently used by the Moroccans who tortured him. However, their conclusion is:

M. There is a reasonable probability that intelligence passed to the Americans was used in al-Habashi’s subsequent interrogation. We cannot confirm any part of al-Habashi’s account of his detention or mistreatment after his transfer from Pakistan.

N. We agree with the Director General of the Security Service that, with hindsight, it is regrettable that assurances regarding proper treatment of detainees were not sought from the Americans in this case.

Throughout the report MI6 is repeatedly let off the hook because "at the time" they didn't know what the Americans were doing to those being rendered. This failure to see any evil in what the CIA was doing only changed after the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was unearthed, as is described in a section of the report headed "ethical dilemmas":

149. The Security Service and SIS have, certainly since 1998, where they considered it necessary, sought assurances from foreign intelligence services that individuals facing detention as a result of any action or intelligence shared with them would be treated humanely. This was originally more concerned with the need to ensure a fair trial and avoid capital punishment as CIDT was not thought to be a likely risk.

150. It was only when news surfaced ofthe mistreatment of detainees at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq in 2004 that the UK Government realised that there were real risks of CIDT:
Back in 2003 we were concerned about secret facilities but we did not at that stage, I think, make an automatic connection between secret facilities and mistreatment. That sort ofconnection grew later as more allegations came to light or… things like Abu Ghraib came to light, which led you to believe, just a minute, if that is happening there, what might be happening in secret facilities.

From an organisation that is meant to imagine the worst in order to prevent it, this is not just a shocking lack of curiosity, it absolutely reeks of cover-up. Guant
ánamo itself had been open for over two and a half years by the time the Abu Ghraib scandal occurred, where from the beginning there were allegations of ill-treatment and torture. Is MI6 seriously trying to suggest that when it knew full well that suspects were being transferred to black sites and countries where torture was endemic that it honestly believed the CIA's motives for doing so were entirely pure? Why on earth is the Intelligence and Security Committee willing to accept this errant nonsense?

Finally, the allegations of "ghost flights" containing rendered individuals going through UK airspace are similarly dealt with in a "see no evil" style, especially by the director of the MI6:

We have no knowledge of any detainees being subject to rendition through British territory since 9/11; nor have we helped any “Extraordinary Renditions” via UK airspace or territory; nor have the U.S sought our assistance or permission to use UK airspace or facilities… Unless you say you are going to search every aircraft to check the truth of what you are told, it is a difficult issue… As you know… we are prioritising ruthlessly and I could not possibly justify diverting people to check whether aircraft are CIA-sponsored and what they contain,and frankly I doubt the police have the resources to do this.

In other words then, since the Americans didn't feel the need to inform anyone of what they were doing, we're not going to waste any time investigating the possibility, even if it is backed up by mountains of evidence showing the flights linked to the rendition programme have passed through UK airports. The police also have much better things to do than investigating whether men who have been kidnapped and are on their way to being tortured are being flown through UK airspace;
like chastising parents for the way they discipline their children, or removing protesters so that a bull can be slaughtered. The committee's own conclusion is:

FF. The use of UK airspace and airports by CIA-operated aircraft is not in doubt. There have been many allegations related to these flights but there have been no allegations, and we have seen no evidence, that suggest that any of these CIA flights have transferred detainees through UK airspace (other than two “Rendition to Justice” cases in 1998 which were approved by the UK Government following U.S. requests).

All of which reminds one of the phrase "plausible deniability". Don't tell and we won't ask. The silence it seems will forever continue, as shown by Gordon Brown's refusal to condemn the rendition programme yesterday and by the government's pretty pathetic response to the committee's report (PDF). Some things are destined to remain secret.

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What you won't be reading in the Sun tomorrow part 2.

As an addendum to yesterday's less than serious post on the Scum's inability to report on the discovery of 29,000 sex offenders with profiles on MySpace, could you possibly believe that there's also no article on the matter in today's issue of the nation's biggest selling newspaper? Interestingly, there's also none of the usual reporting on some other child sex scandal which the Sun has dredged up either, unless you count the Chris Langham trial. There is however nearly 350 words on how the creator of Facebook allegedly stole the idea from three friends when they were at Harvard, reporting on the court case currently being pursued. Oddly, comments on the piece have been turned off. The hack behind the piece couldn't resist a plug for MurdochSpace right at the end, though:

Facebook has the second biggest number of users of any site after MySpace.

For comparisons sake, all the other tabloids had articles on the discovery of the profiles, with the Mirror running the story which Rebekah Wade couldn't as she commented on yesterday:

MILLIONS of teenagers will be logging on to a social networking website today.

And more than 100 million have posted personal details and pictures on sites such as MySpace, Facebook, Second Life and Bebo.

But while teenagers chat with friends around the world, paedophiles, stalkers, bullies and fraudsters lurk in the shadows.

There are even fears that these sites are being used by terrorists to communicate, rather than making calls or sending emails which can be more easily traced.

And so on. Both the Mail and Express ran articles remarkably free of hysteria.

More intriguing is the Times' coverage of the revelation. I have to admit I expected it to ignore the news much like the Scum, so I was a little surprised to find an article on it. Unlike all the other articles though, the Times has got the UK police to comment on the matter, to make clear to panicking parents that there is most certainly no danger whatsoever.

Convicted sex offenders should not be prevented from using social networking sites such as MySpace, Scotland Yard said yesterday.

The Metropolitan Police was responding to an announcement by MySpace that it had removed 29,000 convicted sex offenders from its user base in America after cross-checking its members against publicly available sex-offender databases.

The force said that it had no plans to share information about sex offenders with sites such as MySpace and Bebo with a view to having the profiles of such people taken down. “Just because you’re a convicted offender doesn’t mean you’re still offending,” a spokeswoman said. “Why would we pursue them in this way? These are people who have served their time.”

Scotland Yard’s position was backed up by the Home Office, which said it was “not intending to disclose lists of registered sex offenders to individuals or organisations not directly at risk or concerned with law enforcement”.

It has to be said that I most definitely agree with all of that. One has to suspect however that if it had been Facebook or Bebo that the Times wouldn't have gone to the trouble of defending them in the same way as it has the social networking site which just happens to belong to its parent company. Both the Torygraph and Grauniad reported on the matter without needing to dash to the police for comment.

P.S. According to the Scum:

The case for doubling the 28-day limit is incontestable.

We face the biggest threat since World War II.

The Soviet Union? What was that?

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Rapture ready: The unauthorised Christians United for Israel tour.


Rapture Ready: The Unauthorized Christians United for Israel Tour from huffpost and Vimeo.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007 

It never rains but it pours.

How else to describe the never-ending spectre of the terror threat and the new legislation need to prevent it than as a constant dripping, echoing not just throughout parliament but the country itself, driving everyone slowly crazy with the demands for ever longer periods of detention without charge, continuing crackdowns and the kicking out of anyone who so much puts a foot out of step?

After all the claims that Brown will be doing things differently, that leaks to the press will be a thing of the past and that cabinet discussion will be central, today's Sun draws a line under all of that hype. Splashing his supposed first interview with a newspaper since his ascension on the front page, we're informed of how 4,000 "foreign convicts" will be deported by Christmas. Making promises you can't necessarily keep with the Sun isn't the greatest idea, so Brown must be somewhat confident it can be achieved, even if it means riding roughshod over the rights of those who have no links with their home countries and nowhere to stay. Previous attempts at being tough with "foreign criminals" led to people who had lived here in some cases for decades being picked up by immigration officers, but frankly who cares as it long it adds one to the figures? Brown at least holds firm over the EU reforming treaty, saying he won't sign it if it does any of the things the Scum claims it does, rather than call a referendum. It's the cynical leaking of the exact extension time the government is aiming for that rankles most, however.

Even that's presented in such a way as to try to absolve the PM from himself informing the Scum of his plans. While it mentions the 56 days that the government wishes to extend the time limit to, it pretends that this information, rather than coming from the Scum's interview, was provided by "police sources", presumably the same ones which a couple of Sundays ago were demanding "as long as it takes", as Brown felt that MPs needed to be informed first. So much for that. Quite why they've now settled on 56 days, having been previously pushing for 90 or 45, is uncertain. Why not any similar random figure? 69 days? 82 days and 12 hours? While I suppose we ought to be grateful that it's not the indefinite figure that some were asking for, the strangeness of such a figure illustrates the general lack of any evidence whatsoever for such a expansion of the time limit. As Tim has already pointed out, Jacqui Smith's convoluted attempt at putting forward such a case seem to be an attempt to confuse rather enlighten:
"This all gives us a strong view that the time is right to reconsider whether we should allow longer than 28 days' pre-charge detention," she said. "There is already evidence of us stepping up to the point of 28 days. All of this creates what I would argue is a trend of analysis towards a position where it is legitimate for us to consider again the case for going beyond the current situation of the maximum 28 days. The document will outline what we know about that trend and will contain a discussion of the alternatives, but it will not plump for one solution."

What then is this evidence that more than 28 days is needed? Err, exactly the same mostly specious rhetoric which has been used almost from time immemorial. Huge amount of data to shift through, links across the globe, 200 mobile phones, 400 computers, blah blah etc. As before, this isn't in any way a good enough excuse or justification for those being held to be held longer, it's an argument for the police to be given more resources, or to actually use those they already have, such as to demand encryption keys. The other eyebrow-raising excuse made by Brown is that the alleged "liquid bombs plot" was so complicated that six men were still in custody on the 28th day - what he doesn't say is that three of those were released without charge, with the BBC reporting that two others were charged, so either Brown or the BBC have their numbers wrong somewhere along the line. If this is the supposed smoking gun on why more than 28 days is needed, why did John Reid not come to that conclusion during his own terrorism review earlier in the year? Why did the police themselves not instantly demand longer because of how close they came? Equally disingenuous was Smith's claim yesterday that the failed car bombs of last month were further evidence that pointed to the need for an extension; to my knowledge, all of those arrested have now either been charged or released, way before the current limit was anywhere near being breached.

While the government is most definitely overstating its case, Liberty and Amnesty are not helping themselves by claiming that an extension will turn out to be a "terrorist recruiter's dream". It will doubtless further help to alienate a community which already feels unwelcome and under siege, as well as adding to the grievances of an significant minority, but it's unlikely to directly lead anyone into the arms of jihadists. Liberty's proposal that a state of emergency could be declared if further time was needed is a decent suggestion, but one that would hand terrorists a victory they don't deserve. The last thing we should be proposing as necessary is an emergency when they can't even succeed in setting themselves on fire properly. We should instead be focusing on why this debate keeps going round and round in a circle. Where will it all end? If the threat keeps getting worse before it gets better, as seems likely, are we going to be having this discussion on doubling the detention limit every year? The limit has already been extended over a matter of years, from three to five to seven to fourteen to twenty-eight days, as David Winnick pointed out. Just who is it that keeps demanding the extensions? We need to point out it's the scaremongering belligerents (The Scum, Melanie Philips et al) and those with potentially ulterior motives (the police, the government) that are driving the debate, while all the moderates are almost uniquely on the other side.

The other proposals put forward by Brown are mostly on the cautious side, with both intercept evidence and potential questioning after charge being put forward for a review. The latter certainly needs careful scrutiny if it's not going to be potentially abused. The border force, a policy nicked from the Tories, seems like a decent step at appeasing the tabloids screeching about "terrorists flooding in". More worrying is how within nine months every visa will need to be a biometric one, almost certainly a move towards ID cards being introduced for those of us lucky enough to live here, despite the murmurings that Brown might be about to ditch them.

At the moment it seems that both the Tories and Lib Dems are inclined to oppose any extension past 28 days, although one has to wonder if someone other than David Davis' was shadow home secretary if the policy would be different. If this stays the same way if legislation is introduced, both parties will be worthy of praise, especially considering the loudness of those in favour of the government's position. Brown and Labour need to be told squarely that 28 days is enough. At the weekend, Lord Puttnam and Jonathan Powell's wife were shouting "Stasi!" and "Gestapo!" at the police for daring to turn up on the front door of the fragrant, blameless Ruth Turner at 6 in the morning. Those who have experienced power don't tend to like it when the boot is on the other foot; they ought to wonder what someone entirely innocent will feel like if they're detained for 56 days only to be released without charge.

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What you won't be reading in the Sun tomorrow.

"Calm down dears, I'm only a flaming hypocrite."

EVIL PAEDO-PERVS have been deleted from the social networking site MurdochSpace, after the site was trawled JUST TWO MONTHS after a similar purge led to the removal of 7,000 profiles of other child sex vermin.

Disgracefully, MurdochSpace REFUSED to comment on the huge number of shrub rocketeers using the website, or to discuss whether more innocents had been contacted through the site by the scourge of modern life. In a statement, its so-called security officer, Heinrich Wigwam, said: "We're pleased that we've been able to remove the profiles of so many registered perverts, it's just a shame that we're not able to do the same to them in real life. They ought to be strung up from the nearest lamppost, or alternatively, made to watch the Fox News Channel. We now hope that the other pitiful social networking sites, such as Fleshbook and Grebo follow our example and provide a safe haven for such vile degenerates, so that the Sun can run huge exposes on how your kids are only safe on MurdochSpace."

Asked for her views on the matter, Rebekah Wade was sanguine. "It's a shame we can't run a huge scaremongering article on how social networking sites are full of predatory nonces slavering at the bit to molest our precious youngsters, but at least we can report on how that evil thespian Chris Langham had such disgusting material that it made a juror cry. Let's just hope he didn't obtain it from MurdochSpace." When questioned on what she thought about Rupert Murdoch in effect making it easier for child sex fiends to stalk their prey by not putting up appropriate barriers on his hugely profitable network, the Sun editor, described by Courteney Cox as powerful, strong and with a dress sense to rival Boy George, was unequivocal. "The man is clearly no longer up to his job. As an established friend of paedophiles everywhere, having made children less safe by continuing to demand a Sarah's law that will drive them further underground, I believe I have the expertise to make MurdochSpace a safer place. My plan is to name and shame every one of them, and let God sort them out when the vigilante hordes descend on their doorsteps to tear them limb from limb. What could possibly go wrong?".

Wendi Deng is gorgeous.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007 

EU talk bull.

With a good portion of England underwater, you'd think that the Sun would have other things on its mind than the EU reforming treaty. After a faltering campaign of sorts demanding a referendum on what it calls the constitution, set to wreak havoc on our nation with a fury which would make the deluge last Friday look like a light shower, the Scum's today asked wee Willie Hague to write a self-regarding article addressed more to Scum readers than anyone else.

IN 2005, just before the French voted on the European Constitution, Tony Blair made a pledge to Sun readers. He said, “We don’t know what is going to happen in France but we will have a referendum on the Constitution in any event — and that is a Government promise.”

Blair and Brown broke their word. The French rejected the Constitution and British voters never had the referendum they were promised.

What exactly would the point of having a referendum on a document which was dead in the water have been? It would have wasted resources, had a derisory turnout and proved absolutely nothing.

Now the Constitution is back under another name — a treaty. Last week, Brown admitted the con when he accidentally said he and the Irish leader Bertie Ahern had been discussing “the European Constitution and how that can move forward”.

Oh God - the plan has been exposed! Even if the constitution had recommended abolishing the EU altogether, it seems likely that the Tories and the Sun would have opposed it on principle. The reasons for its rejection by the French and Dutch voters were not for the reasons that the Eurosceptics loathe it; their main fear was that it in fact entrenched Anglo-Saxon neo-liberalism, destroying their own social models. Throwing the whole thing out and starting again would have been idiotic when the EU desperately needs reform. It may be 95% the same document, but it still isn't a constitution, as it isn't binding.

There would be a new EU president. There would be an EU foreign minister with his own diplomatic service. Brussels would get new powers over our criminal justice system. And the EU would have more powers over asylum and immigration. Blair and Brown claimed to have won key concessions — but these are hollow. The guarantee of Britain’s independent foreign policy would not be legally binding. And legal experts say the European Court of Justice would find ways to implement the Charter Of Fundamental Rights, which Blair and Brown promised to stop.

Hague buys, or rather pretends that the Scum's claims that we won't be able to run our own foreign policy are true, which is complete and utter nonsense. Would "new" and "old" Europe, with their vastly different agendas have really signed up if this was the case? The Charter of Fundamental Rights, which is incidentally a fine document, is legally binding, but is not "justicable" here because of Blair's objections. Blair also secured an "opt-in" on majority voting on criminal justice matters, meaning that it can only vote and get involved when it chooses too. Ironically, Brown recently pleaded with the EU for more data sharing on terrorist suspects, something presumably that Hague and the Scum would like but which is inhibited by the opt-outs and distance which they both demand.

All this is a distraction from the real issues facing Britain and Europe. Our leaders should have been concentrating on the things that matter to ordinary people, like making our economy competitive, dealing with climate change and fighting global poverty.

Not the floods then, eh? Or crime, immigration, terrorism, the public services, civil liberties? How about Iraq? It's just ever so slightly rich for the party most obsessed with Europe to suggest that the EU is somehow a distraction from everything else.

Britain should be the leader of a new Europe — more modern, flexible and outward-looking. But our Government has failed to lead the fight for reform.

Which the Tories will lead, from the err, Movement for European Reform, having decided to leave the European People's Party grouping. So far the MER has a grand total of two parties when it finally forms after the 2009 European parliament elections, the Tories themselves and the Czech Civic Democratic Party. Better start manning the barricades.

This could not be more important. So The Sun is right to campaign to let the people decide, a campaign David Cameron and I are proud to back.

Labour promised time and again that the British people would have the final say on the Constitution in a referendum. It was in their manifesto. It was in our manifesto. It was even in the Lib-Dem manifesto.

It is time to honour those promises.

Even though Kenneth Clarke, one of the more sensible Tories when it comes to the EU, said he felt it was less important than the Maastrict Treaty, which the Tories didn't offer a referendum on. I think many would be prepared to have a referendum - as long as it was what on what the treaty actually contains and not what the Scum and Tories say it does. As it is, the lies have already been coming thick and fast.

On then, to the Scum's own leader:

The new document is designed to deceive. But clouds of waffle cannot conceal the truth.

We WILL play second fiddle to an EU foreign minister at the UN.

Ignorant misinformation. How could we possibly "play second fiddle" to an EU foreign minister at the UN when we have a permanent seat on the security council and the EU most certainly doesn't? Are the French also prepared to play "second fiddle"? I somehow doubt it.

We WILL risk being outvoted on our own foreign policy.

Rubbish. As the treaty itself explains on how each state still will be able to exercise their own foreign policy:

“The Conference underlines that the provisions in the Treaty on European Union covering the Common Foreign and Security Policy, including the creation of the office of High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the establishment of an External Action Service, do not affect the responsibilities of the Member States, as they currently exist, for the formulation and conduct of their foreign policy nor of their national representation in third countries and international organisations. The Conference also recalls that the provisions governing the Common Security and Defence Policy do not prejudice the specific character of the security and defence policy of the Member States”

We WILL be bound by EU human rights laws.

Seeing as the Charter of Fundamental Rights is meant to be the EU version of the ECHR, most of the laws which the Scum already objects to are enshrined in our own Human Rights Act. As previously mentioned, the charter isn't "justiceable" here, although it might be challenged in the courts.

We WILL give up our veto over employment laws, energy and transport.

Not those affected by the Charter, while it's true we probably have over energy and transport.

We WILL give unelected European judges power over our police and law courts.

Again, as above, simply not true.

Britain once warned ALL these measures were unacceptable.

Experts have yet to unravel the text, but every other EU leader admits this is the old constitution in all but name.

Ireland will hold a referendum. Holland and Denmark are certain to follow suit. Many Sun readers voted Labour in 2005 because Labour promised them a say.

They might not do so again if Gordon breaks the promise he made during his campaign for PM.

Ah yes, I can just picture the Sun readers' marching into the polling stations, at one in their belief that they were voting Labour because they knew they'd have a referendum on the EU constitution. This is a fiction on a par with Michael Jackson's insistence he'd never had plastic surgery. Brown also never said anything about giving a referendum on the constitution during his abortive campaign. All the little lies add up to one big one.

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From despair to where.

i want to thank this cultural production for the sounds that it brings
it makes us amplify our manifestos, and it enables me to sing
i want to thank you, my little nemesis, for everything
for making my head explode and my ears ring
The (International) Noise Conspiracy - Will it Ever be Quiet?

In Haunted, Chuck Palahniuk's pungent satire on reality television and the sensationalism of the modern media, the array of characters that gather together in an abandoned theatre, locked away from the outside world for months in order to write their fictional masterpieces, conspire against their host and his helper by sabotaging the food supply, the water, the heating and even the toilets. Their modus operandi is that only genuine suffering, accompanied by physical, rather than mental scars, guarantees exposure in our modern times. Like a version of Alive! in a pitch black warehouse with similarly dark humour, our protagonists, named after the short, personal stories they tell each other, cut off their own body parts and partake in cannibalism, all with the goal of having their tragic, distorted tale of being locked up by an evil tyrant host who tortures them turned into the last word on hostage taking, with all the benefits that come with being famous for all the wrong reasons.

Being both satire and fiction, Palahniuk characteristically takes both the desire to be infamous and for financial reward to as near to the mark as he can. Back here on Planet Earth, all you really need to be infamous, loved, admired and hated in equal measure is to have big tits and a tiny brain. We've seen so many incarnations of this down the years that you would have thought that by now it would have become passe, predictable and tawdry. After 85 million years of evolution, however, all you still need to get the average man on his knees, tongue lolling out of his mouth, worshipping at the feet of a goddess is for her to have a large pair of mammaries and that knowing, sultry, cheeky smile.

In a world in which the weekly "lads'" mags compete to get as many nipples into their soon to be splattered pages, it's perhaps not a surprise that creatures such as Katie Price and her mongoloid husband Peter Andre exist, but it is that they still demand mass attention, lust and envy. Their relationship with the public is amongst the most cynical that the celebrity world has managed to concoct, and by far one of the most exploitative. Their missives to the world are not merely reported or given out in PR statements; they are written up in the elegiac, fawning, sycophantic prose that inhabits magazines such as OK! and Hello!, even when their personal views are so rudimentary and base that it's impossible to somehow make them more dignified.

It's through this modern day version of Moses receiving the 10 commandments from God that we learn of the choice of name that Price and Andre have chosen for their recently arrived baby girl. According to BBC News:

Glamour model Jordan and pop star Peter Andre have named their baby daughter Princess Tiaamii.

You have to feel for the poor child. While she may be brought up in opulence beyond the dreams of nearly every single one of us, not only does she have to suffer having two of the least charming individuals on the planet for her parents, she also has to endure a moniker that not even the most pretentious Grauniad/Telegraph reader would dare to announce in the pages of either august organ. Jordan and Andre subsequently explain how their synapses somehow managed to fuse together such a unlikely combination:

Jordan, who was born Katie Price, said the first name was chosen was because the girl was "our princess".

And Andre came up with the middle name by combining his mother's name, Thea, with that of Jordan's mother, Amy.

No, I'm not sure how Thea somehow fits into Tiaamii either. But wait! There's yet more:

"We've put an accent over the first A to make it more exotic and two Is at the end just to make it look a bit different," Jordan told OK! magazine.

Somehow, you get the feeling that this most learned of couples doesn't really understand why accents are usually used. Surely they could have decided on both a more exotic and different name by following the example of the mother's nom de guerre; how about Princess Syria, Iraq or Egypt? Or how about moving regions to Africa and instead having Princess Zimbabwe, Chad or Darfur? They could have shown their political awareness while also indulging their other desires!

Celebrities giving their children stupid, bizarre, laughable names isn't a new thing. The reigning Queen up until her death was undoubtedly Paula Yates, whose last attempt, naming her daughter with Michael Hutchence Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily set the bar for all to follow. It's not as if the trend isn't just with those who can be compared in the intelligence stakes with Pooh bear: Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow named their daughter Apple, probably to be joined later in life by her sisters Kumquat, Lychees and Pomegranate. Things still could have been far worse for Princess Tiaamii, as Jordan explains:

Jordan also revealed that she had considered calling the girl Tinkerbell, but rejected the idea because too many celebrities had chosen it for their dogs.

One has to wonder then what the problem was.

As much as some of us loathe these grotesque, disgusting, most grasping and desperate of personalities, there are plenty of others that adore them, and follow their every movement as if they were a deity. In addition to this, their control of the popular mind is such that the most popular children's names list in 2002 recorded 51 newborn girls being called Chardonnay, while an additional 14 spelt it Chardonay. A lifetime of mockery awaits them. Like when the emergence of Kylie sparked a surge in girls' being called after the Australian then soap star, the same list also recorded 221 children named "Shakira", while 448 plumped for "Aaliyah".

More than anything, it's difficult to comprehend just how a woman whose biggest claim to fame is getting her plastic norks out is somehow one of the richest women living in Britain today. A sneering Daily Mail article, on "celebrity chavs", claimed that she has a fortune in the region of £30 million. It's equally astonishing that her autobiography is supposedly the 4th biggest selling of all time in this country. It can't be a coincidence that others with no story to tell, with massively warped senses of their own importance almost verging on psychosis, like Charley, currently in the Big Brother house, claim to be writing their own life stories. It's not as if there isn't a pedigree to follow: other non-entities such as Chantelle and Pete have had their lives snapped up and quickly ghosted into book form, most probably by a once aspiring novelist reduced to whoring themselves out to make ends meet.

According to Cosmo Landesman, to claim that such individuals are famous only because they are famous is a "cliched tautology", as they represent the very heart of modern capitalism. Landesman is correct, but not in the way he thinks he is. They represent the very heart of modern cynical capitalism, manufactured, promoted and prepared for almost any eventuality, except murder or paedophilia, the only two remaining deadly sins in the celebrity world. Those such as Jordan aren't able to rise to the top of their own initiative: they're plucked from their relative obscurity and moulded into the ultimate marketable image, entering into a Faustian pact where their "owner" makes pots of money while the star makes a reasonable amount, with the deal eventually ending when the brand becomes too old or out of date to appeal. A new generation of young people see this happening and think that they too can be victorious in this battle: being a braying, ignorant idiot can be incredibly profitable, as can the body you received. That only a few will ever make it doesn't matter: it's a sort of crude, backwards American dream, where the individuality and naivety involved in the belief in that nightmare become even more overwhelming.

The only real surprise is that there hasn't be any organised youth opposition to this development both in capitalism and society: the closest we might well have come so far is in the obnoxious Silver Ring Thing and other similar religious based movements, which have their own crude ideology and agendas behind them. In an age of supposed individualism, most actually seek both to belong and to adhere to a set of values of a certain grouping, whether it be trendy, gothish, gang-based or otherwise. It's perhaps a hangover from the days of the End of History that it seems both old-fashioned and dorky to dare to resist outside these already preconceived, marketed groups, as well as the sum of peer pressure to conform that no such grouping has emerged. If individualism is ever really going to establish itself, then the age of mass trends will need to itself become a source of ridicule, and while its still so profitable, that is far off. With it, the troglodytes and trollops of the celebrity world will continue to prosper.

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Monday, July 23, 2007 

Any movement that forgets about class is a bowel movement.

Isn't it interesting to measure the response to the floods currently affecting the West Midlands and south-western England to that which followed the similar deluges which left vast swathes of Yorkshire and northern England underwater at the beginning of the month? While the situation now is certainly more serious than it was in the north, with water and power supplies coming under strain, it's hard not to see that there are far more factors at work here than just the amount of water to drop from the sky.

While Polly Toynbee, in one of her more cogent pieces pointed out that if the floods had taken place in Chelsea the media would have been in full baying for blood mood, while it was only in half if that on the matter, she in fact didn't take her point to its logical conclusion. It's not the media with whom the full fault lies here; it's the political parties, and their own warped sense of priorities, which have been influenced by the power exercised especially by the tabloids which has made this latest breaking of the banks far more newsworthy.

At the very heart of why the north is far less important than south is that the voters there have been taken for granted under New Labour. From the beginning, New Labour was about the betrayal not just of everything that Labour formerly stood for, but also the very people who it was initially set up to represent. Of all the regions that suffered the most under the floods at the end of June beginning of July, nearly all of them have Labour MPs with invariably large majorities. The worst affected areas, Hull and Toll Bar near to Doncaster, are all Labour strongholds, Hull having the constituencies of both John Prescott and Alan Johnson, while Sheffield, similarly hard hit, counts David Blunkett amongst its representatives. The few exceptions to the rule, with Nick Clegg of the Lib Dems holding Sheffield Hallam, and Greg Mulholland grabbing Leeds North West are more down to the role of the student population and their opposition to the Iraq war and top-up tuition fees than any other real love for the party they belong to. Seeing as Labour still has a majority of 60 or so, and that so many former/current ministers are based in the area, you would have expected far more coverage/demands that something must be done than that which we actually had. While it was fun for the television reporters to put on their wellies and stand in knee-deep water, while hearing the stories those who had lost everything told, the newspapers lost interest relatively quickly, with the reporters following suit shortly afterwards.

What few, especially Labour MPs would dare to breathe was the real reason behind this was the class factor. While the region is by no means homogeneous, it's become regarded both by the media and by the political class as being populated by the kind of people who can be safely ignored. Once we called them the working class, but in a country in which the class distinctions have meant to have been broken down, referring to them as such now could almost be taken as offensive, and if that doesn't apply, then mentioning anything to do with class quickly brings the usual accusations of envy and usage of obsolete pejoratives. Hull might have been effectively devastated, with up to 10,000 homes needing urgent repairs and damages to schools running into the millions, but after all, wasn't Hull just a few years ago announced as the worst place to live in the UK by Channel 4, that doyen of the ultra-bourgeois property and lifestyle programmes? Who could possibly care about such proles who won't move outside of such a vulgar, brash, depressing place?

At the same time, the very fact that the area is dominated by Labour has meant, especially with Brown's ascension to the prime ministership, that few have dared to be openly critical themselves and potentially bring down a media storm on their new leader's head. With the Conservatives still decimated and likely to stay that way, there's been few effective voices other than local councillors visibly complaining about the lack of help which the area has received.

What a difference the fact that the water was this time deposited over the very heart of middle England has made! We're talking of the very area where New Labour myths were created: if the party could win over the support of the upper middle classes in the shires, the families living in such previous no-go Labour areas as Gloucester and Cheltenham, anything was possible. The emergence of Worcester woman, who couldn't give a fig for ideology or the outdated ways of the past but cared deeply about the public services and quality of life, was the very embodiment of everything that Blair's newly liberated party wanted to stand for. The unexpected victories in such cities and towns in 1997 spurred the leadership on to every greater flights of fancy. Such gains needed to be held at whatever cost, even if it was highly unlikely to be possible. Those voters up in the north could be counted upon even if Blair turned out to be Pol Pot in disguise. It was the Daily Mail/Telegraph heartlands that needed to be pampered with their every whim addressed. So it has turned out to be, with only Worcester and Gloucester still staying with Labour in 2005, but by God did they try.

How predictable that even now Labour knows a true "crisis" when it sees one. There wasn't an emergency up in Sheffield, Leeds, Doncaster and Hull, even though 7 people died in the chaos (it was left to the Environment Agency to describe it as "critical" and the FBU to say it was the biggest rescue operation they'd undertaken in peacetime); there most certainly is out in the jungle of Tewkesbury and Oxford, such a one that Brown himself needed to take a helicopter ride to see the swathes of hard-working, family loving, non-feckless countryside under metres of effluent coloured and flavoured water. This time too, the Tories had something to be concerned and outraged about, with John Redwood, that vulcan and symbol of disgusted Britain demanding to know why the government hadn't bombed the rain clouds into submission. The only plus is that David Cameron was so concerned about his deluged constituency that he flew straight off to Rwanda to deal with more pressing matters. Meanwhile, the BBC decamps Hugh Edwards and numerous other correspondents to the most hard hit areas, leaving sex kitten Natasha Kaplinsky to man the fort in White City, while the tabloids get ready to howl about their precious readers' destroyed homes and ruined lives.

This does of course ignore the fact that every single one of these people, regardless of their background, has lost something as a result of an act of God, however much the blame will now be thrown about. It's easy to forget however, when in the eyes both of a government and a media, some animals are still more equal than others.

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We can't turn them away.

Dan Hardie has set up a worthy campaign calling for the countless Iraqis working for the British forces to be given indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom, considering the campaigns of murderous violence now being waged against anyone thought to have collaborated with the occupation. While those in the south are at less risk than those living in the far more violent north, we have a duty to offer every one one of these brave people and their families refuge. For the Home Office, ever watchful of the figures for both those seeking asylum and that have come here to work to wash their hands of these individuals is just the latest disgrace to come out of the last 4 years of shame. Dan's advice on what to do is thus:

If you feel that this is unacceptable and that Britain should prevent Iraqis from being murdered for the ‘crime’ of working for British troops, could you please write to your MP and ask him or her to press the Government for action. You can use the excellent website ‘Write to Them’ ( http://www.writetothem.com/ ) or post a letter yourself.

Please be courteous when writing to your MP. It would be a good idea to read the reports above, and cite relevant facts. We would suggest that your letter could contain the following points:

If you really do find letter writing daunting, I’d suggest you copy and paste the letter below and adapt it somewhat. But you are strongly advised that the best thing to do is to compose your own letter:

Dear (MP’s name)

As your constituent, I am writing to discover your views on the treatment of Iraqi citizens who are working or have worked for the British Army, for the contractors supporting it, and for the Coalition Provisional Authority in the South of Iraq. In particular, I would like to know if you support the right of these people to indefinite asylum in the United Kingdom. I strongly suggest that they do indeed have this right. They have, by definition, put their lives at risk by the support they have given to British soldiers who were sent to war by a vote of the House of Commons.

Whether you- or I- supported or opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq is immaterial. The risk run by Iraqis working for British troops is even greater than that run by the soldiers themselves. British soldiers are now suffering very high casualties in Iraq, and are continuing to serve bravely- but their local staff are obliged to live among neighbours who will, in many cases, be sympathetic to or even belong to the armed groups fighting the British army. We owe these people a clear moral debt. We cannot allow them to be murdered for the ‘crime’ of helping our service men and women.

The most effective way of helping these brave Iraqis is to offer them indefinite right to remain in the United Kingdom. There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq make a practice of murdering not only their ‘enemies’ but their families too: and for this reason we must extend the right of asylum to the families of those who have worked with us. This policy should be enacted immediately whether our forces stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. Applications for asylum cannot be ‘processed’ in a lengthy fashion: the situation in Basra is deteriorating, the ability of British soldiers to protect those that work for them is seriously compromised and any delay is likely to lead to the murder of Iraqis who have worked for the British military. I would appreciate your views on this matter.Yours sincerely

Update: Davide has set up a petition on the Downing Street website that you can also sign.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007 

That predictable backlash in full.

Most interesting now will be how the other Blairite boot-lickers and sycophants will respond.

With all the dignity that is rightly associated with them. First up, Martin Kettle:

Unsatisfactory it may be, but this is the political reality of the cash-for-honours saga now. Tempting though it is to spend time being indignant about the disproportionate police inquiry, the leaks to the media, the impact on the blameless Ruth Turner, the anti-semitic undertone against Lord Levy, the all-round political opportunism at Westminster, and the hypocrisy of those who rushed to judgment about Tony Blair in defiance of due process, the truth is that the whole thing was an overinflated episode from an era that has passed. It was an instructive glimpse into the not particularly edifying intestines of the political system that morphed into a general Get Blair binge. And that particular party is over now.

Just drink it all in. Disproportionate, blameless, anti-semitic, opportunism, hypocrisy, defiance of due process, overinflated, binge, Kettle's certainly not averse to bringing out the hyperbole himself in his mission to defend our sainted ex-prime minister. To claim that the attention on Lord Levy was in any way racist is to enter into the fantasy land which previously resulted in Levy's rabbi turning up on Newsnight to make the absurd accusation in the first place. Moreover, who is Kettle to decide that the police investigation was "disproportionate"? The allegations made against the government and its advisers were some of the most serious that can be leveled against a government: that it was in effect selling honours in return for cash.
As Yates himself yesterday pointed out, the very reason it lasted so long was because they came to believe that there had been an attempt to pervert the course of justice. If Downing Street and all those associated it with it had fully cooperated from the beginning it might well have been over with far sooner.

Kettle at least didn't fill his entire column with just how unfair Yates' inquiry was. The Scum however does nearly fill its entire leader with its own dismal rant:

THE “cash for honours” inquiry was shameful, spurious and damaging to Britain.

Here then is the country's biggest supporter of the police, cheerleader for ever increased powers biting the hand that feeds. Only when such an inquiry involved either Blair or a Murdoch entity could the Scum refer to it in such disingenuous terms.

For 16 interminable months the police cast a shadow over Tony Blair’s Premiership and wrongly conveyed the impression that our entire political process was corrupt.

Sorry, is this the same Sun which regularly decries politicians for doing anything other than that which it advocates in its leader columns? As Jeremy Paxman has pointed out in the past, it hasn't been the BBC and others that have helped destroy faith in politics, it's been the Murdoch press which demands constant loyalty and obeisance, knowing full well it can decimate politicians just as it can build them up. It was in this climate that Blair and his hangers-on started to believe that they were invincible, so much so that they felt they could get away with such downright devious methods of funding as secret loans. We expected that from the Tories, but not from Labour, until the rise of Blair and his Faustian pact with Murdoch. To now attempt to shift all the blame on to the police shows where the real corruption lies in our democracy.

About £1million of our money was wasted as over-zealous Scotland Yard chief John Yates desperately ferreted around for evidence of criminality.

He found nothing. Not a shred.

Oh, except for those 10 files of evidence, some themselves containing over 1,000 pages, all of which were handed over to the CPS. Yates found plenty of evidence; it was the CPS that felt it wouldn't bring a prosecution.

Meanwhile senior Labour figures were put through hell by persistent leaks from the Met cynically designed to convey their guilt and against which they could not publicly defend themselves.

Oh, boo fucking hoo. When the
leaks concern alleged terrorists, or the latest horrific crime the Scum's describing in all its gory details, the paper can't get enough of them. Even if the leaks did come from the Met, something by no means proved, it seems some sort of justice that a government that lived by spin and briefings finally came unstuck through their own methods being used against them.

Fundraiser Lord Levy was arrested twice. Downing Street aide Ruth Turner was seized at dawn.

Poor diddums! Blameless Ruth Turner, suffering the indignity of the police turning up on her doorstep at dawn, which is a well-known police tactic because it's the one time that they're almost certain to find someone in. Someone somewhere is playing the world's tiniest violin for the both of them.

Mr Blair suffered the stress and humiliation of being the first serving PM quizzed over a criminal matter.

If there was any justice, Blair would be suffering the stress and humiliation of being the first former PM to be quizzed over committing a war crime.

It is now the Met’s turn to answer some questions.

Commissioner Ian Blair must explain why the probe he launched on the back of a politically-motivated request from the Scottish Nationalists was so long and costly.

Err, because the police were doing their job, and as previously stated, Downing Street wasn't exactly helpful.

Questions must also be asked of Yates’ conduct — fruitlessly searching, month after month, seemingly determined to keep going because his reputation hinged on it.

That reputation is in tatters now. He is in danger of looking like an ambitious chancer who was hell bent on staking his claim as the Met’s next commissioner.

Here commences the smearing. Unlike all those other noble policemen the Scum salutes on a daily basis, whose devotion to their duty is never questioned, Yates is pilloried because he dared to take seriously accusations of dishonesty concerning the highest echelons of our parliamentary system.

Yates quizzed 136 people. Finding no evidence to support the original accusation he switched his attention to vague stories of a cover-up.

Yes, of course he did. Nothing to do with the possibility that Levy and Turner were being less than honest,
as the leaks to the BBC and Grauniad showed back in March.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown stoically defend the police’s right to carry out the investigation. But the truth is that it was a disgrace.

Treasure this. It might be the only time the Sun ever decides that a police investigation was a disgrace.

Our ex-PM, who knew he and his aides were innocent, is exonerated.

Yes, it was all just a massive coincidence those donors were nominated for peerages. The ex-PM is cleaner than clean!

He begins his new career with his reputation unsullied.

He might be a warmongering, lying, obfuscating, murdering bastard, but at least he's not corrupt. Maybe he can have that on his tombstone. The Sun meanwhile, remains the disgusting, whitewashing, brown-nosing rag it's been throughout the Blair years.

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Oh Barot, you're so fine...

Just ever so slightly odd news being relayed by the BBC in their coverage of the attack on everyone's favourite terrorist mastermind:

An al-Qaeda plotter who planned to kill thousands of people in the UK and US in "dirty bombings" has been badly injured in an attack by fellow prison inmates.

Gosh, I can just see the thousands breathing their last, the deafening siren of thousands of smoke alarms echoing in their ears as they enter that long, dark tunnel, all the result of Barot's dastardly plan to poison the population by detonating a bomb with 10,000 blaring smoke detectors packed around it.

A news blackout was imposed for the duration of his hospital stay, during which armed police were present. Barot was returned to prison on Saturday.

Well, it wasn't much of one considering this his lawyer, Mudassar Arani, appeared on Channel 4 News last Sunday and said that he'd been scarred for life as a result of having a mixture of hot oil and water thrown over him.

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Friday, July 20, 2007 

Sticking the boot in.

How long then did it take for the recriminations to begin, following the revelation last night and the confirmation today that no one will be charged over the cash for peerages affair? Well, if we're being picky, we could point out Denis MacShane's appearance on Newsnight last night, member of the Henry Jackson Society and a chief apologist for the Iraq war, who quickly established the line of kicking the SNP and letting the media decide what to do to about Yates of the Yard himself. The most egregious piece of buck-passing and complete failure to deal with the evidence that had been collected which suggested peerages had been offered for the secret loans though so far has come from John McTernan, Blair's chief lickspittle (political secretary) from 05-07, over on CiF:

My argument is with the SNP, whose malicious political stunt turned into a slow-burn story which has, I think, damaged public trust in all political parties and in the political process itself. There is a place for political rough and tumble - but that is surely the debating chamber of the House of Commons. To drag decent coppers into what was a clearly political complaint is a step too far. Surely Tony Wright is correct that the genuine policy and political questions raised in this case could - and should - have been dealt with by parliament.

Well, you see Mr McTernan, there was this small matter of there being enough circumstantial evidence to suggest that there had been a breach of the 1925 act on selling honours for the police to launch a full investigation. It's just ever so slightly rich to complain about the person who's grassed you up when your bosses were, by their own admission, using a loophole in the Electoral Commission's rules on donations to keep the loans secret.

McTernan's argument is a misnomer. The spin has already been decided upon: it shows that the public, poor misinformed sheep that they were wrong to lose faith in their glorious, incorruptible representatives, and it's all the SNP/the media/the police/Henry Kissinger's fault. It doesn't matter that all three parties have more than enough reason to be ashamed of their respective funding mechanisms, with both Labour and the Tories relying on the secret loans, with the Lib Dems taking money from a man who turned out to be a fraudster and was subsequently jailed for perjury. After all, their heart was in the right place: how could Tony Blair possibly let the Tories be bankrolled to the gills by their own multi-millionaire supporters, and possibly win the election as a result? He did what he thought was right, and if that meant taking secret loans from a bunch of unsavoury characters and hiding their millions of pounds out of sight from the spending watchdog, then nominating some of them for the House of Lords, something completely unconnected with their generous help, who are we to lose faith in our politicians' ability to conduct themselves in a proper, open manner? Quite frankly, we ought to be glad that we've still got them.

Did anyone though, except for Guido, really expect that anyone other than Levy was likely to be charged? It would have broken the cycle of this Labour government getting away with it time and again. Not a single person has managed to hold a single member of the government to account over Iraq, where the evidence was far more abundant than it was over cash for coronets, documenting Blair, Campbell et al lying and misinforming on an unprecedented scale, and on a matter far, far more serious than the enobbling of a bunch of idiots desperate to join another bunch of strokers in a second chamber about as relevant to modern life as whether Caligula really did make his horse a consul. How could the CPS break Blair's lifelong habit of shaking the blame, especially when the bastard's finally left office?

It's true that the whole thing stinks to high heaven, and that as Paul Linford points out, the public are likely to make up their own minds, just as they did in the aftermath of Hutton's deluge of whitewash. As much as certain sections of the media are now going to get it in the neck when for once they were doing the decent thing of going after a story of genuine public interest, we ought to be at least glad that it almost certainly brought Blair's ignominious reign to an earlier end than he would otherwise have wanted and pushed for. The real worry now will be there's likely to be less impetus than there already was for further Lords reform. Jack Straw announced yesterday that there won't be any movement until after the next election, by which time everyone might well have got cold feet again. The other positive is that Blair's exit has helped to clear the air: Brown's start, while by no means perfect, has still been refreshing compared to the last few years of purgatory.

Most interesting now will be how the other Blairite boot-lickers and sycophants will respond. Back in February, both the Scum and Martin Kettle ran similar articles demanding that Yates either put up or shut up. Now that his investigation has come to naught on the prosecution front, the smear jobs and defense of their saviour is likely to be ferocious. Blair might have gone, but his ghost is likely to haunt us for a while yet.

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Scum-watch: The continuing inability to tell the truth.

Just a quick one today on the Scum's continuing inability to tell the truth:

TALK about mixed messages.

First cannabis is virtually legalised, encouraging thousands more people to try a puff.

BONG! I realise that it says "encouraging", rather than motivating or making people think it's OK to try it, but the reality is the opposite. Rather than encouraging thousands more to try it, the British Crime Survey's drug usage chart (from this PDF) actually shows a consecutive fall since it was was downgraded in 03/04 (you'll need to click it):

Cannabis usage has then effectively fell 2% since it was downgraded. Just slightly undermines the Scum's contention.

Now, as thousands of youngsters pay a high price in mental illness, it is to be outlawed once more.

Not unless the government ignores the advice of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs, which is almost certain to come the same conclusion it has three times in the last five years.

Perhaps to deflect criticism, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith leads a charge of SEVEN Cabinet ministers who confess they once smoked dope.

They were wrong. They were stupid. They were typical.

Now they’re grown-ups.

Years ago, plenty of people in all parties thought cannabis was harmless fun.

Years ago a lot of people thought cigarettes were harmless fun.

Now everyone knows better.

Except that err, cigarettes are still legal. Cannabis has never been. No one claims either is harmless, just that they should be treated on an equal footing; on a day after the British Crime Survey identified alcohol as being to blame for most violent offences, the continuing illegality of cannabis looks ever more unjustifiable.

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Thursday, July 19, 2007 

Reefer insanity.

Jacqui Smith as a student, no doubt stoned out of her gourd.

This latest crop of politicians really do hate the kids, don't they? A day after announcing yet another idiotic reassessing of whether cannabis should be Class B or C, 7 cabinet ministers, prompted by Jacqui Smith, all confess to have consumed the wicked weed when they themselves were students. Notice that not a single one of them dared to admit that they actually rather enjoyed the experience, and that compared to other substances it's by far both the most pleasant and the least dangerous in equal measure, but then we are talking about the typically stuffy ex-left-wingers who seem to like to dress themselves up in hair shirts in later life. It's fell upon the Tories previously, including Tim Yeo, Norman Lamont and Boris Johnson, who do often seem more fun loving (Tories, not those three, well apart from the latter), to dare to suggest that they rather liked it.

You see then children, it was perfectly all right for those politicians to smoke that illegal drug way back then, because unlike today, it was weak and just brought on the good vibes. Today, thanks to the friendly neighbourhood Vietnamese, stealing electricity to power his rented home full to the brim with marijuana plants and hydroponic lighting, the substance is so full to the brim with THC that not only will it quite literally blow your head off but it'll also instantaneously turn you so psychotic that you'll think you're the Dark Lord himself, obviously resulting in you chopping up your former bud buddies into small pieces. Or at least, that seems to be Smith's argument, although I might have paraphrased it somewhat.

It's all rather depressing really. As Transform explains, this will be the third time in 5 years now that the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs will be called upon to review their recommendation that cannabis be a Class C drug, resulting usually in a caution if you have a small amount for personal use in your possession. The whole thing is a direct result of media hysteria about the effects of skunk, and at least two recent murders where it was alleged that the person subsequently convicted was either "addicted" or a heavy user of cannabis, despite the evidence in both cases suggesting that the use of the drug had only exacerbated the deterioration in their mental health.

As Unity states, the only real conclusion that has so far been reached is that use of cannabis in a person who has a genetic disposition towards mental illness has been shown to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia or other psychotic disorders. As for the supposed massively increased potency, with some claiming that the amount of THC has increased by 25, 30 or even 50% over the last few decades, all the statistics show that this is a complete and utter myth,
with at most the potency of indoor grown herbal cannabis reaching 12% or 14%. A report from 2004 (PDF) showed that the strongest varieties additionally only make up 15% of the market. It's also complete nonsense that there hasn't always been strong cannabis around, as the UN figures from 1975 show, with the more exotic imports being even more potent than the average today being sampled for their strength.

No, the real reason for once again raising this reefer insanity is that Brown is trying his best to get into the Daily Mail's good books. Last week, following the fulsome praise which the Mail give to Iain Duncan Smith's report on social breakdown which recommended tax cuts for married couples and, you guessed it, the reclassification of cannabis to Class B, Brown dropped a sort of bombshell at prime minister's questions and said that supercasinos, a pet hate of the Mail associated with today's moral decadence, would be looked at again, the subtext being they were dead in the water. The Mail responded accordingly. This week, again prompted by a helpful question about the medical benefits of cannabis to those with multiple sclerosis and other ailments, he stated that cannabis would be reassessed. Brown again gets praised by the right-wing media that is hopelessly stuck in the past, while everyone with even the slightest knowledge of the dangers posed by cannabis, the police included, sigh and wonder whether we'll ever get out of this ridiculous cycle of reactionary, hysterical ignorance.

If we're to ever get to some state of near sanity on not just cannabis, but all drugs, we have to examine the risks inherent in all of them calmly and without wild-eyed prejudice. Cannabis is potentially dangerous, especially among those predisposed to mental illness, with those under 18 also being at risk. This shouldn't however mean that everyone else should be potentially criminalised for having a small amount for personal use, just as alcohol, which a recent Lancet report considered far worse for the average person and society as whole than cannabis, is age restricted. Tim Worstall gets it right:

the only sensible question anyone should be asking is whether the corner shop can sell it in packs of five or ten.

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Chutzpah defined.

Before we even get started on today's predictable Scum rants against the BBC, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury has finally succeeded in his freedom of information request to find out when our beloved ex-prime minister consulted personally with Rupert Murdoch. Would you believe that they held three conversations in nine days, all in the build-up to the Iraq war? As we know, Rupert Murdoch never interferes with the editorial independence of his newspapers, so the fact the Scum and Downing Street line at the time, blaming Jacques Chirac for the failure to get a second UN resolution for saying he would veto one whatever it said, which was itself a blatant lie, is surely a coincidence. Similarly, their conversation held just after Blair had agreed to a referendum on the EU constitution, widely rumoured to have been announced purely to keep the Murdoch press on side, was doubtless about another pressing subject, rather than Murdoch congratulating him on his good choice. Blair was also in conversation with Murdoch the day after the Scum had been leaked the Hutton report, and then again two days after he had announced he wouldn't seek a fourth term.

The Scum then, and indeed all Murdoch publications and stations, are the very last people who should be pouring their vitriol over the BBC. While the BBC tries its hardest to keep as impartial as it possibly can, regularly carrying out in-house investigations into what it can do better, which themselves are highly critical, like the recent "Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century", it realises that it cannot possibly win against the voices, on both left and right which regularly accuse it of systemic bias. It has an impossible task: keeping everyone happy, while providing value for money for the licence fee, especially in an era where it is challenged by a media environment which is changing by the month, constantly evolving.

It's in fact typical of the BBC's self-flagellating style after it's realised it's got something wrong, epitomised by its reaction to the Hutton inquiry, that the latest series of deceptions were discovered after Mark Thompson ordered that the entirety of the BBC's output over the last two years be reviewed for any similar mistakes to that of last week's involving the Queen. Undoubtedly, that any such competitions were presented as involving members of the public rather than production staff, for reasons either involving mistakes or in order to keep the programme going is completely unacceptable. However, let's get this in perspective: this is hardly on the scale of the Hitler diaries, the Scum's horrendous front page after the Hillsborough disaster (which the editor at the time still refuses to apologise for), or indeed the other deceptions allegedly carried out on GMTV, or on Richard and Judy, where millions of pounds were potentially defrauded from those ringing in to take part.

As an example, I remember seeing the deception which took place during Comic Relief. It happened at about 2am in the morning, or possibly even later, where the answer to the question posed was glaringly obvious, yet it was also more than apparent that both of those who answered and got it wrong were drunk, which considering it was a Friday the producers ought to have taken into consideration.

In reality, it's not the way the mistakes were made that matters, but that they were made at all. We rightly expect and demand more from the BBC than we do from any other media in this country: when it falls short, it itself feels that it's let everyone down, which is more than can be said for certain newspapers and other broadcasters, not necessarily in this country, which pride themselves on their partisan stance.

It's just somewhat rich then that the same proprietor behind Fox News is more than satisfied with what Rebekah Wade and co have put together in today's leader column:

HOW could the BBC — a so-called beacon of integrity — stoop to cheating Children In Need viewers?

Whatever they say, this was no accidental slip-up under pressure.

The Children in Need deception involved the calls from the public failing to get through. No one would have been charged for those calls. No one was defrauded. The only deception was that it had presented someone as winning, rather than coming back to it later once the problem had been fixed. The charity events the BBC holds are particularly chaotic: it's more than possible that there would have been no time to have tried again later. If that isn't a slip-up under pressure, unacceptable as it is, I don't know what is.

It was systematic corner-cutting and sharp practice which even seeped into the World Service, the most trusted network of all time.

As Private Eye reports this week, there are currently £37m worth of budget cuts and associated redundancies about to bite at the Scum. Perhaps these cuts might have something to do with such recent mistakes at the paper as claiming that Janet Hossain had died as a result of "a kinky sex session which got out of hand", the numerous lies told about the Human Rights Act, and the apology finally issued to the Kamal family. The World Service deception involved saying there had been a winner for the CD competition when no winning entries had been received. Again, it was a lie, but not one which either defrauded, libeled or distressed anyone.

It infected Blue Peter — fined £50,000 for cheating young viewers. It sullied Newsnight with a doctored piece on Gordon Brown.

The Newsnight piece, like the cock-up involving the Queen, had one piece of footage that was shot later inserted before another which was shot previously. It didn't affect the overall tone of the piece, that Brown's spin doctors weren't letting anyone get so much as within a foot of Brown who wasn't officially vetted, and other documentary makers themselves have admitted it's something often done to further the dramatic event, so it's not as if it was a new, dirty tactic used to smear the new prime minister, however wrong it was. As we all know, the Scum would never doctor such pieces for their own purposes, as we've seen with its numerous lies concerning the HRA.

The Beeb used to be known as “Auntie” — an honoured and trusted member of the national family.

Today, to quote one of its own journalists, it is seen as a bunch of “crooks and liars”.

Completely unlike a newspaper which has such luminaries as David Blunkett, Trevor Kavanagh and Rebekah Wade amongst its stars then.

Trust has evaporated. The only surprise is it took this long.

It’s not just the cheap tricks we’ve learned about in recent days, serious though they are.

The Beeb has long been living on borrowed time as the smug repository of leftie opinion, peddled with contempt for the very people who pay its way.

It admits it is “institutionally biased”, sneering at those whose views fail to coincide with its liberal consensus — especially on Europe and immigration.

Ah, here comes the Scum's deception of its own. The BBC has never said it's "institutionally biased"; that was a quote from a Sunday Times article which claimed the "Safeguarding impartiality in the 21st century" report was going to come to that conclusion. In actuality it didn't, as the report (PDF) doesn't contain that phrase. The closest it came was Andrew Marr's now notorious remarks, much used against the corporation, that he believes the BBC has an "innate liberal bias", something the report itself decided it hasn't. It was Paul Dacre, in his semi-coherent rant against the entire "liberal" media, that first alleged the BBC was institutionally biased towards left-leaning views, something that many left-wingers, this one included, think is utter nonsense. The reason so many of us defend it is that impartiality is absolutely vital when it comes to television media, having the ability to reach far further, at least for the moment, than any newspaper or website. There's plenty wrong with it, but it's also the best we're ever going to get - and both the left and right critics ought to realise that, as you only have to look to America to see where the free-for-all over there has led to. Interestingly, the other use of institutionally biased comes from a study by the Glasgow University Media Group which found that the corporation was institutionally biased in favour of.... Israel. Incidentally, next Monday's Panorama is on... immigration, and how we've lost count of how many immigrants are here.

It is time to clean out the stables, sack the complacent jobsworths and restore this bureaucratic juggernaut as a responsible national broadcaster.

But it may already be too late.

Where to even begin? The Sun advises the BBC to become responsible on the same day as the Scum smears a gay police officer for daring to be openly homosexual and on Facebook (he should have chose MySpace (prop: R Murdoch) instead). Just days after it apologised for questioning every single slight indiscretion that the Kamal family made, an apology which took over a year to come. And finally, let's not forget those ever entertaining, non-existent Muslim yobs. The Scum: chutzpah defined.

Simon Jenkins - So the BBC is a subversive leftwing conspiracy? You could have fooled me.
Ros Taylor - Lay off the Beeb

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007 

Overreacting and confirming their prejudices.

We should in no way tolerate the intolerance of those amongst us who specifically and repeatedly call either for murder or violence against anyone, regardless of ethnicity, sexuality or creed.

That said, is six years in prison for taking part in a poorly attended demonstration which was designed to cause outrage an appropriate sentence? It seems ridiculously harsh, especially when we remember that Abu Hamza, who preached hatred and was involved in the radicalisation of a number of young Muslim men over a period taking in the late 90s and early 00s, was only sentenced to 7 years. Is such a sentence likely to do anything other than further exacerbate the pathological hatred which these men already have for this country, and also influence others already sympathetic to their cause? A sentence of two or three years would have been more than adequate, showing that such displays are completely unacceptable and will be punished harshly, but not overreacted to.

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Scum-watch: Standard smearing of Galloway.

I'm not going to bother to comment on the 18 days suspension handed down to George Galloway by the Committee on Standards and Privileges (see Lenin, Mr E and Justin for their own takes) but if there's one person the Scum loves to perform a hatchet job on, it's most certainly the gorgeous one.

Not content with just one article, the Scum decides that 4 would do the job much better instead. In the least inflammatory and reasonably accurate article on his suspension, he's still referred to as "treacherous" and "shifts the blame" by err, pointing out that despite allegations being made time and again that he personally profited from the oil for food programme, he in fact never received a penny. Next up we have Trevor Kavanagh on the same page, a man who should know an arsehole when he sees one, seeing as he's been kissing Murdoch's for the last however many decades, who variously describes Galloway as a "nasty piece of work" and having a "ruthless contempt for the truth", which must be a badge of honour coming from one of the biggest liars in Fleet Street. He then bizarrely decries Sky News for showing Galloway's public retaliation. Perhaps you should have got on the phone, Trevor?

Next up is a horrifying transmogrification via Photoshop or judging by the quality of it, MSPaint, with the Scum morphing Galloway into that other favourite bogeyman, Abu Hamza, as they have so much in common. Apart from Hamza being an, err, rabble-rousing idiot who promoted the killing of the "kuffar" in the name of Islam, as well as inciting racial hatred, something which Galloway can most certainly not be accused of.

Finally, we also have a Scum leader, repeating most of the above. Strangely, nowhere in any of the Scum's articles was there space to mention how a certain Mazher Mahmood, resident hack of sister paper the News of the Screws attempted to entrap Galloway - only to fall flat on his face, and resort to legal action against blogs such as this one in an attempt to hide both his embarrassment and his face. Or, indeed, a previous smear-job that claimed that Galloway was going to be on the bill at a rally featuring an extremist Bangladeshi cleric, when the cleric was neither in Britain or intending to visit. Still, why bother bringing up such unsavory information when you can wield the machete with some justification for once?

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Smiling, happy Mail.

We all know how much the average takfirist, bedroom jihadi is meant to hate our society, culture and modern lifestyle. Alienated, repulsed and revolted by the hedonism which they see everywhere, but at the same time usually conflicted by also being envious and jealous of those who participate in it, their bile is confined to the insides of their heads, or to sympathetic web forums.

The Daily Mail, on the other hand, shares its opinions on Britain in 2007 by distributing them daily to the nation. It's almost universally a similar picture: the feckless working classes, chastised as chavs, or single mothers with the "council house facelift", the politically correct Guardianistas who through their offensive and misguided beliefs are destroying society from within, the ubiquitous foreigners, whether they're from Eastern Europe or Asia, who shouldn't be here, and after decades of celebrating wealth creation for its own sake as long as it happens to the decent, hard-working middle classes, it now finds itself in a square battle with the super-rich, who don't deserve their ill-gotten gains while the good burghers of conservative Middle England do.

In fact, while Daily Mail hacks/readers are not likely to come to the conclusion that the only way to sort out our vile, broken society is through the cleansing provided by hydrogen peroxide mixed with chappati flour, the connections between the two are not far removed from each other. Both want a return to a non-existent, imagined golden age, whether it's the caliphate and the revivalism of "pure" Islamic rule, or a 50s style life where everyone knows one another, everyone's white and you could leave your door unlocked (because there was nothing worth stealing).

Is there a point to all these rather contentious comparisons, you might be asking. Well, via Tim, we discover that a couple of days ago the Mail featured a suitably updated set of "Happy Families" cards, or as they're clearly meant to be, unhappy families, united only in either their greed or hypocrisy. Created by a cretin attempting to be humourous in order to fill some room not taken up by how house prices are going up/down, they're a (un)happy summation of everything that gets the Mail's blood boiling about modern living. Hence we have the lesbian couple, one a butch campaigner, obviously, in a civil partnership who have two clearly confused children, the "Albanskis", providing menial work or involved in organised crime and prostitution, the fat cats, and naturally, the chavs, an updated take on Wayne and Waynetta Slob.

I can't really beat Peter's comment on Tim's original post for what they missed out, so let's have that first:

Mr Mailreader - Afraid that modern life will affect the value of his house
Mrs Mailreader - Detests immigrants but employs a cheap Eastern-European cleaner
Master Mailreader - Set for a lifetime of mid-management, seeks solace in internet porn
Miss Mailreader - Destined for unhappiness as she seeks her parents approval

Much like our friendly bedroom jihadi, the Mail is one big walking, conflicted, greedy, hypocritical, contradictory mess. It just wishes that you didn't know that. Why else would the Mail be the newspaper that most loathes celebrity culture and the pleasures experienced by those within it, yet also the one that spends the most on paparazzi photographs? Here then, is the Mail's own writers reduced to Happy Families characters:

Mr Dacre - Hates the rich, yet earns over a million a year. Believes deeply in family values and loathes the coarsening vulgarity of modern life, yet is so prolific in his use of foul language that his staff ask each other whether they've been "double-cunted" yet, when Dacre uses the most offensive current swear word twice in one sentence. Attacks the broadsheets in such a breathtakingly hypocritical way that someone ought to kidnap him and get "SOPHIST" tattooed on his forehead.

Ms Platell - Gourgeous pouting ex-spin doctor who spends most of her time criticising David Cameron for being err, reliant on PR. Pretends to be a feminist while working on by far the most misogynistic newspaper in the country, more than happy to join in the attacks as long as she's getting paid for it. So craven that after criticising genuine tax-dodging bastards like Philip Green that in the next column she finds herself apologising for daring to impugn on the good name of such fine men.

Ms Philips - A conspiracy theorist that's acceptable to Middle England. Has had a major hand in one of the worst tabloid scandals of all time - the demonising of the MMR vaccine. Believes that Dr David Kelly did not commit suicide. Believes that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were transported to Syria before the war, deciding to believe that tall stories of a neo-con who spends his time spying on Muslims in America. Describes global warming/climate change as a scam. Recklessly scaremongers about the possibility of a second Holocaust, describing fellow Jewish intellectuals who question Israel's actions in the occupied territories and Lebanon as "Jews for genocide". Unbelievably, despite being the most swivel-eyed writer in tabloid land, has a regular place on Radio 4's "Moral Maze". Let's not even get started on what she thinks of Islam.

Mr Littlejohn - the epitome of everything the Daily Mail stands for. A bloated, loud-mouth that is not just certain he's right, he's in love with himself as well. When he's not putting together prose about the insidiousness of homosexuality, and peppering his rants with references to Guardianistas and political correctness, he's describing the murder of 5 prostitutes as "no great loss". Never is anything the fault of those with views similar to his own - it's all down to the liberals, their insistence on imposing their values on all of us, and their general contempt for well, everything. Littlejohn has mentioned on numerous occasions that he writes so that he doesn't end up killing someone - a shame that his writing has probably ended up giving numerous other angry souls heart attacks.

Feel free to provide your own, if you so wish.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007 

Cold war syndrome.

It's difficult to know exactly how to respond to the decision to expel 4 Russian diplomats over the refusal of Moscow to extradite Andrei Lugovoi. At first look, it seems both to be by no means a harsh enough display of displeasure, considering how a British citizen was murdered in cold blood using elements which could have only have been obtained by going through government channels, yet also a pointless gesture for gesture's sake, making it even less likely that any sort of deal could possibly be reached.

There's so much murk surrounding the whole case that it's almost impossible to come to any firm conclusions about anything involving it. What we do know is that Litvinenko is not the only critic of the Kremlin under Putin to die in highly suspicious circumstances, nor is it likely that he will be the last. The question ultimately is whether the decision to murder him went right to the top, whether it was taken by underlings, or even by those simply associated or formerly connected to the FSB/KGB who now consider any dissent about the course which the new Russia has taken as treachery to be responded to with deadly force.

If we are to connect the dots between the two most high profile individuals to be assassinated, Litvinenko and Anna Politkovskaya, the motive may become slightly clearer, but not by much. Both Litvinenko and Politkovskaya had made damaging, highly controversial contentions, in the former's case concerning the 1999 Russian apartment bombings, which started the second brutal war in Chechnya and quickly elevated Putin to president, and in Politkovskaya's case her continual exposes of the abuses on the ground in that other poor, benighted country. Litvinenko accused the FSB of being behind the bombings, a false flag operation which, if true, most certainly served its purpose. While Politkovskaya concentrated more on the situation that those bombings brought about, she wasn't immune from entering the same kind of conspiracy ground that Litvinenko did; she conducted an interview in the aftermath of the Moscow theatre siege with a Chechen FSB agent, Khanpash Terkibaev, who she considered to have been the real kingpin of the hostage taking, arranging for them to make the journey to Moscow, with the promise that he would also arrange for them to get out afterwards. Just to further set the mind racing, a file which Litvinenko gave to Sergei Yushenkov containing his own allegations and suspicions was eventually passed to Politkovskaya. Every single character in this whole pass-the-parcel game is now dead: Yushenkov was assassinated just days after his return from visiting Litvinenko. Terkibaev died in a car accident in Chechnya.

In additional to all the conspiracy theorising, we have to consider the money aspect. Litvinenko had become good friends with
Boris Berezovsky, the oligarch that managed to get away, at least for now. Much of Putin's popularity lies with his continuing attempts to cut the alleged robber barons who made their money buying and selling formerly state controlled assets at what are now considered prices well below their actual worth down to size. Considering how the vast majority of Russian people suffered, at least in the short term, during the "experiments" in extreme neo-liberalism conducted in the early 1990s, and how the country itself has only now just about recovered, we always ought to keep in mind the fact that Berezovsky is himself wanted in Moscow on fraud and political corruption charges. While it's unlikely that he could get a fair trial in the current climate, we should always keep open the possibility that the charges against him are credible, whatever we think about Putin and the FSB's antics. This then raises the question of why Litvinenko, and not Berezovsky, who is much more of a substantive threat to Putin than Litvinenko was, who could be dismissed as a conspiracy nut especially considering some of his later accusations, was not the target himself. It might well be that Litvinenko's murder was a warning that if he kept up his campaigning, and potential funding of what Putin fears most - a velvet revolution - that he would be next. If this was the objective, then it has backfired spectacularly, as we have since seen.

A lot of commentators have one basic problem with Russia: they see it instantly through the prism of the cold war, as if the Soviet Union never went away. As understandable as this is, especially considering how Russia has started to once again exercise its long-resting might, it misses the point that Russia is now more isolated than it has ever been. The money might be flooding in because of its reserves of natural resources, but on most policy matters it has never felt so alone. While once it even seemed likely that Russia could eventually join the EU, it now finds itself as a pariah once again. This is not entirely through its own actions, as bad as its human rights abuses and drift away from democracy have been: the rise of the neo-conservatives in Washington, with one of Bush's first acts being to tear up the anti-ballistic missile treaty,
and now with the prospect of having missile interceptors in Poland, supposedly aimed at Iran and North Korea when anyone with even half a braincell realises they're directed at Russia, has been just as influential. The West has treated Russia since the collapse of communism as a subjugated nation, never to be allowed to rise again. That it appears to be attempting to do so is as much a reason for some of the opprobrium it's received as its own repression of political opposition has been.

Where does this all leave us? What is our response to Russia's own inevitable reaction? Rather than exchanging tit-for-tat diplomatic blows, our answer has to be more subtle. An increase in funding of democratic organisations, NGOs which Putin has desperately banned more out of paranoia than anything else, is certainly one step. Another has to be an attempt to be seen as an honest broker: rather than being 100% behind the decision of the US to place new bases in Poland and the Czech Republic, we have to consider Russia's own legitimate grievance, and attempt to reach a compromise. What Putin and his successor will fear the most is the Russian citizenry themselves: we have to empower them against their own autocrats, not against us.

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Monday, July 16, 2007 

Is it that time again already?

Yesterday was Sunday, which must mean that it's time once again to examine the clearly overwhelming and by no means wafer-thin argument for up to 90-days detention without charge for "terrorist suspects". Or, as this case now appears to be, with both Lord Carlile and Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers speaking of their support for it, indefinite detention without charge.

Jones himself, having given an interview to the Observer, felt the need to argue with the semantics with which the paper had presented his opinion. It took his use of "as long as it takes" to mean potentially indefinite detention, way past even 90 days, for instance. That was most certainly not what he meant, as he also stated that while the police needed to have as long as it takes, they should also not be held for a day longer than it takes, which is obviously a great comfort. Just to be absolutely sure:

"It needs to be as long as is proportionate and necessary, subjected to sufficient judicial checks and balances," Mr Jones told the BBC. "But I can tell you now, Acpo is not calling for indeterminate detention."

So when does as long as is proportionate and necessary not mean as long as it takes, potentially meaning an indefinite period, if someone is considered that dangerous? No answer was the sad reply.

The whole basis of the argument is fatally flawed. As we have seen when previous alleged plots have been foiled, on most occasions there is at a least one or two who are arrested that are subsequently released without charge, as the wife of one of those still being held over the failed car bomb attacks has been, and two other doctors who were also detained. When we start getting into the potential deprivation of liberty from those who are under suspicion for, as Jones himself stated, as long as it takes, even with the judicial oversight being proposed, there is a great possibility that those who are completely innocent will be held for far greater lengths of time than they are currently. Giving in effect carte blanche to the police, only having to inform a judge once a week of how their case is progressing, as is currently the system, will greatly shift the balance from presumed innocence towards presumed guilt, with the police having inordinate amounts of time not just to question the suspects, raising the spectre of the gradual wearing down of suspects as happened in previous decades, but also to keep searching and searching until they find absolutely anything incriminating, even if there is nothing to find.

This is perhaps the ultimate conclusion to the gradual drift away from the principle of being innocent until proved guilty. Since 9/11 we've seen tougher measures introduced year after year, and still, despite Peter Clarke previously stating that the police were now more or less happy with the new offences introduced and the new powers handed across they're not fully satisfied. Rather than these new laws helping to counter the threat, we're now told that there are up to 2000 individuals actively plotting to bring "mass murder" to the streets, up 400 from when Eliza Manningham-Bullshitter delivered her lecture last November. All those arrested now under the Terrorism Act, whether they have been conclusively linked to an attack or not, are effectively guilty until they're proved innocent, and unless the police really cocked up, as in Forest Gate, those that have their lives either temporarily or permanently destroyed as a result of being detained and subsequently released without charge never get so much as an apology.

It's quite true that we have to balance the liberty of ourselves against collective safety, the right not to be blown apart by religious radicals and their deluded, maniacal lust for the 72 virgins in exchange for their souls and their bit towards moving Sharia, the caliphate and withdrawal from Iraq even further away, but we also have to realise that tearing up our hard-won freedoms is never something we should do lightly. We don't know how long this "threat" is going to be with us; it could be 10 years or 100 years, although a figure in the middle is most likely. Once it has dissipated, will we quickly move to restore those original measures? Or is it easier to believe that by then we will have expanded such a scheme far beyond just the realms of terrorism?

Even if we ignore these theoreticals, the actual case for any longer period than 28 days still seems to remain to be made. It doesn't look as though that length of time is going to be needed to deal with the London/Glasgow bombers; the only case in which the full 28 was needed was for a couple of suspects involved in last year's liquid bomb plot, and many assumed that the police were then making a point after the Commons rightly rejected Blair's efforts to introduce 90 days. Previously we were told that the need for longer was because of the vast use of encryption on the computers used by the suspects; Jones this time only mentioned the "complex, global nature" of terrorist cells, which seems to point towards the involvement of other police forces across the globe who don't have the resources to respond in the way which ours can. This certainly isn't much of a justification, and by no means a convincing argument for indefinite periods of detention without charge. Although the police claim that since the 90 days' defeat the reasons for having such a period of time available to the force has changed, it seems unlikely that the entire proposal, put across then by Andy Hayman in a letter which was up on the Home Office website, will differ that much from the case made then. Spy Blog went through them at the time, and found them mostly wanting. Little is likely to have changed.

While we know only too well of this government's contempt for the Human Rights Act, an indefinite period of detention, even monitored more than once a week by the judiciary is likely to fall foul of Article 5. There has to be some sort of limit, whether it's 45, 60, 90, 120 or even 365 days. It may even be that this new consensus on "as long as it takes" is purely a measure to take away the sting from how long 90 days seems looking at it straight, as although there was apparent public support for up to 90 days without charge, there was also a substantial opposition to such a period, which went far beyond the usual civil liberties circles.

The whole thing then is on unquestionably shaky ground. The police, government and everyone else asking for more time though can always depend on one fair-weather friend that will always support such measures:

The Scum

Back our cops

The PM vowed tough action after his first days in power were marred by bomb attacks — and now he must show he means it.

He can start by giving police power to lock up and question suspects for as long as it takes.

See how one simple intervention can change the language used irrevocably?

The 28-day detention limit has left them working with one hand tied behind their backs, cops’ leader Ken Jones warned yesterday.

The Sun has surely picked the wrong metaphor here. Jones' case is not that they're struggling, but that they're racing against time.

Security chiefs are at full stretch watching 2,000 suspects and their warnings must not go unheeded - as in the past.

Ministers did nothing when told terrorists were flooding in because of poor immigration controls. Now we learn one in four terror suspects arrested in Britain is an asylum-seeker.

Seems odd - previously we were worried because of all the homegrown bombers, now we're scared again because the Glasgow/London attempts at explosions were by foreign born suspects that all the terrorists are immigrants. Not sure what difference the fact one in four terror suspects is an asylum-seeker makes either; are we going to start refusing those fleeing tyranny, war and insurgencies of their own refuge because 20 years down the line they might become terrorists themselves? It's something unfortunately that we're going to have to deal with, and it'd be nice for once to forget about finding someone to blame for it.

Hate preacher Abu Hamza had poisoned hundreds of young Muslim minds before they heeded The Sun’s call to lock him up.

Ah yes, it was the Sun wot did it! If anything, it seems that most of those who went to see Hamza's sermons and speeches were already radicalised in some way, even if they weren't then prepared to act. He's a useful hate figure, but little more.

Mr Brown cannot afford more delays or mistakes. He must raise the limit NOW.

More bitch-slapping. Anyway, he can't raise it NOW, he needs parliament to agree too, something which isn't going to happen until the autumn at the earliest, and that's if it concurs, something currently looking rightly unlikely.

Two weeks ago, he said he would not yield to terrorists. Nor must he yield to the civil liberties brigade.

Except the Sun is urging him yield. More freedom lost, while the "civil liberties brigade" can at least claim to be on the side of innocence until proven guilty, even if the opposition can more emotively depend on the imagery of the blood-splattered streets of July the 7th.

He must show strong leadership by giving police the tools to get on with the job.

Except they have them, they just want more time to be able to use them, the case for which is still far from being proved.

Related post:
Nether-World - Another Step Closer To Internment

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You would, wouldn't you?

Heartening to see that Lydia Playfoot, the Silver Ring Thing martyr, has had her ridiculous case against her school banning her from wearing her purity ring thrown out by the judge in the case, and also ordered her father, who just happens to be a pastor, to pay £12,000 towards the school's costs.

Unfortunately, it's likely to only be a drop in the ocean in her family's coffers, considering that her family is inextricably connected with the entire Silver Ring Thing programme,
as Unity ably exposed, as well as uncovering the rather strange individuals who consider themselves promoters of the evangelical organisation.

Despite her defeat, the whole sordid little affair, pursued by a branch of Christianity which wallows in a phony victimhood, encouraged by the completely erroneous reports in the press each year claiming that Christmas is being banned and that the politically correct, secular elite discriminate against their faith while they wouldn't dare against Islam, ought to have never occurred. It quickly became obvious that she and her parents were in cahoots, peddling their own agenda and getting publicity out of their case, while at the same time forcing the school to waste money that should have been spent on the education of others, rather than on dealing with the petulant demands of a girl with such a serious of ludicrous, illogical and irrational arguments. With such a blatant conflict of interest evident, the judge could have refused to even hear the case.

Said little Miss Playfoot:
"I believe I have a right not only to state my Christian views on sex, but also to demonstrate my Christian faith and commitment to God and my future husband not to have sex before marriage, through the wearing of a purity ring."

She could have demonstrated her Christian faith through wearing a cross, on which the ban on jewellery would not have applied, which as the judge said in his findings, she even acknowledged. Instead, she continued and continues to dogmatically stick to her ignorant contention that a ring with a rather ambiguous scripture inscribed on it is somehow as essential to her faith as either the hijab is to certain strains of cultural Islam, or a kara bracelet is to Sikhism.

The great irony of all this is that their programme is doomed to inevitable failure, and a particularly egregious failure at that, with 80% of those taking the worthless pledge breaking it in a predictable, bloody fashion. No worries though, as for a fee, like in all the other exploitative, grasping sects peddling their own warped world view, you can have your innocence restored and take the pledge again. While there's those that keeping on forking out and giving them the benefit of the doubt, the world will keep on turning, and God, with his preposterous interest in your sexual purity and his fast approaching storm of fire and brimstone, which you can escape by giving just that little bit more brother, will remain a fixture of our short, pointless little lives until the real end of time.

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The Express tells yet more lies shocker.

Just how much bullshit can you fit on one front page? The Sun's fit of pique over the "Afghan terrorists" previously held this highly prestigious prize, but today's Express certainly makes a stab at claiming its crown.

Firstly, I can't do much better than quote Paul on Mail Watch on the Brown's coming to nick all our money again story:

Paul Says:
July 16th, 2007 at 3:44 pm

“Stepen Pound MP reviewing it on Sky said he had never read such a loads of lies masquerading as a headline in any paper before.”

He should read the Express more often.

Well, quite. Especially seeing as the other two stories, apart from the one about Cameron Diaz which I have no interest in checking are just as falsehood-filled. The "scandal" about the amnesty is, err, that the Express is trying to mislead its reader(s) into thinking that there's going to be one. The call for such an amnesty was made by the Institute of Public Policy Research think tank, and has been previously rejected by the government.

The other amazing story is that according to the Express the search for Madeleine McCann will reach a "critical" stage this week. Could this latest expected breakthrough possibly be related to the previous expected breakthrough which the Express splashed on its front page last Monday?

POLICE leading the Madeleine McCann investigation expect a major breakthrough this week in the hunt for her kidnappers.

Over the last couple of years the Express has almost as regularly as clockwork had Diana on the front page on a Monday, usually in a further spurious story either concerning some new conspiracy theory or suggesting that the original investigation was in some way flawed. Even a newspaper as shameless as the Express can't live forever on Diana alone though; hence the take-up of another blonde which it can pretend to care about in a desperate attempt to try and shore up its sales. In the latest ABCs the Express was shown to have continued to hemorrhage sales, down to 770,403, a massive drop of around 70,000 on the previous year. It'd be nice to think that this was because of the increasingly right-wing, belligerent, intolerant, at times openly racist stance that it's taken, but it's more likely simply to be because it's become a far, far inferior product to of all things, the Daily Mail.

While Richard Desmond, owner of Northern & Shell, which publishes the Express and Star, took a pay-cut after paying himself a staggering £52 million in 2004, he still earned £27.3 million in 2005, while starving his newspapers of funding, slashing staff numbers then expecting them to produce the same quality as previously. When Desmond bought the Express and Star, helped by a £100,000 donation to the Labour party, it was alleged that he was going to be an asset-stripper, and while it's taken a few years for his plans for the newspapers to develop fully, it's clear that's exactly what he is. It's difficult to be a more loathsome creature than Rupert Murdoch, but Desmond manages it with ease.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007 

Scum-watch: Finally apologising to the Kalam family, and other stories.

In the early hours of the 2nd of June 2006, the home of the Kalam family in Forest Gate was raided by anti-terrorist police. Acting on intelligence which had more holes in it than Abdul Kahar's shoulder shortly would, searching for what was variously described as a chemical device, an explosive device designed to spray out cyanide, or a suicide vest with a similar function, they broke down the door, shot one of the brothers and beat Hanif, a next-door neighbour, around the head with the butt of a gun. Their ordeal however was from far over. Not only were they entirely innocent and the victims of a heavy-handed police operation, but they were shortly to find themselves at the centre of some of the most dishonest, sensationalised and disgraceful reporting to have appeared in the tabloid media for quite some time.

Today the Sun finally apologised to the Kalam family.

IN articles last summer following the arrest in Forest Gate of the Kalam brothers, we incorrectly reported that Abul Koyair had criminal convictions, that the brothers did not tell police where substantial cash found at their home had come from and that charges were brought over paedophile images found on Abdulkahar’s computer.

We also reported that there was an inquiry into allegations that the brothers had insulted and spat at soldiers outside their barracks.

In fact, no charges were brought over the computer, which was second hand, police were immediately informed of the cash savings and no evidence was found by the inquiry that the brothers had insulted or spat at soldiers.

We accept that the brothers are not involved in terrorism and apologise for the embarrassment caused.

Just to underline how important this apology is, here's where it's featured on the Sun's website:

All too late for the suffering the family went through not just because of a police mistake, but because the media, no doubt helpfully briefed by the police themselves, set out to smear them guilty. Victoria Brittain wrote this back in November:

Mr Kahar today is traumatised, struggling with lost confidence, sleeplessness, flashbacks and guilt for his mother's distress. Until June he was a cheerful young man working for Royal Mail, where he had been through a vetting procedure and signed the Official Secrets Act as a driver/collector of material from such places as banks and police stations. He was able to manage this workload despite being dyslexic.

To me, this is far more serious than the BBC making a mistake about the Queen which it almost instantly apologised for once they discovered it was wrong. As a result of the Sun's willingness to help counter the police's acute embarrassment, sell newspapers and believe the worst about anyone who either happens to have a long beard or brown skin, a family could quite easily have been broken apart. For it take over a year for them to accept that they were even in the slightest bit wrong about any of their stories concerning the brothers is not just unacceptable, it's the perfect example of how distant the media actually is from the people it's meant to represent, of how its power can be so easily abused. A liar recently described the Independent as "feral"; by that standard, the Sun is rabid.

Speaking of the Queen, there's no let up in the Sun's anger over the BBC's insult to our glorious monarch:

Dame Helen’s comments came as it emerged that the BBC KNEW clips apparently showing the Queen storming out of a picture session were wrong within hours of them being shown to journalists.

But it apologised only at noon on Thursday — 17 HOURS after learning the truth the evening before.

In a typical piece of Scum disinformation, it doesn't explain why the BBC took 17 hours to apologise. As the Guardian states:

It was agreed with the palace that a statement would not be put out until the following morning, but that left the BBC open to accusations it was milking the publicity before putting the record straight. Corporation insiders now admit they should have been quicker to alert newspapers and try to kill the story.

Lastly, the Scum saves its unrighteous anger for the speech delivered by Douglas Alexander, given in America, which touched on foreign policy:

Mr Brown insists he values the Special Relationship — yet actions speak louder than words.

Few are as close to him as his Trade Secretary Douglas Alexander. So why is this pipsqueak allowed to lecture the U.S. on its foreign policy?

There could barely be a more provocative act.

Here are some excerpts from Alexander's provocative lecture:

"In the 20th century a country's might was too often measured in what they could destroy. In the 21st century strength should be measured by what we can build together. And so we must form new alliances, based on common values, ones not just to protect us from the world, but ones which reach out to the world." He described this as "a new alliance of opportunity".

We need to demonstrate by our deeds, words and our actions that we are internationalist, not isolationist, multilateralist, not unilateralist, active and not passive, and driven by core values, consistently applied, not special interests."

"Given the interconnected nature of the challenges we face, I would argue that we have to simultaneously be fighting to end poverty, to secure trade justice and to tackle conflict and climate change, as well as working to defeat terrorism and ensure the preservation of our security."

Have you ever read such a stinging rebuke? I know I haven't. The Scum continues:

Especially so soon after the PM’s appalling decision to appoint Lord Malloch Brown as his minister for Africa, Asia and the UN.

This is a man who delighted in savaging America in his last job at the UN and who has no place in the British Government.

Just why is the Sun so disgusted by Lord Malloch Brown's appointment? Could it possibly be because in his "savaging" of America at the UN he stated that:

"Today on a very wide number of areas, from Lebanon and Afghanistan to Syria, Iran and the Palestinian issue, the US is constructively engaged with the UN," he said.

"But that is not well known or understood in part because much of the public discourse that reaches the US heartland has been largely abandoned to the UN's loudest detractors such as Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. The UN's role is in effect a secret in Middle America."

Dare to suggest that a Murdoch-owned subsidiary might just be responsible for the way the United Nations is viewed in the US, and you can expect to have opprobrium heaped on top of you for the rest of your natural life.

The Scum in fact isn't advocating a special relationship - a relationship involves criticism, talking to each other, working out problems and coming to compromises - what the Sun wants amounts to a relationship beset by violence and intimidation, where we're forced to blindly follow everything that America ever does, no matter what the consequences are, either for us, or the world itself. It didn't used to be like this. Thatcher and Reagan used to have blazing rows and disagreed on a number of issues, but it didn't affect the partnership. It's only been under the neo-conservatism which Murdoch has embraced, which accepts no criticism and expects only loyalty, whatever the cost, that our influence over America has completely disappeared. After all that's happened in the last four years, you'd expect that we at the very least ought to take stock of what's gone wrong and why, but instead the Scum demands that nothing change. While Wade no longer has Kemp to bash, she's still got a Labour prime minister to bitch slap.

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Friday, July 13, 2007 

Storm in one's teacup.

Has there ever been such a relative non-issue blown out of all distinguishable proportion? The BBC, while presenting a preview of its autumn schedule to a room of hacks, shows a tape of a forthcoming programme, following the Queen around for a year, which features the celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz taking Liz's portrait. Suggesting she remove the tiara, because it's too "dressy", Brenda replies, quite reasonably, dressed up in the regalia which she must loathe, what Leibovitz's thinks the rest of it is.

So far, all quite reasonable. Amazing news story - a woman in her 80s is a little grouchy about having to go through the rigmarole that she's lived with her whole life. The problem was that the next scene shows the Queen appear to have stormed out, when in fact the shot shows her going in for the sitting. It's only after the media hacks had wrote up the story, with both the Scum and Guardian featuring it on their front pages that the palace appears to have got in touch with the fact that it wasn't what actually happened.

The BBC, having been informed of the mistake, made not by them but the company responsible for the film, immediately apologises, both to the Queen and Leibovitz. You'd think that would be the end of the matter, but oh no, not when so many others have their own bones to pick with the BBC.

The Times, with Murdoch being no fan of the monarchy but hating the BBC far more, splashed on it. Crisis of trust, it screams, coming in the same week that it was fined after deceiving watchers of Blue Peter when it faked the winner of a competition. That itself was a far less serious willful piece of deception than that which the makers of Channel 4's Richard and Judy were fined £150,000 over - with allegations made about similar practices on GMTV which might involve millions of pounds be defrauded from viewers, but it was enough for the Scum to write a blistering leader comment about, never missing a chance to smack the Beeb.

The Times' article though is nothing compared to the Scum's own take on this latest embarrassing mistake. BBC lied about Queen's strop, it shrieks, in an article only written by an "Online reporter", which also claims that the BBC admitted that they had lied, something they have most certainly not. They themselves were mislead by the footage they had been provided with, which they have now said should never have been broadcast.

As followers of this blog probably know, the Scum accusing anyone of lying is akin to George Bush suggesting that the those who oppose him are in denial. Where do we even begin with the mistakes that it's made in the last couple of years? The most recent sufferers of the Scum's insistence on sensationalising its crime coverage were the family of Janet Hossain, informed by the newspaper that she was wearing "bondage" clothing and died as a result of "a kinky sex session which got out of hand". 2 weeks later it was forced to admit that neither of those things were true. Rochelle Holness's family have never received an apology for the article stating that she had been dismembered by her murderer while she was still alive, and the article still exists on the Sun's website. The Sun has told so many lies about the Human Rights Act, and yes, they are definitely lies rather than simple mistakes, that's it been difficult to keep count. Add to this how late last year it scaremongered about the amount of Eastern Europeans who had HIV/AIDS and TB, based on figures that just happened to be wholly inaccurate, and how the non-existent Muslim yobs were never fully apologised for, and you have the picture of an unaccountable newspaper that only says sorry when forced to and which plays fast and loose with the emotions of families that have just lost loved ones.

Compared to how the BBC "groveled" to the Queen yesterday about the mistake, correcting it as soon as it came to light and dressing themselves in sackcloth and ashes for good measure, you'd think that the Sun would show some humility, and there is at least no leader comment, as I have to admit I expected. Instead we'll have to make do with the reader comments, one of which just has to be featured:
Why the hell are we forced to pay for this tabloid corporation ...

Oh, my aching sides. Irony continues to smother everything. To be fair, there is one lone voice of reason on the Sun's comment page (The Times' is just as filled with BBC bashing zealots, two of whom don't happen to live here):

Who really cares? If someone was forced to resign every time there was a bit of bad judgement, there would be a lot of unemployed people.

And not just the Sun, but every single newspaper in the land wouldn't be getting put together tonight.

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Good riddance to Black rubbish.

Shed a tear then for poor, misunderstood clearly innocent Conrad Black. He faces a likely sentence of between 15 and 20 years in prison, after being convicted on three counts of mail fraud and one of obstructing justice. He was acquitted of nine other charges, among them wire fraud and racketeering.

The rise and fall of such haughty, arrogant and at times seemingly invincible public figures is always something to behold. While Black's denouement has nothing on when
Cap'n Bob went for a unplanned dip in the Atlantic, to see him brought to account for his crimes while Maxwell's were only discovered after his death ought to gladden the hearts of all those who've previously found themselves defrauded by the uncaring corporate face of capitalism.

Unlike Maxwell however, the establishment chose to ennoble, recognise and salute Black. While Maxwell won the support of the electorate of his constituency for the duration of his six-year stay in parliament, it was that paragon of virtue Tony Blair that saw fit to elevate Black into the Lords. Black jumped through hoops, renouncing his Canadian citizenship, in order to sit in that most regal and outdated of chambers and become Baron Black of Crossharbour in Tower Hamlets. It was a cruel irony, and typical of the contempt that both New Labour and the Telegraph group which he once owned have for the poor that this most opulent, extravagant and decadent of press barons was in effect representing the most economically deprived borough in the country.

Questions will now again be raised of whether those within the Telegraph during Black's ignoble reign either knew what he was doing, or if they were over protective and unwilling to question their quick to anger and dismissive boss. Even now under Barclay brothers, the paper has still gone out of its way to be accommodating to its former owner, allowing him to write a riposte to
Tom Bower's biography, the prose marked by the Telegraph's own description as in Black's "characteristically pugnacious manner". Others might call it his narcissistic unwillingness to accept any criticism of either himself or his gorgeous, pouting wife, Barbara Amiel, who once boasted that her own extravagance knew no bounds, since passed off as "self-satire". Even if she was being self-deprecating, that doesn't alter the fact that in a profile of her in Vogue the reporter drooled about her belongings:

"a fur closet, a sweater closet, a closet for shirts and T-shirts and a closet so crammed with evening gowns that the overflow has to be kept in yet more closets downstairs".

And there was more - a dozen Hermès Birkin bags, 30 or 40 handbags made by Renaud Pellegrino, and more than 100 pairs of Manolo Blahnik shoes.

Additionally, unlike Maxwell, who despite being a disastrous businessman, union basher and in the 60s declared unfit to head a public company was still a Labour supporter, Black turned the Telegraph and its titles even further to the right, introducing such calm and measured minds as Mark Steyn, currently convinced that Europe is about to be taken over by the Muslim hordes, and err, Barbara Amiel, given a whole page of broadsheet to pen her diatribes about how evil the BBC's coverage of Israel/Palestine is and why Ariel Sharon should have hit the Palestinians even harder than he dared. The editorial line on the same issue was almost as harsh, while support for war in Iraq was enthusiastic, although in mitigation the Tories' themselves were if anything more gung-ho in 2003 than Labour was.

His conviction ought to give us hope that more of the unaccountable, greedy and misleading purveyors of pure shit morning, noon and night can be brought down to size.
Roy Greenslade, in a piece of apologism for Black which the lying, stealing bastard doesn't in the slightest deserve points out that he was not the worst of newspaper owners. True. Many of us can't wait for the day that Rupert Murdoch finds himself in the cell next to Black. Who will complain to us in print that they're like holiday camps then?

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Thursday, July 12, 2007 

The other war.

Lenin has an excellent overview of a similarly brilliant piece of research and reporting on the experiences of 50 US Iraq war veterans, almost uniformly depressing. A taster:

We heard a few reports, in one case corroborated by photo­graphs, that some soldiers had so lost their moral compass that they'd mocked or desecrated Iraqi corpses. One photo, among dozens turned over to The Nation during the investigation, shows an American soldier acting as if he is about to eat the spilled brains of a dead Iraqi man with his brown plastic Army-issue spoon.

"Take a picture of me and this motherfucker," a soldier who had been in Sergeant Mejía's squad said as he put his arm around the corpse. Sergeant Mejía recalls that the shroud covering the body fell away, revealing that the young man was wearing only his pants. There was a bullet hole in his chest.

"Damn, they really fucked you up, didn't they?" the soldier laughed.

The scene, Sergeant Mejía said, was witnessed by the dead man's brothers and cousins.

It's not that men are bad people, or that they don't feel guilt, which usually kicks in once they eventually finish their extended tours of duty. Rather, it's that the situation is both so bad, and that the punishments for ill-treatment or "accidental" killing are either non-existent or so unlikely that the incidents aren't worth writing up, as well that the Iraqis themselves have been dehumanised by the officers in charge, routinely referred to as either "hajis" or by other pejoratives, that so many innocents have died as a result. It's both the colonial mindset, along with the absolute power that these almost uniquely young men have over those they're meant to be protecting that corrupts them, at least while they're there and trying to stay alive that does the most damage, and there seems to be very little that can be done to stop it from continuing, without a complete step-change in policy which we all know isn't going to happen.

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Scum-watch: Continuing to bleat about terror.

We shall no doubt be treated tomorrow to a rant on how evil and insidious the BBC's mistake about the Queen walking out of a photoshoot was, especially considering the Scum splashed on it, but today we've instead got yet another leader on the terror threat:

GORDON Brown promises a new crackdown on terror.

He rightly insists Islamic terror began long before 9/11 and has little to do with Iraq.

But if that’s right, why didn’t we start defending ourselves sooner?

The problem is that it isn't right. While the government has previously claimed that it foiled an al-Qaida plot here around 2000, but has never bothered to release hardly any details, the threat we face now has been greatly exacerbated by the Iraq war. When the so-called "ricin" plot was foiled, it was claimed that it was an al-Qaida plot, with even Colin Powell using it in his presentation on Iraq's elusive weapons of mass destruction to the United Nations. The only problem with this is that there was no ricin, and Bourgass had no links to al-Qaida whatsoever.

It's widely acknowledged that there was something of a truce with the Islamic extremists present here in the late 90s, where MI5 either kept an eye on them, actively collaborated with some of them, with the deal being that as long as they weren't planning to do anything against Britain itself they would be somewhat tolerated. With the introduction of detention without charge in the anti-terror measures rushed through in the aftermath of 9/11, and later the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq, the truce ended. Whereas those who previously might have gone to Afghanistan/Pakistan to train would have gone on to Chechnya or elsewhere, we now know that both Mohammad Sidique Khan and likely Muktar Ibrahim were instead either sent back here or decided to come back of their own accord. Around the same time, the Crevice plot was being foiled, which again came to its fruition after the Iraq war. We shouldn't be so naive to believe that Iraq is the only motivating cause: it isn't, there a myriad of them, and in any case, such murderous assaults against civilians can never be justified. To ignore however that the Iraq war, a illegal invasion which has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of civilians hasn't resulted in its own inevitable blowback is to be just as naive. It's also not as though our leaders weren't warned: the joint intelligence committee did just that, as did both MI5 and MI6.

The Sun is also suffering from a major loss of memory. Anti-terror legislation, either tightening the laws or expanding the range of offences has been a mainstay almost every year since 2001. 2001 also saw one of the most draconian pieces of legislation ever introduced: the permanent detention without charge or trial of foreign "terrorist suspects", rightly ruled as a breach of the Human Rights Act in 2004 by the House of Lords. In 2003 we witnessed tanks outside Heathrow airport, which just happened to coincide with the over a million strong anti-war march, itself nearly cancelled by ministers concerned about the state of the grass in Hyde Park. To try to pretend that we haven't tightened things up massively already, and at the expense of our own freedom and civil liberties is to imitate the ostrich and shove our heads into the sand.

Why did we tolerate extremists like Abu Hamza who mesmerised young Muslims, including 21/7 ringleader Muktar Ibrahim.

The Sun does have something of a point here. Hamza has certainly had influence over some of those who have gone on to attempt terrorist attacks, and he certainly should have been shut down much sooner than he was. If anything, as much to blame is the fact that we've tried to tolerate almost anyone, even hot-heads preaching doom, in the long held British tradition of freedom of speech. It's only been recently that we've abandoned such a noble ideal. It's easy to see these things with hindsight, but this is something that has now be dealt with. All the evidence now points to the radicalisation process taking place online, with young men doing research themselves and finding like-minded others, rather than anyone coming under the influence of extremist imams in mosques.

If the threat was known, why didn’t Mr Brown as Chancellor provide funds earlier to boost national security?

Uh, he has. MI5 has expanded rapidly thanks to those funds. In any case, we have still yet to get an explanation to why on the 6th of July 2005 the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller told MPs that the terrorist threat was under control. Within a year and six months, from being under control she spoke of there being up to 30 plots, and 200 terrorist groups or networks active in the UK. Had MI5 cocked up, or was there a massive swelling in those plotting, which might well undermine the argument that Iraq has had little to do with the increased threat? We simply haven't been told.

The Sun bows to no one in support for our police and intelligence services.

But who can feel reassured by their handling of the 21/7 bomb plot?

Yes, the bombers were caught, charged and each jailed for an exemplary 40 years.

But it was all by accident.

If we're to believe what we've read, then since then they've foiled at least two plots, the so-called liquid bombs from last summer, and the beheading in Birmingham from earlier this year. It's strange that in all of this, the only person who died as a result of 21/7 seems to have been forgotten. Jean Charles de Menezes ought to be the defining image of how it was handled; yet he's disappeared from view. Additionally, it seems that the public themselves are mostly reassured: in a poll conducted by the Scum itself, 62% felt safe, with 29.9% saying they didn't.

Had ringleader Muktar Ibrahim got his sums right, hundreds of victims would have been slaughtered by a man who should have been behind bars.

Where these hundreds are coming from is anyone's guess. The judge said at least 50, which seems a much more likely figure, especially considering how the attacks were not conducted during rush hour like 7/7 was, with tubes and buses being crowded. As for him being behind bars, that's also doubtful. He was charged with a public order offence for distributing extremist literature in Oxford Street, but even if he had turned up for his court appearance or the police had tracked him down, it seems unlikely that the sentence would have been that harsh, or would have necessarily stopped him from going later.

Ibrahim was known as a violent criminal and an associate of an al-Qaeda operative.

Yet he was given a British passport which allowed him to fly to Pakistan for terrorist training.

When a new UK passport is issued every five minutes, who knows how many more like him are at large?

Of more concern than the fact he was given a UK passport is that when he attempt to fly Pakistan he was stopped by Special Branch officers at Heathrow, only to be let board a later flight despite having a large amount of money in cash and suspicious documents in his possession. At the very least they ought to have discovered that he was due up in front of court and so should not have been leaving the country, or indeed that he been photographed at what was considered a "terrorist holiday camp" in the Lake District with his fellow-bombers, but there was no follow-up investigation.

It is worth asking because Britain has stopped cross-checking with Interpol.

Now we are to get a new computer — but it will take four years to build.

We must just hope that al-Qaeda keeps making mistakes.

Yes, because as we know, al-Qaida is definitely behind all these attacks. If anything, the sheer amount of times that al-Zawahiri has treated us with his sermons of late, 3 having been issued by al-Qaida's media organisation, as-Sahab in the last two weeks, shows the desperation that appears to be growing. The real danger now is not from what was al-Qaida in 2001, but rather from its ideology which we have done much to spread through our own counterproductive methods. Groups with their own agendas in different countries, including both Iraq and Algeria have pledged allegiance to bin Laden more than anything so they can join the al-Qaida brand, such as it is. We openly play into this by describing nearly all terrorism linked to extremist Islam as either al-Qaida or al-Qaida-inspired, giving credit where it is most certainly not due. The insurgency in Iraq, made up of dozens of disparate groups, not just limited to Sunni Islamists, but also including Sunni nationalists and even Shia groups which additionally plant IEDs targeting the American forces, each with their own aims and motives, is nearly always referred to as al-Qaida simply because the most dangerous and despicably brutal group happens to have taken that group's name on. Tackling the grievances without giving into them is what will slowly but surely calm the threat.

Until then, the Scum will no doubt be trying its best to scare the average Briton into thinking how desperately we need more than 28 days detention without charge, something that is given a big write-up, despite it being well down the order of priorities set out by Brown in yesterday's announcement prior to the Queen's speech in the autumn. If the extremists are so woefully funded and additionally ignorant or insistent on attempting spectacular attacks they could never realistically pull off and that they believe they can cause mass casualties using containers filled with petrol and garden gas canisters, then that already shows just how pathetic the threat currently really is. I think we can live with those kind of mistakes.

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Two more years.

Today is this blog's second birthday. Coincidentally, and appropriately, this is also the 1000th post. I continue to be amazed by the fact that some people actually return to read my vapid, badly written and convoluted murmurings every day; a thank you to everyone who visits, and here's to another two years.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007 

When all else fails, bribe the middle classes.

If there's one thing you can say for the Social Justice Policy Group, chaired by Iain Duncan Smith's report on social breakdown, titled Breakthrough Britain, it's that it hasn't done things by half measures. The sheer length of the whole document rivals Alastair Campbell's diaries, with one significant difference: while Campbell's diaries are going to be pored over for years to come, no matter how much many of us dislike the idea, it's doubtful that this report is going to be subject to the same degree of scrutiny.

Even reading the 190 recommendations the report makes, which itself runs to 16 pages (PDF), is enough of a challenge, let alone getting through the 275,000 words that the 6 volumes run to in full. The 12 page Overview (PDF) though perhaps is a bigger insight into what has gone on behind the scenes: it contains no less than 6 photographs featuring Duncan Smith himself. It'd be nice to think that the former Tory leader had found his niche, having discovered the true nature of relative poverty on the most bleak housing estates, but although he's met no doubt hundreds of people who he wants to help, or help to help, he doesn't seem to have actually understood them.

At the very heart of both Cameron and Duncan Smith's discussions of the paper has been the proposition that we live in a broken society. If you're going to put such a definitive statement of fact at the centre of your proposals, you ought to at least be certain it's right. The trouble is, as much as the doom-mongers on both the left and the right like to think that we're either going to the dogs or arrived there sometime ago, society, despite the efforts of both Thatcher and New Labour, is still alive. We might treat our children worse than animals, we might have betrayed them, the underclass may be burgeoning and ignored, but the ties that bind us together are still there. We're a dysfunctional, fucked-up, overly materialistic society, but broken? Not yet.

The headline-grabbing policy recommendation concerns the reintroduction of tax breaks and other benefits to encourage marriage, more of which later, but it's some of the other proposals which either stick in the throat just as much, or considering how muddled and confused some of it appears to be, how promising some sound. Take for instance the proposal for an increase in carer's allowance, which many across the country struggling to care for their loved ones and relatives desperately need. Then compare it against the recommendations on benefit reform, which are so rigidly structured that you'd think that a New Labour bureaucrat had written them. People on Jobseekers Allowance must be actively seeking or preparing for work full-time, and this must be enforced? How exactly? People with "disabilities or long-term health condition but capable of work" must seek or prepare for it for between either 5 or 20 hours a week? It goes even further than the Freud report in attempting to get lone parents back to work: they must either prepare or actively seek work for 20 hours a week when their child reaches school age, and full time once they reach 11. That this somewhat jars with the fact that the report contends that family relationships are crucial in halting social breakdown doesn't warrant a mention.

Then we get on to the proposals for schools, another hodge-podge, which in typical Cameroon style is obsessed with the "third-sector" and with other charity/religious groups picking up the slack from the state itself. We've had specialists, academies, trusts and now Duncan Smith proposes "Pioneer Schools", which groups of parents and "alternative" providers will be given the right to setup if they think their current one is either inadequate or failing, free from the tyranny of local authority control and with charitable status, and parents from other schools can demand to be moved to them if their school has been "failing" for three years. This is all under the banner of "every parent matters" a vacuous slogan to match Labour's own effort, "every child matters". Interestingly, it seems that the views of the teachers themselves aren't welcome. That few headteachers and parents seem much enamored with Blair's plans for trusts doesn't seem to bode well for these "pioneers" either.

It's a similar story with the recommendations for dealing with drug and alcohol addiction. On the face of it there's some excellent proposals: getting rid of Labour's targets and replacing them with one measured in terms of real outcomes, families to be prioritised for obvious reasons and a review of the Misuse of Drugs Act. Then it spoils it by recommending the introduction of "treatment vouchers" (why does the right so fetishise these loathsome degrading pieces of paper?), Methadone to be prescribed in the context of change programmes, when almost all experts agree that prescribing heroin itself rather than the substitute is far preferable, support for "faith based communities", which hopefully doesn't include such faith based communities as the Scientologists who are increasingly trying to gain access to prisons with their own addiction programmes, and a new commitment to controlling the supply of drugs. The policy group doesn't seem to have taken into account that if supplies of Class A drugs dry up (no chance of that with heroin considering the Afghanistan poppy crop) the problem is greatly exacerbated, with desperate people becoming even more desperate, while if there's a glut the situation is completely different. On top of all of this, the group has already decided on one change to the Misuse of Drugs Act before any review: cannabis is to be put back in Class B because of the spread and effects of "skunk", something which has been much exaggerated and will only result in the criminalisation of yet more young people and involve even more police time being wasted. Oh, and school drugs testing, an incredibly bad idea if there ever was one, should be trialled.

The recommendations concerning alcohol and gambling are just as mistaken. Rather than examining why our streets happen to be full of drunkards at the weekends, it only wants to deal with the actual consumption, not the cause. 7p on a pint of beer in any case is hardly going to make someone think twice: even if you drink ten pints that's only 70 pence, which in some pubs will only get you 25% of one in the first place. Why is it that we, rather than our European partners who in some cases have far cheaper booze don't share our same habits? Is it because they have a better quality of life, and don't feel the need to get lashed every weekend to forget about their miserable lot? One could argue that it's our mental health and attitude, just as much as it is our family background and substance abuse that's to do with social breakdown, yet that's something that this report doesn't really cover.

Coming back to the headlines, and it's the tax incentives for married couples which rankle most. The assumption that they make for the best environment for bringing up children is squarely aimed at the natural conservative, and surprise surprise, both the Daily Mail and Sun have been applauding it. There's nothing wrong with thinking that; it's just that it's not necessarily true. While cohabiting couples are much more likely to split up, the report doesn't consider that this is probably because it's a lot easier to do so before the couple have properly committed themselves to each other: how many families do you know where the parents are sticking together because of the children? Ripping up a marriage is far more difficult and costly than a cohabitation is. Where it most fails though is that it believes that such measures would actually encourage couples to get married, when the last thing that anyone cares about at the time is whether they'll be better off money-wise if they do. Instead, it's obvious who such breaks at aimed at: the already married middle-classes, who've never been better off but are still disappointed, even angry with their perceived lack of influence.

And who could blame the Tories for attempting such a bribe? Almost everything else has failed, so why not go straight for the jugular? Cameron might dump the rest, but it's clear he's already settled on the propaganda for the family. When it comes down it, they're still about sodding (not literally, hopefully) the single mum and subsidising the bourgeois. Some things never change.

Related posts:
Stumbling and Mumbling - Against tax breaks
donpaskini - Breakdown Britain

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007 

Scum-watch: A strange choice of idiots.

Today's Sun take on the conviction of the 21/7 bombers is nothing if not intriguing. After spending the years since 9/11 endlessly scaremongering about the threat posed by jihadists and their progressively diminishing skills in constructing bombs, it seems that the paper's just as confused as ever in what stance to take after last week's comprehensive failure, moving from defiance to jingoism without knowing on which to settle.

Why then choose now to ridicule and mock these bombers? Rather than doing so at the time of their snap, crackling and popping, the first thing the Sun demanded was that politicians return from their recess in order to do something, with Blair hearing the cry and heeding their noble cause of 90 day detention, control orders and changing the rules of the game. The Scum had a use for these amateurs then; they don't now.

Hence the banner boosting splash "MORON TERROR", which I have to admit is at least a decent pun. Why then is the "
Buck-toothed fanatic Muktah Ibrahim" both a moron and an imbecile? Err, he got the recipe for the detonators wrong, with the initial explosion not being strong enough to set-off the tupperware bowls that were filled with the main charge mixture of hydrogen peroxide and chappati flour. Oh, and he failed his Maths GCSE.

We could spend weeks debating just who's the biggest idiot out of the recent Islamist attempts at murdering innocents: is it Ibrahim and his cock-up with the detonators, Dhiren "Borat" Barot and his quite brilliant smoke alarm dirty bomb, or how about those attempts at Tiger Tiger and Glasgow, seemingly following the plans drawn up by Barot for the limo gas canisters project? The difference between the lot is that the Scum continues to pretends that hundreds could have been killed by the failed attacks of June 30th and 31st, and adores to dwell on just what could have happened if Barot had succeeded in his smoke alarm outrage. Out of all these, Ibrahim and his gang of backpackers came by far the closest to succeeding, yet they're the ones getting made fun of. Confused? You should be.

It's quite true that it does take a very special kind of idiot to continue to claim what was obviously an attempt to bomb the tube for the second time in two weeks was in actual fact a protest against the Iraq war, but even that staggering inanity doesn't explain why these guys are idiots and the rest are soldiers who we're at war against.

Perhaps the leader explains it. Or rather, explains that there is no real explanation:

THE four 21/7 terrorists are despicable thugs who deserve no mercy.

They plotted the biggest civilian slaughter in this country since World War Two.

Really? Even worse than 7/7? It wasn't plotted here, but worse than Lockerbie? Worse than the supposed liquid bombs plot of last year?

Hundreds of lives were saved solely because evil gang leader Muktah Ibrahim couldn’t add up.

But that was pure luck.

Hallelujah! Praise the luck!

Coming two weeks after 7/7, a second attack would have paralysed London and devastated the economy.

Nonsense. Things would have continued much the same as they did after 7/7. Stop giving these laughable idiots so much credit.

The jury had to decide if it was a publicity stunt or an attempt at mass murder. They reached the only possible verdict . . . guilty as hell.

Yet all we seem able to do is lock them away for a few years. These depraved plotters came here from Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Presumably by a few years the Scum means for the rest of their lives, which is the sentence they are likely to receive.
Why can’t we drop them back where they came from...with or without a parachute?

Firstly, I somehow doubt that either Eritrea or Ethiopia want them. As for Somalia, seeing as there's no central government and that there's currently an Islamist insurgency raging against the transitional federal government, I don't think it's the greatest idea to deport them back there.

Elsewhere, although Tim makes an excellent point about telling Campbell where to go, I can't really ignore the glaring ass-kissing going on in the leader column:

ALASTAIR Campbell’s diaries are as good as a front-row seat through the chaos and black comedy of the Blair years.

Campbell reveals moments of high drama and near-hysteria between Tony and Gordon Brown.

Cherie Blair complains her husband was unable to sleep for worrying about their brooding neighbour. Tony was once even ready to quit and let Two Jags run the country instead.

We learn about Peter Mandelson’s hissy fits, Cherie’s oddball relationship with Carole Caplin . . . and her decision to pack carrots for an overseas holiday.

This book was billed as a sanitised account of the Blair decade.

If so, we can’t wait for the full uncensored version.

The reason for the Scum's sycophancy is most likely identified by Martin Kettle. Out of 763 pages, Trevor Kavanagh, the Scum's former political editor, with whom Campbell would have conspired on hundreds if not thousands of occasions, is mentioned just 4 times. Similarly, Tom Baldwin, ex of the Times, is only referred to once throughout the entire diaries. Campbell hasn't just sanitised the TB/GBs, he's also self-censored his incestuous relationship with the Murdoch press, much to their delight.

Finally, it wouldn't be the Scum if it also wasn't desperately plugging its sister organisations. In the face of the apparent flight to Facebook, it's bigging up just how many people are using MurdochSpace regularly. It's ten million apparently.

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Monday, July 09, 2007 

The liar years.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls! Welcome to the greatest journalistic spectacle of the year! Gasp as the cynical hacks fellate Alastair Campbell's limp cock! Marvel at their technique in licking his shit-speckled asshole! Swoon as they abandon all their critical faculties and instead delight in their collective indiscretion! Vomit as the biggest liar of them all earns wads of cash from his sordid little book!

Yep, the scramble to speed-read Campbell's heavily expurgated diaries is underway. Despite Campbell admitting to being highly censorious when it comes both to Blair's own foul language and to the eternal conflict with Gordon Brown, they're still desperately hoping there's going to be something in there that they'll be able to claim as a sort of exclusive come tomorrow morning. So far, thanks to both Campbell releasing some of the more juicy bits and to skimming through the thousands of self-indulgent words, we've learned that:

Quite why anyone is taking a single word of it seriously is a conundrum in itself. Here we have the most congenital liar that's ever pulled on a pair of trousers describing his wiping of Blair's bottom on a daily basis. As any psychologist will tell you, a pathological liar not only lies to everyone around him, they lie the most to themselves. Like when Michael Howard confronted him recently on Newsnight, he can't just accept that he is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of any remaining faith there was in politicians in this country, he actually still believes, like Blair, that everything he did was not just justified, but the right thing to do.

Hence Campbell somehow thinking that he deserves sympathy for his own depression as a result of Dr David Kelly's suicide, and amazingly, some even fall for it. Both Stuart Prebble, tasked with converting this mass of verbiage into three hour-long television documentaries and Michael White, chief Grauniad Blair sycophant describe him as "vulnerable". It's a shame that someone who did apparently have moments of self-doubt, instead of going along with such thoughts and wondering whether the fact that he was day after day misleading numerous people, and with the dossiers, potentially condemning thousands of civilians to death, kept going and even now thinks that he was right to do so. Indeed, he even still believes it was right to go to war, despite the intelligence he had a part in sexing up being proved so catastrophically inaccurate.

For all his efforts in protecting Blair, shamelessly manipulating the media and reacting to the slightest negative headline, all we're going to remember of Campbell in decades to come are those scenes of him in front of the intelligence and security committee, repeatedly hitting the table with his finger, demanding that the BBC apologise for the allegations made by Andrew Gilligan, all with the air of a man who knew that the end was drawing close but was going to do everything he could to try to stop the inevitable. The extracts from his diary revealed at the Hutton inquiry showed he wanted to "fuck Gilligan", and he succeeded.

With the release of his diaries, we ought to be turning a corner, but Campbell and Blair's shadow is still cast over British politics. We're still trapped in Iraq, the only people ever to resign over the disaster being those with the principles to do so beforehand and those who were forced to do so over a whitewashed report; the public has never been so cynical about politicians; the axis between the Murdoch press and Downing Street remains sacrosanct; and Brown, rather than being able to concentrate on policy, is having to dedicate precious time to proving just how spin is a thing of the past, and how different the relationship with the media is going to be. The bastard ought to be an outcast: instead, as he's always planned, the hundreds of pages are going to ensure he'll have a very pleasant retirement. They say cheats never prosper, but liars it seems will inherit the earth.

Related post:
Chicken Yoghurt - A period of silence would be welcome

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Scum-watch: Scraping the very bottom of the barrel.

It's true there wasn't that much in the way of news this weekend, but today's Scum front-page really is scraping the very bottom of the barrel marked "pathetic irrelevant dredging-up of the past":

LOTTO jackpot winner Neil Murray is a convicted mugger who robbed an 88-year-old woman, The Sun can reveal.

Did the person who discovered this amazing exclusive yell "HOLD THE FRONT PAGE"? A convicted mugger wins the lottery? What next? A Catholic becoming the Pope?

His shameful past was exposed weeks after he scooped a £4million prize.

Murray snatched the purse, containing just £6, and pumped it into arcade fruit machines.

Eight years later he was still gambling — and last month won £4million on the Lottery.

We're talking about something 8 years ago, when the guy was 19. He received his sentence, which for a mugging seems reasonably harsh, has served it, and probably everyone including the 88-year-old has forgotten about it. More interesting is that he's refusing to share his winners with his family because of a tiff about his cannabis habit, which probably proves that he's a petty, not particularly nice person, but believe it or not that's not a barrier to winning the lottery.

The Scum seems to have forgotten what the meaning of "lottery" itself is. Amazingly, it means that anyone can win, no matter how nasty or friendly someone happens to be. Not that the Scum doesn't have past form in this area -
it previously stalked the "Lotto rapist" Iorworth Hoare, who just happened to decide to live on the same estate as the Scum's Scottish editor, instantly necessitating a front page super splash.

In fact, it's not just the meaning of lottery the Scum's forgotten, it's the meaning of life itself. Life, as any teenager will happily remind you in case it's slipped your mind, isn't fair. Rapists win the lottery. Pop stars contributing more than anyone else to climate change while making vast sums of money pretend that we can solve global warming by planting a tree and changing our light bulbs. Only those without morals and ethics but infected with greed, tenacity and ruthlessness tend to get right to the top, and a few billionaires turned philanthropist doesn't change that. What could be a better example than the private equity bosses paying less tax than their cleaners? The only comfort is that while they rise to the top, shit additionally tends to float. A few get their comeuppance; the rest of us, flawed and corrupt as we are, depend upon lady luck to get anywhere.

The old cliche is that only two things are certain in life, death and taxes, or if you happen to be Rupert Murdoch, just the reaper. The other one ought to be that if you happen to be working-class and win something, you can depend on the tabloids' rooting around in your past for dirt and then sticking it on their grubby little front page if there's a absence of any real news. It's how journalism works.

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Rebekah Wade: Fascinating, powerful, strong and fitted, but not pleasant.

As Tim notes, there was some fascinating cross-promotion going on in yesterday's Sunday Times. In an interview with Courteney Cox, who just happens to be starring as a "sex-mad tabloid editor" in a new TV series, we learn of Cox's meetings with everyone's favourite ginger ninja, Rebekah Wade herself:

“She’s a fascinating woman,” says Cox. “She is a very powerful, strong woman. I learnt a lot from her, and I like the way she dresses. She was very fitted.”

Well, we all know that Wade's ex-husband, Ross Kemp, can personally attest to how powerful and strong she is. As for her dress sense, who could possibly forget what she recently wore to meet the only person more powerful than her boss (incidentally, where's Bush placed his hand?):

Wade though has nothing on Cox's character, Lucy Spiller, when it comes to dispatching lovers:

In another, she is seen indulging in a one-night stand with a barman, whom she subsequently ejects from her apartment with the help of a Taser stun gun.

Pow! Obviously the next accessory for a "very fitted" editor.

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Saturday, July 07, 2007 

Film review: Hostel: Part II

(This review contains spoilers.)

Sometimes, you end up getting things horribly wrong. The original Hostel, a film so flatulently awful, offensively irredeemable and without a single aspect worthy of defending, couldn't possibly produce a sequel that would be any better, or at least that was what I thought. I went along to see it with the sole intention of coming back here and writing about how it was yet another new low in modern Hollywood horror film-making, a further cynical cash-in on a genre that rather than going back to its roots continues to stagnate and degrade inexorably. Eli Roth, who before directing Hostel made the similarly breathtakingly bad Cabin Fever, was just a hack who had somehow picked up the backing of Quentin Tarantino, possibly because he can tell a money-maker when he sees one.

Well, I take it all back. Hostel: Part II by comparison to the original is a smartly-made, reasonably well-written and competently directed film by a man that on this evidence will probably only get better. First though, some background.

Hostel: Part II undoubtedly belongs to the new-wave of horror films that most agree have risen in response to the glut of post-modern slashers, ala Scream, and the Hollywood remaking of Japanese horror flicks, eg the Ring, Grudge and the Eye, films that were already tame by the gorehounds' standards which Western directors' subsequently made even less challenging. Designed as a return to the exploitation genre's heyday of the 70s, where for a while almost anything went and where post-modernism and the tongue in cheek were yet to be invented, most of the returns have actually been fairly disappointing or even more questionable. Leading this pack are Rob Zombie, Roth, Alexandre Aja, and the various directors of the Saw franchise. All, some would suggest in the aftermath of 9/11 and with the rise of a new perceived brutality, both in and outside the realms of bourgeois society, have decided that the public mood is no longer on the jump-scares provided by the Japanese ghost films or the weak, PG-13 rated-slasher more focused on providing pop-culture references than on delivering the goods in the way of blood and grue, but on nihilism, unflinching violence and in the case of Zombie's the Devil's Rejects, making serial killers into anti-heroes where it's difficult to know whether you're meant to sympathise with the debauched police or with the wise-cracking murderers.

In actual fact, while Zombie's films are unashamed homages to the excesses of the 70s, being set then for a start, and at least the original Saw owes as much to Seven as it does to the days of "It's only a movie", Roth's Hostel owes a far greater debt to another Japanese film, Audition. Directed by the prolific Takashi Miike, Audition is almost certainly his masterpiece, at least outside the yakuza gangster genre which he has made his own. While the film is as much a study of who holds the power in relationships, of who's using who and of the Japanese work ethic as it is an out-and-out horror, the last 40 minutes are rightly considered some of the most intense, downright twisted and shocking in recent times, just as the first hour is quiet and unassuming by comparison. The last twenty minutes especially, where the middle-aged businessman who used the process of an audition for a film to meet young women is tortured by the beautiful yet mysterious Asami, are as much the template for Roth's scenes in a Slovakian dungeon where the rich pay to kill and torture backpackers as anything else.

There has been plenty of comment, both in America and over here about how this new-wave is in effect "torture-porn", glamourising and brazenly depicting acts of depravity which a couple of decades ago would have resulted in the films themselves being banned. There is a certain amount of merit to those making such arguments, but that's about all. While Zombie's Rejects is certainly troubling, it's a brilliantly executed dark journey which has been seen before, and lest we forget, those responsible for the carnage do get their comeuppance, even if it is to Free Bird and beautifully shot. It's the Saw sequels, and most certainly the last one which perhaps come closest to meeting the description, being little more than one scene after another of sickening tests of both nerve and stomach, with little of the suspense of the first or the brilliantly simple but still pleasing twist of the second. Additionally, while the war in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and extraordinary rendition may have brought torture back to the top of the news agenda, and these films may be attempting to cash-in, there's nothing in these films that anyone's either going to get off on or likely to attempt to replicate, although saying that there has recently been a case in the Netherlands where Hostel has taken the blame, although it was bound to happen sooner or later.

These films can neither adequately be described as glorifying torture, featuring porn, or in actual fact being either. For the most part they are just a response to what the public wants: let's not forget that Hollywood is now so ruthlessly focus-grouped that there's little that'll be released that doesn't meet their approval, which is why so much of its output is mundane, dull, unoriginal, brainless and for the most part inoffensive, at least to an American audience. The new wave of horror is around the only thinking outside the box which is currently going on, and the public and critics are mixed, rightly so considering how abysmal the original Hostel and other recent attempts at upping the ante like Captivity and Paradise Lost are.

Where the original Hostel suffered was in its sheer boneheadedness. Roth, rather than heeding the message of Audition which is what he was trying to emulate, decided not to bother with the excellent characterisation, plotting, feeling of dread and dream/nightmare-like quality which built up during it and instead focused on recreating the visceral nature of the torture: unsurprisingly, the film as a result was execrable. Taking 3 young men, each more annoying and unsympathetic than the last and leading them one by one into the torture chamber simply didn't work. We needed to care about them to share the horror of their torture; instead they were stereotypically badly-behaved Americans (with one Icelandic guy tagging along for the ride) abroad in Amsterdam, smoking pot, visiting stunningly gorgeous prostitutes (the only one of whom who isn't is described as "a fucking hog") before being persuaded to move onto Slovakia, where there's been "a war", and as a result the young ladies are gagging for it. The casual denigration of women continues apace throughout, with them either being whores or monsters who sell their foreign friends into the dungeon, but not before it's revealed that they're in fact ugly beneath their make-up. In comparison to its reputation, the actual torture and gore is remarkably slight, with only the scene featuring a young girl's eye meeting a blowtorch being particularly nasty (she later throws herself under a train once she's seen herself in a mirror; undoubtedly because she's a vain female like all the rest of them). Some defenders of the film tried to paint it as being some sort of satire either on American ignorance, or on cultural imperialism, but that always seemed far-fetched. This was cynicism and the work of a hack rather than someone trying to say something.

Despite its success, it seems that Roth took all these criticisms and more on board. Ignoring the beginning, which quickly deals with the demise of the only survivor from the previous film, Roth twists the original full-circle, with instead of 3 guys out to fuck anything that moves we instead have 3 young American women, Beth, the "straight" one, played by Lauren German who has a striking resemblance to Nicola Walker, Whitney, the party girl, played by Bijou Phillips and Lorna, the nerd, played by Heather Matarazzo. While Whitney and Lorna mostly do the same thing the two guys with the similar characterisation in the first film did, Roth obviously realised he was going to need to flesh out Beth much more than he previously did Paxton. As a result, she's the fully-formed, sympathetic and well-written centre of the film, with a decent performance from German helping immensely. While there are a couple of major holes still, as she's supposedly swimming in money but not living the high life, instead slumming it while one would imagine others in her position doing the opposite, especially as she's deeply concerned about getting into potential dangerous situations, she's the structure which the original was crying out for.

In fact, the major problem with the film isn't that Roth's tried to up the ante while further developing the characters, it's that he's tucked-in a sub-plot which is neither believable nor necessary. While the original just centred purely on the three backpackers, this time round we also see the story develop from the viewpoint of two of the men who've paid to murder our three young American ladies, who incidentally carry a far higher price than any other nationality. Why two Americans would be paying to kill their own kind when in certain parts of the states they could just shoot someone and claim it was self-defence for nothing is unclear, but it's forgivable. What isn't forgivable is how Todd (played by Richard Burgi) and Stuart (Roger Bart) are an unhappy throwback to the cliches and bad writing of the original. Todd is in simple terms a psychopath, a businessman looking forward to slaughtering someone as he would clinch a deal, while Stuart is the family-man unsure of the whole business. Predictably, their roles are eventually reversed, as every horror flick now worthy of the name has to have such a twist.

Roth in fact succeeds most in the demise of Lorna, the nerd who's bumped off half-way through. In the sort of scene that would have given James Ferman a heart attack, she's hung-upside down naked while the woman who's paid to kill her enters, strips off and lays beneath her in a sort of bath, before using a scythe to first scratch and then rip apart her prey's skin, resulting in a shower of blood not seen since Carrie. It's undoubtedly the sort of scene that fits the bill for torture-porn, yet it's carried off with such panache that you almost feel the blade against scraping against your own skin. Very few of the other attempts in the genre have come close to creating such an excellent set-piece, both scary and satisfying. It's perhaps worth mentioning that during the video nasties moral panic the case of SS Experiment Camp featured a woman half-naked upside down on a cross, which caused more outrage than perhaps the actual content of the film itself did; things, it seems, have quite rightly moved on.

Nothing else quite comes close to equalling that, but the cinematography is splendid thoroughout. The extended budget over the original shows, with many more full shots showcasing the well-chosen locations, and Roth certainly maturing as a film-maker. Unlike most recent Hollywood efforts, the frenetic steadicam shots are kept to a minimum, and the film is far better for it. Keeping with the spirit of the first, where the aforementioned Miike made a daft cameo, this time round we have Edwige Fenech, the Italian starlet who featured in many 70s sex comedies and giallos making an appearance, still looking stunning, with Ruggero Deodato, director of the notorious Cannibal Holocaust, a film far, far better than this one, living up to his reputation by playing err, a cannibal.

While by no means perfect, Hostel Part II is certainly worth a look. The misogyny is gone, much more attention has been paid to the characterisation and the blood-letting, as it is, is far improved. The only real clanging scenes are one in which a load of severed heads, including Paxton's, are discovered by Beth in Sacha's wardrobe, and the train scenes involving an attempt by Beth and Whitney to score drugs, although it provides a rather weak echo for the film's conclusion. It doesn't come close to the tension and dread in Wolf Creek for example, or the sheer brilliance of Haute Tension, but no longer can it be said that Roth is just going through the motions.

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Scum-watch: Burn, terrorists, burn!

Knowing my penchant for stalking the Sun newspaper, a friend of mine a couple of days ago asked if the Scum had started to complain about the care which Kafeel Ahmed was receiving. Ahmed, as I'm sure you've forgotten, was the member of the terrorist clown squad who opted once his martyrdom attempt had failed to turn himself into a moving, punching, God-shouting ball of flame. I laughed. Surely not even the Sun would quibble over the treatment of a man who could potentially hold vital information, not just about the London and Glasgow attacks, but also about other plots and jihadists he had been in contact with.

How wrong I was.

FURY erupted yesterday as it was revealed the NHS is lavishing more than £5,000 a day battling to save the suspected car bomber who turned himself into a human torch at Glasgow airport.

The whopping bill for specialist treatment is being run up even though Kafeel Ahmed’s chances of survival are said to be “practically zero”.

The cost to taxpayers emerged as Scotland Yard last night brought the first charges over the attempted bomb blitz on the UK a week ago.


Hospital treatment, skin grafts and round-the-clock nursing care have already cost a massive £36,000.

Every day up to 15 cops are on armed guard at the hospital — costing taxpayers thousands MORE.

A source at Paisley’s Royal Alexandra Hospital said: “It’s ironic considering he is accused of wanting to die. A lot of people think he should have been left to burn."

One would expect that anyone else who had suffered similar injuries, self-inflicted or not, would be treated in exactly the same way as Ahmed. The Sun almost appears to be suggesting that certain people, purely because of what they're alleged to have done, should be refused treatment and left to die. This prompts the question: where do you draw the line? Should only terrorists be refused treatment? How about murderers? Should those who try to commit suicide and fail, or self-harmers' be similarly denied? After all, they did it to themselves. Why should the taxpayer pick up the bill?

Health care, like the justice system, should be blind. Those seeking treatment shouldn't be judged on what they might have done, but on what's wrong with them. Ahmed, despite what he attempted to do, is as much human and as much deserves to live as the rest of us. This might seem unpalatable to some, and the cost of doing so might seem astronomical, especially if the patient might well die in any case, but to start refusing treatment is an incredibly slippery path. Regarding others as below the niceties which we extended to each other is something "they" do; the very last thing we should be doing is emulating their contempt for humanity in general.

The Scum leader additionally picks up the baton, in a comment titled "Terror madness":

THE £5,000 spent each day easing Kafeel Ahmed’s pain is mind-boggling.

Here is a suspected terrorist who apparently intended to die in flames, taking with him as many innocent people as possible.

Plenty wish he’d met his maker. But a cop’s heroism prevented it.

Now doctors are fighting to save him — against his will and at huge cost to the very people he would probably like to annihilate.

Yeah, and? Plenty of people are treated against their will: Ian Brady springs to mind. By the way, by "plenty" does the Sun happen to mean "we"?

He has the generosity of our welfare state to thank for those efforts, though he’s unlikely to thank a soul.

The tireless battle by NHS staff to save his life is a tribute to the democracy Ahmed would seemingly like to destroy.

Indeed it is. What does it say about our freedom and democracy that the nation's biggest selling newspaper wants to rip-up those very freedoms and seemingly let such people die without treatment? Our democracy deserves better than a newspaper which demands we do exactly what the terrorists' themselves want.

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Friday, July 06, 2007 

Another one bites the dust.

It seems Brillo Pad Neil got a little ahead of himself in reporting that Murdoch had succeeded in his $5bn bid to purchase the Wall Street Journal from Dow Jones, but it does now look as if Murdoch is going to succeed in getting his filthy mits on the world's largest and most influential business newspaper.

The dissent about the sale of yet another newspaper with major clout to Murdoch's stable hasn't been so much about how it will instantly swing to the right - the WSJ op-ed pages are so right-wing that they make the Times' look like the Socialist Worker's by comparison - but how the editorial independence which it currently enjoys will instantly come under Murdoch's clunking fist.

Editors at the Times and Sunday Times have in the past hilariously offered their opinion that Murdoch has never interfered with their work, and while he certainly doesn't exercise the same sledgehammer with which he orders about the staff on the Scum and News of the Screws for instance, it's more than apparent that one of the reasons why he doesn't need to do so is that his selected editors either agree with him or know that to potentially contradict his own views would instantly constitute the sack. No amount of promises about how he won't interfere with the independence of the paper will alter the one major piece of evidence we have about how he almost by stealth makes certain that his newspapers across the globe follow his own views.

In the run up to the Iraq war, one of the few people who was prepared to talk about oil in connection with the eventual invasion was Murdoch himself. He stated in an interview with the Australian magazine that:

"The greatest thing to come out of this for the world economy...would be $20 a barrel for oil. That's bigger than any tax cut in any country."

Not freedom for the Iraq people then, or the removal of a dictator with weapons of mass destructions, but rather the emancipation of the country's oil for the betterment of mankind.

Amazingly, every single one of Murdoch's 175 editors agreed with his stance on Iraq. Even in China, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand, every newspaper supported the Iraq war, even if they weren't as gung-ho as the Scum was. 4 years and 650,000 lives later, even if you were to do a similar survey now you'd likely find that every single one of those newspapers was still at least supportive of the invasion, if not of the aftermath.

The Wall Street Journal itself has at least got in its detailed, well-sourced article on how Murdoch has in the past meddled and dabbled with the editorial line of his other papers. It might well be one of the last chances it'll ever have to be critical of him again, so treasure it.

And just in case you think that Murdoch could never get away with introducing the equivalent of the Fox News Channel here, Ofcom yesterday put into place the first steps towards what could be the abandoning of the impartiality rules governing news broadcasts, because "ethnic minorities and the young are failing to engage with it". Sky News has never exactly been the most restrained news broadcaster, but the threat of having Sun News ought to be enough to send a shiver down the spine of anyone who believes in the dissemination of the truth, as the study into the misperceptions surrounding the Iraq war showed.

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No smoking. It is against the law to smoke while reading this blog.

Ignoring all the arguments for and against the smoking ban, which I personally oppose but as a non-smoker don't really care that much about, I'm sure there's one thing we can agree on, and that's the pointless, idiotic and perplexing bureaucracy that's meant to be enforcing it.

Can anyone even attempt to justify the need for every "smokefree premises" to display notices reminding the general public of the smoking ban? This isn't just extended to shops, pubs etc; these signs are appearing absolutely everywhere, including on open plan bus shelters where's the only a roof for cover, churches, and public toilets. Why every single shop eshould have to display such signs in the first place is completely ridiculous, and will doubtless soon be forgotten about in the years to come, but the need to stick them up in bus shelters ought to also point attention to the drafting of the ban in the first place. Are all acts of parliament this badly written and impenetrable to all but the most experienced of decipherers? This is the section on " Enclosed and substantially enclosed premises":

Enclosed and substantially enclosed premises
2.—(1) For the purposes of section 2 of the Act, premises are enclosed if they—

(2) For the purposes of section 2 of the Act, premises are substantially enclosed if they have a ceiling or roof but there is—

which is less than half of the area of the walls, including other structures that serve the purpose of walls and constitute the perimeter of the premises.

(3) In determining the area of an opening or an aggregate area of openings for the purposes of paragraph (2), no account is to be taken of openings in which there are doors, windows or other fittings that can be opened or shut.

(4) In this regulation "roof" includes any fixed or moveable structure or device which is capable of covering all or part of the premises as a roof, including, for example, a canvas awning.

The most sensible way to introduce the law would have been to distribute the signs (as has been done, but not enough have been provided in some cases) and then leave it up the proprietor/managers as to whether they actually need to be put on display. Instead we now have these ugly, ubiquitous signs staring back at you wherever you happen to be. Doubtless the reasoning behind it is so that those who do light up can't then come up with the excuse of ignorance if challenged, but like so much of this government's legislation it treats the public like idiots who can't either remember anything or who need to be knocked senseless with the omnipresence of the ban in order for it to sink in. Treating the public like ignorant children is something that Brown additionally needs to change.

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Thursday, July 05, 2007 

Cameron in still being an idiot shocker.

Do music lyrics really contribute to a broken society? Actually, scrap that, we know full well what David Cameron really means. Are rap/hip hop lyrics really contributing to a broken society? Are the black kids (because we all know that white kids don't listen to rap/hip hop, and again, they are whom Cameron is more than obviously targeting) that listen to rap/hip hop songs then going out, having listened to the violent, misogynistic, materialistic lyrics, and decide that it's a jolly good idea to form gangs and go out on rape and pillaging sprees?

Dear old David Cameron sincerely thinks so. Not content with making himself look like a complete idiot last year by claiming that Tim Westwood was destroying the moral core of our society by playing other people's records, he yesterday returned to the theme,
this time in a bizarre address to the British Phonographic Industry. He apparently proposed, in return for the industry heads taking into account his belief that music lyrics are helping to create a regressive counter-culture, that the copyright for sound recordings should be extended from 50 to 70 years, something the Gowers report of last year opposed and which the BPI has been lobbying heavily for. I posted on that last year, and Tim similarly lays into Cameron here.

While Cameron claims in his speech that he is most definitely not calling for censorship, legislation or the banning of content, as he is after all a liberal conservative, it's more than apparent that he'd certainly rather that such music didn't exist, which ought to show just how intolerant of artistic freedom, or at least musical artistic freedom he is. He wouldn't call for the "banning" of books or ask the publishing firms to consider their responsibilities when distributing literature which contains explicit violence or horror, and while I wouldn't put it past him to call for similar restraint from the film industry, he doesn't seem likely to do it anytime soon. No, the targeting of the music industry is because it's an easy scapegoat, and due to the fact that most of the music Cameron dislikes comes from the United States, few artists and producers are also going to challenge his hypothesis.

In any case, to suggest that it's just one genre of music that has a problem with troubling lyrics is a nonsense. The various offshoots of metal have more than a reputation for misogyny and violent imagery, although maybe it's because that those within that music sub-culture are almost entirely white that Cameron doesn't have a problem with it. He also hasn't referred to the surge of "emo" bands
which so excised the Daily Mail last year, scaremongering about how angsty middle-class kids were being indoctrinated with self-hatred and arm-slashing, again probably because its adherents tend to be hideously pale.

More than anything, Cameron has picked on song lyrics because it's something he thinks he understands. This is a man who hasn't ever had to spend a day on the streets of inner London or other cities, except for the cameras. His only other idea for dealing with a "broken society" has been to promote the family, which is all well and good except that it similarly ignores the reality on the ground: you have to deal with what is there, not what you wish was. Most of all, it misses the point. He's blaming the lyrics for having an influence on society rather than person that might have been influenced by them. For a man who supposedly wants to promote personal responsibility, blaming the artist rather than the perpetrator only shows up his continuing political bankruptcy.

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Scum-watch: Flag flying uber alles.

What then, according to the Sun, was the most important news story from yesterday? Alan Johnston's release? The continuing investigation into the botched "terror" attacks? The stand-off in the Red Mosque in Pakistan? Some inconsequential bullshit about celebrities?

No, it was something far, far more interesting than any of that tedious nonsense. Scotland Yard, where there certainly isn't far more important work to be doing than worrying about setting up flagpoles, has committed the cardinal sin of declining to rush straight for the red white and blue, despite the Sun's demands for every building in the country to be flying our brilliant banner from the rooftops.

STUFFY Scotland Yard REFUSED to fly the Union Flag yesterday — despite an appeal by the PM.

The Sun backed Gordon Brown when he said the flag should be hoisted on public buildings in defiance of terrorism and to promote “Britishness”.

Let's end this specious bullshit once and for all. Here's what the green paper on the Governance of Britain (PDF) says about flags, from page 58:

Box 6:Flying the Union Flag and other national flags

Symbols can help to embody a national culture and citizenship. The Union Flag is one of the most recognisable symbols of the UK. But while in other countries, such as France and the United States, the national flag is regarded as source of pride, in recent years the Union Flag has all too often become the preserve of political extremists, a symbol of discord rather than harmony. It is critical that this symbol is not hijacked by those who seek to work against the fundamental British values of tolerance and mutual respect.

While there are a number of reasons why the Union Flag may not be as widely flown in the UK as other national flags are abroad, regulations on the use of the flag may be playing some role.The Government has already removed many of the previous restrictions on flag flying by private citizens. But at present there are only 18 fixed days each year in on which the Union Flag may be flown on Government buildings England. These restrictions are clearly tighter than those used in many other countries.

The Government will therefore consult on altering the current guidance that prohibits the flying of the Union Flag from Government buildings for more than 18 set days in the year. There are particular sensitivities in Northern Ireland. The flying of flags there is governed by the Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000. The Government believes that this is the most appropriate way to deal with the matter.

In other words then, it's nothing to do with either promoting Britishness or "defying terrorism", but more of an attempt to reclaim the flag from the far-right. Funny that the government blames the fascists for people being hesitant about flying the flag while the Scum predictably blames the "loopy left".
Back to the article:

But Britain’s biggest police force hid behind a government directive which specifies official days on which the Union Flag can be flown. It
WAS flying outside other police HQs.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: “Guidance on the appropriate dates for flying of the Union Flag is issued by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

“We are aware of the proposals made by the Prime Minister. We would expect to be advised of any changes in the protocol by the DCMS and act accordingly.”

They're simply playing safe then and going by the current dates, as the green paper is only promising a consultation on changing the current directive. You'd really think that the police ought to be spending their time on err, protecting the public and preventing crime than having to worry about being pilloried in the Scum about not flying the flag, but this seems to show the Scum's own twisted sense of priorities.

Despite being happy about something involving the BBC, which makes a change, the Scum can't help but delve further into things it doesn't have the slightest clue about.

That said, one question hovers over his release. Was there a deal?

Depends what the Scum means by deal. If by deal it means that Hamas offered to for now spare any further crackdowns on the Dogmush clan in exchange for Johnston's release, then yes, there most likely was. If it means some sort of deal with the West or the BBC, then no.

Mr Johnston asks us to thank the ruthless Hamas regime for organising his release.

Seeing as if it hadn't been for them it's incredibly likely he'd still be languishing in a plain room, listening to the world service, I don't see how doing this is any sort of problem.

Brussels is preparing to lift its embargo on aid worth billions to these elected extremists. That money will undoubtedly be used to buy weapons and explosives.

Err, no it isn't. It's lifting the embargo on the Palestinian Authority now that Hamas is no longer part of the government. Hamas isn't going to get the money; Fatah is.

Under its evil rule, Gaza has been engulfed by civil war.

In actual fact, since Hamas fully took over three weeks ago the Strip has had a calmness that it hasn't enjoyed in years. This isn't to overlook how it came to take control, but the results on the ground speak for themselves.

We rejoice to see Mr Johnston free.

But not at the price of Israel’s survival.

Yes, because Hamas is just waiting to wipe Israel off the map, isn't it? Wade really ought to stick to commenting on the evil paedos; she's just as ignorant about the subject, but at least she doesn't come off as being completely illiterate.

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Wednesday, July 04, 2007 

It can't last, can it?

Is it really possible that it's only a week since Blair finally walked? After blighting the political scene of this country for over 10 years, it's remarkable how the mood does seem to have lifted somewhat, in spite of the laughable attacks at the weekend.

It's partly those very attempts at murder that underlined just how politics had worked in this country for so long. We expected an instant reaction; we didn't get one. The Scum has been howling; it's been ignored. Rather than briefings to the press, statements have been delivered to the Commons. We perhaps ought to be savouring it: it may well not last long.

Nothing could have more exemplified this than Brown's long expected and rumoured about, but not leaked, green paper on constitutional reform. It doesn't go far enough, it's true, and some of the measures announced are pure window dressing, as it's unlikely the public really cares that much about whether the prime minister personally appoints the poet laureate or not for instance, but after 10 years of increasing centralisation in which a prime minister felt little but contempt for parliament and acted more like a president than any leader this country has ever had in the democratic age, it's not just refreshing, it's invigorating.

A truly radical prime minister would have gone far further. There is for instance, no mention of electoral reform apart from setting up how we reached the current constitutional settlement we have. The House of Lords would be abolished, and full democratic elections to a new chamber would be enshrined. A fully independent figure would be appointed to decide on all prosecution cases, including on the dropping of investigations into companies such as BAE. The security services would have a watchdog similar to the IPCC set-up, rather than simply beefing up the parliamentary committees which monitor them. Scottish MPs would not be allowed to vote on matters purely affecting England and elsewhere where the policy decision has been devolved to the Scottish parliament, and vice versa. The ban on demonstrations outside parliament without permission would be lifted immediately, not after consultation. The monarchy should be abolished. Other suggestions are made by Stumbling and Mumbling and David Marquand in the New Statesman.

We should however enjoy the moment of a government doing something that it might greatly regret later on. Even for cynical bastards like me, this last week has been far more promising than I bet some of us could ever have thought.

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Scum-watch: The dead flag blues.

Has Rebekah Wade finally lost the use of all her remaining mental faculties? The Scum this week hasn't had the slightest clue what response to make to the weekend's pitiful attacks by the "Doctors of Evil". Monday we had blitz spirit type defiance; yesterday it was scaremongering and demanding that Brown scrap the "hated" human rights act; today we've finally reached the predictable last resort of any tabloid hack, patriotism, never more accurately defined than by Samuel Johnson over 200 years ago, who presciently described it as the last refuge of the scoundrel. A lot of scoundrels have attempted to invoke it since then, and Rebekah Wade and Gordon Brown will by no means be the last.

Five Chinese Crackers has done his usual top job of showing that Brown actually ordered no such display of "defiance", simply suggesting amongst his other plans for constitutional change that the restrictions on flying the Union Jack on government buildings could well be dropped.

Now, it's always been obvious that Brown has long focused on Britishness because of his own unmissable Scottishness, and the gradual rise of the so-called West Lothian question, but even he would likely balk at the innate stupidity of putting up the Union Jack in response to a bunch of idiot jihadis that were supposedly doctors but who didn't even realise that gas patio canisters aren't going to make that much of a bang. There's nothing quite so eminently offensive as almost any flag on a pole, let alone flying the thing from every building in the land. The only thing they're useful for is as a quick standard by which countries can be easily identified; they are otherwise inherently meaningless, as much a mocked-up mumbo-jumbo of supposed pride as the 2012 Olympics logo is, only they were put together before brainless managerial brand consultants started decimating the English language. They're just as manufactured. It's also perhaps indicative of their worthlessness that probably the most pleasingly one on aesthetic terms is North Korea's, a nation on its knees but steeped in jingoism by its Stalinist masters.

In fact, the Scum's calls to fly the flag are even more facile and offensive than they seem on the surface. There's nothing wrong with wanting to fly the flag, but if we're going to do it, we should do so without having either a definite reason for doing so, simply because we live in Britain and its one of our national emblems, or as the Scum has, an ulterior motive which is the very definition of being a scoundrel. At the same time as the article states that by flying the flag we'd be making clear that we revere freedom, itself a highly questionable supposition, it's demanding that our new prime minister remove those very freedoms which we genuinely should be proud of and celebrate.

But Mr Brown REFUSED to rip up the Human Rights Act despite Britain’s security crisis.

This is what the Scum's crisis of patriotism is about. As shown yesterday, it loathes the HRA more than anything because it's European in origin, even though it's not anything to do with the European Union as it falsely stated. When all else fails, play the jingoist card.

He told MPs it must stay — in a snub to Sun readers who voted overwhelmingly to scrap the Act in our hotline poll.

Just how overwhelmingly? Well, according to the Scum:

A massive 23,919 Sun readers rang our hotline yesterday to demand new Home Secretary Jacqui Smith tear up the hated Human Rights Act.

That amounted to 98 per cent of those who voted. Just 358 people voted against.

This tells us more about the sense of the vast majority of Sun readers' than it does about anything else. The Sun sells just under 3 million copies a day and claims in its advertising propaganda that it reaches approximately 8 million every day. 23,919 is then a tiny amount, and considering it cost 10 pence to call, it means 23,919 individuals (or not, because it wouldn't stop multiple votes) have more money than sense. Those 358 brave individuals who voted against may have equally wasted their cash, but to oppose the Scum's overwhelming propaganda war is worthy of praise.

We had called for changes after revealing how the Act hampers our security forces’ ability to protect the nation.

In one of the most badly written, misleading pieces to appear in a tabloid newspaper this year. That's quite an achievement. Bravo!

But the PM said axing the Act would rob British citizens of their “fundamental rights”.

Judges who apply the Act in court would use the European Convention on Human Rights in its place, he told MPs.

Well obviously, considering the HRA is just the ECHR enshrined in British law. All repealing the HRA would do is mean that seeking justice would be made more expensive, difficult and lengthier. For a newspaper that supposedly seeks justice for victims, it's not something it should want to be associated with. Yet destroying one of the few decent pieces of legislation brought in by Blair in a fit of pique and publicity is more attractive for the ever knee-jerking reactionaries in Wapping.

Before we go on to the leader, guess what the Scum's offering!

We are giving a 36in x 24in (2ft x 3ft) Union Flag FREE to each Sun reader. Send a sturdy A4 SAE, with a 70p stamp affixed, to this address: Sun Union Flag Offer PO Box 5553, Brightlingsea, Essex CO7 OFB.

Will it by any chance have the Sun emblazoned across it?

Anyway, the leader:

We applaud the decision to fly the Union Flag from public buildings — especially when this nation is under deadly attack.

Why especially when we're under not so deadly attack? What difference will it make? Are the terrorists going to stop in their tracks when they see us brandishing pieces of cloth in the wind like a bunch of sheep? Or is it rather something to make us feel better about ourselves without considering why we're being attacked or how to stop it happening again without removing freedoms which we might find difficult to replace? It's the equivalent of masturbation, a brief feeling of euphoria which quickly subsides and mutates into visceral self-loathing. There's more to be said for self-loathing than there is for ludicrous shows of so-called defiance.

This simple act of national pride is commonplace in countries like America and France where householders fly the flag in every front yard. Yet for decades, thanks to the loopy Left, we have seemed ashamed to raise a banner marking 300 years as a United Kingdom.

Ah yes, it's all down to the loopy left, no doubt also feminists, one-armed black lesbian Trotskyists' and politically correct bank managers banning piggy banks. In actual fact, and as is often the case, it's actually the fault of the loopy Right, as the Union Jack and flag of St. George have never been fully reclaimed from either the National Front or the British National Party, making people reasonably reluctant to fly it outside of football tournaments. If the Sun wanted to make a difference, it ought to campaign against the far right which it does so much to succour. This isn't even getting into how as a nation we are also suspicious about such displays of unabashed self-love, which is why those outside the lovers of the royal family have never joined in with such flag waving fervour.

So let us all, whether Christian, Muslim, or any other faith, unite together and fly the Union Flag to show we are one nation united in common cause. Patriotism, for too long, has been a dirty word.

And what cause would that be? If it's preserving freedom, then this very newspaper wants to do the exact opposite because a bunch of lunatics with petrol succeeded in setting themselves on fire. Patriotism isn't a dirty word as long as its for a noble cause: this is most certainly not.

The new PM makes clear there is NO question of scrapping the Human Rights Act which puts our security at risk.

There is NO plan to deport known or convicted terrorists, a top priority for police and security services.

I've made this challenge in the past about the Human Rights Act, and I'll do it again in a slightly different manner. If Rebekah Wade, because I'm sure she's reading this, can prove how the HRA has put our security at risk, and I mean conclusively, then I'll stop calling her a traitor. Additionally, it's odd how the police and security services consider deporting suspects a top priority when they've never stated such a thing in public. Odd that.

And, crucially, there will be NO referendum on the EU Constitution — even though Labour was re-elected in 2005 on this very pledge.

Or, to rephrase, the Scum supported Labour in 2005 because Blair promised a referendum of the constitution. Seeing as the EU constitution no longer exists and that rather than actually having a referendum on the EU reform treaty and how it changes the European Union, the Sun wants it to be a referendum on Europe itself, Brown is right to resist.

Far from dishing out real power to the people, Mr Brown has set up talking shops.

However worthy, they are unlikely to give punters the leverage to change the minds of elected politicians.

The Scum has this odd way of referring to citizens as punters, as if they were somehow the clients of a prostitute, which is rather strange. That aside, the Sun has already made up its mind that the people consider the HRA "a bad thing".

Brown knows the HRA harms our security but won’t axe it because he thinks there are good things in it.

Fine. So why not incorporate those in a new bill of rights which judges must obey, then repeal the HRA?

Because any bill of rights worthy of the name would contain the exact same provisions in the HRA and the ECHR. If we're going to have to a British bill of rights fine, but it musn't be a watered down sop to this very tabloid. Only then should repealing the HRA be considered.


There is one area where this newspaper believes the PM has wrongly surrendered real executive power.

MPs will get the right to decide whether this country goes to war. This is a risky proposition. Military threats come out of a clear blue sky. Lives depend on swift action.

It is every Prime Minister’s job, in consultation with his Cabinet, to take the lonely decision to defend the nation.

Not wait around for 646 waffling MPs to give their opinion.

In other words, the people of this country will themselves then be denied any voice in the most important and onerous decision that any government will ever take. Those "waffling" MPs are our voice, and it's disingenuous to suggest that MPs can't be summoned quickly to vote on such matters in case. The Sun in effect supports an elective dictatorship: one which as well as leading this nation into glory, as during WW2, can lead it into the ignominy that unjust, illegal wars bring down on them. Voting isn't necessarily a barrier to that happening, as we've seen, but they provide at least a plausible block on such overarching executive power. Is there anything more ridiculous and hypocritical than demanding the public have their say on the EU constitution, but not on the declaring of war?

The Scum remains then as traitorous as ever.

Related post:
Sunny - Flagging nationalism

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Freedom for some but not others.

It's not often that we get unmitigated good news, so it's well worth celebrating that Alan Johnston has been released unharmed and with apparently only the pressure put on the Dogmush clan by Hamas to thank. It's indicative of his strength and courage, helped by the constant, dignified and restrained pressure kept up by the BBC that he was able within hours to give an account of his ordeal, when many others would have cracked and found themselves emotional wrecks within a matter of days.

Hamas could do much to further the reciprocal mood by releasing Gilad Shalit, who has now spent over a year as a hostage in means not that dissimilar to those which Johnston found himself in. Israel could additionally release the Hamas officials which are still in custody from the previous round-ups. It's not going to happen, but they shouldn't be forgotten either.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007 

Scum-watch: Remove our rights, big boy!

Hey kids, guess what time it is! We've just had two attempted "terrorist" attacks, the political parties have reacted stoically and without resorting to new knee-jerk initiatives, and the country in general, rather than being in the slightest bit frightened of these comedy jihadists is laughing in their face. Yep, you've got it, the Scum's started yet another campaign to rip up the "hated" human rights act!

It's difficult to tell whether the Sun actually ever dropped in its initial campaign, started in May of last year to "put an end to the human rights madness that is horrifying the country", but as with many of its short-lived campaigns which come to naught, it was dropped relatively quickly, even if the odd editorial continues to demand its repeal. Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that the Sun had a major hand in Blair's initial "the rules of the game are changing" speech, which signalled the start of the attempt to introduce 90 days detention without charge for terrorist suspects. While the country dozed in the silly season, the Scum was demanding the politicians return from their own break to "do something", which Blair duly did, without bothering to consult either Charles Clarke, the then home secretary, or the Tories and Liberal Democrats, who had been working with him on whether any new legislation.

The paper seems to have brought the big guns out for its latest attempt, no doubt in a strident effort to try to influence Gordon Brown, long rumoured to be considering a bill of rights, which he announced consultation on in today's statement on constitutional change. The main article is written by Trevor Kavangah, long the Scum's political editor and still someone with major clout in Whitehall, as well as the ear of Murdoch himself. Additionally, he's a complete cunt and is one of those arrogant hacks who thinks he knows exactly what his readers want, mainly because he tells them what they should.


BRITAIN is under siege — threatened by suicide bombers and murderers who have no fear of the law or respect for human life.

Under siege? More like pissed off that yet more incompetent idiots can bring in over-the-top security measures which only harm the economy and cause delays without doing anything to stop anyone who wants to try the same thing again. Life, believe it or not, goes on, pretty much the same as it always has and always will do.

Just about every shopping mall and sports ground is now a target for terror.

Yeah, and? Are we meant to be scared or not? Yesterday's Scum leader was about the "blitz spirit"; what is this except scaremongering?

Nuclear plants and water reservoirs are at risk of attack.

From fanatics armed with patio gas canisters and petrol cans, presumably.

And extremists are plotting to destroy the City of London — and our economy — with a nuclear “dirty bomb”.

*Yawn*. Would this dirty bomb be anything like the one that dear old Dhiren "Borat" Barot was planning? Considering how his brilliant plans for packing limos with gas canisters to destroy buildings have just been comprehensively debunked in the most public of manners, somehow I'm not particularly petrified.

Yet we ask our police and intelligence services to protect and defend us with their arms tied behind their backs.

Would those same tied-up arms be the ones which shot and killed Jean Charles de Menezes, which shot one of the Koyair brothers, and which have moved with blistering speed in quickly capturing all the apparent members of the cell which perpetrated those excuses for attacks at the weekend?

Why? Because in an act of abject surrender to the libertarian left, Labour signed up to the EU Charter of Human Rights.

The first blatant mistake. There is no such thing as an "EU Charter of Human Rights"; there is a Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which Blair in his last act as prime minister gained an opt-out from at the recent meeting on the EU reform treaty, and there is a European Convention of Human Rights, but there's no such thing as an European Union Charter of Human Rights. The convention has never had anything to do with the European Union. This may actually be a Freudian slip which reveals the real reason that the Sun and Kavanagh loathe the HRA so much: they believe it's one and the same as the EU, which they additionally want out of.

Tony Blair ignored warnings that this would hamstring our response to organised crime and leave us wide open to abuses of British law.

And there is any evidence that it has done either? Nope, because it hasn't.

That was way back in 1998.

Long before Osama Bin Laden became a household name and before a horrified world watched his suicide killers bring down the Twin Towers on 9/11.

Nobody then imagined the explosion of violence that would sweep the Western world — from Bali to Spain and then to Britain itself.

Nor did we predict a flood of immigrants among whom would be many who wished to destroy our way of life.

None of which is anything to do with the Human Rights Act. Also, as we have seen, most of those recently convicted of terrorist plotting and offences were either born here or moved here long, long before Labour came to power, long before the Human Rights Act became law in 2000. The "flood" of immigrants has been from eastern Europe, not from the Middle East. Others sought asylum, again mostly before Labour came to power.

Or the explosion in crime that would fill our jails with 10,000 foreign criminals — one in ten of the prison population.

Crime has in fact been dropping for over ten years, but this is again besides the point.

But we knew pretty quickly that the Human Rights law was a disastrous error.

While other countries, like France, demanded opt-outs to preserve their own system of justice, Britain accepted it without amendment. The act stripped us of our power as a nation to defend ourselves from danger.

Wrong on all three counts. While we didn't seek opt-outs from any of the articles of the ECHR, we have signed but never ratified Protocol 4 and neither signed nor ratified Protocol 7 or 12. How can the act have possibly stripped us of our power to defend ourselves when we've launched a pre-emptive war against Iraq and previously derogated from Article 5 so that "terrorist suspects" could be held indefinitely without charge?

This lesson was brought home in 2000 when nine Afghans hijacked an airliner at gunpoint, forced it to land at Stansted and demanded asylum.

Jack Straw, then Home Secretary, promised to kick them out.

He was overruled.

All nine are still in Britain today, making a mockery of our support for international law and order.

Why? Because sending them home would be a breach of their human rights, even though our soldiers have risked life and limb to remove the Taliban — the reason for their flight from Afghanistan.

The real injustice about the Afghan hijackers has always been that they have been repeatedly attacked and libeled because they had the audacity to flee a country where their lives were threatened, using the only method that they possibly could. Yes, they hijacked an aircraft, yes, they took hostages, but no one was hurt or harmed in any way; they wanted freedom so badly they broke the law to do so. Despite all this, they've since been denied the right to work here, which they have always wanted so they can repay their debt to this society. That was why the case was brought last year when Mr Justice Sullivan ruled that the government was breaching the 1971 Immigration Act by denying them leave to remain, finally giving them the right, after another appeal by the government, to work.

Our soldiers may have risked life and limb to remove the Taliban, but it's been so successful, thanks in no small part to the Scum's support for the Iraq war that they've regrouped and begun their own insurgency. The other parts of the country are still unstable, ruled over by elected warlords who are still the real power brokers in the broken nation. The government itself eventually admitted that the decision made that they could not be deported back to Afghanistan was the right one - if only they'd accepted it in the first place.

This was long before 9/11, but it sent a signal to would-be migrants from every war-torn lawless state in the world that Britain was a soft touch.

Well, considering that the men were in prison until 2003 when they were freed on appeal and not given leave to remain until 2004, this is complete and utter bollocks.

Kavanagh interminably continues:

We began importing countless numbers whose first port of call was a lawyer on tap at taxpayers’ expense to spell out their human rights and entitlement to welfare.

The Twin Towers, in Tony Blair’s words, was a “wake up call”.

But Britain dozed on.

Far from spending the urgently needed cash to increase our security, we made known terrorists like Abu “Hooky” Hamza welcome here.

Abu Hamza first came here in 1979. We now know that the security services had long known about Hamza and had first contacted him, by Hamza's own account in 1997. With hindsight, it's easy to see that something should have been done about Hamza's hate preaching, along with that of others like Abu Qutada and Omar Bakri Muhammad, but there have been rumours that MI5 either recruited them or let them stay, not actually considering them a threat to this country, even if they were supporting or even fundraising for attacks overseas. The blame here lies far more with the security services and their sense of priorities than it does either with the government or the HRA.

When the London Tube bombers struck two years ago this coming Saturday, Tony Blair proclaimed a raft of new measures to reassure voters. They included 90-day detention, control orders for suspects and — most important of all — deportation of known and convicted terrorists.

Parliament rightly rejected 90-day detention; control orders, both illiberal and ineffective in equal measure were introduced; and deportations, rather than prosecuting of certain suspects have been tried, but again, rightly blocked when they are to countries where torture and mistreatment is known to be practiced. This isn't about their rights - it's about protecting our values, not giving into and joining in with abuse which goes against the human spirit itself.

When asked why he had not acted sooner, Mr Blair replied: “Just imagine the reaction if I had.”

In other words, he had failed to take the action he knew was urgently needed because it might be howled down by civil liberties protesters — whom he this week branded “loopy loo”.

Perhaps Kavangah should take this up with the police themselves, who consider that the powers they now have are more than adequate. They weren't demanding what Blair introduced in 2005 until 7/7 happened. It seems also that the Tories are now "civil liberties protesters", having had the backbone to stand up to Labour's draconian, illiberal authoritarianism.

Yet in a bizarre twist, Charlie Falconer, then Lord Chancellor, admitted the 7/7 fanatics might have been stopped if Mr Blair’s draconian new measures had already been in place.

That was in 2005. And this week we celebrate two years of culpable inaction.

As previously mentioned, hindsight is a wonderful thing. Seeing as we now know that the security services most certainly had Mohammad Sidique Khan on their radar, involved with the Crevice plot, they're far more culpable than anyone else. Falconer, not unusually, was talking out his backside. Two years of inaction? More like two years of consistent overreaction, and not introducing the right measures, such as wiretap evidence and recognising the need to prosecute rather than arbitrarily detain.

Here come the demands:

New Prime Minister Gordon Brown knows what to do. He must:

INCREASE the absurdly inadequate 28-day detention limit — preferably to 90 days as originally planned.

It's so absurdly inadequate that the full 28-days has only been used on one occasion, and that was rumoured to be because the police wanted to make a point rather than because they had to. Even the police themselves, after originally supporting the full 90-days are now questioning whether it's necessary.

OVER-RULE judges who rejected 24-hour control orders — leaving seven out of 17 dangerous terrorists free to disappear without trace.

I'm not even sure that there were any 24-hour control orders to begin with - the 6 Iraqis, some of which have gone missing, were on 18-hour curfew schemes before they were later put on 14-hour curfews after the judges' ruling. The point is that those men on these orders should be either prosecuted or released - with the introduction of intercept evidence to do so, something which the Scum isn't demanding.

DEPORT convicted terrorists to countries like Libya — even if lawyers argue they may be mistreated.

Strange how the Sun has picked Libya, whom we now have decent relations with because of the bringing in of Colonel Gadaffi from the cold, and not say, either Algeria or Jordan whom we've tried to reach "memorandums of understanding" with, which aren't worth the paper they're written on. Considering the treatment which the six medical workers accused of infecting children with HIV with have suffered while in Libya, it's still not the best advertisement for how those deported there are likely to get on. This whole demand though is bizarre; those we are attempting to deport to these countries as they are "not conducive to the public good" here have never been convicted of anything. Those who have been found guilty have years, if not decades still to spend in prison.

And BRING IN plea-bargaining so police can turn known terrorists into supergrasses like Mohammed Junaid Babar whose evidence helped jail the al-Qaeda gang who plotted to kill hundreds with massive fertiliser bombs.

The Sun making a decent suggestion?! Who would have thought it?

The British people should not be exposed to the fear of murder outlined by Home Secretary Jacqui Smith because of a shabby Human Rights Act that tolerates intolerance and puts our safety in deadly peril.

We must act to save ourselves before it is too late.

A hilarious choice of words by Kavanagh. That the HRA protects everyone from intolerance, whether it's "terrorist suspects" from torture, gives mothers the right for inquiries into how their daughters' came to be murdered, or even allows newspapers within the News International stable to attempt to overturn libel damages, rather than tolerates it is just the kind of lie that the Scum gets away with time and time again. The British people should not be exposed to the fearmongering by the tabloids, in turn rejecting laws which have done and will continue to do countless amounts of good. Repealing the HRA would make everyone of us less safe, take us further away from the justice the Scum claims to want and send a message that we're willing to downgrade our own freedom to fight those who want to destroy it entirely. In any case, the ECHR would still apply: simply that we'd have to go to Strasbourg for justice rather than to our own courts. It's the equivalent of cutting off our nose to spite our faces.

The next five pages are given over to examples of "human rights madness". The first is about the Afghan hijackers, which we've sort of already covered:

The gang demanded asylum claiming they were fleeing the Taliban. The then Home Secretary Jack Straw pledged to boot them out — instead the EU Charter of Human Rights kicked in. He was over-ruled, leading to legal action costing taxpayers millions. The nine were finally given permission to stay in the UK by the High Court in May last year.

There's the non-existent EU Charter of Human Rights again. Also, if the government had accepted the decision of the panel of adjucators in 2004, much of that cost could have been avoided. Blame the government, not the Afghans.

BRENDON Fearon, shot in the legs as he tried to burgle Norfolk farmer Tony Martin, was allowed to sue for compensation under the Human Rights Act.

The judge said it gave him a right to a full hearing. Fearon, 36, wanted £100,000. He only dropped his claim after The Sun proved it was a sham and he had made a full recovery.

From what I can see, Fearon's attempt to sue was again nothing to do with the HRA, although if anyone knows differently feel free to correct me. He was given legal aid of £5,000 to sue, that much is true. As for the Scum being responsible for the dropping of his claim, it seems more likely that Fearon dropped his claim in return for Martin dropping his own attempt to sue him.

FUGITIVE Mustaf Jama — wanted over the murder of PC Sharon Beshenivsky — is a career criminal who escaped deportation to his native Somalia by claiming it was dangerous for him to return.

Yet that is exactly where he fled after brave cop Sharon, 38, was shot dead in Bradford in 2005.

Jama, 27, arrived in Britain in the early 1990s for a life of crime.

Another decision that was right. Are we suddenly going to drop decades of practice and start deporting criminals at the end of their sentences back to countries' in a state of war, especially after they've spent much of their lives here, as Jama had done? If they want to take the risk, that's up to them. Would the Scum agree with deporting criminals at the end of their sentences back to Zimbabwe, for instance, or Iraq? Both are in similar states of chaos. Unfortunately, things like this do happen, and it's terrible that justice for
Beshenivsky has not been totally achieved. It shouldn't however alter our values in protecting anyone from deportation into what could be either death or mistreatment.

SERIAL killer Dennis Nilsen won the right to receive hardcore gay pornography in his cell after successfully arguing a ban infringed his human rights.

Nilsen, 60 — jailed in 1983 for murdering six young men — argued he had a right to “information and freedom of expression” under the Act. It led to dozens of similar claims.

How many more fucking times are we going to have read this tissue of lies? It's as old as the hills. Nilsen did not win the right to receive pornography; he lost his claim at the very first step. I somehow therefore doubt that it led to dozens of similar claims. If anyone would like to take the Scum to the PCC over this, if not the entire article, go ahead.


A PROTEST against the Mohammed cartoons in Denmark was allowed to continue even though many demonstrators carried sick placards.

They even called for beheadings. But the London demo last year could not be halted because it might infringe the human rights of those taking part.

Another load of lies. The police let the demonstration go ahead mainly because they were concerned about what the demonstrators might do if they started making arrests, in what was apart from the placards a peaceful demonstration, instead filming them and later bringing charges, with at least two of the men being convicted. The Met's statement at the time said:

"Those gathered were well natured and in the main compliant with police requests. Arrests, if necessary, will be made at the most appropriate time. This should not be seen as a sign of lack of action ... The decision to arrest at a public order event must be viewed in the context of the overall policing plan and the environment the officers are operating in. Specialist officers were deployed on both days to record any potential evidence should it be needed at any point in the future. All complaints will be passed to the public order crime unit for further investigation"

Last, and certainly least, we come to the Scum's leader, headlined

NEW Home Secretary Jacqui Smith’s calm words only emphasised the menace facing Britain today.

Every shopping centre and sports ground in Britain is a potential terror target.

But that means any event where thousands of innocent civilians gather. Now and in the future.

That includes the remaining matches at Wimbledon where security is already intense.

Sunday’s grand prix will attract huge crowds. So will events like the Tour De France which starts in London, the golf open at Carnoustie and the Indian cricket tour.

And we haven’t even got to the start of the football season yet. Or the 2012 Olympics.

The implications of the Home Secretary’s warning are alarming. From now on, we can never take a big day out for granted.

Can you possibly guess what Wade says, after spending over 100 words pointing out all the places where the terrorists are going to set themselves on fire?

Yet she rightly stressed the need to remain calm.

Just like the Sun's entire coverage of this whole laughable incident.

We cannot be held to ransom by a few demented extremists who have hijacked and distorted an ancient faith. Britain has weathered worse threats than anything these fanatics can throw at us.

Ah, but we've still got to give up hard-won freedoms up, even so. Don't you understand?

But while we are prepared to face this threat, we must make sure our police and intelligence are properly equipped to minimise the risk.

Gordon Brown must act swiftly to change the Human Rights Act.

He must increase the period of detention from the present paltry 28 days to substantially more.

He must reverse judges’ rulings that 24-hour control orders are inhumane.

He should introduce plea- bargaining, so terrorists can be turned into high-grade supergrasses.

And most urgent of all, he must urgently upgrade powers to deport convicted terrorists.

If these vicious thugs repay our hospitality by trying to kill us, they don’t deserve the protection of our ludicrous human rights laws.

Wade has spoken. Are you listening, Gordon?

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Monday, July 02, 2007 

Pull yourselves together!

After a weekend of hyping up what in the end amounted to two men attempting to commit suicide in public via self-immolation, most of the media has thankfully gotten something of a grip. In fact, by far the most apocalyptic account of what supposedly took place was given by the man Gordon Brown's just appointed as his international security adviser. His article for the News of the Screws doesn't seem to be available online, but the New York Times has some choice parts from it:

At the same time, Mr. Brown’s newly appointed counterterrorism advisor, John Stevens, a former Scotland Yard police chief, said the attempted car bomb attacks signaled “a major escalation in the war being waged on us by Islamic terrorists.”

“It is not simply the horror of yet more attempts at mass murder that is so chilling — but the change in the psychotic thought processes behind it,” Sir John said in a column in the British Sunday tabloid The News of the World. He added, “Now it is clear a loose but deadly network of interlinked operational cells has developed.”

“Al Qaeda has imported the tactics of Baghdad and Bali onto the streets of the U.K,” he said.

If this is a war, then it's a pretty poor substitute for what the citizens of Afghanistan are currently suffering, being shot amongst by the Taliban and real remnants of al-Qaida and bombed into mass graves by the disproportionate response of the Nato forces. Let's not give what some have described as bombers with learning difficulties more credit than they deserve: these may have been attempts at mass murder, but their desire for such a number of fatalities was not only not achieved, but would never have been achieved. It's not by any means clear that there's a loose network; a loose network of moral support maybe, and as we've seen it's certainly not deadly. It's also nonsense that these are tactics taken from Baghdad and Bali: the car bomb has been around for decades, and as much as some point at how Islamic extremism breeds hatred and jealousy of places like nightclubs, it's as much down to the fact that they're soft targets where large numbers of people gather in a confined space.

It's well worth comparing Stevens' belligerence with the stance taken today in the Commons by Jacqui Smith. She seemed to take a leaf out of Ken MacDonald's book, when he argued earlier in the year that there was no such thing as a war on terrorism, rather that those involved in such plots were simply mass murderers and criminals. It's an admirable, simple argument, ignoring the twisted ideology behind it and as a result not giving it either credibility or the slightest veneer of respect. Compared to the brooding fearmongering of the gruesome twosome who were only finally deposed last week, it's a breath of fresh air, and a very welcome one. The only dampener was that Lord Carlile, it has to be said probably at the behest of the BBC, just had to raise the grim idea of raising the period of detention without charge, when so far the consensus from all parties has been to say that's for discussion at another time.

The revelation that none of those seemingly involved in the attempted bombings are British-born is welcome, although as Jason Burke argues, that's not because there aren't willing accomplices or supporters here, more that this seems to have been a sleeper cell that has been woefully funded, if at all. It isn't beyond comprehension that they all could have planned to do this of their own accord a year or two back, and for some reason known only to themselves didn't bother to do any research beyond thinking that packing some patio gas canisters into a car along with petrol and a few nails would kill people.

The amount of comment now descending upon us about the fact that at least two of the suspects are doctors, and all appear to be middle-class, well educated men from stable family backgrounds seems to have ignored almost everything we already know about those who have previously carried out such attacks and who have been attracted to suitably radical groups. Poverty itself is an incredibly poor qualifier to predicting who might become radicalised, mainly because those who are more concerned with living from day to day don't have the time to spend either researching for themselves or attending such groups. While there is concern, probably too much given to radicalisation going on on university campuses in this country, ones across the Middle East, while also having the same liberal fringes here, have a lot more influence than perhaps we've yet to admit. Many jihadis seem to share similar qualities: while there is always the hot-head fringe, equally those with the opposite personality are represented, the shy, inward and quiet, of whom you'd never suspect of having such beliefs. They are the Mohammad Siddique Khans, the teaching assistants who seem friendly, well-adjusted and normal but who inside are increasingly angry, depressed and feel inadequate. These are the ones likely to be the doctors, caring, kind and tender with their patients but still prepared to die for their ideology and turn the Hippocratic oath on its head. After all, al-Zawahiri himself has a masters degree in surgery.

Another interesting point raised has been by Hassan Butt, previously of Al-Muhajiroun, who has come out and pointed the finger squarely at the Muslim community itself for not doing enough soul-searching into its own failure to adequately condemn and challenge the radicals. The government itself has slowly realised this, through its attempts at wooing the Muslim Council of Britain, which has only blamed foreign policy and nothing else. Sunny recently challenged Bunglawala over this and didn't manage to get a proper response out of him. It's more than obvious that foreign policy has had a major effect in making Britain a target, as even government ministers have privately admitted, with the number of plots and muted attacks spiraling since the Iraq war, but the anger was always there, and it is about the decadence and hedonism of modern society, the lack of an Islamic identity, the global ummah, the clamour for Sharia and the impossible but idealistic lust for an eventual worldwide Caliphate, even if one has never existed in any form on the shores of Britain, having only ever reached as far as Spain. Butt is right that there has to be a lot more dissent within the Muslim community about how the theology itself is interpreted, but the very last thing we should do is dismiss it as "their problem" and that it's for them to sort out, as Lord Stevens has previously done. This is something we are all going to have to face up to, and it's going to be an issue for far longer than any bombing campaign will be. Rachel goes into this in a bit more detail.

On a lighter note, it's highly amusing to see the Scum's token Muslim, the Glenda in a veil Anila Baig apparently having a nervous breakdown in print, so frightened is she that she'll be the next one to be caught in the fire started by suicidal terrorists armed only with petrol. Behold:

But the fact that we don’t know where the next car bomb will be found leaves me sickened and petrified. Not for me the pleas from the Home Secretary and PM to carry on as normal.

I’m sorry, I can’t.

Well, uh, you've written this piece, haven't you? To be fair to Baig, she's more voicing the concerns of being targeted because of who she is, something which anyone unfortunate enough to have brown skin is probably feeling right now, a little insecure of how with every attack or even failure some see our own neighbours and friends as the enemy within, helped along by the breathless reporting of incompetent failures. She shouldn't be scared though, none of us should. If this is the best that "al-Qaida" can do, then this "war" is already over.

The other coping mechanism for the tabloids is to once again dredge up the blitz spirit, as the Scum's leader does, something which seems more of an insult to the tens of thousands that died in and suffered the German bombing raids than it is either necessary or appropriate. As Lewis Page, an ex-bomb disposal operator argues on the Register:

Remember, this country carried on successfully for six years with hundreds - thousands, sometimes - of tons of explosives raining down on it every night for six years, delivered by very competent Germans who often died doing that job. The civilian death toll was around 60,000 according to most sources; the equivalent of 20 9/11s, more than three for every year of the war. Civilisation was not brought down. Germany and Japan withstood even greater violence, and survived it too.

Our parents and grandparents stood that kind of punishment, not to mention four times as many military dead, and got on with life. Sad though it is to confirm the oldsters' world view, by comparison our generation - our generation's journalists, anyway - seem a bit lacking in backbone. If all we have to put up with is an occasional 7/7, that's background noise by comparison - it should merit the same sort of headlines, the same political response as motorway pileups or airline crashes.

And if all we have to deal with is clusterfucks like the one just past, it should merit the same headlines and response as my local youths; essentially none (Maybe some sort of special cop/spook taskforce with sweeping unconstitutional powers to hand out clips round the ear. Yes yes, I know, there'd be some kind of legal problem).

Move along; nothing to see here.

They're not terrorists, they're just stupid boys.

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Sunday, July 01, 2007 

A recommendation.

If you happen to run an Islamist (or as it happens, a far-right) website, it's probably not a good idea to leech images from websites such as this one, as theislamist.co.uk is currently finding out.

Slight update: Especially if said website is promoting a magazine that's the house organ of Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah, the successor organisation to Al-Muhajiroun/al-Ghurabaa. One of the previous issues of the magazine had this as its main subject:

Issue 2 of The Islamist draws attention to a devilish and very devious cult known as Shi’ism.

Its followers believe that cursing the wives and Companions of the Messenger Muhammad (SAW) is an integral part of belief; they claim the Qur’aan has been distorted, and they worship Imaam al-Hussain (RA), Imaam ‘Ali (RA) - who are both free from them - and their religious leaders whom they have taken as lords besides Allah.

Yet, as ludicrous as it may seem, many people continue to associate this heretical group of polytheists with Islam and Muslims.

For this reason, we have found it necessary to accentuate the beliefs of the Shee’ah Raafidah and explain why they are a disbelieving entity (Taa’ifat ush-Shirk) that have nothing to do with Islam.

Perhaps, if you are in receipt of Allah’s Guidance, you will begin to understand why there is so much conflict between “Sunnis” and “Shiites” today and why there can be no unity between Muslims and Shiites.

The Editor

In no way the same sort of argument used by the likes of the Islamic State of Iraq in justifying the slaughter they've unleashed on Shia markets in Iraq, I'm sure you'll agree.

Update: After two days of having goatse on the front page of their blog, the sharp minds behind the Islamist have finally removed the world's most famous gaping anus.

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