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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